About MUNA

phoenix_lyrics2Click here for MUNA tracklist, lyrics & media kit.


Click to Read: A short biography of MUNA.

Muna means “to remember” in Icelandic. Remembering that which has been forgotten is a recurring theme throughout this record. “I had been to Iceland for the first time with the Swell Season,” Marketa says. “I fell in love with it then and was sad to leave, although I knew someday something would bring me back. I am inspired by the open space, the wilderness of the nature, the strong energy coming from the land. There is a harmony, a balance, something that allows for a freer flow of creativity. It is easier to be one with oneself and one with everything and everyone around. This makes for better art, in my opinion.”

—–

Take me to the point of my creation/Take me where my life began/I was born into this world/What had I intended then?/What had I chosen for a destiny?/Am I living it right now?/I have this feeling I’ve forgotten something/Tell me…

These are the first lines of ‘Point Of Creation’, the opening track on Marketa Irglova’s second solo album. Entitled MUNA (‘remember’ in Icelandic, a recurring theme throughout the eleven songs), the collection was written and recorded in Iceland, the Czech singer-songwriter’s new base of operations.

“I had been to Iceland for the first time about four years ago to play a show with The Swell Season,” she recalls. “I fell in love with it then, and was sad to leave, although I knew someday something would bring me back. When a friend of mine recommended a studio in Iceland for recording my second album, I didn’t hesitate. I am inspired by the open space, the wilderness of the nature here, the strong energy coming from the land, and I am comforted by the people who seem so at one with it. There is a harmony, a balance, something that allows for a freer flow of creativity. It is easier in such surroundings to be one with oneself, and one with everything and everyone around. That elevates one’s consciousness and makes for better art, in my opinion.”

MUNA is an album that takes the Oscar-winning singer’s music further into the realm of the ethereal. If her debut ANARexplored the dynamic of intimate personal relationships, the new record is a document of spiritual searching. Written over the course of a year, and recorded in six months with producer/engineer Sturla Mio Thorisson, it utilises full choral, string and percussion sections, plus guests Rob Bochnik (The Frames), Iranian daf player and vocalist Aida Shahghasemi, and Marketa’s own sister Zuzi on backing vocals. All told, the album’s cast-list runs to some 27 players.

“I think the key to working with other musicians is finding a balance between giving them direction and allowing them to bring their own ideas,” Marketa says. “With the vocal arrangements, I would have an idea of what I wanted the parts to sound like, but I would not prepare upfront. Rather, I would start with basic harmonies by singing to the others what I wanted and asking them to join in. From there we would branch out to other arrangements, and as they were all wonderful singers and quick learners it was a pretty smooth process, like a snowball getting bigger and bigger as you roll it.”

In keeping with the choral textures, MUNA is an album of saints, angels and psalms (the Lord’s Prayer makes an appearance in ‘Without A Map’). The songs were, admits Marketa, partly inspired by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Tim Rice’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

“Both lyrics and music are spectacular,” Marketa says, “and the exchanges between characters are so seamless, one forgets one is listening to a song and not a conversation. It has inspired me to write my own songs as conversations, and this is especially true on this album, which has a spiritual side as well as practical one. Spirituality should not be associated with obscurity and an ‘out of touch with reality’ state of mind.”

She was similarly inspired by Neale Donald Walsch’s multi-volume Conversations With God, “a trilogy of books written by a man who claims he was conversing with God by writing questions on a notepad and receiving answers in the same way. The questions ranged from very simple to very complex issues. For me it’s irrelevant if it was really God answering, or the writer himself, for the truth of the matter is the material born out of these conversations is profound and timeless. I believe God speaks through us in many ways, beginning with simple acts of kindness and ending with pieces of art that inspire millions for generations. All that matters is to try to get in touch with that part of ourselves and trust that which comes forth. I tried to do that with this record.”

Elsewhere, ‘Fortune Teller’ exhibits duende airs and is like nothing Marketa’s done before. “It is a middle-eastern influence which I had been exposed to during my time living in New York with Iranian people and playing with an Iranian percussionist and singer,” she explains. “The lyrics are also inspired by Iranian literature, in particular a book called The Conference of the Birds (by 12th century poet Farid ud-Din Attar). It is a culture I am very fascinated with and inspired by, and the upbeat nature of the song is something I’d love to do more of in the future.”

Overall, MUNA’s musical and lyrical themes take solace from the smallness of individual concerns when contrasted with the scale of the universe. It is the result, Marketa says, of a process of growing up, of “going through difficult times and getting lost and feeling left alone to find my way back. Turning to something – or someone – bigger than me to make some sense of things that did not make sense at all. Feeling encouraged to zoom out and widen the lens through which I look at the world – from personal to worldwide to eventually universal. It is much easier to feel victimized when living in the micro-cosmos of our personal dramas. But once we open our minds to the macro-cosmos that we are part of, the issues that seemed so big start to seem small, and that is the beginning of us rising above them and changing our lives for the better.”

Muna means “to remember” in Icelandic. Remembering that which has been forgotten is a recurring theme throughout this record. “I had been to Iceland for the first time with the Swell Season,” Marketa says. “I fell in love with it then and was sad to leave, although I knew someday something would bring me back. I am inspired by the open space, the wilderness of the nature, the strong energy coming from the land. There is a harmony, a balance, something that allows for a freer flow of creativity. It is easier to be one with oneself and one with everything and everyone around. This makes for better art, in my opinion.”

—–

Take me to the point of my creation/Take me where my life began/I was born into this world/What had I intended then?/What had I chosen for a destiny?/Am I living it right now?/I have this feeling I’ve forgotten something/Tell me…

These are the first lines of ‘Point Of Creation’, the opening track on Marketa Irglova’s second solo album. Entitled MUNA (‘remember’ in Icelandic, a recurring theme throughout the eleven songs), the collection was written and recorded in Iceland, the Czech singer-songwriter’s new base of operations.

“I had been to Iceland for the first time about four years ago to play a show with The Swell Season,” she recalls. “I fell in love with it then, and was sad to leave, although I knew someday something would bring me back. When a friend of mine recommended a studio in Iceland for recording my second album, I didn’t hesitate. I am inspired by the open space, the wilderness of the nature here, the strong energy coming from the land, and I am comforted by the people who seem so at one with it. There is a harmony, a balance, something that allows for a freer flow of creativity. It is easier in such surroundings to be one with oneself, and one with everything and everyone around. That elevates one’s consciousness and makes for better art, in my opinion.”

MUNA is an album that takes the Oscar-winning singer’s music further into the realm of the ethereal. If her debut ANARexplored the dynamic of intimate personal relationships, the new record is a document of spiritual searching. Written over the course of a year, and recorded in six months with producer/engineer Sturla Mio Thorisson, it utilises full choral, string and percussion sections, plus guests Rob Bochnik (The Frames), Iranian daf player and vocalist Aida Shahghasemi, and Marketa’s own sister Zuzi on backing vocals. All told, the album’s cast-list runs to some 27 players.

“I think the key to working with other musicians is finding a balance between giving them direction and allowing them to bring their own ideas,” Marketa says. “With the vocal arrangements, I would have an idea of what I wanted the parts to sound like, but I would not prepare upfront. Rather, I would start with basic harmonies by singing to the others what I wanted and asking them to join in. From there we would branch out to other arrangements, and as they were all wonderful singers and quick learners it was a pretty smooth process, like a snowball getting bigger and bigger as you roll it.”

In keeping with the choral textures, MUNA is an album of saints, angels and psalms (the Lord’s Prayer makes an appearance in ‘Without A Map’). The songs were, admits Marketa, partly inspired by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Tim Rice’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

“Both lyrics and music are spectacular,” Marketa says, “and the exchanges between characters are so seamless, one forgets one is listening to a song and not a conversation. It has inspired me to write my own songs as conversations, and this is especially true on this album, which has a spiritual side as well as practical one. Spirituality should not be associated with obscurity and an ‘out of touch with reality’ state of mind.”

She was similarly inspired by Neale Donald Walsch’s multi-volume Conversations With God, “a trilogy of books written by a man who claims he was conversing with God by writing questions on a notepad and receiving answers in the same way. The questions ranged from very simple to very complex issues. For me it’s irrelevant if it was really God answering, or the writer himself, for the truth of the matter is the material born out of these conversations is profound and timeless. I believe God speaks through us in many ways, beginning with simple acts of kindness and ending with pieces of art that inspire millions for generations. All that matters is to try to get in touch with that part of ourselves and trust that which comes forth. I tried to do that with this record.”

Elsewhere, ‘Fortune Teller’ exhibits duende airs and is like nothing Marketa’s done before. “It is a middle-eastern influence which I had been exposed to during my time living in New York with Iranian people and playing with an Iranian percussionist and singer,” she explains. “The lyrics are also inspired by Iranian literature, in particular a book called The Conference of the Birds (by 12th century poet Farid ud-Din Attar). It is a culture I am very fascinated with and inspired by, and the upbeat nature of the song is something I’d love to do more of in the future.”

Overall, MUNA’s musical and lyrical themes take solace from the smallness of individual concerns when contrasted with the scale of the universe. It is the result, Marketa says, of a process of growing up, of “going through difficult times and getting lost and feeling left alone to find my way back. Turning to something – or someone – bigger than me to make some sense of things that did not make sense at all. Feeling encouraged to zoom out and widen the lens through which I look at the world – from personal to worldwide to eventually universal. It is much easier to feel victimized when living in the micro-cosmos of our personal dramas. But once we open our minds to the macro-cosmos that we are part of, the issues that seemed so big start to seem small, and that is the beginning of us rising above them and changing our lives for the better.”


We want to introduce you to some of the talented people who helped bring MUNA to life.

Biographies
Aida Shahghasemi – Daf player & a member of Mar’s band
Nahid Hagigat – Cover artwork for MUNA & ANAR
Zohreh Shayesteh – Filmmaker, made the “Making of MUNA” short films
Mary Reynolds – Artist for MUNA & Landscape Designer
Sturla Mio Þórisson – Producer, Engineer & Graphic Designer for MUNA

Click below for Marketa’s stories about how she met these wonderful friends.


My Trinity: Aida, Nahid, Zohreh

marketa_my_trinityBack in 2010, when I had just made a transition from living in Ireland to renting an apartment in Manhattan, I attended a concert held at a cafe/art gallery called Zora space in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I was invited by my friend Jake Clemons, who was performing as one of the acts, and I accepted his invitation with a fair amount of excitement, having made a conscious decision at the time to embrace the more social life of New York City in comparison to my “out in the country” life in Ireland. I took the F train to Smith and 9th street and walked to the cafe a few blocks away.

At the door, I was greeted by a most lovely presence. A woman who, though busy talking on the phone, gestured for me to come in. I entered, pleasantly surprised at the beauty of this space, having expected a bar or something of the kind. All the more was I taken by this petite lady, who hung up the phone and introduced herself to me as Zora. She thanked me for coming in, and looked at me with these beautiful dark eyes, that made me feel as if I was meeting an old friend. Perhaps a faint memory from another lifetime darted across my mind, or perhaps I caught a glimpse of the future. One way or another, Zora was to become a lifelong friend and mentor to me.

It was a beautiful night of lovely music and people, tea-drinking and admiring the art that hung on the walls of this small candlelit space which made one feel warm and cozy.

It was on this night, that I was introduced to Aida Shahghasemi, a young woman and a kindred spirit in whom I found a sister and a musical companion. We were introduced to one another by our host, Zora, who felt we should meet, as we were both musicians who could and did make a connection.

While viewing the art exhibited in a section of this space, I was struck by their uniqueness and stunning beauty. They were accredited to an artists named Nahid Hagigat, a Brooklyn based woman from Iran. They appealed to me for their strong images of vibrant colors set against a gold leaf background, sealed with a golden dust that sparkled upon the contact with rays of light that fell upon them.

There was one in particular though, that caught my attention, as it portrayed a pomegranate which was at the time something of a symbol for me that kept reappearing at every step of the way, as if to reassure and reaffirm, that all was well and I was on the right path.

I inquired about purchasing this piece and at the end of the night, ended up bringing it home with me to my Bleecker street apartment. I hung it up by my bed and kept marveling at it’s beauty day and night, until finally it occurred to me that I was looking at what was meant to be the cover of a record I was preparing at the time ( ANAR ). I contacted Nahid and we agreed to meet at Zora space, where I got to ask her permission and she kindly consented. This was also a beginning of another friendship and collaboration.

I would meet Nahid on regular basis and converse with her over persian tea and biscuits. During one such visit, I brought forward an idea of commissioning her to paint two more pieces for the trilogy of records I knew then I would create over the course of the coming years. One of them you know as the bird on the cover of MUNA, the other one is yet to be revealed in due time. I am honored to know this woman and artist and to have her work be the visual representation of my music.

And so it is that I met this trinity of spectacular women, Zohreh Shayesteh ( Zora ), Aida Shahghasemi and Nahid Hagigat, who served as my anchor and support system during my time in New York.

I ended up moving in with Zohreh and her husband Nersi, who welcomed me into their family as a daughter and my time with these lovely people was somewhat of a golden period in my life, filled with kinship, magic, delicious food and laughter. I wrote all the songs that now form MUNA in this peaceful but lively sanctuary.

Aida and I would meet and play music together, catch up on stories of things we missed in one another’s life, take walks, share recipes and later make ANAR and MUNA. Zohreh came to Iceland with us as a film-maker to capture the making of the record, which can be viewed here. Aida is joining me on tour as well as channeling her creativity in all sorts of endeavors, and Nahid is creating more beautiful pieces to share with the world. I feel blessed to have them in my life, and should you ever make their acquaintance, good for you 🙂

Love,
Marketa


My Friend Mary Reynolds

marketa_maryI met Mary many years ago, when I was still living in Ireland. I came over to Glen’s place for a cuppa tea one day and there she was in his garden, helping him to plant some onions. I fell in love with Mary straight away. Her hands and shoes were covered in mud, and her chestnut hair was held up with pins in the most beautifully wild way. Her woolen swather was well worn and it’s threads intertwined with strands of dried grass, revealing how common spending time in a garden was for her. She contained within her the earthiness of her people which I loved and enjoyed during my time living in Ireland. I saw standing in front of me a most beautiful woman who’s smile was lighting up the garden which had been growing dim with the setting of the sun. Who’s eyes, as the windows to her soul revealed an old friend of mine. The eyes that glowed with laughter and merriment as if to invite and embrace all who enjoyed her gaze.

After this encounter, Mary and I became very good friends. I grew inspired by her work as she grew inspired by mine, until an idea was born to combine them. Being a garden designer, Mary’s work would entail drawing up her designs on big sheets of paper, which I found to be works of art in themselves. Her sketches of trees, mounds, rocks and spirals drawn in the finest of lines were something I could look at for hours and be happy to frame and put on my walls.

During one of my visits in her home on the west coast of Ireland I noticed fastened by a magnet to the door of her fridge a drawing clearly made by her hand. One which did not contain a design of a garden, however. Instead, it portrayed figures and other imagery. Upon inquiring about this lovely artwork, she shared with me that it was a kind of a prayer, a way to manifest in the lives of her and her two children that which she longed and wished for. She thought of her wish while making this drawing, all the while invoking it’s presence in place of it’s lack, then putting it in somewhere in their home she would see it often to remind her and keep this image always present in her mind.

This made me think how lovely it would be to have a visual representation of every song on MUNA. To have them as little prayers and invocations of the energy held by the music and the words. For there is no better way to integrate new impressions then to both hear and see them. And so it happened that Mary began drawing these prayers while I worked on writing up the lyrics of the songs. She would send one every week, each one more beautiful than the other, until the collection was complete, and all 11 of them incorporated into the booklet.

If you would like to have your own prayer made by her, I’m sure she would be happy to make you one too 🙂 It does not hurt to ask anyway 🙂 In time, Mary’s drawings from MUNA’s booklet will be available to buy as full-sized prints. Until then, I hope you enjoy them as part of the record 🙂

Love,
Marketa


A Connection Was Made (How I found my way to Iceland and met Sturla Mio Thorisson)

marketa_mioWhen I was still a member of The Swell Season, and extensive touring around the world was my main occupation, I had the fortune and privilege of being in a position to meet many wonderful people and to make friendships and establish connections. Some short-lived, which faded just as quickly as they came to be, and others to be nurtured and grow stronger over the years to come. I believe that all the connections I made with people served a purpose of their own, big or small, for one party or both, but some of them were so significant, and their effects so life-altering, it is easy to track their path backwards in time and recall the steps that were taken in order for certain events to pass and for all the pieces of a grand design to come together.

Over the course of the years The Swell Season worked with a few different sound-engineer in charge of the front of house live sound every night of a tour. For the most part there was the lovely Jelle Kuiper from Holland, whom I grew to respect greatly not only in regards to his work but as a kind, and good human being. The touring party of The Swell Season, band and crew, became very close over the years, fused by the adventures and experiences we lived through together, and it is like meeting a brother or a sister when my path crosses with either of theirs from time to time.

Jelle, like most sound-engineers, used to have a few favorite songs to play through the PA system in each venue during his time tweaking the sound before the band was called to check their instruments. One of them was a piece by Hauschka, a German musician and composer, who’s work I grew to love thanks to this introduction. I was very excited to learn one day, that we were passing through his hometown of Dusseldorf that he would be our guest at the show that night. We had a very interesting conversation at the afterparty backstage and a connection was made. We talked about music and discussed what our ambitions were in our composing efforts. We expressed our shared excitement about unexplored territories we wanted to venture into in our music-making, and inspired by our exchange we decided to stay in touch and collaborate some day in the future.

Few years later, I was living in New York, and having written a body of work solid enough to fill a full length album I decided to reach out to Volker (Hauschka being his artist name), to see if he still wanted to collaborate with me. I had an idea of incorporating rhythmical components into this record along with a programming element which he would be the perfect man to help me with. Volker’s forte is an area called ‘prepared piano’, where different objects are attached to or placed upon the strings of a piano to bring out new sounds. In Volker’s case there are also pre-programmed elements triggered by electronic equipment and the combination of the two gives him quite a rich and interesting palette of sounds to work with while playing his beautiful compositions, creating a truly mesmerizing experience for the listener.

On one beautiful sunny day I was walking through a park on my way back home after a meeting with my painter friend Nahid Hagigat. I had just picked up from her the painting I knew would be the artwork for the album I was about to record, MUNA, and fueled by the excitement of things coming together, I called Volker to see how he felt about coming on board of the project. During this phone-call, he recommended a studio in Iceland, called The Greenhouse, where he had just worked on a record with an American violin player Hilary Hahn. He gave me contacts for the main engineer and producer called Valgeir and the manager of the studio, Mio. I had a very good feeling about this, given that I had been looking for a reason to go back to Iceland ever since we played there with The Swell Season in 2010, and this seemed like the perfect one.

Looking into the possibility and likelihood of recording at Greenhouse, I contacted both Valgeir and Mio, introducing myself and asking them to consider working with me on a record I was currently preparing. It was Mio who responded first and his words were warm and friendly, conveying that despite his brother’s busy schedule, they would like to make things work in such a way that the project can go forward and suggested we look at dates to find a window which suited both parties. Eventually we agreed on a ten day window in March 2012.

A few meetings with Valgeir in New York followed, during which we talked about our expectations about the upcoming session. Among other things we agreed he would ask his brother Mio to be the engineer while he himself sat in the producer chair. We also discussed involving local Icelandic musicians besides my musical companions whom I’d be bringing with me from the States. Sadly, Volker’s participation on the record ended up not coming together, but perhaps it simply wasn’t meant to be and his role was just to point me to the right place, for which I am and will always remain grateful.

6 months after my first email exchange with the studio, I walked through it’s front door with a sense of excitement to have finally arrived. Upon my arrival I met everyone working in the studio and the independent label called Bedroom Community housed there. I was so surprised by the appearance of the studio’s manager who looked so young, unlike the older brother of Valgeir’s I imagined him to be. I expected only a man with many years of experience could run a studio and manage all it’s affairs, and jumped to a conclusion regarding his age. Mio turned out to be Valgeir’s younger brother, though very much experienced in his field and many others as I found out later- like graphic design, construction building, carpentry and even some aircraft engineering to name but a few. I grew ever more impressed with him over the course of the recording session, as he seemed to possess not only the ability to operate studio equipment with incredible swiftness allowing the flow of creativity to be unobstructed, but also sharp intuition which improved communication between all participants as well as their sense of ease and confidence during performances.

Valgeir and Mio seemed like a great team, working very well together. I observed them from a distance and admired what they seemed to have created together around them-the wonderful studio space filled with lovely people and a warm and friendly atmosphere for the outsiders to enjoy during their stay. They ran a smooth operation, kept their equipment in good shape and the interior tidy and clean. Everyone worked like a team and gathered around a big table for meal times like a family. It seemed truly perfect and I thanked God over and over for bringing me there.

I went into the recording session with a very clear idea of what I wanted to achieve and how I wanted the songs to sound, but both Valgeir and Mio offered wonderful input and directed things into all the right places. I trusted their sense of judgement and took comfort in their suggestions for possible changes as well as their complimenting words of encouragement, for they meant they were paying attention and were invested enough to have an opinion.

Over the course of my ten-day stay, as we all got closer and connections were made, I noticed myself looking to Mio more than anyone else for opinion and help with making my ideas translate to reality. Maybe because his first reaction was always a positive one and no task seemed to overwhelm or inconvenience him. Or perhaps because I felt his heart open to the music and knew he understood it. That he knew just what it needed from him and how he could be of service. His ego was nowhere to be found in the equation. He seemed to leave it at home when he came to work. I recognized this being a true gift of his. One that separated him from most people I know, including myself. It expressed as a magical combination of complete presence, patience and service.

I believe that during the process of co-creation people open their hearts to one another, and their spirits entwine for a time to bring forward what is being conceived. All inspiration comes from the realm of spirit and needs to be collected there and brought into the world of matter where it is rooted and takes on a denser form. From my experience, this is a very magical process and the feelings that spring in one’s heart during it are similar to those of falling in love. The heart is open and cosmic energy flows through it more freely than we usually allow it to. It is this very experience I describe that I love most about what I do. It is the closest I ever get to feeling one with all of creation.

At the end of the session, I was happy with the work we did, but felt the record yet incomplete. The foundation was there and it was strong, but needed building onto. My time with Iceland felt just as unfinished. I longed for more time with the land. To get to experience it outside of the realm of the studio and the intense work of birthing a record. And I longed for more time with Mio. I felt myself developing feelings for him and wanted to better understand them. To find out whether they stemmed from a beautiful illusion brought on by the dance of creation our spirits joined to partake in, or if the roots reached all the way into reality. In a way I hoped that it was a friendship in the making, for a friendship had a bigger chance of lasting a lifetime than any romance that might flare up and burn out as quickly as it came ablaze. But another part of me desired to catch fire, and be consumed by it even if it meant my turning to ashes and dust. There was no feeling of danger, however, only the welcoming call of a familiar entity. Getting closer to Mio felt like coming home, and I longed to know everything there was to know about him, for getting to know him meant getting to know myself.

On top of all that, I received an added reason to stay, which was an opportunity to sing on a record of an Icelandic singer-songwriter Svavar Knutur, who’s music I liked very much.

I postponed my return to New York by a week, but when the week was through, and my plane was taking off, I was not on it. By then I had decided to stay in Iceland indefinitely. Mio and I spent the following year falling deeper in love and finishing our record, which he had taken over as a producer. During this time I wrote a song for him and called it Remember Me. It is the song I’m proudest of so far and enjoy singing the most. I will share the lyrics with you here, for although they carry the most intimate sentiments of my heart and soul, I believe they are universal to the purest of human experiences with love.

REMEMBER ME

I’ve always loved you, and
I always will.
Deep down I knew I’d find you,
If I just stood still,
For long enough to feel you,
In a state of passing bliss, and
All the while praying:
“Please, let me hold on to this.”
And with that you would fade away,
Before I could count to three,
A single thought remaining:
“Remember me!”
Move into me, into my warmth,
All that’s good within me,
I’m bringing forth…
My arms extended to welcome you, and
Hold you in a tight embrace the way
It’s long been overdue.
I can see you standing,
Across the void of time.
I’m looking up,
You’re looking down.
I can climb this mountain,
If I break all ties,
That hold me to the ground and
Claim that I may never ever rise,
High enough to
Collect you unto me.
The body’s heavy, but
The spirit’s free.
I am released from it,
When I sleep at night, and
Travel to you swiftly
Like a comet burning in its flight.
If you recognize me,
Before I do,
Come say hello,
I’ll say: “It’s good to see you too!”
All that longing,
All this time,
Can I be yours?
Will you be mine?
I love you-always have, and
I always will-always will.