I’m a drum soloist…?

Jon Silpayamanant with Raks Makam, Sabah (director of the Bellydance Superstars) and members of Crescent Moon Dance after our performance in Louisville during the Club Bellydance tour

So I’ve technically done my first drum solo now.  Sure I’ve drummed for dancers for years and have played for who knows how many dancers, but tonight (or technically, last night) I’ve performed my first honest to goodness drum solo.  Sure, I’ve been in settings where I’ve played back up for another drum soloist (and I understand that the idea of a ‘drum solo’ can be confusing when it can include more than one musician and/or dancers, but indulge me for a bit) and have drummed ‘solo’ in workshop settings for dancers playing rhythms as a teaching tool for workshop attendees.

But never as a soloist in a performative setting.

The biggest irony here is that the many years of playing drums included mainly playing Egyptian tabla or other Middle Eastern drums for mostly bellydancers (the occasional gig playing with Greek bands or my Balkan band, Kermes for Greek folk dancers and Balkan folk dancers notwithstanding).  What is ironic is that my first drum solo happened to be on the doira, for Uzbek dance.  And it looks like most of my drum soloing will include many more Central Asian styles–the next piece that Raks Makam will be working on is a Bukharan doira solo.  I’m stoked for this and so looking forward to learning more about all this wonderful Central Asian music!

Most importantly, I just love working so closely with dancers.  Really I love working with any collaborators in general, but especially non-musicians, and most especially with artists in an art form that is so closely tied to music as dance is.

Being a soloist (musician) means a couple of obvious things.  No one else is responsible for learning the music but me, which means that while I have no one getting in the way of picking up a new tune.  The other thing is I also have no one else to rely on if things go awry musically.  I’ll trade the one pressure for the other in a heartbeat!

Ok, I must get some sleep before heading up to Chicago to play some Klingon music!

Playing without music and improvising

Jon Silpayamanant playing with the Eastern Caravan Group at Cafe D'Jango in Bloomington, Indiana (Sep 4, 2011)

So last night I had the opportunity to perform with the Eastern Caravan Group in Bloomington, Indiana.  I was sent a handful of sheet music to work with just a couple days ago, but ironically I ended up using practically none of them.  I was initially just invited to perform whatever I was comfortable with from the music sent but as soon as I heard a tune announced that I knew (albeit, in a completely different key) I reached for my cello and looked at Shahyar Daneshgar (the de facto leader of the esnemble) and he just nodded and smiled.

So what was supposed to be a small guest appearance with the group by me ended up with me playing the whole evening (minus the first couple of tunes) with the group.  And it was an absolute blast.  The two or three tunes the group played that I did know were all in different key areas than I had learned or performed and the arrangements were completely different but that hardly mattered to me, apparently, as I seemed to have no problems transposing the melodies to the new tonal areas without much effort (which actually surprised me, even).  And as Shahyar Müellim had, in our initial correspondence, wanted me to play more in the bass range, I was also transposing down two octaves.

The whole evening was like that with the exception of a popular Azeri dance tune we played for one of my partners in Raks Makam who happened to be able to make the show.  I was alternating between playing bass function (when chordal harmonies were somewhat implied) and playing the melodies (by ear and in real time) down two or three octaves.  The gel holding the two alternating functions together were improvisational transitions or elaboration/ornamentation of the bass or melody line.

Continue reading “Playing without music and improvising”

Performance: Kermes @ the VID

me with Kermes after our show at Cafe D'jango 18 March 2011

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the The VID in Bloomington (IN) when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with a group founded by Maja Radovanlija, Kermes.  Yeah, I know–it’s getting to the point that I’m posting about shows more often than blogging–this happens to me from time to time when I’m performing more often than not.

Here’s the blurb from the facebook event posted by the folks at Peasant Disco:

Kermes, B-town’s own Balkan band will open our 5th Birthday Celebration this year followed by some Peasant Disco favorites from the years past.

We will also be wrapping up some Navruz festivities with a bit of Central Asian flare on the dance floor.

Cover is $5 at the door, 21+ venue

More info @:
http://www.kermes-music.com/ or on facebook
http://navruz.wordpress.com/
http://www.peasantdisco.com/

Performance: Balkan Music @ Cafe Django

Kermes (Me with Maja Radovanlija) performing at the Runcible Spoon Gypsy Market in Bloomington, Indiana 16 October 2011

If you are reading this, it’s because it was written earlier today and set to future post as I will be performing at the Cafe D’jango in Bloomington (IN) when this autoposts.  The group I’ll be playing with a group founded by Maja Radovanlija, Kermes.

Kermes is a Bloomington (Indiana) based Balkan Band playing music from Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey and other Balkan countries.

Our facebook fanpage bio:

Band was found in September/2010 , with idea of presenting variety of traditional Balkan music (songs and dances). Musicians (instrumentalists) in the band are all classically trained, curious enough to sail away from classical music into the music of Turkey,Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, Romania etc. Three singers (Filiz, Katarina and Gergana) are all bringing very unique style of singing , characteristic for certain Balkan region.

Here’s a video of us playing a Serbian Kolo (dance) called Charlama Kolo:

Continue reading “Performance: Balkan Music @ Cafe Django”