TABLA BEAT SCIENCE / “Tala Matrix”
Source: Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove (Axiom – 2002)
"I was definitely trying to emulate that sound, especially Miles’ live sound from the early ’70s, and to make it even larger. What’s crucial is having that energy in the original performance, where you know everyone is feeling it on stage. If you don’t have that, no matter how many times you mix it or how you manipulate the tape later on, it will never sound right. We didn’t edit or overdub anything in the studio; everything you hear is as it was played."
This is not your parent’s music, unless ya Daddy hails from India, yo mama up out of Ethiopia, you was born in Scotland (or is it Chicago?), and your little brother grew up in London. This is a dream or a nightmare, depending on how you respond to diversity and creative chaos.
Tabla Beat Science is built around a core of four musicians: percussionist/producer extraordinaire Karsh Kale, bassist/producer Bill Laswell, vocalist and sarangi virtuoso Ustad Sultan Khan, and Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain. Augmenting the quartet for this concert were DJ Disk on turntables, MIDIval Punditz on electronics (from a computer laptop), Fabian Alsultany on synthesizers, and Ethiopian, Ejigayehu ‘Gigi’ Shibabaw on vocals.
On Live In San Francisco At Stern Grove, the shortest track is five minutes; three of the tracks are over a quarter-hour each. This is musical delirium to the nth degree. The track we’re dropping is a feature for DJ Disk. I have heard some mighty, mighty scratching but nothing as sustained and inventive as this 9:20 workout. Think of turntables not just as a few seconds on the break but rather think of the them as an instrument and think of the DJ as an engineer assembling a mélange of sounds into an orchestral orgy of scratches.
And if you can get to that, then go the whole hog; cop this 2CD set and bask in the bliss-filled splendor of this Middle Eastern-oriented, dub-bas(s)ed, other-worldly chant/singing, with rhythms on top of rhythms, two-hour workout.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
Click here to purchase Live In San Francisco
Some wild stuff
This is a very interesting record. I can’t honestly say it’ll be going in heavy rotation in my iTunes, but these cats are doing some wild stuff. For me, the strangest thing about it is the people associated with the project. I have some drum ‘n bass/Eastern stuff by Karsh Kale, atmospheric world/electro music from Gigi, a chill-out type of track by Zakir Hussain, all kinds of stuff by Bill Laswell and a few tunes by MIDIval Punditz. None of these artists’ other music would lead me to believe they’d be doing something which sounds like hardcore jazz-fusion if the lead instrument were pair of 1200s instead of a horn, piano or guitar.
BTW, if you dig this, you should try to track down one of the live versions of "Man With A Movie Camera" by Cinematic Orchestra. It’s just as virtuostic (including the DJ), but not as ‘out.’
—Mtume ya Salaam
Cinematic Orchestra link
Yeah, Mtume, that’s true about the Cinematic Orchestra, except they are more Coltrane and Art Ensemble of Chicago influenced (they have even recorded an AEC composition) than they are electric Miles influenced. Their “Ode to the Big Sea” is straight out of the Art Ensemble school of sound collage. In the Nineties, the Art Ensemble used synthesizers sometimes; I am not aware of the AEC working with turntables.
In any case, for those who would like to hear and see what we are talking about, here is a link to the Cinematic Orchestra playing at the 2001 Dumaurier Jazz Festival in Vancouver, Canada. This is a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation website. They have streaming audio on two sets (38 minutes and 50 minutes), plus streaming video on three songs ("Ode to the Big Sea" – 16 minutes; "Kalima" – 9 minutes; and "Durian" – 12 minutes). Check it out. You won’t be sorry.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
One other thing. I wasn’t going to mention it, probably because I’m really not into so-called turntablism. (Let’s be honest: any time a style of music has to be described as an ‘ism’…let’s just say the phrase ‘instant problems’ comes to mind.) But ‘turntablists’—as those who practice turntablism like to call themselves—have taken the art of making sounds with turntables to a degree far beyond what DJ Disk does on this record. (Not that what he’s doing isn’t hip, I’m just trying to add some perspective.) Truth be told, a lot of the music turntablists create sounds to me more like expert craftsmanship than enjoyable music, but still, it’s impressive.
For an extremely detailed history of DJing and turntablism, go to www.pedestrian.info/, click ‘articles,’ then download the pdf entitled ‘History of Turntablism.’ It is, by far, the most in depth study of turntables in DJ culture that I’ve ever seen. (And I’ve seen a lot of ‘em.)
—Mtume ya Salaam
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