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Bang On A Can Meets Kyaw Kyaw Naing

Release Date: 09/14/2004 
Label:  Cantaloupe   Catalog #: 21023   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Khaw Khaw Naing
Performer:  Khaw Khaw Naing
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bang on a Can
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 44 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KHAW KHAW NAING Hsaing Kyaik De maung. Seik Kyu Ahla 1 & 2. Sein Ozi. NAY MYO BALA THU & ALINKAR KYAW SWAR U & ANON Ka Pya Chi. SEIN CHIT TEE & U THAN KYIN Sein Chit Tee A Mhat Ta Ya. UHLA PE & U THAN KYIN Japan Patsan/Taethit Muhan Gita Than. GITA LULIN KO KO Kyi Nu Bwe

This is the sort of increasingly unclassifiable cross-cultural collaboration that’s brewing globally nowadays, of which this disc is a particularly fresh and successful example. Khaw Khaw Naing is the leading proponent of Burmese circle drumming, a technique where a soloist sits surrounded by drums and produces a bewildering (and thrilling) rhythmic-timbral texture. Of course, the old tradition of the American “one-man-band” comes to mind,
Read more but imagine it grafted onto gamelan and one starts to get a sense of the sound. In addition, the drums have a very precise tuning, and a beautiful watery sound (which seems to slide a little, like the African “talking drum”). The effect is exciting, sensuous, and calming all at once. It’s a vehicle for display of enormous virtuosity.

The Bang on a Can All-Stars is (as most know by now) the “house band” for the eponymous festival and new-music promoting organization. The members are all virtuosos who have a special interest and technical acumen for new music, combined with an insatiable curiosity for the new, which means not just avant-garde experimentation but also crossing various stylistic boundaries. Here they collaborate with Naing (and a couple of his compatriots, playing si wa, which by my guess is the ongoing background pulse; anyone more knowledgeable is free to correct me, as this is not explained either in the CD or on the Cantaloupe Web site). Three of the tracks are Naing soloing, one is his own composition with ensemble, one is a group improvisation with each player taking a solo, and the remaining cuts are works by Burmese composers.

The sound of the ensemble pieces (arranged by Chris J. Miller) is great—fresh, fun, and clear. Nothing is so showy as to get in the way of the basic musical materials. The pieces are highly sophisticated, and have the visceral drive and lyricism of great pop music. They can be soulful song or a throbbing groove, and often move from one to another in a single piece. Indeed, one of the most striking and pleasurable aspects of this music is how quickly and fluidly it moves from one rhythmic state to another. There’s a great poetry in the shifts of tempo and pattern, and it’s a great credit to the All-Stars that they evidence the same sort of “turn-on-a-dime” time-sense as Naing in his solos.

The fact that we have so many different approaches to this music, ranging from the “purest” (the drum solo pieces) to the frankly crossover (the improvisations) is a plus. The collaboration isn’t forced into any single format, and one gets a good sample of the source, as well as its intersection with Western practice. And unlike some such syntheses, this one seems respectful but not too reverent, a jam where great players of all sorts are able to listen to one another and contribute to an integrated whole.

The sound is immediate, very up—like hearing the show close up in a club. This is a high concept that really works, and highlights the best of what Bang on a Can does.

Robert Carl, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Hsaing Kyaik De maung by Khaw Khaw Naing
Performer:  Khaw Khaw Naing (Drums)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bang on a Can
Seik Kyu Ahla by Khaw Khaw Naing
Performer:  Khaw Khaw Naing (Drums)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bang on a Can

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