When harbouring out the last album "SHA",
Alan Kushan only "acoustically". We haven't met before 2009, when we
experimented losely with a variety of musical fragments in different forms,
tones and shades, e.g. after discussing musical greats like Camille
Saint-Saëns, Alan laid down a series of ostinatis which I "puzzled to a piece"
and that became the
frame of "From Mahabad to Saint-Saëns!". Or at another time, we mused about our
mutual loving the poetry of Bob Dylan (reading "Father of Night"), and Alan laid down vocal premisses of "Mother
of Life". Both of these "initial triggers" were later to become "Kushan's
subreption": at that point
I had no plan or ambition to ever make another CD again)...
When Alan came again in may 2010, we'd swap thoughts and views
about the craving for
more depth, the dread of superficiality, the common apreciation of humour...
emotions... children... focus... subjectivity... hope... objectivity... technology... horizons... intuition... voyages... humility...
experiences... space... gratitude... mountains... conviction... footsteps in the
snow... truth... a flock of ravens... questions... the whisper of a silence...
absurdity... the fury of a waterfall… doubt... shimmering, warm and bright
summernights... contrasts... shivering, cold and white winterdays... déjà vu...
perception... desire... loss... love... lies... life... laughter... Nada
Brahma... or the suspicion of coercion, swaggering, politicians, party following,
institutions, religions, indolence, conformism and hollow rituals...
Alan then wanted to get rid of some thoughts, so I helped him
shape up two tunes ("Ridaan" and "Rose Water"). He provided improvisations and/or incantations
upon some of those moduls from 2009, to
which I tailored a body, finding hooklines, adding harmony, arranging grooves,
bass lines, soundscapes etc. Some new tunes popped up, too,
I threw in 'another side of' and "SHAB TAB" began to take
shape with the inventive contributions of a few old Peeni Waali fighters, like
the great Rico,
Hubert Osterwalder from
and (no - this time Scratch's not on the boat...)
Morgan Fisher and others...
piece became multi-dimensional, another challenge to use extreme differences and
textures. A pandora box full of assets...
May they transcend our vile dread into
the ever glowing Peeni Waali, the fire-fly, the beacon of hope, the Shab Tab.
translations of the
lyrics & other info in
1. M O T H E R O F L I F E
The "Grandmother of Life" which Alan conceived in 2009 was nothing
but a drone and a vocal.
It was a long "battle" to convince Alan to add his santur playing, too. A nifty task, to
"bend" the initial
modal mood with a melodic bassline - and good fun to bombast it up with a lush
I figured, it'd be interesting to have Barbara Dennerlein's ever so skillful
Hammond playing for once as a soundscape, a chill, and then be-flute intro and
the middle part more stripped down, more chill and groove with a dark and lowdown/deep
solo of maestro Morgenstern.
The prolog and epilog structure triggered the idea of the heartbeat: at the fake end (the
second vocal/string-arrangement part) a heartbeat would slow up, announcing an
end, but the flute awakens the piece to life again for a short 'encore' after
which the heartbeat inevitably making us aware that all things must pass....
sooner or later...
To enhance this prayer-like Zeppelinade (as Raphael, the cello-player
circumscribed it), the vocal is quartertone english (...) plus some french and german stanzas...
The result may count as a non-commitment to any genre, although not deliberately
planned like that...
2. S H A B T A B -
check out the video!
The "evolution" of this track (originally written by Gijs
Levelt and Alec Kopyt from the Amsterdam Klezmer Band) is epic: my younger son (Andri),
started playing clarinet and loves those Klezmer- and Balkani melodies (and grooves), so I
tailored a cover of a piece we heard at a concert of the AKB in Zürich. When
Alan came in 2009, we went through all kind of puzzles of pieces and I thought,
why not add santur in this "exercise piece" (originally called "Son")...
Now, when Alan came back in 2010 and we were getting serious about looking for
album material, I proposed Alan to voice it with the optic in mind that it
should tell about the Peeni Waali,
the Beacon of Hope, in order to contrast with
the more sombre lyrics (like e.g. "Ridaan").
Alan the original 'Beacon of Hope' poem of Linton Kwesi Johnson upon which Alan came up very quickly with
his own version, his form of translation,
and more and more musical ideas made the tune longer and longer. When Barbara Dennerlein
came to play on "Mother of Life" I couldn't keep from having her play a solo
here, too. After a while I got bored with the polka-style groove and changed
that B 3 section into a more jazz like swing and while I was at changing and
extending the piece, adding some genuine melodies, changing flute into piccolo
parts, add dub sections and old friend Tobias for an accordion stunt, I ventured
to do a second half where it'd really rock off with more dance-craze in a
kumina/pocomania beat and a long wish popped up again: why wouldn't Rico play on
this album, too (he plays on all of my albums ever since 1987)... I liked the
idea of making a cover all the more, because fresh attention to other musician's
work is simply a reverence to great sound. Alec (the author) and Gijs (the composer of "Son"
who even played - trumpet - with Rico) - both being a team in the AKB - were
kind enough to ok this 'remake', even if we changed the lyrics of the song. "Son"
(the original) means "Dream" and "Shab Tab" (our cover) is another elegy to the
firefly, the beacon of hope.
And also: while Andri started to enjoy making movies (writing stories, shooting
and cutting), we gathered many footage of the collaborating musicians and put a
puzzle together which became the first genuine video-footage on Peeni Waali
tactics... (check it out for yourself on YouTube).
Good music creates positive vibrations, don't it?!
tha author (and singer) of "Son" & Andri in Zürich, Mai 20st, 2011)
3. F R O M M A H A B A D
T O S A I N T
S A E N S !
The title of this piece has nothing to do with the lyrical content, since
this piece originally started of as an instrumental. It was only a year later
when we picked up the idea to do a whole cycle of "abrasive material",
to voice some of the instrumental bits and pieces we harboured out so far, that we
decided to voice this with that
old controversial poem. "Mahabad" is Alan's birthplace in Persia, and the
music shows the long way (up to "Saint-Saëns") an open minded spirit
can go... Hence: Mahabad is a place, but St.-Saëns is no Montségur of no sorts...
To this fresh, genuine composition we took inspiration from SaintSaens' "Prélude
No. 2". A year later, I added a bass and
some orchestration (pulling away from modal mode). Alan used the poem "Morgh-e Sahar", mostly heard on a different,
The original musical composition (in Persian: Tasneef or Taraaneh) of the
Morning Bird, aka the Dawn Bird or Bird of Dawn, in Persian:
مُرغ سحر, was written during
Qajar era and it is one of the most notable Poetical Touchstones of MTB
since it also portrays the present-day Iran from socio-political standpoints.
Interestingly, we were offered several
critics and/or suggestions/hints, that
... [...]... "It is an
especially sensitive and "nationalistic" song these days because of the
government crackdown in Iran, and also since (the well known Persian singer) Shajarian has taken a very strong
position against the government in Iran and has been very outspoken. Now, since
the melody has changed significantly, ...[...]... this track will attract a lot
of unfavorable comments from Iranians, and the beautiful arrangement and
performance will be overshadowed by the focus on the non conventional melody of
the Morgh Sahar lyrics." ...[...]...
The writer then closes with: "Then
again, I could be wrong!"
We sure do apreciate the wit and the honesty of such invaluable "warning".
Another comment notes:
...[...]... I think a lot of people who are fed up with the Iran regime , or
any theocracy for that matter, will enjoy "Ridaan"! As you noted yourself ,
there is always a chance that there will be aggression from radical religious
fanatics, but they are in the minority compared to the majority of people who
may be offended by "From Mahabad to Saint-Saëns". So basically, if you
release both of these tracks, you will potentially be dealing with both
nationalists and religious fanatics, and that will limit the Iranian listeners
who will connect to and enjoy your art...[...]...
So: for whom I do release the project then, if no Iranian listener would buy it
and non-farsi-speakers won't understand the lyrics?
Well... pick up the positive vibrations of the sound, man! That will set your
mind ready to dig timeless,
considerate thoughtfulness. We are all concerned about wrong regimes and their despots, hence
the music doesn't need to be "traditional" in a nationalistic sense.
It needs to be attractive enough from the vibrations alone, from the musical
content by itself. Because after all:
We - as musicians - do not belong to whatever "elite" or "club"
or "group". Remember the narrow-minded folkie fan of Bob Dylan that shouted
"Judas", because Dylan "went electric" and thus "betrayed the
genuine protest movement" or whatever!!!...
Imagine one day some super-duper performer/hero will sing
“Damn you masters of War” on e.g. the national anthem of the
Republic of Zibnukwana and it becomes a
hit for whatever anti-elite of the moment and/or worse: the narrow-minders
sanctify it, engrave it in stone...
Let's abolish such aberration immediately and let's cover “Damn you masters of
War” upon another melody, be it genuine, or why not on
White Christmas or on Balu's dance with Louis Prima...
The elite with "their" version (engraved in stone) will howl betrayal...
How can one “engrave in stone” a piece of music or a piece of poem which the
next day might be already redundant, because it´s used by yesterday´s
"revolutionaries" who have already become tomorrow´s throat-cutters before dawn?
What is revolutionary in stuffing one´s pocket by becoming “cult-” or
“status-star” who gained fortune and fame, who “made it”… Made it to where?
Gained how much? Achieved what? if any at all...)...
Such message cannot be "posessed". By nobody. By no Dylan, by no
Shajarian and/or by no generation because there is no such thing as "one
generation". A poet (and his musical penchant) doesn't "own" his message anymore
the minute it's published. The message will/can be used (and - sadly - misused) for
The shocking regime of Iran
is not only an "Iranian problem". The parameters that define such a
dreaded regime can be found in (too) many other places, so we're all concerned and it's good that such a message goes way past "nationalistic concern".
Nationalists are very (very!) suspicious and dangerous, becoming radical very quickly
by sheer oportunism. Adolf showed us 75 years ago what nationalism can "achieve"
(...), and nobody should ever want such
rise again. Not here, not there, not anywhere.
One dead is always one dead too many. So even if I might be glad that one Bin
Laden cannot threaten the world with fear anymore because he doesn't walk the
streets anymore, I am not "happy about" his death.
One dead remains one dead too many, forever.
But no word can be crude or suggestive enough to point the finger to the root
of narrow-mindedness and its consequences (e.g. misuse of dogmatic religion to
the point of crime, unjustice & misery).
A year later (early 2012), Alan revoiced the track for the
occasion of the video clip, this time taking inspiration from Rumi (see the
Another interesting creation was the
4. W I D M U N G
(tribute to) H A F I S
Hubert and I - being neighbours in the village - often get
together for a joyful noise and swap ideas. One day,
Hubert offered this 7/8 guitar-ostinato.
It immediately triggered an accordion melody in my head and upon that I
harboured out some clarinet-lines I wanted to be played by Andri
with Andri at home, august 2010).
In the course of working with this endless ostinato, I kept hearing 2 constant
notes and realised, these notes were (in German) the "Ha" and the "Fis"...
"Ha" in german music terminology means the B (the halfnote below
the C), and "Fis" means the F sharp (the half-note above the F).
While listening to it with Alan, after all our reasonings about/of/in relation
of zoroastrian philosophy and its great, great exponent, the poet Hafis, I
thought that an instrumental perfectly suits the inclusion on "Shab Tab",
even if it was created long before the idea of present album. I had Alan play
some keylines and - of course - a "Ha" and a "Fis" from time to time...
Maybe the musical scale should expand to a "Ru" and "Mi" to play more "Ru" and "Mi"
constants and also a "Saa" and a "Di"...
5. S H A M A N R E G G A E
I N J A H P A N (Fukushima Dub)
and while we were experimenting, we thought, why not aproach a tune yet
differently again: e.g. lay down a vocal on a simple modal drone again and then replay that melody with the santur.
After which I "highjack" the modal mode with the bass to give it a more chordal
body. When it came to groove it, we found that a reggae
couldn't be missed (...), gave it a try and the glove of challenge fit!
While I was in the midst of the mixing process, this horrible dread in
Fukushima happened. Hence I would like to dedicate this reggae to all
sufferers of this Nuclear Armageddon and call it "Shaman Reggae fi Jah Pa(i)n",
although Alan's lyrics (written long before the tsunami in Japan), have
nothing to do with the title itself.
The tragedy in Fukushima should remind us once again how arrogantly ignorant we are to
proclaim "according to all human estimations, the remaining risk is
redundant and blah" and construct nuclear power plants often totally on
inconsiderably dangerous locations/regions of
I immediately opted for a better ecological footprint and kicked off my fuel-tanks
to install a ground-water heating
system and a voltaik on the roof, which produces the heat and the energy for the
6. F I V E B E L L S
O V E R T O K Y O
Years back - after a teamwork with Morgan Fisher proved to
be so smooth, efficient and ending in a beautiful piece (see "11. Mass Medium"),
which was originally not planned for this album (because Alan doesn't play on it)
- Morgan asked me once: when am I going to play on your next album?.
This remark popped up when "Shab Tab" was long since finished, the mastering and
sleeve done. I couldn't help but wonder if this lead was still on, so I
sent a "leftover module" of Alan's improvisation (from 2009) to
A little time later I received from Tokyo an incredible orchestration and great
arrangement on that
bare santur improvisation. It took just a little touch up to replace sampled
strings with Raphael's genuine cello-playing, a little tweak here and there and
I redone the mastering (and sleeve) in order to offer this beautiful piece. I'm
very flattered to host some of Morgan's genuine old analog vintage keyboards
rarities (c.f. the Pianoline) which I left - of course - totally un-mixed,
uncluttered from modern 'nice-up tools'...
7. S H A B N A M
8. B U D D A H O N T
H E F R O G S
As with "Mother of Life", Alan cast a first draw
in 2009 with a sole vocal on
nothing but a temporary drone. But the force of the vocal nuances dividing the different
parts, there was no need to 'undermine' the
different sections of the piece with a corresponding orchestral arrangement such
as in "Mother of Love". Alan still wanted more "body" for the tune, so
my 'symphony of frogs', a piece that I assembled back in 1981 (...) for an aural
visuality piece on "Manoeuvres d'Automne". Add
a minimal santur, a bordun of 4 alphorn by Paul Haag's Horns, a little
acordion touch-up/make-up and enjoy this mantra on the frogs...
I also use the frog-symphony to perform a chill-out
live-piece with guitarist Osterwalder. It is astonishing how the frogs seem to
perfectly 'catch up' with moods, tonalities and even structures of a piece.
Those of lascivious mind and extravagant
circumstance shall not pass from the world of wisdom.
9. R I D A A N
The truth might be an offense, but it is no sin.
It can differ very much from the reality we perceive and which affects us...
We owe it to music to make good music in the first place. If music's to be with lyrics, then
words ought to be as deep as the music...
So we won't change the course of “Shab Tab”, so long we remain decent and not
provocative to a point of being self-destructive or getting unpolitically
When Alan came here again in may 2010 for a 2 months stay to check out
other possibilities (e.g. to settle down here, and/or other issues), he wanted
to get rid of some thoughts and themes in his head concerning his existential
trauma of neither having a cultural past (he left an Iran than doesn't allow a
modern view of its culture) nor cultural future (he lives temporarily in New
York, i.g. in a country that has a cultural future only by synthesizing all its
theft, robbery and dreaded colonialism of the past into... into what? Into a new
world order?...). Hence he churned out "Ridaan" in a flabbergasting wrath and
utter concern. During this same "output", there was yet another piece ("Rose Water") more or less in the
same "angry" vein/way, but due to its poorer musical body (compared to
the rest) I decided to drop 'Rose Water' for the time being. However, its
lyrical content is strong and biting all the same, which is why you'll find it
still in the lyrics/translations.
But these two pieces became the initial spark to shape a whole collection of pieces
from those loose pieces laid down a year before plus fresh material.
10. N O U V E L L E
C U I S I N E O R I E N T A L E
Swapping thoughts about using
micro-tonal scales (i.e. listening to Wendy Carlos' "Beauty in the Beast"), I
out my old milkpots from "Kulu Hatha Mamnua" days and Alan mused that the milkpot-pattern of the '81 recording "Cuisine", was an Indian rag !
I asked him to tune the santur exactly to the intervals of three milkpots and
then 'accompany' that tune. It was only minutes before Alan came up with some
lyrics and yet another facet joined the puzzle of seemingly disparate tunes, all
linked by the only matter: sound.
The rest is merely rythm' and the worldly aspects may be words...
11. M A S S M E D I U M
And as history slips out of view bated breath for the nine
reassembled right before your very eyes: innuendo rumour and lies
Endless fun and games steal a headline, name some names
we're so proud that our press feel so free to manipulate them you and me
And as each campaign begins to absolve us of our sins
I see freedom sold by the yard it's so easy why make it hard?
written by Robert Wyatt, this (instrumental) cover-version reflects some of our own observations, worries & hopes. All the
more since Wyatt's political views and revolutionary stance override themes of
repression of the working classes, alienation, snobbery and individual liberty.
Wyatt even made a conscious effort to produce "un-misusable music" – music where
any possible political ambiguity was removed so that it would have to be
rejected by anyone promoting corrupt Western culture.
We felt this "side-step"
particularily matching to the rest of the lyrics on this collection of pieces. Originally I shaped it in collaboration with the late
Heinz Vetsch. Morgan Fisher did the keyboards and voiced it for us, but I chose this instrumental
version for "Shab Tab". I'm convinced the vocal version will find its way
onto a different context when the time is right, thus taking advantage to hear
this great rendering again...
The intro ("L'internationale") was written in Paris, in June
of 1871 by Eugène Pottier (1816 - 1887). He
was a member of the International and of the Central Committee of the Commune.
He was condemned to death in May of 1873, but sentence was never carried out as
he took refuge in America. The song was published in Chants Révolutionnaires
(1887), and dedicated to Gustave Lefrançais, member of the Commune.
Arise, you prisoners of starvation!
Arise, you wretched of the earth!
For justice thunders condemnation.
A better world's in birth.
No more tradition's chains shall bind us.
Arise, you slaves, no more in thrall!
The earth shall rise on new foundations.
We have been naught, we shall be all.
'Tis the final conflict;
Let each stand in his place.
The international working class
Shall be the human race.
However, from all the different things we tried out, this batch of tunes is
only a small glimpse into our universe, created for this ocasion...
translations of "Shab Tab"
Anyway... we hope you'll be listening still by the time "Peeni Waali"
will light you up!...
see other CD's