Music Reviews

Tournas, Kostas – “Aperanta Choraphia ” – [Anazitisi]

Thurston Hunger   1/4/2007   12-inch, International

Burt Bacharach attack on side A. Cinematic superpower horns fly over an
island of studio musicans. I know melodic symphonic rock may be Greek
to you, 21st Century Noizoid Man…but in 1973 to the Greeks, this lp
by Kostas Tournas served as a nice oasis/oracle. Don’t be bummed by its
“Hey Joe” hummability – or fuss about the big budget. The 70s were a
time for inflation. The B-side seems to work the theme a little better,
with cave-echo guitar phosphorescing, some balalaika and a vox humana
synth chorus….okay and a snipped of Led Zep III acousticity. Those
weirder strands though, are what help to unravel the commercial tapestry
of this rock opera carpet ride. Sides flow pretty strongly, so dip in
and out as you can or let it roll out… Still hoping Grecian psych
formula can be redeployed as well as those Anatolian holy rollers and
rockers from Turkey’s vaults.

-Thurstocles Hungryphon

West Africa Unwired [coll] – [World Music Network]

loun   12/9/2006   CD, International

A compelling case could be made that West African music has been the world’s most influential musical style, pushing not only northward into Europe via the Moors, but also across the Atlantic with the slaves to become the foundation for gospel music, jazz, the blues, and, eventually, rock & roll. Yet this music remains largely unheard in its original form. This disc contains a collection of what is known as griot music, the traditional generational music of the region, which embodies the wisdom of the ancestors. The music is rich, deep, and pleasing, and contains a musical maturity rarely found anywhere, courtesy of countless generations of refinement. The sound is consistent, but there is plenty of variety. All tracks are excellent. An unassailable choice wherever a blues track would fit.

Mustafa Ozkent ve Orkestrasi “Genclik Ili Elele” [Finders Keepers] (full length CD)

ArtCrimes   11/28/2006   CD, Format, International

It’s easy to see how this fell through the cracks of the Turkish pop scene in 1973, with the insane-chimp-in-studio cover photo and the 3-D type bursts proudly declaring “Rhythm’n’Soul”, “Blues’n’Jazz”, “Rock’n’Pop” and most charmingly, “Folc”…as if this recording easily fit all those genres. Strangely, it nearly does, and without a word ever being sung.

This instrumental combo, recorded without overdubs in what we can only assume were Spartan recording conditions, falls somewhere along the lines of Booker T & the MGs doing a student exchange program with Frank Zappa circa Hot Rats, with Hammond organ, extremely busy electric bass, and two drummers backing the ethnically psychedelic guitar work of Mustafa Ozkent and Cahit Oben. The album title translates as “Hand in Hand With Youth”, and so it’s got to have all the hip, new sounds of the era, with wah wah and other guitar effects, but it also draws heavily on traditional Turkish melodies, which utilize non-Western tunings and apparently additional guitar frets.

Master tape damage is apparent here and there, with some tape speed changes, but we’re lucky to have this at all, the liner notes suggest, due to the recycling of much Turkish vinyl during 70s oil shortages.

Love Is Love [coll] – [Mono Records]

shiroi   11/26/2006   12-inch, International

An odd and intriguing assortment of various pop and traditional music from Ethiopia, Siere Leone, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, Nairobi and Tanzania, with string and other instruments. “Toomus Meremereh Nor Good” may be my favorite. Others are more mellifluous in places. “S’modern” sounds very old. “Castle Beer” sounds very primitive and unproduced. “Uolayinda Kubota” has a cheerful rhythm. “Jumbe Nipelek Kwetu” makes me think of a cheerful Tom Waits. “Chemirocha” is actually cute. All songs have their charms. – Shiroi

World Library of Folk & Primitive Music: Romania [coll] – [Rounder Records]

Thurston Hunger   10/5/2006   CD, International

Original recordings date back to 1934-1957. They sound simply
remarkable, both in audio quality as well as the emotional
pull. This is music, not meant to sell a new automobile, or
to make your myspace page sexier, but music as *the* response
to life…a wedding, a death, a day at the working bee,
a morning tending sheep. It starts with a call to Spring
on powerful nine-foot-long horns(tulnic). There’s also hyper
percolating pre-disco dance with cimbalom flipping. There
are amazing suicide arias (#23), fevered flute soliloquies
(#17), bagpipe reels (#11), protean hiphop on flute (#12).
The latter two are excerpts, and if there is any complaint
it is that sadly some of these are not extended more than a
minute or two. People on here are singing their souls out
for perpetuity…check #28, a love song across centuries.
Or a tear-prodding lament for an 8-year old brother (#7).
Drone choruses (#5,#8), Latcho Drom violin creepy pulls,
middle eastern flair (#30), pumping chants (#2) and an
orchestra chasing a bird (#35). An amazing sample of joys
and sorrows, well-preserved. Sterling and stirring…
Taking a page from the fine liner notes :
“Our good fortune is that we can hear this!

-Thurston Hunger

Orchestre du Bawobab/Don Isaac Ezekiel Combination “Kelen Ati Len/The Preacher Man” [Soundway]

Mr. Lucky   9/13/2006   7-inch, International

There’s nothing about this 7″ I don’t like. Side one is the Orchestre du Bawobab coming staight outta Senegal and doing some funky thangs! “Kelen Ati Len” is a nasty funk hitter with some beautiful wah guitar action over some fatback drums. I can’t understand what is being said, but I’m sure it’s something like “Get yo ass up and dance!”. Side two is The Don Isaac Ezekiel Combo getting down on some Funky-gospel stylings with some call and response vocals, a bongo happy rhythm section, and strummy guitar hopping all over the track. I would say that the only thing I don’t like about this is the fact that it ends, but there’s a lovely locked groove to save your needle from the label at the end. Like a toddler in the dirt, this is short and funky! -Mr. Lucky

Julius, Orlando & His Afro Sounders “Orlando’s Afro Ideas ’69-’72” [Soundway]

Mr. Lucky   9/13/2006   12-inch, International

Orlando Julius isn’t necessarily the name that comes to mind when speaking of African Funk music. But this man and his band were peers of Fela and the Africa 70, and are credited with infusing African traditional musics with the stylings of Stateside music. And really, while Fela and crew were the Kings of Afro Beat, Julius and the Sounders were the Kings of Afro Soul. Taking elements of Highlife and fusing them with the American sounds of Soul, OJ and the Sounders have here a music that is soothing to the ear and exciting to dancing feet. Jazzy solos on saxaphone waft among the shuffling drums, wailing horns, gliding bass, and ringing guitars. They even released songs on Polydor, and composed a welcome song to the Godfather himself, who would come and visit them in Lagos. This is lovely stuff that shows a different side to the vibrant Afro-Music scene of the late 60’s-early 70’s in Nigeria. -Mr. Lucky

Los Gaiteros De San Jacinto From Columbia – “Un Fuego De Sangre Pura ” – [Smithsonian/Folkways]

Thurston Hunger   8/17/2006   CD, International

Not to be confused with Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto from
East Jersey; nope this is pure Colubmian gold…and fire!
They’ve been going since the 1930’s and some of these folks
may have heard the originals… While the focal point is
on these great gaspy flutes, los gaitas, the impassioned
singing is what completely fascinates me. Check out the
acapella power of “Canto de Zafra” if that’s the Zafra for
work, I’m not sure I could handle the one for a burial.
The windy, raspy nature of the flutes can almost feel more
like a noise sound-sculptor than an Andean afterdinner
concert. The more the flutes they add, the better they are
at getting a whirlwind, dervish to surround your ears. Check
“Sigan Bailando.” This all sounds great LOUD! You could link
these pipes to the fife fury of Othar Turner and friends.
Similarly, it’s just got drums to keep the flutes and voices
in line. Regal, but never ever polished. The king lives
outside the kingdom, conducting wild dances in the forests!
*That* kind of music, if you want more honorable comments,
check out the always outstanding Folkways liner notes and
great photos too. The gust in “me gusto”.
-El Hambre del Hambre

Viviana Guzm?n – Planet Flute

Austin Space   8/8/2006   CD, International

Viviana Guzman is a world-renowned and gifted flutist. Chilean-born, and educated at Rice University and The Juilliard School. Her work here is a soul soothing journey around the world, touching on basal inspirations from a number of different cultures. Viviana performs with many different flutes from modern through various native and ancient. She is accompanied by others with various percussive instruments, voices, including a virtuoso on the didgeridoo. Sit back and relax. Let your inner energy soak this up. – Space

Nyota [coll] – [Globestyle]

Thurston Hunger   8/3/2006   CD, International

Like the best of the Ethiopiques series, in this collection
of “Taarab” music from Tanzania/Kenya, we can hear somewhat
recognizable strains of music (especially to our ears raised
on electric guitars/basses), but the overall result here is
something that is fiercely its own. Boppy little guitar juju
lines, often chased by an accordion or warbly old synth
offer sweetness, while the (typically) female lead vocals
speak with a softer slightly sour strength. Crosscheck the
quick translation of “Nazi” : “Have you seen the coconut which
would want to beat a rock? It will hurt itself.” On many cuts
the rhythms have a great one-two-THREE dance and dip beat to
them. Check the killer break in “Enyi Wanadamu”, like a slow
motion bolero and then near gypsy mourn to finish. Whoa!
“Nini Dawa Ya Mahaba” plays up the arabic feel, but tells
the tale of incureable love (albeit with the singer Asmahan
kept too far away from hearts and ears). It’s another example
of great background vocals. These tracks were recorded from
1969-76, often as beautiful as the women on the cover.
-Thurston Hunger

Nai Htaw Paing Ensemble – “Mon Music of Burma ” – [Fire Museum Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/6/2006   CD, International

Sounds of a lost Kingdom? Excellent notes from Rick Heitzman
in the liners detail, past persecution and present-day more
subtle erasing of the Mon tradition. But Heitzman’s prize
is these pristine recordings. Every string buzz and gong
floating fill gently brush your cortex, although the sounds
are angular in our ears, the realization here is remarkable.
You get the quick flurries that I associate (wrongly?) with
shadow puppets; music box muted charms (#3) as soft as Mr.
Roger’s sweater; Talutt totem flute bamboo windfall (#9);
several tracks get the dizzy Khanwe double-reed buzz, often
chasing MI MYA THAN’s serene vocals. Many short tracks with a
range of enchantment, Mon music shouldn’t vanish into the void
of a monolith culture, at the same time crazy cross-pollination
experiments might not be the necessary death some might fear?
A regal release from Fire Museum. -Thurston Hunger

Ethnic Minority Music of Northeast Cambodia [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   6/23/2006   CD, International

Ultra-sparse accompaniment under very unique, slow to sombre,
vocalizing. Track #2 is like some lost blues, or some weed
never before seen living, and here it is towering between
humming gongs and giggling children. Tremendous. Two tracks
later we find an Ayin/Ayon parallel to Joni Mitchell? Overall
the sounds on this seem so low to the ground, check the tube
getting funk ‘n’ plunked on #6. I reckon the gongs do add
a more celestial vibe on a number of tracks. For #9, “Mum” is
the word *and* the one-stringed fiddle to duel it out with a
chorus of crickets. Looking for gypsy flair? Dig #12! If you
want earthy blues, forget the place with the three-drink
minimum and parking valet chaser, and savor a little of the
mud, hurt and joy that oozes out of the Sublime here. Kudos
to LAURENT JEANNEAU for his capture, amidst insects and
infants, you get a dose of music as part of the daily
dealings done dirt cheap. -Thurston Hunger

Shankar, Anoushka – Live at Carnegie Hall – [Angel Records]

David Richoux   6/12/2006   International

You have to love the traditions of Indian musicians – if you are good, pass on what you know to your children and increase the spirit of the music! Ravi Shankar has done just that with his 20 year old daughter Anoushka – this live recording (mostly at Carnegie Hall October 6 2000) is outstanding – she has not quite equaled her father yet but she is well on her way. Double Tabla and lots of Tanpura provide rhythmic and harmonic support, but it is brilliant Sitar through and through. Some tracks have very short introductions included in the time.

Radio Thailand – “Transmissions From The Tropical Kingdom ” – [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   6/1/2006   CD, International

A divine disc duel between the riches that Alavarius B has
snarred and the even richer Porest plunder. Jamaican jazz
gets jerky in the smorgasounds here, plus more of that wham
bam thank you Molam which Master Gergis introduced us to.
His side ends with a great wavering prayer/lament. He even
works in the original “Tui Tui Tui” popularized to KFJC fans
via Neung Phak. DJ patter and chatter gets scrambled into
the mix, served up along with Catfish Fry and other fermented
shrimps of sounds. Somehow the Thai melodies tend to make
both the cheapest keyboard and the oldest khene sound regal.
Those melodies here get to stretch out, despite the fact that
this is on the radio collage series of Sublime Frequencies.
There are some spectacular jump cuts, still many pieces get
a solid 2 or more minutes uninterrupted. Even so there are
moments plenty, like the drone chanting at the beginning of
“The End of the News” where you want a section to sustain
longer. A lot of range here, strange range…from very odd
doo-wop, to jungle, to gamelan, to phone dedications, to
hyper-reverbed slices of dialogue. I’m sure more than one
show will end with the way Master Bishop chose to conclude
his contribution. Gracious and unearthly! Sonic Thai sticks
to the roof of your mind… -Thurston Hunger

Sapera – “Snake Charmers of India ” – [Canyon Records Productios]

Thurston Hunger   5/29/2006   CD, International

Hypnotic sonic cocktails – captured raw and
vibrant like some slithering Amps for Christ
and Sun City Girls collaboration…instead this
is authentic snake sorcery. A swaying to every
track stirs your spine, the inner serpent.
“Pungi” are the reed instruments wherein circular
breathing drones ensnare these buzzing neo-techno
lines. Bouncy juggling percussion from “premtals”
contrasts a more relaxed, loping vibe to the
striking insistent improvised “pungi” airs.
Bubbly plucking under dry fuzz soaring. Liner
notes beckon you as surely as the playing here
does. Skin and sin shedding. -Thurston Hunger

Grupo Naidy – “Arriba Suena Marimba : Currulao Marimba Music From Columbia ” – [Smithsonian/Folkways]

Thurston Hunger   5/13/2006   CD, International

Outstanding call-and-response vocals over a migrated marimba.
Liner notes detail the history of the African marimba finding
roots in the rich soil of Columbia, soundwise it just has a
sweet, cascading sound, especially when the voices drop out
and the marimberos drift from the melody for a few bars,
scurrying up into quick cloud runs, and then descending back
down into the groove. I can see reggae fans getting into this
album, even though its more of a calypso twirl, still the ever
insurgent elation of the repeated rhythm should connect. Plus,
singing often has a kind of raspy, sour, throaty timbre (check
out “La Maravilla”). Not too far for a rastafarian to journey.
“El Botellon” is a beauty to pour open the album, but the same
underlying music is raised above the cielo by the slightest
adjustments to get “Vamos a Adorar a Antonio” – that track is
sublime. Man, it almost converted me back to Roman Catholicism.
This release is as warm and bitter as life, and again the call
and response connotes the joy and juxtaposition of the one and
the tribe. Suenas for suenos! -El Hombre del Hambre

Werqu, Asnaqetch – “Lady With The Krar – Ethiopiques 16, The ” – [Buda Musique]

Thurston Hunger   4/27/2006   CD, International

The sweet sixteenth release of the Ethiopiques series turns
a bit sour. Asnaqetch Wergu’s scrambling, dry clawing lyre
sounds almost like a banjo under hypnosis. Her brittle pluck
recalls the submersive gypsy sounds from “Latcho Drom.”
Her voice add a little soft honey to that, but she’s not
really singing her lungs out, instead its a steady, talky
sort of lamenting delivery. The words evidently are where
the exertion is going, her heart is on display, whether
wrapped in chains, or pulsing on silk sheets. The lyrics
are fascinating, but of course not sung in English. As a
result, our English mileage is best limited in small doses
as befits radio. Or in following along with the translations
as the lyrics are amazing wth forbidden and unbidden love
themes. “El Lehem” is one solid example. “Like Jerusalem”
(#11) has a very different potent vibe. Packaging is as
beautiful as Asnaqetch throughout the years. -Hunger

Haiku Review:
Hypnotic brittle
The heart after passion’s flame
Crawls across her krar

Sufi Music From Turkey [coll] – [ARC Music]

Numa   4/6/2006   CD, International

Have you ever seen a whirling dervish? Their dances precipitate a trance-like feeling in both the dancer and the observer. Personally I might get quite sick if I were to spin like that. This is their soundtrack so to speak. Lilting strings pull you up lightly by your shoulders and relieve the burden for a short while. This great collection includes outstanding liner notes educating the reader on the basis for dervish’s dance and the modal influences of the sufi music. Instruments of Sufi music include the Kanun (psaltery), Kud’m (kettle-style drums), Bendir (single-headed hand-held drum), Ud (small lute), Tanbur (long-necked lute), Kemen’e (short-necked fiddle), and Halile (turkish cymbals). Many of the tracks on this collection are used to highlight the different instruments using improvised pieces maintaining strict modal adherence. An excellent introduction to Sufi music from Turkey. — Numa

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

jack soil   4/5/2006   CD, International

Celebratory music from the Bara section (South West area) of Madagascar. Appears to be one of many in a series put out by the O-Cora This is all natural stuff comprised of hand claps, voices of all types, men, women, children, supported by the local instruments such as flutes, reed whistles, wooden lap xylophones (that sit on your lap, and you need a hole dug in the ground for them to resonate properly; look at the pictures on the liner notes) tubular zithers; fiddles, and drums. There are lots of repetitive patterns happening with many of them verging on psychedelia. Music supports daily life events such as births, circumcision, death, etc. Highly enjoyable, and (given some minor thought and a touch of creativity) a mighty tool for your Dj kit.


Balde, Daby – “Introducing Daby Balde” – [World Music Network]

aarbor   3/29/2006   CD, International

This series is all about introducing up and coming African musicians to the rest of the world. Daby Balde is a former cab driver who was born into a noble family who didn’t support his musical interests. He’s from the Casamance region in southern Senegal. The southern Senegal sound is different from that of Dakar, it’s almost griot-like. Balde’s voice is slightly gruff but powerful in a very human way. The backing instrumentals are quite wonderful. AArbor

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