At-Ma, the UK world music fusion trio, is the colourful, dynamic collaboration between vocalist/composer Russell Stone, multi-instrumentalist/composer/producer Craig Pruess and dynamic and sensitive tabla player, Tom Simenauer (Tabla Tom). It is no coincidence that these three musical spirits were born and raised in three different continents: Europe (Russell), America (Craig) and NZ/Australia (Tom). Each brings a wealth of musical and spiritual experience into the group, and audiences have been mesmerised by the result.
This is contemporary music expressing a unique and accessible fusion of Western and Eastern influences, that weaves the wonderful voice of Russell together with the sympathetic accompaniment of Craig on sitar, harmonium, trumpet, voice, zither and percussion. Aided by Tabla Tom producing blistering, rhythmic displays, this music explores the relationship between voice, instruments and the soul. In its depth and delicacy, it also reveals the power of silence and space.
Having performed in many settings and festivals, At-Ma are most at home in a meditative, calm environment – typically yoga retreats – where their musical journeys are allowed to take full flight, and audience attention is unbroken and settled. The bliss and bubbling joy is tangible, as the spontaneous melodies develop, simmer, explode or caress. Imagine Indian ragas and talas (Indian rhythm cycles), weaving around vocal lullabyes, and then switching gears to powerful chants and spacey calls.
The At-Ma recording project began in earnest in January 2007 as a result of the musical reunion of Craig and Russell, who last worked as co-songwriters in 1980. Garnering all their combined life experiences from the intervening 27 years, they started to create the pieces.
Breaking from set traditional Western or Eastern musical forms, Craig and Russell endeavoured to realign these same influences into music that is courageous, exciting, evocative and penetrating. Both being musicians, songwriters and singers in their own right – they have both also been intensely interested for many years in the human transformational movement and the explosion of ideas on the awakening global consciousness that is now spreading around the world. The two founding members discovered that At-Ma gave them a perfect platform for their new ideas and explorations.
With their combined experience of the power of chant, and sounding experiences with human voice and ancient instruments, coupled with an ease and familiarity with the modern recording and performing process, this music has come about through an effortless flow of intuitive ideas and joyous collaboration.
From this sense of authority in their partnership’s capability, a central aim of the music of At-Ma that has emerged is to imbue the pieces with a healing and integrating quality that acknowledges the deeper function of music which has been largely ignored in a contemporary, industrial culture.
Concerts: Gathering of the Tribe – the first live band of At-Ma in 2007
The phrase ‘Gathering of the Tribe’ was partly inspired by the wonderful group contributions of so many friends and colleagues, who helped build and mold the collective musical vision of the initial At-Ma concerts, especially the large ensemble in May 2007. What is it that called the tribe together? And why now? In the word ‘tribe’, there are potent in-built layers of meaning: cooperation, caring, multi-talented support systems, communal communication, and evolution through group consciousness. In a modern, post 9/11 world, where powers-to-be strive to separate and control groups and individuals through ‘divide and rule’, this is one powerful and heart-felt expression and counter-balance: to use the power of music and chant to bring unity and harmony.
The Performers in May 2007:
Craig Pruess, Russell Stone, Justin Freeman (Ravi), Don Richardson, Susan Nares, Mike Armstrong, Mylene Chiron, Simon Ford, Sven Kruesel, Alexander Massey.
CONCERT LINE-UP – MAY 2007: voices, djembe, crystal bowls, flute, kora, swaramandala (Indian zither), wood blocks, sitar, keyboards, tamboura, trumpet, harp, grand piano, gong, triangle, electric bass, acoustic bass, hand percussion, electric guitar
ALONG COMES THE MAGIC OF TABLA TOM
Craig and Russell did a series of two-man concerts during the end of 2007 and during 2008, exploring many meditative aspects of their musical collaboration and improvisations. A prime slot at the big Yoga Show at the Kensington Olympia, London, October 2008, inspired Craig to ask Tabla Tom (a long term colleague, friend, and sitar-tabla sparring partner for many years) to join for this concert. Instantly, it was apparent that this was the perfectly balanced triumvirate for dynamic and sensitive sound explorations, and ever since, it has only gotten better and better with every concert.
Tom’s rhythm sense, his rich and varied sound, and his refined and informed listening, has meant that Craig and Russell can totally relax and enjoy the magic carpet ride that has become the sound of At-Ma and the At-Ma concert experience (thank you, Tom, from Russell and Craig!). xxx
SOUND AND COMPOSITION IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
So complete and harmonious is this three-way collaboration that TOTAL IMPROVISATIONAL creations at concerts have become the norm. At-Ma picks up the mood and atmosphere and displays it back to the audience with changing colours and melodies, weaving tapestries to create inner space and bubbling rhythms for the inner dancer. No two concerts are ever alike. In fact, it is hard to describe.