AQUARIUS RECORDS…. AFRICA
KONONO NO.1 / THE DEAD C Split Series 18 (Fat Cat) 12″ 6.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
If there was ever a more unlikely split record, we sure can’t think of one. But if there was ever a split we’d most like to see, it would be hard to do better than Konono No1 and the Dead C. Not sure if the two bands are a perfect fit, or just happen to satisfy our weirdly eclectic tastes, but this split 12″ is fucking amazing. Two new tracks from Konono No 1, who if you are an avid reader of the AQ list are no doubt already familiar with ( we carry both their full lengths, their live record Lubuaku, as well as their studio album Congotronics). An African ensemble led by a trio of amplified Likembes (thumb pianos) and whose equipment is cobbled together from car parts, branches, batteries and other urban detritus. The sound is wild and joyful, rollicking and totally exuberant, the likembes sounding like some alien underwater psychedelic guitars. Wow. And then there’s the Dead C. What can you say? One of the most important bands to ever come out of New Zealand. The masters and originators of the NZ free rock sound that has influenced hundreds of bands and been copied by hundreds more. The first 5 tracks are locked grooves, but skip past those (or not!) and you’ll find three brand new tracks, 17 minutes of the Dead C in clattery chaotic rock mode, bursts of stumbling, distorted, propulsive free rock, like some lost Krautrock classic, played through crappy practice amps and on a beat up old drum kit, everything drenched in tape hiss and recorded in some cavernous space. Now if they had only managed to get Konono to record WITH the Dead C…
MPEG Stream: KONONO NO1 « Masikulu »
MPEG Stream: THE DEAD C « 2 »
MPEG Stream: THE DEAD C « 3 »
KUBAN, ALI HASSAN From Nubia To Cairo (Piranha) cd 21.00
Anyone captivated by the hypnotic grooves found on the great « Ethiopiques » series should check out this not-dissimilar music by one of Ethiopia’s neighbors to the north. The late Egyptian bandleader Ali Hassan Kuban, who passed away this summer at the age of 72, had a thirty-plus year career playing his unique brand of Nubian dance music. Indeed, he was a major million-selling artist known as « The James Brown of Nubian Music », and this new cd collects some of his biggest hits. Blending Sudanese, Egyptian, and Western traditions and technologies (from early on, his band utilized electric guitars, basses and organs along with horns and various ethnic instruments), his music is fun, funky and infectious!
RealAudio clip: « Amira »
RealAudio clip: « Yah Nasma Yah Halina »
KUBAN, ALI HASSAN Real Nubian (Piranha) cd 21.00
A fairly recently recorded collection by the « James Brown of Nubian music. » Ali Hassan Kuban has been both celebrated for fusing jazz / popular music with traditional Nubian music by many and reproved for debasing it by others. Nevertheless, Kuban made an indelible mark on Nubian and Egyptian popular music, selling millions of copies of his records in his 72 years. « Real Nubian » was recorded between 1997 & 2000 and demonstrates that Kuban was not shy, even in his golden years, to incorporate new and modern elements into his arrangements. So it should come as no surprise that this album has a greater presence of synthesizer and electric bass, but also harmonica, saxophone, bagpipes and even a little bit of vocal processing a la Cher’s « Believe » on one track. It all gets a little too Peter Gabriel at times and maybe a little rich for some palates, but if you can get past the chilled white wine and restaurant dining al fresco production values of this album the same Ali Hassan Kuban spirit and inventiveness remains there underneath it all.
RealAudio clip: « Gammal »
RealAudio clip: « Koma Wo Beda »
KUTI AND THE AFRICA ’70 WITH GINGER BAKER, FELA Live! (MCA / Universal) cd 15.98
Oh my god! We’re overwhelmed with this sudden spasm of Fela Kuti reissue activity — a dozen cds (many of them containing two LPs worth of music) in the last couple weeks alone, with more on the way! Needless to say, we’re not YET able to offer reviews of each individual disc, but when we’ve plowed through them perhaps we’ll re-list any especially stand-out gems. On the whole, though, we’re pretty certain you can count on the majority to be essential ’70s Afro-Beat from the originator and master of the style.
KUTI, FELA Army Arrangement (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA Beasts Of No Nation (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
Here’s three more in the continuing onslaught of reissues of classic records by the King of Afro-beat. Since we’re still working sifting through the last dozen, again we’ll just list that we have these and hopefully provide some more specific reviews at some future date!
KUTI, FELA Coffin For Head of State / Unknown Soldier (Universal) cd 16.98
KUTI, FELA Everything Scatter / Noise For Vendor Mouth (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA Expensive Shit / He Miss Road (Universal) cd 16.98
KUTI, FELA Ikoy Blindness / Kalakuta Show (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA J.J.D. / Unnecessary Begging (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA Live In Amsterdam (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA Monkey Banana / Excuse O (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA Open & Close / Afrodesiac (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA Opposite People / Sorrow Tears and Blood (Wrasse Records) cd 15.98
KUTI, FELA Original Suffer Head / I.T.T. (Universal) cd 16.98
KUTI, FELA Roforofo Fight (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA Stalemate / Fear Not For Man (Universal) cd 16.98
KUTI, FELA Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
KUTI, FELA The ’69 Los Angeles Sessions (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA The Best Of Fela Kuti: Music Is The Weapon (Wrasse) 2cd + dvd 33.00
Here’s a mighty impressive set for all you Fela Kuti fans out there: two cds packed with his best (Gentleman, Zombie, No Agreement, Coffin For Head of State and more) and the legendary 1982 documentary on Fela shot in Lagos, Nigeria. While the running time is only 53 minutes, there’s nary a moment of un-necessary footage. Along with shots of Lagos and interviews with Fela there’s plenty of footage of rare live performances at Fela’s Shrine club and at the collective where he and his group reside. It must also be noted that this DVD includes both the French and English versions of the documentary which are different — so it is recommended that you watch both.
MPEG Stream: « Zombie »
MPEG Stream: « Coffin For Head of State »
KUTI, FELA The Two Sides of Fela: Jazz & Dance (Universal) 2cd 24.00
Two disk anthology of Fela Kuti’s grand ouevre. As the title implies, one disk focuses on Fela’s jazz oriented cuts and the other on his dance elements — though parsing those two, which are so entwined in all his music, is somewhat tough. Never the less, this is a pretty good introduction to the music of Fela Kuti, spanning twenty years of his prolific career (with tracks from as far back as 1972 and as recent as 1992) and is recommended to those who are curious about his work, but have yet to make any commitments.
KUTI, FELA The Underground Spiritual Game (Quannum Projects) cd 16.98
Fela Kuti is on of those artists that’s really difficult to pull off putting together a « best of » collection. Not necessarily because it’s just too hard to choose selections for such an anthology, but because his songs are just too damn long to fit much more than four tracks on a disc. That doesn’t really make much of a greatest hits album. I’m not sure whether this was Quannum intent on putting this together, but a DJ mix running through some of Fela’s greatest tracks works really well as a best of. As a continuous mix The Underground Spiritual Game is able to retain the feeling of Fela’s extended song structure, but also give the listener a taste of a variety of Fela tracks. As such this disc makes a fine introduction to Fela for those yet to dive into his extensive oeuvre.
MPEG Stream: « Trouble Sleep »
MPEG Stream: « Unnecessary Begging »
KUTI, FELA Underground System (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA Upside Down / Music of Many Colours (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FELA V.I.P. / Authority Stealing (Wrasse) cd 15.98
KUTI, FELA Zombie (MCA / Universal) cd 17.98
KUTI, FEMI Fight To Win (MCA) cd 17.98
New album from the son of Fela Kuti — the king himself — and I’m sure it’s just as hard not to draw comparisons to his father as it is for him to live in his shadow, but that’s the way it is. Femi’s got a big studio budget, uses all the appropriate « world beat » signifiers in his arrangements, and the result sounds like a head on collision betwixt Fishbone and Peter Gabriel… Ouch. I’ll stick with papa’s old tricks.
RealAudio clip: « Walk On the Right Side »
LA DRIVERS UNION POR POR GROUP, THE Por Por: Honk Horn Music Of Ghana (Smithsonian Folkways) cd 16.98
Ghana must be a really loud place. Even just based on the amount of honking that that goes on there. Vehicles honk often and repeatedly, to shoo pedestrians or cyclists out of the way, to signify annoyance with slow traffic or blocked roadways, to signify a desire to change lanes or pass, to get the attention of other drivers or just because they’re so thrilled to be driving. Taxis honk rhythmically to attract fares, buses also honk rhythmically while their drivers sing out the various destinations. But there’s more than just honking, sound systems blast music, stalls selling their wares broadcast songs and sounds, prayers are broadcast through large speakers affixed to the outsides of mosques…
Sonic chaos certainly. But at the same time, all of these sounds merge into a strange sort of music, the sounds of a city going through the motions of daily life. Chaotic certainly, but also vibrant. Unique. And so alive. A joyful celebration of everyday activities.
At the root of all of this sound is Por Por, the honk horn music of Ghana. Por Por, pronounced ‘paaw paaw’, an onomatopoeic description of the local drivers’ honking squeeze-bulb horn music, was initially just that, the sounds of a city in motion, but eventually, the drivers who helped keep the city moving, took the sounds of their work day and turned it into music. Horns honking, found percussion, wrenches on tires, pipes on concrete, drums, pumping up tires, singing and shouting, those sounds became ritualized, and became their own music, with particular sounds and rhythms and arrangements, and a specific purpose. This music while a reflection of the city around it, was rarely performed in public, but instead, was almost exclusively performed at union drivers’ funerals, those funerals very reminiscent of the New Orleans jazz funeral, replete with processions, music obviously, and coffins modeled on the various buses and trucks carrying the dead to the afterlife. The story of por por, of Ghana and its independence is a long one, far to intricate and complex to get into here, but La, the province from which these drivers and horn honkers hail, was critical to the resistance to colonial rule, refusing to pay taxes, fighting a proposed ban on por por horns, a strong sense of community, were all critical to the region’s struggle for independence.
So in honor of this year’s golden anniversary of Ghana’s independence, for the first time, the La Drivers Union Por Por Group gathered to record the music that had been such a part of their culture and their life. Recorded outdoors, in backyards, the sound of the city, the traffic, all around, the music of por por spills forth, effusive and celebratory, joyous and spiritual, complex and strange and like nothing we have ever heard before.
A gorgeously ramshackle rhythmic workout, metallic percussion dense and spidery, a lush framework of intricate rhythms, beneath amazing vocal arrangements, but it’s the por por that make this music so unique, honking rhythmically, strange melodies, sounding a bit like geese, an orchestra of squeeze-bulb horns, locking into looped rhythmic structures, hypnotic and mesmerizing. Like traditional African music being performed during rush hour in the middle of a busy intersection. Like Konono No1 but with horns instead of amplified thumb pianos. Most of the tracks seem to be more focused on the vocals, or the hypnotic rhythms, with the horns acting more as a melodic counterpoint. But some tracks, like the opening track « Por Por Akwaaba / Welcome » are entirely about the honking horns, sounding a bit like Philip Glass or Steve Reich composing for automobile horns, rhythmic and strangely catchy, and that is when Pop Por completely captivates, when the horns lock into strange cyclical melodies, all tangled up with the vocals, complete transporting us to the dusty streets of Ghana, horns in hand, honking joyously, letting the sound and the rhythms carry us away.
The final track is especially stirring, with the Por Por group heading into the city, and setting up outside the union office, enlisting all of the drivers present, as well as enlisting the help of various passing vehicles, for a call and response salute to their Independence, the por por horns honking rhythmically, regular car horns held down, underpinning the proceedings with long keening drones, folks singing long drawn out tones, almost wailing, a dense swirl of droning honking mesmer. So intense. And moving.
As with all Smithsonian Folkways releases, there is a huge booklet, with tons of amazing photos, extensive liner notes, as well as notes on each track.
MPEG Stream: « Otsokobila »
MPEG Stream: « Trotro Tour Of Ghana »
MPEG Stream: « »Trotro Drivers, We Love You So » »
LANAYA Soun Soun : La Tradition Mandingue (Terp) cd 17.98
Lanaya are a trio from Mali, all three members of so called griot castes, groups who pass on the traditions and musics of their culture from generation to generation, responsible for protecting the legacy of their people and allowing it to live on forever. That’s quite a responsibility for a young African three piece still in their early twenties, but their music is wise beyond their years, most certainly an indication that for this generation at least, the sounds of Mali will live on, a sweetly melodic, liltingly hypnotic take on traditional Malian folk music that is at once musically complex but also soft and simple. The instrumentation consists of the kora, a 21-string luteharp (played by Djibril Diabate, who you might remember from a past aQ list, and whose gorgeous album Hawa, also on Terp, we raved about a few years back), the balafon, a sort of African xylophone a bit like a marimba, and the ngoni, a small sized 7-string African guitar.
The sound Lanaya conjure up with these instruments is truly sublime, a multilayered late evening soundscape of dense and dexterous melodies, dreamy and hypnotic, and so well crafted it’s easy to forget how complex they actually are.
The background is a rich tapestry of warm muted percussion and repetive melodic figures, played so fast and so smoothly that they sort of bleed into each other, each note drifting subtly into the notes beside it, the result is a slowly shifting warm and warbly dreamlike smear, while in the foreground, each instrument takes its turn with one extended improvisation after another, sometimes drifting and meditative, but just as often nimble and lively. The perfect blend of tranced out Eastern ragas and soft focus African folk music. Sweetly swoonsome and delicately dreamy. Perfect early morning, twilit evening, rainy day, drifting off music.
So totally lovely.
MPEG Stream: « Jamba »
MPEG Stream: « Kedon »
MPEG Stream: « Djamana Djara »
LATCHO DROM (OST) (Caroline) cd 15.98
MAAL, BAABA Missing You (Mi Yeewnii) (Palm Pictures) cd 16.98
Though nothing is going to compare with his co-release with Mansour Seck, Djam Leelii (1984), this is certainly a much better album than his last release, Nomad Soul. Baaba Maal has turned away from the synth heavy world beat that he helped introduce and returned to an almost stripped down production which features his lilting voice, guitar, kora, bass, percussion and backing chorus. The heavy synths are replaced by lush production by Abbey Road old timer and Bends (Radiohead) producer John Leckie.
RealAudio clip: « mamadi »
MAAL, BAABA Nomad Soul (Island) cd 15.98
Senegalese vocalist’s new album is very ‘world beat’, not as traditional as our longtime favorite record by him and Mansour Seck, titled Djam Leelii.
MAPFUMO, THOMAS Chimurenga Forever: Best of Thomas Mapfumo (Hemisphere) cd 15.98
MASTER MUSICIANS OF JAJOUKA / TALVIN SINGH s/t (Point Music) cd 15.98
Bachir Attar and the Master Musicians of Jajouka are teamed up with producer Talvin Singh for this traditional Morrocan trance-music meets modern club beats experiment. If you’ve seen the movie « The Cell » you’ve heard some music from this album, used as the soundtrack to the « desert » sequences, all layered, massive, and wailing.
MASTER MUSICIANS OF JOUJOUKA Boujeloud (Sub Rosa) cd 14.98
The Master Musicians of Joujouka have had held a mystique on Western ears ever since they were first documented by Bryon Gysin in the 50’s and popularized by Brian Jones when he released some of the first recordings on the fledgling (at the time) Rolling Stone imprint. This is the third in a series on the Sub Rosa label documenting the ritual of Boujeloud which celebrates the myth of a Pan-like deity-half man, half goat-who introduced music into their culture. The music on this disc was recorded between 1994 and 1996 in Northern Morocco from four generations of Joujouka Masters. The musicians start out with soft bamboo flutes or lliras and as more people gather, the musicians switch to the oboe-like rhaita. Backed by some seriously primal drumming, the playing intensifies into trance-inducing trills and whirls as village dancers act out the ancient story. It’s little wonder that Gysin and Jones, mad explorers of altered consciousness, were deeply entranced by this ancient pagan-like music.
MPEG Stream: « Boujeloudia/Joujouka Ei Calihoun »
MPEG Stream: « Joujouka Ei Calhoun/T’werkia d’Boujeloudia »
MASTER MUSICIANS OF JOUJOUKA / GNOUA BROTHERHOOD OF MARRAKESH Moroccan Trance Music II : Sufi (Sub Rosa) cd 14.98
Plenty has been written about, and a handful of recordings exist of the Master Musicians of Joujouka, due in no small part to the attention lavished on them by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones who along with other musical wisdom seekers travelled to Marrakesh to record, play with and learn from the Master Musicians. And it’s easy to see why from their intricate tribal drumming, soaring chanting vocals, trilling woodwinds, all very primal and inspiring. The three tracks from the Master Musicians are gorgeous, free and totally moving. But it’s the Gnoua Brotherhood Of Marrakesh who knocked our socks off when we first threw this disc on. The Gnoua have an amazing sound, stringed instruments that sound like downtuned guitars, strangely heavy, warm and rich, buzzing and droning, lots of low overtones, riffing repetitively and hypnotically, with simple hand drums and rhythmic clapping, and then eventually joined by the raspy tribal chants of a main vocalist, and echoed by a chorus of complimentary voices. Sounds like some ultra pure, unadulterated early form of the blues. Which it basically is. Hard to describe (listen to the first sound sample) but that low droning strum is just so totally mesmerizing. As hypnotic and heavy as Earth or SUNN0))) or any of those modern guitar drone outfits, but accomplished without the aid of thousand watt amps and pick ups, just fingers and strings. Amazing.
MPEG Stream: GNOUA BROTHERHOOD OF MARRAKESH « Sidi Musakar »
MPEG Stream: GNOUA BROTHERHOOD OF MARRAKESH « Jilalay »
MAX-B s/t (Wah-Wah) lp 18.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Awfully hard to find any information about this unique afro-funk pioneer. The first track on the album « Bananaticoco » we had heard before when we got the popular « Club Africa 2 » compilation in a year ago, but a search on google under Max B’s (Max Boulois) name only comes up with several listings for some obscure action films, and a quick visit to imbd.com shows a Max Boulois — originally of Madrid, Spain — who was an actor, writer and director (his tour de force being « Othello: aka The Black Commando »). Anyway, we do know that this lp was originally issued in 1973 by Opalo records and that Max B apparently recorded this album in Spain. The music contained herein is an interesting blend, of up tempo dance-party-afro-rock numbers with a decidedly Brazilian flavor. Lots of mixed chorus chanting and latin percussion with the occaisonal piano thrown in to boot. Then there are the two totally uncharacteristic tracks which are almost worth the price of admission alone: a heavy acid-psych track, « Poker » (a bonus track to this issue) with swishy wah-wah guitars (the label’s bias?) and sloshy organ and the following track « Free », which is another psych track, though less heavy, which features moaning female vocals to a pulsing beat. We wish there was an entire album of tracks by Max B of this sort, but alas we must be satisfied with these two. This reissue is courtesy of the Spanish label Wah-Wah, which also released that live Prince Buster lp we listed a while back, and they do an impressive job of pressing their records on nice thick slabs of vinyl.
MAYET, HISHAM Musical Brotherhoods From The Trans-Saharan Highway (Sublime Frequencies) dvd 22.00
The latest in the ever expanding Sublime Frequencies collection of audio and video sonic treasures from around the world. This most recent dvd focuses on « ancient mystical brotherhoods’ in Morocco, small groups of stringed instruments and drums, players managing to create intense and intensely emotional sounds and songs, that range from dark and simple, sweetly contemplative, to fierce and fiery and jubilant, explosive and over the top.
As always, the scenery and setting is as breathtaking as the music., lots of amazing shots of Morocco, crumbling buildings, bustling harbors, cobblestone streets, vast deserts, winding highways, cozy apartments and most importantly, bustling street markets, lit by fires and lamplight, a huge after dark celebration, story telling, eating, socializing but most importantly making music…
Small lantern lit clusters of people gather around old record players, home made amplifiers, rusty old speakers, strange (to our eyes) stringed instruments, all manner of drums and percussion, the crowd eager to bask in this amazing music, and just as often to participate, whether it be as another drummer, a singer, a dancer or even just as an onlooker.
The music, is a stripped down blues, the buzzing strings, the gorgeous hypnotic melodies, looped and cyclical, so hypnotic and catchy, the vocals soulful and impassioned, from solo crooning to strange harmonies, to chanting, and lots of festive sing alongs. The focus is the buzzing strings and the pounding drums, and there are plenty of both, but there are also buzzing snake charmer style horns, wild dancing, costumes, and of course the usual outdoor crowd sounds, folks talking and laughing, cars driving past. It’s so much like wandering through Morocco, it’s amazing. And sonically, WOW. The rhythms and the melodies, a constant barrage of groove and drone, simple percussive thumps and shuffles, haunting melodies, huge tribal drum jams and of course some incredible riffing.
Our favorite segments feature what appears to be a traditional banjo, but electrified and plugged into a rusty old handmade amplifier, turning the banjo into an awesome buzzing sitar like beast, emitting intense almost metallic chunks of incendiary riffing, raw and emotional, super distorted and intense, underpinning the wailing vocals and dense drumming.
As awesome as this is to watch, the sounds themselves are plenty, so even after a few viewings, you’ll end up listening to this dvd over and over. Fans of the sadly out of print Group Inerane lp, also on Sublime Frequencies, as much of the music here has that same feral blues buzz and dark looped riffing.
MEKURYA, GETATCHEW & THE EX Moa Anbessa (Terp) cd 17.98
We joked in some past reviews that Dutch experimental world music label Terp must be paying our salaries considering how much love we give their releases, but c’mon, you’ve heard them! You’ve bought them! LOTS of them! And like us you’ve played them all to death. Every single one is amazing, so exciting musically, so emotionally resonant, some of the most unique and moving music we’ve EVER heard. And as if to drive the point home, we have not one, but TWO new releases from Terp on this week’s list, one, a gorgeous final live recording from blind Ethiopian vocalist Mohammed ‘Jimmy’ Mohammed who passed away recently, and this, a wild live blowout from legendary Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria, jamming with Dutch avant rockers The Ex and other like minded friends…
We’ve been trying to list this forever, but we kept selling out of them in the store before we could get it reviewed and up on the site. Finally though, we have enough, so it’s time to once again get your Ethiopian groove on…
But with a twist. The twist being The Ex, everyone’s favorite Dutch avant rockers who have always had a thing for world music, so much so that members of the Ex are directly involved in the running of Terp. So it makes sense that given the opportunity, they would jump at the chance to jam with the legendary Getatchew Mekuria. So here we have it, what sounds like one of the wildest musical parties ever! Oh how we would have killed to be there. Must have been a stone cold blast, but at least we have this here recording to ease our pain…
The record seems to be split right down the middle, half the songs are Ethiopian classics, given a bit of an angular post punk vibe, due in no small part to the fact that the band playing them is in fact the Ex, and the other half, the ones with vocals, sound like Ethiopian flavored Ex songs… We lean more toward the former, but both are pretty great.
Imagine your favorite Ethiopiques record, but way more bass heavy, a fuzzy distorted throb, along with jangly angular guitars, all underneath that oh so recognizable sax, wailing and soaring, practically singing, emotional and gorgeous. A few tracks are groovy and smokey and sultry, sounding like they could have come straight off of Ethiopiques 4, and even the all time Ethiopian groove classic « Musicawi Silt » here gets a sort of funkgroove makeover, with percussive guitar clang, blooping bass, the song was already funky, but in a different way, the new version is a little more tightly wound, but in a good way, you could maybe call it Ethiopian postpunkgroove or something. And there’s also an amazing solo jam « Tezeta », with Mekuria just making the sax sing, an extension of his being, going from full on skronk, to melancholy drift, oozing emotion and passion. The crowd reaction afterwards says it all. The rest of the record is packed with the above mentioned Ethiopian Ex style jams, which are awesome and wild and are definitely kinetic and ebullient, but the vocals are definitely an acquired taste…
As with all Terp stuff, tons of photos and extensive liner notes…
MPEG Stream: « Musicawi Silt »
MPEG Stream: « Aynamaye Nesh »
MPEG Stream: « Tezeta »
MèKURYA, GéTATCHèW Ethiopiques Vol. 14 : (The Negus of Ethiopian Sax) (Buda Musique) cd 15.98
I’m sure that, by now, we’re way passed that point that divides the completists with those that are content with two or three volumes of this series. And yet, though speaking partially from a completist’s viewpoint, volume 14 might be one that anyone who’s enjoyed previous Ethiopiques releases to take note of. Volume 14 is a re-release of a 1970 Philips Ethiopia recording of Gétatchèw Mèkurya. Mèkurya, a saxophonist, is apparently considered the Albert Ayler of Ethiopia. But before y’all non-free jazz aficionados get scared off by thoughts of atonal scree, you can rest assured that there’s not a lick of that here. Probably what was most likely intended by such a comparison was either Ayler’s propensity for using folk melodies in his works, or maybe even… marches. The cornerstone of Mèkurya’s style is derived from a strictly vocal style associated with war known as « shellela ». Apparently Mèkurya got the idea of transcribing this singing style to saxophone. Brash and insistent as it is, it’s really nothing like even the tamest « sheets of sound » from Coltrane’s pre-free jazz days. Entirely instrumental, the music of Gétatchèw Mèkurya is, while familiar in the scope of Ethiopian music we’ve come to know and love, also much different than all that’s preceded it. It probably most resembles Ethiopiques Volume Four in respect to their both lacking in vocals, but there the similarities stop. The band is stripped down to organ, guitar, bass and drums and accompaniment usually consists of a steady, uptempo ostinato over which Mèkurya then plays his rapid and rococo melodic improvisations (often alternating with the squealing farfisa-like organ). Also included as a bonus track for this CD issue is a late fifties rarity from Mèkurya. Yet again, we highly recommend this newest Ethiopiques release for both sometimes fans and — it goes without saying I suppose — completists as well.
MPEG Stream: « Yegenet Muziqa »
MPEG Stream: « Shellela »
MOHAMMED, MOHAMMED ‘JIMMY’ Hulgizey – In Concert (Terp) cd 17.98
We joked in some past reviews that Dutch experimental world music label Terp must be paying our salaries considering how much love we give their releases, but c’mon, you’ve heard them! You’ve bought them! LOTS of them! And like us you’ve played them all to death. Every single one is amazing, so exciting musically, so emotionally resonant, some of the most unique and moving music we’ve EVER heard. And as if to drive the point home, we have not one, but TWO new releases from Terp on this week’s list, one, a live disc from legendary Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria, jamming with The Ex and friends, and this, a sadly posthumous live release from blind Ethiopian vocalist Mohammed ‘Jimmy’ Mohammed.
We raved about Mohammed’s other release on Terp, the completely mind blowing Takkabel! And as we mentioned before, his life story is just as dramatic and intense and emotional as his music. He became blind as a child, an apparent curse after his parents had him baptized against the warnings of a local fortune teller (God wanted him to be Muslim), spent years homeless on the streets, eventually rescued and cared for, enrolled in a school for the blind, where money was raised to help restore his sight, but the money was stolen, and his eyesight never restored, eventually becoming a nightclub singer renowned for his interpretations of songs by legendary vocalist Tlahoun Gessesse (who you probably remember from several volumes of the Ethiopiques series).
But whereas much of Takkabel! was tangled and angular and complex, recalling Aavikko weirdly enough, with guest drumming from improv legend Han Bennink, this live disc is much more laid back and dark, a very personal sounding and intimate recording, the band spreading out a lush tapestry of sound over which Mohammed weaves his magical moods. His voice is divine and as powerful as it is subtle, distincitive and expressive, soaring and dancing nimbly across impossible melodies, the interplay between the vocals and the instruments is divine. The guitar like krar unfurling simple melodic fragments, the percussion simple and propulsive, a simple spare framework for Mohammed to explore as he sees fit, his vocals wild and acrobatic, intense and passionate, so mysterious sounding, but also utterly warm and inviting.
The last two lengthy tracks are the most reminiscent of Takkabel!, with the addition of sax, the rhythms a bit more off kilter and danceable, the whole sound a bit more funky and groovy, VERY Ethiopiques sounding. Hard to imagine the crowd in attendance not dancing wildly in the aisles…
The proceeds from sales of this cd will go toward a just-founded Jimmy Fund, created to care for his wife and his children, one of whom was born right after his death.
MPEG Stream: « Sethed Seketelat »
MPEG Stream: « Mela Mela »
MPEG Stream: « Eywat Setenategagn »
MOHAMMED, MOHAMMED ‘JIMMY’ Takkabel! (Terp) cd 17.98
It must seem like we’re on the Terp payroll or something by now, this being the second record they’ve put out that’s received record of the week honors here at aQ. And the fourth or fifth that we’ve raved about. And to be totally honest, the Terp releases that ended up -not- being records of the week, could very well have under different circumstances, as they are equally as amazing. What can we say, everything Terp has put out so far has totally and completely blown us away! The live Konono record, the gorgeous Lanaya record and this newest release from blind Ethiopian vocalist Mohammed ‘Jimmy’ Mohammed. His story is just as amazing as his voice and the music he makes. After becoming blind as a child, supposedly as a curse for his parents’ decision to ignore the warnings of a fortune teller and baptize him, as God had willed him to be a Muslim, Mohammed ran away and spent several years on the streets, homeless, begging for food, finding solace in the songs of legendary vocalist Tlahoun Gessesse (immortalized in several volumes of the amazing Ethiopiques series) who not only sang beautifully, but whose songs addressed the plight of the poor and suffering. Mohammed was eventually discovered and cared for, enrolled in a school for the blind and raised by a kind hearted surrogate father. After money was raised to help restore his sight, he was heartbroken to discover the funds were stolen and his eyesight was never to be restored. Mohammed spent a brief stint in the national theater before becoming a nightclub singer, where he became more and more popular. Mohammed mostly sings Tlahoun Gessesse’s pop songs from the ’60s / ’70s, being as those are the songs that most affected him throughout his life, but it’s his voice and the unique arrangements that make him so special.
He appeared briefly on Ethiopiques 2 but this is his first proper full length. The first track here is a mindblower. The music is so squiggly and complex, so dense and tangled, angular but so lovely, our first thought was that it sort of sounded sort of like the maniacal casio exotica of Aavikko. Part of it might be the fact that Mohammed’s band is augmented on that track by legendary European free jazz drummer Han Bennink, and Massimo Pupillo from Italian drone jazz combo Zu. SO amazing. There are plenty of immediately recognizable melodies and distinctly Ethiopian elements, but the way it is played is so strange and lovely. But it’s Jimmy’s vocals, high and clear, swooping into an impossible falsetto and back again, warm and rich and so gorgeous, that makes this so magical. Bennink drums on a handful of the other tracks as well (he apparently told Jimmy that the reason they clicked so perfectly was because, he said « I’m blind as well when I play with them ») but even when it’s just Jimmy and his band, the sound is still totally unique and so very special. Little delicate curlicues of electric krar (5 string harp), shuffling skittery drumming, smooth slithery riffs, warm smooth sax from Ethiopian legend Getatchew Mekurya, all weaving a rich intricate tangle of classic Ethiopian melody and irresistibly groovy rhythms, above which Jimmy just soars, so totally emotional and intense, so passionate and absolutely breathtaking.
MPEG Stream: « Aykedashem Lebe »
MPEG Stream: « Sethed Seketelat »
MRWEBI, GWIGWI Mbaqanga Songs (Honest Jon’s) cd 17.98
An amazing release in this new series from the always kick ass Honest Jon’s label. An offshoot of the equally amazing London Is The Place For Me series (which we’ve yet to review, but we’re working on it!), Gwigwi Mrwebi is a sax player from Johannesburg, who moved to London in 1960 to appear in the musical King Kong (!) and who back in South Africa had recorded with Hugh Masekela among other jazz luminaries. We’ve been listening to this for months and months and are only now finally getting it reviewed and listed!
Mbaqabga Songs is a reissue of an impossible to find lp, and is totally delightful, groovy, jazzy, danceable, playful, rambunctious, a bit boppy, super happy and most certainly sets the toes a tapping. While this definitely has some African elements and will appeal to fans of all things Ethiopiques and Zanzibara, it’s much more of a straight jazz record, performed in the Kwela style popular in Africa at the time, a happy, lilting, jazzy bounce with a definite fifties big band vibe (we even hear some rocksteady in there too), the melodies exuberant, the playing smooth and crisp, just so fun with a totally carefree vibe. It’s easy to imagine a warm summer evening, the sun setting on an outdoor dancefloor, strung with multi colored lights, Mrwebi and his band playing on late into the night, everyone dancing and drinking and celebrating life. So great!
Beautifully packaged in a 8 panel digipak, packed super extensive liner notes from Steve Beresford.
MPEG Stream: « Good News »
MPEG Stream: « Nyusamkhaya »
MPEG Stream: « Lily Express »
NAKED PREY, THE (OST) (Latitude) cd 14.98
Soundtrack to Cornel Wilde’s 1966 film. Shot on location in Africa (Rhodesia, South Africa, Bechuanaland & Mozambique) — often hundreds of miles from the nearest village — with a cast composed almost entirely of non-professional actors (most had never acted before in their lives), a minimal budget and a whole lot of blood, sweat & tears (literally), The Naked Prey brought method acting to new levels. The music chosen to be the score for the film is every bit as authentic as the shooting locations, for it is all composed and played by the N’guni clans amongst whom the crew worked and filmed. While Wilde of course selected the tracks from what the N’guni played for him during the filming, the music is just as they performed it. The entire score is merely recordings of drums, chants, strange animal imitations, and the natural ambience of the bush, ie: field recordings. Thank god this preceeded the medling interference of the world beat puveyors Peter Gabriel et. al. And actually, the score in and of itself was a bit of cutting edge concept. As is pointed out in the liner notes, this was released the same year as Nonesuch began their Explorer series and long before any kind of major world music industry. Another fine release from Latitude.
MPEG Stream: « Puberty Song »
MPEG Stream: « Animal Imitations »
NIGER Magic and Ecstasy in the Sahel (Sublime Frequencies) dvd 22.00
Sublime Frequencies videographer Hisham Mayet strikes again! This time Hisham takes to the Sahel region of Niger to witness for ourselves a culture in resistance to environmental hazards (severe droughts) and extreme poverty, and a country that’s at the cultural crossroads of Subsaharan Africa and the Middle East. Like all of Mayet’s films there is no authoritative narrator to disrupt the flow, or otherwise direct our interests. Which isn’t to say Mayet leaves us completely in the dark as concerns his motivations and whereabouts in shooting this footage. For that we are given ample liner notes detailing the film’s unfolding in chronological order of events. The video begins in rural Dogondoutchi where Hisham documents the music of the Mawri people. Several performances are caught here of musicians playing a banjo like instrument which is simultaneously struck across the drum as it is strummed and plucked, turning the performer into a veritable one-man-band. Also taped are some amazing fiddle players using an array of instruments, each seemingly unique to its possessor. Across the river Niger, Mayet takes us to the village of Boubon to a cowry shell divination, a spirit posession ceremony, and a truly strange performance of sexual coming of age by the young girls of the village in which they taunt the boys with… Ahem! Rather « randy » dance moves. As the film progresses it moves further from acoustic / rural / animist Niger to urban / Christian / electric Niger. We’re witnesses to a gospel revival meeting at a Pentacostal church combining both traditional instruments and percussion with electric bass and keyboards. Almost directly from there Mayet takes us to a dive bar to hear a beautiful pick-up band of electric guitar, bass, drums and percussion. The sound is almost like that of a punk rock Ali Farka Toure, if you can imagine that. And in the end we are taken to the compound of Bibi Ahmed to hear some very Nubian sounding trance rock, like a dronier version of Ali Hassan Kuban. Excellent!
NZOMO, DAVID TRIO The Sweet Soul Of Kenya (Latitude) cd 14.98
Sweet soul is right. This music on this disc was originally released on vinyl in the 1950s by Smithsonian Folkways, and now Latitude (the new, ‘world music’ sub-label of the prolific and generally amazing Locust label) has done us a treat by reissuing it. Melodious East African traditional music, with gentle male-female vocal harmonies sung in the Kikamba tongue, accompanied by guitar chiming like a thumb-piano. An enchanting disc… however we feel that despite doing the good work of reissuing this music, Latitude/Locust is deserving of some constructively-intended criticism regarding the packaging. First off, the cd ‘booklet’ isn’t, it’s a single square of paper (fairly stiff, but still qualifying as a violation of my personal cd packaging pet peeve number 493), and more importantly, there’s no liner notes. Nothin’. Doesn’t even say what year this was recorded, or who, besides David Nzomo presumably, was in the Trio! We are directed to the Smithsonian Folkways website, where apparently the record’s original liner notes can be purchased. Huh? C’mon, if you’re gonna license the music to reissue on cd, can’t you license the liner notes too? Or write your own at least. I just don’t understand. What with all the downloading worries so many labels have, you’d think one good idea would be to make the physical cd package as desireable and complete as possible. If I’ve gotta download the liner notes, that’s not too far removed from just downloading the audio tracks too…
MPEG Stream: « Nzembelukye »
MPEG Stream: « Syimbithi (Secrets) »
ONDAR, KONGAR-OL & PAUL EARTHQUAKE PENA Genghis Blues (TuvaMuch) cd 14.98
Soundtrack to the fabulous documentary movie, which hopefully you were lucky enough to see. Blind blues musician Paul Pena travels to Tuva (Central Asia) to compete in their national throat-singing competition, a skill in which he is entirely self-taught. A funny, touching movie, and of course blessed with some great music! So, here’s the hard-to-find soundtrack album.
ONENESS OF JUJU African Rhythms 1970-1982 (Strut) 2cd 17.98
THIS IS CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT OR OTHERWISE UNAVAILABLE TO US AT THE MOMENT, SO PLEASE DO NOT ORDER IT. SORRY.
Spanning the years 1970 to 1982, this is a wonderful double-disc collection of cuts taken from Plunky Branch’s career as the bandleader of such acts as Oneness of Juju and Juju & the Space Rangers, also as a principal behind such personalities as Roach Om and Ndikho Xaba. Generating a big big sound that drew as much from African rhythms as it did from James Brown-style funk and soul / r&b, gospel and free jazz, the various Juju projects made use of African percussion, smooth velvet voiced female divas, Rhodes organ, clavinet, piano, synths, violins, you name it. (It might be a little too « jazzy rare groove » sounding for some, so listen to the soundclips first.) The name Oneness of Juju may not be household to us, yet at the time, a lot of important musicians were super into them. Ornette Coleman, whose free jazz was a lot weirder than Juju’s consistently rhythmic appeal, gave the band use of his legendary NY loft complete with recording equipment; Sun Ra used some of the Juju musicians for Space is the Place; they played at Sam Rivers’ loft; even legendary Paradise Garage DJ Larry Levan did a remix for them. And in the ’80s, Branch made it out to Africa where he played with King Sunny Ade and Fela. What a career. Lots of liner notes, as is usual from the excellent African diaspora reissue label Strut.
RealAudio clip: ONENESS OF JUJU « African Rhythms (Album Version) »
RealAudio clip: OKYEREMA ASANTE FEATURING PLUNKY « Asante Sana »