e across an album that defies categorization, that simply is out there in a way little else is. Dordeduh released one of those albums this year, their sophomore release ‘Har’. It’s a celebration of Romanian culture, but also an embrace of the future and crossing over into new domains. It tells of deep history and myths yet opens its arms to whoever listens to it. It’s a statement and testament to what the band is about.
Dordeduh is often described as a project that sort of split-off from the well-known Negură Bunget . Yet, that does injustice to the people behind the project, their vision and creative drive. While the roots may be similar, Dordeduh has paved its own path. It did take years for the follow up to ‘Dar de duh’, which came out in 2012, but hey, here it is finally!
Though Edmond ‘Hupogrammos’ Karban is enjoying his time off outdoors, he did take time to talk about this new album and share some insights into the process behind the band and the album, the current state of the world, and playing Prophecy Fest (hopefully) where they’ll do a Negura Bunget set.
Hello Dordeduh, how are you guys doing?
Hello there. I am in vacation and I enjoy some free time in the wilderness of our mountains, with no internet and telephones and technology.
You’ve released the monumental album ‘Har’ this year, still in the midst of the pandemic. Did you consider not releasing it yet or had you already postponed the release?
We had the album ready already in July 2020. We had some chats with the label if it would be wise to release it in the winter of 2020, but in the end, they decided to have it in the late spring of 2021. But for me, seen from the artist’s perspective, I wanted it out asap, to see the album released and have it out of my hands.
Dordeduh was formed in 2009 and in 2012 you released your debut. We had a long wait for ‘Har’, so the question is; what took you so long? And what has driven you to create music again? I have read, for example, that you were never entirely happy with the ‘Dar De Duh’ sound. Does that have much to do with it?
It took so long because I became the father of 3 boys and family became the main priority in life. When kids started to grow, I started to feel more secure as a parent, I started to write music again.
Regarding “Dar de duh” I think that it was never about not being satisfied with the result, it’s more about having a perfectionistic point of view. Judging the compromises we had made on that record, I think that the result is pretty good.
Har has two active concepts in the background. One is related to the title, which means “grace, or divine grace”. This aspect is important because, in order to have such a moment of epiphany where one feels that divine grace, one needs a specific inner balance, a specific openness and a specific state of mind. One has to be mentally and soulwise fit for such connections. And this leads to the second concept, the practical aspect that this album is talking about; more precisely it invites to undertake a journey into our own depths. This journey most of the time does unveil unpleasant aspects about ourselves. The things that we are confronted with during such a transformation process are related to trauma, to different contents that lie dormant or hidden in the subconscious mind. In order to heal all these aspects one needs to be confronted with his own darkness, but also with the craving for pleasant experiences. The wanted state is one of equanimity. It’s a very lengthy process and after the initial confrontation a long integration period is needed. This has to be part of our everyday life, of our routines, of our daily practice.
Another aspect related to the conceptual background of this album is related to our lost and forgotten cosmic memory. I strongly believe that we have a cosmic heritage that lies dormant in us, way beyond what can we perceive in our normal state of consciousness. This heritage occasionally gets unlocked during the journey I mentioned before.
As a parent yourself, it’s a horrible question to be asked, but is there a song on this record particularly close to your heart?
Yes, “In vielistea uitarii”. Even most of the material I wrote for Negura Bunget and Dordeduh was always impersonal, this time there are personal touches in that whole impersonality.
You’ve stated that the recording process for the album was very relaxed, though under hectic circumstances. Can you elaborate on that and also share what the process was like for this particular record?
For me, the ideal environment for writing and shaping an album is to have an isolated place where I can freely work exclusively on the material. To be able to keep the focus and an appropriate mood for writing is crucial for me. Otherwise, every time when I turn back to the writing process I need some time to adjust and to create the right atmosphere to dive into the album. This time I did not have anything close to that. I wrote most of the things after 9 PM when I placed my kids in their beds. So the process probably took a bit longer.
But having our own studio allowed us to record some of the stuff already in the composing phase and allowed us to have some basic pre-production. I think the critical aspect for us while recording and producing our own album is that during this process we can’t work on anything else in the studio. And we rarely can afford that, because we also have to have our basic incomes. But we managed well all the things, made this record and we’re pretty happy about it.
I can’t define what style of music Dordeduh plays, but it hits all the right spots for people that love both folk, and metal music, with the mystery of ethnic elements. If any sort of umbrella term would fit its folk metal, yet I always feel that there’s a massive discrepancy between a band like Dordeduh and some guys in pirate costumes who happen to add a tin whistle. Your music feels like a whole, where you can’t separate the elements. Nothing is added. How do you realize that sound from songwriting to production, is it the original vision or do you layer the elements and ethnic instruments?
I think the key element in making all these materialize is to preliminarily have a vision of what one wants to achieve, as detailed as possible. Of course, while the process starts to form a body, the vision gets from the realm of the ideas to something concretely manifested and the image becomes clearer and clearer. At that stage sometimes an added element can improve and support the overall image.
On the other hand, this used to be the job of a producer for the cases of the bands that preliminarily had no vision, or had only a general vision about what they want the next album to sound like. The producer was the one that shaped the whole production in certain directions. Nowadays producers exist only in the area of a big-budget production. On the any other cases, this input could come only from sound engineers who are willing to dive into producing and mixing an album. In the underground scene, it’s close to impossible to find a good producer. And that’s because of a very simple and pragmatic reason: there are no budgets for producers anymore.
Can you perhaps tell a bit more about the instruments you use, such as the Tambal, toaca, tulnic, nai, dube and timbale (etc.) and what they mean or tell in your music? I read somewhere that there is a reflection of different places and regions in your music, which is hard to detect for those not in the know. Is that something you are willing to expand on?
I know that it’s probably hard to imagine, but we don’t use these instruments because we have to use them in order to be cool, different, exotic or name whatever other label. It’s used to enhance a different state, to put more emphasis on certain aspects and so on. We never planned anything regarding these instruments like: “this album should be more folkish”, or “this song should have more traditional instruments”. I want to keep a nice balance between the instruments. I only use them where they are relevant. I prefer to have a general vibe of good taste and not overdo them on the whole length of the album.
The “tambal” is a hammered dulcimer that is present in traditional cultures from all around the world from east to west. The instrument has some variations that varies from culture to culture.
With the “nai” it’s the same story. The nai is a panflute that is found in different shapes, materials and sizes around the world.
We also use traditional flutes that are pretty specific to our culture, but similar instruments are again found in many traditions.
The “toaca” is a hammered wood that nowadays is used in orthodox churches. It’s not really known as an instrument, but it’s dated in ritual contexts for thousands of years. I remember that I envisioned having this instrument present in my music since the first album. I always found it’s percussive sound appealing with huge amounts of long reverb on it.
The xylophone, the timabels or “dube” are usual percussion instruments. The types of “dube” we use come from Romanian oldschool fanfare kits.
The “tulnic” is probably the most Romanian instrument we use. It’s originated in the Apuseni Mountains and initially, it was a tool to transmit different signals between the villages in different hills or mountains. It’s interesting that in our culture it’s attested that it was mainly used by women and it’s known through history that there were choirs of women who were playing these instruments. It’s the first instrument we used and again I always envisioned that image of a distant mountain where these beautiful songs were played on this instrument.
-The spiritual aspect is very important to you. You’ve also stated that in writing ‘Om’, you meditated a lot. I was curious what you talk about when you mention spirituality?
Yes, spirituality is important for me. I rather dislike using this term because it’s vague. Generally speaking, I prefer to keep this subject to myself. And I do it so because it’s really easy to be placed in contexts that I actually don’t belong. Considering the criticism and the opinion entitlement that everyone has these days it’s probably the worst environment to be mentioned with these kinds of subjects. For me this aspect is a private one, I don’t want to convince anyone to do anything, I don’t feel that I have to prove anything to anyone and I definitely don’t feel that by having a spiritual interest I have something more than other people have. Spirituality is not a virtue by default. It’s a predisposition like any other predisposition. But through practice one can make it a virtue. So, talking about this has no relevance; practice on the other hand has all the relevance.
The ethnic aspect of your music is another thing that fascinates me. As I perceive it, this is very much connected to the land itself, to regional identities and particularly to nature. I’ve read some strong opinions on the state of our world and nature and I wonder how important this is to you as an artist, but also in the music of Dordeduh.
Until I had kids I preferred to not have any kind of convictions concerning the outside world. Nowadays, having a family I started to form and voice my opinion towards different things that are happening in my country and around the world. At this very moment, the outside world got to be quite intrusive and started to affect more and more the inner world, especially with this pandemic context. All the artists around the world are strongly affected by this new context. Even before the pandemic, the artistic profession was already nearly impossible to be sustained, now anything related to arts is almost eradicated. And if I see it from a factual point of view, I can’t predict a bright future.
Your music breathes an identity of Romania, but how has your country changed since your previous record, and has it affected your music and perception?
Happily, we’re not very tuned with the social, cultural or political life of Romania. I admit that I live in my own bubble, secluded from most of the trends that apply to most of the people.
This is a good and bad thing in the same time. It’s good because we’re dependent on very few things around us and it starts to be bad in the moments when we’re inevitably confronted with the reality we’re living in.
I’ve got my tickets for Prophecy Fest and I was happy to learn you are part of the Prophecy roster (which I had missed because I forgot Lupus Lounge is one of the iterations). I feel it is a great label and a perfect match for an artist that defies the definition. How is your relationship with the label?
Our relation is pretty straightforward, quite transparent and if there are any kind of misunderstandings or differences of opinions we found a pretty flexible team at Prophecy. Another aspect that I appreciate with them is the fact that they support “unusual” ideas. If we come up with a crazy idea they don’t dismiss it right from the start. They are willing to experiment and they are usually open to new ideas and weird projects. So, we can’t really complain about them.
I sincerely hope we can go enjoy the festival and I can finally hear Dordeduh live. You will also be playing Negura Bunget songs. What is it like to play music from that band for you now, so long after the split? And have you played in a cave before? Apparently, no one had asked Mortiis to play in one before the 2019 edition.
I look forward to the event especially because it’s going to be a special show for us, but also it will be an opportunity to meet up with friends that I wasn’t seeing for some time.
Playing Negura Bunget songs seems to me a bit un-actual; it’s a part of our past that defined us for that time around, but not very representative for what I am nowadays. And don’t get me wrong: I love those songs, I even love playing those songs nowadays because I feel I can have an expression that is much close to the initial aim of the songs. It’s also a big and important part of me and my personal history. But nowadays I would like to focus more on the future and less on that past. I personally hope that this will be the last time I will play Negura Bunget songs. Unfortunately for me, my colleagues have a different opinion.
A hard question to answer, but what are your future plans?
Having close to no predictability for the future, all that we can do is to be prepared for any possible live activity. For that we prepared two possible sets, one with a reduced budget for promoters, where we offer a reduced travel party and we play with a minimal setup and line-up. The other one is a bigger production, with a larger travel party and with an extended setup and line-up for the shows.
Another thing we can do is to prepare the work for a possible new album and start this process as soon as possible to have a minimal gap between the albums.
If Dordeduh was a dish, a type of food if you will, what would it be and why?
It would certainly be a simple dish with a lot of subtle colourful tastes Why? Because I think our message is simple and can be heartfelt, without falling into much intellectualization, but it contains a lot of layers that reveal a lot of details.