Voltarol - related music

Friday, 16 May 2008

Keeping it in the family

It's interesting how musicality often runs in families. In my case it seemed to come from nowhere - I can't find any evidence of it amongst my forbears - but my children and grandchildren certainly have it and I have to say that there are few pleasures in life greater than making music with members of your family. I have written and recorded with both my daughter and my grandson and have found the experience immensely satisfying.

It was around 1963 that I encountered my first musical family. I had discovered folk music generally and Topic Records in particular (the hows and whys of that will be the subject of yet another posting...) and was in the habit of dipping into their catalogue almost at random and ordering an EP (see Slide by slide for a definition) whenever I could afford it). On this occasion I selected a disc entitled 'Wild Mountain Thyme' by The McPeake Family. I was immediately captivated by the sound of the uilleann pipes - an instrument that I had never come across before - and by the the closeness (I can think of no other word to describe it) of the voices when the family sang together. Three generations of the family played on that disc, which was recorded in their native Belfast by the legendary Bill Leader, who was to play quite a part in my own life within a few years.

Another family that Bill recorded was The Waterson Family from Hull. Their first offerings were on an album called 'New Voices', which came out - again on the Topic label - in 1965, and to which they contributed five tracks. These had a fantastic impact on the world of folk music and that same year saw the release of 'Frost and Fire' which was, to my mind, probably the first 'concept' album. I was bowled over by their harmony sound. Once again it was that closeness of
the voices that seems to come when the participants are closely related (in this case, two sisters, a brother and a cousin). Norma Waterson subsequently married another great talent from the folk music scene, Martin Carthy. Their daughter, Liza Carthy, is an outstanding musician and a formidable force amongst those offspring I referred to in my digression about Folk Clubs in the Mutt and Jeff posting.

I heard my first Brazilian music around about the same time as I first heard the Watersons. It was, inevitably, Astrud Gilberto singing 'The Girl from Ipanema' accompanied by Stan Getz. As my interest in the music developed I soon realised that her then husband, João Gilberto, was by far the greater talent. João subsequently married Heloísa Maria Buarque de Hollanda (sister of another great Brazilian singer/songwriter - Chico Buarque), who performed under the name of Miúcha. They produced a daughter, Bebel Gilberto, who had world-wide success with her first album 'Tanto Tempo'.

Another great Brazilian singer was Elis Regina. Although not so widely known outside Brazil as Astrud Gilberto she was a far greater talent. Inside Brazil she was probably the most famous singer of all time. Her career was a relatively short one (she died of a drug overdose at the age of 37) but she married twice and produced three children, all of whom pursued careers in music. Her second marriage was to her long time collaborator and frequent accompanist, Cesar Camargo Mariano, who was, and remains, a brilliant musician in his own right. In fact, it took me a while to 'get into' Elis' music as my first experience of it was a rather poor compilation that I bought when on a canoe trip down the Dordogne about sixteen years ago (and thereby hangs another tale), but I was introduced to pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano by my good friend Alberto (whose blog - boogie woody -is well worth a visit) and was knocked out by his playing. That second marriage produced the singer Maria Rita, who has made a huge impact with her music. Her first album won a Latin Grammy and her third album has been nominated for the BBC World Music awards.

There are undoubtedly many more musical families out there - The McGarrigles, The Copper Family,The Carter Family, The Everly Brothers, Doc and Merle Watson, Bucky and John Pizarelli, The Dankworth dynasty, Stan and Clark Tracey, James Taylor and his siblings and offspring, to name but a few - but those I have mentioned are the ones that have had the most impact on me personally. As to my own family - well, my grandson, The Everyday Junglist, is beginning to carve out a career in music as a guitarist and producer and my granddaughter is already frighteningly musical at the age of eight. I might not have found musical fame and fortune but I wouldn't be at all surprised if either one of them did. I look forward to being a burden to them...

Background and Youtube clips:-
McPeakes - http://www.iol.ie/~ronolan/mcpeakes.html
Watersons - http://www.slipcue.com/music/international/celtic/artists/watersons.html
Liza Carthy - http://www.eliza-carthy.com/eliza/index.cfm
João Gilberto - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo%C3%A3o_Gilberto
Miúcha - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mi%C3%BAcha
Bebel Gilberto - http://www.bebelgilberto.com/
Elis Regina - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elis_Regina
Chico Buarque - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chico_Buarque
Cesar Camargo Mariano - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Camargo_Mariano
Maria Rita - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Rita