Djabe - Witchi Tai To
LP - 1998 - GR-007-1
Djabe’s second studio album in 2008 was a real milestone.
The first joint release The Ferenc Muck (saxophone), András Sipos (vocal, percussion), Tamás Barabás (bass guitar) and Attila Égerházi (guitar) line-up reveiced the Hungarian Musical Award, or Arany Zsiráf award in World Music category. Primarily the album is about Attila Égerházi’s and András Sipos’s compositions, with the outstanding work of Tamás Barabás as an audio engineer.
In 1998 it was a rare thing to release a record alongside the quasi-standard CD format. Djabe thought it targets the small market of High-End fans who love to listen to analogue disks till this day. Luckily this market expands nowadays with increasing sales figures. The band’s choice was a successful one: Djabe’s album became a mandatory element of the tests of any and all High End séance thanks to the perfect quality of the record, the outstanding British printing and the airy acoustic sound of the material. Witchi Tai To CD and LP was compared on many occasions proving the vinyl disc’s superiority. The LP has a warmer, better and more natural sounding.
It wasn’t a choice of chance that Djabe selected a composition written by Jim Pepper and numerous ethno jazz musicans for the title. It was a conscious targeting of audience, like Oregon, Jan Garbarek or Jack de Johnette fans.
All other compositions are registered to Djabe members. More than one later became core elements of the Djabe repertoire, like Visions, Desert, Ode, Island and, naturally, Witch Tai To.
The LP contains almost 50 minutes of the CD version’s complete material. The band thought the content scarce for a double vinyl release so the analogue only contains the essence of the disc.
Attila Égerházi’s reminiscences about the tracks of the album:
1. Coffee Break (Muck, Snétberger)
Coffee Break is Muki’s composition, which – I believe – he wrote long before we recorded it. It was also his idea to invite Ferenc Snétberger to play guitar on guitar on the recording. This proved to be a really good decision, because his guitar playing gave a great World Music atmosphere to the track, and in the studio, as an extra supplement to the composition the middle part was suggested by him. Anyone who knows Ferenc Muck’s work would instantly recognize the typical musical world and the style of saxophone playing.
We found the melody a real hit alike so this was the reason why it became the opening track of the album and the same time we also decided to produce a remix suitable for the commercial radios for their world of taste, so it was obvious to produce a radio remix to “Coffee Break’. The choice proved to be successful because the track was frequently on air and music channels broadcast its video clip version. Juventus Radio kept the song in the selector for a year, which meant that it was on air at least four times a day. It was still not taken off from their playlist afterwards although later it was broadcast less frequently.
2. Ode (Égerházi)
I wrote this song in 1994 deliberately under the influence of David Gilmour’s solo albums. In its first version it appeared on Novus Jam’s second album entitled Óda, which was performed in trio with flutist Judit Gesztelyi Nagy and András Sipos. Judit became so much inspired by the basic groove and the arrangement of the composition that she actually put it in words, so it was recorded with lyrics. As a result of its chorus, within the band, we just repeatedly referred to this track with the title Where is the light? (Hol van a fény?) Otherwise it was also the music for that dance performance (entitled “Where is the light?” too) where I became acquainted with choreographer Gábor Bakó. Sipi recommended him when I was looking for a choreographer and dancers for this job.
In 1995, we started to work on the first Djabe CD with Sipi, and besides the brand new compositions, this Novus Jam track was found suitable to be re-interpreted within the scope of the freshly born new album called Djabe. Right now it was given a much more latin type groove and this time did not include a flute; however Ferenc Kovács’ trumpet playing topped off the track. Yes, same Ferenc Kovács, who became later a dominant Djabe member in 2001. At that time, in this version, the theme was already played by solo guitar, and the track on the first Djabe album was entitled Northern Adventure.
The quartet line-up was formed in 1997 and it was destined for playing the material of the first Djabe album live. At the same time we decided to keep this line-up stable and it wishes to conquer the Hungarian audience as a band called Djabe. Ode became a standard track in the concert repertoire. We got back from the name Northern Adventure to the original, because we had to rearranged it significantly as I was unable to provide rhythm and solo guitar play at the very same time, so the melody was played by bass guitar, and there was saxophone instead of trumpet in it. At the time we decided on the material of Witchi Tai To album, we felt that it would be great to record the composition in the version which Djabe is realistically able to play it in 1998.
3. Island (Égerházi)
Djabe was created with Sipi because we were dissatisfied with the sounding and concepts already existing in Novus Jam. We did not drop it away or deny it, however we made a step forwards on its basis. Unfortunately, we could not make it with Judit Gesztelyi Nagy, so we invited old and new musician fellows to the recording of the first Djabe album. We imagined much more variable music, which would address a wider range of listener groups. We wanted to break out from the restrictions determined by Judit Gesztelyi-Nagy. This is the reason why we gave the name Djabe to the band, which means ‘freedom’. We also liked to keep some values of Novus Jam compositions, so we decided to build in the track entitled Island into the 1997 Djabe concert set-list. Another reason was for this decision that the original saxophone solo on the Novus Jam CD was played by Feri Muck. This track also shared Ode’s fortune, because the band decided to place it on the Witchi Tai To in a renewed form.
4. Odyssey (Égerházi)
At the beginning of the 90s I used to record at home my compositional efforts on audio cassettes or reel-to-reel tapes. Later while listening to the tapes I often picked out parts from these recordings and I edited tracks from them. The same happened in the case of Odyssey as well, which actually was based on a very simple and for me, a clear-out melody. Sipi’s clay drum and a fretless bass guitar were added to it. The composition was finally constructed by Tomi. Since the whole sound reminded me a bit of the Sirens’ song, we asked Tomi’s wife, Judit Herczeg – who is a remarkable singer – to strengthen the ‘Sirens’ song’ with her voice. This is why the composition was entitled Odyssey. At the end of the track the harsh sound of the saxophone gives an astonishing contrast. We can even playfully imagine that the sufferings of the tied-up wanderer appearing in front of us in the soundscape. While making the 2013 new mix, the most difficult task was to insert this saxophone with right balance sound into the music.
1. Visions After The Rain (Sipos, Égerházi)
In 1997 we received a request from Oriflame firm to make a dance performance and its music of décor cosmetic family called Visions. So more musical pieces was born and one of them is Visions After The Rain. Sipi and I improvised in Gaston studio for a few hours then these tracks were compiled in the compositions entitled Visions. Another day Muki and Tomi were playing their own parts onto these constructions. All these happened before the real launch of Djabe. The entire thing is essentially based on African percussion instruments and acoustic guitar. That time Djabe was just a duo indeed. Later surprisingly enough we played this number at concerts with entirely the same construction and arrangement as we recorded and edited it in the studio in 1997. This is why we did not make a new recording of Visions After The Rain to Witchi Tai To album in the Gramy Studio in 1998, the Gaston studio’s material of 1997 was released.
2. Early Morning Snow (Égerházi, Barabás)
This composition is fully based on acoustic guitar. The harmony and beating of chord splitting accompaniment is very much typical of Égerházi style. I played a lot of guitar solos on the rhythm guitar in the studio, and Tomi Barabás edited the whole afterwards. Having a really good sense for it he added double bass to Early Morning Snow instead of bass guitar. They used cymbals and snare drum with Sipi playing very gentle percussion tracks. I felt that these fine complements are so significant regarding this number that we register the composition as co-composers.
3. Gallop (Égerházi, Gesztelyi)
This is a really dynamic composition from the Novus Jam times, which was also saved in the 1997 Djabe concert repertoire, and thereby it got into Witchi Tai To material. Originally the melody was improvised to my open guitar chord by Judit Gesztelyi Nagy, so it was then recorded with flute. This sounded great with Djabe on tenor saxophone too, and Tomi Barabás’ bass playing also lifted up the whole composition. This piece of music cannot be defined in its genre and it also became true for many other tracks from Djabe in later terms. Many said it was so Djabe-ish.
4. Visions (Égerházi, Sipos)
The most popular piece of Visions series, what finally became the music of the dance performance ordered by Oriflame. We found the recording made at Gaston studio absolutely fine, therefore this original recording can be heard on the album, Witchi Tai To. The whole composition is based on Sipi’s marimba play and the other percussions, guitars and the vocal are all built upon it. Because of its pleasant sounding this piece was in the set-list so often until Sipi’s death. Without him, however, just as in the case of our name song Djabe, the performance becomes meaningless.
5. Witchi Tai To (Jim Pepper)
It is the North American Kaw Indian, saxophonist Jim Pepper’s composition, which was also played by numerous jazz formations. For its melodious theme the audience loves it. It is one of my favourites too. Sipi also enjoyed it a lot and when I showed him he started to sing it right away. We decided to make our version and record it on CD. I suggested giving the same name to the album as well since this song is popular among our potential target audience both here at home and abroad. With this title, whether the traders can display it on their CD shop shelves much more easily, or the audience may do the same on the horizon of their interests. The first part of the recording was already done in 1997, but in 1998, from the starting of the congas, we rerecorded it again, because we were not satisfied with the older sound. Witchi Tai To became our most frequently played tune until 2007. In 2001, we even made a new arrangement of Witchi Tai To for the Update album, but later we got back to the 1997 version. At Sipi’s last Djabe concert, this was the last piece of music we could hear from him. (Debrecen, 7th September, 2007) It was really good. It is on ’YouTube’. Sipi died on 14th of September 2007.