KENYA: Daphne Sheldrick’s “Love, Life, and Elephants”

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In an interview by Jim Fleming on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “To the best of our knowledge,” Daphne Sheldrick talks about her book, Love, Life, and Elephants.

She had known Eleanor since she was a two year old orphan and had successfully rehabilitated her back into a wild herd.  Occasionally, she went to visit Eleanor, who would come over, greeting her affectionately.  They would spend a few moments together, and then Eleanor would go back to her herd.  One day Daphne Sheldrick wanted to introduce Eleanor to one of her human friends.  They set off to find her, and thought they had spotted her by a waterhole.  She didn’t look quite the same, but she was standing there quite unafraid, so it had to be Eleanor.  When called, she came over.  Daphne Sheldrick stood next to her and put her hand up to touch her behind the ear, as she always did with Eleanor.

It was then that she realized her mistake.  The elephant was startled and lashed out, using the same amount of force she would have used with another elephant, sending Daphne Sheldrick sprawling on the ground.  A moment later she felt the elephant trying to pick her up with her tusks.  With her knowledge of elephants, she knew the elephant would already have killed her if that was her intention.  Instead, she was trying to help her.  Daphne Sheldrick had a broken leg.  The elephant gently touched her with her trunk, trying to help, but seeing that there was nothing she could do, after a few minutes, she turned and walked away.

Daphne Sheldrick discovered later that this elephant, who she called Kathryn, was Eleanor’s best friend, and apparently the two must have had a talk with each other about Daphne Sheldrick, because Kathryn, a wild elephant, had immediately trusted her and even came when called. Kathryn only lashed out when she was unexpectedly startled, and then she was sorry, not having intended to cause any harm.

Daphne Sheldrick’s book, Love, Life, and Elephants recounts stories of a lifetime of profound experiences with elephants and other wild animals.  Of the elephants, she says they are very similar emotionally to humans.  She is convinced that they communicate telepathically, citing the story of Eleanor and Kathryn, but says that they are “very much nicer than humans.”

David Sheldrick, when he was alive was the founder warden of Tsavo National Park, which is the size of Michigan and which holds the largest population of wild elephants in Kenya.  Daphne Sheldrick worked in the park with her husband, and together they began to care for and rehabilitate orphaned wildlife.  After David Sheldrick’s death in 1977, she continued this work and founded The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, in memory of her husband.  Courtesy of the Kenyan government, she has lived and worked in the Nairobi National Park since that time, caring for wildlife, with a dedicated staff, at the Orphan’s Nursery.

To hear this Wisconsin Public Radio interview with Daphne Shelton online, click here.

 

To visit the website of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, click here.

 

Photo:  Sharon St Joan / wild elephants at Samburu National Park in Kenya

The music of Dhevdhas Nair, in his own words, part four

 

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By Elizabeth Doyle

 

Dhevdhas Nair is a musician you really have to hear to believe. (You can sample or buy an album here:  https://www.dhevdhasnair.com/audio 

 

This is Part Four of a four-part interview.

 

To start at the beginning with Part One, click here

 

Me: I know that there’s an interesting inspiration behind your album, “Inbetween and passing” related to a small community in South America. I read the album cover, so I’ve cheated. But for everyone else, can you tell us about that and how the tracks on the album relate to it?

 

He: The track “Gaviotas” on my album was written as a celebration of and in dedication to the people of the town of the same name in Colombia who have shown the world that it is possible to take a region and a people who have been ravaged by the violence and barbarism of the modern world, and turn them round to face the possibility of a humane, sustainable future, meeting the needs that all people everywhere have always had; bread, freedom, dignity, and social justice. They have planted millions of trees, farm organically and use wind and solar power. Every family enjoys free housing, community meals and schooling. There are no weapons, no police, no jail. There is no mayor. The United Nations named the village a model of sustainable development. All this in an area that had all but been destroyed by logging and mining, and where many of the inhabitants had come from drug and violent gang-related conflict situations. I learnt about the place through a friend of mine, the writer Terri Windling, who lives in my village on Dartmoor. She had a visitor from the U.S. one day, Alan Weisman, who had written a book about Gaviotas, and as he described what they had done, I knew that it was important to celebrate their achievements and pass the word on that another world is possible.

 

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Me: Now, these questions are a little more dull in some ways, but I think that everyone likes to know a little basic biographical information about artists they appreciate. So can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started playing music?

 

He: I started piano lessons at the age of 8 by accident! My mum was struggling to survive in London on her own with two children and took advantage of a government funded place for me and my brother at two different boarding schools. After my first term, I came home and said to her, “thanks for the piano lessons!” And she said “what piano lessons?” Apparently I had been given a terms lessons that were meant for someone else! Anyway I carried on. And when I got a Beatles songbook, I found that I could read the music and play just like on the records I knew so well. That was really exciting. By the age of 14 I was playing with bands in North London, rehearsing in a room above Susan’s Music Shop in Chapel Market, at the Angel, Islington. I knew even at that stage that I wanted to play music and I wasn’t really interested in being at school, since it was only slowing my career down. At 18, I left England with a Sudanese bass player friend of mine and lived in Khartoum for a year where my real apprenticeship took place, playing every night in the Blue Nile Club with a fantastic band, “The Heavy Ducks” (!!) We also played for many weddings and functions in the desert around Khartoum, in Omdurman, and Port Sudan on the Red Sea Coast.

 

Dartmoor mist,resized

 

I’ve been a full time player ever since. My career as a performer has divided roughly into three phases, African music, Indian music, and Jazz. These days I’m on the road a little less, doing more writing and recording and a bit of teaching piano. I taught on the jazz degree course at Exeter University for four years, and am currently visiting jazz piano teacher at Wells Cathedral School in Somerset, and at Hampton School in Twickenham. I toured with African bands all over Europe and in East and Southern Africa. For two years I lived and worked in Paris, where there was, and still is a thriving African music scene. After studying Indian music I toured with Indian musicians and dance and theatre companies in India and Europe. When I settled in the West Country, I began playing jazz and this took me all over the UK and Europe again, with several radio and TV appearances and participation on an album “Limbic System” with the amazing saxophone player Harry Fulcher, which reached the top ten jazz albums in the UK in 2004.

 

I have had the good fortune to have grown up with one foot in England, where my father was from, and where I was born, and the other hovering over India and South East Asia, where my mother comes from. I’ve been many times to India and love being there. I’m hoping to spend a lot more time there in the future. It means that I have always had a wider perspective on the world, a chance to see things from many angles, and not get stuck in a Western-centred viewpoint.

 

 

To order the album “Inbetween and Passing” by Dhevdhas Nair, if you live outside the UK, go to http://www.cdbaby.com/

 

In the UK, click here.

 

UPDATE (March 11, 2018): To listen to Dhevdhas Nair’s beautiful music, go to https://www.dhevdhasnair.com/audio

 

Photos: © Dhevdhas Nair

Top photo: Ancient trees, river walk, at Chagford, a little town on the edge of Dartmoor

Second photo: Boys in a temple procession, Trivandrum, Kerala, India

Third photo: View of Dartmoor, early morning

 

 

 

The music of Dhevdhas Nair, in his own words, part three

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By Elizabeth Doyle

Dhevdhas Nair is a musician you really have to hear to believe. (You can sample or buy an album here:  http://www.dhevdhasnair.com/id9.html

To read Part One first, click here


Me: Are you a spiritual person? Does religion or spirituality play any role in your compositions?

He: Not in a formal sense. Although I have been on several Buddhist retreats from various traditions and teachers, I don’t see myself as belonging to any particular religion. If anything, the Deer Park near my home on Dartmoor, with its magnificent trees is my cathedral. Having said that, when I create music, I feel such a sense of ……how do I describe it? Love, emotion, reverence. Every time I listen back to the compositions, I get the same supercharged feelings of the importance of creating beauty in the world and it moves me very strongly. And I feel that same charge while I am working on the music. I guess you could call it a spiritual state of mind.

Me: I know that you borrow musical traditions from different parts of the globe. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what you feel some of the musical strengths of different corners of the world are?

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He: My father had an amazing music collection, from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner (not so much my cup of tea!) and Indian classical music, to the Beatles. Early on, I discovered jazz, and fell completely in love with North Indian classical music, initially ragas and folk and light classical music played on the flute. Its hard to say what moves me about music from different parts of the world. I seem to go through different phases as I pass through my own different phases of life.

When I was about 14 I found a cassette in my local library of a field recording made in the 1930s of a group of Australian Aboriginal men singing. It had a profound effect on me. Here was music that spoke of a world so utterly different from my own, yet which had universal qualities of a delicate, achingly beautiful humanity that reached across the ages and opened my eyes and ears to a timeless, eternal song of life.

Mumbai NCPA in Mumbai, taken by Tao Issaroresized

As a teenager and young man, I got into African music, mostly West African hi-life. I found it expressed so well the sheer exuberance and joy of life, and was so danceable. I played with various African bands for many years, in Europe and Africa. I was in a band called Sankomota that had a number one album in the black music charts in South Africa before the end of Apartheid. We were actually banned in the country, but our album went to number one and eventually the ban was lifted and we went to play to 25,000 people in Jabulani Stadium in Soweto. I used to love it that people danced when we played. Then I spent time studying Indian music and turned to the more contemplative, poetic side of music – music that paints pictures of stillness, beauty in nature, and the delicacies and vulnerabilities of human emotions. Next I developed skills in the language of jazz which fortuitously had the capacity to absorb and contain all the previous musical strands of my life. Within the freedom of jazz I found I could draw upon those influences from India, Africa, Europe, and South East Asia.

In today’s super connected world, we can hear music from anywhere and everywhere, all clothed in the various colours of their respective cultures, but all pointing to the same truth, that music is as essential to human beings as food, water and shelter.

To be continued…

To go to part four, click here.

To order the album Inbetween and Passing by Dhevdhas Nair, if you live outside the UK, go to  http://www.cdbaby.com/

 

In the UK, click here.

 

Top photo: © Dhevdhas Nair / Across the hill from the studio

Second photo: © Dhevdhas Nair / Street musician family in Mumbai

Third photo: © Tao Issaro / 

Dhevdhas Nair at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai

The music of Dhevdhas Nair, in his own words, part two

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By Elizabeth Doyle

Dhevdhas Nair is a musician you really have to hear to believe. (You can sample or buy an album here:  http://www.dhevdhasnair.com/id9.html)

In Part One, Dhevdhas describes a remarkable moment when he is playing with a band in the Sudan. To read Part One first, click here.

He: It was a huge open plan studio and they had just finished reading the news at the other side – and the place erupted, cameramen, technicians, newsreader, everyone started cheering and dancing, there were big smiles everywhere, and we all knew something very special was happening. Afterwards the band stumbled out somewhat dazed, to sit under a tree and recover. It was wonderful but a little unnerving too. And I knew then just what live music was capable of and I definitely wanted more! I think that is really why people go to concerts. Because every now and then, this amazing thing happens and off we all go on a journey together which is so fulfilling and nourishing, and if I can play a part in making it happen, I consider it a good night’s work.

It’s a slightly different process sitting alone in the studio, at the piano, composing, but really I think the source is same – from somewhere in the depths of a collective consciousness, stories emerge that speak to a common experience of being alive, and although the message is universal, the medium has to be culturally specific in order to be communicated. Specific in the sense of using a mutually intelligible language to share the story, in my case the musical language made up of my cultural influences, living in this place at this time in history.

Me: You play several instruments, I know, including the piano and dulcimer. Which instrument is your true love?

He: Actually, I think that the process itself is my true love, rather than any individual instrument… the way that music flows through if you open the right doors. I certainly get the same sense of freedom and abandonment when that mysterious energy takes over, whether I’m playing piano, dulcimer, or an old dustbin lid!

Me: Set the stage for me of what it looks like when you’re composing music. Are you sitting in a room by yourself with a pen and paper? Are you fooling around on your piano? Walking in the woods? Listening to an album?

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He: I’m in my studio. I have a wonderful old converted barn with views over Dartmoor, a wilderness region in the South West of England. Its full of instruments, my Bechstein grand piano, dulcimer, lots of drums and percussion, piano accordion, harmonium, oud (arabic lute), as well as all the techie stuff you need to record with.

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Usually, pieces start as improvisations on the piano. The most productive time is when I have just come in from a walk on the moors. Dartmoor has quite a varied topography; there are high bleak moors, deep wooded valleys, and rushing, pure rivers strewn with granite boulders. There is an elemental energy in the landscape that seems to translate directly into musical energy as soon as I sit down. Often, the very first thing I play contains the basic idea for a piece. I need to repeat it quickly and write it down, or record it, or I’m likely to lose it in the ongoing flow of ideas. It almost seems as if I’m taking or absorbing that wilderness energy, turning it round, and sending it back to people who live in cities so that they can at least taste a little of it through the music. I remember when I was writing the first track, mudra mix, looking out of the window across the hills, with one hand over the dulcimer, and the other over the recording button, being filled with a huge sense of fulfilment and gratitude – I suddenly realised that after so many years of working and aiming for a goal of creativity and musicianship, here I was…. in this beautiful place, letting this beautiful music come through, actually doing what I had always imagined I wanted to do.

To be continued…

To go to part three, click here.

To order the album Inbetween and Passing by Dhevdhas Nair, if you live outside the UK, go to  http://www.cdbaby.com.

In the UK, click here.  

Photos: © Dhevdhas Nair

Top photo: Dhevdhas Nair with a santoor

Second photo: View from Eaglehurst in Dartmoor, in the UK

Third photo: An ancient tree

The music of Dhevdhas Nair, in his own words, part one

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By Elizabeth Doyle

Dhevdhas Nair is a musician you really have to hear to believe. (You can sample or buy an album here:  http://www.dhevdhasnair.com/id9.html)

His music isn’t quite describable, but I would say that it’s a mixture of thoughts, translated into notes that are trickled over an emotional baseline expressed in a musical background.

It would be easy to say something like he combines classical Indian with African music and American Jazz. But really, he just makes his own music, and different traditions from around the world feed into his musical vocabulary as he goes along. That’s how it seems to me.  And what’s most important about what he does isn’t the tribute he’s paying to a particular style, but the experience he’s trying to give the listener – in that way that each of us has a message that no one else can share.

I got the chance to ask Dhevdhas some questions about his music, to give us a “musical appreciation” course on his work.  And this is what he said:

Me:  I’ve never heard arrangements like yours before. Sometimes, a new melody or a new instrument will enter the music that seems almost like a non-sequitur. And for a moment, I feel like it’s not going to work, and then it does. Do you know what I’m talking about? Is this a conscious decision? Are you intentionally layering “thoughts” on top of moods that don’t instantly seem related?

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He:  I’m aware that I sometimes put different sections up against each other which don’t have an immediate or obvious connection. I don’t stop too long to think about it – it comes out that way, and I tend to go with the order that ideas appear. I trust in the process, which sometimes doesn’t always seem to make sense at the time. I sort of hear in my head what needs to come next, I open to it, and out it comes from my fingers onto the instrument, the piano, dulcimer or percussion, accordion, or whatever.

Me: What are you usually trying to “show” us with your music? Is it something you sense that you can’t describe but want to share? Is it something you know about mentally and emotionally that you’re trying to share in a creative way? What’s driving you to want to communicate with me and everyone else through sound?

He: One of my jobs as a musician is to enable and encourage an experience of celebration, reflection and self exploration, and to accompany an audience on a journey that takes place in the realm of the inner life, but curiously is initiated by a shared external stimulus – organised sound. I suppose all forms of art and expression have this core function, the awakening of each individual to their own inner landscape which is often buried under layers of thought and the noise of our everyday minds. Music does have a way of getting through where language sometimes gets stuck. And there is a mysterious energy in there which, if you’re lucky, sometimes leaps right out into the room and transports everyone, the musicians and the audience into a rich experience.

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Quite early in my career, when I was 18 years old, I was living and working with a band in Khartoum, in the Sudan. It was a great band, the most modern, cool band in Khartoum at the time, playing a blend of American-inspired jazz funk and African dance music. One day we were setting up in the main television studios to do a live broadcast, and while still tuning and getting ready we gradually fell into a completely unrehearsed improvisation, each member joining in until the whole band was playing. And something very strange began to happen. Somehow, I knew exactly what the guitarist was going to play before he played it, so I was able to play the same chords, notes and rhythm with him. It was an uncanny kind of telepathy. I distinctly remember looking down at my hands playing the keyboard and thinking “I’m not doing this, they’re just playing themselves”, and looking up to see that everyone in the band was having the same experience. We were staring at each other with the same bewildered expression on our faces, like…what is going on here? It was exactly as if someone or something was playing through us, and our individual identities disappeared as we blended into one perfect voice. It was the best piece of music we ever did, even though we had no idea what we were playing (and of course it didn’t get recorded!)

To be continued…

To go to part two, click here.

 

To order the album Inbetween and Passing by Dhevdhas Nair, if you live outside the UK, go to http://www.cdbaby.com.

In the UK, click here.

Top photo: “Photo of a hammered dulcimer, taken in Portland OR by Dvortygirl, 7/17/05” / Wikimedia Commons / “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain…”

 

Second photo: Author: Maarten van Beek (wiki@maartenvanbeek.nl) / Wikimedia Commons / “The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the author Maarten van Beek and the website http://www.maartenvanbeek.nl are properly attributed.” / “Jebel Barkal near Karima, Sudan, site of the ancient Kush capital of Napata.” 

Third photo: Author: Herby talk thyme / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License” / Wikimedia Commons / “View towards Sharpitor & Leather Tor down the valley of the river Meavy. The river Meavy is in the foregound. The forestry plantation is just above Burrator reservoir.” 

Gone

 

Gone,

Into the pale

Sun,

The barque,

Gliding on the blue,

The oarsman

Leaning on his willow

Pole, the fish, the ancient, glimmering

Fish of the Nile, all gone,

And none

Will awaken

Here again.

Gone

To where the Great Ones sail

Over the misted hills of gladness,

Climbing for awhile on the sparkling

Wind, after the rain,

In the stillness,

The Great Ones,

Ask not who they are,

Nor from where they arise,

For they have always been,

Only follow the dawn-

Bright

Trail

Of their wings across the skies.

Only follow,

Ever remembering though

To journey

First through

The far,

Dark

Country

Of the masked ones, beginning

At the call of the mystical rail

On the shores of the silver-lapping night.

 

Written in 2006

 

Photo: Stevepleydell / Dreamstime.com

 

Music: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Tinariwen, and Yanni

 

By Elizabeth Doyle

Whirling dervishes, traditional Sufi dancers

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan — Some people say that this man, with his six-octave vocal range was the best singer of all time.  Of all time!  I’m not quite ready to go that far, but he is incredible. He was a Pakistani who sang primarily Sufi songs.  Apparently, his family had a 600-year tradition of singing these songs, and Nusrat brought them all to new levels of fame, even recording soundtracks for major motion pictures. Tragically, he only lived to age 48. It was his liver or his heart or something; I’m not quite sure. But he certainly made an impact!  Click here.

 

 

 

Rock formations from Tambori, Mali

Tinariwen – If you liked the Sahara desert music from last week, here’s another band from the region. The Tuareg leader of the band comes from a refugee camp (Homelands of nomadic tribes of the Sahara have frequently been annexed by surrounding Saharan countries, which has resulted in refugee camps.) The band has a large cast of changing members, and they’ve really built their reputation through word of mouth around northern Africa. Many of the young men in the band have been soldiers, and they’ve used music to give a voice to the people of the desert. They’ve gained real international recognition for their exceptional work, they’re becoming surprisingly influential, musically speaking, and they’re definitely worth knowing about. Click here

 

Yanni

Yanni – OK, a lot of people make fun of Yanni. I think it’s the hair. Maybe the moustache. But Yanni is really talented. And Greece has every right to be as proud of him as it is! Back in Greece, Yanni taught himself how to play every instrument he knows, beginning at age six. He began writing his own music as a child. And he had no musical education of any kind. When he began making albums, he didn’t make anything that he had any reason to think would sell well. Instead, he made what he wanted to make. For a while, PBS (Public Broadcasting) was one of the only places you could see or hear his music. But he was so good, that he became famous anyway. He’s put a lot of the world’s music in the spotlight during his concerts, he’s known to be a genuine philanthropist who cares deeply about the plight of nature. In this video, he takes a moment to put the spotlight on a gentleman who can play a 3,000 year old Armenian instrument. Click here.

 

Top photo: diaz /Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. / Whirling dervishes or Darveshes, Rumi Fest 2007.

Second photo:  Timm Guenther (Timm Busshaus) / Wikimedia Commons / This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Rock formation near Hombori, Mali

Third photo: Public domain press photo / Yanni

 

Malaysian New Age music, Mariem Hassan, and Scotland’s Capercaille


Imee Ooi

By Elizabeth Doyle

 

Imee Ooi — I like New Age music. It gets a bad reputation when people feel like it’s taking something sacred and making it palatable to people who don’t appreciate its raw form — transforming something important into something that makes lovely white noise.  But it doesn’t have to be thin.  When it’s done well, New Age music can be sacred in its own rite — a merging of ancient chants or hymns with the modern science of enhancing music’s emotional impact. It can be a joining of two powers, a holy intention and a relaxing experience, rather than the watering down of just one power.  But only when it’s done well! Here’s a Malaysian New Age composer, Imee Ooi, who I think does it very well: Click here.

 

 

Mariem Hassan

 

 

Mariem Hassan — Here’s an interesting lady. She was born and raised in the western Sahara desert — one of ten children in a nomadic family. And boy, can she sing! I love it when she does that classic Saharan call-out, with her tongue fluttering like a wing. She’s Sahawari, and has survived annexation and refugee camps, both of which she’s been very outspoken about. Women have played a strong role in her culture, and you can see that confidence and competence when she performs. The language of her songs is Hassaniyya, an Arabic dialect. And she does write them. I’ve really never seen anything quite like her before:   Click here.

 

 

 

 

 

The Kirkyard Stone, Aberlemno, Scotland

Capercaille — Speaking of annexations, this is a very popular Scottish folk band, singing a song about England’s treatment of Scotland. This band has been around since the 1980s, which is quite remarkable, because the popularity of Celtic sounds wouldn’t take off until a bit after that.  I only have one of their albums, and this is my favorite song on it.  What I like about them is not only their instrumental expertise, the singer’s likeable voice, and the fact that they are early pioneers in the genre, but also their liveliness. The fact that they’re singing about something terrible, and yet, instead of feeling weighed down by sluggish intensity, the song feels … very, very alive. It’s interesting! Click here.

 

Top photo: author:Florenus / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain / Composer Imee Ooi

 

Second photo: Author:Carlos Fernandez San Milan / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license / Mariem Hassan

 

Third photo: Original uploader was Xenarachne at en.wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported / The Kirkyard Stone, Aberlemno, Angus, Scotland, UK

Nneka, D’Gary, and Mak Minah

By Elizabeth Doyle

Nneka — Nigeria has made some of the most popular music in all of Africa. They have some really excellent recording studios there, and a long history of putting out worldwide hits.  Here’s a modern rising Nigerian star that I like.  Her full name is Nneka Egbuna, and she was born in Nigeria to a Nigerian father and European mother.  Perhaps slightly influenced by famous Nigerian musicians like Fela Kuti, who helped establish Afrobeat, she also writes and sings songs that seem to be very much just her own thoughts, feelings and inventions. I like the honesty with which she sings. And what a sweet voice!  She’s my pick for the next international Nigerian sensation:  Click here.

D’Gary — You don’t have to be a guitar aficionado to appreciate how talented this guy is!  He hails from Madagascar, where music is as diverse as the people who live there, and he absolutely plays the guitar his very own way.  He even has an idiosyncratic way of tuning it.  He’s a descendent of the nomadic Bara tribe of Madagascar, and according to rumor, took his guitar playing to professional levels in part in order to help support his widowed mother.  I think he’s pretty spectacular. Here he is:

 

 

 

 

 

Mak Minah – Mak Minah Anggong was a traditional Malaysian singer from Kampung Peretak.  She was Temuan, and traditionally, many Temuans  believe that their people were put on this earth to guard the rainforests.  Mak Minah was herself an environmental activist who was very vocal against a damming project that forced many Temuans to leave their forests and ancestral lands. Devoted to the culture and traditions of her ancestors, she was also a heartfelt singer who was just stepping into the spotlight late in life, when sadly, she passed away rather suddenly. We do have some recordings of her singing, though.  Here she is, singing as part of the group, Akar Umbi:  Click here.

Top photo: Andreas Lederer / “Copyleft: This work of art is free; you can redistribute it and/or modify it according to terms of the Free Art License.” Nneka in 23 July 2009

Second photo: Tom Turner / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License Wikimedia Commons.”  A busy market street in Antananarivo, Madagascar, where D’Gary was born.

Third photo: 10014derek  /  “The copyright holder of this file allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed. Redistribution, derivative work, commercial use, and all other use is permitted.” / A picture of the view from Mt. Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia  

Songs


By Elizabeth Doyle

Philae Temple, Egypt

Isis – Long ago in Egypt, the mother of all nature and magic was Isis.  Her religion spread all the way to Greece and beyond.  Compassionate and devoted to her family, she was frequently depicted with her son on her knee. Her most famous story involves putting her husband back together after he’s been torn to pieces by an enemy.  There was sometimes both a sensual side to her worship (because of her role as a wife and partner) and an entreating side to her worship (because of her gentleness and compassion as a mother.) She had by far the strongest magical powers of all of the Egyptian deities, and was summoned the most often in people’s magic spells. Her temples from Egypt to Italy to Iraq continued to be places of worship well into the first several centuries AD. But in the end, decrees were put out to destroy them all, and a huge number of them met that fate.  Here’s a portion of “The Song of Isis” by the incomparable David Heath. Click here.

Celtic mirror

Brigid – She’s been both a Celtic goddess and an Irish Catholic saint. The goddess named Brigid was a goddess of poetry, and a keeper of all things “high” (from high thoughts to high flames to high mountains.) When Celtic lands were converted to Catholicism, a Saint Brigid emerged who is thought by many to be a new version of the Goddess, Brigid. High priestesses tending sacred flames was a long-standing Celtic tradition. And today, Saint Brigid is often honored by the keeping of never-extinguished flames.  In one spot in Ireland, nuns tend the flames of St. Brigid full-time. Here is a song to Brigid (pronounced “Breed” in Gaelic) by Beverly Frederick:  Click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Kwan Yin

 

Kwan Yin – She’s either a Chinese goddess or a Buddhist boddhisatva or a Taoist Immortal, depending on your religious beliefs. No matter which she is, Kwan Yin (or Guanyin) represents compassion. She’s the one who “hears the cries of the world.” She feels for us all and has mercy.  Her legend began in China, but today, she is also popular throughout East Asia. Because of her deep kindness, she is often associated with vegetarianism, and some think that she particularly looks after women and children.  Here’s a nice song about her by the silky-voiced Lisa Thiel. Click here.

Top photo: Arrivée en bateau au temple de Philaé, Assouan, Égypte; arriving by boat at the Philae Temple, Aswan, Egypt. / Image taken by Gilles RENAULT /Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 France license. / Wikimedia Commons

Second photo: Fuzzypeg / Early Celtic La Tène style in Britain. Date: 50 BC – AD 50. 36 cm diameter. British Museum highlights /Wikimedia Commons / British Museum / Public Domain

Third photo: Statue of Kuan Yin, Ming Dynasty, by Chaozhong He, photographed by Mountain at the Shanghai Museum. / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. / Wikimedia Commons