Honest music


What is that noise? would be most people’s reaction to some of the CDs hidden in my collection. These are raw almost ethnographic recordings from isolated places. The sort you get to by going along a dusty track after getting off at the end of rural bus route in Siberia or Rajasthan. For me such music is most “honest”, true form of wordless human expression with sound. Desert Oasis by Folktribe Records is the purest collection of this type of music I have.

The CD features recordings made in the homes of musicians in deep rural Gujurat. It is annoyingly marketed as “pure tribal trance” – no doubt to sell it to latte hippies in the first world. I feel it cheapens the fact that the music is a genuine expression about a way of life by the people who life that life. Recorded with rawness untouched by the cosmetics of recording studio sound engineers. The music has its hypnotic qualities. Assuming of course that you are willing to “invest” the time to “get” it without the use of external substances.

I don’t deny that most of this CD sounds like unintelligible wails from high pitched flutes which go on and on and on. The very fact that I like this type of sound unsettles people more than the music itself. Consequently I haven’t played it all in the last few years. The CD has remained in the dust of the old CD rack. This situation is helped by the fact that I live a more social life and I refuse to wear headphones of any kind. I also refuse to “inflict” my musical tastes on the unwilling.

The odd part is that I still hear the sounds of the Desert Oasis. The high pitched flutes, the mystery string instruments and the late drum. I play them in my head and I enjoy it as well as I might with an ipod.

Odd no?

I suppose I could make this a claim of some sort of eccentric specialness. Use it as a declaration of some higher esoteric knowledge. Which I know in my heart is new age bovine excrement. I’m just another mediocre human shit like everyone else nothing special😉. Thankfully I don’t need the tattoos and the piercing to say so. A view that is not music to many but I feel is honest.

6 comments

  1. “I also refuse to “inflict” my musical tastes on the unwilling.” – I have that too… but I use headphones, so it’s all good!😉

    and I know what you mean about studio engineers and their cosmetics taking away the rawness of music… sad really!😦

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  2. Tribal music has its own appeal for sure. In addition to tht, I also like the new age goth music. Gregorian chants etc.

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  3. Mm, lovely. I wish I could listen to the music but the link doesn’t provide any samples. Music in general – whatever works for you – is just amazing.

    That being said, I love your concept of ‘honest’ music, and I know what you mean. There’s something about tribal music that gives you that feeling of being pure and of the moment. Nice post.

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  4. I cannot tolerate human voices in music. So that rules out most. Then the instrumentals , I find them too glossed over. Almost like a fake nose job. (apologies, if people find that offensive)

    Heavy metal hurt my brain. Orchestra is too ordered and reminds me of school. A memory that I would very much like to forget🙂

    Had no idea that there was an alternative. Just went round telling people “nah, I don’t like music”.

    There may be hope here I am guessing. So I found your post most interesting.

    Here is the question what are the other “raw almost ethnographic recordings from isolated places” that are available ?

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  5. Chavie: You are lucky in that you can put up with earphone. For some reason I cann’t use earphones for long – accept on long haul flights where you have to use them to watch the little screens🙂

    Cadence: new age goth music ??😐 That’s a niche I havn’t heard off😉

    thebohemiangypsy: Sadly I couldn’t find an online sample and there doesn’t seem to be further information on the web or the CD jacket. The closest example I cam point to is in this segment youtubed segment of the documentary Latcho Drom. The clip shows a Rajastani gypsy dance with signing. The flutes sound very similar to the Desert Oasis CD.

    I agree with your sentiment about folk music and being in the momenet. I think its an almost involuntary expression by people of their experience of living and a need to create something beautiful.

    Anne: There’s lost of interesting recordings misfiled under all sorts of categories. Specially as “world” music. When gramaphone came out, the manufacturers thought “exotic” sounds were the way to sell records. So they dispatched people to very remote place with bulky recording gadgets to capture anything that sounded “new”. The interesting thing is that there is a strange unpretentiousness in these recordings. Most of the singers/musicans didn’t even know what recording technology was.

    The cartoonist Robert Crumb is a collector of this kind of music and even released an interesting CD called “Hot Women (1920s/30s recordings of women singers from warm weather countries)” a while back. Don’t have a copy but I still can recall the music from my first listen🙂

    Harsha: I’m working on a PhD in it😉 but I hope you liked the paragraphs that came before it😀

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