Wednesday, July 26, 2023

The Year Oum Kalthoum Died | 7-10 PM EDT


TONIGHT on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio: With the passing of Egypt's greatest voice in February, 1975 evolved into a transitional year in the nation's music. Sono Cairo released its last 7" singles, going all-in on longform formats forever after. Hany Mehanna's debut LP hinted at an electronic era to come while Ahmed Adaweya published his first shaabi collection on cassette -- the first couple of what would prove fatal blows to the more traditional strains practiced by Kalthoum, Abdel Halim Hafez, Warda Al-Jazeera, and Farid Al-Atrash. This episode will highlight defining moments ripped from original media of the period.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Bootleg Soviet Punk Compilation (Cockroach Records, 1993)


I recently got my hands on a copy of what is likely the most interesting music-related item I've ever actually held in my hands: A bootleg sampler of Soviet-era punk (and punk-adjacent) music on cassette.

What makes this of particular interest is not the music -- I've got lots of this stuff, if not every track on this sampler, and it's all better sounding and in much better condition. What makes this particular item of great interest to me is that it was sent from some kid in just-barely-post-Soviet Russia to a couple of North Americans as part of an international punk exchange.

That's the letter -- from Vit to Chris and Darren -- above. How these three (presumably) young people, from opposite sides of the globe, in countries that had faced off against each other as primary enemies for several decades, got in touch with each other is a baffling mystery. 

Another mystery: Was Vit an enthusiastic kid who made pen-pals and shared music or was Vit personally involved in Cockroach Records (who produced this bootleg) and the associated Play Hooky! DIY zine? (Thanks to Twitter/X user @FedorLinnik for tracking down that link.) My guess would be the latter.

I had no intention, initially, of sharing this with anyone, other than posting a photo of the cassette, letter, fliers, and patches (see directly below), and a brief 1-minute video with sound, to pre-X Twitter a few days ago. I expected it might be seen by a few hundred people, maybe a thousand, at best.

As of this writing, nearly 700,000 people have seen the post and over 11,500 have liked it. Dozens have commented on it, many asking for me to rip and share the music somewhere. 

I didn't really expect, or want, to do that, in part because the primary experience for me had less to do with the sonic quality of the tape and everything to do with its physical (including but not limited to its sonic) reality. 

My experience involved listening, but listening while cognizant of the tape wheels spinning, of the artifacts assembled in front me, of being able to run my thumb along the felt stitched images gracing the patches, of smelling the aging paper on which the letter and flyers had been printed, of feeling the weight of the cassette case in my hand, feeling and hearing it creaking open and closed, and of the memories of my own taping and sharing music that all of this brought up for me -- to say nothing of the experience of imagining myself in Chris or Darren's shoes, listening to this then-mysterious music for the first time, or -- even more mind-blowing -- imagining myself as Vit, with a history and knowledge of this music, assembling a package to share with new pen-pals overseas, that feeling of here I am, this is me, this is a culture that I never could have guessed I would be sharing -- I mean, it's almost too much to emotionally process.

For those who want to track down Russian punk (or rock, pop, disco, etc.), it's worth spending a few hours on this wildly expansive Russian Music blog. (It wouldn't hurt to learn Cyrillic first, which you can easily do in a day -- it's not a particularly complicated alphabet.)

Alternately, I've broadcast a few Russian punk and punk-adjacent episodes over the last decade, including:

City of Gold: Leningrad 1974-1991

Yegor and Yanka (Grazhdanskaya Oborona aka Civil Defense)

Mike and Tsoi (Zoopark and Kino, respectively)

Listen to "Outch Putch" by Ukrainian band
Ivanov Down from A Side
(thanks to Twitter/X user 
for identifying this track)

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Pure Pop for Then People | 7-10 PM EDT


TONIGHT on WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio: Thai schmaltz. Bollywood bubblegum. Forgotten Power Pop. Stereo Monomono. Farewell to a British icon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

In His One Languages | 7-10 PM EDT

Post-exotica cultural appropriation, collaboration, provocation, hybridization, disorientation, and pure imagination, from Bollywood's amorphized manifestations of "other" to contemporary art projects redefining identity in a world of infinite availability

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

On the DL: Return to Ponytone! | 7-10 PM EDT


We thought we'd lost our all-time favorite music blog, Ponytone, forever. We thought wrong. Ponytone is back!