Monkey is the second consecutive raga I discovered during the creative process.
I say discovered because Indians believe ragas have always existed
regardless of whether or not they are acknowledged by humans. (Summer Morning
is the previous raga in question.)
It appears that an older variant of a janya raga from Harikambhoji mela, named
Khamas or Kamasu, has the same swaras as Pink Monkey, but since its current
incarnation is different, and I imagined the raga before researching to see
if it was already known, I went for the new name.
Pink Monkey has the same swaras as Harikambhoji mela except that there is no
rishaba in ascent and descent. There is a similarity in sound to Abhogi and
Kalavati ragas in Hindustani music.
The moment when a completed composition meets the concrete realities of the
meruvina is both exciting and worrisome. With trillions of possible settings,
I do my best guided by instinct and experience.
This time I was rescued by a charming timbre I don't believe I ever used before,
at least not in such a major way: the African harp. Its sound came alive for
the main voice of Pink Monkey, surrounded by a through-composed composite percussion
voice of tabla, dholak and dhol timbres, along with bombo, timbale and tamborim
ostinatos. (Sitar and pipa timbres were also considered for the main melodic
Pink Monkey was engendered by a song I heard on a rerun of Soul Train
featuring a female group from the eighties. (I will track down the name of this
gifted group.) Their performance was terrifically exciting, and I instantly
imagined a piece that transmitted the expressive essence using the melodic figure,
originally a bass line, heard at my composition's opening voiced by the Korean
ching, and repeated three times, including the beginning of each section, and
at the work's end.
Overall, the feeling of Pink Monkey is cheerful, playful and energetic, a convergence
of Indian, African and Latin American influences.
Even with my limited knowledge of history, I know that some scholars believe
that Southern India was originally populated by Africans, and the percussion
music of the Caribbean and South America was hugely influenced by Africans originally
forced over as slaves.
I have no idea if there is a species known as the pink monkey in Africa, India
or South America, but I like to think it does exist, and will resist checking
on the net, at least for now.
- Michael Robinson, September 2010, Los Angeles
© 2010 Michael Robinson
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