Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Bonga - Kualuka Kuetu (1983)

The sun is flooding through the windows, and one might imagine that the palm trees behind Bonga on the album sleeve are just in reach. Spring is indeed here, though the two feet of snow over the weekend and this morning's -18° F thermometer reading have dampened any enthusiasm for its arrival. Still, the fluffy white stuff, the work in moving it out of the way, and the abrupt cold have kept me off my bike, letting me focus on music and a few other important things.

Listening to Bonga is always such a pleasure. Weaving Angolan folk music with influences from other lusophone countries' cultures. Threads from Cape Verde, Brazil and Portugal abound, but where do they originate? There has been such coevolution of music that those threads are found in the music of each of those countries.

This album, from relatively early in Bonga's long career, alternates between ballads and dance-oriented sembas, with a few surprises. The birimbau in "Pió-Pió" is delicious. Listening to this great, uplifting album as I write, I realize it might not be THAT cold outside. Time to ride!

PS. This is the third Bonga album I have had the pleasure to digitize. The others can be found here!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oku & AK7 - Pressure Drop (1984)

When I read WorldService's eloquent, recent post describing the surreal politics in Italy, without even mentioning the sublime and sordid fiasco in the clerical state-within-a-state, and depicting corruption in the Netherlands, where politicians in bed with financiers are fleecing the ordinary taxpayer, it made me think of this country, the U$A. How normal, how absolutely mundane, in comparison. Here our enlightened government has a very hard time deciding whether it has the right to murder its own citizens on our own soil. Whether or not it is okay to have a drone bomb a cafe to kill a U$ citizen who may be reading something objectionable online, or chatting with relatives in Pakistan via Skype. You know, those imminent-threat characters. Collateral deaths (deaths of the innocent) are regrettable, of course. Executing people anywhere else in the world is fine, naturally, so be careful who you are sitting next too! Our eminent president already has assumed authority to kill anyone he deems to be a threat to the U$, theoretically even someone who may have voted for him, believing he would bring a more humanitarian approach to the world's most powerful office. What gives him this right? Legal arguments that are classified and therefore hidden from the citizenry.

As I contemplated the gloomy state of reality, I happened to digitize this record of scorching dub poetry by the "grandfather" of the art, Oku Onuora. His first poem "A Slum Dweller Declares," written from prison, begins:
We wan fi free, free from misery, we want to live like human beings.

That powerful poem is followed by ten more uncompromising ones, mostly set to tough riddims and tight instrumentals. Anyone familiar with the music of Linton Kwesi Johnson will feel at home in this rich, provocative environment. A hard life informs Oku's cry for justice, and passion drips from his voice. In these days of callous, imperial governments around the world, and exquisitely manufactured apathy among entire populations of consumers, this music has never seemed more essential. Where are today's militants? Not the ones motivated by delusional belief systems, but those seeking justice?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pepe Kalle & Empire Bakuba - Le Tube De Vos Vacances (1990)

Are you sitting around, bored? Have some work to do and need something with a kick to get you through it? Or how about music to move your body without thought, which considering the state of the world, is something we all need occasionally?

Here is a high-octane blast of soukous from one of the style's most dynamic and popular bands, Empire Bakuba, with its great, large-as-life singer Pepe Kalle. The tepid ink was practically wet when I picked this record up in Zimbabwe; it was quite a hit at the time in Bulawayo. If you would prefer the graphics from the Paris release, you can find them at VibesDafrique here (though the track listing order is different and possibly incorrect on the Paris sleeve).

I previously posted two other Pepe Kalle albums here and here, but I know, you are after something fresh. Well here it is!