Tag Archives: ethnic

1980s, the Philippines and too many divas

29 May

Phew! I had a hard time listening to the concept album issued this year by David Byrne, the legend of the Talking Heads, and Fatboy Slim, the UK dancefloor king. This is a concept album which tells the story of the former First Lady of the Philippines compiled in 22 songs sung by various, mainly female, artists. And until now I don’t know if it’s too exotic to me or just a failure.

Some of the pieces are great. I was very surprised with the comeback of Cyndi Lauper whom, basically, I never appreciated (she annoyed me as hell, like most of the divas of the 1980s), but – I gotta admit – she is absolutely great here. She performs two songs on the album, one of which is a duet with Tori Amos (Why Don’t You Love Me?). Lauper fits the mood and the character of the album perfectly. Her slightly flat voice, even though thoroughly “Western”, reminds me of pop songs of the Far East. The music also tries to evoke the sounds of the Philippines – and here’s a major question: does it? Cause I had a constant feeling that this is how Eastern Asian music sounds when a white ear listens to it. This is not really an insight into a different culture, it is how we – the white people – IMAGINE different cultures. I’m not expecting something extremely oriental and I’m not a professional in the genre of Asian music but I guess taking any kind of a compilation issued either by National Geographic or the Rough Guides would make me much more satisfied than the album of David Byrne/Fatboy Slim. And, even if you find my statement funny or utterly proud, note that such anthologies often include some examples of the local pop/rock scene, so it doesn’t mean that it’s folk and ethno only. Sadly, I have heard much better and much more interesting, breathtaking things thanks to the Rough Guides’ anthologies than I heard on Here Lies Love.

I would be totally cruel and unjust, if I didn’t mention the fact that most of the songs are absolutely lovely – totally sweet, delicate melodies, most of them sung by great voices. It’s a CD that is easy to like. Relaxing, warm music. There is some taste of the 1980s in it but it’s elegant and tasteful. The first disappointment, however, goes with the fact that it’s… well… too elegant and too tasteful. You can’t feel any of the passion that you know from other records of David Byrne. And Fatboy Slim’s input seems highly diminished, as if the guy would be just terrified of working with Byrne, who, after all, is a legendary artist. I don’t know what happened to both of them but the electro-side of the album is very weak, perhaps intentionally naïve and plain, however, even though in the beginning it can make you curious, after 22 songs you just feel completely bored and exhausted.

The voices are a different story. Some of them are fantastic but just do not fit the whole – I was pretty disappointed with Tori Amos’ performance, she is, after all, one of the artists which I value really high. Here she just doesn’t fit the music, her voice is too hysterical, too trembling, she is not able to deal with the character of the music and the music itself does nothing to support her. Most of the vocalists sing in a different manner and the overall feeling is that the story of one woman gets lost somewhere on the way. So many different vocalists – it’s ambitious but inconsequent and you get the impression that it’s a compilation of various songs by various artists, not a concept album. It’s messy and distracting.

I don’t know. Perhaps I need time to get used to this album, to listen to it over and over again. There are some highlights of course – a great performance by Róisín Murphy (Don’t You Agree?), Nicole Atkins (Solano Avenue) or Florence Welch more known as Florence and the Machine (Here Lies Love). Here I would also add Eleven Days performed by Cyndi Lauper – one of the best songs of the album. Still, listening to the songs one by one makes this album much more appealing than listening to the whole of it. Unfortunately, the whole concept is lost somewhere. We were supposed to get a story of one woman’s life and love sang by various vocalists in order to create a complex portrait of the character, we get a scattered, inconsequent image which could very well be just a various artists’ compilation of synthpop songs – and, it’s sad to say, these are very mediocre songs.

Sufi says…

23 May

When I listened to this album over a month ago, I though that this is something I will not forget even in many years to come and that… fuck… either this guy is totally crazy, or he’s constantly high, or somebody just invented a new religion within music… You obviously have no clue what am I talking about, right?

Once upon a time, in sunny San Diego, a black man was born. After years of his life, which was filled with practicing and teaching yoga, tasting different substances available to mankind and performing his music with alternative bands and artists while trying to find the inner self, the man moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. And, as all the major religions teach us, sin cities are best for becoming a prophet. Thus, Sumach Ecks, known now as Gonjasufi, recorded his debut album in 2010 and his religion of crazy sounds, electro-scratches, transe samples and loops gained a huge amount of new followers. And, beware, the religion is spreading quickly!

I totally fell in love with this album from the very beginning. At first I was very happy about it since I am 100% positive that this is going to be the best album of the year of 2010. On the other hand, it made me sad that I won’t hear anything that extraordinary for at least a few years. A Sufi and a Killer is absolutely something none of us have ever heard in our lives. It’s not an album which is easy-to-listen. It’s experimental, it’s based on transe rhythms, lots of samples and influences from different parts of the world (most notably India, Greece, Spanish flamenco, native American music or even – let’s not be afraid of using this word – rituals), it is like a prayer, no… more like a mantra, like contemplation and a sophisticated, ecstatic sacrament. And all of this is deliberately made a bit old school, as if it would be an old tape, a rare box holding priceless souvenirs from the past. I’m not a religious person myself but Gonjasufi very often speaks about religion and – naturally – about yoga, and, even if you are not religious, it’s hard to restrain yourself from the overwhelming spiritual power of this album. This music is SACRED! I felt, all at once, as if I took part in an anthropological travel, looking for ancient cultures, trying their food, speaking their language, singing with the tribe. And I really don’t care if it sounds pathetic or not. And, I suppose, Gonjasufi cares even less…

Also, for a long time, I haven’t heard anything that would be so fresh, so new, so different from anything else and, at the same time, so deeply rooted in… well, different things (a few of which I already mentioned above). It’s like Sufi poetry, like the whirling Dervishes in Turkey, like being hypnotized or being in a state of levitation/nirvana/call it whatever you want. And you don’t really need to be a fan of electro and/or ethnic music to appreciate it. Just listen to it, and you’ll know what I mean. If there is anything, anything at all that I could compare it to, it would be some of the experimental albums of John Zorn, although, I suppose, such a comparison wouldn’t make good to any of the mentioned artists.

Luckily, my favorite song was also chosen as a promo single, so I can recommend it to you wholeheartedly, not thinking that – as usual – I always pick up different choices for a single promoting an album than the one that is chosen by an artist, lol. This one is particularly special, in my opinion, cause it gives you the taste of what Gonjasufi really is – a crazy mix of an amazing beat, electronic noise, sharp vocals and humming all in one, a sample of flamenco and gods-know-what-else that reminds me of native American music but I cannot really name the thing, lmao.

If you want to check Gonjasufi’s official website, click here. (This guy is a genius!)

And remember… there is no spoon! X-D

Београд-תל אביב

22 May

The newest album of Balkan Beat Box was recorded in Belgrade, Serbia and Tel Aviv, Israel – and this says enough about the music that you can expect. Blue Eyed Black Boy is a typical example of the band’s style – a mix of genres and different musical influences, from, most importantly, Balkan music (not only in the meaning of former Yugoslavian countries, but also a bit of Greece) and Middle Eastern music (Israeli and Arabian), through dub, reggae, even a little bit of hip-hop up until Latin American dances with the amazing Marcha De La Vida as a key example.

I don’t want to spoil the fun with saying too much about this release. You have to check out for yourselves. All I want to say is – the more you listen to it, the more you will love it, and if you listen to the whole album over and over again, you will find some amazing things during each listening. This record is like a rare, precious, although very powerful and strong object – there are always some new sounds to discover, sounds you didn’t hear when listening to it for the first time. The rythmic section and the brass section – are, as always, genius! And yes, you can say that it’s nothing that you haven’t heard from BBB but one thing is for sure – these guys know how to rock and, most of all, they’re extremely consequent with their musical choices, their genre (or, I should rather say: mixed-genres) of music and – what is most important – with the extremely high level of performing it.

Grab it, listen to it, love it! In fact, I am sure you will love it. And even if you’re not into this nerdy idea of listening to something and trying to solve the riddle hidden inside, you will enjoy it cause this album is just pure fun and amazing pleasure! As a teaser, my favorite song of the album: War Again.