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Freestyle: Taking heart from Quadraphonix
BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / firstname.lastname@example.org
My special love is music, and it’s my “work” to keep tabs on performances and events in Honolulu.
It can be tough, though, because Honolulu has a lot to offer. In the last 10 days, I’ve been out to musical performances by the Dukes of September (with Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen), the Melvins (Lite) (on a world-record-breaking tour stop), Jon Cleary and Delta Spirit, who stepped up to play a makeup show when Hallowbaloo was shut down for the Oct. 27 tsunami scare.
These were all big shows, in their own way.
But in the middle of all these staged performances, I also had the wonderful experience of listening to Quadraphonix jam in their practice space, getting down to basics in a way the band has always embraced by playing knee to knee, rigged equipment, spontaneous passages and all.
I searched out the band’s Kalihi studio on a steamy, rainy night, and found them in a warren of spaces behind a karaoke joint.
Inside the place, I heard the music — intertwined drum and conga, a winding guitar with a South Indian line and laid-back bass to pull it together.
The two MCs of Ninja Pleeze raised the feel higher, rolling words off each other, righteous, then goofing, getting a laugh. Then it all came back around to a world-beat sound.
The music was warm (as was the cramped space) and full of heart. And hearing the members play together with such spirit reminded me why I do this thing I do.
THE BAND has recorded a new album, after concentrating on life in Hawaii for the past several years. Now Quadraphonix would like to take its new music out into the world — including to Malaysia, where guitarist Shree Sadagopan was born, lived until he was a teen, and first took up music.
Quadraphonix has launched a Kickstarter fundraising drive to support a tour. The band self-financed recording and mastering CDs. With support from fans, the band plans to go on the road beginning in January, 2013.
At the time I’m posting this blog, the band is still striving to raise $1,800 to reach its $5,000 goal, with a deadline of Nov. 8.
With the aim of playing gigs in Malaysia, Japan and the West Coast of the U.S., this support will only cover a portion of the expense — but if you’re a fan, consider kicking in. For a Kickstarter donation at a certain level, the band will deliver the album, a free digital download of previous album “Just a reminder note,” and an unreleased live album, in addition to exclusive merchandise.
Pledges start at a dollar.
“BLUES IN THE RAGAS” took two years to record. It’s the band’s second full-length release, and drops on Nov. 9.
I’ve been able to listen to the new music, and it’s worth hearing. While the band continues to explore funk, jazz, hip-hop and world-beat grooves, Sadagopan’s digging into his South Indian heritage provides the buzz of something deep and distinctive.
Sadagopan provided me with an inside look at “All That Was Given,” the fifth track of the album, with guest vocals by Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo. It combines lines in Sadagopan’s first language, Tamil, and it is exceedingly warm and affecting.
Here’s a key verse, as provided by Sadagopan:
Koduthathelam Koduthan avar yarukage Koduthan
(All that was given by the creator, who was it given to)
Orutharuka Koduthan ilai Orukage Koduthan
(Was it given to one — no. It was given to all of us)
Koduthathelam Koduthan ilai orukage koduthan
(All that was given by the creator, no, it was given to all of us.)
“I only used the main verse as it sums it all up!” said Sadagopan. “This was written at time where South India was really suffering from political corruption and rich getting richer. Unfortunately not too much has changed.”
The digital version of “Blues in the Ragas” also includes the song “Manaparai,” a harvest song. Quadraphonix’ take is inspired by the exploitation of Indian farmers by commercial interests, including the sale of expensive GMO seed that often bankrupts the growers, Sadagopan said.
QUADRAPHONIX PLAYS a CD release party Friday, Nov. 9, at Fresh Cafe — stay tuned for more details on that, and look for updates on the band’s Facebook page.
I’ve been a fan of Quadraphonix for more than 10 years, reaching back to the era when Susan Copp played double bass with the group. So it’s especially satisfying to find that the band has found a way to thrive, taking inspiration from completely fresh and enduring traditional sources.
(NOTE: Hawaii musicians, are you looking to get your music heard by a wider audience, throughout the U.S. and perhaps in other countries? The South by Southwest Music Festival might be right for you. The deadline to apply for a showcase slot at SXSW is Wednesday, Nov. 7. Get details here.)
Eizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter.