Gillian "Gilli" Mary Smyth (1 June 1933 - 22 August 2016) was an English musician who performed with the bands Gong, Mother Gong, and Planet Gong and released several solo albums and albums in collaboration with other members of Gong. In Gong, she often performed under the name Shakti Yoni, contributing poems and space whispers.
She began doing performance poetry with well-known English jazz-rock group Soft Machine, founded by her partner and long-time collaborator, Daevid Allen, in 1968. She co-founded Gong with Allen. A lot of the albums she made with this band are listed as written or co-written by her. In her spoken-word poetry, especially within Gong's Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy, she portrays a prostitute, a cat, a mother, a witch, and an old woman, and she has been known for wearing such costumes on stage. This became part of the cult mythology, which was written into the sixteen albums that were produced. Gong developed into a family of bands, including Gongmaison and Mother Gong. Mother, her 1978 solo album, led to Smyth founding Mother Gong having left the original Gong band in 1975 to have children. She died in hospital in Byron Bay on 22 August 2016 at the age of 83 of pulmonary pneumonia. As with a lot of other older mostly out of print releases, Esoteric Recordings managed to come up with a new official release of Mother, which has been re-mastered and includes a booklet with liner notes.
As for myself, the music of Gong was always the type of music which was as obscure as the band themselves. Therefore you could say I am not an expert on their musical legacy. However, it's always nice to discover something which got overlooked in my search for new music as a teenager. As a young man I tried to listen to Gilli Smyth's Mother. Just as if it was released the very first time back in the seventies. Right from the start I noticed the similarity with the music I had heard on albums made by Gong. Space rock with elements taken from psychedelic music. This is obviously not so strange when you know which musicians participated on this album, including her husband who created the album mostly in Mallorca. The album also saw guest appearances from saxophonist Didier Malherbe, bassist Christian Tristch and drummer Pip Pyle. Musicians who all were in Gong back in the seventies.
Although the album is credited to Gilly you could say it's a sort of Gong album with a more feminine musical twist. Some say it was the yin face of Planet Gong. Space whispering in full! Just listen to the final track Taliesin and you will know what I mean. Sure the album is almost forty years old and since the release of Mother a lot of music has passed by. But still you can say that it is recommended to all the space heads out there. No doubt that most lovers of progressive rock will turn it off after hearing the first couple of minutes of the album. On the other hand I do know that some of them are into space rock, with elements taken from psychedelic music. As always just give it a try, you might enjoy it as much as I did. Even if it dates from 1978!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
Where to buy?
All Rights Reserved Background Magazine 2017