Posted by fiddlerdi on Sunday, November 6, 2011
At the Americana Music Academy in Lawrence KS. we have recently partnered with the Premier Concert Facility on the University of Ks. Campus called The Lied Center. We help promote educational musical experiences, like having Jay and Molly Unger, the Turtle Island String Quartet, or Jeremy Kittle, present a workshop before their performances, or let people try playing some of the instruments before a show and so on. The experience we had last Friday night was completely unique to the fantastic experiences we had with artists prior.
When Andrea Scouffas, Director of Education told me about the group AnDa Union coming to Americana from Mongolia and presenting a concert I was wondering how in the world we were going to come up with an idea to help promote this group to our local audiences. AnDa Union group has been together for several years touring Mongolia and China, www.AnDaUnion, will give you lots of background and video. They have been on a six week tour of Americana and we were their only Midwest stop. Andrea also told me that this unique group was in the process of preserving Mongolia's Folk Music.
Don't turn off on me yet there's a lot more to come.....well FIddlerdi being who she is and having more than one crazy idea that worked out well in her fiddling journeys, decided that a jam was in order. These artists play what are called "Horsehead Fiddles", that at first remind you of large cigar box fiddles played with a bow, like a cello. They also have a guitar, drums and a flute, not unlike a Native American Flute. They also have a technique called "Throat Singing" that kind of made me laugh when I first heard it on the recording.
So, I started my research, since I knew nothing about Mongolia, including where it is, which it is north of China, between Russia and China, west of Korea. These people lived in the grasslands of Mongolia. What do the grasslands look like? They look like Kansas, about 50 miles SW of here in Topeka (northeastern KS). Some live in the city of Huhhot. Some live in the cities, some live as the last of the nomads on the face of this earth. They even have a documentary film that has been made about the group including back story on each of the individual 10 players/singers. Which I did go and see the premier last Tuesday night after teaching all afternoon in Lawrence.
I also had a copy of some of the songs off their CD called Anda Union The Wind Horse. The horse is very important in their culture. I remember when I first heard it. Those Fiddles that they play are astoundingly BEAUTIFUL, You have to check out the website. The sounds that I heard seemed to call right to my heart and soul with something so ancient, yet contemporary that I was trying to sing along with the melodies the first time I heard them. They have a drum that doesn't look like, but sounds a lot like the Celtic drums...There is some sort of bonding thread running through their music that makes it sound like a combination (I use this to try to describe with words what I feel) of Native American and Celtic and Asian and Romanian....Romanian you say??? Eyebrows raised? Yes even the gypsy like flavor of that style on some tunes.
SO now the plan is for members of our Bluegrass Band, called Pastense (fiddle, guitar, mando, banjo and upright bass) along with a couple of my other Americana teachers playing harmonica and dulcimer to have a "musical conversation" with AnDa Union at a big restaurant in Downtown Lawrence KS. at 8:00 pm. But first we get about 45 minutes to meet each other and even play together for a little while to see what we can work out. My friend and hero of a Musician, Micheal Paul, even charts one of their tunes with the chord progressions to help us ease into the jam.
AnDa Nation's bus pulls up and they file into our old rambling 1900 house on Main Street and we sit and stand in the living and dining room all together, smiling a lot at each other. They speak very little English, but have an interpreter. We speak NO Mongolian. I looked up a couple of words but couldn't pronounce them. To break the ice, Pastense played a hot contemporary Bluegrass tune, which they loved and then they played on of their tunes for us. You know how it is. You hear the tunes on a CD and then you hear it in person and you are just blown away? That was me. Then we started with the tune we had practiced and it went pretty darn good so we did it again and I just followed along with the bowing of the fiddlers making chord changes. There were many smiles and attempts at questions about the instruments and it was time for all of us to get on the bus and head for the gig.
We walked into a venue that was so crowded that we almost didn't have room for the bands. We proceeded to have them play a tune and then we played a tune and from there we played music together. There was no need for language. Everybody got it and our styles were very complimentary of each others. I was on a musical high that I may never have again. I could have ended my life that night and never needed a more fulfilling experience. I still can't quite get over it. The music they playing wouldn't be described as calming but that is exactly how I fell when I listen to it. So it's going to take me a few days to come back down to earth from my Musical Heaven experience. I do know for sure that experience was a once lifetime. It reminds me to stay open to what might come. It makes me feel very close to those sweet musicians (and they were) we didn't want to part afterwards. They wanted us to come to Mongolia. Maybe we will someday. We have more in common than I could ever have imagined. On parting we were exchanging hugs and shaking hands and holding our hands over our hearts. We knew, we all knew how special music is to us and where it can take us. We didn' have the words or need them. Just the music. Thanks for listening.....look this group up on line, you'll be surprised.
Monday, November 7, 2011 @2:27:35 AM
Great storey! I've seen a vid of Mongolian string music. Very intreaging. Yup, music has no borders or needs common language, just musican's who are open and speak with their instruments.
Monday, November 7, 2011 @4:25:06 AM
I played with these guys, maybe 4 years ago in a Unitarian Church in Vermont. What a night we had too. I recorded the session. It was like a dream.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 @2:59:18 PM
Sorry I missed it! On a number of levels.
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