Category Archives: recordings

Down the Croatian coast – Part II

Although the heat is still overwhelming, Zadar feels like a long time ago! I am now in Bari, Italy, where my mother was born and raised! I’m enjoying the contrast between solitude and being entirely taken care of by my family – amazing food, clean clothes, a bed, shade, and I’ll let you imagine the rest.

After Zadar, I cycled down towards Split, the second major city in Croatia. I was planning on stopping half way in a beautiful natural park called Krka. As I was about to turn of to head inlands for the park, I saw signs for Sibenik advertising it as having been elected a capital of culture in 2003. I had to pause and decide what I’d rather do: see a beautiful park with a river and waterfalls or a town which could be potentially interesting music/sound wise. I looked at the time and decided I could do both! So I raced to Krka bought a ticket and walked towards the waterfalls. By the time I arrived, the park was closing and everyone had left – I had a huge park all to myself! I went round the waterfalls, had a nice swim then climbed back up to where I’d left Doppler.

By the time I got to my bike the sun was about to set – cycling in the south is already dangerous when one can see clearly… So I put my lights on and reflective jacket and darted towards Sibenik. When I got there it was already dark and I needed to find a place to sleep and some food! I guessed that my best bet would be to go along the port. I was right! As I got to the end of the road, I came across a small bar selling sandwiches and beer. Set up just outside was a little stage with cajon and a table on which were lying a violin, a saxophone, a flute, two guitars and an accordeon. Thus, I sat down with a sandwich and a beer waiting for the concert to beginning.

The band was called etnOrkestar and played a series of traditional tunes from all around the world. During their first break I went up to them and did the usual “I’m doing this project you see… and I happen to have everything here to record… Would you like to take part in the project?”. They answered positively. Sadly,  they didn’t have time to play non amplified after the concert for the recording as half the band had to run away to catch a night bus back to Zagreb. Therefore, if I wanted to record it had to be during the concert and that’s just what I did. The two recordings that sounded the best are Limonchiki which is a klezmer song from Odessa (Ukraine) and Hitwhich is a orginal composition by the guitarist of the band (Danijel Maodus).

After the concert, I found a place to sleep on the rocks and left early the next morning. I was heading towards a town called Kastel Sucurac, 15km from Split. In this town, Ruzina had got in contact with me and invited me to come to visit Sensoria, his studio which is under construction. He is building it in the wine cellar of house belonging to his family. The project is to create a creative space for european wide projects i.e bands come down to record and work in collaboration with Ruzina whilst having a nice little holiday in Croatia. A project I obviously fully suport and invite everyone I have recorded so far to get in contact with Ruzina when the studio’s finished!

Ruzina kindly invited me to stay at his place and gave me some contacts for Split. The next day I hit the big city! I stayed there two nights but ended up not doing much as I was working on a piece for Rubbernaut. Nonetheless, I visited the beautiful town and went for a few swims. On the last evening, I was invited to record one of the last rehearsals of representation of Nabucco, an opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The dressed rehearsal took place in one of the most beautiful squares in the old palace called Peristyle. It was all closed to public and, as I walked in I was surprised to see the grandeur of the set. There was a full orchestra and 20 or 30 people on stage. Unfortunately, as it was an important rehearsal I didn’t want to bother anyone with my recording and wasn’t able to position microphones where I wanted to. Thus, the recordings didn’t turn out well and would rather not share them with you as it would ruin the beauty of the performance. Just use your imagination!

The next day, I set out for Dubrovnik and the rest is for part III.

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Down the Croatian coast – Part I

The southern episode began in Ljubljana. After a couple of days celebrating my mothers birthday and an extra night in a hotel watching the Italian spectacular defeat with a friendly receptionist, I set out for Rijeka. It took me two days of beautiful Slovenian country side, an unexpected visit to huge caves – home of an underground river – and windy rocky roads to get to the main Croatian port. I’d been warned it wasn’t a nice place and indeed it wasn’t! Thus, I decided to set out down the coast the same day I arrived.

Before leaving, I met another traveller from Slovakia who’d been busking around the continent with two guitars and a bag. He was waiting for a train to Zagreb when I approached him. I told him about the project and we agreed to record whilst he was busking. He played a mutlitude of songs each one unexpectedly merging into each other. Here are a few snippets from his set:

That same evening I made it to Crikvenica where, for the first time since the beginning of the trip,  I booked in to a camping site. I didn’t stay long as I left early in the morning to do as much cycling as I could before the heat became too unbearable. When it did, I stopped for some food and a swim. Stupidly, I set out again much too early only to find that what lied ahead of me was non-stop uphill… I thought I was going to loose my mind! Just before I reached the top, I started having small hallucinations like wandering/worrying wether or not I had my hat on  whilst touching it.

Luckily, after a blissful race downhill I found a beautiful small fishing town with a single one way road to rest my bones. Again, I got up early next morning and headed down towards Zadar. Lesson learnt, I was more patient during my afternoon break, thus, I was able to properly enjoy the second half of the ride. In fact, it was so pleasurable that I kept on going all the way to Zadar – originally I wasn’t expecting to get there until the next day.

When I got to Zadar, I decided to book myself into a hostel as I wanted some confort to finish some freelance work. It is at the bottom of this hostel situated on the top floor of a five story apartment that Doppler was vandelised…  Anyways, the stay was very nice. I met a Polish traveller who has just set out to travel round the world and write about it: http://guideless.tv/. Instead of cycling, he’s hitch-hiking his way round. It was fun meeting again a couple of times further on down the coast when his hitch-hiking had not been successful…

Although I had no one to record in Zadar, I did have something to record: a water organ. I recorded it on my last day in Zadar at 5.30am before all the other tourist arrive to chat over a soothing background of experimental organ playing. I dedicate this recording to Astrid Willmote who first told me about this strange installation.

That is all for the part-1 of the Croatian coast!

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The good old Krakow blues

So I’m in Split Croatia (well actually that’s when I started this post, now I’m 30km away from Dubrovnik!)! I haven’t updated the website in quite sometime! I have just been very busy working on the sound for a friends documentary about deforestation in Prey Lang forest in Cambodia and it’s consequences those who live around it: http://www.rubbernaut.co.uk/

Although I’m now quite far down south I still have some recordings from Krakow I would like to share with you. To my astonishment my last Polish stop was full of blues! I never met so many harmonica players and talented blues musicians is such a few days. I stayed in a very musical student house sharing a room with a guitarist and harmonica player. While I was sitting in the kitchen updating this website with the recordings from Warsaw, the house resounded with instruments being practiced in every other room! In retrospect, I should have recorded it and shared with you guys – it was quite believable as an avant-garde musical experiment.

I ended up recording Tomek, my original Krakow contact, and an Italian harmonica player named Mario. We set up in the staircase leading to the music infused apartment to record. We recorded two tracks as well as the occasional passerby. The next day, before leaving for the station to catch my train down to Vienna, I recorded another pair of songs with The missing part, accompanied by Tomek on banjo and dobro.

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Toy Factory in Krakow.

Yesterday, I arrived in Zadar, Croatia, and roamed around looking for a place stay. I came across a hostel on the fifth floor of a nice old building on the very outskirts of the old town.  They had space for me and so I logged all my stuff up five flight of stairs leaving Doppler locked up to the banister. After packing all my stuff in a locker, I set out to explore the town. On my return I found Doppler in a weird position, as I got closer I noticed the front tyre was flat. I was annoyed but not too surprised – I’d  just cycled over 200km in two days in over 30°C. However, I then noticed my back tyre was also flat, that my saddle had been dug into with some sharp device and that there were traces of mud on the frame – some idiot thought it was alright to vandalise Doppler – maybe he didn’t like where I’d left it? is that a good enough reason to do what he did? I stood there for a good half hour to take it in and wrote a note letting the person know how far Doppler had travelled and how he had been treated respectfully until Zadar. In the meantime, today will be bike-repairing-day…

Anyways, after Poznan and Warsaw, and now nearly two weeks ago, I arrived in Krakow. In my opinion it was by far the nicest city of the three Polish cities I stayed in! There I stayed with an acquaintance of Monika from Poznan. He introduced a friend’s  band called Fabryka Zabawek (translates as ‘Toy Factory’) who play an acoustic groovy jazz with Damian Skóra on guitar, Martin Dyjak on Harmonica and Ela Łuszczakiewicz on vocals. We recorded on what at first seemed like a fairly quiet location but, as was to be expected, it turned out to be quite busy with cars driving by quite close to where Fabryka Zabawek were performing… The band did very well given that the guitarist had just come out of an exam and that all the members were slightly sick!  To me their playing was quite impecable! Anyways, here are the recordings and I’ve been told there might be a video to come!

PS: I broke my main hardrive and realised I was baking everything but videos and photos… So for the meantime this band will have to remain faceless. Sorry. 

 

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TerenNowy from Warsaw

Warsaw seems a long way away now! I’m in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia! I had a tumultuous train ride down from Krakow, thus bypassing Vienna and Prague, to surprise my lovely mama who was visiting the town for her birthday. Originally, I was going to take the train back up to Vienna but I want to cycle! So tomorrow I’ll head out to Rijeka in Croatia! (I’m desperately looking for contacts there!). After that I’ll slowly make my way down to Greece.

The last update from Warsaw is a special one! During my time there, I was invited to record a project called TerenNowy (which literally translates as NewLand). They are a band that have no songs and no definite line up. They improvise live ambient music with an always changing set of instruments! When I was there they had instruments ranging from Djembe to Dulcimers to Analog Synthesisers! It definitely was an interesting mixture! They performed in a very cosy café called HerbaThea (it was so nice, that I ended up spending the whole next day there working on recordings). To listen to the recordings I think you should chill out, maybe drink some tea and/or lie down (if you go for the ‘and’ be careful not spill your hot drink on yourself!) and open your ears!

For about TerenNowy and when to catch them live please visit: http://www.terennowy.info/new.html

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Hungarian trad in Warsaw

On the first morning I spent in Warsaw, I set out with Doppler to go and explore the city. We had a nice ride through the old town, down to the Vistula river then back up and through the capital. After lunch, whilst cycling through a little road close to the central station we heard some music.  As we progressed down the road we came across what looked like a nice little parc from where the music seemed to be coming from. We approached and found the parc to be fenced off but from there we could see two musicians and children dancing and playing around them. 

So I stayed by the fence listening to the music. Turned out that what looked like a parc was actually part of a kindergarden which explained why the women looking after the children kept looking at me in a strange way… Anyways, the musicians finished playing, packed their stuff up and as they were walking out I went up to talk to them. The teachers, relieved to see I was after the musicians, finally smiled at me as I asked the duo if they wanted to record something for the project. They did.

They are from Hungary and were on their way to a small province in Russia to perform at a folk festival. They play traditional Hungarian dance music and had come into Warsaw for a few hours in between two flight just to visit. They’d been looking for a parc to sit down and play and, just like me, had thought the kindergarden was one. Luckily they were spontaneously invited to play for the children. The kids loved it and were jumping up and down fascinated by what they were hearing!
They were playing a large variety of tunes issued from the peasant folk tradition which in the 1970s resurfaced in popular culture. This revival is know as the Hungarian Dance House Mouvement. During the same period, many other cultures were exploring their folk cultural background but the Hungarian revival had a particularity as it also revived many traditional dances. (If you are interested in the movement I found this great article which is an cool read)

They performed their pieces on a Cobza (Koboz in Hungarian) and several different forms of Kavals and overtone flutes. Several centuries ago the Cobza was the poor mans luth and had spread from the Turkish empire across to central Europe. By the 20th century it had almost entirely disappeared and was only surviving in poor countries like Romania. With the folk revival of the 70s, it resurfaced through dance house music.

Anyways, this what I understood from our conversation and being frightened of talking nonsense I’ll let the music speak:

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Traditional Polish singing from the sewer to the bedroom.

In Warsaw I was staying with Anastazja Bernad and her sister Zosia. I arrived by train and Anastazja picked me up from the station with her bike. She showed another cyclist I met on the train the way out of the station and then we took of into the busy street of the capital of Poland. The cycle ride that followed my arrival felt fantastically crazy: we raced down big streets lit up by neons and headlights, zig zagging through cars on roads not designed for bicycles – Anastazja and a friend in front, then me trying to keep up with my heavy bags and excitement. We finally got to her appartement not far from the football stadium where a couples of days later I was to see a horde of fans march back up into the center.

Upon arrival I didn’t realise that Anastazja sang or that she lived with her sister who’s also a singer – I was staying with her as she was friend of a friend. I discovered her beautiful and powerful voice in some sort of tunnel used for draining overflow from the city’s sewers into the Vistula river (the longest river in Poland flowing through several major cities). You might be wandering what we were doing in such an unappealing place? The answer is quite obvious – we were looking for interesting acoustic spaces! and this tunnel most certainly was one! It had a really cool complex reverb. It started with the usual diffuse reverb as the sound bounced around and, down the oval shaped structure, then it seemed to hit something in the far distance creating a distinct echo a few seconds after the initial impulse. Finally, the vibrations seemed to travel back up through the walls creating some weird wooshy sound! very weird. Also, this tunnel has a particular historical background as it was used by the Polish resistance during the Warsaw uprise in 1944-1945. It allowed them to access the old town from the river banks!

These traditional songs have different origins. For many of them, the melodies are older that the words and are written for rituals, ceremonies or are love songs. Unfortunately, Anastazja didn’t have much time to explain to me what each song meant or tell me much about this traditional music – after getting too excited by the reverb she was late for work! Most of what she told me was exchanged during a cycle ride going from the sewers back up into the periphery of the old town and across to her workplace. She told me that the songs she sang were mostly of the later category and were often about men leaving their pregnant women…

Zosia is also a singer of traditional Polish music. We recorded in a less exciting location, Anastazja’s bedroom, but had a little more time to talk about the meaning of the songs. She sang three songs and this is what they’re about:

Siwy Koniu is about a man talking to his horse asking it to leed him to his woman. He gets to her and asks her to come with him, she refuses because people from the village are talking about them. He answer that he doesn’t care what anyone is saying about them because he loves her (in the song he calls her ‘my rose’)

– Ktòrztam po kumorze is about a girl going to get married and is talking to the voice of her dead mother. The girl asks for her mother’s blessing but the mother’s voice answers that she can’t give it to her because of three locks imprisoning her: the Wood from the coffin, the Sand/Earth and the green Grass. 

– Nie jadzty do mnie is a women pleading her boyfriend to no come to her because she has another love. The man thinks she is so beautiful and can’t resist. The women then prays for the mountains and the plains to level so she can get to her love…

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