Jeremy Dutcher – 9Bach(Noeth) – Live at Neuadd Ogwen

The Polaris Music Prize and Juno Award winning tenor, and activist, Jeremy Dutcher, brought the “indigenous” songs of the Maliseet culture all the way from Saint John River valley in Canada to the small town of Bethesda in North Wales on Friday evening.

The town’s independent music venue, Neuadd Ogwen, treated a packed house to an unforgettable evening of world class “world music” which I suspect many aficionados would have paid a small fortune to experience, which is ironic when you consider that Dutcher himself is determined to make the “indigenous music” box he has been placed into obsolete.

A stripped down 9Bach (noeth) opens, with Lisa Jen Brown (vocals/Harmonium/keyboard) and Martin Hoyland (guitar) playing a short but emotional set, including tracks from their BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winning album, “Tincian”.

9bach

From the gentle opening of “Llyn Du” (“Black Lake”) onwards, Lisa Jen charms the audience with her delicate vocals and her disarming chats in-between songs.

There is a sadness to the set, felt by both 9Bach and anyone in the audience who was aware of the recent death of Alan James, an early founder of the WOMAD music festival. James was a close friend, manager, and a champion of 9Bach, and both their last song and an early song from Jeremy Dutcher’s set are dedicated to a man who did so much to bring the music of the world to a wider audience.

Which brings us to Jeremy Dutcher. This is his first ever tour of Europe and having thanked his hosts for their hospitality he announces “Paris, Madrid, and now Bethesda!” which elicits a roar of approval from the audience, but then the fact that the venue has secured such a prestigious artist should be celebrated.

Dutcher is garnering a lot of publicity for his album, “Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa”, which blends archival recordings of traditional Maliseet songs with his own classically trained tenor voice, and piano. The performance is simple on the surface. Dutcher sits at the piano for most of the songs, standing up briefly to perform a couple with nothing but a shaker and his voice.

dutcher

Then there are the archival recordings themselves. Whether you subscribe to the argument that analogue beats digital or not, something happens inside you when you hear these voices from the past in all their scratchy glory. In Dutcher’s own words he creates “sound worlds”, setting free these lost years and the silenced voices of the Maliseet, shining a 21st century light on them. That it was illegal to sing these songs in Canada up until the 1950’s speaks volumes. That there are very few speakers of the Maliseet language left in the world today should be considered a crime. “When we lose a language we lose everything”, says Dutcher while acknowledging a connection he sees between the Maliseet and the Welsh fight to retain and celebrate both language and cultural identity.

At one point in the evening Dutcher splits the audience into two groups and asks them to create a drone, with one half humming a G root note, and the other half humming a 5th. Dutcher then creates vocal loops, which are laid over each other. It is a magical moment.

Dutcher hopes that the label of “indigenous music” will become obsolete within a year. Judging from the quality of the music the audience at Neuadd Ogwen were treated to, I fail to see why this shouldn’t be the case. This music is hard to pigeon hole in the most positive way possible. To quote Dutcher again, “When we hear music it leaves the brain and it takes over the heart”.

The concert was both intimate and huge, a bit like a small town independent music venue hosting world class award winning music.

Photographs by Denise Baker Denise Baker

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You Can’t Post That!

Facebook has blocked me for 24 hours, taking away from me my primary means of procrastinating when I’m supposed to be writing. It’s the reason behind my gagging that irks, more than the actual removal of my “Facebook Rights”.

I recently returned from my first “family holiday” with my partner and her 15 year old son; his words, not mine.

Despite “The Youth” being totally focused on getting into the skate-park we’ve found for him in Oslo, he has to temper his desire to skate with a bit of “art & culture” first.

We end up in the Astrup Fearnley Museum, and are pleased to see that, yet again, “The Youth” is allowed free entry to the exhibitions.

The artist Dan Colen is the current draw, and we – my girlfriend and I – are certain “The Youth” will appreciate Colen’s confrontational, pop culture work.

We were right, although at the end of our “family holiday”, “The Youth” informed us that the highlight for him was the painting “The Dance of Life” by Munch.

When we finally got home, I uploaded some of the photographs I’d taken while on holiday, and it was one of these pictures that got me blocked from Facebook.

It is a picture of a sculpture by Colen, called “Livin and Dyin”.

I suspect it wasn’t the Kool-Aid Guy, Wylie Coyote, or Roger Rabbit that offended, but the representation of the artist naked.

I’ve told Facebook what I think about its “values”, but as of this moment the ban still stands, which means I have a number of options:

I can head over to Twitter

I can make another coffee

I can now legitimately break for lunch

I can do some much needed admin

I can get on with some writing

I can complain about shitty censorship and double standards

I’m off to put the kettle on, and grab a bite to eat. I might be in virtual solitary confinement at the moment, but I’ll be buggered if I’m going to go on hunger strike over the matter.

“The Dance of Life” by Edvard Munch

“Livin’ and Dyin” by Dan Colen

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Living The Dream #4 But I Don’t Need A Holiday!

By the time this post is published I’ll be in Germany, accompanying my girlfriend on a working trip she’s taking. She’ll be giving inspirational talks to students there. I’m her “Plus 1”. The internet will post this for me…I hope.

I’ve never had a girlfriend who gives inspirational talks before. I did have an ex who was an expert at telling people how to live their lives, but there’s a not so subtle difference in the two approaches. Personally I prefer being inspired over a badgering any day.

 

It’s the morning of our departure, and I’m already missing North Wales, despite the fact that we don’t leave for the airport until early this evening. I woke up at silly o’clock this morning; not because I was excited about the trip, but because I wanted to cram in as much home life as I could before we left.

I stood at the conservatory door, holding a clandestine cup of coffee (I’m supposed to start the day with a healthy cup of hot water, a slice of lemon, a sliver of ginger, and a spoonful of honey, just don’t tell the girlfriend I cheated) and watched the day start; ticking off anything I would be pining for over the next five days.

 

I’ll miss the persistent precipitation for a start. I’m one of those freaks who loves rain. I was warned about the weather here by a South Waleian film maker I know; “It’s something to do with the mountains” he said. The rain here is often sideways, due to the winds, and it’s been known for people to become hermits during the winter months; hibernating at home until Spring wakes up.

 

When the sun shines though, it’s a different story altogether. On a hot day it’s down to Ogwen Bank for a sit by the river; and a dip in it too, if you’re young enough, or foolish enough to brave the still icy chill of the river.

 

Apparently there’s something called “Wild Swimming”. Wild Swimming involves going somewhere where there is water, with no walls around it, no roof over it, and no chlorine to keep it clean and germ free. It’s an activity that people pay good money to try out. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay someone to take me to a river, lake, or beach, with a group of strangers, and…well, swim. I’m perfectly capable of doing this without sticking the word “wild” in front of it, and then handing over my hard earned cash to someone else for the privilege of doing so.

 

However, I digress.

 

I’ll miss sitting at my desk, tapping away at the keyboard, making stuff up. I guess I can do this in Germany too, but I’m going to be in another country, so I’m going to want to “do stuff”, “see stuff”. I might as well look upon this as a holiday. Only, I don’t need a holiday (and I definitely can’t afford one).

 

I’m going to miss the birds that have started to use the feeders I’ve put out on the patio at the back of our home; especially now that I own a decent pair of binoculars. I got them yesterday (a couple of days ago now you’re reading this) for my 54th birthday, from my girlfriend. I can practically see the expressions on the faces of the people on the zip line ride now, over at Zip World.

Zip World is “an attraction”. You can hear the whoops of the riders on it from where I live. My new toy adds a whole new dimension to it.

 

I’ll miss the mountains of course,that goes without saying, and even more so now that I can see individual sheep on the slopes through my binoculars.

 

And so I’ll start packing shortly, then have breakfast, then do some admin, then write for a while, then go on holiday.

It’s funny, it’s like I’ve stepped through the looking glass, into a topsy turvy world where my day to day life is a daydream, a break. How lucky am I that I can’t wait for a holiday abroad to finish, so that I can fly home and get back to work.

Well, I’d better get packing. My girlfriend has inspired me to get it done umpteen times already this morning. Bloody holidays, getting in the way of my fun!