Kan’Nal: Ancient To The Future
Genre: World Beat
Label: Cage Free Records
Grassroots music. New Music. The underground. Keepin’ it real. These catch phrases are thrown around all the time. Most of the time, but not always, these terms have no meaning, as most overused music scene clichés are just that. In this case these terms have meaning, accurate and precise. Kan’Nal’s music is described as shamanic rock and that is so true. This seven-person group came together in a magical way, and that is reflected in the music on their new CD, Dreamwalker.
The leader of the group - perhaps tribe or gypsy band would be more accurate - is Tzol. Originally from Austin, Texas, he followed his inner muse and wandered to Central and South America where he had what can only be described as a spiritual epiphany. While exploring a cave, he sat and meditated. After some time, he was seized by an unseen force that made him run from the cave into the night. There he found himself face to face with a female shaman, who guided him through a metaphysical doorway to a new life journey. While some may think this tale is hocus pocus, consider: given the scientifically accepted connection between matter and energy (you wanna diss Einstein and Stephen Hawking, go ahead) and the untapped powers of the mind, who can say this didn’t actually happen? The music sure indicates that something happened to Tzol.
Attracting members from Texas, Toronto, Canada, and other places, this group has honed its unique vision of psychedelic music and ritual through hard work on the road. “(In our early performances) we played mainly in courtyards and behind people’s homes,” explains Tzol,“ which we’d decorate . . . with flowers we’d picked and anything else we could find to create these extravagant displays. We’d have people walking around feeding everyone . . . juice or grapes or wine . . . We wanted . . . to stimulate all the senses and go beyond them to some other level.”
On Dreamwalker they achieve this goal. Drawing on various musical traditions from around the world - Middle Eastern scales and rhythms, bells, the didgeridoo -and combining them with rock, they create music that makes the listener dance with abandon; ever-building grooves and melodies are intended to take the listener on otherworldly musical journeys. Songs like the CD opener “Gypsy,” “Oxlahun” and “Desert Flower” feature driving, flamenco-spiced guitars both acoustic and electric, burning leads by lead guitarist Tierro and musical colors from samples, didgeridoo and percussion courtesy of Aaron Ierad. Particularly noteworthy is drummer/percussionist Gilly Gonzales, who is the music’s engine of shamanic energy. The lyrics, particularly those on “Desert Flower,” are mostly about spiritual transformation:
Can you see me now/ I’m on my knees a broken man by the fire / I’ve been dreaming I’m been wide awake/ I’m laughing I’m chanting, I’m dancing I’m dreaming, I’m loving it’s good to be alive . . . shake my bones ‘til they shatter, shake my soul!
The songs build on swirling rhythms that make the body move in ways not normally done in clubs. The music rises and falls, has improvisation and structure like jazz. It reminds one of the psychedelic rock the ‘60s and ‘70s bands Gong or Pink Floyd. But where these bands’ approaches are spacey and cerebral, Kan’Nal is alive and earthy with chants and the drumming of the Third World, from Africa to South America.
Other songs are gentle explorations, such as the ballad “Time” and “All Things Change.” These songs feature Tzol and the band in a quiet mood, with the bombast of other tracks reduced to a shimmer. The song “Dreamwalker,” a blend of the two extremes on the album, shows the band at their best with music both intense and powerful, yet soft, a blend that perfectly enhances the lyrics:
Open your eyes within your dreams / it’s time to understand our life is the mystery / the son of the ancients / is calling my spirit / I’m learning a language / older than the sun . . . So follow your heart / after all this is your dream / and we can make believe any and everything / can you feel that connection / right to the root of creation / until the son of the ancients / older than the sun.
A promotional video on their website captures the pure energy and spectacle of the their show. Tzol is the shaman-leader, clearly a commanding presence; Mr. Gonzales flails on a startling array of drums and percussion with his hands; theatrical and ritual dance is provided by the elaborately costumed Teresita and Akayal. The true feeling of celebration and journey is captured on the three impeccably recorded live cuts “Animal Angel,” “Sun and Moon,” and "Dreamwalker." On these cuts the spontaneous roar of the audience give proof through the day and night that Kan’Nal, flying in the face of music devoid of magic, nourish the listener in mind, body and spirit. Their music comes from the roots, roots that run deep to a real place that bands seldom get to. No, really. They fly their freak flag high.
To contact the band, see and hear their clips, get their music, and more information go to kannal.org.
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