Akwaaba Sound System

"Hey, Music Lover..."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Searching for Francis Bebey

Or rather, his heirs. As noted in the first post in this blog (and discussed at great length in the comments), I would love to see Akwaaba reissued. Well, I've gotten a nibble on the idea from a label, and they're starting to investigate. If anyone can provide a mailing address or other contact route through which this label could discuss the options for reissuing, it would be greatly appreciated. If you can provide any assistance, please add a comment to this posting. We have the mailing address for Original Music from the CD, but haven't yet discovered whether it's still active.

Sorry, no music in this post. Soon come.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Blame it on the Boers

South Africa had a thriving jazz scene in the first half of the 20th Century. However, with the formalization of the Apartheid system, the opportunities began to shrink. The official black radio stations were focused exclusively on "native" music, and the white musicians unions agitated to close down professional opportunities for African musicians.

Johnny Mbizo Dyani was one of several musicians who left their home behind to seek musical and political freedom abroad. He left South Africa when his group, the Blue Notes, played a gig at the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1964.

In the next twenty years, Dyani played with a star-studded list of artists (see his bio on AllMusic.com for at least a partial checklist) and led a number of his own groups. He died suddenly in 1986 at the Berlin Jazz Festival.

In a memorial published in the South African magazine Rixaka, Pallo Jordan writes, "above all, his music resounded with a joy in life." (A while back in a fit of compulsion, I stitched the scanned pages linked earlier into a single PDF)

For this post, we have one track from Mbizo as a leader, and another from one of my all-time favorite of his collaboration gigs.
Johnny Dyani: "Blame It on the Boers" (Buy "Afrika" from Amazon.com or Dusty Groove)
Joseph Jarman/Famoudou Don Moye/Johnny Dyani: "Ode to Wilbur Ware" (you can buy "Black Paladins" from the Downtown Music Gallery, but they don't have direct links; you'll have to use the search engine. Dusty Groove doesn't have it in stock but will tell you when they do.)

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Le Grand Dome

Geir Jenssen began his career in the late 80’s as a member of the moody Norwegian synth trio, Bel Canto, before moving on in 1990 to record the album The North Pole By Submarine as Bleep. He then recorded a few fantastic albums at R & S Records in the early to mid-90’s as Biosphere, helping to launch their ambient focused Apollo label. He currently continues to refine his glacial sound at Touch records.

Le Grand Dome is from his Circue album. Plush, cotton swabbed ambience (thread counts of over 700!) rides on a bed of gently undulating rhythms and a deep, rolling bass. There’s a disembodied voice (speaking French, I presume?) that appears from time to time to echo and pan from speaker to speaker. When the whisky polyrhythms are dropped it becomes surprisingly funky. Ah. yes- Norwegian ambient funk! It’s a little known fact that Geir has his own Arctic compound and recently married 27 women wearing nothing but a pair of moon boots

Biosphere: Le Grand Dome (MP3) (Buy "Cirque")

Friday, February 04, 2005

In Praise of Kenyan Football & Farmers

Super Super Mambo Jazz is one of those Congolese orchestras that found fame in Kenya in the early 1970s. Gor Mahia F.C. was a classic hit, praising one of Kenya's best soccer teams. Gor Mahia F.C. formed in 1968, combined the two clubs of Luo Stars and Luo United, and won numerous titles (maybe because it was named after a famous traditional healer from South Nyanza?). I especially love the sebene in this song, the part where the guitarists and instrumentalists take over and drive the beat further and further.

Having just come back from Moshi, Tanzania, where the fields on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro are being prepared for maize planting, I have to add Super Super Mambo Jazz' song celebrating Kenyan farmers (Wakulima Wa Kenya). Yes, those are cows mooing in the background!

From the album Super Mambo Jazz '69 (1972):

Super Super Mambo Jazz - Gor Mahia FC (MP3)
Super Super Mambo Jazz - Wakulima Wa Kenya (MP3)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Time for The Peace

And time for me to contribute to our blog. I thought it might be nice to start out with The Peace, an obscure band out of Zambia's Copperbelt. If you visit Ndola these days, it is a rather quiet town, even a bit depressing, and certainly not a place that makes you think of funk or rock, but in the 1970s Ndola (the administrative capital of a once flourishing Copperbelt) must have been a rocking place, with bands like this one or The W.I.T.C.H. (aka We Intend To Cause Havoc - I'll get to them in a later post). Then, the Copperbelt had recording studios and at least one vinyl pressing plant. Edward Khuzwayo owned one of them: he's credited as musical director producer for Black Power, recorded at Malachite Studios in Chingola. I know little about them: someone told me that this was a band from the Zambian Air Force. Who knows?

I found it in Ndola through Khuzwayo's (grand)son and then only after we tracked down one of the former studio engineers (who's now handling truck engineering). It's one of those records I simply got because of the cover and track titles; after finally listening to it, for me, it's become one of those gems from Africa's diverse music scenes in the 1970s.

Hope you enjoy these as much as I did (the sound is raw: I digitize it from vinyl without any restoration)!

The Peace - Black Power (MP3)
The Peace - Peaceful Man (MP3)

Long Live Mice In The Metro

Cecile Schott is a Paris based musician who records as Colleen and released her debut album Everybody Alive Wants Answers back in 2003 on the Leaf label. An English teacher in a secondary school in the suburbs of Paris, she began recording as Colleen in 2001 after being smitten by acquaintances deftly incorporating samples into their own music. Surprised by how easy it was to manipulate samples using the music software program, Acid,she began to cut and paste and explore her own sonic fascinations.

Long Live Mice In The Metro, like all the tracks featured on the album, is made entirely of samples, many found in the libraries of Paris or friends record collections. She’s fond of filters and sound processors that add dust and grit to the sound. Sampled fragments are looped, slowed down, smudged, isolated, run backwards and dipped into contrasting pools of reverberation. Bewitching and phantasmal, it conjures up moonless October nights and ghost shadows rippling across bedroom walls.

Colleen: Long Live Mice In The Metro (MP3) (Buy "Everybody Alive Wants Answers")

Monday, January 10, 2005

Some Nyatiti

Whoops. Here we thought we were so cool, but then almost a month passes between posts. I think all that noise in the comments was kind of a drag, and of course, there were the holidays. Anyway, excuses, excuses.

The nyatiti is an East African harp. In these two tracks, it is played at breakneck speed -- nothing like the common style of its West African cousin, the kora.

The first track is by Ayub Ogada, who has a beautiful voice, but you'll have to find his album to hear it, as this one is purely solo. Unfortunately, he seems to have released only this one album on Peter Gabriel's Real World label

The second is an anonymous solo nyatiti player from the Original Music compilation Before Benga, Vol. 1: Kenya Dry. I had thought Ogada's track remarkable (and it is), but when I came across this version, I flipped.

Ayub Ogada: Thum Nyatiti (MP3) (buy "En Mana Kuoyo")
Anonymous: Thum Nyatiti Solo (MP3) (Join the 2 others waiting to buy "Before Benga, Vol. 1" used)

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Crickets Sing

The title track from Marcos Valle’s masterful 1971 release, Garra. I’ve yet to dip into his more recent releases on the UK label, Far Out, but this album (my copy is a shoddy vinyl to CD bootleg that Dusty Groove made available for a while- full of vinyl pop, crackle and snap and occasional bouts of level fickleness) has long been a breezy favorite. It’s unabashedly poppy, lush with all sorts of easy listening flutes, splashes of organ, strumming guitars, strings, twinkling pianos, and breathtaking arrangements made seemingly effortless. Every song is a gem but Garra, practically bursting at the seams with too-muchness, seems particularly well suited to introduce the albums many charms.

Marcos Valle:Garra (mp3)
Buy it here for the low price of $49.99