Sunday, September 30, 2012

Unknown Lao Singer | PKCD 035

Another kick-ass Lao album found in suburban Dallas last weekend.

Listen to a sample track 

Get it all here.

As I said in yesterday's post, I'm strongly considering changing this blog's layout to something like this.

Yes or no? Your vote will matter! If I receive no votes in the next day or so, I'm moving ahead and redoing the layout. ...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Male Lao Singer | Unknown CD

Another winning Lao album found in Dallas last weekend at a Laotian grocery store.

So, I'm thinking of updating the whole look and feel of this blog, using one of Blogger's newer templates, "magazine"--something like that. (See a sample of that here.) What do you think? Does it matter? I like it because, even though you seem to lose your header image, the overall look is visually stronger, and the user (you) can switch between multiple types of views. Anyway, if you have strong thoughts about this, let me know.

Oh. This evening's musical offering? I think you're going to like it ...

Listen to the first track

Listen to the 11th track

Get the whole dozen here.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Unknown Lao Singer | SLV CD 24

Have your ass kicked by a sample track 

Grab the whole CD here and treat yourself to a TKO. 

This album, found in a Lao grocery store in northwest Dallas this weekend, has so many "OMG It's So Effing Awesome I Almost Can't Stand It" moments I don't even know how to talk about it. First, whoever this woman is, she has the single most soulful voice I've ever heard. Second, have you listened to this woman's voice? 

There's a very famous line of poetry by James Wright--the last line of his poem, "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota"--which reads, simply: "I have wasted my life." Now, I've always scoffed at that line, at that poem, at James Wright, and in turn at practically the whole state of Minnesota (where I spent six years of my adult life, and thus have, I believe, earned the right to scoff at it). To me, that sentiment runs exactly counter to the one line of poetry I can honestly say I've always lived by: Frank O'Hara's "I can't even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life" from "Meditations in an Emergency," which I'm thinking might actually be the greatest poem ever written by an American. 

 That said ... when I first listened to this album? It was, alas, James Wright's line that I thought of.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Orits Williki | Mubalamumbe

Listen to "A Way We A Go Do"

Get it all here.

In the contentious field of contemporary American poetry, nothing is ever as hotly contested as issues around identity and self-expression. I believe this, in part, having been involved in a particularly public, at times brutal debate around this poem in 2006.

But American poetry is hardly the only arena in which ideas and expressions of identity can be cause for controversy. In Orits Williki's case, his claim to Ethiopian roots is, in his home country of Nigeria, a cause for ridicule--not that I personally understand why that should be so. (Read more about this here.)

What strikes me as odd in this case is that no similar questioning seems to arise around Williki's decision to use reggae as the musical vehicle for his social/religious protest songs. His claim to having Ethiopian roots seems perfectly reasonable, especially after reading the interview above; it is in his use of reggae wherein he is, literally, adopting a cultural persona.

That, of course, is what I would argue makes his music remarkable--more interesting, I would argue further, than a measurable percentage of "legitimate" contemporary reggae. And not simply because it is an example of someone playing with identity, but because the music, at least on this particular album, is good enough that it makes me genuinely excited about the genre. 

I found this gem at an African grocery store in a southwestern suburb of Dallas this weekend while on the way to a Vietnamese restaurant that had been highly recommended. Though the pho was merely so-so, accidentally finding this treasure on the way more than made up for it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Unknown Lao Singer | SVL - CD16

Listen to a sample track

Get it all here.

Hey, how y'all doin'? It's been a while, and for that I apologize, but there's a good reason I've been seemingly AWOL: I was out of town for several days on a mission to keep you up to your ears in music you've never heard before.

On Friday, I flew out to Dallas, Texas, where--despite the image one might have of this major southern metropolis--there is a rather vibrant, thriving immigrant population, mostly in the suburban areas. While I didn't exactly go crazy there--I brought home a mere dozen or so CDs--I do have a number of things from Thailand, Vietnam, Nigeria and, above all, Laos, that I'll be sharing with you over the next couple of weeks.

First off is this rather sublime recording I found at Ocean Market in a Laotian neighborhood in northwest Dallas. I know nothing about it, other than how hard it rocks, which you, of course, can hear and judge for yourself.

Stay tuned for more ... 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gary Sullivan | White Like Me

Three new poems, first posted to the Flarflist, by yours truly, here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Alton Ellis | Get Ready for Rock Reggae Steady

Listen to "Mad, Mad, Mad"

Listen to "I'm Just a Guy"

Get the whole 20-track collection here.

As I said yesterday, I spent a good portion of my Sunday this week up on White Plains Road in the Bronx, where I plucked a number of fabulous items from a Nigerian drug store and a couple of black music focused record/CD/cassette stores.

Today's selection was found at Millennium Records (4045 White Plains Road), the last place I visited before hopping on the train back home to Astoria. I asked the guy behind the counter, Pablo, who seemed like the owner of the place, how well the store was doing and was happily surprised when he told me that he does a pretty brisk business.

"We have a few white guys who come up here for the records; we sell a lot of those," he told me. "And the current R&B section is very, very popular." The majority of CDs he had for sale were from the Caribbean or the U.S.--at least, so I thought. "Many of these," he said, pointing to an area of what looked like ska and reggae, "are actually from overseas; London."

"And they sell?" I asked.

"Oh, yes," he said, smiling. It was not a long conversation but, I have to say, it was one of the most life-affirming I've had in recent memory. Imagine! A music store that is actually doing brisk business. And providing a real cultural service for the community that surrounds it. I picked up the Alton Ellis he had, as well as another CD that I will likely post in the next week or so.

Alton Ellis, aka "The Godfather of Rocksteady," started his career as a singer in 1959 as one half of the duo Alton and Eddy (the other half being Eddy Perkins). After scoring a couple of hits, Perkins moved to the U.S., leaving Alton in Kingston, where he found work as a printer. When he lost his job, he took up music again in earnest, initially working with others as part of a group or duo.

This retrospective CD (from 1999) begins with Alton's first solo recordings in 1967 and follows his career for another seven or so years--the latest track here is from 1974. If you like it, stick around; I'll be posting a number of things this week and next that I found on White Plains Road yesterday.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cries for Help

Click here (and not on the image above) to see the full comic I drew for the September issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Orhan Gencebay | Klasikleri 1966-1993

Get the double album here.

Someone, somewhere--in conversation, an email or in the Bodega's Comments Aisle--recently expressed their thrill of Xtremely mustachioed Orhan Gencebay, whose Layla Ile Mecnun I added to the shelves back in April, here.

This 2-CD set, which I picked up almost a decade ago at a Turkish media store in lower midtown that my poet / translator friend Murat Nemet-Nejat took me to, is a nice introduction to the legendary singer / composer / actor's work.

I tried uploading "Ayşen" for you to listen to, but Divshare seems to be having trouble today (not, apparently, working on Labor Day, ha), so here's a music video of the same song: