WEAVING MY
ANCESTORS' VOICES

 

 

 

 

   


Sheila:

And also overlaying vocals of different traditions so that, for me, the juxtaposition started with - on different tracks and I've grown into the idea of being able to actually go from one to another, in a single line.

John:

Before we get to "Nana" which, even for you, is kind of a stretch. It's based on a Manuel De Falla tune, isn't it?

Sheila:

Well actually, Manuel De Falla had it, it was sung to him as a small child. It is a traditional Spanish lullaby that his nurse sang to him and that he adapted for piano and voice. And so, of course, nowadays it tends to get sung in that very kind of operatic plummy way and - (John laughs) it's still a very very beautiful piece and even sung in the operatic way but, I heard it on TV and just started singing it because a lot of things come to me that way, that my voice picks up on before I do intellectually and I had a drone playing one day and started to sing it over the top and it worked and I suddenly thought 'Ahh yes, this is like - it's probably Moorish influenced', and that's the reason ...

John:

Yeah and it's also Celtic influence and Spain. So two of the things you've already mentioned, I guess are maybe somewhere in the background of the piece.

Sheila:

And then "The Dreaming" came out of that to exploit the same scale but to take it even further into the east, so that I was a bit gentle on "Nana". I didn't make it too radical, but the influences are obviously there and then "The Dreaming", sort of takes up the promise, it's as though the child has fallen asleep and they go straight into that realm.

John:

And is that your composition, "The Dreaming"?

Sheila:

Yes.

John:

OK, so it comes right out of "Nana". We're going to proceed that though with one of the two pieces on the CD, quite short, called "Speaking in Tongues". This is an example of, sort of, the vocal percussion of Indian tabla or mrdingam drummers where you learn by associating a syllable with each of the drum strokes.

Sheila:

That's right, yes. They're on onomatopoeic syllables. But the way they're used in India is largely as a teaching device. There are some people who regard it as an art form in itself, particularly in the south of India but they tend to keep very much to the beat and the whole skill is to be able to improvise and to come back on the sum which is the first beat of the bar and is the most important beat. Whereas what I was trying to do with the two "Speaking in Tongues" pieces was to exploit the emotional qualities of the sound, so that I don't keep to a time cycle. I deliberately throw the listener off and it becomes - I wanted to give it a kind of mad prophetic edge to remind people that Indian music and myself, particularly, are not just about very beautiful, polished, glossy vocal, melodic lines but also about - my work is about going as far into a sort of challenging area, either in terms of skill, or in terms of looking at the darker side of yourself and drawing out what inspiration there is to be found there too.