Equus – Tanks World Music Series

The stunning artistry and musicianship of Equus will be on show at The Tanks on Friday 14th August for a night of world music like you’ve never heard before. Bringing a Middle Eastern resonance to the traditional songs of Mongolia, Equus are a new and exciting player on the Australia World Music Scene blending exotic instruments such as the Oud, Saz and Bouzouki with the Indian flavour of the Tavil, Zarb and Kanjira.

Following the release of their debut album ‘Dakshin Khun’ we had a chat to Oud and Turkish Baglama player John Robinson ahead of their upcoming North Queenlsand shows.

Mitch Sullivan: Equus is a fairly unique style of music blending some very different instruments and influences together, how did the band come about?

John Robinson: We all came together and met at the great world music festival, The Woodford Folk Festival in 2011. We sort of knew each other a little bit before then, but we decided to meet and have a bit of a play and see how things worked out, and it worked out beautifully. The combination of instruments and everything was brilliant. We’re all from the Sydney area so when we got back to Sydney we just started getting together and playing and we ended up recording a CD in 2013.It’s been on the up and up from there.

Mitch Sullivan: We’re you all involved in different projects at Woodford?

John Robinson: Yes we were all there for different bands at the time.

Mitch Sullivan: What attracted you to playing the traditional songs of Mongolia? Do any of the band member have heritage from Mongolia?

John Robinson: Our singer Bukhu is Mongolian and they have a really unique style of singing over there called Khoomei which means throat singing in Mongolian. Bukhu is master of that and also of the Horse Fiddle which is there national folk music instrument, which is kind of like a 2 string Cello.

Bukhu has been in Australia for about 5 years and he studied at the Mongolian National Academy of Performance and has a Master’s degree from there, so that’s the Mongolian connection.

Mitch Sullivan: What attracted you to the Oud and the Baglama? When did you first start learning these instruments?

John Robinson: I started about fifteen years ago when I was at university studying music, I don’t have a Middle Eastern background but I went to uni with a lot of guys that did. The music just rubbed off on me and I absolutely loved it, I ended up going to Turkey to study and have been doing that for the last fifteen years or so.

Mitch Sullivan: Did you get your instruments locally or from abroad?

John Robinson: I got them from Turkey, but Sydney is a funny place you can go to a Deli or a fruit shop and you’ll see them hanging on a wall (laughter).

Mitch Sullivan: Your debut album is called ‘Dakshin Khun’, what is the meaning behind that?

John Robinson: That’s a combination of two languages because on the album we have a percussionist named Kungi Biya who plays South Indian percussion and Dakshin is an ancient sand script word meaning southern. The word Khun is a Mongolian word that means people. So in translation it means Southern People or Southern Man. That’s kind of just referring to the fact that we’re all in this country and we’re all from such different places but we find ourselves in this southern land coming together and creating something new.

Mitch Sullivan: There’s a video of you guys performing the standard Summertime on your website (www.equusmusic.com.au ) in your own very unique way, is that one a regular in your set?

John Robinson: Yeah that is a bit of a regular and we pop that out at most shows and we have a couple of other jazz standards that we do in our own way.

Mitch Sullivan: What other jazz standards do you throw in?

John Robinson: We do some of the Gypsy Hot Club tunes like Dark Eyes and Minus Wing, that kind of thing.

Mitch Sullivan: How big of a part does improvisation play in your performances?

John Robinson: Improvisation plays a pretty big part in that we all have some background in jazz music and that we have this philosophy with the band that we can take the music somewhere new through improvisation. So usually we don’t play any concert the same but we have our set pieces in the songs that can go anywhere once we’ve started playing.

Mitch Sullivan: What can we expect to hear at The Tanks on the 14th August?

John Robinson: You can expect to hear some unique vocals from Bukhu, Mongolia is the only place in the world that they do that really unique singing style. Also just a really big mix of different sound from around the world with lots of different musical influences coming together.

Mitch Sullivan

Equus perform at The Tanks Arts Centre on Friday 14th August. COST:   $30 / $25 (CONC) [PG]  Doors open from 6.30pm. Show starts 7.30pm. Support:  The North Project (Joe Vizzone & Ruedi Homberger)

Equus – Dakshin Khun (Southern Man) is available on iTunes

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