Get it here. When WFMU's Doug Schulkind played the upsettingly gorgeous "Jaane Kya Tune Kahi" this morning on his Give the Drummer radio show, I realized that I somehow never managed to shelve this soundtrack in the bodega, despite the fact that it and its companion score Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam are two of my personal faves. As I commented this morning, Pyaasa is one of the greatest films of all-time -- the same is equally true of Sahib, though it's much less well known. The music (SD Burman, Pyaasa; Hemant Kumar, Sahib) is nothing short of stunning.
Myanmar's greatest singer--one of the greatest singers in the world--Mar Mar Aye turned 70 today. Being as how I still have this ridiculously rich stack of Burmese CDs I've yet to share with you, including a dozen or so by Auntie Mar, it would seem unconscionable for me not to post at least one of them tonight, no matter how tired I am from work.
I chose "Aung Na Mate" for a couple of reasons: It's one of her best, at least of those in my possession, and--look!--I happened to find music videos of the title song as sung by two other Burmese superstars, Soe Sandar Tun and Yi Yi Thant:
Soe Sandar Tun
Yi Yi Thant
... so it's like a mini bonus video festschrift. (Did I spell that right? Do you care?)
Happy 70th, Mar Mar, and thank you for sharing your awe-inspiring voice with us.
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.
This is, without question, my absolute favorite album of 2012. Yes, you heard me correctly. Super Leefa, the cover of which features what looks like a homeless guy in a tattered superhero costume,is my favorite album of the year. And yet, owing to (a) my prior ignorance of Abu el Leef's up-to-the-moment sweepingly postmodern Egyptian pop and (b) the aforementioned CD cover, in all its sad, be-bearded homeless-looking-guy glory, I avoided picking up a copy for months after first seeing it in the racks and shelves at the Nile Deli and Alfra on Steinway Street. I don't know what I thought it was. A comedy album? Some sort of Weird Al of Arabia? No. It's actually a sha'bi record, with Regular Joe Cairo lyrics about how music isn't against Islam, how people like to get all up in your business, and how people living an honest an honorable life are often the first to get stepped on by everyone else. The music, though, is less sha'bi and pure, unadulterated, inventive pop--a range of it, from 70s US funk and disco to 60s popular Egyptian music to contemporary dance and house. Born Nader Anwar Gaber in Alexandria in 1968, el Leef is a relatively late bloomer, having recorded his first album (which includes the hit single "King Kong") in 2010, when he was 42. His music divides audiences: in Egypt, you apparently love him or hate him. You know where your bodega proprietor stands on the matter. Where stands you?
Reupped by popular demand, here. [Apologies for no longer hosting a sample; but trust me, you'll enjoy it.]
Unlike yesterday's post, this morning's features what I can only assume to be Nigerian folk music. The sample track above opens with what sounds like a homemade brass instrument of some kind, not uncommon in Nigerian folk, and Awutolo and Fada laying down a terrific, complex rhythm while singing at times in a kind of call-and-response and at times in unison. The total effect is of an intricate soundscape that snaps, pops, buzzes and honks far enough above the level of ambient to keep the listener's ear keen, while never swerving into catchy hook or melody.
I found this sublime recording, along with yesterday's offering and a few other things, at Blessing Udeagu (99-08 Lewis Avenue, Corona, Queens). Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but after I posted yesterday morning's--the first western African recording to appear on this blog--my traffic shot up to rather insane levels. I typically have about 600 visits in a 24-hour period; this morning, at not quite 6:30 a.m., I already have nearly 1,200, and the day still has about 17 hours left to go.
So, uh ... you like the western African music, yeah?
In other news, I'll be reading tomorrow night (Thursday) at 6:30 at RH Gallery with Catherine Taylor and Sandra Liu at this event, which is in part a celebration for the publication of Ernst Herbeck's Everyone Has a Mouth, which I translated from the original German (some poems in collaboration with Oya Attaman and Ekkehard Knoerer). While the book has not yet been officially released (they're still hand-stitching the covers), I'm told there will be about 50-60 copies there the night of the celebration.
And, finally, I reserved bodegapop.com, which I've currently set to redirect to this blog. Ultimately, I'll be creating something that I think is sorely lacking: a portal to music blogs and other sources of information about and samples of international musics. It seems insane that no one has yet put something like this together. Write to me if you'd like in some way to be involved at: email@example.com.
There is no equivalent to Zuoxiao Zuzhou in any culture I can think of. In addition to having launched one of China's most notorious rock bands of the 90s, No, Zuoxiao Zuzhou is a successful visual artist, poet, novelist, and film score composer. (His CDs, which are often self-released, typically include his own artwork on the cover--those are his pigs, to the right.)
If the U.S. were a bit less culturally provincial he'd be nearly as well-known here as Ai Weiwei; as it is, he's probably best known in the States, if at all, for having contributed vocals to the Cowboy Junkies' "A Walk in the Park."
His music is all over the place, as is his voice, which at times seems to evoke Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen or even Tom Waits, and at other times--especially on this album--Pere Ubu's David Thomas. His music defies description, having a foot in traditional Chinese music as well as the more experimental strains of American and British post-punk.
You Know Where The East Is is considered by more than a few critics in China to be one of the--perhaps even the one--greatest rock album(s) to have ever been recorded in the People's Republic. It's not something I'm inclined to argue with.
Check out 方法论 from this album:
This ("Money Song") is worth watching as well, though it's from a different album (which I'll upload soon):
Grab this mind-blowing collection here. I'm tempted to post every single song to Soundcloud because this is one of those records where your first impulse is grab the lapels of everyone who passes by your bodega and pull them in, throw them into the chair, and crank up the volume. This isn't what it looks like. It's not a Cambodian rock album. It's traditional Cambodian music. Some sounds like it could be Sinn Sithamouth or Ros Sereysothea singing, perhaps, and if so, that would explain the cover. But, trust me, I don't care how massive the Cambodian album posse you've managed to assemble over the years, you haven't heard anything quite like this. I sure hadn't before this evening when I popped the disc into Mr. Smarto. (My computer. I'm a bodega proprietor; I'm required to spew a certain amount of colorful, idiosyncratic language.)
As some of the Bodega's regular customers know, your proprietor is a poet. Worse, he is a postmodern American poet. Given his thus obviously tenuous-at-best grasp of reality, why then, why oh Sir or Madam Customer, will you bother to listen to him when he hands you some long-winded BS explanation, circling around ye olde tired notions of gender and genre, class and (pre- and post-) colonialism, race and rhizomatic structure, as to why all of these rai songs are beginning to, um, sort of sound the same?
YOU: But I didn't say any--
BODEGA POP: I'm sorry. Are you an expert on rai, now? [Stares into your eyes with a questioning-yet-condescending look.] More like ham on rai. [Deep chuckle.]
BODEGA POP: Shush, now. There's someone I'd like you meet. Sir or Madam Customer, I give you Ms. Helena Blavatsky.
HELENA BLAVATSKY: Accordeengk to my Weekee-peedee page, I was small gorl of 10 years when thees, my family, retorns to Ukraine and I contract zee herpeez.
YOU: I don't--
BODEGA POP: Is this your blog? I'm sorry, Helena; please, continue.
HELENA BLAVATSKY: Many of people zey tell me "Zis rai, she sounds always zee same to me. Which song is deefernt from next? How tell?" [Pause.] How tell, you are asking of me? [Wry smile.] To you I am saying there is no telling. Is like zee fonny accent, no? All blend into one, like zee single fonny accent. Could be Rohshan, could be Portugeesa, who is counting? Why count? Is not enoff zer is fonny accent or rai song in forst place? Why you need to know deeference?
Just reupped here.
Hang on the Box, mainland China’s first all-girl punk unit, was a glorious mess of contradictions and extremes. Their first live performance, for a small but fanatical crowd of fellow Beijing punks, was met with boos, laughter and jeering; six months later they were on the cover of the local edition of Newsweek, serving as poster girls for an entire generation of Chinese youth. Lauded by critics for politicizing gender through their empowered, femme-forward lyrics, they were famously scornful of Cobra, the only other all-girl rock group before them on the mainland. [Read the rest of the article in Burning Ambulance.]
A reader's comment this morning about the article excerpted above prompted me to go ahead and post the full run of albums by this much-loved legendary band.
Reupped because ppl simply b lookin 4 it, here. Unless you've been living in under a rock in a cave on one of Jupiter's moons, you're well aware of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot's "punk prayer" performance at Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012 that earned three of their members a two-year sentence in jail last August. It remains to be seen whether the international outcry over the disproportionate sentence will result in any change in the situation. Meanwhile, in addition to enjoying their music, you can take action at freepussyriot.org.
Reupped in 320 glorious kbps at a reader's request, here.
It seems fitting that my introduction to Chinese rock would be through a random CD I picked up in a dollar bin in Brooklyn’s Chinatown shortly after 9/11. The CD was the 1997 debut album by pioneering Beijing punk band The Fly. The bin was outside of Xinhua Bookstore/Fantasy Audio & Video Inc. (8th Avenue just below 53rd Street) in Sunset Park. Fitting because, after all, rock and roll in the People’s Republic took off in the late 80s to early 90s with the introduction of dakou (打口, “saw gash” or “cut out”) cassettes and CDs from the Western world—literally, remaindered discs and tapes intended for landfill but rerouted to dakou stores where people like Feng Jiangzhou, the Fly’s lead singer, got his first taste of the once forbidden music. [Read the rest of this article inOpen City.]
Part one of two, from what appears to be a Japanese documentary about Beijing punk.
Want it? Ago-go here. Found last night on my way to meet my good friend Carol, with whom I saw the legendary Jonas Mekas's recent film Outtakes from the Life of a Happy Man. At one point, Jonas, who is now 90 years old, kept insisting: "These are not my memories. This is not memory. This is real. What you are looking at is real. This is all real." If you want to be reduced to a blubbering emotional idiot on the verge of an uncontrollable weeping jag, you could do worse than sit in an intimate movie theater watching images shot in the 60s and 70s flicker by as a very, very old man -- indeed, the man who shot them -- insists that this has nothing to do with his memory, but what is, in fact, taking place. The songs on this rather life-affirming Cambodian a-go-go compilation are also very much taking place.
I've never understood why Algerian Rai never took off as one of the hot, new "world musics du jour" here in the U.S. the way that, say, Afro-Cuban, Reggae or even Bulgarian music once did. (I'd probably never have had this conversation, if it had.) Not that I particularly care one way or the other, but it's my suspicion that, if it had taken off, we'd have seen more books in English than just Marc Schade-Poulsen's Men and Popular Music in Algeria: The Social Significance of Raï.
Born Hasni Chakroun in Oran in 1968, the year after the last French forces left the Mers El Kébir naval base, Cheb Hasni recorded more than 100 cassettes worth of songs before Islamic extremists assassinated him outside his parents' home in Oran in 1994.
That same year:
American-Israeli mass-murderer Baruch Goldstein senselessly takes the lives of 29 Palestinians; he is beaten to death by surviving victims and his grave subsequently becomes a pilgrimage site for Israeli extremists
Hutus hack more than 800,000 Tutsis to death while the rest of us watch Friends, snicker at Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan jokes and mourn the self-inflicted death of heroin addict, Kurt Kobain.
At a reader's request I have reupped this totally great collection in 320 kick-ass kbps here.
Are you ready to rock? No, no; seriously, people: Are you RAY DAY to FROW king RAAAWWK?!?
I found this insanely great CD by luk thung artist รุ่งเพชร แหลมสิงห์ (Rungpetch Laemsing) below Canal Street on one of the north-south running streets in Manhattan's Chinatown at a Thai "curio" store several years ago. I visited the store regularly for a couple of years, mostly buying up hundreds of these things for work on this:
... a comics project that has taken me a ridiculously long time to finish, largely due to (a) working a rather stressful full-time job and (b) general sloth. (I'm actually just a couple of pages shy of finishing what will be about 200 pages of collected comics that is [crosses fingers, bites lower lip] supposed to be published late this year.)
But who cares? You're here for the la musica, la musica--the cha-hoo-nays, mang. And oh my fucking god are you going to be happy you stopped into the Bodega today. This album is so awesome I can still remember the weight of my lower jaw dropping moments after hitting "play" when I gave it its maiden, post-un-shrink-wrapped listen.
Laemsing's music appears on only one Thai CD compilation that I know of, Luk Thung! The Roots of Thai Funk. ("Ban Nork Dee Nae," which also appears on the CD above.) Other than that, Peter Doolan posted a luk thung compilation cassette on his massively fabulous Monrakplengthai blog, here, which features another song you'll find on the CD above, "Nam Long Duean Yi.")
I don't know anything about Laemsing other than that dude has been rocking--uh, excuse me--RAWKEN my world ever since I plucked this exceedingly cheeky disc of polycarbonate plastic from that long-vanished store in Chinatown. Perhaps if Peter stops by he can share what he knows about the man?
Until then, you don't really need to know much of anything, other than whatever it is you're gonna need to know in order to nurse your poor tender ass after the monster-kicking this sublimely talented dude's gonna give it.