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by Daniel Berkman

Alieu 01:40
Travels 04:15
Simply 03:14
Kurra 03:31
Heartstrings 02:17
Lullaby 04:27


"Heartstrings" was recorded in the spring of 1997.

I had just moved to San Francisco in 1995 and by 1996 I was in my honeymoon period with the Kora. I was 26 and living in North Beach, the perfect place for a beat poet aficionado and aspiring musician to find his voice.

I'd only been playing kora a year but had many requests from friends and family to record a tape.
I'd been a drummer, guitarist, keyboardist, composer and singer/songwriter for years and never expected my first release to be on an instrument from West Africa. But all the signs pointed toward a future in the kora.

When I bought my first kora from my teacher; guitarist and luthier Alan Perlman, I started learning the traditional songs of the griots right away. I was already hip to the greats like Amadu Bansang Jobarte, Toumani Diabate, Tata Dindin and Alhaji Bai Konte. I listened to these guys obsessively, copied their style, learned of their culture and practiced for hours a day. I got pretty good, too. But I also attached a pickup to the bridge and plugged it in to my guitar effects to create an altogether different kind of music.
Everything took off when I bought the Oberheim Echoplex and the Digitech Whammy 2 pedal. Suddenly I was creating other worlds! At the time I was also obsessed with Robert Fripp and his Soundscapes and thought I could approach that type of art form using the kora.

I connected with producer/musician Mark Orton of the Tin Hat Trio through a mutual friend. Mark and I both went to the Hartt School of Music in Connecticut and he was interested in what I was doing with kora and electronics. He was new to the city like me so our approach to the record was very free spirited and creative. I got his Tin Hat Trio their first gig in San Francisco at a tea house called Pure Tea on Polk Street. I had a regular solo kora gig there. Everything was clicking. I had plenty of material and now an awesome recording engineer.

My friend John Stanley took some black and white shots of me with my kora, sitting on the front steps of my Union Street flat, facing the sun, posing on my rooftop with Alcatraz in the distance. It was a love affair with the kora and with San Francisco.

In 2008 I decided to go back to the original tapes and add more parts.
Over the years I had developed as a composer and had a much more refined pallet of sounds, especially those derived from the kora.
I added additional bass and percussion parts taken from knocking, plucking, rubbing and tapping the kora. Then I would pitch shift and tweak these sounds in Logic Pro to make EXS24 instruments out of them. All "Heartstrings" needed was a bit more bass and punch. Just enough to really bring the tracks to life. The finishing touch was to have it mastered by none other than David Earl, long time friend and collaborator, genius producer and logic ninja!

There's one word that comes to mind when I think of my first ever produced record........innocence. Still, when I listen to it today, I feel that all is well. I'm very proud of this little record.



released January 18, 2013

Daniel Berkman: kora, devices
Mark Orton: engineering
Daniel Berkman: photography and cover design
John Stanley: black and white photographs on the original tape
David Earl: mastering

All tracks by Daniel Berkman. Copyright © 1997


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Daniel Berkman San Francisco, California

Daniel Berkman is a Bay Area electronic musician, composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, looper and innovator of the Kora (a 21-stringed harp-lute from West Africa) and it's modern counterpart, the Gravikord.
Daniel composes for dance, film, instrumental, vocal and also has recordings under his electronic music moniker Colfax.
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