Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thinking about Afro-Diaspora Techno and then some

The Very Best's collaboration The Warm Heart of Africa made plenty of Best of the Year lists. Maybe this represents a changing in how people define "world music" or "global roots" or whatever we're calling it now, which is a good thing. While I find Esau Mwamwaya's multi tracked vocals appealing, if not downright uplifting, the disc as a whole is so sterile. It sounds as if it were recorded in a sanitary white operating room, which is the studio, I guess. I realize that is the sound the RadioClit guys were going for, the juxtaposition of the warm vocals and the very obviously artificial (and may I say rather dated sounding - or is that supposed to be retro?) beats.

Most of the tunes, I find the beats so cheesy and annoying that I can't really enjoy the sweet vocals. It's as if they were trying for a lo-fi M.I.A. sound but took a wrong turn somewhere into Flock of Seagulls territory. Where is that guy with the hair doing the two note keyboard solo? Ms. Arulpragasam does contribute vocals on one track and while it's nice to hear her voice, the track doesn't do it for me. Maybe I want to hear Mwamwaya get down and dirty. Maybe it's all just too pop for this old punk. Maybe I should I should lighten up, quit trying to get "Julia" out of my head and just sing along and enjoy it.

Taking a break from this the other day, I turned to Buraka Som Systema's Black Diamond from 2008. Yeah, I know they are Portuguese, but kuduro is an Angolan genre and at least one of the guys is from Angola, so I'm counting it here. OK, now! Those are some beats. This is nice hard techno, yet it is definitely feels African. Without knowing thing one about the music, my first thought was Brazilian. After a few tunes, I decided no, it's from Angola, so I was feeling fairly sassy when I actually found out who this band was. The kickin' track is their collaboration with badass (some would say "potty-mouth") Brazilian baile-funk/funk-carioca MC Deize Tigrona, "Aqui Para Vocês." Just to set things straight, M.I.A. sampled Tigrona for "Bucky Done Gun", who sampled the Rocky theme trumpet blast. In that order. This is so very not pop. Or do the three million views of their "Yah" video make it pop? Can you sit still once I-19 gets rolling? I can't. Lo-tek techno as it should be.

I then took on the solo project from Gogol Bordello bassist Tommy T. (Thomas T Gobena) , The Prester John Sessions. He's put together a sort of concept album, trying to turn newbies on to Ethiopian sounds. My first thought was "Ethiopiques lite," but decided to give the guy the benefit of the doubt (except that horrible dub remix featuring Eugene Hutz- that's just embarassing to everyone involved) and read a couple of interviews. He says he's trying to turn people on to the diversity of Ethiopian music outside the Ethiopiques jazz stylings. Good intentions, but he loses his way in execution.

The tracks with Gigi (Ejigayehu Shibabaw) on vocals are the high points; the woman couldn't sing a wrong note if she tried and her voice is always smooth as buttah. Nice older interview with Gigi here in which she talks with Afro Pop Worldwide about the Addis scene, the instruments used on her more trad tracks and her vocal influences.

But back to Tommy T. Well, the Prester John disc could certainly serve as an introduction to the Horn of Africa sound for the Gogol Bordello crowd. But to anyone who's the least bit familiar with Gigi's work or any of the Ethiopiques stuff, it's going to sound a little dumbed (not dubbed!) down.

I'm working on Burkina Electric's Paspanga and Rêem Tekré now, seeing as how they were going to play the Cedar this spring. After a couple listens, I am finding their stuff a little thin. Leaning towards the sterile category. But I do like some of the vocals, so I'll give it another go. Wonder what the live show will be?
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OUCH! Switching around between Lala, YouTube, MySpace, ITunes here and there is some extreme variation in volume presets. Love my new earbuds, but I need some kind of early warning system... or should I take Ms. Fever's advice and go all Rhapsody?

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Heading off to another continent altogether, I've been checking out the stash that Main Fig. brought back from Global Fest at APAP. This is just too much fun.

Somewhere between Yat-Kha and Dengue Fever you'll find the latest offering from Mongolian/ Buryat singer Namgar and her current band. They used to do a Huun Huur Tu acoustic kind of thing, but amped it up a few notches for Nomad (2008). The result varies from what the New York Times called "a hard-rock band that at times suggested a Russian Jethro Tull", to a piece ("Whisper Rain") featuring a symphonic interlude (I was waiting for the soliloquy from the extended version of "Nights in White Satin"), while some of the vocals in the "Lake Bunting and Yokhor" medley that sounds like Varttina's hardest stuff. (Tune in at about 2:50) Tracks like "Whisper Rain" and "Aspiration"are way out there in cheesy fusion land, but simple ones like "Orphan Camel Colt" really show off Namgar's pipes. (I could not make up those titles!)

I made Lisa come in to check out Namgar's hairstyle (hat? wig? Bjork rip-off?) and she said the music sounded like "bad Hedningarna."


First of all, there is no such thing as "bad Hedningarna." Hmmph. OK, "Yundengogo" does sound a little like Hippjokk. That's a good thing. But hey, I think this is pretty fun, if very over the top. And you do need to check out the hair. Or whatever it is.

Last week I promised to track down the vocalists on Shantel's latest project, Planet Paprika. Here goes.

Toronto native and Turkish-Bulgarian song interpreter Brenna MacCrimmon is here. I'm guessing that's her on "Usti Usti Baba" and "Eyes of Mine." Loved her interview and vocals in Fatih Akin's Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul!

German Mantiz says "RUDEGYALZ RULE" on her MySpace. Would you translate that at "Rude Girls Rule?" I would. I'm guessing that's her on "Wandering Stars."

Greek singer Jannis Karis did "Immigrant Child" on Shantels's Disko Partizani and sings something here.

Greek classic era rembetika musician Anestis Delias is sampled.

Yuriy Gurzhy from Russendisko also contributes some vocals, somewhere.

Do we know who's singing what? No, we do not. I tried. Why are musicians credited for all the tracks on which they appear but so often singers are not?

Here's Brenna MacCrimmon and Turkish psychedelic band Baba Zula floating on the Bosporus at sunset in the closing section of Crossing the Bridge. Aaaah. A very sweet couple of minutes. Just perfect. That's my cue for bedtime. Thanks again for loaning me the vid, Main Fig!

1 comment:

Veronica Fever said...

Try the Rhapsody free trial before you commit, Ms D. I'd be curious about your opinion of their global roots selection. It seems less robust than that of other genres.

-- V