Feature Article by Paul Liberatore, Lifestyles, Marin IJ

Paul Liberatore: World music, Marin style

Lucia Comnes and Tamarind Jones. The names have a nice ring when you say them together, a rhythm, an alliteration, as if they were meant to be linked in some way – not as a law firm or comedy team, but as two young Marin musicians (Comnes is 25, Jones 32) exploring new territory in world music.

That’s exactly what a mutual friend thought when she introduced them in February at the musician and mountain biker hangout, San Anselmo Coffee Roasters.

“She was familiar with both our backgrounds in music and our current work and felt it would be really appropriate for us to meet up,” Comnes tells me. “We’d both heard of each other, and were aware of each other. When we did meet, we found we really did have a lot in common. We immediately connected and started planning concerts together.”

One of those concerts, their second, is a joint CD release show Saturday at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center.

Comnes, a Marin native who sings and plays violin with her own band, comes to the gig with songs from her debut album, “On the Way,” a world fusion CD that’s a kind of musical U.N. plenary session, melding Irish melodies, Turkish rhythms, Indian tabla, Bulgarian vocals, Motown grooves, gypsy tunes, West African vibes and American jazz.

“The mission of this album is to bring forth some of my favorite songs, ones that I’ve picked up traveling and studying abroad, and presenting them in new ways that are accessible to modern young audiences while still being true to the
Advertisement traditions they come from,” Comnes explains. “I’m 25, and I have quite a few peers who are interested in this music. But some of the sounds are very different from what you hear in pop music. It’s kind of an acquired taste.”

On her second album, “Sounds Alone,” Jones sings original pop songs in the North Indian classical music style she learned while studying at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael.

Recorded in Los Angeles with producer Alex Gibson (who collaborated on the “Songs for Tibet – Art of Peace” project) and session musicians who’ve played with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alanis Morissete, among other name bands, “Sounds Alone” is exotic and yet accessible, different from anything I’ve heard before.

“English lyrics with Indian melodies is a unique combination, an experiment for me,” she says, noting that she once sang in the jazz group Facing East. “What I’m drawn to is lyrics and poetry in more of a folk and rock style rather than jazz.”

Both of these women have come to their eclectic music from fascinating backgrounds.

Jones’ parents are followers of the controversial guru Da Free John, who now calls himself Adi Da. She grew up in the cult’s ashram in Fiji as one of his adopted daughters.

“It was a way for me to be part of his family as well,” she says of the adoption. “It was a special thing. I was very blessed.”

She studied ballet and violin in Fiji, and, on a visit with her parents to Marin, she checked out the Ali Akbar College of Music, founded by the great Indian classical music master Ali Akbar Khan. She’s been a student at the San Rafael school since 1993.

“I loved the music and after that I just wanted to sing,” she said, noting that she dropped the violin and gave up dancing in order to focus on vocals and songwriting, feeling that’s her true calling.

“These songs started coming to me,” she says, “and I realized that was what I could offer.”

Comnes, who grew up in San Anselmo’s Sleepy Hollow, became the youngest member of Kitka, a women’s vocal ensemble that specializes in Eastern European music, when she was 18. With Kitka, she learned to sing in 15 languages and sings in seven of them on her new CD.

“Growing up in Marin, I was exposed to musical traditions from all over the world at a very young age,” she recalls. “I first heard Kitka in high school.”

She left the group in 2004 to finish her degree in ethnomusicology, studying for two years in Costa Rica, Mexico, Greece and Ireland.

Originally trained in classical violin, she studied Irish music with John Peterson at Amazing Grace Music in San Anselmo and toured and peformed in Ireland this summer.

When she was an elementary student at Brookside School in San Anselmo, she participated in the California Freshwater Shrimp Project, a campaign to save an endangered species that gave her an early environmental awareness and the inspiration for her one original composition, “Water,” on her CD.

“Water is my first original song, and it’s more the essence of who I am as an artist,” she says. “I’m bringing awareness to water as a vital element on the planet so we don’t end up in the same situation as we have with oil, having it in hands of big corporations.

“Growing up in Marin, my parents are very political and socially and environmentally active in the community. It showed me that people could make a huge difference by working together.”

And, in the came of Comnes and Jones, by singing together.

Paul Liberatore
Posted: 10/09/2008 06:22:55 PM PDT
The Marin IJ, Featured in the “Lifestyles” Section

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.