Thursday, June 20, 2013

Big Youth – The Chanting Dread Inna Fine Style (1982)

One of the most distinctive voices in roots reggae was that of iconoclastic deejay Big Youth. Before its deep submergence in Studio One material, Heartbeat Records drew on Big Youth for several of its first releases. Chanting Dread is the second, and like the others, it benefits from the participation of the cream of reggae musicians. The sometimes spare and always crucial rhythms are masterfully ridden by the vocal improviser.

This collection compiles singles recorded in the 1970s by Big Youth's Negusa Negast Records, but it was released at a time when his popularity had waned significantly in Jamaica. Thirty years later, it's great to step back into the "golden jubilee" of reggae.

Monday, June 17, 2013

José "Zeca" Afonso – Cantigas do Maio (1971)

Zeca Afonso continues as one of the most beloved Portuguese singers, decades after his death in 1987. During his long career, Zeca's music was the poetic expression of his revolutionary politics. Beginning his career as a fado singer, his music benefited from years living in both Angola and Mozambique, both Portuguese colonies at the time. Zeca's politics, already forged by involvement in both student and workers movements in Portugal, evolved with his observations of brutal colonial rule in Mozambique, as well as the incipient armed rebellion led by FRELIMO.

Cantigas do Maio is considered Zeca's best record, and it arguably is his most important. The B-side begins with "Grândola, Vila Morena," the song that became the anthem of the revolutionary movement to overthrow the fascist, Salizarian dictatorship that had ruled Portugal for decades. It also was used in April 1974 to coordinate the revolutionary military forces that overthrew the fascist government, in a practically bloodless coup popularly known as the Carnation Revolution: the song was broadcast on the national radio to signal the beginning of action.

While "Grândola, Vila Morena" is iconic, all of the songs on this album are powerful and memorable. Zeca's unique voice was perfectly suited for his activist role. It's a voice desperately needed now, in every language, to contend with pan-global repressive forces.
Enjoy! Then act.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Le Commandant Tchico - Full Steam Ahead! (1985)

Full Steam Ahead! describes my life pretty well at the moment, and this album from Tchico is one that fits the rhythm of activity that has kept me offline, most of the time. Straight-ahead soukous at the right time is the perfect music to get you off your butt and doing things. Dancing would be good, but that will have to wait for me.

I'm at a brief pause in what has been and will be an enormous undertaking to relocate after many years in Alaska. So over the next few days I hope to post a couple more choice albums-in-waiting. I'll also be reviewing the new, important album from Femi Kuti. I received it just days after seeing the fantastic performance Fela! in Seattle. Google "Fela on Broadway" and if the performance is within hundreds of miles, go see it: Brilliance. In the meanwhile, rock to this fine album that helped ignite the worldwide "world music" market in the mid-80s.