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Baltimore, Maryland, United States | INDIE

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | INDIE
Band World Rock


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"Telesma's "O(h)M" CD"

June 2007

Artist: Telesma
Title: O(h)M

By Michael Macey

Note of disclosure: I'm listed in the thank you section of the liner notes of O(h)M, which will in no way slant my opinion of this excellent album. Quite frankly, I knew I'd like the album before I even saw or heard the proper release, based on a rough demo I heard months ago. I've also been a fan and supporter of the band since their early days and have written them up previously in the pages of CMG. I find their unique blend of musical styles to be imaginative, inventive, and totally out of the mainstream. Refusing to conform to anybody's pre-manufactured idea of how music should be structured or the elements it should contain, Telesma literally dances to the beat of their own drum.

Didgeridoo, kubing, and dumbek, an aboriginal wind instrument, a mouth harp from the Philippines, and a Middle Eastern drum used for Arabic music respectively, mix it up with the electronics of the Theremin, guitar synth, sampler, programming, frequently disembodied vocals, and an electronic percussive device invented by guitarist Chris Mandra called the manDrum.

Their multi-genre-ational sound drawls from influences such as, but not limited to, prog rock, trance, pop, psychedelic ambient, world, funk, and experimental, O(h)M' moves from otherworldly to rock, aboriginal to Middle Eastern, and tribal to electronic, in an often mesmerizing, sometimes epic soundscape full of richly textured musical shapes and sonic constitution.

With an adventurous mix and a grand production, O(h)M is awash in sweeping waves of atmosphere. From the grandiose sound of Chapel Perilous, with its thunderous pounding, to the airy psychedelic's of Synesthesia and the title track, which seem to just waft from the speakers, Telesma presents a colliding collage of sound that at times threatens to overwhelm you, but never does. Pounding percussion gives way to softer subtler passages, and Telesma crafts a nice balance between intense and delicate.

O(h)M is music without boundaries. From ancient instrumentation to modern-day technologies, Telesma embraces each with equal aplomb and presents them in bold fashion. If you're looking for something that's totally different, then you really have to look no farther than O(h)M. It's a sensory experience that flows from your speakers in torrents of brightly colored sound and unlimited imagination. When was the last time you heard that?

- Chesapeake Music Guide

"Telesma: Aural Stimulation at its Finest"

"Aural Stimulation at its Finest"
by Michael Macey Dec. 2006

When I first witnessed Telesma approximately two years ago, I was so taken with the presentation that I wrote, "To experience Telesma live is to become part of the show. More than just music, it's a swirling, whirling, twirling event... it's extremely hard not to become involved in the swinging, hypnotic rhythms that pour forth from the stage." What I witnessed that night was a conglomeration of sound and vision, structured and unstructured, that seemed to draw people into its rhythmic spell. On December 15 you'll have a chance to experience Telesma yourself, when they bring their show to The Whiskey 1803(upstairs at B. F. Biggins) for a musical experience that promises to be the event of the holiday season.

I recently hung out with four of the six members of the band to talk about the December 15 gig and the release of their new CD, due out in early 2007. Joining me are the original duo and founding members Ian Hesford (didgeridoo, kubing, dumbek, percussion) and Jason Sage (keyboards, percussion, programmer, lyrics), who formed the band in 2002, using electronic samples as their base. Also in on the chat are Chris Mandra (guitar, analog guitar synth, manDrum, and vocals), and Brian Jones, a.k.a. "Jonesy" (six string MIDI and upright basses, theremin, percussion). Also in the band are Joanne Juskus (vocals, percussion, and karatalas) and Dan Marcellus (drums, percussion).

Although their press release classifies their music as "psychedelic-world-electro-pulse", that's really just to give people a point of reference. While it most certainly contains all of those elements, it goes way beyond that. Jonesy states "everybody labels music, but we're really a true fusion band. We don't sound like any certain thing, so it's very hard to put any label on it." Mandra chimes in and pretty much sums it up when he says "we are the aggregate of our interests and experiences. We are a psychedelic, electro-acoustic, world dance music band", which makes sense when you look at what everybody brings to the table. The 40,000-year-old didgeridoo, bamboo mouth harp, the electronics, the percussion, and the voices all combine to create an eclectic soundscape that's as varied as the personalities in the band. Throw in the influences of funk, techno, jazz, trance, as Middle Eastern, African and hard rock, and you have a melting pot of sound that is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Telesma strives to make their live shows as electrifying as possible. They employ belly dancers and visual projections, which helps draw the audience into the experience. The band is always looking for new ways to present their sounds and sights; Mandra tells me "we would like to get better at making the shows a continuous experience, like a themed experience. One of the shows we did was called "continuum", because we were trying to make it like this continuous wash of music, so there was never an actual break. We're looking for exciting ways to make it more than just playing in a bar".

That philosophy carries over to their recorded music as well. The as-yet-untitled new album is due in early spring, and promises to be as engaging as their live shows. They are mixing the album in 5.1 surround with what promises to be an aggressive mix. "I think when it's done you'll have the experience of being in the middle of the band" is how Mandra puts it. I listened to a stereo copy of the record and it has the potential for some imaginative surround effects. Musically, it's a journey that can only be described as diverse. From the ethereal to the avant-garde, Telesma takes the unconventional and melds it with the familiar to create a listening experience that's exciting, original and unpredictable. Jonesy told me "We'll stumble onto things with our (current) instrumentation. All our instruments form to make a palate. It's a spatial situation, where it's more about the sound, sonic textures and pulse."

With that attitude intact, Telesma takes Annapolis by musical storm on December 15 in what promises to be one of the best shows of the year. Special guests Victory Party will be opening the show, which starts at 9 p.m. Come out and be part of the Telesma experience and support local music at the same time.

My thanks to the members of Telesma that made time for this interview. Although space restrictions prohibit the entire text of the interview from being printed, everyone's comments were invaluable in the writing of this article. For much more information on the band and to hear samples of their music go to

- Chesapeake Music Guide

"World Beat Is Not Enough"

Before a Dec. 17 show at Fletcher’s, the seven members of Baltimore’s Telesma gathered together in the fragrantly smoky dressing room and held hands for a few minutes in a pre-concert ritual. Humming a meditative “Om” with eyes closed, they balanced themselves and internalized a few harmonies. Guitarist Chris Mandra insists that this pre-concert “toning” always makes for better shows, and sometimes even their sound man, Adam Halliday, joins in.
Each member of Telesma has a personality suited to this New Age ethos. Multi-instrumentalist Jason Sage came to Baltimore from New Orleans, where he spent a few years playing drums for Haitian voodoo fertility rituals. Percussionist Moziah Saleem, who has backup jobs for Neil Young, Leon Russell, and Victor Wooten on his résumé, spent a year and a half in Jamaica in the mid-’90s, because he “just wanted to go somewhere where everything was irie.” Vocalist Joanne Juskus wears a traditional Indian sari, and the rest of the band is wearing the sorts of facial expressions that come at the end of a really great t’ai chi session. Words like “balance” and “grounded” and “purity” pepper their conversation.
Once onstage, the septet shakes off all the spiritual sedation and rips into a fast jam called “Amor Fati” from its recently self-released live CD-R, Synesthesia. Juskus’ voice rises to spicy degrees above the rhythm section’s harmonies. Band members’ faces twist and heads bob as they stir up clattering tribal polyrhythms, rolling bass lines, and furiously built climaxes spiked with spacey synths, samples, and electric guitar. Belly dancers wriggle through the crowd, enticing others to join them.
Telesma’s core—Chris Mandra, Ian Hesford, and Jason Sage—first got together more than a year ago at the Def Dumb and Bass Freakout, a monthly gathering of bands that Mandra hosts at the Royal in Federal Hill. Since then, Telesma expanded into a septet, and its sound has grown more lush and complex. “The whole original idea behind Telesma is this bringing the primordial and futuristic together,” Hesford says. “And coming full circle with the sounds of our collective human tribal past.”
Hesford says this idea came to him when he was learning how to play didgeridoo in the mid-’90s. The sounds that came from the instrument “reminded me so much of the techno music at the time that I found so exciting,” he says. He practiced along with techno records by Sasha and Digweed, Amon Tobin, and Rabbit in the Moon, and he says his instrument’s ancient tones fit right in with the futurism of the pulsating trance.
Telesma’s goal—the musical fusion of the ancient past with the futuristic present—throws open a whole hatbox of questions. Which ancient past, specifically, is Hesford talking about? And how is it channeled? Moreover, is Telesma just another cheesy hippie band that sprouted from that Outdoors Club drum circle that used to practice on the village green?
At first glance, maybe, but Hesford dispels any such notion with his disarming sincerity. “I believe in the collective unconscious,” he says without a trace of disingenuousness. “It’s been borne out through genetics that the human species can quite likely be traced back to a single Eve, and there are a lot of striking similarities between indigenous musics. It is also my personal belief that civilization and intelligence in the human species is much older than we think it is.”
It is Telesma’s belief in and acceptance of this collective-human tribal past that allows the band to so passionately mix Hesford’s didgeridoo droning and the twang from his Filipino bamboo mouth harp (called a kubing) with furious funk beats from drummer Mike Kirby and Bootsy Collins-style lines from bassist Bryan Jones, all without muddying the colors on their palette. The rhythm section is compounded but not weighed down by rhythms from Saleem’s African dumbek, from Sage’s Pakistani darbouka, and occasionally from Hesford’s Egyptian tabla drums. Over the top all of this, vocalist Juskus keens open-mouthed syllables in Middle Eastern modes, and Sage lays down spacey samples and synth weirdness, intertwined with Mandra’s jazzy solos and skipping rhythm chops.
The mess that comes out of Telesma’s scatterbrained jamming makes more sense than it would first appear, in the same way that Peter Gabriel’s first forays into world-music fusion made sense. It’s based on the idea that indigenous tribal cultures—from Aborigines to Masai tribesmen to Arabian emirs—can be forced into an intelligent dialogue that goes deeper than the fact that such musics can sound good when played together.
Dozens of acts, from David Byrne to Angelique Kidjo to Paul Simon, have treaded the same waters, but what sets Telesma apart is that the dialogue between its members’ disparate influences doesn’t feel forced. Their approach is based on a feeling, an optimistic hunch, that everyone in the world is somehow connected, and that we can all benefit from that connection. And with Telesma, going with hunches is standard marching orders.
“The motive behind making the music is to keep it pure in the sense that it is written by us and comes from us,” Hesford says. “I don’t play traditional Aboriginal rhythms in any of our songs, and we haven’t co-opted any real traditional Middle Eastern music. We are using the sounds, and perhaps emulating the feel of a certain tradition, but the music comes from our own spirits, so I feel we can really own it.”
And Telesma does own it; its music has an irresistible groove. “Telesma is unabashedly a dance band,” Mandra says. “The goal of modern civilization is to divorce man from nature, and dance is one of the few civilized means of expression where the animal is acceptable.”
As the Fletcher’s show progressed, more and more people in the audience loosened up and began to move. Robbie WAs drumbeats ricocheted off one another, Juskus’s singing seemed to pause in perfect glassy harmony with the guitar and bass, and the band built a tidal wave of intense equilibrium that recalled its preparation ritual. The harmonies that they chanted in their pre-concert toning were effortlessly manifested onstage, amplified and enriched, mingling with the wild energy of the dancers in the audience.
“[Toning] allows us, in a weird way, to control time and position,” Mandra says. “It makes us freer, not as uptight. We perform best when we are expressing ourselves most freely, most purely. No one is trying to be spiritual. They’re being spiritual.” - Baltimore City Paper

"William Paterson Radio, 88.7 FM, Paterson, NJ"

“[Telesma] can do it stripped down or put 25 layers, 50 layers, 80 layers — no matter how much. The way these guys mix is awesome! They are the real deal.”
— DJ Blue, William Paterson Radio, 88.7 FM, Paterson, NJ

- Paterson Radio


“Telesma is one of the most unusual and eclectic — yet
musically knowledgeable — bands that I have ever heard. A band with a sense of humor, yet serious in its approach —
a truly ancient modern theatrical sound, while being very
interesting visually.”
— George Figgs, Orpheum Film Series, Baltimore - Orpheum Film Series

"Creative Alliance"

“A serious, talented young band that can create fresh, innovative music merging of stone age and cyber age technology with timeless spectacle — you just don't see so many of those!”
— Megan Hamilton, Program Director,
Creative Alliance at the Patterson, Baltimore
- Creative Alliance

"More Than Just Music"

"To experience Telesma live is to become part of the show. More than just music, it’s a swirling, whirling, twirling event that includes belly dancers,a very cool light show and all sorts of surreal imagery going on in front of and around the band. It's extremely hard not to become involved in the swaying, hypnotic rhythms that pour forth from the stage.”
— Michael Macey, Chesapeake Music Guide

- Chesapeake Music Guide

""Nox TELESMA - Review of Equinox Show"

Written by Jess Stone- SEN Mag.

The day of the vernal equinox is not just March 20th (or 21st, as the determining year might have it). It isn’t just the day of twelve and twelve—where our hours of light equal our hours of night. The vernal equinox itself is, rather, a specific point in time where the Earth’s axis is exactly horizontal to the Sun. It was at 11:44 am, coordinated universal time, that the Sun lay pointed directly at the equator. For just a beat in time our planet was at perfect alignment. And then, we rolled on.

That evening, the sun set red over the city of Baltimore as spring’s first day came to an end. It had been a chilly day, but clear, and the bodies hustling by on sidewalks had carried with them a weight of optimism. As night lay itself upon the northern hemisphere, a clear and starry sky hung overhead. The night air was heavy with steam at each exhalation of breath. Out front of the Metro Gallery, a group of twenty-something hipsters walked by smoking a joint, and the air was perfumed with the sweet, odiferous scent of pot smoke.

Inside of the Metro Gallery, sound check filled the air with life. Two men set up their paints at a table in the back, and dimmed their work lights to match the room’s ambiance. Two acrobats warmed up their bodies and mingled with the crowd. Massive Attack’s Mezzanine looped through the speakers, and stacks of televisions flashed static between random tracking-distorted images. The floor was laid with oriental rugs, and people lolled about casually, taking everything in.

Minutes crept by, and people trickled in, and eventually the mic opened with a single boy sitting on the stage. He was soft-spoken, maybe shy, and they called him the Bowlegged Gorilla. Armed with an easy handful of acoustic guitars and what looked to be a small, foot accordion, soft finger picking took over the airwaves. A low beat rolled from underneath the soft melody, and his feet hooked the sides of that box, his shruti box. In an amazing feat of multiple talents, he played. Speechless, your only choice was to watch. There was no way that so many sounds could have come from one person—the beatboxing, guitar, and shruti box all arranged to form an intricate melody—but they were all just him. Always looping, always layering, the refrain builds and one can’t help but wonder, with a mouth that can do those things, what sordid tales his ex lovers would tell. His performance was nothing short of awe-inspiring—something that must be experienced firsthand to fully comprehend.

Next, acrobats Lizzie and Brent took the floor in costumes reminiscent of the fairies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Their thespian-like performance was part dance, part drama. Their contortions were playful and gravity defying. The audience sat semi-circled on the Persian carpets as only inches away, Lizzie perched herself on Brent’s feet in a yogic one-legged king pigeon pose.

The openers were a delicious treat, but the main course was the event of anticipation. To describe Telesma is an impossible feat. “Telesma? They are kind-of Celtic.” “I would call them traditional meets modern.” “Telesma is tribal.” “Psychedelic.” “Percussive.” “Hypnotic.”

One might describe Telesma as a sextet of some of the most amazing and talented artists in our area. One might say that the band is a collective of Joanne Juskus, Jonesy, Jason Sage, Ian Hesford, Chris Mandra and Rob Houck.

Once the music starts, though, the names and faces disappear. They are a collective force enveloping you from the speakers, and the only way to describe Telesma is as completely breathtaking. From the first faint rumblings deep within the didgeridoo, you are captivated. From the moment that the bass lines fill your body, you are no more than a prisoner to the music. A hauntingly beautiful voice reaches out to you, enticing you to come closer, and you are on the floor, on your knees, shackled and unable to move. Fingers laced, begging for more, one might think: “If this is slavery then I am your captive; just don’t stop that guitar.”

This is psychedelic rock like it hasn’t been seen in ages. Combining traditional tribal instruments with new-age electronic sounds, this music is an unstoppable force. Listening to the high-pitched screaming of the guitar is like the longest orgasm you’ve ever had, and it comes in a thousand different melodies. They played a number of songs from their 2007 album, O(h)M, as well as a handful of jams and unreleased goodies. There are the faster-paced sounds of “Penumbra,” heavy with drums and bass. “Amor Fati” is great funkadelic rock, wrought with the sounds of a mouth harp, and ethereal chanting. They go from chanting to singing; tribal drums to acid-trip guitar and an electric upright bass. The absolute eclecticism of their music is made apparent on all fronts: whether live or recorded, they span genres.

So what does Telesma have to say about themselves? Joanne calls their sound transcendelic. The word universal is thrown around. Their bio uses the hybrid phrase “electro-acoustic psychedelic world dance music.” But, to describe Telesma is an impossible feat—the better question would be: How does it feel to be an artist making such amazing music? One would be surprised to find the answer anything other than a resounding “damn good.”

The bottom line? You have to hear these guys. Telesma’s MySpace shows a pretty solid show schedule over the next couple of months. A handful of festivals and gatherings from which to happily choose, and the 40th annual 4th of July Smoke-In on the national mall is a do not miss. Buy their album. Play it. Fall in love. There is no negotiating.

- SEN Magazine Baltimore/Jess Stone


Still working on that hot first release.



The Telesma experience is an ecstatic trans-cultural phenomenon with a highly infectious and danceable beat. Exploding on the Baltimore music scene in 2002, it soon developed a loyal local fan base and then shook the underground festival scene from coast to coast. Alex Grey, the noted visionary artist, hailed Telesma as shamanic with a sense of an underlying universal wisdoma rare combination in a rock/techno band.

Telesmas blurs the line between performer and audience, attracting the most creative VJs, dancers, visual artists and body artists to its shows. Every Telesma show is a vortex of creativity; a celebration of body, mind and spirit.

The didgeridoo and manDrum too. Telesmas vast arsenal of musical finery includes instruments as divergent as the didgeridoo, kubing (bamboo mouth harp from the Philippines), to electronic and tribal drums and the manDrum, one of the inventions of Telesmas guitarist, as well as bass, keyboards, drum kit and the human voice.

Hard to describe. Dancing is mandatory. Telesmas sound has been sometimes described as psychedelic tribal modern world dance music, with diverse sounds ranging from intense polyrhythmic rock to the trance-like pulses of modern electronic dance/groove music.

To experience Telesma live is to become part of the show. More than just music, its a swirling, whirling, twirling eventits extremely hard not to become involved in the swaying, hypnotic rhythms that pour forth from the stage. Michael Macey of the Chesapeake Music Guide

Dead Can Dance with Teeth Telesma has been compared to Dead Can Dance, Pink Floyd, Tabla Beat Science, Amon Tobin, King Crimson, Ravi Shankar, Krishna Das, Afro-Celt Soundsystem, Bob Marley, Sun Ra Arkestra, Thievery Corporation, Tool, Mickey Harts Planet Drum, and Peter Gabriel, to name a few.

Telesma Offerings. Telesma introduced the first Visionary Gathering to Baltimore with the internationally recognized artist Alex Grey in 2008. Captured live in 5.1 Surround Sound, the band released the DVD of the event as well as the live CD, Hearing Visions: Live to great acclaim. More collaborative projects with Alex Grey at his Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) ensued, as well as performances with visionary artist Adam Scott Miller. Their studio album, O(h)M, also received critical acclaim upon its release in 2007 on the independent label sTRANGELY cOMPELLING mUSIC. Over the years, the group has also co-produced several celestial events coinciding with the solstice and equinox celebrations. Telesma has performed with artists such as Shpongle, Beats Antique, EOTO, ArcheDream For HumanKind, Delhi2Dublin, Woodland, Bernie Worrell, See-I (featuring members of Thievery Corporation), Faun, Elliot Lip, Jim Donavan (Rusted Root), The Gypsy Nomads, and many other artists from around the world.

Coast to coast. Not to be missed, Telesma has been in demand from coast to coast at such venues/festivals as the Starwood Pagan Gathering, FaerieWorlds (OR), PEX Summerfest, Spoutwood Fairie Festival, EvolveFest, FaeireCon, Raw Spirit Gathering, Culturefest, Karmafest, Maryland Faerie Festival, Alex Greys Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM), Free Spirit Gathering, Primal Arts Festival, the Baltimore PowWow, Phanphest, SoWeBo Festival, Nelsons Ledges Quarry Park, 98Rocks Summer Concert Series, and many great venues including Sonar, 810 Club, Quixotes True Blue (CO), Ukiah Brewery (CA), Recher Theatre, Metro Gallery, The Senator Theatre, The Creative Alliance at the Patterson, Public Assembly (NY), and The Whiskey to name a few.

We are Telesma: Ian Hesford (didgeridoo, kubing, dumbek, percussion) and Jason Sage (keyboards, vocals, percussion, programmer), Joanne Juskus (vocals, percussion, karatalas), Chris Mandra (guitar, analog guitar synth, the manDrum, and vocals), Bryan Jones Jonesy (6 string MIDI & upright basses, theremin, percussion), and Rob Houck (drum kit, percussion, electronic drums) to complete the lineup.