[ also worth mentioning are some of the blogs and labels which have been indispensable to me in the finding of such incredible musics: the hum, stray landings and sahel sounds. all are filled with the musings and products of passionate and interesting music-lovers ~ ~ moving on. ]
while searching i am rarely struck and brought to my knees, metaphorically, by a sound. with each of the following releases, however, i could do nothing else but just that.
morphine records (2017)
this was released on morphine records, an interesting label which releases/d pauline oliveros as well as rare indonesian gamelan musics, just at the end of last year. i was struck particularly by sounds i had never before heard. this genre, tarawangsa, is played with just two instruments: "the tarawangsa, a two-stringed fiddle played upright like a rebab or small cello, and the jentreng, a seven-stringed zither" (aa).
"tarawangsawelas is a musical duo from bandung, performing mainly a modern and contemporary version of tarawangsa, the sacred music from sundanese west java ... wanci is a minimalist, cosmic album composed with a careful contemporary interpretation of one of the most mystical and spiritual genres in indonesia" (bc). the compositions "unfold as a captivating ten-to-twenty minute crescendo, beginning slow and melodic, the simple plucked strings of the jentreng providing a rhythmic and harmonic base for the soaring melodies, built on the typical sundanese pentatonic scales of pelog, salendro, and madenda" (aa).
the music is intentionally trance-inducing, and is traditionally the accompaniment to an elaborate ritual, or ceremony, focusing on agriculture and fertility. knowing me, i was drawn first and foremost to the repetitive nature, which is nearly always indicative of the ultimate transcendental state. it was interesting to find that this tradition isn't related to any specific god or deity. i think i listened to the album on repeat several times, unintentionally, because i didn't want the state of mind and spirit it gave me to end. with the absence of a voice or explicitly human element (i know there are humans behind the instruments, but still) the singing line of the tarawangsa takes on a character of otherworldly knowing, eliciting sounds which exist in no mouth but are of the universe's soul. this album is especially well-produced, too, as exemplified by the gentle reverberations and echoes that can sometimes be heard.
i have tears welling in my eyes pressing play and even explaining the sheer and immense spiritual power of this next collection of incredible recordings, for which we are most certainly blessed to have, and which contain in them the aural remnants of many generations' worth of history and tradition and, not being a speaker of the language, i know not what else. as a human, though, i recognize and am fucking enraptured by that mystical element of music which needs no translation.
needless to say i've had more than one incredible listening and existing experience due to this album.
maalem mahmoud gania - colours of the night
hive mind (2017)
hive mind (2017)
this is the debut release of hive mind records, a promising uk-based label of "international sound."
maalem mahmoud gania was a successful and popular moroccan musician and prominent member of the gnawa people. this ethnic group, which inhabit parts of morocco and algeria, has a rich musical tradition - one heavily steeped in both sufi islam and pre-islamic/shamanistic origin. these traditional gnawan songs are used to evoke spirits and ancestors in ceremonies of healing and spiritual renewal, rituals which are made trance-like and hypnotic by this deeply rhythmic and repetitive music. the sounds of gnawa music are made with the sintir, a wooden goat-gut-stringed guitar-like instrument that issues low tones. these plucked rhythms are accompanied by incessantly clapping hand-cymbals (krakeb) and often echo the sung melodies which are presented in a call-and-response style.
deep and dark and low and joyful, this album is like a belly full of warm honey and hearty laughter. it is healing music, after all.
sahel sounds (2016, recorded in '14)
there is nothing quite like these girls - fatou seidi ghali (guitar and vocals) and alamnou akrouni (vocals), both from rural niger. the first half of this album is purely acoustic; gentle and free of excess noise, recorded outside under a tree. the girls' voices sing out of the guitar, along with it, and there is an undeniable organic quality to the way these melodies weave an whirl around each other and the from the strings. the second half of the album includes sounds of villagers brought toward the sounds of the tende, a type of drum, which one girl plays as the others join in polyphonic harmonies and clapping. it is said that the solo guitar music is inspired by the communal tende musics.
fatou, the guitarist, is self-taught and one of only a small few female guitarists in the region of what is usually a male-dominated musical scene.
here is a great video of what les filles de illighadad (in this incarnation - several more members have since been added) look like performing live:
though i do not understand what they are saying, it touches me in that abstract way music does. i hear recognizable sounds and scales and shapes, but somehow just knowing that these compositions were brought about purely by feeling (as though in the dark) rather than some sort of formal education means and says a lot.
music of the soul, not of a book. expression of the prime impulse.
it's what we're all looking for, isn't it?