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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: March 2, 2016

Bhutanese experimental guitarist Tashi Dorji performs at Space on Saturday

Written by: Aimsel Ponti
Face the Music

Guitarist Tashi Dorji Courtesy photo


Tashi Dorji is an Asheville, North Carolina-based Bhutanese experimental guitarist. Bhutan is situated on the eastern side of the Himalayas. Being so isolated limited Dorji’s access to the outside world, he decided to leave after landing a scholarship to a North Carolina liberal arts school. He even spent some time living in Maine a few years back.

Dorji’s music, available on Spotify and YouTube, is many things at once: haunting, cosmic, surprising, emotional, dark, light and mystical. During the 11-minute song “Attain” from last year’s “Blue Twelve” EP, I would not have been a bit surprised if Rod Serling himself had appeared as a specter informing me that the twilight zone was just ahead. The song is unsettling and spooky but also riveting and soothing. Songs like “Forbidden” and “Floods,” continued down this path, and I realized I didn’t miss vocals. Dorji’s guitar work stands on its own in a mesmerizing fashion.

Take a listen to Dorji’s song “Throttle”

Dorji is 37 and left Bhutan when he was 21, though he goes back almost every year for a few months. His email, in fact, came from Bhutan. Dorji lived in Portland in 2007, then moved to Montville until 2009, while his wife finished her studies at Birthwise Midwifery School in Bridgton.

As for his musical beginnings, Dorji said he got his first guitar in Bhutan when he was about 15 years old. It was a used, nylon-string model he bought from a friend. These days he plays both electric and acoustic with nylon and steel strings.

Dorji’s discography is extensive, and it began with “The Yellow Tape,” self-released in 2009. Several of his subsequent releases have been on cassette, with a few on vinyl as well as via digital. It only seems fitting that such an original artist would release his music in ways other than the conventional CD.

Also on the bill is a new Portland act called Diva Cup, described by Peter McLaughlin at Space Gallery as “one of the most exciting and fully formed bands to hit the Portland scene.” They are led by singer and songwriter Cassandra McDermott and backed by Pete Swegard and Elliot McInnis of Butcher Boy. McLaughlin told me their sound is “quirky, avant-pop with dashes of punk, indie-rock and folk” and a “totally unique musical sense that is entirely Cassandra.” Diva Cup is so new that they don’t have any music online yet, but they have a Facebook page and have plans to hit the studio in March.

Rounding out the evening is the first public performance of a new trio with trumpet player Brett Deschenes, bassist Nat Baldwin and drummer Peter McLaughlin. McLaughlin said to expect melody-centered improvisation.


Tashi Dorji with Diva Cup and Deschesnes Baldwin McLaughlin

8:30 p.m. Saturday. SPACE Gallery annex, 534 Congress St., Portland, $8, all ages. space538.org

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