A L G R O M E R K H A N
performing artist on sitar & surbahar
composer - author - visual artist
WEBSITE under CONSTRUCTION
SINGING BACK TO ZIRYAB
I recently read up on Ziryab again. He was called “Ziryab” which means blackbird. A musician, fashion designer, hair stylist, and general creative taste maker. And all that in the 9th century AD. Apparently the King of Baghdad caught him in an amorous embrace with the Queen when he – the king – returned home unexpectedly because he´d forgotten something.
Ziryab, black slave and gifted lute picker, did a runner. First to Syria, through the desert on to North Africa, and, finally, to the Court of Cordoba in Andalusia. Which is where he created a totally new style, a subtle style: he shaved his beard off, grew his hair long and anointed his armpits with myrrh. People in Cordoba first ridiculed – and then copied him.
Through Ziryab I realised that I too had been looking for a new style, oh decades ago, one that took place when you manage to slow down the thinking frequency, going from the inner heart to a universal one. The challenge lay in how to slow down one´s thinking frequency to gain access; and hoping for the best in terms of career. The Indian Ziryab and magic lute picker, Vilayat Khan, showed the way to a tiny but immeasurably precious thing. You see, the mind wants many things, the heart only one thing – union. (Don´t accept substitutes.) Find a slow, a sensual, a female beat. Drums in slow processions, the vilambita laya of Indian dhrupad music, a moon rhythm, something intimate – the antidote to the harsh and relentless techno beat. In order to establish an inner realm, one that was more convincing than any raison d´être that one could think of, so that one may see things in a new light or discover new and original points of view.
Ziryab´s instrument, the Arabic lute, the Oud, was now played with a quill instead of the plain old wooden pick – his invention. And Vilayat Khan made his sitar sing. Such innovations made for me the translation on to a more refined space easier.
Ziryab did another naughty thing: he taught the female slaves of the Cordoba royal court music and song, and allowed them to open their own dancing schools, hair salons, and beauty parlours. Music thus brought about emancipation – and letting something slow and sensual happen, making something of beauty out of any given situation. AGK
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Review : AL GROMER KHAN/Singing Back to Ziryab: In the 9th century, a black slave got caught diddling the king’s wife when the king came home unexpectedly. Thinking ahead about the crime of non-aversion, he beat it on the lam and wound up doing more for women’s liberation than all the bra burners could. He also became the anti-techno proving that music other than Barry White was the way to a woman’s heart. Low and slow, kind of like all those Motown bass lines. Khan expands the concept here but keeps true to the original vision. Putting his own touches to what might be mistaken for a minimalist record, it might not be your groove, but it really is the groove. A real mind and heart expanding session. (Rasa 844628)
Volume 45/Number 164 April 13, 2021 MIDWEST RECORD 830 W. Route 22 #144 Lake Zurich, IL., 60047 CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher Copyright 2021 Midwest Record
Once Again The Night ... provided us with the access to the heart.
Release sheet text
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Silence in a BLUE ROOM
SILENCE IN A BLUE ROOM
In the early eighties of the 20th century, plodding in the semi-darkness of one´s early years, I thought it would be worthwhile to give solace to music consumers. I had just spent a small inheritance on a European tour of a dandyish Indian music master, gone through a strenuous Gandhaband ceremony with another, an even more atavistic and deceptive one, joined an illustrious gharana of string players, a German journalist named Gunter Fronemann wanted an interview. Naively I told him I didn´t want to cater to the expectations of audiences but relieve them of stress, and take away the irksome frequency of thinking that lingers like a sub-threshold itch. And that I wanted to make silence audible and to create a sort of sonic vacuum cleaner, made to absorb excess acoustic waste and trivia. Except I didn´t know how.
In India, Africa, Arabia and China, the subtle mysteriously ambiguous Urdu lyric or sonorous Tao poetry beckoned. The ancient cultures of the earth forever honoured the poetic aspect in music, always allowed sound magically penetrate into the deepest layers of our consciousness and cause wonderful things. So I needed to look there. And again and again to Vilayat Khan´s magic hand.
After decades of regular practice something begins to happen to you every time you pick up your instrument. It may not be much but it is mine. Solely steered from inside, triggered by Vilayat, long gone now: a certain slowing down of the thinking frequency, a tiny space within – so sweet and precious, so overwhelming, yet so private and vulnerable – a tiny giggle bubbling up in the inner heart, better than anything I have known, save the love for my wife. Better than most things that external temptation has to offer. Soon it became apparent that, even though it stemmed from India, this thing was beyond todays Indian culture. Speaking of Indian culture, even in the early years there was a certain undercurrent sentiment: perhaps Indian classical music needs a way of deconstruction, not fusion, not world music – haven´t we had enough of those futile attempts? Vilayat Khans meend work can draw you inside, make you grateful just to be alive. Whoever regards sound as art never loses sight of the specific feeling of happiness, one that is brought about by a certain balance, a dynamic change between loud and quiet, tender and hard, sensitive and persistent. And there, of course, is that little bit of incomprehensible poetic mystery that we will never explore, let alone manipulate.
SILENCE IN A BLUE ROOM is meant to return to the original idea of ambient in that it ought to leave room for the listener´s own interior, their own space, and not interfere with it. The sitar phrases always make me humble, in that I haven´t a clue how I did it and where it came from. But it is still mine. Funny how something you attempted thirty, forty years ago suddenly finds itself in your hand. Just a phrase.
It may not be much but it is mine – that occasional inner silence, the tendril, the blue note. It is so unspectacular that it is easily overlooked. But that´s okay, it keeps away the riff raff. That is why I never wanted to promote my work via marketing and manipulation. I thought let´s just put it out there and see if the music will find its way. An experiment for sure. But if the effect of this melodic tendril on me was so overwhelming that there was bound to be people out there who felt the same. The results were interesting. I was lucky, the music did find its way, did its work – and I can pay my bills. What could be better?
AGK © December 2019
After bestselling Sky Worship
In High Places
AL GROMER KHAN/In High Places: Inspired by Beatles singing get back to where you once belonged, Khan takes his musical trip back to jump, back to his roots when the cosmos existed only in his head. Expanding from that inner space, this is no mere hippy dippy noodling. This is some finely wrought sounds and soundscapes that guide you down the inner path to a place where consciousness exists in its own time zone. Beyond new age, beyond ambient, this is from whence it all comes from. Well done. (Rasa)
http://midwestrecord.com/MWR1525.html Chris Spector Midwest Record 830 W. IL. Route 22 #144 Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
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Nine new tracks from Al Gromer Khan
IN HIGH PLACES
Presumably, that is what the Beatles meant, all those years ago, when they were singing, Get back to where you once belong. It was never a song about immigrants, it was about one´s individual inner evolution, one´s inner search, one´s own thing. Got to get back there, man.
They´re never a geographic, a physical, location, high places, but Inner states. Just es space music was never about science fiction, but about opening inner spaces via sound, via music. Outside phenomena are an illusion, it is said. Our brothers and sisters from academia will argue: Why, we can measure stuff, and calculate it, do something about it, and use it for purposes, how can it be unreal? True, but it will change: once, and by the most devious of manipulations, you have created the most ideal society, a new generation will come, and they will ruthlessly discard, or perhaps ignore, your thing. That´s when one withdraws, one goes back where one belongs. High places are accompanied by a mood, the mood is one of gratitude, and yes, devotion. The mood, to me, isn´t very much different from falling in love. D´you remember it? That beautiful girl, that sweet boy you fell for then, but who, after time, may not have proved worthy, as it turned out later. But the feeling, the feeling was real.
Sounds give me highs. My instrument sings to me, and for me. There is always that magic moment when it starts doing that, the subtle nuance within the tendril, within the paisley pattern of sound. That thing you can´t fake or manipulate. It works of its own accord, so to speak. And it does not compromise. Split second adjustments don´t make it. To become aware of the stale aftertaste when you´ve accepted things on face value which started to sound wrong, somewhere along the way: That´s your test.
When I compose tracks, I use leftovers from high places I´ve been, where one has found solace and (dare I utter the word?) access to the heart. And then I begin with an idea, a concept. But I will immediately discard it, when that magic moment occurs. And then The Sound wants something from me. Not just anything, but something specific – something special. If that magic moment doesn´t occur, then I won´t use the track. Vilayat Khan the great soul of music, in the 20th century, who´s magic hands made me humble and grateful in an instant. I worshipped those hands for decades. He presented it to me: the Venus Principle: to make something of beauty in any given circumstance, to cook something tasty even from the most unlikely ingredients.
Find on Spotify the music of AGK
AL GROMER KHAN
Paisley Music Ambience
DURGA AVENUE the AGK Autumn-Winter 2018-2019 Ambient Collection
DURGA AVENUE – RELEASE SHEET (from a longer text on Paisley music)
Even though Ute and myself consider ourselves of a future tribe, we connect with certain Paisley periods of the past. A specific nostalgia. In fashion Paisley kept coming and going since the 19th century when Queen Victoria, a fairly simple woman, thought how brilliant it would be to call herself Empress of India. Yes, a sense of nostalgia is always there in my music; it recalls times when things were slow, and refinement and complexity made itself apparent if you´d contemplated it for a time. For example, it has taken more than forty years for my sitar to actually start talking to me.
And now she is talking, in a clear but subtle voice. And the voice is that of a woman or a young girl. It sort of changes, but it is always female. At this time of change, from the age of devotion to that of emancipation, most phenomena in society and art have become male dominated, with all types of self-assertion in the outer world. In my art I succumb to the feminine principle almost totally. That means – as in the Blues – a minimum of structure, as not to hinder Her influence. It also points towards an emotive approach, rather than a rational plan. Technically speaking I follow the overtones from layers of sound and let them – plus certain deja-vus and subtle reminiscences – decide upon all the rest, like structure and harmony. And by tracing overtones, certain things become manifest. Things one could never have thought of or achieved with willpower. No way. Sometimes She puts an extra beat in, or an extra note, one that disturbs the pre-conceived idea of structured harmony or rhythm. A mistake, but I like to keep it; after all, this is art, and only She can own the natural monopoly for perfection. She loves rhythms based on three or six beat cycles, but she is only truly happy when she is united with Her lover who loves rhythms of four and eight beat cycles . The Two become One. The is dance joyous. And have you noticed how most African music is based on a beat that intertwines three and four beats? It makes the rhythm hover and float, charging itself energetically, instead of wearing you down like testosterone-prone military marching music or techno.
Sometimes I return to melodic places of the past, places where the heart first opened, and then I make new yogurt from leftovers. No matter, I never wanted – or could – control the muse. I never actually “made” music – always found music. AGK ©
review by Sergey Lenkov amazon.co.uk
review by RJ Lannan al_gromer_khan_sky_worship.pdf