31 May 2009

African Journey - Part 2: West Africa

Arriving in West Africa, we hear the sound of French, English, Wolof, Fula, Mandinka, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, and so many more languages. Such a mix creates a heady brew of music. We first start in the Casamance region of Senegal, directly south of The Gambia. We spent this Christmas in the Gambia, and the talk there was of how the Casamance would prefer to join their country rather than remain part of Senegal, cut off from Dakar and the north... The first track is from Touré Kunda, a group that had many French as well as African releases, and saw some exposure in America in the early '80s on Celluloid. When my mom took a trip to Paris, I had her pick me up a cassette and was hooked from there on in. I picked Casa Di Mansa because it gives a good example of their sound. They have a lot of great stuff in this vein, as well as an album of drum and voice only (well, very close to it...) stuff. 5-Casa Di Mansa by Touré Kunda, from Amadou-Tilo (Celluloid, 1984)
Next we round the corner and head down to an underexposed spot on the African musical scene... the tiny countries of Togo and Benin. The African Scream Contest comp is one of the first things to surface from this area, and if is any indication of what can be found there, I hope there is a lot more to come. Although it starts out in a James Brown style, Vinon So Minsou heads straight into an Afrobeat groove... except Afrobeat was yet to be born when this was recorded! Obviously some of the sounds of the scene bled into Nigeria...
6-Vinon So Minsou by Ouinsou Corneille & Black Santiago from African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds (Analog, 2008) The structure of Ghanaian Ambolley´s song Simigwado is built on the "dance" songs of the ´60s, in a warped funky way. Repeated listens will have you shouting out "Kwayadoof, Kwayadoof... Hebdeff. Hebdeff" in no time... and how many songs can you say THAT about?! 7-Simigwado by Gyedu Blay Ambolley & the Steneboofs from Ghana Soundz (Soundway, 2004) Holy shit, check out the killer breakbeat that kick-starts this track! Then in come the horns and guitar line... this is just so smooth it's sick. A 2007 reissue of an original 1966 release. Julius was part of the proto-Afrobeat scene in Nigeria, as was his countryman Fela. Long hard to find, the music of this earlier period is finally starting to surface. 8-Bojubari by Orlando Julius & His Modern Aces, from Super Afro Soul (Vampi Soul, 2007) Continuing on in Nigeria would be impossible without acknowledging Fela. The king and all-time champion of Afrobeat, Fela specializes in long (and I mean LONG) songs teeming with groove. He Miss Road is a typically smoking percussive funk work out, and the vocals don't even start until the 5.22 of the 10.45 minute track.
9-He Miss Road by Fela, from He Miss Road (Sterns Africa Classics, 1975) Next Destination: Central Africa...

29 May 2009

African Journey - Part 1: East & North Africa

Get that passport dusted off, because we're about to begin an epic journey through Africa, highlighting great music along the way. Today we touch down in East Africa: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for two tracks from the Ethiopiques series. Having spent a lot of time in Ethiopian restaurants during my former DC living stint from 1990 to '94, I'd heard a lot of Ethiopian music there. Hell, Aster Aweke went to NOVA, the community college just up the street from my first apartment. But back then I didn't like what I was hearing... too high-pitched. Well, it turns out that there was a HUGE chunk of great music in Ethiopia, but you had to dig a bit deeper in the past to get to it. First we start with Mahmoud Ahmed, who had a whole volume of the series dedicated to him. Also getting this honor was Mulatu Astatke, who's garnered the lion's share of press. But my ear prefers the rougher, rawer magic of Ahmed. 1- Era Mela Mela by Mahmoud Ahmed, from Ethiopiques Vol. 7 (Buda Musique, 1999) The next track is a hybrid, a mutated James Brown funk groove fused with Ethiopian homegrown sounds. The Godfather reached all around the globe, and his gift to Africa was no smaller than that to America... so much good stuff has come of it, enough to dedicate a future Soundbombing to. But for now, just a taste: 2- Tèmèlès by Alèmayèhu Eshètè. from Ethiopiques Vol. 3 (Buda Musique, 1998) Leaving the great land of Ethiopia behind, we take a trip to the dry wastes of the North, to Libya and the desert-soaked guitar sound of Tinariwen. Just like Ethiopian music, North African was a kind of "last frontier" for me, something that didn't interest me much... but then came Tiniwaren. This is music of nomads, swirling guitars that evoke the hot, choked landscape out of which they are born. So far the scene is pretty much them and Etran Finatawa, another Tuareg band, but this music is seriously trance inducing and timeless. Tinariwen is one of the bands most frequently heard around Casa Gomek these days. 3- Tamatant Tilay by Tinariwen, from Aman Iman: Water is Life (World Village, 2007) 4- Oualahila Ar Teninam by Tinariwen, from Amassakoul (World Village, 2004) Next Destination: West Africa...

09 May 2009

'Cause Obits are better heard than read....

After a furious flurry of posts, life and work conspired to slow me down... but no fear, I'm planning an epic, multi-part "Journey Through Africa" Soundbombing that will blow your mind.
But first I wanted to share my favorite new find of the last few months... OBITS! They feature Rick Froberg, who used to be in Hot Snakes with the almighty Swami, greatest DJ on Earth. Obits' sound draws heavily on all the classics of the garage scene... Stooges, MC5, the Saints, and especially Radio Birdman. In other words, there was no way I wasn't going to love this band.
This one's from their first release, and is the standout even among a group of very strong tracks...
Light Sweet Crude by Obits, from I Blame You (Sub Pop, 2009)
For this next one, you're going to have to forgive the SLSQ (severely limited sound quality)... but it's a historical document, since it came from the first ever Obits show, performed at Cake Shop in New York City, the band's adopted home. 
Talking to the Dog/Pine On by Obits, unreleased, from 1st show at Cake Shop, NYC, 1/12/08
Hope these primal cave grooves whet your appetite for more, and Gomek will return soon!