“The excitement of discovering something beyond imagination” has always been my pursuit, whether in architecture or in music. And luckily, there have been some occasions when I succeeded. “I never knew what to expect at the next note, and when it appeared it was a pleasant surprise,” - a friend who likes to write about my compositions once commented.
The idea of the album “Southern Wind, Northern Sand” comes from the Sirocco wind which carries the Sahara sand from Northern Africa to Southern Europe. This mixture of wind and sand has a stone-carving effect on the geography and cultures of this region. After my years of living and traveling alone the Mediterranean, finally I am ready with this album.
The first three pieces in the album “Southern Wind, Northern Sand” are my new experiment to combine Arabic percussion and Oriental scales with piano jazz music. I have gotten a growing interest in the folk instruments from Morocco. It was when I was trapped for hours by a sand storm in the Sahara, together with our two nomad friends. The powerful nature was threatening to uncover our tent any moment, but we managed to pass time by listening to, and later jamming on their tamtam drums and Krakebs. For those who roam the Sahara Desert, music is essential: it keeps them from fearing the vast nature. It happened to be the music that “stayed” with me, and I keep wanting to listen to it here in France.
Our inspiration can come from all places. Before the creation of “Aurora Fantasy”, I spent 2 years living in Norway, where I often hiked around its stunningly beautiful mountains and fjords. The nature there was cruel, unpredictable. The music is rich and full of surprises in its harmonic changes, which resembles the beauty of the nature: its ever-changing colorations.
“Rain Season” was made in the monsoon months in Malta. “Salin de Giraud” was on a foggy and chilly morning in Salin de Giraud, one of France’s salt farms in its Southern shore, where most of the European pink flamingos set their permanent homes. “Lucia” was found in the subway of Lyon, a young attractive Gypsy girl. She was wearing an elegant looking head scarf, and quickly became a head turner.
The song “Southern Wind, Northern Sand” continues to implement Oriental style into modern piano playing. The wind instrument emerged as a pleasant surprise. It starts as a gentle breeze and slowly gains its power.
Not all songs have stories or images projected on them. After all, sitting at my piano and fooling around with the notes is what I do, and that brings me the closest to my creations.
Monica Xiao, September 2017
Album art by Rune Bo Jakobsen runejako.com
released May 20, 2017