This is a picture of my Chinese Ocarina, also called a xun – or less simply, a Chinese Globular Flute. I first heard the amazing sounds of this instrument on a Yusef Lateef record called Eastern Sounds. I bought the record because I was talking with a guy at a record store about impulsively buying ethnic instruments and never learning to play them. He said one instrument he always wanted was a Chinese Globular Flute that he had heard on the aforementioned Yusef Lateef album. I impulse bought the album, and the next day I was at Musideum impulse buying the flute.
I know. I have a problem.
The flute languished in a corner with the many other ethnic flutes I have impulse bought over the years. But I kept thinking about it. And I kept thinking about hockets.
This weekend, amidst the terror and trouble of the G20 summit in Toronto, Herbie Hancock played a concert at Nathan Philip’s square. Herbie has done everything – he has played out, he has played in, he charted the first turntable sounds on his hit record Rockit – but Herbie also used a hocket in the introduction to his song Watermelon Man. It’s a sound one doesn’t forget, and today I finally made a piece of music using both my Chinese Globular Flute and a hocket:
It isn’t as funky as Herbie’s, but no one is perfect. I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing something funky under it, feeling like I was appropriating music that didn’t belong to me. Yet I have no problem poaching from Chinese, Balinese and pygmy music. Influence is funny that way.
Ethnic music – not including C&W and African-American Vernacular music – has always been an idyll for me. A strange, embarrassing respite best represented by the homoerotic paradise seen below:
I wish I could be there right now.