Andrea “Paq” Rusconi released five solo album (Paq, Block Notes, Vayu, Pleiadi, Hyphae), two with the moniker Kwaku Kamaso (Al Aram, Angola Divina/Reparto Spoi) and one on behalf of A. RALLA (La Gabbia Umana). Talking about his last works if the record La Gabbia Umana (2021), for Heimat Der Katastrophe, is in the sign of soundtrack music but with claustrophobic post-punk and grown-up electronics elements (particular characters are the original and nightmerish melodic patterns which are heterodox in soundtrack creative context, which are iconic in the track Strade Nel Caos), less urban sonorities appear in the other recent work, the collaboration with the harmonium and pakhawaj player from Bangladesh Mohammed After Hussein, that is the record Matir Gaan: Songs from the Earth, for Hive Mind Records, with the Daniele Tizzano (drums), Alfonso Fortino (harmonium, vocals), Claudio Pianelli (percussions) contribution; instead Andrea Rusconi had the role of organ, synth, electric zither, bells, tāmpurā drone, effects, bass, cymbals, metallophone, flute, veena and shruti box player, and author with the same Mohammed.
Andrea Rusconi plays with elastic, exotic and kraut sounds in its discography, with its legacy, in an abstract, noise sense, where an unusual playing and creativity is linked with subconscious lo-fi constraints, which represents a double-faced game of roles and functions; indeed sometimes the sound is minimal but along those parameters his creativity can express all the relative fervid potential. An iconic example in this sense is Angola Divina/Reparto Spoi, which districate between a broadly punk essential playing and the associated polychromed experimental approach, with a noising and original usage of that reduced spaces in creative terms.
His first record is an eponymous one for the French label Les Diks Qui Sautent, and is characterized by naif and recurring melodic lines with comfortable timbers where a psychedelic creativity (in a broad sense) encounters a familiar minimalism. Following this attitude converges in a systematic and sublimating way, for example to the weird electronic sound of Pleiadi or the exotic sonorities of Vayu, with a heterodox usage of the cited, original elements in the mentioned way. Then the final result with Matir Gaan is the most organic momentaneous goal, where we encounter majesticness with freedom in the playing with a purpose of sonic research.
Indeed in Matir Gaan there’s a point of convergence between Eastern/Western polarities in a meaningful way, between kraut and Bengali music. Mohammed After Hussein came from his country – Bangladesh – to Italy and is an asylum seeker for Associazione Ardea, an association for social development and support in Rimini; in which takes body his contribution with the project Ardea Recordings managed by Andrea and affiliated with the mentioned non-profit association, with the aim to create an archive of songs, stories and sounds by some of the people who spent some time with Ardea’s refugee programme.
In the following part of this article is reported an interview with Andrea “Paq” Rusconi in which we talk about the collaboration between Mohammed “After” Hussein and the same Rusconi, and the related elements which enrich the record Matir Gaan and their poetry.
So, can you tell us how the idea behind Matir Gaan: Songs from the Earth was born and did it develop? How was the collaboration with Mohammed and how have you felt involved in his story?
“This collaboration was born within Ardea, a non-profit association that provides assistance and hospitality to migrants and asylum seekers that I founded in Rimini in 2015 and within the related Ardea Recordings, an audio project aiming to create an archive of songs by some of the people who spent some times in our program. Mohammed After Hussain is a refugee from Bangladesh we hosted in 2018, few months later his arrival in Sicily. His songs immediately caught my attention and luckily I managed to record a handful of them just before he decided to move away. It was a wonderful experience: I loved his way of approaching music without fanaticism, with the seraphic tranquility due to a sacred yet popular theme. Mohammed After used to play his ‘holy’ songs at village parties or weddings when he was in Bangladesh.
“He sang and played an instrument (pakahwaj or harmonium or keyboard) and I played with him or subsequently rearranged and overdubbed some parts with organs, synths and other acoustic instruments, some effects, tape delays, reverbs. Honestly, it’s been the realization of an artistic dream, something that was already harboring in me since few years, that’s why meeting him it’s been providential in my eyes.”
How did this mix between the western sound and a further culture happen? What are the points of reference for these two main characters, in a sense ethnic (linked with hindustan culture) or historic, either much more?
“There are so many points of reference in Eastern culture and music, just as many in Western music related to it. Starting from George Harrison and Ravi Shankar to Popol Vuh, from classical minimalists to ethno/spiritual jazz, the list of ‘encounters’ or ‘musical wanderings’ is endless. Since few years I’m listening and humbly trying to approach a very important Hindustani classical music with very ancient roots such as Dhrupad (Zia Mohiuddin Dagar‘s Alaps with Rudra veena totally flipped me out). In this wake, a reference above all is the meeting between minimalists La Monte Young and Terry Rilley and Pandit Pran Nath. A beacon that I’d like to follow for the rest of my days.
“Talking about Matir Gaan: Bengali folk music is largely influenced by the Baul mystics. They are street singers from the Bengali-speaking regions of South Asia who celebrate both heavenly and earthly love, as part of the same holy source and vital energy. Their culture derives from the teachings of early Sufi mystics and Hindu fakirs but transcends religion in its dogmatic form. They are minstrels, wanderers by nature. We never intended to follow a precise path and pay homage to that tradition in particular or recreate it, but rather we allowed ourselves total freedom. And it was quite natural to give life to this weird Baul-folk-psychedelic record.”
Matir Gaan is characterized by a straight order in rhythmic patterns between synthetic cosmic sounds and the associated far-in-the-space creativity. It’s interesting how these two distant elements combine between themselves, one in a precise way and the other one with a passionate and expressive attitude. Indeed synth lines gives a periodic backbone through the tracklist, at the same time they project the listener into the space, and it’s like harmonium and pakhawaj recount an emotional story with an exotic character, obtaining a double-faced result between two immaginary foreign places in a dichotomous way. And sometimes one leaves the place the other one with a missing rhythmic component or without the organic presence of Mohammed’s voice or instruments, offering a good complete balance in the work. Moreover the influence of progressive rock is evident, in particular with Franco Battiato and Aktuala, obviously with a different and original writing. Finally, how did the cited dualism and influences happen in this renewed music in our context?
“Of course Aktuala, Battiato, Telaio Magnetico, Futuro Antico, Prima Materia are (a few) among the Italian masters together with the international ones already mentioned (kraut bands, minimalists and cosmic jazz researchers) and last but not least some random obscure Bengali bands I found on the web! I guess there are several archaeological sediments in our ears that make us listen and play today’s music as a synthesis of all our past experiences, often unconsciously. I suppose the dichotomy you are referring to is the essence of the record: the meeting of two different universes that both crash and melt at the same time. I love this musical clash (when it’s not an empty artifact like the so called “world music”). I guess the golden rule is to find a key to access the original language and the spirit that leads it. I agree that we found a good balance among the forces at play, I could have pushed further my intervention and brought the tracks more into avant-garde or experimentation but I deliberately decided to measure it and stay a step behind. The main character is the vocal part and the musical tradition that lies in it.
“I just inserted some cosmic elements sometimes explicitly sometimes in a subtle way, working on the sound grain and the ambiance: after the recordings/overdubs I reworked few parts on tape at Roberto Villa’s full-analog studio ‘L’Amor mio non muore’ who gave me the opportunity to reamp them and record a few drums takes with Daniele Tizzano. And finally, I was lucky enough to meet Marc Teare of Hive Mind Records which was the ideal home and the perfect conclusion for the whole project, Marc’s professionalism and sincere passion are unique. Despite COVID broke out in the meantime, we achieved it, we got to involve Brian Heilman and Nafisa Isa, two experts on Bengali culture who helped us with the beautiful liner notes and the lyrics’ explanation which added a huge value to the booklet in my opinion and Theo Payne who gave the perfect graphic design to the vinyl. I also want to mention the prodigious work of mixing and mastering done by Julian Tardo at ‘Church Road Studios’ who gave a warm and deep sound to the original raw material.”
In the first track, The Whole Day Slipped Away (Helay Khelay Moner Anonde Din Furailo – Intro), without a rhythmic structure (or an essential one), the ambient is imaginative, anteponing in an enigmatic sense the next eponymous track. How were this introduction and its idea born?
“This track started like many others from a live take of After Hussain, so it’s basically a field recording with my overdubs as already explained. I recorded him singing and playing a very cheap keyboard, in the living room of the house where he was hosted at the time. I’m quite sure it’s the first recording we’ve ever made, but it’s pure accident it’s at the beginning of the record. Nice coincidence! I chose it as opening track for its suspended atmosphere: it feels like entering a church or a temple… despite the toy keyboard (or thanks to that) it manages to soar with a strong evocative power.”
You Fed Me Poison And Called It Honey (Modhu Hoi Hoi Bish Khawaila) is permeated by an open melodism, with a rhythmic part structured in 6/8, and the typical Eastern atmosphere. The track is structured with two main parts and two bridges, similar with a refrain in their form and playing with Eastern and Western harmonies. Can you tell us how the relative creative course was born?
“This was actually one of the funniest tracks to overdub: After played pakhawaj and sang great but the original take was quite linear, so I decided to add these funk-ish bass and organ (they are both played with wha wha) which add a bit of movement, the organ plays a funny melody that came by chance, at the end the songform fit well on the rhythm and all the elements have their place naturally. Then Daniele Tizzano’s drums adds the final weird latin-jazz touch. The track is a bit crooked but that’s why I like it. Only later I did look for the original version of the song on Youtube, we made a quite different version!”
Where Has My Beloved Gone (Kar Bashore Roilo Bondhu) has a hypnotic melodic structure through the bass line with electronic dilated or reverbed parts. A dilated synth part takes its place into the middle and the end, giving a certain plastically krautrock character. How did the track and its rhythmic part happen?
“It’s the very first recording I got my hands on and I clearly remember when I recorded the bass part with the Crumar synth: it was supposed to be just a test before recording but luckily I’m used to record the first test as well because there are often the better and most spontaneous ideas in it, and it was a very good take indeed. A sprung bassline with a good warm sound that almost emulates a real electric bass. The synth lead (Eko P15) also came out naturally and this also makes me smile a lot when I listen to it. The kraut-psych ending is a dilated tail I decided to leave to give the flow some breathing space, I like records where the vocal parts leave some space to the instrumental parts as well.”
The Whole Day Slipped Away (Helay Khelay Moner Anonde Din Furailo) has the same melodic structure of the first, homonymous track, combined with a rhythmic backbone and a certain extemporaneous atonality in the sign of the ethnic derivation. Why this adaptation and how did these elements happen?
“That’s the only part we recorded as a real live jam session, in the rehearsal room. It’s an idea born on the spot from the improvisational genius of Alfonso Fortino, dear friend o’mine and musical companion since long time, who started playing the harmonium while After was singing and playing the pakhawaj, then Claudio Pianelli and I joined the improvised flow. It was a really nice moment. I suppose Alfonso’s pseudo-Eastern choirs add the whole track that flavor of ethnic derivation as you say. I’d say that ‘extemporaneous atonality’ is a perfect definition! If you keep attention you can hear Alfonso’s “Vai!” at the beginning and his final laugh.”
My Soul Is A Bird In This Cage Of Earth (Matiro Pinjira Amar Koira Gela Khali) plays with the future and a part of exotic past, districating between two releated and different synth sounds and the vocal part, which is alien in its tonality and ethnic structure. Why is this dichotomy expressed in more than one instance?
“I love this collision between past and future dimensions, we can name it ‘banglafuturism’! it’s a space-time rift that I wanted to put voluntarily as a trademark for the whole work, the result is almost science-fiction scenes set up in rural Bangladesh! I really love this song, it was written by the Baul poet Hason Raja, self-quoted in the lyrics, a prominent figure in Bengali culture. It’s lovely like a Japanese haiku. Or a minimal blues. So sad and beautiful.”
Pakhawaj is instrumental, minimal and periodic, which develops more quickly in its playing, creating a climax in an emblematic and cathartic way. It is an interlude, a suspension before the next majestic effort. How did its concept happen?
“Absolutely there’s no predefined concept behind it but if I should conceptualize, it would take me back to that pseudo-science-fiction suspension or ascension as the above Banglafuturism. I liked the idea of including some instrumental episodes and this is one of the two games we tried with only organ and pakhawaj, I really like both in their simplicity. And yes, somehow they are both cathartic to my ears.”
As we said, This Golden Cage Of Mine (Shonaro Pinjira Aamar) is characterized by an iconic grandeur, where everything is suspended, unfamiliar for the Western culture, through wavering and monotonal lines of synth, sitar, percussion, harmonium, and vocal part too. How did this suspension majesticness happen?
“No idea! “The beauty is in the mystery” as the liner notes of Brian say. But I agree with you, I also feel this suspension majesticness as you call it. There is always a part of revelation and fortunately it is incalculable, at least for me. Obviously, the original song and the terrific interpretation of After play a great role here, I did nothing but try to immerse myself and follow its waving lines, like a dancing odalisque.”
Harmonium, another instrumental track, where indeed the harmonium has the main part, offers a more lyrical purpose, in which a flute follows the lines of the first-mentioned instrument in a balanced way, and everything has a cosmic landscape through the synth. How was the idea of this track born?
“For this tune I specifically asked After to play a melodic line on the low notes of the harmonium, I felt a good vibe and I wanted to link it to the bass synth timbre. Obviously, he did it great, with that wonderful sweet melody that I couldn’t not follow with my transverse flute. The final sound Julian Tardo obtained is really impressive, I’m grateful for this little gem we did. I think this song is an example that music is a state of mind, it’s like a meditation practice. No doubt we are two Bauls who met in the cosmic space.”
In The Day Our Souls United (Attate Mishaia Atta) an ohmic sound flows in the beginning, which follows a more lyrical form in the diversified structure and in a Eastern sense, with sitar and harmonium especially. It seems there is a game between Eastern and Western music, with drone elements and ones from progressive rock (in the melodic component). What was the creative course of this track?
“This track, like the first one, projects me into a liturgical, templar dimension. There’s the same cheap Casio keyboard underneath, so it’s possible that it has thaumaturgical powers! It is certainly part of the same recording session, and the natural reverb of the room where we recorded helped the whole sacred dimension of the song. The lyrics are also very touching. There wasn’t a real predefined creative course, just After’s inspired interpretation, and I followed it. We used a toy microphone for the voice.”
In 6/8 and with recurring rhythmic and melodic patterns, Shomapti has an energetic and straight groove, in a heterodox prog/kraut way. And here it returns that game between futuristic sounds and the ethnic context, where there’s something foreign for every natural or choosen vision. How did this conclusion happen?
“This is the second intertwining experiment between pakawaj and electronic organ and the last song of the album so we called it Ending = Shomapti (Finale). I really like that you hear (or see) something foreign for every vision you try to apply, I like it’s strange, alien and foreign from every point of view. At least I wish it was like that.”