The Seed is all about where you are, where you were and where you want to be. The first noise on Seven Eyes‘ latest album is a soundscape of horns and engines, an Indian metropolis. The first note is from a solo classical guitar, and immediately you’re halfway across the globe in South America.
So where are we? Still in Western Europe, sadly. I’m not just talking about physically either. The Seed, with all its exquisite compositions and international influences, will take you around the word before landing in more accessible English-speaking realms.
True to their roots
Yet it isn’t inauthentic, nor orientalist. The two would go hand in hand: when Madonna wears a sari for one shoot then a kimono for the next, that’s just using random things that look cool. But this Seven Eyes pair Tanya & Paulo are both avid followers of Hindustani classical music, and they live in Brazil. So when they’re Dreaming of India, Tanya is dreaming of a childhood home; similarly, when they sing Ao Ceu do Brasil (to the skies of Brazil), those are skies Paulo was born under.
World tour in music
The arrangements are so rich and harmonic that it had to be the genuine article, and they are exactly that. It’s almost too much, I don’t have the musical vocabulary to pinpoint what’s going on all the way through, and I’d say few people do. For example, in Waiting, you have a spoken word introduction (USA), irresistibly peppy tabla (India); the chord shifts are unmistakeably from the South American continent; halfway through they introduce a classical guitar break which could have been played on a Baroque harpsichord.
Then you add the words that Tanya’s actually singing. She has a very gentle voice and an easy-going lyrical style, stretching the metaphor of seeds, trees, growing (you get the idea) across the whole album. There’s the title track, then Canto dos Folhas, Sky and the Land, River and more.
Alongside this well-crafted metaphor, and a scattering of feel-good, hand-holding world music go-tos, we’re also treated to playful Portuguese, searing Urdu and even a melancholy French cameo on Jupiter featuring Kolkata-based singer Anandita Basu.
Shaking up the English album
It’s a strange and wonderful banquet for the ear, however erudite your musical tastes. I imagine there’ll be few listeners blessed with such a simultaneously broad and in-depth knowledge of what’s on offer. And not knowing is half the fun.
But it’s even more the case for us native English speakers, because we’re such spoilt listeners. We have such a glut of music that caters to our traditions we hardly need to venture into others’, and we can usually understand and trace everything we hear. No wonder we exoticize any music with more air miles than a common-or-garden potato.
This album isn’t about just making things that sound cool and new. Both artists have a long, invested and humble relationship with the traditions which they draw on. The combination of cultures is anything but a clash: it’s harmony, it’s creation and it’s beautiful.
Student small fry, country boy in the big city, with inky fingers and a travel guitar.