Nicely Out Of Tune
Since about last August, Ali Karim and I had been planning to record a song called #Fishermen for this year’s double album The Breeding Ground Of Vile (#BGOV). The process of recording this mammoth project has been interrupted by a variety of happenings: work travel; Duncan being floored by a rare, very serious, and freakish foot infection; and the fact that every time we got close to recording the song it got gazumped by another!
That isn’t to say that we regarded ‘Fishermen’ as any less special than our other creations. It closely follows the theme of BGOV, and highlights the issue of the commercial abuse of international fishing grounds by factory trawlers that deplete and often remove fish stocks for local fishermen. Originally written with African fishing villages in mind, ‘Fishermen’ could also be relevant much closer to home.
The song went through a few manifestations before I finally decided it was an appropriate song for the #ngoni. The last time I used this wonderful loaned instrument for recording was for #DryTheLife in 2016, and I had it in mind I would use it again for at least one of the BGOV songs. I tend to record everything significant that I create so still have a cittern version of Fishermen on video somewhere, and I was very pleased with that version until I finally plucked (pun) up courage to retune the ngoni.
Unfortunately I could neither remember nor find the tuning I used for Dry The Life so I created a new one. It will show up one day. I tuned the two sets of six strings differently, to finger pick individual strings on the right hand side and strum two string chords on the left. The only challenge left was to ensure the bloody thing stayed in tune!
I had been playing a finger-picking tune on my cittern the night before with my #Thalia capo on the highest fret it will handle. Bizarrely, when I came to finger pick the n’goni I played exactly the same melody. So having tried dual vocals on another song with my son #DuncanReedMusic (more of that another day), I decided to try and play a dual melody for Fishermen on both cittern and n’goni. You will of course have to wait to hear the result of that but we are pretty pleased with it.
Both of my citterns hold their tune very well until you use a capo. Sometimes the strings settle well but there doesn’t seem to be a science behind it, because sometimes they just don’t! So attempting the capo on the highest possible fret provided a further tuning challenge. After a few plays it thankfully held its tune reasonably well, requiring only a few tweaks during recording. The n’goni however made us work extremely hard, but we got there in the end.
You can hear Fishermen on The Breeding Ground Of Vile later in the year.