UT on twitter

July 3, 2009 - Leave a Response

Listeners can now follow show updates, succinct opinionated commentary, pithy observations and the tedious minutiae of George’s daily existence, should they be so inclined.

Just click on the logo: 

The Dark Mother

October 26, 2008 - 4 Responses

My exploration of Indian culture via YouTube continues to unearth some musical gems.

In this post I’m featuring several clips showing fictionalised devotions to the Goddess Kali – a primal Hindu deity of fearsome aspect who is familiar to many non-Hindus as the goddess of death and destruction – a not entirely accurate representation of her function within the pantheon.

Kali is one of the consorts of Shiva, and is also closely associated with Durga, who is variously considered her offspring or avatar.

First up is a clip from the film Kannathal, showing a distressed Kali devotee apparently beseeching the the deity for assistance; I may be misreading the imagery, but the goddess does not seem to be entirely convinced. The music, however, is extraordinary:

Next up is a wonderful song-and-dance number from the 2006 film Chingaari, a complex tale of love, death, vengeance and – interestingly – the abuse of power by the Hindu priesthood:

Finally we have another of the massed song-and-dance performances that Bollywood does so well. This time an all-female effort from the film Raja Kaliamman, which includes a frenzied guest appearance by trishula-weilding Durga.

Of Devas and Divas

October 10, 2008 - Leave a Response

In recent months I’ve been exploring a wealth of Indian classical music and dance on YouTube. Here are a few of my favourite discoveries…

First up are a couple of clips from a pair of films featuring Padmini (1932-2006), the multi-lingual (Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam) actress and trained Bharathanatyam dancer who starred in over 250 movies.

The first is from the 1956 Tamil language film Madurai Veeran. The song is entitled Aadal Kaaneero. The music is by  G Ramanatha and the lyrics by Kannadasan. The singer is M L Vasanthakumari.  

The second is from a 1954 Hindi language film called Sheev Bhakta. Padmini plays a devadasi, performing a dance of adoration dedicated to Shiva:

The next pair of clips are from the 1962 Tamil-language film Konjum Salangai, and showcase the mindbogglingly expressive talents of another diva of Indian classical dance, Kumari Kamala (1934- )

In the first, Kamala’s character – a court dancer – performs solo, while in the second she participates in an extraordinary 10 minute-long “dance-off” against a jealous rival that has to be seen to be believed!

Finally, here’s a rather funky devotional piece from the 2001 film Kottai Mariamman. I don’t know the identity of the dancer, but the green-faced woman with the trident is evidently meant to be the Goddess Durga; Indian films often feature such matter-of-fact interactions with Hindu deities:

A great love

June 6, 2008 - One Response

One of the drawbacks of maintaining a decades-long commitment to the promotion of such a broad and constantly-evolving musical idiom as ambient, is the need to ration one’s listening time; the sheer volume of new ambient that’s being produced in the world today precludes the possibility of any one person ever maintaining encyclopedic, up-to-the-minute knowledge of it all.

Consequently, I’ve tended to comprehensively explore the creative output of a number of key artists on a cyclic basis, periodically expanding the list of artists as I go. However, the sequential nature of this approach means that I can easily remain almost completely ignorant of the work of many other artists – even major ones – for years at a stretch.

And then, one day, I’ll stumble across something which grabs me by the throat and beats me about the head repeatedly with its sheer unadulterated, vibrant, radiant, pulsating wonderfulness.

Something which screams “go out and buy every album this person ever produced right now and spend the next three weeks immersing yourself in their brilliance, you ignorant dolt!”

Something like this:

Truly great art by a truly great artist. The lyrics “a great love cut her life” are both prophetic and acutely poignant in light of Ofra Haza‘s tragic death of AIDS-related complications in 2000, at the age of only 42 – a consequence of contracting the HIV virus from her “great love” – husband, Doron Ashkenazi.  

Thankfully we can still delight in her prodigious musical legacy…

Sex Power

April 27, 2008 - 4 Responses

The following video – evidently a clip from the obscure 1970 film Sex Power by French director Henri Chapier – manages to combine female near-nudity, erotic choreography, a group of black men, a gigantic, leering strangely inflexible cobra and a soundtrack by Vangelis into one seriously Freudian extravaganza. Words fail me:

…and in the interests of gender equality, here’s a rather catchy little number from Turkey’s gift to the world of pop music, the seriously swivel-hipped Tarkan

…and in an attempt to give this post a veneer of cultural respectability, here’s a traditional interpretation of the same piece of classical Ottoman music…

Sacred sounds from north Africa

April 6, 2008 - One Response

Over the past few weeks my YouTube wanderings have led me in some interesting new directions, as well as reacquainting me with some long-forgotten classics. In this post I’m focusing on the music of two ancient, but little-known (to Western audiences) Christian traditions of north Africa.

First up is music from the orthodox Christian tradition of Ethiopia. These beautifully hypnotic hymns are part of the liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and are just a couple of the many dozens of similar examples that have now found their way onto the Web. In my opinion this is one little-known ancient musical tradition which definitely deserves a fuller examination:

 

The Ethiopian Orthodox church has a 1000+ year relationship with another ancient Christian tradition of the Near East – the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, founded in 451 CE, which has 11,000,000 adherents in Egypt, and is led by Pope Shenouda III.  

Those who caught last week’s show (UT #702) will have heard me play several Coptic liturgical chants from a recording by the Paris-based Institut du Monde Arabe. Here’s a gorgeous Coptic hymn to the Virgin Mary:

UT goes coast to coast

March 12, 2008 - 4 Responses

I’m pleased to announce that commencing in May, Ultima Thule will be heard coast-to-coast across Australia’s community FM radio network.

The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia – the country’s peak body representing community radio and television – recently offered us a late night spot on its Community Radio Network – a shared programming service distributed via satellite to over 180 stations across the nation. 

As a consequence, UT will become the first ambient music show to be heard across the length and breadth of the continent in nearly two decades. 

UT will be heard immediately on the 50 stations who already rebroadcast CRN programming live via satellite, while other stations in the network have the option of picking up the show by recording the satellite transmission for later broadcast.   

So, if you wish to hear UT on your local community station, be sure to contact them and let them know that there’s an audience out there for ambient music – as well as a ready source of quality ambient music programming to satisfy that audience thanks to UT and the CBAA. 

In the beginning…

March 7, 2008 - 2 Responses

As we approach Sunday-week’s 700th broadcast of UT, I thought it might be a good time to answer a question that many people have asked me over the years: how did you first become interested in ambient music?

Well… a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there lived a 16 year-old schoolboy named George. One Thursday “activities day” afternoon, George was listening to the radio while painting a mural on the wall of the art room at De La Salle College, the school he was attending in the southern Sydney suburb of Kingsgrove.

Suddenly George’s attention was seized by the sounds of an extaordinary piece of music, the likes of which he’d never heard before, emanating from the speaker and swirling around the room; music that consisted of a wash of gorgeous synthesiser sounds above which floated the strange, nonsensical words of an ethereal female vocalist. George was entranced.

Then, 3 minutes later, the song finished, and he soon forgot all about it.

Three years passed. It was now 1985. George found himself at university in Wagga Wagga, where he spent orientation week making many new friends.

Returning from a trip to town on the hot, overcast Saturday afternoon immediately preceding the beginning of semester, one of George’s newfound friends pulled an audio cassette out of the glovebox of his car, inserted it into the cassette deck and hit the play button.

Suddenly the vehicle was filled with – you guessed it – a wash of gorgeous synthesiser sounds above which floated an ethereal female vocal.

George quickly discovered that his friend not only knew the name of the artists responsible – but owned a huge collection of recordings by them – and other similar artists as well. It was the beginning of an infatuation with electronic, ambient and related atmospheric music that continues unabated nearly a quarter of a century later.

So what was the piece of music that started it all? See (and hear) for yourself…

And in case you’re wondering, the “female vocalist” is former Yes lead singer Jon Anderson – who is and always has been – a dude.

El Greco and Blade Runner

March 3, 2008 - Leave a Response

Coming up this week on UT 699 is the Australian radio premiere (yes, another one!) of the newly-released extended 3-CD soundtrack to Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner, by the lord of the symphonic ambient cosmos – Vangelis Papathanassiou – who coincidentally celebrate his 65th birthday this month. Here’s a tiny sample of what’s in store…

…and as if that wasn’t enough to get you quivering with delight, Nev will also be serving up a selection of pieces from the Vangelis soundtrack to the new historic epic about the life of another famous child of the HellenesDomenicos Theotokopoulos – known to history as El Greco. The film promises enough heaving bosoms, evil inquisitors, passionate artistic histrionics and fabulous Baroque dancing to satisfy just about anyone with a pulse…

God is God

February 25, 2008 - 2 Responses

I’ve long been fascinated to hear how different artists interpret the same piece of music, and stumbled across these two examples of a track called God is God in my recent travels around YouTube.

This one’s by Laibach, a Slovenian experimental industrial music and performance art group that’s been around since 1980…

…and this is a very different version from Juno Reactor (aka Ben Watkins and friends), who among other things was responsible for the soundtrack to The Matrix – possibly the most pompous, over-rated science fiction film of all time. It features the voice of Natacha Atlas along with footage borrowed from The Color of Pomegranates, the extraordinary, gorgeously surreal 1968 film by Armenian director Sergei Parajanov

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