Tuesday, June 12, 2007

London is the Place for Me - Vol. 2

Hey! I've been busy posting over at my MOG Blog. Come visit me over there, why don't cha?

London is the Place for Me 2
Calypso & Kwela, Highlife & Jazz from Young Black London

There are pockets of music history that tend to go overlooked. Those that go on during times and in places that are not at the epicenter of the ruling culture – but going on right under its nose. These pockets tend to be times of very active (unintentional and intentional) experimentation and mixing of styles, cultures and ideas. Post WWII London was host to an incredible coming together of musical expression from Africans and West Indians, who were about to run head first into American and European jazz. Calypsonian “Lords” and Nigerian rhythm kings; South African jazz and West African traditional musicians all took the boat to London. Meeting up in immigrant neighborhoods and clubs, they began playing their music, but now responding to their new surroundings. Honest Jon’s Records, out of England, has put together several volumes documenting this time and place. Volume 2 in the series covers the styles of Calypso, Kwela, Highlife and Jazz emanating from this heady mixture of cultures. Featuring calypso stars such as Lord Kitchener and Lord Beginner, it also highlights Ambrose Campbell’s West African Rhythm Brothers. It’s an incredible musical snapshot of artists and songs that were to become the part of the foundation world beat and modern jazz. I highly encourage you to seek out this and the other volumes of this fantastic collection.

Tracklisting

Calypso Be – Young Tiger

Yolanda – Ambrose Cambell

Calypso Blues – Mona Baptiste

Adura – West African Rhythm Brothers

My Wife’s Nightie – Lord Kitchner

Ominira – West African Rhythm Brothers

Eroya – West African Rhythm Brothers

General Election – Lord Beginner

Kalenda March – The Lion

Omonike – Tunji Oyelana

Baionga – Shake Keane & His Highlifers

Gerrard Street – King Timothy

E.T. Mensah’s Rolling Ball – West African Swing Stars

Ashiko Rhythm – Ambrose Cambell

Omo Africa – West African Swing Stars

Nyusamkhaya – Gwigwi Mrwebi

West Indian Drums – Russ Henderson

Nobody Wants to Grow Old – Lord Beginner

Gbonimawo – Rans Boi’s Ghana Highlife Band

Sing the Blues - – West African Rhythm Brothers

Monday, May 07, 2007

Bombay - The Easy Way!

The Beginner’s Guide to Bollywood Vol. 1
Disc 1: Vintage Bollywood

I’ve been meaning to get to reviewing this incredible two volume, 6 CD box set of Bollywood music I purchased on my trip to Chicago about a month ago. Hopefully this will be Number 1 in a 6 part series.

Bollywood film music (and Indian classical and traditional music) has long been an interest of mine. Bollywood hits being more of a casual interest. Lucky for me, I live in a city with an amazing community-supported radio station, which features a weekly Indian music and culture show. The two rotating hosts are like night and day. Outgoing, verbose and boisterous Mukhtar, and laid back, shy-and-polite Sarjit, take turns every other week to bring us their favorites. Muktar is Bollywood Man. “All the hits this side of Bombay, this side of town!” he exclaims, and away we go. Since I’ve never seen any of the films most of these songs are from, I have to leave it to the music to illustrate the action and story. That’s part of the joy in this music – it creates a film in your head. The complex rhythms, shifting tempos, high pitched female singing pry you off whatever your genre comfort cushion is, and get the synapses in your brain firing to a different beat.

The Nascente label out of London has put out two volumes of Beginner’s Guide to Bollywood. Both volumes consist of 3 discs each, and are very affordable – particularly considering how much music you get per disc. Each disc grouped by theme. In volume one we are gifted with: Vintage Bollywood; Funky Bollywood; and Modern Bollywood. The first two are the best in this set, with Vintage shining out as the best disc in the box. Covering popular films from the late 50s to the early 70s, this disc features the classic heavy hitters in Playback singing: Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Geeta Dutt. It’s a little heavy on the Asha cuts, but I love Ms. Bhosle so that doesn’t bother me in the least. [For those of you unfamiliar with Asha Bhosle, she’s who the band Cornershop wrote the song “Brimful of Asha” about. Great song, with lots of shout-outs to these Filmi singers].

1. Anken Meri Maihana – from the film: Sawan Bhadon (1970) - Sung by Asha Bhosle
This hyperventilated, chugging filmi rocker, centers around Asha’s persistent, penetrating, rhythmic vocals. A cascading drum solo leads into a tunnel of swirling, turning craziness. This song epitomizes the classic Bollywood filmi – a little bit of everything. Apparently the movie is about insane architecture, ruthless landlords, and go-go dancers. I can picture all of those listening to this song.

2. O Dilibar Janiye – from the film: Hasina Maan Jaayegi (1968) - Sung by Mohammed Rafi
The sweet as mango chutney tones of legendary baritone Mohammed Rafi make this gong an alternately smooth and bouncy ride. Dramatic strings, clip-cloppy percussion and spy movie-style action guitar breaks make this one my all time favorites.

3. Nain Milakar Chain Churana – from the film: Aamne Saamne (1967) - Sung by Mohammed Rafi
This is just a great pop tune, again with that nice cool, swinging guitar sound and Mr. Rafi singing a little higher than he usually does.

4. Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu – from the film: Howrah Bridge (1958) - Sung by Geeta Dutt

This song is somewhere between hoedown, luau and Andrew Sisters swing. Borrowing heavily from American big band sounds, with a classic Indian rhythm break plunked down the middle of it. Sung wonderfully by Getta Dutt, I almost imagine the actress she is “picturizing” (a Bollywood term for doing playback singing) wearing a Patty / Maxine / Laverne type pinafore, hiking her skirt and waving a finger in the air a she jitterbugs around the market. I have no idea what the movie is about, but it stars the Anglo-Indian actress Helen Richardson who was suppose to be one heck of a dancer.

5. Ina Mina Dika – from the film: Aasha (1957) - Sung by Asha Bhosle

Cool jazz, man. Another big band influenced hot-cha-cha number to jitterbug to. With a snappy, alliterative call-and-response chorus, I imagine all the girls cutting a rug to this one. Asha’s performance is extremely charming.

6. Diwana Parwana – from the film: Albela (1951) - Sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Chitakar
“In de Soss American Way…” A little Sub-Continent rhumba for you? We now get to hear from Asha’s sister, Lata. It’s the boys turn to dance. Though upbeat, the chorus sounds a little melancholy, like they are lamenting what a great night it is, but that they have no dough. Nice sassy trumpet touches.

7. O Gadiwale – from the film: Mother India (1957) - Sung by Shamshad Begum and Mohammed Rafi

Much more classical Indian style, or what westerners think of as typical Indian music. This song was featured in a film described as an epic socialist parable.

8. Mohabbat Ki Jhooti – from the film: Mughal-E-Azam (1960) - Sung by Lata Mangeskar
A beautiful performance by the Queen of Playback singers, Lata Mangeskar. Sweet and emotive, in a very traditional female singing style. The film’s title in English is The Great Mogul, regarded as one of the most expensive films in Bollywood history.

9. Aaj Mausam Bada from the film: Loafer (1973) - Sung by: Mohammed Rafi

This is a cool, loping tune. It starts out sounding like the Indian equivalent to some late 60s American independent film about a guy hitting the road to find himself. I picture Mr. Rafi’s onscreen persona in jean and a jean jacket hitching for a ride on a lonely dirt road.

10. Baithe Hain Hya Usike Paas – Jewel Thief (1965) - Sung by Asha Bhosle

Bachrach gone Bollywood! According to the description, this is a James Bond-type caper film. You can hear it in the dramatic, swinging score. Asha’s breezy vocals are far lighter than Shirely Bassey’s brassy one-two punch, but embody a devil-may-care attitude. Perhaps the Indian version of Pussy Galore or [insert Bond Girl here]. I have to find this film.

11.Jaan-E-Man – from the film: Chhalia (1973) - Sung by: Asha Bhosle and Kishore Kumar
Mariachi trumpets, B-3 organ and wah-wah pedal. Groovy upon groovy. Plus a surf-rock guitar break. Doesn’t get any cooler than this.

12.Reshmi Ujala Hai – from the film: Sharmilee (1971) - Sung by Asha Bhosle

Another South American-influenced, cool bossa nova with surprisingly restrained instrumentation (for a Bollywood number). Asha’s vocals give it a great touch of mystery and glamour.

13. Chura Liya – from the film: Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973) - Sung by: Asha Bhosle and Mohammed Rafi

This is a classic duet between two of Bollywood’s biggest stars. Beautiful. This can be played at my wedding or funeral.

14. Kya Gazab Karte Ho Jee – from the film: Love Story (1973) - Sung by Asha Bhosle
No, not the schmaltzy American movie, Love Story. Eeew. Asha is sweet and giggly in this light-hearted, Latin-ish number. I enjoy the acoustic guitar. It gives the song a down to earth feel.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Sign of the End Times - Holly Dolly, Pretty Donkey Girl


The world is a weird and wonderful place. But sometimes it's just weird. If you've had any doubts that we're living in the end times, here's a sign equivalent to a skeletal rider on a dark horse. Holly Dolly is an animated anthropomorphic "Donkey Girl" who sings in a childlike, euro-disco style. She (it?) appears to be getting notice in the E.U. and also worldwide via the internet. Out of curiosity, I checked out her site. Well, it scared me right off the bat. Those of you from the States and of a certain age may think, as I do, that she looks like a slimmed-down, sexy-ied up version of Henrietta Hippo from the New Zoo Revue. I thought, "Ok, it's just another one of those talking animal, costume characters (you know, like Barney) that little kids are strangely attracted to." And, to a point, she is. BUT THEN, I watched the video. Oh brothers and sisters, lo the 4 riders of the apocalypse came thundering down -- in the form of a close up of BOUNCING ANIMATED DONKEY BOOBS! And, gyrating, mini-skirt clad Donkey Butt! Lord a'mighty, what kind of message are we sending to our children with this kind of stuff. Can't donkey's just be donkeys (or motor-mouth sidekicks to green ogres) and not subjected to sexual objectification? Poor Holly, according to her bio, she was just a simple country donkey girl who had dreams of making it big as a singer. Instead of the angels who found her to grant her 4 wishes, I think it was opportunists who found her and just wanted to run her through the star-making machinery and spit her out when they're done with her. She may not fare any better than Brittney. But, of course I'm being fooling in thinking Holly Dolly is innocent in all this, aren't I?

More insinuous and evil yet is her "Hit" -- Dolly Song. It's based on an actual Finnish polska, but sped up, given the electronic dance treatment and sung in a kind of wordless nonsense language, so it can leap the language barrier and spread itself (like a virus) all over the world. If we shaved Holly's donkey head would we find the numbers 666? Is she, like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the form of the destroyer that WE'VE chosen? Perhaps. But, better the monster you know than the monster you don't know. So, if you are brave of heart, watch her video and prepare yourself for the end of the world as we know it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Hadouken: NOT that Final Fantasy Character...

These guys are (as far as I know) an unsigned band out of the UK. I've been intrigued with them ever since I heard "That Boy, That Girl" via some promo email links I got a month or so back. Their video is great, fun, low buck but perfect for the music.

I caught up with their official blog and they seem to be stirring a debate about whether they fit in the "Grime" category. James, the lead singer, doesn't consider himself a rapper, grime or otherwise. Just honoring it as influence. [check his comments here.]

I love their energy. They're mixing several different genres and styles to get - what? Indie-industrial-dance-punk-grimey-rap? Hard to say. Feels fresh to me, and hooked the teen kids in my vicinity right away. Especially the "Bono Must Die" t-shirt the guitarist is wearing. :-)




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Monday, March 19, 2007

What we did while everyone else was at SXSW...

While everyone else in the world (it seemed) was at the SXSW music festival, what did the rest of us do? Well, we: 1) Washed our hair;

2) Filed our nails;

3) Read everyone's blogs about what they were seeing, doing and drinking.
And then we made lists.

After slogging through blog upon blog, here's a list of bands that were mentioned with more enthusiasm or more frequencies than other bands (that were just casually mentioned). In Alphabetical order for fairness, and with those not-always-accurate-but-kind-of-handy genres listed in brackets:

31 Knots [rock]
Affair [rock]
Alarm Clocks [rock]
American Princes [rock]
Army of Me [rock]
Beach House [pop]
Clockcleaner [punk]
Datarock [rock]
Dirty Projectors [avant/experimental]
Earl Greyhound [rock]
Flosstradamus [DJ]
Future Clouds and Radar [rock]
Gallows [punk]
Green Milk from the Orange Planet [rock]
Halestorm [rock]
Jesu [avant/experimental]
Kate Havenik [pop]
Mink [rock]
Oxbow [rock]
Page France [pop]
Pelican [rock]
Photo Atlas [rock]
Prototypes [rock]
Shearwater [rock]
Shout Out Out Out [electronic]
Thomas Dybdahl [pop]
Tiny Masters of Today [punk]
Weatherbox [rock]
White Denim [rock]
Young Knives [rock]
Zincs [rock]

I can't vouch for any of these bands cuz, HEY! I didn't see them. I'm just collecting up the opinions of those who did. The genres and links come from the SXSW Bands page on their site. Check them out for yourselves. Lots of downloads and streams.

I want to thank everyone who went to SXSW and wrote about it during and after, so that my broke-ass could experience it vicariously. Next year, I gots ta find me a Sugar Daddy or company expense account. Unfortunately, being your own boss also means always picking up the tab!



Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why I Stopped Listening To Lyrics – And Why I Might Start Again

A very shallow answer to “why I stopped listening to lyrics” is – I grew up. Or maybe I should say: I got older. That’s not really the full answer, but it is a big part of it. In order to get at the core of this, I was trying to reflect on the times in my life when lyrics held great importance, when they didn’t just float by as an extension of the rhythm and melody. Having teenagers in my life, I’ve been fascinated to observe 1) how they have scads of lyrics memorized and can sing them at the drop of mental trigger, and 2) how they FEEL these lyrics. I can TELL they mean something to them. It causes a physical, emotional and psychic radiance from them. When seeing this I think, “Sh*t! What happened? Where did I lose that?”

Well, of course teendom and twentydom is when we are all most emotionally charged and open. We’re on the verge of falling in love, out of love, falling into the pit of despair or having the most amazing experience in our lives. Words and music can plug right into us, like a prong in socket. We’re ready-made to connect to what musicians and poets are saying. The “That’s exactly what I’m feeling!” or “That’s my life, man!” reaction comes more readily.

Then, like molten magma cooling into rock, our emotional high revving begins to cool. Some people would call it real life setting in. We have less time for our emotions, our psyches; we have less time to actually listen. Is this an intentional numbing on our part or just a subconscious progression? Does this cooling occur because of an onslaught of boring repetition and tedious tasks in our lives? Or does it occur because we need to protect ourselves from the constant slings of fear, panic, bafflement and frustration that “grown up” life heaps upon us? If we open ourselves up to listening to lyrics or poetry, it just might break that protective armor we’ve forged to keep us from realizing how far away we’ve gotten from our Selves. Of course, it’s a bit both.

So, that’s where I’m at. Just on the verge of actually letting myself listen to the words again. What started this? Actually it thunked me brainpan when I was reading an article on Damon Albarn’s latest incarnation in Under the Radar magazine. Damon and Paul Simonon were talking about the lyrics of their album being firmly rooted in Britain. “'It’s the blessed routine of the good, the bad and the Queen.’ Albarn says, quoting himself.” “It’s like saying grace, isn’t it? The album’s about England and what lies beyond.” The interviewer asks "Beyond where? Geographically? Philosophically? Spiritually?” “Yeah, everything, absolutely.” Albarn responds. After reading that, I wrote down “Why I might start listening to lyrics again.” And here I am.

After that inspiration, I’ve been allowing whatever music grabs my attention to suck me in. Of Montreal’s “Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?” pulled my ears to its lips by Kevin Barnes twistingly clever and flatly sublime honest lyrics. In “A Sentence of Sorts In Kongsinger,” which is a bouncy and psyche-disco peon to watching one’s sanity degrade, several lines jumped out and slapped me upside the head. It feels like a journal entry of someone pushed beyond their limits into being a Zen, impartial observer of their own life, and that things are so weird you just have to laugh or look at how ridiculous they are.

Here are two stanzas that stood out when I listened to “Kongsinger.”

“I spent the winter on the verge of a total breakdown while living in Norway. I felt the darkness of the black metal bands.”

“I spent the winter with my nose buried in a book, while trying to restructure my character. Because it had become vile to its creator."

They’re brutally honest, but also quite funny.

Ok, let the armor drop a bit and break out the soul-sonic q-tips. I’ll be listening.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Stick It To the Man -- DigiDownload Site That's More YOURSpace than Myspace

From 7Digital out the UK comes a DIY digital download site for indie bands that's actually usable. Indiestore.com allows bands and artists to create their own download store. According to the site, the "Starter" level includes:

Starter:

indiestore Starter is the free service level for artists just getting into the digital music revolution. The Starter features will warm you up to creating your artist presence online. Features include:

  • 70% revenue share
  • Up to 4 Track uploads
  • Multi-format downloads - No DRM
  • Free tracks
  • Pre Orders/Release Date
  • indiestore.com/yourchoice URL
  • Blog, Gallery, Events
  • User ratings and comments
  • Real-time reporting
  • Monthly Accounting
  • PayPal and Click & Buy payments
  • indiestore flashplayer
  • Last.fm - your music played & sold on Last.fm
The layout is clean and easy, and none of that Myspace mucking about with friends and too many stupid graphics. I'll rant about this later, but this dovetails right into my theories on extending the concept of a "band" to include people who have nothing to do with performing. To really do an end run around of the "MAN," the more people you have to take care of stuff like this, selling your music, updating your tour information, photos, blogs, etc., the more you can leave the flailing and confused old music industry in the dust.

I know, I know, there are many of these type of sites out there. I was just impressed with how this site looks and works. It "feels" very accessible. Bands and artists need to spend their time creating, not navigating the complexities of setting up an online store. Easy is as easy does.

If you're looking to sell your music online, you might also want to check out these:
http://www.digstation.com/
http://www.musicane.com/Home.aspx
http://www.snocap.com/