Get the 22-song mix here. Ai yai yai what I went through to get this mix for you. Albanians do NOT like other people flippin through the CDs in their bodegas, at least not the guys who run the place on Church Avenue in Brooklyn where I scored the dozen or so CDs this mix was culled from. "Why you want this music? Eh? Why?" Trust me, though, it's worth whatever you have to go through -- "Hi, I want because ... goshes! ... I ... I ... love music from all over the world! DON'T KILL ME!" -- to get this stuff. Because when it comes to burning pure awesomeness into discs of polycarbonate plastic, the Albanians do not fuck around. In fact, Albanians so love burning their awesomeness into discs of polycarbonate plastic that they will, more often than one's religious beliefs might allow one to imagine, team up -- heramana a hermana -- to duke out the jams with the most heavenly, angular harmonies you've ever heard.
Reupped at a reader's request here. I have seen the future and it is Abou El Leef. I say this not because the poster for his 2012 hit album Super Leefa is plastered in every other shopfront window along Steinway Street from Astoria Boulevard to 30th Ave. Nor because one now hears his music more often than Hakim's scratching its way out of early February frozen halal cart speakers as one makes one's way to his or her meaningless midtown temp assignment. No. I say this because Abou El Leef's music sounds like what happens when one's culture's pop music has exhausted every possible trope, has stumbled blindly down every possible dead-end alley, but refuses to give up, refuses to lie down, refuses to become irrelevant, refuses to die. I say this because there is not a single music video by Abou El Leef online, anywhere, and yet there is not a single Egyptian who does not have an opinion--positive or negative--about what he does. I say this because Abou El Leef is, simply, the future.
I found this incredible, legendary series at Uludag Video (1922 Avenue W, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn) in 2008 or so, a few years before they stopped importing CDs ("We can make no money doing it," I was told).
There was a really sweet guy there at Uludag who I got to know a bit; it was he who turned me on to Altin Mikrofon, imploring me to pick up all three CDs, telling me I would never regret it, "but if you come back here in a week, two weeks, and they are gone?" Here ... let me just cut and paste a few things from the Altin Mikrofon page of PsycheMusic.org:
"There was such a blasting of bands that one of the biggest national newspapers, Hürriyet, decided to organize a big contest that would help the young amateur bands have their names heard throughout the country. The contest organizers wanted the musicians to either compose songs in Turkish or arrange a traditional tune, in a western style with electric western instruments. The finalists performed live In many cities. Had Altin Mikrofon not been assembled, we wouldn't likely to be talking about a 60's & 70's Turkish rock scene."
And a bit more from the same page:
"Altin Mikrofon, or 'the Golden Microphone,' was first held in 1965 to help give a new direction to contemporary turkish music through the use of western techniques, forms and instruments. The finalists would get their contest song plus a song of their choice recorded and printed as the A and B sides of a single, which was sold on the music market with all revenue benefiting the groups."
I remember reading a bit more about Altin Mikrofon somewhere, but can't seem to locate anything but the page from which those two quotes above appear. I seem to recall that this was not simply a fun contest that ultimately led to the Turkish Psychedelic movement, but rather part of a larger Turkish program to westernize (read: de-Islamicize) the culture.
Whatever the case, it's certainly true that Altin Mikrofon would prove highly influential on the direction of Turkish pop music to come. It boggles the mind--my mind, at any rate--that the series, which I believe is fully contained in this three-CD set, has not yet been seized upon by some enterprising western label looking to cash in on the general mania for international psyche music (especially Turkish psyche) ... but, until they do, you can grab the series for yourself via the links below.
Why you gonna complain when I'm gonna reuppa for you, here? Found in an Italian CD and curio shop on 18th Avenue in Brooklyn, Arcobaleno Italiano. I don't remember too much about my conversation with the woman behind the counter, other than her lamenting the steady erosion over the years of Brooklyn's Little Italy. I'm surprised, frankly, that the neighborhood can still support this store, though it was still there the last time I visited, maybe four years ago. Brooklyn's Little Italy, which runs along 18th Avenue from about 65th Street or so to 80th, has a number of places worth stopping into, including the Villabate Bakery and Gino's Focacceria, though sadly, it looks like Trunzo Brothers Meat Market has closed. Gilda Mignonette was born in Naples in 1890, though she spent nearly two decades in Brooklyn, moving there in 1926. In 1953, her health failing, she got on a steamer to return to her birthplace. She died the day before the ship landed, reportedly staring at an old postcard of Naples. Read more about this amazing singer here. Another great song, here:
Reupped at 320kbps here. I found this fabulous Japanese import at P Tune & Video Co (see the header image of this blog--that's the place) on Chrystie Street in Manhattan's Chinatown in late 2009. I knew nothing about the artist, but soon became obsessed with her, tracking the rest of her complete output -- more than a dozen albums and EPs -- on a trip to Japan in 2010 and then later, through various Japanese-focused blogs from South America to Asia. This was one of the first albums I posted to the Bodega and for a very long while, it was the most popular in terms of grabs. Reupped in case you missed it the first time around.
After watching Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator last night, I got it in me noggin to reup this supremely classy album in 320 thrill-filled kbps for your listening pleasure. Grab it here. On a vaguely related note, back in 2004 or so, I wrote this piece on Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis for NYFA's website. I'd forgotten all about it until just now. One of the most fascinating living singers on the planet, Googoosh was born in the early 1950s in Tehran where, from an early age, she began performing with her father, doing impersonations of famous singers of the era. She went on to become the country's most famous singer, developing a style that is impossible to locate in terms of its various influences. I remember the first time I heard her sing; poet and critic Ammiel Alcalay was giving a few Brooklynites a ride back home from a reading at the Poetry Project in Manhattan and popped in a cassette. We all listened in a kind of stunned silence until Ammiel said: "I mean ... what is she doing? Where did she get the idea for this?" It took me years of bodega diving before I found the CD above. I made the mistake--alas, more than once--of asking shop keeps in places that sold Arabic music if they had anything by Googoosh. I just assumed these places had music from all over the middle east and north Africa. Uh, no. Duh, Gary. That said, shock of shocks, it was at an Arabic bodega on the Berkeley/Oakland border where I found this. I don't remember my conversation with the shop keep other than expressing surprise at finding Googoosh there and him smiling and telling me how great she was. So there is a god. With the Islamic revolution in 1979, Googoosh was silenced. She decided to stay in Iran, even though she knew it meant the end of her singing career. In the last decade, she's made something of a comeback, performing occasional concerts, mostly outside of Iran. During the post-election protests in 2009, she spoke out publicly against the brutal response to the demonstrations: "I have come here to be the voice for the sad mothers who lost their loved ones in peaceful demonstrations. I have come here to be the just voice of the grass-roots and spontaneous movement among my compatriots and to show my solidarity."
Get both albums here. Nothing in English seems to exist about this rather radical Zimbabwean hip-hop group that emerged in the mid-aughts, not even in Eric Charry's Hip Hop Africa, but they've long been a favorite here at the old Bodega (we featured them in our soon-to-be expanded and revamped Rap Around the World comp). Give em a listen?
I remember seeing the cover of the album to your right, Midori's last, the moment I walked into Tower Shibuya in May of 2010 while in Japan on a two week vacation. If any of you have been to that Tower, you know how it feels to suddenly “wake up” after apparently having spent hours listening to samples, which are available at dozens of stations throughout each of the superstore’s 8 or 9 floors. Midori’s Shinsekai was the first thing I listened to and, for reasons my present self can’t begin to comprehend, I decided not to pick it up. I know I saw it again on my way out and thought: “Gosh … should I …?”
Back in the States, as I recalled the mysterious album with the shrieking girl and crazy cascading piano I’d heard at the Tower listening station, I grew sick with horrible pit-of-the-stomach XRGs (Xtreme Regret Gnawings), the haunting song of the collector filling my feverish head: “Gotta have it, gotta have it, gotta have it, gotta have it …” So deep, so dark was my misery, not even repeated listenings of this, which I did purchase at Tower, could console me.
Those remiss-filled days, weeks and months are a blank to me now. I can’t remember anything that I did or felt, other than the sucking wound in the pit of my soul: what I now refer to as “BM” (“Before Midori”). I don’t even remember how, finally, I discovered this album again—online, natch, exuberantly touted by some music blogger in Argentina no doubt, or, perhaps, gay Peru. I do vaguely recall, having the band’s name suddenly at hand and in mind, that I began searching the web, from YouTube to JRawk, for any possible shred of their online presence. A song from Mariko Goto's first, pre-Midori band, Usagi (included in "Early" link below)
More than a year later, I’m now the “proud,” “fulfilled” “owner” of every album, EP and single Midori ever put out. A few random factoids relevant to the band: Shinsekai, which means “new world,” is an Osaka neighborhood near the downtown Minami area. According to Wikipedia, it was built in 1912 “with New York as a model for its southern half and Paris for its northern half.” After the Second World War, it devolved into one of Japan’s poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods and, to this day, boasts a reputation far worse than Joan Jett’s.
The members of Midori all hailed from Osaka and, one assumes that at the very least, singer Mariko Goto was specifically from Shinsekai.
A brief, colorful description of Midori's last album, Shinsekai, from JRawk:
“Midori has mixed the sour and sweet in the past, often blending them evenly to create an uncannily disturbing rumble, but here, they're flung together to create some truly weird sparks. “メカ” (“Mecca”) isn't just all over the map, it's specifically built on chaos: crunching hyperactive, diseased tango, Boredoms style flashes of transcendent freakout, feverish repetition, madcap Carl Stalling-esque interludes, and God Knows what else in just under three and a half minutes. It's the strongest track they've done since "わっしょい" ("Wasshoi") from their first EP, and a quantum leap forward in their unique brand of brain smearing musical schizophrenia.”
Get the early albums. (Includes Usagi's Akemi-San to Midori-san and the following by Midori: First Demo; Second Demo; First; Second) Get the late albums. (Includes Shimizu/Spring Water; Hello Everyone. We Are Midori. Nice to Meet You; Live!!; Swing; Shinsekai)
Get it here. This was not something I found in a Bodega or immigrant run media store, although I certainly could have, as Brooklyn has at least one well-stocked place on 18th Ave in Bensonhurst where I've picked up more than one similar treasure from the former Roman Empire. This particular CD was a gift, to my now ex-wife and I, from the poet Benjamin Friedlander, whose wife, scholar and translator, Carla Billitteri, is from Sicily, where they've spent most of their summers over the last several years. Ben knew we'd love Mina's hyper-emotionality -- she is, I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark -- Italy's most famous living diva. (Someone once called her the greatest white singer in the world.) I don't remember how many languages Ben said she sings in, but I'm guessing it runs in the double digits.
I've been meaning to post this for some time now, but the European section of my CDs is aaaaaalllll the way at the bottom of my shelf, and I, frankly, hardly ever look there. Shame on me. I think you're going to love this. Here's a live vid of Mina singing the title song on Italian TV, ca. 1968:
Listen to "Taung Thu Pyao"--which catapults itself from jaw-dropping classical Burmese piano and vocal to, four-and-a-half minutes later, upsettingly awesome funk groove--and learn everything you need to know about this supremely mind-blowing Burmese cassette from 1980.
Born in 1942 to a family of artists, Mar Mar Aye began music training at a very young age, recording her first hit record “Thet Tan Paw Hmar Kasar-mae” when she was 13 years old. Over the next four decades she recorded thousands of songs, acted in a couple of films, wrote a couple of novels, and became a member of Burma’s National Music Council. She is probably the most famous Burmese traditional singer.
A politically active artist who has written songs in support of the Saffron Revolution and advising citizens to “Vote No!” in a national referendum on a new planned military-backed constitution, Aye left the country for the U.S. in 1998 and has lived here ever since.
Soon after I moved to New York City in 1997 I began to notice that bodegas run by people from around the world sometimes stocked CDs and DVDs of music and film from the countries they had come from.
The music I've collected from these bodegas can almost never be found in the "World Music" sections of the few remaining places to buy CDs in the U.S.; nor, for that matter on iTunes (or cheapo MP3 sites like Soundike).
If you are an artist or publisher and do not want your music here, just let me know and I'll remove it.
Vintage Jeans Commercials: Fit For All
BY KRISTEN BIALIK WATCH VIDEO: Collection - Vintage Jeans Commercials “Once in a great while, a natural phenomenon occurs that is so beautiful, so dramatic, ...