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Glen Velez and Lori Cotler
and the TA KA DI MI Project

Venue: One Longfellow Square, Portland Me ~ November 19, 2010

Jan 11, 2011
Kimmy Sophia Brown

Glen Velez and Lori Cotler took the stage after an awesome opening by Inanna, and proceeded to give us a lesson in the Indian drumming language, Konnokol, or Ta ka di mi. I have to use the hackneyed phrase, “You had to be there”, regarding this performance. Writing this review reminds me of the quote, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture” (attributed to Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, Miles Davis and others). But I’m going to try!

The opening number, “Conversation in Khanda”, was a conversation in syllables that was both humorous and dizzying in its delivery. It reminded me of clapping games on the playground. Glen and Lori exchanged syllables relatively slowly at first, accompanied by a steady hand-clapping rhythm. We thought as we listened, oh, we can do that. Then they began to pick up speed. The exchange between them was like wildfire - unpredictable and fascinating - so unlike any musical sounds we have in the west. It was a lingual and musical experience, akin to trying the mysterious food of an ancient culture. Ta ka di mi, ta ka di mi, ta ka di mi ---(in my head I started to hear, “Sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me!”)

Glen Velez has a calm and meditative countenance and strong, adoit fingers. His skill with tambourine, throat singing and drums makes it all look easy -- the sign of a true master. I looked at his blue tambourine and thought that it didn’t look like a very expensive instrument but I was astounded at the sounds that came out of it.

Here’s a link to the piece he played on the blue tambourine.

Glen’s face is gorgeous when he’s playing. It’s like watching a shaman sharing centuries-old rites of worship as his body and soul become one with the drums. Positively mesmerizing. My fingers itched for a frame drum or a tambourine to join in. I wanted to buy a drum for everyone in the world so that we could drum ourselves into a state of bliss.

Glen is a master of frame drums -- his fingers rolled, thumped and snapped, sometimes shaking the drum while using his hand like sticks, licking a finger and rubbing it across the skin, which created an overtone that made the sound, “hooooooreeeeee”. He used two, huge clothespin-like things and made very uninhibited cooing and bird sounds, clopping horse hooves and alongside that, a rubber, corrugated hose that sounded like a high pitched bird or insect. One could imagine him crawling around his kitchen as a little boy, driving his mother bonkers by testing out sounds on all her pots and pans and cooking spoons.

Rhythm Vocalist, Lori Cotler, has an incredible talent for the enunciation of countless, rapid-fire, microsyllables -- a veritable typewriter tongue. The uniqueness of her approach to song stems from her jazz background, evident in her vocal delivery. Lori is like a delicate tropical bird, exotically beautiful with a fantastic voice. Her freeform scat singing and improvisational sounds create a marvelous alchemy with Glen’s percussion skills and voice. What is fascinating about Lori is the fact that she defies genre with all the various techniques and styles she delivers. It was lovely to watch. I was transported back to the court of ancient Indian royalty, imagining such a woman in colorful clothing and bangles singing with tambourines and timbrels.           

Here’s a link of Lori demonstrating Ta ka di mi, entitled: What is Lori singing?

In addition to the Middle Eastern tunes they performed, they also interpreted jazz standards such as “Nature Boy”, by Eden Ahbez, (probably one of the most beautiful and profound songs ever written, in my opinion.) Here’s a link of Glen and Lori performing, “Nature Boy” in Berlin.

It was an educational as well as inspirational evening that could appeal to any audience. What really blows me away about musicians such as Glen Velez and Lori Cotler (and Inanna, which opened for them) is that they are tapping into fundamental places within human beings when they perform. The first drum rhythm we hear is the heartbeat of our mother. In some cultures that cueing into beat and rhythm is encouraged, and in other cultures it gets “beaten” out of us, as it were. The transient state of mind that occurs during drumming, chanting, singing and improvising is healing to the soul and makes fertile ground for realization, relaxation and revitalization. In short, it’s wonderfully liberating to the heart.

Glen & Lori

Glen

Glen’s schedule takes him all over the world performing and teaching master drumming classes in such places as Juilliard and Tanglewood. Glen, a four time Grammy winner, has appeared with such musical innovators as John Cage and the Paul Winter Consort. You can watch YouTube videos of Glen with Layne Redmond, author of When the Drummers Were Women, when Glen looked more like a Sufi prince with an impressive black beard and black hair pulled back in a ponytail. For more information about Glen visit his website:

http://www.glenvelez.com/ 

Lori

Lori has been a musician since the age of six. Later she attended the Long Island High School of the Arts. Lori graduated from Berklee College of Music and obtained a Masters Degree in Music Therapy from New York University. She taught Music Therapy at the New School, 2001-2006, working with people suffering with autism, AIDS, cerebral palsy, brain injuries, and also with at-risk children. She has worked in television commercials and put on charity benefit performances and toured the world. Her resume is replete with singing in various languages, genres, national styles, experimentations, dabblings and virtuoso co-minglings with other musical masters. For more information about Lori visit her website:

http://www.loricotler.com/

For music lovers visiting Portland, Maine, I highly recommend
One Longfellow Square ~ "Portland's Premier Arts Venue"
Check them out at onelongfellowsquare.com.

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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