Even if you only have a passing interesting in world music then you're probably readily familiar with Northern Caribbean musical styles like reggae, ska, mambo and rumba... But what about the many hybrids from the south? From places like Trindad and Tobago, and Guyana? If you thought it was all just steel drumming, then get ready for one of the most insane cross-cultural styles ever - chutney music...
When slavery was outlawed in the Caribbean, the British planation owners became increasingly reliant on indentured Indian workers. Those workers who came and settled in their new masters' domains brought their music with them and, over time, it became fused with styles developed by African slaves. The result was chutney... which, in recent times, has evolved to become a Hi-NRG amalgam of Bollywood, calypso and dancehall reggae (with elements of US R&B thrown in for good measure).
It has to be heard to be believed, and one of its most prominent exponents is the "Voice of Guyana", Terry Gajraj, who has a site which includes such chutney-esque numbers as Roll Yuh Belly and Yo Mista DJ. (via Oddio Overplay)
Another day, another fantastic Sublime Frequencies release... This time its a compilation of Cambodian pop/rock recorded between the 60's and 90's. And like that other great album in the genre, Cambodian Rocks (see this earlier post), its all sourced from "found" audio cassettes. This time, though, the cassettes come not from Cambodia, but from the Asian branch of the Oakland, California public library. As with the earlier classic, this album contains everything that makes "old school" Khmer pop such a pleasure - driving acid-tinged guitars, sinuous 60's organs, lilting Bollywoodesque chanteuses, and suave crooners... But, in addition to that, we get to hear how elements like ska horn sections and cheesy 80's synths have seeped into post-Khmer-Rouge music. (There's even a stomping glam-rock number by an unknown act. Its one of the highlights of the album, so I'm posting it as the mp3 you can download.)
If you've never heard any Cambodian pop before then this is a good starting point, and you can purchase it from Aquarius Records. If you want to go further, you MUST GET Cambodian Rocks, and check out the wide range of compilations available through specialist online label, Khmer Rocks.
Sept 17 sees the start of the 3rd Annual ArtBots Robot Talent Show, a three day festival in Harlem, NY devoted to mechanical marvels that "sketch, carve, float, wiggle, hum, ring, grow, wander, and sing, as well as a number of works the form and function of which are not yet well understood".
Among this year's participants will be the winners of last year's Audience Choice award, the amazing League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots. As the name suggests, the League is a Brooklyn-based group of artists and technologists who have been developing robotic musical instruments for the past four years. Their creations include TibetBot, a set of mechanically struck Tibetan singing bowls; !rBot, a mollusc-shaped contraption filled with Peruvian goathoof maracas; ForestBot, a thicket of egg-rattles on quivering ten-foot metal stalks; and (my favourite) GuitarBot, which consists of four long guitar strings strung over independent sliding bridges and played by plectrums mounted on rotating shafts. As a result of its design, the GuitarBot can produce wonderfully expressive slides and bursts of unhumanly rapid plucking. If you want to hear it in action, check out the mp3 of the post-rock-esque "Emergency Bot Theme" on the LEMUR site. The site also has videos of all the League's robots performing solo, and one of a duet between GuitarBot and violinist Mari Kimura.
Ah yes, the metal madness never stops here at Rummage... Introducing Tazina, Teisha and Cleopatra, three women from New York who belly dance... to heavy metal music! This inspired marriage of head banging and hip shaking was dreamt up by the girls back in 2002 and first burst onto the scene in that year's Rakkasah festival (America's premier Mid Eastern folk festival) where the troupe ripped into a routine set to Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train". Since then, they've become something of a fixture on the metal festival circuit and their chief metalhead Tazina has scored regular gigs with NY Metallica tribute band, Master of Puppets. Apparently, it all works because "Metal has a lot of similiarities to Middle Eastern music"...
Videos of Tazina and the rest of the troupe in action can be found on their OTT "flaming casbah" website. (It even has an "is she hot or not?" page dedicated to Taz.)
Rummage's love affair with South East Asian pop music continues with this awesome collection of field recordings of street musicians in Ho Chi Minh City, which was released a couple of years ago on Trikont. The recordings were made in 1997 by Nuoc Nam Dirndl, a group of bored Austrian architects whose love of Vietnamese fish sauce inspired them to embark on a guerilla "cultural exchange" programme. The music ranges from schmatzy pop; to bellowed Viet-blues song performed by buskers who carry defects resulting from Agent Orange; to raucous, percussion-heavy funeral bands who sound like "some New-Orleans-Trash-Punk-Free Jazz"; to Shadows and John Lee Hooker-style tracks played on a traditional one-stringed instrument called a Dan Bhu which produces a gloriously other-worldy, theremin-like tremelo. (As diverse as it is, the one thing that all this music has in common is that its dismissed by Vietnamese yuppies as "shit music"... So you know it must be worth a listen!)
The album can be heard in its entirety on the Nuoc Nam Dirndl website (the audio though is in low bit rate Real Audio streams) and can be purchased through Fuse Music Group.
(FOOTNOTE: The yuppies prefer Sting...)
That's right... There is a 1972 article written by jazz bass legend Charles Mingus... on the subject of toilet training cats. At first I thought it was a hoax, but then I saw that it was posted on the OFFICIAL Charles Mingus fan-site... And they say those jazzbos have no sense of humour. (via Grow A Brain)
This isn't music related, but still I couldn't resist posting this pair of insanely hysterical anti-DVD-piracy posters from the UK. (And before you ask, yes they are for real. They're off the site of that country's film copyright watchdog.)
On the other side of the Atlantic, similar scare tactics are being employed by the MPAA whose web-site ominously declares: "You Can Click, But You Can't Hide"... As yet, I haven't seen an Australian equivalent but I look forward to billboards showing dastardly people-smugglers on sinking boats (which stay afloat only because they toss children overboard) lobbing pirated DVDs at Jana Pittman's beleagured knee. (Luckily, none of their throws hit the mark because they give up rowing 600m before the finish line.)
A month or so ago, I posted a story about the Flash-animated parody of the US-Pres candidates which used a re-worked version of Woody Guthrie's folk classic "This Land (Is Our Land)". At the time, the song's publisher, Ludlow Music, threatened to sue the animators for infringement of copyright... And in the month since them, that's exactly what they did and - guess what - they lost! But it doesn't end there...
In the course of presenting of evidence, it was discovered that the song had been published eleven years earlier than previously thought, so it was already in the public domain when Ludlow initially applied for a copyright renewal back in the mid 80's. As a result, they are no longer recognised as the copyright owners and have effectively robbed themselves of eleven more years of royalties on the back of this popular standard.
Nuclear Elephant have set out to prove something that the P2P community has known for a long time - "illegal" file-sharing actually encourages CD sales. They've invited people who've bought a CD/movie/software after downloading a pirated copy online to submit a testimonial and the amount they've spent. (So far its $138,974 and counting)...
In the case of music, the so-called "pirates" routinely purchase CDs of stuff they've downloaded because its better quality than the mp3s, or because they love it and understand that the outlay of money will help keep the artist/label viable... For small boutique labels (who would previously have had very limited opportunities for exposure) it represents a positive boon...
So, the only people it really harms are Big Labels who try to foist disposible chart-fodder on an increasingly discerning record buying public... And they can muck out the monkey stalls at the zoo for all I care...
If you've purchased anything as a result of your exposure to it via P2P, I encourage you to enter the details on the Nuclear Elephant site. (Don't worry, names and IP addresses aren't saved, so you will remain anonymous.)
This kind puts all those church burnings and murders by Norwegian black metal hoons into perspective... Because, when you look this ridiculous, you need to do something to convince people that you're a hell-borne threat to the moral order (and not just an escapee from some bad Halloween panto.)
For much of the late 60’s, Hans Edler had been the teen idol front man of chart-topping Swedish band, The Ghostriders. (As the name suggests, they were heavily influenced by The Shadows.) In 1969, however, a newspaper article about the Electronic Music Studio, a state-of-the-art studio in Stockholm equipped with room-sized computers built to make music, attracted his attention. He immediately enrolled in some courses there and, in the space of two years, had recorded Elektron Kukeso, one of the first computer programmed records in history… And what a strange record it was… If a Nordic baritone-voiced Brian Wilson decided to compose electronic hymns for a rock opera about a Robot Church it might sound something like this… Needless to say, it was a commercial flop and Edler abandoned his electronic dabblings to focus on a far more stable career recording children’s records.
Now, some 33 1/3 years later, this album has been reissued by Boy Wonder Records. (Hopefully, the recording-buying public finds it a little more digestible this time round...) The record can be purchased through Aquarius Records and here, to whet your appetite, is the opening track,
Jag soker efter karlek.
With my broadband connection hopefully up and running in the next couple of days, I might start availing myself of this wonderful little service… Basically, it’s a net radio station based on the playlists of users. A program called Audioscrobbler (which compiles a list of songs you listen to and suggests songs of a similar style) sifts through these playlists and singles out those which contains songs you might like. These are then played to you through the site. It’s the ultimate democratization of the “airwaves”; a system that turns ever listener into a DJ. And, what’s more, its all completely free! (Although, I would recommend you make some sort of a donation.)
Online magazine The Morning News has an interesting round table discussion about mp3 blogs, with contributions from the audio-blogeurs behind Said The Gramophone, Tofu Hut, Cocaine Blunts & Hip Hop Tapes, Largehearted Boy, The Mystical Beast and Soul Sides. There’s a bit of entertaining musing about what will be lost when the meat-world record stores fall by the wayside (eg the opportunity to flirt with the cute record-store girl), a few quite plausible predictions about the increased role that mp3 blogs will play in music marketing, a consideration of the role of mp3 blog in music scholarship, and a rather heated discussion about whether or not writers have boring taste in music. Well worth checking out.
(FOOTNOTE: That point about mp3 blogs becoming increasingly important in record company marketing received solid confirmation in the last couple of days when Warner Brothers Records actually asked the mp3 blog Music For Robots to post mp3s from the new album by The Secret Machine... So, what happened to that argument about illegal file-sharers being the enemy of the music industry?...)
No, that's not a reference to some planned Baywatch movie with action-hero Seagal in the role that made Hasselhof famous, but to the fact that he, like the Hof, has serious musical aspirations... and has unleashed them on Europe!
In May this year, he released his first album, the ponderously-titled Songs From The Crystal Cave, exclusively in France. The album was recorded with Stevie Wonder and former members of The Wailers, and supposedly highlights Seagal's "emotional and delicate side"...
The web-site of the label that brought it out has mp3 snippets from two of the tracks, Girl It's Alright and My God. As you might expect, they're both fairly bland and MOR, but they're certainly nowhere near as clunky as his acting... And the French, it seems, have taken quite a shying to Steve the Crooner. (The first single off the album went straight to No. 1 on the "CLUBS SLOWS CHART"... whatever that is.) With any luck this success will continue and Seagal will be convinced to give up his day job for good...
In the West African nation of Mali, community radio plays a central role in keeping the often non-literate people of rural areas informed about local and national issues. The problem for these stations, however, is that they are often as isolated from traditional news sources as their listeners, so providing coverage of national news (let alone world news!) can often be quite difficult... In an attempt to make this task easier for Malian community broadcasters, Canadian IT volunteer, Ian Howard, has the spent last six month setting up low-end computers in their studios with suites of open source software that will support wireless Internet connections. As a result, these stations will not only gain access to the sorts of Web-based news services that you and I take for granted but, in time, it is hoped that they might even start up their own streaming net radio stations (which would be a great way for Malians living abroad to stay in touch with what was happening back home.)
(The Canadian geek behind this was sent over there by Geekcorps, an non-profit organisation that sends IT professionals off to do similarly worthwhile project in developing nations around the world. Read more about them here.)
Back in April, I featured a web-only-release mp3 album called London Booted on the show. The album, which consisted of mash-up remixes of songs from London Calling by The Clash, and was notable because it encouraged anyone who wished to download it to first donate money to one of selection of charities (once you did this you could download the album for no additional cost.) The nominated charities included such worthy enterprises as War Child, which aids children who have become victims of war, UK Cancer Research, and Future Forests, a reforestation programme that gives you the chance to invest in a Joe Strummer memorial forest on the Isle of Skye. (More recently, a mash-up of Blur’s album Park Life called Parkspliced has been released online with the same donate-before-downloading approach to distribution.)
And what’s really great about this commendable use of the medium is that it isn’t limited to one-offs… The Global Music Project, which was set up by net label pioneer Peter Fosso (NetMusic.com), provides an ongoing supply of mp3s which artists furnish free of charge - so long as you donate to a recommended charity... Go there now, donate and download the songs, and - if you like what you hear - make sure you buy any future releases by the bands concerned.
Because it costs next to nothing to digitize and upload old records, online music distribution offers the promise of easy access to the dusty corners of label back catalogues, that were previously only available on long-deleted vinyl.
Unfortunately though, the current batch of online music stores tend to reissue old vinyl in a format that neglects to pass on information like release dates of the original recordings (using those of their most recent CD reissues instead), full lists of those who performed on it, and original liner notes.
All of which may seem like fusty ephemera in the on-demand, pay-per-track world of top-end net labels, but it serves an important role in marking out the history of those old vinyl-based genres, and helping people navigate their way through it… For more information (with specific reference to its impact on jazz) and links to where you can have your say about this glaring oversight by the i-Tunes of this world, check out this article by Wayne Bremser.