Saturday Chill Session: Laraaji - Tiny Desk Concert
May 2, 2019 | Bob Boilen — Prepare to be calmed.
It begins with a small bell, a set of tiny wind chimes and a plucked, angelic zither sounding much like a harp. Laraaji and his musical partner Arji “OceAnanda” Cakouros came to NPR draped in loose-fitted, saffron-tinted clothes, with a table draped in a similar orange fabric — almost the tones of a setting sun with all the beauty that implies. As I watched, I could feel my breath letting go; my muscles were less tense. Then Laraaji began to laugh. I smiled. (His laugh is infectious). Then more of us in the office smiled as he brushed rhythms on his zither and processed the sounds to add delay and intensify the hypnotic pulse.
I first discovered the music of Laraaji almost 40 years ago when Brian Eno produced an ambient album of his music called Ambient 3: Day of Radiance as part of a series of ambient records from Eno that began with 1978’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports. Edward Larry Gordon, now known as Laraaji, was a comedian as well as a musician. I suppose that explains the laughter as part of his meditative and therapeutic music. Laraaji is now in his mid-70s, has released over 50 recordings as well as an abundance of sound-healing sessions. His concert in the NPR offices was proof of the atmospheric, altering power of the music he makes along with Arji. Maybe you’ll find yourself enjoying a musical sunset plopped down right in the middle of your day.
Laraaji: electric autoharp/zither, vocals; Arji “OceAnanda” Cakouros: mbira, iPad synth, shakers, chimes
Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Beck Harlan; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Adelaide Sandstrom; Photo: Amr Alfiky/NPR