Once Upon A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Stream for free right here, download from Bandcamp by clicking “download” above (pay what you want, even nothing), or download the whole album as a very high quality mp3 zip file from my Amazon cloud here.
This album is for my son Sylvan Kanó but you can listen to it too! I have to leave my three-month old son for three months to go and find work and at such an early stage I’m afraid he will forget me. He has a strong connection to the sound of my voice and especially my singing voice. The songs on this album are the songs I sing to him every day and now he can continue to listen to them while I’m away.
In my thoughts are also his cousin Emilio in Mexico and his second cousins Amund, Ingunn, Henning, Elias, Aksel, Mathilde, Amalie, Selma and Nicoline in Norway. Not forgetting my friends’ kids who have recently started popping out all over the place, such as Naum Aruni, Milie, Noa, Huitzili, Amalu, Djari and many more… Well, I actually gift this album to all children everywhere, or indeed everyone everywhere, as only a few of the songs are especially for children, though most have a child-like energy. Let’s just say it’s a family-friendly album!
Coming in at over 1h13m, this should really qualify as a double album. It contains 20 songs in 10 languages from around the world (if I can count the 2nd official Norwegian language Nynorsk), many of the songs are traditional folk songs, 6 of them Norwegian (to help teach Sylvan my mother tongue), and 5 are originals written by myself and Adria about our history, the birth and life here in the mountains. The sound is focussed on the guitar, voices (and many of them, for Sylvan’s sake) and the mouth harp, which can have a very strong effect on children and especially infants. My voice calms him down, my mouth harp makes him dance or hypnotises him. The six Norwegian songs might be recycled and possibly improved for the Norge På Langs album.
With this album I did the best I could with what I had, which was very little. It’s just me with my laptop, a microphone, some instruments and a pair of headphones, no studio. The job was made even more difficult when a lightning strike took out our solar panel inverter and so I had to borrow people’s simple adobe houses, rooms, restaurants and even the local library to have a space to work with electricity. Only one song was recorded at my own house. These are rough recordings, mostly in a single take, sometimes with sounds of nature creeping in, which I like (there’s for example a thunderclap and sounds of insects chirping at night… yes, there were many long nights). Mixing with a pair of bass-less headphones is like walking around in a jungle without a light on a moonless night. I might be a decent producer of voiceovers but this album is another step on the long ladder of becoming a good music producer.
Credit where credit’s due:
All songs arranged (sometimes quite far from the original), mixed (badly) and mastered by Martin.
All instruments (including guitars, vocals, mouth harp, harmonica, melodica, kalimba, shakers, drums, bass, various percussion instruments…) by Martin
Backing vocals on Track 20 by Sylvan Kanó
Which makes this his debut album at the tender age of 3 months. He obviously has a long and successful career as a musician in front of him.
Album art – Adria
For now this album is only released right here on this website and you may share it non-commercially as you like. When I get back from work we will make some very special limited edition artisanal CDs. (Update: In the end 27 hand-painted physical CDs were made and gifted to family and friends)
I want to thank Adria, the most amazing mother in the world, for her never-ending support, even if making this album at times did the opposite of its intention, taking me away from my family. Of course this album is also for myself to reconnect with my path and my creativity.
I want to thank Ela – “the Queen of White Witches” from Track 8 – our one-of-a-kind midwife who made it possible for Sylvan and more than 500 other kids up here in the mountains to enter this world in the most natural and loving way. With no government support yet without ever asking a cent for her services. Adria and I made a decent donation to support her in her work but I would have liked it to be bigger. If you want to support her to keep giving an absolutely invaluable service here in one of the “most marginalised” (I don’t truly believe that, but that’s another story) areas of Mexico, please go to the Donate page on this website and mark your payment “Ela” and I will make sure the money gets to her. And I want to thank Ela for being the first spark of inspiration for me to follow my path and make this album. More than anything, Sylvan needs a happy father and this has given me so much joy. The arrival of Sylvan has released not only a lot of joy but a lot of creative energy. Ela will have a bunch of these CDs on her desk to give to the new families that she helps.
I want to thank Sylvan’s godfather Fabi and his mother and brother for all the support they have given us on all levels, and to all our friends who came with us here to realise our dream. To all the amazing musicians I have played with in the last few years and who have taught me so much, to Vera for teaching me the German song and lending me the guitar, and to Jonathan for all the instruments and the friendship. And to every rainbow out there who keep on creating beautiful music and spreading the love.
I want to thank the Arizpe Amors and the Volls for their support, and everyone who graciously offered me a place to work – Mariana, Emilio and Nayeli, Pedro, Laura, the library. And I want to thank the whole pueblo for caring for Adria and Sylvan in my absence – I know they are in good hands.
Well done if you’ve made it this far… this is getting quite long but I would like to finish off by giving some information about each track so that you know what you are listening to and can put it into context.
1 – Ronja Röverdotter (Words by Astrid Lindgren / Music by Björn Isfält)
The opening sequence to my favourite film as a kid, based on a book by Swedish children’s writer Astrid Lindgren, also introduces this album. It’s about a little girl growing up with a band of robbers in a medieval castle in a magical forest…
2 – Vem Kan Segla (Traditional from Åland, a little group of islands between Sweden and Finland)
In Swedish but I added a translation to English and changed the word “friend” to “son”. This sets the intention for the whole album. We played this a lot in our horse caravan shows in Brazil.
3 – Kano (Traditional from the Yawanawa tribe in the Amazonas)
This is the song that gives Sylvan his middle name, Kanó, meaning ‘bridge between worlds’! Both Adria and I have separately lived with neighbouring tribes and have had life-changing experiences there. We give our son his warrior name in their honour, and our unquestionable support to them (and all indigenous people everywhere) in their desperate fight for their lands, their forest and their way of life in the face of the mind-numbingly senseless and evil destruction and enslaving by the Brazilian government, backed up and fuelled by governments, industry and consumers everywhere. The lungs of the world have cancer.
4 – Entre Plumas I (Music by Martin, Words by Adria and Martin)
Entre Plumas means “between feathers” and is a love song about Adria and me. It was conceived while we were sleeping on the living-room floor of friends in Vancouver, in between two feather duvets. It was added to while hitchhiking at a gas station in Nevada and completed here in Mexico. The song plays with the Spanish word “sueno” which means both “sleep” and “dream”. I later got Adria a pair of silver feather earrings so that her head would be “entre plumas”. The guitar is based on a standard Flamenco-style accompaniment.
5 – Entre Plumas II (Music by Martin / Words by Adria and Martin)
One day while pregnant Adria said, in Spanish, “my body is the nest of a little bird” and it had to be written into another song with lots of feathers in it…
“So many lives we have lived you and I, and now there is one more”.
6 – Per Spelmann (Norwegian folk song)
The journey continues to Norway with the well-known story of a fiddler who trades his fiddle for a cow but repents and gets his fiddle back. This song seriously introduces my special, magical Norwegian hand-made mouth harp which often hangs around my neck. I have never mixed the mouth harp before but I think I found a pretty fat sound for it.
7 – Inanay Kapuana (Torres Island traditional, in the strait between Australia and Papua, the people are closely related to the aborigines on both sides of the strait.)
Learnt at rainbow gatherings, thank you Yaya. I don’t know what all the words mean but I think “guwana” is a snake and “choo” is the sound you would make to make it go away.
8 – Once Upon A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Martin / rainbow)
The title track tells the true story of Sylvan’s birth around midnight on Midsummer Night’s Eve. At the end, when no less than seven voices are singing simultaneously, I change over to what I believe is a rainbow song with original lyrics: “There is so much magnificence in the ocean, waves are coming in”. But as always in rainbow, you can make it up as you go along… (I’ve changed the time signature from 4/4 to 3/4.)
9 – Blåmann (Norwegian traditional / A.O. Vinje / Anne Haavie)
A 165 year old poem based on a true story about a special relationship between a young goat and a young shepherd boy. The goat is smart, cares for the boy and “knows more than just how to feed himself”. But one day the goat’s mother comes back to the mountain farm alone without Blåmann, the young goat, who has probably been taken by a bear…
I’ve changed it from major to minor.
10 – Hanuman Bolo (Indian traditional)
We’re now in the fun part of the album… here’s a simple bhajan to the honour of the Hindu monkey-god Hanuman.
11 – The Story of Ted the Rat (Martin)
A song based on a true story from our home in the mountains, written in 10 minutes and recorded in half an hour… Gypsy style!
12 – Mileko (African traditional)
Learned through rainbow, thanks to Jon, the king of this song. I have no idea what the words mean or where it comes from. The internet suggests a tribe in Ethiopia but to my limited knowledge this sounds nothing like the Ethiopian languages I have heard, more like Swahili or somewhere further south. I would love to have more info!
13 – Tiempo No Para (Nahuel / Yaya / Martin / traditional / various)
A little riff and some vocals by my friend Nahuel grew and grew as we realised we could sing pretty much any song we knew on top of that riff. Played a lot in the world rainbow caravan as we travelled north from Brazil through South and Central America.
14 – Lys og Varme (Åge Aleksandersen)
“Light and Warmth”. An epic Norwegian pop song from 1984 that has taken on its own life and become part of Norwegian culture and identity. I loved it so much as a kid that as a wee 7 year old I sang it alone on stage, only accompanied by a teacher on guitar, in front of the whole school and all the parents. The prettiest girl at school loved it a lot… she now has a cafe in my home town and when I visited Norway after the end of my journey I played a gig there and we sang this song together. Hanne, this is for you. Åge, I don’t have your permission to record your song, but I don’t really think it’s your song any more. As I’ve stayed very true to the original, I hope you don’t mind. Takk. Åge wrote this after seeing his daughter being born… (Update: Actually, Åge, I have now purchased the permission to release this song on the more commercial Norge På Langs album
15 – Hanen Stend (Norwegian traditional)
The rooster is being fed grain by the farmer, the fox is… barking (what does the fox say??) in the mountains and the shepherd is blowing his horn. That’s all.
Probably a very old song (gammelstev) that was part of my primary school curriculum and can be sung as a canon. Changed from major to minor.
16 – Vargsången (Words by Astrid Lindgren / Music by Björn Isfält)
“The Wolf Song”, another one from the film Ronja Röverdotter, which the mother sings to Ronja. “Stay away, wolf, you will never have my child…”
17 – Bien Ve Nido (Music by Martin / Words by Adria and Martin)
“Bienvenido” means “welcome” and “nido” is “nest”. So this is a song to welcome our son and in the honour of our mountain home in Mexico (the first real physical home I’ve had after eight years of travelling – some of the wonderful hosts who have really made me feel at home during travelling might be offended by that statement, but you hopefully know what I mean!).
I wanted to write a trilingual song in the languages I hope Sylvan will one day speak – English, Spanish and Norwegian. The Norwegian part is about wandering in the forest, receiving water from the heavens and warmth for the soul from the fire, swimming in dreams and being thankful for everything…
18 – Åndedrag (Gunnfjauns Kapell)
This is a modern song written in the style of a medieval one, by a choir on the Swedish island of Gotland. I have translated it to Norwegian and recorded it without their permission, my apologies, but as I believe this is a relatively unknown group, let me do this for you in return:
This is perhaps more for the grandparents than for Sylvan as it talks of eternity in the wind and in the breath, how we one day will be cradled to peace, how our words, faith and actions live on in our grand-children’s blood, and how, like the ocean cradles each wave, existence cradles man forever. “Åndedrag” means “breath”, but is literally “the pulling in of spirit”.
19 – Schlaflied für Sylvan (German traditional)
A lullaby originally called “Schlaflied für Anna”, I think.
20 – Trollmors Vuggevise (Norwegian traditional / Margit Holmberg / originally Swedish)
Another lullaby, probably Sylvan’s favourite song. Mother Troll has put her 11 little trolls to bed and tied them up by the tail to stop them from running away, and then she sings to them the most beautiful words she knows… and the chorus you can figure out yourself as your Trollish is probably as good as mine.
At the end is a recording with my mp3-player from one of my morning walks with Sylvan in the forest, you can hear the effect this song has on him…