By Jennifer Lee
Following devastation of their Colorado home by flood,
they find rest in the Old Dominion
Loudoun county native David Tiller is bringing the “new acoustic super-group,” Taarka, he and his wife Enion Pelta-Tiller have fronted for the last 12 years to the Barns of Rose Hill for the second time on March 1. Their music has been widely acclaimed as a “collision of Django Reinhardt and David Grisman” (SF Weekly), with David on mandolin, tenor guitar, and vocals, Enion on five-string violin and vocals, and guest musicians on guitar and bass. They were a big hit on stage at last year’s Watermelon Park Fest.
Living in Colorado since 2006, the duo finds themselves on an extended stay in Virginia following the devastating floods that hit the Front Range of Colorado last September, destroying their home and studio in Lyons. Their personal story has been featured on the PBS News Hour, Al Jazeera, multiple AP articles, and the Denver Post.
Last November, musicians and community members from Waterford (David’s home town) and surrounding areas hosted a benefit that raised over $4,000 to help the Lyons Musicians’ Relief Fund. Enion says that she and David were not able to attend that event, so this upcoming performance at the Barns “is our chance to thank everyone and share with them the music that we have written following our experience of loss, displacement, and new hopes for the future.”
Enion answered a few questions for us about their music and recent experience.
1. Where did you get the name Taarka?
I cook a lot, and Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines. When we formed the band, I had just learned about making a tarka—roasting mixed spices in hot oil till the seeds pop and make the onomatopoeic sound Tarka. We learned that the word refers to the sound, and that Taarka is a female Hindu demon. Our music is both energetic and diverse in its influences, so we thought it was a perfect name. We added the extra “a” for aesthetic reasons. Over the years we’ve learned it means things in many languages, spelled with either 2 or 3 a’s. it’s a Peruvian wind instrument, means many-colored in Hungarian, peace in ancient Finno-Ugaric, and walnut in Tibetan.
2. How long did you live in Colorado, and will you return?
We moved to Colorado in 2006 because of the fantastic musical community there. David had lived there before, in the late 90s and on our journeys through, we realized we had more of a community there than anywhere else. Lyons is 15 miles north and a little bit west of Boulder. We plan to return there; we have gigs in March and have music students awaiting our return.
3. Have other members of that community been displaced?
Many, many folks were displaced—large parts of the town were without services for almost two months, and some people had to wait until December to go home, even if their homes were fine. In our neighborhood and a couple of others, everyone is living elsewhere for the near future.
4. What has been the worst part of that experience? Did anything positive come from it?
It’s been a little different for each one of us. Our son Aesop, who is very resilient, was most upset about the loss of favorite toys and other material things. For David and me, it’s different. The things we lost are less important than the loss of a way of life. We had a lot of help from family with the house, and having that home meant that we could afford to be professional musicians without having to struggle as much as many do. We had completed a recording studio on the property not long before, and having a place where our friends and colleagues, as well as ourselves, could record music and enjoy the peace of the river was really nice.
The good that has come out of it has been palpable. The first thing that was really apparent after this happened was that we are part of a very strong local community. The help and support from neighbors and friends in town and in the Front Range region for each other and the folks in Lyons has been incredible. The support on a national level was mind-blowing, particularly from the musician community. Musicians from New Orleans to Bend, Oregon to Waterford, Virginia banded together and put on benefits for individuals in the musician community and the community as a whole. So many people came from far away places to help with the cleanup efforts.
Another positive thing is that we’ve written a lot of new songs following this, which we’ll be playing at the Barns of Rose Hill. And getting to live in Virginia for the winter and see all of David’s oldest friends has been great.
5. Are you two the only members of Taarka?
We’re the only full-time members. However, we bring in a vibrant cast of characters to fill out the band for our shows. For this show we’ll have the incredible NY-based guitarist Ross Martin and the great young bass player from Colorado, Andrew Bonnis.
6. Describe your sound and your “typical” audience.
Our sound is difficult to describe. We are influenced by music from all over the world but our sound is most informed by Americana, folk, gypsy-jazz and a little bit of pop music. These sounds blend in an interesting way with the string-band ensemble of violin, mandolin, guitar and bass. Our audience is pretty diverse. We have fans who are young—high-school age—who enjoy our poppier elements, fans who are in their 20s and 30s who have more broad musical tastes, and older fans who enjoy the refinement we try to bring to our craft.
Give Taarka a listen and read more about them on their website at www.wp.taarka.com. And come on out to see and support these folks at the Barns on Saturday, March 1st! Purchase tickets at www.fanfueled.com/Event/Details/6501-taarka.