Audiovisual Cultures episode 89 – The World Fusion Show with Derrik Jordan automated transcript

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this is audiovisual cultures the podcast that explores different areas of the arts and cultural production with me paula blair visit forward slash av cultures to find out more and to join the pod i am really excited to welcome today derek jordan to audio visual cultures podcast we have not dealt with music nearly enough on this show so we’re going to try and rectify that in quite a big way today so i’m really really delighted to welcome derek hello derek how are you today hi paul i’m great how are you i’m doing okay thanks it’s lovely to see your beautiful backdrop i know on the audio people won’t see this but i’ll try and get a lovely screenshot of you for materials but yes you’ve got a really beautiful backdrop that really expresses what you’re here to talk about today so we’re going to talk about your show the world fusion show but just before we get into that is it okay if i ask you to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you because i know you’ve got an extensive background in music in a lot of ways so if it’s okay i’ll let you talk us through some of that okay i’ll try not to rant too much but yeah i’ve been in music really my whole life i was inspired when i was a teenager well even earlier nine years old i heard the beatles on the ed sullivan show i saw them and just begged my mom to get me a guitar and i got a guitar the next week and started playing and of course i was terrible i was just you know a kid but very inspired by what i’d heard and then i got into a lot of other music over time as a teenager like jimi hendrix and james taylor and eventually stevie wonder and i always got into i really wanted to write songs that was my initial interest in music and playing in bands so you know hey who wouldn’t want to be like the beatles and have all those screaming girls and all that so i started out that way and then ended up going to college bennington college in vermont in the u.s where i met my mentor a master drummer named milford graves who also was a herbalist acupuncturist martial artist and scientist teacher very strong and intense mind who was really about bringing together many different disciplines and that’s kind of what he left his students with this idea that you had to be into everything you couldn’t just do one thing so i got very interested in drumming by meeting him at bennington because he was a master drummer but really when i first heard him play the congas the hand drums i felt like he was talking on the drum and i didn’t really know that was possible i was a singer-songwriter i had no idea about drumming and this kind of expression so i really wanted to learn that so i started studying with him and also continued to work on composition with other people at bennington and writing songs every day and playing in bands and i was very busy with music in college and then continued on in that thing but also after leaving bennington moved back to new york to continue my studies with milford graves and then also got into more writing music and bands and eventually came back to vermont playing in more bands and eventually went back to new york commuting to sing jingles and work in the songwriting world in new york i’ve just been doing many many jobs including writing for orchestra all kinds of chamber groups but always utilizing this world music world fusion influence that milford gave me exposed me to african indian brazilian really opened up the world of world music to me and i just kept walking down that road that’s really why i have the world fusion show which we’ve now done for almost four years and i get to interview and bring wonderful musicians from all over the planet and share their world fusion music i’m not a traditionalist i never have been that interested in traditional music of any kind i’m really interested in how the different musics are blended together and there’s so many ways to do that and world fusion is that and so that’s what i present in my show that’s wonderful thanks eric i’m hoping that in a bit we can try and get into what you really mean by that fusion to see if you can tease that out for us a little bit but before we get into nitty gritty can you just outline a little bit more the world fusion show and of course that will have changed massively how you can even make that at the moment and it’s great that you’ve continued to still do that and it’s so much of it is available on youtube which is wonderful but could you just outline the world fusion show a little bit for us and tell us a bit about the format and the guests and how it works well the show is as i say in my intro we um really showcase world fusion composers musicians and innovators in world fusion and world fusion is so many different things it’s not just one thing like it could be for instance a steel pan player who plays bach or writes for orchestra and composes in different ways that’s one way so using a world music instrument in a non-traditional way would be a way of showing world fusion i generally don’t have jazz musicians on or people who specifically do reggae or country bluegrass a particular kind of music i avoid different american styles blues jazz this kind of thing because it’s too specific and it doesn’t draw on the connection to world cultures there’s a are some exceptions i’m gonna be having a person a singer who’s from new orleans in the near future because new orleans is kind of world fusion i mean it’s like the nature of that music is a hodgepodge of many different styles but yeah we showcase all these wonderful people but there’s so many ways to present it and and i really love being able to share these guests who bring their unique styles to our audience now we do a new show every two weeks and this far and we’ve now hit episode number 98 which is i mean i’m like we’re gonna hit a hundred like real soon i’m really excited about this i’m gonna have to celebrate that we’re able to do this and yeah the format is i interview my guests and they provide videos of their music which we share excerpts of and then the other part of the show that people even seem to like the best is because i play 20 different instruments i’ll jam with my guests and i’ll play i mean i play violin percussion all different kinds of strings we really try to showcase and we improvise together on the show and that’s a lot of fun because i don’t know what’s going to happen and neither do they so that’s been kind of a nice thing to do and really demonstrates the fusion part and and most of my guests are also very good improvisers and so that’s a lot of fun for me and that’s really the most creative part for me in the show and challenging sometimes some of my guests are so good that i have to you know really study their music to be able to play with them and it’s a challenge sometimes it’s really enjoyable as well and i think hugely informative that you take time during the show to speak to them about their personal lives and so many of your guests are from such a range of places and i think places that you wouldn’t even associate necessarily with music culture in any way because it’d be a struggle for any lay person who isn’t an expert certainly depend on what kind of music would come from certain places so it’s really amazing that you take that time to really talk through with your guests their backgrounds and and how they’ve come to the music that they play and how they’ve come to be in a band if it’s a band that they’re part of and how they’ve come together and that sort of thing i mean how do you go about finding people for your show are a lot of people that you’ve picked up along the way because you yourself are a performer and you’ve done all of these things or how does that work well it’s it works in many ways and i use the internet of course to find people like facebook i also have many friends people i’ve played with over the years one of my best ways to find exceptional guests is to ask my guests who’ve been on the show who are the most amazing players who their favorites are so i’ll use that as well as a great example of what you were saying one of my recent guests is a group called olox and i don’t know if you saw this one but they are really unusual because the woman it’s a duo and the woman is from siberia okay and i mean it gets 90 degrees below zero in the winter right okay it’s like i can’t even imagine living there but she spent her youth out in nature imitating bird sounds and animal sounds which she does and she does what they call neo-shamanic music her partner is an armenian guy named andreas and he’s also a singer and plays percussion and they have a really unique style they were actually on america’s got talent and that’s how i bumped into them on the internet and they blew away the judges and the audience and i reached out to them and they said yes i was so happy to share their music and in the interview serena who’s the female singer she describes her amazing background and a lot of her culture and it’s a horse culture and how she’s connected and they’re dependent co-dependent on the horses for food shelter clothing everything so you get a little deeper with my show into something like you’re seeing the background cultures of people especially someone like serena and i just think it’s really interesting so it’s not the show is not a general music show it’s a little nerdy we get into cool interesting deeper aspects of the music and the cultures that people represent well we love nerdy on this show as well you’re good we’re in the right place then yeah we love getting into real detail and stuff so that’s why i was so fascinated because i think it really helped especially if you’re encountering music you’ve just never heard before or that you could have even imagined existed it’s so helpful actually to the viewer to go through those people’s backgrounds and the mixture of where they’ve come from it just feels like it makes the music make more sense in a way because you can start to hear the melding of things if that makes sense you get i mean i’m not an expert at all but that’s how it sounded to me because i did watch some of that episode and the stories are really fascinating you know and i was starting then because with my analytical brain i’m starting to think well their stories are helping me you know learn from a non-musical background why the melding is making sense if that makes sense see well it creates a context it informs the listener and then when you hear the music you’re that much more drawn in because you have a reference for where this might be coming from and bring your own imagination to it as well of course can i get you to help me work through that idea of the fusion then so you’ve got this category of world music which you’ve explained really nicely which seems to be stuff that’s from all over the world and you’re trying to have less focus on anything that seems to be purely us but then there’s this fusion element where it’s mixings of these different kinds of music so i mean would you have another kind of example is it different styles is it different specific instruments what exactly is the fusion element of it right well sometimes it’s a people will play an instrument that we’re familiar with like the violin right but they might use it in ways that we’re not normally hearing it like i’ve got a wonderful guest laith sadiq who is a violinist who’s from jordan and he plays really very you know strong arabic influence in his music but we have so many people a group i’m thinking of again with 98 shows there’s a lot i could come up with a lot of examples but a group called cotico brass they play ghanaian fusion so they are three ghanaian percussionists and one american percussionist who studied a lot in ghana and then they have a bass player from antiqua a keyboard player from japan to and two horn players from the us and they bring these elements together and play kind of a funky somewhat fella if you know fela kuti from nigeria funky dance music with horns so it’s they’re fairly a dance band and they live in boston and they play very popular dance parties there so they really are high-energy dance music but have this very strong canaan percussive element and one of their drummers from ghana actually grew up in the royal palace in ghana and was part of the traditional ghanaian musical heritage so they very authentic traditional elements but then these other non-traditional elements from other countries so there’s so many like i said there’s so many ways to do world music world fusion right where you blend in any number of ways it could be the instrument it could be the style and how you’re trying to incorporate various styles into your music i look for people really who are trying to do something original for me it has to be something that moves me the hardest part of my job is saying no to people if i don’t feel like they’re reached the standard that i’m trying to share with my audience as she brought it up there just to ask about your audience do you know much about the background of the audience again is it itself a mixture of people is it a mixture of people who would be experts as well as people like me who just dip in a night of things and are willing to try stuff you know who is your demographic if you like i’m not sure i can answer that very well we actually won a national award for best entertainment and art series in public access tv which is a lovely thing except public access tv doesn’t measure their viewership they don’t have any numbers to give me or analysis of their demographic but i have been shown on over a hundred public access tv stations in 26 states i know that i can’t break it down for you beyond that we also have a podcast for the show on soundcloud and itunes i have some numbers for that over 60 000 listeners various listeners my most popular episode on the youtube channel which is called the world fusion show of course is has 13 000 views so that’s great and that continues to go up that was a show an episode we did with masamba joke who’s a world famous senegalese talking drummer the drummer is called the tama drum he was actually featured on the black panther soundtrack and you can hear his tamadrum from the first scene to the last scene in the black panther and masamba has been a for decades a member of baba mal’s band which he’s played in like 120 different countries around the world he’s really well known and basically his drone functions as the way we think of the lead guitar in a rock band it’s the foil to the singer to baba mall so baba will sing and then hold the mic up to the tama drum and masamba will play kind of the way the lead guitar player would play to take a lead to answer the solo it’s very it’s similar but of course different because it’s not a guitar and the thomas has a long history of playing and i’ve played with masamba here in the u.s and in senegal he’s a friend and we’ve done a lot of work together and he’s just a great guy now there’s so many ways that we bring the music together so before you were able to do studio sessions with a lot of artists and obviously that will have changed with recent events is it the case now that the artists are sending you videos of their older work are they recording things remotely and putting it together i mean how does it work these days for you yeah it is working like that we used to do live improvisations when i was working at bctv in brattleboro but because of the lockdown it’s been closed so we’ve done various workarounds one is that i will get my artists to record a solo video of them playing and then i will basically play along with that and try to pretend that it’s live sometimes well depending on how good i’m able to do that you would think it is live a lot of the times most the time i’m see i seem to be able to pull that off but now that we’re in lockdown mode i’ve stopped doing the live or this kind of improvisation overdub with their video the new format that i’m using is just taking pre-recorded videos from my guests and that’s been the last few shows just because i wanted to keep the show going i felt it was more important to keep the show going so i’m not doing the live music right now but we’ll get back to it i mean things will open up again and we’ll be able to do that again but we have great audio engineer and we have three cameras at pc tv so it’s the quality is very high somewhat limited now more with my zoom costs but it’s still fun and it’s still i get to showcase these fantastic artists and i feel like the workaround is better than not doing the show at all so i’m just trying to keep everything going forward sure but when you would have been in the studio would you have had an audience with you or would it have been just the crew that you were working with yeah just my crew i have a video producer who does the camera work and switches between cameras he’s very good and i have a great audio engineer i’ve worked with for many years now we’ve done so many shows that we’ve got our thing down at this point pretty well i mean i was nervous in the beginning because even though i’ve done music in so many ways i wasn’t sure i would be very good at interviewing people and i think i was a little nervous in the beginning about that but you know i also have been a schoolteacher teaching music for 14 years so i’m comfortable standing in front of people and talking and somewhat expert at my field so i thought okay this is a good thing and let’s see if i can just draw on that my comfortableness in front of middle school and high school kids right and that worked out well and eventually i calmed down and i became less nervous and it’s you know part of it’s just being an improviser to having improvised my whole life doing music improvising it’s sort of the same job when you’re interviewing and improvising and reacting and trying to pick up on what people are saying i mean i i will do an interview a pre-interview with my guests just to get my questions together it goes a lot smoother when i do that so i have a script basically of questions that i’m gonna ask but i go off script a lot you know if someone might say something during the interview i’ll say cool let’s like go there and find out what that’s about because it just feels more casual and more interesting to do it that way yes i find if you’re having a conversation it’s more relaxing and enjoyable and sometimes you can get more out of people as well i was wondering as well because as you mentioned you play a lot of instruments yourself i’ve always been very envious of people who have that natural ability with music obviously you work incredibly hard at it as well but i think there has to be just something in you that means that you can you know i had an uncle who could just pick up any instrument and make beautiful signs with it it’s an incredible gift to have but i was wondering when you do have the opportunity to jam or improvise with other musicians how do you choose which instrument to play yeah no right it’s a good question right so because i have a lot of choices well of course my guest usually plays one instrument not always but most of the time they’re quite good at one instrument and so i will try to think about what might complement them and when we do the live music part of the show i will always play more than one so we have usually two or more pieces that we’ll do together at the end of every show and i will use a different instrument for each piece and i always record usually a third piece as well which we use in a future episode for a sampler show so i do sampler shows i think we’ve done eight of them now where they’re only the live music i don’t do interviews it’s just a way to show our audience all the variety of guests we have but they’re always music that were not featured on previous shows so it’s a way to enhance the listening experience for people and to show more about the combinations of instruments and stuff i don’t play wind instruments i’m not very good at it but i uh during the lockdown i decided to challenge myself so i’ve been i’ve been practicing the trombone

and it’s extremely difficult for me to play the trombone i i’m just so bad at it but i’ve made some progress you know i’m i’m starting to make some progress it’s interesting um so i’m i don’t know if i’ll ever play it on my show but i’m working at it and uh maybe someday i i will well the other point is to have fun with it as well it’s this idea of beginner’s mind and i think that as an improviser that’s a great way and a way that i like to approach music in general as a composer and as a player with a beginner’s mind always thinking you know i’m not so good i’m not such an expert i don’t really know what to do and not to fall back on things that are so comfortable and try to push myself a bit when you’re composing music yourself would you refer to the pieces you compose as fusion or world fusion do you try and compose to that how does that work or do you take commissions are you asked to do specific things or is it something you get ideas and you have to get them dying you how does your composition work yeah that’s great question i am very influenced by many different styles of music around the world so for instance if i’m writing for orchestra or chamber groups i might really try to take a specific style like let’s say brazilian or specific african style of course there are many african styles indian what a flamenco various things latin styles and try to incorporate specific elements of that style into the work i’m doing so i’m actually not that interested in classical music although i love bach and some classical composers i’m not really that interested in doing that or using the orchestra to present that i’m more interested in the combination in the fusion trying to get them to play these very syncopated world rhythms uh phrases scales harmonies and try to bring that in to the work sometimes it’s more obvious than others i have a piece a premiere that’s coming out in a month with a string orchestra that is called a suite for an imaginary country and what it is is three pieces that are world fusion but it’s not exactly clear what the influences are in these pieces and that’s kind of fun because it’s like in the cracks it’s like something not neither this nor that and that’s a piece for string orchestra that’s going to be a video presentation here in brattleboro and that’ll come out if there’s no live audience it’s going to be done as we are a lot of times now as a video performance that will then be shared later a video situation i’ve been doing a bunch of those things with different groups that i work with it’s interesting it’s certainly not like playing for a live audience you don’t have that interaction but it’s better than nothing and we’re getting the music out this way yeah absolutely i feel like i have to ask while it comes to mind do you ever get any irish music in any of the fusions that you deal with would you consider that as part of world music or is that a bit too western it’s very western you’re right yeah i would love to but so far all the irish people that i’ve heard are doing very specifically traditional irish music if i could find some irish musicians that are making a fusion i would be interested in doing that so i’m i’m open to it but i just haven’t heard it yet i’ll keep an eye and if i hear of anybody doing something that might be of interest to you i’ll point them your way i’d love to know yeah things that way you talk quite a lot about inclusion through the diversity of the music which is a really lovely important sentiment all of us in i suppose what we call white western countries i mean they are not that we are all mixtures of everything and it’s really important to really be able to reflect and celebrate that so it feels like that’s what your show is really important for as well it really just demonstrates and shows how much that’s happening and how much it exists in the world it’s true that’s really the purpose of the show is to embrace the world in all its various ways and expose people to music they might not have bumped into in their normal listening people i think are a lot more diverse in terms of their interests musically and culturally then we give credit for and sometimes they just haven’t been exposed to it but of course now with the internet there’s a lot more opportunity to hear these kinds of things is there anything else you think is really important that you really wanted to put out there and say today about your work about your show well like i say i’ve done so many things over the years i used to sing jingles in new york you know i was a professional singer i used to sing demos songwriters would hire me to sing demos to present i actually sang a demo that was recorded by celine dion so i used to work with really high level songwriters and i had worked with wonderful people in the city when i was commuting down there for about nine years and wrote and did a lot of songwriting collaboration with people also you know there’s so many different chapters of my life i’m in this chapter now where i’m doing my show and in some ways it brings many aspects of my career together which is nice you know that i get to bring it all together this way it’s a beautiful way to share the diversity as you said i don’t know really what else to add i mean i think i would just say please invite your audience to go to the youtube channel world fusion show and click on the episodes we’ve got 98 episodes up there and um i actually am about to do two episodes celebrating my mentor milford graves who is i was saying earlier as an african-american man who has deeply deeply impacted so many people in fact he um his last work and perhaps in some ways maybe his most lasting work was work on heart research he was a scientist and recorded heartbeats and was actually did a work with some scientists and doctors in bologna italy and did a um incredible performance where he played the drums and had human stem cells on stage and videotaped them differentiating because of the sound and rhythms of his playing and actually he has a patent on that process and these doctors and scientists that were working with him were completely blown away by this work that he’d done over many years in researching heartbeats and how they were affected by drumming and rhythms and tone of drumming so milford was really a free thinker an extraordinary person he had many obituaries you can look them up in rolling stone magazine in the guardian in all kinds of important magazines commemorating his life and the work that he was doing but he’s known mostly as a drummer and as a free jazz drummer even but he was so much more than that he got me interested in herbalism and i used to go out in the woods to identify plants i spent many years trying to find wild american ginseng and finally after many years found it and brought him to this very large patch of 100 plants and got to show him this amazing find that i had made so i was felt able to give back to him in my own ways in various ways but he was so instrumental and when you hear these episodes celebrating his life you’ll see all these amazing people talking about how he impacted their lives and it’s just i’m so grateful to be able to share that in this way with people yeah that sounds like a really fitting tribute so those will be the next two episodes for you those will be april 99 and 100.

yeah it’s pretty exciting that’s really beautiful it’s such an odd year i think whether it’s to do with the pandemic or not so many of us have lost somebody special but it’s so special as well to be able to give that kind of tribute to somebody that’s really wonderful yeah i agree i’m just so grateful to be able to do that and it’s just beautiful to hear each individual give their own testimony about because he impacted people so deeply and in so many ways but also very similar ways to this idea of to be really expert at something that you need to sort of know so much in such depth about your subject and in so many ways and not limit yourself to just one aspect of the study i love what you said right at the beginning that milford graves had told you that i did be into everything i feel like that’s a really important sentiment as well because to just be a musician but to be a musician a scientist but also somebody who cares that much about other people to put all of that knowledge together and to put it to such good in the world that’s gonna have a lasting legacy that’s really really beautiful that’s right and you know paula i feel like that now that he’s passed that i am trying to carry on his legacy and i’m able to do that in many ways but certainly through the show the world fusion show it’s one way i can share some you know important aspect of what nova taught me great as well as the world fusion show on youtube do you have anywhere else you would like to point people to find out more about your work so your website and that sort of thing my website dereca spell d-e-r-r-i-k and just go there i have like 17 cds i do a lot of cds for other people as well as lots of cds of my original music and all kinds of world music styles and it’s really a lot to look through and you can listen to and check out the music and see what you like and tell your friends and please uh i’d ask your guests to share the show the world fusion show and my music with their friends and uh if they find something they like and they want to share brilliant yeah we absolutely will do that well derek jordan it’s been i’ve learned loads talking to you today and um it’s been really lovely conversation i hope you’ve got something out of it as well yeah i can’t thank you enough for your time it’s been great thank you so much and for this opportunity to share my music and my work with your audience it’s really nice

this has been a cozy peapod production with me paula blair the music is common ground by airton used under a non-commercial 3.0 creative commons license and is available at we are av cultures pod on facebook instagram and twitter and you can also join the conversation on discord if you’ve enjoyed this episode be sure to subscribe and your favorite podcast app including youtube if you find auto captions useful and please share with your networks you’ll find links and ways to contact us at audiovisualcultures.wordpress we’re always really happy to hear from potential guests and ways to improve the show as well as supporting the pod and receiving member benefits over on patreon you can also help at buy me a coffee dot com forward slash pea blair thanks so much for listening catch you next time


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