Monday, April 10, 2006

Abstract Index playlist April 5/06

Thank you to all who became members of CIUT last week. You may still donate online - please do, in fact, since I fell a little bit short of my target.

Thanks to all the guests and phone volunteers who helped out, too: Michael Barclay, Sebastian Cook, Grant Smales and JuLion from Canadian Reggae World plus Diane and Cecil.

Fundraising shows are never about the music, it's all about the message. But I did get a fair amount of exciting new releases last week, and one of the best was a new double disc from Stella Chiweshe, the queen of Zimbabwean mbira.

Double Check is an interesting release: disc 2 collects tunes from 1987-2002, mostly backed with electric bass and drums. For some, these songs will be the very definition of Afro-pop hell. Part of Chiweshe's oeuvre is to reach younger generations and make them dance to the message in the music, to borrow a phrase from the O'Jays. But some people simply will refuse to listen to this because it smacks of Worldbeat Mark 1: the 80s. Others still frown upon a woman playing an mbira in the first place, not to mention taking it outside of a strictly traditional context. But she's overcome prejudice at home and abroad to forge a long lasting career as one of the primary exponents of Shona music, and an experimentalist at that. If anything, disc 2 shows the remarkable consistency of Chiweshe's vision: the songwriting, the production technique and the instrumentation still sounds fresh and not at all dated.

On the other hand, the anti-Afro-pop faction would drool all over disc one, which is a new recording appropriately entitled "Trance Hits". This disc may be exactly what this faction thinks of as 'real African music' - 'tribal' rhythms, indigenous, acoustic instruments with minimal adornment, and an avowed un-Western sound. It is a fantastic disc, utterly trippy in many sections, and a great showcase for Chiweshe's skills and ideas. Check out "Mhandu Ye Hove"'s simultaneously ascending and descending mbiras shimmering like water on a moonlit lake. It's one of my favourite tracks so far this year.

Make no mistake, Chiweshe's production acumen and approach to songwriting and groove-building on both discs are two sides of the same coin. You can't call disc one the epitome of African music, and dismiss disc two out of hand. Chiweshe is absolutely in command of her art - it's been a long hard road for her to acheive what she wasn't supposed to be doing in the first place, and if she wants to use dub effects and a discreet synth pad on the 'acoustic' disc, that's just fine by me. Individual artists aren't so easily pigeonholed.

good old music - funkadelic (westbound)
yakar inceden inceden - edip akbayram (normal)
dir yagrur masali - hardal (normal)
sunce sjajno - boban markovic orkestar (pirhana)
wanyanya - stella chiweshe (pirhana)
soul drummers - ray baretto (fania)
madrugador - bio ritmo (promo)
como cantan, como bailan los negros - peru negro (times square)
something - glissandro 70 (constellation)
analogue shantytown - glissandro (constellation)
nothing beats failure but a try - ronald shannon jackson and the decoding society (caravan of dreams)
nu tones - nomo (ubiquity)
dice game - sound directions (stones throw)
cool runnings - dennis brown/prince jammy (blood and fire)
patient man - dub syndicate (collision cause of chapter 3)
bord plate - twilight circus (m)
sinsemilla - dr. israel (roir)
leggo beast dub - gregory isaacs (trojan)


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