Bill Laswell & Laraaji
December 16th, 2017 at Bushwick United Methodist Church
Laraaji Nadabrahmananda is one of new age's most distinctive, prolific, and charismatic artists. A master of multiple instruments, Laraaji primarily constructs his lengthy, meditative soundscapes from an electronically altered zither, hammered dulcimer, kalimba, synthesizers, piano, and other instruments, as well as natural sounds and vocals. Since first gaining exposure in the early '80s after a chance meeting with ambient innovator Brian Eno, Laraaji has released countless cassettes and albums, including collaborations with several electronic, experimental, rock, and dub musicians. In addition to his musical career, he is well known for his Laughter Meditation Workshops.
Brian Eno happened to come across one of his performances in Washington Square Park and dropped a card into his instrument case. This led to Eno producing his first widely available release, Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, issued on EG Records in 1980. His Flow Goes the Universe CD was produced in collaboration with Michael Brook while a recent release by the Italian recording company Vel-Net, which is titled My Orangeness, brings together Laraaji and noted Italian "New Age" musicians. In 1998, Laraaji played zither on Sacrifice, an album by Bill Laswell's ambient project Divination, released by Meta Records. Laraaji went on to release a prolific series of albums for a wide variety of labels, many of which he recorded himself at home and sold as cassettes during his street performances.
In addition to concerts, Laraaji has, for many years, been an important contributor to healing Arts festivals and conferences as his beautiful Celestial sounds create a warm and soothing atmosphere for both presenters and visitors. The Healing Sounds Intensive with Jonathan Goldman, the Life Spectrums Conference and the Freedom Healing Arts Festival are listed as his annual conferences.
A devotee of the late Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, founder of the Ananda Ashram in Harriman, New York, Laraaji is the creator and facilitator of Laughter Meditation Workshops in the United States and abroad; empowering workshops that acknowledge and honor the ability of our laughter to take us into deep relaxation and receptivity to meditation.
Over the course of some three decades, visionary bassist-producer Bill Laswell has been one of the most prolific and restlessly creative forces in contemporary music. A sound conceptualist who has always been a step ahead of the curve, he has put his inimitable stamp on nearly 3,000 recording projects by such artists as Mick Jagger, Yoko Ono, Iggy Pop, Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, Bootsy Collins, Nine Inch Nails, Motorhead, Peter Gabriel, Blur, The Ramones, George Clinton, Pharaoh Sanders, The Dalai Lama, Matisyahu, Angelique Kidjo, DJ Krush, RAMM:ΣLL:ZΣΣ, Sting, The Last Poets, Afrika Bambaataa, Julian Schnabel, Whitney Houston, Manu Dibango, Fela Kuti and most notably Herbie Hancock, who collaborated with Laswell for the pivotal 1983 smash-hit single "Rock-It" which introduced scratching to the mainstream, inspired a generation of turntablists and gave the great jazz pianist instant street credibility among the burgeoning hip-hop cognoscenti.
Laswell's sense of creative daring as a producer was further demonstrated on several recordings that have kept him on the cutting edge, including Afrika Bambaataa's collaboration with John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols fame) on World Destruction and PiL's Album (which brought together an unlikely pairing of drumming greats Ginger Baker and Tony Williams, synth-pop pioneer Ryuichi Sakamoto of Yellow Magic Orchestra fame and rising guitar star Steve Vai). His spoken word collaborations with William S. Burroughs and expatriate writer-composer Paul Bowles have gone against the grain of music industry trends while his radical remixes (or re-constructions) of landmark recordings by Miles Davis (Panthalassa), Carlos Santana (Divine Light), Bob Marley (Dreams of Freedom) and a vast scan of dub-related and atmospheric ambient projects have gone on to further defined Laswell’s presence as a revolutionary ikonoklast.
Bill Laswell has helped in generating several innovative recording labels such as Celluloid, Subharmonic, Black Arc, and Innerhythmic. Along with Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records (Bob Marley and U2), he established the AXIOM label in 1989. M.O.D. Technologies, his most recent imprint is releasing projects by Method Of Defiance, Lee "Scratch" Perry, PRAXIS, Garrison Hawk with Sly & Robbie, Bernie Worrell, The Process (with Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Chad Smith and pianist Jon Baptiste) and progressive/futuristic music from Ethiopia (CDs/DVDs).
As a player, Laswell’s bass lines resound with rare authority on groundbreaking projects by Tabla Beat Science (with Zakir Hussain and Ustad Sultan Khan), his avant-funk band Material, the apocalyptic assault of Last Exit (with Sonny Sharrock), his progressive dub effected Method of Defiance and the throbbingly intense power trios, Massacre (with Fred Frith and Charles Hayward), Painkiller (with John Zorn and Mick Harris), Praxis (with Buckethead and Brain), Blixt (with Raoul Bjorkenheim and Morgan Agren) and the latest (2014) Bladerunner (with John Zorna and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo).
Laswell’s artistic reach has consistently extended to the continent of Africa, creating ground-breaking, evolutionary and controversial recording projects in Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Gambia and most recently, Ethiopia where he has established a base for developing new as well as legendary artists, just as he did in the South Bronx some 30 years ago. A veteran of 300 plus journeys to Japan, where he has worked with everyone from The Gagaku Orchestra (Japan's ancient music, only played for emperors for 1500 years), to avant-jazz, rock, hip-hop and DJ culture. An eternal musical renegade, Bill Laswell has always played by his own rules.
Ka Baird is a musician and artist residing in NYC. She is one of the founding and continuing members of the experimental outfit Spires That In The Sunset Rise founded in Chicago in September 2001. Described by late guitar legend Jack Rose as a "female Sun City Girls," STITSR have contributed a different slant to the New Folk movement by incorporating more experimental approaches and non-western techniques into their sound. Since relocating to NYC in November 2014, Baird has set off in numerous directions apart from Spires with new collaborations as well as honing in on her own solo work. Her current work explores piano improvisation, electroacoustic interventions, extended vocal techniques, physical movement, and her electronic manipulation of the flute. She has toured extensively both nationally and internationally with performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), MoMA PS1 (Brooklyn), Roulette Intermedium (Brooklyn), Issue Project Room (Brooklyn), Fridman Gallery, Cafe OTO (London), and numerous festival appearances with Spires including TUSK (Newcastle, UK), Incubate (Tilburg, Netherlands), and Festival Of Endless Gratitude (Copenhagen, DK). She also co-runs the label and concert organizer Perfect Wave with Camilla Padgitt-Coles.