Monday, July 11, 2005

photos from Ireland

This morning some photos arrived in the post from my visit to Kris and Birgit on the west coast of Ireland in the spring.

Christy, Aïcha (Kris and Birgit's daughter), me, Andy Ra, Kris
Kerry mountains in background

Christy (bongos), Kris (mandola) + Andy Ra (didgeridoo), me (saz)
Kris and Birgit's front room, Sneem

Listen Here

me, saz and Jean-Claude (K&B's cat) + me and Andy Ra + Christy looking pensive.

I met Kris, and our good friend Alan, back in 1991 in Gent when they were both studying African History at the University there.

Christy asleep with one of Kris's African history books

Kris played beautiful psychedelic blues guitar, and I would sometimes play a bit of percussion with him. We shared an enthusiasm for US west coast psychedelia, and would listen to Quicksilver Messenger Service and Grateful Dead records up in his student room (as well as reggae, African stuff and even Ice-T!). In '93 or '94 he and Birgit visited Turkey and he came back with a saz, the first I'd seen. I played a bit of guitar at that time, but never really got very far with it, so when I saw a cheap saz on sale at a local tweedehandsbeurs (second-hand market) I leapt at the opportunity, and have hardly touched a guitar since.

Alan didn't last long in academia, instead becoming a devoted scholar of reggae and Rastafarian culture. This influenced us all, and continues to. Not long after I got my saz, he and Kris ended up in a psychedelic dub band based in Sint-Niklaas, called Oort Cloud (this was a name I suggested, an astronomical term named after a Dutch astronomer). I occasionally played a bit of guest percussion with them. The band became the centre of a community of friends which persists today. Funkey, the keyboard player, has been incredibly supportive of my and Inge's music, kindly and skillfully recording some of the best stuff we've done.

Gradually Alan, Kris and Birgit, and some other Belgian friends relocated to the west of Ireland (Kris plays Irish trad. mandola these days!), and the Oort Cloud dissolved. Two or three years ago, though, there was a reunion gig for a New Year's Eve party in Gent. This was a particularly excellent occasion, and Inge and I even got to do our Ail Fionn thing with full psychedelic dub backing after their main set, then jam acoustically with Sven:

me, Inge and Sven playing after Oort Cloud reunion gig, Nieuwjaar 2002 or 2003, Gent

Unfortunately, this didn't get recorded, but I have dug out an old tape of a jam involving me, Inge, Kris, Alan and various Oort-friends, recorded at the Phoenixstraat cite in 1994. It's rough, but spirited, goes on for eighteen minutes and probably catches the spirit of that group of people at that time as well as anything I've got. Kris is playing bass, Fifi (who also played with Oort Cloud) is playing didg.

Listen Here [hi-fi]      Listen Here [lo-fi]

I should hasten to add that this rather rough front-room jam is in vivid contrast to the extremely fine musicianship of the Oort Cloud itself. Hopefully one day some more of their recordings will make it onto the IAA or some other online audio archive.


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