Saturday, February 18, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Feb 15/06

Over at Nowarian, Susana Ferreira’s insightful go-big-or-go-home blog, she registered her disgust at the term “world music” as a corollary to the inadequacy of “global hip hop” as a concept. On the one hand, I agree with her, and the comments of DJ Rupture, that anyone who uses the term “world music” to describe a specific piece of music is usually a chump. However, there are plenty of examples of music which can only be described as “world music” because there is no central cultural signpost to point it toward some other more specific form of music. Good “world music” for me is usually a successful abstraction of whatever sources it uses. It can turn the notion of world music on its head (Noah Creshevsky’s hyperreal electro-acoustic), or it can just be just plain funky (William Parker and Hamid Drake’s Piercing The Veil), or can deconstruct the meaning of ‘exotic’ (Clive Bell and Sylvia Hallett's The Geographers). Nonetheless, Su catalogs many of the truly ranklesome aspects of the lazy applications of "world music", so it's well worth a look.

Then there are examples like Storsveit Nix Noltes. Right away upon hearing these curious renditions of Eastern European folk tunes, released on Brooklyn's Bubblecore, I figured that this was not music which came straight from the heart of Romania. Little did I suspect they actually came from Iceland – not somewhere usually identified with sprightly horas. Nevertheless, two Eastern European accented callers phoned me up to express their admiration for the music. No, it’s not ‘pure’, and the musicians would never be described as top rankin’ in a Gypsy orchestra. But whether the callers were excited about the song itself, or the fact that they’d heard it outside of the context of an Eastern European music show and in the context of all kinds of other music (probably all of the above) confirmed that this is at the very least, a fun record that provokes a strong reaction – kind of a slack, slightly punky but faithful rendition of their inspirations with more guitars and drums, with less fire overall but more distortion to compensate.

I’ve learned the hard way not to let geographical stereotypes get in the way of musical analysis. Ethiopians making roots reggae in Sweden (Nazarenes)? Kick-ass salsa dura from Richmond, VA (Bio Ritmo)? Crazy! So no matter where it’s coming from, you have to force your ears and your mind open as much as possible. A banal conclusion perhaps, but it certainly makes my review writing more difficult, and more likely to attract criticism from around the globe if I get it wrong or just say something lazy. Fortunately, on air I just have to make it work with whatever comes before and after....

to solar piazza - quinsin nachoff (songlines)
the heart attack commercial - st. dirt elementary school (rat drifting)
pee wee a des papillons sur les doights - robert marcel lepage (ambiences magnetiques)
trinidad and tobacco - once 11 (the agriculture)
etienne - garage a trois (telarc)
l'ame dansee - driss el maloumi (buda)
arrival - carsick (drip audio)
birds fly by flapping their wings - biosphere (touch)
gankini hore - storsveit nix noltes (bubblecore)
wild (remix) - meat beat manifesto (thirsty ear)
con la concienca tranquila - paulo FG (nueva fania)
jorge cordero (rough guides)
la miga hormiga - charanga cakewalk (triloka)
maldita cancion - zemog (aagoo)
cigil - nuru kane (riverboat)
steppa for violin - kaly live dub (pias)
touba - issa bagayogo rmx. by kabanjak (six degrees)
higher heights - bush chemists (roir)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Funky coincidence

Was it something I said? I just got word from Ubiquity Records that Breakestra will be playing 4 shows in Australia supporting James Brown. I was a little dismissive of Breakestra in my earlier post, but I hope some sort of onstage collaboration happens; Breakestra has the chops and JB still knows how to guide a band. Perhaps JB could borrow their Hammond organ if he felt like taking a break from his DX7 that night. It's my not-so-secret hope that JB records at Daptone, or with Breakestra or, since he's in Australia, the Bamboos. In the right setting, he may still have a great comeback album (maybe his 8th? I've lost count) left in him.

And on a sad note: Ray Barretto, RIP.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Feb 8/06

Last week led off with a monster track by Philip Cohran. He played trumpet in the Arkestra during its late 50s Chicago period. He stayed behind in Chi-town when the Arkestra decamped to New York (via Montreal). He was a man dedicated to the advancement of Sun Ra's musical and communal concepts, and ended up co-founding the AACM. He made few recordings under his own name, but those recordings exemplified his personal and political viewpoints, and involved a great cast of session players drawn mainly from the Chess Records orbit. Cohran is heard mostly on kalimba on the disc, although it’s amplified and sounding a little congotronic. Participants included Louis Satterfield (Earth, Wind and Fire), Master Henry Gibson (Curtis Mayfield), and most notably on this track, a Sonny Sharrock-ian solo by Pete Cosey (late electric Miles). This track an uplifting experience, and an example of many African influences coming together in one piece of music –a perfect track for Black History Month.

Lately, I have been preoccupied with musical community. Part of it was due to Wavelength’s celebration of 300 shows and its accompanying panels which analyzed the nature of ‘indie’. There seems to be a move on to do an artist run collective. I’m always a bit skeptical when it comes to collective enterprises; many would agree that collective enterprises often become the work of one individual – Ambiences Magnetiques in Montreal is an example, as is Wavelength itself!

Now, it remains an unspoken truth that ‘indie’ in Toronto means indie-rock with dashes of improv, country, and turntable/electro-terrorism, but certainly nothing that strays into “world music”. Sure, I've got my own definition of 'indie' which looks towards organizations like Music Africa - even the much troubled Caribana (sorry can't link you there - that's how troubled it is!) deserves to be recognized as by far the most successful indie-music enterprise of all time in Toronto in terms of popularity. What’s it gonna take for indie-rock scenesters and, like, everyone else to establish a meaningful dialogue in this town? Is this possible? Is it even desirable within the long established and successful Wavelength format? You tell me…

20 years ago, any talk of indie music would surely have included the wide range of global pop music burgeoning in Toronto at the time. Billy Bryans, who has similar grievances over the use of the word “indie”, was very much a part of that generation's indie culture, and will be guesting on the Abstract Index tonight at 7PM. We will be speaking about the Toronto debut of Cuban salsa/timba star Paulo FG, but will undoubtably stray into topics like this.

unity (live 1968) – philip cohran (aestuarium)
colere – nuru kane (riverboat)
when the dance is the game the food crisis came – once 11 (the agriculture)
march nor’easter – matt steckler (innova)
diskbreaker – satellite (moondata)
lumens – calamalka (plug research)
provisional dub – systemwide (bsi)
prehensile dream – the bad plus (Columbia)
conga blue – jane bunnett (blue note)
gordo rojo - zemog (aagoo)
na na nai – ripple effect (kindred rhythm)
war – Apollo nove (zirguiboom)
malato – nova lima (mr. bongo)
sam menga @ ingany – donne robert (indie)
eparapo – tony allen (comet)
why can’t we live together – tinga stewart (blood and fire)
why dem a gwaan so – cornell campbell/twilight circus (m)
jah jah voice is calling – peter broggs (ras)
heavy beat – soul vendors (heartbeat)
darker shade of black – soul vendors (heartbeat)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Black Fred Astaire

This is what Darondo calls himself, I kid you not. He told me "Do you know those Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies? Man, they knocked me out! I could move like that! I'm the black Fred Astaire!"

My piece on San Fran's long-lost soul man came out today in Exclaim magazine. As usual, I was faced with the task of condensing a lifetime of experiences into 300 words. Of those, the usual questions and backgrounding had to be addressed: "Who is this guy? What's the new record all about?". Fortunately, here in blogland, one hyperlink can answer those questions.

If you're into rare funk, hip hop or reggae, it's all about the records, the labels, the people they worked with etc. It's not about their marriage, or their day jobs, or anything that doesn't fit the too-linear perspective of the music historian. What was most interesting about Darondo was his life "working outside of music". That phrase, used for example to describe Ornette Coleman's stint as an elevator operator during the 50s, implies that a musician upped and died, then was reanimated at some later date. It denies the influence that time or headspace has on the development of one's music. But you can't talk to Darondo without getting to know him as a delightful human being who's been around many blocks in his long and eccentric life, and he's about music through and through.

The man only cut three singles, mostly cause it seemed like the thing to do at the time, and he had the cash to do it. From the 60s to the 80s, he was just having fun being a player, always out for a good time, always hustling (totally legit gigs, he swears) and always singing and playing guitar. Heck, he broke out in song four times over the course of the interview, including a rendition of "Like A Virgin". He talked more about the use of music in his decade and a half as a physical therapist than about any stage shows. Music just flows through him, and some of it made it to the studio. It ended up being highly collectible and now he's back after several years of involuntary retirement from the rigours of physical therapy. He can't say if he's going to put together a band or play any shows to support the album; he's never done that sort of thing before. Let My People Go is a wonderful disc which will be on many best of 2006 lists - maybe we should just leave it at that.

He ought to be an inspiration to those who would reduce music to a series of products and corporate expectations.