This month I bring you one of the happiest moments of this strange year of 2020. I played with my gipsy-jazz / manouche project Djangoland at the wedding ceremony of my former student Catarina. This moment, where the bride sings “La Vie en Rose” really captures the loving atmosphere that we all need to endure through the tough time. Love conquers all and, may I say, Music as well!
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Here is the remaster of my 2010 arrangement of Onward. The picture quality hasn’t improved but hopefully the sound is much better and you will hear the effect of the resounding guitar harmonics.
Below I have copied the commentary of the original post from 2010.
Thanks for watching!
I am playing my 4001 CS bass which is unplugged. Holding it against the back of my (plugged) 360 guitar… a Rickenbacker Kiss.
I experimented with different guitar tunings that would resonate well with the song’s tonalities. Onward is a based one the I, VI, V and vi of C major, and modulated a step higher afterwards.
The guitar tuning I did (eventually using a capo) was selected to accommodate all these chords. Ones sound better than others. B minor was, for example, a bit less successful, as well as all passages with an F sharp.
Then I adapted the whole piece – melody and a sort of accompaniment with the lower register which is not related to the actual bass line. The initial riff is my transformation of the original intro, and the coda.. I came up with a way to modulate back to C major. A bit dangerous too cause B flat (G minor) and A flat (F minor) were used… but then finally I got the best resonance spot to end the piece on an improvised Safe-like finale.
One very interesting thing is that – after tuning both instruments with the tuner, I found the resonance wasn’t happening… so I fine tuned on my bass by ear, and found the resonance spots for each string… maybe a few cents lower than the “right” tuning. I know it’s still not perfect but it’s a fact that it wasn’t working with both guitars tuned by the tuner. I think this has to do with the tempered scale of the fretboard that is “fighting” with the natural harmonics of the guitar’s open strings.
While not optimal, I decided to post it to show you the idea. It has some interesting sounds and with more time I will come again to it!
Tunings (bottom to top)
Bass – E A D G
Guitar (Capo 8th fret) – C F A D G B
Last December I had the pleasure to perform a free improvisation session with Marcelo dos Reis, on the occasion of the anniversary of Marcelo’s own label Cipsela Records.
Free improvisation is a completely musical ground for me, although I have been regularly participating in some improvised music events, but the challenge is always renewed, especially because this was the first time I ever played with Marcelo – hopefully there will be more!
This summer, at Plovdiv’s Ancient Theatre, I attended Ensemble Trakia‘s 45th anniversary concert. Once again, a fabulous show with Bulgarian traditional dances and music. In my recording you will have the chance to hear very well the double-bass of my good friend Stela Petrova, who has featured on a special video generously recorded for me, demonstrating some applications of the double-bass in Bulgarian folk. One great opportunity to know how the bass works in this unique kind of music, with several meter changes and complex arrangements, but always with a genuine essential soul.
A little bit late but I’d like to report another year of great musical moments in Bulgaria this summer!
I should start by mentioning my gadulka lessons, with my dear teacher, Dr. Angel Dobrev, of the Bulgarian National Radio Folklore Orchestra, who this year introduced me to new challenges in Bulgarian music. Here is a little from our lessons where we play two types of 7/8 meter. The Rachenitsa and the Dospatsko Horo.
I also attended the recording of a TV show with the group “Arta”, including top Bulgarian musicians such as Kostadin Genchev (kaval), Hristina Beleva (gadulka), Petar Milanov (in a mix of tambura with guitar that himself has constructed), Ivan Tsonkov (tapan) and Petyo Kostadinov (bagpipe).
Then I went to Plovdiv, to see Ensemble Trakia, one of my favourite Bulgarian acts, which features Stela Petrova on bass, who last year provided me a great masterclass on doublebass applied to Bulgarian folk. I was delighted to see them on soundcheck, performance and even next day at work, rehearsing.
I also got in touch with Ensemble Trakia’s soloist Darina Slavcheva Slavova, who despite her young age, is a multi awarded singer, teacher and producer. I learned Darina released her book, a research work of Thracian melodies from Bulgaria and Greece, carefully documented not only with technical details as scales, meter and ornaments but also the context in which each melody was used. Although it’s written in Bulgarian, the universal language of music makes this work appealing for foreigners who wish to learn more about Bulgarian folklore and shows how this art is so seriously handled as to be kept at the highest standards. Here is Darina in a breathtaking performance, joined by the beautiful kaval of Temelko Ivanov.
Still in the Trakia region, I attended a show by the Young Thracians orchestra (Mladi Trakiytsi) – a genre usually classified in the west as Bulgarian wedding music. Their lead singer Vania Valkova, one of the top singers in Bulgaria, kindly informed me of this show which I could not miss. The orchestra played with 3 singers, drums, bass synth (very common in wedding groups), clarinet, kaval (traditional flute), accordion and saxophone. The rhythm section was so tight playing the whole night that gave me the impression to be a single unit and the gentleman behind the kit is one of the best drummers I ever saw. I encourage you to look for other videos of this orchestra, with better quality than these, and you will certainly agree with me!
Well, this post is getting rather long, but I would just like to sincerely express my gratitude to all of those who welcomed me to Bulgaria this year. Especially for my dear hosts Nina Koleva and Tihomir Kolev and family, Stela Petrova and Radostin Rusev, Dimcho Enchev, Dimitar Arnaudov, Darina Slavcheva Slavova and all the members of Ensemble Trakia, Vania Valkova, Temelko Ivanov, Petar Milanov, Boryana Vasileva, and my dear teacher Angel Dobrev. Thank you for taking care of me and I hope to see you all soon!
For over a year I’m teaming up with fellow bass players Alvaro Rosso and José Miguel Pereira in a double-bass trio format – Basso3 (facebook page)
Since around 2009 I have started to experiment with other musicians from the improvisation field, in particular participating on the MIA encounters and more recently at the MEIA festival in Aveiro. It was precisely on the opening edition of this event that the concert now registered in the shape of an album took place, in a brilliant effort by the Pássaro Vago label.
The album is on free streaming but the CD may also be purchased at Pássaro Vago’s bancamp page.
I hope these new sounds will capture your imagination!
This morning I was interviewed by Bulgarian National Television about my interest for Bulgarian Folklore, along with my Gadulka teacher Angel Dobrev.
You can watch the video at https://www.bnt.bg/bg/a/migel-falkao-portugaletsa-t-kojto-sviri-na-ga-dulka
Last Sunday I had the privilege of attending a session with Stela Petrova, bassist at the Ensemble “Trakia”. Later, on that unforgettable day, I watched Ensemble “Trakia” on their 40th anniversary concert, at the Ancient roman Theatre, in the historical city of Plovdiv. I carefully chose my place at the first row to watch Stela playing up close. The ensemble is composed by dancers, a choir and an orchestra, where Stela plays the double bass, the only non-traditional instrument in the group. Stela’s role is exclusively to provide orchestral support and probably the only element which will never take a solo spot in any presentation, yet Stela provides the bottom end during the whole performance which totally drives the whole show, essential for the rhythm section, and consequently setting the pace for the extraordinary dancers to perform intricate choreographies, defining harmony for the choir and orchestra, and allowing soloists to shine.
Hopefully, the footage I have gathered will show, despite of the audio quality of my recording, the often disregarded role of the double-bass in a Bulgarian folk ensemble, which is in reality vital. Stela also told me that many of the songs, by the great composer Stefan Mutafchiev, do not have bass scores originally, so Stela actually composed many basslines, for Stefan Mutafchiev gave the freedom for the bass player to develop them. Stela also has shown me different versions of songs, where she was playing different basslines of the same song, such as “Oi, Shope, Shope” which closes the first part of the footage.
The second part ends with the great finale, where many of the 4ooo attendants join the ensemble to dance onstage, bringing the celebration to a spectacular apotheosis.
Although I opted to film mostly Stela and his orchestra mates, the show is much more a dance and vocal show for the majority of the audience, so I add below and excerpt from the show, as broadcasted live by the Bulgarian National Television and I encourage you to look for more audience recordings of this and other shows of Ensemble “Trakia” to complement your perspective of the beautiful show of colour and movement provided by one of the most relevant artistic institutions of Bulgaria.
A session in Bulgarian Music with bass star Stela Petrova. During this two-hour session, Stela taught me how to play 3 songs. One, in a very tricky (for me) form of 9/8, from her band Diva Reka, is named “Happy Nine” and composed by one of the great kaval (Bulgarian flute) players of Bulgaria, band mate Kostadin Genchev. Two others, in 7/8, from the highly prestiged Ensemble Trakia, by great Bulgarian Composer Stefan Mutafchiev. Later, Stela would kindly demonstrate on video excerpts of “Happy Nine” and “Oi, Shope, Shope”. Hoping one day I will make my own versions of these and more wonderful Bulgarian Music.
Here’s Stela with Diva Reka playing “Vesela Devyatka” (Happy Nine)
As for “Oi, Shope, Shope”, Stela pointed out that the actual meter is 13/16, but it’s simplified to 7/8 for music sheet, meaning that the actual duration of the first and last beats are not exactly equal, as in 7/8 (2+2+1+2).
Here’s the Trakia Ensemble orchestra and choir, performing “Oi, Shope, Shope”, joined by the “Cosmic Voices” choir.
Dear Friends, I am again now in Bulgaria, for a second year of learning more about the wonderful Bulgarian traditional music. Last year I started to learn Gadulka, the Bulgarian fiddle, with Professor Angel Dobrev, Gadulka extraordinaire of the Folk Orchestra of Bulgarian National Radio and Gadulka luthier, who made my own gadulka.
The gadulka standard tuning is A E A , but besides the 3 main strings there are 11 resonant strings with the chromatic scale (except A, maybe because there’s already two As) which makes the gadulka sound so unique.
On this very special session, I had the immense pleasure of playing with one of my favourite musicians – Petar Milanov, guitarrist of the National Ensemble Filip Kutev Ensemble.
I was given the role of playing the main melody, a Daychovo Horo – a dance in 9/8 meter, while Angel and Petar provided harmony, which was totally improvised over the melody. We recorded two takes, meaning two completely different arrangements.
I believe that you will like the richness of Bulgarian Folk Music, and hopefully this will catch your interest to discover more of it. There is a lot to choose from, from melody, harmony, to time signatures and the virtuosity of the players, singers and choirs. Not forgetting the uniqueness of the Bulgarian instruments such as the Tambura, Kaval, Gaida and, of course, Gadulka.
I think in general Bulgarian folk has many elements that can attract Yesfans!