How the Harp Got Hip

“I am not the quintessential image of a harpist,” said Brandi Younger, 37, a classically trained harpist, musician and teacher. Ms. Younger, who lives in Harlem, smiled audibly as she imagined the usual stereotypes of the stringed instrument. “You’re blond, your eyes are blue … little naked children are angels,” he said, joking. “It’s not just for this down to earth lot.”

Making Veena reach the masses has been the central goal of Ms. Younger’s career. His jazz-influenced compositions have been worked by the most recognizable names in pop and R&B such as Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Lauryn Hill.

Over the centuries Veena has been recorded in the field of “serious” music – a niche instrument, which probably closed for weddings and unfathomable mimosa brunches. With such a well-known reputation, could Veena ever be hip?

This is not without precedent. Lizzo promoted the flute again in 2018 when it announced instagram “Ho and the fruit is life.” Singing videos of innocent rap rap tunes quickly became viral, challenging the orthodox meanings of the flute as a means of purity and spontaneity.

Thanks to a collection of emerging independent artists and social media musicians, Veena is also getting a new audience. And the instrument is turning up in some unexpected places, including the Pornhub film soundtrack and the heavily-touted Ticktock Post.

Ms. Small’s love affair with the instrument began when she was a girl growing up in a suburban enclave in Hampstead, NY, and heard the drama of a father’s coworker; She began lessons as a teenager. “Veena is one of the few instruments that makes a sound with a direct touch,” she said. “There is no barrier between you and the sound.”

But as her music career progressed, Ms. Eunger wanted to play the soulful music of her idols Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, instead of purely chamber music by Claude Debussy or Carlos Salzado, two black female jazz harpists she called “Loststar.” Have said Of his career.

“Not only are they playing this music that’s just killing, but I want to play this stuff because it’s so cool,” Ms Small said. “She was a woman. They were black. I only connected with him on so many different levels. “

If Ms. Coltrane’s Liquid Glissandos provided Ms. Younger with ways to make Veena music young and fresh, it was Ms. Ashby’s style counterpart that shaped her career. Fans of rap and hip-hop have been listening to Ms. Ashby’s music unflinchingly for decades, with samples of her work used by Jay-Z, Mac Miller, Drake and other big names.

Ms. Chhoti’s most recent album, “Surprise, “A collection of livestream performances recorded with her longtime collaborator bassist Deseran Douglas. The album features an original jazz- and gospel-tinged composition, as well as hit songs from Kate Bush and” Sesame Street. “

“We’re making music for the people,” Ms. Small said. “Sometimes you have to get out of the branch that you are accustomed to do or that you are trained to do.”

The veena is one of the oldest known musical instruments, and was widely played in ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. Later it became popular among the royal and aristocratic classes of Europe – Marie Antoinette with her ornate gold harp regularly entertained guests in the French courthouse and became a fixture in Victorian era saloons. Demonstrating proficiency in instruments such as the veena was a way for women to prove that they were marriageable.

Veena’s association with purity and virtue has attracted modern players. Joanna Newsom, the indie singer-songwriter who pronounced Veena on the Billboard music charts with her acclaimed 2006 album, “YS”, has fought her musical stereotype to all fairy tales and unicorns.

“It’s an infantilizing thing that happens,” Ms. Newsom reported British press Upon the release of her 2015 album, “Divers”, “the language is narrowing and narrowing the depth of the possible narrative.”

33-year-old Marilu Donovan, based in New York, is also ahead of the instrument Prudish Rape. “It just gets tiresome,” he said. “It is a tool. It is multidimensional. It feels so different and can still be beautiful. “

Ms. Donovan, Adam Marquez, violinist and singer, perform under the name Leya. Both bring a punk mentality to their experimental works, which has been described by As Pitchfork “terrified, frightening and with a voice of horror.” Ms. Donovan achieves this effect through unconventional tuning and amplification. The result is one that produces an unpleasant dissonance: Shravan equals waking up in the blur of a nightmare only to find out that you are still trapped in a nightmare.

LEYA collaborates with her peers in the experimental music scene, recording music with musicians in Queens, a musician from Queens and the Brooklyn black metal band Liturgy. Another contemporary harp player Mary Lattimore also collaborates with musicians of other genres, including Sonic Youth Thurston Moore and leading indie rockers such as violets Steve Gunn and Kurt Wiley.

“When I started playing with LAYA, we were playing these little noisy shows in the basement,” Ms. Donovan said of the band’s early touring shows, which gives Zoom a virtual tour of her apartment.

She stopped next to two Toering Pedal Harps – an ivory and a nut made by the famous Lyon and Healy Music Company in Chicago. A harp from the manufacturer can weigh more than 80 pounds and cost, on average, over $ 30,000; $ 50,000 if it is gilded. It is the old ivory veena that Ms. Donovan takes the tour. “People will spill their beer on my harp,” she said. “People have fought during our show.”

The same Veena also makes a surprise cameo in the 2018 Pornhub film “I Love You”, directed by Brooke Candy, a stripper rapper who hired the band after watching a video for her single “Sister”.

Crimson Tulle, Min. Donovan and Mr. Tucked under the nerves of Markwicz, the art forms play drenched melodies as the erotic scenes are engraved on the screen. LEYA used several songs from that production for their 2020 album “Flood Dream”. “Donok is just such a positive, good-energy person,” Ms. Donovan said of her experience on the set. “It was so much fun.”

Veena’s delicate curves have also gained a wide audience on social media. Hannah Stater is a music student at the University of Michigan who goes to @ Shannah_harpist On TikTok, it has amassed hundreds of thousands of followers and millions of likes on the platform. After Reddit went wild for singing the theme song of the Halo video game, Canadian harpist, Kristen Tokéko was praised by the gaming community.

When Madison Calle, who is in her 20s, started posting videos of her Veena performance on her social media profile, she did not expect anything to be part of that success.

Ms. Callie, who lives in Los Angeles, completed a recording session for Ariana Grande’s “Position”s ” Album. Then Coronavirus came and canceled the concert. Ms. Callie took to Instagram to keep her skills sharp.

a Typical video Ms. Callie shows pop and R&B in her spacious living room on a giant champagne-hill pedal harp, dotted with various greenery and filled with natural light. One of her early clips, a cover of the song “Diary” by Alicia Keys, was seen by Ms. Keys, who gave Ms. Kelly’s singing to her millions of followers.

“I think once everyone was on their phones due to an epidemic, looking to escape all the insanity going on in the world,” Ms Kelly said. “I didn’t know it would take off the way it is.”

Soon, the producers of the Latin Grammys were calling on the 2020 award show with an offer to play. Ms. Kelly flickers in a stunning gold evening gown, as she makes her orchestral debut for Colombian singer-songwriter Karol Ji’s performance of “Tusa”, which was nominated for Song of the Year.

Ms. Kelly also appeared on stage for a musical performance of rapper Roddy Rich’s “Heartless” on Sunday at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards broadcast. “A lot of interesting and surprising opportunities have come from social media,” Ms Kelly said. She expected a small group of students – all women of color – to create enthusiasm for Veena.

If social media has made Veena more acceptable to music fans, advances in production have made the instrument more portable – and inexpensive – to lower barriers to entry for beginners.

In one such award of a budget-friendly harp owned by David Maguson, Vilimatic, Con. The Fireside Folk Harp, priced at $ 169 and can be crafted or sent as a DIY kit, has become a popular choice among harp enthusiasts and early musicians.

Mr Magnuson said he introduced VP sales changes within the last few years, a trend that intensified with the onset of the epidemic. Only last year he said, His Etsy Store Some 300 harps were sold. “It was shocking to me,” Mr. Magnuson said. “It’s really lifted and hasn’t slowed down at all.”

Antonio Arosamena, 35, is one of Backyard Music’s clients. Mr. Arosemna, who taught music at the East Ramapo School District in New York, needed an inexpensive practice instrument that he could use with his 6-year-old son, Luca.

As a toddler, the young boy turned to his father’s harpsichord – but he was not interested in touching the keyboard. He wanted to get the wires under the hood.

“He was looking inside the instrument and wanted to touch the wire,” Mr. Arosemna said. “I was like, ‘If you want to touch the wire, we are going to get you a device where you can touch all the wires you want.”

His search for a suitable starter Veena initially led him to a producer in Pakistan. But as his son’s game progressed, Mr. Arosemna realized that he needed something more portable that he could bring with him on road trips to maintain his exercise routine.

So Mr. Arosemna ordered the Fireside Veena Kit. He documented the entire process on Instagram and said that it took him just a few days to make a three-piece hardwood kit; The hardest part was putting 22 wires. “He went from being my instrument to being my practice instrument to help with the rhythm,” he said.

A recent Instagram post shows Luca, who had finally started kindergarten, dutifully reciting sheet music as he practices arghya on the harp from the comfort of his living room couch. As he clears the last note, he turns to the camera and reveals a shy smile, celebrating his musical victory.


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