KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Lunca, Gabi – “Sounds From a Bygone Age, Vol. 5” – [Asphalt Tango Records]

aarbor   11/18/2020   CD, International

Gabi Luncă (born in 1938) is a Roma (or “gypsy”) Lăutari singer from Romania. She was a very charming performer and became a favorite of Romania’s communist ruler Nicolae Ceauşescu and his wife Elena. She is also known to be a committed Christian, in a place and a time where this was a difficult position to take. In the Bucharest of the 1980s there were two different worlds: Official state folklore with songs of the golden era proclaimed by Ceausescu, and lively suburban music (muzica de mahala), which at that time was played at private parties. Gabi’s voice is remembered in Romania. Her songs are the quiet, melancholic songs of passion and yearning for one’s home, mother, or sweetheart; songs to lift the weight from one’s soul. Included among Gabi Luncă’s greatest hits are: “Omul Bun n-are noroc” (The good have no luck)  track 1, and “Superata sint pe lume” (I am sad in this world) track 7. Her silvery, lightly strained singing was often copied, but never equaled, although as the accordion player Victor Gore remembers, she “always sang slightly out of time”. AArbor

Ade, King Sunny – "Mo Dupe (Gratitude)" – [Sunny Alade Recordings]

aarbor   11/18/2020   12-inch, International

Recorded and mixed in Lagos this album is from 1985. The record has no delineated tracks. Sunny Ade’s style is very traditional for Nigerian juju. He was adamant that Island Records which released 2 earlier, Grammy winning records, not “over Europeanise and Americanise” his music. Ade and Island parted ways – to his detriment IMHO. AArbor 

Moctar, Mdou – "Ilana The Creator" – [Sahelsounds]

aarbor   11/4/2020   CD, International

The first time we (at KFJC) ever heard of Mdou Moctar was on the 2nd volume of Music from Saharan Cellphones – which was how his music went viral in the first place. In fact he also has a track on the 1st volume and on the remix album. Moctar (b. Mahamadou Souleymane) is a Tuareg songwriter and musician from Agadez, Niger. He plays a left-handed Fender Stratocaster. This is his 5th album, recorded with a full band which increases its psychedelicness. [We also own a new 7” released this year.] If you like the other Sahel Sounds releases you’ll like this one too. Moctar also starred in the world’s 1st feature film in a Tuareg language (the English name is) The Color of Blue with a Little Red in it. It’s about a struggling Tuareg musician who rides around the desert on a purple motorcycle. AArbor 

Adnan Othman/Bershukor

carsonstreet   10/15/2020   CD, International

The legendary Adnan Othman has long been a driving force in the Malaysian rock scene. As early as the 1960s his groundbreaking songs in the style known as Pop Yeh Yeh (rock and roll sung in Malay) attracted fans from across Southeast Asia. Recently, he has gained many new fans around the globe due to a renewed interest in rock music from this region. Adnan first rose to fame during the groovy Pop Yeh Yeh era (1964-1970) in Malaysia and Singapore and he continued to evolve as a musician and composer throughout his exciting career. He made his first recordings in Singapore in the early 1960s, when he was invited to record with a highly popular backing band, The Rythmn Boys. He produced innovative material well into the 1970s, but always stayed true to his Rock-and-Roll roots, even when many other artists were turning towards more predictable disco influences. This album draws from all eight of his solo EPs.                                                          

Parra, Violeta – “Las Ultimas Composiciones De Violeta Parra” – [A.R.C.I. Music Chile]

mickeyslim   9/30/2020   CD, International

If, like me, you’ve never heard of Violeta Parra before, you, my friend, are in for a real treat.

Violeta Parra was a Chilean singer-songwriter, folklorist, and ethnomusicologist. She traveled across Chile, collecting over 3,000 traditional folk songs of her country which she was able to share with the world. Her enthusiasm for her country’s folk music evolved into her pioneering a roots revival they called “New Chilean Song,” effectively traditional chilean folk music with strong political themes of the time.

She traveled through Europe between 1955 and 1957, sharing some of the music she collected as well as her own songs. She later lived around Europe from 1963-1965, this time with two of her children and her granddaughter. for a few years with her children in the 1960s. During this time she became the first Latin American artist to independently exhibit their artwork at the Louvre.

Surprisingly, since she is basically a household name in Chile, this is the first Violeta Parra release for KFJC. 

Although these songs were the last she recorded, they are among her most well-known, “Gracias a la Vida” being the absolute gem here. The songs are very much in the Chilean folks music vein, with strong percussion and use of multiple types of guitars, including the charango, a tiny-bodied, 10-stringed guitar. Parra’s vocals are absolutely stunning. Her voice is hauntingly full, echoic, and strong, yet sweet and smooth. This was recorded and released in late 1966, a few short month before Parra committed suicide in 1967.

Unquestionably unparalleled. Do not miss this.

Alizadeh, Saba – "Scattered Memories" – [Karlrecords]

aarbor   9/30/2020   12-inch, International

Saba Alizadeh is  an Iranian composer of electronic and experimental sounds. He curates a website called Noise Works and a concert series called Aural events. On this record Saba plays  kamancheh ( Persian bowed luted related to the rebab), kalimba (thumb piano) and laptop. This is not traditional Persian music – it almost reminiscent  of  Muslimgauze – Bryn Jones – definitely worth a spin! 

AArbor 

Pillaiyaar [coll] – [EMI (India)]

Thurston Hunger   9/23/2020   7-inch, International

1982 soundtrack single from the Tamil film “Pillaiyaar” Call it Kollywood? I ain’t no expert but definitely a fan! Anyways this has four beautiful pop numbers.
A1 – Super bouncy tabla guides this track, flute flying like a crazy bird while Rajalakshmi Sulamangalam soars ever higher above that.
A2- Male and female voices coasting and cavorting, shenai (?) slithers in and tries to stir up some trouble, but the joy-love vibe is too pure. Prominent violins rise in a closing bridge. P. Susheela hits notes like a shining sun in the sky.
B1- Killer vocal trills to start, male and female trading off while stark guitar adds a little tension, that soon launches into galloping tabla with great wandering vocals.
B2- I should learn the name of this style, it feels related to the Qawwali kind of devotional singing, irrepressible beat and T.K. Kala’s voice circles around it, like sliding a magnet through your brain. A lot of charge and pull.

This little 33 rpm record is a gem and amazing, as is the internet where I could find the actual film (some sort of Ganapathi origin story verily). Check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzrZ8mE_wtk
songs are at A1-6:30 A2-56:30 B1-78:50 B2-37.40

Let this clear all obstacles from your path. Enjoy!
-Thurston Hunger

Alatas, Muchsin – "Pilehan Muchsin" – [MRC (Malaysian Record Company)]

Thurston Hunger   9/23/2020   12-inch, International

Sometimes you got to go out and find your own sublime frequencies. A 2019 trip to Singapore opened a portal to the past via Red Point Record Warehouse and sends us back spinning Indonesia in the 70’s. This choice “Selection” (Pilehan) of pop beauties showcases Muchsin’s velvet crooning over amazing orchestrations, percussion is at the driving heart, but swirling about it are flutes, melodica/harmonium, fuzzed out guitars, penting (like a mandolin). Extremely catchy, and the duets are superb. The two with Titiek Sandhora are a harmonious union that produced more than music, but a family as well. The album starts with a playful cat and bird duet with Anna Bahfen, “Jangar Gusar” (“Don’t Be Upset” – the album has plenty of “Cinta” (“Love”) and “Bahagia” (“Happy”) but it does flit thought the sweet and the sour on tracks like on this track and “Ku Berdosa” (“I Sinned.”) The guitar on both “Jangan Gusar” and “Magdalena” adds a “nice funky feeling” (as Mr Ong from Red Point said), and both songs have these little tantalizing trills that zip between the steady swing of the drums. Muchsin’s voice should not be overlooked, listen to his gentle wavering on the verses to “Semoga Bahagia” and then he soars on the choruses. I’m limited to google translating, but the conflict of desire comes through loud and clear.

-Thurston Hunger

PS : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVENdMtc3t8 Mr Ong interview

Calle 13 – "Los De Atras Vienen Conmigo" – [Norte]

aarbor   9/23/2020   CD, International

[Cah-Yay Treh-seh] is a Puerto Rican band and this is their 2nd release from 2010. The band consists of 2 half brothers and their step sister. The lyric style is sarcastic  and satiric. Poverty is a topic discussed in the lyrics here. The sounds include cumbia and Eastern European stylings. This was a very popular album and won a Latin Grammy. AArbor  

Siti Muharam – "Siti of Unguja (Romance Revolution On Zanzibar)" – [On The Corner Records]

aarbor   9/23/2020   CD, International

Siti Muharam is the granddaughter of Siti Binti Saad, an early 20th century singer who pioneered a new style of taarab featuring female singers. Taarab had been formal court music that combined Arabic and Swahili lyrics paving the way for a new generation of female taarab singers. In this her debut album, Muharam further reimagines the taarab tradition into a style very comfortable to modern Western ears.                                                           Zanzibar is an archipelago in the Indian Ocean just east of Tanzania and South of Kenya. Unguja is the large island just north of the Zanzibar archipelago. Historically these islands have been meetings place of cultures: the Indian spice trade/the African slave trade… Muharam’s music, which includes Western instruments along with traditional ones (oud and tablas), it reflects the Eastern Indian and African influences resulting in a smokey, delicious sound.  AArbor

Taha, Rachid – "Made In Medina" – [Mondo Melodia]

aarbor   9/23/2020   CD, International

This is Rachid Taha’s 3rd album from 2001. The first track Barra Barra appears in the trailer for Far Cry 2 a computer game, and 2 movie soundtracks: Black Hawk Down (2001) and The Hunting Party (2007). The musical sound combines his Algerian roots, techno, early rock and punk. Taha was influenced by the band Galactic and guitarist Steve Hillage at the time of this recording. He wanted to record in New Orleans because he saw parallels between African and American music and between the music of the African slaves who came to New Orleans and that of the Gnawas, the black desert tribes who became slaves of the Arabs in North Africa. New Orleans is like Algiers, both French colonies at one time. He thought that some of the local Louisiana Zydeco drum patterns are remarkably similar to Rai. His next album after this one is considered his bestseller, Diwan. Sadly Taha died of a heart attack in 2018. AArbor

Alefa Madagascar! (Salegy, Soukous, and Soul From The Red Island) – [coll] – [Strut]

aarbor   9/16/2020   CD, International

An outstanding 2019 release from Strut which showcases the popular music of Madagascar during a heyday of Malagasy popular music. Most recordings from Madagascar are traditional instruments and music, this one is not. Salegy is a fast tempo local dance based on 5/8 and 12/8 rhythms [tracks 1, 4]. Soukous  is from the Congo, brought into Madagascar’s music in the ‘60’s via the radio,  along with music from Kenya, South Africa and Mozambique.  At that time the newer styles and instruments replaced many of the traditional ones. Be sure to check out the Behind the Scenes Alefa Madagascar! Video on Youtube. The liner notes give a very rich and well researched guide of music in Madagascar. AArbor    

 

   

Trans-Global Underground – “Yes Boss Food Corner” – [Ark 21]

aarbor   9/9/2020   CD, International

Trans-Global Underground (or TGU) are from England. They are (by their own admission) “notorious from mixing musical styles and rhythms with a total disregard for musical genres, technological barriers and common sense. They create a unique space where cross-cultural musical diversity thrives.” Here the sounds are electronics with Asian and African music styles. This release is from 2001 and features Zulu vocalist Thobekile Doreen Webster [2,4]. Two British-born Asian musicians: sitarist Sheema Mukherjee and percussionist Gurjit Sihra are a part of the band’s lineup on this release. Natacha Atlas was off doing her own thing at the time of this recording.

AArbor

La Musica Della Mafia [coll] – [Pias America Classics]

mickeyslim   8/31/2020   CD, International

The song of a life of crime, tunes of prison life, music of the Mafioso.

This music here has been passed down for many generations. It was recorded and sold at open-air markets, which most Italians found offensive because it glorified mafia life. Kind of similar to the public outcry toward gangsta rap in the ’90s. At first listen, these songs feel like whimsical sometimes optimistic folk tunes, drifting from the beaches of Sicily, over the mountains of Calabria, to the gulfs of Campania.

Once you take a look at the lyrics sheet, however, you find yourself in back alleys, jail cells, and funeral processions. Whether singing of honor, family, or grief, these songs take you into an underground world filled with death and glory. The instrumentation takes on several forms, with any combination of guitar, accordion, tambourine, scacciapensieri (better know to us as a jew’s harp, a staple in traditional Sicilian music), and more.

Do not miss the liner notes with this release, if only for the translated lyrics. Enjoy!

100 Beats – Arabica [coll] – [DCD Music]

aarbor   8/19/2020   CD, International

4 glorious CDs of Arabic music: Grooves, Lounge, Chill and Café. It’s kind of an auditory encyclopedia of contemporary Arabic music. It’s not traditional Middle Eastern music. It’s more DJ and dance-oriented. AArbor

New African Composers Vol. 1 [coll] – [Limitless Sky]

aarbor   8/19/2020   CD, International

This is music primarily from Tanzanian artists recorded in Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is in East Africa, south of Kenya. Mt. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania. The music has elements of both East and West Africa. 5 artists are showcased here: Ndala Kasheba [2,6,9,12], the Achigo Band [4,7], Garikayi Tirikoti [3, 10], the Yekete Beat Band [1,5,8], and Delphin Mununga [11]. These outstanding musicians are “composers” although they are primarily working musicians. Tirikoti is a mbira carver – an artisan, who has created new tunings for his instrument. The label, Limitless Sky Records is about releasing and promoting music recorded in Tanzania. Check out the variety of sounds and enjoy!  AArbor  

Larson, Dr. Pete & His Cytotoxic Nyatiti Band – “Dr. Pete Larson & His Cytotoxic Nyatiti Band” – [Dagoretti Records]

aarbor   8/12/2020   CD, International

Dr. Pete Larson is an epidemiologist who now resides in Ann Arbor, MI. He went to Nairobi,Kenya from 2014-2017 to work on public health issues and immersed himself in the music scene there. He also was enchanted by the Nyatiti -an 8 string lute/lyre played by the Luo people in West Kenya and learned to play it. Before going to Kenya, Larson was a guitarist who played in various rock and noise bands. The heart of this music is Larson’s Nyatiti which offers circular melodies for the other musicians to play with, around and in. “There is no beginning and end in traditional Kenyan music,” says Larson, so the performances are improvised pentatonic jams, not practiced sets. “You set the tempo and the rhythm pattern, and other musicians join in.”  AArbor    

King Kwela Featuring Spokes Mashiyane – "King Kwela" – [Artone]

aarbor   7/15/2020   CD, International

King Kwela is Spokes Mashiyane, a master of the Penny Whistle from South Africa. As a young child he tended his father’s cattle and to fend off boredom became a master of the reed flute. When he moved to Johannesburg to work as a domestic servant, one of his first purchases was a penny whistle which he mastered as well. While jamming on a street corner he was spotted by a talent scout. Don’t hesitate to play this – all  tracks tuneful and worth a spin. AArbor

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