“Have fate without destiny”
-Yuanfen proverb 有緣無份
At the foothills of the Himalayan mountains in the village of Bir there was an epic gathering of musicians from many different parts of the world, joining with the intention of sharing music, culture and most of all, love. Each morning the sound of the gong would bring the small village to life, and after breakfast all would gather together for the morning song:
Humko mann ki Skakti dena (Please give divine strength)
Mann vijay karien (To overcome mind/self)
Doorson ki jai se phele (Conquer the inner self)
Kud ko jai karien (Before attempting to conquer anything else)
Then musicians from Bosnia, Iceland, France, Croatia, Iran, Sweden, Denmark, India, Estonia, Belgium, and Norway each would give workshop in which they taught a song from their own country. The afternoons were often spent exploring the nearby monasteries, parading through the village, or practicing and recording music. In the evening? Jams. All night jams. At least that’s how it was in the Shimla house where I was staying. Arsalan, Arman, Durgesh, Damir, Nenad, Nithin, Rahul, and myself would jam the night away in our own living room as friends would make surprise appearances throughout the night, each adding new freshness to the jam. Shimla was indeed the party house.
Oud, sarood, nyckelharpa, santoor, accordion, mandolin, guitars, bagpipes, flute, fiddles, saxes and a wide range of percussion joined with voices to produce the orchestra of Ethno India. In addition to singing, I played the clarinet. I had originally planned to bring a guitar, though at the last minute I decided I didn’t have much to say with that instrument. I informed the Ethno India team ahead of time that I am not well versed in the folk music of America, and the best I could contribute would be either the classical music they taught me in school or the rock’n soul in my bones.
I began to feel a lack of cultural identify and an uncertainty about what to share with the group, as I was the only musician from the U.S. I then met an extraordinary person, Kam Tsz Ying Fioni who happened to share the same feelings. Fioni is from Hong Kong, and has training in Western classical music. Like me, she didn’t have much traditional folk music to share with the group. My dear friend Arsalan recommended that we collaborate and maybe present a song to group together. The first songs we came up with happened to be in complimentary keys, so we immediately began working on our AmeriKong Song which was performed, along with the tunes from the other countries, in an intimate concert for the locals on the eve of the Tibetan new year.
So many people came together to make this experience possible, more than I could possibly list all at once. There was such a genuine feeling of appreciation for one another and it truly felt like a family of artists, sound wizards, healers and helpers. I often speak of the oneness of all things, and I have seen such a great example of this in Ethno India; people gathering together to celebrate their differences and honor each other’s culture. Beautiful. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to share this time and energy with such incredible people.
Recordings will eventually be released of the tunes, as Barry Goldberg and Phillip Horvath worked ceaselessly to capture the sound and essence of the gathering.
SO much love,
[Editor’s note: Nathan will be part of our working team hosting Chattanooga’s first World Music Weekend in May. We hope he’ll teach us some of the music from this incredible Ethno India experience!]