Thursday, July 19, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - July 11/07

Stop the virtual presses! Kenge Kenge is your summertime groove. Cynics would say this disc rides on the coattails of Konono #1 ' s surprise crossover success, but that reduces the beauty of this record to a marketing equation. That said, the sonic approach of this Kenyan "tradi-moderne" band is a similar blend of thumping, scraping and overblown acoustic ingredients rendered club-friendly in the mix.
I'd like to know more about the circumstances surrounding this record. Whereas Konono was "discovered" and project-managed by a European resident (to which some critics objected on principle - not me, though), the recording engineer here shares a last name with one of the main members of the band which suggests that this is an entirely homegrown product, and the German embassy in Kenya appears to have contributed assistance to this project. How that plays out on the finished product is a mystery to me so far, but I'll certainly try to find out more.

Kenge Kenge play traditional Luo music, which evolved into Benga during the 60s and 70s. I've listened to this disc a dozen times and still can't quite make the connection between the pulse-quickening polyrhythms on display here and the more unidirectional groove of the Benga I've heard. With rumbling, stereo-panned percussion, flutes and electric bass licks, this mix features a cavernous bass sound pierced by soaring flute and an Appalachian-sounding one-stringed fiddle. As soon as their eponymous first song drops, the four to the floor drum rhythm with disco hi-hat will engage the mind and body of anyone within earshot. This approach is sustained for 70 minutes but the modulation of the electric bassist and the producers' love of panning and echo make each of the tunes distinct. Don't know why, but there are elements to this music which remind me of the faux-tribal grooves of early 80s London, i.e Adam and the Ants, Pigbag and even Girls On Film-era Duran Duran. It must be the ferocious stereo-widened stick drummers which are doing the trick, coupled with the overt funk influence on bass. Thankfully, Simon Le Bon is nowhere to be found.
(P.S. I was absent on July 4, so no playlist)

shuffle - evan parker/george lewis/barry guy/paul lytton (psi)
rocamayoha - gustavo aguilar (henceforth)
the heart of the matter #5 - jeremy strachan (standard form)
banished - david murray (justin time)
ekim - michael urbaniak group (bbe)
bold & black - melvin jackson (limelight)
chaturangui gazal - bob brozman (riverboat)
palimpset - kammerflimmer kollektief (staubgold)
obama - extra golden (thrill jockey)
anyango mbeo - kenge kenge (riverboat)
telegramme - papa wemba (sterns)
para los rumberos - tito puente (soul jazz)
dust - dorothy ashby (cadet)
ranglin satta - ernest ranglin (blood and fire)
fight it to the top - michael prophet & trinity (blood and fire)
pot of gold - courtney stone (independent)
see baba joe - wailing souls (greensleeves)
dem a go feel it - frankie paul (greensleeves)

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