Obituary by David Kelly,
Published in The Australian, December 16, 2013
Musician Kim Sanders touched by travel
KIM SANDERS – Musician
Born Sydney, March 30, 1948. Died November 26, Sydney.
WHEN Kim Sanders died, his Facebook page filled rapidly with more than 250 messages of grief and regret from people around the globe: an orchestra with which he’d toured in Gambia in the early 1980s; musicians with whom he’d played; and fans of Turkish, Macedonian, Hispanic, Slavic, Indonesian and Indian music.
He seemed to have arrived only when he had departed.
Ranging from the highly danceable to the deeply meditative, Sanders’s music gives the impression he was a prodigy from youth. Yet he had acquired his mastery mainly in adult years.
The resulting oeuvre, strikingly original and beautiful, was capable of converting listeners of all backgrounds. Those who tracked Sanders’s career describe his genre as “world music”. But the jury is out on a perfect label.
In recent years he was recognised as a master of classical Turkish music. Growing up at Avalon, on Sydney’s northern beaches, he kept a surfboard handy, sometimes on the roof of his car, for much of his life.
He went to Sydney University, where he took first-class honours in philosophy with a thesis on philosopher Herbert Marcuse.
Upon graduating, he won a traineeship in TV production at the ABC, and worked as a freelance video cameraman, often shooting football fixtures. During his 20s, a hepatitis infection would ultimately cost him his TV production career and gradually wear down his health.
It was at this time that he took up music seriously.
A jazz lover versed in the music of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Roland Kirk and many others, Sanders developed an interest in ethnic genres, instrumentation and the musical lore of Don Cherry, Abdullah Ibrahim and the like. Starting with saxophones and flutes, he built his own musical language on the basis of methodical study. Jazz mixed European and West African sounds and rhythms, adding Latin influences for a variety.
Sanders took seriously the need to develop an Australian sound, finding his variety in a mix of indigenous, Middle Eastern and eastern European sounds.
Travel was to play a major part in the musician’s story. Sanders, with his partner, singer Linda Dawson, did it the hard way, exploring Turkey, Greece and surrounding lands during the 70s and 80s. Sanders learned a number of instruments first-hand, his favourite being the gaida, of the bagpipe family, often made from the hide of a goat. Given his background, it was a natural step for Sanders to join a movement that could fairly be called “world jazz”, a breakout from the imitative jazz so deeply embedded in Australia.
Internationally, John McLaughlin, Rabih Abou-Khalil and bassist Avishai Cohen were following similar impulses. Sanders and his collaborators were in on it from the beginning.
He made his mark not only in Australia, but also touring Turkey and Greece. He featured with the rock band GengGong in Indonesia for many years and spent a memorable month in Beijing in 2004, playing concerts and lecturing in world music at the Central Conservatorium of Music.
He worked with musicians from dozens of countries and leaves behind a large body of recordings and compositions.
He is survived by Dawson, their daughter Phoebe, and son Tom.
Obituary by Seth Jordan (ed LD)
Kim Sanders: World music pioneer was also a top jazz performer….
KIM SANDERS 1948-2013
The Musical Traveller, Student and Teacher
The multi-instrumentalist musician/composer Kim Sanders liked to blow into things. Whether it was a tenor saxophone, a Turkish ney or some strange Balkan bagpipe made from a goatskin, his array of multicultural wind instruments, as well as his encyclopedic knowledge of their histories, were a sight and sound to behold. A true pioneer of what has come to be known as ‘world’ music, Sanders was also regarded as a formidable jazz player.
Sanders was born in 1948 and raised on Sydney’s northern beaches, the son of local GP John Sanders and his wife Margaret. Kim’s brother Glenn remembers him riding billy-carts down Avalon’s main street, back when it was just a sleepy holiday village. “Kim was always a bit of a rebel and a genuine larrikin. He was a dedicated board surfer, possibly one of Australia’s first barefoot water-skiers, and a fan of ‘proper’ cricket” – an avid sportsman.”
Brought up listening to his father’s classical and jazz record collection, which included Dave Brubeck and John Coltrane recordings, Sanders first taught himself bongos and guitar, then banjo, finally taking up the saxophone at age 18. After earning a BA at Sydney University with a major in Philosophy, he began mixing with an eclectic crowd of creative musicians and artists. He worked as an ABC cameraman for a time, and his interest in ‘ethnic’ folk music soon began to take hold.
In 1979 exploring Greek rebetika tunes and other exotic sounds, in he sought out multicultural musician Linsey Pollak (himself freshly back from the Balkans), who introduced Sanders to the mesmerising reedy sound of the Macedonian gaida – an earthy folk bagpipe, that Kim referred to as an ‘inflate-o-goat’.
Sanders and Pollak founded early Sydney groups Rabadaki and Strantsi, playing for monthly multicultural dances organised by folk enthusiast Gary Dawson in the Australia Street school hall. In the summer of 1982/83 they embarked on a series of Sunday afternoon Balkan music gatherings in Newtown Park, which attracted hundreds of fans, prominently from the Macedonian community.
Sanders spent most of ’84-’85 on an extensive overseas journey with his partner Linda Dawson, exploring folk traditions in Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Senegal and Gambia. “We would go into local coffee houses and cafes, and Kim would just pull out some instrument, play a bit to impress the locals and then ask if anyone had a grandfather who knew how to play it properly”, recalls Dawson. “And inevitably someone would, and we’d be taken there. Kim once found a cassette tape of a Turkish-Bulgarian gaida player Kamil Gul, who he thought was fantastic. We spent the next few days going from village to village up near the Bulgarian border, trying to find him. We had to deal with officials and a village Hamdi (headman) who tried to put us off, saying that Kamil was a really bad man. But Kim persisted and we eventually found him, ended up visiting for three days, then going back later to stay with him and his family for a week.”
“Kim was always after that real authentic sound and he was fascinated by the physics of the instruments themselves – how the sound was actually made.”
As he travelled, Sanders added other instruments to his [eccentric] musical arsenal – the Armenian duduk, Turkish mey, Hungarian, Sumatran and Dervish flutes, and a hybrid Australian-Turkish-Bulgarian bass bagpipe that he dubbed ‘the aardvark’. His collectionwas kept in good repair by instrument maker and friend Risto Todoroski.
[On his website, Sanders described his travels by recalling that he had “…steamed up the coast of Sumatra in a tramp steamer full of rubber, survived border crossings with Georgian gun runners, and been arrested for spying by a Macedonian Brezhnev lookalike. (I have) played on national radio in Bulgaria and national TV in Indonesia, with Gypsy wedding bands in Macedonia, in mosquito-ridden clubs in Gambia, tavernas in Greece, tea-houses in China and concert-halls from the Ataturk Cultural Centre in Istanbul to the Sydney Opera House.”]
Sanders became a key member of several influential cross-cultural folk groups that were springing up in late-80s Sydney – including Tansey’s Fancy (featuring Pollak, Mara Kiek, Llew Kiek, Doug Kelly); and Nakisa (which included Llew Kiek, Davood Tabrizi, Linda Marr, Tony Lewis and Sabahattin Akdagcik).
Marr affectionately remembers Sanders as a musical perfectionist. “Whether Nakisa was playing at the Opera House, on ABC Radio to thousands of listeners, in a small venue to just a few people or a classroom full of school children, Kim always insisted that the music be of the same high calibre and remain traditionally-based, but with a modern interpretation.”
In the 1990s Sanders founded the innovative jazz/world ensemble Brassov, and worked extensively with Bulgarian vocalist Silvia Entcheva. Often invited to perform with touring international musicians from Turkey, Iran and Bulgaria, he was also a frequent visitor to Indonesia – where he regularly toured with musician/choreographer Sawung Jabo and their collaborative Indonesian-world group GengGong, and Trio Dingo with percussionist Blair Greenberg and Ron Reeves.
In recent years Sanders’ main musical vehicle was the aptly named ‘Kim Sanders & Friends’, an ever-changing line-up that featured the cream of Sydney’s world/jazz musicians. The ‘Friends’ included such notables as jazz saxophonist Sandy Evans, Indian tabla master Bobby Singh, Macedonian clarinet/sax player Blagojce Dimitrevski, trombonist James Greening, baritone saxman Boyd, sousaphonist Sam Golding, bassists Steve Elphick and Mark Szeto, percussionists Peter Kennard, Mustafa Karami Blair Greenberg, Tony Lewis, Ron Reeves and Toby Hall, as well as veteran collaborators Llew Kiek, and.Marr.
Reviewing one of Sanders’ live performances, Sydney Morning Herald reviewer John Shand wrote, “I will never view animals in quite the same way after seeing Sanders’ inflated menagerie of bagpipes. But it was the saxophone that most warmed the blood: a big, braying honking beast of a thing that could unexpectedly whisper sweet nothings in your ear.”
Sanders’ albums included Bent Grooves (2007), Trance’n’Dancin (2005), and You Can’t Get There From Here (2002), along with Brassov’s Chronic Rhythmosis, GengGong’s Not Just Music, Silvia Entcheva Trio’s The Donkey Drank Wine, and Nakisa’s Camels In The City and Insallah.
In 2010, when the book World Music: Global Sounds In Australia (UNSW Press) was being researched, Sanders name came up repeatedly. With his characteristic dry sense of humour, he drolly commented, ‘So it seems I’ve gone from being a World music pioneer to being a World music legend, without ever having gone through a lucrative period of being a successful working musician.”
A lifelong student/collector of unusual tunes, odd time signatures and counter rhythms, Sanders was also a revered teacher, lecturing and giving workshops at universities and festivals, designing multicultural school programs for Musica Viva and state arts councils. Attesting to his reputation within local communities, his own private students came from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Long-time musical associate Peter Kennard states, “Kim’s legacy for me lies in his ability to bring the various elements and formative principles of the forms he studied, and fuse them together in a way that was deep and respectful to all sources – yet creating new music that had its own voice.”
“Kim’s interests also connected him with the diaspora communities here in Australia – and indeed brought key members of these communities together to celebrate and create something new, reaching across social divides to create new audiences.”
Sanders died on Tuesday 26 November of liver failure and associated complications. He is survived by his life partner Linda Dawson, mother Margaret, daughter Phoebe, son Tom, brothers Glenn and Stafford, and sister Nicola.
The Kim Sanders Memorial Picnic and Concert will be held on Sunday 2nd February,2014 from 4-9pm, on the Green and in Gumbramorra Hall at Addison Road Community Centre, Marrickville.