Happy Twenties, EMBRYO !
by Joachim Ernst Behrendt
When Embryo gave themselves their name in 1968/69 World Musik was itself still an embryo. In the meamtime both "Embryo" and World Musik have become productive: quite an unusual state for an embryo. World Musik has developed into music for the whole world. And more than 300 musicians have performed with Embryo -even "Dissidenten"- and all of them have been permanently influenced by Embryo and world music.
Groups usually only exist for a few years. Twnty years in the live of a group is much more than twenty years in the live of a human beeing. Twenty years of Embryo can be ccompaired to a mountain from which you can see varied landscapes: the protest of the Sixties, the hard work of the Seventies, the freedom of the Eighties and maybe the wisdom of the Nineties, too. And of course many countries can be seen from Embryo mountain: from Arab to Black Afrika, the Near East, the USA, from Eastern Europe to India-the whole world.
All this becomes audible on the record produced by Embryo commemorating their last twenty years. Peter Michael Hamel, Roberto Detrée and Christian Burchard are now so far apart that hardly anyone remembers: they started together in 1967 at the "Song Parnass" in Munich -each moving in his own direktion- Christian Burchard built up Embryo, Argentinian Roberto created his own idea of lati-american music and Peter wrote "Kassandra" and "Organum" and made compositions which are still disconcerting for the established avantgarde of Donaueschingen and Darmstadt (avantgardistic and etablishment are no contradiction in those places). It is both revealing and quite moving to hear how the three had to communicate when they got together for Embryoś Twentieth.
Back in 1967/68 Christian Burchard was the vibraphonist of Mal Waldron, the pianist who played with Billie Holiday and John Coltrane and who at least the Japanese recognize for the great musician he is. Just how good the Mal-Christian alliance stillworks can be heard on this record.
It is a pity that the other great American musician who was involved in the Embryo evolution - Charlie Mariano - is not to be heard on the record. But in a way he is: when Roland Schaeffer plays the nagasuram, an oboe-like instrument that Mariano studied for years in South India (and so often played with Embryo), you think on hearing Mariano himself, until you realize that it is Roland playing in his own special way - more independent and technically superior.
Of course Embryoś important countries are represented on this record. Marrocco by El Houssaine Kili, Nigeria by the Yoruba Dun Dun Ensemble of Lamidi Ayankunle and India by T.A.S. Mani with his College of Prcussion.
The Gimbri, a sort of primitive bass, is played by Houssain3, a Berber, Initially, the playing technique is from Gambia an non other than Jimi Hendrix was influenced by it- The Dun Dun is called piano of the Yorubas and that is how Lamidi plays it, as if it was no drum but a key instrument with a sound range of more than an octave. Erin is the name of the village where the three Negerians come from and the recording was made in Constance, Germany, so that is the reason for the title "Erin in Constance"
And the Karnataka College from Bangalore with its incredible intricate yet smoothly interwoven rhythmic layers and lines, is simoly one of the worlś most perfect percussion groups and schools - as can be heard in "Ramas Seven". If you could hear Kali, the great indian godness, mother of fire, death and live, I imagine she would sing just like Rama Mani. And there is another point that has to be made: if Christian Burchard and the Embryo musicians had made us aware of only the Karnataka music we should be greatful just for that but they have done the same for us with musicians from all over the world.
I think there isnt even a group in America that lives World Musik like Embryo. It can only be played if you live it, together with the musicians in their own countries and cultures. Those who think they can do without end up sooner or later playing canned music, where World Musik has often lead to.
That is the reason why I do wish Embryo a further twenty years. But an Embryo of the Nineties is what I would like for myself and for the numrious friends of the group throughout theworld and above all for Embryo themselves!