Last night I was meeting and rehearsing with my Central Asian music and dance project, Raks Makam, and tonight I get to meet and rehearse with my String Quartet. The previous night (Tuesday) I rehearsed with the IUS Orchestra which, as I said I do in alternation with the Klezmer group, The River City Klezmer Band, every Tuesday. Tomorrow night I meet with my Arabic band, Ahel El Nagam, and the bellydancers we’re playing for this Sunday to run through things.
Around this time last year I first started playing with the Klezmer group and my Balkan band, Kermes (now on hiatus) as well as intermittently with the IUS Orchestra. I started a new project with Celeste–a “Vintage Experimental Goth Music and Dance duo” called Secondhand. Raks Makam had been on hiatus for a bit since Taletha, my then partner, relocated to Colorado but is not back into the full swing of things with new collaborative partners.
My solo experimental noise act, Noiseman433, which had been on hiatus four a few years, was resurrected last year for a show opening for The Enigma last year and has been performing pretty regularly since. Reminds me that I have to update the website!
As I mentioned in my last post, I had a meeting with my partner, Jessica, for Raks Makam. This comes on the tail end of me performing a fully fleshed out version of Kor Arab (otherwise known as Kor Ərəbin Mahnısı). I had performed an excerpt of this within the context of a longer collage piece with one of my other dance/music duets, Secondhand, but had only worked out a version for solo cello and voice for Friday’s Terrabeat Cultural Showcase.
I’ve done a number of tunes from Central Asia with il Troubadore and Ahel El Nagam, but in those cases the tunes were either as an extension of Middle Eastern tunes for bellydancers, or Persian Pop (e.g. Googoosh). Since Raks Makam is a project that focuses specifically on music and dance from Central Asia and the Silk Road, the material will be focusing more specifically on traditional and art music from those regions.
Kor Arab fits in very nicely for a number of reasons. First, it is a song written by Fikret Amirov, an Azerbaijani composer who was trained in the Soviet tradition as well as in the indigenous tradition of Mugham. Second, the tune is, for all intents and purposes, a Mugham song. The most recent recording of it (and the first I had the chance to hear several years ago) was by Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Project. It was sung by Alim Qasimov who is a master within the Mugham tradition in Azerbaijan. The liner notes for the CD, “Silk Road Journeys: Beyond the Horizon,” says:
For the Silk Road Ensemble musicians, hearing the ethereal voice of Azerbaijani mugham singer Alim Qasimov put their years of conservatory training into serious question. As they delved into the mugham, they each wondered, “If this is how music should be played what have I been doing all these years?”
Really, that’s a question I ask of myself when I hear music from anywhere!
The obvious difficulty with working up solo versions of this music is distilling the music into two voices (voice/melody or voice/drum) rather than having at least three (voice/melody/drum). One of the reasons for meeting with Jessica was to talk about our options.
Ugh, yes, I have not had much time to post lately–last weekend I was playing a Klingon and this weekend I’ve been gigging non-stop with three of my bands (well, four if we count the Klingon Music Project as a separate act from il Troubadore 😉 ). One more show in Indianapolis tonight at one of Indy’s favorite dives–a punk rock club where il Troubadore will be playing lounge music on our acoustical [sic] instruments. I’m not sure if that’s any less strange than playing “Devil Went Down to Georgia” on the cello dressed as a Klingon or not… 😛