MUSIC - Ancient Future

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Ancient Future is a large musical family of world fusion music ensembles led by scalloped fretboard guitarist Matthew Montfort. The group is dedicated to music termed by Matthew  as "world fusion music". To date, Ancient Future is the world's first and longest running band dedicated to the creation of world fusion music, which blends musical ideas from many different cultures. The music is described as being "contemporary sounds of jazz and rock with the irresistible rhythms of African, Balinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and South American percussion, the rich harmonies of Europe, and the beautiful melodies of Asia".

Their music is "an exhilarating fusion of exciting rhythms and exotic sounds from around the globe".  It is worth noting that all of the members of Ancient Future have studied with or performed professionally with "master musicians of many world music traditions, from Balinese gamelan director Made Gerindem to North Indian sarod master Ali Akbar Khan".  Ancient Future is credited with having created "a musical world without borders".

Ancient Future Then and Now: Lost 1978 Video of Band Discovered

*Ancient Future was formed in late 1978 by students at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California, including Mindia Klein, Matthew Montfort, Benjy Wertheimer, and Phil Fong. Its origins, however, go back to 1967. Two of the founding members, Matthew Montfort and Benjy Wertheimer, were childhood friends in Boulder, Colorado, who dreamed of forming a band together. By his senior year of high school, Montfort was playing guitar professionally in several local bands. Meanwhile, Wertheimer had gravitated to percussion and Indian tabla drums in particular. A friend of Wertheimer's introduced Montfort to a record by the Diga Rhythm Band, which featured North Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain and his students along with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and guitarist Jerry Garcia. Montfort was fascinated by Indian rhythms, and decided to integrate them into his jazz/rock/classical fusion music.

In the summer of 1977 Wertheimer and Montfort came to San Rafael to study North Indian classical music at the Ali Akbar College of Music. There they met the members of the Diga Rhythm Band, moved into the house that the group rehearsed in, and formed an offshoot called Greenhouse Intergalactic, which included Diga Rhythm Band members Tor Dietrichson (who later signed with Global Pacific Records), Jim Loveless, Ray Spiegel, and Arshad Syed (who joined Ancient Future's touring lineup in 1993). Greenhouse Intergalactic rehearsed at the Grateful Dead studio and performed a number of concerts before splitting up into two groups: a Latin band called Sun Orchestra, and the world fusion music group Ancient Future.

The name Ancient Future grew out of two contradictory themes. "Sarodist Phil Fong was very interested in the legendary ancient civilizations of Atlantis and Mu, and liked to imagine what the music of Mu might have been like. Fong envisioned a band name invoking an image of the ancient civilizations where the world's great musical traditions were born. But the group also wanted its name to express a vision of hope for the future through the cross-cultural exchange of that ancient knowledge. Thus the name Ancient Future was born". When Ancient Future created its own contemporary sound by combining elements of the world's ancient music traditions, no one quite knew what to call the end result. In 1978, Ancient Future leader Matthew Montfort coined the term world fusion music to describe the process of blending musical ideas from many different traditions.

* (From the article, - Link: Ancient Future History PDF
    Ancient Future history - 30 Years of World Fusion Music: 1979-2009)


Yearning for the Wind (2014)

Composed by scalloped fretboard guitar innovator Matthew Montfort, Yearning for the Wind? is a poignant piece based on Rag Kalyan, an evening raga that corresponds to the Lydian mode. The composition also incorporates harmony and other guitaristic elements. ?A duet with Indian tabla virtuoso Vishal Nagar, who is considered one of the most gifted tabla players of his generation, Yearning for the Wind is set in matta tal, a nine beat rhythmic cycle. As a bridge between the slow and fast sections of the piece, Vishal Nagar performs an elegant tabla solo over the soft nine beat groove that slowly builds up to a vibrant rela (a fast tabla composition characterized by rapid drum rolls).
~ Link to Ancient Future Press Release


Ancient Future's music and the re-release of  the "Planet Passion" CD.

DCB: Matthew, you have been a part of the evolution of Ancient Future from the first day.  From your perspective, how have you seen the world of music influenced by the music the ensemble continues to create?
AF: I think that the idea of studying music from all over the world in order to expand one's musical skills has become more commonplace. We do hear from musicians who have been influenced by Ancient Future, but I think my biggest impact to the world of music has actually been through musicians who have utilized the rhythm training manual I wrote: "Ancient Traditions--Future Possibilities: Rhythmic Training Through the Traditions of Africa, Bali, and India." The exercises in the book have helped a lot of musicians expand their musicianship, and that has had a direct impact on their music. There have been a number of famous musicians who have been through the training, such as jazz drummer Steve Smith who used it to get ready to perform with tabla master Zakir Hussian. He told me it was his door to the world of Indian rhythms, and since going through the training he has collaborated with many of the top percussionists in India.

DCB: Have the advancements in technology improved on the ability of the group to share the levels and nuances of sound you can create?    
AFTechnology has both helped and harmed our movement. On the one hand, the Internet makes international communication between musicians a lot easier. On the other, file sharing and piracy have hurt the music business badly, which has decreased financial support for music. It is wonderful to have computer technology at home and we certainly utilize that to its full capabilities. But we've lost something there as well. When the record labels were able to pay for a band to rehearse and then go to a professional recording studio to make a recording, it was quicker to make a recording and everyone could perform live, which is something missing from a lot of recordings made today. The artist didn't have to spend so much time on the technical side of things, which often made for more inspired music.

DCB: What is the next musical destination?  What projects are in the works?
AF:  The next project is a subscription recording series with work starting this year. A great record needs focused periods where everyone involved can work exclusively on the music. If a band rehearses and records live, most of the man hours necessary for a great ensemble recording recording happen simultaneously, which greatly shortens the elapsed time it takes to record. However, for a group of virtuoso level musicians to to be able to block out enough time for rehearsing and then recording live, a rather substantial sum of money needs to be raised in advance. To fund Ancient Future's next recording, a subscription system model is being employed. It is a bit like making a "people's label" to fund the recording.

Work files for the project will be posted for supporters as they are being created. Even before new recordings are made, supporters will have access to files from the Ancient Future archives of live concerts and radio performances that are not currently available commercially. They will help serve as examples of possible directions the recording could take.

We also have a live concert in post production that hope to release on DVD and CD.


From Ancient Future's "Planet Passion" CD (excerpts):

Re-issued to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first Ancient Future concert (Feb. 11, 1979, ), the seventh Ancient Future recording, “Planet Passion,” features 19 top masters of world music traditions performing music about flirtation, courtship, gods of love, betrothal, seduction, and longing for the beloved.

Ancient Future is a large musical family including Matthew Montfort (producer, bandleader, scalloped fretboard guitar, electric guitar, flamenco guitar, bass, gangsa), Irina Mikhailova (Eastern European vocals), Emam (North Indian tabla), Moses Sedler (cello), Liu Qi-Chao (Chinese flute), Antoine Lammam (Arabic tabla), Ian Herman (South African drum set), Ustad Habib Khan (North Indian sitar), Georges Lammam (Arabic violin), Patti Weiss (violin), Manose Singh (Nepalese flutes), C.K. Ladzekpo (West African drums), Pedro de Jesus (Afro-Cuban drums, chant), Doug McKeehan (keyboards), Mindia Devi (bansuri), Benjy Wertheimer (North Indian tabla, esraj), Ian Dogole (world percussion), Hadley Louden (bass marimba), and Jim Hurley (violin).

From this palette of musicians, “Planet Passion” features a different band on each track, one of which even includes Ancient Future’s original line-up. BILLBOARD calls the group "trendsetters" for contributing to the emerging genre known as “world fusion music,” a term Ancient Future coined at its inception in 1978 for music that blends musical ideas from many different cultures..

1Ancient Future is the world's first and longest running band dedicated exclusively to the creation of world fusion music. Their music is an exhilarating fusion of exciting rhythms and sounds from around the globe that combines contemporary jazz and rock with the irresistible rhythms of African, Balinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and South American percussion, the rich harmonies of Europe, and the beautiful melodies of Asia. Over the years, the American members of Ancient Future have looked beyond their roots for inspiration by studying with the master musicians of many world music traditions, from Balinese gamelan director Made Gerindem to North Indian sarod master Ali Akbar Khan. They use their knowledge of world music to create something new and uniquely their own that is respected by pundits from the cultures whose traditions are a part of the mix. According to INDIA CURRENTS, Ancient Future "plays with technical brilliance and gypsy-like fire," and their music "demonstrates the continuing beneficial influence of Indian music upon world culture."

Ancient Future has expanded its musical vision through collaborations with traditional musicians from around the world who are now an integral part of what is today more than just a band. Ancient Future has grown to become a large chamber ensemble of world music masters with many smaller ensembles within it, enabling Ancient Future to realize its core mission of creating world fusion music. Through cross cultural exchange, Ancient Future has created a musical world without borders.



“Ancient Future is a Bay Area based group and is one of the originators of the influential music genre called ‘world fusion.’ The term was coined in 1978 to describe the exciting new music the band was then creating. Developing through various incarnations over the years, Ancient Future has now produced what might be their best work yet. The theme of ‘Planet Passion’ is love, from initial flirtation, to courtship, to union and longing again for the beloved. Matthew Montfort, the band’s leader and guitarist extraordinaire, put together this winning ensemble and did the artful arrangements. While there are many beautifully performed ethnic instrumentations and voices, from Nepalese to Balinese to Russian, the overall sound is distinctive, inventive and, appropriate enough, seductive. ‘Planet Passion’ is a perfect CD for being marooned for a long’”  — Lee Starkey, EAST WEST MAGAZINE, East West Bookshop


Best of Echoes Listener Poll WInner. #1 Echoes TOP 20, #1 World, #11 NAR and #19 NAV charts.

“Ancient Future weren't the first to merge music from around the world, but they were the ones who coined the term world fusion. They've been living that vision for a quarter of a century. Now, after a nine-year silence, they've released another powerful reminder of that dream. India has always been at the heart of Ancient Future's world fusion. Founder and only remaining original member Matthew Montfort plays a special, scalloped fretboard acoustic instrument that lets him get the bends of an Indian sitar. He uses it to weave seductive melodies, and his exchanges with Indian sitarist Habib Khan on "Socha, Socha" are exhilarating.  Singer Irina Mikhailova, from Medicine Drum and Lumin is the first vocalist in Ancient Future. Singing in vocalese and her native Kazakh tongue, she is intoxicating. From the gamelan cycles of "Semara" to the exuberance of "Forest Frolic," Ancient Future is the sound of the global bazaar in ecstasy.” — John Diliberto (host of Echoes, syndicated on 175 stations), AMAZON.COM


“Shamelessly beautiful, ‘Planet Passion’ is easily the pinnacle of this group's long career.” – Bob Tarte, THE BEAT "From romantic sitar on ‘Socha Socha’ to light, delicate vocals on ‘Ocean of Love,’ and ranging across multiple continents for musical origins, Ancient Future's Planet Passion album offers a lot to be enthusiastic about. The band is the longest-performing world fusion group, having formed in 1978, yet they retain their inventiveness in developing new sound and style melds. ‘I Mett Her in the Medowe’ [is] a mysterious Scottish mandora melody from 1615 with the ornaments and note bends of the scalloped fretboard guitar, an instrument combining aspects of the South Indian vina with the steel string guitar. Again, it's an elegant success.‘Ne Po Pogrebu Bochonocheck’ is about a young couple's first night together. It features vocals by artist Irina Mikhailova, which combine effectively, if almost eerily, with the band's Eastern sound. Meanwhile, ‘El Zaffa’ brings in the Arabic influence of a lively wedding march, and becomes another of Ancient Future's excellent adaptations. ‘Forest Frolic’ is a playful, spritely conjunction of bamboo flute work by two Asian flute virtuosos. Chinese multi-instrumentalist Liu Qi-Chao and Nepali bansuri master Manose Singh join efforts, and the result is truly splendid — joyous and lilting. What a welcome return for Ancient Future. Devotees of the best in world fusion will surely wish to add ‘Planet Passion’ to their collections.”
 — Murrday Fisher, ALL MUSIC GUIDE

“When it comes to world music, ‘Planet Passion’ is probably the most accessible offering this reviewer has heard to date, making it a very highly recommended musical gift.”  — Robert Walmsley, OMEGA

“A perfect gift to your loved one or yourself...odds are that it will be your album of the month, too, as it is ours.”  — NEW TIMES

“‘Breathtaking melodies, rhythms, and instrumentation from Africa, India, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. Each track is so lovely, so evocative, that it is difficult to single out favorites.” — AQUARIUS


“Aptly named, ‘Planet Passion’ turns tantalizing poly-cultural rhythms and passionate melodies into sizzling, sexy music guaranteed to melt stereo speakers as well as hearts and inhibitions. It is music that irresistibly moves both body and soul.  But then, one expects nothing less from the visionary players for whom the description "world fusion" was coined Laying the groundwork for some of today's most successful worldbeat acts like Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra, Vas, Dead Can Dance and even the jazz-worldbeat band, Shadowfax, Ancient Future has grown into a global village of 19 musicians whose rich heritage includes erotic rhythms, sensuous voices and inspired instrumentation from Africa, India, Asia (especially Bali), South America and the Middle East. The tunes included are diverse, yet equally captivating, evoking all that is most appealing about music from a global village.” —CDNOW.COM


Ancient Future - Bookenka (The Adventurer) from
Prelude and Bookenka (The Adventurer)

Yearning for the Wind by Ancient Future with
Matthew Montfort (Guitar) & Vishal Nagar (Tabla)

'Turkish Taffy' by Ancient Future
at 'World Without Walls' Reunion, Yoshi's San Francisco