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The musicians and the music

BAK is the current musical adventure of Australian composers Beau Djekic and Kit Dyson. BAK was born with the aim to bring their varied cultural and global musical influences to life in a project of scale and ambition. Freed from the need to confirm to a traditional rock band format they set about sourcing musicians from around the globe who could help manifest the vision of Baklandia.

Drummer-keyboardist Kit says of his group’s genesis, “It’s really more about what wasn’t there, as opposed to what is there. There was a hole, really, as far as entertainment and music goes. A lot of groups are playing their songs on stage, pretty much standing still, wearing jeans. The image is a little bit boring to us. We wanted to do something bigger, musically and visually, that we felt was missing in the music world and in the entertainment world.”

Kit and his creative partner, guitarist/bassist Beau, have conceived their work as a project that pushes the boundaries of music and its presentation. Beau explains, “The German composer Richard Wagner came up with the idea of a complete entertainment. He was one of the first people to do things on a large scale, like having compositions playing while having people walking through the audience in costume carrying candles. That sort of idea was the nebulous beginning of something that inspired us.

“We were two guys, passionate about music, growing up in Australia,” he continues. “We were drawn to music in our early teens. Growing up I listened to AC/DC and Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest. I also listened to classical music, Bach and Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky and I listened to hip-hop, ranging from the Beastie Boys to old-school gangsta rap, Busta Rhymes.”

“I was pretty much the same,” says Kit. “I grew up in the classical world somewhat, when I was very young, learning the classical instruments and all that sort of thing. As I grew up I discovered rock music and jazz music. We also have an interest in all different cultures.Sydney is such a multicultural society with people from all over the world. There are so many many ethnic neighborhoods with restaurants to go to where you meet the people and get exposed to their respective cultures.”

Both musicians were pointed on the path that led them to the unique music they make today when they took up esoteric foreign instruments in their youth. For Beau, whose first instrument was the guitar, the baglama, or saz – a Turkish stringed instrument not unlike the lute – served to inspire a fresh musical direction.

Beau recalls, “I had a friend who had one lying around the house. He’d bought it second-hand at a garage sale. He didn’t know what to do with it, and I found out what it was and how to play it. I found a Turkish teacher in the west of Sydney and studied for about a year. Once I got to the point of learning classical Turkish pieces, I got enough of an understanding of the instrument to teach myself how to get better at it in a way that would help me facilitate my own music.”

Kit says, “I grew up as a pianist, and I became a drummer in my teens. I didn’t just like South American percussion, like most drummers tend to go into. I got more into the North African and Turkish percussion. I play the doumbek, which is a hand drum from Northern Africa, and the riq, which is essentially a tambourine. I also play a Persian instrument called the tombak, an ancient Persian drum.”

The merging of two divergent types of instrumentation – Western/electric and Eastern/acoustic – led to the creation of a musical style that has come to be known by BaK fans as “Ethno-Prog.” Beau and Kit compose and produce the music in their Sydney home base, employing a host of other musicians to formulate their massive, orchestral sound.

“We’ll record sort of a skeleton,” Beau says. “We’ll already have all of the parts written, or least conceived. It’s a layering process. There are amazing, amazing musicians that we’ve had the opportunity to work with, including members of the Melbourne and Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the Sydney Opera and lots of local ethnic musicians. Generally, through the process of recording, we’ll have up to 30 people come through the legendary Albert Studios where we record.

Kit continues. “Essentially what Beau and I do is write all this stuff in our cave in the mountains, and then we start putting together an arrangement and getting people to come in and play. Essentially the vision is of something very, very big – lots and lots of instruments to express how we view the world and how we view Baklandia.”

To date, BaK’s music has materialized on three recording projects – Flower (2014), Painter (2012) and Sculpture (2010).

The debut Sculpture features 10 tracks as monumental as the imposing Egyptian desert sculptures that inspired them. The nearly eight-minute “Can’t Understand” melds string-laden melodies grounded in Eastern modalities (reminiscent at times of the Beatles’ pathfinding “Within You Without You”) to a full-blown metal explosion. “Not Just Your World” conjures the progressive rock complexity of such acts as Yes and King Crimson, cloaked in world music rhythms. And the suite-like, nine-minute “Our Time” builds from a delicate acoustic introduction to a thunderous “Kashmir”-like processional.

The four-track sophomore release Painter proved to be an even deeper exploration of BaK’s unique world-rock sound, drawing from roots that sweep from North Africa through the Middle East and into India. Running nearly seven minutes, “Creation” fuses subdued strings and a rising muezzin-like vocal line into a bold fusion of Eastern spirituality and surging Western hard rock. The explosive nine-minute “What Have We Done” melds lush, raga-like world music with roaring orchestral thrash for a unique Ravi Shankar-meets-Metallica effect.

The hyper-ambitious Flower marks BaK’s deepest incursion into world themes, and is highlighted by the almost 15-minute, two-part “Life and Perception,” a symphonic swell of elegantly arranged strings, swirling keyboards, and a slamming hard rock movement graced with chants and a classically-derived chorale.

In keeping with BaK's multi-media conception, the group has produced videos for Sculpture’s “Not Just Your World” and all four tracks from the Flower EP. The clips have won acclaim at the Indie Film Festival, the Intendance Film Festival, and the Action On Film International Film Festival.

BaK envisions an ambitious series of live touring performances that would present their work in the context of full-blown rock theater/concert.

“In a practical sense,” Beau says, “what we want to do is take shows from, say, the late ‘80s – everything from Michael Jackson to Pink Floyd, visually stimulating over-the-top stage shows – as our example. The final objective would be to have a symphonic choir and an orchestra (with Violins/cellos/horns/woodwind/brass and percussion) on stage. You’d also have rock musicians – guitar, bass, drums, keyboards - and then have an Ethnic music ensemble. It would be aligned with a specific BaK visuals based on the Baklandia Universe for each tour. It would be a large over-the-top spectacular, basically, along the lines of a musical or something like that – a visual entertainment as well as music – a Rock Symphony.

“We want to bring back some of that awe you had when you were a kid and you would watch, perhaps, an action film, and say, ‘Oh, my God, that thing is bigger than life!’”