Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bodega Pop Live !

Wednesday nights, 7-10 PM EST beginning January 15

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

10 Best Albums of 2013

Merry Christmas, everyone. With a mere week to go until the ball drops in Times Square, listeners all over the globe have been compiling their Best Of lists for the year. For the Bodega, 2013 was a complex but often exciting time to be paying attention to international music. In early March our superfriend Carol hipped us to a program at BAM that would change our lives: Mic Check: Hip-Hop from North Africa and the Middle East. Later in the month, the Bodega returned the favor, taking her to see pioneering Palestinian rap group DAM at Drom on New York’s lower east side.

As more of our regular CD-findin’ haunts in the city dried up, new doors were opened, including two previously undiscovered stores selling Czech and Latin music, allowing us to exponentially grow our stock of both, literally overnight. For more recent music, there’s the endless rabbit hole that is Bandcamp. In fact, most of our 2013 faves came from this revolutionary end-run around the terminally ill Music-Industry-As-Such.

Above all, our fellow music bloggers kept their little rooms on the Internet warm even when the sun wasn’t shining anywhere else. Special Big Love to stalwarts Awesome Tapes from Africa, Jenny Is in a Bad Mood (Japan), Jewish Morocco, Jugo Rock Forever (former Yugoslavia), Madrotter Treasure Hunt (Indonesia), Monrakplengthai (Thailand), Moroccan Tape Stash, Music from the Third Floor (India), My Passion for Ethiopian Music, and Turkish Psychedelic Music 2, to say nothing of fellow eclecticists Flash Strap, Ghost Capital, Global Groove, Inconstant Sol, Kadao Ton Kao, Music for Maniacs, Snap Crackle & Pop, and Terminal Escape — to name but a few of the dozens whose offerings fill our hours and ears.

Two great but seemingly dead blogs got new life this year: Brain Goreng (Indonesia) and Voodoo Vault (Japan), though whether either will keep up the good fight into 2014 is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, Interstellar Medium | Foreign Lavish Sounds stormed onto the scene to raise the bar unconscionably high and show us just how awesome a music blog can really be. We’re humbled, shamed even, but genuinely grateful for their existence.

2013 was a year of personal triumph for the Bodega: We not only published some of our least egregious nonfiction to date (in Burning Ambulance, Indiewire, LA Review of Books and Roads & Kingdoms), we received the ultimate worldly acknowledgement of our humble efforts in poetry: Inclusion in a Norton anthology

But there were setbacks. In April, our then-host, Divshare, kicked us out of the file-sharing playground, citing multiple complaints about our *cough* copyright infringement *cough*. Tail between our legs, we hooked up with ADrive and began to restock the shelves, offering customers a new feature: The Bodega Pop Comp (see “hot comps” in the sidebar to the right).  

Then, in May, Super DJ, creator and director of WFMU’s Give the Drummer Radio stream, and music blog supporter extraordinaire, Doug Schulkind asked if we’d like to bring the bodega to WFMU in the form of a weekly broadcast. Our ego said yes, yes, oh god let us, yes. Our ego has never been the brightest bulb in the tulip patch, but he tends to get away with pretty much whatever he wants.

So, every Wednesday evening from 7-10pm ET, starting on January 15, we’ll be hosting Bodega Pop Live on the aforementioned stream. Shout outs are due to several fabulous people—in addition to Doug, of course—who helped make this happen: Brandon Downing, Andrew Maxwell, Andrei Molotiu, Sianne Ngai, Mel Nichols, and above all, Carol “Craftypants” McMahon, who donated a Macbook we desperately needed to do the actual streaming. 

Still awake? Hello? Awrighty, let’s move on to the sole reason you’re even here tonight: Bodega Pop’s Top 10 Albums of 2013 …
Dabke on the Moon ($8.99)
December 15, 2012
As we intimated earlier, middle eastern and north African hip-hop reigned supreme in our ears this year, including this album, technically released last year, but for all intents and purposes not readily available until 2013. It wasn’t the first album we’d heard by the pioneering Palestinian rappers, but it was easily the best of their work to date. The album blasts off with the unlikely-sounding rocker “Street Poetry” and doesn’t let up, kicking out jam after jam all the way through the anthemic “I Fell in Love with a Jew” and final deep groove of “Handcuff Them War Criminals.” If I was Christgau (“Christmas with Christgau” has a nice ring to it, eh?) I know three very talented young men who’d be getting a big ol’ A+ in their stocking.

The Girl
UR Sensation ($8.99)
January 9, 2013 (planned December 19, 2012)
I almost can’t breathe when I think about the awesomeness that is Aiha Higurashi. Her first band, Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, was easily the best rock group of the Aughts, and with every subsequent project Aiha has shown us a new or at least slightly different side of herself.  The Girl, who released their second album this year, brings it back home to the stripped-down, noirish rock Aiha first explored with SSKHKH—but the sound is grittier, more disconcerting. Our sole complaint? Try setting up a Google alert for “The Girl.” 

Various Artists
Spanish New Wave, The Golden Age (6 Vols.) (Free)
January 20, 2013
See, I told you music bloggers were awesome this year. Compiled by Sebi and Jose Kortozirkuito for free download on Boozetunes, this six-volume set of post-punk music from Spain is everything the bodega dreams of: A vast, and vastly entertaining panorama of pop from a faraway time and place, lovingly introduced with a smart and relevant preface. 

Various Artists
Khat Thaleth (Free)
January 22, 2013
Goodness gracious: The year really started out with a bang, didn’t it? This late-January Arabic hip-hop compilation, released two days after the awesome comp above, is pretty much the coolest international rap collection we can think of since 1988’s Brazilian overview Hip Hop Cultura de Rua. And the download is gratis on Bandcamp. Yep, you heard us: Free.

Picaresque ($10)
February 2013
The Japanese sound-collage trio put out seven albums and EPs in 2013, which makes them among the most prolific groups of … dare-we-say all time? A perennial favorite here, the shop’s funked-up February release had the bodega rawkin out on the 7 train as we rode it in to work every morning. 

Various Artists
Harafin So - Bollywood Inspired Film Music from Hausa Nigeria ($5)
April 23, 2013
Holy crap, but Christopher Kirkley’s label is amazing. 2013 was a stellar year for Sahelsounds, beginning with a January release of the second volume of Music from Saharan Cell Phones. This Bollywood-inspired, auto-tuned Nigerian pop was a real revelation to us, having had no prior idea that such a thing even existed. 

N (iTunes store, $9.99)
July 2, 2013
OMG I love these women, who put out what was easily my favorite music video of the year. (Don't stop watching before the 3:20 mark, seriously.) A must-have for all fans of the N-group and for any lover of the industrial / instrumental / experimental wing of J-rock. 

Because I’m an Arab (Free, if link works)
August 14, 2013
A publicist for this Palestinian rap trio sent me word of this album—a retrospective of the band’s brief but thrilling career-to-date. Hailing from Gaza, these guys are as sonically rich as they are politics-forward. I’m not sure if the Dropbox link I’ve provided is going to work for you — but I have no earthly idea how else to get a hold of this album, let alone pay for it. (If you know, send the info/link our way.)

1984 ($8)
September 13, 2013
The fifth album by one of Beijing’s oldest post-punk bands, formed all the way back in 2001. (It must be liberating having such a short music history.) Though they’ve mellowed slightly with age, they’re still awesome—in fact, even more so this decade than last. You can listen to the whole album on Bandcamp for free … so go listen to it, not to me.

Various Artists
Sounds and Colors: Brazil ($11.43)
November 25, 2013
I have heard the future, and it sounds an awful lot like the República Federativa do Brasil. Seriously, this record is fabuloso. Also, this label looks like it’s gearing up to give Sahelsounds a run for its money. Blaspheme? No, blashphe-you. Get over to their Bandcamp page and start digging around — and don’t miss out on their earlier “name your price” collections. You won’t be disappointed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Motrat Mustafa | Dasma shqiptare

Reupped by popular demand, here.

[Originally posted July 2, 2011.] Found on Arthur Avenue in an Albanian bodega run by what must be the single nicest bodega owner I've ever met. After letting me know in uncertain terms that "This is all Albanian music," my response, "I know; I like Albanian music, especially Fatmire Brecani," changed the game rules.

Recent to July 2011 185

After an hour talking and listening to numerous samples, I walked out of the store with five CDs--the owner charged me only for four. This one, by the Mustafa Sisters, is my favorite of the bunch, in great part for the harmonies.

Listeners will note the abrupt endings of songs; this is because, on other Motrat Mustafa CDs I have, the songs are all run together. Every single CD in this store was pirated, and I'm guessing someone used the "2 second delay between songs" feature in iTunes when they burned their merch.

Check out this rather old VHSed music video:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Junior Murvin | Muggers in the Street

Reupped here. RIP

[Originally posted on October 1, 2012.] Found a couple of weekends ago in Millennium Records (4045 White Plains Road). Actually, owing to the bizarre lettering on the cover of this one, whoever had added this CD to the shelves had placed it upside down pointing face outward, so my eye kept gravitating toward it, trying to figure out what it was. I finally asked the owner: "Hey what is that grayish-blue CD with the bizarre lettering?"

"Junior Murvin," he said, once he'd figured out what I was talking about, and brought the CD down for me to examine up close. "You know him; he did 'Police and Thieves.'"

The owner was right: Though I'm no fount of knowledge when it comes to reggae, I had certainly heard "Police and Thieves" before, and not just the Clash's version--although, admittedly, that's where I'd heard it first.

Junior Murvin, who's still alive, was not particularly prolific: Muggers in the Street was only one of seven total albums (not counting compilations) he released over the years since debuting with "Police" in 1977.

Oh, and before I forget ... as I said in previous posts, I'm considering changing the layout of this blog to something more like this. But in a sense, it's your blog, not mine, and I'd like you to decide what format you'd like to experience when you visit the Bodega. A couple of people have already chimed in, but I'd like to hear your thoughts as well ...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Celestine Ukwu | Igede

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.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Alemayehu Fanta | Lemen Yewashal

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.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ros Sereysothea | Khmer Rocks 48

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!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Walruses | Kosher Songs on Important Themes


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.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Help Put Bodega Pop on WFMU

Visit BodegapopOnWFMU.blogspot.com for more info. Or, you can make a donation of any amount by clicking on the DONATE button to the right.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Kazim Al Saher | Early Live Album

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 earthClose 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 ...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cemal Çınarlı | Ud Taksimleri Arşiv, Vol. 1

Get it here.

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.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stelios Kazantzidis | Asteria Tou Ellinikou Tragoudiou

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:

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Unknown Dimotika Band | Our Finest Folk Songs

Listen to the first track of this kick-ass CD

Reupped by reader request here.

[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!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Kazim al Saher | La Ya Sadiki

Grab this ridiculously fabulous example of early 1990s Arabic art song here.

Watch a two-minute excerpt from a rare live performance of the title song:

One of the best things about moving is unpacking. Because I've just moved from a relatively large apartment to a fairly small one, I'm having to (a) unpack slowly and (b) make a lot of tough decisions about what stays and what, soon, will have to go. This has been good for me because, if I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, there are a lot of CDs here that I haven't yet really listened to. Tonight's offering is one of them. Had I listened to it earlier, I would have posted it long ago.

I don't even know how to describe this album, which consists of two songs, the 47-minute-long "La Ya Sadiki" ("Babel") and the 4-minute "Ya Rayeh Lebnan." Kazim al Saher composes a lot -- perhaps all -- of his music, and it's entirely possible these two songs are his. If so, the man is a genius. Not that I didn't already think that about him. I did. But the title song of this 1993 album is as mind-blowingly intricate as it is expressive -- and if you know al Saher's music, you know you can pretty much always count on the latter.

I've got a bit of news to share with you all, but I'm going to save it for later. Right now, a dozen-plus boxes are calling me, waiting to be unpacked, their contents sorted, their fates decided upon.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fobia | Wow 87-04

Listen to "Mas Caliente Que El Sol"

Grab this record here.

Didja miss me? Well, I certainly missed you. Yes, I DID oogie woogie oogie-oogie. *Cough*. Hello? No, wait, come back. I won't do that again; I promise.

So. I've been very busy this month: I moved. No, not to Buenos Aires or Bangkok or Tower Records Shibuya. I'm still in Astoria, but closer to Manhattan, closer to my midtown job and--most importantly--closer to the Almighty 7 Train ... or, as  I like to call it: So Big Metal Sky Snake What Takes Me To Many CDs of a Delightful "Foreign Music" Nature.

Or maybe I'm in Long Island City? Honestly, I don't know because every other map I look at has completely different borders for each Queens "city." Let me put it this way: I haven't been so excited about where I'm living since I moved to NYC in 1997.

I'm still unboxing things, which is why I haven't really added anything to the Bodega shelves since September. And also why, if you've requested a reup, I haven't yet gotten to it. (Note to Self: Next move, clearly label what's in each box.) But last weekend I took a long walk around the new neighborhood and, in addition to somehow convincing the woman working at Tacos Mexico to bring me her mother's recipe for nopales (cactus), I discovered a vast warehouse of Latin CDs, mostly from Mexico, priced to move at three for $10, including tonight's thrilling offering.

Fobia was founded in the late 1980s and were part of the Rock en Español wave, largely influenced by the American and British New Wave, including Caifanes, Los Amantes de Lola, Maldita Vecindad y los Hijos del Quinto Patio, Maná, and Neón. True to their name, Fobia's lyrics shied away from the more socio-political leanings of their counterparts, favoring exploration of band members' personal fears and unhealthy obsessions. The band recorded five albums in the 90s, split up, then regrouped in 2004. Tonight's offering includes tracks from the band's first decade along with a few songs cut the year they got back together.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Throwing Egg at a Rock: Sounds from Korea vol. 1

I've reupped this 27-song collection by special request, here

[Originally posted in November 2012.] GARY'S NOTE: For months now, a fellow traveler currently in Seoul, South Korea, calling himself "Male Cousin," has been promising to send me a mix of new and old pop, folk, rock and indie music from his host country. Last week Male Cousin sent along the finished product: 27 songs that prove to us that there's much more going on in Daehan Minguk than K-pop and PSY. His introduction follows:

Koreans love music. As one of my friend’s students explained, “We are a sing-song culture.”  There are singing rooms literally everywhere, in every city, no matter how small. Often, in Seoul, there are more than five within eyesight, and there aren’t just singing rooms. There are request bars (where you request the songs you want to hear), vinyl bars (specializing in music from the sixties through the nineties in Korean and English), even band themed bars (one of my favorite bars is called The Cure and only plays new wave music over an endless loop of Cure video projections). In Seoul, there is a bar for every taste, no matter how obscure.

Then there’s K-pop. Jesus, K-pop. Thanks to PSY (the most unlikely spokesperson for such a heavily manufactured and meticulously crafted “genre”) people in nearly every country on this planet have heard of it. It’s that incessantly catchy club music with the lyrics-you-can’t-understand-
but-don’t-mind. It’s mindless. It simply works. And yes, in Korea, it is EVERYWHERE. It’s in the malls, the corner stores, the coffee shops, the boutiques, the taxicabs, it’s even piped into some of the parks. It’s entirely unavoidable.

Eventually (thank god) it just becomes background noise, you can tune in and tune out. But the ubiquitousness of K-pop is mostly a post-millennial phenomenon. There were pop stars in the 80’s and 90’s, but cut from a very different cloth. These pop stars, in addition to being in many cases actual songwriters, occupied the radio waves with the remnants of an earlier, more diverse group of Korean musicians.

See, in the late 60’s through the 80’s Korea’s music got wonderfully bent. The war was over. There was more interaction with the west and its sounds. There were Koreans and Americans playing music together, western music on the radio. And to top it off, there was a repressive military dictatorship to protest against. For a couple decades there was an explosion of raw creativity here as Korean musicians began taking cues from psychedelic rock, funk, disco, and, later, new wave. They adapted, made discoveries, and wound up with some beautiful hybrids that still deserve attention today.

However, under the military regime, a lot of this music was banned as subversive. It still existed, and was passed around fairly openly. Sang Ul Lim, for instance, is still a household name; some say they were the Korean Beatles. But as Korea modernized, so did the record companies. And in the past decade and a half, they have been  so effective at cornering the market, utilizing a by-the-numbers pop equation that always seems to hit, that they have almost completely wiped out the rich history of the previous three decades. In some sense K-pop is the true representation of music in Korea. It accounts for nearly four billion dollars of the country’s economy, and for many of my students, it is all they know or care to know.

There are some musicians here that wish that this particular part of their musical history had played out differently. The music in this mix is meant to be a sampling of the (de-facto underground) Korean music scene, as it exists at this very moment, with a handful of songs from the 60’s-90’s thrown in as reference points. There are hipster chillwavers, post-rockers, folk artists, shoegazers, weirdoes, punks, electronic experimentalists, drone metalheads, and indie poppers all making unique and wonderful music within a dominant culture that doesn’t respect difference when it comes to musical taste. They are, to use a Korean idiom, “throwing egg at a rock.” This collection is imperfect, and obviously slanted to my tastes and exposure, but nonetheless offers a glimpse at some of richness that exists here, if you just know where to look.

Male Cousin teaches at a university in South Korea. Read more about the bands in this mix on his blog here

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Poe Ei San | Nan Taw Shay Yet Ganewin

Reupped in case you missed it the first time, here.

Originally posted in December 2012.

Listen to track 1

INTERVIEWER: What do you think of this first bit?

RESPONDENT: It's like this chick is smashing a car when she might be singing a song about "I love you, baby." Is she saying the car is evil and the music is in "the" background? It's like she's out there reading poetry with this little green and gold robe on while smashing an M.G. ...

Listen to track 7

INTERVIEWER: Have you heard this one before?

RESPONDENT: I've heard the beautiful lights but they don’t sound like they did before. This is nicer, a nice little cat in her own groove, all about flowers and people wearing golden underwear. I like that nobody is going to listen to it. It's really groovy, but her group ought to be a little less creative. These days everybody thinks everybody else has to have trips, and people are singing about trips.

Listen to track 8

INTERVIEWER: She's just making up words at this point.

RESPONDENT: Yeah, it's like we're all being filmed. As we listen to it, shivering, the night and the ice descend. The chill air maybe picks this one up. Like this was not part of the formal trip, so she could just rap, because this isn't where she is at all. And that--that's where we're going, man.

[Don't miss Bodega Pop's 10 Best Albums of 2012.]

Fama | Feng Sheng Shui Qi (Wind and Water Rising)

Totally fabulously fucked up first track from this super great CD

Reupped by popular demand, here.

[Originally posted in July 2010.] Found somewhere on the Bowery. Oh God I love Fama. And I especially love the first track on this CD, "温故知新." I mean, OMFG, how many time changes are there in this? How many things have they collage-crammed into it? It's just ... spectacular.

I could be wrong, but I think the title involves some sort of word-play involving "feng shui," which can be literally translated "wind and water" ... right? 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mohamad Fawzi | Ah Men Esetat

Grab it here.

Found today in the Nile Deli on Steinway Street while out on a long walk in the neighborhood. 

A composer, singer and actor, Fawzi was born in 1918 in Tanta, the fifth most populous city in Egypt, about an hour and a half north by car from Cairo. By the age of 12 he was already making a name for himself as a wedding singer, but his father disapproved; he more or less ran away to Cairo to make it in the music industry. He landed a gig with Egyptian Radio and then launched his acting career in 1944. His most famous composition might be the Algerian national anthem (the lyrics were written by Mufdi Zakariah while imprisoned by the French). 

Friday, September 27, 2013

World of Gypsy

Listen to "Abe Kaku"

Listen to "Mondo"

Grab the whole shebang here.

Awesome gypsy music from a label in Istanbul. One of a series of similar albums I picked up at Uludag Video (1922 Avenue W) in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn. If you like, let me know and I'll upload the others. (They're not all gypsy, fwiw.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mandalay Thein Zaw | Burmese Folk

Reupped in 320 glorious KBPS, here.

Listen to the fabulous fifth track

[Originally posted on March 15, 2012.] Why anyone would listen to 20th century western classical/avant garde music when Burma exists is beyond me. Well, okay; in all seriousness: There really isn't any music quite like Burmese, at least Burmese music toward the more folk end of the spectrum. (They do, like everyone else on planet Earth, have their own brand of western-influenced pop and rap.)

As regular readers of this blog may remember, last August, Peter Doolan, who curates the insanely great Monrakplengthai , invited me out to visit Thiri Video, a Burmese media store in Elmhurst, Queens, that he'd gotten wind of a few weeks prior to contacting me. (Get the CD I found that day here.)

It took us well over half an hour to find the place, and this was after we had already unwittingly passed it. It turns out there is no store front; it's actually in a garden-level apartment. After confirming that we were, finally, at the right place, we removed our shoes and went in.

There is nothing like Thiri Video anywhere else in New York--at least, not that I'm aware of. I'm guessing there's nothing like it in the rest of the U.S. as well. (Please correct me if wrong; and include an address, as I would love to visit it, if it exists.)

Rather than rely on my groggy descriptive capabilities (it is, after all, not quite 5:00 a.m. as I write this), let's take a look at Thiri Video's promotional video, shall we?

I love that video. If my exhortations thus far were not enough to get you to watch it, or if a lack of subtitles frightens and intimidates you, I'll explain: A young Burmese man and what I gather are his or his girlfriend/wife's parents check out the time and wonder where Dude's significant other could possibly be.

As often happens in this kind of situation, a woman bathed in eerie blue light, whose midsection has been replaced with a midriff-sized chunk of silver, drops by, telling the young man to forget his bride/bride-to-be, and regaling him and the rest of the family with tales of Thiri Video (including numerous shots of the shop). Obviously, he doesn't, at least at first, believe her. For how could such a Paradise on Earth exist, even in fabulous Elmhurst, Queens?

Well, I'm here to emphatically tell you that it does, indeed, exist, as I just visited it for the second time last Sunday. I'm also here to offer you one of the most insane, shit-eating-grin-fabulous CDs I've ever found anywhere.