Wednesday, December 2, 2009

No congnative dissonance here

Let's catch up with some old friends and make some new ones this week, shall we?

Can one watch Sunday night football with a soundtrack of Bulgarian mashup provided by Kottarashky without experiencing cognative dissonance? Rotating in some slinky Balkan electro-brass dub from La Cherga (former Yugos now in Austria.) Those sites include some free downloads from each artist if you're interested. Great clarinet and sax work on all fronts.


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In the somebody ought to pick this one up department, a bunch of our Swedish pals are featured in a new book about the folk music and dance scene there. Passion - om folkmusic och dans has interviews with artists including "guitar king" Roger Tollroth (Vasen), "Nickelharpa virtuoso Johan Hedin (Bazar Bla), composer Mats Eden (Groupa), "World musician" Ale Moeller (Frifot plus a million other collaborations), Ellika Frisell who "plays polskas with Indian and African touches," "folk rock musician" Kjell Eric Ericson (Hoven Droven), vocalist Lena Willemark (Frifot), and singer/arranger Ulrica Boden (Ranarim) among others. Not to mention Benny Andersson, yeah , the Abba Benny, more known for his accordion and his big band these days. Oh, but it's in Swedish. Which is why my translations of the artist descriptions are quite rudimentary. But the exclusive cd which comes with works in any language, right? Something about the days getting so short makes Nordic music sound really good right now anyway.

(Psst... Ale Moeller is booked for a spring show at the Cedar with Bruce Molsky. Two amazing collaborators...how cool with that be?)

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The Euro World Music charts rather friskily put out their top recordings of 2009 list Tuesday. Regular readers will recognize many of the usual suspects in the hot 150 that I linked to here- Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara(#3), Tinariwen(#6), Dub Colossus(#4), Kasbah Rockers (#63), DuOud(#8), Shantel(#11 ), Amadou et Mariam(#7 ), Imam Baildi (#24), Speed Caravan(#42 ), Orchestre Poly-Rythmo(#59), Mahala Rai Banda(#36 ), Alamaailman Vasarat(#35 )...Well, yes, it's true, I am on the email list and do peruse the top 25 every month. Is the opinion of a multinational panel of 30 or 40 DJ's worth as much as some algorithm or musicological data analysis? Sure, why not? It's that elusive musical community we keep writing about. Anyway, the charts are usually a good way to learn more about the artists, with all the usual links in place. (The top of the year disc is a searchable pdf file if you're looking for your faves.)

African music is, as you'd expect, most common near the top of the list, and while I might wonder at the relatively lower percentage of South American music, to this chart watcher the list of origin counties grows more diverse every year, and there is a small, but growing trend with stuff from the Middle East being easier to find. It would be interesting to compare this list from one say, ten years ago.

Then there are the discs that never got in the monthly top 25 that I need to get after. Who knew Boot put out a new disc last year? (#66) Main Fig, are you holding out on us? Totte and Ola are still fiddling and mandola-ing, but Samuel Andersson has replaced Bjorn Tollin on Soot. Cedar Nordic roots fans have seen Samuel perform with various incarnations of Hedningarna and Hurdy Gurdy over the years; you'd remember the guy. No engelska on the Caprice records site, so the link's to an English distributor. Rootsworld dug it too, but the link to the longer review isn't there, so sorry. They called a "debut", however. Sheesh, guys, do your homework, wouldja?!

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Apologies for last week. Gillian sings to David "You be Emmy Lou and I'll be Graham," not the other way around as I wrote. Yeah, we listened the Gillian and David for hours in the car on the way to Milwaukee Wednesday. Such fine, fine road music. Can't wait to see them next week.

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I keep trying to get to that elusive space of pure listening we all keep writing about. But most semi-concentrated listening usually happens in the car or while cleaning the house or such. Had one of those true moments the other day while trying to really pay attention to Analog Africa 5: Legends of Benin. I was jamming along with all the wonderfully off-kilter brass bands when out of the blue, the simplest chiming guitar line started to repeat. A warm clear voice told me "La musica, en verite' la musica" over and over, alternating with some understated fuzzy organ lines, backed by just a touch of percussion. Gnonnas Pedro was singing me over into dreamland. So, so sweet. Simple, elegant... and elegiac.

Of course all Analog Africa discs come with extensive notes, so I then read about Pedro's untimely demise from cancer a few years back, in part because he couldn't afford health care until it was too late. Rest in peace Pedro, and thank you. That's why we all do this, the music, in truth the music.