The collective known as “The Revolution of Ants” is a nice concept. From what I’ve seen, there is no stable lineup and semi-structured songs. Vahan Papazian plays sitar backed by a revolving cast of percussionists, an occasional vocalist, and whoever else happens to play an instrument. They were performing at Dany’s in Hamra, which I had never been to previously.
It started an hour later than it was supposed to, but for some reason I didn’t give a damn. Upon entering Dany’s, I was surprised to see that it was quite small and lacking a space dedicated for performances. Then the guy said it’s downstairs. I was reminded of EM Chill, with its little narrow ground floor room, in contrast to its spacious basement. Well, the downstairs room was even fuckin’ smaller. Seriously, it looked like a room you rent for a children’s birthday party… one with a bar and ashtrays.
Thus, as time passed, the show eventually began, as they always do.
It was Papazian on sitar, with two percussionists. As I’ve said before, the group doesn’t have structured songs, but they aren’t 100% impromptu jams, for the sitar always plays the same tune, and the percussions are improvised around that. So I was expecting to hear something I recognize. The “jam” that has been played first in previous performances I have witnessed was again played first. I can’t really use the word “setlist” properly with this type of music, but come on! At least switch the pieces around a bit.
So “jam #1” (which I could hum the main tune to you if I wasn’t limited to the text I’m typing, for I have memorized it at this point) was done. Onwards!
By the way, right in front of the stage, I mean, slightly elevated platform, there was a plank of wood attached to some metal bars horizontally… a table, with three seats. That thing was purposefully designed to block the view… Dammit Dany’s…
Second piece involved some synth, in the form of a jazzy drumloop and synth-bassline. Once again, sitar, percussions, etc… But the sitar was extremely similar to the previous piece. Let’s expand on this for a minute:
On the subject of similarity of sitar tunes in each piece, fellow audience member Karim (I hope you read this somehow) stated that we’re used to hearing guitar so much, we recognize the differences between styles and scales almost immediately. With sitar, the only time we are exposed to it is in this “exotic” context. So we, who are not avid Indian music listeners, find it hard to differentiate between one exotic melody and another, while an Indian musician perhaps may discriminate between the most seemingly identical tunes, in terms of scale and tuning and whatnot.
At one point the percussionists had a solo, which was unnecessarily long, but I guess that word does not exist in the dictionary of a jam ensemble. But other than the duration, they were not really “soloing”, they just kept the beat that they had going, minus everything else. Preferrably they should alter the beat, speed it up, slow it down, anything to signify independence from what was previously being played. But no, just an extension…
Then it got interesting. A nay player joined the lineup. To warm us up, just a nay and percussion piece with an Armenian-Israeli thing going on. I think that was when a bass player joined, and Papazian traded in the exotic sitar for a plain ol’ guitar. What followed was a rather upbeat yet apocalyptic piece, with the bass being borderline-funky, the percussion and nay energetic, and the guitar (played with a slide and effects applied) screeched and squealed. That was a good piece of music.
At this point my eyes started watering from the cloud of death that had slowly been exhaled into the room. Someone must have thought I was moved by the music, but those tears were not tears of joy, oh no no no…
Then it was guitar and bass playing blues to the backdrop of tribal percussions and occasional nay interjections.
And the performance concluded with a piece for sitar, bass, nay, synth, and percussions.
So let me just say what I had already thought of the group, even before this particular performance. I love the diversity in instrumentation and experimentalism. If they were to compose something, with a specific length, and maybe lyrics, I’d love it. But this diversity is defeated when you play the same “jams” in the same order every time. And I guess this is just a “me” thing now, but I am not a huge fan of “ensembles”; Musicians that just play together randomly without purpose… forever and ever. I am more into structure. I think jamming is to express oneself and have fun, and the result of a jam session should be a structured song. You jam, afterwards you say “Hey, that spontaneously played piece we came up with just now was pretty cool! It truly inspired me! Let’s write some lyrics and lay them over it!” What is the point of a perpetual jam then? Or a jam where you always play the same thing? I think they have reached this “point of inspiration”, but refuse to go through with organizing a composition or writing lyrics. I am just a listener and I’ve reached the “point of inspiration” in their place! Hell, it’s not even my music, but I know that what they have already come up with is enough to compose at least two songs! If they recorded each instrument separately and sent me the files, I bet I could loop here and overdub there, and the result would be a pretty neat Indo-electro instrumental that would just need some vocals.
I know you can’t always have things your way, but I’m just declaring what I’d prefer they do. What they already do is quite interesting and I’d hate for this to go to waste.