Today I was recording solo vocals on a very interesting piece based on the music of rock group Genesis but completely transformed by composer Tolga Kashif. The track combined material from Land of Confusion (from the 1986 album Invisible Touch, remembered by many Genesis fans because of its video, which featured puppets from the 1980’s UK sketch show Spitting Image) and Tonight, tonight, tonight (also from the Invisible Touch).
Here’s the original single cover parodying the iconic 1963 cover ‘With the Beatles’.
I’ve worked with Tolga many times on wide variety of projects and also sung in a live concert (in Portugal) of his critically acclaimed CD The Queen Symphony. Inspired by the music of rock group Queen, it is a lushly orchestrated album with 6 movements based on some of their famous themes including Bohemian Rhapsody.
The text was a made up quasi-latin language and the singing was definitely folky in style – when I was booked I was told ‘voix bulgares’, which is a very strong, harsh, nasal sound. I found a great video on youtube of the Bulgarian Radio Choir which won a grammy in 1990 – it really is an extraordinary sound.
When we started working in the studio, it became clear that what Tolga really wanted was a cross between a devotional church quality with a layer of ethnic tone and breath layered on top. Much more intimate and innocent sounding. The first part was the lowest of four solo voices and although he wanted a rich somewhat Russian quality, I had to sing quite quietly. He jokingly summed it up as a religious peasant woman with lots of children, quite happy with her lot. We quickly agreed that if he described the sound he wanted as a colour or atmosphere rather than as a technical vocal description, then I could try a few vocal sounds until he liked one. (This is often the case in recording – the composer has a very clear idea of what they want but as they are not singers, it’s hard for them to either clearly demonstrate or describe). Our job as a session musician is to be very flexible and willing to try anything to achieve the result.
Later on in the music he wanted a complete change of colour and I had to resurrect the African tribal sound which I had used with Karl Jenkins on his album Imagined Oceans recorded way back in 1998. This involves quite a harsh, nasal sound – cutting off the head resonances – it’s loud! – the other important thing is to try to create a sense of improvisation in the way you deliver the rhythm – so it sounds very free and exciting.
In the second session I had to swap to another higher voice part and he wanted it to sound like a different voice again so we eventually went for a much younger almost boyish sound with an ‘inner devotional joy’ – I know….what we do to earn a crust!
Next week I am singing in the professional choir which will record the choral parts.Â These will act as support for the solo sessions from this week – Tolga is a complete perfectionist and we did so many takes with very subtle nuances between them. He will spend days weaving into the finished product. I can’t wait to hear the finished product.