Mella Mella – Mystery and Joy

Posted by rwiens on 5th October 2015 in CD Albums

I first started playing kalimbas and other lamellaphones while working for choreographer Lucie Gregoire in 2001. At the time there was an African store called Giraffe on St.Denis. When I would walk in the staff would bring out 30 or 40 kalimbas for me to try and I would leave with 3 or 4 of them.

At the time I was at the beginning of an ongoing examination of rhythm that continues to this day. Because of the layout of the kalimbas (left thumb, right thumb) they lent themselves to exploring melodic polyrhythms, positive and negative rhythms, palindromes and rhythmic canons. To date I have written over a thousand pages of rhythmic ideas, explorations, exercises and compositions.

I was living close to Thom Gossage and thought it would be fun to try out these ideas in a duo format. Each of the kalimbas had a name, written in black magic marker, and we started putting pairs together. I would bring rhythmic sketches, we would learn to play them and then improvise. Most of our rehearsals were done outside, much to the delight of marauding gangs of three year olds.

Over the years we would record a dozen pieces annually and before my hard drive imploded (“Wow I’ve never seen a computer do that before”) we had about 150 compositions. Time passed and the commercially non existent duo became even more non existent.

Several years ago I started writing new pieces for kalimba duo. These were longer, multi part pieces which were quite difficult and it took a long time to be even able to hear the rhythms correctly. We recorded these new pieces and originally they were the ones I had wanted to release. To my dismay and surprise, I preferred the recordings we had done ten years earlier. This disturbed me at first because I believed and wanted to believe that as musicians get older, the music becomes richer, deeper and more assured, yet I preferred the older recordings. There was a lightness and joy that the newer duos lacked.

I rewrote some of the new duo pieces for solo kalimba, then spent over 6 months working on them 6 to 8 hours a day until they felt natural and then went into the studio to record them. Dino Giancola, engineer and calm positive presence, did his usual fantastic job giving the music nuance, detail and clarity.

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