Friday, September 21, 2012

Soggy Interlude

We have been having an uncharacteristic, steady succession of rain storms recently, and several during the past week have caused flooding. The picture shows the road near my driveway, with my dog enjoying the flow. The road washed out and I cannot currently get to my house. Separated from my system, a temporary and not-very-hardshipped refugee, I decided finally to write down my process for creating the sound files I share. Look for the Sound Process link to the left, or here.

I was able to hike around the flooded area. To the left is a picture of the swollen creek that illustrates the reason for the flood. The bridge on the left is where the creek used to naturally flow, but over decades of erosion, it has 'wanted' to cut a new path to the right. Planners have desired it to behave, and endeavor to force the creek into its old bed. Six years ago they built a dike to the right of the trees in the center of the picture, after the creek cut through the road during another flood. Obviously, the creek wins again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Dembo Konte and Kausu Kuyateh - Tanante (1987)

Much as Foday Musa Suso introduced the griot and kora traditions to a broad U.S. audience in the mid- to late 80s, in the process also moving beyond tradition to experimentally apply the kora in other musical genres, Dembo Konte and Kausu Kuyateh extended their virtuosities through the U.K. and beyond. This first record of their collaboration was recorded Konte's home in the Gambia, by the folks at the enterprising and eclectic Rogue Records label.

The six songs on this album are steeped in tradition, and the two koras and voices blend hypnotically. Kuyateh is from the Casamance region of Senegal, and he plays his own 23-string kora creation. On the beautiful song "Yeyengo," he plays solo, creating intricate rhythms while playing his dazzling melodies.

This recording sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom, which it more or less was, and so the sound is not as bright as it might have been in a studio. This is not meant as a criticism, for the music is brilliant and you can feel like you were there, crickets barely discernible in the mix.

Most of the songs on this record, as well as others from a second early recording, were rereleased a while back on CD by the Rogue Records descendant, Weekend Beatnik. I recommend you get Kairaba Jabi at the fRoots site here; it appears to be out-of-print in the U$. Perhaps the reissue also was remixed? You may also search for Jali Roll, the rollicking collaboration between these kora masters and 3 Mustaphas 3 and others.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Foday Musa Suso, Tamba Suso, Jarju Kuyateh - Mansa Bendung (1986)

It is tempting to seek solace through music, when radical fundamentalists whose god is money are using brute force and hegemonic media control to obscenely enrich themselves. The power grab is global, as my esteemed colleague at WorldService illustrated a few days ago, but nowhere is it more repugnant than here in the U$, where a cynical election facade progresses despite the fact that the predominant voters are corporations.

With its hereditary roots stretching centuries into the past, West African kora is amongst the most sublime, peaceful musics of the world, potentially offering solace. Gambian kora virtuoso Foday Musa Suso has based himself in the U$ for decades, having worked with and influenced diverse musicians, which I discussed in my 2011 posting of Suso's Mandingo Griot Society debut.

This album developed spontaneously when two of Suso's compatriots visited New York. A studio session was quickly arranged, and the trio recorded on New Year's Day of 1986. Tamba Suso is a formidable singer, and on this record he sings with passion. Side B has three kora instrumentals where Suso's kora deliciously intertwines with that of Jarju Kuyateh. The three songs with vocals are rousing, but even though the instrumentals are more peaceful, they also contain tremendous energy -- enough to make you want to get up and do something.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mory Kanté - A Paris (1984)

When Mory Kanté moved to France in 1984, it took him little time to establish himself in the "world music" milieu with this album. Descended from a Guinean griot family, Kanté began his pop music ascent in the prestigious Rail Band of Bamako. He became the lead singer when Salif Keita left to form Les Ambassadeurs, and took up and mastered the kora.

Paris allowed Kanté to express his electric self, and his mandé roots are quite well hidden on half the songs. In truth, this is not one of my favorite records, though I do like the vibrant version of the classic "Yéké Yéké." See what you think. . .

Saturday, September 1, 2012

L'Afrique Danse No. 4 (1966)

It pleases me to cap my L'Afrique Danse offerings with this superb record featuring "the voice of lightness," Tabu Ley Rochereau. This album collects hits from Orchestre African Fiesta National, Rochereau's branch of African Fiesta after he split up with Docteur Nico in 1965. Sometimes calling themselves Le Peuple, the band included a young Sam Mangwana on vocals.

The album begins with Rochereau's a cappella voice, and in each tasty rumba it is clear both why he is considered among the elite few singers in Congolese music history, and why he emerged and remained a star, decade following decade. I cannot recommend this album highly enough; it is a true classic, exceptionally preserved.
For a comprehensive collection of Rochereau's profound musical contribution, search for Stern's two relatively recent "Voice of Lightness" double CDs.

Note: While some may find pops and cracks a nostalgic bonus in records, I prefer as little separation as possible between the music and myself. Happily, the sound on this record was about as good as it gets, without me having to do anything to restore it. Perhaps someday I'll post my procedure for achieving the best sound I can in digitalization, in case anyone is interested.