Tag Archives: Guo Gan

Guo Gan Trio’s Stunning Collaboration

Guo Gan Trio – Gobi Desert

Guo Gan Trio – Gobi Desert (Felmay, 2019)

Musical collaborations hold a particular fascination for me. I assume that many start in the simplest ways with the questions from one musician to another, “Hey, wanna play some music?” Now I’m sure that there is the occasional “no” but really what self-respecting musician ever says no to a gig or to at least show off their latest riff? Music is this wonderful messy conglomeration of instruments,genres and styles that have crossed hills, mountains, rivers, regions and countries a million times over from the beginnings of the earliest flute or drum.

Ethnomusicologists, despite all the studies, scratched out records or archaeological evidence, are dependent on a fair amount of guesses or suppositions on the evolution of song or the origins of one single instrument. A disputed claim by two neighboring towns as the birthplace of a particular instrument can break out into a brawl if not monitored closely. In a weird way music is the big human collaboration.

When I come across these musical cross-pollination recordings, the first thing I want to ask is what was it about this other genre of music that fascinated you? I know what I hear after the collaboration is essentially complete, but what did you find that worked melding two different musical traditions and what didn’t work. My second questions is why must you print liner notes over photographs making it impossible to make out what’s in the liner notes.

There’s a wonderful collaboration out there available for a listen on Italy’s Felmay label called Gobi Desert by the Guo Gan Trio. Some music fans might have had a listen into the 2014 Guo Gan Trio recording called Jasmine Flower with Guo Gan on erhu with Rao Ying on zheng and Lai Long Han on dizi and xiao. Now the Guo Gan Trio is back with yet another trio and another sound. Teaming up with Turkish saz player Emre Gultekin and Turkish percussionist Levent Yildirim.

On the surface, to those without a little history under their belts, some might consider this an unlikely collaboration, but if you think about the Silk Road trade routes that stretched all the way from China through Turkey to its final reaches in southern Italy the musical sharing leap becomes easier. The Silk Road started around 114 BCE, so it’s not hard to imagine that collaborations like this went on longer and farther than we could have ever have guessed.

This collaboration is indeed a treat. Packed full of erhu, doholla, uc telli, bendir, baglama and tembur, Gobi Desert is a musical landscape that graces the lines of the elegance of Chinese musical traditions into the meaty, sinuous turns of Middle Eastern music, Guo Gan, Emre Gultekin and Levent Yildirim set up a collaborative musical space that is as entertaining as it is engaging.

Opening with the title track and Guo Gan composition “Gobi Desert,” the trio fashions a delicate hybrid that almost comes across as an elegant court music with picked out doholla in between lines of erhu and rippling uc telli. The effect is stunning. Equally exciting is the Emre Gultekin composition “Kogaoglan Pacarani” that blends erhu with baglama and tembur with some truly spectacular percussion by Mr. Yildirim so fans will not want to miss a moment of this.

Other treats include the erhu fronted “Chinese Bike,” the deliciously mysterious “Tera Kiya,” the vocal laced “Harput” and moving erhu solo of “Parting at Yang Guan Pass.” Wrapping up with “Biday derya” the Guo Gan Trio hooks listeners with the whirlwind of erhu, doholla, tembur and baglama with some additional guest help from Malabika Brahma on dubki and vocals.

This is a stunning collaboration and we just can’t wait to see what trio Guo Gan cooks up next.

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Duplessy & The Violins of the World’s Extraordinary Musical Landscape

Duplessy & The Violins of the World – Crazy Horse

Duplessy & The Violins of the World – Crazy Horse (Absilone/Op Conseil, 2016)

Feeling a little hemmed in … a little harassed … a little hounded? Looking to step out into the untamed wilderness and run with wild without leaving the comfort of your headphones? Then I have the perfect CD for you. It’s the 2016 Absilone/Op Conseil release (yeah, I don’t know how this one got past us either) of Mathias Duplessy & The Violins of the World’s Crazy Horse. This extraordinary musical landscape is just the cure for what ails you. Crazy Horse has got guitar, Chinese erhu, horsehead fiddle, nychelharpa, sarangi, violin and throat singing. Who can resist throat singing?

Crazy Horse is the collaboration of French guitarist Mathias Duplessy, Chinese erhu master Guo Gan, Mongolia’s horsehead fiddler extraordinaire and throat singer Naraa Puredorj, French nychelharpa player Aliocha Regnard with Mongolian overtone singer and horsehead fiddle player Enkhjargal Dandarvaanchig, Indian sarangi player Sabir Khan and Tunisian violinist and composer Zied Zouari thrown in for good measure. With Mr. Duplessy composing most of the music for Crazy Horse, listeners get a dose of Maurice Ravel on “Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte” and a composition by Mr. Dandarvaanchig.

Opening with horse galloping sounds, title track “Crazy Horse” takes off across the steppes at breakneck speed with horsehead fiddles and guitar with a little throat singing tossed in. I’ll admit that it kinda comes off as if Spaghetti Western music composer Ennio Morricone took a wrong turn east, but it quirky enthusiasm and fiddle playing is worth it.

Crazy Horse just veers off the beaten path with the East/West combo with Mr. Duplessy and Mr. Regnard providing the flourishes against some catchy percussion, before giving way to the elegant lines of “Montagnes” with Mr. Gan, Mr. Dandarvaanchig and Mr. Khan in this sweeping musicscape.

There’s some truly lovely tracks like “Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte,” “Le Vol du Heron” and “Lac Dans La Brume.” “Petards Chinois” written by Mr. Guo is deliciously catchy and Indian laced “Baiao of Mumbai” with Mr. Gan, Mr. Dandarvaanchig and Mr. Khan is equally captivating. Closing with “Chevauchee Celeste” listeners get another dramatic dose of a Morricone drama that’s just a good as the first track.

Whether it’s the raucous ride across the steppes or the slow amble next to a lazy stream, Crazy Horse has your musical escape covered.

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Fiddles of the World Come Together

Mathias Duplessy and Aliocha Regnard – Photo by Angel Romero

French guitarist Mathias Duplessy put together a fascinating project called the Violins of the World. The current version of the ensemble was showcased at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo).

Guo Gan and Naraa Puredorj – Photo by Angel Romero

Duplessy and Violins of the World includes Duplessy on guitar, vocals and throat singing; Chinese erhu master Guo Gan; Mongolian horsehead fiddle virtuoso and throat singer Naraa Puredorj; and Frenchman Aliocha Regnard, who is a well-regarded nychelharpa player. 

The ensemble played as first set on July 13 at the Theater Stage in front of a packed audience. The show was outstanding, exhibiting admirable virtuosity, bringing together European classical influences from Spain and France along with Chinese, Mongolian and Nordic European traditions.

Duplessy and Violins of the World – Photo by Angel Romero

A second show took place on the final day, Sunday July 14, 2019 at the Tree Stage, in front of a much larger audience.

The ensemble has several recordings available, including Marco Polo (2010), Crazy Horse (2016), Feng (2016) and Ma Goola (2018).


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