Free Planet Radio bringing the language of sound to TFAC May 21

Published 10:04 pm Friday, May 6, 2016


River Guerguerian, Chris Rosser and Eliot Wadopian describe themselves as “three multi-instrumentalists exploring the infinite and seamless relationships between musical cultures through the universal language of sound.”


The “language of sound” would suggest that music is a form of communication.


Free Planet Radio recently performed at a church benefit concert in Hendersonville to an audience who had mostly never heard their music before. The reaction was warm, heartfelt and welcoming. People were intrigued by Chris’ unusual exquisite stringed instruments, Eliot’s melodic bass playing, and River’s eclectic percussion. This music is accessible and spoke to them in a wordless language that bridges communities because it borrows from so many cultures and ethnic styles. It is a language that anyone can understand.


When asked how he connects with his audiences, River answered, “I tune into the group consciousness, the vibration. Every living being has a heartbeat and each organism and system has a pulse.”


How did this band’s unusual name originate? What does it mean? “We chose Free Planet Radio because it suggested to us music without borders, the transmission of sound from the entire globe rather than just one culture or tradition,” said ______.


Why is this music intriguing and appealing? Not only is the sound quite unique, the instruments are a visual feast, evocative of exotic places. It’s like taking a trip around the world without leaving your seat.


Chris’ array of instruments includes a 17-stringed Indian dotar, Turkish cumbus oud, sarod, melodica, guitar and piano. He is equally adept at playing the unusual as he is the more common. Eliot coaxes sounds both melodic and rhythmic from his polished, classical upright bass as he switches back and forth between plucking and bowing the strings with fluid grace; and then surprises and delights his audience when he picks up his electric bass for a more light-hearted contemporary sound.


River’s eclectic hybrid drum set includes not only what one expects to see, cymbals, bass, snare, etcetera, but also indigenous drums and percussion instruments collected during his global travels. Beautiful large frame drums, shakers, kanjira, pandeiro, tambourine, riq and doumbek evoke ancient times.


Together, these six hands coax, pull, cajole the individual voices from their instruments until they blend and flow to form their non-verbal language.


This music has profound depth because each man brings his own personal experience to the collaboration.


When asked, “What was the one great life experience that has affected your music the most?” There were three very different responses.


Chris responded: “Probably the most influential period of my musical life was the two years I spent at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, Calif. when I was in my late 20s. This was a school for North Indian classical music run in the traditional oral manner by one of the greatest Indian musicians in history, Maestro Ali Akbar Khan.


“It completely opened my eyes to a different language of melody and rhythm and made me realize just how small Western music really is in the scope of the world. Beyond the class material, I learned just as much by simply being in the presence of such an incredible virtuoso, and witnessing up close something as simple as the way he puts his hands on his instrument.”


Eliot said, “Back in the mid-90’s I had the amazing opportunity to perform with Paul Winter Consort in Israel near the Kibutz Eingev. The performance was on a stage about a mile out in the Negev Desert. No seats, no cover overhead. A stage and a PA, that was it. The audience, all 4,000 of them, enjoyed the concert from the sand dunes. This was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen from any stage.


“It struck me how the power of the music and the desire for community brought all these diverse folks to this out door event. The audience danced and listened and reveled in the joy of the day. It was really amazing and beautiful. This experience has vividly stuck with me for 20 plus years.”


And River added: “About 20 years ago, I sold everything and traveled around the world with a backpack and a large frame drum. For about five years I lived mostly in a wildlife sanctuary in the Himalayas in India. It was life altering in many ways. During that time I delivered my oldest daughter in the middle of the night without electricity or running water. That changed my relationship to music. I began to research its effect on the human organism and community.”


This mostly original music has authenticity, an old world aesthetic mixed with a modern sensibility. What imbues it with so much life is a jazz informed ability to improvise and an obvious joy and appreciation for each other’s skill.


Connection is important to all of them. They look forward to sharing their gift with the Tryon community.


Join them Saturday evening, May 21 at the Tryon Fine Arts Center. For this concert, Chris will play a very special guitar, handmade by Lichty Guitars in Tryon, which has generously donated this exquisite instrument for the annual Lichty guitar raffle for LEAF Community Arts.


Raffle tickets will be for sale at the Tryon concert. The band will be joined on stage by Tom Boots, a WNC visual artist who will put brush to canvas as he creates a painting to the music.


Part of the proceeds from the silent auction of this painting will be donated to two local Polk County non-profits: Growing Rural Opportunities (GRO) which supports farmers, and Wind River Services, a cancer wellness retreat.


Concert tickets are available online and at the TFAC box office, open Tuesday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., call 828-859-8322. VIP tickets include seating in the first four rows and a complimentary CD.