Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Ancient Harp Brought Back to Life On New CD, Which Will Be Released on March 9th

She plays an ancient harp invented nearly 4000 years ago in Mesopotamia. Variously named "angular harp," "chang," "kunghou," and "kugo," the instrument on which Tomoko Sugawara performs can be seen in centuries-old Buddhist cave paintings and in artists' depictions from countries along the trade route known as the Silk Road. On March 9th, the classically trained harpist will release her Motema debut, Along the Silk Road, which brings the enchanting music of this historically revered instrument to life once again for the world to hear.

The unique kugo harp on which Sugawara performs is a twenty-first century reconstruction of an angular harp which is pictured on a reliquary box painted during the sixth or seventh century BC. The angular harp disappeared from the world stage some 300 years ago, was only evidenced in paintings from antiquity until Sugawara and her partner, music archaeologist Bo Lawrengren, brought plans for a reconstruction to luthiers Bill and Catherine Campbell, who worked closely with the pair to faithfully recreate a modern rendition that would honor the essence of an instrument that was revered for centuries.

In Buddhist lore, the angular harp was considered one of the glories of paradise, with a sound both celestial and refined. Sugawara's Along the Silk Road reveals these glories; her music is deeply emotional and expressive, interweaving meticulously transcribed historical compositions from the regions where the harp once flourished - Tang Dynasty China and 13th century Iran and Spain - with modern works especially for Kugo as commissioned from noted composers from Japan, Iran and the United States. The traditional compositions on the CD include a medieval Persian Qawl, and two sacred Cantigas, written by King Alfonso X of Spain. The two selections based on the music of China's Tang Dynasty have been expanded and enhanced by the two-time Fulbright scholar and Bearns Prize winning composer Stephen Dydo.

The contemporary composers who have contributed compositions to Along the Silk Road bring forward the cross-cultural heritage of this instrument to the present day. Compositions are included from the Italian-born (and now Chicago-based) Robert Lombardo, Japanese Kikuko Masumoto, and Iranian Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour.

This unique release introduces a new World Music series on Motema Music, known mostly for its releases by noted jazz composer/performers. Label president Jana Herzen explains that she discovered Tomoko and Bo performing at the Rubin Museum of Asian Art. "I was thoroughly enchanted by Tomoko's presence and the delicate sound of the harp. Bo's stories were also so very charming. I asked for a CD, but they didn't have one. So we decided then and there to collaborate on a release."

Engineer Jay Mark, who has worked with such legendary artists as the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton, and noted NYC mastering engineer Allan Tucker of Foothill Digital added a sonic sheen to the recording of the CD. The CD package also features a beautifully illustrated booklet with historical notes and illustrations by Bo Lawergren.

Born in Tokyo, Tomoko Sugawara began to play the Irish harp at age twelve and the grand harp at sixteen. A graduate of Tokyo University with a degree in Fine Arts, Sugawara first took up the kugo in 1994. She has performed on both the concert harp and kugo in many major international venues, including the World Harp Congresses in Prague and Amsterdam; Meiji University, The New York Qin Society, the Fifth Symposium for Music Archaeology, and at Berlin, Columbia, Princeton and Harvard Universities. She was awarded a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council during 2007 - 2008, and a grant from the Rohm Music Foundation in 2007. Along the Silk Road is Sugawara's third recording. Her first, Spring, features her work as a soloist on the concert harp and her second, East Meets West (1998,) was an improvisational duo collaboration with saxophonist Sanshiro Fujimoto. A musician with a taste for adventures in all styles, Ms. Sugawara recently performed in the ensemble of jazz bass legend Charnett Moffett for his upcoming Motema release, Treasure. (May 2010)

Ms. Sugawara will support the release of Along The Silk Road with solo performances as well as in duo and trio configurations with the musicians on the record, the world famous flautist, Robert Dick and Turkish hand drum master and ethno musicologist, Ozan Aksoy. Alone or in ensemble, Ms. Sugawara and her Kugo provide an enchanting, meditative excursion through many cultures, moods and ages. Her partner and manager, music archeologist Bo Lawergren augments her performances with amusing anecdotes and painted illustrations of the Kugo from various historical contexts.

Visit www.motema.com/artist/tomoko-sugawara or www.kugoharp.com for more information.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Motema Music Recording Artist Also Wins Independent Music Award for Kelenia as "Best World Beat" CD

Oran Etkin, the Israeli-born, New York-based clarinetist whose 2009 Motema Music release, Kelenia, was hailed by the New York Times as "ebullient," and by the All Music Guide as setting "a new standard for worl
d music in the decade of the 2000's," has much to celebrate in the new year.

Last week, his critically acclaimed debut recording, Kelenia, was awarded the Independent Music Award for "Best World Beat" CD. The IMA winners, culled from thousands of submissions from around the globe, were determined by a panel of 80 influential artists and industry pros including Tom Waits, Aimee Mann, Suzanne Vega, Bettye LaVette, and Judy Collins. Music fans have until June 25 to champion their favorite Nominees at The IMA Vox Pop Jukebox to determine The 9th Independent Music Awards 'People's Voice' Winners.

Etkin's next release, Wake Up, Clarinet, is a jazz recording for children and will be released this spring. One track, "Little Lamb Jam," will be featured on Putumayo Kids' March
9 release, Jazz Playground, a multicultural CD which celebrates the vibrant diversity and global influence of jazz.

Jazz Playground demonstrates how artists in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania have adopted jazz and made it their own. Featuring a new, colorful storybook-style booklet and glossary of musical terms, Jazz Playground pairs sophisticated sounds with kid-friendly lyrics. Etkin enlisted fellow Broolynite Charanee Wade to contribute vocals on "Little Lamb Jam."

To promote the release of Jazz Playground,
Etkin will perform at two of the venues on a select concert tour, on February 28 at the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, and on March 13, at the Scholastic Auditorium in downtown Manhattan.

For more information about Jazz Playground, visit Putumayo Kids.

Working with children is hardly unusual for the thirty year old Etkin. For several years, he has been giving back what he was given musically with a groundbreaking new educational method, offering classes to children ranging in age from 18 months to six years throughout New York. His educational approach has led Etkin to record his own CD, Wake Up Clarinet!, which will be released later in 2010. More informati
on on his unique teaching style can be found on the Kids page of his website.

Oran Ektin has been described as a "great clarinet player" and "an excellent improviser"
by the New York Times' jazz critic Ben Ratliff and a "woodwind maestro" by PR
I's internationally syndicated show, Afropop Worldwide. He has performed around the world with musicians ranging from jazz guitarist Mike Stern to rapper Wyclef Jean. His latest album, Kelenia (Motema Music), fuses traditional Malian and Jewish music with modern jazz creating what the Boston Globe dubbed a "hypnotic balance between straight-ahead jazz and world music".

The CD features Oran's working group with Malian griot musicians Balla Kouyate, Makane Kouyate and bassist Joe Sanders as well as guests including vocalist Abdoulaye Diabate, Grammy Award winning artists Lionel Loueke and John Benitez, and even a string quartet on one track. The resulting sound is a reflection of Oran's musical personality rooted in jazz but shaped by the many musical worlds that Oran is a part of in New York, including African, Jewish, Haitian and New Orleans music. Even before its release, Kelenia debuted at # 10 on the nationwide radio charts and All Music Guide has declared that Oran "sets a new standard for world music in the decade of the 2000s".

Oran built his foundations studying with George Garzone starting at age 14 and later with Yusef Lateef. He studied classical clarinet and composition as an undergraduate and received a Masters in Jazz Performance at the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Dave Liebman and Dave Krakauer among others.

Oran continues the tradition of music education as a faculty member of the Brooklyn Conservatory and through the unique new method that he developed for teaching music to 2-6 year olds that has been implemented with over 500 young students in New York. Oran is in the process of adapting this method into a set of children's books and writing a book for adults on how children learn music.

Oran's upcoming concerts:

February 28- Philadelphia, PA
Please Touch Museum
Junior Jazz Concert Series
1 pm & 3 pm
4231 Avenue of the Republic
Free w/ museum admission

March 12 - Brooklyn, NY
376 9th
8 PM
(Performing music from Kelenia)

March 13- New York, NY
Scholastic Auditorium
11am & 1pm
557 Broadway
Free- Reservations required