The Ramp Up
Here's the cover for my first songbook, titled "Dulcimerica: All Over The Map". Yeah, I decided to ride with the Dulcimerica theme, because it connects everything. The music, the video podcasts, the book, the concept that this is an American instrument that has international reach. How many truly American instruments are there anyway? I'm not sure. But I'm sure of this one.
The book has twenty tunes, most of which are originals. The rest are my take on traditional tunes and some more modern compositions. It's not a terribly difficult book to get through, there's a little something for everyone in there, from the easy-to-play to the sit-back-and-go-whoa. I'm offering it by itself to start - and will make a CD available probably later this summer as I get all the demos recorded.
I'm very, very excited about this and the proofing is being done right now, with my lovely wife Jae poring over the first printed copy. Exciting stuff!
There's been quite a lot of recording going on, amidst all of this other hullaballoo - Mohave is playing this Sunday at the Central Florida Fair and we've got rehearsals all this week. Been a long time since the band played out and the line-up this time around is stellar, with Mark Kring on bass, Roger Zimish on guitar and Kristi Kief joining us once again on drums and steel pans. We're really looking forward to a fun show on Sunday night, 7-10 pm on the Community Stage. Plus fair food. Yum.
I'm also recording some more tracks for Mizieya's upcoming album and while that was going down, I realized that I'd never attempted a version of "Wellyn", the tune that was made famous by Robert Force and his late partner Albert d'Ossche'. So, I experimented and cut a quick demo of it and sent it off to him. Here's a sneak peek:
It's just a classic tune for not only the mountain dulcimer world, but music in general. I didn't want to change it too much from the basic two-dulcimer arrangement - so I retained that, of course, but I did rock it out with drums and bass, along with some extra distortion for a good head-bobbing effect.
I've got another collaboration on deck, this time with a musician from Baghdad, Iraq. His name is Feter, and I'm really looking forward to working with him - he's an amazing talent and totally inspired. I am in deep awe that he is able to be so upbeat and creative with all of the hell and chaos unfolding around him. When that work is finished, I will post a link to it here.
The Kentucky Music Week website now features the promo video that I put together, shot mostly last year at the event. The clip shows what fun KMW is and also shows many of the teachers, including myself, who will be there this year. There aren't many video outlets for the dulcimer world online, so I think this will be an eye-opener for a lot of folks, and hopefully, will increase attendance at this year's event.
One of the things I've wanted to do with the mountain dulcimer is to bring some more ethnic music into play. I love the old-time mountain music and European tunes from the U.K., and I love to rock out as well, but I've been consciously trying to learn songs of other cultures, including African, Native American, Polynesian, Asian and Indian music. Right now, I'm working on a medley of tunes that is really a small smorgasbord of languages, requiring me to learn not only new music, but new ways of singing as well! The trilogy of tunes includes:
"Kâua i ka huahua`i" - also known as the "Hawaiian War Chant" (though it's really a love song, and not about war at all.)
"Ue o Muite Aruko" also known as "Sukiyaki", originally sung by Sakamoto Kyu
and, inspired by something that happened yesterday, "Big Alligator" - a song by Chief Jim Billie of the Seminole Tribe.
Kristi, who is moving to Australia soon, is a gator wrestler at Gatorland and enlisted me in putting together a video so she can get a job at the Australia Zoo when she gets down there. So, while shooting yesterday, she offered to me the chance to wrestle an alligator; that is, sit on its back for a picture. Or so I thought.
All of the tourists she instructed to keep the gator's head held back, so it wouldn't go anywhere. She'd keep its head up until they had gotten it, and then back away for the photo, then take control again once they, er, disembarked. However, when I got on this old boy's back, she first had me hold his head up, which I did with little to no style, with my thumbs hanging over the edges of his jaws. She noted, over the microphone in the arena, that I could've lost my thumbs right then "and how would you play dulcimer?" I replied, "by using only my fingers!" Then she said, "put your hands on his neck," which I did. Of course, the gator then began crawling slowly back towards the water as Kristi exclaimed, "c'mon Bing, stop him."
Well, that wasn't happening. Try as I might, he was an unstoppable force, and as I attempted to be man enough to make this gator cease his motion, this picture was snapped. Just another day here with musicians in central Florida.