Sun, Music, Beach, Volcano

DIGITAL PRINTS now available on Ebay • Greeting card selection now available on Etsy • ASNI'S GARDEN: Original Watercolour paintings available on Etsy

SHEET MUSIC: Diego Fernandez de Huete: Compendio numeroso – original music for harp from baroque Spain
TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME MUSIC: Harp sheet music store * Travels in Middle Earth CD700 Years of Pop CD

Asni the Harper digital downloads: CD Baby ** Amazon MP3 * iTunes

NOW AVAILABLE: New Zealand Film Locations map: A3 poster * Snowflake Christmas/seasonal card * Queen Galadriel holiday card * Easter greeting cards

In this newsletter:
 
*** Time for a Break
*** News and Current Projects
*** WOMAD Taranaki 2015
 

Time for a Break

The New Zealand summer is now coming to an end. What with my epic home redecoration project, I didn't think I'd have the money or the time this year, but in the end I managed to slip away for a week before the cold weather sets in. I'd been toying with the idea of going up to the Coromandel peninsula before or after WOMAD, but in the end I opted for somewhere closer by: I remembered the lovely campsite at Marokopa, where I'd spend a few happy days some years ago when I was just learning how to sketch – the locals much admired my budding artwork, and someone gave me a fish for my pains.

The place was just as lovely as I remembered it. I am glad I wasn't put off my Metservice's dire prediction of heavy rains over much of New Zealand on Monday and Tuesday: I ended up spending three mostly sunny and warm days lazing on the beach, and I had the campsite mostly to myself for most of that time.

I read a book I'd wanted to read for a long while, and I splashed in the waves, and walked on the beach, and clambered on the rocks, and improvised dinner three days running from some tins of baked beans and tuna, a bag of coleslaw and a nice big fresh loaf of bead I'd picked up on the way, and eggs and milk from the camp store. I should have stocked up in New Plymouth: there aren't any shops between there and Marokopa, and I couldn't be bothered to drive an hour to the nearest supermarket in Te Kuiti.

I might have spent another day or two, but I ran out of food, so I took a leisurely drive in the general direction of home. I'd wanted to stop by on Mt Ruapehu and say hello, but by the time I got there, the afternoon was already quite advanced. The weather was absolutely splendid and the tops of the mountains free of clouds – which does not happen very often! – so I spontaneously decided to camp over another night at Ohakune. The night up on the mountain was freezing cold, but the next day was just as cloudless and splendid as the previous.

I've been waiting for an opportunity to do a certain hike off the Ohakune ski field road, which I'd done several years ago, but never managed to walk all the way. This time, I did walk all the way to Lake Surprise, which, on an afternoon like this, is more or less what I'd like heaven to look like if I ever make it there. I did take some photos, but they barely do it justice.

Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot Waterlily Gloire du Temple-sur-Lot

A perfect day on Mt Ruapehu



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News & Current Projects

I still occasionally participate in John Howe's fan art contest – it's been more than ten years, on and off. Hard to believe! This month the theme was "hair", which as it happens, I had suggested myself, so I felt somewhat obliged to submit something. WOMAD was a good opportunity to do some random doodling between listening to all the different acts, and when I got home, I spent a grey and rainy Sunday afternoon working them up in Photoshop. It's been a while since I've done a picture just for fun, and it's been good for me. They turned out quite ok, I think!

Marokopa: old pa, by Astrid Nielsch Marokopa: beach rock, by Astrid Nielsch

Marokopa: Old Pa * Beach rock

Seeing that I have such good memories of sketching at Marokopa, and being rewarded with fish for my dinner, I did whip the sketchbook out between bouts of reading and lazing on the beach, and sketched the old pa again. Eight years ago, this took me much concentration and a considerable amount of time – probably a couple of hours. Now I can sketch the same thing in maybe 15, 20 minutes. I also added another sketch to my selection of sea-worn rocks: an old obsession of mine. I am still searching for the perfect rock sketch.

I have also completed my painting of Quetzalcoatl, for the Chocol'Art festival exhibition in Carterton this month. I can't say that I think it's the best thing I have ever painted, but it is currently proudly exhibited at the Events Centre in Carterton until Sunday 12 April. Drop by if you are in the neighbourhood!

Quetzalcoatl brings the gift of chocolatl, by Astrid Nielsch Quetzalcoatl brings the gift of chocolatl, by Astrid Nielsch Quetzalcoatl brings the gift of chocolatl, by Astrid Nielsch Quetzalcoatl brings the gift of chocolatl, by Astrid Nielsch

Chocol'Art exhibition in Carterton: Quetzalcoatl brings the gift of chocolatl

On Amazing Stories, there have been more magical birds: Phoenix, the quintessential magical bird of the ancient Greeks, and SImurgh – an old acquaintance from Persia. Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.

CD Baby tells me that my German Christmas carol Es kommt ein Schiff geladen, has now been streamed 101 times, and downloaded twice. Considering that this is me singing, I am pleasantly surprised. It's made me two dollars three cents to date, for all those listens, so I guess I am still a few powers of 10 away from turning this into a proper source of income, but it will encourage me to get to work on those other Christmas carol arrangements, and put them up there.

My version of Silver Dagger on the other hand – an American folk song made popular by Joan Baez – hasn't been doing nearly so well. So please have a listen and give it a bit of a boost!

You can download tracks on CD Baby directly, or on iTunes, Amazon Mp3, and a bunch of other online music providers (just search for Asni the Harper).

Of course, you can also order CDs and harp sheet music directly through my website – as well as posters and greeting cards.

Wallpapering progress Wallpapering progress Wallpapering progress Wallpapering progress Wallpapering progress Wallpapering progress Wallpapering progress

Wallpapering progress

If I was complaining that it took me three weeks to peel the old wallpaper off the living room walls, that was nothing compared to putting the new wallpaper back on! For a while there, I was wondering if I had somehow landed myself in wallpapering hell and would be doing this for the rest of eternity, like Sisyphus and his stone.

Yesterday, I finally put on the last strips. And I yet have to take out the rest of the carpet, and polish and seal the floor, before I can move the furniture back into the living room. Fortunately, the weather is still quite warm and mild, so I haven't been missing the fireplace too badly. Then after that, there will be the dining room ...

With all this redecorating, I haven't had much time to work in the garden. The summer veggies are now ripening: capsicum, okra, tomatoes, zucchini and quite a load of chillies, as well as the cabbages I put in early in spring. Without having to do anything much, the apple and walnut trees are both literally bending under their load. And I am enjoying a late summer flush of rose blossoms!

Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty

Asni's garden in March: late summer bounty



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WOMAD Taranaki 2015

It's been exactly ten years since my first WOMAD in 2005. Since then, I've only been once, on a one day ticket in 2013: a rainy but otherwise uplifting experience. This year, I decided to go for full immersion mode, and splurged on a three day ticket.

I would have preferred to find myself a nice quiet campsite a little away from the festival, but as it turned out, this year's WOMAD had record audience numbers, and there wasn't even a tent space to be had in all of Taranaki that weekend. So I bit the bullet and booked myself into the official festival campsite, even though I wasn't looking forward to the loo queues and general scarcity of facilities, privacy, and shade. Well, at least it saved me the hassle of driving to and from the venue!

One reason for the huge turnout was that this year, there were some "big name" draw cards: Sinead O'Connor came, but I missed all but the very last song and a half of her set, preferring to listen instead to kora player Toumani Diabaté from Mali, who has long been one of my idols and inspirations. Why did they have to put on those two at the same time? Just my luck.

Soundcheck with Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Soundcheck with Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Soundcheck with Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Soundcheck with Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Soundcheck with Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Soundcheck with Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Soundcheck with Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Soundcheck with Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Soundcheck with Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, WOMAD Taranaki 2015

Soundcheck with Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté

The other artist I really enjoyed listening to was Meeta Pandit, who gave some stunning performances of Northern Indian classical music. A virtuoso voice if there ever was one! I listened to both her sets, and was pleased to find that she only repeated one piece – a song to the gentle breeze of the mountains, which she dedicated to Mt Taranaki. The setting on a small stage next to a lake full of waterlilies, and amidst lush New Zealand vegetation, was perfect: it reminded me vividly of old Indian miniatures of swooning ladies singing songs of longing for their absent lover, amidst just such a lush garden setting.

At festivals like these, there is always one band I have never heard of, but which blows me away: this time, it was the UK based experimental electronica outfit Public Service Broadcasting. It was the very last act to close the festival, and I was hooting with delight because not only is Science Fiction Music now a Thing, these guys have the whole multimedia presentation down pat, blending live music and video images in a way that absolutely makes sense. Just the kind of thing I always thought I should do myself! Plus, they have the stage presentation to go with it. Catch them if you can!

They were a bit of an oddity perhaps in a "World Music" festival, but then the term has been shifting from its old, unapologetically eurocentric and implicitly racist meaning of "traditional music which is not classical European" to something more inclusive, and more deserving of such an all-encompassing term. I always thought it was a stupid word anyway – is there any music which is not "World Music"? Martian Rock, perhaps?

Meeta Pandit performs at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Meeta Pandit performs at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Meeta Pandit performs at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Meeta Pandit performs at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Meeta Pandit performs at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Meeta Pandit performs at WOMAD Taranaki 2015

Meeta Pandit performs at WOMAD Taranaki 2015

For the most part, the music at this year's WOMAD was rather on the upbeat and noisy side. As usual, there were several African bands doing crossover folk rock type things – Youssou N'Dour being the most prominent exponent of that style of music, another big name draw card. Personally, I had more fun watching the fulminant guitar improvisations of Bombino (aka Omara Moctar), a Tuareg musician from Niger, with his small band.

But even the more traditional oriented groups were mostly on the extrovert side: be it Puerto Flamenco's energetic dance performance, or Canzionere Grecanico Salentino's Mediterranean medley, which seemed to me more like a entertainment industry idea of fiery South Italians, than anything to do with what I know of the music traditions from that part of the world. I gave up on Fanfare Ciocarlia after a couple of numbers because I simply found them too noisy. Unfortunately there was no escaping the endless upbeat rhythms wafting over from the main stage, from bands like Che Sudaka (whom I found actively annoying), or the Japanese inspired Australian outfit TaikOz, who would have been enjoyable in small doses, but who seemed to be drumming an endless number of sets.

Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Bombino is letting it rip, WOMAD Taranaki 2015

Bombino is letting it rip

Not that I don't enjoy a fast and noisy tune once in a while, but over a whole weekend, it got a bit much. Come Sunday, I actually had to remove myself from the festival grounds for a while, and find a beach to chill out for a few hours. Who wants to listen to bloody music anyway, when they can bodysurf on a Taranaki beach instead? Thus I missed the one other quiet traditional musician I would have liked to hear, Ramzi Aburedwan, a bouzouk player from Palestine.

Yet another Big Name was the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club – made famous back in the late 1990s by Wim Wender's documentary about a bunch of geriatric Cuban musicians who didn't let their age get in the way of their swing. Their gig at WOMAD struck me as decidedly odd: nearly two decades on, many of the original members are now dead, and they were being commemorated on a video screen while the actual performers on stage are now mostly of a younger generation. Still, it was worth it just to hear Omara Portuondo, one of the remaining first generation members, belt out her soulful songs of love, lust, and longing.

Trinity Roots on the big stage, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Trinity Roots on the big stage, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Trinity Roots on the big stage, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Trinity Roots on the big stage, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Trinity Roots on the big stage, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Trinity Roots on the big stage, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Trinity Roots on the big stage, WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Trinity Roots on the big stage, WOMAD Taranaki 2015

Trinity Roots on the big stage

I had been greatly looking forward to hear local band Trinity Roots again – they had split up back in 2005, when I was just about to discover the New Zealand roots and reggae scene, but they have now reformed, and have been performing again since 2011 – a fact that had been somehow totally lost on me until I spotted them on the WOMAD bill.

Their sound has become a tad more jazzy, and I must say I didn't enjoy their Saturday evening slot as much as I thought I would. Perhaps I should have made sure to catch all of their Sunday afternoon set on the big stage – I came back from my beach break only to hear the last couple of songs, but those had quite a different energy than the previous day. Well, they'll be around, and I am sure I'll catch them again sometime. After all, band front man Warren Maxwell is a fellow Featherstonian.

Arohanui, from Asni

Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015 Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015

Happy crowds at WOMAD Taranaki 2015



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Late summer serenity Late summer serenity Late summer serenity

Late summer serenity