Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Khine Htoo & The Phoenix

Listen to "Ah Way"

Get it all here.

Big thanks to Peter Doolan for sending this along for me to post. Peter, of course, is the guy who first told me about Thiri Video (where he got this and other cassettes and where I got dozens of CDs); we went there together for the first time last summer.

My computer has been in the shop for a few days--nothing horrible, relax. But that's why I haven't been posting. I'll start up again later this week or this weekend. Meanwhile, this rather delicious recording might, I hope, inspire a few of you to see Khine Htoo, along with other Burmese pop artists Tin Zar Maw, Chaw Su Khin and Supan Htwar this Saturday, June 30 at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. (Get details here.)

More soon; I promise.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fairuz | Best of Fairuz

Listen to "Mush Qasah Hay"

Get it all here.

This being a post about Fairuz, one of the greatest living artists on the planet, a woman with a voice so powerful, so soulful, it was capable of bringing moments of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, it seems manifestly appropriate that I begin this post by talking about the Music Industry.

Oh My Fucking God
, please tell me, Gary, that you're not going to add to the Emily White slash David Lowery meme. We've already read dozens, maybe hundreds of articles, tweets and blog posts about it. Please, Gary. Please. Not that.

Look. I don't want to add to it. For one thing, I don't care about white alt rockers of the 80s and 90s and I most certainly do not care about anything involving NPR. For another, you've already made up your mind, one way or the other.

That said, I implore you to listen to the Fairuz sample above and tell me, even if it involves scraping the last honest layer of sentiment from your nearly emptied-out heart, honestly and truly whether or not this music has even the slightest bit to do with the White / Lowery debate. Right? Right. I mean, right.

It has nothing whatsoever to do with it. Because this song--as is true of most, maybe even all of the songs on this terrifyingly sublime CD--is neither yelp nor yawp nor for that matter 80s/90s ironicized yelp or yawp. It is an extended moment of formalized, yes, but extremely convincing emotive realization. It isn't, in other words, the kind of shit that the music industry is trying to sell you; nor is it the kind of shit that you ("you" being NPR interns) are illegally downloading. That shit is one thing and one thing only: Product. They know it. You know it. We all know it. And that's all it is. It isn't, by any stretch of the imagination, art. It feeds an immediate, gnawing need, like a cigarette. And, just as quickly, it's forgotten.

It absolutely sickened me to read David Lowery's suggestion that illegal downloading might have contributed in any way to the suicide deaths of Vic Chesnutt and Mark Linkous. Like David, I've had two friends, both artists, who have taken their own lives. Both were poets. One of them, oddly enough, wrote a book titled Product, which I--in my 20s in San Francisco--published two decades ago.

The poet who wrote the book titled Product was seriously ill. His illness had much to do with his suicide. His economic situation had a lot to do with his suicide as well (he was on SSDI). But what ultimately led to it was his decision and desire to commit the act of suicide. There are plenty of poets who are or were in as dire or worse straights, physically and economically, who just kept on living, some of whom kept on writing poetry, despite the fact that it doesn't, ever, sell.

The fact that there are people, lots of people, with just enough twit of brain to cheer on  David Lowery's rant completely baffles and saddens me. Really? Really? Some unpaid laborer (cough!) at NP effing R admits to getting whatever she can for free (just like, uh, her "employer"), and this sets you off? Pushes you over whatever brink exists between sanity and the completely insane act of publicly making a connection between willful suicide and downloading crappy, forgettable pop and "alt" rock music?

Give me a fucking break. Where--in all of this insane debate--is the suggestion, anywhere, that the music industry might have some possible responsibility here? Or that musicians who willfully enter into contracts with these corporate scum have a responsibility to themselves? If you want to look at producing music as a livelihood, as a profession, as a job, then who is your employer? The audience? No, no, no, no, no. It's the music industry. It's your label. It's your label that isn't giving you vacation time. Who isn't providing you with health care. It's your fucking label who reaps everything you sow and maybe tosses you whatever coagulated bits are left after they've finished sucking the blood from your labor. If they even do that much. You signed the contract, dumbass, not the audience.

The music industry switched over to digital in the first place for one reason and one reason only: They saw that they could resell the same sad albums by Pink Floyd and Bruce Springsteen on this new format to the same poor suckers who had bought them on vinyl. Their greed led to the greed of everyone taking advantage of the fact that this new format is easily shared. Period, end of discussion. You want to make things right, by which I mean profitable, again? End digital and go back to analog. Or come up with some other solution.

I'm not sure what's worse: that people like David Lowery who imagine they are artists and not what they really are, freelance contractors, have never successfully fought for their rights as laborers and instead blamed everything on the general public, or that people like David Lowery and his employer have no idea who Fairuz is and why she makes everything they've ever done in their lives, beyond making or not making money, ultimately moot. What does it say that the crux of this debate is around making money and not making art?

If you want to make money and you can't make money making music, then do something else and shut the fuck up so people who care about music can hear people who are, like Fairuz, actually making it.

UPDATE: Another poet, a great one, and a great friend, Rodney Koeneke sent along a link to the video above in response to this post, so I thought I'd pop it into the mix. Thank you, Rodney!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Osadebe | Best of Osadebe

Listen to "Osadebe 77"

Get it all here.

This will likely be the last Nigerian album I'll post for a while, although I do still have a couple more I found at Blessing Udeagu. For one thing, my Burmese connection came through last week and I'm gearing up to post the lot of it. (It's fabulous.) For another, since I started posting the African music a week or two ago, the traffic on this blog has gone through the roof. I assume it's because most people wandering around the various interlinked music blogs are looking for African music, but that's just an assumption. Maybe I've just got more visitors. If the stats take a dive, I'll know for sure.

This is an odd collection of Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe--a couple of the tracks have surface noise, having been clearly ripped from LPs. There is not a single hit on the publisher's name anywhere online, so I'm guessing they're out of business, or just internet shy, which seems impossible in this day and age.

In any event, this is a pretty fabulous collection and I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Flashback 2 | Nigerian Pop 1970-1980

Listen to "Nmere Giri" by the Apostles

Listen to Aktion's "Sugar Daddy"

Get it all here.

By way of explanation, here is the email I received last night from John B at the fabulous Likembe in response to this earlier posting of Flashback 1:
Gary: I've uploaded "Flashback II" for you (sorry no cover). Feel free to share. I got this from the Comb & Razor blog a few years ago, so if you post it, give Uchenna some props.
Thank you so much, John and Uchenna!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Osadebe | Classic Hits Vol. 1

Listen to "Akonam"

Get it all here.

Another stunner from Blessing Udeagu in Corona, Queens.

Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, better known as simply Osadebe, was among the most famous Igbo highlife musicians, known for an elastic style that accommodated everything from bolero and calypso to jazz and waltz. He released about 250 songs in his lifetime, though reportedly wrote more than 500. He died in 2007 at the age of 69.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Fekereaddis Nekatebeb | Embi

Listen to the title song

Get it all here.

It looks like it's going to be a gray, possibly rainy day today and, although I received a call from my Burmese connection, Zaw, I'm not sure if I'll be getting out. Meanwhile, as I sit here sipping, yes, Ethiopian coffee, here's another album from the Federal Democratic Republic found on a recent trip to Washington, DC, for you to get your groove on to. (Did I just say that?)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sir Victor Uwaifo | Greatest Hits Vol. 1

Listen to "Guitar Boy"

Get it all here.

My God, but I love Queens. Have I expressed my undying love for this borough before? As far as I'm concerned, it's the greatest city in America. 

As I've hinted in the last week or so, I've been waiting for My Burmese Ship to Come In--specifically, Zaw at Thiri Video has been culling his archives for a number of CDs he says he has of older, more traditional Burmese music, which he promised to have ready for me last weekend. Well, on the appointed day I made the trip to Elmhurst ... only to find that, in fact, the CDs weren't ready for me.

But in Queens, when one door shuts, other doors open. As I wandered around the eastern edges of Elmhurst, suddenly realizing I was lost, I scooted under an awning to check the GPS on my phone. When I looked up, on another awning, two or three doors down, I saw the words "African Movies." What? Oh, my.

Blessing Udeagu (99-08 Lewis Avenue) is ostensibly a copy shop, with several photocopy machines, that also happens to be a used bookstore (there were dozens of old, dog-eared books fading in the storefront windows), a Nigerian DVD store (a whole wall of them, in fact) AND an outlet for African music, mostly from Nigeria and Ghana.

I asked the shop keep if it might be okay if I looked through the CDs. "They're African," she warned me. I nodded my head and proceeded to dig through what they had. After determining that each CD was $5, I chose a few that looked most promising and brought them up to the register. "These are in African," she reminded me. I gave her a Readers Digest version of my Ye Olde "I Happen to Like Music From All Over the World" assurance, which didn't, frankly, seem to assuage her concern that I might be buying the wrong music. With a pitying look, she put the handful of CDs I'd plucked out into a plastic bag and, shaking her head, took the money from my now visibly shaking hands.

"Sir" Victor Uwaifo is the legendary inventor of Joromi, which to my ears sounds like Highlife, which tells you just how little I know about Nigerian music. Uwaifo started recording in the 1960s and became famous for playing his guitar, live, with his tongue and feet in addition to his rather impressively dexterous fingers.

I'm supposed to check back in with Zaw next weekend; if I do, and if My Ship has come in, I'll be posting an awful lot of Burmese music in the next few weeks. Until then, if you like Nigerian music, you might want to check back here a few times in the coming days.

In other news: I think I'm going to try Twitter. Follow me here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

5'Nizza | 05

Listen to "Огонь И Я"

Listen to "Морячок"

Get it all here.

Found for $2 on Saturday in a Russian or perhaps Ukrainian media store on 108 Street in the gray area between Elmhurst, Corona and Forest Hills. Yes, I realize that, technically, there is no such "gray area"; I mean to me. As in, I don't honestly know what neighborhood I was in.

I'll be writing more about my Saturday adventures a bit later in the week as I post a few things I found that day from--are you sitting down?--Nigeria. I had meant to write about and post it all on Sunday, but for some reason Divshare wasn't uploading anything. (The third time since I upgraded that there's been a serious problem upping things.)

Meanwhile, I can't tell you how thrilled I was when I saw this thing in the store. And that all CDs in the store were on sale ("Just for today," the shop keep informed me) for $2. Because I had a sense of who these guys are, or were, from this album (which also turns out to be Ukrainian, not Russian).

This is 5'NIzza's third and last album; the duo, which formed in 2000, was not terribly prolific. But what they put out was, if this CD is any indication, totally sublime. Relying on nothing but guitar and vocals, the duo sounds, to my ears anyway, like some of the best Brazilian pop I've ever heard, sonically rich, fluid, various.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Verse, Stripped | Exhibit

This show, which I believe was curated by Katherine Litwin, just opened in Chicago at the venerable Poetry Foundation. It includes the original artwork of a few of my poetry comics, along with that of fellow travelers Sommer Browning, Bianca Stone, and Paul K. Tunis. Books by Kenneth Koch and (my all-time biggest hero) Joe Brainard will also be on view. My fellow cartoonist and occasional hangout pal Matt Madden will be giving a talk on the intersection of poetry and comics on August 1, the day after my 50th birthday. And, yes, I plan to be there for Matt's talk (as do the other artists), so say hi if you're there.