Magical Musical Puppetry : Grego and Mazja

Mazja

Happy Thanksgiving! Your weekly listen for 11/30/14 is Grego of www.gregoland.com with his beautiful creation, “Mazja the Dreambird”.

Originally from the United States, Grego has built several musical puppets and has performed at festivals all over the world. He has also been featured on television in Japan, where he lives with his wife and baby. He is shown here performing outdoors at the Oregon Country Fair in Eugene, Oregon.

Mazja the Dreambird is both a puppet and a bowed psaltery, which is a harplike instrument. She herself holds a harp, a pan flute, a violin and a set of cymbals. Notice how her arm is attached to Grego’s arm so that she bows in concert with him. In this performance she is shown playing the cymbals and the violin.

I have had the pleasure of seeing Grego perform live with Mazja on two occasions, and this video, as lovely as it is, doesn’t do justice to the magic of their performance, which truly seems to cast a spell over the audience. Unfortunately Grego doesn’t perform in the United States often but I’ll try to keep my eye out for any upcoming peformances in our area!

The bowed psaltery is a descendent of the Greek psalterion and the European medieval plucked zither psaltery, both of which closely resemble a harp.

This Song Will Give You Chills: Africa Stop Ebola!

Your Weekly Listen for 11/23/ 14 is Africa Stop Ebola by Various Artists.

There is so much to say about this video, it’s hard to know where to start. I’ll begin with a bit of music video history. My generation watched the birth of music videos and we all remember when, in 1984, Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats pioneered the first charity song/video combo for famine relief in Africa with an all-celebrity cast singing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. The song was cowritten by Geldof and Midge Ure, and brought a host of British musical talent together to form the original “Band Aid”, including members of U2, The Police, Banarama, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club and others. The song went straight to number one and stayed there for weeks, raising millions of dollars. Not to be outdone, a group of American artists formed “USA For Africa” the following year, to record and release “We Are The World”. Written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson, the recording featured Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Daryl Hall, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross and many others. It also went straight to number one and raised millions more. “We Are the World” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas” have both been re-recorded over the years to raise funds for other benevolent causes. In additions, dozens of “imitation” videos – songs written by other artists for charitable causes – have emerged. Bob Geldof deserves mountains of credit for getting this ball rolling. It’s entirely possible that without him, nothing like this ever would have happened.

Thirty years later, “Africa Stop Ebola” takes the trend to a whole new level. It features a host of African musicians I’ve never heard of before, but wish I had, and will keep an ear out for in future: Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangar√© and Kandia Kouyat√©, Mory Kante and Sia Tolno, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Barbara Kanam and Didier Awadi. What incredible voices and presences! But this video isn’t just out to raise funds, it also aims to educate and instruct. The lyrics, written by musicians in collaboration with an academic advisor, and at the request of the Disasters Emergency Committee, counsel the African public on disease containment and sanitation practices, in both French and indigenous languages. Song sales raise money for Doctors Without Borders.

Tragically, as of my writing this, the song is NOT AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD FROM ITUNES USA! I’ve written to iTunes to request that they remedy this (feel free to do the same). In the meantime, you can click here to donate to Doctors Without Borders . I just signed up for monthly donations and hope you’ll do the same if you haven’t already. Minimum donation is only $7.50!

MUST-SEE! Fantastic All-Ages Show, This Thursday in Columbia City!

This news JUST came across my desk so I’m adding a special post to let folks know that THIS coming Thursday, November 6, there is a fabulous, FREE (by donation) all-ages show at the Royal Room in Columbia City.

Just for a quick taste of what you’ll be in for – here is a glimpse at an outstanding local artist of national reputation who will be part of this amazing line-up: Danny Godinez, guitar wizard. Also on the line-up will be a new band with Farko Dosumov, and equally outstanding bass player who has collaborated with Danny for over ten years. I’ll do features on both of these great artists eventually, but for now, here’s a quick listen.

Details again: Thursday, November 6, NO COVER, ALL AGES until 10 pm, show starts at 8!
The Royal Room is located at 5000 Rainier Ave S. I’ll be there, with my kiddo. Hope to see you!

http://theroyalroomseattle.com/calendar.php

Brilliant Blind Boy Plays the Blues: Felix de Saint-Hilaire!

Your weekly listen for 11/4/14 is Felix de Saint-Hilaire of Montreal, Quebec (Canada). Felix, born blind, got his first guitar at age 6 and taught himself to play on his own. He is now 10 years old and is shown here playing “Everyday I Have the Blues” by BB King. Felix has soul, passion, a strong voice and some great guitar chops!

It is often said that when a person loses one sense, another develops to compensate for the loss, and I believe it is true. I went to music college with a young man who was blind and he possessed an almost super-human ability to play by ear. He was a pianist, and his talent was so well recognized that the professor would often use him to demonstrate in class. The teacher would play a short piece of music on the piano – a melody with a fairly complicated chord progression underneath. Without hesitating, the blind student was able to reproduce the entire piece of music on the piano, note for note, after hearing it only once. It makes me wonder how much more we sighted people might achieve musically if we were to close our eyes and open our ears more often.

Regardless of what impact Felix’s disability may have had on his playing, he is a great musician and I know you will enjoy his performance!