Monday, December 28, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - December 23/09

Do you remember the middle of the decade when Light In The Attic's "Jamaica To Toronto" series came out? Everyone considered these collections to be a true revelation in the history of Toronto's popular culture. Various media types said the initial comp should be nominated for a Juno? Those same types rhapsodized over the triumphant Harbourfront performances given by the JATDOT crew? Mostly, though, the consensus of my professional peers concluded that such rich cultural history should not be forgotten or swept away.

You know where I'm going with this.

In 2009, roots reggae in Canada remains a highly popular genre - it's all over university campuses, First Nations reserves and even onstage in luxurious theatres - but few artists benefit. Though there has been steady growth in the number of festivals in Canada which feature reggae, it's still very difficult to tour coast to coast playing reggae (as it is for most non-rock genres, although touring Canada in any capacity is a tough slog).

Compared to the shiny futurism of dancehall which has come on strong crossover-wise in the last five years, roots reggae seems passe to those who aren't already fans. Add to that the increasing backlash (sometimes totally on the money) against waxen-locked white reggae fans, and certain homophobic dancehall artists it seems that roots reggae has been backed into a permanent status of a niche genre, even though as mentioned before, it has only become more popular and entrenched in so many different locales.

That said, the entrepreneurial spirit of roots reggae champions in this country still leaves a lot to be desired. In a nutshell, most advocates of the nearly invisible indigenous roots reggae infrastructure still pray that more mainstream radio play and major label signings will take the music to the next level. Only very recently has social networking entered the picture in terms of connecting the diffuse audiences for the music into something resembling a commercial force.

That's what got to happen - taking the core audience beyond Canada's considerable Jamaican and Caribbean population to find like minded people around the country and the globe, all the while respecting the music's history and culture. This has to give greater impetus to Canadian artists to pursue different career strategies, whether finding new audiences for gigs, or new collaborators for recordings. As we should all know by now, any strategy which hinges on the sale of music to generate revenue/career prospects will not work for any form of music.

One of my primary goals at the Abstract Index is to big up Canada's reggae scene. I don't consistently devote half an hour of air time to any other genre of music. Not only is reggae a considerable musical interest of mine, but campus community radio in Toronto has always been a place to showcase music for cultural reasons, not simply to follow trends or too-easily compiled Soundscan statistics. Given that cultural focus and community organization, one finds amazing stories to go along with the music.

Next year, Willi Williams will be entering his sixth decade of professional music making. He goes back and forth between Toronto and Jamaica, and has produced a wealth of finely crafted, highly individual musical offerings. He's pretty much the dean of Toronto reggae at this point, so it was a welcome event when "Di Real Rock" was released this summer after a gestation of some 11 years. It's not the best reggae album of the year, but it's very solid with a very diverse sound encompassing tracks recorded at Channel One some 30 years ago to more contemporary recordings.

My conversation with Willi - which was a real thrill - was wide-ranging and touched on decades of memories, storied collaborations (Coxsone Dodd, Yabby You etc.) and opinions on the state of the reggae world today. After so many years in the business, his expectations are measured. However, both he and Canadian Reggae World are putting in a great deal of work to support his New Year's Eve show at Habesha.

Though my radio show will always be peripheral to the main thrust of reggae music's activity in Canada, it's a honour to participate in the collective effort of making sure that important artists such as Willi will continue to have access to the media in their continued artistic and commercial struggles. Roots reggae remains strong despite the vicissitudes of popular culture in recognizing the people who keep it going.


arbolito - willie colon & hector lavoe (fania)
quindiambo - irakere (egrem)
nana - soumboury jazz (syllart)
lidan misineba - grupo ibimeni (sub rosa)
como un ave - grupo celeste (no label)
transit - darcy james argue secret society (new amsterdam)
first day of school - nojo (no label)
nifac 63 charlie - drumheller (rat drifting)
take me to the mardi gras - bob james (cti)
caves - nosaj thing (brainfeeder)
detroit riot - sonido del principe vs. moodyman (no label)
before old pirates came - willi williams (drum street)
bitty dub - bitty mclean (peckings)
everywhere you go - bim sherman (blood and fire)
wild wind - fat freddy's drop (no label)
big two hundred - playgroup (echo beach)
tribal war - george nooks/prince weedy (vp)
more heartaches version - lizzy (harry j)

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - December 16/09

As readers of this blog know, I shed few tears when Michael Jackson died. But my eyes were welling up the first time I listened to Ms. Georgia Anne Muldrow's deeply soulful tribute to the King Of Pop. It's the title track to her forthcoming album on Ubiquity Records, due February 9.

Muldrow's soul music is from another dimension. In raving about this album to my friends, I've compared her sound to both Sly Stone ("Kings Ballad"'s bassline in particular) and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. But name dropping from the past only gets you so far with this decidedly modern talent.

Muldrow has absorbed a wide spectrum of music from America and around the world, plus she has a genuinely quirky approach to harmony and dissonance which creates a sound which, as the cliche goes, is all her own. These are more pop-friendly songs than Umsindo (which I'm happy to say topped Exclaim's Groove critics poll this year) and definitely, as she says in the bio: "much mo' funky!"

Her lyrics, melodies and delivery are astonishingly assured, whether singing or rapping. She also plays all the instruments herself, which combine with her vocals in strange and beautiful ways. Though this is a profoundly abstract record, it's often playful and loose. Best of all, this profoundly optimistic record continues her collaborations with husband Dudley Perkins. They have intense chemistry together for the best reasons: they're in love, and they don't hesitate to big up each other's talents as they travel the spaceways together.

I won't say too much more about the album - I'll leave that for February, but keep your eyes peeled for one of the early standouts of 2010: funk into the future.


three continents - jimi tenor & tony allen (strut)
hotel alyssa soussie - sabu martinez (mr. bongo)
festival - le simandou de beyla (syllart)
1974 - d-sisive (urbnet)
world won't rest - black blondie (no label)
fading world - malakai (domino)
dystopia suite - nicole lizee (musicworks)
indeed - georgia anne muldrow (ubiquity)
stash - joker (hyperdub)
ohun oju ri laiye - chief commander ebenezer obey (shanachie)
untitled - sarah peebles/evan parker/nilan perera (no label)
turkish gypsy - abaji (absilone)
the tiger - bei bei & shawn lee (ubiquity)
baltimore - nina simone (columbia)
humbleness - alborosie (greensleeves)
love is a radiation - the black seeds (easy star)
red hot - jahdan blakkamoore (i grade)
no more peace - lenn hammond (no label)
crisis dub - roots radics & king tubby (greensleeves)
black liberation dub - mad professor (ariwa)
en route - dub rocket (no label)

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - December 9/09

I suppose I could have been more ruthless in my search, but here's an album I had coveted for more than 10 years before finally purchasing it last week.

It's kind of remarkable that Fuji music isn't more popular in Toronto given the city's populous and relatively well established Nigerian community (though heavyweight artists Sir Shina Peters & Adewale Ayuba, aka the artist at the heart of this week's disc, have both come to town in the last few years). Moreover, the music hasn't impacted the global dancefloor DJ set as profoundly as one would think, considering it moves along at a quick-stepping 150 BPM.

I suppose it's just too damned funky to be easily transitioned from dance beats of similarly high tempos. Fuji is the exciting sequel to highlife/juju music. But whereas King Sunny Ade and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey's styles can be described as gently spacey, most fuji I've heard is way, way faster and intended for serious rump shaking.

However, there's an obstacle - lack of backbeat. Though there may be as many as four talking drums chattering away at the same time, and a kit player who would make Bernard Purdie blush, there isn't a consistent thump in the music. Nothing to tell the average North American dancer "shake your ass.... HERE andtwoandthreeandfour". The drum kit dances on top of the aggregate rhythm established by the talking drums, like a set of timbales. Like my other obsession this year, (urban) mambo , there's no emphasis on a repetitive, grounding bassline upon which to latch either.

That's why this disc always intrigued me. It reduces the music to nothing but percussion, vocals and dub effects. I found a quote on NatGeo's site from Iain Scott, the founder of Triple Earth records "The idea behind this was that I was fed up with all the various dance albums which used African or Arabic samples as a bit of exotic fluff on the top of a purely conventional (and boring) four-on-the-floor dance beat. Why not do it the other way round? Use African music as the meat beat and studio dub techniques as the exotic bit." No wonder this has such great appeal for me - it's a kindred spirit to Huelepega Sound System.

Anyways, this disc is more than ten years old and still sounds absolutely fresh. Even the Laswellian track (19 minutes!) with which I started this week's show has a great compositional arc. Fuji Dub is more available now that ever before. It's well worth buying, cause it's only 5 tracks long. Those sites which calculate an album's price as the aggregate of the number of tracks make this a bargain.


fuji chaman - adewale ayuba & fuji dub (triple earth)
musow - bassekou kouyate & ngoni ba (sub pop)
roller skates - samiyam (hyperdub)
doobie down - georgia anne muldrow (ubiquity)
misdemeanor - the cbs (jam city)
hot thursday - bei bei & shawn lee (ubiquity)
rework - a made up sound (clone)
747 dub - yoshinori sunarha (ki/oon)
los ninos de fuera - luciano (cadenza)
please let us know if we may be of further assistance - parkdale revolutionary orchestra (no label)
waris dirie - nicole mitchell black earth strings (delmark)
35 cents - kris davis (new sound fresh talent)
spying glass - horace andy (wackies)
jah no dead - burning spear (pressure sounds)
love and iverstanding - sabbatical ahdah (i grade)
do you see what i see? - friendlyness and human rights (no label)
positive roots rock - mnolo (collage)
come to me - black seeds (easy star)
nuff bread on your table - heptones (lagoon)

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Generation Doombia

Sergio at CISM, cueing up Huelepega files

I'm thrilled to report that one of my favourite blogs, Generation Bass, has posted up the new Huelepega Sound System mix, Amor Doombiambero, for its considerable worldwide audience.

Our buddy Caballo says some nice things about the scope and success of the project so far.

There are also two individual tracks for download "Sabor De La Cumbia" and "Santo Landero" (our Andres Landero megamix). We've created a SoundCloud account, so stay tuned for more downloadable material at this well-conceived, interactive site which is emerging as a challenger to MySpace for musical social networking.

UPDATE: A few hours later, The Fader picked up on GB's lead and blogged about it: "drugged out and pleasantly terrifying; an audio representation of the illest parts of Latin America"

Labels: ,

Monday, December 07, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - December 2/09

I'm in full thrall of end of year/end of decade navel gazing, and here's a disc which will definitely end up among my top picks for the 00's.

Badawi is one of the more heavily played artists on the Abstract Index, and I still love to give Soldier Of Midian a good airing out from time to time. This was a bit of a departure from his dub-oriented side which was predominant in his catalog when this album was released in 2002.

In some ways this album is both among the last of a dying breed and a harbinger of things to come. It's a no nonsense sample collage which sounds infinitely more layered thanks to the complexity of the rhythms. The time signatures of the sampled loops of darbouka, zarb, daf, bendir and other hand percussion get knotty within seconds. Three minutes later, once you've gotten a handle on where the rhythm is coming from and going to, along comes another song. Reed instruments provide melodies and drones, and electric bass crops up ever so often to orient this music a bit more towards Western dancefloors. This album wasn't the first "Middle Eastern dub" album (Muslimgauze was in the thick of it for many years prior), but it certainly has loads of compositional integrity that most projects which came before it lacked. This is about as close as I've heard to a digitally animated version of the Master Musicians of Jajouka, though the Palestine-Morocco comparison is a bit of a stretch.

At its heart, this is a trip hop album - a term that was pretty much dead by 2002. These samples aren't broken apart and rearranged, they just fit together well. So in this sense, this was among the last of that a dying breed. Looking forward, however, one finds French dub artists like Brain Damage, to the wider popularity of Chaabi in Europe, to musicians like Filastine putting together similarly hard driving Levantine/Maghrebian electronics. I wouldn't say it's a cause and effect thing, but Soldier Of Midian was among the first to stake out this turf, and has pulled off that eternally difficult challenge: making a classic electronic album which transcends the technology of its day.


trouble's a loser - mickey stevenson (fantastic voyage)
extra extra - ronnie mcneir (dusty groove)
vamos tratar da saude - rita lee (lo recordings)
bir yagmur masali - hardal (shadoks)
gbe mi lo - ofege (emi)
rafiki - neal creque (muse)
dub to the seven seas - andre afram asmar (mush)
i will follow the storm - badawi (roir)
hazel - hassle hound (staubgold)
i'll come see you - patrick cowley & jorge sacarras (word and sound)
jonoj - franck vigroux (d'autres cordes)
max the drummer - ralph dumas & the primaveras (marenda)
electric cockroach - ocote soul sounds feat adrain quesada (esl)
strumming (homage a john lennon) - tim brady/bradyworks (ambiances magnetiques)
medical personnel are on the scene - parkdale revolutionary orchestra (no label)
quodlibet - canaille (standard form)
amy - bassekou kouyate & ngoni ba (sub pop)
bimoko magnin - super djate de bamako (syllart)
the bubble - black seeds (easy star)
everlasting - nazarenes (i grade)
love of the father - kiddus i (grass yard)
in love - ammoye (no label)
gimme back - wackies rhythm force (wackies)

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

DD On A Dime

Tomorrow at the Beaver, see what I can cobble together with ten bucks worth of vinyl.

Thanks for making this happen, Dylan!