Weaving My Ancestors Voices - Song summarys

Speaking in Tongues I
This is the fastest and most ambitious piece of spoken percussion I’ve attempted. The sounds/syllables relate to Mrdingam and Tabla and draw upon the patterns of rhythm used in South Indian Dance.

The reference in the title to a sort of ‘divine possession’ links into the Indian idea that all artists are channelling the divine. It also refers to the idiosyncratic ‘madness’ that I wanted to be a characteristic of the piece.

Dhyana and Donalogue
Donalogue is an ancient Irish ballad from about 1000AD to which I’ve added a new verse and changed some of its male-centred lyrics — the sentiment doesn’t seem to suffer!

The additional weaving of a Muslim style vocal into the piece leaves me wondering where the ornaments of each tradition begin and end.

A Spanish lullaby which Manuel de Falla adapted for piano and voice. Not surprisingly it works over a drone and this, with my additional vocal ornaments, enables the listener to relate it back to the Moorish (Islamic) influences of Spain.

The Dreaming
This track relates to Nana in that I’m using the same raga (scale) to explore further the same emotions. The track contains Soul-style phrases within the main body of the North Indian-style vocal and back-references to the Spanish melodies in Nana.

Ever So Lonely/Eyes/Ocean
These songs are all based on the same raga (or tone row, ie C E F G Bb) and are unified by the drone. The mood of the raga is traditionally one of longing.

I sang both Ever So Lonely and Eyes on Monsoon’s album Third Eye in 1982. Recently Steve (Coe) wrote Ocean for me. It feels natural to weave the three songs since they have come through the same writer, the same raga, and the same singer.

The guitar drone gives these ancient pieces an anthemic feel. Bhajan means ‘hymn’.

The Call
Sung in the style of the muezzin in Islamic culture. This sound is focused, forceful and nasal. If you ‘soften’ the sound it brings you towards the vocal approach of Soul or Andalucian musics. All three styles share key vocal ornaments.

The Enchantment
This piece is a fusion of structure rather than of obvious sounds or techniques. An Indian classical singer will often improvise around a simple ‘ghat’ (four lines of lyric and melody which illustrate the chosen raga and its emotion) by breaking up the phrases to show the singer’s skill and dexterity. Here I’ve used the four line verses of a British folk song and kept to the usual ornaments of that tradition. Because the British fold tradition is so much more familiar to people in the West, this song sheds light on what listening to an Asian ghat with full understanding of the lyrics and musical form might be like…

Sacred Stones
Somewhere all of us intuitively understand the links between ancient musics, that is, that drones and chanting are at the root of all musics.

The act of chanting is like throwing a stone into a lake — however small the stone is, the ripples (vibration) it creates affect the whole lake. I believe that making sound can make you ‘sound’ (whole).

Speaking in Tongues II
The changes of pace in this track allow more room for creative use of delay and ‘reverbs’, on the spoken syllables.

Indian vocal percussion is a teaching device for drummers, but has become an art form in its own right. Drawing on the traditions of vocal percussion, but not limited by them, I have been developing their possibilities throughout my solo career. They somehow tell a story beyond the fun it is to say them. Play part I and II together for the full effect.

Om Namaha Shiva
An ancient chant, a new melody. Shiva is the destroyer of ignorance. I find the ‘clever’ part of me wants the chant to ‘go somewhere’ — instead I listen to the harmonics the chant creates, or just to its fragile simplicity… One for all of you to join in with at home!

This label has been established by Real Word and WOMAD to release a wide-ranging catalogue of music from the traditional to the very modern from all corners of the world. We have worked hard to build a special place for performance. Whatever the music, whatever the technology, great records come from great performances. I hope you get as much enjoyment from these records as we have had in making them.

Peter Gabriel