"The point of this sort of criticism isn’t — or shouldn’t necessarily be — to convince us of a single interpretation, but rather to invite us to consider ones we had either never thought about or dismissed long ago. Nearly all the essays [in this book] confront the reader with more questions about pop’s past and present than anyone could seriously engage in a lifetime." My review of POP WHEN THE WORLD FALLS APART just went live at the LA Review of Books. In other news, at 6:30 this evening I'll be reading at the New York launch of POSTMODERN AMERICAN POETRY: A NORTON ANTHOLOGY, details below:
The New School Wollman Hall 65 West 11th Street (between 5 + 6 Aves 212-229-2436 Subway: F, M to 14th St; L to Sixth Ave Readings by Eileen Myles, Caroline Knox, Marjorie Welish, Charles Bernstein, Bob Perelman, John Yau, Cole Swensen, Joan Retallack, Kenneth Goldsmith, Peter Gizzi, Sharon Mesmer, Edwin Torres, Elaine Equi, Rob Fitterman, Drew Gardner, Lisa Jarnot, Noelle Kocot, Katie Degentesh, Nada Gordon, Gary Sullivan, and Elizabeth Willis If you're a visitor of the Bodega and you come to this reading, please introduce yourself!
Pick it up here. In the summer of 1987, after gigging at wedding parties and cabarets, Cheb Hasni, whose star was clearly on the rise, was given the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to record with Cheba Zahouania. Zahouania had made a huge splash the year before recording "My Uncle, Oh, My Uncle" with Cheb Hamid, who along with Cheb Khaled and Cheb Mami, were modernizing Algerian rai and riding the last big wave of the cassette culture revolution sweeping in new generations of pop from North Africa to South Asia. Zahouania was, in a word, hot. Hasni and Zahouania's duet, "El Baraka" ("Lady Luck"), did Z and Hamid's "Uncle" one better: its outrageous lyrics, bright-n-chunky rhythm guitar and Casio-tastic trills and fills wormed their way into the ears of over a million Algerian youth, ensuring a bright future for the pair as international superstars. I have no idea how faithful this CD, which I almost certainly found at a now-closed Algerian bodega on Steinway Street in Astoria, is to the original cassette in terms of the track list. The recordings themselves sound stressed and occasionally cut out, or allow moments of overlay, as though whoever recorded this did so with the jack only tenuously plugged in. It was clearly digitized directly from cassette rather than any (no doubt long gone) master tapes. Spotty though its quality may be at times, it is the only copy I have ever seen or heard of this history-making music. Here's a translation of "El Baraka," for which a very kind reader, Mark, supplied the following: LADY LUCK We made love in a tumbledown shack It was me who took her, the others can fuck off When you’re drunk you get these ideas When you’ve been drinking, you get these ideas
Tough luck for me but not for my friends Leave me to my problems, I can’t stand any more Tonight he’ll sleep at mine Oh, you know this night won’t end
I’ll telephone her and she’ll come tomorrow I want a real brown-skin girl, not a suntanned one
We get together nicely and we have a good time There is but one God and the passion keeps growing Tonight we’ll drink at mine
Tough luck for me, but for her, she was sent by fate I won’t get over her, I’m burnt and she’s made up her mind
Have pity on me, I'm shattered We stayed up all night and we’re dead, get a car to fetch us
I picked her up in Gambetta and it’s none of your business Have pity on me if I say too much and I’m wrong We’re drunk, bring a boat to get us away We got drunk or else forgotten
I’m with the people I like Drunk we fell down, get a car to fetch us We’re noble and free and we’re// good company And eloquence is found among people of wisdom
Listen to a Hasni and Zahouania sing this legendary duet:
Grab Gualou Hasni Met ("They Say Hasni Is Dead") here. [Originally posted in 2010; reupped at 320kbps with cover embedded.] Algerian rai superstar Cheb Hasni was born in Oran to working class parents in 1968 and assassinated 26-1/2 years later in 1994. Read more about him and grab another album here. I found this CD--my favorite of Hasni's--in an Algerian bodega on Steinway Street in Queens years before I moved to this neighborhood. "Do you have any Cheb Hasni?" I asked the guy behind the counter. "You are Algerian?" he countered. It wasn't really a question. "No, why?" "Ah, you are French!" he spat triumphantly, as he dug through the piles of CDs behind him, pulling out the one you see above and setting it down on the counter. "If I'm French, why are you speaking to me in English?" I asked. He looked momentarily confused, then a sort of sly "gestalt of recognition" passed over his face. He smiled widely. "For you? Four dollars." "How much are CDs normally?" I asked. He waited a bit before answering. "Four dollars."
Get it here. Born Hasni Chakroun on February 1, 1968, in Oran, Algeria, Cheb Hasni dreamed of becoming a soccer player, a "goal" that was abandoned (chortle) as he became increasingly interested in music. Or, as Google Chrome has translated the French website where one of his many mini-biographies resides, "He turned to another passion, music mome, we already knew in my corner because I still had deployed his throat, threw the satchel off is in a lively by night." Lively by day as well--hell, lively any time one lends one's ears to such sweet throat deployment, nein? Ach, forgive me; it's late, I've worked very hard all week. So. You know the story of Hasni, right? After working the wedding circuit a while someone hooks him up to record with Chaba Zahouania in the late 80s and he becomes an overnight sensation, going on to record some 200 cassettes, stuffed with Casio-tastic tales of debauchery, of women, of drinking, and then, in 1992, rumors of his death sweep northern Africa, he gets wind of them, records Gualou Hasni Met ("They say Hasni died"), then, eerily, creepily, soon after, at the height of his now international fame, he's assassinated outside of his parents' home in Oran in 1994 while still in his mid-20s. I have no idea at what point in his staggeringly short but super-brilliant career he recorded this album, but it's one of my favorites and, as exhausted as I am, I love it so much I want you to have it before I crash.
You are pooshing eet to your own self here. [UPDATE: Shifted file to ADrive at readers' request.] Found this trashy retro Ruskie gem at BORIS PRODUCTIONS, 64-49 108th Street in Corona, Queens, two weekends ago. Thought I'd post it tonight as last night I went to this fabulous evening of three generations of Russian avant garde poetry at the Poetry Project at St. Marks.
It's late and I need to get to bed, but wanted to assure you this blog's not dead.
Grab it quick fast in a hurry before it "disco"pears. (Seriously. Read below.) Caution, my friends. This is a Blow Head Off (BHO)-level "disco"very of a very disco nature: Pakistani teen Nazia Hassan's breakthrough 1981 and 82 albums, which propelled her into international stardom and broke the stranglehold on Bollywood's iron-vise grip on the Indian pop music market. Disco Deewane is not -- I repeat, is not -- a Bollywood soundtrack. It's an album. An album that blew every Bollywood soundtrack of the time out of the water to become the all-time best-selling record in all of Asia. Star, recorded the next year, became the musical basis for the Bollywood film of the same title, also released in 82. (I have the DVD, but I think I've only watched the dance scenes. Nazia released a couple of more albums before she abruptly retired from the music industry to pursue a career working at the U.N. here in New York and then UNICEF. She died in 2000 of lung cancer when she was just 35 years old.
I meant to do more with this post, but I spent the day at PS1 with my friend Carol, watching Jace Clayton (aka DJ /rupture) & Co. perform The Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner in the courtyard Dome. Also, as you'll see in the post below, this blog is skating on thin ice for the moment (all of the other links are dead), so I need a bit of time to think things through. Thanks for everyone who commented and wrote in today. You are, all, why I do this. PS: I reupped an old, fabulous Zeki Muren double CD here because the fabulous WFMU DJ Doug Schulkind has been sending people to it of late. Thanks, Doug! Here's the title track from Disco Deewane:
And here's "Boom Boom" from Star, with lots of pics of Nazia, from childhood to adulthood:
Me (singing) + Steve McDonald (guitar) Hollister, Calif., 1978 or 1979 photo by Doug Sherburne
I woke up this morning (now I know why every other blues song begins with these words) excited to post a recent acquisition to the Bodega shelves: Nazia Hassan + Biddu's ground-breaking Disco Deewane (1981) and Star (1982). I had a lot to say about this double-album CD, which I scored yesterday evening at what I believe is a Punjabi-run South Asian media store on 74th Street in Jackson Heights (aka Gary's Favorite Neighborhood).
I was excited in great part because I knew how much certain Bodega Pop regulars -- Holly and Carol in particular -- were going to love it.
Alas, after RARing up the files and logging in to Divshare, I was rerouted to a page that said:
• Sorry, your account has been deactivated. This is usually a result of abuse of the DivShare service. If you have any questions, plese [sic] contact DivShare Support.
Imagine! My indignation! Well, you'll have to imagine it, because I'm not really indignant at all. I knew this day was coming; I just didn't know it would be this morning.
YOU: Yeah, but, Gary, I didn't even download half of th'albums I wanted from th'Bodega! Plus, you're always braggin' about how what's up here now isn't even a quarter of your total massive international CD collection! WTF?
ME: Okay, first? Calm down. I can see you're upset. I'm upset, too. And depressed. And forlorn. And lost. And empty yet uncomfortably bloated, like I've swallowed a bunch of clouds.
Speaking of which: You certainly don't need to worry that I've lost all of my music files in The Cloud. That's what 1TB hard drives the size of a wallet are for.
YOU: Does this mean you're going to reup everything somewhere else and restore all of the links?
ME: I'm not sure. I was paying for that Divshare account. Granted, only $40 a year and my first year was going to be over in less than a month, so it's not like I've been financially burned or anything.
But if I do get another file-sharing account -- which is the most likely scenario -- I'm going to have to pay for it as (a) I don't plan to post anything under 320 KBPS if I've ripped it from CD and (b) there are limits on how much you can store with a free account, and let's face it, I've got a lot of shit to share.
YOU: So you are going to reup everything.
ME: I didn't say that. I'm considering it. But I'm also considering taking Bodega Pop in a slightly new direction. A friend of mine with a press in Los Angeles wrote me a month or two ago saying he'd be interested in a Bodega Pop book of some kind. In the back of my mind this blog has always been, in part, the very rough draft or outline-sketch of a David Toop's Exotica-like book project. Plus, I've always fancied starting an online magazine or broader-ranged site at any rate, focused on international music, in which music blogging would likely take center stage (as we are, us bloggers, the primary English-language info source about international music, in case you hadn't noticed).
YOU: Well ... is there anything we can do? You know, like, to help?
ME: Yes. First of all, you can give me suggestions for file-sharing options moving forward. You can comment here or write to me and lend your now-much-needed emotional support. You can throw out all of the suggestions you might have for an online international music zine you'd like to see: existing models, must-have features, etc.
If you're in the New York area next Monday, you can support me by coming to the launch of the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry (2nd Edition), where I'll be reading with two-dozen other exemplary east coast poets included in the book. (Yes, I'm in the Norton Anthology; though you may be surprised to hear that I'm not the only music blogger who is.) (I can't name him, as his identity, at least with respect to his blog, isn't exactly public.) The info is as follows:
Wollman Hall, The New School
Mon, Apr 29, 2013, 6:30 pm, FREE 66 West 12th Street (Between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas) New York, NY 10011 (212) 229-5600
And stay tuned here. I'll keep you updated as I decide what to do. I may even post Disco Deewane/Star if I can find a free server that will take a 192MB RAR file.
Listen to "Aki Special" Listen to "Sweet Mother" Get the 7-song CD here.
Another winner found Saturday afternoon at Blessing Udeagu in Corona, Queens, Nico Mbarga's Aki Special includes what I believe might be not just a couple of his own most popular songs, but at least one -- "Sweet Mother" -- that is reputedly the single most popular song of all time in Africa. It was a song that he actually had to shop around: Both EMI and Decca rejected it and it was finally recorded in 1976 for a small local publisher, Rogers All Stars. It went on to sell more than 13 million copies. Ha, ha. Track List 1. Aki Special 2. Christiana 3. Sweet Mother 4. Wayo In-law 5. Free Education in Nigeria 6. Onye Ori Ori 7. Nature
Released in 2012, Eh Fi Amal (Yes There Is Hope) marked the legendary Christian Lebanese diva's return to the studio after years of live albums. It was--according to Wikipedia (so, grain of salt)--her 99th album, recorded when she was 74 years old (she's now 77) and was a huge hit all over the middle east.
I picked up the album just a couple of weeks ago at the Nile Deli while biking down Steinway with my poet friend Brandon Downing to see Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers. Fairuz was the clear winner that day.
This is a bizarre album, not quite like anything I've heard before: part Arabic art pop, part cheesy lite pop, but one hundred and ten percent Fairuz. I've got a number of her other albums I'll be posting over the weekend--it's unconscionable that we've ignored her here for so long.
Less than a year after publication, my book of translations of Austrian schizophrenic poet, Ernst Herbeck, has officially sold out. Don't cry! You can grab a free podcast of me reading some of Herbeck's work here. Read recent reviews of the book in Critical FlameandBomb.
Listen to "Street Poetry" Listen to "Been around the World" Listen to "Mama, I Fell in Love with a Jew" Pick it up here. "... but if you wanna make tough love, too/ for a change can I be the one to handcuff you?"
Founded in 1999, Palestine's first hip-hop band DAM (Mahmoud Jreri and brothers Suhell and Tamer Nafar) have recorded 100+ singles and released two albums, the first of which you can pick up here. My friend Carol & I saw them last Sunday at Drom in Manhattan, which is where I picked up this, their second album. So exhausted I can't write more about the show, but be advised that they are so, so worth going to see if they wind up performing in your town.