New premises for the bassguitar based on hardingfiddlers, griots and bluesmen
Mattis Kleppen, former research fellow at NTNU.
Could there be a fruitful connection between the proud and old tradition of griot´s in West–Africa and one of the worlds youngest and most unfinished instrument, the bassguitar?
By using the word ”griotism”, I refer to the the West-African tradition of being born into the role of a musician or a storyteller. The role of being a griot, is passed on from parent to child.
The aim of this project is to make a personal synthesis based on a fusion of three different musical traditions: Norwegian traditional folk music, the traditional music of Mali and Senegambia in West-Africa, and the traditional blues of the Missisippi delta in the USA. Furthermore the goal is that this synthesis will make new premises for the performance of the bassguitar.
The world-music methods of ”meetings” between musicians of different traditions, and use of distant sampling and studio remixing is not what I am going to use. By studying each tradition as intimate as possible and applying the learning methods used within each tradition, I aim to make this personal synthesis. My ability to hear and grasp the main elements of these traditions will therefore be the most important issue.
The title ”Bassgriotism” reflects a personal dimention of heritage, kinship and local traditions. In Norway ”griotism” does not exist, but many familys are being particularily conscious of traditions and musical ancestors. As a child, this knowledge was passed on to me both by my parents and my grandparents. During my youth, there was also a very big movement of bluesmusicians in my area. This made a strong impact on me, and left me with a feeling of growing up in two very related musical cultures. The natural next step of studiyng african music came a few years later. This somewhat creole mix makes this project very personal. It is not a calculated fusion of different musical traditions, it is the musical story of my childhood and my search for a indipendent musical voice that reveals where I come from.
African–american music has given the premises for the bassguitar up until now.
This projects goal is to try to borrow sound, playing technique and musicianship from the instruments and music of the three mentioned traditions, and through that renew the playing of the bassguitar. The hardingfiddle and jews harp of Norway, the kora and n´goni of West–Africa and the slideguitar of Missisippi will lend its sound to the bassguitar. Or you can say more correctly, that you borrow the sound of the bassguitar to play these instruments.
The project will be recorded and presented both in a solo situation and as part of differenent ensembles. The natural arena and context for this project are live performances in front of an audience, and this will be done all through the research period.