The complete band is not a trio, and on opening night, Ana Araujo on vocals and percussion, and Hugo Lins on bass rounded out the ensemble on the big stage. But I was unable to get a satisfactory shoot from the performance that night, so I was glad to catch her gig at the tiny Pikant Café, perched above the town's river.
That is the beauty of the Forde festival, you can hear music in venues large and small all over the town and its environs, from concert halls, to classrooms and churches, even to mountain tops! This means that if you miss one show, you will likely be able to see the artist perform again. Indeed, Ms. Rosa said that of the many performances she gave, she thought the show at the Pikant was particularly strong, perhaps due to the proximity of the audience.
The place was jammed, both inside and on the outside deck, but I was able to score a chair in the corner and stand on it. (Sorry about that backlight, what can ya do.) Pepe da Silva here plays a 10 stringed guitar, Lucas dos Pazeres plays percussion. Everyone sings; indeed for me, it was the part singing that really drew me in, and I have to say the musicianship was mighty high all around.
Despite its traditional sound, the first song -- Corta o Pau -- is an original by Ms. Rosa. She wrote of it to me: "Its rhythm is called Coco de Roda. This composition has different influences such as indigenous vocal polyphonies, rabeca (traditional fiddle) played in the cavalo-marinho tradition (a kind of street performance) and the Viola (10 stringed guitar) played in the northeastern tradition.
The second Song -- Piau -- is her adaptation of a folk song. She writes, "It's rhythm is from our Afrobrazilian ritual called macumba."
For more of Michal's world music videos visit inter-muse.com
This is just the first of what I plan to be several postings about the fabulous Førde Festival in Norway. The festival has already garnered itself an excellent reputation amongst world music aficionados, but should be on the agenda of anyone who enjoys travel and adventurous music. Part of that is due to the spectacular setting, and I advise those who make the trip to plan to explore the fjords all around the area. As press, we were treated to a breathtaking journey from Bergen via rail and boat up to Førde, that I will not soon forget. The other part of the allure is the excellent and canny musical choices of the producers. Torill Falleide and Hilde Bjørkum know what will please their audience, and it's an engaging mix of both unadorned ethnic and eclectic music that is consistently entertaining.
My video is from the opening night, and it’s quite literally a dazzler. The various musicians were asked to present their most tantalizing numbers, as the first program of the festival is intended as a menu, giving the audience a sampling of what is to come.
So the Musicians of the Nile presented a tanoura dance, complete with light show. What made it so amazing was that the light show was inside the costume of the dancer! Some folks questioned the "authenticity" of this but I think that if tiny lights had been around that could be sewn into the costume of the dancer back when it was first being performed hundreds of years ago, it would have been perfectly within cultural standards!
The tanoura dance will remind you of the whirling dervish dances of Turkey and they are indeed related, as the sufi tradition is present in Egypt through the Levant and Turkey, and in some forms, even into west Africa. (There are some claims that Sufism actually originates in ancient Egypt, but the majority of sources I have read posit that it was a reaction to, and outgrowth of, Islam.) The music and the whirling is meant to induce a trance, which in turn leads to a union with the divine. The skirts of the dancer are layered, and each color on the skirt represents a different Sufi order. These days this kind of presentation is very popular for entertainment at weddings and other kinds of celebrations. For my part, I was in heaven in a different way -- I'm a fool for colored lights (you should see me at a fireworks display) and I felt like a little kid transported with delight.
This year the Fes Festival presented two excellent drumming ensembles, The Master Drummers of Burundi, and the Korean Samulnori Hanullim Ensemble. Experiencing these two groups got me thinking about how much we rely on our own cultures to interpret sound.
It's not that I don’t believe music can cross boundaries, but I also believe that as we grow up our own culture informs us of how to hear things, and even how to evaluate the quality of the music we are listening to. The drummers from Burundi were excitement personified, and they were rightly presented on the big stage at the Bab Makina, where their athletic gestures and mighty, deep-voiced drums matched the grandeur of the setting. The Korean drums were presented in the more intimate Batha Museum, and although they were no less athletic, the statement was nuanced.
Again it had me thinking about what we are and are not comfortable listening to. Two hundred years ago, most occidental opinions of music were filtered through European classical standards. African music was considered barbaric. In the USA things changed about 90 years ago with the introduction of "Race Records" that brought the music of the African American population into broader distribution and the public consciousness. It's been a love story ever since, and these days most American pop music continues to be a blend of Western harmonic concepts with African American grooves and gospel-influenced vocals. So the drums of Burundi already felt familiar as the progenitors of music I grew up with.
But what of the drummers from Korea? The higher pitched timbres and shifting rhythmic deconstructions that transitioned into ferocious grooves reminded me that sometimes we have to push hard with our own listening to "get" something that has been around for thousands of years. That’s why I thought to insert part of an interview I recorded about a year ago, and to focus on this ensemble in my post.
I had seen Kim Dong-Won in the wonderful documentary "Intangible Asset Number 82," about the journey of Australian jazz drummer Simon Barker to find the Korean shaman whose music inspired him. Dong-Won had been Barker's guide, and he was in town, playing with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble, so I set up an appointment. I was anxious to get his insights into the film, and I also asked him to talk about Korean folk music: the way the vocals functioned, and about the philosophy behind the drumming technique. I have edited a small part of that interview into my video here.
Our friends at explore.org have teamed up with HATCH to champion the selfless acts of others through a film competition at this year’s HATCHfest Bozeman.
The explore/HATCH award presented by explore.org will be given to a filmmaker who best tells the story of a remarkable individual’s actions in response to a devastating environmental event. From a woman who adopted orphaned children after the tsunami to a captain and his crew that saved the 115 survivors of Deepwater Horizon, explore.org wants to see how you define heroism in the face of catastrophe while inspiring others.
explore.org is a multimedia organization that documents leaders around the world who have devoted their lives to extraordinary causes. Both educational and inspirational, they create a portal into the soul of humanity by championing the selfless acts of others. In line with explore’s mission, HATCH inspires service and makes a positive impact on people and the planet in a creative way through film, music, photography, journalism, fashion, architecture, design, technology and more.
Winner of the first explore/HATCH award presented by explore.org will receive an all-expense-paid trip to HATCHfest Bozeman September 22-25 and be presented with a Canon HD SLR camera package from explore.org’s founder and documentary filmmaker, Charles Annenberg Weingarten, and HATCH. If you or someone you know has made a film highlighting a cause that inspires others to make a difference, submissions are now open!
Funding for the explore/HATCH award is made possible through the efforts of explore.org and the Annenberg Foundation.
Withoutabox Submission Guidelines:
In my last post about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, I didn't dwell very much on individual performances, since I was more concerned with conveying the feeling of being at the festival. So this time out, I'm taking the other route and just giving you a performance, sans any commentary from me. If you have never heard the Taarab music of Tanzania and Zanzibar, you may be surprised at how sweet it is. This is in large part due to the use of the Qanun, a most celestial sounding instrument. Taarab is a fairly recent genre, having been a court music created specifically for pleasure. There are even times when it sounds so pretty I find it ambient, and what with the beautiful sail-like shades shielding us from the sun in the courtyard floating serenely on the wind above us, the purely instrumental melodies sent more than one member of the audience into a trance. (As you will see, it even put a baby to sleep!) But when Shakila Saidi started to sing, she changed that dreamy vibe, and supplied just the right amount of edge to keep me alert and appreciative.
If you would like to know more about the Qanun and to see a demonstration of this fascinating instrument, I recommend checking out the Turkish virtuoso Tamer Pinarbasi, whom I covered in a former posting.
This post will be a little bit different from my others. Rather than simply reporting on the music from the Fes Festival (which I will do in other postings) I'm going to try to convey the experience of being there. I've taken everything I shot from my first full day and laid the most vivid parts out, travelogue-style. So you're getting a full day in under 9 minutes.
A word on the video quality: I went with my Flip camera which was fine for some things, and truly inadequate for others. So you are going to see some pretty grainy stuff every now and then (low light, fuzzy zoom, or both). You are also going to see some very high quality video that was kindly supplied to me by a REAL filmmaker with a REAL camera. So all in all it will be a bumpy ride. But frankly, Fes is a bumpy ride. That's why I start out with a statement from my colleague Cindy Byram, who has attended the festival for 6 years in a row, and who speaks from experience. In the end I agree with her 100%.
There are four main venues for the festival: three paying, one public. One generally starts the day at the Batha Museum courtyard, an intimate setting with a magnificent Barberry tree that spreads its shade over 65% of the area. After a dinner break, you head on out to catch the "Big Act" at the impressive walled Bab al Makina (another paying venue) and then pass through the Bab Boujloud public performance area on your way to the last musical event, at the lovely Dar Tazi, where you can sit at a table under the trees, sip mint tea, and listen to Sufi chants. The public performances have been added in the last few years, and this is where you will find your everyday Moroccan, since the paying venues are too expensive for most. The music there is more local, and I was particularly taken with this venue, as you will see.
As to the music? Everything I saw had merit on some level, and some even made my heart sing. But to put in my two cents, I believe that for the most part making music and listening to music is a transcendent act, so what is NOT sacred music? Still, I guess calling it "sacred music" makes it easier to give the Festival a theme, and since the event and the vibe are so dogma-free and tolerant, how can I complain?
Special Encore Presentation this Monday at 5pm PST/8pm EST!
This past May at the 2010 Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, our partners at explore.org received a very special honor, the Moving Mountains Prize, for their film "Fish Out of Water." The Moving Mountains Prize is awarded when a film depicts a unique mission or extraordinary impact of a non-profit organization. Featured in "Fish Out of Water," Sun Valley Adaptive Sports helps war veterans cope with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through fly fishing and other therapeutic outdoor activities. And as you will see when you watch the film, this organization is truly moving mountains.
"Fish Out of Water" began airing on Link TV in March (also available to watch online), but we are airing a special encore presentation because in addition to celebrating explore's success at MountainFilm, we were also introduced to a touching story that unfolded during the festival awards ceremony.
Christian Ellis, a vet whom Director Charlie Annenberg Weingarten became close with during the making of his film, experienced terrible traumas in Iraq. Losing many of his friends and fellow soldiers in combat, surviving a broken back, and suffering from severe PTSD, Christian returned home to a new reality.
Struggling to move forward, Christian returned to his music studies for the first time since he was 15. It had been a long-time dream of his to sing opera, and with a little encouragement from his new friend Charlie and two years of singing lessons, on Memorial Day Christian realized his dream. Closing the awards ceremony at the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, after the screening of "Fish Out of Water," Christian sang a moving aria about his experiences in Iraq.
Fast forward to minute 10 to hear Christian's aria. It's a true testament to the resilience and strength so many men and women of service embody:
Global Pulse host Erin Coker has spent the last two weeks strutting the red carpet, interviewing filmmakers and stars for the San Francisco International Film Festival. The festival produces daily coverage for their Scoop Du Jour mini-site. Here, Erin speaks with legendary actor Robert Duvall, directors John Waters and Walter Salles, writer/producer James Schamus and others at SFIFF's Award Night.