Wave Hill’s “Sunset Wednesdays” series presents Laraaji in a verdant moment of tranquility.
Next time you need a cosmic reprieve, venture into Laraaji’s mystic grooves as part of Wave Hill’s “Sunset Wednesdays” series. Laaraji’s first taste of fame came from a chance role in director Robert Downey’s cult 1968 advertising satire Putney Swope, but that was well before he found his calling as a musician. It wasn’t until he made what on the surface seemed to be notably bad trade — his state-of-the-art keyboard for a much cheaper zither — that he found his musical voice.
The moment he first strummed the zither in that pawn shop, the story goes, one of the clerks called out in ecstasy that they felt as if the heavens opened up. That communion of healing and the realities of New York life called out to him, and he made the switch.
Famously, after months of meditating and busking in Washington Park in Greenwich Village, a chance encounter with a young Brian Eno led to the musician and producer inviting Laraaji to record in London. He went on to develop a sound that suggests the heavy drones of Popul Vuh and Terry Riley’s transcendental minimalism. But Laraaji’s muse has consistently evolved to push further afield of stylistic references.
Laraaji had moderate commercial success on those early releases, but in the past decade his work has finally received the reception it has deserved, and the video below is a quintessential representation of why: Laraaji possesses an existentially overwhelming presence. Combined with those angelic melodies and chords, his holistic approach to sound and life offers a salve for the pressures of contemporary life.