Not long ago, the great Serbian-American poet, Charles Simic, discovered in the book called A Dictionary of Angels that “the angels were once as plentiful as species of flies. The sky at dusk used to be thick with them. You had to wave both arms just to keep them away.” Today it’s different - there are no angels in the sky. After all, if there are some left, they certainly cannot be seen, except in the movies, such as Wings of Desire and City of Angels or in the Renaissance paintings and frescoes on the walls of the Byzantine churches.
Darunam/Milan’s music opens a secret window in the sky through which angels can once again be observed. As a listener, all you have to do is find a way to reach the sky and look through that window. Suddenly, you’ll be able see the mighty angels Gabriel, Raphael, Ariel and small Cupid buzzing around like a fly. Looking through the secret window and listening to this eclectic music you can also wave to the powerful Hindu deities Bodhisattva and Sarasvati, chat with saints like Amma and Mahatma, meet the Orthodox Saint Sava, and greet the Islamic saint Rabia and the Catholic Saint Mother Theresa. At the same time, the ancient god Bacchus will cheer you with a glass of red wine, while the controversial “god” of the fallen communist “religion”, Karl Marx, will greet you with a sign reading Religion is Opium for the Masses. All of them now exist and belong to the heavens and in heaven – everything is possible.
Still, a question remains: is there a single angel left on the Earth today? The answer is yes - it is You! The Last Angel on Earth.
The latest collaboration between Darunam, the popular duo comprised of Radovan Jovicevic and Manu Narayan (two artists with significant individual followings in their own rights) and internationally acclaimed virtuoso clarinetist Milan Milosevic under the banner DARUNAM/MILAN is entitled The Last Angel On Earth. A forward looking endeavor joining innovation and tradition on a multicultural musical journey, The Last Angel On Earth also reflects the wide ranging experiences of its three members. World music with an otherworldly view, inspired by the myriad original forms heard side-by-side in New York City, the songs on the disc, created in cyberspace across the North American continent, blend sounds stretching across the planet into a unique whole that is very much more than its many individually identifiable parts.
Serbian born, Radovan Jovicevic is an internationally applauded artist who first garnered attention in Europe, selling over 5 million of albums as a member of the wildly popular band Zana and an equal number of discs as a composer for other acts. Since moving to the United States he has composed for numerous musical milieus, including films, videos and television. Indian-American Manu Narayan is best known for his starring role in the Mike Myers movie The Love Guru and on Broadway in as the lead in the Andrew Lloyd Weber/A. R. Rahman musical Bombay Dreams. Narayan, who has sung with artists ranging from Cyndi Lauper, the Band’s Garth Hudson and Frank London of the Klezmetics, is also an accomplished saxophonist who has studied in India with world renowned master Sri Kadri Gopalnath.
Radovan and Manu met in New York City (where they both presently reside) in 2005 and eventually formed Darunam, releasing the contemporary rock EP and music video All That’s Beautiful Must Die a year later. For The Last Angel On Earth, they enlisted the talents of clarinet master Milan Milosevic, who has been praised as “eclectic, groundbreaking and innovative,” terms that describe his colleagues equally well. A former member of the Belgrade National Orchestra, Milan, who currently lives in Vancouver, has performed in a wide-ranging number of settings, including as a leader of his own jazz/ethno themed group on his cd Pearls and Yarn. The new collective Darunam/Milan - which will be performing a live concert in Vancouver on January 8th, 2009 (2 days after the release of the cd) that will be recorded and broadcast throughout Canada by the CBC - is an impressive group of distinctly talented individuals, hailing from widely diverse musical backgrounds, but sharing a common musical philosophy, coalescing into a single groundbreaking aggregation that builds on the members’ variegated pasts, while moving into the future.
The method by which the trio collaborated to craft The Last Angel On Earth is a truly 21st Century process. With Manu filming in Toronto and Milan teaching at Vancouver College, Radovan began creating the music at his studio in New York – fashioning the canvas on which the three musicians would paint – and then exchanging the files with his partners. They would in turn independently perform their parts and upload their files so Radovan could edit and add more of his own musical magic. The cooperative process would continue over a period of months only to be finished when Manu returned to New York to lay down his final vocal tracks. Radovan serving as the group’s chief architect-orchestrator, Manu as its main melodist-lyricist and Milan as the principal soloist-obliggatist, but with all the members of the trinity variously interchanging roles, the works would each grow to breathe a distinct life of their own, unlike anything they had done before.
The thirteen tracks on The Last Angel On Earth -- each dedicated to a different “angel” from various traditions -- are full of contrasts and confluences, bringing together seemingly disparate musical moments and philosophical precepts in a manner that comes wholly natural to the musicians, who share the goal of bringing the world together and bridging the gap between contemporary and classical art forms.
The opening Omen does just that. Dedicated to the angel Gabriel, a divinity celebrated in Hebrew, Christian and Islamic literature, the words - amin, amen, omen play on the fact that different religions have a similar word for something divine. The music similarly blends moods and traditions, opening ominously with a percussive march moving into the sounds of a cathedral organ followed by a muezzin-like chant introducing Manu’s vocal. Pain and sorrow mix with joy and optimism in this moving piece that subtly addresses religion’s power to be both divisive and unifying.
Tears, commemorates the Buddhist icon Bhodhisatva, whose image is supposed to have the power to soothe tears. Milan’s melancholy clarinet introduces the piece, which begins with a vocal passage not unlike a Native American Indian chant. Radovan’s musical tapestry weaves the sounds Turkish dumbek and Japanese taiko drums with oud, balalaika and rock guitar in an inspiring convergence.
The album’s title track, The Last Angel On Earth, hearkens back to Darunam’s pop-rock roots with its simple appealing melody, straightforward love-inspired lyrics and somewhat traditional American string backgrounds, but takes on the character of this new endeavor with its bilingual vocals shared by Manu and Radovan. Not dedicated to any particular deity, the song seeks to share the message that the last angel on earth is you.
Amma commemorates the Hindu goddess Sarasvati who is the guardian of all things creative and artistic. Beginning with the sounds of waves and plaintive whistling redolent of Ennio Morricone films score to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, it is one of the album’s most soothing compositions, a showcase for Milan’s clarinet, which merges eastern European folk melodicism with down home American blues.
Birth, written for Saint Sava, the most important saint in the Serbian Orthodox religion, opens with a seductive gypsy dance section sets a sensual tone that is both contrasted and complemented by the soulful sound of a female vocalist. The lyric’s message, “I’m walking home and I feel like I’m born again”, pop-like in sentiment, takes on added significance in the context of the album’s program.
Laila (Rabl’a), is a beautiful song beginning with rich romantic vocal harmonies sung over a vaguely AfroCuban percussive background that culminates in a joyous rhythmic dance.
One of the album’s most appealing pieces, Sunshine is a superb example of the American pop music tradition at its finest (while simultaneously being much more). Subtitled Gabriel - another angel celebrated by Muslims, Christians and Jews alike – the tune’s infectious melodic hook could easily be imagined as climbing to the top of the charts in a more enlightened society.
Move is an instrumental piece dedicated to Karl Marx, reflecting the group’s progressive thinking that there is room for an atheist’s thinking within the context of a spiritual. Milan’s instrumental virtuosity and Radovan’s orchestral acuity come to the fore here.
Unabashedly romantic, Sing, spotlights the lead vocal on a traditional love song with sweet string backgrounds that bring out the beauty of his voice’s vulnerable plea. The track’s ethereal floating quality is apropos to the angel Ariel - spirit of air – to whom it is dedicated.
Falling is for Cupid. The lyric, “You’re falling into me/I’m falling through the ground/I’m falling all apart/I’m falling upside down,” and the music’s weightless quality seek to capture the bewilderment that befalls one when struck by this angel’s arrow.
A choir of male voices introduces Truth, which commemorating Mahatma Gandhi, before the female lead vocal comes in singing the main melody. The piece conveys the innocence and conviction of the saintly man who changed the world, well represented by the vocal alternately vigorous and buoyant in the context of Radovan’s and Milan’s rich instrumental accompaniment.
Night opens with piano and tabla before the vocal enters, slowly intoning the words “Nothing lasts forever/Your life is tonight,” with a compliant melancholy that is echoed in the clarinet and the arrangement of this piece for Mother Theresa.
The disc closes with Life, an electronic ode to the Roman god Bacchus. The song’s introductory wraithlike harmonies conjure a mood fitting the deity’s association with the intoxicating qualities of wine, while the earthy backbeat underpinning the lyric “We’re just looking for the love …” correlates with his link to sensuality.
The members of Darunam/Milan – Radovan, Manu and Milan - all share a deep conviction that the whole world is becoming one and that music is an vital factor in bringing it together. Utilizing the power of the internet to shrink the planet they have come together to create a music that is both international and individual on a disc that seeks to expand minds and transport age-old musical traditions into the future.