Showing posts with label world music. Show all posts
Showing posts with label world music. Show all posts

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Nile Project - Blog 3 - Musician Intro, 3 vocalists

I wanted to give you a quick intro of some of the musicians here. Because I am a singer snob, I will start with three of the vocalists. These folks are amazing. I'm enjoying noticing the stylistic and timbre similarities and differences as well as vocal ornamentation.

This is Alsarah on the left. She is Sudanese, now living in Brooklyn. This video was produced by Peter Varshavsky of Porto Franco Records in San Francisco.  Read more about her here.



Mekuanent is from Ehtiopia. He loves to dance and has awesome outfits. For more info click here.



We also have the gorgeous voice of Dina El Wedidi. She only started singing four years ago when she was 19. Brazilian superstar Gilberto Gil is her mentor. For more info click here. Click ahead in this video a little bit.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Interview with Meklit Hadero, the Nile Project and bringing East Africa together through its own music


I am so excited about the Nile Project. I've offered to help out in any way that I can (I already donated some money). This is what being an ethnomusicologist is all about!

Local singer/songwriter Meklit Hadero was born in Ethiopia. Mina Girgis, ethnomusicologist and Director of the Bay Area community music center Zambaleta, was born in Egypt. Over a beer last summer, the two realized that they have something in common other than a love for music: a desire to learn more about each other’s musical culture and a river that connected the countries of their birth.


From there came the Nile Project: a platform to bring together musicians from all of the countries that share the Nile: Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda. The plan is to make a record and tour the world with this music. And not only will they tour the world, they will tour the Nile, playing the music for their neighbors along the river. They will also be joined by scientists and local specialists who can share other information about the river and be part of theTed talks.

The project is in its infant stages and requires a tremendous amount of research: Who are the musicians? What are the songs? What are the logistics of touring the Nile? (There are after all alligators and rapids along the way.)

Meklit and Mina need your help to get to East Africa for the first research trip this spring and are raising 10 thousand dollars on kickstarter to help cover the costs. But more importantly, they want to get the word out about the project.

Click here to read my interview with Meklit and learn more about the Nile Project.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Race and the Bay Area Afrobeat band Albino!

This morning I posted this article on examiner.com describing a four month lab residency for the Bay Area afrobeat band Albino! to play at the Elbo Room in the Mission. Each month they will team up with a different artist to experiment with the kind of music that might come up out of that partnership. This is month (Friday) they are playing with Liberian-Bay Area DJ Jeremiah.

I'm not gonna lie, when I first heard about this band three years ago, it made my stomach churn a little bit. The idea of an Afrobeat band called Albino! which is comprised of *mostly* white dudes in costume (often African-themed costume and "tribal" face paint) was not really appealing to me at all; especially coming right out of an Ethnomusicology academic program where I thought about race and music consistently for three years. I was even sure that the band was pretty damn good, but it was still disturbing to me.

But then, the more I thought about it, and the more I got to know the Bay Area and its sense of humor and awareness, it seemed less and less of an issue. I mean, in Austin I was in an afropop band where we often didn't even know what we were singing about, let alone if we were singing words that made ANY sense in the original language (we learned covers phonetically). We just liked the music and wanted to recreate it the best we knew how. At least Albino!'s lyrics are in English and write about political and racial issues in their own community (class struggle within Oakland for instance).

The name Albino! and the costumes seem to be merely poking fun at the fact that the musicians are a bunch of white guys, and yeah, "we play African music," so what? There are dozens of afrobeat bands in the US comprised of mostly/all white people (Antibalas, Budos, Nomo, Afrodesia etc), and they're damn damn good bands that I love very much and do all I can to support them. Can I single one out because of a band name and funny outfits? Can I seriously consider this tasteless enough to count them out?

The music is good. The music does not poke fun. I now have one of their live CDs and it's great music.

What do you think; am I trying too hard justify this idea? Can we just laugh at it and dance?

Albino! promo photo

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Israeli Jazz and bassist Avishai Cohen

At the beginning of 2010, a friend of mine turned me onto bassist Avishai Cohen. He has played with giants of jazz in New York, Europe and of course Israel. He finally started his own record label in 2003 and his new release Aurora is one of the most gorgeous records I've heard.

This video of the track "Alon Basela" has just over 24 thousand hits, I bet 20 thousand of them are mine. As soon as the video is over I want to hear it again.
(Sung in Hebrew)
I believe I’m an oak tree in the rock
Even if a storm will hit me.
I will keep standing
When I shed a tear I plant a Tree.

Sorrow is the soul
And I am nature

I believe in mankind
And in the sky
I exist in the ocean
And in the tree
As long as I live
I will remember
Happiness is the people
For better and ever



Cohen plays at Yoshi's in Oakland on Wednesday and Thursday, two shows each evening. I'll be there Thursday for the 8pm.

READ MY PREVIEW HERE

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My picks for the SFJAZZ Fest 2010 Fall Season

Check out my picks for the SFJAZZ 2010 Fall season, my favorite "festival" in the Bay Area, including:
- Nellie McKay - a tribute to Doris Day
- Olodum
- Taj Mahal, Toumani Diabaté and Vieux Farka Touré - tribute to Ali Farka Touré
- Meklit Hadero
- Lila Downs
- Slavic Soul Party!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thank you Flying Spaghetti Monster for giving me the internet and this video

I just wanted to thank YouTube, the internet and the powers-that-be for giving me this video cover of the "Bed Intruder Song" for Tsugaru Shamisen! This is Mike Penny, and he is badass on this instrument.

If you haven't seen the original yet click here.

Brilliant.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Music blog love: Unbounded Song


Last week I randomly came across the music blog Unbounded Song and I'm really excited about it. The premise is that the blog will eventually feature one song from each country in the world, roughly 196 of them.

The details on who is publishing this blog are non-existent other than his name is Dylan. But one thing is for sure, I trust Dylan's taste in music. That sentiment really boils down any music blog: with all the music blogs out there, what keeps you coming back? What keeps you coming back to mine? I hope it's because you trust me and my taste in music!

Each song on Unbounded Song as been fan-fricken-tastic so far.

The actual text posts are short and to the point, which I appreciate.

The song I'm in love with right now is the Polish entry: "At My Mothers" by Warsaw Village Band. This is the kind of music I want to crawl up inside. You know that feeling? When you just want to get up in it? I have no other way of describing it.

Check out this blog if you like music from around the world. There's some good stuff coming at you.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

JAI HO! 'Slumdog Millionaire' composer and Oscar winner A.R. Rahman performs at the Oracle Area in Oakland

A.R. Rahman shows off his two Oscars

UPDATE: This show has been canceled due an accident that occurred with set collapsing in Detroit. This show will be rescheduled. Fortunately no one was hurt in the accident.

A.R. Rahman is one of India's most popular and epic film composers. The Oscar winning movie Slumdog Millionaire turned American pop culture, at least mainstream pop culture, onto Rahman in a major way. This Saturday, Rahman graces the stage of the Oakland Coliseum with the Jai Ho: the Journey Home World Tour.

The show promises to be quite a show of Bollywood enthusiasm featuring changing sets, large images on LED screens and a spectacular cast of musicians and dancers from across the globe including Hariharan, Javed Ali, Benny Dayal, Blaaze, Shweta Pandit and Neeti Muhan. "Through the concerts," says the AP, "Rahman is attempting something many performers from outside the English-speaking world have tried and failed to do: transcend a regional, ethnic niche and become an international mainstream superstar."

I first fell in love with Rahman's music when I saw my first Bollywood Film, the Oscar nominated 2001 film, Lagaan. The music and the story remain my favorite (see "Mitwa" below). When the movie Slumdog Millionaire started to gain popularity...

READ MORE

My fav, "Mitwa" from Lagaan:

In the clip below, Bhuvan (the fabulous Aamir Kahn) and his friend Gauri, must convince their friends and fellow villagers in 19th century colonial India that while the task of beating the English colonialists, the earth and the sky belong to them and are worth fighting for.
Listen, O my friend,
What is this fear you have?

The earth is ours
And so is the sky.



And how can I not post this?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Africa Mix

In honor of the World Cup in South Africa, I've reposted the Music of Africa, now downloadable!

Including artists from all over the continent: BLK JKS, Amadou & Mariam, The Soweto Gospel Choir, Mariam Makeba, Tinariwen, Fela Kuti, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Cesaria Evora.

Click here for the full tracklist and download link.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The World Cup entertainment features an all-star cast of African Musicians

Yeah, I'm actually up early to watch the first World Cup Game between hosting country South Africa and Mexico. My brother is there covering the games (he works for Major League Soccer) and I'm going to South Africa in December, and I'm sure they'll still be talking about it, so I want to have some idea of what's going on.

I enjoy soccer for many of the same reasons I enjoy music from around the world. You can learn so much about the culture through that window. For that reason I find soccer, or football if you will, anthropologically interesting. We'll see how long it takes before I get back in bed though...

But there's actually been some cool musical things going on around the World Cup bringing out the best of Africa's current music scene (and some American pop stars, but I'm not going to mention them):

First: The opening concert was full of some of my favorite African musicians, Angelique Kidjo, (Kidjo will be performing at the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco on June 20th), BLK JKS, Tinariwen, The Soweto Gospel Choir, Vusi Mahlasela and Vieux Farka Touré.

This is South Africa's own BLK JKS (pronounced Black Jacks) a band that I can only describe as an African TV on the Radio.



Malian blind couple Amadou & Mariam:



To watch the opening kick off concert click here.


Second: The World Cup's Opening Ceremonies featured Cheb Khaled (seen) left, known as the "King of Raï," an immensely popular form of Algerian folk pop. My brother interviewed him as a celebrity fan during his Sports Illustrated days, read it here (scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page). South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela and Nigerian Femi Kuti also performed at the ceremonies.

And finally, of course, I have to mention the national anthem of South Africa, "Nkosi Sikelel' i Africa" it's so beautiful. You'll probably be hearing it a lot in the next few weeks. Here it is.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Salif Keita to appear with SFJAZZ promoting the cause of the African Albino

African musician Salif Keita is an albino: a term used for those individuals with albinism. Albinism, as you probably know, is a congenital disorder characterized by the absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. What you might not know is that in some countries on the African continent, these individuals are often killed because of the superstitious beliefs associated with albinism.

Keita’s new album La Difference is a dedication to these people and a statement bringing attention to the cause. While Keita has always been a speaker for those with albinism, this album is the first time he sings about the deeply personal and painful subject. In two performances (8PM and 10:30PM) this Friday, Keita will appear at Bimbo’s 365 with SFJAZZ.

The story of the 61-year-old’s life is the ultimate “rising above all obstacles to achieve greatness” tale. Keita is of royal heritage, which because of Mali’s strict caste system, is supposed to have kept him from being a musician. Being a musician and a storyteller in Malian tradition is the job of a griot. So Keita was outcast from his family and community on two accounts, that of his chosen profession and his condition.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE


Friday, January 22, 2010

PBS's new music program "Sound Tracks" explores relevant music around the world

Some of the world’s best music has been created out of great passion and great struggle.

I was listening to Forum on KQED/NPR this morning driving my cat home from the vet and heard about an exciting new show that will air next Monday night at 10pm called "Sound Tracks: Music Without Borders." I didn't get to hear the whole report (a cat in a carrier is not a happy cat), but I am very excited about this show.

Producer Marco Werman and international correspondents Alexis Bloom, Arun Rath and Mirissa Neff have created a show that will take viewers on journeys of discovery from the bayous of Louisiana to the backstreets of Havana, from the nightclubs of Paris to desert music festivals in Mali. They'll interview everyone from Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famers to Bollywood singers, violin virtuosos to bluegrass musicians. It's not just good music they are looking for, but good stories behind the music.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF MY ARTICLE ON EXAMINER.COM

Click here for the "Sound Tracks" official website

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Mixes! Collaged CD Covers!

Check out these awesome CD covers I made last night for my brother's long over due birthday present.

This one made use of a Sergio Mendes ad. This one is my favorite. The sun burst is plain old construction paper.

This one is a little bizarre, I was trying not to make it too stereotypically "African" looking and ended up just making it silly looking. I can live with that. I like the dancing people. That was my housemate Erin's idea.


These are going to my next Always More to Hear mix cds. Who wants one? Which one do you want?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

GO SLUMDOG GO!: The alwaysmoretohear Oscar Review


Just in case you missed it, word on the street is that this 2009 Oscars awards ceremony was the most enjoyable show in a long time, with a few pitfalls. These are a couple of my favorite and not-so-favorite moments.

-Song and dance host Hugh Jackman was perfectly entertaining. Loved the intro. Loved Anne Hathaway.

-I am a big fan of the new best actor/actress format where five previous winners honor each nominee, it made every moment very special. Much better than showing out-of-context clips. I really hope they keep it this way.

-Could have done without the way they presented of "Best Score," I'm sorry, but that was boring and it all sounded the same.  Maybe they could have written a better arrangement. Maybe I just don't appreciate film scores. I dunno. I couldn't even find a youtube video of it, but honestly, I didn't try very hard...

-The "Musical is Back" medley number with Beyonce and a couple of those kids from High School Musical made my head spin. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, but there were musical references flying at me so quickly I didn't have time to identify them!  And Beyonce is in everything. She's amazing. 



And since I haven't shut up about it since I hear that an A.R. Rahman film was coming to the American big screen, I should probably say something about Slumdog Millionaire and its big win over the weekend. 

You probably know that Rahman won the Oscar for Best Song with "Jai Ho." And if you haven't seen the movie, or love the song as much as I do, here's the clip from when "Jai Ho" appears in the the film. The Oscar winning song appears over the credits, while the cast performs a very typical, yet out of character from the rest of the movie Bollywood-esque dance in the Mumbai train station.  Love the Spanish, so random.



This next clip is what I've been excited about since I first heard Rahman was getting recognized for Slumdog: the live Best Song performance at the Oscars.  I loved this, even though the Oscars people crammed all three nominated songs into one number. Whatever, it was still cool. And this year, it seems as if it was a "world music" explosion! Bollywood dancers, what look like Kodo drummers, my favorite: the Soweto Gospel Choir from South Africa. And I love John Legend's voice.

It was also fun to hear Rahman sing. Did anyone else notice the weird mix of live singing over pre-recorded track?  Whatever. It was cool.  I wish M.I.A. didn't go and give birth right after performing at the Grammys last month, it would have been fun to hear her bit in "O Saya."




Go Slumdog Go! And congratulations to the people of India and Indian film lovers all over the world. This epic film industry has finally gotten it's international props. Hopefully this is only the beginning and there are many more amazing movies and awesome scores to be shared.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Oscars: The Visitor and and Slumdog Nominated


The Oscar Nominations are in and two of my favorite films of the year were nominated. 

Richard Jenkins from the Visitor was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role. This movie was terrific. Read my initial thoughts after seeing the film here: the musical aspect of the movie really caught my attention.  Jenkins played the dad in Six Feet Under, we love him. I don't think he'll win (he's up against Sean Penn in Milk), but I'm so happy he got a nomination.  He's been a character actor for so long, this must be very exciting for him. 

Slumdog Millionaire, on the other hand, received 10 nominations (and will probably win many of them) including best score and TWO best song nominations for "Jai Ho" and "O Saya."  And you know what that means right? Oscar performances!  And while I'm not a huge fan of M.I.A. (she's got great beats but I just can't get around her voice) she'll probably be making an appearance.  And hopefully there will be dancing. Composer A.R. Rahman is finally getting the worldwide recognition he deserves.

4 Golden Globes are exciting, but this is going to be even better.

Check out one of my former blog entries discussing Slumdog and my favorite Indian film Lagaan, which also happens to be my favorite soundtrack by Rahman.

Here is one of the nominated songs "Jai Ho" 




And a second nominiated song "O Saya" (This one is my fav. I love the percussion)



Anyone think other songs should have gotten nominated? I can't believe I haven't bought the soundtrack yet? What am I waiting for?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Best Channukah Music Ever: Erran Baron Cohen and Y-Love


In honor of the last night of Channukah (and not a moment too soon) I bring you the best Channukah music ever (even thought that's not saying much, most of it is pretty lame) Erran Baron Cohen's Hanukah Songs in the Key of Life. (And for those of you that don't know, there is no correct spelling for Channukah/Hanukah, it's whatever you prefer.)

Sorry this is coming at you with a whole year to go at this point, but it's worth it.

Erran Baron Cohen is the brother of Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, The Ali G Show, etc.) and composed for his brother's show and movie.  He was recently commissioned by the Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra to compose a piece for them after the release of his brother's movie Borat. Cohen studied Kazakhstani folk instruments so that he could incorporate them into his piece.

This is Cohen, Jules Brookes and hasidic rapper Y-Love on the Conan O'Brien Show. Y-Love feel styles in Arabic, Hebrew, English, Yiddish, Aramaic, and more.



The rest of the album consists of covers of traditional Channukah songs and originals featuring vocalists Idan Raichel (an Israeli artist that I hold near and dear to my heart and will soon blog about),  Avivit Caspi, Dana Kerstein and Yasmin Levy.  The musical stylings range from Middle Eastern to klezmer and hip hop to rock.

Check out his interview on NPR's "Fresh Air" here

Buy the CD for next year here. check out his myspace page here

I've also added "Dreidel" to my playlist as well as the tune "O Kazakhstan" that Cohen composed for the movie Borat, just because it's hilarious.

Monday, December 15, 2008

NPR: Ozomatli and listener favorites of 2008


Ya Se Fue! Ya Se Fue!

I love NPR.  It's really the only radio station I listen to on a regular basis.  I used to listen to the radio a lot in high school, but now I usually just like to listen to my own music. But sometimes I really do find really terrific community radio that I like, but I have to actively go out and find it.  

NPR and it's regional affiliates, are the only stations I can stomach. It makes me feel smarter. Anyone else feel that way?  I know you do.

I also tend to think I have much in common with other folks that support National Public Radio. After working for KUT in Austin I have great respect for the folks that are in charge of the music programming.  I also know that their music tastes tend to be more under the radar than, say, oh, Top 40 radio.  But that's no surprise.

SO, first and foremost, I want to direct you to a KQED's (NPR Bay Area affiliate) interview with Ozomatli.  In the interview the men of Ozomatli share many of their political and social views, poke fun at each other and play some tunes live.  

Last Thursday I saw Ozo play a reunion show with rapper Chali 2na (also of Jurassic 5) at the Fillmore in San Francisco. They put on an absolutely awesome show. I've seen them now probably 5 times in the last 10 years all over the country and have enjoyed them every time. Los Angelian based Ozomatli plays music that is somewhere between hip-hop, Mexican dance music and funk.  All I know, is that it's a massive dance party every time they play.

I was a little concerned about the show since I haven't been too excited about some of their newer tracks ("Don't Mess with the Dragon" and "Saturday Night"), but they whipped out the old tunes with great energy and passion ("Cumbia de los Muertos,"  and "Super Bowl Sundae").  They ended the show, as they do every show, coming into the audience, playing in a drum circle, and leading folks out into the lobby as the show ends.  This last show was complete with breakdancing chickens and giant Ozomatli balloons.

Anyway, if you like Ozo, or are interesting in getting to know one of the best under-appreciated bands of the last 15 years, check out this hysterical interview.  These guys love what they do, and they love each other, which always adds to the enjoyment and chemistry of a live show.

Also, today NPR released a list of NPR listener picked best music of 2008.  NPR's website has clips from each of these tracks, so if you are interested in what you may or may not have missed this year, check out this list. I believe there is a podcast to download as well. I haven't heard all of these bands, but most of them are pretty darn good.  I've hilighted some of my personal favorites.

I will also add some tracks onto the playlist. If you feel like it, leave your favorite album of the year in the comments, either on this list or not.  I'd love to know what you've loved this year.

I would add Gnarls Barkley's The Odd Couple.


1. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes "White Winter Hymnal"

2. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend "A-Punk"

3. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago "Skinny Love"

4. TV on the Radio - Dear Science "Halfway Home"

5. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs "Cath..."

6. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular "Time to Pretend"

7. She & Him - Volume One "Change is Hard" 

8. Coldplay - Viva la Vida "Lover's in Japan/Reign of Love"

9. My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges "Evil Urges"

10. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords "Business Time"

11. Sigur Rós - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust "Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur"

12. Okkervil River - The Stand Ins "Pop Lie"

13. Beck - Modern Guilt "Chemtrails"

14. Kimya Dawson and Antsy Pants -  Juno (the soundtrack) "Tree Hugger"

15. The Raconteurs - Consolers of the Lonely "Many Shades of Black"

16. Girl Talk - Feed the Animals "In Step"

17. The Black Keys - Attack & Release "Psychotic Girl"

18. Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst "Lenders in the Temple"

19. Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue "Acid Tongue"

20. Kings of Leon - Only by Night "Manhattan" 

21. Bob Dylan - Bootleg Series "Dreamin' of You"

22. Punch Brothers - Punch "Blind Leaving the Blind: 1st Movement"

23. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive "Constructive Summer"

24. Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping "Id Engager"

Again, please leave your favorite music of the year as a comment.  I'd love to hear it whether it's Britney's new album (you know who I'm talking to) or Poison Apple Pie.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A.R. Rahman: Slumdog Millionaire and Lagaan.


The first Bollywood movie I ever saw was Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India. After seeing that movie I fell in love with Indian film and popular music.  But Lagaan's soundtrack, by A.R. Rahman is still my favorite.  Last week his new movie Slumdog Millionaire, from the director who brought us Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, was released in the United States. The soundtrack also features M.I.A.'s Grammy 2009 nominated single "Paper Planes."

In 2004, TIME magazine declared Rahman the "Mozart of Madras" and has sold over 150 million records, placing him among the 25 highest selling music artist of all time.  He has composed over one hundred film scores in the last 25 years and is also involved in various charitable causes.

Watch this clip from the 2002 Oscar nominated film Lagaan, staring the fabulous Aamir Khan. The film takes place in Victorian colonial India. During a drought, the English colonizers have placed a double tax (lagaan) on the local Indian farmers.  Feeling the injustice of the situation, Bhuvan, Khan's character, bets the English Captain that he and his farmer friends will beat the English in a game of cricket (a game that Bhuvan has never played before). If the farmers win, they will never have to pay lagaan again, if they lose, they must pay triple lagaan.  

In this clip, Bhuvan and his friend Gauri, must convince their friends and fellow villagers that while the task might seem impossible, the earth and the sky belong to them and are worth fighting for.  
Listen, O my friend,
What is this fear you have?

The earth is ours
And so is the sky.
The song is called "Mitwa." 


This is just one of the several fantastic songs and dance sequences from this movie. If you are interested at all in Bollywood (and good foreign flicks in general), I highly recommend Lagaan. It's long though, as are most Bollywood films, but I wouldn't be ashamed in you if you wanted to fast forward through much of, what seems like a 45 minute cricket game toward the end of the movie.

Slumdog Millionaire, Rahman's new release, is the story of the impoverished teen Jamal Malik who becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of "Who wants to be a Millionaire."  The film jumps back and forth through time presenting the viewer with life tales that lead Jamal to possess the answer to every question.  



Read this in depth review of the soundtrack. Thank you to Manu at t-Shirt Junkie for turning me onto this movie.

Don't count on seeing much singing and dancing in traditional Bollywood style in this film, I hear that doesn't come until the credits.

I'm super excited to see this movie.  It's not often that I am able to see a Hindi film on the big screen.

I've also added some Bollywood tunes to my playlist.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kenge Kenge from Kenya: representative of Obama's support abroad



I know some Australians, Canadians and Brits that support Obama (you know who you are!), and I'm enjoying the international support he's getting all around.  

These days, it's no secret that the President of the United States has more impact on the international community than any other government official on the planet.  Even though other countries can't vote in our election, we should at least take a notice to what they have to say, or sing.

If you don't watch the whole video of "Obama for Change," let me just at least point out the last verse and the public figures and communities that Kenge Kenge single out as Obama supporters:
Hillary Clinton supports you
Al Gore supports you
Jimmy Carter supports you
Europe supports you
Africa supports you
It's always healthy to see things from a different perspective and specifically who these particular individuals see as important to them. Something to think about. 



In this song, Kenge Kenge play a traditional kind of Kenyan dance music called benga.  It evolved in the late 1940s and 1960s in Nairobi by the Luo people, a ethnic group of people from Kenya, eastern Uganda and northern Tanzania. Perhaps it is not a surprise that Barack Obama is of Lou descent. Benga features the nyatiti (eight-stringed lyre), asili (flute), the orutu (one-string fiddle) and oporo (horn). Benga is often played with electric guitars, but "Obama for Change" is strictly acoustic.

Here is a cool photo album I found of a Kenge Kenge concert at the BBC's Live at WOMAD taken by KayHanPep on flickr. 

"Obama for Change" is available for purchase on itunes and emusic and their album "Introducing Kenge Kenge" (shown above) can be purchased at amazon.com.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Sway Machinery: traditional psychedelic klezmer afrobeat show in San Francisco



Alright, I know that traditional psychedelic klezmer afrobeat doesn't exist as a genre or even as a logical combination of musical sounds or even adjectives in general, but honestly I have no idea how to explain what this band sounds like.  Just like I said in my last post about Dengue Fever, this band has taken the idea of '"world music fusion" to a whole new non-cheesy dimension.  And I'm diggin' it. (Thank god the 90's are over, eh?)

In fact, the song that I'm adding to my playlist over there on the right called "P'sach Lanu Sha'ar" is a little too African sounding (take a special notice to the guitars and some of the horn lines) and it's freaking me out a little, but in a good way.  But honestly, that should be no surprise considering the band consists of musicians that have played with Antibalas and the Arcade Fire to Middle Eastern percussion bands and Brazilian bands. 

I first heard about the Sway Machinery at the South by Southwest Festival in 2006 as part of the JDub records showcase.  But I really took notice when Jeremiah appeared as a featured artist in a documentary about the New York City Jewish Musical Renaissance.  There's one going on, and Matisyahu and Golem are part of it.  I read about this Ethnomusicologist at UCLA that's writing his dissertation on it and there's a class on it, who knew?   

As a vocalist, Jeremiah Lockwood is somewhere between Robert Johnson and my great-great grandmother's Belarusian rabbi. Honestly, I'm a little worried that his super stylized vocals might make me a little crazy, I mean I am a vocal snob, I totally admit it. (I'm a singer, I can't help it! I mean it took me a few years to enjoy Robert Plant and Thom Thorke for petesake!) But, he's just so different and the music is so interesting, I'm completely drawn to it.  He's also worked with Israeli and American collabortive band  Balkan Beat Box. Here's a really neat clip of Jeremiah playing some jewishy-blues in the New York Subway.




If you've been reading this blog for the short time it's been in existence, you've probably noticed my love of afrobeat, and the band Antibalas in particular.  Not every afrobeat band can cut it, but if the horn arrangements are there and the different layers lock in, there's nothing better for me. And with Stuart Bogie (Antibalas) on tenor sax, Colin Stetson on baritone sax (Arcade Fire), Jordan McLean (Antibalas) on trumpet, Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) on drums and , I'm sorry, but I'm just going to have to go.

My great-great-grandmother's rabbi would be proud.

Here's their myspace page and their website (download some tracks) check them out.  And see you at the show.

The Sway Machinery will be playing this Saturday, October 25 at the Elbo Room, local funk band Monophonics to open.  Show at 9:30pm.