The Mountain Music Project: The Mountain Music Project

[23 August 2012]

By Deanne Sole

We’re dealing with two sets of mountains here—the Appalachians and the Himalayas. A group of traditional musicians from Location A flew to Location B where they held jam sessions with “folk musicians of the Gandharaba caste,” having realised the presence of similarities between their musics, “particularly” between the old-time American fiddle and the “fiddle-like Sarangi,” a curvaceous instrument that looks like a pear in a corset. The two fiddles amble arm in arm, together at last, the flex of the mouth-harp murchunga> carries over into the uptick of the banjo, the Americans join the Nepalese on their songs and the Nepalese join the Americans on theirs.

Everybody sings “Oh Susannah” in two different languages and old “Sally Anne” gets cleverly sarangi‘d. The insertion of solo numbers performed by American musicians back in the Appalachians could be taken as evidence that someone in the Project wondered if this easygoing mixture wouldn’t be dynamic enough to carry an album, and it’s true that the pace is somewhat slack—I’m comparing it mentally to the excellent kora-banjo collaboration a few years ago, Africa to Appalachia, with Jayme Stone and Mansa Sissoko—the Stone-Sissoko mix had more brio, but it didn’t have to deal with the Nepalese percussion, which sometimes makes the other instruments seem staggered. But the original moment of they’re similar! has paid off: the hunch was correct.

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