We had our 3rd Rebel Up! Soundclash party but despite our effort we got about 20 people in. Whether the lack of people was due to the heath or that no one could be bothered remains unclear. But at least we had fun playing our mishmash of foreign spiced sounds for the swaying international folks on the dancefloor, with Rik and Friso joining our audio couscous feast with good ingredients. Surely our next party with Maga Bo (live!) on the 29th of June should be an earopener and floorfiller, hoping we can raise way more funds for the Rwandan charity.
I sometimes get quite quickly bored with abstract electronic music for a while, so I gave Francisco Lopez performance a wide berth and last-minute decided to go and see an Indian raga performance in Amsterdam. Last week, my Hindi teacher Darshan Kumari had quietly told me that she would play at a small concert, to accompany the main performer. What she didn't say was that it was for the famous sitar talent Purbayan Chatterjee in the grand hall of the Tropentheater! Purbayan comes from a line of respected musicians and he followed his father's footsteps when taking up the sitar at the crisp tender age of 5 and the famous raga legend Ustad Ali Akhbar Khan is his longtime master for teaching him the lifetime improvisations and variations of the raga. Purbayan has even played alongside the famous musicians Partho Sarathy and Shashank, which tidely sums up his already jawdropping resume, wow. At the age of 30, he can still be considered a young talent as learning classical Indian music takes a lifetime to achieve, let alone play virtuously. The level that Purbayan finds himself standing on, is one that already touches the same ground of sitar raga legends Nikhil Banerjee and Ravi Shankhar. Entering the Tropenmuseum building, you find yourself in a huge marble hall, decorated into grandeur with nicely laid out patterns. People walked around in evening dress as if it was the reception to some ambassador, so I nearly thought having entered the wrong hall, yet it indeed was ment fora special ambassador -one of Indian music!- :) The performance took place in the big room, which was decorated by amazingly carved wooden pillars with each a wooden sculpture resting on top of it. Back to Darshan, my modest teacher. She herself is one of the most gifted Indian female sitar players around and has been living here in Holland for over 25 years now, teaching classical Indian improvisations to musicians and being their master. At this performance, she played small repetitive raga drone scales on the 4-snared tanpura to accompany the sound of Purbayan's sitar and the tabla of another young talent named Anubrata Chatterjee (son of tabla legend Anindo Chatterjee, not to confuse with Purbayan's family). Purbayan started the show by saying that he would play 2 long raga's of 50 minutes each. Now that is a real musician.. giving himself enough time to build, develop and unwind an improvisation....and for the seated guests to enjoy, yay. My experience in raga's to explain them as insightfully as such really does not go very deep..but I'll try.
The first raga was a northern Indian one and started softly using the 'alapa' raga variation which means it went without a rhythm, just the melody as a lead. It slowly turned into wild sitarpicking crescendo's, slightly waved to flamenco, with fast bouncy tabla rhythms to go with. Amazing stuff. The 2nd raga was a carnatic raga from the south of India and the rhythm turned down a notch. There was more space for snare twisting but at the same time, the were uneven intermissions between the sitar and tabla which made it an interesting piece. Halfway, Purbayan's fingers got into a gliding mood and in quick procession double scales were resonating against one another which was one of the many moments he exhibited his skills. The end of this raga was magnificiently hefty; while the sitar melody went faster and faster, the thumping of the tabla's became louder and louder, endig with a bang. The audience clapped, once, twice, thrice. Purbayan, Anubrata and Darshan folder their hands, bowed their hands. It indeed would have been too cheeky to demand an encore in westernised stylee, since it wouldn't have done justice to the flow of the raga. You can't open an Indian music box in just a few minutes. I recorded the 2nd (carnatic) raga on my minidisc so it will eventually finds its way here later this week -or at least a big part of it-.
The Dunya festival in Rotterdam, a free world music festival sponsored by the city government with an amazing lineup of various international acts spread over 4 music stages.
So many choices as always, had to pick sometimes, so I missed the Malinese chanteuse Salimata Diabaté while Watcha Clan was on. Such is the festival spirit, high and low. Watcha Clan were great, despite their early scheduling (grrr). They hail from the melting pot that is Marseille and brought a intermeshing array of mestiza, gypsy, dub and northern african styles in one go. What amazed me is that for just 3 people playing instruments and electronics they have a very full sound. Me and Pascal met the threesome clan afterwards and it's very likely we will pull them to Utrecht to play in early September if all goes ahead. A Rebel Up! nite with a live band? hmmm who knows. Moroccan foursome Tarwa N Cheikh Mohand was up next and they brought on acoustic Amazigh music from the north. The dancing and the singing of these elderly gents had a heavy trancedental feel like Berber music always has in some way and took the crowd with their swooning sound. Brazilian singer Beatriz Azevedo was pretty dull in a lazy sunday afternoon jazz way so we scurried off to Gypsy.cz at the other stage. They are 4 young gypsy men from the Czech Republic but not made out of an average composition. The singer is also a hiphop mc and mixed funky rap rhymes over gypsy guitar ballad, accompanied with digital laptop beats. It was good. His speech *Where I come from in Czechia, we gypsies are seen as black and discriminated against* was right on in a hiphop manner, though the black kids around us didn't really warm for his message it seemed. But then again, what defines one being marked as black? Skin colour or inner spirit, or culture? French punky reggae band Babylon Circus were expected to rock it and they did so in jump out fashion. They were good, got the crowd friendly moshing though their sound was bit too much on the side of punk this time instead of their earlier ska and reggae style. Plus their songs are now shapened into English instead of French or Spanish. It's good to see this band on the uprise. We also missed the Seckou Keita Quartet. shucks. Ramesh Shotham's Madras Special was a nice enough session of drumming and peddling on itself, but it was no match to the blissful Indian concert overdose of the previous night. Monkomarok came on afterwards and were pretty good. In some ways they really compared to Watcha Clan, yet more aimed at an older audience. Also hailing from the south of France (Toulouse), they as well mesh northern african, eastern european and the iberic sounds into a special worldly jazz concept. Where Watcha Clan takes a better aim at making people dance and have a more rebellious profile, Monkomarok is more delicate and has a deeper trancedental near-sufi sound that makes you sway.
Had we not hopped as much in the rain to the funky New Orleans gypsy fusion of Tony Kitanovski & Cherkezi Orchestra, we could have catched much more of Cherifa whom we had forgotten about(!). Alas and gutted, we just catched the tail of her *berberific* show. Cherifa Kersit is one of the most famous Berber chanteuses and she had 3 musicians with her who played the handdrum, lute and rattling percussion. I just always love the Berber music, its rhythms, the pulse of the Bendir, the resonating snare drone of the Ginbri lute, the clanging of the Qarqaba and the chanting and here it was no different. I could just record a piece of the last song, the loud feedback you hear at the end is the Ginbri lute player unplugging his instrument harshly. Rock on :)
Cherifa - Live tail excerpt Dunya (enjoy it Jace, pity it's way too short...)
The general theme throughout the festival was to ban out racism, by programming many acts that mesh world music styles together in unifying sound manner, which was a great idea. One thing that annoyed though me was that a big yet young part of the immigrant crowd did not embrace this sound message. There especially were vast numbers of biased Antillian and Moroccan teens there who only seemed to come for *their* thing, -as in music styles from their region of origin- and they were not being very positive and receptive to the other music styles being played live throughout the day since they didn't match their *own* local sound. Highly hypocritical? perhaps. -What I mean to point out, would I jeer more for a band just cos they're from Belgium...Holland....Europe? fuck that shit- Music does not need to match an identity, but playfully juggling with the idea of it, so should people. But alas, everyone has their perefered bias whether one wants to admit it or not. In times where immigrant youths are inbetween identities and can not find a balance between their ancestral identity and current identity, this is a given flaw in human adaptation. At least to those who care/crave too much for having a fixed identity instead of a freefloating identity, nervepicked by your own braincells. This slant is only ment on a cultural/musical note, not on integration or anything. The word 'immigrants' here could for instance just as well be replaced with 'squatters', seeing how their scene is more concentrated on punk and same old rallies with a good social message, yet this message is not often carried into a global unifying musical context either that *should* be better fit for it. (in a *oh wishfull thinking, thou robs me* stupor). And many more examples can be made if wanted, for any other scene, movement and so on. Ah, this endless introduction to a smoldering social culture debate better dies a slow death under a brusque wave of water. woosh.
Afterwards we went to our friend Jigo's place around the corner, who is a percussionist student from Slovenia. Imagine the amount of percussion tools lying about, with his room shaped as a small recording studio.
And after the Rotterdam daytrip, I ventured to the dubstep nite that Ingmar, Martin and the good men of the new Planet K organisation had put on in my city. Dubstep does exactly what it says. I just wobbled and staggered to the uneven beats and echoes. Here some nice photos of Derek Djons. I recorded an excerpt of Youngsta's set, though the quality of bass lack on my mic . People can even be heard talking on the background, so it probably wasn't loud enough, heh ;)
DJ Youngsta - Live at Helling excerpt
The Gipsy festival in Tilburg. It was a gathering of many gypsy and tzigani families from allover Europe in the garden of a big insurance company, sponsored by the same company. You will probably find this factoid ironic in numerous ways considering the context. Imagination, such is life. The festival was programmed with traditional music only and (thankfully) not with hybrid styles that often miss the point entirely and degrade this music to a westernised caricature (acts such as Oi Va Voi, Miss Platinum etc. spring to mind). Many grey clouds circled our heads and rain was sure to arrive in sleeting showers, but to me it fitted the musical context perfectly.
The festival was kicked off by Čilágos, a big group of artists formed out of various eastern Slovakian Roma families, combining their skills to bring authentic folklore songs. They directly had an impact on the crowd as they paced slow blues rhythms into faster dances during every acoustic song. 4 female singers of various ages in folklore dress carried the vocal torch, while the men were on accordeons, guitars and drums. We were in front of the stage and suddenly you could smell the old air being squeezed out of the accordeons, releasing a smell of instrumental nostalgia. At one point one of the men sung a beautifully sad blues song in a smokey tzigani voice which prompted tears from the oldest female vocalist who wept with pride, not hiding it. If a festival already starts going so deep early on, you realise that you're part of a special event. Pascal, Jiga and me walked around for a bit and we came upon a stall selling handmade and truly antique gypsy swing guitars. The elderly owner was a member of the travelling Limberger family, cousin of Tcha Limberger and also closely connected with the famous Reinhardt and Schmitt manouche jazz families. After a bit of talking, he picked up one of the crafted guitars made us enjoy a sudden swing improvisation which was pretty amazing. He tried to lure Pascal into buying a bunch of old broken Belgian trumpets for 100 euro's, after Pascal had showed interest in a bashed and barely functioning trumpet. Some tricks don't die young. We saw some gypsy swing on the other stage but we yearned for blues to match the wet drizzle instead of sunny swing tunes. Gadjo Joe was a funny Belgian storyteller who had a corner to himself and his original made and painted gipsytrailer, to entertain the kids with all kinda gypsy legends about fairy's, ogres, princesses and granted wishes. He did it really well, so we joined the kids for a while under the protective wings of a pine tree and could only smile. Walking back to the stage we encountered a scene of unreal anger in the middle of the park, as several gypsy women started screaming to each other at an unnerving pitch. Something was eerily wrong and quickly a crowd of family members emerged, running from all angles to this spot. 2 Gypsy families, (which even consisted of several Čilágos affecionados) stood eye to eye with each other and tensions rose invisibly to the rest of the festival audience. From the back, a man in his 30's in a black suit angrily walked up and shouted abuse at one of the women and it soon made clear why. His neck showed a gaping big cut, with blood pouring from it onto his shoulders. The family elders of each family quickly stepped in, eyed each other and muttered a few words which prompted the family of the wounded man to run away, out of the festival grounds, young and old alike. Bizarre, as quickly as the scene had started, as quickly it was dismissed again without any aggression or retaliation. According to Pascal through his Romanian life experience, gypsies do not apply their laws around non-gypsies. Though that does not mean it's over by a far stretch, as blood feuds can run deep and long. As a non- gypsy (gadjo) you will never find out what exactly happened and why, since we are not part of their world other than that we're seen by them as gullible sheep placed outside of their society. To us westeners, this other society is a concept beyond our own law abiding imagination of authority and registered citizenship, but it's not to those who live freely on the fringes of society, in a society with its own rules and laws.
Back to music and happy yet sorrowfull spirits. We started bumping into more and more friends and aquintances who had also made their way to Tilburg and the atmosphere was brilliant all around. Tony Lakatos and his Gypsy Colours somewhat disappointed and every song was too much the same. They played a few Tchavalo Schmitt takes, which were really great but the rest sounded a bit samey. Romeny Jag on the other hand was really good. They're a Dutch gypsy family, spearheaded by a big blonde Frisian guy from up north and darkly skinned storyteller Bluma Schattevoet. With violin, accordeon, djarbouka and even a diggeridoo(!) they gave a vivid and jumping performance while a teenage boy and girl danced along in folklore outfits. They only played already famous eastern european songs and sometimes made some mistakes, but that was actually the charm of their on stage presence and energy and made us bounce. Yaa! Lincon Rumanian Gypsy Ensemble was much anticipated as they brought some excellent cimbalom tunes, making Rik smile from ear to ear. They had a terrific good female singer of good oaked age, which one of the musicians sweetly introduced as his talented mama. Crowds began dancing more and more since the alcohol intake of some started to have effects, from bubble and grape magic. After that the famous French stylemelangeur Thierry *titi* Robin took over and the pace slightly slowed down and took us on a Northern African trip meeting flamenco and gypsy swing along the way. Like a Tony Gatlif soundtrack brought live onto stage. Hungry times knocked into the belly and the sole veggie option among all the chicken spiced bits and onionsprinkled beef patties, was falafel. But they naturally had sold out since my festival eating pattern is always belated. Instead some cornbread sandwiches with lettuce and garlic sauce, but it was a luxuruous jail meal though ;)
Headliner and Romanian favorites Fanfare Ciocarlia would close off the festival and prepared themselves in relaxed manner next to the main stage. Upclose we watched and heard them practising their wide and shiny horn section. Tuba thumps, trumpet struts and so on; a sure party in the making. The volupteous Bulgarian Lilliana Buttler -rightly nicknamed the queen mother of the gypsy soul- prepared herself with a platter of fries and mayonaise, while already dressed up in her special red evening gown. Finally they went on stage, our wine came out of the bag and the fest was about to drag us by the feet into the air. One famous classic came after the other with trumpets, drums and tuba's in orchestrated grist and splendour, before Buttler delivered her baritone voiced songs and had the audience in her control. We were at the side of the stage, dancing our socks off together with many other likeminded folks with whom we created a gentle gypsy dance moshpit. The fanfare went on and on and we all wished it would not end. They did do an encore on stage and everyone thought it was over by then...but me and Pascal knew they would come back into the crowd to play acousticly as they do at nearly every show. So they did. Moneybills were stuck to their sweaty foreheads, the crowd cleared a path for them so that everyone could dance right next to them, rubbing the drum and shouldering the tuba....all shouting 'Mult'umesc!' What a great end. And that's that.
Here some songs of the Čilágos family group. I bought their cd off their roundbodied dancer who sold albums through the crowd during Lincon. Pascal reckoned she had seen us upfront dancing at the start, making us an easy target. yup.
Soon I'll put up photo's here as Jet catched the atmosphere in some pretty good images.
Pfew. I'm done.
Close off bit with muzak overdose. So it goes (ey zjofie?).
Wooden Wand and the Vanishing Voice - Hey Pig He Stole My Sound
(from the appropriately titled album 'Gypsy Freedom')
This sounds like Konono No.1 fighting gamelan style with the No Neck Blues Band. Say wha'?
When putting this song on, my cat started freaking; scratching the carpet, the bed and psycho tailed high jumps. Yessa, freakfolk goes bestial, roaaaarr!