Elephant Songs is a band with an always changing line-up: drummer Robbert van Hulzen travels to interesting places, and finds musicians to play with. The project is inspired by the old story of the elephant in the dark: people cannot see it, so they try to get to know it by touch. They all feel different parts of the beast – the head feels like a pot, the tip of the tail could be a brush. A leg a pillar, the trunk a snake. Elephant Songs is the optimistic inversion of the story: everyone experiences music differently, but musicians can and will always play together, wherever they come from and whatever they call the results. All members contribute material; Robbert’s Elephant Songbook functions as a starting point, playing with odd metre rock grooves, filmic melodies, South Indian rhythm games, homespun harmonies, and a delicate balance between composition and improvisation.
The story started with elephant songs – drumbiker: in 2012 he bought and old Enfield motorcycle, loaded it with drums, and rode the bike from South India to the Netherlands – seven months, eleven countries, 20,000 kilometres, twenty shows en route.
For elephant songs – kurdistan in the autumn of 2013, he invited two of his Iranian friends – met in Tehran in May ’12 – and found two musicians in Suleymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan. They worked together for a week in preparation for a concert, besides Robbert and Iranian percussionist Arash Lotfi taught a rhythm workshop to local musicians. Robbert created a half-hour documentary on this Elephant Songs music meeting.
The idea for Elephant Songs was born with Om Viloma, the world-collision group Robbert put together in 2009 commissioned by the Music: World Series. Musicians with various backgrounds, from India, Greece, Germany, and Holland, came together in what became the direct predecessor for Elephant Songs.
Future projects are being planned involving Iran and Tajikistan, as well as a new incarnation of the group in South India. Subscribe if you want to stay informed of the developments.
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Music has taken Dutch drummer Robbert van Hulzen to many places (Canada, Indonesia, the USA, Iran, Palestine, Italy, Slovakia, Kurdistan, Slovenia, Spain, etc), and he’s been visiting India for many years, playing with various groups and musicians from the fusion scene and the classical world, including Maarten Visser, Keith Peters, Mishko M’ba, and BK Chandramouli. In Amsterdam, he works in the (free) jazz scene (with many musicians including Alfredo Genovesi, John Dikeman, Ned McGowan), dancer Michael Jahoda, contemporary gamelan ensemble Gending, and many others, and writes and produces music for film and theatre. He holds MA degrees in musicology from the Amsterdam University and performance from the Amsterdam Conservatory and studied Indian rhythm with MT Rajakesari, BC Manjunath, Suresh Talwalkar, Sundar Nagarajan, and others.