We feel down about the Internet. We despair at its surges of collective stupidity, the banality of its articles, comments and backlashes, at the perfect replicability it enables. We also feel self-loathing, as the inner-baby inside us shrieks and tugs at the screen for attention and feedback, rendering us unable to friggin’ concentrate on anything.
And then, like a lightning bolt of magic, someone says something somewhere in the Internet and, just like that, a window is opened and through it we behold awesome vistas. New universes are revealed. A crystalline shard of beautiful experience that didn’t exist before pierces our skin and dissolves in our bloodstream and spreads through our system and we are upgraded and renewed.
And then we feel up on the Internet.
This happened this week, when our pal Matt from Where to Now/WhereIIDance/Ye Ye Fever fame posted on Facebook about a Japanese band called Mkwaju Ensemble (his was the title of this post too). The track was called Hot Air, and it sounded like the morning stirrings of a young country at the beginning of the season of love.
Hot Air is contained in Mkwaju Ensemble’s 1981 album ‘Ki-Motion.’ We also tracked down their self-titled debut Mkwaju, and tried to find out more about them, to no initial avail We had sort of resigned ourselves to allow their music exist in the kind-of-context-less mythical space defined by our imaginations, when at the bottom of the Google search results we stumbled upon a post about them at Hipinion, which provided an etymological/organic foundation for their music, in sub-Saharan culture.
Sez Drudge, who wrote this post:
The tamarind, known as “mkwaju” in Swahili, is a large, adaptable, drought resistant tree native to Sudan and tropical Africa. A dense, durable, insect-resistant wood, mkwaju is used in the production of furniture, wheels, planking, tools, and musical instruments. Prized also for its horticultural, culinary, and medical uses, mkwaju is essential to the life and identity of the Central African grasslands.
Taking their name from the tree whose wood was used to produce some of the very first mallets and marimba, Mkwaju Ensemble’s rhythmic, minimalistic work draws on the region’s music and culture. In a brief six month span, the ensemble combined a wide array of talent and instrumentation to explore syncopation, repetition, and silence in new and ambitious ways.
Many sub-Saharan languages do not have a word for rhythm, or even music. Rhythms represent the very fabric of life, and embody the interdependence of human relationships. Cross-beats can symbolize challenging moments or emotional stress, and playing them while fully grounded in main beats is thought to prepare one to maintain purpose while dealing with life’s challenges. This simultaneous use of contrasting rhythmic patterns lies at the core of Africa’s rhythmic tradition, and is evident in much of the ensemble’s work. Marimba, vibraphone, bamboo percussion and synth intertwine to create something both traditional and new.
Which is a beautiful and enlightening explanation/description of the furious, liquid, interweaving, threaded and parallel eddies and whirlpools of minimalism, percussion and electronica in Mkwaju.
This is how it all begins.
It doesn’t end there. The post about Mkwaju Ensemble was part of a wider discussion about Japanese music that began 3 pages earlier, beginning with exquisite 80s pop, continuing into Mkwaju Ensemble, and following with our beloved Geinoh Yamashirogumi and others.
We predict this will provide a rich source of awesome music for us to enjoy and convey to you in future days, hopefully making us part of that chain of connected vessels through which great stuff (and belief in the web as a force for good) spreads all over.