Nefasha Ayer project: “The Wind That Travels”

I have recently become involved in a project here in the Bay Area called “Nefasha Ayer.”

A bit about the project according the Nefasha Ayer myspace page:

Nefasha Ayer, loosely translated from Amharic as “the wind that travels”, explores a transcontinental odyssey of multiple characters who find themselves caught between national identities, cultures, and politics. The project joins together the talented song-writing capacity of Meklit Hadero with guitarist/composer-arranger, Todd Brown, South-Indian Carnatic Jazz composer/saxophonist, Prasant Radhakrishnan, drummer/tablaist, Sameer Gupta, composer/bassist/flautist, Eliyahu Sills, and Ethiopian born hip-hop artist, Gabriel Teodros. Nefasha Ayer weaves together Ethiopian and South Indian melodies/rhythms against a varying backdrop of North American jazz, while Hadero’s voice and song, as the wind that travels, serve as the narrator. Nefasha Ayer weaves together Ethiopian and South Indian melodies/rhythms against a varying backdrop of North American jazz, while Hadero’s voice and song, as the wind that travels, serve as the narrator.

Through its tones and colors, poetic texts and trans-cultural melodic scores, Nefasha Ayer joins the continents of Africa, South Asia, and America to explore the most essential and universal qualities shared among individuals worldwide whose identity no longer fits within the boundaries of one country, culture, or tradition. Whereas one would expect the content of such a project to focus on the social/cultural context of its characters, Nefasha Ayer builds on the internal: the subjective yet universal human desire for home. For these characters, “home” is no longer an external place – for some it never was. Home has taken shape instead as a longing within. This is “the space of in-between.”

The space of in-between indeed. It is a space I have long identified with as have many in my position — being of another ethnicity/culture but brought up here in the U.S. I wont go into that right now…

The project is really the brainchild of Todd and Meklit, the heads of the Red Poppy Art House, where VidyA had its first concert. The Nefasha project recently was recognized with a grant from the San Francisco Foundation. As part of this endeavor, I will be helping a bit with composing and of course playing. Todd, Meklit and I meet somewhat regularly to hang out at the Red Poppy and work on this music.

One of the things that struck me about the inflections in Ethiopian vocal music is that they are vaguely similar to those used in Carnatic or Hindustani music. Of course this is from a very general level of analysis. The interesting thing is that I can bring in appropriate ragas and Carnatic phrases into my improvisations and/or the compositions without it sounding out of place. The music has a very laid-back feel to it but with a constant sense of forward motion. This is due to the rhythms inherent in Ethiopian and even some African music. Also, keep an eye out for Meklit. Her music and voice is really unique.

We recently performed a short set at the MAPP at the Red Poppy of course. The MAPP is always fun, since it is about the community and such. Of course, the compositions have ways to go before they are ready.

Check out some pictures from the performance here,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s