Saturday, December 7, 2013

In review--The Intimate World of Round Dancin'

World/Native American 
Wayne Silas, Jr.
Infinite Passion 
Canyon Records

Hey everyone, it’s that time of year for Native American round dances--a merry cycle of socializing, dancing, drumming and singing personal as well as, humorous songs.  A regular performer on the pow-wow trail and round dance circles, Wayne Silas, Jr. (Menominee/Oneida) brings us his newest collection of round dance songs, lullabies, and traditional women’s songs on Infinite Passion.  One minute he’s singing at the top of his lungs, another a moment he sings from the bottom of his heart with songs so sweet, intimate and tender that I feel like I’m eavesdropping on his family.  On the other hand, when his group of talented friends joins Silas, I feel like I dropped into a party.

My favorite songs lean on the slower melodic side such as Tha Mash Up which features polyrhythms, chimes, and vocal harmonies.  Pray, a duet with Veronica Keeswood also hits the spot as far as passionate vocals go and the lullaby that ends the recording (Super Kids) points out one of those tender, sweet and intimate moments I mentioned earlier.  And anyone expecting round dance humor will find that here too with She Texts Me, She Texts Me Not. But for some other woman, Yummy Whisper offers a sexy tribute. Many of the songs come with stories mentioned in the liner notes along with photographs of Silas’ children and of himself at a young age joining an adult drum group.  It’s probably more than you asked for or hoped to know as you venture into the inner world of Wayne Silas, Jr.  Boy, talk about wearing one’s heart on his sleeve!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

In review--Accordion from the South

Toninho Ferragutti
O Sorriso da manu 

When I think of South American accordion music, my thoughts usually gravitate towards Argentine tango and the late Astor Piazzolla.  However, many wonderful South American folkloric music centers on the accordion brought to Latin America originally by Italian and German immigrants.  Brazil certainly has its share of folkloric traditions in which the accordion plays a key role.  Brazilian accordionist Toninho Ferragutti and his quartet (accordion, clarinet, percussion, and bass) team of with a chamber ensemble of strings and piano as they explore forró and choro dance songs along with an abstract version of flamenco on the recording O Sorriso da manu.

Delightfully playful and contemplative in turns, listen to Flamenta with its lively castanets and the titular track with its klezmer-style clarinet.  When I listen to this recording, I’m reminded more of Finnish accordionist and composer Maria Kalimeni than Piazzolla.  The music here falls on the brighter side with little tension, even during the staccato passages.  The instruments fit together like tongue and groove construction and the conversation with the clarinet and accordion reminds me of Galician music. No matter how you look at it, this is world music in the broadest sense with romantic interludes to faraway places and exotic musical phrases and textures.  Ethereal one minute and spirited the next, I’m enjoying listening to Ferragutti’s compositions since I usually hear his talent gracing the albums of some of Brazil’s hottest talent. And now we know why Ferragutti is in high demand.

21st Century Musical Healer--Esther Thane, Music Therapist

For a while, I have wanted to include music therapy and music therapists on Whole Music Experience.  And once again, I have found a 21st Century Musical Healer in my Linked In group Musical Healers, Esther Thane.  Below I’m including her biography found on her website (see link at the end of the post).

Esther Thane works as an accredited music therapist with special needs children in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Her specialization for the past 17 years has been in the field of Autism- targeting early intervention. Esther continues to provide weekly music therapy programs for the North Vancouver School District- where she interned 17 years ago!  In addition to ET Music Therapy, Esther is a Music Therapy voice instructor at Capilano University, teaching in the Bachelor of Music Therapy Program. 

She frequently presents at conferences and holds workshops for universities, local agencies and abroad.  Esther is past Artistic Director of the Music Therapy Symposium for Kids in Vancouver. She completed Dr. Diane Austin's (Music Psychotherapy Center, NY) first international distance training program in Advanced Vocal Psychotherapy. Esther’s publication in the book: Voicework in Music Therapy, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, focuses on her innovative method of Vocal-Led Relaxation for Children with ASD. Her online music therapy resources can be found on the Mundo Pato 2.0 website, where she is also an Account Executive for Unitus- Therapy Intelligence.

Welcome Esther Thane to Whole Music Experience.

Whole Music Experience: Among your teaching and practicing experience I noticed that you contributed a chapter to “Voice Work for Music Therapy” (Kingsley Publishing) so I am intrigued with the different ways voice is used in music therapy.  For instance, how do you first approach a new client, a child with autism using the voice as a therapy tool?

Esther Thane: The voice is a wonderful connector in music therapy work.  For many children with Autism, direct, verbal communication can feel threatening and overwhelming, especially those first contact moments.  Singing and vocalizing are ways I can get in the back door, so to speak! I can sing a child’s name, or simply hum or vocalize along with a variety of instruments, like large drums, which instill a deep, vibrational and grounding affect.  This calms the child, increases their comfort & receptivity for this new situation.  We can also interact and communicate our emotions through vocal improvisation. In the case of a non-verbal child with Autism, I can imitate their vocalizations and therapeutically guide them to communicate with me further, using various music therapy techniques…and they can feel validated and listened to for their efforts.   

WME: What is the most challenging aspect or situation working with an autistic child? And what is the most rewarding aspect or situation?

ET: For me, the biggest challenge is finding a child’s “Musical Key”… and here’s what I mean.  Most children have a certain instrument, sound quality, style of music etc. that they gravitate towards.  They have an inner motivation and curiosity for it.  Some may really enjoy “follow the leader” type improvisations, where they play a rhythm pattern and I reflect it back to them on my drum.  Some may love exploring the timbre of the piano and listening to the notes slowly fade away, while others may prefer engaging in gross motor activities like dancing and singing. It can take a few sessions to discover that musical key but once you do, it unlocks a child’s potential.  A child will always integrate and learn more readily when he or she is motivated from within. So… if the key is rhythm for a child, I can use that interest and strength to work on all the goals the rest of the team is focusing on.  I can work on his impulse control, his imitation skills, his motor skills, the list goes on.

The most rewarding aspect of my job is having the honor of creating inspiring and beautiful music with these amazingly unique children and I get to witness their absolute joy with this medium.  Often, children with Autism are very drawn to music and display higher levels of competency in certain musical areas. In general, they love to operate within music’s structure.  I have the best job in the world!

WME: It has in your biography that your focus is on early intervention so do you start working with children when they are infants or toddlers? And what would a “typical” (knowing there is no typical one-size-fits-all) session look like with a toddler? 

ET: Many of my clients are children who have recently received a diagnosis.  They may be anywhere from 18 months of age and onward.  A music therapy session is typically book ended with a hello and goodbye song so I would begin singing to greet them as they enter my studio. As I observe their energy in those first initial moments, I can adapt how I play/sing accordingly (tempo, volume levels, how much space/eye contact I give them etc).  The child will usually move around my studio, taking it all in.  If they go towards an instrument, then we start there and build a musical interaction around that.

WME: On the Kid Companions website a program for parents interacting with their autistic child through music appears which must seem like a godsend to these parents who would like to interact lovingly with their children.  Do you have any success story to share about this program? 

ET: This is an exciting new online course for parents of children with Autism that I have written and put my heart and soul into!  It is an extension of what I already suggest to the families I work with!  It is packed full of original compositions, created especially for the course and supports the parent with loads of demo videos from both myself and other parents connecting with their child through music therapy based interventions.  It takes only a few hours to do the course and you have access to mp3 files and instructional PDF’s for download.  It’s only been available for a short time now so I welcome any comments and reactions from partakers!

WME: Besides working as a music therapist you also mention Vocal Psychotherapy in your biography.  I am not familiar with this term.  What is Vocal Psychotherapy and who benefits or what conditions draw benefits from this practice? 

ET: Vocal Psychotherapy is defined as the use of breath, sound, vocal improvisation, songs, and dialogue within a client-therapist relationship to promote intra-psychic and interpersonal growth and change.  Targeted clientele is with individual adults, but the methods have been adapted for other populations.  I use many techniques in my sessions to facilitate a safe container for a child to explore in and develop their sense of self and their own creative expression.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

In review--Oh yeah, this is the life!

World Village

Some of the first world music I heard was from West Africa.  I started out with Senegalese music then discovered Malian music and West African music found a place in my life.  With so many musical styles hailing from West Africa, sometimes bands come along that mix and match while causes us to dance our feet off.  Debademba (led by guitarist Abdoulaye Traoré of Ghana and Malian griot vocalist Mohamed Diaby) performs High Life (Ghana), mbalax (Senegal), Afro-Beat (Nigeria) and griot blues (Mali) on their second album, Souleymane. These musicians supply us with ample infectious rhythms played on calabashes and other percussion, shimmering kora, acoustic guitar, soaring vocals, as well as, violin, cello, flute, piano and chorus (women and men vocals).  I dare you not to dance.

Okay, so it’s not all fast grooves and primal beats.  Djiki snakes along to Arabic modes with vocals so stunning my teeth ache from the beauty.  Dianamo also slows down as Diaby laments with a voice that can stop traffic.   But when these guys turn up the heat on the High Life song, Dema, or the Afro-Beat song, Saiwa (heavy on the horns), or the griot send-up Tourma, there’s no way a listener is not going to get up and dance. Only the most stoic person could resist and why would anyone want to resist these delicious beats? They close with an instrumental, Pleine Lune that combines Tuareg rhythms (hand claps) with Malian desert blues and what a send off it is (unless you press the replay button, which I am tempted to do).  And I just bet there’s someone on your holiday list who adores West African music and if there isn’t, time to make some new friends.