Safe Haven

RAQIA draws from far-ranging musical traditions, including folk, ambient and classical, to piece together something that defies easy classification.

During a two-day span in the winter of 2018, instrumental trio RAQIA recorded their debut album. A few days later – on the winter solstice – the band performed live for the first time.

Almost a year later, it’s difficult to fill in more about the group. Violinist Greg Allison credits ’70s world-fusion group Shakti and iconic mandolin player David Grisman as musical influences. Still, specifics such as the genre of RAQIA’s self-titled album or the name itself may take a bit longer to explain.

The best some people have come up with for genre is “hybrid” or “ambient.”

“Genre comes with hindsight,” says Allison, who along with guitarist Tad Piecka, studied at Berklee College of Music. “We don’t put restrictions on the kinds of music that we like to make.”

Much of what the Los Angeles-based trio creates is done in the chaparral-laden landscape of keyboardist Jon Bernstein’s music studio. Sometimes, like on the track “Subspace,” where the sound of crackling fire can be heard, nature finds its way into the recording. “You Are a Sky of Autumn, Pale and Rose” evokes images of a waning day, even before the instrumental trio strike the first note.

But understanding the word “raqia” may also offer insight on how the band RAQIA understands creating music.

“Tad presented us a graduate level thesis on it,” jokes Allison, who offers that in biblical cosmology, raqia is the plane between the Earth and the cosmos.

Piecka insisted that each of the trio’s formal training in music was likened to the physical structure of the Earth, while their improvisational playing style was like the cosmos. And in between – raqia – is the sanctuary where their music is made.

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“A sanctuary is a place where one can feel safe,” says Allison. “RAQIA provides a soundtrack for that experience.”

Fittingly, RAQIA’s first West Coast tour begins in Monterey, a sanctuary of a sort, situated between a wall of hills to the east and the Monterey Bay to the west.

RAQIA 6:30pm Friday, Oct. 4. East Village Coffee Lounge, 498 Washington St., Monterey. $10. 373-5601.

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