KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Walker, Florence / Phil Walker (Recorded By) – “Sounds From The Archipelago Vol. 1” – [Shiok! Records]

Hemroid The Leader   6/27/2017   12-inch, International

Son of the German Diplomat to Moscow at the outbreak of the first World War, Walter Spies was a primativist painter who drifted eastward into Bali in the 1920s. He brought Balinese culture to the west and had a great influence on modern Balinese art and music.
In the 30s Spies and the Indonesian dancer Wayan Limbak adopted ketchak, a Balinese trance ritual, into a drama and dance intended for performance before Western tourist audiences. The syncopated Ketchak chant can be heard in Satyricon, Akira, and Blood Simple.
This is an example of what James Clifford describes as the “modern art-culture system” in which, “the West or the central power adopts, transforms, and consumes non-Western or peripheral cultural elements, while making ‘art,’ which was once embedded in the culture as a whole, into a separate entity.”
The Ketchak chant can be heard on Side A, Band 6.
This record is an uncredited reissue of 1961’s music of Indonesia produced by Henry Cowell and released on Smithsonian Folkways. The Shiok! label is based in Singapore.
Regardless, these recordings are great quality and very compelling, gamelan and wood flute. Indonesian lutes, vocal and violin. A ceremonial tone pervades throughout.

Longing For The Past [coll] – [Dust-To-Digital]

Naysayer   4/16/2017   CD, International

Dust-To-Digital is a one of a kind label, focusing not only on quality collections but making sure packaging and information is as exquisite as the sounds. “Longing For the Past, The 78 RPM Era in Southeast Asia” continues this tradition. 78 recordings from the early 1900’s through the 1950’s, taken from Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam cover all ranges of music and styles from these countries at these times. Court music, wedding songs, instrumental pieces both solo and groups in all configurations, folk songs, known and unknown performers, village music, leaders chanting and on and on. So many sounds caught on 78’s and still intact to preserve a selection for us to hear on 4 CD’s. Initially this music was recorded merely as a means to sell Victrolas to a new market. You won’t buy it if there is nothing there to hear. European salesmen went out and recorded just about anything that moved. The selection in incredible. The accompanying book is a comprehensive review of how this started, who did it, where they went, the types of music and their history, notes on instrumentation and history of instruments and artists. Each song has three to five paragraphs of thorough explanation. Dive in, learn and enjoy.

Eide, Khalifa Ould & Abba, Dimi Mint – “Moorish Music From Mauritania” – [World Circuit]

Hemroid The Leader   4/12/2017   CD, International

Dimi Mint Abba was born in 1958 to a low-caste Mauritanian family specializing in the griot tradition. She is accompanied here by her husband Khalifa Ould Eide and her two daughters. Moorish music is highly structured improvised music, with intricate vocal and rhythmic interplay. Handclaps, rattle, hand drums, hammer-ons. She died in June, 2011 in Casablanca, Morocco. Her fans included Youssou N’Dour and Ali Farka Toure.

Tracks 1-6 feature tidinit/lute, 7-11 feature electric guitar. Fans of Gnawa and Saharan blues music will find much to enjoy.

She began her career in 1976 when she won the Umm Kulthum Contest in Tunis. Her winning song “Sawt Elfan” (“Art’s Plume” – Track 7) has the refrain “Art’s Plume is a balsam, a weapon and a guide enlightening the spirit of men”, which can be interpreted to mean that artists play a more important role than warriors in society.

Zopoula, Hermas – “Espoir” – [Asthmatic Kitty Records]

humana   4/2/2017   CD, International

The story of this double CD is as happy and heartwarming as the music on each CD. Disc 1 was recorded in a West African studio, and Disc 2 has the more homey and true experience of guitarist and singer Zopoula’s magic, recorded live in and around his home in Burkina Faso. Jonathan and Heather Dueck visited Western Africa and had the great fortune to meet Hermas Zopoula, who acted as guide and friend to them during their stay. It was almost by accident that they discovered he was a musician as well as an incredible person. Some of his songs have heartbreaking lyrics, but the upbeat nature of his music attests to his faith and big heart. Enjoy.

Vakoka – “Introducing Vakoka” – [World Music Network]

Hemroid The Leader   3/29/2017   CD, International

Vakoka means “something precious given from the ancestors”. Madagascar is an island off of the SE coast of Africa settled 1500 years ago by Polynesians. Wood flutes, violin, accordion, snaredrum, call and response, hand drums. Diverse ensembles give contrasting sounds from track-to-track, deeper tracks reward. Mississippi Records’ “Fanajana” & “Fanafody” Madagascar comps provide contrast.

Collezione [coll] – [Edizioni Mondo]

Naysayer   1/1/2017   CD, International

Italian music is strange. From giallo soundtracks, to Italdisco, and mondo soundtracks, things are always just a bit off center. “Collezione” from the label Edizioni Mondo is a collection of four artists/groups who are playing a 21st century type or style of electronic experimentalish cocktail lounge music, some with the sounds of animals howling and birds chirping as well as ocean waves gently crashing. Electronic beats guide each piece while background sounds fill out the lounge quality. It’s very chill, but Italian chill. It reminds of this Italian disco I went to in Firenze in the mid 1980’s. The Italdisco beats were pounding, fog machine was on, VERY chic well dressed Italians sat around sipping cocktails until it was time to dance: a very controlled, stylish sweatless dance. So amazing to watch. Like this. Great to listen to. Great for beds or just kicking back. Sweatless kicing back.

“They Will Kill You, If You Cry” [coll] – [Glitter Beat]

Hemroid The Leader   12/14/2016   CD, International

Khmer Rouge killed almost 1/4 of Cambodia in five years 1975-9. If you dug the “Hanoi Masters …” comp, this time Glitter Beat goes Cambodian. Machete-wound shrapnel blues singers, produced by Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, TV On The Radio). They play the two string long-necked Cambodian lute in a minor pentatonic scale like blues and Saharan desert music. Hand claps, women singing in hypnotic unison. Drums. Cambodian is a musical language, the same word can have a dozen meanings, depending on inflection.

Nonyana Tsepe & Ribaneng – “Leseli La Ka” – [Tlaile Music]

mouthbreather   10/4/2016   Cassette, International

South African duo offering up and energetic mix of accordion, beats, and spitting fast Sesotho dictation. no information for this release, and its quirky…
I feel like I’m being lectured for being a peep, while a pirate party goes on in the peripheral. tk 3 and 8 have less of this feeling.
good for some energy in a lethargic set

Ivers, Eileen – “Beyond The Bog Road” – [Www.eonemusic.com]

humana   9/7/2016   CD, International

This entire CD is a delight from beginning to end. Ivers entrances with her fiddle, octave violin, banjo, and mandolin, taking us on a musical journey from the bog road and Celtic traditions of her native Ireland to the root music found in America–bluegrass, French Canadian, Cajun, and Appalachian. Her talents in writing, arranging, and playing the tunes here are remarkably enjoyable. Read the liner notes to get the full experience and story behind each song.

Duran, Manuel – “Golden Treasury” – [Spoken Arts, Inc.]

Naysayer   9/7/2016   12-inch, International

Ahh, the joy of spoken word, especially in another language that you may or may not understand fully or even partially. These 12 selections of Spanish prose, selected and read by the professor of Romance Languages, Manuel Duran, give a brief overview of some of the best pieces of Spanish writing from the last few centuries. Some of the authors may be familiar, others not as much. The beauty is in the lyrical quality of the words, the phrasing. Let them stand on their own or mix them in with other sounds. Enjoy.

Abatzi, Rita – “I’m Burning, I’m Burning” – [Mississippi Records]

Thurston Hunger   8/10/2016   12-inch, International

The Greek Urban Experience with Turkish delights by way of
the town of Izmir, just prior to WWII. Rita singing the
rough and tumble rebetiko scorchers. Her voice lights your
cigarette, fiddle follows her striking sparks alongside.
Slow and smoldering at its best, but not without fits of
flancy check the “Blond Jewish Girl” for a nice romp, or the
syrto “Little Calliope” which gives this collection its
title. All lyrics translated in a nice booklet (the
Mississippi way!) allowed me to wonder about Paradosiako’s
words for “The Doe.” Specifically the lines
“Generous wife of the priest 2X
The tough guys you don’t talk to “2X
Most of the songs skirt the anguish of amor, The harm (or
is it haram) of the harem, girls from the other village
called out by name, even twice Rita sings of herself.
And I think I heard the backing musicians shout her name
in encouragement (or perhaps a tricky love triangle).
I prefer the scrapier numbers, where a slithering fiddle
reminds me of the film Latcho Drom, but other numbers
bounce in balaika or flutter in clarinet (“Girl from
Aigio”). The recordings are well-preserved, Rita less
so (RIP 1969). At least we revive Rita’s varied voice
and her name, the talented musicians (check out the
interplay on “Mercy Little Anna”) wander nameless
and amorphous, vanishing like the smoke from those
long ago underground dens.
-Thurston Hunger

Fumaca Preta – “Impuros Fanaticos” – [Soundway Records]

Louie Caliente   4/23/2016   12-inch, International

Scorching-hot fuzzy tropical psychedelia blended with metal, surf, free-jazz, and haunted houses. Despite such disparate influences, the album is amazingly cohesive and just fucking rocks!

“Fumaca Preta” (foo-ma-sa pret-ta), which means “Black Smoke” in Portuguese, was started by Alex Figueira, a Portuguese-Venezuelan percussionist, and recorded with his friends in his home-made analog studio in Amsterdam. The South-American influence on this album is strong, sounding at times like Os Mutantes, but meaner, more acid-fried, and blood-stained.

Lyrics are all in Portuguese, but translated into English in the liner notes. They deal mostly with dark themes like murder and suicide, but with some humorous moments, like the very first lyric on the album, which translates to “Stick your selfie-stick in the infinite hole of your idiosyncrasy.”

It’s all really, really good. My personal favorite is Baldonero, a bizarre mix of latin dance rhythms, surf guitar, doomy riffs, and cookie-monster vocals like nothing I’ve heard before.

Songs For The Jewish-American Jet Set [coll] – [Idelsohn Society For Musical Preservation]

Naysayer   4/20/2016   CD, International

Oh for the days of vacationing in the Catskills, staying in the luxury hotels of the Borscht Belt, partying all night in clubs on the Florida coast, flying over to Tel Aviv for a rejuvenating week: such was the life of the Jewish-American Jet Set. The amazing Idelsohn Society has set to preserving some of this feeling through selections of music coming from this time in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Honoring the Tikva Records label that continuously released this music, the listener is treated to 20 selections of sounds that vary from kitsch to twist to more traditional-ish styles of Jewish-American sounds. Jewish cowboys, how to date orthodox,conservative or reformed ladies, or learning the difference between a Litvak and a Galitz, it’s all here. The night club orchestrations are superb, making each number bump, swish and sway the night away. Enjoy and mazel tov.

Los Hacheros – “Bambulaye” – [Chulo Records]

humana   4/5/2016   12-inch, International

Talk about something that gets you dancing from the first sound of the first track–this is brilliant salsa from the New York-based sextet composed of musicians who know their music and aren’t afraid to share it. Flute, sax, bass, violin, trombone, tres guitar, bongo, and conga combine with great vocals to mix up some Cuban and Latin rhythms that are tinged with jazz and speak to your own inner rhythms to include you in a world dance. Celebrate!

Stanley and Ten Sleepless Knights, The – “Quelbe!” – [Smithsonian Folkways]

humana   4/3/2016   CD, International

Quelbe (pronounced kwell-BEH) is the official music of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the tradition owes much of its style and continuity to Stanley and his band. At its core are the squash (a gourd scratched by metal), steel (triangle, originally formed from car brakes), banjo-uke, and pipe (flute, originally a muffler from a car). The effervescent calypsos, waltzes, quadrilles, jigs, and marengues on this release will lift your spirits and pull at your feet. Read the liner notes for the history of quelbe and the story behind each of the songs.

Arohi Ensemble – “Ahimsa, Love Is The Weapon of The Brave” – [Innova Recordings]

billiejoe   3/23/2016   CD, International

World music with a yogic message. Musicians from India, Venezuela, and Los Angeles. Arohi means ascending melody. Ahimsa is a sanskrit word meaning non-violence and is in many ancient yogic texts. It is meant to be a philosophy for how to live your life, not just describe an isolated instance. It’s also intended to apply to oneself, meaning don’t do harm to yourself, or, love yourself. There are vocals, sitar, and rad fast drumming. Really lovely groovy dance music.
— Billie Joe Tolliver

Ephat Mujuru Ensemble – “Spirit of The People, The” – [Bardwells]

Arcanum   3/21/2016   12-inch, International

This record invokes the soothing and focused sound of the Mbira. The Dzavadzimu Mbira is a symbol of the traditional culture of Zimbabwe. The njari is a less common type of Shona mbira originally introduced from Mozambique. It was quite popular in Zimbabwe during the mid-20th century, and frequently featured there in radio shows during the 1950’s and 1960’s.The liner notes in the gate-fold are a great guide to this work.It helped me a lot to read each individual song’s synopsis while I listened and the dreamed scenarios described.

Khan, Shujaat Husain & Goudarzi, Katayoun – “Spring” – [Self Release]

humana   2/8/2016   CD, International

This 2-CD release is a treasure, with its rich textures and sounds. Goudarzi’s voice is seductive as she sings/recites from memory the poetry of Rumi, accompanied by the masterful sitar music written and performed by Khan. Abhiman Kaushal gives everything a heartbeat with his tabla, and Ajay Prasanna’s flute weaves its way into this international brew in a mesmerizing way. The overall effect is compelling and tantric.

Toop, David – “Lost Shadows: In Defence of The Soul” – [Sub Rosa]

ralph   1/13/2016   12-inch, International

The Yanomami are an indigenous rainforest tribe that have been massacred time and time again, and captured here are sounds that would have been otherwise lost to the folds of time. Mesmerizing guttural chanting with subtle forest sounds in the background. Great for mixing, no real discernible breaks between tracks. Included booklet details everything you’d ever want to know about Toop’s journey.

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