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.
Buy Gobi Desert