At the end of the day, people in the village gather around a fire. They come to discuss, to make music, to confront problems, and to touch the world of spirit. This creates community. This is Mbongi.
Mbongi (pronounced Bone-gee) is a Congolese word that means "the learning circle". Mbongi tends to reduce social strata, promote unguarded interaction, and inspire respect and joy.
When Titos Sompa and Christopher Hedge get together with an audience it is also called a Mbongi. It is as much an action and an event as it is the name of this project and CD.
The music of Mbongi allows its listeners to reach beyond the limits of their immediate cultural experience. Influenced by a diverse range of musical styles, the composers instinctively find the common ground. They work with instruments and musicians from around the world, all of whom contribute the fruits of their own musical journeys to the mix. Classical, American Bluegrass, Jazz and Irish folk, Avant Garde electronic and African, Arabic and Oriental, Mississippi blues and Big Band swing are just a few of the musical styles that contributed to the birth of Mbongi.
The Mbongi style of music and poetry is not an abstract, conscious attempt to combine world music but rather, the inevitable expression of its' creators. The chance meeting of Christopher Hedge and Titos Sompa has resulted in an ensemble of musicians that embody the inclusive philosophy that is community, that is Mbongi.
Overture The orchestra tuning, the African drums and many other elements were recorded with a "Holophone" (the 3-D microphone used on Pink Floyd's "The Final Cut"). It was one of three ever created by Hugo Zucherelli, the other two were on loan to Michael Jackson and The Disney Studios. When Hedge made Sompa aware of this "once in a lifetime" opportunity, Sompa called in African drummers from Paris, New York, New Orleans and throughout the Bay Area to a large sound stage, where they proceeded to record for days. The voices yelling at the start were recorded across a valley in the Big Sur National Forest.
I Know What I Want
Dance in Fire
"Dance in Fire" was recorded originally for a live performance with the legendary, Paul Horn, in a two hundred year old opera house in Rieti, Italy. The performance eventually became the subject of the Tony Papa film," Inside Italy". Horn, Hedge and Mbongi violinist Julian Smedley, were accompanied by multi-media projections designed to match the intricate architecture of the opera house.
Ma Ma Ngo Ngo (Friendship)
A Big View of the World
Mbongi (The Learning Circle)
You and I
"The Rings of Saturn"
The child's voice before "You and I" , talks about riding a bicycle around the rings of Saturn. He is Christopher's' son Nicholas, who was being filmed on the set of a PSA that Hedge was directing. Nicholas, several High School and college students, Titos, and Christopher's daughter Brandi, were discussing world peace in a live filming session, that was eventually aired across the US and Canada. Over fourteen million people heard their simple plea for common sense.
The background singers on "Animals" are Titos, Christopher and Jeanie Tracy. They are simply saying "uh-huh" but meaning a different thing each time. The piece is about slavery and slave ships but, when they were recording, they were responding to pictures ranging from corporate cubicles to fast food stores, dispossessed youth to "singles" clubs. The transition to "Trail of Tears" was recorded during a Mbongi concert where Titos is calling for the audience and their ancestors to celebrate their freedom. He was spraying whiskey over the crowd, from his mouth.
Trail of Tears
The background telephone voices on "Trail of Tears" , were friends and family that called in from all over the world. They were each personally connected with the words "All the people of the World have a Trail of Tears". They were holocaust survivors, Central Americans, WWII survivors... Each person understood that they were speaking directly to the final listener... you.