Laraaji :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

The music of Laraaji is defined by its joy.

Born Edward Larry Gordon, Laraaji’s music draws from many sources, including his studies of Eastern spiritualism, avant-garde minimalism, and Gamelan rhythms, but it connects directly to his days working as a comedian in Greenwich Village. To hear him discuss it, laughter is more than a pleasure – it’s an entry way to cosmic awareness, and that cosmic awareness drives his beautifully open compositions.

In recent years, Laraaji’s work has enjoyed a resurgence. He was featured in Light in the Attic’s landmark new age anthology, I Am The Center, and he’s collaborated and performed with young artists like Blues Control and Julia Holter. Earlier this year, Leaving Records reissued three of his albums, compiled as All In One Peace, and Friday, November 13th, Glitterbeat Records reissues Ambient 3: Day of Radiance, his 1980 collaboration with producer Brian Eno (whose All Saints label has also released great collections of his work).

Aquarium Drunkard spoke with Laraaji early one fall morning about working with Eno, a cosmic vision which inspired his work, and his shift from slapstick comic to sonic healer.

Laraaji :: The Dance No. 3

Aquarium Drunkard:: Let’s go back to the late sixties; you were hanging out in Greenwich Village, doing stand up comedy. What kind of jokes were you telling? What was your routine like?

Laraaji: Slapstick was always one of my interests, even since childhood. When I was doing solo standup the material was whacky, offbeat, silly, ridiculous. It was aimed at really getting people to crack up and fall in the aisles. Sometimes it was self-sacrificial humor; one of the routines was based on my attraction to women who were less than very beautiful, in other words “ugly women.” My routine was about how I met the ugliest woman and fell in love “at first shock.” After a while, because I was also investigating yoga consciousness and meditation, I got to the awareness that my material was inappropriate for someone who was going into yoga consciousness. It was based on polarizing an audience and bringing someone down. So that started to shift my comedy.

I managed to get a manager and a booking company to speed me along. I got to do stand up comedy and MC for a couple of years at the Apollo Theater. But I was always going for what I love: seeing people crack up and laugh. In later years, I became discerning about how I approached that, [finding] a more “green” kind of laughter. [Laughs] I began doing laughter workshops, [providing] a holistic kind of laughing experience.

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