The story behind the Title of noaccordion’s latest upcoming LP “Gurukula”

 

by Onah Indigo

For a month during December 2009 to January 2010 I traveled to Southern India accompanying 12 highschool seniors from Krishnamurti’s Oak Grove School based in Ojai, California. I had been a highschool art teacher there for 8 years and was chosen to lead the annual sister school senior trip to India.

Highschool Seniors plus two teachers

We visited 3 Krishnamurti boarding schools each for a week and then we finished up our trip at the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary in the rainforests of the far southern state of Kerala.

Oak Grove and Rishi Valley students
Oak Grove students performing at a school Mela

At the sanctuary I was entranced by this paradise, enticed by the concept behind saving plant diversity and during my visit I took many pictures and recorded bird and insect sounds.

air ferns

The name and place have always stuck with me and when I had finished the new LP this Spring I began to search for it’s name and the sanctuary came to mind so I decided to research what Gurukula meant.

Supi Seshan, co-director at Gurukula Botanical Santuary

I discovered that gurukula (teacher/family) was a type of residential schooling system in ancient India with shishya (students) living near or with the guru, in the same house and that this was the common form of education in India before British rule. For centuries India had been scattered with small intimate gurukuls. I thought the meaning of the word tied into my educational experiences at Oak Grove School and its sister schools in India so I decided to take it on as my newest LP title. I will give any profits made from the selling of this new music to the Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary.

 

This is the beginning passage of Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary’s Story:

For forty years we have been observing how habitats and species of this mountain biome can be nurtured to health from conditions of devastation. It is clear to us that forests and grasslands and other habitats of the Western Ghats can return.

Our story is a simple one. There are two strands to it: a why and a how.

Briefly, the Sanctuary is a small community that nurtures rainforest beings.

This requires first of all: a living rainforest (living habitat). There can be no rainforest beings – plants, animals and fungi – without an actual rainforest, be it large or small. Furthermore, there can be no sweet water, rain or cloud, without primary rainforest (primary habitat).

Second, because rainforests have been so horrifically and massively destroyed, it is those very same rainforest beings that can help to heal decimated areas around standing forest, so that the whole forest can grow outwards again.

Forests need their beings. Beings need their forests. Our work, as ecosystem gardeners, forest restorers, plant protectors and educators, draws its inspiration from this conversation between living beings and their environments, and the fact that they are inseparable. Moreover, gardening, anywhere in the world where it is practiced as a conversation, works with the seemingly dual nature of life: its fragility and its resilience.

Third, there can be no human life without the forests of the planet. There can be no atmosphere or biosphere or hydrocycle or steady state climate without the great forests of this earth. Despite this incontrovertible fact, more forests have been destroyed than ever before, since the dawn of the new millennium. Soon there will be no forests if human beings continue with their destructive ways.

This is where people like us come in: gardeners. Because of what we have seen (on a very small scale), forests can return – in fact they do return. But they will do so only if certain conditions are met and only with the right kind of help. This is critical: with the right kind of help, the whole forest, and all its beings, grows outwards again.

We are gardeners who have worked for forty years in the Western Ghat mountains, protecting primary forest on a small piece of land, and restoring bit by bit, adjacent areas that had been completely devastated, to forest cover. Where there used to be one or two species of exotic crop plants, or barren hillside, there are now several hundred plant species growing in abundance. In fact there are over two thousand species growing here, an example of how a small part of the biosphere can be nurtured with a magnificent diversity of native plants……..  

 

Visit http://www.gbsanctuary.org/ourstory.html to learn more.

 

This is an official PSA (Puppet Service Announcement)

This is an official PSA (Puppet Service Announcement)

Mama Nature Sing-A-Long music video releases on Earthday

Onah Indigo, the joyful troublemaker behind the electronic/accordion-expanding project noaccordion, was plotting a video for her latest release, Love Warrior. The Oakland-based artist knew she wanted to do something uplifting and fun. The answer: Puppets.

“I’d seen the Sustainable Living Road Show at a lot of festivals, and eventually I got to work with them,” Indigo explains. “When I was thinking of concepts for the video, I knew they’d be perfect.” Indigo chose the puppet crew’s handmade puppets, picking out characters that resembled natural creatures and plants. Their personalities inspired “Mama Nature,” a goofy romp with a serious message: Love your Mother, our planet.

The track, with its happy house vibe and light-hearted accordion lines, features one of the puppeteers, Sirraum Nash, a long-time friend and collaborator. His contribution to the original track made the video concept come together.

Putting unexpected pieces together comes naturally to Indigo. A reluctant accordion player, she’s discovered an idiosyncratic approach that puts the instrument center stage, while defying its limitations. Like the push and pull of bellows, this tension generates a quirky blast of energy. Add club beats, underground MCs, freaky variations on deceptively familiar keys, a bit of surrealist wit, and a rebellious fight for greater openness, and you have noaccordion.

Indigo has always pushed herself to understand and master more of the production process. She taught herself beatmaking, she had flirted with video production, and she decided her next skill was green screen. “I wanted to play around with green screen, and the puppets were a good fit for that,” continues Indigo, allowing nature to speak (and sing and play accordion) for itself. Together with her collaborator, Jonathan Youtt, Indigo figured out how to sync the puppets’ performances to the background footage, and how to have some fun. Eagles sing as they fly over mountain ridges. Lettuce and Cabbages chill in the desert. And a charming turtle plays the accordion.

“The video is meant to feel really retro, old school. The technique is akin to what you might see in that 70s vintage Muppet feel,” says Indigo. “We’re using this crude method, but it feels really unexpected. These hand puppets have this motion that nothing else has. I didn’t realize how much I’d like the way these puppets move.”

The innocent, raw feel is very intentional, and a perfect match for the song itself. “It’s a bit childlike. This is the happiest song I’ve written, and it’s even in C Major!” exclaims Indigo. “It’s got a positive, happy message that really works with the visual side we created. It’s light and silly and fun, just like the experience of making it.”

Mama Nature Sing-A-Long Video will officially be released on Earthday, April 22, 2017.

noaccordion will be performing at and screening the Mama Nature Sing-A-Long Video at the PLACE Benefit show in the Bay Area on Saturday, June 10 2017

PLACE is a Berkeley, California based public-serving, experiential learning center that showcases and fosters regenerative design, community resiliency, social justice and artistic expression. PLACE needs donations to bring the building standards up to safety codes which are being aggressively enforced in the East Bay Area due to the Ghost Ship Fire Incident.

Participate here: https://www.youcaring.com/placeforsustainableliving-722110

 

BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE MAMA NATURE VIDEO SHOOT

Onah Indigo from noaccordion and Jonathan Youtt from The Sustainable Living Road Show/The Big Tadoo Puppet Crew joined forces this summer at Puppet Plex in Berkeley, California to film the Green Screen puppet portion for noaccordion’s Mama Nature music video.  Jesse and Sirraum Nash hopped aboard as well to help with puppetry, filming and editing.  Jonathan and Onah co produced the project while Onah and Jesse worked on the editing.  This is a fun, playful video that should appeal to a wide age range.  It packs a loving and potent message so true to our current times and encourages us to respect all mothers especially mother earth.  Mama Nature video will officially release on Earth Day 2017.

 

Freak in C: noaccordion’s Polyrhythmic Dance Tracks, Goddess-Loving Hip Hop, and Beautiful Contradictions New album Love Warrior releases Aug 18, 2016

Love Warrior LP cover
Love Warrior LP art

 

Freak in C: noaccordion’s Polyrhythmic Dance Tracks, Goddess-Loving Hip Hop, and Beautiful Contradictions

New album Love Warrior releases Aug 18, 2016

When multi-instrumentalist Onah Indigo first picked up the accordion, she had to put it down. It was heavy, awkward, annoying.

 

Yet eventually, she found an idiosyncratic stance that puts the instrument center stage, while defying its limitations. Like the push and pull of bellows, this tension generates a quirky blast of energy. Add club beats, underground MCs, freaky variations on deceptively familiar keys, a bit of surrealist wit, and a rebellious fight for greater openness, and you have noaccordion.

 

On Love Warrior (release date: Aug 18, 2016), noaccordion’s first full-length album in five years, Onah digs deep into the polyrhythms and quirky phases of the heart. She taps MCs (Sunru, Chatterbox, Delwin G), beatboxers (Mastah Lock), and musical mavericks (guitar wizard Eenor) to get the party started–and to celebrate the glories of womanhood, from the elevated to the sensual.

 

“The tracks on this album mark a major milestone in my movement toward greater confidence and joy, something I think a lot of women can relate to,” muses Onah, speaking of her journey through motherhood, divorce, renewed sexuality, and artistic transformation. “I feel I’ve grown musically stronger and set aside all my obsessions as an audio engineer. I’ve become a lot more open and playful. For me now, it’s about juxtaposition, yin and yang. It’s the light and the dark. We need to embrace both.”

 

Embracing wide ranging influences comes naturally to noaccordion. Onah got hooked on club music during the first big wave of techno, drum ‘n’ bass, and jungle that swept Europe in the early 90s. She later turned to beatmaking after the death of her second child, as a way to cope with the grief. It became a musical fascination, one she honed over the years, in response to changing sounds on the electronic music scene, sounds that come through loud and clear on the trap-inspired instrumental “Frey”.

 

Rhythmic experiences from other traditions and genres, from samba to jazz, have infiltrated her beats, expanding the 4/4 tendencies of many club tracks. “I want to feel the internal pulse in my body,” Onah explains. “When you’re in a samba band, you dance as you walk to the beat. You internalize the pulse and then lay your polyrhythms on top,” an approach that creates intriguing tracks.

 

Like the club music and hip hop that inspired the album, noaccordion’s music is made to get people moving, while delivering a message of liberation, self-love, and sheer delight. “I’ve got a huge connection with movement and sound,” she says. “I can’t sit still when I’m playing. I’m going to embody that pulse in some form of movement.”

 

Hence the accordion, which, despite the project’s name, pops up on several tracks (“Trouble” and “Mama Nature”): It allows a keyboard player to move. But the instrument has a charisma all its own, one that Onah does not want to overshadow her work.

 

“I call my project noaccordion for a reason. People have strong reactions to the instrument. Most people love it; it often reminds them of their cultural past. But some people can’t stand it. It’s a particular sound, designed to be played outdoors and loudly,” she says. “I may not play it a few years from now. It may not appear in my repertoire. I don’t want to be defined by it.” But of course, sometimes noaccordion includes accordion: “I like to break rules,” laughs Onah. “Even my own.”

 

Though Onah’s songs, performances, and engineering are the heart of noaccordion, she brings friends and kindred spirits into the mix, fellow musicians from the Oakland underground with distinct voices and visions. They include vocalists like Sunru, featured on Love Warrior’s opening track. “He’s phenomenal. I needed someone who could pull off a Rick James-style vocal. He was the only one I could think of. We had a blast. He has to be one of the most unique guys, and his freestyle ability is amazing, hip hop meets metal.” Or Chatterbox, a puppeteer, MC, and environmental activist who connected instantly with Onah, thanks to his love of accordion. (He shines on “Mama Nature.”)

 

There’s a musical thread tying the tracks together, a harmonic choice that reinforces Onah’s call for self-discovery, for finding extraordinary strength and new insights in the ordinary. “Conceptually, these ten songs were all written in C, but the modes are each different,” she explains. “It adds to the strange harmonies that might sound a little unusual to some listeners. I’ve always had this weird relationship to C; I thought it was boring. But there are endless possibilities in each key. I’m finding the freak in the key of C.”

 

Finding the freak in plain sight is part of accepting freakiness and growing in love. “I had a huge heart opening a few years ago,” Onah recounts. “I’ve learned to that to keep my heart open I must maintain a fierceness. A warrior’s love. Even if people are knocking me down, I fight to stay in that place of love, starting first and foremost with myself.” It’s a fight worth fighting, and one that resonates beautifully on the dancefloor.