Oran Etkin, an internationally acclaimed jazz clarinetist and composer and founder of the Timbalooloo method of introducing young children to music, is proud to release Finding Friends Far from Home: A Journey with Clara Net. Recorded and filmed on location in Zimbabwe, Turkey, Czech Republic and China with veritable masters of each country’s traditional music, Finding Friends Far from Home is an ambitious audio-visual project born out of Etkin’s belief in creating deep musical connections across cultural boundaries.
Voted #1 Rising Star Clarinetist in Downbeat Critics’ Poll, Etkin has the honor of regularly being invited to perform at major festivals and theaters throughout the world. Over the past two years, he has reimagined what touring can mean – taking time off between shows to live with traditional mbira masters in Zimbabwe and building collaborative projects with Roma (Gypsy) musicians in Czech Republic. With this Timbalooloo project he further redefines the creative process by gathering the fruits of these encounters into one album which tells a tale of friendship and understanding through the eyes of the instruments themselves – via the friendly and childlike main character Clara Net (Etkin’s clarinet).
The globe-spanning album will be available on Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify and other music sources as well as physical distribution in North America and Europe. Etkin plans a US and Europe tour to celebrate its release, kicking off with an October 5th concert at Symphony Space in NYC before continuing to California, Washington DC, Baltimore, Paris and more.
Finding Friends Far from Home opens with the voice of a young child, chanting “We Want a Story.” Gradually other voices — some human and some instrumental – harmonize in, and Etkin introduces the story of Clara’s musical journey. Next up is “Chaye Shukariye,” which means “sweet girl” in the language of the Roma people (more commonly referred to as Gypsies). The band on this song has its roots in a project initiated by Mladi Ladi Jazz Festival, which invited Etkin to create a new band with Roma, Czech & Slovak musicians and to help combat the history of discrimination suffered by the Roma in Czech Republic. Together, they performed to an audience of 8,000 fans in the center of Prague and took their music to remote and underserved Czech areas. The energetic song blends vocals by Pavlína Matiová (“Princess Pavlina”) and Etkin with Roma accordion virtuoso Roman Horvath. Clara Net’s happy “voice” riffs and responds to the main melody.
On the other tracks, Clara and Oran engage with traditional artists from Zimbabwe, China, Turkey, Russia and Japan. Clara meets new instrument friends like the mbira, kopuz, balalaika, and shamisen. The instruments take on personalities and evoke a range of feelings, from joy and humor, to weariness and sadness. “What we’re doing here is showing that music is a language. It’s all about expressing emotion. Young children can easily identify with Clara Net as she meets each instrument, and they want to engage with these sounds.”
Etkin has previously released four albums as a leader on the Motema label, including the 2010 family-friendly album Wake Up, Clarinet!. His music has also appeared on several compilations including Putumayo’s Jazz Playground and the GRAMMY Award-winning All About Bullies.
Etkin has long felt a responsibility to pass on the joy of music to the next generation. In 2005, he founded Timbalooloo, which strives to fundamentally reimagine how children can become fluent in the language of music. In 2010 he began training teaching artists in his method. At the core of Timbalooloo is the concept that instruments come alive as characters and speak through their music so that children conceive of music not as having to execute the correct notes but rather as being empowered to make their instruments speak and communicate. Harvey Keitel, who enrolled his son in the popular NYC Timbalooloo classes for three years, remarked, “Our son was talking about Herbie Hancock, Mozart, Samba and African music – and he knew the difference!” In fact, Herbie Hancock recently heard about all the children learning his music through Timbalooloo and invited Etkin’s Timbalooloo band to perform in Paris for UNESCO’s International Jazz Day. Hancock makes a brief appearance in one of the Timbalooloo TV videos, which UNESCO premiered at schools and venues in its 195 partner countries. Through a creative approach to music education, as well as concert performances, recordings and video content, Timbalooloo endeavors to nurture a generation of children around the world to speak the international language of music with the same fluency as they speak their mother tongue.
Indeed, the Timbalooloo approach to music education represents a paradigm shift. Rather than teaching kids the codified, technical aspects of music and performance, Timbalooloo conveys the idea of music as communication. “Children don’t learn how to conjugate every verb, yet they manage to speak intuitively with perfect grammar. It can be the same with music” says Etkin. “Through pretend play and the sounds of instruments that ‘talk’ with one another, the children experience music in a very spontaneous and intuitive way. We are trying to get to the core of what music is really about — expression, not just notes on a page.”
A new music video and more details about the fall tour dates in the United States and Europe will be announced soon! Visit www.timbalooloo.com or Oran Etkin on Facebook or Instagram for more information and the latest performance news.
- Oct 5 – NYC Symphony Space
- Oct 6 – Santa Monica, McCabes
- Oct 12 – Palo Alto, CA Stanford University Dinkelspiel Auditorium
- Oct 17-20 Jazz And The City Festival – Salzburg Austria
- Nov 16 – Jammin’ Java Morning Vienna VA (DC Area)
- Nov 15-16 Keystone Corner Baltimore: “What’s New? Reimagining Benny Goodman”
- Nov 17 Morning Keystone Korner Timbalooloo show
- Dec 1 & Dec 8: Paris France Sunset Jazz Club: CD Release Concerts for French version of album coming out on French label InVivo
This project is collaboration with Beth Blenz-Clucas of Sugar Mountain PR. For inquiries relating to children’s media, contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.