BEFRIENDING CHANCE

C.H.A.N.C.E = Cosmic Heart-full Alignment (with) Non-linear Creative Energy/Engagement

If anything, I mean anything, was possible, if you could live out your dream, what would it look like, in the detail? What small gestures would populate your days, what behaviors would you engage in, in the small ways, if you were, in fact, your idols? Assuming we are made for this. Participation. Gratitude action. To befriend chance we have to be fit with our craft, alert + actually willing to receive.

Having a solo set (album is on its way) has been more than giving myself wings. It has been a make-over of my fundamental beliefs about how things function. Having this vessel built, and available for adventure, has me being able to say… YES!

YES to collaborating with a collection of such fine Australian musicians at UNwind Festival this May, thanks to a chance conversation and spontaneous collaboration with the phenomenal percussionist Ben Walsh on a festival stage this summer.

YES to collaborating with the enchanting minstrel Piers Faccini in his exquisite acoustic series La Route de La Voix (entirely human-amplified intimate concerts in old stone chapels in the South of France), this thanks to following my curiosity re microphones down the rabbit hole of Rokia Traore’s Tchamantché album, finding engineer Patrick Jauneaud in the mountains, honoring our subsequent collaboration with all the musical love I could muster, and to his sharing those mixes with someone he knew…

(Stay tuned for the release of FLY, taster HERE)

And YES to the privilege/challenge of performing our own arrangements of traditional Balkan folklore with my sassy acapella trio ACAPOLLiNATiONS this Sunday, just because we loved it at Te Uru Gallery last time (another entirely human-amplified concert).

UPCOMING SHOWS
30th April – ACAPOLLiNATiONS @ Te Uru Gallery, Titirangi, Auckland, Aotearoa/NZ
5-7th May – UNwind Festival @ Paradise One, Byron Bay, AUSTRALIA
9th May – Tui Mamaki & Encuentro Dos @ Open Studio, Melbourne, AUSTRALIA
20th May – Tui Mamaki & Piers Faccini @ La Route de La Voix, Issensac, FRANCE

And to finish, some stills from an upcoming music video RIWAKA, born of a chance conversation with Shannon Schnittker from Traveling Filmmakers at Luminate Festival this year, and the synchronized map movements that followed.  Definitely a fan of following up on crazy ideas, and in doing so, allowing the paths of grace to collide…

Between Storms

Composed on the flights between Bulgaria and Aotearoa/NZ, my first ever bi-lingual (English/Bulgarian) tune – a musing on meetings, between cultures and generations, between souls and skins, and on the instrument of language.  (Recorded spontaneously during a midnight storm, in a little hut, on a hill, somewhere in the South Pacific.)

How it came to be?

Kilometers above the clouds, in a great bird of steel, packed neatly in rows, with hundreds of other souls, it is easy to blur the sense of belonging – in terms of location, climate and fragrance that is – but we cannot escape our histories and our imaginings. The question of cultural identity begs for detail – these traditions, so rich, have been forged through repetition, through an age old distill, whereby exotic influence meets the ferment of isolation. We need the cross-pollination for energy, but we need the hermetic aspect for quality. Each in their own time? Is it a process we can guide?

In Bulgaria I have witnessed a divide between those who reject the said Folklore Music as a pure product of the communist era, as a distortion and appropriation of village song for the representation of the party, as a practice now stuck in time and no longer of any use to the Bulgaria that must catch up for lost (iron curtain) time… And then there are the others.  Others, who rejoice in the vibrant, profound, nuanced and unparalleled prowess of the rhythms, the ornaments and the unique arrangements.  Others, who delight in the lush colors and sacred patterns, through which they breathe the mojo of their ancestors.  Others, who vow to guide a spirited, thriving art-form into a healthy future.

I came here because of it. This Folklore. And the most improbable spirits gather to it from all around the world, like moths to a light. Some of the most bewitching singers I have met in Bulgaria exude a devotion to spread this musical richness globally, naturally, and preferably, person to person. When they come to understand the work I am doing, they generally tell me they are thrilled that I am helping to share their culture. I do, however, fear my own ignorance and feel a duty to honor the quality of the work by continually seeking to deepen my understanding and my own practice. Ironically, it is through sharing it that parts of it get integrated or understood – through performing it with my vocal trio ACAPOLLiNATiONS, through teaching aspects of it in my World of Voice Workshops in NZ, and through composing and recording original works inspired by it, as I am doing for my upcoming album.

Some Westerners, blown away by the power of the traditional Bulgarian song (which has undeniably been forged through generations of passionate, war fraught, tough mountain people), and intrigued by the timbre and spirit that it solicits in my voice, have encouraged me to record some… to be able share it further than in my live gigs… I feel awkward about this. It doesn’t belong to me. But perhaps I belong to it.  And so my whole perspective on cultural belonging begins to shift – as I feel words coming out first in Bulgarian (followed by the curious need to translate them back into English!), as I effortlessly shake my head to agree, as I hear new song ideas in 7 or 11 or 13, and as I write my first lyrics in this new ancient tongue… smalls steps on a long loving road.

The Bulgarians colleagues I have played my new tunes to, relate to them,  tap along and feel reflected, yet are taken elsewhere. The feedback has been luminous.  But the road is treacherous. Do we protect, preserve, guard the authentic forms? Do we share, morph, re-interpret and speak through them, with our own accent? Or is there a way to make a savvy, sacred blend of both schools?

An accent. We all have. But we only hear it when we’ve been away, when we meet another, different. And this is the beauty of our motion – to reach out to each other and be changed for it, but simultaneously to dig deep and slow and to pay our dues to the ancestors – for without their breath, we are nothing, and without our song, they are gone.

On so, on that great steel bird, between Bulgaria to Aotearoa, I watched ‘El Olivo’, the beautiful story of a 2000 year old olive tree and the wound that its sale creates in a Spanish family, and their soul journey to try to bring it home.  All these musings interwove, and I heard something, kilometers above the clouds…

BETWEEN STORMS

I let you in, just enough to feel the breath between us
I let you in, just enough to be known
Put me to sleep between the sheets of our ice and snow
I’m willing to meet between the words where the silence grows

Two thousand years, just enough to feel the breath between us
Two thousand years, just enough to be known
Put me to sleep between the roots and the earth around
I’m willing to meet upon the leaves where the light is found

дай ми да спя
между теб и снега
дай ми да летя
в ръцете ти, да видя

че, луничките ти са звезди
на бели равни ливади
на чаршафа …

там се срещат сънищата ни
и между тях се движи душата
на зората …

Listen to BETWEEN STORMS and other musings: www.soundcloud.com/tui-mamaki

winter-lights-square

Sword Nesting

I came across this lady yesterday – while getting happily lost on the country roads. Bulgarian villages are never short of imposing soviet monuments. But this one, with it’s proud stork’s nest, took things to another level.

sword-nesting-1
Somehow the nest captured, in all it’s domestic simplicity – branch by branch, brought by beak – the inevitability of giving life. Tenderness is to return, over stone, over swords, over conquerors. We all need a home and the urge to birth is as old as the world self. A sense of welcome? Perched on a sword…  That strange feeling of relaxing into paradox, of finding comfort on the edge,  of finding stability in perpetual flux.

sword-nesting-2
I keep looking at her again, to see if her warrior’s face might have let a smile slip, might have softened unwittingly, from the life going on upstairs, from the births happening upon her hands – those powerful hands gripping the sword of will and liberation.

sword-nesting-3

As the cold comes, the birds have flown south. Her resolve hasn’t weakened but I’d say she is now carrying a promise, and letting that blade trail in the wind…

Vodka and Cigarettes

Olga’s rose garden is rectangular, about as long as a man standing.  Her man is lying down.  She brings him a glass of water, a glass of vodka, a cup of hot coffee, and she lights his cigarette.  The smoke curls up into the shady corner of the Armenian cemetery.  She pours water all over the flowering plants that clothe the concept of him, and she wails – what a beautiful love we had! 50 years together, so much love… a good man, such a good man.  He passed on the 8th of January.  New Year was wonderful.  So much joy.  But we didn’t know it would be THE LAST new year.  Oh, milichka!  You are crying with me!?

And yes, I am crying.  So we cry.  A warm salty flow, arms around each other’s shoulders, two women who have just met, in the middle – the place where we are all the same.  Two women, gazing at the smoke from that cigarette, stuck upright in the fresh earth, a steaming coffee cup, decorated with flowers, in amongst the real flowers, on a young grave, and that morning sun, glinting off the water, into the vodka.  They came to escape the war.  And now she is here.  And he is there.  I leave her to speak with him.

_Olga Platcha 1

After strolling in this cemetery for quite some time, I come away feeling like I have met a whole collection of extraordinary, ordinary beings.  Having gazed into their eyes.  Through the veil of time.  Having mused over their absence/presence.  Potent people.  Each life.  All of us, perfectly mortal.  The power of ephemeral beauty – the living lichen, the cracked resin, the fading details, replaced by new detail.  This girl falling in love with strangers she will never meet, but somehow already knows…

Anonymous portraits from the Armenian Cemetery, Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

_Woman 1

_Woman 3

_Boy

 

_Woman 2_Man 1

 

_Young Man_Baba

THE

Gutter 1Quoting Roots Manuva:

“You’ll be nothing – you’ll end up sweeping the streets, Rodney! Well, what’s wrong with that? Why shouldn’t I sweep the road if I want to? A teacher should have no right to say anything like that. What’s more important – a judge or a road-sweeper? We need both! Every other person wants their child to be a doctor or a lawyer – shouldn’t we just want every person on earth to be educated? Then everything else should take care of itself…”



Street-sweepers are an important part of the calm here in Plovdiv. They grace each morning with their fluorescent vests, always too big, over colorful gypsy clothes. The sound of the brooms is soothing compared to the hideous leaf-blowing machines we get in NZ. Skrp, skrp, skrp… they don’t look up. But neither do others. Crossing eyes for the sake of a silent hello is not something you do here. The leaves, the berries, the cigarette butts – all disappear before breakfast.

Drawing parallels between assigned values in society and assigned values in music. Singing in a language that you don’t (at first) understand, gives each vowel, consonant, syllable, word, phrase… equal value. That is part of the attraction – it is just music! All of it.

When I write lyrics myself and come to sing them, however, I tend to prioritize some words, at the cost others. For example, ‘the’.  An untapped sound potential?  Or a hair stuck on your tongue, followed by a sort of guttural grunt? (Particularly if we are allowing ourselves to sing with a Kiwi accent…)

Actually, this incarnation of the vowel ‘e’ is not so far removed from the ‘ъ’ (er-golyam) in Bulgarian language – which I have had to learn to sing with beauty, as there is no discrimination upon which vowel you might be landed with, to ornament properly.  The focus remains on bringing beauty and flow to ALL the vowels, treating them as the precious flesh of the music that they are.

A vowel isolation exercise I use – (sing your song without consonants) – reveals the color, placement, density and direction of each unique vowel. Things, that in the consonant clutter, would go by unnoticed. With this lucidity in hand, we are able to remedy hiccups in the flow, un-obstruct the vowels and ultimately, bring more joy through the music.

Intrigued by the THE train of thought, I decided to have a jam on it – Listen to it here

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SERIOUS FUN

ON THE THEME OF EASE in singing, life and other creative processes.  Should it be easy? Should it FEEL easy?  And if yes, is there a certain quantity of ‘hard’ work required before the sense, sight and sound of ease, appears?  Or is it, in fact, a WAY of learning? Flow. EASE. An experiment on a group of dancers with the Alexander Technique observed feedback from participants missing the sensation of EFFORT, feeling that it was TOO EASY to be right… Too easy. An addiction to strain, to the position of “I can’t”, to the feeling of being inadequate, can be a real thing of real consequence, as we see humorously depicted in the film What the Bleep do we know.

ON BEING PUNISHED FOR PLEASURE. For those of us freshly issued from Christian (?) heritage – though be it into Atheist or Pagan families – we may find internalized, secreted agents of judgement, tracking our pleasure and marking it down as SIN.  Suffering earns you a place in heaven, work hard, be humble and you shall be rewarded.  Do we ever hear “work supple”? If we are a ninja, we do!  As women, the added red flag on sensuality can have us curbing childhood delights, the deep sense of fun or intuitive pleasures. I realized recently that I take my art very seriously. Or rather, because I WANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY, I have put a whole lot of SERIOUS into my creative processes, at the expense of my FUN.  A 3 minute slot appeared in my daily practice for pure vocal whatever (fun) recently. I spend it with glee… 3 minutes? That’s quite enough. Snap back to something proper – by golly – we can’t have this whole frolic situation getting out of control! Wow. Stay tuned on that minute rationing…

ADMIRATION is a double edged sword. It guides us towards our chosen stars. It shows us qualities we wish to embody, things we could grow into, but it can also keep us separated from them. By lifting someone else so high in our mind’s eye, we can find ourselves belittled, crushed beneath the weight of the impossibility, apologizing for our insufficiency, as we slouch to keep them above us, when we come face to face. This relieves us of the responsibility for maturing the work in real time, real place. It can be comfortable to be a victim. It can be comfortable to be small, when memories of our brilliance as children, come swathed in the shame we were given for being so fresh, fearless, bright and original. Whoever has worked with Julia Cameron’s Artist Way, can hear her in my words.

GOING NOWHERE because I am already there/here. Charisma is presence, is about being actually present. Bert van Dijk, theater pedagogue, runs fantastic workshops on this theme. Coaches on stage-fright speak of bringing your attention down into the lower back or the feet. Side effects include enhanced communication with your audience/community.  This is about lowering and anchoring our center of gravity, which, anyone working with martial arts, Tai-chi or Chikung will know, is an absolutely timeless treasure. Simon Barker and Carl Dewhurst run barefoot and are experiencing a deep influence on their performance as musicians. They speak of bringing our consciousness down into the body and so, altering the default to be one of continual release and reset. On running.

AN INVITATION TO THE FUTURE. Being a split second ahead. Hearing it before it happens. Is it possible to be in two places at once? In the present and in the future? Yes, it is. The conductor Valery Gergiev shows us that it is. You cannot start without me. Whether we are conducting, improvising, composing a new piece or delivering a traditional song in all its specific modalities, we must be both utterly present – releasing the past like a ninja – and already hearing the future. LOVE IT.

Treva 3

Cunt to Cosmos

Flight of the cuntsI need to write about the sexuality of singing. More precisely, and from a woman’s perspective, about the communication between the cunt and the cosmos. Within the trajectory of my life-long vocal research (in progress), this chapter – accompanied by the brilliant containment and potent focus of traditional Bulgarian singing techniques – is about integration and revelation.

Integration meaning anchoring yourself, your intention and your sound in a living, active, welling source (the pelvic floor). Then, allowing this energy to travel up, unobstructed, to a delicious (revealing) mouth. What? Yes. “Delicious” implies accessibility, vulnerability, visibility, taste-ability. Allowing the joy (sound) to flow is like allowing an orgasm; you can’t make it happen, but you can create favorable circumstances, favorable balances of tension and release, and favorable alternations in rhythm.

Revelation implies an unlocked jaw, an active (often visible) tongue, pert and willing cheeks and present eyes (even when they are closed). From source to the surface, from cunt to cosmos, in a blink, in a lift, in a breath…

And so, breath is now available to carry the song, to carry lines, shapes, densities, colors, textures, but the flow, the flow, must be unobstructed. This is a concept reflected and verified in so many singing traditions, I know, but I needed to talk about it today, because I feel that the cunt is still vilified in our freshly patriarchal societies. The deep power of the cunt, in music, art and life (both personal and social), is feared and hushed, and this is a loss for us singers. We do it in secret. We lift and flow and cum, musically, spiritually, but we are shamed for our beauty, or used. We are diva-fied, shallowed, stuck out in front of bands in sexy attire, reduced to singing a few lyrics in amongst the musical fabric, the playground of spirit that a voice could so honour…

Someone like Tina Turner takes it to a whole other level – that lioness power. She has made more than friends with this particular feminine mojo, in a glorious earthy way. I deplore the absence of ground in a lot of the sexy singers we see in this era, both in the west and the east. It is a diluted, tamed corruption of the concept. The tits, ass and supplicant lips are often given an eery childlike (powerless) quality. Those who ground the feminine power, who earth it, however, are wanted now. I want them. To be. Watch out.

Cunt power is fearsome, awesome, slow and will alter things. I cannot get a clear sound without my cunt. People fall in love with singers, and hate on them, because of it. It is a flow we must all claim. In a music industry dominated by men and machines, there is a lack of reverence for this power. This is why I am so grateful to be working with more acoustic and acapella collaborations at this time, dare I call them cunt collectives… (This includes all those sensitive male musos, who connect with earth and water in their matrix!)

Thanks for listening!

NOTE: For anyone who was shocked or delighted by my use of the word ‘cunt’ follow the link below to discover amazing diverse stories concerning the etymology of this currently debased word…

Origins of the word ‘Cunt’.

Follow

Upon my arrival to Bulgaria this time, I was whisked away from Sofia airport, straight to a tiny mountain village, complete with wolves, strawberries, sheep’s cheese and scandals, cold torrents and a million flowers, with a million bees to suit…

A lilting eternity tune came down from the long dark weight of clouds, jealously guarding the Pirin peak, pure and snowy, above us. When the weather cleared – an old mountain road, riddled with flowers… I wanted to LIVE inside their immensity. So I made us THiS SONG…

First smile of the morning
Do you know which one I mean?
Long lined horizons
This heart is following
Itself home

Last sigh of the evening
Do you know which one I mean?
Long lined horizons
This heart is following
Itself home

Praises, from dawn till sundown
Prayers through the dark…    

First smile of the evening
Do you know which one I mean?
Long lined horizons
This heart is following
Itself home

WANTED

Choosing a life of self-structure. Choosing a rhythm that allows for deep plunges into self-organizing chaos, meaning: music that rides in on tides of trust, tunes helmed by blindfolded graces – those that don’t need to see, but that know already, the undoing of all certainties, and the brilliance that can be embodied at the cusp of willingness… WTF?

This means large portions of empty calendar. Like a whole two months to write. This means stashing nuts when they come. Not spending. This means living on the fringe in ways. It means opting out of some things I used to know, like rent rhythms and lush laurels. Being at the flight deck of how much I work is fabulously surreal. I’ve come to feel that the vertigo of “how will it all possibly come together?” is just a page of the book flipping over in the wind. That book, long abandoned in the wild grasses of the olive grove. Dragonflies have led the eye and mind elsewhere. How frivolous of one! To live so close to the edge of love. (Meaning gratitude).

Faced with the impossibility of planning. Sure, there’s fishing… there’s casting out the wishes, the bios, photos, the recordings – those imperfect recordings – traces of the mojo that serve to perpetuate the flow. YES. I have been following the ‘yes’. After the void of yesteryear, it came about as an experiment: what if I just go where I am wanted?  WANTED.

wantedposterAnd so came emails out of the blue, people asking me to come to you. And the whole thing began to look like a farce / a trick of the eye, as the evidence of self-surrender rose about me, in a tide of gurgling, giggling, why not’s! Turn up. Flank yourself. As close as you can to your bliss. Damn! The pain of separations are like the night and day, giving way, not nearly as overwhelming as they appear, when on the great wheel of stars, a voice so clear, calls out your YES.

(So in practical terms that means I am in Bulgaria, writing new songs toward this album of mine, and being extended on a daily basis, because I can hear things that I can’t yet play… Love it!)

Koprivshtitsa

Koprivshtitsa National Folklore Festival happens only every 5 years!  Named after the potent Kopriva (nettle), this seriously charming cluster of stone and wooden houses is nestled in the Sredna Gora mountains, in central Bulgaria.  Renowned for its role in the 1876 uprising, Koprivshtitsa  now opens its valley arms for 3 days and nights, to travelers from all around the country and the globe…

Fleeting impressions for me – in the bustle, in the heat… bus loads of singers, players and dancers from all over the country, come and go. Impressive army tents house these humble magicians, in the fields beneath the village.  Fancifully-retro dressed by day, plain-clothe ninja’s by night.  The best parties happen in the dark, long after the official program has finished, and yet, in broad daylight, flanked by beer sponsored parasols and busy promotional banners, swamped by folk-thirsty admirers in garish modern attire, they always seem to protect and carry the mysterious presence of their ancestors, both in their sound and movement.  Powerful voices break through mediocre PAs, elegant feet fly in bewitching unison over plain concrete slabs, all beneath a heavy blue sky, between the tall pines.

The most beautiful old women you have ever seen, brandish brilliant smiles with single teeth, wear showers of golden coins on their bosom, carry plump roses in their hair, and make their painstaking way up and down the mountain every day, from forest stages to cobbled streets, all in good time, laughing at us travelers, for a reason or two…

 WATCH & LISTEN HERE

hearts 1