Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’ll be peaceful and prosperous for us all, bringing many new joys and adventures along the way.

This year will see, among others, the release of my album Earth Variations – finally! (it’s hard to let go as I keep enjoying inhabiting its sensuous possible world, from improbable musics to possible musics, exploring its dynamic and immersive territories between music, environment, geography, soundscape and abstract art). The release has been delayed until March-April though: I’ve been unable to work on it properly during the holidays (a lack of quiet space), I cannot afford to finance its mastering at the moment (after ten albums, my personal well has run dry) – but also because of one beautiful, serendipitous discovery over the holidays.

I had asked a dear friend of mine to provide a spoken word part in her native Urdu (beautiful language!) for the remaining unfinished piece, and when we finally sat down at this luminous Belle Époque/1920s’ café to discuss the piece, she asked if I preferred the poem she’d chosen to be spoken or sung. I was confused: “can you sing?” I’d known this loveliest human being for two years, and it was only now that she told me she’s also a trained singer in Indian and Pakistani classical music! (I’d been looking for such a singer for a while now, but without funding it’s difficult to find the collaborators you need). To me, she’d always been just one of the most brilliant anthropologists, architects and visual artists out there – yet here she was, beginning to sing these romantic classical Pakistani songs softly into my ear in the most enchanting voice over our candlelit coffee table. If there’s a celestial version of us all, it’s certainly through singing. Above us, the old Parisian street lamps, a crescent Moon and five planets of the solar system shone brightly; at one end of the street, the grand Opéra house appeared majestic and dreamy in its evening lighting, at the other, the Louvre Museum continued to glow gently. This was probably Midnight in Paris, and I was accompanying Paul Gauguin, Claude Debussy and others in their quest for faraway places: yet it was just Saadia and me at a crowded Belle Époque/1920s’ café, envisioning our future performances and recordings in Paris together. The faraway had been explored (and exploited, unfortunately), now it was all about the complex, multicultural hybrid future ahead of us to discover and cultivate – and it is bright as far as culture is concerned.

We’ll be recording vocals on few more tracks to see how her voice might work on this album. There’s a sense of a journey toward home, a circle closing: the biggest musical influence on the album has been the late American trumpeter and composer Jon Hassell, who in turn studied Indian classical singing with Pandit Pran Nath, transforming that singing technique into his trumpet playing and thus discovering his unique sound, combined with electronics and novel rhythms…

Have a great start of the year X

PS. A couple of official photos of the performances at the 2022 Prince Claus Impact Awards Ceremony in Amsterdam last month (received them recently). Photography: Frank van Beek.

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