Michiel van der Meulen
loves thinking wondering learning making travelling meeting music Earth and those he loves
Michiel van der Meulen was released into the world in 1969, from school in 1988 (… with his wife to be and a diploma), by the army in 1989 (… with a truck driver’s license and skills he fortunately never needed to rely on), and from university in 1999 (… with two more diplomas and skills he has relied on ever since). He works as a geologist for the Geological Survey of the Netherlands and is married with two children.
After a life-long immersion in various modal idioms—during his upbringing, as a musician and as a traveller—Michiel found his musical voice at Labyrinth Musical Workshop in Crete, studying composition with Ross Daly. This is where he learned to shape the modes, rhythms, forms and phrasing he had been absorbing, especially those of the Ottoman classical and Eastern Mediterranean folk repertoires, into contemporary modal music, a cosmopolitan genre coined by Daly. Michiel’s oeuvre is turning into an ever more comprehensive reflection on his influences and personal musical journey, as also documented in the combined technical / biographic notes he writes to his albums. Michiel uses his oud and violin when composing, and plays a specially modified, microtonal Macedonian tambura in several of his recordings.
International – Ever since he started out at Labyrinth, Michiel has enjoyed the great privilege to not only learn from but also work with renowed musicians and technicians from that close-knit community:
- Ross Daly – musician, composer, founder and director of Labyrinth Musical Workshop | Erato
- Kelly Thoma – lyra player, composer | Erato
- Taxiarchis Georgoulis – oud player | Európe, Erato
- Manolis Kanakakis – kanun player, pianist, choir director | Pîrî Reis, Európe, Erato
- Vagelis Karipis – percussionist | Európe, Erato
- Marijia Katsouna – percussionist | Pîrî Reis, Európe, Erato
- Michalis Kouloumis – violinist, composer | Erato
- Harris Lambrakis – ney player, composer | Pîrî Reis, Európe, Erato
- Yorgos Mavromanolakis (†) – oud player, composer | Pîrî Reis
- Alexandros Papadimitrakis – oud player, lavta player | Erato
- Giorgos Papaioannou – violinist, composer | Pîrî Reis, Európe, Erato
- Nikos Papaioannou – cellist | Európe, Erato
- Mayu Shviro – cellist | Erato
- Vangelis Apostolou – sound engineer | Pîrî Reis, Európe, Unforgotten, Üçayak, Erato
- Nikos Kollias – sound engineer | Európe, Erato
- Nikos Paraoulakis – ney player, somposer, producer | Erato project
The Netherlands – In his home country, Michiel cooperates with or has been influenced by:
- Cengiz Arslanpay – ney player, composer, sound artist | Unforgotten project, Üçayak project, Traditionele Turkse Kunstmuziek, Erato project
- Bernard Kleikamp – publisher, record company owner, ethnomusicologist | Unforgotten project, Üçayak project
- Crispijn Oomes – violin player, impressario | Unforgotten, Üçayak
- Roel Sluis – singer, kaval player, recorder player | Európe, Unforgotten, Üçayak, Traditionele Turkse Kunstmuziek
- Wouter Swets (†) – musician, ethnomusicologist, author | Vintage Recordings (1964–1966), Unforgotten, Üçayak, Traditionele Turkse Kunstmuziek
- Jacobus Thiele – percussionist | Erato
- Albert van der Meulen – accordionist | Vintage Recordings (1964–1966), Európe
- Jan Wollring – accordionist | Erato
When Michiel records his work, he’ll assemble an occasional ensemble he names after the mythological personification of the right moment, the time to act or an opportunity to be seized. The name Kairos encapsulates the inspiration and spontaneity characterising the sessions of a collective that is as ephemeral as its defining traits. Nothing is fixed, there are no strings attached, but even so you’ll hear they are consistent and rock-solid.
The micro record label TouMilou was established primarily to release and distribute Michiel’s albums independently. The catalogue also includes his original scores, as well as three Čalgija albums he produced, one of which is a coproduction with Pan Records.
- Kairos Collective | Erato (TouMilou #6, 2022)
- Kairos Collective | Európe (TouMilou #3, 2019)
- Kairos Collective | Pîrî Reis (TouMilou #1, 2017)
- Future work
Labyrinth’s Mitos orchestra performing at the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights in Rhodes on September 3, 2017. The program featured Romanza (track 13 of Erato) and Michiel’s unpublished Hicaz Peşrev. Musicians, from left to right: Meira Segal (ney), Nikos Paraoulakis (ney), Eleftheria Daoultzi (kanun), Michael Harrist (double bass), Efrén López (oud), Sergios Voulgaris (kudüm), Marijia Katsouna (bendir), Taxiarchis Georgoulis (oud), Nikos Papageorgiou (tambur), Nikos Papaioannou (cello), Kelly Thoma(lyra), Xrysanthi Gkika (kemençe), Evgenios Voulgaris (yaylı tambur) and Ross Daly (tarhu). Photo: Michiel van der Meulen.
Čalgija on TouMilou
It is hard to overstate the role Čalgija and the ensemble’s musical director Wouter Swets (1930–2016) played in building a Dutch audience for ‘world music’, in particular from the Balkans and Anatolia.
Wouter Swets has been called the Dutch Alan Lomax but perhaps it is more accurate to think of him as an equivalent of Ross Daly. It was Swets who drew Michiel’s father Albert to Balkan music, the closest match in Europe to the sounds of an early youth spent in the Dutch East Indies. It provided him a way out of the rather dire musical environment he had found himself in after moving to the Netherlands. Čalgija, in its 1960s line-up, was Albert’s first ensemble. Michiel has played and still plays with former Čalgija members, so it is fair to say that Swets shaped, albeit mostly indirectly, Michiel’s musical tastes and preferences.
Čalgija existed, in different line-ups, from the early 1960s till 1995, and then continued as Al Farabi till the mid-2000s. Swets was primarily active as a musician and researcher; his discography is comparitatively modest. Čalgija produced an untitled EP in the mid-1960s that was reisssued by TouMilou, an LP in 1978 and a CD in 1991. Ensemble Al Farabi released a CD in 2002.
Michiel learned that there was unreleased studio material from 1981 and 1984/85, and decided, out of curiosity and respect, to find and release it, adding two full albums to Čalgija’s musical legacy. All of their unpublished studio recordings have now been (un)covered and most of the material has been published, along with the best of the concert recordings we have so far identified and digitized.
Recent releases (2017–2021)
- Üçayak (TouMilou #5, 2021)
- Unforgotten (PAN 2056 / TouMilou #4, 2020)
- Vintage recordings (1964–1966) (TouMilou #2, 2017)
Vintage albums (1966–1995)
- Mosaique Vivant (MV695, 1995): compilation album with three tracks by Čalgija
- Music from the Balkans and Anatolia #2 (PAN 2007CD, 1991)
- Music from the Balkans and Anatolia #1 (MU 7425, 1978 / PAN 7425, 2013)
- Balkan Orchestra Čalgija (Terpsichoré, 1966, reissued as TouMilou #2)
Čalgija CD sales revenues are transferred to the estate of Wouter Swets and used to cover the expenses of a continued effort to safeguard his musical legacy. TouMilou Music contributes to this effort on a pro bono basis.