All the King's Men

Collaborators paint a picture of the Pearl King

Alex Coke, multi-instrumentalist and composer (Creative Opportunity Orchestra, Willem Breuker Kollektief)

Oliver's music can be complicated and demanding, but its emotional and passionate qualities are the most important thing. One night at El Sol y la Luna he picked up a violin and played a fantastic solo. We all looked at him in amazement saying, "We didn't know you played violin!"

Mohammad Firoozi, vocalist and percussionist (Atash)

At the Gipsy Kings concert Oliver said to me, "Let's go play for them." I said, "Are you crazy, we can't even get backstage." Much to my surprise, I found myself singing with Oliver playing the drums backstage, and the band looking at us saying, "Who are these two crazy guys?" The next year when they came back, Oliver was on the stage with them.

Kamran Hooshmand, multi-instrumentalist (1001 Nights Orchestra, Ojalá)

When I worked at UT's music building, I could hear his drum coming from over the hill by the LBJ library as he taught informal drumming classes.

Brad Houser, multi-instrumentalist (Critters Buggin, Zydeco Blanco)

Playing with Oliver is a free-wheeling experience. No set lists. He's a thoroughly postmodern combination of classical precision and a free roaming party. He's also a virtuosic musician, and definitely gifted of the spirit. Playing with him is an adventure in the unexpected – and strenuous, because you have to play fast.

Sean Orr, multi-instrumentalist (Pubcrawler, Ridgetop Syncopators)

When playing with Oliver, often you have to put aside your musical knowledge and tap into something deeper. If I worry about what scale to play or what time signature the tune is in, it's often to my detriment. You jump on, then hang on, or get left in the dust. Playing with Oliver has definitely enriched my musical experience. I don't think I would have ever been in a project like this if I had stayed in Dallas.

Mark Rubin, multi-instrumentalist (Rubinchik's Yiddish Ensemble)

I think Rajamani's way out there, routinely conjuring the essence of what makes music interesting rather than getting hung up on the pedantic particulars of its creation. When done well, music should appeal to a fundamental sameness of people on a human and, dare I say, spiritual level, which makes all cultural and ethnic divides superfluous. I reckon Oliver starts there, which is a place many of us never get to.

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Oliver Rajamani

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