KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Rembetika: Songs of The Greek Underground 1925-1947 [coll] – [Trikont]

humana   5/5/2019   CD, International

Drugs, passion, jail, disease, and death are timeless subjects, as this 2-CD compilation from the Greek underground proves. Covering a span of 22 years, these folk songs might as well be set in current times, because all the banes of human existence stay consistent. We are self-destructive, addicted, and in need of escape. You don’t have to know what the lyrics say to understand that then, as now, music is one of the most helpful ways to communicate the human condition. “Rembetika” refers to the sound of disparate urban Greek music that have been grouped together since the 1960s as part of the Rembetika movement.

Mapuche [coll] – [Alerce]

Hemroid The Leader   5/3/2019   CD, International

Mapuche, ALERCA CDAE 0334

Early 80s rituals from unconquered Aracaunian (Chile/Argentina) jungle telepaths. Folded branches, rope knotting, & the secret language of triangles. Voices, jaw harps, horns and percussion.

1-6 VOX 7-15 INST

Africa [coll] – [Nonesuch]

Hemroid The Leader   4/24/2019   CD, International

New trainees

Beautiful, alien sounds from the 13 Explorer Series: Africa albums. Recorded ’69-’83, in Ghana, Nubia, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Uganda, Zaire, Kenya, and Tanzania. Cool booklet.
Ad-hoc, non-linear, or improvised situations. Recommended to just pick one.
Track 16 is a Rhinoceros.

Periferico: Sounds From Beyond The Bubble [coll] – [Sonic Arts Network]

Hemroid The Leader   4/24/2019   CD, International

Periferico means periphery

Big-concept mixture of instrumental, field recording, electronic, even rap sounds.

Emanating from threatening zones of silence, defying commodification and ruining the world-view, this 2007 CD was the 10th in the Sonic Arts Network CD series, selected by Angolan composer/theorist Victor Gama to pierce prophylactic safe zones.

Alizadeh, Hossein / Hadadi, Pejman- “Monad” – [Hermes Records]

Naysayer   3/27/2019   CD, International

Master musicians Hossein Alizadeh on setar and Pejman Hadadi tombak perform 15 tracks of improvisational Persian classical music on their album “Monad”. Stunning in all aspects. Both are renowned, Alizadeh award winning and nominated for his tar and setar playing, Hadadi highly sought after for his tombak skills. The “Monad” project takes the modes of Persian classical music and explores the infinite possibilities within these with their improvising. Alizadeh’s finger work on the setar is stunning: quick changes, floating up and down the neck of the instrument while strings are strummed and plucked. The changes of speed, the mood tones, the smoothness of the playing add such a quality of beauty. Add to this Hadadi’s intense beats on the tombak… it is a conversation between the two instruments and musicians that becomes a meditation. Total beauty.

Khan, Ustad Bismillah -“Shaadi Ki Shehnaiyan (Vol-7)” [BSaregama]

Naysayer   3/27/2019   CD, International

Ustad Bimsillah Khan is a renowned shehnai player, the wind instrument related to the oboe. Bismillah was famous for taking the shehnai, a traditional folk instrument, and elevating its status to the concert stage. On this recording, Bismillah performs nine pieces for the shehnai, accompanied with drone and drum, which would be performed at weddings. The tunes would help to preserve the sacredness of the wedding ceremony and help the couple to support and sustain Dharma. The tunes are haunting but surprisingly smooth and somewhat light in their emotional dimension. Yes, you can have haunting and light together. The notes sometimes swirl, as if following a path or leading the wedding participants on the beginning of their journey. The playing is elegant, with some subtle juxtapositions. An elegant surprise for my ears.

Sarvestani, Razavi & Talaei, Darioush – “National Vocal Radifs of Iranian Music” – [Meshkat]

Naysayer   3/13/2019   CD, International

Razavi Sarvestani was a master singer and interpreter of Iranian music. Darioush Talaei (more commonly spelled Dariush Talai) is an Iranian tar player of international status. This recording of vocal radifs of Iranian music is volume one of an extensive survey of radifs. From my research I have found 18 volumes on this label. A radif “is a collection of many old melodic figures preserved through many generations by oral tradition. It organizes the melodies in a number of different tonal spaces called Dastgah. The traditional music of Iran is based on the radif, which is a collection of old melodies that have been handed down by the masters to the students through the generations. Over time, each master’s own interpretation has shaped and added new melodies to this collection, which may bear the master’s name. The preservation of these melodies greatly depended on each successive generation’s memory and mastery, since the interpretive origin of this music was expressed only through the oral tradition. To truly learn and absorb the essence of the radif, many years of repetition and practice are required. A master of the Radif must internalize the Radif so completely to be able to perform any part of it at any given time.” And that’s just the beginning of the explanation. The radifs are so culturally important that UNESCO has declared them part of the UNESCO Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This recording of 22 radifs, possibly in a specific order, start off with a spoken word, possibly the title of the radif, and then the interpretation. It is just Sarvestani singing and Talai playing the tar. I have limited knowledge with this type of music but what I hear is thrilling, mesmerizing and wonderful. The interplay between the two is flawless, each complimenting and guiding the other. I am taken by this so much, especially with my beginners knowledge of it’s significance. We can always learn.

Madagascar Pays Merina [coll] – [Ocora | Radio France]

humana   2/9/2019   CD, International

This is lively, spirited music from the Merina, an ethnic group in Madagascar that lies in the center of the island. The zither, lute, and flute are featured in these folk songs, along with some vocals chiming in. Track 18 is especially fun, with children’s voices accompanied by earth drum and rhythmic games that will spark joy in many a set. Great add for the International Collective.

Fado Lisboa-Coimbra 1926-1931 [coll] – [Fremeaux & Associes]

humana   2/9/2019   CD, International

This 2-CD compilation is perfect for our International music collective. These popular Portuguese songs from the “bad boys” of Lisbon are often melancholy and accompanied by mandolins and guitars. The first CD features women singers whose voices are a bit grating to me; in the second CD the women seem to have softened their voices, or maybe I just got used to them. All recordings from a time long ago that must not be forgotten.

Mina …Bugiardo Piu Che Mai… Piu Incosciente Che Mai… – [EMI]

Naysayer   2/3/2019   CD, International

MINA!!!! We can never have enough Mina. Finally, we have some Mina. Mina, also known as Mina Mazzini, was and is a European superstar who came onto the scene in the late 1950’s with her rock and roll stylings and then moved into pop stardom with pop songs and ballads. Known as an emancipated woman, her hip shaking and body twisting, her 3 octave range, her singing about religion, smoking and sex, her appearing pregnant by a married actor, all this and more got her much attention. The pregnancy got her banned for quite a while on TV and radio but the fans wanted her and she continued. This collection, “Bugiardo…” catches her in her pop ballad stage, and what a stage it is. Equal to some of the great singers of the time, her vocal range and emotion is stunning, connecting to passionate lyrics about love, lost love, independence, the one that got away. She never holds back, for sure. There is a bit of kitsch to these recordings which make them all the more worthwhile for me. I would be in the audience cheering her on while smirking a bit in complete glee. Pour me another cocktail.

Hedningarna – “Hippjokk” – [Northside]

Naysayer   12/3/2018   CD, International

Swedish and sometimes Finnish folk group, Hedningarna ( The Heathens), came onto the music scene in the mid 1980’s, playing with the songs and sounds of the early Norse, utilizing instruments of that time and building their own variations. Adding electronics for a contemporary twist, Hedningarna have always been able to sound otherwordly and unique but never quaint. There sound rocks, in an electronic old Scandinavian sort of way. “Hippjokk” has just the Swedish trio of musicians without the two female Finnish singers, in an attempt to “draw the connection between medieval Scandinavian dance music and the techno rave scene”. It is so not that to me, just a bajillion times better. It is one of the most unique sounds I’ve heard and I’ve been following them for quite awhile. There is this Arabic style influence and then cranky sounds that remind me of hurdy gurdies but not. Beyond toe tapping – full on body bumping. Skal.

Kucheida, Francoise – “De La Scarpe a La Seine” – [Saravah]

Naysayer   12/3/2018   CD, International

Francoise Kucheida is a French blues singer, whose strong vocal style reminds one of the past greats of French chanson but who adds her own richness to interpretation to classic French standards and newer songs. These are not just about love, but about struggle, the people struggling day to day, which can also be about love. Accompanied by accordion and guitar on many tracks, these songs are rich with emotion and beauty. Light that cigarette, pour yourself an aperitif, sit back and listen to the sounds of the Seine in the distance.

Mehndi, Daler – “Ho Jayegi Balle Balle” – [Magnasound Records]

Hemroid The Leader   11/28/2018   CD, International

Convicted human trafficker with a Coke endorsement deal. Second-place finish, Voice Of Asia! This dude has been to lots of places. “Another punjabi pop bhangra foot-tapping musical album which make people go gaga. The highlights of the albums are its real catchy lyrics and the loud enjoyable folk music.Surely be likeable by the punjabi pop lovers.Surely, check this out.” — Amazon reviewer TEENA

Kallidad – “Kallidad II” – [Self Produced]

mickeyslim   11/14/2018   CD, International

Self-proclaimed “thrash flamenco” from Sydney, Australia. This is three dudes, Jacinko and The Raven on classical guitar, and Senor Bang Bang on the hand drum /box thing. Influenced by thrash metal, classical, reggae, rock, etc. Amazing technical skills on guitar. Fun, enchanting, hypnotic. Kinda weird album, I’m not sure why I like this, and neither will you.

Prakash, Aditya Ensemble – “Mara” – [self]

humana   9/30/2018   CD, International


This is an aurally fascinating concept album about an individual attempting to navigate through the maze of mind (which is Mara, a demon) in order to transcend worldly pleasures and achieve the awakened state of the Buddha. The musicians on here meld Eastern and Western traditions in a fascinating way, and you can hear elements of Indian classical ragas infused with jazz, hip hop, and spoken word. Brother-sister duo Aditya and Mythili Prakash have produced this CD that will get you dancing and awake in the best possible way.

Cardoso, Elizete – “Elizethissima” – [Som Livre Ltda.]

humana   9/9/2018   CD, International


All hail A Divina (the Divine One), the great Brazilian singer/actress whose name became associated with samba and bossa nova. As soon as I heard the first notes of this CD, I knew I was in for a treat. Upbeat samba melodies along with ballads are rendered with equal beauty by this lovely singer. Hope you enjoy as much as I did. Songs 1 and 5 are my particular favorites.

Verequete & Group Uirapuru – “Dance Music From Para, Amazonia” – [Wergo]

Hemroid The Leader   9/5/2018   CD, International

Varequete began his career as a modernizer and finished a traditionalist. In the 1960s he made radio hits popularizing the carimbó, a rhythm that in 2014 was designated Brazilian Cultural Heritage by the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute. You may recognize it as the lambada? Drums – sax, clarinet, and fiddle at times. Vocal sing alongs and Varequete chatting.

Raghu, Palghat / Subramanium, V.V. – “Bhavalu / Impressions” – [Nonesuch Records]

Phil Phactor   8/29/2018   12-inch, International

South Indian (Carnatic) instrumental music played by an ensemble featuring Palghat Raghu on mrindagam, the Indian barrel drum, and V.V. Subramaniam on violin. The violin was introduced to India in the late 1700s, and it’s fascinating to hear its sound was radically transformed through the use of ‘alternate’ tunings and modified techniques (including the use of oiled fingers to facilitate slides.) The mrindagam has a sharper and more powerful sound than the tabla, and it often takes the lead, for example on side A. The music of the north and south are both based on ragas, or modes, but in the south these are supplemented by composed, and often intricate, melodies upon which further improvisations are built. As a result, the music on this album requires a little bit of focus on the part of the listener, but it’s well worth it!

Dalao, Kane / Nongthong, Wichian [coll] – [ZudRangMa Records]

Thurston Hunger   8/8/2018   7-inch, International

Something about the khene, that tall bamboo/harmonica
whatever you want to call it killer Thai instrument.
When I hear it it feels like a summons, and then the
chanting/singing that goes with it comes on like
an insistent invocation. If you squint your western
ears on this, you can hear a tropical foreshadowing
of Alan Vega with Suicide maybe? The slight reverb
on the male voice, side A is stately goes on long
enough to make me really wonder what they are saying.
I like it when Kane Dalao (internet says he’s a
National Artist for Molam style as recently as 2017)
I’m not sure when this 7″ is from. On the flipside
Wichian Nongthong, has a musical name and delivers
a peppier take, but still stripped down to the
power of voice and khene. The controlled wavering
of the voice, so skillful and compelling. This is
*not* on ZuDrangMa’s label but was found in their
store, I really should have got more information
(or found someone at work from Thailand) but hell
the music stands on its own just fine. Makes
we want to slap a speaker on my car and drive
around the Bay Area belting this out.
-Thurston Hunger

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