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Friday, May 15, 2009

Himalaya Blues

Knut Reiersrud/Hans Fredrik Jacobsen/Vajra
Himalaya Blues

Norwegian blues guitarist Knut Reiersrud has collaborated in the last 25 years with blues legends such as Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, when he was only 18 years old, and with experimental guitarists such as Henry Kaiser and David Lindley, while he was acting as researcher, consultant and production assistant in Kaiser and Lindley's musical exploration of Norway ( The Sweet Sunny North, Shanachie, 1994; The Sweet Sunny North, Vol.2, Shanachie, 1996). Reiersrud was always able to combine the musical traditions of Norway, West Africa and America, and in Himalaya Blues, together with Norwegian winwood and reed player Hans Fredrik Jacobsen and Nepalese folk band Vajra, he proves that he can also cope with the musical traditions of the Indian subcontinent.

Himalaya Blues was conceived during a 2000 tour of Reiersrud and Jacobsen's band, The Funky Homosapines, to India and Nepal. During that tour the band played at the jazz festival of Katmandu, Jazzmandu, where they united with Vajra, a band that works to keep the classical folk music of Nepal alive. The Nepalese folk tradition is very similar to the classical music of north India, but it's based on a more short and catchy melodic phrases. The Funky Homosapines and Vajara were reunited again at the beginning of 2003, and then this beautiful recording was completed.

The first track "Kuvisa/Gothald" begins with field recording of the urban commotion of Katmandu but the joyful noise quickly dissolves into the airy meditative sound of the flutes of Jacobsen and Vajra's Raman Maharjanis, both of them portraying the similarities between the beautiful mountain scenery of Norway and Himalayan Scenery. The second track is an arrangement of the popular religious Newari song "Byanchuli" that Jacobsen and Reiersrud turn into a kind of funky Norwegian folk song, using whistles and driving rhythm guitar. Reiersrud sings gently the traditional gospel "She's Got the "Whole World," now called "Mother Himalaya," with a flute and tabla backing, answered by a Sanskrit translation of that Afro-American song, sung by Vajra's Santosh Bhakta Shresta, backed with sarod, flute and tabla backing, until the last chorus in which Reiersrud and Santosh sing together and are joined by the bamboo flute, the bansuri.

Reiersrud brings the music back to Norway when he adapts an odd tuning of the Norwegian noteworthy Hardanger fiddle player Hallvard T. Bjørgum into a kind of country blues playing, and using the guitar sometimes as a West African kalimba. Reiersrud also composed also "Shangri-La," based on a Pakistani folk tune and originally written for the Norwegian vocalist Deepika, daughter of Pakistani parents and a a one-time collaborator of famed Norwegian saxophone player Jan Garbarek ( Ragas and Sagas, ECM, 1990). This song was recorded before with David Lindley in a much more Middle Eastern version when Reiersrud played the oud and Lindley the bouzouki. The current version drives the tune into a folky Indian song.

Jakobsen's "Loknes" is an enchanting demonstration of the affinity between the folky flutes of Norway and the bansuri. "Golden Tap" is a truly collaborative union of the two bands, where you can not discern the sound of the guitar from the sarod, the percussion from the tabla or the Norwegian flutes from the bansuri. This album ends with an almost tweve-minute musical feast, "Himalaya Blues," that spellbound the silent crowd at the historical place of Patan Durbar Square with the touchy and melodic fusion of these great musical traditions, creating a true one world music.

Visit Knut Reiersrud on the web.

Tracks: Kuvisa/Gothald; Morning song/Byanchuli; Mother Himalaya/Himali mata; Sylvartun ; Shangri-La; Loknes; Ballad of the Sad Young Tigers/ Jawan Bagha Kobyatha; Golden tap/Lunhiti; Himalaya blues (Around the jungle/Ban Bihaar); Himalaya blues video version.

Personnel: The Funky Homosapiens: Knut Reiersrud - guitars, vocals on track 3; Hans Fredrik Jacobsen - willow flute, metal flute, og bone flutes, saksophones, two-rowed accordian; Audun Erlien - bass on tracks 2,5, 8 & 9; Anders Engen - drums tracks on 2, 5, 8 & 9, percussion on track 6. Vajra: Santosh Bhakta Shresta - israj, vocals; Raman Maharjan - bamboo flute; Suresh Raj Bajracharya - sarod; Bidur Rajkarnikar - tabla.

Thanks to my friend Kim Bjornqvist from Oslo for hinting this... sure worth exploring it! Thank you, Kim!

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