DaGamba are an instrumental ensemble that brings together both Western and Eastern music, as well as classical and popular music, to create unique musical pastiches formed of individual parts from various sources. On their second album Recycled, they bring together a wide variety of styles, from classical to rock to traditional Persian music.
Dagamba formed in 2011, and now the group includes Latvians Valters Pūce and Antons Trocjuks on cello, Lithuanian pianist Dainis Tenis, and Iranian percussionist Hamidreza Rahbaralam (who plays traditional instruments like the daf, udu and dohol). The musicians’ first collaboration was on an arrangement of Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” from his work “Carmina Burana” (which is, unfortunately, not included on the album) and their unique blends have resonated not just in Latvia, but internationally as well (the group also performed as part of the Glastonbury Festival).
The title of Recycled is appropriate, as the group take existing material and reuse and refurbish it, creating something entirely new. For example, the group takes elements from Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s music for the ballet “Romeo and Juliet” and combine it with the theme music from the 1980s TV show “Knight Rider” in the work appropriately entitled “Prokofiev the Knight Rider”. These two dramatically disparate elements are melded together seamlessly by DaGamba, creating a unique synthesis. The Kinght Rider theme performed on cello gives it an added tension and urgency.
It may seem unusual to hear the works of Mozart and rock group Radiohead together, but DaGamba combine elements from Mozart’s “Requiem” and the Radiohead song “Paranoid Android” into a work titled “Paranoid Amadeus”. Though composed centuries apart, the sadness of Mozart’s “Lacrimosa” and alienation of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” flow together in an engrossing work of melancholy.
DaGamba’s Eastern influences and the talents of percussionist Rahbaralam come together in the work “Bach Goes to Iran”, which, as its name would indicate, combines the music of Johann Sebastian Bach with the music of Iran. The work begins with the well-known Prelude No. 1 by Bach, then with a dramatic mid-stream tempo and style change, naturally and organically changes into Persian motifs.
The group created the work entitled “It’s OK, it’s Latvia” by infusing elements from the Latvian rock band Pērkons’ song “Gandrīz tautas dziesma” (music by Latvian composer Juris Kulakovs) and perhaps the best known composition by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana – Vltava (or Moldau) from his work Má Vlast, music that embodied the spirit of the desire for Czech independence. Similarly, Kulakovs’ music often had national patriotic elements (though, considering that the 1980s were still well within the Soviet era, these patriotic elements were obliquely presented through the almost absurdist lyrics of Māris Melgalvs). These similarities allow the music of Smetana and Kulakovs to be fused together into a cohesive and catchy performance.
The packaging of the album is very limited – one wishes that they had provided a bit more detail on their choices, and why they put some of the compositions together. Also, the actual compositions that were “borrowed” are not identified (beyond naming the composer or group that performed them), so it is up to the listener to identify the works specifically. In some cases, the music is quite recognizable, but in some other cases it may not be so easily identified – some listeners might not be as familiar with the works of, say, Prokofiev.
Some listeners may be shocked by these occasionally incongruous combinations, but others will appreciate and enjoy the creative and inspired arrangements on DaGamba’s Recycled. Providing a fresh take on many well-known melodies, some hundreds of years in age, these modern interpretations and arrangements make them as relevant today as they were in centuries past. Merging the music of various composers and continents and centuries, DaGamba’s talented and skilled members provide new perspectives and viewpoints on these compositions. Using sources as diverse as Rachmaninoff and Muse, Handel and Celtic music, Beethoven, among many others, DaGamba’s Recycled is at once familiar and fresh, altogether an enjoyable and entertaining listen.
For further information, please visit the DaGamba website.
- Prokofiev the Knight Rider
- Irish Sarabande
- Bach goes to Iran
- Paranoid Amadeus
- Hysterical Rachmaninoff
- Ode to Joy
- It’s OK, it’s Latvia
- Solveig’s Song
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