Monday, November 25, 2013

more Aotearoa

Working backwards from that recent entry about the Heaphy Walk:

The night before we set off, I walked the few miles into Takaka (good practice) and back to catch about an hour of a "future bass" night at the Roots Bar. NZ homegrown dubstep practitioner Optimus Gryme was headlining, preceded by Roast Crew, DJs from Nelson playing what sounded to me like hyperfuturistic drum & bass (gone so far from its roots, and yet it's Jamaican roots resurfacing in a big way thanks to dubstep) or, more accurately, music that seemed to be located at various points inside the triangle whose vertices are current dancehall, D&B and dubstep. There's been a massive genre diffusion going on in my lifetime, so this difficulty in categorically pinning down what you're listening to is only to be expected. Hence the useful catch-all word "bass" to describe this kind of stuff. My dance-music-producing friend Dave Prentice says that the Soundcloud invent-your-own-genre tagging system has noticeably accelerated the diffusion in the dance sector (and probably some of the others too). Anyway, having a walk home and then fifty mile walk over the coming days, I left at a sensible hour (the young Kiwi crowd apparently never start dancing until midnight, so it was just me twitching rhythmically in the dark corner until the last few tunes). Never got to see Mr. Gryme.

Alan and I got a chance to play one evening down at the Roots Bar, a free night where we played some loosely rendered songs and rough but spirited jams with proprietor Craig (happily dusting his bass off after months of being busy running a bar) and his friend Dale, an excellent drummer who's been, among other things, involved in playing "analogue dance music" down here on the South Island. So he had to learn to be a machine, as he put it. On this occasion he got to loosen up and just feel his way through Alan's covers, originals, and our saz-bass-drums-percussion jams. I didn't think I played very well at the time, but the recording doesn't sound so bad:

Listen Here

I've also accompanied Alan during some of his local busking stints (just for the love, he's the one who needs the money). Getting lots of smiles from the great diversity of Golden Bay locals coming in and out of the supermarket.

Post-Heaphy, we played a set at the village market on a Saturday morning. Grant, the soundman, immediately recognised "Ambee Dagez" which I started our saz-and-djembe set with. He used to be in a band that played Eastern European, Balkan, etc. stuff, and tunes like that. He explained to me that it's a song about unrequited love from an Armenian opera. I've been playing it for years and had no idea. I felt I'd played awfully afterwards, my rational brain having clung on rather than surrendered to the flow, my fingers stumbling, no ideas, a real struggle. But it seemed to really work for a market where people aren't listening with full attention. We were playing a pleasant selection of folktunes (and some of mine), and 90-whatever-percent of the time we were on. People were hearing coherent passages of music they liked the sound of, not scrutinising it for flaws. Plenty of smiles, applause and people talking to us afterwards enthusiastically. Which made me feel slightly odd, as I felt like I'd somehow failed in some way. It's all about context, I decided. And it's not that important. In the final analysis, some people were made happier as the result of some sounds being produced, and no one (except me!) appears to have been made less happy. But it still makes me want to practice more.

Grant the soundman started asking me about various English musicians who passed through the area, and Tina Bridgman (who used to be in Avalonian hippy supergroup Heathens All in the 90's as well as half of Hearth with Richard Osborne). On the way home I asked Emily and Alan if they knew Tina. It turns out that Emily bought their place off her! As Matt Tweed was over here while illustrating Volume 1 and knew Tina well (having produced both Hearth albums), I emailed to ask if he'd been up here. And (of course), who was with him at the time he received it...Tina Bridgman (one of countless musician-friends he's got all over the world, not a close friend).

One of Alan's three current reggae bands, HalleluJah, had their first rehearsal in months up here at the weekend. A new seven-piece lineup with sax-trombone horn section, plus a new keyboard player, a lovely local called Deb who happened to know Manx Andy! She's a pennywhistle and mandolin player, not a keyboard player. And has never played reggae before. But when I dropped in to listen to them rehearsing "Satta Massagana", she was doing fine. And seemed very happy when I shared tea and lunch with him. They took a group photo in the garden (another sunny afternoon) and all seemed delighted with how things are evolving. Very civilised to have a 70s-style roots reggae band rehearsing on the premises on a Sunday afternoon!


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