Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Klezmer Musician on a Mission: More "When I Wake Up, Music from Putti"

There's always a story behind the story. Monday night I wrote about the album "When I Wake Up, Music from Putti" Uganda. Field recording. Lovely melodies. Unlikely location. Nice story.

The next day I got an email that told the back story....
Mike Cohen"I just saw your mention about the CD I recorded and produced in Putti last year on your blog and want to thank you for your interest. I'm giving an interview for South African Jewish Radio on Friday and I just gave a lecture here in New York at Adelphi University a few weeks ago. If you have a few minutes, I'd love to share some of the story with you.
I had heard Smithsonian recording and was fascinated by it. About a year and a half ago there was a screening in New York of a documentary made for South African TV about the Abayudaya and decided to go. It turns out that I had met the director the night before at a gig I was playing (I'm a woodwind player)

I ended up on the Save Ugandan Jewery newsgroup and knowing they are coffee farmers I asked about buying some coffee. That opened a dialogue between myself and Putti's rabbi and community leader, Enosh Keki Mainah, He heard some of my music on the net and commented about how much he liked it. I told him I liked their music as well.

A few weeks later, Enosh tells me that his mother had written a lot of original music for the psalms and they wanted to record it but it was expensive. Did I have any advice? Without hesitating I told him I would go to Putti and we would record the music. This was November of 2008. My wife was 3 months pregnant so I knew that if this was going to happen, it had to happen soon. It was too late to apply for grants, so I sent a letter to everyone I knew and raised enough money to get myself over there and, if all went well, there was enough to do the recording. Enosh convinced me that there was a great studio in Mbale which is a big town about 10 km from Putti.


After 17 hours of flying and a 6 hour drive north to get to Mbale, I go to the studio. The studio turns out to be 1 mic and an ancient computer! Hence the rawness of the recording. We had to make this work so we recorded the way they did it in the 50's. We put the singers around the mic and I would bring people closer or push them back to balance out the vocals. All in all, we got some great tracks. I took the vocals back and added the percussion, flute and bass and we had an amazing recording. The music is infectious and original. Putti is an amazing place for music.

As the web site says, all the money goes back to Putti. They are very poor and the money makes a very real difference."
The email came from Mike Cohen, klezmer (Kleztraphobix) and jazz woodwind player, and my new hero.

So go check the album "When I Wake Up, Music from Putti." It's a fine album and a great cause.

Here's a video of the first take of the recording session, in Putti Uganda.

Psalm 92

1 comment:

Dovid said...

Beautiful songs. I look forward to incorporating some melodies into the zmiros/bentching at my Shabbos table!