Tuesday, December 28, 2010

International Flavors

Work has been going on a global scale much more so these days than ever before here. Yesterday I mastered the soundtrack for a giant video installation going in the lobby of a massive building opening and dedication in Tokyo. The track was produced by Dustone Cinema, Richard Fisher's music and production collective that he's recruited me into. Parts of it remind me of the soundtrack that Ry Cooder did for Paris, Texas.

Just finished mixing and still have to master a Qawali music record from Dildar Hussein and his son Abrar. Dildar played tablas with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for 30 years. The punjabi style of tabla plays smooth and melodius to my ear. I had the great honor and pleasure of recording Dildar at KSK studio out in North San Juan before we went in to Prairie Sun to mix. His playing is extremely funky... fluidly playing around the beat, shifting and sculpting grooves in the 4th Dimension, that of Time.

"Hurry up, please... it's time" - Burroughs at the end of his bardo epic, "The Western Lands."

Dildar's album was recorded in Islamabad, Pakistan. One place he played in Pakistan around the time he was recording got attacked by a suicide bomber 3 hours after he finished playing there and left.

The album was recorded fairly well, all things considered, though there were some technical issues to deal with. It was a completely live Punjabi style party recording. The tones on the tablas were quite good with lots of rich low end providing the only low end on the album. I applied the Kosmos Sub Harmonizer appropriately. The harmonium sounded ok even though it got recorded at about -24 for some reason. The voices were mostly good, sometimes a bit harsh when belting out in a high register. Sometimes the group vocals distorted when peaking out, but after compression and eq they sounded good to me.

The Qawwali are Sufis. I've been told that they sing songs that praise the work of Sufi saints. As I mixed one track, I began to literally feel a sensation that I associate with baraka pouring out of the speakers. Definitely an uplifting music for these ears.

The roots of Qawwali can be traced back to 8th century Persia (today's Iran and Afghanistan). During the first major migration from Persia, in the 11th century, the musical tradition of Sema migrated to South Asia, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Amir Khusro Dehelvi of the Chisti order of Sufis is credited with fusing the Persian and Indian musical traditions to create Qawwali as we know it today in the late 13th century in India (Hindustani classical music is also attributed to him). The word Sama is often still used in Central Asia and Turkey to refer to forms very similar to Qawwali, and in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the formal name used for a session of Qawwali is Mehfil-e-Sama.

Qaul (Arabic: قَوْل) is an "utterance (of the prophet)", Qawwāl is someone who often repeats (sings) a Qaul, Qawwāli is what a Qawwāl sings.


One morning before mixing the Qawwali I had to take a phone meeting with someone in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to arrange the backline for an upcoming Bill Laswell/Gigi/Material concert there in February.

Another current client, Ardalan Payvar, is also Persian. He composes and records his lyrics in Persian.

Phoebe Killdeer, another current client, is originally from Australia but now lives in Berlin. When I sent out mixes to be checked they went to Berlin where she was, Barcelona where her manager lives, and Russia where her Producer was on tour.

And in the midst of this international matrix, I had the great good fortune of recording a local Grass Valley artist, Jeff Clark at Jhon Renoir's excellent sounding all analog studio in town. Jhon is either the Grandson or Great Grandson of the painter.

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