Reupped in case you missed it the first time, here. [Originally posted on April 13, 2013.] I know I promised you more Fairuz this weekend, but it was such a warm day today I wound up spending all of it on my bike. And I think you know what that means. Yes, that's right: I wound up at Blessing Udeagu (99-08 Lewis Avenue, Corona, Queens), where I picked up a dozen or so mostly Nigerian CDs, including this mind-blowingly great collection of 70s hits by the legendary Celestine Ukwu.
From LASTFM: Celestine Ukwu began his musical career during the 1960’s with Michael Ejeagha’s Paradise Rhythm Orchestra in Enugu, capital of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria. He left four years later to launch his own band, the Music Royals. Following a hiatus caused by the Biafran war of independence from 1967-70, the Music Royals were resurrected as the Philosophers National, who distinguished themselves with a series of sparkling, subtle highlife releases during the 1970s. Sadly, Ukwu perished in an automobile accident in 1977, depriving Nigerian music of one of its shining stars.
Listen to the second track UPDATE: Reripped at 320kbps with formerly missing track 2 and reupped by reader request here. [Originally posted on April 22, 2012.] As you know if you read the previous post, I was down in Washington, DC, this weekend to give a reading with younger experimental poet Megan Ronan and legendary language poet (and a major hero of mine) p. inman. I visit DC somewhat regularly, at least once or twice a year, almost always seeing a number of poet friends while I'm there.
I've long known that DC is home to the country's largest Ethiopian community, and I was certain I'd someday stumble onto an Ethiopian bodega or music store where I might pick up a few musical treasures, old and new. But it never happened. So, when Bryan Koen and Mel Nichols invited me to read for Ruthless Grip, I hinted that I'd be searching out Ethiopian music while I was there and--lo and behold--received an email back from Bryan with the address of Nahom Records Inc., situated a bit east of where I had spent the last decade trying futilely to find any of this stuff.
How excited was I? On Friday, the day of the reading, I sat bolt upright in bed at 6:00 a.m. and managed to Amtrak it down the nation's capital by 11:30. I was at Nahom's door at precisely 11:47. They weren't open. I called the number on a sign near the door and was told that someone would be in in about an hour. I walked down the street a bit and had a long, leisurely Ethiopian lunch.
An hour later, I emerged from the restaurant, my belly bloated with injera, the sponge bread that, unfortunately, you use in lieu of utensils. Unfortunately, as it means you wind up eating a lot of it. And injera expands throughout the day as it makes its way slowly down your intestinal tract.
So I go back to Nahom and I see that the lights are on and I can hear music coming out of the store. But the metal gate standing between me and the front door is locked. I stand there, frustrated, about ready to call the number again, when an older Ethiopian man comes up to me and asks me if I'm looking for Ethiopian music. I say yeah, but that I'm not sure if Nahom is really open yet.
"Across the street," he says. "At the market."
"They have music?" I ask.
He motions with his head for me to follow him as he crosses the street and leads me into Habesha Market & Carryout (1919 9th Street NW), which was packed with people, some having coffee at tables, others buying bread and other staples. My guide pointed to the barista area, behind which I saw a small but well-stocked section of the wall with a bunch of CDs and DVDs.
I don't care how nice a person is--and the women behind the counter were incredibly sweet and helpful--it's just frustrating when you're forced to have to point and grunt at CDs until you find a few things you think might be good bets. Especially in a hopping joint like Habesha; a line began to quickly form behind me, ensuring that I would feel more awkward than I already did, what with all of the pointing and grunting and clear lack of knowledge about what I was pointing and grunting at. Add 5 or 6 guys waiting for their coffee, and, well--let's just say I didn't stay there quite as long as I typically would at one of these places.
I did, however, come home with a few mind-blowing treasures, all of which I'll share over the coming days and weeks. This incredible CD is one of them.
Listen to track 7 Listen to track 9 Get this 12-track album here, you lucky bastard, you. My god I have a lot of CDs. I'm not bragging. (Okay, I'm kind of bragging.) I'm still unpacking and there's just -- there's so much. So, so much. How is it that I've never shared this with you? I don't care how many Cambodian rock comps you've already got, you most likely don't have at least a few of these Ros Sereysothea tunes. So, a big shout out to everyone who has bought some art in our Help Put Bodega Pop on WFMU campaign. I have thrilling news: Someone has come through and is sending us a used Mac that we're 98% sure will work to stream the show. Fingers crossed. And final word in a week or two. Meanwhile, there's some art left if you wanna put something sort of groovy on your wall. Check eet oot!
Listen to "Чирибим" Reupped by reader request here. "Chiribim, Cherry Bomb, Chiribim Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb ..." Does this CD even really need an intro? Obviously, I picked it up for its cover. I think I was actually in Brighton Beach with Kasey Mohammad and his girlfriend that day; Kasey was in town for the Flarf/Conceptual reading we did at the Whitney. I say this because I remember bringing the CD that evening to a Spanish restaurant/bar in Chelsea, where we met Christian Bök and Kenny Goldsmith for a few drinks. I figured that, being (a) Jewish and (b) a WFMU DJ, Kenny would be especially appreciative of the CD. He was.
Listen to "Jabar" Grab the whole album here. Kazim mad! Kazim riiiiiip paper! Yeah, uh, I'm not sure precisely what's going on in that fabulous cover, but whatever it is, the CD's publisher wanted to underscore its importance:
As you can see above, the image is repeated on the CD itself. Well, more than just repeated, actually; it's freaking hand drawn. I'm trying to imagine the marketing meeting for this one: A: We must show Kazim as resolute--he is through with this %#*$@%! So, he rips the [unintelligible: love letter? lease?]. B: Sitting cross-legged on the floor, perhaps? Grounded. Close to the earth. Close to life. A: Listen. Listen to what I am telling you. We will then hand draw this same image of Kazim ... on the CD. B: On the CD ... ? A: Yes, on the CD itself. Drawn ... by hand! B: Wait, I have it ... I have it. In red. Blood red. According to the meta-data, this album is titled Kazem Al Saher and is dated 2009; the former is unlikely (it's a live album and I think there's a title of some kind there on the cover) and the latter is impossible. That's a relatively young Al Saher on the cover and, more importantly, the instrumentation and sound quality suggest that we're listening to a performance from the 1980s or, at latest, the very early 90s. I'm almost certain I found this gem at the Nile Deli on Steinway Street. In fact, I think it was relatively recently, within the last six months to a year. As I said in my last post, I'm gong to be DJing for WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio in the next month or two, but in order to do that, I need to get a new computer, specifically a Mac of some kind, and Macs are not cheap. In order to help raise funds I'm going to start selling and/or auctioning off original artwork and rare books and CDs to help defray the cost. I have to finish a comic under deadline today, and if I get done with time to spare, I'll start posting things for sale as early as this evening. Stay tuned ...
Bodega Pop will be on the radio soon. Specifically, we'll join WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio, the streaming station curated by master DJ and music blog supporter extraordinaire Doug Schulkind. Doug actually asked me if I'd be interested in bringing the bodega to the woof-moo months ago, but for several reasons--including (a) complete ignorance on my part as to what goes into being a DJ and (b) the impending move to my new apartment--I wasn't quite ready to start the show. I'm still not quite ready, although I've made progress. I've bought a professional microphone, a mixer, and a Byzantine array of cords, jacks, plugs and adapters. All I need now is a Mac computer of some kind. That, dear reader, listener, is where you come in. Over the next few weeks I'll be selling original art, rare CDs and books, and whatever else I can pull together to raise funds for the computer I'll need to stream you and other listeners the goods. More info to come soon. Meanwhile: My new apartment is no longer a mess, yay. The bad news? That's because more than half of my CDs are in boxes that I've shoved, out of exhaustion, into the closet. That said, I'm finding lots of new stuff--new to you, anyway--to post. First up is this lovely example of Turkish taksim, or improvisation, that I found half a decade or so at Uludag Video in south Brooklyn. More--much, much more--to come.
Just reupped here. [Originally posted in May 2011. Since then, the Greek music store where I found this moved a couple of blocks north on 31st Street, to just above 23rd Road, and I've moved several avenues south. Also, I'm pretty sure that I'm remembering correctly and that someone in the comments field wonders if I'd been watching The Wire. I hadn't. Since then, however, I've seen the show and understand where the comment came from.] There is, a couple of blocks away from me, on 31st Street in Astoria, under the N/Q el, what feels like the Tower Records of Greek music. Now, you know I love music, especially pop music, especially-especially old pop music, from around the world. But I'm also, let's face it, not rich. I'm used to spending between $1-$10 maximum for prerecorded entertainment, especially that of a musical nature ... and there is nothing in this store less than, like, $25. That said, you know those cartoons where the person's head is replaced by a big lolly-pop? Or sucker? Well, yes, in situations wherein I'm confronted with aisles and aisles of prerecorded product, especially that of a musical nature from other countries, that cartoon sucker-head is me. Oh, god. Was it, like, Christmas Eve when I got this? I know it was cold and dark and depressing and there was some sort of holiday that I really had nothing to do with, but should have. And that this place was empty. Except for me. I spent hours combing through the stacks and plucked out two items, this CD and another, which perhaps I'll upload another day. Stylianos "Stelios" Kazantzidis (Aug 29, 1931–Sept 14, 2001) was one of Greece's most popular Laïkó singers. Much of his music was included in films. And that is where my "knowledge" of him begins and ends. Well, other than the extreme kick-ass nature of the pop music he recorded. Which, if you weren't familiar with it before, you will be now. Typically, when I'm buying music from a place like this, I'll either get extreme attitude from the person working the register, or a host of questions: "You speak [language of music]? You like [country of origin] music?" That night, perhaps because it was Christmas Eve and I was the sole customer at this caverous CD warehouse, I got nothing but a knowing nod. Of course I was buying this CD, the clerk seemed to be saying. That, and, in what I can only assume was Greek, a "Merry Christmas, loser." Here's a video to watch while you're downloading:
[Originally posted in August 2012.] I found this collection of Greek dimotika, or folk, music nearly a decade ago in this odd little store in Bayridge just off fifth Avenue at around 79th or 80th Street. All I remember about the store was that it was actually two stores, which you could go back and forth from via a single door in the back connecting both. Oh, wait; no. It was three stores, one of which was a wedding dress maker? Right on the corner. I just Google mapped the area and it looks like none of this exists anymore. Anyway, there was the dress maker, then this weird sort of Z-level movies DVD place and then, last but not least, a small Greek music store.
What was a Greek music store doing in Bay Ridge? Well, Bay Ridge hosts an annual Greek Cultural Festival, so I'm guessing there must be a Greek population there, although I don't think there were any restaurants or other Greek-related businesses, save for the CD store. I've always thought of the neighborhood as predominantly Arabic (there used to be half a dozen or so Arabic music stores dotted along Fifth Avenue), but this is New York, after all.
I picked up this CD on a lark for like $5-10, having no idea what it was, and have loved it ever since the first play. It sounds to me like gypsy music, perhaps because of the clarinet and the extremely soulful voice of the singer. But it clearly says "dimotika" on the cover and that, so far as I know and understand, means "folk." Oh, and if you read Greek, here's the back cover with the track list:
Sorry I seem to be posting more writing and links to writing than music recently, but I've been getting a lot of requests for writing and comics lately, so I've been admittedly distracted from the music bloggin'. I've got a stack of stuff I've been meaning to share with you, including Arthur H's first album, given that y'all seemed to love so much the song of his I included here. Soon!