This is certainly an “off brand” post for Heavy Blog to be running but, if you’ve been following the blog for a good measure of time, you should know that we love music in all its forms. One of the greatest joys these brings us is connecting with people from all over the world in their love of music, whatever genre or style they might be playing. Thus, we get sent a lot of stuff, from a lot of backgrounds, geo-locations and styles. Recently, one of our contacts from Australia, Lachlan R Dale (you know him as Art of Catharsis, one of the best and most eclectic underground labels in Australia and, indeed, the world, and bands like Hashshashin and Serious Beak) got in touch with us with something special, something of a pedigree unlike anything else we’ve run on the blog.
We’ve known for a while now (through social media, mostly) that Lachlan has a keen interest in the music and the musical instruments of Central and South East Asia. This shouldn’t be too surprising; the vast regions of that area and their diverse ethnic backgrounds have given rise to seem of the world’s most beautiful vocal and instrumental traditions, especially in the realm of stringed instruments, as well as to unique dance, storytelling traditions and oral histories. Indeed, much of that music has inspired modern artists around the world, as well as in metal, where the intersection of folk and contemporary ideas is well known and recorded. Sadly, much of the relationship with this music in modern day works revolves around the issues and ideas of “authenticity”, or who closely an artist is perceived to represent something pure, original and archaic.
But there’s so much more to these cultures than some perceived “distant other” that is sampled from or longed after. Like all cultures, it is a diverse and messy thing, made up of a tapestry of people, ideas, styles, influences and traditions. This area especially enjoys influences from Persian culture, Central Asian culture, East Asian culture, Soviet hegemony, modern day Afghanistan politics and many more sources, making it especially hard to pin down into one narrative of “an authentic Badakshan”. Luckily for us, Lachlan recently ventured into one of the most interesting regions in the area, Badakshan, with photographer/filmmaker Connor Ashleigh and others.
The result is a moving clip titled “Aftaab e Badakshan” (The Sun of Badakshan), featuring footage from their trip as well as music improvised and performed by Lachlan inside of an old, Soviet radar station. It represents “more an experience than a manicured narrative”, as Ashleigh himself puts it, an effort in depiction rather than ordering, which is rare to see in these types of works on the region. The thing I like about this piece the most is its focus on people and their differences, their sheer variety in faces, customs and demeanor, rather than on what makes them the same. The music follows suit, opening calmly enough before erupting into a furious middle section. Ashleigh has done a great job editing it to footage, giving the music context and depth.
So, with an open mind and ear, we invite you to take in the sights of one of the most beautiful regions in the world, while listening to a type of stringed instruments you might not get the chance to listen to often. You might even find some juncture points with metal, in the fierce picking of the instrument and its tones.
Oh, and the music is beautiful to boot. What more could you want?