FOLLOW

30 April – Tonight I had a conversation, with a man I’ve never met.  Him a stone, and I a bird.  Pierre.  Tui.  We stood upside down from each other, on either side of the planet.  Wood was the language in common.  The resonance of it.  The way it carries music.  The calm it harbours.  The way it is both permeable and protective…

Apparently we spoke for his (beautiful!) blog piece @ La Maison Jaune concerning the release of my new record with Beating Drum.  But in truth, we spoke for the life altering properties of listening.  For the way strangers can meet in intimacy, through art.  For the alchemic wonder of surrendering our lives to the riddle of colour, shape and frequency, where ideas echo our impermanence, and in doing so, confirm our belonging, to the great wheel.

20 May – Oh, what happens when you let the music lead!  I confess I started playing the guitar when my heart broke.  It was a physical consolation.  And a revelation.  I started writing from a new silence.  The one that came after.  After my Bulgarian Folklore studies in Plovdiv – where I soaked in odd-meters, crumbled beneath the beauty of the timbre (vocal that is) and was securely wrapped in ornaments.  I wrote armfuls of songs into that silence, and a handful made it through.  To a recording…

In following the incandescent (or is it indecent!) “why not” protocol, I hunted out the sound engineer, who, in the world, had captured my favourite female vocal recording – Rokia Traore’s Tchamantché.  Yep, internet.  I found him, and his microphones.  Patrick Jauneaud.  We agreed.  And so, tucked away in resonant mountains in the south of France, some delicate, ardourful songs were stitched to light.

I wanted to do it all alone, you know, and with just one voice and one small guitar.  To . render . complete . justice . to . the . silence.  Patrick suggested that this was ambitious – that artists usually do such a thing in their masterful age!  He coaxed me into playing around with a few layers.  Relaxing the rules a little, I allowed myself to some sing harmonies on the record.  And.  Patrick passed the tunes onto someone I’d never met – but had admired the music of – Piers Faccini.

Piers heard something of  himself in this music.  And his delve into my online presence confirmed our common love for quiet spaces.  He offered to collaborate on a record.  We took an EP worth of my songs and let his expert ears/hands influence their body.

I was scared.  Scared of not being strong enough in my vision.  Scared of failing in my new found independence, by letting another artist alter my babies.  Temperaments shuffled.  We braved it for the love of music, for loyalty to the unknown, and to let the colours in.  Because none of it belongs to us anyway.  And they were beautiful.

The way I see it, Piers bought the village, dancing, to my hermits cave.

These arrangements feature layers of tender instrumentation, including slide guitar, harmonica, voice, piano, gembri and an evocative selection of percussion.  Much of it was played by Piers himself, with spirited interventions by Malik Ziad and Tunji Beier.

Stills taken from FOLLOW.  Underwater capture by Monty Bevins, thank you!

The tune I’ve made a film for first, travels for 6 minutes of 11/16 time, looping around our hearts, the globe and back.  With footage from Bulgaria, France and Aotearoa/NZ – this is a song for the first smile, for the last sigh, and for all the gratitude in between.

WATCH [FOLLOW by TUi MAMAKi] HERE

The RECORD from which this song is takeN, TUi MAMAKi “Hear My Voice” (Beating DRum RECORDS 2018), is available in limited edition vinyl – with artwork by Piers Faccini – and/or download HERE

 

 

 

Advertisements

Capture

This one… what is in a raw capture?

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when a storm strikes, we don’t sleep but we play. And the audio captured there has all the traits of befriending chance: the swells of wind rocking the hut like a small boat, the lashings of rain on the corrugated iron mingling with the breath, the proximity of the fingers that blur the lines, the turning, the hisses and the crackles of a voice telling a story… once. This is what I wanted to share with you! Not the studio control, not the pristine malleability of elements, but an actual living moment = a moment I loved and the imperfect traces of which, are perfect.

We made a moving image to expand on this capture. The women I worked with brought their eye, their imagination, their emotional response to the sound, to the one day we had together, to the gear we borrowed and to the spirit of improvisation-collaboration we claimed as our own… It is my genuine pleasure to share with you “Between Storms”.

It speaks to the slice of silence between great changes, departures, transitions. To the sanctuary of intimacy – which for a moment feels like a kind of eternity. To the solitude we choose, like a position on the edge of the world, on the edge of ourselves, on the edge of each other… it is a tender piece of attention to our transience and mortality.

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
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
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…

Translation:
Let me sleep between you and the snow
Let me fly in your hands, to see
That your freckles are constellations
On the pale, even fields of the linen
There meet our dreams
And between them moves
The soul of the dawn…

*Thank you Iliana Tabor for helping me with my first ever Bulgarian language lyrics!

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

“Between Storms” composed & performed by TUi MAMAKi.
Audio captured on a ZoomHn4 on a stormy night in a hut…
Moving image directed by Meg Perrott & Margaret Gordon.

Direction of Photography – Meg Perrot
Editing – Margaret Gordon
Costume – Rochelle Beaty

Still from “Between Storms” https://youtu.be/itAGDk5aBeo

 

 

MOVING IMAGE

I started out as a visual artist.  Or was that simply being a child?

I grew up in a remote, wonderfully isolated valley, without streetlights or tar-seal, or television.  The endless wonders of a blank page were akin to the endless aural spaces one could interact with: to sing-talk with the birds or the ocean, to build huts and stories in the bush, or to draw boundless imaginings in colour, on the kitchen floor or table.  Long intimate conversations unfolded between me and perhaps, pure potential.  It was thanks to kind and creative teachers that dance, song and art were valued in the curriculum.  The focus sharpened when I met Mr Harris at Tikipunga High School and embarked on a painting, sculpture and photography odyssey, and never looked back… not until I reached Elam Art School that is, where I found myself longing for happenings. I wanted to see things in motion!  If there had been a Performance Art Department there at the time, I might have stayed, but the roads called me out of school – into the world of fire-dancing, street-performance, theatre and ultimately, song.

Still taken from RiUWAKA by TUi MAMAKi

These days I hardly put a pencil to the page, save for designing concert posters or occasional album artwork… but the SOUNDS I get to make are colours, and the words that come conjure images… and then there are the opportunities to collaborate:

When I met Shannon Aroha on Takaka Hill, at Luminate Festival 2017, we found ourselves brainstorming a collaboration just a few sentences into the conversation.  Let’s do something!  A few months later, equipped with a zero budget and a common love for improvisation, we found ourselves filming in the limpid lights of the Raglan area, where she is based.

The theme of clear water kind of hurts these days, given that intensive dairy farming in New Zealand has polluted so many of our rivers… (time to turn that around!!)  And so, potently, a song about clear water – as a reality and a metaphor – is the one to start with.  RiUWAKA (Riwaka) is a sacred place at the foot of Takaka Hill, that many visit for it’s healing waters – waters distilled by the crystal mountain labyrinth through which they pass, before springing back up at the resurgence.  Raglan, where we actually filmed, is on the other island.  A journey from Te Wai Pounamu to Te Ika a Maui is but a small hop, given the international fabric of this project:

The instrumentation is inspired by my love affair with Bulgarian Folklore rhythms, intricately irregular, but played on my Little Martin guitar, like a harp.  The story is one of reaching beyond the feeling of fracture in intimacy, through into the inevitable wholeness of surrender.  The vocal lines, though steeped in the ornaments of Bulgarian songs, are delivered like a delicate prayer.  My parts, on voice and guitar, were recorded in an old silk-worm incubator: a beautiful stone-floored, high-ceiling, luminous music studio, in the Cevennes mountains, in the south of France.  (How I found that place and the magical engineer, Patrick Jauneaud, within it, is another story for another time).  Add to that a serendipitous meeting with Australian percussionist Tunji Beier, on a festival stage.  Tunji here plays the Kanjira, a South Indian frame drum, with both subtlety and spirit.

With Shannon’s eye, and Andy’s flying captures, the visual flair this time is not mine.  Shannon’s musical sensitivity translated seamlessly and it was a joy to let her lead.  Somehow, playing a character in the moving image was an experience between dance and meditation:  attuning to the light, the bush, the water, to the dreams that turn our eyes into windows, where imaginings can impart tranquility, and somehow bridge our mortal separations.

I hope you will enjoy the viewing as much as we have the process!

Please share/embed the video freely, and do leave your impressions in the youtube comments + touch that thumbs up thing – it all helps to gather kin energy and to celebrate this piece of quiet, in a loud world.

WATCH RiUWAKA HERE

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

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!)

Mother Spoke To The Sun

My first impressions of this voice were mineral: A native copper resonance driving through space. The sedimentary influence of centuries of song. The inner core of a purifying ore, reversing the corrosion of our spirits. A high density alkaline substance with an electrical conductivity that reaches the intelligence of my skin…

If my ears were eyes, they would see flint, glinting on the stream bed. If my ears were hands, they would feel raw ochre, crumbling with gold dusts. And if my ears were tongues, they would taste iron, kale and honey.

Though we work with scores and all these songs are written down for some form of posterity, the living treasure and actual significance comes through only in the human transmission. Week after week, Svetla Stanilova offers her voice, her mana-wahine and her patience – to transmit the tone, the phrasing and the ornaments that will carry our stories, be they of love or war.

Working in the old ochre building (The Yellow School) with its peeling facade and sunny outlook, is a treat. Our gazes plunge down over the roman amphitheater like birds, then out to the Rhodope Mountains beyond, as she sings me Mama na Slwncho Govori (Mother Spoke to the Sun) from nearby Pazardjik… LISTEN HERE

The Yellow School

Conversations with Dora Hristova

I want to share with you some moments gleaned from my conversations with Prof. Dora Hristova, choir conductor of “Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares”. This is the very choir who’s recordings I heard as a child and who’s phenomenal sound planted in my being the dream of one day coming to this land.

The privilege it is for me to study now with Dora H. in her last year at the music academy in Plovdiv, is doubled with a deep gratitude for her willingness to allow me to sit-in on LMVB choir rehearsals in Sofia, every now and again. There, I get to experience the visceral, pungent timbre of these women’s voices first hand, in process, embodied, as it is today. The generations interweave, the political movements are felt. Amongst trials and triumphs, struggles and successes, the single binding factor is this mysterious magnetic vocal style, and when the women sing, everything else falls away…

Dora Hristova BW med

Conductor

– from conversations at Nikolay Haytov Chitalishte and Dora Hristova’s home in March 2015. Features samples from LMVB rehearsals + extracts of the songs “Dva Shopska Dueta” & “Kalimankou Denkou”.

By the Yantra River

A time of change. Though some would say it is always the time of change. The illusion of shapes. The imprint they have on a mind. Pathways worn deep.  Grooves of the assumed – until a landslide, an earthquake, a breakup, occurs. And so we are blessed with the task of release. The lights flashing up off the water already know this. We get to hug trees that stand crooked with their wounds and ever reaching stillness. We get to watch cascades of rubbish mingle with sweet wide waters. We get to see the open plan of a fisherman’s face, the space it has learned from watching water flow. And we get to notice the absence of water, in fact, in the stiff mugs of the city folk. But music is water…

On tour with Kottarashky & The Rain Dogs.  We get to bring loud dense sound, sensual rhythm and calls from the cosmos to underground bars, where youth and youth at heart, throb and drink. We get to drive and drive, and watch winter trees passing by like paper cutouts against the affectionate pressing in of a low sun. We get to forget and remember, and forget again, the people we thought we were, the people we thought we needed. Just the sun now, the thistles, and the wind. The wind, caressing the land, the wind picking the foam up off the waves, the wind coursing through the instruments, that breath moving from mouth to mouth, and back alone.

And through this thing, this music, that passes, we get to die, all together, and we love each other better for it.  One morning, in the old, old town of Veliko Tarnovo, I sang to the Yantra River…

Yantra River