This past June I had the good fortune to be involved in the Nordic Countries Songs of the Soul Tour. This brought us to Vaasa and Helsinki in Findland, Riga in Latvia, Oslo in Norway and Reykjavik in Iceland. As with all other Songs of the Soul tours, these were concerts of meditative music free to the public featuring exclusively the music of Sri Chinmoy. Musical performances were offered by Alap (Duduk), Paree’s Group (female a cappella singing), Adesh and Ajita (Sitar and Tabla), Sangit Desh (vocal, piano, charango, guitar, ukulele, flutes), Parichayaka and myself (electric guitar, vocal and keyboard), Mandu and Vishudhi (Harp and Erhu) and Agnikana’s Group (vocal, harmonium, guitar, flutes, percussion).
The first concert was in Vaasa, a city of about 90 000 people located five hours North of Helsinki. I thought that the sun was setting quite late in Helsinki (still plenty of sunlight at 11 pm) but of course driving north made that effect even more pronounced. The concert went quite well and I got to use what ended up being my favorite amp of the tour – a vintage Vox tube amp. I traveled with a Fender Telecaster + an MXR Carbon Copy analogue delay pedal and an older model Digitech Jamman loop pedal. I also used an E-Bow on the second song we played. The incomparable Parichayaka played various keyboard configurations throughout the tour plus he sang and played percussion. At times all three at once. We thought of setting up a kick drum that he could wear like a back-pack, but we thought that would be less soulful and more carnival.
In Helsinki, we were in the main concert hall for the capital and the building is brand new. It was a real treat to play and spend time in such a nice facility. It was so new that the local technicians didn’t know how everything worked yet.
Fortunately our own tech team is very nimble and everyone worked together to make things sound nice. We were playing one of the smaller halls. The audience was very appreciative.
Riga was one of the surprise hits of the tour because many of us just didn’t know much about the country or the city. I think it was one of our bigger concerts with something like 700 people in a lovely older theater. The local organizers
were young, friendly, helpful, dynamic and professional. The day after the concert we got a nice tour of the old city which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and indeed very charming.
Travelling between tours was all done by plane and the whole technical and musical team traveled together. That was really fun. There was 40 or 50 of us, I believe. It was like a school trip.
The concert in Norway was lovely too. There I was given a Marshall “stack” amplifier for the guitar, but it was just too big for this type of music. I thought it was pretty funny. 20 years ago, I would have been over the moon with a big rig like that, but the past is dust 🙂
The local organizers, many of whom work for the Fragrance of the Heart restaurants absolutely spoiled us travellers in the food department.
The final destination for us was Iceland which is a really cool place to visit (literally and figuratively). The lava-field landscape that welcomed us upon arrival was a neat first impression. It’s like landing on another planet. The air is rlight and pure. I really enjoyed discovering this unique country. Icelanders are renowned for their hospitality and the local organizers didn’t disappoint. We got a nice tour after the concerts featuring waterfalls, a geyser, and miscellaneous volcano-related scenery. The sun really never set when were there. At midnight it’s like 8:30 or 9:00pm in southern Canada.
Fortunately or Unfortunately we didn’t see any “hidden people” (Elves of Icelandic folklore) who apparently live in rocks (which was like how I went to Japan and I didn’t see a single robot), but we did see several dudes who totally looked like vikings.
We played 2 concerts in the brand new concert hall in Reykjavik (completed right before the economic crisis), and the crowd was very appreciative. We even had some political VIP’s in attendance who came to thank us backstage
after the concerts.
After the VIP’s left I had the honor and privilege of performing a song with some of the boys including Homagni, the stage director and one of the founders
of the Songs of the Soul series. The song was a remake of Gotye’s “Somebody that I used to know” for which we re-wrote the lyrics to recount the highlights of the tour we had just completed. It was pretty loose but got some good laughs.
I feel that the performers and technical crew worked really hard and had a really nice time on this tour. We certainly hope that the audiences enjoyed the music. The next such concert tour is Mongolia in September.