Thursday, September 26, 2013

The sound of the islands: "Ganja in the Jar"!

... and you thought I was joking when I announced on Facebook that I would marry the good old Sleng Teng riddim with THE popular song of Irish folk, "Whiskey in the Jar". Well, those of you who hear alionsonny not just since yesterday, will actually recall some Irish folk / Reggae experiments I did in the past. To the newer listeners, they are probably unknown because none of the tracks is on any album currently available . This will change very soon, as I plan to release another free album with ancient song releases.

But back to "Ganja in the Jar" . When I additionally also announced that this piece of music would include the Christian song "Lord of the Dance" as a "secondary melody", some of the folks thought, this would not be possible. Well, I have truly accomplished already by far more complicated style blends. Both "Whiskey in the Jar", and "Lord of the Dance" are not composed in any exotic time signatures. There are truly difficult candidates in the (Irish) folk music for Reggae interpretations. The difficulty in Reggae interpretations of Irish folk music is, that Reggae is played in 4/4-time. Irish folk often uses quite "exotic" signatures . The only flavor of Irish folk songs which are in 4/4-time I know of are Reels. Jigs, for example, are in 6/8, Slides in 12/8. Besides there are plenty of other time signatures such as 3/4 and extremly funny ones like the Slip Jig in 9/8. In the end it is of course all just mathematics. With a little work one can "convert" any signature to a 4/4. However, it is not done with just pure mathematics. Both, Irish Folk and Reggae is very emotional music. A simple mathematical transformation would be like Kraftwerk performing the "Moldau" by Smetana... well... that would be interesting ;). Another not to be underestimated, factor in making Reggae versions of Irish folk tunes is the emphasized offbeat in Reggae. A melody, which fits well to a 4/4 Rock song, can sound extremely different on a offbeat emphasized Reggae rythm. Finally I would say that a healthy mix of mathematics and feeling always leads to the goal.

As mentioned, I have already "married" Irish Folk to Reggae a couple of times in the past. I even messed before with the well-known Sleng Teng riddim. In 2007 I published "Dinner Time for the Cats", a Sleng Teng riddim version with the melody of the famous nursery rhyme "Three Blind Mice". Somehow many well-known tunes fit with he Sleng Teng Riddim... well, at least if you mangle it properly. On that cold, gray September morning, I had not really planned to produce music . The plan was actually working on the long overdue videos. And so I announced it on Facebook: Dear people ! No music today. Now I'm working at the videos. I do not remember exactly how I got the idea to do a new version of Sleng Teng, but somehow I was suddenly in the middle of the production of a new track. After some time I had a standard Sleng Teng, but with more "punch" and some (still) small modifications. As so often, I sat down at the keyboard and just improvised along. I have no idea how exactly the melody of "Whiskey in the Jar" sneaked into my mind. I have not heard that song in ages, but it fit quite well. As I noted before, there were some who, after I announced on Facebook, that I would make a Sleng Teng version of "Whiskey in the Jar", thought that now I would finally become permanently insane. They had no idea, what was about to come ;). After "Whiskey in the Jar" fit perfectly, I improvised a bit further and found that the old melody of "Lord of the Dance" also, maybe even better, worked with my version of the riddim. At least one Facebook friend stated that this would NEVER fit . "Well, Sonny, you've already done a lot of crazy stuff, but a Reggae version of 'Whiskey in the Jar' ... and then also a Christian hymn as a second melody? That doesn't work!". Doesn't work? Works! you can hear... ;). Do I need to explain the song title ?

In the case of this song, I am a lot more sure that the final album version will sound a lot different than the, now available pre-release version, than for any other song destined for the "Continuity" album. Meanwhile, I have heard some details, I would like to change somehow. At the beginning of the song, the harmonica resonates far too long. I'm not sure if the bass and snare drum should sound that much "in the face" or rather a bit softer. On one side the track has a hell of a punch, but somehow it seems a bit too much for my taste. Maybe I will make two versions: The "In the face version" and the "laid back version". We will see...

Almost there
This is now track 12 of 13 for the album "Continuity". Almost there! And the long announced track number 13, "Brain Forest - Chapter III" is almost finished. This means that I will soon start  transforming all 13 tracks into the final album versions. In this step, I will also ensure that the whole album sounds coherent in itself. This will take some time, but I guess that it can be done in one to two weeks.

Ok, that was a lot of text again . But if I write less, some complain I could tell some more . So now: MUSIC !

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