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Atlas Maior is a music project based in Austin, Texas that maps diverse musical traditions, placing Middle Eastern, North Indian, West and North African as well as Latin American musical idioms in dialogue with one another. Atlas Maior composes music that pays homage to the stewards of these traditions and their cultural and geographic origins. Their unique sound balances intimate moments of sincerity with powerful cinematic melodies and incendiary rhythmic passages.
The band takes its name from the "Atlas Maior", the first world atlas published by Joan Bleau in Amsterdam in the 17th century. Atlas Maior was inspired by the idea of creating original music that encompassed the group’s wide range of musical inspirations, including Egyptian composer Mohammad abdul-Wahhab, Lebanese oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil, bassist Avishai Cohen, jazz artists Jackie McLean, Pharaoh Sanders, Sun Ra, and fusion projects such as Amalgama, Ojos de Brujo, and Shakti. The core members of Atlas Maior, saxophonist Joshua Thomson and oud player Charlie Lockwood, write original melodies exploring maqamat (the Middle Eastern modal system) and harmonic progressions of American jazz (utilizing melodic minor theory, and modal approaches). The group then adopts a wide variety of non-Western rhythms and percussion instruments including Indian tablas, West African shekere, Middle Eastern dumbek, and the Peruvian cajón to Lockwood and Thomson’s melodies as part of the creative process. Much of Atlas Maior’s original material is grounded in the past and the present, melodies built from the shades of past experiences or inspired by ground shaking current events around the world.
Atlas Maior released the Atlas Maior EP in February 2011, and has spent the last two years creating original material, performing throughout Central Texas and East Texas, and engaging creatively with other Austin-based musicians. The group’s full-length LP album, recorded in Mohr Music Studios during Summer 2012, is due for release in late Fall 2012. Atlas Maior’s engagement with musical traditions from geographic locations worldwide speaks to one of the group’s primary messages: You can’t sense culture from a map – just shapes, lines, symbols and words, textures and colors. Music, however, uses all of these tools, in sound, to begin to reveal the real territory of human emotion and design, hidden within the map.