There is no denying it,
Rob van Barschot
is, as the Dutch would say, a musical centipede. He studied music at the
Fontys Art School,
graduating in improvisation, jazz, latin and afro.
He played drums and percussion in a jazz choir; a Foo Fighters tribute band and, of course, his former band
He was musical leader in jazz jam sessions and worked together with Fieke van der Hurk on the 2018
leading the percussion section. He gives well-received drum/percussion workshops. He makes dance music with his friend and partner in crime Daphyd Sens under the name
And now his first solo album Home is out through
Bandcamp featuring the GUDA drum. Rob wrote most of the music himself or co-wrote it, adding the words ‘solo-artist’ and ‘composer’ to his already impressive CV.
Rob explained to me that the idea for this solo album started during the recording of the first ThunderCrow CD Drop It.
– ‘2 years ago, with ThunderCrow, we decided we would like to add a ‘handpan’ sound to the recordings of Drop It. I found a second hand GUDA drum on the internet with Omnia logos on it.
I thought that was funny, so I bought that one. When the developers of the GUDA drum found out I bought a drum with my own logos on it, they also thought it was funny, and gave me a second drum for free! That’s how my collaboration with GUDA DRUM by ZEN PERCUSSION started. 2 years later I have several GUDAs at home for teaching private and group lessons, all in their own size and scale.’
So, what is a GUDA drum? It is a hybrid between a tongue drum and a handpan. A tongue drum would be a drum originally made from propan tanks with tongues cut out that give the drum its tone. Handpans are drums where two metal shells are glued together and fields -I would call them dents- are worked into the instrument which produce several harmonious tones when hit.
A GUDA drum is also made of two half shells glued together, but has tongues cut out instead of the ‘dents’ that you can see on a handpan. It is usually played with the fingers by tapping the tongues and creating a melody like that. Despite being a ‘steel’ drum I find the sound of the GUDA drum warm, mellow and comforting where a handpan and several other tongue drums I heard are bit more metallic sounding.
The music on Home reflects that sound. It’s relaxing, soothing, yet rhythmical music. The album is firmly rooted in the new age tradition with touches of ambient beats cheering you up. But there is a big difference. Where most new age music has this carpet of violin or keyboard smoothing out the rhythms, giving it a bit of a nostalgic of melancholic feel, the melodylines played on the GUDA drum are part of the rhythm, giving the songs on Home a special groove, and a real positive vibe. It sounds a lot more grounded, and less dreamy than most other new age albums.
Rob:‘The album is called Home, because I recorded everything in the relaxing environment of my own house (except Nomad, which is a live recording from a theatre). The reason why it sounds so great is because Fieke van den Hurk
mixed and mastered my home recordings in her studio. If you listen carefully you can hear breathing, walking and nature sounds on the album because we chose not to hide any ‘extra sounds’ we made during the recording process. The girls from
(picture above) recorded their parts in their own homes and of course Tineke Ogink (second from right) wrote the lyrics for Fox and Bird.
Besides Fieke and Guinevere I had help from Wouter de Belder aka “Het Belders Strijkorkest” -violin, alto-violin, double bass- and from percussionist Gijs Anders van Straalen -garrapata, udu, pandeiro, caixixi, quinto, conguita-‘
Rob himself plays three GUDA drums on Home; the GUDA F Custom, – G Enigma and – Freezbee A African, as well as cajons, shakers, bells, marimba, bongos, cymbals, tammorra, darbuka, floor tom, tambourine and the Logic drum machine.
The first song on Home, La Vita, starts with Rob playing a melody on a single GUDA drum and the beauty of the instrument becomes clear straight away. Wouter de Belder’s low bass sound really complements the bell like sound of the GUDA drum. And with the addition of the percussion, the alto violin and the repetition of the main melody, a real gentle, almost hypnotising song emerges. Rob really proves himself to be a strong songwriter.
Now when you happen to know (like I do) that Rob’s girlfriend is called Vita, you probably, just like me, expect La Vita to sound like a love song, but it doesn’t. It feels comforting, safe and reassuring like a warm bath in winter, a glass of wine in a late summer breeze, or a long hug from a best friend. That sort of safe. 100% spot on says Rob.
– ‘I have written this song for my girlfriend Vita. She needs me to play some GUDA tunes in the evening so she can relax before she goes to bed. I’ve added the word “La” so the title has a more general feel (and of course Vita IS a big part of my life.)‘
What I particularly like about La Vita is all the extra bits added to the song. Little bits of percussion, the strings supporting the GUDA drum melody or the electronic beats in the end giving this new age song that bit of ambient sparkle, that touch of jazzy groove. A wonderful start to this album, I have to say.
The second song Nomad has a more African feel to it. The GUDA drum here reminds me of the sound of a kalimba. A small African ‘thumb piano’ made from wood with metal keys. Together with the added percussion instruments it takes my imagination right into the savannas of southern Africa.
Rob:‘ Nomad is a solo piece I wrote while I was touring in Bratislava, Zlin and Prague. This live version comes from my last theatre tour with OMNIA. A nice memory from 7 years of touring the world.’
The third song, Neal Creek Resort, again has my imagination sparkling. The title suggests a remote place in the desert and the music took me on a fun journey figuring out where that place was. In the end I settled for a Creek somewhere in the Australian outback, but I was wrong this time.
Rob: ‘Neal Creek Resort is a song I wrote while I was in the USA, in the most beautiful resort I have ever seen. We were able to see the sun set together with the lovely people that own the resort. The repetitive melody will get you into a nice relaxing mood. Later in the song you will hear a lot of different melodies crossing each other which represent the drops of water in the creek.’
Those melodies come in after a minute or two and they are beautiful. As one melody climbs over the other in a repetetive way, one variation flowing into the next I’m strongly reminded of
Mike Oldfield’sTubular Bells, or even more of the album Incantations by the same artist.
Talking about Mike Oldfield, the next song Bali Suite is a three part song that could easily be on one of his albums. It starts with the sound of waves. Through the waves you can hear the monks tap their Buddhist gongs. Yet another way to use the GUDA drum. As the song progresses you hear the jazz influence creeping in again. The GUDA drum and the percussion play with each other, react to each other in a way you would expect jazz instruments to interact, bringing a new dimension to the already varied sound on this album. And yet the mellow new age atmosphere remains no matter what. Even in the third part of this suite Bali Volcano, where the jazz rhythms become a bit too improvised for me to understand them, leaving me a wee bit lost. But not for long, after a minute or two the lead rhythm -or should I say melody- of the GUDA drum picks me up again and brings me back to the mellow chilled out state of enjoyment I have all the way through this album.
Rob :‘ Bali Suite is a three part song. I wanted to record a song with Gijs, and we had so much fun that it turned into a complete suite.The first part is called Bali Ocean.You will arrive at the beach, and travel into the jungle of Bali.
Bali Jungle is the 2nd part of the Bali Suite. In this part we go further in to the mainland where we start to hear more sounds from the jungle. The garrapata, GUDA and dun dun solos were all done in one take!
Bali Volcano is the 3rd and final part of the Bali Suite. You will hear yourself walking closer and closer to the volcano until it erupts !!!! The enormous drum in the end is called Blanka, and she represents the volcano.
Fox And Bird is the odd one out on Home, it’s a vocal pop song that Rob wrote together with Tineke Ogink, one of the members of the female vocal group Guinevere. The four members of Guinevere also studied at the Fontys Art School, hence the connection as Rob explains.
Rob:’ A song that we wrote with Guinevere, a mystic pop vocal group. I’ve met these girls when I was studying in Tilburg. We didn’t see each other for 8 years or so, and suddenly we bumped into each other again. For the inspiration of this song I have to send you to Tineke Ogink, who wrote the lyrics after I sent her the melody.’
Tineke Ogink:‘Fox And Bird is about two lovers who, despite their desire to be together, just can’t be. It actually started out as an idea to just put the four voices of Guinevere underneath the beautiful, serene sound of the GUDA drum, kind of like a bed. Because the drums all come in different keys and Rob wanted to use two of them, we had these two chords to start out with. Once I started getting ideas for a melody, the words started to flow. The sound of the Guda Drum brings clear visions of nature to me and I’ve always been a fool for a love story, even when it doesn’t end well like this one.
It would be against the nature of a fox and a bird to be together, they just don’t belong, they are too different. But still the fox and bird in this story try. And, sadly, they fail. It’s a story that happens in real life all the time. Two people loving each other and willing to do anything to stay together, even when they just don’t belong. Beautiful, but sad..’
The song itself is beautiful. Guinevere in its essence is a a capella group, blending their wonderful vocals together as I remember of the R&B group Shai and their big hit If I Ever Fall In Love Again. The ladies have that same soul in their voices. Together with the harmonies of the GUDA drums and the bass under it Fox and Bird is a wonderful ballad to end the album.
Overall I love Home. It has a real laid back feeling, the ideal music to put on if you want to relax and unwind. It has this mellow summer night feel all over it, yet, Rob experimented a lot with this intresting instrument which was totally new to him. Going from new age to ambient, from African Kalimba to Buddhist gongs, with that ever so slight jazzy approach to it all.
Rob:‘Yes, I’ve written a lot of different songs to find out what’s possible on the GUDA drum. 2 songs that didn’t make the album (maybe the next one) are a drum ’n’ bass and a jazz song. Because it’s so easy to amplify GUDA drums, I’ve had several effect pedals attached to them to see what the limits are and I hope the GUDA drum will be seen as a diverse instrument that has unique acoustic – and digital options.
Working together with other artists was a blast, you won’t believe how fast Tineke finished Fox and Bird after I sent her the melody. Gijs van Straalen has the quality to add something nice to everything I write. And Fieke, well of course it was nice with Fieke. We have worked on a lot of music together -ThunderCrow,
OMNIA, etc- and I hope we will work on a lot more!’
Editor: Diane Deroubaix