Al-Andalus Playlist

One of my loves is flamenco music, and along with it, all music of North Africa and the Middle East — especially music that harkens back to the era when Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived together in southern Spain.

Here’s a sampling of some great music of the Al-Andalus diaspora.

The first is a clip of a movie called “Ladino: 500 Years Young.” Ladino is the language that Jews spoke in Spain, and when they left for North Africa, Mexico, and other places, they took their language and their songs with them. The film follows Yasmin Levy, an Israeli singer who breathes new life into old Sephardic songs.

The second is a wonderful excerpt from an all-female concert in Morocco. The music blends flamenco, Sephardic songs, Arab music, and other music as well. It’s an incredible back-and-forth that always gives me chills when I watch it.

Here’s a song called Wahashtini, recently sung by an American who shocked everyone by placing 3rd in “Arab’s Got Talent:”

And finally, two songs from the very old Spanish song collection, “Cancionero de Palacios.” This song is called Tres Morillas. The first line goes, “I fell in love with three Moorish girls in Jaen: Axa, Fatima, and Marien…”

This last one is called Pase el Agua. It’s in old Catalan, I think:

Go Where You’re the Only One

I’ve been reading a lot about marketing and promotion lately. So, here’s my first marketing post, about my personal experience in the world of music promotion.

Before my Lyme-tastic hiatus, as a singer-songwriter I frequently attended music conferences like SXSW and Folk Alliance.  Every March during SXSW, all of the musicians schlepped all their gear around Austin, trying to get heard over the din of 1,000 other bands, and hoping against hope that “somebody” would make it to their showcase. I found experiences like this very frustrating; the headache and expense of attending the conference was high, the ratio of musicians to industry folks was 10 to 1, and most industry folks already had a list of bands they wanted to see. The chances that your music would be “discovered” were really quite tiny.

If I’d been smart, I would’ve avoided the music conferences completely. Instead, I would have gone to the SXSW Interactive conference, where hundreds of bloggers and technorati all assemble, hungry for new content. One tweet or mention from a well-known blogger could easily be worth the price of admission in terms of web traffic and promotion. And there’s much less competition to hand your CD to a blogger than there is to hand it to a DJ.

So, one trick in marketing and promotion is to approach your target audience using a method where there’s much less competition. For example:

  • A musician at a tech blogger’s conference.
  • An artist who creates space-themed art at an astrophysics conference. Wear a t-shirt of your own design to the conference, and when every astrophysict says, “Wow, that’s a great design! Where did you get that?” you tell them it’s your own design. Orders will come pouring in…and it’s way less competitive than an art show.
  • A writer with a PhD, writing for Oprah Magazine. A layman-level article about important scientific findings in Oprah Magazine, Parade, or another “déclassé” publication would reach millions of readers and further the public discussion more than another dry academic journal article.
  • A scientist at a Science Fiction writer’s convention. You could collaborate with one of the writers by providing them with the nuts-and-bolts science to back up their futuristic story.

So, in sum:

Go where you’re the only writer, artist, musician, quilter, massage therapist in that space.

Go where they need you.

Go where there’s not a lot of you.

Go where you’re the only one.


OMG! So excited to see that Take 6 is coming to Austin! These guys have such tight vocal harmonies that it defies description.

I’m psyched they’re still touring . . . and after all this time, they’re still Take 6, and they haven’t downsized to Take 5 or Take 4 or Take 3 1/2 or Take Pi.

Cause “Take 3.14126535897” just doesn’t have the same ring.

Here’s Goldmine, just one of their awesome songs.

Dark Matter: Tips for Musicians

If any of y’all play guitar and are interested in learning to play Dark Matter, here are some tips.

The fun thing about playing this song is that while the guitar part sounds hard, it’s not! (Hooray for lazy musicians!)

Actually the hardest part is retuning the guitar to this funky tuning:

C# C# C# C# G# C#

Note: This tuning is never going to be 100% in tune, so just give it your best shot. The strings stay in tune better after about half an hour at this tension.

The first chord you hear on the song is open, in other words:

C# C# C# C# G# C#  == 0 0 0 0 0 0

Then I slide two fingers up and down the neck, so for example:

0 0 0 9 0 9 –> 0 0 0 10 0 10

0 0 0 9 0 9 –> 0 0 0 10 0 10

0 0 0 9 0 9 –> 0 0 0 10 0 10

0 0 0 9 0 9 –> 0 0 0 10 0 10

0 0 0 9 0 9 –> 0 0 0 10 0 10 –> 0 0 0 12 0 12

etc. on down the neck

Hope this gives you the tools to start!


Fun Music Nerd Facts: 

This is the tuning used on Joni Mitchell’s “Carey” — which is where I learned it —  and CSN’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” among others.

Apparently, Dark Matter is in Dorian mode. Who knew? I only figured that out last night, years after writing the song. (Actually, it’s in C# Dorian – which is slightly perverse but there it is).

Also, if you’re not a music nerd, don’t worry if you don’t know about things like modes. Reading music, knowing music theory and all that stuff is helpful for some, completely irrelevant for others. This guy only recently learned how to read music, and he’s . . . oh . . . just the best guitarist in the world.

An Even Higher Level of Nerdvana

I am honored to say that my song “Dark Matter” has been featured on another episode of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Star Talk Radio. My geek cred has just gone up exponentially.**

The new episode is Cosmic Queries: Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Full of all sorts of geeky goodness, including Dr. Who references, and Neil explaining why Dark Matter should really be called “Fred.”


** So exponentially, I want to write a function for the increasing slope of my geek cred.

I Have Reached Nerdvana

Geeks! Do you know who Neil Degrasse Tyson is?

Well, you should! He’s a badass astrophysicist. Head of the Hayden Planetarium. Frequent guest on The Daily Show. And host of an all-things-science-and-geeky podcast called Star Talk Radio.

(How geeky is the podcast? He interviewed Whoopi Goldberg about her role as Guinan on Star Trek. Yesssss! So Awesome!)

Aaaaaaand (drumroll please): My song Dark Matter was featured in a short clip at the top of his latest podcast!

I am such a geek! I have achieved Nerdvana!

I will now sit atop my Geek Mountain while other acolytes come to me, seeking to attain GeekLightenment.