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”.

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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.

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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

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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Naked Freelance Writer Earns Money

When I was offered the chance to be a Life Model for an Art Group, my first concern was that I might be compared unfavourably to previous models…in the trouser department I mean. Reassurances from my girlfriend that I was “a grower, not a shower” didn’t help; the last thing I wanted was to grow, mid pose.

As it turns out, the size of my equipment was the least of my worries.

For a start, coming up with eight different poses was hard enough.

“We require five 5 minute poses from you, two to last 15 minute each, and one you can hold for an hour…with a 5 minute break half way through, should you require it” said the lady in charge.

Another worry was the itch on my nose, which started halfway through the first of my 15 minute poses.

Then there was the wind…not the gale force one blowing outside (they’d provided a wall of heaters for that), but the one threatening to explode from my backside; as I knelt on the floor, with my bum in the air, and my back to the artists.

There was a spot of bother “down below” at one point, but it was due entirely to the coffee I’d accepted, halfway through the session; and not because of any dimensional deficiencies, or unwanted expansions on my part. In short, I was desperate to pee. I managed to hold it off until the end of the session, and it was a blessed relief when I finally let go.

And so I stood, and I knelt, and I lounged, and I hugged myself for two hours; striking poses like a pro (because I’m also an actor, there were a couple of dramatic stances on display too that morning).

At the start of each pose, I would find something new to stare at; anything to help me stay perfectly still; and distract from the fact I was stark bollock naked, in front of a dozen women and three men, halfway up a mountain in North Wales, in a bleak midwinter.

And so my advice to any man considering Life Modelling is:

pre-prepare some poses,

practise staying still for prolonged periods,

politely refuse any drinks offered to you during any breaks,

avoid beans, eggs, curries etc. the night before.

Most of all though, don’t worry about your tackle. Because if you’re lucky like me, you’ll come away with a bit of spare cash, a new profile picture, and a nice piece of material for a new blog post.

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