Genre: World, Spontaneous, Primal
Location: Lyon France
Group Members: Héli Andrea and Quentin Thomas
When Héli Andrea put the first song of her band Olane on the Metal-Gaia facebook, I was pleasantly surprised to find a musical project that reminded me heavily of Dead Can Dance, and somewhat of Wardruna. The song I listed above is their first, but there is more to come.
Below is a discussion I had with Héli about the project.
MG: First of all, what are your influences in your music? And what themes are you trying to convey?
HA: I listen to many types of music, a lot of metal, ambient, classical, jazz… And I love to travel in my imagination when I listen to world music like Indian Carnatic songs, Mongol voices, strong ethnic drums or even Celtics songs. I composed Olane with Quentin Thomas, and we both share a passion for film music too.
What I try to do in Olane is to create spontaneously, without any thought about what it means. I’m not trying to talk about concrete issues. I just want to share a feeling. In Olane I want to spread this feeling of strength coming from the earth under our feet. Like something really deep-rooted in us.
When I sing this song, I feel like I’m traveling somewhere, far away.
MG: Are you influenced by groups like Dead Can Dance?
HA: To be honest, I know Dead can Dance since yesterday! Someone told me that Olane was in the same style, so I checked this out and it’s great! I was not influenced by them, but being compared to their style is really nice.
MG: Haha yes, that’s what your style reminded me of as well. What are you and Quentin’s plans for future songs?
HA: Now we are working on another song which will be maybe more epic. To me, it will be interesting to put other types of voices in this one. We consider this as a musical crash test, everything is possible, we can move from a country to another, from a period to another in our music.
I want to try many types of voices, many instruments. We are like kids who have eaten too much sugar. We don’t think about what we do, but it’s really fun! Plus, for the next song I would love to make a video with “Above Chaos,” who is a talented artist. He made all the visuals for the current project.
Anilah sounds to me like a mix of Wardruna, Dead Can Dance, Progressive Rock and Shamanic chanting.
Anilah is the musical project of vocalist and composer Dréa Drury, a musician who hails from the Selkirk Mountains of Western Canada. Her music is influenced by traditional shamanic sound practices, sacred chant, dark tribal and Indian Classical. She has studied the art of using the voice as a healing modality with sound healers and shamans from across North America. Even listening to her music on YouTube makes me feel more relaxed, so it must be working. Her unique sound includes elements of progressive rock and dark ambient chanting.
On the Solpurpose review of her album “Warriro”, Dréa states the following:
“The reason I use ritual and ceremony in a creative context is to help dissolve perceptual boundaries, and to enhance my ability to hear in a different way. Usually this involves actively creating a trance state through pranayama, kriyas, or mantra.”
She also says the following about nature:
“When I am walking through the forest and allow myself to open to the larger conversation that is happening, I feel myself filling up with the sheer grace of being, and literally have no other option but to express my gratitude – and this happens in the form of a song or melody. So to rephrase: I breathe nature in, I breathe melody out. My creativity takes this form.”
Recently I had a chance to talk with this medicine woman of sound on Facebook. Here are her responses to my following questions:
MG: How long have you been playing music, when and how did you pick it up?
DD: I’ve been playing music ever since I could sit at a piano – started studying with my grandmother at 5, then moved on to classical training at 13, did my degree in music at college and then did private apprenticeships with my vocal teachers Ali Akbar Khan and Silvia Nakkach afterward. So yea…have been at it for a long time Always was a musical creature, couldn’t help it..
MG: I’m curious, who are your musical influences?
DD: I have many, but notable ones are: Wardruna, Tool (all of Maynard James Keenan projects), Dead Can Dance – Lisa Gerrard, Bjork, NIN, Chelsea Wolfe. Also listen to tons of avant guard choral/classical music, from composers like Hildegard Von Bingen, Bulgarian Women’s Choir, and countless artists in the Indian Classcial Genre like Raga.
If you would love to hear more Anilah, check out the videos and links below:
CALLING THE OTHERS
ROLLING THUNDER [WARRIOR]
O’ day, arise!
Shine your light, the atoms are dancing.
Thanks to Him the universe is dancing.
overcome with ecstasy,
Free from body and mind
I’ll whisper in your ear where their dance is leading them.
All the atoms in the air and in the desert are dancing,
puzzled and drunken to the ray of light,
they seem insane.
All these atoms are not so different than we are,
happy or miserable,
perplexed and bewildered,
we are all beings in the ray of light from the beloved,
nothing can be said.
Rumi is a 13th century, Persian poet and considered a Sufi Saint by many. While Rumi was an Islamic poet, his poetry has a transcendent appeal among various cultures world wide. His poems contain a deep theme of creative love and the urge to rejoin the spirit to the divine. He believed that this was the goal of every living thing that moved, human, animal or mineral.
Not only is the poem above exquisitely beautiful in terms of rhyme scheme, but it has a deep scientific and spiritual significance when you really think about it.
Let’s take this concept of atoms dancing in the light of the divine.
While the “atom” itself wasn’t physically discovered until the 19th century, early Greek and Indian philosophers had an idea of an atom as an indivisible particle that was the smallest unit of matter. “The Poem of Atoms” captures the idea of every living thing, even the smallest pieces of matter, are participating in a universal dance in the light of the divine.
Today scientists know that sub-atomic particles rotate around a nucleus, planets rotate around stars, stars circle around galaxies and that life occurs in cycles. Everything from the infinitely small to the infinitely large is participating in an orbit – a form of cosmic dance with no clear beginning or end.
The next key piece of imagery here is divine light: “We are all beings in the ray of light from the beloved.” Light is necessary for life. Without the light of the sun, none of us would be here. Light has a variety of meanings in poetry, it could be the light of the sun, the light of knowledge, illumination, or the Divine itself.
The last significant verse I’ll mention is the following: “All these atoms are not so different than we are.”
All life is made up of the same particles. You and I are made up of the hydrogen and helium of the stars that formed this galaxy billions of years ago. All life forms are made up of the same atoms, the same particles and the same star stuff.
When we die, our bodies may decompose and our memories may fade, but the atoms and particles that make up our being will rejoin the universe in the endless, ecstatic dance of life.
Lisa Gerrard is the hypnotic voice leading the World Fusion group “Dead Can Dance.”
Dead Can Dance is a unique group that doesn’t fit into any pre-existing musical genre. They incorporate a variety of different worldly elements into their music such as African Poly-rhythms, Gaelic Folk and Middle Eastern Mantras.
Another beautiful symposium of their music with natural imagery is their Yolunga video.
“Music can be very powerful, it’s a way to free your soul, to open your mind to your inner world…(Simone Alves)”
(All Artwork in this post was done by Simone Alves, Vocalist of Astrakan)
If I were to tell you the short story, I could say that Astrakan is a World Fusion, Ethno, Electronic musical project that uses the Breton language, themes and folk songs into their sound (Breton is a Celtic Language still spoken by a few in Western France).
Yet the fascinating thing about Astrakan is that they decided to broaden the scope of their sound by moving to Istanbul, Turkey. Astrakan itself seems to be a synthesis of many different places, feelings and sounds. To get to the bottom of the Astrakan mystery I decided to talk to the vocalist of the group, Simone Alves herself:
Simone Alves, thank you so much for taking the time let me interview you for the Metal Gaia Blog.
My first question is, How did the members of Astrakan get together?
This is a really good question, that we’re not asked very often actually! Actually I and Yann Gourvil met… hum… 17 years ago! Music was what brought us together. We played in various bands and projects along the years, but then we wanted to start something that would really be more personal. We started to compose and arrange in Istanbul in 2009, and then were very lucky to find two great percussionists, Ali Dojran and Volga Tunca, that loved the project and play now regularly on stage with us. Although we still do duo performances, specially abroad.
What brought you guys to Istanbul from France?
This is the difficult question… that we’re asked about all the time! And there isn’t any short answer… We left France at that time because we needed to step back from our musical projects, we felt we needed to change perspective, to listen to other things, experiment, and somehow find some inspiration. Istanbul definitely has a very attractive aura, it’s a city with a very special atmosphere and soul. It’s also close to Greece, to Bulgaria; it’s Middle East, but it’s still Europe… it’s definitely a good place to change one’s perspective… and get inspired!
Ooo very cool. I also see from your site that your music is inspired by Breton and Celtic culture. What got you guys interested in these topics?
Actually… we only play traditional Breton music, it’s what we’ve been doing always, what we’ve heard, what we’ve learned. We sometimes have the feeling that we never really chose Breton music… without sounding like “bragging”, Breton music might have caught us instead
But despite of that, I guess, as musicians and persons, it reflects what really matters for us, old stories, legends, dances, Celtic mythology…
The way we play it might be personal. By traditional, we mean that all the lyrics are from Brittany. Some tunes as well, but not all of them, Yann made a few compositions.
So going back to Istanbul in this conversation, do you guys see yourselves staying there for a while, or could you see yourselves eventually moving somewhere else for further influence and perspective?
Well, when we first came to Istanbul, we didn’t plan to stay for so long! Actually we miss Brittany, we’re going back for holidays, but they’re always too short. Unfortunately, we doubt the economic situation there would allow us to move back permanently, at least, not in the next couple of years.
They’re still a couple of places where we’d imagine we could stay for a while, Scandinavia or the States, the Balkans – well, then, Northern Greece, maybe? The interesting thing about being in a different environment, is that your own culture will reflect differently. Like if by being different among other people, you’d become more aware about what you share and what makes you different. We feel this is as true for music as for life in general. And very often, we’re amazed to see that traditional cultures have much more in common than we would suspect.
Without moving to a new place, we love to travel, and moreover to travel for our concerts, we love to discover new countries, new people, new food!
(Astrakan In Berane, Montenegro)
What is your favorite place that you’ve been to?
Too hard ! We can’t choose ! Really…
Hahah, too many to choose from I guess.
And too different one from another !
But from what you tell me and from what I’ve read on your site, it sounds like the place and the people you are around speak through your music and almost have a power of their own.
It is a kind of feeling like that. That’s maybe why we sometimes need a change? Because we ourselves have changed in the meantime? Instead of “favorite” place, we’d rather say that Central Brittany is the place we relate to. Not because it is better, more beautiful (although it is really a gorgeous region) or any thing else, but maybe, because it’s the place we feel we belong to.
(Astrakan Playing a show)
That makes sense. I also see on your page that you are influenced by Dead Can Dance. How has listening to these guys influenced your music?
Its quite interesting, I personally was a big fan of DCD as a teenager, and it’s always hard for a fan to tell why. Then, when they paused their career, I myself went more into very “traditional” Breton music, basically a lot of a capella singing, and study of the its very specific ornamentations and rhythms. And I almost forgot about them.
Then recently, I kind of realised that without having ever tried to make something sound like DCD, Lisa Gerrard could have been a kind of “model”. Because of the way she explores music, using her voice as an instrument, because of the way she embraces technique with interpretation.
Do you think Dead Can Dance has also inspired you to make World Music?
Wouldn’t say that, not that way. It’s more like… they’re one of our favorite bands, and we’re musicians, so we, consciously or not, will take something from their music. But musicians like Ezam Ali and her project Niyaz or Mehdi Haddab (Speed caravan ‘s oud player) influenced much more of our sound and compositions. But they’re much less known….
Well I will definitely have to check them out after this interview.
I also see from your facebook that you do a lot of artwork. Do you do most of the artwork for the band?
But it just happened like that…
I’ve always been drawing/painting a lot, but I’d never showcase it. I was mostly considering it as a hobby.
One last thing I would like to ask, what is one thing that you would like me – as a listener – to take away from Astrakan Project?
If I think back to what people that came to our concerts told me, I’ve loved to hear people saying that they’ve felt like travelling to another place or time. We’d love listeners to keep memories from our music as if they’d visited another world. Maybe an inside world ? Music can be very powerful, it’s a way to free your soul, to open your mind to your inner world…
Thanks again Jessica…
Thank you Simone!
Sample Audio Track
Tri martolod an oriant: traditional tune and lyrics from Brittany.
Yes, you are correct, that is Ravi Shankar teaching George Harrison of the Beatles how to play sitar.
The long and eventful life of a music legend ended yesterday when Ravi Shankar died at the ripe old age of 92 with his wife and daughter at his side. This man was the lauded godfather of world music. He has also been described as the most contemporary known Indian musician. Ravi’s career took off after he started mingling with the Beatles and soon inspired the “Raga Rock” fever in the west. He found himself playing shows with some of the most famous musicians of the era – including the opening day of Woodstock.
In the 60’s, music (and maybe just maybe a few drugs), worked the magic of opening the mind to a broader state of reality. The inclusion of sitar into western rock music symbolized an increased awareness to Eastern spirituality and ideas. I’m not saying that everyone who rocked out to raga rock instantly understood India. I’m sure there were lots of people who appreciated a good sitar lick who didn’t know the difference between Delhi and a sandwich shop. Yet at a deeper level, began an awakening of a sort of cultural consciousness between East and West.
Music has a power beyond words. Feel the magic of the sitar as you listen to the songs below:
WITHIN YOU WITHOUT YOU – THE BEATLES
RAVI SHANKAR AND THE BEATLES
RAVI SHANKAR – RAGA ONE
Brought to you by the world’s greatest fusion band.
Genre: World Fusion, African poly-rhythms, Gaelic folk, Middle Eastern Mantras
Location: Melbourne Australia
Yulunga is the leading track on Dead Can Dance’s album Into The Labyrinth. This album was a groundbreaking event for the band, because it was the first album they completed on their own without the aid of guest musicians, as well as the first album to have a major label release in the United States. Into The Labyrinth is the album that put ethnic musical influences at the forefront of the band’s sound.
“Yulunga” itself is a type of spirit dance referred to in the Aboriginal Australian Kamilaroi language.
It is also a rainbow serpent Goddess in an aboriginal dream time legend of the Watagora people. These are the people who lived in what is now “New South Wales.” In the legend they were a happy people who spent their days hunting kangaroo, wallabies, emus and catching eel in what is now called the “Duck River.”
These blissful days came to an end when strangers entered the ancestral lands of the Watagora people. The Watagora warriors made several attempts to defend their land, but all to no avail. So then the Watagora elders made an appeal to the spirits for help. At first there was no answer. The Watagora thought that the Gods had abandoned them. But then a rainbow serpent appeared in the sky and chased the strangers away. You can read the rest of the story here.
The video for this song itself is a breath taking montage of nature and dance (aren’t you glad I posted the HD version?). The footage is from the film Baraka (an experimental documentary film with no plot that seeks to evoke emotion through a cinematic look at different world cultures).
At the end of the video – if you pay attention – you’ll notice that there is just the briefest glimpse of a little girl watching a rainbow shining over a river. Perhaps a symbol that the dance of life will go on.