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Interview with musician and producer
Phil Thornton

by Konstanze Winkler

Since we are a belly dance magazine, we would like to know what led you to Tribal music. Could you please tell us something about your career, and was it inevitable to end with Tribal music, at least for the moment?

My Career has taken many twists and turns! However, I think it would be fair to say I am best known for my solo albums in the so-called ‘New Age’ genre.

During the early 90’s my focus began to embrace more ethnic / world influences, resulting in collaborations with other musicians and composers including master Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy.

Starting with ‘Pharaoh’ (1995) and ‘Eternal Egypt’(1996) then moving on to ‘Immortal Egypt’ (1998) and ‘Enchanted Egypt’ (2005).

Yes I think it was inevitable I would discover the tribal scene at some point! Two of the songs from ‘Immortal Egypt’ in particular have been popular with tribal dancers for the last few years – the title track ‘Immortal Egypt’ and ‘Derwood Green’.

Carolena Nericcio (the inventor of American Tribal Style) has largely been responsible for this as her dance troop ‘Fat Chance Belly Dance’ have been using both these songs in their shows since soon after that albums release (1998).
My first direct contact with the ATS style was in 2006 when I saw  ‘Pedralta Dance’ (Donna Gardner and Lesley Hogg) with guest dancers Wendy Marlatt and Kathleen Crowley (from San Francisco) performing at the Union Chapel, London to 'Derwood Green' .  I felt an immediate affinity with the dress code and dance moves. The following year I was able to travel to San Francisco and meet Carolena. By this time I was already in the process of putting ‘Nexus Tribal’ together and it was this meeting which steered that project towards its final form.
Do you have any favourite styles in Tribal or Tribal Fusion? Do you have any favourite dancers?

Yes! – I love ATS. I have been lucky enough to perform with Carolena Nericcio and Megha Gavin at the Majma festival, Glastonbury, England. I have also included Hilde Cannoodt and Moirai Tribal in many shows in the last 3 years. They performed ATS style with Hilde showing her unique ‘Fusion’ style for solo performance.

Karima Giz (based in Frankfurt) created a wonderful choreography for the song ‘On the Transit of Venus’ from the album ‘Enchanted Egypt’ for Serena and Hossam Ramzy’s "Dance Queens of the Nile Show" in London 05.10.2007, at the Bloomsbury Theatre/ UCL.
Karima Giz bei facebook:

Other favourites would have to include Serena Ramzy (of course!) and the ‘Fusion’ styles of Kimberly Macoy and Hannah Mi.

Could you please introduce us to your new album, “Nexus Tribal”?

Certainly – Nexus Tribal began life as a project to fuse some of the influences I had been picking up: The Eastern European feel, West African tribal, Traditional Egyptian (of course!), electronica, etc.

As I mentioned before, being exposed to the Tribal dance scene steered the direction of the music further towards belly dance.

One song, ‘Bay city shimmy’ had already appeared on the compilation album ‘The beginners guide to bellydance’, Carolena encouraged me to make a faster version for ATS which is also included on the album. In fact much of the album could be described as ‘uptempo’.

I’m really pleased with the end result, my first independent release!

You did three albums with Hossam Ramzy. How is it working together with this world famous Egyptian musician. Rumour has it that the two of you are planning a new album. What will await us there?

Hossam’s skill as a master percussionist is beyond doubt of course, he is also a very experienced producer with a wide catalogue of musicians he can call on. (We are always very careful during the planning of our projects to book the right people to record with us.)Our respective studio skills are very different, being a multi instrumentalist I tend to work alone most of the time, whilst Hossam is in constant demand as a session musician. Somehow these differences serve the music well!  As our collaborations have progressed over the years we have both been busy with many other projects. On every album to date new ideas and techniques have been put into the mix. I think this helps to keep our work fresh!
What other musicians did you cooperate with?
I performed with Sinead O’Connor back in 1988 but I think one of the highlights of my past would have to be performing with Mandragora when we featured guest singer Arthur Brown (famous for his song ‘Fire’) For many years I have been a part of the Earthdance music production collective with Simon Williams, we have released 16 compilations of chill out/dance music under the title of ‘The Buddha Experience’ – I released my favourite  solo material from this on line as ‘Eastern moments’.

Will you stick to Tribal for another while?

Oh yes! – the new album with Hossam is heading in that direction and the next project after that has a working title of ‘Tribal Spirit’ (this will be a collaboration with the FCBD band ‘Helm’) Moving forward to the time when those albums are finished I am planning a follow up to Nexus Tribal, so I would expect to be concentrating on music for Tribal belly dance for the foreseeable future!!

Will we see you sometime in the near future in Germany?

I would love to come over and perform in Germany. Unfortunately there are no immediate plans.
Yes! – its true we are working on a new album !

The working title is ‘Egypt Unveiled’ – it will be our 4th collaboration in this genre. We have already been to Cairo to record the musician’s performances over there. Now we are working hard on editing this material and creating arrangements ready for Hossam and I to add our playing.
left: Carolena Nericcio. © K C Winstead,
below: Hilde Coalition
YouTube: Karima Giz
Dance Queens of the Nile
YouTube: Carolena Nericcio and Megha dancing to 'Derwood Green' performed by Phil Thornton at Majma, Glastonbury, England.
Our combined experiences allow us to take improvised studio performances and create arrangements and structures from them.

If there is a secret here I think it would be that we share a common vision with our intent to create music which has a genuine ‘fusion’ quality!
***Phil Thornton's CD NEXUS TRIBAL is now available on www.mags &***
You Tube: Hossam Ramzy and Phil Thornton discuss new album for 2010
Hagalla-Discount-Code (10% off): PT 0610 (please note with your order)
You Tube: Phil Thornton with Moirai Tribal