Randy Granger

Randy Granger
In the Chihuahuan Desert near the Organ Mountains, New Mexico

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Notes from a Desert Pied Piper

Nothing like being on the road to give you an appreciation for home. This week began attending a memorial for a friend who died suddenly of a massive heart attack in his living room. His memorial was on a late afternoon in their back yard and art studio. It was so hot and we were all squishing around the shade like delicate plants. What was amazing was how he navigated so many different crowds here in my little town on the Rio Grande. Painters, poets, sculptors, writers and of course musicians all knew Juan and we gathered ate, drank and gave our funny accounts of our personal experiences. I played a song on my flute that he had suggested a title for. It was moving and interesting to see how many people showed up. I don’t even think I know that many people……

The chilie fields behind my house are growing so fast. Image Hosted by UploadHouse.comI trimmed many Mexican Elder and Pecan trees trying not to wear out my hands. Rehearing for upcoming shows is going well. Problem is when I rehearse I always end up writing new material so have to give myself a talking to. The fires here in the west make our skies hazy. The Mexican border town of Juarez is just 35 minutes away and when our monsoon season kicks in we can smell the acrid fumes from the 2.5 million citizen’s cars and huge Maquiladoras where our cheap electronics are assembled. The violence in Juarez is out of control lately. Nearly 300 killed this year alone from drug violence not to mention the women of Juarez numbering in the thousands by some accounts whose bodies are found in the desert raped and strangled. Very sad and disgraceful.

Yet there are wonderful signs of art and friendliness. When I’m in town I try to make it to our Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings where growers and artisans gather to trade their wares in an open market. Even when I’m traveling I always try to go down to the local Grower’s Markets and busk, or play for tips. There is nothing better than playing for hundreds of strangers and trying out your music. Today there were volunteers walking dogs available for adoption so that was heaven for me. As usual the children always gather around when I’m playing and I love it. I think this must be the first time they are hearing a Native American flute and definitely a Hang drum. They love it when their parents give them money to put in my tip can. Cool. I bought some summer squash, plums, chilie and fresh garlic to make Calabacitas. Yum.

Musically some great things are going on I think. My music was included this week on Hearts of Space a nationally syndicated ambient/new age music radio program. I was so happy as this is one of those desires that is in my things I want to manifest journal. My T-shirts with the Kokopelli/Hang logo are here and I have put a website to order merchandise and CD’s. http://www.randygranger.net/order.html You can still order the traditional way through CDBaby.com, iTunes and Amazon.com. My newest CD “A Place Called Peace” is out in the world and I wish it well. It is all Native American flute music some with Hang, percussion and vocals. I’m very proud of this music and grateful for the opportunity to share it.

A couple of gigs fell through mostly due to the person I booked with initially was three persons ago and my contract is no where in sight or because my promised time slot was moved, trimmed or given to the friend of the organizer etc. Oh well. I believe everything is just as it should be so no longer fret. I uploaded a new song called “Chaco Moon Meditation” that has Hang and the mysterious Anasazi flute. I missed a chance to hang out with radio host Robin from NAMAPAHH due to conflicts of time. Mainly I had to take a friend to the airport very early Friday morning. Sorry Robin. Added some new shows to so it all balances out eh.

So check out the T-Shirts and give a listen to the new songs on “A Place Called Peace.” Say hi if you are at a show or festival. There is a special deal I’m offering to my MySpace fans for a few days. Order any CD and a T-Shirt from my website and I’ll throw in a free copy of “A Place Called Peace.” Yep free. It is my way to say thank you. Only one T Shirt per person please. I need some to sell on the road gas prices kicking my ass and all…… Just type in the word “myspacefan” for the deal.

Peace and unlimited happiness to you all.


Zion Flutes Fest Wrap Up

I’m back from a road trip to the Zion Canyon Art and Music Festival in Springdale, Utah. Though the weather was amazingly hot, dry and breezy—kind of like living in a huge blow dryer set on low—overall some really excellent music took place and loads of fun.

On my drive up, which is a 13 hour drive from my home in New Mexico, I camped out in Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation of northeast Arizona. Canyon de Chelly is a deep, red-walled canyon with a small river running through it. The Anasazi and later the Navajo have made this verdant canyon home. Driving into Zion Canyon is always stunning and stirs every part of my being. Seeing the friends I’ve made again always makes me happy. This time I met several new people as we gathered around the campground across from the entrance to the festival. Rick Dunlap and his family on Djembe, the Tank Tongue Drum which sounded like a Hang and son Ricky on didgeridoo and all the others who were jamming up a storm made for a raucous good time. I volunteered to MC the open mic stage on Saturday and Sunday. I loved hearing the flute players from all over the country. Some really nice and original music was made.

Probably because I had a Hang drum with me several people asked me to sit in with them. Kiriel from Phoenix, Stephen DeRuby, the Dunlap Clan and others that I played with were all just really open and we all shared a passion for the Native American flute and its possibilities. Joe Young, a musician from Boise, Idaho did a fantastic job with sound and played an amazing set of music. He was nice and asked me to sit in on Hang and Cornell Kinderknecht on Bansuri played so beautifully both in his solo set and with us.

Will Hoshal asked me and California musician Vince Chaffin to sit in during his concert and it was just an hours worth of smiling on both sides of the stage. Thanks Bill. Can’t wait to do it again. Being able to do what is your passion is truly a privilege. All the dehydration, sunburn, egos, too little sleep and extremely long drive was worth it. On the return trip I camped below Sunset Volcano Crater north of Flagstaff, Arizona. Very serene.

I lusted after so many flutes this year and really wanted one of John Kulias’ ceramic flutes and several of Michael Allen’s flutes but since gas is over $4.00 a gallon so the choice was pretty clear. Buy flutes or walk home….ha ha

Here is a video/photo montage of Canyon de Chelly and Zion Canyon set to a song from my new CD “A Place Called Peace.” The song is “Apache Tears.” The CD is ready and available but I’ll post a note soon about a special MySpace offer….stay tuned.


Zion Canyon Bound

Well as I sometimes do I like to start by saying it is so hot here. It has been in the low 100’s for the past week with a steady wind and at sometimes a downright gust accompanied by so much dust and grit it could sand blast a tree bare. People say well at least it’s a dry heat to which I respond—you mean like an oven or a blow dryer? I was driving outside of El Paso yesterday when the hugest Dust Devil I’ve ever seen picked up a road sign and slammed it into a car which swerved causing all sorts of craziness.

So in the midst of this heat I’m off to the Zion Canyon Art and Flute Festival again this year in Springdale, Utah. It is a 12-hour drive so I’m going to camp halfway in Canyon de Chelly, pronounced (Canyon de Shay) an ancient Anasazi dwelling site on the Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona. I’m looking forward to being surrounded by silence, stars and such spiritually significant land. The other night I was playing at a party in the Gila national forest in a funky town called Kingston. When it got dark the number of visible stars was just breathtaking. The moon was a thumbnail but so bright like someone cut a slit in the curtain. I was playing my Hang while a friend played her didgeridoo then another guest read a poem and some others sang on guitar. It was quite magical….or was it the homemade beer? Of course people went crazy over the Hang and scheduled a few concerts for me in the fall so it was a great time.

Zion canyon is really beautiful but I do wish the festival would return to the original October dates. It is really hot there and I couldn’t find a room nor tent site so am staying 45 minutes away in St. George. That is almost two gallons of gas and at over $4.00 a gallon it is getting a little tough to tour. I’m playing and MCing the open mic stage on Sat. and Sun. I love hearing what flute players are doing. On my return trip I’ll camp in the mountains or something near Flagstaff, AZ. It should be slightly cooler. I’ll take pictures especially for my fans in Europe, Japan and Eastern Europe. Thanks.

My new album “A Place Called Peace” is scheduled for release next week though I don’t know if it will be back in time to take to Zion. Oh well I have others… I’ve uploaded a song from the CD called “Double-Barrel Train Wreck” which you can download for free. Woo hoo. It is a solo song on a double barrel, or drone, Native American flute which imitates a train in motion. When I perform it live I say it is like a Native American flute met an electric guitar and collided with a locomotive. Listen for the Bluesy riff at the end—my nod to Hendrix! I always welcome your comments!

Have safe travels.


Adventures in Gigging

For a while I had a quote from writer John Updike as my email signature it goes: “Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or doing it better.” I would take that further to say that is what an artist does. I’d like to think of myself as an artist because with every song, every performance and every recording is an attempt to communicate MY experience in life, love etc. Thing is I’m also a working musician and when summer roles around out come the requests to perform at Weddings, Receptions, Rehearsal Dinners…etc. When things are going well and my bank account can keep up with my bills I usually say I’m too busy or have a schedule conflict. Whew! Weddings are madness but so are the many other “gigs” we do like banquets, dinners and the dreaded private party. Recently I was performing at a winery/bistro for a reception/wake sort of event. The woman who passed away owned a huge winery as well as co-owning the bistro. I set up in a tiny little corner next to the bar. After the funeral service the hoards of people, about 300 poured in and it got loud and crowded fast. I’m blowing my little lungs out on flute interspersing with Hang drum selections. I was near the door that leads out to the Patio and at the end of the food line. A group was encroaching on my space more and more and I was getting nervous—they had their backs to me, a plate of food in one hand, a wine glass in the other. Of course one of the fun things about playing these gigs is that you are really paid background music so I must have been invisible. This man keeps backing into my microphone and then knocked over my mic stand which fell onto my speaker which hit a stool which then hit a collection of wine glasses of various levels of fullness. Dude! I’m standing here you know….. ha ha ha

It was crazy and the whole place went quiet. A man suggested I move my equipment further back. I answered a polite but stern,”No.” Anywhere where you, the artist, is not a featured performer has the risk of competing with Cappuccino machines, clanging plates and children. When I played the Hang for the Wake a group of children gathered around and started dancing. That’s cool by me, but they were bumping into the octogenarians standing in line for food. It was like a kindergarten mosh pit.

Weddings are nice in the abstract. When you are a musician you know there will be a request for a song you have never heard of before and can’t possibly be played on guitar, flute or any other instrument. You will be required to meet with the family, the priest, the dreaded church organist and get lost during the service. Of course they ask “could you do a special song at the reception?” And…will $40 be enough? Too funny and too true.

I get a lot of request to play at private parties and just about always say no unless I have my eye on a new flute. Heck, with gas prices the way they are here…..I may have to say yes. Let me set up what it is like to play at a party. It is awkward. Period. Unless you want to put on a show and have the chairs gathered around you like a small concert, you will be background. One thing that happens is as soon as you start playing people go to the other room. If you are playing outside they all drift inside. It’s nothing personal. People just don’t always know what to do with musicians in these settings. Another thing that happens is people will start talking to you as you are playing as if you’re just another party guest. Sometimes someone will bring their kid over and say he/she is really good can she sing a song? Of course when they start singing THEN everyone pays attention. And don’t even get me started on the subject of requests.

So with all these types of gigs you have to balance being background music, being a professional, with your need to be an artist and communicate what you do to a listening audience. If you think you have something unique and meaningful to express and share like I do you are grateful to earn a living doing your music period and I am. Luckily I am doing a fair amount of touring and traveling and had to already turn down some delightful weddings in northern New Mexico and a couple of parties here. Aaaawwwww. I will say that something good always comes out of where ever I play. They lead to other gigs or interviews etc. so as they say, It’s all good.

Here is a new video of the A Cappella song “Oh Shenandoah” or “Across the Wide Missouri” from my 2006 release Cloudwalker. I hope you enjoy it. It is already 102 degrees F here in the day. Ugh!