The influences of mouth music, beatboxing, stomp! and body percussion and scared music.
There have been many influences on the activities you will see in the Natural Musicians course. This section gives you a wee glimpse into where some of my musicality comes from, a continuation in the story of why I made this course.
Mouth Music, Bobby McFerrin and 'Beardyman' Beatboxing
An underplayed aspect of Scots song is its 'mouth music', similar but different to the more commonly known Scottish song tradition 'puirt a beul'.
Simple 'mouth music' songs may be real words, largely meaningless sounds or comical lyrics, which can be sung alone or used to underpin the rhythm of a particular dance tune.
Here is one on youtube:
I would guess that humans have played with their voices before they played with musical instruments, so the tradition goes way way back beyond the old Gallic Scots.
I remember as a child in Kenya hearing the songs and chants of the Maasai and other tribes, and loving the way everyone joined in with earthy and shrill voices alike, whether it was for a welcome song or a song about cows. Their voices are amazing.
Here is an example of one if you haven't seen any (it's a bit long..but one closest to my memories):
I hope that some of the activities in The Natural Musicians activities will help us find that common ground, that community of people and place, where sounds and words come naturally and play together to make some music, with open hearts and arms.
One of the first times I heard about 'mouth music' was through a Scottish band called Mouth Music. They recorded three albums in the 90's. A mixture of lovely old gallic tunes, and modern, world beats... a precursor to AfroCelt Soundsystem - also one of my favourite bands.
Here's one of their vocal tunes, a traditional song. I love that this piece was recorded in a stairwell (as a didgeridoo player I am often heard playing in stairwells because of the acoustics):
Some of their other tunes had more rhythmic samples of mouth music... and so did music by another Scottish artist, Martin Bennett.
For me he was one of those visionary artists who combined the old with the new in such a respectful and playful way. Born in 1971, sadly he died in 2005 from cancer. But before he went he changed the face of Scot's traditional music and re-energised it. His music helped me see that the old ancestral voices from the land can be part of music in the moment that celebrates place.
Here is a fascinating half hour video about him if you are interested... just five minutes gives you a flavour of his musicality:
Beatboxing in the kitchen
With the global rise of beatboxing comes the opportunity for people to be making all kinds of weird noises and rhythms with their mouths...and be respected for it. There is a lot of skill to the art.
Beardyman made a fab video of mixing up a break in the kitchen, Check out this:
The fact that you can create awesome tunes using a simple looping on an iPhone was also illustrated beautifully by him... here:
The way music is made is changing... You can now have a powerful recording studio in your room with only a mic and a laptop, and anyone who wants to, is just one viral youtube post from fame!
But that's not quite the point of the Natural Musicians course...but if it does inspire someone to make music to a global audience from natural roots... great!
The beat of the body.
Musical ingenuity is everywhere. We have elaborated on beating our chests, or stones and sticks. We have created all kinds of instruments...but what interests me most is the simple and connective ways of making music with what is around us.
This started when I was at Uni in Plymouth and some friends of mine were in a samba band and they shared with me some of the body percussion warmups they did. It was the start of my journey into percussion.
I was just starting to play bongos as the time (but didn't find the sound deep enough to be satisfying until I came upon Djembes a year or so later), and was also jamming in the kitchen, tapping on doors and kitchen equipment. I heard about junk bands and the clever, hilarious musical theatrical performances by a group called Stomp. There is so much inspiration to there. I have chosen a few:
Here are a few (very professional) examples:
Stomp! This is one of my favourite pieces of percussive comedy I have ever seen... it had me in stitches and crying with laughter the first time I watched it:
And then Walk off the Earth doing a cover of an Ed Sheehan song:
And finally, Mickey Hart, and his crew of awesome drummers, with a lovely documentary piece about the magic and power of drumming:
Didgeridoos and djembes
IN the early 90's in Glastonbury Festival's green fields I got turned on to didgeridoos by the deep body felt resonance they make, and the way the player in the band Kangaroo Moon was using the didge as a drone as he played keyboards along to a Celtic fiddle. The music really moved me. And then the drummer joined in sensitively and powerfully with West African hand drum called a djembe. I was hooked!
Over the next few years I learnt to play didgeridoo, then the djembe, then both at the same time as a member of band we named Jabberwocky. We played at Earth Spirit Festival in Sussex, road protest camps and Glastonbury Festival.
I was also interested in the healing power of sound, the choral music of Hildegard of Bingen and was fortunate to meet the now late Paul Robertson and his wife Chicka, founders of the Music, Mind Spirit Trust at a workshop weekend in Devon about Music and Emotions. Paul, amongst other notable achievements, was founder of the Medici Quartet, and presented the Change 4 series Music and The Mind. There is a lot of interesting research out there about the effect of Music on the Mind
Here is a short video about Paul
Following that meeting Chicka invited me to start teaching didgeridoo at Cranleigh Prep School in 1998, and my era of running didgeridoo workshop began.
I have been doing them ever since!
So there has been a bit of an insight to what inspires me and my musical journey...and to finish it off I will post a couple of pieces of my own music in the next sections, before talking about the 'Music of Playce'.