Celebrating a 3 year anniversary of a Musical Movement

“Planetary Coalition.” In our current times, we need this even more. 

So happy to be a part of this massive project since its inception & create its album artwork and much more. With nearly 30 musicians from 5 continents. 

11/11 marks another anniversary of the release which Guitar World listed as one of the top 10 albums of 2014 & Bluenote/Artistshare selected it for the Grammys. Where USA, Canada, Argentina, Turkey, Greece, India, China, Japan, Israel, Palestine, Mexico, Cuba, Mali & other parts of Africa, France, Spain, Albania, Macedonia, Poland…the Balkans & the Baltic…& many other countries came together in the spirit of jazz/gypsy/klezmer/ragas/sufi/flamenco & so many other styles. And the Liberty Science Center & some universities arranged live lecture/performances.

The Facebook page for the project is at http://bit.ly/2zvqoM9

Also, it’s not everyday that a musical piece (“Sleeping Gypsy,” the project’s signature tune which got Union Square dancing) has been written/composed for yours truly. 

#MakeMusicNotWar #SupporttheindependentArts

Here’s an updated video of the complete album. Obviously, it has far fewer views than on its FB fan page.

For the album artwork, go to: http://bit.ly/2i9Ghha


 

Planetary Coalition – Album Excerpts 3

This is the last of the album excerpts’ series for Planetary Coalition – with glimpses of the last 5 songs on the album. On Novermber 25, 2014, our itunes sales commenced and within a day the album had already climbed to the top 20 world music albums at number 13. Please help support the project – the link to buy the album on Amazon is here: http://www.amazon.com/Planetary-Coalition-Alex-Skolnick/dp/B00OTVQ0L4 and on itunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/planetary-coalition/id934930381

This series of excerpts begins with a composition with Cuban influences – with the great Grammy award-winning Cuban percussionist Horacio “el Negro” Hernandez and his daughter Jennifer who co-wrote the piece with Skolnick. The photos of Cuba (except three) are ones I had taken during a 2006 trip to that country.

Following this, both countries of the Holy Land – Israel and Palestine are featured – with renowned Palestinian oud player Adnan Joubran of Le Trio Joubran co-composing a track with Skolnick (a piece with surprises in its full version where the melody takes a rather unexpected turn) followed by a duet with famed Israeli percussionist Gadi Seri (a frequent accompanist in the group of Israeli singing sensation Noa) in a piece inspired by travelling through the Negev desert. Initially both Seri and Joubran were to feature on the same track but, due to different rhythm styles, decided to have two separate pieces.

The fourth excerpt is the first guitar-pipa duet ever performed of a popular Chinese melody – with Skolnick and pipa virtuoso Yihan Chen playing on a variation of Wang Huiran’s tune Dance of the Yi People as “Return of the Yi People” and the colorful landscapes featured in the video are indeed from the region of South China where the Yi people reside. There is a previous post in this blog on the pipa – an ancient Chinese instrument more than 2000 years old.

And finally, an excerpt of the popular signature tune of the project – the first track which Skolnick had composed in 2012 when he conceived of the Planetary Coalition series: Sleeping Gypsy, which I feel both happy and shy to mention was composed for your nomadic neighborhood artist and blogger – the Gypsy Geek :)

Here goes:

On Saturday November 29, 2014, about seven of the twenty seven musicians of Planetary Coalition will play at the Liberty Science Center coinciding with an event on the history and development of the acoustic and electric guitar. We also have a Planetary Coalition website where more details are available on the project.

I’ve said it here before, and I’ll say it again once more: Support independent authentic musicians, artists and Art! Make Music, Not War! :)


Planetary Coalition – Album Excerpts 2

A short video with glimpses of the first four tracks of the album, including two time Juno-award winning North Indian ghazal/folk style as well as classically trained Indo-Canadian singer Kiran Ahluwalia; also Turkish kanun player Tamer Pinarbasi along with other members of New York Gypsy All Stars; members of the group Raza Truncka from the small agricultural community of Salto playing Argentine indigenous drums; and members of the Brooklyn-based world music group House of Waters. Stay tuned till the end of the video. Artwork and editing by moi  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87ncMQRiX44

The first track is of course for Planet Earth and includes a small homage to Carl Sagan, whose wisdom, philosophy and Science communication skills have been one of the greatest influences in my life since childhood.

Last night was the album release party in New York City at The Meridian 23 with performances by nearly a dozen of the 27 musicians of the project. We are so grateful to all who attended despite the chilly temperatures in the city. The project was also featured in an article in yesterday’s Village Voice newspaper.

For more excerpts of the musical tracks check out my previous post: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/planetary-coalition-album-excerpts-1/


Planetary Coalition – Album Excerpts I

First of a short series of audio-visual album previews and track excerpts, including scenes from the recording studio, compiled by yours truly.

These excerpts include famed guitar duo Ridrigo y Gabriela – who, among many sold-out concerts and tours – have played for President Obama himself and are two-time guests on the David Letterman Show. In fact this recording with Skolnick was made a day before their Letterman appearance. As teenagers, they were inspired by Skolnick’s playing before becoming professional musicians themselves.

The video also includes glimpses of other great world musicians like Argentine bass player Pablo Aslan and pianist Dario Boente, African kora player and singer Yacouba Sissoko (who has played with Paul Simon, Harry Belafonte et al among others), members of the New York Gypsy All Stars (Vasko Dukovski, Panagiotis Andreou, Engin Kaan Gunaydin), accordian maestro Raif Hyseni, Max ZT who learned his craft from pre-eminent Indian santoor maestro Shiv Kumar Sharma; and violinist Rachel Golub who is also the world record holder in open cold water swimming and has performed with artists ranging from Sting, Elton John and Lady Gaga to Jay-Z, Andrea Bocelli et al and in shows like Saturday Night Live among others; also New York based versatile Japanese bassist Moto Fukushima (a summa cum laude graduate alumni of the prestigious Berklee College of Music) and drummer-percussionist Luke Notary who has previously worked with Cirque du Soleil.

All compositions and arrangement by Alex Skolnick, except Alla La K’e – which is a take on a traditional Malinese song – and this is the first time it has been performed as a guitar-kora duet.

I have been deeply involved artistically with this project since 2012, as artist, consultant and documentarain, and the previous post carries my album artwork.

The CD can be ordered here:

Through ArtistShare: http://artistshare.com/v4/Projects/Experience/325/439/1/Alex-Skolnick-Planetary-Coalition?v=2 (Also includes ways to support the project or get a signed copy of the CD)

Through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Planetary-Coalition-Alex-Skolnick/dp/B00OTVQ0L4/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1415952919&sr=1-1&keywords=planetary+coalition

Through i-tunes pre-order: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/planetary-coalition/id934930381

Support independent authentic Art! Make Music, Not War! :)


Album Release

New York, New York, 11/11/2014. “Planetary Coalition” – a world music album I feel very happy to be part of officially released today! This date also marks the centenary celebration of the end of World War I.

As I often say here – Make Music, Not War.

Planetary Coalition’s musicians represent over two dozen countries and five continents and numerous ethnicities.

From its inception in Union Square on summer solstice day, June 21st, 2012 – Planetary Coalition has now grown into a truly global music project.

A collective of diverse musicians from all over the world, Planetary Coalition is driven by the acoustic guitar of Alex Skolnick, whose work spans jazz (Alex Skolnick Trio), metal (Testament), and world music (Rodrigo y Gabriela).

In the virtuoso’s own words from the upcoming album’s notes:

“It started with a lone, handwritten sentence on a notepad, describing a musical vision: “An ethnically flavored collective of musicians from all over the world, driven by acoustic guitar and bringing together inspirational melodies, in-depth improvisation and the passion of the musical styles of Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin, East Asian, Mediterranean, Balkan/Eastern European, African and other indigenous lands.”

The reality: coordinating over two-dozen musicians from five continents.

Yet despite the numerous logistical challenges, Planetary Coalition has been guided by a single hope: that by weaving the threads that connect musical expressions with regional identities, we can bridge the gap between diverse cultures and people, and increase awareness of the ecological and social issues facing the planet, our island in the sky. And I must confess that with respect to all prior musical collaborations, this is the album I feel most proud of. It’s hoped that in the future, these pieces can be performed not just in concert venues but as audio-visual presentations in galleries, museums and classrooms.”

Alex Skolnick's Planetary Coalition

“I am grateful to all the incredible artists who eagerly took part, some from across the world, others a few subway stops away; some eluded by mainstream recognition, others who worked on their parts in between sold-out concerts and national television appearances; a few from regions that have long been politically at odds yet refusing to let politics or ideology dictate art, music and humanity; and all of whom are the type of musicians I’m most inspired by – master players for whom technical virtuosity exists, but never at the expense of artistic expression, emotion and collaboration……”

We are grateful to all who have contributed, supported and appreciated this project. Please support the Arts by getting your copy of the album today and/or spreading the word to your friends and families.  Here’s a sneak peak into some pages from the album. All artwork, designs, documentaries by yours truly. Enjoy!


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Make Music Not War – III

New York, August 31, 2014. Continuing from Part I and Part II, this is the third segment of the project Planetary Coalition’s musicians’ series that I’ve showcased here. This video features two-time Juno award winning Indo-Canadian singer Kiran Ahluwalia rehearsing with Alex Skolnick on a new tune, along with acclaimed tabla virtuoso Nitin Mitta, who, among many other projects, is also a part of American jazz pianist Vijay Iyer’s trio “Tirtha”. This tune developed by Alex is termed “Passage to Pranayama.” (For geeks, here’s an article on Pranayama – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pranayama , and on Patanjali – the founder of the Yogasutras: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patanjali)

If you are curious to get a glimpse of how a tune develops, behind the final 5 minutes of audio that you hear on a finished CD, then this video gives a pretty good idea.

August has been one of the most depressing months in recent times, as far as news events were concerned around the world. The savage killings by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, more conflict in Israel and Palestine, an ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine, racial conflict, riots and shootings in the southern US state of Missouri, the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa, and, as a final unfunny joke – one of the most beloved comedians and genius actors of our time – the effervescent Robin Williams – killing himself due to depression: sad news even in the usually escapist world of entertainment.

Here’s to the end of an angsty August, and hoping for a more serene September.

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Make Music, Not War – II

New York, August 5, 2014. In my previous blog post (here) I explained the premise behind melding my work life, creative endeavors and blog life all together due to a shortage of time. Last week’s blog featured a video with Mali’s world-renowned Kora player Yacouba Sissoko.

Today’s blog post features a rehearsal for the project “Planetary Coalition” with eminent Chinese Pipa player Yihan Chen. See for yourself!

This was during the very first meeting between guitarist Alex Skolnick and Ms. Chen. The music had a feeling of water, just as the African one from last week had a more earthy vibe. The final track with Yihan has already been recorded in the studio. Did you know that the Chinese Pipa is an instrument more than 2000 years old? For fact geeks like me, here’s a history of the Pipa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipa

As mentioned earlier, these videos are very exclusive and have not been released yet to a larger audience as we are waiting to do so after the release of the CD. But since I made them, I am showcasing it in a very limited platform through this blog, as a glimpse of what is taking shape.

And more importantly, it is about documenting the dynamic and dialogue between the artists during the process of melody-creation or “feeling out” the music, of creating “conversations” between the instruments and exploring possibilities.  

There is still time to support the project through our ArtistShare website http://www.artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6 or directly contact Alex (http://alexskolnick.com/) or me (gipsygeek at gmail dot com) if you’d like to help us out. Or at most, even get the word around.

As another prosaic and tumultuously violent week in world events passed us by, once again – how much better the world would have been or would be if we created art, found common ground and made music instead of war.

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