Wednesday, February 25, 2015


On Wednesday, February 25, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio spun three hours of music from al-Maġrib, from classic Berber, Chaabi, Gnawa + Malhun to psychedelic 70s superstars Les Frères Mégri and Nass El Ghiwane to the latest rai, rap, reggae + rock from the region.

Listen to the show in the archives

Josie Ho | Hell's Kitchen

Reupped a second time on Feb 25, 2015, here.

[Originally posted June 24, 2011.] A keen advantage of listening to "other" people's pop music is that, to the extent it's possible, doing so affords the listener at least the illusion of a far more visceral experience than listening to the music of one's own culture.

There is, alas, no such thing as a purely visceral experience--absent cultural, semiotic, etc., cues--not of anything human-made. We read, interpret, translate, bring our biases to everything. And everything is coded, even if we don't have the key, or have only part of it. There is, I'd argue, as a great a pleasure in completely misunderstanding something as there is in "getting" it--maybe even more so. Just ask the poets.

I bought the CD above--Hochiu (aka Josie Ho)'s "Hell's Kitchen"--in Manhattan's Chinatown one Saturday afternoon before straggling in to the Bowery Poetry Club to host a Segue Series reading. Once at the BPC, I spotted Franklin Bruno, a musician and music critic as well as a poet. I pulled out the CD in question, handed it to him and asked: "Okay, Franklin; you're an expert: What is this CD cover trying to tell us?"

Franklin chuckled a bit and then slowly flipped the CD cover back and forth a few times, before handing it back to me. "I'm picking up Patti Smith," he finally said.

As it turns out, despite "Hell's Kitchen"'s obvious nod to the cover of Patti Smith's "Horses," no one could be further from working-class androgynous hippy-dippy Romantic poet cum rock icon Patti Smith than Josie Ho. For one thing, Ho is the daughter of the purportedly richest man in Macau, casino tycoon Stanley Ho. The differences don't end with class background. Whereas Patti is also a poet, Josie is also a movie star. (And movie producer.) Whereas Patti's music is instantly recognizable for its shaggy, emotive intensity, Josie's music is slick, aggressive Canto rock and pop.

Look again into first Patti's eyes and then Josie's on those covers above. Patti looks soulful, vulnerable, almost frightened, even in what looks like "defiance." Josie looks something in between bored and simmering with sadistic energy. There's a way in which her cover feels as much of a nod to "A Clockwork Orange" as it is to "Horses." Take, for instance, this video, of "自衛術" ("Self-defense Art"), a song from the CD above, the only music video I'm aware of with a cake-fisting scene:

There aren't, to my knowledge, any other female pop artists who express this kind of energy (beyond the cake-fisting, I mean: the dancing with dogs in the tub, the messing with the fish, the singing to sock puppets, etc.). How, I want to know, do Hong Kongers "read" her? Is she a kind of Alex-from-Clockwork-Orange figure?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fatima Tihihit | CD 503


Reupped by reader request here.

Found in a little CD/cassette shop in Marrakesh a block or two south of Place Jemaa el Fna. The CD itself started to make horrible noises several months ago, rendering it useless. Thank to Tim at the mind-bendingly awesome music blog Moroccan Tape Stash, I was able to get the files I'd first posted back in April of 2011 of this terrific album, so now you can have them if you hadn't DLed it the first time around.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Oulad El-Bouazzaoui | Milouda

Reupped by reader request, here.

[Originally posted on April 20, 2012.] Another of the many CDs I picked up while in Marrakech a few years ago. I think of this band as the Fezmatics, sort of like the Klezmatics--though, yes, I'm aware that that's the name of the production company or CD series and not the band. (And thanks to Hammer and Tim Abdellah for providing band and album name after this was originally posted -- for track list, see comments.)

I love the matching djellabas; it gives them a kind of early Beatles / Garage look that is oddly fitting with their music. (They are, after all, rawqin' Moroccans.)

Rais Omar Wahrouche | CD 5108

Reupped by special request on Feb 22, 2015, here.

[Originally posted on April 5, 2012.] I found this utterly fantastic CD in a little CD/cassette shop in Marrakesh a block or two south of Place Jemaa el Fna (where I also found this). 

I know nothing about the guy and there looks to be nothing in English about him on the Web anywhere. 

Perhaps Tim at Moroccan Tape Stash can fill us in the next time he stops in at the Bodega?

[Update: See comments for Hammer's track list and elucidation of the artist.]

Saturday, February 21, 2015


On Wednesday, February 25, from 7-10 PM ET, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio will spin three hours of music from al-Maġrib, from classic Berber, Chaabi, Gnawa & Malhun to psychedelic 70s superstars Les Frères Mégri and Nass El Ghiwane to the latest rai, rap, reggae & rock from the region.

Bookmark the page and see you Wednesday night!

Mahmoud Kania | Essaouira

Listen to track 1

Reupped the 16-track album here

[Originally posted on December 2, 2013.] I've got a number of gnawa and chaabi CDs that I've yet to post -- I suppose I've been reluctant in the past for two reasons: (a) I can't translate/or even transliterate the tracklists for you and (b) I don't know much about either genre, other than what each, generally, sounds like. Most were plucked from the Moroccan aisle of the late, great Princess Music in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; a few were brought back home with me from a trip to Marrakech. 

In the case of this morning's offering, I'm almost certain I picked it up in Marrakech, though I'm not 100% sure. While it looks like the CD version of this cassette posted by the mighty Tim at the xtremely fabulous Moroccan Tape Stash, the CD version here has 6 more songs, so could either be the cassette + 6 or simply a bunch of different songs with a similar cover image. If we're nice, perhaps Tim will hip us to what we've got here. 

[UPDATE: Special thanks to Tim, who provides a track list in the comments below.]

Hamid El Kasri | Bouhala Gnawa

Listen to "Saadi Belwali"

I pooshed it back up to webby web b/c U askit 4 it, here.

[Originally posted on Dec 17, 2013.] Another CD I brought home from a trip to Marrakech. Hamid El Kasri hails originally from Ksar El Kbir, thus his moniker "El Kasri," which literally translates as "dude B from Ksar." 

For the past week & change I've been wiped out with the flu, the sickest I've been in three years. On Sunday, having mostly recovered, but not quite enough to really venture out, I spent a long, leisurely day organizing my CDs ... which means, my pretties, I have near-instantaneous access to everything.

Sit back. Take your shoes off. It's time to crank up the heat in the ol' bodega ...

Mysterious Gnawa CD

Listen to the first track

Freshly reupped by special request, here.

[Originally posted on Dec 21, 2013.] I bought this CD from someone on the street in Marrakech for the equivalent of US fifty cents. It's an obvious bootlet, burned into a blank CD with a color laser printed cover. The cover says it's El Marhoum Sam & Hmida Boussou, but the metadata begs to differ. It thinks this CD is Gnawa Leila Vol. 4 - Red & Green Suites by Bel Ahmer and Khder Chorfa. 

Whatever the case, it's definitely gnawa. And now it's yours.

Berber Music from Agadir

Put your ears to some

Freshly reupped by reader request here

[Originally posted on December 1, 2013.] What be up with this cover? Why do the Fullcolor Women hover so closely to Mr. Sepia? Why is Leftwardmost Woman crouching in a hole? Why are there no artist, album or song names anywhere? Are these simply nameless beings, floating in and out of sepia-tinted sinkholes, singing supersaturated song after song such that each be indistinguishable from the rest?

You should download it and see, my friend. I think you best.

Orchestra Noujoum Chaabia

Reupped by special request here.

[Originally posted on Jan 18, 2014.] I have no context for this album, other than being 99.999% sure it's Moroccan, given the fact that the address on the back cover is Casablanca. There was no metadata included on the CD, but I've scanned in the back cover, which has the track list, if you can read Arabic.

Pretty sure I plucked this from the shelves of the late, great Princess Music on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. (Oh, how I miss her.)

If you missed the debut of Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio last Wednesday, you can now listen to it in the archives, here. I'd love to see you there next Wednesday for the second show, if you can make it ... details to follow soon here.

Meanwhile, yes, I do indeed have more Moroccan music I can share with you ...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


On Wednesday, February 18, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio rang in the Year of the 羊 with three hours of musical mayhem – from Chinese T'an-tz'u and Taiwanese Noise Pop to Vietnamese Cải Lương and Tibetan Rap.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Various Artists | Cambodian Rock

Listen to the first track (a bit muddy for the first minute)

Listen to the second track

Reposted yet again by special request on 2/17/2015, here

[The first reposting of this CD, for which the following text was written, was on April 8, 2012.] This is a reposting of one of the first posts I made to this blog, two years ago, here, and the last of the "housecleaning" reposts from that first month or two, before I was uploading whole CDs in a single zip (or now, rar) file.

A lot has happened in the two years since I started this blog on April 5, 2010. Three people I've either known or who were people who were close to people I know, have since passed away--all of them living in, and/or connected to people who are living in, Portland, Oregon, where I found this CD in a Cambodian grocery store on Foster Road. In late August, my soon-to-be ex-wife and I separated, and I moved from Brooklyn, where I'd spent most of the 15 years I've lived in New York, to Astoria, Queens, where I am now. (If you look at this blog's history, you'll see that there's an abrupt end to posting in August and that I didn't pick it back up until April of 2011.)

Any listener familiar with Cambodian rock of the 60s and 70s will notice, listening to the CD I've posted tonight, that these are not exactly original recordings. They retain the original vocals--from Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron, Ros Sereysothea and others--as well as some of the original instrumentation. But other instrumentation has been added, as though to contemporize the songs, to lift them out of the past and insert them, however awkwardly, or even painfully, into the present. Though purists might bemoan the addition of drum machine and god-knows-what-else (Casio?), for me, there's something beautiful about the gesture, as blasphemous as it might strike many others.

It means one thing to archive, to select from and to present artifacts from one's (personal or cultural) past; it means something different altogether to contemporize these same artifacts, to attempt to situate them within one's present. It isn't, in this case, an act of rewriting history; it's something more complicated. More painful, perhaps, but closer to how memory, the past, does live within, or haunt, the here and now.

I started this blog two years ago as a way to share some of the music that meant the most to me with a handful of friends who I thought would derive some pleasure from it. But there was always another agenda behind taking on and continuing this project, which was to foreground the extent to which the United States has always been haunted by a fluctuating but nonetheless steady stream of immigration. An immigration not just of people and their pasts, but of cultures and their pasts (and presents). These recordings are not just glimpses into other cultures, they're clues into our own constantly evolving culture, as well as our own recent past. (Consider: How did a Cambodian grocery store wind up in Portland, Oregon? Is it, in other words, a direct consequence of the U.S.-Soviet proxy war in Vietnam, or more specifically of the U.S. bombing of PAVN targets in Cambodia and Laos for more than a decade in the 60s and 70s?)

Watching the 2012 GOP primaries and the pandering to what one can only assume to be a white middle-aged heterosexual Western-religion-identified male American target, the insanity of any genuinely held belief that America is, in fact, that hardly needs me or anyone else to point out just how absurdly out of sync with reality that it is. But being who we are and knowing who we are are two entirely different things. 

I was at a wedding reception last month where a second- or third-generation Asian-American referred to other (first-, second- and third-generation) Asian-Americans as "Asians" and white Americans as "Americans; it was hardly the first time I've heard that particular distinction being made.

"die Vergangenheit ist klar vorbei" ("the past is clearly over"), wrote Ernst Herbeck, an Austrian schizophrenic patient whose poetry I've been translating off and on over the last 10 years or so. (Ugly Duckling Presse, here in New York, will be publishing a selection of some 30 of my Herbeck translations this summer--I'll post an announcement when it's available.) I love that line, not because it's obviously the case ... but because it, so clearly, isn't.

Zhou Xuan | Golden Melodies

Zhou Xian

CD 1 reupped again on 2/17/2015 by special request, here.

CD 2 reupped again on 2/17/2015 by special request, here.

[Originally posted on May 25, 2011.] I found this amazing 2-CD set at the Flushing Mall in Queens in a smallish DVD/CD shop that I used to frequent for its Hong Kong films. They've since decimated their HK film selection and replaced them with Hollywood blockbusters. [2/17/2015 update: Last time I was there, this store was gone.] 

I had no idea who the singer was, but the photo looked sufficiently old to lead me to suspect this might be something in the Shanghai Lounge Divas realm. I was right: The singer, Zhou Xuan is included in that mix, though it's doubtful she ever sang in a lounge, at least not after becoming a superstar actress in the late 1930s.

Born Su Pu (蘇璞) on August 1, 1918, Zhou Xuan (周璇) was sold by a family member when she was three years old and later adopted by the Zhou family, who gave her her last name. Her first name, Xuan, which she took on herself when she began performing as a teenager, means "jade." Her performance in Street Angel in 1937 made her an overnight star. (It's on DVD with English subtitles; you should be able to either Netflix it or find it in your local Chinatown.)

Though she recorded one of the most famous songs of the era ("Shanghai Nights"), her life was not improved by stardom. She suffered numerous breakdowns, was institutionalized for brief periods, and finally, at age 39, died in a mental asylum.

A scene from Street Angel, including her infinitely popular song, "Wandering Songstress" (which begins about a minute or so into this clip):

Zhou Xuan | Golden Voice (2 CD set)

This 2-CD, 50-song collection reupped on 2/17/2015 by special request, here.

[Originally posted November 2, 2013.] visitors will note that this is the second 2-CD collection of Zhou Xuan songs I've added to the old bodega shelves. I'm still unboxing and weeding things after my big move and spent what downtime I had yesterday and today popping CDs into my computer -- this one stuck out because (a) there were numerous songs not in the collection I posted previously and (b) the sound quality is especially good. Yes, the file is 441 megabytes and will take a while to grab, depending on your internet service. But, trust me, it's worth it.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Grace Chang | Mambo Girl

Freshly reupped on Feb 15,2015, here.

Found in Manhattan's Chinatown, on Bowery, about a block or so above Canal. Born as Chang Yu Fang in Shanghai in 1933, Grace Chang moved with her family to Hong Kong in 1952. Two years later she auditioned for the Tai Shan film company and began her film career. Though a Mandarin speaker, she picked up Cantonese quickly (as well as English, for a role in "Soldier of Fortune" with Clark Gable). In the late fifties she reached superstar status, signing on with EMI's Pathe and starring in a spate of hits, including Mambo Girl, Wild, Wild Rose and Air Hostess.

This CD includes a few early recordings, plus the complete set of songs Chang sang in "Mambo Girl" and "Air Hostess," and three songs in Thai recorded in 1956. (Interestingly, in the 50s, Thai film was still silent, with live orchestras playing background music and a narrator embellishing on the images. A few years ago there was a fad among poets for this sort of thing, which we dubbed "neo-benshi": Check out my own contribution to the form here and here.)

Chang married in 1961 and retired from film in 1964. She's still alive and, although long out of the limelight, supplied photos and fact-checking for the 32-page booklet that came with the CD (some of which was, blessedly, translated into English).

Here's a clip from "Mambo Girl":

Rare Cambodian 60s-70s Rock Collection

Listen to Track 7

Listen to Track 8

Reupped by special request here.

[Originally posted April 30, 2014.] As some of you are tired of reading about by now, I gave a talk this past Friday on Rebecca Pan and the Hong Kong indie / underground music scene at this year's EMP Pop Conference in Seattle. On Saturday, perhaps hypnotized by the atypically beautiful, rain-free weather, I decided to head down to one of the Emerald City's most diverse neighborhoods: Othello. My plan was to hit a Lao market I'd seen reference to on Yelp, pick up a few CDs, hop back on the light rail, and get back to the conference with enough time to see a whole panel on K-Pop and then hang out with a couple of fellow poets I'd met there the day before.

My plan didn't work out like that. The first in a long line of reasons, this place:

where I got to talking with the woman behind the counter. At first, she was convinced that she had nothing I might want. "No older Cambodian music?" I asked. Smiling, she shook her head. "Do you have anything on CD rather than VCD?" was my next, hopeful, question. She looked doubtful, but turned to start digging through the discs of polycarbonate plastic piled up in their "jewel" cases behind the register.

"Oh, here's one," she said, suddenly, setting it down on the counter. "This looks like one, too." Again and again, the hero of this morning's story found another and then another CD-not-VCD. Fifteen-twenty minutes later, she'd built a wall of some two dozen albums on the counter between the two of us. "I ... I'll take them all ..." I said, my voice obviously shaking. Her face registered something between confusion and happy surprise. This shit has been sitting here for decades, she seemed to be thinking. Where was this idiot in 1998?

I have a dental appointment in a couple of hours and then I have a three-hour radio show to host this evening, so I need to go jump in the shower and brush (and, yes, I will floss) my teeth. But later this week, or perhaps this weekend, I'll recount more of my adventures in The Rainy City. Until then, feast your eyes on the above, just some of the Seattle haul I took home ...

Oh, before I go: About today's offering. You've heard a few of the tracks before. A few will be new to you, no matter how many previous collections you have. I haven't titled them; if anyone wants to take a stab at a track list and leave it in the comments, you'd be Everybody's Hero Forever. (Well, not forever-forever, but certainly for a few days or so.)

Also, two tracks are near duplicates of two other tracks -- Track 4 is a near-dupe of Track 3 and Track 6 is a near-dupe of track 5. That said, these are ORIGINAL recordings, digitally restored (in the 90s or early aughts) by someone in Phnom Penh. Trust me, you need this album. 

Want to hear three hours worth of music I found on this Seattle trip? Bookmark this page and come back to listen a week from tonight.

Awrighty, then; I'm off to shampoo and floss. Wish me luck!

Rare Cambodian 60s-70s Rock | Disc 13

Rawk out to track 1 

Reupped a third time by special request on Feb 15, 2015, here

[Originally posted in January 2013.] I recognize track 1 as the basis for Dengue Fever's "Tiger Card" from 2008's Venus on Earth; the rest of this album is completely new to this listener, a listener who--I should point out--has amassed somewhere between 750 to 1,000 Cambodian songs from the 1960s and 70s over the last half decade or so. I picked up this plus two other similar compilations at Thai-Cam Video in Portland, Ore., in December, and this one includes some of my absolute favorite tracks. (I'll upload the other two discs in the coming days.)

I asked Thai-Cam's owner, Nang, if she wouldn't mind ordering me the entire series while I was there in Portland, seeing as how the CD's back cover said they were right over the river in Vancouver, Washington; alas, she explained that this company had long gone out of business.

Even More Rare Cambodian 60s-70s Rock

Listen to an awesome track from this magical disc of polycarbonate plastic

Reupped a second time by special request on Feb 15, 2015, here.

[Originally posted on February 24, 2013.] Tonight, as most of the U.S. tunes in to the Oscars, I'll be finishing up the latest "New Life" comic for Rain Taxi using text from Mellow Actions, a new book by an old friend of mine, Brandon Downing. I don't mention Brandon idly: He was, after all, the person who introduced me to Cambodian music of the 60s and 70s in the first place.

Today's offering comes to us via Thai Cam Video on Foster Road in Portland, Oregon (get volume 11 here and 13 here). I have a lot more stuff I brought home from Thai Cam that I'll eventually upload, but this is the last of the 60s-70s Cambodian collections.

Awrighty. I'd love to stay and chat, but I really do have to get back to this comic; deadline's tomorrow morning. 

Various Artists | Red Rock

Reupped once again (on Feb 15, 2015) here.

[Originally posted in early 2010; first reposted in August 2011. See recent articles I wrote on Chinese punk here and here.]

After 10 years of bodega diving, very little surprises or shocks me. When I picked up, last summer in Brighton Beach, a Russian CD featuring on the cover two large shirtless orthodox Jewish guys made up to look like walruses, complete with huge tusks, I pretty much figured I'd seen and heard it all.

Not so, as it turns out. I found Red Rock in one of my favorite Bowery Video stores, all way the in the back of the joint, where they keep the stuff from Korea and mainland China.

The rock versions of these communist songs are intentionally ironic; artists include Cuī Jiàn, whose "Balls under the Red Flag" I posted here.

In addition to a lot of the music on this admittedly uneven collection, I love the list of songs as translated into English on the back cover:

The long march newly on the road shakes to roll
The Chinese people's liberation army army song
Socialism is good
The internationale
The small bird
Member of a society all is a light exposed to the sun
Colorful clothes clothing
Ideal and peace
Leave oil lamp light
The Chinese people's volunteer battle song
The detachment of women even song
We walk on the main road
The egg under the red flag
Nanniwan area
Not own a thing in the world [this is actually Cuī Jiàn's legendary anthem "Nothing to My Name"]
Feel too ashamed to show the face
Is not that I am in vain unknown
The end rises lucky its tommy gun
The tunnel warfare
The holding in arms armed forces flower drum
Learn the good good example of Lei Feng
The rambles in the sky
Big production
Mans and wives are in pairs the family still
It is full of water
Greenhouse girl
Together Hong Bu
Girl is handsome
Elder sister
The ant ant
The river water of folk song in the spring of Caing be compared to
Beijing that good night
The beacon-fire Yangzhou road
The bird hovering

Check out this fabulously punked out video of Communist classic "She Hui Zhu Yi Hao" ("Socialism is good," the third track in Red Rock):

Saturday, February 14, 2015

LUNAR 2015

On Wednesday, February 18, from 7:00-10:00 PM ET, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio celebrates the coming Year of the 羊 with three hours of musical mayhem  from Chinese T'an-tz'u and Taiwanese noise pop to Vietnamese Cải Lương and Tibetan rap.

Bookmark the page and see you Wednesday night!

Thursday, February 5, 2015


On February 11, 2015, Bodega Pop Live on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio spun three hours of rare, out-of-print post-punk, art rock and power pop from the City of Angels, from the short-lived but high-impact LA-based music blog, Scavenged Luxury.

If Maggie and Hopey had a radio show, this might be what it would sound like. 

Listen to the show now in the archives