Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Omar Souleyman - Dabke 2020 (2009)

Just over a year ago I had the pleasure of catching some of the wild flailing delights of Omar Souleyman's frantic Syrian folk-ravepop in the dingey pit of London's Scala. Last week I had the opportunity to meet him at Glastonbury. After Omar being something of a legendary figure amongst my friends for some time before the Scala show, it was seriously a night to remember and I can't recall seeing a crowd going quite so mental for ages, never mind that it was to such a bizarre blend of Syrian folk melodies and heavy budget-synth beats, lorded over by an emotionless, sunglassed MC in the traditional Arabic keffiyeh and thawb. Omar cut a jarring figure in King's Cross I can tell you, and I still don't know if his popularity is just some strange sneering embrace of Orientalist irony in the indie-electronic music community that's adopted him (for the moment?), or if there is a genuine overlap of aesthetic ideals between his music and some current trends in Western music scenes. I suppose time will tell.
Either way: it's fucking brilliant.

And if you want to see me and some friends raving out throughout this video (from Glastonbury last week) then check it out (first glimpse is at 0:12, yellow t-shirt and panama hat - big look):

Check out the album Dabke 2020 here.

Also - just to keep you updated - work is already underway on Omar Souleyman's first collaboration with a Western artist: a co-written album with fucking BJÖRK! AMAZEBALLS.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts of the Great Highway (2003)

The song Carry Me Ohio from Sun Kil Moon's debut album Ghosts of the Great Highway (2003) just came into my head and I remembered what a wonderful and addictive tune it is. Quality nostalgia track for me: it sends me back to a roadtrip to Cornwall with friends some years ago - great music to watch scenery pass by to, even better to remember it to.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Afrocubism - Afrocubism (2010)

check this out. interesting read and great music.

"the album itself [...] was recorded live over four days in Madrid without any prior rehearsals. A joyfully ebullient meeting point between traditional Malian music and the kind of Cuban rhythms the Buena Vista Social Club brought to the wider world, AfroCubism continues a cultural exchange that has been going for over half a century. In 1960, following independence from France, Mali's president Modibo Keïta introduced one-party socialism, resulting in Fidel Castro becoming a close ally and Cuban music being actively promoted throughout Mali. A member of the entourage old enough to remember this period is Djelimady Tounkara.

One of Africa's foremost guitarists, Tounkara moved from the countryside to the Malian capital of Bamako in the early 60s to become a tailor, but ended up joining a state-sponsored orchestra instead. "We were encouraged to play Cuban music," says Tounkara, a gentle bear of a man whom the other musicians hold in a great deal of affection. "And it wasn't hard to combine Malian and Cuban music, because people from Africa went to Cuba and took the rhythms with them."

This musical cross-pollination came to an abrupt end in 1968, when a military coup overthrew Keïta. The new regime encouraged the development of authenticité – traditional African music, devoid of outside influences. "After the coup d'etat, the military destroyed the ballet, the opera, everything," says Tounkara. "I dealt with this by escaping to Senegal, but the military made me come back, and I had to find a new way of making a living as a musician."

So began one of the strangest and most celebrated episodes in the history of Malian music. In 1972, Tounkara joined the Rail Band, a group initially hired by railway authorities to play in a hotel lounge near the main station in Bamako to help pass the time for people waiting to catch a train. The Rail Band became a phenomenon, with African music legends Salif Keita and Mory Kanté passing through its ranks; it became the first band to combine traditional instruments with an Afro-Cuban sound. Tounkara managed to sneak in a Cuban influence while remaining close enough to authenticité to keep the authorities off his back. "I don't want to boast," Tounkara says with a little wiggle of the head, "but I played an important part in the development of Malian music with the Rail Band. We created something new."

Among the younger musicians who had to discover Cuban music is Bassekou Kouyate, a ngoni (traditional string instrument) player with more than a passing resemblance to Otis Redding; and Lassana Diabaté, a member of Toumani Diabaté's band (though no relation) and a player of the xylophone-like balafon. They seem to come as a pair, and wish to be interviewed together. "When we grew up, the only Cuban song we knew was Guantanamera," Kouyate says. "We didn't have the opportunities to get influences from the rest of the world. With AfroCubism, there was no time to do a rehearsal, so we had to learn about Cuban music on the spot. But we did it."
- The Guardian (read)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sharon van Etten - Epic (2010)

sharon van etten's last album has slowly been growing on me. been recurringly humming the lines of 'don't do it' over the last days, which convinced me that Epic is, in fact, a great album.
think cat power but (only a bit) less depressing, more mainstream and more country.

here's the album
and some tracks on her myspace

Dubious Caesar (2011)

This shit's totally fresh - and that's not just because I live with the guys and have blood-ties with one of them!
Amazing two-piece of beautiful folk guitar with soaring harmonies and driving beats. The tunes up on their myspace now are from their first self-recorded demo and are amazing, and I'm told there are more to go up. They're playing their first shows around London at the moment and I'm loving it.

You can get downloads of these first three tracks here:
(you need to download the tracks individually, this is the first one - Flutterbyes - the other tracks are on the right hand-side of the page (Stratosphere and Edge of Nowhere)


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou - Volume One "The Vodoun Effect" 1973-1975 (2008)

Awesome afrobeat and african sounds. And one of the best names ever. Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou have been going for decades and this release on Analog Africa was put out in 2008 - well worth checking out.

This song isn't on the album linked below, but it's a great tune (jokes video):
*Update 26th July '11: Just found a nice interview with OPR from May of this year: