The “Sagar” album by the electric-acoustic ambient project ZAINDIVELI combines in a well-balanced way a broad variety of styles, from jazz and progressive rock to ambient and psychedelic music. Still the true foundation of the album is classical Hindustani music dated back to the depths of ancient times, as well as dhrupad vocals you can hear in some of the compositions.
Many well-known musicians took part in making this album, such as Oleg Mariakhin, Sergey "Grebstel" Kalachov from Inna Zhelannaya band, Andrey Demidenko (dhrupad vocals and bansuri), Dmitry Losev (Tinavie and Safety Magic) and Vladislava Yakupova playing bila (Russian flat bells).
S.M.: Gena, tell us the history of Zaindiveli – when and how it all began, what you would call the most remarkable stages of development . Who was the impulsive force of the project during the first years of its existence, and does that initial impulse still influence the new participants?
G.L.: All in all, the embodiment of Zaindiveli as well as its impulsive force is me and Kirill Parenchuk. It all started in 1997, when we first went in for Hindustani music while learning to play tabla, and a few years later, probably due to performing a lot in Moscow tea clubs, we began to accumulate our own material based upon this musical tradition. Though I wouldn’t say we confine ourselves strictly to Hindustani. Since our tea-sessions ceased, there has been an increasing sensation of something missing in our lives, so now we are trying to find a new way to achieve a new level, because it is still interesting for each of us, and I hope for our audience as well.
S.M.: What can you say regarding the conception of the album and the meaning of its title?
G.L.: The conception is very simple, though it’s rather hard to put it verbally. In fact, all the compositions included in the album are based on Ableton Live sets remaining from our performances at tea clubs, and the rest is the growth of time. As for the music itself, well, of course it is rather contemplative, and on the whole meant for meditation of some kind, but unlike all this pragmatically structured “ambient” used at yoga-classes and seminars dedicated to discovering something uncertain, it is a word that has really been said. Far from being background music, it’s rather the comprehension of ambient appropriate to Brian Eno, Harold Budd, David Sylvian, Bill Laswell etc. Actually I think there’s a certain lack of tranquility and peace in music, despite it being so multivarious. And on the contrary, both Russian and Indian traditional music, particularly dhrupad represented in our project by Andrey Demidenko, is full of it. I don’t mean to say it’s only tranquility I am going to depict from now on by the sounds I make, but sometimes I really feel the necessity of this. That’s where the reason for this album lies. The title word “sagar” translated from Hindi means “sea” or “ocean”. The recording itself did not require any financial support, it being mostly made at home due to the modern ability of having the professional quality of equipment, but as concerns mastering and editing, we are really grateful to our old friends and partners SHAMRAY GUITARS for their inestimable assistance.
S.M.: What impresses greatly is the number and relevancy of electronic effects and samples. Who should get the credit for this? And where did the major work on processing the album tracks take place, at home or at a studio? How long did it all take, where did you get money for it?
G.L.: Most of the samples are our own, you can’t find them in any sound effects library. As for their number, this is just the growth of time, as I said, for it’s been five years since we started making this album. It took us so long mostly because of daily routine and being engaged in many other projects of no less interest. Besides, during the work on the album most of the participants had children of their own. Electronic sound effects are mainly produced by me and Kirill, though I can’t deny the total space-widening effect brought in by Dmitry Losev or the way Sergey “Grebstel” Kalachov transfigured our compositions. People like these are able to listen. The collaboration with such musicians was the best school for me. The whole thing is homemade, only the final mixing took place at a studio with the assistance of sound engineers Arsen Stepanian and Viktor Bulatov.
S.M.: In spite of the fact that the album is supposed to belong to Indian musical tradition, one can trace quite different cultures in your compositions. For instance, Mariakhin’s winds shift easily from the Mediterranian Balcanic sounds to the psychedelia of blues. So it’s a nut to crack why Radik Tulush and Anna Hoffman, the musicians you’ve been working quite a lot with, are not represented in the album. Were there any takes they took part in, not included in the final variant?
G.L.: Well, it just so happened that the basis of our music, or what might be called our musical system, turned to be Indian. But it would be wrong to call so the music itself. Indeed, it would be a real profanity. As for Oleg Mariakhin, he’s got the particular skill to put so much information in just a few notes that each passage of his deserves a musicological article. By the way, Oleg is also getting “indified” all right by learning Hindustani modes and rhythms. I think we’ll have more than one chance to create something worthwhile with Radik Tulush and Anna Hoffman who now acts at our live performances both as a dancer and a designer. It will hardly be overstating it to say there are plenty of ideas in plenty of areas, and it will take a lot of time and effort to make them real.
S.M.: Can you mention any particular music you listened to while working on your album?
G.L.: Not so easy to answer. I’ve been listening to various kinds of music lately. Sure I can name some Indian classics such as Zakir Hussain (including his works made with John McLaughlin), Vilayat Khan, Parveen Sultana, and on the other hand Erkan Oğur, Byzantine chants, Bach’s violin suites, Russian classics, Fanfare Ciocarlia, Taraf De Haidouks, Dhafer Youssef etc. But it’s really been a long time since we listened to something together, because each time we assemble, we play music of our own. Every now and then some new interesting musicians appear nearby, such as LRK Trio, Authentic Light Orchestra, Irina Pyzhianova, Theodosy Spasov, Norair Barseghian etc.
Zaindiveli, Sagar, ethno-ambient, world music, psychedelic, ambient, experimental, art-rock, jazz, electronics, Gena Lavrentiev, Oleg Mariakhin, Sergey Grebstel, Inna Zhelannaya, Radik Tyulush, Namgar, Tinavie, Safety Magic