Shooglenifty and Dhun Dhora – Written in Water
Our new album, official release 9 November 2018, is finally ready. Read all about it below …
Scotland 2018 feels like a long way from Nirvana. I’m not referring to the political situation, but the veggie restaurant in Jodhpur where the Shoogles first talked about recording an album at the Mehrangarh Fort with Dhun Dhora, the Rajasthani band they had been collaborating with for the preceding few years.
That was October 2015 and no one was sure it would even be possible. Often referred to as the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ the Fort is the erstwhile seat of the Maharaja of Marwar-Jodhpur and home to one of the most significant museums in India. However, with the help of Divya Bhatia of Jodhpur Riff, a festival that takes place in the Fort each year, we were able to get the green light from the Mehrangarh Museum Trust and HH Maharaja Gaj Singhji. Funding was sought and secured. And a plan was put in place for recording with Dhun Dhora in October 2016.
We should have been delighted. But it was becoming increasingly obvious that our fiddle player Angus R Grant was very unwell, and a couple of months after being diagnosed with terminal cancer he died. This was October 2016, just at the moment when we should have been recording with him in Rajasthan.
The sands were shifting beneath our feet, and plans for this album put on hold as the band took time out to grieve. Then in February 2017 we received word that Dhun Dhora’s effervescent dholak player Roshan Khan had been killed in a road accident. Now completing the album took on a new significance and a new momentum, with both bands recognising the need to add fuel to the fire that Angus and Roshan had started.
So, in September 2017 the Shoogles finally arrived at the Fort with producer Ben Seal and myself in tow. Dhun Dhora had also made it to Jodphur from their desert home. Both bands brought tunes and songs and over a period of two weeks they played together, experimented, laughed, debated and recorded.
The studio was rigged in the 17th century Chokelao Palace, formerly the Maharaja’s guest quarters, in a room painted in stunning floor to ceiling murals. Not your average recording space.
Suffice to say there were many challenges. Not least the 40 degree heat that was melting us, the instruments and even some of the Indians.
Shooglenifty had to work with adjusting their instruments to singer Dayam’s ‘sa’ – a tuning that suits the resonance of his voice. This meant that they had to tune down just over a quarter of a tone, making the instruments behave and sound unusual. For Dhun Dhora, the experience of shortening their tunes to fit with the recording was curious, but something they very quickly adapted to.
The Shoogles know that they just took a few steps into the very deep well of Rajasthani music and provided Dhun Dhora with only an introduction to what they know of their own traditions and influences (it would probably take a lifetime to do otherwise and we just had two weeks). As Ewan says ‘Dhun Dhora’s music contains many facets. There’s chaos and beauty, bravado and respect, moments of ear splitting madness, deep universal understanding, and extreme calm. It’s wild, free, bright and bold.’ I could easily describe Shooglenifty’s essence in similar terms.
Looking back, these were beautiful, magical days, full of humour and learning, but when we left with the hard drive of tunes and songs, no one was really sure what had been captured. Meticulous editing, and inspired mixing by Ben Seal and the Shoogles, has revealed an incredibly special and unbelievably moving work. It’s a skilfully balanced collaboration where I think both bands are faithfully represented. And if you listen carefully, you’ll know that Angus and Roshan are in there too.
I’m not often moved to superlatives, but as I listen to the last note of Written in Water drifting away, I find a wee bit of nirvana remains. And this time I’m definitely not talking about a veggie restaurant …
Jane-Ann Purdy, Shooglenifty’s manager | June 2018
About the tracks
After some 40 hours of travelling – four flights followed by an eight hour drive across Rajasthan – we arrived at the Mehrangarh Fort. This was October 2015 and we were going to play at Jodhpur Riff Festival. In a cool, peaceful courtyard at dusk with the swifts flying overhead, Angus stopped us in our tracks with this beautiful tune. We were very lucky to be recording, especially when Dayam answered him by singing a brief two-line poem in the form of an alaap. A very special moment.
This track starts with the Shoogles’ version of a traditional Rajasthani tune, then we let the experts take over… Hichki means hiccups!
JOG YER BONES
Avalu (Trad Rajasthan) / Jump Yer Bones (Laura Jane Wilkie)
Jog Yer Bones is based on a recording of Roshan Khan singing Raag Jog ‘Sufi-style’ into Ewan’s iPhone (listen out for him in the mix). It’s paired with a great new tune, Jump Yer Bones, written by Laura to gee up her fiddle class. Already a firm favourite with live audiences and readers of Songlines!
A’Bhriogais Uallach (Trad Scotland) / Raag Des (Trad Rajasthan)
A’Bhriogais Uallach is a humorous ‘puirt a beul’ (mouth music) originating in 19th Century South Lochboisdale in South Uist. It mocks ‘the trouser’ as it tells the story of getting a pair made by the tailor. The wearer found them so big and ridiculous that he disappeared inside them! Kaela is joined on this track by Dayam and Sardar singing Raag Des.
DEAD END GLEN
Dead End Glen (Ewan MacPherson) / Saawariyo Parinaam Meera Ka (Trad Rajasthan)
Ewan wrote Dead End Glen for the narrow valley of Balquhidder where the wonderful music sessions at Mhor 84 take place. Transported to the desert by Dhun Dhora it blends with a Shooglified version of Saawariyo Parinaam Meera Ka, a song about Meera Bai who was a mystic poet in 16th century Rajasthan.
Milleadh Nam Bràithrean (Trad Scotland) / Dhoriye (Trad Rajasthan)
Kaela learned Milleadh Nam Bràithrean from the singing of the late Ishbel MacAskill. The story is told through the eyes of a woman whose beloved is murdered by her own brothers. She has been betrayed by her sister, whom she curses. Its Rajasthani counterpart Dhoriye, sung by Dayam, is also a lament. It is the story of a newly married girl who is missing her family and way of life, having had to leave her desert homeland.
Nigel Escapes The Fort (Ewan MacPherson) / Gypsy’s Dance (Donald MacLeod)
Here’s to you, Nigel Richard! Nigel has been travelling to India to play with master musicians for years before we followed in his wake. This tune is dedicated to one of the most exhilarating lifts home Ewan ever had. Nigel was driving! The second tune, by Pipe Major Donald Macleod, was learned from Jim Brown in Balquhidder, and given the full dhol drum treatment by Dhun Dhora.
WRITTEN IN WATER
Written In Water (Ewan MacPherson) / Saawan Aayo (Trad Rajasthan)
This is one for Angus whom we all keep seeing out of the corners of our eyes: smoking by the water at Glenfinnan, driving a 2CV on Skye, walking by the road in Fort William, sitting in corners of crowded bars, visiting us in our dreams and keeping our souls full of happy memories. It’s followed by Saawan Aayo which was Dayam and Sardar’s response to hearing Written In Water. It says, “Look, beloved, the rains have come …”
All tracks arranged by Shooglenifty, Dhun Dhora, and Laura Jane Wilkie.
All titles copyright Shoogle Music Ltd except Jump Yer Bones (MCPS/PRS) and Gypsy’s Dance (MCPS/PRS).
© & ℗ Shooglenifty Ltd 2018. All rights of the producer and copyright owner reserved. Unauthorised copying, re-recording, broadcasting, public performance, hiring or rental of this recording prohibited.
Angus R Grant | Fiddle (track 1)
Ewan MacPherson | Mandolin, tenor banjo, jaw harp
Garry Finlayson | Acoustic and electric 5 string banjos, EBow
James Mackintosh | Drums, percussion, bass (track 8)
Kaela Rowan | Vocals
Malcolm Crosbie | Guitars
Quee MacArthur | Basses
Laura Jane Wilkie | Fiddle (tracks 2 – 8)
Chanan Khan Manganiyar | Dhol, dumbek
Dayam Khan Manganiyar | Vocals, harmonium
Ghafoor Khan Manganiyar | Khartal
Latif Khan Manganiyar | Bhapang, morchang
Pyaru Khan Manganiyar | Dhol
Roshan Khan Manganiyar | Vocals (track 3)
Sardar Khan Langa | Sarangi, vocals
Sattar Khan Manganiyar | Dhol
Swaroop Khan Manganiyar | Dhol, dholak
Recorded by Ben Seal at the Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
And in Craigrothie, Scotland
Additional recording by Shooglenifty
Recording of Angus R Grant by Ewan MacPherson at the Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur
Mixed and produced by Ben Seal and Shooglenifty
Mastered by Calum Malcolm
Managed by Jane-Ann Purdy
Photography by Don Coutts, Douglas Robertson, Ewan MacPherson, James Mackintosh.
Cover design by Lewis Bilsland
Supported by Creative Scotland, Jodhpur RIFF, the Mehrangarh Museum Trust, Cosima Von Saros.
Catalogue no: SHOOGLE 18018
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