BOHP_2007-06-18 - Charlie Mariano - 8
FB: Once you were back in the east, you were involved with, as we said, Charles Mingus for a while and Mccoy Tyner. But you also had a growing interest in the music from the Far East, and I was wondering how that came about. CM: Well, it probably all started... Let me first say that around that time like in the fifties we were already, most musicians in America were acquainted with Ravi Shankar and these people. It was all North Indian music. So we knew some of these names: Ravi Shankar, Ismila Khan, Shanaikla, Alaraka, and so on. We were already associated with those names, so we had heard some of that. For myself, I was still too much into bebop to be influenced by that at all. But then it all started to change when, probably because I was getting older anyhow, and as you get older your musical tastes start to change a little bit or start to gel. I don't even know what the reason for that is, and probably not all musicians experience that, but I did. I wasn't looking for anything new, but I was probably not satisfied with, like, what I knew up to that point. You know, I had to be satisifed with it because that's what I was doing. But then I started to hear other things. So it all probably started with me when I went to Japan, and then I lived in Japan for two years, and of course I heard a lot of that music. In general, Asian music is built on different premises. They're not dealing with harmonies at all. The West, we are, as improvisers we are controlled by what we improvise by the chord changes and chord progressions and so on. Asian music is not like that. They don't have any harmonies, really. So it's all melodic. And so I started to be interested in that when I heard Japanese music, and it was beautiful. And I said, 'Well look at this. This has nothing to do with what I know, but it's beautiful music.' Are you acquainted with Gagaku music? FB: I've heard some of it, yes. CM: I mean this is like imperial court music that exists in Japan even to this day. It came from China originally, and then it died out in China but still exists in Japan. And this is fantastic, man! I went to see a Gagaku concert when I was living in Japan... I mean, unbelievable. You have a whole bunch of musicians on stage and there's nobody leading or anything. They just play, but everybody knows when to come in exactly. You know, because everybody's listening to each other, and they know where they're supposed to come in. It's a natural flow. Wonderful, wonderful. Anyhow... FB: Is this the music that accompanies No Dramas? CM: No, but probably similar to it. FB: You have a large number of koto and other string instruments... CM: Yeah, there were different instruments involved. There's the shiriki, which is like a double reed instrument, there's a flute ire, (FB: shakahachiand percussion) Yeah, I'm not sure. I don't remember but... yeah, all those... koto, shamisin, and... FB: So this sort of struck a chord with your... didn't strike a chord, it struck a note with your lyric muse. CM: Yeah, but I still didn't get into it. I started to get into it heavily when I was still teaching at Berklee. I started to teach at Berklee again from 1965, and in 1967 I was sent to Malaysia to Kuala Lumpur to coach the ??? Malaysia big band. And I think Herb had been there either the year before or two years before that. I don't remember now. I think maybe the year before. Anyhow, I was in Kuala Lumpur for five or six months. FB: That's a long time. CM: Yeah, it was fantastic! And so I learned so much there... about food (laughs). Because Malaysia is marvelous. You have all these ethnic groups there. I'm talkin about this time 'cause I don't know how it is now. At that time, in 1967, there were maybe like 45 per... no, maybe even more... 55 percent of the population were Malayas and about 35% Chinese from different parts of China. So the food... and then Indians about 12 percent or something like that. And the rest were mixed. Some Europeans and other people. Even the Chinese, for instance, you could get the common Cantonese food, but I think most of the people came from Fro???. They were brought there originally to work the tin mines and the rubber plantations. And a lot of them came without women, so they married Malay women, and out of this grew Nyonya cuisine, which were Malay women cooking for their Chinese husbands. So you have like a fantastic combination there. You know, this is great. There's also Straits Chinese cuisine. FB: Okay. CM: And about the music, when I first got there, before I started to work, they brought me around to visit different temples and things. One of the temples that I visited was a Hindu temple in downtown Kuala Lumpur. And I heard this music they were practicing in the back of the temple. And I said, 'Wow what is that?!', so they brought me back there, and I listened to the music, and this is the first time I had heard ???. It's a double reed instrument related to the oboe. It's a South Indian instrument also used in Sri Lanka. And it's related to the Shanai of North India. FB: Is it wood rather than metal? CM: It's wood. FB: Does it have a bell like an English horn? Is there like a globe at the end of it? CM: No, it does have a bell, but it's straight and it's long... it's about like maybe this long. At that time it was pitched in Eb. Now it's pitched in D. Don't ask me why. It's the same instrument, but i guess (laughs) maybe it was easier that way. And so I heard this instrument, and I asked the man who was playing it who was the chief musician of that temple if I could study with him and he said yes. So, that's when I started to study Carnatic music, which is South Indian classical music. And then as a result of that, a few years later when I was living in Europe... I moved to Europe in 1971 just to see how it would go, and it started to go fine, so I was busy playing, and I didn't have to teach anymore. Not that I don't like to teach, but teaching at that time for me was a little bit too much like a day job, because I was doing 30 hours a week, and that's not including the time that you have to take to make up tests and correct them and this and that. And I wanted to play more. While I was at Berklee at that time from 1965 to 1971, they would let me out sometimes. I did three tours with Astrud Gilberto, mostly Japan, and some other places. FB: The Brazilian influence had already struck big by then. CM: Oh yeah, sure. And I had a few other gigs, but not too many. So, it was nice to get to Europe because I got to play more. And that's what I love to do mostly.