We stuffed our faces with mounds of fresh Indo-Italian progressive rock, Gambian acid funk, Mandarin Malaysian twee and Singaporean Britpop--and had room leftover for a bit of tea and Turkish delight ..
Grab the whole album HERE Last April I flew out to Seattle for a few days to give a talk at the Experience Music Project's 2014 Annual Conference on Rebecca Pan, the migration of Chinese-language pop from Shanghai to Hong Kong, and the emergence of the Special Administrative Region's indie music scene in the early to mid aughts. My third day in the city I took the light rail from where I was holed up downtown to the Othello stop in Rainer Valley, home to the area's most culturally and economically diverse population. On my way in from the airport I had seen a largish Lao grocery store, which subsequent Yelping revealed to be the most likely place in the city to find international music on CD. Even before I found the Lao store--which required a 15-20 minute walk back up north from the station--I stumbled onto the Phnom Penh Market (7123 Martin Luther King Jr Way) just a few short steps up MLK from the station.
I walked in. I approached the counter. I smiled at the three women, from what seemed like as many generations, futzing around, reordering things. I noticed a couple of tallish stacks of CDs near the register. I feigned an interest some immeasurable sum milder than the actual interest I was feeling and which was causing my body to intensely vibrate from within.
"Are those C-C-Cambodian CDs?" I asked. "Not CDs," Generation One snapped. "Those are VCDs." I played dumb. "Could I maybe see a couple? I'm a, uh--" and here my voice trailed off, as I realized just how little she probably cared what I was, other than some dopey-looking white guy who clearly wanted something from her. To my happy surprise, she brought over a few to let me have a look. She was right. Sort of. All but one of the grime-encrusted jewel-encased discs of polycarbonate plastic said "VCD" rather prominently on their covers. I lifted the one that didn't, and pointed at it, my finger clearly trembling. "Do you have any more like this?" I ventured, "any, uh, CDs?" "CDs? Not VCDs?" the kinder, gentler Generation Two asked. "Yeah. CDs." She dug around. And found one. And then another. And then another. Generation Three offered her help. Together, they found 10. And then 11. And then 12, 13, 14, 15. By the time they were done, there were 20 Khmer / Cambodian CDs, most from the 1990s, stacked up on the counter before me. I tried to hide my excitement. "I'LL TAKE THEM ALL," I heard myself blurting out. This is one of them. You can hear cuts from the rest of the haul here.
Grab the 25-track album here. I picked up this terrific collection of Palestinian wedding songs, marches, etc., somewhere in Bay Ridge at some time in the aughts. There were at least half-a-dozen music and electronics stores that carried Arabic music on cassette and CD there at that time, though they all have closed down since I moved out of Brooklyn to Queens.
What is it about weddings that bring out so much great music in so many diverse cultures? The music and singing in this instance is raw, spirited, moving. Not something I play every day, but music that, when I do play it, my first thought is: Holy crap, how did I forget about this? Read about an organization that hosts traditional wedding celebrations for young Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps, here. Listen to Bodega Pop Live's 3-hour broadcast of Palestinian music on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio, here.
Throw yourself into Mahmoud el Hasani's "Sagara Bouny" Grab all 19 mind-blowing tracks here.
As a super-outgoing Leo with a massive, unrestrained ego, it's very rare that I am short on words.
This is one of those occasions.
I picked this album up at the Nile Deli on Steinway Street yesterday along with a few other CDs that I'd been meaning to bring home for a while. I hadn't, for reasons that are unclear to me now, ever seen this gem before. How was this possible? The thing was grime-encrusted and must have been sitting in the store for years. A store that I frequent at least once a month, drooling, cash in hand, prowling for sonic treasure. I instantly fell in love with the cover. I assumed that this wasn't going to be like any of the other Egyptian CDs I'd picked up from this place. I was right. Is this chaabi? It isn't so-called "electro-chaabi," I know that. There's no autotune, for one thing. It may, in fact, predate autotune. But it has all of the other elements. Insane use of sound effects. KickThrillAss rhythms. Vocals that will put hair on your back. Whatever it is, whatever it's called, whenever it was recorded, you're not ever going to forget it.
Over half a decade of curating Monrakplengthai, Peter has established himself as one of the greatest international music bloggers on the planet. Back in the States after a lengthy sojourn to Bangkok where he worked cataloging Thai records for a public university library, Peter joined Gary to talk about Southeast Asian music and spin some of the most awesome luk thung, molam and other regional delights you’ve ever heard.