Category Archives: world music

One dollar discoveries: Amparo Montes, awesome marimba group and lots of calypso

My musical pack rat tendencies have paid off once again. I was in the local pharmacy picking up some medicine and noticed a bin full of CDs on sale for a dollar each. Most were Latin music, which is not a deterrent for me. Especially for a dollar. What did I have to lose? Spent $5, got five CDs and three of those turned out to be awesome. The other two weren’t terrible, just not my style – one was merengue, which is way too fast and makes me nervous; the other was salsa, which I like more, but which was too slick and New York-sounding for my taste. I’m more of a Bueno Vista Social Club guy…

So, pay dirt… I discovered a great artist, a really good Latin band (that I can find very little about unfortunately) and was reminded once again how much I love Calypso.

Amparo Montes – Tesoros Mexicanos

amparo montes

I’m surprised I never heard this woman before. She is apparently one of the greats of Latin music. Hearing this album reminds me of when I discovered Edith Piaf. And in fact, her voice is a bit similar – she has a nice vibrato.

This song does a good job of showing off her gorgeous pipes:

Marimba Cuquita de los Hermanos Narvaez – Peerless 70 Anos Una Historia Musical 1933-2003

marimba cuquita

Excellent music from an ensemble I can find very little about. Nothing, in fact. I can’t even figure out where in Latin America this band was from, although I’m pretty sure it was Mexico. Lots of their music to be found, just not much information. Might help if I knew more Spanish… Anyway, the music is really fun. Not the traditional Latin marimba music I’ve heard before, this is early rock, jazz and swing.

Here’s one I liked quite a bit:

Kings of Calypso

kings of calypso

This is a collection of 28 songs from some great Calypsonians. Good songs, a lot of them very funny and risque. The standouts for me are the ones from Lord Invader and The Mighty Terror. The songs are full of social commentary and humor. I especially loved Lord Invader’s “Reincarnation (The Bed Bug)” where he says he wants to be reincarnated as a bed bug – and only bite the young ladies; and Mighty Terror’s “Patricia Gone with Milicent” – not sure when it came out, but I imagine a song about lesbians must have been a shocker at the time.

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Filed under thrift store finds, world music

Flamenco Symphony – more than just dinner music

flamenco symphony

Flamenco Symphony don’t play the kind of music I expected to hear in a Mexican restaurant, but I’m so glad I did. Flamenco guitarist David Massey and classically-trained violinist Christopher Kranyak were performing at Morelia restaurant on Tuesday, Jan. 1 as I ate and visited with family. They weren’t overpowering, but I couldn’t help notice the skill and beauty of their music. They got a steady round of applause in the restaurant, even from people seated far away from them.

I was surprised at some of the covers they pulled off in their flamenco style. The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun,” Dick Dale’s “Miserlou”(made famous in Pulp Fiction) and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” to name a few (They’ve also written some original songs – that always earns my respect).

They left before I could tip them, so I figure the least i can do is give them a mention on this blog. So many times you hear groups like this and they fade into the background, or they’re just a mild annoyance as you try to carry on conversations. Not so Flamenco Symphony. Their music was beautiful, novel and memorable.

Lots of music and several videos on their website, as well as a schedule. They play regularly around Austin. Check them out if you can.

This is one of their original compositions, The Lost Tango:

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January 3, 2013 · 9:11 am

Psych Fest 2012 Day 3 – final wrap-up

Finally a chance to talk about Sunday, April 29, the biggest day of Psych Fest. This one featured some of the best acts of the festival, including the Brian Jonestown Massacre. There was a lot of diversity. World music, bands in the psych tradition of Velvet Underground (maybe a few too many of those to be honest), bands that reminded me of my favorite postpunk bands from the ’80s. Just a great day of music.

Looking back over the festival,  I would have to say the discovery this year was Disappears, a band that I knew nothing about that blew me away. (Last year’s discovery was Sleepy Sun – still a big fan).

As far as who put on the best performance… I would call that a tie between Bombino and Thee Oh Sees.

Wall of Death

Wall of Death is joined by Christian Bland of the Black Angels. (photo by Chris Kinney)

The first act to grab my attention was a French band called Wall of Death, which played in the Beauty Ballroom. They played at the last Psych Fest, but for some reason they didn’t make an impression on me – maybe I was watching another band at the time? This time they did.

Their brand of psychedelia had an edge at times, but was also very melodic. The first song featured a cello player. The second song featured a guest appearance from Christian Bland of The Black Angels. Folks who stayed at Emo’s missed out on that one. Chris, my concert buddy, remembered them well from last year and made a point to see them this time and notes that they were much tighter this time around. They appear to be pretty good friends with Bland — they opened for the Black Angels on their world tour.

Check them out on MySpace.

Also, here’s a video somebody made. I’m in that crowd somewhere…

Blue Angel Lounge

Blue Angel Lounge performs atmospheric pop with a postpunk/goth edge. (photo by Chris Kinney)

This was another band at the “small stage” at the Beauty Ballroom. They had an almost goth sound to my ears. They reminded me of bands like Joy Division and the Chameleons. At first they almost came across as monotonous, then the layers and complexity began to build and it became hypnotic and powerful. I was surprised at how young they looked.

Here’s one of their songs to give you an idea what they sound like:

And check them out on Facebook.

Bombino

Bombino introduces Austin to Tuareg rebel music. (photo by Chris Kinney)

This was the highlight of the night for me. I had heard of this band before, but didn’t really know what to expect. The band is led by singer-songwriter/guitarist Omara “Bombino” Moctar, a Tuareg. He was accompanied by another guitarist, a bass player and a drummer.

The Tuaregs are a desert-dwelling people who have been violently oppressed by the governments of Mali and Niger. Moctar in fact used to be a rebel fighter. At some point he decided he could do more to help his people by putting down his weapons and picking up a guitar.

It was almost surreal, after watching so many Western rock bands to see Moctar and his band in their traditional robes, their drummer wearing the face covering Tuareg men commonly wear.

For anyone wondering why an act like Bombino played at a festival for psychedelic music, it was very appropriate. Brian Jones – the original leader of the Rolling Stones who took the band in psychedelic directions, and who later recorded a group of Moroccan musicians for a very psychedelic album, Brian Jones Presents the Master Musicians of Joujouka. In fact Bombino at times reminded me of that group.

The band is tight as hell and Moctar is a hell of a guitarist. I was surprised at just how good. I was also surprised at how they rocked out – and how well-received they were. The music made me think of various things: Ethiopian jazz, Ali Farka Toure, Gnawa music, Algerian music. I understand Moctar is a great admirer of Jimi Hendrix and you can see that in his guitar performance, but in a way he also reminded me of Bob Marley – in part because like Marley, he’s creating something like rock, but with a very serious purpose, supporting his people in the face of oppression.

There was an amazing crowd, both during the show and at the merchandise table, where Moctar and his band members greeted people personally. I bought a CD of his album, Agadez. You can purchase downloads and order the CD at their Bandcamp site.

It would’ve been awesome to see this show also…

And here’s an excerpt from a documentary about the band. Pretty good performance and some explanation about what Bombino is all about…

Federale

Federale makes soundtracks for imaginary Spaghetti Westerns. (photo by Chris Kinney)

Federale of Portland were a great surprise. Yet another great band playing at the Beauty Ballroom. They made what I guess you would call Spaghetti Western soundtrack music. Turns out some of the founding members were at one time part of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Their music is mostly instrumental, with a trumpet player, and a girl doing wordless vocals. I had to pick up their 2009 CD, Devil in a Boot, which includes a short story about a boy named Jack who has his family stolen from him and later on gets revenge on the evil railroad baron. Check out their website.

One of my favorite songs off Devil in a Boot:

Thee Oh Sees

Very impressive show on the big stage at Emo’s, very high energy. Thee Oh Sees were a kind of pop punk, very tight. At times I thought of Cheap Trick, at times I thought of rockabilly, but mostly it was just a great rock ‘n’ roll show. This was one of those shows where I had to quit thinking about what they reminded me of and just put the notepad away and enjoy.

Check out their website. Looks like they’re on tour in Europe right now.

Also check out this cool video:

New Fumes

A one-man band at the Beauty Ballroom. Very experimental. The guy wore a goat mask and played guitar and electronics, accompanied by very strange videos – including little movies featuring a character that lip-synced as he sang. I have no idea how he did that. The bass was at times so loud it vibrated my whole body. Very impressive. Kind of in the same vein as some of the shows I’ve seen at the Salvage Vanguard Theater.

The show was sparsely attended because he was pitted against the Meat Puppets – a band I enjoyed but heard enough of after a few songs. It’s a shame more people didn’t see this guy, because he was everything psych should be.

Check out his MySpace to hear some of his music.

Check out this video.

How psychedelic was that?

Brian Jonestown Massacre

What can I say? They were awesome. They were obviously the big draw of the festival and they really rocked out. Better than I expected. Too bad I had to work the next day and didn’t catch the whole show. I wanted to, but I had basically hit my wall at that point. I decided to leave it to the young folks who can still do all-nighters on a regular basis without being wiped out for the rest of the week.

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Filed under music, psych, Uncategorized, world music

Just found a great World Music blog

Just stumbled across another great WordPress blog. Or rather, they stumbled across me. I got a “like” from Xandimusic, a 16-year-old music fan who runs xworldmusic, with the help of contributors Mirília, Wendy and Kapitololo. The blog focuses on one of my favorite types of music, the nebulous genre known as “world music.” It features music from all over the world, posting links to Youtube vids, often by suggestion from others. There’s a lot to explore, but I’ve already found some great music.

Check out this video from Wanlov The Kubolor, a half-Romanian, half-Ghanaian musician who performs a mix of Afro-beat, reggae and pidgen music.

And check out xworldmusic. I could spend hours there. Probably will, when I get some more time.

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Boxing Day Junkanoo in the Bahamas (and all we get is Christmas?)

Does anybody really celebrate on Boxing Day? In the Bahamas, yes they do!

Growing up in America, Boxing Day has always been a mysterious thing, something we know little about except that it says “Boxing Day (Canada)” on a lot of calendars. Every now and then we look it up to find out what it means, then promptly forget it again. Per Wikipedia, it began as “a day following Christmas when wealthy people and homeowners in the United Kingdom would give a box containing a gift to their servants.” But it is now better known as “a bank or public holiday that occurs on December 26, or the first or second weekday after Christmas Day, depending on national or regional laws.” Doesn’t sound too exciting. Just another day off, and one Americans don’t even get, right?

Well… I just discovered there are places where Boxing Day is a very big deal. In the Bahamas (and The Turks and Caicos Islands) many towns hold a big street parade known as Junkanoo (named for a 17th Century slave, John Canoe) with music, dancing and costumes that to me look very much like the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans.

Here are a couple of examples. I’m going to have to see this in person one day.


Pretty cool right? Kind of makes you wish you hadn’t wasted your day off on Christmas.

Edit. Boxing Day 2011 videos are starting to turn up on Youtube. Check ’em out. Here’s one:

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Filed under music, Uncategorized, video, world music

Jogja Hip Hop Foundation – tradition, innovation and mad beats


Tradition and innovation… You might think those are polar opposites, but it turns out that isn’t true. I just discovered something new and amazing that is helping to keep some beautiful traditions alive. Young people tend to like novel ideas and hip new trends. Traditions can seem stale and boring to them, even traditions that people from other places find exotic and powerful. An infusion of strange new ideas can sometimes breathe new life into old traditions.

That’s happening in the Yogyakarta region of Indonesia, on the island of Java. The region is very unique, with wonderful artistic traditions.

An Indonesian group called Jogja Hip Hop Foundation has created a style of hip hop that turns the beats, raps, attitude and dress of American hip hop into a celebration of native culture. The group’s music includes the sounds of gamelan gongs and other instruments. The rappers have also shown their love for the home turf by quoting classical poetry and working traditional Javanese shadow puppets into their shows.

Check this out. Incredibly musical and catchy. Beautiful video also.

This one is also damn catchy…

Intel also produced a video about the young group of cultural innovators.

You can find more about the group at their website: HipHopDiningRat.com
You can also like them on their Facebook page.

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Filed under hip hop, indie, music, Uncategorized, video, world music

Take a ride on a broken carousel with Japanese newgaze artist Ferri

Japanese musicians continue to inspire me. I just found an amazing new artist thanks to Mitsugu Suzuki, aka Cellz Cellar (mentioned in a piece I wrote about Japanese music a while back). Her name is Ferri. She composes, sings, plays keyboard, and mixes everything on a laptop. Her music sounds like a dream, with lush vocals and ethereal soundscapes. Sort of another take on shoegaze and postrock by the likes of Sigur Ros and My Bloody Valentine.

Ferri just released her first album, A Broken Carousel, in July. Cellz Cellar collaborated with her on one song (Zoetrope) and she will sing on a couple of songs on his next album, the soon-to-be-released follow-up to his debut 444. Can’t wait to hear that.

Here are a couple of outtakes you can stream and download for free via Bandcamp:

The digital album can be purchased through Amazon.com.

And check out this beautiful video for “Tomorrow Comes After Today.”

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Filed under music, postrock, shoegaze, trip hop, video, world music