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Best albums, my arse!

December 22, 2016

The BBC has come up with its list of the best albums of 2016 HERE. It’s compiled from surveys in various print media, where responders have mostly been given lists of albums to choose between.

What that really means, of course, is those albums deemed to be the hippest to like from the big three record labels who run the mainstream industry and their so-called independent feeder labels.

Being recently deceased or being “rebellious” in the most politically correct direction are always good attributes to have if you wish to acquire a place is such a prestigious list.

Best, my arse.

To be fair, though, the mainstream industry does sometimes deal with some genuinely great music amid their sea of pop-by-numbers dross and tame, manufactured, fake rebellion. Some of these releases are actually good.

We are still believers in the great album, even in this brave new world of individual tracks. We also believe there is a lot of truly awesome music out there that gets no attention at all.
We try to feature some of it in our podcast and we know other podcasters, radio people and bloggers who do so too.

In 2017, we’d suggest making an effort to listen to some podcasts and community radio, read some good blogs and then spread the word about any great music you find.
This is a quiet, cheap, way to undermine the pernicious culture-destroying influence of those big multinational capitalist companies that actually don’t give a flying one about the nature of music as long as it sells.

Please comment with any great albums, any top podcasts, any excellent radio or any well crafted blogs that we should know about.


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Music production: seven beat Middle Eastern drum and bass

November 15, 2016

Here’s another tune, The Vale of the Seven Dances,  using the seven beat Arabian rhythm Dawr Hindi that we wrote about recently. Here we’re playing it at 180 beats per minute which puts it in drum and bass territory.

This one uses a variation on a Turkish/Arabic mode/scale/maqam/makam called Hijaz that we also wrote about recently.  This variation starts on a different note and is called makam Hicazkar (this is the Turkish name).

The sequence of notes is:    G  A  B  C  D  E  F# G

We have detuned some of the notes to approximately what a Turkish traditional musician would play.

  • The A is tuned four commas flat or about 94 cents, almost a semitone.
  • The B is tuned five commas flat or about 117 cents. Which actually makes it 17 cents flat of A# but, of course, most trained musicians would not use the same note letter twice in a row when describing a scale.
  • The E is tuned four commas flat or about 94 cents, almost a semitone.

The opening percussion is played on a darabuka/dumbek/tonbak goblet drum. When I say played, I mean sampled. From someone who actually played it.









Music production: another seven beat rhythm

November 13, 2016

Greetings! Here is another seven beat rhythm to follow on from our last post which looked at a rhythm called Dawr Hindi.

Here’s another one. This one is called Kalimantiano, a Greek rhythm named after the port town of Kalimanta in southern Greece.


As before, the D = Dum, a bass note usually played near the centre of a frame or goblet drum. The T =Tak, a loud note played near the edge of the drum. The t =ta and k= ka are weaker notes played near the edge of the drum, often with finger tips. They have two names because they refer to each hand, the stronger and the weaker.

If you are going to use this rhythm to programme a drum kit part (and you should), play Dum as a kick drum, Tak as a snare drum or side stick, and maybe play ta and ka as quieter snare notes or maybe as ride hits or open high hats. Alternatively, play your main hits on drum kit and play the ta and ka hits on another percussion instrument. As you can see, the groove is divided 3 + 2 +2.  Remember to write your melodic parts to this structure.

Here are two tunes released on our own label, Broken Drum Records,  which use this rhythm. They are quite different from each other but will hopefully show you that non 4/4 rhythms are adaptable and interesting.


Music production: a seven beat rhythm pattern

November 12, 2016

It’s not only prog-rockers  who use rhythms that differ from the usual four-four time that underpins nearly all mainstream western music. Music from all over the world uses different time signatures and one way for some of us European musicians to break free from predictability in our music might be to explore some of these in our compositions.

Here is a seven beat  Arabic rhythm called Dawr HindiDawr means a cycle or turn and Hindi means Indian.
dawr-hindiThis would be played on a frame drum or a goblet drum in Arabic music. The D (Dum) = a bass note, usually near the centre of the drum skin. The T (Tak) = a higher note, usually played at the edge of the drum skin.

You can, of course, programme this up in your sampler using hand drum samples. Or actually play it. However, most of you will be making some kind of electronica, so use  a set of drum kit samples appropriate to your music and treat the Dum as a kick drum hit and the Tak as a snare drum hit.  Add hats or a shaker, add some variations at the end of four, eight or sixteen bar sections and you have a groove to build a track on.

Here are three examples from our own releases that used this rhythm. They are all different and should give you some idea of how a seven beat groove works.




Arabian scales in music production

November 4, 2016


In an earlier post, we wrote about how we like to use Middle Eastern scales and modes. One of these scales is known as a maqam in Arabic, a makam in Turkish. Other parts of the Middle East and Central Asia have related musical systems.

As we said last time, this article isn’t the place to go into the traditional rules and applications of these scales – and, quite frankly, we don’t know enough to use them properly. We do, however, love the sound of them.

Last time we wrote about maqam Hijaz.  This time it is maqam Zanjaran, زنجرا,  a maqam that is a popular modulation from maqam Hijaz.

Zanjaran contains the note sequence C Db E F G A Bb C.

We have used this maqam in two tunes released by Broken Drum Records. We haven’t necessarily followed any of the structural rules of traditional Arabian music but we have used traditional Arabian rhythms.

The first one is by Secret Archives of the Vatican and is called Turquoise of Nishapur. It uses a rhythm called Masmoudi Saghir.

The second tune is by Tyrantbane and is called Precipice. It uses a rhythm called Masmoudi Kabir.


All of our music is available for free download, or you can choose to pay.






East is east…

September 12, 2016



If you listen to any of Broken Drum Records’ acts, such as Secret Archives of the Vatican or Thousand Yard Prayer, you’ll have noticed that we like to use Middle Eastern scales and modes. One of these scales is known as a maqam in Arabic, a makam in Turkish. Other parts of the Middle East and Central Asia have related musical systems.

This article isn’t the place to go into the traditional rules and applications of these scales – and, quite frankly, we don’t know enough to use them properly. We do, however, love the sound of them.

One of our favourites is maqam Hijaz. If it sounds a little familiar, it’s because it’s what Hollywood uses to approximate oriental music in films set in the eastern world.

Maqam Hijaz is usually played starting on the note D and includes these notes: D Eb F# G A Bb C D.

There are a couple of complications, however. A traditional musician will play the Eb a little sharp and the F# a little flat. Many musicians will also play the Bb as B about a quarter tone flat when ascending the scale but not detuned when descending.

This series of intervals can, of course, be played from notes other than D.

Here are some of our tunes which have used maqam Hijaz.




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Broken Drum Records’ News

September 9, 2016


Hi everyone – here’s some updates from Broken Drum Records

Record labels don’t really exist, at least not since the demise of the old music industry. Broken Drum Records is really just a couple of people (and sometimes a few of their friends) making the music we like. The label is really a brand. It gives you a clue about what to expect musically from the label’s releases.

We’ve had ongoing but significant computer problems in our studio for almost a couple of years now. Well, the PC won’t load up at all some days. It means some projects are a year overdue but we’ve squeezed a small number of releases out. This will hopefully be resolved within a couple of weeks and we’ll be getting back to work as quickly as possible.

Secret Archives of the Vatican have long had a collaborations album in the pipeline. We’ve started on some tunes and have contacted various potential collaborators but it all ground to a halt. That album will be the first priority as we get rolling again. In the meantime, their most recent release, Damascene,  is still available.

One strategic decision we made recently was to separate out the occasional political rant tune from among Secret Archives’ repertoire.  Secret Archives will focus on their core Middle-eEastern, romantic, kung-fu, science fiction orientated output and more political tunes will be released in the name Tyrantbane. The first release, Flame, came out recently.

Thousand Yard Prayer, who are slightly more “acoustic” than Secret Archives of the Vatican and often have a Central Asian or Persian flavour to their tunes, continue to release eclectic and challenging releases. We are particularly happy with their recent album, Golden Section.

We’ve also been developing our admittedly rudimentary video making skills. Check some out here.

We’ve been disappointed at our failure to acquire any reviews or coverage at all lately, despite notifying various outlets about our releases. Even those who promise to write something don’t.

Anyway, we will continue to make music. This is digital resistance to the forces of bland music industry homogeneity and a quiet resistance to the apparently inexorable rise of the political right with its  disdain for culture.


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