Intense rhythm. Unique sounds. Cultural respect and musical understandingâ€”all come together for Xavier Rudd’s latest album, "Koonyum Sun." His first time with a South African Rhythm section, this work represents the musical endeavors of Rudd, Tio Moloantoa (Bass), and Andile Nqubezelo (drums). The trio met in 2008 at Austria’s Nuke Festival, and will be hitting the United States this fall as Xavier Rudd and Izintaba.
Rudd, an accomplished guitarist, percussionist, didgeridoo and harmonica player, among other instruments, chatted with Blast from Melbourne, Australia, about the new album and his musical background
BLAST: Your new album has an African influence correct?
XAVIER RUDD: Yeah, yeah.
BLAST: Many artists had incorporated this type of influence in the 80s ( Peter Gabriel’s song, Biko, after South African activist Steve Biko, particularly stands out) Do you feel that with so many issues going on nationally, individuals sometimes forget global conflicts not directly presented to them, and that directing your musical energy to a culture will bring awareness to it?
XR: Yes, I think so, yeah, I do. I think that over time there’s a lot of issues that are almost in and out of control. I think that music is â€¦a way to bring awareness in society. I mean music has the ability to sort ofâ€¦to break through barriers. Draw connection, connect cultureâ€¦and religion and countryâ€¦and people andâ€¦oppression and happiness.
So yeah, I think that it’s an important thing. Directing energyâ€¦yeah, I think thatâ€¦musicians can direct their energy to a cause and bring it to their heart (to bring awareness to their cause).
BLAST: In turn, how do you think music brings awareness to another culture’s beauty, as opposed to its social issues? Which one is more difficult to bring across?
XR: I don’t know, I haven’t noticedâ€¦well I guess my music focuses on environment and cultures and a lot of my music unconsciously respects that, it’s what sort of comes in my heart. A lot of times I’m not doing it for any reason; I’m not trying to write lyrics for (any reason). It just comes naturally. I haven’t really gotten involved musically in any conflict situations. I support a lot of environmental causes, but I haven’t been really on the front line with conflict. So I’d have to say I don’t really know.
Blast: Soâ€¦I have read articles suggesting that playing the didgeridoo reduces the impact of snoring and sleep apneaâ€¦
XR: All the didge players that I know snore!
Blast: But really, I have watched various performersâ€¦well, mainly music students playing the didgeridoo at recitals or jamming. Many had stated that it was difficult to convey a melody through itâ€”versus the rhythm. True? False? I’ve seen some didgeridoo players try very much to create a melody.
XR: Oh yeah, it’s impossible to play melody, it wasn’t made for it. You can voice harmonies through it. But in a sense it’s one note.
BLAST: In respect of that, being aâ€¦didgeridoo virtuoso is deemed as very difficult in terms of breath support with circular breathingâ€¦.I found records of players sustaining notes of up to forty minutes! How did you come to get involved in this instrument?
XR: I sort of played it most of my life and Yirdaki is the traditional name of an instrument that the didgeridoo derives from. (The instrument) is a message for aboriginal cultures, the strongest message that’s ever existed, and that connection is very important.
BLAST: Do you think most people are aware of the musical intricacies of this?
XR: Not a lot of people know, because it’s sort of swept under the carpet A lot of the culture is very unknown.
Blast: Now your new lineup sounds like a rhythm overloadâ€”in a good way. Is there something in particular that drew you to this?
XR: We met in Australia and had this heavy connection-spiritually, musically, emotionally. We’ve become great friends. That’s basically the story, you know, I just feel really blessed, and they’re such beautiful people to be around. I feel really, really blessed.
Blast: Do you think working with these … what many would label as â€˜world beats’, as opposed to American or European styles, is something you always had an ear for? Are there certain feelings of syncopation or timing you’ve been more attuned to?
XR: I think so, yeah. The way I play, or approach my instruments is very rhythmical, more percussion based. So, I think so, for sure. This is a perfect match for the way I play.
BLAST: Are there any other types of music or cultures you see yourself delving into in the future?
XR: I don’t think too much about that stuff. What happens happens and you can’t really predict it. I’m interested in a lot of cultures and a lot of different music. I like to play, I like to learn about that culture and music, I don’t really have aspirations to any particular style, but at the same time I find that I am very blessed on my journey. There are a lot of cool opportunities that arise.
BLAST: Anything you’d like to add?
XR: Where are you from?
XR: Oh wicked! Well, Boston, Massachusetts is one of my favorite places; people are very friendly and fun and I look forward to coming through there.