north alley title

Music for the Kitchen & Workshop

This suite of songs exists thanks to the music of Mongo Santamaria

When I was 18 and a student in Toronto, I picked up a record in a second-hand shop on Harbord Street. It was Afro Roots by Mongo Santamaria--two discs of Cuban roots music recorded in the late 1950s. It transfixed me then and I have turned to it for mystery and inspiration ever since. Mystery. Somewhere at the core of that collection of music there is a mystery that I have never solved or articulated. For forty years, I've dug away at it; scratching away the surface to find the meaning within.

In 2008, I set up a home studio and set out to learn my new tools. The first project was to take a dozen-or-so short rhythmic samples from Afro Roots and build up grooves using drums, percussion, guitar, synthesiser and samples. Then I organised them into a variety of classic forms.

The result was this suite of seven pieces. If you listen for them, you can still hear the original Mongo samples. Well, sometimes. It’s playful, surprising and sometimes peculiar. It has a piece-to-piece consistency that makes it a suite rather than just a collection and it's best listened to in order.

I finished the project but continued to listen to it often and found that it had the quality of being energising yet unobtrusive in the background when I was otherwise occupied. When I stopped what I was doing and listened, though, there was always something changeing and moving to tickle my ears and brain. I began to think of this as “music for the kitchen and workshop” and gave it that title.

Three of the songs feature performances by Freddie the budgie and one contains a recitation by my then-nine-year-old son Ashley. All songs © Douglas Gifford 2012