Posts

Clinton Davis

Clinton Ross Davis: Steeped in Old-Time American Music

The Center for World Music’s World Music in the Schools is delighted to profile teaching artist Dr. Clinton Davis, who is cultivating the next generation of audiences for traditional American music in San Diego.

Clinton Davis is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator. He was born and raised in Kentucky and now lives in San Diego, California. A fifth-generation Kentuckian, Davis grew up in Carroll County with faint residues of old-time music lingering in the air. With guitar, banjo, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, and piano, Clinton sifts through America’s musical past. With the G Burns Jug Band, Davis arranges music of country, blues, and jazz greats from before World War II for a five-piece ensemble. Their second album received a San Diego Music Award.

G Burns Jug Band

 

Clinton is an enthusiastic scholar and singer of American shape-note music, traveling to every corner of the country to sing these unique tunes of a cappella harmony with others. In the summers of 2013 and 2014, he toured the Sand Mountain region of Alabama. There, he immersed himself in singing that has existed as an unbroken tradition for over 150 years.

 

In 2015, Clinton became an official Deering Artist, partnering with the Deering Banjo Company and appearing in their catalog to showcase their Goodtime Americana line of banjos.

In 2016, Clinton earned his doctorate in music at the University of California, San Diego. He served as an associate instructor at UCSD, leading a survey course in American roots music.

Beginning in 2017, Clinton has presented a series of concerts called the Southern Pacific Sessions, featuring a variety of musicians performing traditional American music at Kalabash Music & Arts in the Bird Rock neighborhood of San Diego.

Clinton teaches private music lessons and leads middle school clawhammer-style banjo classes as a teaching artist for the CWM’s World Music in the Schools program.

If you want to catch Clinton performing, check out his upcoming gigs, along with a plethora of other gems on his website, www.clintonrossdavis.com.

Enjoy this YouTube video of Clinton performing Kenesaw Mountain Rag with G Burns Jug Band.

Gamelan Project Article by Alex Khalil

Alex Khalil’s Gamelan Project Smithsonian Article

Gamelan aficionados and music educators alike with find much of interest in this great Smithsonian article on the value of music education for kids by Center for World Music board member Alexander Khalil, PhD. Dr. Khalil offers important observations on attention in children, impaired temporal processing, ADHD, and the benefits of bi-musicality.

Our research has found a connection between the ability to synchronize with an ensemble in a gamelan-like setting and other cognitive characteristics, particularly the ability to focus and maintain attention. Our current work explores whether improvements at interpersonal time processing, or synchrony, may translate into improved attention.

Also of interest in this article is Alex’s account of the history of the Center for World Music’s World Music in the Schools program, based on his experience as a founding instructor during and after the program’s 1999 inauguration in San Diego at the Museum School:

The gamelan program at the Museum School has its philosophical roots in [pioneering ethnomusicologist] Mantle Hood’s well-known concept of “bi-musicality.” Just as one who is bi-lingual must have fluency in more than one language, one must be fluent in more than one musical language to be considered bi-musical. Robert E. Brown, who studied under Hood at UCLA and subsequently founded the Center for World Music, made his first efforts to bring world music, a term he is credited with having invented, to the elementary classroom in 1973 through his “world music in the schools” program in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Read the full text of this article on the Smithsonian Freer Sackler website.

Find out more about Dr. Khalil’s work at UCSD’s Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center.

And here’s a nice video documenting the ongoing gamelan program at the Museum School.

Sufi Raina

Sufi Raina, Teacher of Kathak Dance

The Center for World Music is pleased to welcome Sufi Raina to our roster of distinguished teaching artists, a team of professional musicians and dancers who bring the worlds’ performing arts into San Diego classrooms through World Music in the Schools.

Sufi Raina Headshot

Sufi Raina is a silver medalist in Kathak, one of the preeminent classical dance traditions of North India. She holds a master’s degree in Kathak from Apeejay College of Fine Arts, Jalandar, Punjab, where her mentor was the esteemed Dr. Santosh Vyas. She also holds a master’s in psychology from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

Trained in the Jaipur Gharana (tradition), Sufi was a lecturer in Kathak at KMV College Jalandhar for three years. During this time she taught dance as a major to undergraduate students. She also choreographed performances for the college as well as for national youth festivals. She was invited to England by the North Somerset Music Service, as a part of a cultural exchange program, to perform and teach Kathak in schools, introducing students to Indian classical dance.

Sufi Raina Dancing

Sufi has choreographed many dance performances for the stage and national television in India. She was an assistant choreographer for the Punjabi film Heer Ranjha. An innovative choreographer, Sufi is also trained in folk dance forms of India. Her love for Kathak, combined with countless dedicated hours of riyaaz (intense practice), have brought her to many stages across the world, enthralling an international audience with the nuances of this classical Indian dance form.

Sufi moved to Southern California in 2011. Since then, she has been actively performing in the region. A lifelong learner and a teacher by choice, she is the founder and artistic director of Tej Dance Studio in San Diego.

Sufi has recently taught for the Center for World Music as an artist in residence at Innovations Academy and at the San Diego French American School, as well as presenting assembly performances at Hawking STEAM Charter School and at SDFAS.

Want to see more? Visit these links:

Promotional Video for Tej Dance Studio
Kathak Performance Celebration World Dance Day in Punjab, India

Mark Lamson Teaching

What Do Children Think About Learning World Music?

Toda Criança Pode Aprender (“Every Child Can Learn”), the blog of the Brazilian NGO Laboratório de Educação (“Education Laboratory”), published a fine article on the Center for World Music’s World Music in the Schools program. Here’s a translation:

What do children think about contact with music from other cultures?

October 30, 2017

This article is part of the series: What children think about . . .

Discover the children’s point of view about learning songs from other countries!

In 1963, the Center for World Music was created in San Diego, a nonprofit organization that promotes meetings and presentations by artists from different cultures with the goal of broadening social awareness of diversity.

Over time, the children’s audience became part of the project’s focus and integrated into the curriculum of some schools in San Diego County. The idea was to invest in the education of children so that they could learn from a young age about music, but mainly about the diversity and richness of contact with different cultures. (Read more about the musical experience and development of the child by clicking here and here.)

The Center for World Music has also posted an interesting video that shows the children’s point of view about interacting with instruments, artists and songs from diverse backgrounds! It is worth viewing:

[Transcript:]

What do you love abou music class?

“I like to have the experience of listening to and playing music from other countries.”

What have you learned?

“I learned to play different instruments, from gamelan to the ukulele.”

What do you like best in music class?

“I like to learn new melodies and how to use new instruments like gamelan. It’s cool!”

What do you like best in music class?

“I love having the chance to use different instruments that other schools do not use.”

What did you learn?

“I’ve learned that practice makes almost perfect, never to full perfection, but it helps a lot, because you will not always get it at first.”

“It really brings out the best in you because you really need to do your best and focus on music.”

To learn more about the project, we also recommend listening to the Center for World Music’s executive director, Monica Emery:

[Transcript:]

“The Center for World Music started in 1963, and at that time we were primarily focused on adult audiences. Then we quickly realized that children were the future, and so now we reach 5,000 students across San Diego County. We teach world music in the classrooms because we want to create a society that is more open, accepting, and compassionate. In 1999, we launched our World Music in the Schools program, to bring hands-on world music education into the San Diego classroom. This program is not just about music, this is about children learning through music about themselves and the world around them. We bring master artists and musical instruments from around the world into to the classroom, so children have a hands-on experience with these instruments and the cultures from which they come. If you want to be part of this transformational program, visit us at www.centerforworldmusic.org.”

Here’s where you can learn more about World Music in the Schools!

 

Bodhran

World Music Instrument: The Bodhrán

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of world music instruments with an article by Máirtín de Cógáin, CWM teaching artist and player of the bodhrán, or Irish frame drum.


When I was a young lad in Cork, Ireland the bodhrán (pronounced bow-rawn, like cow brawn) was commonly considered as the “ancient sound of Irish percussion.”  Indeed, we are told that the bodhrán was used to summon the fairies from their magic fort on full-moon nights. Many novice players could not understand why this profound sound of the past was not widely featured in traditional Irish music sessions across the world. After all, they would say, isn’t this “the Irish drum”? Little did we know that the opposite was the case. While teaching bodhrán in upstate New York at the Catskills Irish Arts Week, I sat in on an eye-opening lecture by Fintan Vallely entitled “Hunting for Borr-án: Shaking a Stick at the Origin Myths Concerning the Irish Drum.” My world as a bodhrán player was completely dismantled.


Through long research, Fintan had found that the bodhrán has been a part of Irish music for only the last 200 years, if that. Its use was not widespread and was generally reserved for only the wildest of parties. As Fintan puts it in his notes on the talk:

“. . . what is the history of the bodhrán? What we know so far is driven by myth and wishful thinking. . . . the famous Irish drum has no ancient artistic past: at the best it was only ever just a tambourine. The Irish device, from which the word ‘bodhrán’ comes, most likely originally meant an agricultural and domestic tray or container — even a sieve. Yet the bodhrán IS around, and being brilliantly played, as solid an art and presence as the harp or the pipes. We borrowed the device from [minstrel shows] or the Salvation Army, the rhythms from dancers’ feet, and we synthesised the modern playing style from the sounds of Ulster Lambeggers, Indian tabla tippers and Scottish pipe-band snare drummers.”

Today the bodhrán is a rapidly-developing Irish drum, in both its design and its playing style. It was brought from its humble origins in rural celebrations to public attention in concert halls and theaters by Seán Ó Riada and Peadar Mercier in the 1960s, and featured prominently in the ensembles Ceoltóirí Chualann and the Chieftains. From there it has exploded across the globe and become a mainstay at many Irish music sessions and home fireplaces. Johnny “Ringo” McDonogh is noted as the first player to damp the sound with one hand on the back of the instrument, and many others have further developed this style of two-hand playing. In addition, tunable bodhráns have improved the tone more concretely, and turned the humble farm utensil into a sophisticated musical instrument.

At the age of 19, I stumbled into the Douglas, County Cork branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve and promote Irish traditional performing arts. It was there that a tiny 6-inch bodhrán with a hole in it was thrust into my hands, and I was steered into a bodhrán class with teacher Eric Cunningham. The rest is history. Today, I play a 14-inch Metloef bodhrán, although many instruments of old were 18 to 20 inches in diameter. According to Fintan’s research, those larger sizes were prevalent because old spinning wheels were used as the rim of the instrument. Personally, I find the larger diameters too cumbersome, although other players still prefer them. Two pieces of wood in the shape of a cross, placed within the back-side frame are common in the larger drums, but I feel that they are a hindrance to playing the smaller instruments that I prefer.

In the past, the performer’s bare hand was most commonly used to beat the drum, as demonstrated by the great Rónán Ó Snodaigh. Nowadays, however, a stick called a cípín is typically used. Ideally, the cípín matches the length of the player’s hand, from outstretched thumb to outstretched baby finger, as this is about as much weight as any one’s wrist can withstand for extended playing. When both ends of the cípín are used, this is known as the “Kerry” style of bodhrán playing. A different style, known as “top end,” uses only one end of the stick and is characterized by a heavy emphasis on upstrokes of the cípín. 

Videos of the bodhrán:
The Gallant Fusiliers by Máirtín de Cógáin
Bodhran jigs – Karl Nesbitt & Tommie Cunniffe
www.MairtinMusic.com

—Máirtín de Cógáin is an actor, singer, percussionist, storyteller, playwright, dancer and teaching artist in residence for the Center for World Music.

 

 

Didgeridoo

World Music Instrument: The Didjeridu

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of world music instruments with an article by Randin Graves about the Australian Didjeridu.

The didjeridu (or didgeridoo) is a deceptively simple instrument in construction. Nevertheless, it can produce extremely complex music in the hands of an expert player. It is simply a tube with no reed, finger holes or moving parts of any kind. The player creates rhythm and shifts of timbre and pitch with movement of the breath, lips, tongue, cheeks, throat, vocal cords, and stomach muscles. “Circular breathing” is employed to produce continuous sound, whether a simple drone or an intricate rhythm.

A rough map of the origins of the didjeridu.

Aboriginal people of northern Australia invented the instrument and still use it in ceremony and daily life today. Didjeridu is not in fact an Aboriginal term, but an onomatopoeic word created by European settlers describing the sound produced by traditional players. There are many words for the instrument in Aboriginal languages. The best known around the world are yidaki from northeast Arnhem Land and mago from west Arnhem Land. In both regions, it is also common to hear the word bambu used. Bamboo was occasionally in use at the time of European contact, but has now fallen out of favor with Aboriginal players.

Djalu Gurruwiwi begins chopping down a stringybark tree (Eucalyptus tetradonta) to craft a didjeridu.

These days, people around the world make didjeridus out of a wide variety of materials. Traditionally, however, instruments are made from trunks of eucalyptus trees that have been hollowed out by termites commonly known as “white ants.” A craftsman scans a forest for likely instruments, then taps a tree up and down to evaluate the hollow inside. If it sounds good, the tree is felled, cut to length, stripped of its bark and carved down to match the interior hollow.

If the natural hollow of the wood at the top is too big or irregularly shaped, a material found in bee nests called “sugarbag” is formed into a mouthpiece. Sugarbag is a black, gummy substance native Australian bees make by mixing their wax with eucalyptus tree resin, not the yellow wax of European bees that is often seen on instruments made for the tourist market. Instruments made for sale or special ceremonies may be elaborately decorated with clan designs related to the artist, but most didgeridoos in everyday use in northern Australia are unpainted or wrapped top to bottom in duct or electrical tape to hold them together through inevitable cracking as the wood dries.

Milkay Mununggurr accompanies ceremonial song with a didjeridu completely wrapped in tape.

Traditional Aboriginal players continue to use age-old tonguing techniques that stem from their language and are foreign to most outsiders. As the instrument has spread globally, many more styles have developed around the world, from new age drones to beatboxing, in both solo and ensemble settings.

Witiyana Marika and Milkayngu Mununggurr of Yothu Yindi perform a
traditional Yolngu song with didjeridu

Randin Graves plays contemporary didjeridu music with guitar

— Randin Graves is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and one of the world’s leading non-Aboriginal exponents of the Australian didjeridu.

For more information on the didjeridu at its origin, visit YidakiStory.com, which Randin created in collaboration with many Yolngu Aboriginal people as part of his Fulbright Fellowship and Master’s Degree project.

Didjeridu Workshop at the Kalabash School of Music
Get hands-on instruction on the didjeridu with Randin Graves on Saturday, February 11 at 11AM.

Thai Jakhee

World Music Instrument: The Jakhee

We continue our series of reports on the fascinating variety of world music instruments with an article about the jakhee, an instrument used in Thai and Khmer music.

The jakhee (จะเข้) is a plucked string instrument with three strings and eleven wooden frets, found in Thailand, Myanmar, and Cambodia. The name is derived from the Thai word for crocodile, jaurakhee, because the body of the instrument is shaped like a crocodile, and it is sometimes elaborately carved to represent one. The body is made from wood, often from the jackfruit tree, carved out of one piece and covered with a flat lid on the bottom which has sound holes and five short legs.

Crocodile Jakhee

To play the jakhee, the player tightly ties a large pick to their right index finger. The right hand rests against the body of the instrument and the hand rocks back-and-forth over the strings in an arc-shaped motion, plucking strings individually or strumming across all three. The pick is often made from hardwood, bone, ivory or ceramic. The instrument itself can be decorated in elaborate patterns with gold paint, mother-of-pearl, lighter colored wood trim, bone, white resin or ivory. It has two silk or nylon strings, tuned to Do and Sol, and one metal string tuned to Do an octave lower, and they are strung over a curved bridge that gives the instruments a buzzing timbre, similar the javari bridge on Indian instruments such as the sitar.

jakhee-supeena

Supeena Insee Adler playing jakhee

Traditionally, a player sits with legs folded back to one side on the floor behind the instrument, but today it is common for the instrument to be elevated so the player may sit on a chair. The jakhee is often played as a solo instrument, but it is also found in classical ensembles, including the khrueang sai (stringed instruments) and mohoorii ensembles.

The stringed ensemble consists of one jakhee, one sau duang (two-stringed hardwood fiddle with python skin), one sau uu (two stringed fiddle with coconut shell body covered with cow skin), one khlui (wooden vertical flute), thoon-rammanna (a set of two drums), and ching (cymbals). It originated in the royal palace and is often used in entertainment settings, at schools, universities, communities, and temple festivals, and funerals.

The khrueangsai pii chawaa ensemble

The khrueangsai pii chawaa ensemble

Another, much rarer, kind of ensemble combines the small stringed instrument ensemble with quadruple-reed oboe and a pair of drums (klaung khaek). It is called khrueangsai pii chawaa, or stringed instrument ensemble with Javanese oboe. This ensemble is closely associated with royalty and plays both entertainment and ritual music, and was the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation at the University of California Riverside, entitled Music for the Few: Nationalism and Thai Royal Authority.

Want to see videos?

Supeena Insee Adler demonstrating the jakhee at UCLA. View here

Chin Kim Yai performed by Saharat Chanchalerm and orchestra at the Thai Cultural Center in Bangkok, Thailand. View here.

Thirty-five jakhee players perform at the funeral of their music teacher, khruu Thaungdii  Sujaritkul. View here

A khrueangsai pii chawaa ensemble performing at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. View here.

Supeena Insee Adler, Ph.D., is a lecturer at UCLA, ethnomusicologist, performer, and a volunteer Thai music teacher at the Thai Buddhist Temple in Escondido, California.

Máirtín de Cógáin

Máirtín de Cógáin, 21st Century Irish Storyteller

We warmly welcome Máirtín de Cógáin, who joins World Music in the Schools as a teaching artist in residence.

Máirtín de Cógáin-drumming-2Center for World Music artist in residence Máirtín de Cógáin is a singing, dancing, story-telling bodhrán (Irish frame drum) player, who also is a noted playwright and actor. He performs all over the United States, as well as in his native Ireland. An infectious personality, Máirtín pleasantly commands the attention of all audiences, from concert halls to intimate porches.

Descended from a long line of storytellers, Máirtín is the winner of two All-Ireland awards from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. He often tours with The Máirtín de Cógáin Project, The Fuchsia Band, or Gailfean. A true promoter of “the Ballad,” he searches for those forgotten songs of old and breathes new life into them, as well as writing some new songs of his own. Máirtín learned from many famous Irish singers such as Danni Maichi Ua Súilleabháin, Séamus Mac Mathúna, and Ciarán Dwyer. He is a fluent speaker of Irish (Gaelic) who was brought up in a bilingual home, and attended primary and secondary schools taught in Irish. Máirtín holds a degree in the Irish language from University College Cork.

Máirtín de Cógáin-drummingIf not on stage singing, storytelling, dancing, or playing the bodhrán, Máirtín is treading the boards as an actor, notably in the film The Wind that Shakes the Barley. He has co-written many productions with the Be Your Own Banana Theatre Company, recently playing De Bogman off-Broadway in New York.

Máirtín has been playing the bodhrán for many years, learning first from Eric Cunningham (The New De Danann) and later from Colm Murphy (The Old De Danann). Máirtín has taught bodhrán technique at the Catskills Irish Arts Week, Augusta Irish Week, as well as giving workshops at major U.S. festivals including the Kansas City Irish Fest, CelticFest Mississippi, Minnesota Irish Fair, and La Crosse IrishFest. He also gives private lessons in the San Diego area and along the road while touring.

Máirtín de Cógáin-dancing

A traditional brush dance with his father Barry Cogan

Growing up in a house full of dancing, Máirtín helped teach the steps at the family-run céilís (social gatherings) from an early age, and now teaches the folk dances of Cork to dancers everywhere.

Máirtín makes friends wherever he goes. In a very short time, de Cógáin has become a regular performer at some of the most prestigious Irish festivals in the U.S. Although he can often be found leading a tour group in Ireland, or entertaining guests on a traditional Irish music-themed cruise ship, he now spends most of his time in California, where he lives with his wife Mitra and their young son, who shows great promise as a dancer and bodhrán player himself.

Want to learn more about Máirtín and his career? Visit www.MairtinMusic.com. You can also catch him on YouTube telling a story or singing with friends.

 

Fandango at Eduardo's

Eduardo García, Building Community Through Son Jarocho

Professor Eduardo García, a member of the San Diego-based son jarocho group Son de San Diego, teaches in the School of Arts at California State University San Marcos. He is also, we are proud to say, a teaching artist for the Center for World Music’s World Music in the Schools program. He has delved deeply into the study of son jarocho, the traditional music, dance, and songs of Veracruz, Mexico. His focus includes the instruments, the style of music, and above all creating a safe place for learning music and building community.

cynthia-_-eduardo-garciaEduardo’s interest in son jarocho regional folk music was sparked by an immersive study trip to San Andrés Tuxtla, Veracruz, Mexico in 2002. His journey to the home of son jarocho inspired his study of the tradition, taking him through many varied experiences in community-based music.

He believes it is important for young people to have access to as many musical cultures as possible. This global arts-based approach to learning brings the world to his students, and broadens their perspectives and sensibilities.

This particular music of Veracruz—son jarocho, son abajeño, or música de cuerdas, as it is known in different areas of the Sotavento region—is important because at its core lies the central component of cultivating community. Whether playing, singing, or dancing, this music is not created as a solo venture: it is a shared social activity. The instruments, the call and response nature of the singing, and the communicative percussion of the dancing between singers and musicians, creates myriad social and musical interactions. It is a social music, and Eduardo has tried to remain true to this central aspect of son jarocho music as he continues his efforts to cultivate a similar musical community in the San Diego region.cwm-festival-5-13-son-jarocho

— Cynthia Carbajal, Teacher at Lexington Elementary School in El Cajon, CA and Teaching Artist for the CWM’s World Music in the Schools

Read more about Eduardo García’s contributions to San Diego and his bridge-building efforts through the musical tradition of son jarocho:  

Sharing Music Across the U.S.-Mexico Border’s Metal Fence, New York Times — May 29, 2016

Son Jarocho Creates Community on Both Sides of the Border, KPBS — May 30, 2012

 Wu Man Makes Pipa an Instrument of Change, San Diego Union Tribune — May 8, 2014.

Watch a video:

Wu Man and Son de San Diego collaboration at the Carlsbad Music Festival.

Brain of a Drummer

The Neuroscience of Drumming: Researchers Discover the Secrets of Drumming & The Human Brain

Ever wonder if the configuration of a musician’s brain is distinctive? Neuroscientist David Eagleman confirmed that this is the case through an experiment in musician Brian Eno’s studio. He found that professional drummers have “different brains.” Eagleman’s work and related studies are discussed in a fascinating Open Culture article.

Eno . . . theorized that drummers have a unique mental makeup, and it turns out “Eno was right: drummers do have different brains from the rest.” Eagleman’s test showed “a huge statistical difference between the drummers’ timing and that of test subjects.” Says Eagleman, “Now we know that there is something anatomically different about them.” Their ability to keep time gives them an intuitive understanding of the rhythmic patterns they perceive all around them.

For more, read on here.