RAFFI JOE WARTANIAN

MULTIPLATFORM STORYTELLER

"Gluten Free Blues"

This is part 2 of an 11-part series celebrating 5 years since the release of PUSHKIN STREET, my debut album of 11 "gypsy zest" songs. I'm going to share a post about one track per week for the next 11 weeks.

This week: "Gluten Free Blues"!

 

“Gluten Free Blues” was originally written as a wedding gift for my friends Joe and Kristine. We bicycled across the United States together in 2009. They fell in love, married, and now have three kids! I remember one of them had a gluten allergy, so the song was written from the perspective of the non-gluten free partner (jokingly) lamenting about having to adjust dietary habits to accommodate to the significant other ("From here on out, guess I'll just have to nibble on my shoes"). The lyrics have several references to our bike ride. "Shipshewanna" (the name of a chief of the Potawatami indigenous American tribe), for example, was the name we gave to a kitten we rescued somewhere in Indiana. "Love my lady like a nap on the road" also refers to the many short sleeps that would be taken by this couple.

There are a few things I really loved about this specific recording. First is the more extended blues form of the chord progression during the solo section. Second is the final riff which I lightly rearranged from a recording I made of my guitar teacher Brian playing with a vocalist. Third is the vocal harmonies throughout, particularly the layered acapella chord in the finale.

Here’s a live recording of Gluten Free Blues playing with some amazing musicians…


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Listen to Gluten Free Blues here (http://bit.ly/2wlCgLL), and if you like what you hear, then please consider purchasing PUSHKIN STREET (follow this link: http://bit.ly/2wBCYIZ) to support grassroots music-making along with my efforts towards future recordings for which planning has begun! #TBT
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And of course, thank you to all the amazing people who helped make this possible. Jon T, JulianChrisBrianJon B, and many others too many to list for their support, encouragement, and enthusiasm. 

"Stumped"

This is the first installment in an 11-part series celebrating 5 years since the release of PUSHKIN STREET, my debut album of 11 "gypsy zest" songs. I'm going to share a post about one track per week for the next 11 weeks, so buckle up!

First up, "Stumped"! I wrote most of this song sitting on the stump of a tree in a Baltimore park somewhere between the Charles Village and Hampden neighborhoods. I remember wanting to write something in an alternate tuning with a repeating theme that opened space for reflective, spiritually-oriented lyrics. This approach was inspired by Frank Hurricaine whose music I had been listening to after seeing him perform at The Zoo (my friend MacGregor Burns' basement).

The lyrics were inspired by unrequited love (many of the songs were influenced by this) and hope ("it's never too late to start again, from the end of the beginning or the middle of the end"). One of the treats in recording this track was having my guitar teacher Brian Kooken play lead slide guitar on the solo. His approach to guitar is, to me, singular -- gritty, raw, and delicate. 
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If you like what you hear, then please consider purchasing PUSHKIN STREET to support grassroots music-making along with my efforts towards future recordings for which planning has begun! 

Welcome to my Bloog / On Building A Website

   Narcissus  stared at his own reflection until he died.

Narcissus stared at his own reflection until he died.

Welcome to my bloog. It's like a blog, but with one more o.

We live in a world where the tools at our fingertips and the streaming speed of content demands that we constantly engage in virtual space to maintain relevance and, dare I say, existence itself. The website is indeed one of those tools.

I studied numerous websites for inspiration, encountering a wide range of approaches, objectives, and values. There is, of course, something inherently self-involved in this process, of gazing upon the self in order to define, present, and broadcast it. Approaches vary, anywhere from humble and straightforward to ostentatious and self-aggrandizing. Some souls write REAMS about themselves. It's remarkable. One walks away from such experiences pondering how the world could possibly have so many woes in the presence of such demigods? These are young people, no less! Not even 30. What's going on here? Torrents of pride? A need for validation? Unadulterated insecurity? Unicorns galore? Genuinely remarkable individuals? All of the above? The Internet has created tools for mythologizing the self in the name of consumption, invincibility, and more. In the name of self-promotion, sales, and status. In the name of posterity, love, and hope. It's a murky stew, friends. And here I am...what to do?

Imagine if smartphones and selfies and the Internet existed during the creation of Greek mythology? What would Narcissus as a character look like? Probably very similar to 75% of our social media feeds. FEED! Now if that term doesn't evoke problematic imagery -- the swine feeding at the trough (of content), for example -- I don't know what would!

Most stunning is that we're all guilty. I suppose it's a matter of degree.

But none of these existential musings would motivate action, though they certainly enthralled delay. I had to forge ahead, mindful but not dwelling upon such existential angst, and create a website that defined and presented a portfolio of my work. To help achieve this, I found inspiration from storytellers like Vahe Berberian and Steve Martin, humans who express themselves through multiple forms of art and are really good people. Well, to be fair, I can definitely say that about Vahe, though I've never met Steve. I've found that it takes a lot of guts to declare one's multi-dimensionality, especially in the face of a market that seems to demand that we define ourselves as ONE THING ONLY -- marketer, musician, actor, doctor, lawyer, academic, CPA, and so on. Why is it like this? Why shouldn't we proudly declare, share, promote, and engage the numerous dimensions of ourselves? I can feel career counselor's eyes rolling. Back to websites...

One of my finer musical collaborations with Lucky the Dog of Odemira, Portugal who I met while volunteering on a farm in Portugal.

This ain't my first rodeo.

I started my first blog in 2008 immediately after graduating college. At that time, I focused on living through the Confucian aphorism a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. From 2008 to 2013, life presented incredible surprises and opportunities, and Single Steps, my first blog, offered a space to share words, images, and sounds that came from some downright unforgettable journeys. Highlights included volunteering on a farm in Portugal, walking across Spain on the historic Camino de Santiago, cycling across the USA to help fight cancer, living in Armenia (and elsewhere), and creating art -- poetry, short stories, music, acting, and so on -- inspired by these adventures. The platform I used was Blogspot, which I believe has now become Blogger. I wonder how much longer they'll be around.

Then, I launched a second website in 2012 to track the creation and dissemination of Pushkin Street, my debut album of eleven original "gypsy zest" songs. This time, I upped the ante and went the way of Wordpress. Fancy!

Now here I am -- a third website, with a blog inside of it! I hope to offer reflections on this blog within a website within a web browser within an Internet within a screen within a universe (within the brain of feral Border Collie named Soma who's obsessed with squirrels?), and allow for this website (Squarespace no less!) to be a venue of sharing, honesty, and progress.

L'chaim!

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