Monday, February 20, 2012

Bacchanal Take Over — Old Style Soca Selection

I see it’s been a long, long time I’ve left you without a beat to step to. Sorry about that — and no, I haven’t been in jail for almost the past five years! There’s a third volume of Wax d’Afrique at some indeterminate stage of selection, but in the meantime . . . 

This being Mardi Gras, the musical theme turns towards Carnival music in general this week. In my particular case this year, I’ve ventured deeper into soca than I often do primarily because of the almighty classic “Lorraine” by Explainer, a tune that resides pretty much permanently in my head. Some call this phenomenon an earworm. Suddenly yesterday, it had to burst out into the real world. One thing lead to another and the whole soca vinyl collection came out for an airing and soon I’d jammed up this Bacchanal Take Over selection presented here. 

I don’t really have much to say about soca. The true neophytes among you will perhaps need to be told that the word comes from SOul-CAlypso. Its roots are in the carnival music of Trinidad and it developed from the earlier form of calypso in the late 1970s. Originally it was somewhat controversial because it’s basically party music rather than employing the lyrical inventiveness of calypso. However, there are plenty of soca songs that address social and political issues; one or two them even appear in this Bacchanal Take Over. 

For about five minutes somewhere during the early days of world music in the mid 1980s, there was an idea that soca might be the next big thing, but for a variety of reasons that obviously never happened although Arrow had a major crossover hit with “Hot Hot Hot” in 1984. To my mind, besides the usual unrealistic high hopes of complete and utter cultural crossover, the problems for soca were that much of it sounds rather same-y and is also frequently of not very good sound quality — I'm thinking I managed to have at least skirted these two issues with Bacchanal Take Over. It’s also produced for a particular cultural purpose, Trinidad’s Carnival (surely one of the world's greatest carnival celebrations), and so all releases appear in the months before Mardi Gras and then disappear, which made things like distribution and marketing to a larger audience a bit trickier than ideal. Lastly, when it came to club play, I didn’t find it extremely danceable even though many of these tracks came on 12” disco singles and are obviously set up for mixing; it seems to do better as a sort of more informal street dance or parade style. 

None of that stopped me from buying as much of it as I could back in the day and I had a good time looking through albums and auditioning tracks. It’s fascinating to see albums with advertisements for Caribbean restaurants, car dealers and BWIA West Indies Airways on the back of the sleeve. I’d guess that often the advertisements are for other business interests of the producer — but it definitely gives a funky and idiosyncratic feel to the whole artifact. 

I’ve noticed that with the advent of mp3s from Amazon and sources like eMusic that many of the old tracks are now more readily available than they were back when this vinyl came my way. So, if you like what you hear here, I encourage you to investigate further; you will meet with success and purchasing opportunities — but, sorry, you’ll miss the ads. 

So, I hope you enjoy Bacchanal Take Over and that it gets you through to next year’s Carnival. Please note that there’s more music on the selection than will fit on a CD if you’re thinking of burning one. This is a feature not a bug! You get to determine which tracks to leave off — it’s collaborative, interactive compilation making. 


1. Explainer — Lorraine 
2. Charlie's Roots — Permission To Mash Up The Place 
3. Trinidad Bill — Carnival Bacchanal 
4. Lord Laro — Rockin' Soca 
5. Winsford Devine — Baratiélé 
6. Liquid Sound Brass Super Power — Crazy Mass 
7. Shadow — Feeling The Feeling 
8. Preacher — Abu Baka Take Over 
9. Byron Lee & The Dragonaires — De Music Hot Mama 
10. De Mighty Trini — Curry Tabanca
11. Spice & Company — Lift Ya Leg Up 
12. Fabulous Five, Inc. — All Night Party
13. The Quelvis & Wellington — Biggest Party 
14. Commander — Slavery Done 
15. Calypso Rose — Land Of The Light 

DOWNLOAD — Sorry again, I had to break the files into two zips. Either will work on their own. Part 1 has tracks 1 thru 10.
Part 2 has the other tracks plus .png art to print a CD cover if wanted.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wax d’Afrique Vol. 1 — African Fiesta Club

Over my years of record collecting, one of the biggest frustrations has been the phenomenon of “the partial series.” I’d find Volume 1 of some collection and Volume 2 would never appear. What was worse was finding Volume 2 and never seeing Volume 1. At least when I had a Volume 1 I could assume that Volume 2 never came out, which would allow my jackdaw habits a little rest. When there was only a Volume 2, I was left with the completist hunger unassuaged, nagging at me constantly. I would spend weeks, months, years, searching through dusty record stores for the elusive Volume 1. I’d say I hate record collecting, but that would be a complete bloody lie.

Given the ways of certain record companies, announcing releases that never appear and occasionally putting out the second in a projected series before the first and then dropping the series, I suspect that some of those Volume 1’s do not exist. That is not the case with the Wax d’Afrique series, and Volume 1 is hereby made available again for those who missed it on its first appearance through the Matsuli site, where it was accorded the honour of a place in the African Serenades series as Volume 36. And let me tell you, as a latecomer to the African Serenades series—I checked in around Volume 20-something—I was frustrated as hell to have missed the first volumes. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Matsuli, being a true believer in spreading the good stuff around, later made all the African Serenades available for a while on their very own site. There is no doubt that Matsuli deserves the love of all lovers of African music for the Herculean effort of organizing the multiple compilers of the series and for continuing efforts to keep the spirit of the music alive in these times of cultural restriction by commercial interests. Matsuli’s site was the direct inspiration for BlackMagicPlasticBullet. It showed me the way and I shamelessly copied whatever techniques seemed useful. My thanks are profound.

African music swept me off my feet in the early 1980s. King Sunny Ade’s Juju Music, with its psychedelic funk, opened my ears as they hadn’t been opened for a year or two. I even managed to move my feet despite the often-repeated assertion that people couldn’t dance to it. Maybe some people couldn’t—but I’ve seen the floor packed and moving when I put it on the decks. Following Juju Music, there was a long series of musical revelations provided by the Sound d’Afrique titles on Mango, the various early WOMAD compilations, and, of course, the mighty GlobeStyle releases. EarthWorks, at the time, was not only a nascent label but also a source of French LPs that could be found in the Rough Trade store in San Francisco. Soon, it became obvious that most of the interesting releases came from Paris first. Even my first Fela Kuti records came from a French label.

It also became apparent that a good portion of these interesting, and then current, releases were made by musicians from Francophone African countries, playing principally either Zairean soukous or makossa from Cameroun. The musical archaeology into the funky Nigerian and Ghanaian styles of the earlier 1970s, the resurrection of Ethiopia’s music scene, or the multitudinous wonders of Mande music were all yet to come—or I suppose to be more accurate in the case of the Mande glories, had not yet become apparent to those of us on the West Coast of America rather than Africa.

Today, the African music of the early to mid 1980s is not the most fashionable around; primarily, I think, for the usual reasons of cyclical musical tastes. It tends to exhibit a slight tang of disco’s shiny style and thump, which still suffers from rockist disdain, and which, itself, has never had a strong resurgence of interest beyond its core community base. Of course, once past its early underground origins, disco did become a rather bland and formulaic musical pabulum, more of a commercial craze than a genuine musical movement. However, the African styles somehow avoided this fate even though Graeme Ewens reports in Africa O-Ye! that “some cynical observers have stated that all Congo-Zairean music is the same; that the guitarists only play three notes.” As ever, it’s playing the right three notes that matters. In addition, it occasionally—but only very occasionally until later in the decade—suffers from the fascination of the times with the new and aurally unpleasant technologies of bad synthesizers and programmed drums. However, at its best, it’s simply wonderful music, full of life and joy with stunning guitar, sophisticate horns, and soulful singing; one of the great classic forms of popular music that appear every so often around the world to lift our spirits and bind us together as humans.

Wax d’Afrique Volume 1 — African Fiesta Club is a quick tour, a very quick tour, through the music of Congo, Zaire, and Cameroun with a side trip to Kenya. It includes some of the best known of the old names and some relative unknowns from more recent times. It is not mixed, each track is separate, but I conceived it as a DJ set that I might have played back in the day with a receptive audience who wanted African music and nothing but African music— an African fiesta club!

The posting for Wax d’Afrique Volume 2 — Ambiance! Ambiance! has a few further details on the history of the music. This Wikipedia page provides a brief introduction to Zairean musical history. As always, in this day and age, if you want to know more, there is this giant reference machine called the Internet. Copy any name that interests you into your favourite search engine—that would be Google, right?—and spend the day and the night clicking away while the music plays. Once you've downloaded it, anyway.

As will be always the case with the Wax d’Afrique series, all tracks are taken from original vinyl of the time. You will hear a couple of crackly spots and distortion despite my best efforts to clean them up with SoundSoap—that’s the nature of the wax, or the deficiencies of SoundSoap, or my own limitations in using it (although really I don't think it's as good as its hype). Perhaps one day, a professional sound restorer will be able to do a proper job and these tracks will see the light of day with a commercial release. They deserve it. That's the goal of BlackMagicPlasticBullet.

This is the second edition of Wax d’Afrique Volume 1 — African Fiesta Club. The only differences from the first are that I added the Wax d’Afrique graphic to each individual track as well as crediting myself for the selection in the Comments box. Original discographical information is also included in the Comments box.


1. Nico — African Fiesta Congo (from Kwamy Nico Rochereau — Les Merveilles du Passé 1965, African 360.145)
2. Kabassele — African Mokili Mobimba (from Joseph Kabassele et L’African Jazz — Hommage Au Grand Kalle Vol. 1, African 360.142)
3. Pamelo Mounk’a avec Les Bantous — L’Amour et la Danse (from Pamelo Mounk’a avec Les Bantous — L’Amour et la Danse, Black Music BM 002)
4. Nino Malapet — 5e Dan (from Nino Malapet — Mokilimbembe, Music-Press 33004)
5. Tchico — Nostalgie D'Afrique (from Le Commandant Tchico — Full Steam Ahead, GlobeStyle ORB 007)
6. Zao — Moustique (from Zao — Moustique, Bleu Caraïbes 82418-1)
7. Golden Sounds — Casque Colonial (from Golden Sounds — Casque Colonial, Vol 2, DTC 021)
8. Black Styl — O Sambo (from Black Styl — Golden Collection Vol.1, TN 594)
9. Prince Lessa Lassan — Djalenga (from V/A — Swahili Records Presents Djalenga, Albion SWAH 001)
10. Tjahe — Afric' Ambiance (from Tjahe — Afric' Ambiance 1000% Makossa IV, General Modern Enterprise 005)
11. Kwamy — African Club (from Kwamy Nico Rochereau — Les Merveilles du Passé 1965, African 360.145)

DOWNLOAD Wax d’Afrique Volume 1 — African Fiesta Club

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Wax d’Afrique Vol. 2 — Ambiance! Ambiance!

In the mid 1980s the music usually known as soukous from the countries then known as Zaire and the Congo was my favourite African music. I was as crazy for it as I’ve ever been for any music and I bought almost every LP that came my way. The shouted exhortations to the guitarists and dancers, the zippy guitar lines, the sometimes jazzy R’n’B feel of the horns, the clattering drums, its sweetness and joie de vivre all combined to lift my heart and move my feet.

As a DJ I loved spinning soukous in the clubs of San Francisco, at least those that were open-minded enough to hire me to play the mix of musics then known as world beat. This was several years before the “invention” of “world music” at the notorious Empress of Russia meeting of various English music industry dissidents, malcontents and hustlers — but that’s another story.

Soukous appealed to me as a DJ because it was basically impossible to mix on the beat with the songs frequently beginning slow and working up to a frenzy. To tell you the truth, I was a pretty lousy beat mixer anyway, but I liked doing fades from song to song. The varied pacing of soukous with its relatively long songs, its focus on having a good time, and its occasional sonic ferocity fascinated me in other ways. It was at once both a contrast to prog rock, pub rock and punk — all musical genres I admit I had previously obsessed over — and a strange combination of their significant elements.

At the time, soukous also provided a welcome relief to the dismay brought about by the right-wing crackdowns of Reagan and Thatcher, which were beginning to bite down hard on our accustomed freedoms of previous decades. It was fun music, nothing much political to it. Even though it came from countries suffering through the post-colonial traumas that have become such ugly ongoing features of the world today, it was escapist to us and didn’t have the political-correctness baggage that South African music had with the then-current struggle against apartheid.

To some extent, African music was soukous to me for a couple of years. I’d heard Osibisa (Do they count as African music? Sure, they do!) years earlier and Manu Dibango’s mighty “Soul Makossa,” but both had rather faded from the scene. King Sunny Ade’s Juju Music had recently reawoken me to African music, but that and Prince Nico Mbarga’s classic “Sweet Mother” was about all that was available for a time besides soukous, which was presented on various albums and compilations from Island and GlobeStyle. For about five minutes, it looked as though soukous might be “the next big thing” on the music scene — but that was a naïve thought formed before the imperatives of homegrown culture and the conservative influence wielded by industry gatekeepers became obvious. (I should have known better having seen how punk was received in the United States.)

Kanda Bongo Man was the artist I absolutely adored. His cries of “Ambiance! Ambiance!” just enthralled me and Diblo’s guitar carried me right along into that ambiance. In 1984, I embarked on a bicycle tour of southern England. After a few days of slogging along the South Downs, we reached Petersfield in Hampshire, which may be considered my hometown if I have to have one (I wasn’t born there and haven’t lived there since 1966, but a few years of moderately happy childhood were spent there). There, I picked up a copy of NME, then still a readable and credible music magazine. I learnt that Kanda Bongo Man was to perform at the Ashton Court WOMAD festival, on the outskirts of Bristol, that weekend. We got on our bikes and rode for three days along the edge of Salisbury Plain, straining ourselves up and wearing our brakes out down the sides of some steep and narrow valleys. We even stopped to look at the cathedrals of Winchester and Salisbury on the way. On the morning of the fourth day, we were lost riding around Bristol looking for the festival. Eventually we found it. Kanda Bongo Man was superb — the first live soukous I had seen. Afterwards riding back in the dark to our campsite in Bath, my girlfriend fell off her bike and broke her arm. Such was the feel-good power of soukous even that didn’t ruin our day!!

The history of soukous is a complicated tangle of shifting alliances between musicians with added difficulties for outsiders due to the frequently long Lingala names and the geographical confusion of the two competing capital cities of Congo and Zaire, Brazzaville and Kinshasha, facing each other across the Congo River, not to mention the changing names of those countries. It is much and variously told in African music reference books. There is little agreement even about the name used for the music, some preferring rumba, rumba rock, or various Lingala words referring to specific styles covered by the convenient overall umbrella of soukous. Perhaps the quickest, more detailed introduction for the neophyte is the Wikipedia page on the subject.

In its heyday, soukous was popular throughout Africa, pretty much the fabled Pan-African sound, with substantial migration of musicians to both Kenya and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire. Later, as conditions worsened in Zaire, Paris became a place of refuge and many musicians relocated there. However, ultimately Paris was not good for the music. Production styles became increasingly technological with drum machines and synthesizers substituting for the musical interplay between humans. Much of the emphasis even shifted from the music to the extravagant high-style suits worn by the musicians. The sapeur movement, as this was known, was considered to be a sophisticated fashion statement and “the antithesis of hippiedom.” To this old hippie, it was more like the antithesis of music. Thankfully, in the past few years artists such as Kékélé, Sam Mangwana, Papa Noel, and Mose “Fan Fan” have all revived the earlier, more organic styles of Congolese music with an impressive series of releases. RetroAfric, Crammed, Syllart, and Network Medien have all released reliable compilations of the early days of Congolese music, while Stern’s has a selection of later soukous titles.

Ambiance! Ambiance! is a personal selection of fine soukous tunes from the decade between the mid 1970s and the mid-late 1980s. Some purists might quibble that a couple of the earlier songs predate the general definition of soukous. No matter! It’s all great music of the time with plenty of feel-good exuberance from Congolese-Zairean musicians. All are taken from original vinyl, as you will hear in a couple of spots despite my efforts with SoundSoap — that’s the nature of the wax. As far as I can ascertain, only one track can be found on any sort of current release — that would be Kanda Bongo Man’s “Djessy,” available on a GlobeStyle compilation, Non Stop Non Stop, and a song that exemplifies the call of “Ambiance! Ambiance!”

Enjoy! That’s the point of soukous!


1. Franco et Orchestre T.P.O.K. Jazz — Matata Ya Muasi Na Mobali Ekoki Kosila Te
2. Tou Lè Dè — La Vieille Marmite Prepare Toujours De La Bonne Soupe
3. Les Bantous De La Capitale — Boumamou Sili
4. Moro Beya Maduma — Mamema
5. Fidele Zizi — Ma Musique A Moi
6. Nino Malapet — Mokilimbembe
7. Arlus Mabélé — Africa Mousso (Femme d'Afrique)
8. Kanda Bongo Man — Djessy
9. Shaba Kahamba et Les Esprits Saints — Naweyi
10. Lutchiana Mobulu accompagné par Empire Bakuba — Malata

Further discographical details, originating labels and catalogue numbers, are bundled with the individual tracks.

In a couple of weeks, I will repost Wax d’Afrique Vol. 1— African Fiesta Club for those who missed it the first two times around when it was available via Matsuli Music or as part of the African Serenades series.

NEW DOWNLOAD SITE!!! Wax d'Afrique Vol. 2 — Ambiance! Ambiance!

DOWNLOAD Wax d'Afrique Vol. 2 — Ambiance! Ambiance!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Music of Liberation

PW Botha, once president of South Africa, is dead. “Do not speak ill of the dead,” advised The Seven Sages, according to Diogenes Laertius in Lives of Eminent Philosophers. That suggestion might even carry added weight today, All Souls Day in some traditions, but the South African press cares not for such niceties, with the Cape Argus first recalling that same homily, then pointing out that “it is impossible to ignore the misery he visited upon his countrymen and women.” The Sowetan declares flatly that the “Groot Krodil will bite no more.” On the other hand, Nelson Mandela has paid tribute with his customary generous magnamity, surely one of the world’s great resources of humanity. However, forgiveness is not the same as forgetting.

I remember going to South Africa in 1958 or 59, when I was six, and being astounded at the rickshaws all being pulled by black men, while it was only the whites who rode in them. Later, in San Francisco in the 1980s, there seemed to be an anti-apartheid benefit or rally almost every weekend. Music was one of the weapons of the time, to bend Fela Kuti’s phrase, and I often DJed at such events. I also presented radio shows of South African music, mixed with other genres of liberation music, addressing the oppression of the regime.

One of the most powerful songs was a late-comer, “Pressure On Botha” by Jimmy Cliff and Josey Wales, from 1989. I first heard it on Doug Wendt’s Midnight Dread Sound System and I had to have it. But none of the local shops had it in stock and no one was able to get it. Doug kept mashing up the town with the only copy. Even when I went to Jamaica on my one and only music press junket, paid for by Mango to promote Donovan and Foundation, I couldn’t find it. Eventually, someone, I think it was Amy Wachtel, the “Night Nurse,” PR person for Mango, sent me a seven-inch she’d obtained from Jimmy Cliff’s own Oneness store in Montego Bay. Here, in the spirit of remembrance, is that single.

DOWNLOAD “Pressure On Botha” by Jimmy Cliff and Josey Wales

I really like Josey’s line, “Wind him up like him a robot.”

Later, Greensleeves in the UK put out a twelve-inch, but it was split into separate vocal and deejay versions and a different mix, which didn’t jell in quite the same powerful way. The drums don’t have the same crack of the original, and it never seemed to me to have quite the same charge as the JA single. Download, listen and you can make up your own mind. (Warning, there is some noise in the track that may be from a poor original pressing or mastering – or may be a poorly conceived sound effect, I can’t tell. It seems to be more prominent on the mp3 than on the original vinyl. But it’s still quite listenable, not half as bad as some of the vinyl that’s passed through my hands.)

DOWNLOAD “Pressure” by Jimmy Cliff and the DJ version by Josey Wales

As I was flipping through my records, thinking about those times, I came across two other twelve-inches that I remember often playing. One is “Free South Africa” by Benjamin Zephaniah on Upright. This is a 1986 recut from a track on his 1983 LP Rasta. It was recorded and mixed at Tuff Gong Studios with Aston “Family Man” Barrett on bass and co-producing with Carlton Barrett on drums and Earl “Wire” Lindo on keyboards. I suspect that Benjamin Zephaniah is either loved or not cared for much depending on one’s taste, but I’ve always found a place for him in my heart. As an anarchist of sorts, I am amused however by his strident declarations of all the things it is illegal to do with South Africa, especially when I think of the all-too-frequent unfavorable legal status of the herbal sacrament of the Rastas.

The other twelve-inch is “Liberation For The African” by Sister Carol. It’s actually the B side of “Show Business Is Me Business” on Serious Gold, but I always liked it better than the A side, partially because of its subject matter and partially because of its dubbing. To be honest, the subject is only about the liberation of Africans for a short while; it soon slides into a discussion of the best sensi and how Sister Carol smokes so much of it.

DOWNLOAD “Free South Africa” and “Liberation For The African”

All tracks are from the original vinyl. Dubs are included. Aural crunchiness assures an authentic listening experience.

Once I had a great twelve-inch from Ras Michael of "End Apartheid," full of nyahbinghi drumming of course and an awesome chant. That unfortunately seems to have disappeared from the vinyl vaults.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Even sillier!! 100 More Great & Groovy Albums

It’s a beautiful sunny day here on Whidbey Island. Things are drying out nicely . . . but blog obsession has set in and so here I am.

Cheeku, compiler of the excellently funky African Serenades Vol. 28 and the charmingly vintage and very grooving African Serenades Vol. 29 (see Matsuli’s archive), observes that he “might quibble about some CDs left off (none of the syliphone discotheque reissues or the bembeya retrospective?)” from my 150 Great & Groovy Albums list. He is, of course, only too right — those albums are not on my list and they are very fine albums. However, I can only comment that, over the years, I have also enjoyed immensely works by Azumah, Bonga, Captain Yaba, Djeli Moussa Diawara, Nahawa Doumba, Eyuphuro, Ghorwane, Abdullah Ibrahim, Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, Antoine Moundanda, Pamelo Mounk’a, Kosmos Moutouari, Tshala Muana, Nyboma, Remmy Ongala, Geoffrey Oryema, Super Rail Band, and Philip Tabane & Malombo — to name a few other notable African musicians who did not appear on the list. Even the mighty Ali Farka Toure is not on it for reasons that I simply cannot explain this morning!

The situation gets even worse when you think about other genres with great artists mysteriously missing. From the world of reggae, there’s no Aswad, no Burning Spear, no Culture, no Heptones (except on Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Arkology compilation), no Gregory Isaacs, no Prince Far-I, no U-Roy. These are not insignificant names! We’re not finished listing the omissions when soul artists like James Brown(!!!), Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Little Willie John, Curtis Mayfield, Parliament, Otis Redding, and Percy Sledge are not to be found on my list. Yet, you can bet that I’ve spent many happy hours listening to their music.

From the world of Latin music, I’ve had serious affections for the works of Joe Arroyo, Bobby Matos, Charlie Palmieri, Pérez Prado (it’s true), Tito Puente, Toto la Momposina, and Mongo Santamaría. Jazz has given me Dizzy Gillespie, Jerry Gonzalez, Lionel Hampton, Yusef Lateef, John Lytle, David Murray, Leon Parker, Don Pullen, Pharoah Sanders, Cal Tjader, and Steve Turre in addition to the very few jazz albums that made it on to the list.

Among blues artists, I’ve frequently found musical companionship from the likes of Paul Butterfield, Olu Dara, Willie Dixon, Slim Harpo, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Milton, and Big Joe Turner. While I’m in a completist mood, let me mention three rock artists not on the list who have also tickled my auditory nerve endings pleasurably on a repeated basis: The Doors (sad but true), Jefferson Airplane, and Van Morrison.

And we haven’t even considered smaller and more unclassifiable genres that include musicians like Sussan Deyhim, Jon Hassell, Stephen Kent, Steve Roach, and Trance Mission. Then there’s India and Pakistan. What? No Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or the Tabla Tarang — Melody on Drums of Pandit Kamalesh Maitra? And where’s the new sound of the Maghreb with Natacha Atlas, Hamid Baroudi, and Gnawa Diffusion?

You get the idea. There’s a lot of music out there and I’ve hardly scratched the surface.

The obvious thing to do is to expand the list to 250 albums, but even then there’d be some of my personal musical greats who didn’t get on. This is the problem with making lists, you never finish — and someone always gets left out!!!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Getting silly! 150 Great & Groovy Albums

Okay, this is getting silly! This is not rhythm! Nearly four months with no posts!! However, life on a mock homestead in the woods of Washington state tends to make focus on any one thing difficult — so my focus over the past few months has been diffuse and I've been splitting wood, building a Fort Knox of a composting system (to keep our dogs out), and inoculating our hopefully-to-be mushroom farm (shitake and pearl oysters, not the pyschotropic sort, sorry!). Real life has trumped bloglife.

The main musical event has been the selecting and sequencing of Wax d'Afrique Vol. 1 — African Fiesta Party, which Matsuli kindly hosted on his wonderful blog. In due course, I'll get around to writing some notes on the tracks and will repost it here on Black Magic Plastic Bullet. The very initial stages of Wax d'Afrique Vol. 2 — Ambiance Ambiance are also underway.

So without further ado, to sort of catch up in a hurry and dump a load of very slowly evolved content, here is my version of an idea I shamelessly ripped off from BiggaBush of his Top 100 albums. (It's a flashy interface: click on the Play button so it changes to Tunes and then click on the obvious for his list.) He compiled his list in Autumn 2002. In the ensuing four years, I think it reasonable to add a few more albums to allow for the passage of time and my own gargantuan tastes. I always hestitate to claim that anything is actually the best, so this is simply my list of 150 Great & Groovy Albums I Have Loved.

It's more or less in alpha order of artist for the year(s) of original recording, or the original release, whenever possible. I probably goofed up a couple of times; sometimes I can't tell from the release the exact year and have guessed. Especially in the case of retrospective compilations, there's a certain amount of fuzziness. If you know your shit, or care, inconsistences abound!

Certainly, the year of release was not always the year I was listening to the music. For example, I was not listening to Mingus in 1959 or Mulatu Astatqé in 1969 — unfortunately! However, in many cases I was cuing it up the week, even the day, of release. So, the list is both somewhat reflective of what I was into when as well as much of it being the result of obsessive musical archaeology since, both on my part and labels such as Soundway. Some attributions are to the original English labels, some to American releases, some to a label from another country, and some to some weird combination as I think appropriate and as represented in my collection.

And, of course, there are thousands of other great albums out there — but these are 150 of My Great & Groovy Albums!

1. Tony Allen Lagos No Shaking Honest Jon’s 2006
2. Etran Finatawa Introducing World Music Network 2006
3. Cheikh Lô Lamp Fall Nonesuch/World Cicuit 2006
4. V/A Our New Orleans 2005 Nonesuch 2006
5. Cheb i Sabbah La Kahena Six Degrees 2005
6. Ska Cubano ¡Ay Caramba! Casino 2005
7. V/A Africa Remix Ah Freak Iya Milan 2005
8. Abyssinians & Friends Tree Of Satta Volume 1 Blood & Fire 1969-2004
9. Antibalas Who Is This America? Ropeadope 2004
10. SambaSunda The Sunda Music Rice 2004
11. Trio Mocotó Beleza! Beleza!! Beleza!!! Ybrazil/Zirguiboom 2004
12. V/A Electric Gypsyland Crammed 2003
13. Richard Dorfmeister Presents—V/A A Different Drummer Selection Different Drummer 1992-2002
14. Gilberto Gil Kaya N’Gan Daya WEA Music 2002
15. Salif Keita Moffou Decca 2002
16. Lightning Head Studio Don Sonar Kollectiv 2002
17. Tito Paris Guilhermina Universal Classics 2002
18. V/A Select Cuts From Blood & Fire 3 Select Cuts 2002(?)
19. Dub Syndicate Acres Of Space Lion & Roots 2001
20. Orlando Cachaito Lopez Cachaito World Circuit 2001
21. Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros Global A Go-Go Hellcat 2001
22. Marcos Valle Escape Far Out 2001
23. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tuni The Sultan Of All Munshidin Long Distance 2000
24. Culture Musical Club Bashraf Dizim 2000
25. Grupo Batuque Africa Brazil Far Out 2000
26. Sabah Habas Mustapha & Jugala All Stars So La Li Kartini/Omnium 2000
27. Issa Bagayogo Sya Cobalt 1999
28. Mose ‘Fan Fan’ The Congo Acoustic Triple Earth 1999
29. Cheikh Lô Bambay Gueej World Circuit 1999
30. Mas & Rallo Tamiz Harmonia Mundi 1999
31. Boy Gé Mendes Noite De Morabeza Lusafrica 1999
32. Peace Orchestra Peace Orchestra G-Stone 1999
33. Bally Saggoo Dub Of Asia ISHQ 1999
34. Yat Kha Dalai Beldiri Wicklow 1999
35. V/A Rhythm-Time: World Percussion World Music Network 1999
36. Manu Dibango & Cuarteto Patria CubAfrica Celluloid 1998
37. Mahmoud Fadl Love Letter From Tut-Ank-Amen Pi’ra:nha 1998
38. Taj Mahal & The Hula Blues Band Sacred Island Private 1998
39. Thierry ‘Titi’ Robin Kali Gadji Auvidis 1998
40. Kruder & Dorfmeister—V/A DJ Kicks K7 1997(?)
41. Lo Jo Mojo Radio Emma 1997
42. Manu Dibango Anthology Eagle 1960-96
43. Cheikh Lô Né La Thiass World Circuit 1996
44. Ernest Ranglin Below The Bassline Island Jamaica Jazz 1996
45. Sounds From The Ground Kin WaveForm 1996
46. V/A The Event Horizon City Of Tribes 1996(?)
47. Black Star Liner Yemen Cutta Connection Exp 1995
48. Coldcut—V/A Journeys By DJ JDJ 1995
49. The Disciples Resonations Cloak & Dagger 1995
50. Hank Jones Meets Cheick-Tidiane Seck Sarala Gitanes/Verve 1995
51. Pops Mohamed Ancestral Healing B&W 1995
52. 2 Bad Card Hustling Ability On-U Sound 1995
53. Loop Guru Duniya Nation 1994
54. Baaba Maal Firin’ In Fouta Mango 1994
55. Material Hallucination Engine Axiom 1994
56. Transglobal Underground International Times Nation 1994
57. United Future Organization No Sound Is Too Taboo Talkin Loud 1994
58. Jah Wobble’s Invaders Of The Heart Take Me To God Island 1994
59. Dub Syndicate Echomania On-U Sound 1993
60. Original Rockers Rockers To Rockers Different Drummer 1993
61. Papa’s Culture Papa’s Culture, But . . . Elektra 1993
62. V/A Ambient Dub Volume 3 Beyond 1993
63. V/A Ambient Dub Volume 2 Beyond 1993
64. Galliano A Joyful Noise Unto The Creator Talkin Loud 1992
65. Fela Kuti The Two Sides Of Fela Jazz & Dance Barclay/Universal 1972-92
66. V/A Ambient Dub Volume 1 Beyond 1992
67. Dub Syndicate Stoned Immaculate On-U Sound 1991
68. Gaspar Lawal Kadara GlobeStyle 1991
69. Massive Attack Blue Lines Virgin 1991
70. The Orb Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld Wau! Mr. Modo/Big Life 1991
71. P. M. Dawn Of The Heart, Of The Soul And Of The Cross Gee Street 1991
72. Baden Powell Afro Sambas JSL 1991
73. V/A Pay It All Back Volume 3 On-U Sound 1991
74. Beats International Let Them Eat Bingo Go! 1990
75. Gary Clail/On-U Sound System End Of The Century Party On-U Sound 1990
76. Coldcut What’s That Noise? Ahead Of Our Time 1989
77. Neville Brothers Yellow Moon A & M 1989
78. Remmy Ongala Songs For The Poor Man RealWorld 1989
79. V/A Pay It All Back Volume 2 On-U Sound/Netttwerk 1988
80. Lee Scratch Perry & Dub Syndicate Time BoomXDe Devil Dead On-U Sound 1987
81. Bim Sherman Haunting Ground RDL 1986
82. Doctor Pablo & Dub Syndicate North Of The River Thames On-U Sound 1984
83. Baaba Maal & Mansour Seck Djam Leeli Palm 1984
84. Youssou N’Dour Immigrés EarthWorks 1984
85. Franco et Rochereau L’Evénement! Genidia/Sonodisc 1983
86. Thomas Mapfumo Ndangariro EarthWorks 1983
87. King Sunny Ade Juju Music Island 1982
88. Orchestre Baobab Ken Dou Werente/Pirates Choice Miim’s/World Circuit 1982
89. Jackie Mittoo The Keyboard King At Studio One Universal/Soul Jazz 1965-82
90. Stevie Wonder Original Musiquarium I 1982 Motown
91. Creation Rebel Psychotic Jonkanoo Statik/On-U 1981
92. Dr. Orlando Owoh Greatest Hits Vol. 1 Music Biz International 1980s(?)
93. T.P. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo Kings Of Benin Urban Groove Soundway 1972-80
94. The Beat I Just Can’t Stop It Go Feet/Arista 1979
95. Jorge Ben Brazilian Hits & Funky Classsics Manteca 1974-79(?)
96. Sam Mangwana Maria Tebbo/Waka Waka Stern’s 1978/79
97. Graham Parker & The Rumour Squeezing Out Sparks Arista 1979
98. Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry Arkology Island 1975-79
99. Rico Roots To The Bone Mango 1976-79
100. Specials Specials 2 Tone 1979
101. V/A Afro Baby Evolution Of The Afro-Sound Soundway 1970-79
102. Cedric ‘Im’ Brooks United Africa Wait-A-Bit 1978
103. Bob Marley & The Wailers Exodus Island 1977
104. Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks Virgin 1977
105. Alhaji K. Frimpong Kyenkyen Bi Adi Mawu!/Public Demand West African Sound 1976(?)
106. Pierre Akendengue Nandipo/Afrika Obota Saravah 1973/76
107. Jorge Ben África Brasil Philips 1976
108. Graham Parker & The Rumour Heat Treatment Mercury 1976
109. Graham Parker & The Rumour Howlin Wind Mercury 1976
110. Lloyd Brevette with Skatalites African Roots Grover 1975(?)
111. Keith Hudson & Friends Studio Kinda Cloudy Trojan 1970-75
112. Augustus Pablo Original Rockers Greensleeves 1972-75
113. Skatalites Meet King Tubby Legendary Skatalites In Dub Motion 1975 (?)
114. V/A Studio One Rockers Soul Jazz ≈1960s/70s
115. V/A Studio One Roots Soul Jazz ≈1960s/70s
116. V/A Studio One Scorchers Soul Jazz ≈1960s/70s
117. Mulatu Astatqé Éthiopiques 4 Buda 1969-74
118. Taj Mahal Mo’Roots Columbia 1974
119. Etta James Etta James Chess 1973
120. The Wailers Burnin’ Island 1973
121. Bob Marley & The Wailers Catch A Fire Island 1973
122. Roxy Music For Your Pleasure EG 1973
123. Sly & The Family Stone Anthology Epic 1967-73
124. Captain Beefheart Clear Spot Reprise 1972
125. Jr. Walker & The All Stars Ultimate Collection Motown 1962-72
126. Captain Beefheart The Spotlight Kid Reprise 1971
127. Hawkwind Hawkwind Liberty 1971
128. Pink Fairies Never Never Land Polydor 1971
129. Edgar Broughton Band Sing Brother Sing Harvest 1970
130. Bob Marley & The Wailers Rasta Revolution Trojan ≈1970
131. Bob Marley & The Wailers African Herbsman Trojan ≈1970
132. MC5 Back In The USA Atlantic 1970
133. Miles Davis Bitches Brew Columbia 1969
134. Fugs It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest Reprise 1969(?)
135. Richie Havens Richard P. Havens, 1983 Verve 1968-69
136. King Crimson In The Court Of The Crimson King Island 1969
137. Taj Mahal Giant Step/De Ole Folks At Home Columbia 1969
138. Quintessence In Blissful Company Island 1969
139. V/A Gutbucket Liberty 1969
140. Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland Track/Experience 1968
141. V/A The Rock Machine Turns You On CBS 1966-68
142. Captain Beefheart Safe As Milk/Dropout Boogie Buddah 1967
143. Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity Open Marmalade(?) 1967(?)
144. Jimi Hendrix Experience Smash Hits Track 1966-67
145. V/A That’s Soul Atlantic 1967
146. The Beatles A Collection Of Beatles Oldies Parlophone 1963-66
147. Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto Getz/Gilberto Verve 1963
148. Ike Quebec Bossa Nova Soul Samba Blue Note 1962
149. The Piltdown Men The Piltdown Men Ride Again Capitol/Ace 1960s/1998
150. Charles Mingus Mingus Ah Um/Mingus Dynasty Columbia 1959/1960

Accusations of stylistic impurity will be cheerfully mocked.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Real Secret History of World Music

To get things rolling, the platters spinning, I'll cue up with a few words about myself. Or at least, I'll point you to some words with something to do with me.

You may read many of my own words concerning The Secret History of World Music, which I claim to have been intimately involved with, on Charlie Gillett's The Sound of the World site. Of course, those words being a posting on a discussion board primarily frequented by loquacious English boys, I am immediately contradicted, patronised, and generally wanked over by those with other opinions. Needless to say, I, too, do my own share of all three in subsequent posts.

To get another taste, albeit a very small taste, of the mood of San Francisco in the early-mid 1980s, which is when I make the immoderate claim that world music might be considered to have started, read this article by J. H. Tompkins, published in the San Francisco Bay Guardian in April 2004. It is mostly about the Black President art show inspired by the work and legacy of the great Fela Anikulapo-Kuti — but there are two very complimentary words, I counted them both, about my role in the early days of the San Francisco world music scene. Two very complimentary words, but I like to think that they express some vaguely objective truth. Regardless, they made my day, perhaps my year, when I read them.

Of course, back in those days and nights, I operated under a different nom du plat et plume. DJ Jonathan E. was how I was known.

In due course, words will be united with music. Time will come, but better not to hurry such things. In music, rhythm is everything.

Want to know what will be here?

Black magic plastic bullets soon come, as Lee Scratch Perry might say. When the time is right—or left, as the case may be.