In this clip, he performs with the Nathan Daems Quintet at the Ghent Jazz Festival 2011, the winner of the Young Jazz Talent competition.
During the years that followed, Daems continued to experiment in groups such as Bazaar d’Orient and the Antwerp Gipsy-Ska Orchestra, mastered a range of exotic wind instruments, including the Persian ney and the Turkish kaval, and began to nurture what is perhaps his most important brainchild yet: Black Flower.
This vibrant party band – which flirts with jazz, Afrobeat and dub – is principally inspired by forgotten Ethiopian music à la Mulatu Astatke and Mahmoud Ahmed. Starting out as a jam with the working title ‘Black Flower Nathiopia’, the ensemble has emerged as one of the musical sensations of the Belgian contemporary music scene.
Today, Black Flower has three thumping good records under its belt and counts leading international DJs among its fans, most notably Lefto, Gilles Peterson and The Gaslamp Killer. Here you can see Black Flower playing live in the studio of the French radio station, RFI:
The LA-based DJ, The Gaslamp Killer, mixes psychedelic music with fierce electronic beats. Here, he plays the Black Flower track ‘Artifacts’ during a Boiler Room set.
But India was also making eyes at Daems. Together with his musical soulmates, Lander Gyselinck (STUFF., LABtrio) and the Italian bassist Marco Bardoscia, he established the Ragini Trio in late 2012. Less than a year later, they released their debut album: Ragini. Driven by a permanent longing for innovation that is specific to jazz, the trio puts traditional Indian ragas through the blender, but with the utmost respect. A concert by these musical chameleons feels like an adventurous encounter between two cultures.
When, during a tour of Italy, they shared the stage with the French-Serbian pianist Bojan Z, he was immediately captivated and meticulous plans for a collaboration were hatched. As part of a commission for the Europalia ‘India’ festival, the trio organised a week-long programme with Madhup Mudgal’s traditional Indian music ensemble. This fanned the desire to collaborate with such musicians on a future record. When singer Sawani Mudgal revealed his interest, all the pieces of the puzzle fell together. Both the latter and Bojan Z began recording with the Ragini Trio in late 2017. Yet another milestone in the development of Nathan Daems as an expert in Oriental music.
Here you can see the Ragini Trio in a musical dialogue with the ensemble of the Indian maestro, Madhup Mudgal.
Apart from these bands, Daems is active as a musician in permanent line-ups with Myrddin De Cauter (contemporary flamenco), the Soolmaan Quartet (Turkish jazz), Dijf Sanders (Indo trance jazz) and Tcha Limberger (Balkan and gipsy swing). He also composes music for documentaries and feature films.
His far-reaching musical tastes, distinctive tonality and mastery of various ‘exotic’ instruments, not to mention the unrelenting enthusiasm with which he continually challenges himself as an artist, undoubtedly make Nathan Daems one of our country’s greatest musicians. And what is more, he’s an extremely kind person. There can be no greater accolade.
(c) Kjell Gryspeert