CD+DVD Reviews

Thierry Van Roy & Melanie Gabriel – Taïga Maya – Naïve DVD + CD + 220 p. Book

Unclassifiable; multidimensional; fascinating; an alternate history.

Published on June 26, 2012

Thierry Van Roy & Melanie Gabriel – Taïga Maya – Naïve DVD + CD + 220 p. Book (2010) NV 816591 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

This project is entirely different from most combo DVD + CD albums. It is the product of contemporary French musician and writer Thierry van Roy and Peter Gabriel’s daughter Melanie, who is interested in ethnic music. Here is what Van Roy says of the very unusual project: “My concept of Music-Fiction, based on the principle of alternative history, consisting in rewriting history of the past or future and to imagine a music that could have existed or might exist. Taïga Maya is the traditional music of a future civilization, born from the fortuitous and virtual encounter of the Siberian Yakuts and the Mayans of southern Mexico a few years after the major Earth disaster of 2012. In a shamanic way, Taïga Maya tries to show the need to be connected to the real essence of life, to Nature, and to open our spirit to the non-ordinary reality that surrounds us.”

Taïga Maya can seem alternately fascinating as well as maddening. I first viewed the video DVD, then read the book, and finally listened to a few of the tracks on the CD. The year is 2042 and the young girl Taïga Maya has collected the few remaining archives of what they call “The Circadian World” (pre-dating the disaster of 2012). It is the story of the ancient world where day and night were still alternating. Now there is no night; the earth has turned on its axis and the North Pole is either in Manchuria or on the Equator—it’s not clear in the text. Somehow the small group of Mayan survivors in the Yucatan, led by a Siberian Yakut astronomer who moved there some years earlier, treks North thru what had been the U.S. to the Bering Straits—where all the water has moved to the dark southern hemisphere and there are trees and a land crossing similar to millions of years ago when early man came across the straits and down into North America. I wanted to know more about their meeting and integration with the Siberians who were treking east across the straits, and about the community they founded there, but the book just ends suddenly. There is a section of many photos and illustrations at the back of the bound book.

The DVD is a very loose collection of  about two hours worth of videos shot both in Siberia and in the Yucatan by different people without any connection between them. However, it is pointed out that there are many subtle similarities between the two entirely different cultures and in fact their DNA has been found to be almost identical. The videographer in Siberia never seems to clean his lens, and the videos are pretty jumpy, but they give an unusual feeling of what life is like there. They never use the word “minus”—only using plus when the temperature is above zero. (It’s normally about -65 F. in winter.) The end of the Soviet system has made life extremely difficult for them. Some of the reindeer hunters have had to return to nomadic life in the forests because they simply cannot afford the expensive food in stores. The importance of the shaman is strong in the Yakut culture and part of a ceremony is preserved in the videos.

Both cultures oddly emphasize the jaws-harp in their music. While a little of the Yakut vocals sung by young girls in the videos is quite beautiful, the Mexican music of the Mayans is much more listenable and enjoyable. Only a few of the 13 tunes on the CD featuring Melanie in the lead vocals (sometime with a second vocalist) come out of the Yakut culture. A few use the stopped-vocal sounds (don’t know the actual name for that) of Yakut singing. In some instances one vocalist sings in the language of the culture and then Melanie follows with the tune in English. Some are accompanied by Ukrainian zither, the jaws-harp and one even by tuned turtle shells. The other songs feature a variety of ethnic instruments back them, including charango, steel drums, cuatro, oud, guitars, dobro, accordion, flutes, harmonica, Mexican harp, as well as hand-claps, zapateos, and various percussive instruments. The bound book has detailed credits on each track, and a page of notes plus translations of all the songs are included.

—John Sunier




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