Friday, August 27, 2010

On Musical Accompaniment: Do'ah with the windows rolled down

Classic Do'a (alternately, Do'ah) adds the perfect ambiance to a ride in the country. -gw
Representing the combined vision of multi-instrumentalists/composers Randy Armstrong and Ken LaRoche, Do'ah (also: Do'ah: World Music Ensemble) was one of the first bands in the western world to blend musical traditions and instrumentation from around the globe. Devotees of the Baha'I religion, Armstrong and LaRoche used music as an expression for their message of peaceful coexistence. Formed in 1974, Do'ah initially came together as a duo. Ohio-born Armstrong had previously played guitar with rock and pop bands in the Midwest. During a tour of New England, he fell in love with the region and dreamed of making it his home. Moving to the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Armstrong began to seek musicians with whom to play. Compiling a list of over 100 musicians, he loaded his VW bus and went off in search of a musical partner. Armstrong's search led him to Peterborough, New Hampshire-born Ken LaRoche, a classically trained flautist who had performed with the New Hampshire Philharmonic Orchestra while still in high school. His musical interests, however, were extremely eclectic. When Armstrong showed up at his doorstep, he was working with an avant-garde jazz band. Agreeing to pool their resources, Armstrong and LaRoche took their name, Do'ah, from an Arabic/Persian word signifying a call to prayer, meditation, chanting, and worship. The group added the "h" to its name in 1987 to avoid confusion with punk rock band D.O.A.. Simple instrumentation was used at first, with Armstrong on acoustic guitar and LaRoche on bamboo flutes and kalimba. They soon became obsessed with collecting, studying, and playing instruments from around the world. "I had a dream," Armstrong, a devotee of the Baha'i faith, said during a late-'80s interview. "I was walking down a cobblestone street that looked very much like Old Jerusalem. A man in a striped turban motioned for me to follow him into a store, where there were all these instruments hanging in the window. I kept studying them, very perplexed. I wasn't really sure what was going on. After that, I was led into a room where Abdu'l-Baha, the son of Baha'u'llah, the prophet/founder of the Baha'i faith, was sitting before me. It was a very powerful feeling. I wanted to turn away because I didn't think that I was worthy to be there. But, I couldn't take my eyes off of him. He was sitting there smiling and he began showing me instruments from around the world, one at a time."

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