Two things that don’t go together. Holiday Music – that makes you think Christmas and Holi. Some might even call that hell or blasphemy, and clearly (putting my neck out there) they’ve lost the divine in all of that. But perhaps the most profound truth we lose in translating and imposing our predefined judgment is the true heart and soul of this album.
It’s not just about Christmas! Revel & Ritual: Holiday Music for the World is a groundbreaking collection of traditional and original music for holidays of many faiths, places, and seasons, including Hanukkah, Holi, Ashura, Chinese and Ukrainian New Year, Sakura Matsuri, Basque and Catalan Christmas carols, and the Winter Solstice. Explore a world of holiday music beyond the shopping-mall standards!
And that makes this a whole new kind of sacred that really deserves some sage and candlelight. For those of you who know me best, you’d know that despite having worked, and still working the contours of the music industry – from rock fests to dub steps – my first love is world and lounge music. Yes, I review rap and secretly dance to electro swing while lounging to putayamo and meditating to the sounds of the earth. So this feels like it’s going to be such a divine-timing sacred treat. (OM).
It has been said that Greg Herriges creates a stirring mix of “progressive world music” on guitar, bouzouki, and vocal, with a unique approach honed by his studies of Asian and other international styles. A virtuoso performer and award-winning composer, his music and writing have found international recognition. Greg is: a recipient of composer/performing artist fellowships and grants from the Bush and McKnight Foundations, the Metro Regional Arts Council, and MN State Arts Board; a soundtrack artist and music director for film and theater; and author of seven internationally published music books. Performing is his lifeblood; he gets equal fulfillment playing with cross-cultural ensembles or letting one guitar play him.
My inner little girl feels like it is Christmas, as I unwrap each precious single with love and light and deepest respect. Because let’s face it, in a world turned political – it’s our stories that might tear us apart – and our collective stories that bring us together in this human experience.
01. Birjina Gazetto Bat Zegoen (Trad. Basque)
A Basque Christian song about the Annunciation, popularly known as “The Angel Gabriel.” This instrumental arrangement was partly inspired by the German/Dutch vocal group Aquabella.
With a sound that vibrates in the realms of Tango, Hispanics, and a little Mexico, we are transported on cords of strings that make me pay homage to Rodrigo i Gabriella. It feels like a journey to the manger, through rolling hills and snaking desert landscapes weaving below one’s feet – with the burden and persistence and compassion of each step to find a place to call home – if only for this night. Or at least that’s the story it yearns to whisper in the whisps of cords.
A Basque folk carol, originally based on Angelus Ad Virginem, a 13th or 14th Century Latin carol, it was collected by Charles Bordes and then paraphrased into English by Sabine Baring-Gould, who had spent a winter as a boy in the Basque country. The tune is called “Gabriel’s Message”. It is commonly performed in an arrangement by Edgar Pettmanpublished in his 1892 book Modern Christmas Carols.
I’m struggling to get my head around this track and Madonna. Unless she turned it into some kinda tango / paso doble thing. But still … I’ll have to google that later. And hiipppeee for getting that Basque is a part of Spain. Phew, good start there.
02. Garuda/Khelat Rang Holi (Herriges/Pavan)
Celebrating the Hindu Holi Festival of Colors in Indo-Balinese fusion style, with Indian vocal and percussion over a Gamelan-inspired glockenspiel melody.
This track feels like a music box that comes to life like something out of the Nutcracker – but in India. With Indian twisps, hints, shuffles, and playful full-body storytelling that’s as rich as all the colours of Holi. For me, it’s an explosion of beauty, playfulness, authenticity, profound genius and intense rich subtextually. And that glockenspiel just adds a poetic touch. A pure melodic celebration with love stiched in.
03. Sakura, Sakura (Trad. Japanese)
“Cherry blossoms, across the Spring sky, as far as the eye can see. Is it mist, or clouds?” This iconic Japanese song for the Spring Cherry Blossom Festival is arranged for guitar based on various Koto versions.
OMG! Cherry Blossoms. Japan. Take me there. And breathe. There’s something delicate and deliberate about the Japenese artform and while I feel I still have so much more to learn there – it humbles me and takes me somewhere only my stars now (past life much?) So I handled this unfolding with unstyled grace and fumbled over the play button till that sound touched me…
Stripped of all eagerness, humbled to the core, in a place where only essence lives and breathes both complex simplistic serenity with profound dedication, craft, and perfection. This ode to serendipity, transience, and transcendence, beauty, vulnerability, is musically orchestrated in awe-inspiring pallete of admiration and respect. Just like the artist who shares it with us.
Fun Fact: The Koto is a traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument derived from the Chinese zheng, and similar to the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum, and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. The koto is the national instrument of Japan. Koto are about 180 centimetres (71 in) length, and made from kiri wood (Paulownia tomentosa). They have 13 strings that are usually strung over 13 movable bridges along the width of the instrument. There is also a 17-string variant. Players can adjust the string pitches by moving the white bridges before playing. To play the instrument, the strings are plucked using three finger picks (thumb, index finger, and middle finger). With love from Wikipedia
HMMMMM. Maybe it’s easier for me to get my hands on one of these to play than the harp #musicambitious #cantplayanythingelse
SIDENOTE: Please tell me you’re having fun already. I know you have to hear it to really feel it. Patience – links are coming.
First I want to give respect to the artists who cricled to make this.
Greg Herriges: guitar, bouzouki, guitalele, hoses, vocal (track 7)
Michael Bissonnette: drums and percussion
Rundio: Chapman Stick, atmospherics, beard
Pooja Goswami Pavan: vocal (tracks 2 & 9)
Abhinav Sharma: dholak (track 2), tabla (track 9)
Tatiana Riabokin: bandura (track 9)
Then I need to google what on earth kind of musical instrument a beard is. Something tells me I’m looking at the wrong this. Please help!
09. Shchedryk (Trad. Ukrainian)
In its pre-Americanized form, this was a Ukrainian New Year’s song about a swallow who flew into a farmer’s house to sing of his blessings: newborn lambs, a bountiful harvest to come, and a beautiful “dark-browed wife.” Our Indo-Ukrainian prog-fusion arrangement includes bandura (harp lute), tabladrums, and Hindustani vocal – Pooja’s arrangement of a Ghazal (lyrics by Khumar Barabankvi, 1919-1999):
“Neither is love vanquished, nor the world, fatigued; the oil lamp glows still, while the wind blows!”’
And for all your humble patience that last piece translates into this work of heart – which sounds lullaby-listically familiar (and is officially my favourite track – I’m so playing this before I go to dream tonight).
And with that we part. And dear traveller you find love, light, and unity across the diversity of places we call home. And if you are interested in visiting this artist home: