The beautiful tune E Ma Ri Khrod has made a long journey from its beginnings back in the mists of time to the contemporary repertoire of Forgotten Fish Memory Orchestra. The first written records of the melody trace it to the 1800s and to the Labrang Monastery in Tibet, but it’s certainly many centuries older than that.
In ancient times, there was more of a blurring between the genres of ritual music and folk music. Eventually religious music came to be played predominantly on gongs, bells, cymbals, drums and brass or blown instruments like the ‘dbang dung’. However the records show that this tune, although a ritualistic piece, was accompanied by a sgra-snyanon rgod-po (a plucked lute) and a gling-bu (flute).
Although the melody is aesthetically alluring, its function was as a repetitive, meditative, trance-like vehicle.
The Labrang Monastery is one of the six great monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located in Amdo province, in the town of Xiahe. The monastery is famous also for its sculptures made of butter. Needless to say the region does not have a very warm climate, and its high altitude ensures a sometimes bitterly cold temperature.
Forgotten Fish have taken this old tune on board, have chosen to play it using stringed instruments, pipa, berzerk erhu, xylophone, musical glasses, music box and pentatonic whirly tube. When they performed it live they also incorporated their own inscrutable bubble ritual.