Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio dropped the Bomb Squad on Times Square.

Get ready to turn your back to the NYPD and shake your booty with gun-toting Māori rappers, guitar-wielding Cameroonian writers, MCs from Monterrey, Sheffield electropunks, and politicized DJs from Beirut to Long Island.

Shake it up in the archives: HERE

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Look Back at 2014

On December 17, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio spun tracks by some of the people on Earth not actively contributing to the horribleness that was this past year.

From massive box sets by Nigerian greats to Vietnamese and Thai guitar shredding to the first D'Angelo album in a decade and a half, we covered everything that rocked our world -- or at least what we were able to cram into our three-hour time slot.

Listen to the show now in the archives

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rock Simera! (Rock Now!) | 1971

Listen to "They All Mean Bad"

Listen to "Imaginary Doctor"

Grab the whole collection here

Found today at the Greek Music Superstore on 31st Street here in Astoria. Hopefully this mostly awesome Greek psych-era collection makes up somewhat for my relative neglect of this blog this year. 

I promise a Best of 2014 before the end of the year. And I know that most of the links here are dead. I'll get on it. All. Soon.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Listen to the show in the archives now!

On Wednesday, December 10, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio brought you three hours of mind-blowing, guitar-driven, sex, drugs & revolution-soaked psychedelic and garage rock from Belgium, Chile and Korea, to the former Yugoslavia and Zambia.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hoàng Oanh | Saigon Siren 1960-1975

Listen to "Le Bong"

Listen to "Mua Gat Moi"

Listen to "Tinh Yeu Tra Lai Trang Sao"

Just reupped this Bodega Pop exclusive album here.

I've long wanted to put together a collection of the Bodega's favorite Hoàng Oanh songs, especially since the three or four full albums I've previously posted of hers were taken down early last year. But perpetual busyness coupled with chronic exhaustion has kept me from the task -- until today. Not that I suddenly find myself free and clear, alas. No, it's just that I'm facing an inevitable, looming deadline so severe, so intractable, so humiliating if I miss it, that I just can't help but procrastinate. Lucky you!

Born Huỳnh Kim Chi in 1950 in Mỹ Tho, about 45 miles southwest of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), Hoàng Oanh is considered by many contemporary Vietnamese singers to be a primary influence. No doubt in part because she was at the helm of her own career decades after most would have given up, compiling, editing and distributing her classic recordings from an address in Fountain Valley, Calif. 

A couple of things about the title of this particular BP-exclusive album. First, it might be a stretch to call her a "Saigon Siren"; for, other than her proximity to the cultural capital, Oanh was always considered more country simple than urban sophisticated -- at least, according to a fellow writer of mine from Vietnam. 

Another stretch: I'm not sure about those dates: 1960-1975. I have songs on a couple of CDs that are attributed as far back as 1964, when the singer presumably was 14, but no one song from 1960 when she was 10 or 11 ... all I have to go on for that, is this:

That's from one of her self-compiled-and-distributed albums, so I'm guessing she would know the dates. (And, no, Nhạc Yêu Cầu does not mean "Songs Other People Sang First"; it means something more like "Song Requests" -- at least, to the extent we can believe Google Translate. Unless of course it does mean "Songs Other People Sang First," in which case, mystery solved.)

Did she really begin her career as a pre-teen? She wouldn't be the first female vocalist to have done so, of course; I simply find it remarkable, given how mature her voice sounds throughout all of the recordings I have. Does it matter? I suppose not. What matters -- to me, at least -- is that, of all of the musicologists, ethno- and otherwise, we have taking up space at colleges and universities across the country on any given day, not a single one of them has seen fit to trek out to southern California and interview this living legend. (To say nothing of the dozen or so other exiled Vietnamese singers living near and around Oanh's home and offices.) There's a book just waiting to happen. Maybe not a bestseller. But, presumably, a potentially awesome read.

Bodega Hop: Latin Hip-Hop, Rap + Reggaeton | Bodega Pop 15

Listen to the first track

Listen to the next track

Listen to track 8

Just reupped the 24-song mix here.

Before I moved into my new apartment last month and discovered the little Mexican bodega off Broadway near Steinway from whence the CDs on which I found many of these tracks were plucked, this mix wouldn't have been possible. Was that sentence grammatically correct? It's late; I can't tell. More importantly, I don't care.

I do care about my regular visitors and I'm well aware just how much I've neglected the Bodega shelves since the big move. So this insanely great ear-curling collection goes out to all of you, with the promise of much more to come.

You Forgot Poland | Bodega Pop 14

Just reupped the 33-track Bodega Pop exclusive album here. You'll never forget Poland again.

Listen to "Tatuuj Mnie"

Listen to "Welcome to Poland Asshole"

Listen to "Artbroken"

Listen to "Nie Ma Nic"

Listen to "Rosol"

A collection of ear-blistering alt Polish pop, rock and new wave found over the last couple of years at Music Planet in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I compressed the album in a ZIP file rather than a RAR because at least one person I know who will love this album has complained in the past that she can't open RARs. (Yes, I know; hush.)

Yao Su Rong | Non-Stop 24 Hits | BP 13

Listen to "Steal the Person of the Heart"

Listen to "Lachrymal Clothes"

Listen to "Suburb Way"

Back by popular demand, pared down to 24 hot trax in 320KBPS, here.

I got the double CD from whence the 24 songs that made the final cut originally appeared at the Flushing Mall in, duh, Flushing. It was actually part of a four CD set; I posted the other two CDs--songs by legendary 30s singer Zhou Xuan--here. (I originally posted a 30-song selection back in May 2012, without a cover and in random order. I've gone back and spruced things up, including giving you the often oddly-translated English titles instead of the Chinese, as I had last time. Plus, c'mon, look at that cover.)

I had no idea how hard Yao Su Rong was going to rawk; in fact, Zhou Xuan held my attention for months before I really gave Yao Su Rong a proper listen. Part of the problem is that about a quarter of the songs in her collection, which is mostly made up of 60s and 70s classics, are absolutely godawful unlistenable atrocities from the 80s and 90s, even to a pop gourmand like me. (I took the liberty of removing those songs from the present mix; trust me, I did everyone a favor by doing so.)

Here's her bio from Last.FM:

Yao Su Yong (sometimes Yao Su Rong) was born in 1946. Her breakthrough came in 1969, with the title track to the movie “今天不回家” (Today I Won’t Come Home). That one song swept her into fame, the song being sung by young and old alike, securing her a much-coveted Hong Kong record deal with 海山 (Haishan Records), selling 600,000 copies.

Before that, she’d been singing songs for a while, a minor hit being a Mandarin-language rewrite of a Japanese popular song, “負心的人” (Cruel-Hearted Lover). No longer would she have to worry about success — instantly, she was selling out shows and getting invited to concerts all across the Mandarin-speaking world.

Certainly, her catalog is extensive, with over 200 recorded songs.

On August 18th, 1969, Yao Su Yong sang at a packed crowd in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. The audience was crazy about her, cheering madly every time she appeared on stage, and pleaded and begged her to sing some of her banned songs. Initially, she declined as politely as she could, saying that she was not permitted to perform those songs, and that she hoped the audience would forgive her. However, the requests wouldn’t stop, and eventually, she sang “負心的人”, hoping the popular appeal of her song would override any official censorship.

Unfortunately, the police guards stationed at the theater didn’t agree. They called her offstage and questioned her, asking her to record her playlist and make an official confession. Failing to produce a playlist, her singer’s license was revoked, “leaving no door or window” open. Since she was no longer allowed to perform in Taiwan, she turned to Hong Kong and Southeast Asia to continue her career.

Now, she lives a quiet life in Singapore. Though Taiwan officially invited her to perform at the 1998 Golden Horse Film Festival (the biggest movie event of the island, government sanctioned), she politely declined, saying that now that her life was peaceful and stable, she preferred to remain out of the limelight. However, her legacy lives on. “Jin Tian Bu Hui Jia”, the movie, was remade in 1996, but still used her original song. Her records continue to be very popular, and her status in the annals of Chinese oldies divas is well-secured.

Revolution Rap: Arabic Hip-Hop | Bodega Pop 12

Listen to "Ramallah Underground" 

Listen to "Beit" 

Listen to "I'm Not Your Prisoner"

Listen to "As Salam 3alikum"

Listen to "Talakat" 

Just reupped the 24-track album here.

Hyperbolic as it may sound, Arabic rap and hip-hop has had a significant place in the series of uprisings that have swept across North Africa and the Middle East since December 2010. Considering that what we in the west sometimes like to call the "Arab Spring" is predominantly a youth movement, it makes sense. 

Despite the not-coincidentally alliterative title of this mix, not every track I've chosen to include has a relationship to the "revolution," as it were. (Lebanese rapper Rayess Bek's "3al 2anoune 3al2anine," for instance, was recorded a decade ago.) But all of the tracks are, in some way, shape or form "revolutionary" -- for their content, their sound, their innovation. Nearly half of the tracks feature a female artist. 

Here's the moment where I'm tempted to make reference to my country's seemingly inexorable movement toward war in Syria, relating that to this music (and, by association, the people who made it) ... but there really is no real relationship and, frankly, I don't know, exactly, what to say. We tend -- as a culture, a country, a political player on the world's stage -- to speak too often for others. We need to learn how to listen.

Vietrap: Vietnamese Rap & Hip Hop | Bodega Pop 11

Just reupped the 21-track Bodega Pop exclusive album here.

Listen to "Chi Pheo"

Listen to "Hello Moto"

Listen to "Hai Vi Sao"

Listen to "Ca Va Luoi Bieng"

Listen to "Oi Nguoi Dep"

In the middle of a pleasant if innocuous conversation with the woman behind the counter of the cavernous Vietnamese media store on Argyle Street right off the Red Line in Chicago, I suddenly remembered to ask, "Oh, um, do you have any Vietnamese rap music?"

Her brow furrowed. "Have you heard any Vietnamese rap music?" she asked. I couldn't quite get the hidden meaning here, which I assumed was either: (a) because it doesn't exist, you poor delusionally optimistic white liberal type person; or (b) because I think it's going to induce projectile vomiting in you.

It turned out she meant (b) and just assumed that I would hate what the Vietnamese--Vietnamese-Americans, I believe--are doing with the genre.


* * *


Chi Pheo | Mr.Dee & The Bells
Hello Moto | Tien Dat   
Hai Vi Sao | May Trang  
Ca Va Luoi Bieng | F5                     
Du Lich Cung Toi | Mr.Dee & The Bells                                     
Tinh Khong Phai | F 5                                     
Love Music | Mr.Dee & The Bells                                             
Huynh De Tuong Tan | Tien Dat                  
Cha Vang Nang | Tan Quoc                                         
Con Gai | Tien Dat                          
Giao Thong | Mr.Dee & The Bells                                             
Hoc Tro | Unknown                                       
Oi Nguoi Dep | Mr.Dee & The Bells                                         
Tet Viet Nam | Cao Dang Hieu                                   
Ghe Khung | Phong Le                 
Trong Com | 5 Dong Ke                                
Vui Len Ban Oi | Tien Dat                                             
Mai Mai Ben Em | Phong Bot                                     
Mot Ngay Khong Co Em | Vpop
Mr. Viet Rapper | Phong Le
Trong Com 2 | Mr.Dee & The Bells

Leila Mourad | Voice of the Egyptian Revolution

Just reupped this game-changing 25-song Bodega Pop exclusive album here.

There was a time when it looked like Leila Mourad was on her way to become the most famous Egyptian singer of all time. She was, in fact, selected as the official singer of the Egyptian revolution in the early 50s--but rumors about her having visited Israel effectively put an end to her career. Born Jewish (Iraqi-Jewish father, Polish-Jewish mother), she converted to Islam and, though she was well-loved in Egypt, she simply slipped out of the limelight, never to sing publicly again, retiring at the age of 38.

She began her career when she was 15 years old, recording "The Day of Departure" for the film al-Dahaya (The Victims) in 1932, which was otherwise silent. 

I honestly don't recall where I found the three CDs that make up this album, although I assume it was most likely in Bay Ridge. I may be in the minority, but I love her voice--which is among the most expressive I've ever heard--even more than that of the far more famous Oum Kalsoum.

Here she is in all her glory:

Saigon Lounge | Vietnamese Pop + Soul 1960s-1970s

Reupped one more time by special request here.

Those of you who frequent the Bodega know that Your Humble Proprietor has got a constant eye out for pre-1975 Vietnamese music what has been lovingly burned into discs of polycarbonate plastic. I've picked up CDs of this stuff everywhere from the Tu Quynh Pharmacy in Manhattan's Chinatown, to Vietnamese video stores in downtown Montreal, to a number of spots on Argyle Street in Chicago, to a place whose name I forget on Foster Road in Portland, Oregon. 

There are a lot of Vietnamese living in the Americas -- 1,700,000 in the United States and another 200,000 in Canada. Fortunately for folks like me, many of them love their 60s and 70s pop, the music the elders were listening to before Saigon fell and they were forced to make a new life half a world away. 

I've long been meaning to put together a mix of some of my favorite tunes for you; now that I've got Photoshop and can do up a Sublime Frequencies-style cover, I decided tonight to go ahead and do just that. I'm betting you're gonna like it ...

Asmahan | Legend of the Druze Princess

Just reupped this revelatory 27-track collection here.

Asmahan (born Amal al-Atrash, 1917, reputedly on the Mediterranean en route from Izmir, Turkey, to Beirut, Lebanon) was, simply put, one of the 20th century's greatest singers and the only Middle Eastern diva generally considered to have given Egypt's Oum Kalsoum a serious run for her money.

Asmahan strikes an interesting contrast to Kalsoum. Whereas Kalsoum was one of the most powerful Egyptians in history, in great part due to her brilliant management of her own career and image, Asmahan's brief, stop-and-go trajectory, which ended in her death at age 26 by suspicious car accident, was shrouded in rumor and intrigue, despite her family's suffocating control of her life and, subsequently, her memory.

The song above, "Ya Habibi Ta 'al al-Haqni," was my first sonic experience of this legendary singer's small but significant body of work; it was, oddly enough, also Sherifa Zuhur's. Zuhur, who wrote Asmahan's Secrets: Woman, War, and Song, first heard the tune on a cassette in the early 1970s that she picked up in a small music store on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles -- Silwani's Imports.

Zuhur's description of the place sounds remarkably like the places frequented by the present narrator. "Cramped, lively and filled with audio cassettes, key chains and souvenirs," she writes, "men from the Arab-American community dropped in and drank tea and coffee with the owner. I used to visit and browse, adding to my small collection of Arabic records and tapes."

Zuhur didn't listen to the tape that Silwani's owner, Mustafa, had suggested to her until she was on a trip to Cairo, by way of Sweden. In the early morning she popped the tape into her recorder:

"Percussion instruments and violins plucked a la pizzicato began with a tango. The singer's clear tones descended and rose, emphasizing the rhythm. Suddenly, the Eastern character of the song became more pronounced, as she began her improvisation (the mawwal) and modulated to another musical mode (maqam). The singer's diction was precise, and she effortlessly executed the wider sliding, trills and tonal patters performed by Arab singers. The song was 'Ya Habibi Ta 'al al-Haqni,' composed by Madhat Assim. 'It sounds so ... so old-fashioned. A cartoon tango but sophisticated,' I told my friend." [The song, Zuhur notes later in the book, had been previously sung by the Egyptian cinema pioneer Mary Kwini.]

I made my own discovery of Asmahan a quarter century later, at Daff and Raff Books & Music ("A Gateway to Another Culture") in the heart of Cambridge, Mass. (52-B JFK Street, currently occupied by Raven Used Books.) I don't know how my friends and I stumbled on to this store -- my memory suggests it was a random accident -- but I do recall immediately plucking this 1988 Baidaphon Beirut CD from the shelf. My own response to "Ya Habibi Ta 'al al-Haqni," the first track on the album, was much less sophisticated than Zuhur's had been to the same song: I began to tear up, felt a dull ache in my chest and watched as the skin on my arms filled with goosebumps. 

Over the last 15-16 years since I first heard Asmahan's voice, I've managed to find maybe half a dozen CDs of her music, mostly in Arabic media stores like long-since closed Princess Music in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn (the neighborhood where much of Saturday Night Fever took place). For this collection, I've excised all duplicate songs, as well as those featuring Asmahan's brother, Farid, rather than Asmahan herself. Not quite random, the order was determined largely by choosing my favorite five or six songs first and then following those with whatever seemed to best click. While most of these tracks run somewhere in the 5:00 - 10:00 minute range, there are two longer pieces, of nearly half an hour each. I placed one in the mid-section of the collection; the other I placed last. 

Bollywood Freak Out | Bodega Pop vol. 7

Just reupped this two-dozen track revelation here.

I gave myself a task: Using only CDs I'd purchased in Jackson Heights, Queens, over the last decade or so, create the Single Most Kick Ass 1970s-80s Bollywood Freak Out Mix of All Time without resorting to any track included on any previous Western Consumer-targeted Bollywood Funk/Disco/Dance or other compilation. (Feel free to let me know where fucked up on that one, as I can't imagine, given how many comps there are out there, that I didn't.)

As you listen to this sweat-stained comp, comparing it to your copies of Bollywood Funk, Bollywood Funk Experience, and Funk from Bollywood Action Films, let me ask you a question: How much does your ass hurt, being kicked as it is by this far superior compilation?

This Superior Tip Top 100% Super Dance Action comp goes out with Xtreme Love to the Bodega's all-time BFFs: Carol, Doug, Holly, and, above all, fellow Bollywood traveler Rodney. You know who you are. 

As an aside: I've heard complaints from yon and hither that "Oh it's a RAR file I can't open a RAR file I don't know what to do with a RAR file my hands are tied."

So, until further notice, and unless someone taps me on the shoulder and whispers the RAR secrets into my ear, I'll be merely zipping files for the foreseeable future.

At WFMU Super DJ Doug Schulkind's request, here's a full track list with film titles and dates:

1. Aa Dekhen Zara, Rocky, 1981
2. Zindagi Meri Dance, Dance Dance, 1987
3. Bachna Ae Haseeno, Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, 1977
4. Naheen Naheen! Abhee Naheen! Abhee Karo Intazaar!, Jawani Deewani, 1972
5. Super Dancer, Dance Dance, 1987
6. Jawani Jan-E-Man, Namak Halaal, 1982
7. Tridev, Tridev, 1989
8. Duniya Mein, Apna Desh, 1972
9. Jeena Bhi Kya Koi Jeena Hai, Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki, 1984
10. Bolo Bolo Kuch To Bolo, Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai, 1981
11. Dance Dance, Dance Dance, 1987
12. Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki, Kasam Paida Karne Wale Ki, 1984
13. Laila O Laila, Qurbani, 1980
14. Mil Gaya Ham Ko Saathi, Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, 1977
15. Tum Kya Jano, Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, 1977
16. Yeh Naina Yaad Hai Piya, Manzil Manzil, 1984
17. Ooie Ooie, Star, 1982
18. Mujhe Maar Daalo, Geeta Mera Naam, 1974
19. Aap Jaisa Koi (Instrumental), Qurbani, 1980
20. One Two Cha Cha Cha, Shalimar, 1978
21. Pyar Zindagi Hai, Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, 1978
22. He Baba, Manzil Manzil, 1984
23. Disco Deewane, Disco Deewane (album, not a film), 1981
24. Yeh Mera Dil Yaar Ka Diwana, Don, 1978

Black+Blue in Harajuku | Japanese Retro

Just reupped the 14-song mix here.

Do I really need to pitch this one to you? 

I didn't think so.

Albanian Sisters Swim to Freedom | Bodega Pop Vol. 5

Just reupped the 22-song mix here.

Ai yai yai what I went through to get this mix for you. 

Albanians do NOT like other people flippin through the CDs in their bodegas, at least not the guys who run the place on Church Avenue in Brooklyn where I scored the dozen or so CDs this mix was culled from. "Why you want this music? Eh? Why?"

Trust me, though, it's worth whatever you have to go through -- "Hi, I want because ... goshes! ... I ... I ... love music from all over the world! DON'T KILL ME!" -- to get this stuff. Because when it comes to burning pure awesomeness into discs of polycarbonate plastic, the Albanians do not fuck around. In fact, Albanians so love burning their awesomeness into discs of polycarbonate plastic that they will, more often than one's religious beliefs might allow one to imagine, team up -- heramana a hermana -- to duke out the jams with the most heavenly, angular harmonies you've ever heard.

Various Artists | Punk Islam

One of the all-time most popular Bodega Pop DLs, reupped a second time here.


1. Suicide Bomb the GAP | The Kominas
2. Thaleo Vi Chumero | Noble Drew
3. Hey Hey Hey Guantanamo Bay | Secret Trial 5
4. War Crimes | Diacritical
5. Gaza- Choking on the Smoke of Dreams | Al-Thawra
6. Sharia Law In The USA | The Kominas
7. I like you | The Fatsumas
8. Teri Assi Ki Tassi | Dead Bhuttos
9. Rumi Was A Homo | The Kominas
10. Ignorance | Diacritical
11. Years Ago | Edifice Al-Thawra
12. I Want A Handjob | The Kominas
13. Dirty Looks | The Fatsumas
14. The Exile of Hope | Al-Thawra

I haven't been so excited about music coming (mostly) out of the USA in a long, long time. The bands in this 14-song compilation share at least two things: they're punk and--whether practicing or lapsed, straight or queer, sober or stoned--Muslim. They're also writing some of the funniest, most outrageous and, without question, politically savviest lyrics in English (and Urdu and Punjabi) since The Clash. 

Musically, they're all over the map, drawing from 70s punk, 80s rap, ska, rock, bhangra, Bollywood, metal, noise, folk, disco, etc.--the sum total of which almost convinces me this might be the missing LP between London Calling and Sandinista!

I put this compilation together after watching Omar Majeed's documentary, Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, which I highly recommend. The moment the DVD ended, I started hunting around online for songs, the result of which, pared down to this blogger's personal favorites, you can now listen to yourself.

Naseebo Lal | Pakistan's Last Diva

Reupped just now here
+ NEW 12-song super-rare live acoustic recording: here

[Look, kids! some label has been SELLING this comp, song-for-song--though in scrambled order--on Amazon and via iTunes! Not that I care that much, but it kind of gives lie to the claim that if one buys from "official" sources that means the artists are getting paid. I mean, this label -- Alchemy -- just took the comp I've been offering here for free since 2010 and slapped an $8.99/$11.99 price tag on it and Amazon & iTunes clearly aren't checking to see if they're the copyright holders.]

Okay, let's get down to business. For whatever reason, this compilation, which originally included only the studio songs & which I first posted in April 2010, has consistently been one of the most popular DLs from this site, right up there with Motrat Mustafa and Punk Islam (both of which I also need to reup). I've dreaded schlepping this thing back up online because (a) I no longer had the mix itself in my iTunes (tho the iTunes Store now has it! *cough*) and (b) the separate songs were spread out over the 40-50 Naseebo Lal CDs I own.

What do you mean, "too many" Naseebo Lal CDs?

But, being as how so many people are apparently seeking her music out, and because I really hate the idea that people might possibly shell out money to iTunes or Amazon, money that ain't ever going to be moseying its way over to Naseebo herself, it's not like I have a choice. 

A track from the live album

While I had been bodega-diving long before I discovered Naseebo, it was her incredibly soulful voice that turned me into the incurable obsessive that I ultimately became. More specifically, it was one song in particular that I happened to hear on a VHS of "Pakistani Dancing Girls" that I picked up on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn one afternoon for like a buck. The VHS practically had to swim to life through layers of dubs -- this was a copy of a copy of a copy. It didn't survive more than a year or so.

But the first song -- I remember the first time the first song on the tape sprung to life very, very well. A thin Pakistani woman (not Naseebo Lal) came out on a cheap-looking stage, flipping her long, black hair around, lip-syncing "Mahi, mahi! Mahi, mahi!" while an insanely cool bass guitar riff chunddered* beneath. (*Yes, I realize that's a made up word. I, in fact, am the person who made it up.)

Mahi-mahi! It was like she was singing about this especially delicious ocean fish, though I later discovered that the word meant something more on the order of "soul." Or, wait, no: World. 



I can't remember. What I do remember is that I went back to the store and tried to describe the song to the clerks, to see (a) who the singer was and (b) if they had it on CD. As hard as I tried, I couldn't sing "Mahi, mahi!" well enough for them to figure out what the song might be. They were pretty sure, however, that it was Naseebo Lal.

I wound up bringing the VHS back to the store with me on another visit, begging the clerks to play it so we could identify the song. They did. "Mahi Mahi" was what I remember them telling me. It's a song that I literally searched for, buying every Naseebo Lal CD with the word "Mahi" in one of the song's titles, and then everything else I could find by her just in case, for the next decade. I never found it.

Naseebo Lal was born poor and made her early living singing in weddings. In 2000, when Lollywood superstar Noor Jehan passed away, Naseebo was given shot at filling her shoes, a job she's fulfilled now for more than a decade. 

Here's an excerpt from what I wrote when I first posted this comp (under the title "Best of Naseebo Lal") here in 2010: 

Late one night coming back from a night out in Manhattan to Kensington, Brooklyn, I remember getting into a long, drawn-out conversation with the cab driver about music as we barreled along down the western and southwestern edges of Prospect Park. Somehow, probably because the driver was Pakistani, the subject of Naseebo Lal--one of my favorite living singers--came up.

He hated Naseebo Lal. Of all the music to come out of Pakistan, why would anyone bother with this filthy shit, he wanted to know, before spitting out the window. Naseebo Lal was vulgar. She was simply aping everything Reshma had ever done, but lamely, vulgarly. She was probably a drug user. There seemed to be one topic, and one topic alone, that she ever sang about: S-E-X. Was I aware of her drug abuse problem?

Mind you, the entire time he was "explaining" all of this to me, he nearly had to shout over John Cougar Mellencamp's "Jack & Diane," which--again, mind you--was not coming out of the radio, but from the tape deck. (E.g., he had chosen to pay for the "privilege" of listening to it.)

Yellow Music: Shanghai Pop 1930s-40s

Freshly reupped, by reader request, here.

In the 1920-30s, American jazz musicians began to visit and, in some cases, make extended stays in Shanghai, where a songwriter and composer originally from Hunan, Li Jinhui, was taking in everything he heard and integrating it into the popular Chinese music of the time. He composed hundreds of songs from the 20s to 40s, helping to launch the careers of China's most famous singers of the time, and single-handedly inventing shidaiqu, the precursor of contemporary Mandopop. Denounced for his "yellow" (meaning "pornographic") music, Li would eventually fall victim to Mao's Cultural Revolution in 1967.

Li's contribution is covered in depth by Andrew F. Jones in Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age, a well-written academic history of this period that, despite how the subtitle sounds, steers clear of academic language to tell an engaging and fascinating story of one of the most culturally rich periods of modern Asian history.

What Jones' book does not do is to breathe life into the specific histories of any of the singers of the time (though there is a passage near the end of the book detailing a bit of Zhou Xuan's performance in Street Angel). For that, we must piece together what little we can from Wikipedia entries on shidaiqu and the so-called Seven Great Singing Stars, and then hunt and peck our way through mostly other blogs for whatever scraps are out there. 

Despite the richness of Chinese pop music of the 20s-40s, it's effectively unavailable anywhere in the United States outside of media stores run by Chinese, Hong Kong and Taiwanese immigrants. Which is where your friendly bodega proprietor comes in.

As you've probably guessed, I'm on a constant lookout for recordings of shidaiqu, the Mandarin-language pop music that migrated from Shanghai to Hong Kong in the 40s, where it slowly morphed into the Twin Towers of Mandopop and Cantopop. Most of the nearly 50 CDs I have of this music is later stuff, recorded in Hong Kong, but I do have a dozen or so very coveted collections recorded in Shanghai that I've managed to pluck from mostly two stores (one no longer extant) on Bowery, just above Canal, in Manhattan's Chinatown.

For this mix, I included six of the Seven Greats: Zhou Xuan (Golden Voice), Yao Lee (Silver Voice), Bai Guong (White Light), Bai Hong (White Rainbow), Wu Yingyin (Queen of the Nasal Voice) and Lee Hsiang Lan, who was born Yoshiko Yamaguchi to a family of Japanese settlers in Manchuria, and thus apparently does not deserve a nickname. I have only a few songs by Gong Qiu Xia (Big Sister), but nothing that thrilled me as much as the songs that made the cut here.

Two other singers of the period are also repped: Chang Loo and Yun Yun. I limited myself to my two favorite songs by each of the eight, bringing the mix to a tight but hopefully fulfilling 16 songs. 

A final note: Just as easily as an enterprising scholar of popular and/or Chinese culture could make a career telling the life stories of these singers and placing their significance into the cultural context of their time, she or he could write a really interesting paper on the preservation of this music. A number of people, including a handful of non-Chinese, have been exploring a variety of methods for noise reduction and arguing about whether or not one should digitize the music directly from the original 78s or later LPs. And, as you'll hear on the first track: Someone is doing something ever-so-slightly obtrusive, but nonetheless kind of cool, using some form of digital overlay and delay.