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Music Reviews

[coll] Gauguin Years, The: Songs and Dances [Nonesuch]

stingray   1/13/2005   CD, International

What it is: Field recordings of indigenous Tahitian music.
What it sounds like: The most interesting tracks (to me) are some combination of chant, prayer and song (6, 8, 10, 17, 18, 22, 24). Most of them involve a kind of call and response with a ‘preacher? or storyteller and a chorus. It must be a similar experience to hearing a catholic mass in a language you can’t understand.
Some tracks are beautifully harmonized a cappella prayers and laments that can sound quite alien to western ears (2, 4, 11, 12, 13, 16, 21, 25).
Some tracks are ukulele/guitar accompanied by one voice (3, 15, 20, 23, 26), a chorus of voices (1, 14), or no voices at all (9). These sound like ‘traditional? Polynesian music (as opposed to the slicked up stuff presented to tourists, but you can hear the roots of that here).
Rounding out the collection are some tracks of drumming (5, 19) and a brief wind instrument (nose flute perhaps?) solo (7). I’ve indicated my favorites on the back, but everything is good and the recording quality is quite excellent.
About the recording: Originally released in 1968 as part of a series of South Pacific field recordings. All tracks recorded in Tahiti by Francis Mazi’re.

TULEAR NEVER SLEEPS

Ann Arbor   1/13/2005   CD, International

This is the first compilation of music of the Tsapiky (Tsa-peek) guitars from south west Madagascar. They are handmade box shaped lutes. The gentle rhythmic lute-like musical style is similar to many of its African neighbors but it’s distinct. The tsapiky is at the center of the group which includes vocals, bass, drums and dancers. The vocal styles vary and the lyrics tell stories about people, relationships and aspects of life. A beauty! AArbor

CAPTAIN YABA – YabaFUNKRoots

Ann Arbor   1/13/2005   CD, International

This music is ‘griot funk? from Sierra Leone. Originally released in the 1990’s this album apparently had little impact at that time. Yaba’s sound slowly grew in popularity by word of mouth. Yaba himself died of TB (in his early 30s) in April of 2001. For about 4 years from 1999 until 2003 the album was out of circulation. RetroAfric re-issued it re-packaged with added tracks from the original session. Funky African style beats underpin Yaba’s gentle 2-string gourd guitar (koliko) grooves, a muted trumpet & vocals. A beauty! AArbor

added: 03/31/04

[coll] Nightime Recordins From Bali [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   A Library, CD, Format, International

Alan Bishop (nee Lomax?) of the Sun City Girls
undertakes an underground and afterhours look
at international music with his strongly
self-run Sublime label. Ears in armchairs
get a whiff of the enchantment, as well as
smoldering flesh at funeral pyres. Some of
these recordings are truly in the *field*,
with Balinese flora and fauna. A good number
are “fast food gamelan,” quick glimpses into
lengthy performances. These sections have
more agressive flourishes, like a dog tearing
at something: violent shakes of sound. Then
diamond dogs do drop in on #14, I wound up
wondering about the stories behind that and
other tracks, (at the end of #17 we overhear
“I thought he was the police”). Hopefully we
can get Alan on for an interview. “Rubber
Television” mixes raindrops and teardrops
for a radio soap opera.

Abdelli “Among Brothers” [Real World]

Thurston Hunger   1/9/2005   CD, Format, International

Abderrahmane Abdelli is an Algerian musician (from the
“Kabyl” – an ancient Berber collective of musicians).
The “Kabyl” have historically been unflinching in their
assessment via song of the political powers that be, and
this does not sit well with the fundamentalist Islamic
leaders of Algeria. Thus Abdelli has worked in exile in
Belgium since the early 1990’s. This album was created
over three years, taking the basic songs of Abdelli’s
raspy yet sweet voice and his mandola (an instrument
like an oud). Then in the Real World manner, folding in
other spices, musicians, flavors and countries. Often
his mandola traces the vocals, as does flute at times
and some spiky fiddling as well. Spry slithering sounds
are slathered on the tracks, giving this the power of
gypsy music and the dramatic highlighting of Peter
Gabriel’s “Passion” soundtrack to “The Last Temptation
of Christ.” Pristine recording machinations do not
molest the stirring soul of these songs.

Domenico + 2 – Sincerely Hot – [Luaka Bop]

Hunter Gatherer   12/15/2004   CD, International

‘Domenico? is Domenico Lancelotti, and ?+2? is Moreno Veloso and Kassin. This is the second of three releases which feature one of the three. It was recorded between 10/2001 and 4/2002 but for some reason not released until 9/2004.

(By the way, the first release – ‘Musical Typewriter? by Moreno + 2 – is in the International library and filed under Veloso.)

All three of them are Brazilian, and Domenico is a drummer. As a result there are plenty of Latin beats. The lyrics are in Portuguese in all but one song, but you can read the translation in the liner notes if you want to read the lyrics that mainly concern themselves with leaving, desire, and waiting.

This is very smart and funky Brazilian pop with varied influences. They definitely took their Burt Bacharach pills before recording some of the tracks (2, 3, 6, 10, 11, 12, 13). 12 is an instrumental. Some tracks have a great funk feel (4, 5, 8) There are duets that made me laugh even though I had no idea what they were singing about (5, 11).

Language: 7 (suck your breast/suck your ass). Also 3 tracks right into 4 with no warning.

–Hunter Gatherer

Tinariwen “Amassakoul” [world village]

Thurston Hunger   11/23/2004   CD, Format, International

Founded in the late 1970’s by guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib,
Tinariwen has been a loose collective of soul soldiers and
guitar shamen ever since. If blues is born of pain, then
these Tamashek men and women, driven from their native Mali
for a stretch, still feel that sharp emptiness…it’s built
into their name which allegedly translates as “desert” or
“empty spaces.” The burrowing guitar is a striking signature,
present on all cuts here except the floaty flute and chant
drone that closes the CD. The guitar is usually under chatty
call-and-response vocals that are infectious enough to sing
along with despite no clue what is being said. While the
guitar can recall the pluck of the Ex, and the electric zap
of Junior Kimbrough, it really is a unique flavor to savor.
Elements of sauntering reggae rhythm, gnawa loops, french rap
are captured as well. Dig that mod mad nomad sound!

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