Friday, May 18, 2018

Popular Music

Florence Welch
9.5 x 4.75 inches, oil on wood, 2018
Florence + The Machine had a massive hit with the anthemic Shake it Out in 2011. I'm not much of a Pop Music aficionado but when Maria played the group performing the song on Saturday Night Live I was sold. Florence Welch clearly enjoyed being on the set of SNL as she couldn't shake a smile during her epic performance. The video was Maria's pick when she, Amy, and me presented each other with our favorite YouTube song. Mine was (talking about epic performances) the Late Show with Letterman version of M.I.A's Born Free, a song that has been my #1 for six straight years now. Amy picked Cat Power's To Be a Good Woman, already in my Top 100 list but it had never felt so intense before. I could have cried.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Tuvan Shamanism

Tuvan Shaman in full regalia
18 x 9.75 inches, oil on wood, 2017
From notes to the CD Deep In the Heart of Tuva: Cowboy Music From the Wild East German Explorer Otto Mănchen-Helfen observed the practices of Tuvan Shamanism in 1929. "The shaman is not a priest," he wrote, "He does not belong to a separate caste, and enjoys no separate privileges. He is a herdsman, just like his relatives and neighbors. There are no 'professional' shamans: each shaman merely feels himself called upon to mediate between humans and spirits–and each is a very personal mediator." 
Times has changed since 1929 when Tuva was still an autonomous republic that had just been liberated from Mongolian Manchu rule. In the Soviet period, of which Tuva became part in 1944, shamanic practices were systematically repressed; the shamans, among pastoral peoples were seen as having no practical value for the state. They were removed from their homelands and often persecuted. Despite half a century of repression the shamanic practices did not die out. In hiding and secretive ceremonies, shamanic traditions sustained. After the fall of the Soviet Union Tuva, a remote and hard to reach area of Russia, has enjoyed a semi-autonomous status, and a revival of pre-Soviet traditions and culture. Shamanism now is an established cultural practice. Now there are professional shamans who have received an official government issued license to practice (healing). Some shamans however, don't let them be institutionalized and are off the government radar. It is not clear how great their numbers are but there are more than a hundred registered official shamans in Tuva. It is estimated that one in five Tuvans exhibit some aspects of shamanism. 1. Healing powers; 2 Ability to foretell the future; 3. Ability to lead ceremonies and rites; 4. Travel to the lower and upper spirit worlds. 
Had I been born in Tuva I would've had a 20% chance of having some sort of psychic ability but I was born in small town Netherlands where, I guess, the chances are the same as winning the lottery. What I've gained though is a bit of an open mind.
The top 100 track associated with this painting is: Oleg Kuular – Collection of Höömeï styles that appears on the CD listed on top, the source image of the shaman is in the booklet.

Saturday, May 5, 2018


Sainko Namtchylak
9.5 x 4.75 inches, oil on wood, 2018
Order to Survive and Öske Cherde (In a foreign land) are two titles Ms. Namtchylak performs live with a trio on a Russian TV channel. No information is given with the two videos on YouTube and I couldn't find the definitive circumstances of the performance either. It appears that the trio backing Namtchylak is the group Tri-O based in Moscow (1990s). The song Order to Survive appears on Namtchylak's album Stepmother City from 2002 while Öske Cherde was first released as a collaboration between Namtchylak and the Tuvan group Huur-Huur-Tu. In the comment section under the Öske Cherde video the song is referred to as Dance of Eagle by one listener. Dance of Eagle also appears on Stepmother City. 
Sainkho Namtchylak is a Tuvan singer who moved to Moscow to study composition and later to Vienna where she is still based. She was born in 1957 in the south of Tuva near the Mongolian border. There she was exposed to the local throat singing traditions, which she mastered, and studied shamanism. The source material for both paintings comes from stills of both YouTube videos superimposed on abstract backgrounds that I produced in series.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

One more Koryak painting

Marija Afanasevna Tyna
12 x 9 inches, oil on canvas, 2018
Marija Afanaseva Uičan is a Koryak woman who "works in the jaranga (a tent where the Koryak live while in the tundra.)" [1] She sings two personal songs on the CD Kamchatka: Tambours de danse de l'extreme-orient Sibérien recorded by Henry Lecomte in Tymlat (in Kamchatka in Russia's far east). Lecomte publishes a photograph of Marija Afanasevna Tyna in the booklet of the CD but Tyna is not represented in the recordings. It's possible therefore that Uičan, who accompanies herself with a jajar drum, is the same person as Tyna, who is also holding a jajar drum (the Koryak have Russian and Koryak names). All but one photograph in the booklet has been rendered in paint now as five tracks from the CD are listed in the top 100 this year.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


The Boredoms
7.5 x 14.25 inches, oil on wood, 2018
It's been many years since The Boredoms were awarded a spot in the top 100, it goes back to the time of a previous marriage, and the album Soul Discharge that my ex owns is really the only album of theirs I know (well). The song Pow Wow Now, that opened up randomly in YouTube (after looking at Merzbow clips), brought back instant memories to that album, and how great is. Fronted by Yamantaka Eye and Yoshimi P-We (who is holding one of Eye's dreads in the picture) The Boredoms have released a good number of recordings since their foundation in Osaka in 1986. Style: Japanoise.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Nowayilethi Mbizwena

Nowayilethi Mbizweni
13 x 7.5 inches, oil on wood, 2018
Until 1980 the world of ethnomusicology did not know that a throat singing tradition existed on the southern hemisphere. The traditions of throat singing in regions close to arctic circle had been well examined but it wasn't until Prof. Dr. Dave Dargie "discovered' a similar tradition among the Xhosa of South Africa that throat singing was found any further south than Mongolia. Dr. Darvie recorded and filmed Nowayilethi Mbizweni demonstrating the vocal techniques of the Xhosa, solo, in duets, a trio, as well as in larger groups. Throat singing among the Xhosa is known as Umngqokolo and utilizes, like the tradition of the Siberians, three variations of 'overtone' resonating vocal chambers. Dr. Dargie compiled some of his material on film into Umngqokolo: Thembu Xhosa, Overtone Singing 1985-1998 which can be viewed on YouTube. The world "Umngqokolo" is incredibly hard to pronounce for non-Xhosa speakers as it contains the "click" sound, characteristic of Xhosa language and popularized by the singer Miriam Makeba. I am using here the spelling Nowayilethi as used by Mark C. van Tongeren in Overtone Singing:Physics and Metaphysics in East and West. [Fusica, Amsterdam, 2002] Dr. Dave Dargie adds an X to the name: Nowxayilethi. You would think Dargie's spelling is the right one but Nowxayilethi does not result in any hits on Google while Nowayilethi is not a problem. It makes sense that the English "no-way" is embedded in her name as her two main collaborators (and the only other singers named in the documentary) are named Nosomething Mbizweni and Nofirst Lungisa.

Sunday, April 1, 2018


Rahsaan Roland Kirk
12 x 9 inches, oil on canvas, 2018
 The second Kirk painting within a month illustrating the second track from the film Sound?? If the previous painting belonged to Three for the Festival this one then must belong to Here Comes the Whistleman. One of his whistles hangs on his chest, the flute on his back. While announcing the track in the movie (as Blues in W) he thrown a bunch of plastic flutes in the audience inviting them to blow along. The resulting cacophony is the backdrop for Kirk's flute solo and everything suddenly makes sense and all sounds in the room seem in perfect harmony.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Maybe Not

Cat Power
13 x 7.5 inches, oil on wood, 2018
Maybe Not is another track from the Cat Power album You Are Free of 2003. "We can all be free" she sings in the song "maybe not with words." A beautiful video set to the song appears as a bonus on the 2004 DVD Speaking for Trees, a movie of Cat Power performing solo set in a forest in upstate New York by Mark Brothwick. The image where this painting is based on is found in the booklet to the DVD/CD set by Brothwick. The painting forms a pair with my previous Cat Power painting of two months ago illustrating the song Fool also from You Are Free.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Kuu: The Swan

Raushan Orazbaeva
13 x 7.5 inches, oil on board, 2018
The instrument depicted in the painting, and played by Raushan Orazbaeva on The White Swan, is a qyl-qobyz. The qyl-qobyz is considered a sacred instrument and "only shamans or people who are close to the spirits could play it." [Orazbaeva quoted by Theodore Levin in Where Rivers and Mountains Sing] Raushan's grandmother was a famous Kazakh shaman. The swan is a sacred animal not touched by the hunters, the qobyz, when played transforms into a swan. The tradition of the instrument is rumored to be thousands of years old. The information provided comes from a chapter that deals with animal mimicry in shamanism and traditional music of central Asia in the book Where Rivers and Mountains Sing (Theodore Levin with Valentina Süzükei, Indiana University Press, 2006). The origin of music in traditional central Asian shamanic tradition is animal imitation. Here's Orazbaeva again quoted by Levin: "When I go into trance—I don't know how else to explain it—when I reach a kind of summit; when I'm really alone in myself and no one else is interfering; when I detach myself—then I really give myself with my soul and heart to this instrument."

Monday, March 5, 2018


Rahsaan Roland Kirk
12.5 x 7 inches, oil on board, 2018
The focuses of the top 100 for months have been on the origin of music and that of shamanism. In this context the film Sound?? (Dick Fontaine, 1967, 25m) is especially insightful. Featured musicians in the film are Rahsaan Roland Kirk and John Cage. Cage is seen rehearsing with David Tudor and Merce Cunningham. Cage also narrates the film in which he asks existential questions about music and sound. "What is sound?" he asks and muses on the answer. Kirk is seen live in concert performing Three for the Festival and Here Comes the Whistleman. The pairing of the two is natural as Kirk illustrates the concepts of Cage. Cage was influenced by Zen Buddhism and the Chinese I Ching, the Book of Changes, Kirk, as I wrote a few years ago, the embodiment of a twentieth century western performer with characteristics of a shaman of the ancient tradition. The film is a great introduction to a deeper understanding of that thing called music where the whole world is so infatuated with.

Saturday, February 24, 2018


Cat Power
12.5 x 7 inches, oil on board, 2018
Fool from the 2003 album You Are Free is the latest Cat Power entry in the Top 100. At least one song from that album has been in the Top 100 since its release and is ranked the highest album by a single performer since that time...16 years ago already. It never gets old for me to paint yet another Cat Power painting. There must be almost 50 now, 27 of which were shown last August at Tempus Projects in Tampa:

Excavated Shellac

Dashzegiin Ichinkhorloo
7 x 5 inches, oil on board, 2018
The context for this miniature painting can be found on the excellent site Excavated Shellac by Jonathan Ward.  I don't have much to add as everything I know about this recording and the photograph of Ichinkhorloo provided, have been carefully excavated by Mr. Ward. Hats off to the record collector!