Gogol Bordello – Music Thursday

Warning: highly addictive!

   Gogol Bordello is a Gypsy punk band from Manhattan. Members of the band come from all over the world, but the core are are immigrants from Ukraine and Russia.

   “Gogol” comes from Nikolay Gogol, a classical Russian Ukrainian writer, born in today’s Ukraine. He serves as an ideological influence for the band because he “smuggled” Ukrainian culture into Russian society, which Gogol Bordello intends to do with Gypsy/East-European music in the English-speaking world. “Bordello,” in Italian, refers to a brothel or a “gentleman’s club.” (Wiki)

   The band has toured tirelessly throughout Europe and America. They have made numerous appearances at international festivals, on American TV (Late Night Show with David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, NPR to mane a few) and in many movies. (If you are interested, this Wiki article gives a full list and much more)

   These guys may NOT be what you are accustomed to hearing, but please give them a chance.

DakhaBrakha – Sho Z-Pod Duba

A bit of a tongue-twister there, right? I don’t even suggest you to attempt reading the name of the band nor the title of the song. I do insist however that you listen and watch!

DakhaBrakha is a Ukrainian band playing folk-something amazing music. Recently, they made quite an appearance on BBC Later…with Jools Holland and since then texture, sound and energy of this quartet became a sensation on the web.

If you haven’t already, judge for yourself:

How We Hear Music

Today, on my way to work today I heard this piece:

It took hold of me and would not let go. So, I Googled the radio station to find out what it was. It is “The Lark Ascending” by Ralph Vaughan Williams.   There was a most powerful, incomparable poem written by an English poet George Meredith, a hymn, by the sound and form if it. A long one, too. It inspired Ralph Vaughan Willliams, an English composer, to compose the mentioned concerto for violin. A beautiful concerto! Which, by the way, is more known than the original poem nowadays.

I knew nothing of the poem and have never heard the composer’s name, either. Turns out it’s one of favorite pieces of Classical music for the Brits and beyond! Researchers and musicians link this concerto to WW1. However, I – a tabula rasa – did not hear war in the music. I heard Japanese influence, masterfully weaved into classical European music, like those songs for chamber performance, singing of love, play, sadness and nature. And so I found still another evidence to an effect I have been observing for a while.

When we like a piece of music (or a painting, or a book, it does not really matter), we attribute certain feelings and experiences to it and we relate to it. These experience are our own, of course, and in most cases have nothing to do with the emotions the creator wanted to imply. Take myself and Williams’ “The Lark Ascending”. Moreover, how can we claim to know what a creator had meant by one or the other pieces of art, unless he/she explicitly told us, the people, about it?!

But back to my point. As soon as we learn more about the song (book or whatever), mostly it’s the circumstances it had been created under, we start hearing it differently. We understand it deeper, in a profoundly different way. And despite changing our perspective on that song, this new knowledge brings a certain intimacy, draws us and the music closer together, makes our relations more personal, I may say.

Here’s an example: Bruce Springsteen and his “Dancing in the Dark”. What do think of it? A love song, naturally. Do you know how and why the song came to be? It was forced on Springsteen! He was (violently?) forced into writing a hit for his album when he was drained and deprived of any inspiration. This song is the story of how he struggles for inspiration and how he is calling and pleading for his Muse to show up. Now go and listen to the song again – I bet you will hear it differently this time.

Mozart is another example. I have always enjoyed listening to his compositions, though I am far from an expert. Until couple weeks ago I knew nothing of his personality or private life, but the mere rumor of his rivalry with Sallieri and the latter poisoned the grand master. Then I watched “Amadeus” (1984), a 3-hour long movie about Mozart. Fictional, of course, but powerfully impressive nonetheless. Don’t you think my perception of Mozart’s music changed? It did dramatically! Now everything I hear has a flare of deep sadness and regret for the tragic life of one impossibly talented young man…