The vibrations of Earth Murmur opened the Crystal Moonlight concert in a musical acknowledgement to country resonating with the ancient earthly sounds of the didgeridoo,  and transmuted with Asian instruments. The inaugural concert by Jade New World Collective – QPAC’s new ensemble in residence – was the consummation of six months of rehearsal, jamming sessions and collaboration between four Brisbane-based musicians from diverse cultures and musical traditions. Dr Anthony Garcia, the Artistic Director and acclaimed guitarist and composer, formed Jade New World Collective to create music with a global story of change. He now considers Brisbane to be the prism and focus for their unique music through a collaboration with no boundaries or limitations.

Jade New World Collective inaugural performance at QPAC. Photograph © Darren Thomas

The evening of 11 multifarious pieces was a borderless, worldwide journey with the musicians presenting the sounds and instruments of Japan, Nepal, Thailand, Australia and Europe under a giant translucent moon. The Japanese koto master Takako Haggarty Nishibori used two kotos (a 16th century 13 or 17 stringed instrument) and the shamisen, the three-stringed Japanese guitar often played by geisha, to produce an ethereal otherworldly sound to the concert. The musical piece Shinkai, meaning ‘deep sea’, highlighted the use of the Japanese hemitonic pentatonic scales (five note scales with one or more semitones) known as the hira-chosi scale. It is often used by jazz and jock guitarists to produce a different sound to the norm. It was a freeform improvisation creating a delicate and deeply resonant sound from the combination of didgeridoo, tabla, guitar and koto. Takako created the traditional Japanese sound by focussing on the spaces between the notes rather than the notes themselves.

 The creative Nepalese tabla virtuoso Dheeraj Shrestha softly caressed his ten drums and singing bowl with genuine love, borne of his years as the only child amongst the master magicians who played the tabla in the Temple in Kathmandu. His composition Pahaad, which translates as hills and mountains, featured the traditional Maadal drum which was used to encourage people whilst climbing to work in the hills. The gentle rhythms conjured up the image of the arduous continuous steps whilst trekking at the soaring heights of the Himalayas.

Dheeraj Shrestha, Pongsaporn Upani and Takako Haggarty Nishibori. Photograph © Darren Thomas

David Williams, who describes himself as a proud Wakka Wakka man from Rockhampton, provided the Australian traditional flavour throughout the concert. As an internationally renowned didgeridoo player, he used his three didgeridoos tuned to D, E and C, to energise and infiltrate the music with the guttural sounds of this ancient land. Tuning became a large feature of the evening with the two kotos, various electric and classical guitars and even the tabla needing to be re-tuned to different scales for each piece. Williams described how tuning the didgeridoo is a one-off event involving a trip to Bunnings and the use of a drop-saw whilst making sure you cut conservatively!

Three special local guest artists also featured throughout the performance. Pongsaporn Upani played the khaen, a Thai reed mouth organ which resembles giant pan pipes played upside down, the phin, a Lao guitar which features a dragon shaped on the neck, and a khlui Thai duct flute. Garcia had jammed with Upani in 2015 and was keen to have him feature in Jade’s inaugural concert. Despite still studying folk music at Khon Kaen University, Upani is a YouTube sensation and has performed for Thai royalty and officials.

Dheeraj Shrestha, Charulatha Mani and Takako Haggarty Nishibori. Photograph © Darren Thomas

 A favourite piece of the night, KK Funk, was a 70’s styled funk fusion with Nishibori on the shamisen and Upani cutting loose with the khaen whilst bouncing around on the stage. Guest Charulatha Mani, a much awarded Carnatic music vocalist with a large fan base, utilised her powerful glossy vibrato whilst scatting with an Indian twist. Seventeenth century Indian Opera was her influence whilst composing the beautiful song Nalinakanthi, an improvisational piece honouring the lotus as a symbol of the goddess Shakti. It had a translucent dream-like quality with Charulatha’s diaphanous voice as she traced the growth of the lotus on stage using the traditional Indian hand movements in dance. The creative improvisational jazz beats of Dheeraj on the tabla enhanced this beautiful piece to create an outstanding Indian fusion of sound and rhythm.

Two 80’s songs were given an oriental “Jade” twist, featuring the sensual Kate Bush-styled voice of local singer Noralyn with Echo and the Bunnymen’s The Killing Moon, and the Triffid’s Wide Open Road.  There was a standing ovation from a very excited audience resulting in an encore presentation of Belonging, their first composition and gentle anthem to the community of Jade World Collective. The audience mirrored the performers as an eclectic mix of ages and cultures, all of whom were revelling in the eclectic and unique sound of the ensemble. The Artistic Director, Dr Anthony Garcia has created a musical repertoire with musicians from diverse cultures, all connected to Australia and united through their love of music.