In conversation with mark lotz
by Tomas Peńa
Introduction: Flutist Mark Alban Lotz has created a unique niche for himself in the field of World Music. He is one of those rare musicians who is as comfortable performing Cuban folkloric music, as he is exploring the African roots of Latin music, or blasting Indian classical music in his car. A Fula’s Call sees Mark joining forces with Omar Ka, a West African griot (a storyteller who carries on the oral history of his tribe) who sings about such weighty topics as: truth, honesty, respect, gratitude, happiness, the nomadic life and the walk to Mecca. A Fula’s Call demonstrates what happens when people cast their cultural differences aside and join forces for a common cause.
Congratulations on the release of A Fula’s Call. What was the concept going in?
Our music is a mix of different worlds: European, African and Indian. Our “mission” is to combine the best of all of these worlds into our sound. For lack of a better term, let’s call it, “Global World Music with a distinct Fulani sound and a European twist!”
It’s a very unique and beautiful sound. Omar’s voice is absolutely haunting. For the benefit of our readers, the title stems from the fact that Omar hails from the West African nomadic tribe of the Fula.
You grew up in Thailand, Uganda and Germany and studied music at the Amsterdam School of the Arts and in the United States. Your music reflects the fact that you are a citizen of the world. You have recorded with everyone from the Cuban folkloric groups to the Global Village Orchestra. That’s quite a range!
Yeah and I really love it. It makes my profession very satisfying as I am encountering a lot of musicians in (sometimes) bizarre, funky venues. As for my range, I am a European musician rooted in jazz and classical music, though I have also studied Afro Cuban music and I am currently studying Indian music. I also like doing my own thing. That is why my music will always be, what I call, “tasteful fusion.” As Miles Davis said, “It’s all about taste.”
Tell me about your “tribe” (band).
Omar Ka is an African griot and is strongly rooted in nomadic music; Afra Mussawisade is steeped in World/Latin music; Raphael Vanoli is a sound painter and I am an improviser.
A West African griot/vocalist, an Iranian percussionist, a French guitarist and a German flutist! Not to mention your guests: An Indian vocalist, a German playing the African thumb piano. That’s quite a combination.
Mark Lotz, photo by Sannah de Zwart
Actually, there are more guests. I learned from Latino’s to invite people on to the stage!
How did you and Omar come together?
I heard a lot about Omar and always wanted to work with him. Eventually we got together to jam and exchange ideas, then we wrote the music and rehearsed with Afra and Raphael. A feature article appeared in a Russian magazine, which resulted in an invitation to participate in the Ethno Jazz Festival in Chisinau. Initially, I went there with a crossover group called Vistar (a group based around the Hindustanic singer, poet Raj Mohan) and the tour was a big success. Later, I went to Russia with A Fula’s Call. Censorship is alive and well in Russia but the warmth and friendship of the Russian people made the tour a huge success.
Tell me about the making of Fula’s Call.
The recording, editing and mixing took the better part of a year but it was worth it. We are very proud of this recording.
As well you should be. As a big fan of Afro Cuban music, I am curious to know how you became involved with the genre. Also, you performed with the late, great percussionist Miguel “Anga” Diaz (who passed away in 2007). What was it like working with Anga?
We performed at the Percuba Jazz Festival in Havana in 1997 and recorded at the ICAIC studios, which is close to the legendary Egrem studios. Sjahin During knew Anga and asked him to record with us. It’s amazing how quickly he adapted to our music. As I remember him he was a sweet and gentle guy.
Is there any chance that the band might be visiting the United States? I would think that the World Music Institute, or a similar organization would be interested in A Fula’s Call.
Definitely. We need a manager to help us set up a U.S. tour. I hope this interview helps. Please, managers, record labels, DJ’s and journalists do not hesitate to contact us. I just toured the U.S. and Canada with Estrell Acosta’s Guajira (Cuban country music. An Cuban cast with one exception – ME!). Also, I would love to experience a New York Sirloin Style Steak again… it’s almost as good as pernil (Cuban roasted pork).
What kind of music are you listening to, at home or in your car?
I am listening to North Indian classical music by Hari Prasad Chaurrasia and others. Occasionally I listen to jazz and folkloric music, like Fulani flute master Bailo Bah. Also, pop music by Omar Ka and my friend Praful. But nothing beats Indian classical music while driving!
Mark, “your cup runneth over!” Thank you and good luck with A Fula’s Call.
Mark Lotz & Shango’s Dance – Cuban Fishes Make Good Dishes (Loplop/Random Chance Records)
Lotz of Music in Havana – Blues for Yemaya (Loplop/Random Chance Records)
Global Village Orchestra – Globalistics (Loplop/Random Chance Records)