Theres a natural mystic blowing through the air;
If you listen carefully now you will hear. – Bob Marley

Kora

One is always wondering about things one can’t explain. Music has mystical powers – it influences its audience in many different ways. I have always been curious about the mystical power of music & art – and so I decided to start start gathering thoughts together on this topic.

I was busy creating a music page as part of this blog – and like most music pages of most other blogs – I was planning to put a list of links to artists I like. Then I thought – that doesn’t make sense – it has to be something different.

Since I have many many musical stories I could tell – each song I love reminds me of people I have met, places I have seen, lessons I have learnt – this blog is already becoming a collection of musical experiences – so I thought I would rather create a page that tries to put you into my shoes and tells the story of each song, each artist rather then just writing down a name and linking it to the “official site” of so and so.

So here is a bit of an introduction to all of that ….:

I grew up with music – but as the years went by – music took on various different meanings and taught me a lot about things. There is a mystery about it. It is powerful, it heals, it is universal, it is everywhere.

Classical music

When I was small music meant classical music and that meant – concert halls, uncomfortable clothes, clapping, and listening to the same piece of music all over again. I remember sitting there and thinking … “so when will this end – then we can clap and finally go home”. At that time all kids played music – I started to play the violin when I was 7 and most of my friends played the violin or the piano. I had violin classes twice a week up till I was 14 – then I went on to attend musical high school which meant music lessons all morning, normal high school stuff in the aftertoon and orchestra pratise in the evening. It was tough – I wasn’t that good at playing Paganini and was also not that good at composition. I will never forget those concerts where I was standing there in front of the audience all dressed in black and white – and tried my best to play that sonata without mistakes and once it was over I felt so releived to hear the audience clapping.

Classical Indian music

It was normally my grandmother that took me to the “serious” classical music concerts. One day she decided to take me to a Calcutta trio concert. The Calcutta trio was also playing “classical music” – Indian classical music. It was quite an interesting experience – since the two of us were the audience – my grandmother and me – and still they decided to go ahead with the concert. I found it really funny that they played in clothes that looked like white pijamas and they also lit insence sticks before they started playing. Wow what strange sounds…and I couldn’t tell when they finished tuning the sitar – for me the ragas at first sounded just like a big “tuning exercise” – and it carried on and on …. and … on. That was when I was around 13-14. Later when I moved to Budapest – I went to these Indian music concerts every single Monday evening and listen to Andras tuning his sitar 🙂 on a regular basis. They didn’t only play music during those Mondays but also explained a lot about the scales and rhythm each raga had and explained that each raga was intended for a specific time of the day. Not only that but they also showed videos about India and were ready to teach anyone the sitar for free. Wow – they were teaching for free.

Comparing traditions – ways of thinking

I was thinking – what a difference between the two “classical” music schools – in one you learn to play the same melody exactly the same way all over again , you must wear certain clothes to listen to them and you never communicate with your audience – on the contrary – during the Indian music concerts the musicians never played the same melody exactly the same way – the idea was to play things differently every time, they wore comfortable clothes, they were sitting on stage, talked and taught the audince, told stories, give them tea and lit insence.

Music, poetry, visual arts, dance, storytellers, healers – artists – who is who and who is the audience?

Art is about creativity, it is about excelling in one’s craft, it’s about making the audince feel a certain way, it’s about creating an atmosphere, it’s about self-expression, it’s about being observant and conscious of life around you – so when I say musician – I mean all of the above – I don’t necessarily mean someone who went to art school or someone that made it “big” in the music industry. And when it comes to artists and audiences – I think everyone is an artist and everyone is part of the audience – to me it makes the most sense to look at it that way.

Setting off on a musical journey

I thought the way the Calcutta trio looked at things was amazing. So from then I decided to set off on a jourey and find all the different ways people play & “use” music in their daily lives. I understood – that things can be done a million different ways – and it can still be ok.

Music “industry”

I always thought these two words sound really strange together – don’t you think so?

These days by default people think of music as the “music industry” – let me buy a CD of so and so – let me go to a concert – listen – clap & g, especially if you come from a city.
This hasn’t changed for most people. Usually one studies to become a musician and once you have studied – you become a singer – you sell records – and you use that money to live your life as a professional artist.

You rarely see musicians teaching their audience about their craft – you rarely see them explain the song once they sang it – you rarely see musicians talk to their audience after the concert and let’s say have dinner with their “fans”. They normally go home and very often they feel really alone and isolated – even though they have all those “fans”. There is something wrong with that picture.

In the old days…

It never used to be like that – in the old days the musician was also a teacher, story teller, healer of his/her community – songs went from person to person – everyone participated in the songs – which changed a bit every time someone else sang it. Songs “evolved” from day to day – from person to person – the point seemed to be – that music was there – not as much who sang it.

Music in Africa

So once I thought of all of these I set out on my musical journey through Africa – and tried to find out as much as possible about the role of music, musicians & their instruments – which seem to differ in many ways to other experiences I had before.

About Instruments

If you ask a musician about his/her instrument – they would use words like “friend”, “sacred”, “beautiful” – they have different names for them, they have a special place in the room, my mom bought my violin when I was about 12 years old from a local gypsy musician – and that is my only belonging that I take with me everywhere – to the USA, to Tunis and South Africa – I’d be devastated if I lost it or it got damaged in any way …

It’s everywhere

Once you start listening to the rhythms and the sounds around you, your heartbeat – the birds singing, the “keyboard sounds” as the people “type away” here in the OpenCafe, the cars passing – that is all music – we just took it all and combined all of that into mp3s and audio CDs – ok I know this might sound a bit strange, but I feel that essentially everything comes from nature – we don’t own it – sound belongs to everyone and everything.

The world of music and sounds and the musicians that perform these sounds are constant inspiration for me – looking at Nana Vasconselos “playing the sounds of the rainforest” on the stage of the World Music Festival in Budapest – listening to the muezzin calling for prayer – looking at the world through a musical eye definitely helps me to get a bit closer to what it’s all about – where the balance is.

Visit the music page for a selection of stories and quotes on all of the above!

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