folk

Širom

Sirom

@ Café Oto (East) 

08.05.18

Whilst discovering more about Širom before I went to see them in East Londons nicest cafe venue (personal opinion), I found that they describe themselves on facebook as Slovenian acoustic folk trance drone avant-garde experimental band. - I figured if they have as much musical inspiration as they do genre describing words, then we’d be in for a a mouth full of music. 

Café Oto is located in East London, cafe by day selling vinyls teas and cakes, and by evening, the small barely raised stage fills and the room transforms into magical musical get away. This time on entering the Oto, seats were being placed out fo the ever growing audience. Looking around, the audience seemed mainly middle aged artistic types, some with small kids tacking naps in their laps, and the odd student here and there. 

I took a seat to the right of the stage and feasted my eyes on the array of musical instruments mapped out on the floor. I see two balafons, African xylophones, I see a ribab, a one stringed lute from Morocco played with a padded bow and traditionally accompanying poets. As well as this, we can see a violin, many forms of percussion, a small kalimba lamellaphone which is a small thumb piano and a few other instruments also. 

The Slovenian trio came to the stage, and in an atmospheric way began the musical journey. For that’s what it was. The trance came over to me in waves, at times during the performance I found myself with my eyes closed in an almost mediative way as the music took ahold of my conscience. 

Notably each movement lasted around the twenty minute mark, certainly not a performance of 4-7 minute songs back to back. During each piece, the members of the group: Iztok Koren, mainly on percussive instruments and banjo, Ana Kravanja rousing on the violin, however playing many other things too and finally, Samo Kutin on the balafons, kalimbas and something that looked somewhere between a DIY-do-it-yourself Kora, and an oversizes gourd bow. Research tells me this is in fact a home-made harp.

The music starts, I notice at first that Iztok is playing the banjo with the bow…(I later noticed we actually had a 4 strings banjo, and a 5 string). At first I wasn’t sure I enjoyed the sound, but once layered and set in its context with the violin and balloon playing, and then slowly a beat, I found myself in awe and embarrassed I had initially doubted the sound. The avant-garde elements were obvious enough, the audio experimentation, the adventurous journeys they were taking us on. This bow came into use in many ways, at some point, a balafon was picked up vertically, and the thin edges of the keys were played with this bow. Again, a strange yet immersive sound. 

Lyrics take a back seat with this experience, the occasional vocal drone from Ana and Samo, we had rhythm sections, at a couple of memorable points, Ana and Samo interlocked their two balafons, both members playing both balafons, the skill was impressive to say the least, furthermore this created such a beautiful sound. Melodies were made from muted strings, sounds were pulled from everything: the slide of a finger on a guitar, beating a rusty bicycle chain cog creating a singing bowl effect, the beat from tapping a banjo face, a shake of a small bell and a whisper directed away from the microphone.

Širom performed a musical experience, with such long pieces it was easy to loose yourself in their trance. Wether it be the ongoing ukulele, or the banjo or violin, as the musicians switched between instruments mid-movement, they did so with such a gracious and smooth transitions keeping the vibe alive throughout. 

Their energy exuded thoughts of nature, running water, the kalimba and the balafons connotated rain-forests for me, I felt that Širom were welcoming me into their imiaginations, into their nature, into the landscapes of Slovenia. It sounded as though each ember had multiple sets of hands and were creating noises that I could barely keep up with. 

Širom formed in 2014 and are signed to Glitterbeat records, their 2017 album ‘I Can be a Clay Snapper’ is available on Spotify, I would personally recommend ‘Boats, Biding, Beware!’. For me the album falls directly into that that can be played on nearly all occasions, be it a dinner party, an intense personal listening session, cycle around the city or relaxing with friends. I

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of seeing Širom at Cafe Oto, I would call it an experience. Although musical, it certainly didn’t feel quite like a normal gig, a gig installation perhaps? There we find our avant-garde. 

Baba Zula

29.01.17 

Nells Jazz & Blues (South Kensington) 

I returned to Nells Jazz & Blues for the second time in a weekend. The first to see North West African traditional music, and this time, to see eclectic Turkish folk band Baba Zula. 

Periklie Tsoukalas of Baba Zula   Nells Jazz a Blues   29.01.18   Photo Sophie Darling 

Periklie Tsoukalas of Baba Zula 

Nells Jazz a Blues

29.01.18 

Photo Sophie Darling 

Baba Zula formed as a band in Istanbul in 1996. They have since become the polar figures, pioneers and flag masters for Turkish psychedelic rock’n’roll. The eclectic mix of sounds and influences emanating from their high energy performances beams traditional oriental instruments:  sounds such Özgür Çakırlar beating the darbuka drums providing thriving rhythms throughout. The saz, mastered by Murat Ertel, reminds us of the Arab influences, and screams maqqam, however untraditionally electrified. The result; dirty, at times distorted rock’n’roll saz solos over chorus-esc male singing, often in small phrases, or one word exclamations. Traditional percussion provides the much needed foot stopping dance tones, whilst contemporary electronic instruments such as sample pads, percussion machines, theremins, oscillators, effects pedals and an array of experimentation adds the modern dance, dub elements. All in all, the performances Baba Zula produce comes served as a mixed disciplinary experience, often travelling through long psychedelic instrumentals, thrashing into Hendrix inspired lute solos channeled through a wah wah pedal. The energy bursts out of every segment of the songs, often building up to wonderfully long dancing, jumping conclusions. 

Periklie Tsoukalas is representing a similar look to the last time I saw the boys playing; steampunk circle glasses matched with multicoloured patched waistcoat and matching shoes, with orange trousers and a larger than life afro that bobbed to every beat. Periklies position within the band is playing the electric oud and vocals. The effects pedal at his feet becomes the most important part of the the musical make-up of Baba Zula. One minute the oud will be emanating renaissance-esc melodic phrases, then with a tap of the foot, the bass strings are creating heavy dubbed bass lines that dominate the energy of the song. With another tap, the oud becomes Jimi Hendrix’s Fender Strat’ with a 70’s wah wah bending the notes, shaping the vibe into a groovy funk dance. 

With Baba Zula you journey through genres, through sounds and through themes. 

Speaking of themes, the ideologies of the band members are clear throughout. With every moment of conversation between the band and the audience, they pursued the opportunity to promote a global peaceful vision. One of no borders, no discrimination and of a ‘one people’. Speaking to the audience they ask…

“Do you feel you are from a race? from a nation? Do you think you could be wrong? We can all be wrong? We are all mixed you see… 

You don’t know your great great great grandfather do you? Nooo. So you could be wrong! You do not know!

We are all mixed, we are all living, in this world, in this now. 

We can have and learn enjoyment”

…From here they jumped into the next grooving song, punching the peaceful energy around the room. Furthermore after every song, and in every moment of pause, the members of the band adorned the universal peace signs with their hands to the audience. 

Periklie frequently triggered a pop culture reference in my head… I felt as though I were being taken back to school…. ‘The School of Rock’ to be precise, and Jack Black was telling me to “raise my goblet of rock” before “melting” my face off in this light hearted, totally rock’n’roll character, as he points around the audience before shredding on the oud. 

Techno percussionist Levent Akman is known for vibing on the spoons, the maracas, all manner of mini percussions, symbols, pads, effects, whilst experimenting with electronic devices, that at times can become so overpowering the distortion can be felt from within. 

A slight disappointment came in that female vocalist Melike Şahin didn’t join the band for this performance, there was also no explanation as to why. 

The band came on stage around 8, and started the set jumping immediately in the deep end, opening with perhaps one of their biggest hits ‘Abdülcanbaz’, played for over 10 minutes, the eventual crescendo of the song opens the set and immediately creates the high energy reaction from the already dancing audience. Screaming in support could be heard the entire evening. 

The dancing did not stop for one moment throughout the evening as Baba Zula played hit after hit demanding audience participation, which they received with an raucous passion. At one moment, the entire venue could be heard chanting “PIRASA” meaning ‘leek’ in Turkish, or as they pointed out, a word that will be accepted all across the Balkans and in Greece also. 

Together the audience sung, clapped and danced the night away with Baba. 

At a number of points, the audience was very literally dancing WITH Baba Zula as they spent a good couple of songs within the audience, either dancing with us, singing with us, asking us all to join them on them crouching low on the floor quietly, whilst Periklie sings acoustic traditional Arabic melismatic vocals that echoed around the small venue, all the while building up the energy by punctuating his vocals with the single strum of an extremely high powered, slightly distorted oud. 

Murat Ertel also acted rock’n roll in many ways, from playing his electric sax solos  behind his head in  typical ‘Vaughan’ style, to traveling across the audience via chair tops, across the room to the bar, where he climbed, saz in hand, to solo on the bar top all while commuting from stage to bar whilst playing epic saz licks.

The evening at Nells was quite juxtaposed to the Saturday evening I had spent in the venue. The first evening I spent was very serious, almost silent and specialist. However this evening was quite the opposite, with upbeat dancing from moment one, the demographic seemed far more ‘excited’ than Saturdays crowd, with a high level of chatting in between songs, it was perhaps a little too loud in laughter for my liking. However, the same set up of the stage at Saturday: minimal lights and back drop ensuring upmost attention to the music and the artist. The 200 capacity at Nells really makes for an intimate show, one where you really feel as though you have seen, even met the artists. 

I thouroughly enjoyed my evening with Baba Zula, and would recommend their live performance to anyone into dancing, Balkans, Turkish, Psychedelia, Rock’n’roll, shredding solos and all manner of hooligan-ary and fun, and of corse, impeccable musicianship. 

 

Me and Murat Ertel  Baba Zula @ Nells Jazz & Blues   29.01.18

Me and Murat Ertel

Baba Zula @ Nells Jazz & Blues 

29.01.18