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Riccardo Misto plays John McLaughlin: seven pieces on Sarod
The project was born occasionally, looking at a youtube video, in which guitarist John McLaughlin was playing “Lotus Feet” with Paco de Lucia.: I had in my hands my sarod and I tried playing along the theme. The effect seemed good to me and so I started working to realize a base on which perform the entire composition.
I had two possibilities: to start with a base played all by myself, or to make a new version, but using the existent original tracks. I’ve opted for this last idea, for its interesting and stimulating project.
So I’ve chosen some portions from the live recording “Remember Shakti” (the CD where Hariprasad Chaurasia was on bansuri). I had to cut and paste, choosing the moments in which, if possible, there was only a base of tabla and guitar, copying it and creating in this way a fundamental track, on which later I’ve added another track with a 12 string guitar playing the theme arpeggio. Then, with my sarod, I’ve performed the composition and one impro.In the beginning you can hear McLaughlin's voice "I'm dancing at the feet of my Lord- all is bliss-all is bliss" from first Shakti CD of 1975, where there was "Lotus Feet".Then, the video I've realized is made with some indian pictures particulary significant to me: a series of Ganesh playing different instruments that I've taken from partho Sarothy's (my sarod teacher) home in Kolkata; images from my holidays in Puri (Orissa) with photos and video of Konark Temple;a short film with a odissi dancer in Bubaneshwar (always in Orissa); images of Jagannatha Deities and religious pujas. There are also short films from a concert with my jugalbandi group "Sapna", some images of sarod from a poster found in a little music shop in Kolkata and some McLaughlin's images from Shakti album. All the video atmosphere is very close to cultural and spiritual aspects of India, considering the spirit which is inherent to "Lotus feet" track.
This first experiment was quite good and so I was looking for others composition of John McLaughlin where could be possible to extract some portions of track and manipulate them for realize a base on which to play the sarod. The project presented many problems: for first, the key, for the sarod is tuned in C. I needed compositions that could be compatible. Many Shakti compositions, indeed, are in the key of E. This is the reason for which I had to transpose the tonality in F, so to make it more adapted to the sarod. With a digital processing I’ve then altered the original tuning: this happened to Peace of Mind (from Shakti CD “Natural Elements”). For this composition I’ve used the integral recording, only adding some swaramandal arpeggios, a long reverbered part with electric guitar, a tibetan bell and some natural sounds (birds and cicada).
For Zakir I’ve put together three different versions of the song: as introduction I’ve chosen the one with the guitar of John from CD “Remember Shakti”, mixing it with a portion of Kathia Labeque’s recording with the piano. Then the track goes on with a sampled tabla base, on which I’ve added a electric 12 string guitar, playing the two chords on which I’ve improvised with my sarod. As a final coda I’ve insert a further version of the theme, taken from CD “Making Music”, with Hariprasad Chaurasia’s flute, mixed with a portion of the piano version. Cause of the little differences in tuning that all the versions used presented, it’s been necessary a precise fine digital tuning work, to make uniform the piece.
La Danse du bonheur (from CD Shakti “A hand full of beauty”) presented the same transposition problems (from E to F). For the improvisatory section I’ve created a new rhythmic structure with the tabla sampled from a live unpublished performance of Zakir Hussain with L.Shankar: in the end it is overdubbed at the original base, with a lightly modified ending, made with an overdubbing of two different portions, with a classical thiai (repetition for three times of a musical phrase). During the entire composition I’ve also added a synt drone and a section with the 12 electric string. The song it’s been slightly slowered in time to make more comfortable the performance on sarod. Always for a better fingering, I’ve altered one note in a very difficult passage for the sarod, but without changing at all the musical sense. The images of the video are from "Jalsaghar" (The Music Room), a Satyajit Ray's film (1958).
Meeting of the Spirits (from CD “The Inner Mountain Flame”) it’s been transposed from the original key of F# to G, always for a better response on the sarod. I’ve taken and mixed different sections of the original recording, adding some segments played in a reverse mode, the longer of which is present in all the solo portion, giving a particular effect of tension and pathos. It’s been also added a track with electric 12 string playing the basic arpeggio, one of sarod with an “ostinato”, originally played by the violin, and then another with a live drum set played by myself.
Making Music, a very beautiful composition from Zakir Hussain’s CD, has been arranged extracting a beginning and ending part with the main theme: the tonality has been digitally processed transposing it from original key of E to F, and in the middle section I’ve inserted a sampled track of tabla (adapted in speed) for a short sarod solo. For all the song there is a tanpura drone, extracted from a Shivkumar Sharma recording, digitally altered from original key of D into F.
The Wish (from CD “The Promise” with the sitar of Nishat Khan, the tabla of Zakir Hussain and the drums of Trilok Gurtu) has been processed lowering it by ½ tone so to reach the DO of Sarod: for intro and ending sections I’ve used the very similar sea weaves sounds from my recording “Mykonos” (from 1992 CD “Giochi d’Acqua”). The background drone has been realized putting together short synth portions I’ve extracted from original track, also adding a tanpura sampling on raga Yaman, from Kolkata sarodist Partho Sarothy’s CD “Tribute to Australia”. For the solo section I’ve created a track with sampled tabla (growing the speed to make it equal to the song tempo), to which are overdubbed the tabla played live by a Indian maestro who wanted to be anonymous.
In this video, the last of the series dedicated to sarod and John McLaughlin compositions, you can see the kind and extraordinary participation just of Partho Sarothy and his student from Austria, Alex Stroganov, who were at my home during the short Italian tour for two concerts in Vicenza and Padova, the 5th and 6th of may 2008. The video assembling was quite complex: I had to cut and paste different audio-video materials I recorded at my home in one day of work. I’ve added then, in a second time, my sarod tracks and the final result seems good to me. A very special thank to Partho Sarothy, who accepted this experiment that is so distant from traditional Indian classical music, but that he feels like an interesting way to have an effective and stimulating exchange between the two musical cultures of east and west. I hope we can go on and increase this collaboration: the short flashes in which you can see me playing the drums are in some way an advance of a project that, if everything will proceed right, could be a valid musical integration work. To know more about this go to TABLA AND DRUMS CONNECTION page
For all the seven pieces there will be an introduction with some "Alaap" from the corresponding raga (based on the scale used in the composition). I'm still working on this, so I hope very soon it will be finished.