A Kinrowan Estate story: Mama Kin

Raspberry divider

She was simply dressed in summer colours and she had a traveling bag over her back and a flute case as well. As per our Covenant regarding visiting musicians, we offered her a place to sleep, food, and her first drink in the Pub was on the house.

She’d been travelling through Europe the previous summer and fall playing at various festivals, so she was well heeled and was willing to pay for her stay here. Jean-Pierre, our Steward at that time, said that wasn’t an issue for now, but asked instead why she came here. And oh, ‘What is your name?’ She said it was ‘Mama Kin.’ Her Irish accent was warm and engaging.

She heard good things about us and wanted to see us for herself, and she’d be happy to do whatever we felt she should do — she’d been a barkeeper, was skilled in carpentry and painting, had spent several summers working on farms so could handle both gardening and livestock, and had training in staffing and managing communal kitchens. She said she also spoke Irish Gaelic, French, German and more than a smattering of other tongues. An admirable background for an Estate like ours.

So Ingrid sent her my way. She asked if I wanted references and I said that we take new folk on their word, so that wouldn’t be needed nor desired. She was in luck as I’d a vacancy on my staff, so I’d be glad to take her on. I arranged her housing, one of the smaller yurts, got her a tour of the Estate, and introduced her to Reynard who needs a spare worker or two from time to time. Mrs. Ware welcomed her in the Kitchen. So it looks like we’ve a fine new community member!

Raspberry divider

Posted in Stories | Leave a comment

What’s New for the 18th of June: live music from Franz Liszt , Jennifer Stevenson on Summer:, Stephen Brust novels and other matters

The Palace was more than four hundred years old and had served its purpose; it would be unbecoming to despise it for showing its age. But there was now one spot within it of something new. Turn your thought to it for a moment. One incongruous new idea amid a marsh of stagnant facts. — Steven Brust, Brokedown Palace

Raspberry divider

Summer by the calendar is almost upon us, but I prefer the weather wise folk who say it is thirty days or so depending on the year earlier as it nicely fits what we get here on this Scottish estate. Indeed it’s been warm enough overnight that I’ve had the windows here in the Pub open ’round the clock. Gus our Estate Gardener and Groundskeeper has followed the lead of those who held that position before him and planted lupins in the flower beds near Kinrowan Hall, so their pepperary smell is in here and  quite noticable.

If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the sounds of some Hungarian music being by our Librarian in the Kitchen as I do believe that’s where he is judging from the voices I hear along with his playing…

Raspberry divider

Robert has a review of Brokedown Palace by Stephen Brust: ‘This is a novel, with all the elements that make a novel what it is. I’ve said before that I think Brust is one of the master stylists working in fantasy today, and this one only confirms that opinion. Even though Brust is describing fantastic things, his mode is realist narrative, and a very clean and spare narrative it is, although more poetic than most of his work. While his characteristically sardonic humor and his flair for irony are readily apparent, there is a magical feel to it, in the sense of things that cannot be, and perhaps should not be, explained.’

He says about Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm’s The Gypsy that it ‘has been in my peripheral vision for some time, and was brought front and center by Boiled in Lead’s Songs from The Gypsy. I’ve sort of put off Brust’s collaborations, of which this is one, although I can see that I’ve got to catch up on them.’ He goes on to say that he found this Hungarian folklore-tinged novel to be terrific, a comment I wholeheartedly agree with!

Raspberry divider

We start off our music reviews (which somehow seem to have a very Eastern European slant to them) with Donna’s look at a collaboration between Taraf de Haïdouks and Kočani Orkestar, Band of Gypsies 2: ‘Band of Gypsies 2 marks a very exciting collaboration between two of Europe’s most popular Gypsy bands. The fourteen members of Taraf de Haïdouks hail from a region in Romania where Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion and the language derives from so-called Vulgar Latin. They play primarily violins and accordions. The thirteen members of Kočani Orkestar come from the Republic of Macedonia, are Muslim, and speak a Slavic language. They play primarily brass instruments, trumpets and tubas. Put all these men and their instruments together and you have a real wall of sound!’

Next, Gary brings us a live recording from Muzsikas and Marta Sebestyen, Live at Liszt Academy: ‘This recording is yet another demonstration of the power of this music and the mastery of Muzsikas. It documents a series of concerts in 2003 at the Liszt Academy. Several tracks feature the ethereal vocals of the ProMusica Choir of Nyiregyhaza, 50 young women directed by Denes Szabo.’

Robert has a look at some chamber music by a couple of Hungary’s lesser-known composers, in the Guarneri Quartet’s Hungarian Album: ‘ Looking at the Quartet’s discography, one is struck by their focus on music of the twentieth century and of Eastern Europe: Bartók, Dvorák, Janáček, Debussy, Grieg, Smetana are all well-represented in their recordings, so this group of quartets by Dohnányi and Kodály is a good fit — although sadly, it marks the group’s retirement.’

Finally, Robert takes a look at another Hungarian composer who became a mainstay of the Romantic era, Franz Liszt, in a recording of his more notable works for piano: ‘Franz Liszt was another of those nineteenth-century child prodigies, which may explain something very odd: because his family’s financial circumstances dictated that he begin concert tours at a very early age (sort of a musical variation on a classic rags-to-riches story), his musical education was somewhat truncated. Thus, when he began composing music, he had to go back and learn how. . . .’

Raspberry divider

Our What Not this outing is a rumination by Jennifer Stevenson on Summer: ‘This time of year, my heart is full. Everything that can bloom is blooming, or has bloomed and fruited already, like mayapple and shooting star and trillium and the flowering trees that line my street. All the plants are up. Every rain sees them shooting up another few inches. If you leave your lawn another week, aw, it’ll be fine, I can mow it Sunday, well, better bring a scythe. Out in the country they’ve already cut the first hay.’

Raspberry divider

And for our finale today, another work from Franz Liszt that shows just how Hungarian he could be. Not exactly what I heard Iain playing earlier, but this will give us a rousing finish, thanks to Croatian pianist Maksim Mrvica: it’s not every classical pianist who gives a concert in a sleeveless tunic and leather wrist bands.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Wild Wood

image

It’s an unbroken region that we never touch — thousands of acres forested in trees that are many centuries old. Though we enter it from time to time when walking the Estate, we neither harvest anything from it save mushrooms and what Tamsin, our hedgewitch deems needed, nor do we hunt there.

But some of us do take long walks there, at least those of us mortals that the Fey like, as we’re convinced that they protect this Wildwood. And that is how I came to be out there on a late Autumn day when it was warm enough for the long hike out there and back. (How long it takes always is different.) I was dressed in my favourite Mackinaw jacket and my sturdy boots, had a packed lunch, and my fiddle.

I found a fallen tree in the sun, rosined up my bow, and started playing tunes I’d selected as the caller for the next contradance with the Céim Bríomhar band from Dublin way. Then I noticed someone watching me.

He was at first glance normal: a skinny being whose skin looked rough from being in the sun too long. Closer up it was apparent that he was not ‘tall human as his skin was really very small overlapping leaves, something so dark green that they looked almost black, and his hair was tangled dreadlocks, like moss more than anything else.

He said nothing ‘tall to me, just made a fiddle and bow appear from behind him — a living instrument. I started playing. He cocked his head, then started to play the tune I was playing and we played ’til sun was no more…

image

Posted in Stories | Leave a comment

What’s New for the 11th of June: Canadian roots music from Whitehorse, the story of our troll, The Neverending Session and other matters

Since the other members of Fall Down Dancing weren’t available for tonight, Miki had fallen back on the Wednesday night sessions at The Harp to find a couple of other players, enlisting Amy Scanlon on pipes, whistle, and vocals, and Geordie Riddell on fiddle and flute. Amy and Geordie often played together as a duo and all four of them shared enough material in common that the big problem in putting together the sets they needed for this gig had been in what to leave out. — Charles de Lint’s Forests of the Heart

image

It’s not quite true that the Neverending Session has played continuously for centuries without ever letting the music stop, but I’m still gobsmscked as to when and where I’ve caught them playing when I really didn’t expect to, such as in the pumpkin patch one All Hallows Eve as set began to set. They were around a small male  child who was rather obviously expecting the arrival of someone soon. They were playing ‘The Pumpkin Dance’, a tune composed by the Red Clay Ramblers who play it here., when I wandered by.

And another time, I found them, or at least a splinter of the group, playing tunes composed by the late Micheál Ó Domhnaill of Nightnoise fame in the Library a bit past three in the morning with the only light being the light cast by the fireplace, so I  listended as they played on…

Now let’s see what I’ve got for you….

image

Jack has a Diana Wynne Jones novel for us: ‘It’s a well written book with memorable characters and an engrossing plot which got read in one rather long sitting on a cold, rainy afternoon late in October. Several pots of Earl Grey tea and a number of the Kinrowan Estate Kitchen’s excellent scones were devoured in the reading of Fire & Hemlock.’

Kathleen looks at an academic endeavour worth reading: ‘Charles Butler is the author of several fantasies for children (The Fetch of Mardy Watt, The Darkling, Death of A Ghost). He also teaches English literature at the University of the West of England. In Four British Fantasists, he surveys juvenile fantasy through the lens of his professional scholarship, in a detailed analysis of the work of four acclaimed modern writers. He has chosen Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper and Penelope Lively as his subjects, identifying them — with good reason — as shining examples of the modern Golden Age of children’s fantasy: inheritors of the traditions of both E. Nesbitt and J.R.R. Tolkien.’

Another fine version of the Tam Lin story is reviewed by Richard as he looks at a Pamela Dean novel: ‘An early part of Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale series, Tam Lin is by far the most ambitious project on the line. The story of Tam Lin is one of the better known ones to escape folklore for the fringes of the mainstream; you’ll find references scuttling about everywhere from old Fairport Convention discs to Christopher Stasheff novels. There’s danger inherent in mucking about with a story that a great many people know and love in its original form; a single misstep and the hard-core devotees of the classic start howling for blood. Moreover, Dean is not content simply to take the ballad of Tam Lin and transplant it bodily into another setting.’

Books can get successfully turned into other forms as we see in a review by Vonnie of an interesting performance: ‘Ellen Kushner performed Thomas the Rhymer as a combination reading / musical performance at Johnny D’s, the synergy between the songs and the narrative was much stronger. The pauses, in particular, highlighted the words far better than the end of a paragraph on a page ever could. Kushner sang and played guitar, whilst Josef Kessler played fiddle and mandolin.’

image

Denise digs into a CD/DVD set from Cats Laughing, A Long Time Gone – Reunion at MiniCon 50, and finds herself torn. What does one do if she loves the music, but feels the production could have been…better? Production wobbles aside, she’s a fan.’Anyone who enjoys folk-rock, roadhouse, or good ol’ Faire tunes will find their time well spent checking them out.’

Gary liked what he heard on a new release Small Town from American guitarist Bill Frisell. The prolific player of Americana and jazz this time teams up with double-bassist Thomas Morgan for a set of tunes recorded live at the storied Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village. ‘It’s a sublime date, mixing modern standards with some Frisell originals and a few choice cover tunes,’ he says.

Gary also reviews another new live recording, this one of the Afro-Cuban All Stars on a magical night in Guanajuato, Mexico. The big band, he says, is ‘one of the world’s top purveyors of the Cuban music known as son, a catchy, folk-based music that combines Afro-Cuban clave with American jazz idioms.

Gary seems to have been reduced to a raving fanboy by the release of the 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition of The Beatles’ landmark record Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

And to wrap things up, Robert takes a look at a group of warhorses — um, ‘concert hall staples’ — in a pair of recordings from Sony: ‘The idea of “meaning” in music is a complex one, the pursuit of which can go all sorts of places I don’t want to go right now. Suffice it to say that most commentators feel that relating music to some sort of narrative line is sufficient to address the question. . . . This leads naturally to discussions of “program” music, which is something we find reflected in everything from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to movie soundtracks, stopping along the way to encompass such diverse works as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 and Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, not to mention opera and ballet in general.’

image

Our What Not this time is Gus in a letter to Anna describing a folkloric aspect of this Scottish estate: ‘There are everything from ashrays (sea ghosts) to wulvers, a sort of werewolf but, alas, no trolls in Scotland. There is however now a splendidly ugly and rather large troll under the bridge over the river that’s below the Mill Pond. How it got there is a story worth knowing which is why I’m telling you in this letter.’

ivy

Finally, if nothing makes you feel better than a good sad song, you’re in luck! We’ll send you off with a lovely tear-jerker from the Canadian folk duo of Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, who perform as Whitehorse. They play their song ‘Die Alone’ (it’ll be on their August 2017 release Panther In The Dollhouse) at Toronto’s legendary Massey Hall.

Posted in Books, Commentary, Music, Stories, What Nots | Leave a comment

A Kinrowan Estate story: Of Puppets and Their Masters (A Letter to Anna)

image

Dear Anna,

I was lusting after a wee dram of Laphroig very late one night as I wasn’t sleeping well so I got dressed, left my sweet wife sleeping, and made my way to the Pub. As you know, it never closes, though other than the handful of Neverending Sessions musos, it’s rather quiet in the dead of the night hours. So I was quite surprised to see a fair number of folk there!

I was even more surprised to see The Old Man tending bar. He pointed to a storyteller cloaked in fall colours sitting in the Falstaff Chair near the Fireplace.

She was maybe fifty years old with deep green eyes and long red hair; no ornamentation could be seen and shadows lay deep around her. I saw that there were deep lines on her face, maybe from the sun, maybe from whatever life had tossed at her. Then I noticed she had a bagful of hand puppets: queens, knights, kings, dragons, and Queen Mab only knew what else was in there.

Her voice matched her clothing — like old oak leaves rustling in the wind. I listened carefully and discovered her tale was one of knights unjustly slain, kingdoms lost from sheer stupidity, and an act of quite justified regicide turned to ashes in the mouth. The story I admit sounded like a combination of things written by  Shakespeare, but her telling was so moving that it mattered nought what the source material was, as her voice and her puppets made it come alive. When her queen puppet stabbed her king puppet, it seemed as though blood dripped from the mortal wound she gave him. Her Ghost really looked like it was semi-transparent and was truly chilling.

I sipped my dram of Laphroig and appreciated the sheer artistry of her show. Then the weirdest thing happened — she went lifeless, all animation gone from her, and she fell slowly to the floor. Out of the deep shadows behind the massive chair, a woman looking much like the puppet that The Storyteller had been stepped out and bowed deeply. As all of us looked on stunned at what happened, both she and her puppets disappeared when The Old Man briefly blinked the Pub lights.

All that was left was a handful of oak leaves swirling in the air in front of her chair.

The Old Man refused to answer any questions. Reynard the next day just smiled and went back to making Irish Coffee for a Pub patron, and Jack when I cornered him in The Library claimed that I’d obviously been too sleepy to see what really happened. I know they know what happened but I’ll be deviled if I know why it’s a secret.

Your puzzled friend, Iain

image

Posted in Stories | Leave a comment

What’s New for the 4th of June: Some Things India

Memory’s truth, because memory has its own special kind. It selects, eliminates, alters, exaggerates, minimizes, glorifies, and vilifies also; but in the end it creates its own reality, its heterogeneous but usually coherent version of events; and no sane human being ever trusts someone else’s version more than his own. ― Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children

image

Ahhhh there you are.  What’s the lovely music playing in here, you ask? ‘Tis ‘Vatapi ganapatim bhaje ham’ which celebrates Ganesh, also called Ganapati, which is the elephant-headed god who is the son of Shiva and Parvati. Although technically a subsidiary figure in the Hindu pantheon, Ganesh’s importance advanced markedly during the 20th century, and he is celebrated and revered as a god of prosperity, prudence, and success. And, for us here at Green Man, he’s important in his guise as the patron god of scribes! IPAs for all!

So let me set aside the most excellent novel I’ve been reading, Tarquin Hall’s The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken, one in the Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator series. I’ve a fondness for mysteries set in the Indian sub-continent as they’re usually quite excellent at describing the culture and history of the place they’re set.

So in this edition, you’ll find music from that region,  a look at Darjeeling tea,  a most unusual cricket match and other things as well. Give me a few minutes to finish it up and do enjoy your IPA while you wait…

image

Cat leads us with alternative history novel, The Peshawar Lancers, in which the British Empire decamps to India: ‘The much more Indian than English culture is a brilliant re-visioning of British history that reads like vintage Poul Anderson, particularly his Dominic Flandry series. It features rugged heroes — male and female — vivid combat scenes, exotic locales, and truly evil villains. Hell, it even has Babbage machines, the great analytical engines that Sir Charles Babbage never built but which also play an important role in William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine.’

Donna leads her reviewing off with four novels in a murder mystery series set primarily in India (The Last Kashmiri Rose, Ragtime in Simla, The Damascened Blade and The Palace Tiger): ‘These books by British writer Barbara Cleverly form a murder mystery series. Although I have read other serial fiction and other murder mysteries, this is my first encounter with this particular combination. I found the first two books in a recent remainder catalog at prices much reduced from their original suggested retails. They were sufficiently enjoyable to prompt me to seek out the next two, which are readily available from the usual on-line sources. They are probably also available in the mystery section of any relatively large bricks-and-mortar bookstore, if you prefer to shop that way. They all run about 300 pages in length and are relatively quick reads — probably good fare for summer travel.’

Donna looks at two non-fiction books regarding ‘the Raj, the British rule over large parts of the Indian subcontinent.’ She read David Gilmour’s The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj and Lawrence James’s Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India, and concluded that ‘although these are both serious and well-researched history books, they are readily accessible to the general reader.’

She finished off with Alex Von Tunzelmann’s Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire. Of this history of the final years of British rule of India, Donna had this to say: ‘Von Tunzelmann has done a fine job of writing a very detailed history in an interesting and generally readable style. She makes good use of direct quotes from the correspondence of her main characters and from contemporary news and other official courses. She follows a careful chronological order and makes use of chapter and section headings to guide the reader’s attention among the characters, thereby avoiding the usual pitfalls associated with writing a relatively complex historical work. She also manages successfully to walk the fine line between the significant biases of her sources — no easy task!’

The novel Gary looks at in this review is set in a richly imagined future India, Ian Mcdonald’s River of Gods. And it’s a bloody good read as well: ‘You can hold whole universes in your hand, between the covers. And as with those old faery tales, you need to pay attention to books like River of Gods. They contain important truths, hidden inside entertaining stories.’

Gary has a truly epic novel for us: ‘The world is groping for a new mythology, one that makes sense in a world that has seen nuclear devastation and sent humans to the moon; a world that encompasses both communications satellites and children starving to death in the midst of plenty. Perhaps the new mythology will be found in the multiple collisions of cultures, histories, arts and religions; maybe it will be birthed through the agency of pop culture, which has supplanted classical music and art. Or so Salman Rushdie seems to be saying in his sprawling, entertaining and challenging novel, The Ground Beneath Her Feet.’

Gary also watched a DVD called Ravi Shankar, The Extraordinary Lesson, filmed at a concert in Paris in 2008. ‘Ravi Shankar’s legacy is an impact on the world’s music that will reverberate for incalculable ages. This little DVD reflects but a tiny bit of that legacy, but it does so with reverence and beauty.’

And he looks a difficult subject in reviewing  The Raga Guide. He notes that he knew little about ragas but ‘Well, now I know a little bit more, thanks to this impressive book. Subtitled A Survey of 74 Hindustani Ragas, The Raga Guide is an exhaustive and scholarly work, aimed primarily at musicians and serious students of music. It comes with four CDs, each containing 18 to 20 “condensed” versions of classical ragas. The ragas themselves feature either sarod (a sitar-like stringed instrument), flute, or male or female vocal soloists.’

Grey looks at Kirin Narayan’s Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon: Himalayan Foothill Folktales noting she ‘is an anthropologist who collected these stories in an extended series of interactions with Urmila Devi Sood, a Hindu Indian woman from a the small town of Kangra. Narayan maintains the careful structure of scientific “field work” in this book by writing it as an extended narrative. She faithfully relates the conversations that lead up to the telling of each tale, and inserts breaks in the tales to record the interjections of the listeners who are present, as well family members who enter or leave the room.

Pinky, who resides in India, looks at Rainbow and Other Stories, a collection of short children’s stories by Indian author Maneka Gandhi. Pinky enjoyed the book overall, but has several criticisms to make.

Tammy Moore has a review particularly worth noting if you read River of Gods: In Cyberabad Days, author Ian McDonald returns to the technologically brilliant, parched and i-Dusty India of 2047, an India first visited in his award-winning novel River of Gods. The seven stories collected in this volume follow the rise and fall of this new India, from the luxurious, robot-monkey guarded palaces of the super-rich to the slums where the robotwallahs rule like tinpot gods.

image

Richard brings us Bend It Like Beckham,  a film about ‘…Indian cooking, cultural absurdity, family love, and an abiding desire to play what the English call ‘the beautiful game’…’ That game, of course, would be football; what we in the States call soccer. What happens when a young Indian girl dreams of playing football like English football star David Beckham? Culture clash, among other things — but Nathan says that ‘[t]he underlying theme of culture clash is better because it is underlying, rather than politicised and angry. Instead of favouring either the Indian or the English culture, the writer shows how the two manage their uneasy coexistence.’

image

Someday I should tell you the fascinating story of Kedgeree which is considered a traditional British breakfast dish but its origins are rooted in Indian cooking having started its life as khichari, a simple dish of rice and lentils. Due to the British Raj and the colonization of the sub-continent the dish was taken, adapted and turned into something more suited to those serving in India, and it came to Britain during the Victorian era.

Jeff Koehler and Fajer Al-Kaisi’s Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea audiobook gets reviewed by Reynard: ‘Tea is my favourite beverage since I was resident in southern Asia some decades ago as it was much easier there to find good tea than it was to find even one cup of coffee that was anything but horrible except in the high-end tourist hotels which I generally didn’t frequent.’

So how about an Indian classic from Trader Joe’s? Robert says, ‘I got stopped at the frozen foods section when I ran across the Indian dinners, which were quite reasonably priced — about $3.50 each. They had three varieties in stock, so I grabbed a couple of the Chicken Tikka Masala entrees.’ Check to see how that turned out.

image

This nation shaped the British Empire every bit as much  the British shaped India over the centuries of oftimes brutal occupation. Peter Milligan’s John Constantine: Hellblazer India says Cat, as this story ‘neatly plays off the British experience in India and what happens when that experience takes a horrible turn into the supernatural world that Constantine knows all too well.’

image

Big Earl Sellar starts us off with a look at a Jahan-E-Khusrau recording: ‘I’ve dwelt in the realm of Sufi music a lot lately. As these varied musical idioms surface in Western markets, I’m often struck by how little of this music has been available until fairly recent times, especially given the high quality of musicianship that remains constant through artists and releases. The Realm of the Heart (A Festival of Amir Khusrau) is another fascinating cross-cultural musical blend, which keeps these high levels intact.’

Jack has a look at the Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India soundtrack. Now Hindi pop music is not me cup of black tea, but, as I note in this review, ‘Bollywood music, or at least that by this composer, is bright, bouncy, and full of lyrics that, if you translated them into English, would be at home as the plot for a soap opera. But the music is much better than that statement would suggest. After I watched Lagaan for the first time on some cable channel late at night a few winters ago, I had to find the soundtrack…’

So interested in a collection covering all of this fascinating nation? Well, Liz is in a celebratory mood, thanks to The Rough Guide to the Music of India: ‘Hurray for Bollywood!’ she says, and ‘three cheers for Ken Hunt, the compiler who has unearthed a treasure trove of fabulous music!’

Richard has been celebrating in a West-London Asian style to Rahmania from the Bollywood Brass Band! This is a group who ‘spontaneously morphed (according to the liner notes) from the world music street band Crocodile Style into an Indian wedding brass band during a long Diwali procession down the length of Ealing Road through partying crowds.

His next review is of Shubhendra Rao and Partha Sarothy’s Ancient Weave which ‘brings together the considerable talents of two of Pandit Ravi Shankar’s most acclaimed students, Shubhendra Rao on sitar and Partha Sarothy on sarod. The album is comprised of two ragas, the first a Shankar composition entitled ‘Raga Charukauns,’ the second the more traditional ‘Raga Manj Khamaj’ … All in all, Ancient Weave contains some of the best playing by the current generation of Indian classical music stars, proving this generation to be a capable successor to the one which gave us such geniuses as Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Ravi Shankar.’

When we think of Indian music, especially Indian classical music, we think “raga,” something popularized in the West by no less than the Beatles through George Harrison’s association with Ravi Shankar, which also imprinted indelibly on our minds the association of raga with the sitar. Needless to say, that’s not always the case, as Robert demonstrates in several of our reviews of classical raga, starting with Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s Raga Shuddh-Sarang and Raga Piloo-Kafi: ‘Amjad Ali Khan is among the most widely recorded and heard performers of Indian classical music, having appeared at festivals and concerts worldwide. He claims as an ancestor the inventor of the sarod, and has become widely identified with that instrument, producing innovations in technique and style that have become standards of Indian performance practice.’

Next is a look at a performance on another not-usual instrument, the sarangi, in Pandit Ram Narayan’s Raga Puria-Kalyan: ‘Narayan was the first to perform the sarangi as a solo instrument; initially meeting with a less than enthusiastic reception, he persevered, adapting the sarangi and bow to meet his own demands as a soloist. After several years of experimentation and public performance, he became an overnight sensation in 1957, and an acknowledged master of Indian art music.’

And moving away from stringed instruments as the major voice in raga, how about a set of flute duets? That’s what we get, along with a blending of two major traditions, in Dr. N. Ramani and Hariprasad Chaurasia’s Together: Raga Hindolam/Malkauns and Raga Pahadi: ‘When we think of Indian raga, most of us will think of the sitar, and perhaps the sarod, the most common instrument used in performing this classical Indian music. What we don’t think of is flutes. . . .’

And now for something a little more normal, to wit, Ustad Shahid Parvez’s Magnificent Melody: A Tribute to Dulal Babu: ‘Shahid Parvez began studying the sitar at age four, and gave his first performance at age eight. He belongs to the seventh generation of the Etawa gharana, a tradition begun in the early nineteenth century by Sahebad Khan.’

image

Our coda this week is not Indian music, as such, but rather, music about India — or at least, about one of the key figures in modern Indian history: here’s the final scene from the Metropolitan Opera’s 2012 staging of Philip Glass’ Satyagraha, based on the life of the Mahatma, Mohandas K. Gandhi.

Posted in Books, Commentary, Film, Food and Drink, Graphic Literature, Music, Stories | Leave a comment

A Kinrowan Estate story: A Punjabi Meal

image

Chandra came to the Estate several springs back with the intent of being here for a single growing season. I hired her because she had a deft hand with transplanting seedlings, something harder than it looks to do properly, and relished the long hours we work for weeks on end. Her musical abilities were an unlooked-for bonus, one we discovered after she began her tenure as an under gardener. She was the only staff member living in her particular yurt, which meant Chandra was free to play ragas on sitar, a long-necked fretted string instrument with a gourd resonator. And we often heard pop music from her Punjabi homeland that she’d brought with her, something that brought a smile to many a passerby.

I had decided within a few months to offer her a permanent position if she wanted it. She accepted with delight and noted that she was looking forward to learning to ski, not a common practice in her country.

Which leads me back to that oh-so-tasty meal. We favour Raj-inspired cuisine here, in part because we have so many vegetarians. This meal, curated by Chandra, was far beyond most in its wonderfulness. Ingrid, the Estate Buyer, tracked down rice, spices and even the clarified butter called ghee from the Punjab during a tea-buying trip and had it shipped here. (I’m sure Customs must have looked the other way on some of the items.) Bjorn even brewed a Punjabi-style Black Ale for the occasion, a feat which was well received by all.

Some of us even knew how to eat in culturally appropriate fashion using naan to scoop up tasty morsels of our meal. Ingrid and her husband, Reynard, had spent enough time in the Punjab on tea-buying trips to really appreciate the meal. It was nothing like the British interpretation of Indian food which is hot and even hotter. Here were dishes spiced with a deft hand, so that the spices complemented the other ingredients instead of overwhelming them.

We finished this repast with cardamom flavored ice cream. All in all a most excellent Eventide meal!

image

Posted in Stories | Leave a comment

What’s New for the 28th of May: Italian folklore, music by the Oysterband, Well you get the idea…

I will not go as long as the room / keeps swaying to and fro
as long as the band can play / here is where I’m gonna stay
I’m gonna stay at the shouting end / the shouting end of life

Oysterband’s ‘The Shouting End of Life’

image

It’s really warm enough to safely declare that Summer will be upon us in a matter of weeks at this remote Scottish estate. Yes, the nights still have a decided nip to them, but the days are warm enough that the staff of Gus, our Estate Head Gardener, are wearing shorts and just t-shirts for the most part.

We’ve closed the Pub for a fortnight to give it a proper cleaning and painting, which it decidedly needs — such matters as The Falstaff Chair that needed reupholstering must be attended to, and the tap system’s definitely ready for a complete overhaul. Reynard, our Barkeep, and his wife Ingrid, Estate Steward, are off to Amsterdam for a very well deserved break, which means he won’t be here to bother the contractors we hired for pub renovations. He trusted Finch, his Assistant Barkeep, enough to leave her to oversee the renovations. Mind you, she got to tell the Norns that they had to relocate for awhile.

Now I’m here in the Kitchen, iPad in hand, sipping a a glass of whole milk that came this morning from Riverrun Farm  and munching on some chocolate rugelach while I put this edition together…

image

Cat has a look at the first novel in a now long-running, thirteen books deep so far mystery series: ‘Christopher Fowler’s Full Dark House is the best mystery set during the London Blitz of the early 1940s that I’ve ever read, bar none. It is also the best mystery set within the very peculiar world of the theater that I’ve read.’

Grey finds much to like in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s The Faery Reel: Tales from the Twilight Realm: ‘Even before the advance reviewers’ copy of this book arrived in the mail, I remarked in the staff break room, “Of course, I already know what I’m going to say in my review. ‘This new anthology from the inimitable editing team of Datlow & Windling is fantastic, and everyone should darn well buy it and read the entire thing as soon as it hits the stores.'” Rather rash, sight unseen, no?’

Metatropolis, edited by John Scalzi, is, according to Richard, ‘the latest attempt at a shared-universe anthology, and it’s one of the most ambitious to date. Rather than being based off a particular setting, it’s predicated on the notion of the future of the city itself. The concept drives the evolution of the continuity between stories, rather than the world bible dictating what concepts make sense at play here. It’s an interesting approach and a daunting one. The bar is set high, and the five authors fling themselves at it with varying degrees of success.’

Sometimes a book is around here longer than one might wish before it gets reviewed. That’s what happened to Beautiful Angiola: The Great Treasury of Sicilian Folk and Fairy Tales Collected by Laura Gonzenbach, a nineteenth-century collection of Sicilian folktales edited by Jack Zipes. It’s sort of worth your checking out, as Robert notes in his review: ‘I have to consider the book of more value as source material for the folklorist than as general reading, although the tales themselves are well told and the translation is fluent and engaging.’

image

Anything we consume, no matter where we live, generally has a long history behind its present incarnation, as is demonstrated in ‘Boudin: A Story Of Sausage, Slavery And Rebellion In The Caribbean’ which leads off this way: ‘The making of boudin is a visceral, bloody and time-consuming process in the French Caribbean territory of Guadeloupe. Boudin — a name that comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “sausage” — was first recorded in ancient Greece by a cook named Aphtonite. A variation of it was mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey as a stomach filled with blood and fat roasted over a fire.’ You can read the entertaining if somewhat bloody story here.

ivy

Jo says ‘those interested in the Welsh tradition should check out Llio Rhydderch, who studied and toured with the fabled Nansi Richards. For the uninitiated, an explanation is in order. The Welsh have a drastically different style of playing, largely due to the nature of the music itself. Their music is ornamented through theme and variation, a more classical style, rather than through the sort of ornamentation heard in Scottish and Irish music.’ Read her review of Telyn for all the details.

Richard looks at an album that moves a band beyond its folk roots: ‘With The Shouting End of Life, the Oysterband has put its collective foot down firmly on the rock side of the folk-rock equation. This isn’t a bad thing, though purists may wonder where the trad covers like “Rambling Irishman” have gone. TSEOL is all Oyster originals, with the exception of a scorching cover of Leon Rosselson’s “World Turned Upside Down” and Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.” Several tracks seem to teeter on the edge of chucking the folk idiom altogether. Furthermore, the Oysters’ political agenda has never been more exposed, and they’re not suggesting sit-ins. No more goofy pseudo-Celtic images on this one; the picture on the inside cover of the CD booklet shows a pierced and mohawked punk spitting beer on a cop at an anti-Criminal Justice Bill demonstration.’

Robert takes a look at yet another album by Clannad, whom we’ve reviewed often, namely Landmarks: ‘I always think of Clannad as an Irish traditional group, which they aren’t — at least, not any more. Traditionally grounded, yes, as one can see from their early recordings, but what has become their signature style incorporates bits of everything from jazz to rock to pop and wanders rather easily into the “New Age” category.’

Tim saw Chulra at The Golden Ace Inn in Indianapolis: ‘There couldn’t have been much more than thirty people in the audience when I saw Chulrua, but then the room couldn’t have held many more. Though crowded, the small venue had its positive features. The view of the performers was very good, as there was little distance between them and the audience. Pat Egan (guitar, vocals), Tim Britton (uillean pipes, whistle, flute, mandolin), and Paddy O’Brien (button accordion) sat in a row along the wall, in handshake distance of the listeners. The sound, too, was terrific with minimal amplification…’

 

image

So let’s finish off this edition with ‘The Shouting End of Life’, which is from the Oysterband concert in Bremen, Germany on the 3rd of April 1996. Thatcher was in office and John Jones, lead vocalist, freely admitted the entire band wholeheartedly hated The Iron Bitch, as many that opposed her government called her, so this is very much a heated diatribe against her and her policies.

Posted in Books, Commentary, Food and Drink, Music, Stories, What Nots | Leave a comment

A Kinrowan Estate story: Chasing Fireflies

image

Come on in, you’re just in time! We haven’t started yet … don’t just stand there in the doorway, come in, come in! We have a contradance planned for tonight. I’m Kate, one of the assistant cooks here, but I’m also a dance caller. Grab yourself a seat for now, we’ll start soon. The band has to finish tuning, and … oh, there’s a fiddler missing! Would someone go roust Béla out of the pub?! I’ve danced without a fiddler before, but it just seems to lack something. As I was saying, as soon as Béla graces us with his presence, and the band finishes tuning, we’ll walk through the first dance. You’ll need a partner, of course; go ask one of those fine people sitting over by the fire. Go on, just ask! Yes, you can do this, it’s very easy. It is so! It’s just walking to music is all, for want of a better term. Well, mostly, anyway. But don’t you worry, the other dancers will help you.

Still no sign of Béla, eh? Who went to fetch him?

It’s that new porter that’s been tapped in the pub, I’m sure. Béla’s developed quite a taste for it. You should give it a try yourself, but after the dance, please. You’re certain to have quite a thirst then. Ah, I see some of the wallflowers have left their chairs and are headed this way. Looks like you’ll dancing this first one after all! Very good, now if you and your partner would fall in down at the end of the set, because I think I see Béla coming in …

Now, everyone, take hands in groups of four, starting at the top of the set. Odd numbered couples are active, even are inactive. Actives, change places with your partner, please. Let’s dance ‘Lady of the Lake.’ Actives meet in the center of the set with a balance and swing. Now promenade down the middle. Turn alone and come back… cast around. Do a ladies chain over… and back. Now balance and swing with that person below… and you should have progressed and be ready to meet in the center again. You’ve got it! Now, everyone back to place and we’ll dance this one with the music. Béla, if you please…

image

Posted in Stories | Leave a comment

What’s New for the 21st of May: a Gothic novel, Sayers on Holmes and other matters

The point is, there is no feasible excuse for what we are, for what we have made of ourselves. We have chosen to put profits before people, money before morality, dividends before decency, fanaticism before fairness, and our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others.  — Iain M. Banks in Complicity, one of his many novels not set in The Culture series he did.

image

It’s a little cooler than last week which touched thirty celsius, eighty to you Yanks, but still quite pleasant. Though it certainly wouldn’t hurt if we got a few days of rain now.

The Kitchen made sourdough waffles this morning, which of course require starting about ten or twelve hours beforehand, being yeast-raised. We top them with one of our favourite toppings, be it applesauce or preserves such as strawberry or blueberries. Even on rarer occasions, whipped cream from Riverrun Farm. And I had the twice-smoked applewood bacon as well.

The Estate wolfhounds were restless and in need of a good walk, as was I after that filling breakfast, so I packed a light lunch of some beef jerky for them, sourdough rolls, our own cheddar and an apple, with a thermos of tea, Earl Grey this time, and headed off for the Standing Stones. It made for a pleasant walk and my canine companions certainly enjoyed it as they chased a number of hares but never caught any.

Now it’s time to wrap this edition, so I suggest you have one of our Spring Peeper blonde ales and go out to the Courtyard to enjoy the warm weather. I’ll have this edition to you shortly …

image

Denise takes a turn to the Gothic with Eleanor Wasserberg’s Foxlowe. While it may not be the horror show she’d hoped for, Denise found this debut novel fascinating. “‘Foxlowe takes your mind and plays with it much the same way the Family do each other. A sly, stealthy feeling of dread you can’t quite put your finger on, and little by little, their life feels understandable. Backwards, even dangerous at times, but I could understand how they got there… Which might be the scariest thing of all.’

Irene says of a slender volume by Dorothy Sayers on a subject dear to many of us: ‘These essays, as well as a transcription of an original radio play featuring a young Peter Death Bredon Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes, are reprinted in the slim volume by The Mythopoeic Press entitled Sayers on Holmes: Essays and Fiction on Sherlock Holmes. The essays are lovely examples of canonical scholarship and show Sayers’ skill as a detective and a scholar (for what is a true research scholar but a detective) as well as her undoubted skill as an entertaining author.’

J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec are the editors of Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes of which Kage says, ‘All in all, Gaslight Grimoire is well worth picking up if you enjoy lighting the fire, curling up in your armchair with a glass of sherry at your elbow in the gloom of a winter afternoon, and having a good Victorian-era read.’

Kestrell looks into the future to review John Langan’s House of Windows. What does Kestrell have to say of this work of literary horror? Well, this might help — ‘House of Windows can be read on many levels — as a modern updating of the old-fashioned ghost story, as a commentary on the psychological ‘ghosts’ created by physical and emotional abuse, and as a perceptive reading of the overlapping of classic literature with supernatural fiction. Beneath all of these, however, runs the ongoing questions of why we read at all, why do words and stories possess such an irresistible attraction for us, and what these stories can reveal — or tragically fail to reveal-to us about our own lives and experiences.’

We like Shakespeare madly, deeply here but alas, a certain work of scholarship about him doesn’t please Robert: ‘Forest, trees: there is a certain brand of scholarship that tends to focus on minute examinations of trees in the attempt to discover a forest. I am the last to decry the idea of analyzing parts in the hope of understanding the whole, but there are limits, particularly if the need for clear relationships between the parts falls by the wayside.. In the case of Laura Shamas’ We Three: The Mythology of Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters, I have to confess that by the end, I felt as though I had been buried in a pile of kindling.’

Robert was also somewhat disappointed in a new book inspired by Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint: ‘Tremontaine is the latest foray into the world of Swordspoint, but it is not, as I had at first supposed, a collection of stories. It is, rather, an ongoing narrative with chapters by a group of writers, most of whom are new to me. . . . Like Swordspoint, Tremontaine is about political intrigue, the use and misuse of power, and gossip.’

image

Big Earl gives us a look at a Rough Guide that covers a music few of us know: ‘Bhangra, for the few of you who don’t know, is a British musical genre, created by East Indian musicians mixing traditional Punjabi music with, well, whatever happens to be hip. There are even Bhangra raves. You get the picture: an up-to-date rendition of ancient music. Since its beginnings in the early 1980’s, Bhangra has not only become extremely popular throughout Britain and Europe, but also crossover success, often hitting the non-world pop charts.’

Gary says Willie Nelson’s new album God’s Problem Child is one of his best. ‘Like his friend and fellow road warrior Bob Dylan, Willie has tossed off so many records that some of them are bound to be sub-par, but this ain’t one of ’em.’

About a decade ago, Mike wents to see a legendary group: ‘The Dubliners are true legends of folk music, having now performed together as a group for 44 years. Many of the stories they tell of Dublin, are of a city that has all but disappeared in this day and age, and they are now as much a part of folklore as the songs and tunes that they perform.’

image

Our What Not today is a look at reviewing — or at least, one reviewer’s take on what it’s about. Turns out it’s not as easy as you might think.

image

Our quote from Iain M. Banks at the top of this post, particularly the bit about how we put ‘our own trivial comforts before the unspeakable agonies of others,’ put me in mind of this song by Rhiannon Giddens. It’s one of several songs on her 2017 release Freedom Highway that are inspired by 19th century slave narratives. This one is a dialogue between an enslaved person and her owner, and it’s called ‘Julie’.

Posted in Books, Commentary, Music, Stories | Leave a comment