Showing posts with label Jazz. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jazz. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Racines Africaines et Feeling Jazzy

Idrissa Diop's LP Femme Noire (Volume LK 0188, 1987) is complimentary, and a companion of sorts, to Seydina Insa Wade's Yoff (Disques Esperance ESP 8415, 1985), featured in my last post.

Superficially, of course, Diop's electronic explorations couldn't sound more different from Yoff's mellow groove. But Diop was the featured percussionist on Yoff, and both discs share a willingness to push the boundaries of the mainstream Senegal sound. According to the profile on Diop's MySpace page, Diop and Wade pursued parallel careers, both playing in the Rio Sextet and Calypso Jazz in Dakar besides collaborating in the folk group Tabala. Since parting way with Wade in the '80s Diop has pursued an adventurous career in Paris, founding the jazz group Sixun and performing with the likes of Harry Belafonte, Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter and other musical luminaries.

The musicians on Femme Noire are unfortunately uncredited, although Diop gives thanks on the album sleeve to Xalam and French musician Jean-Philippe Rykiel.

Idrissa Diop - Yaracodo

Idrissa Diop - M'bidane (La Bonne)

Idrissa Diop - Gueule Tapée

Idrissa Diop - Worunana

Idrissa Diop - Kawele Ciosane (Ouverture)

Idrissa Diop - Djiguene Diou Nioule (Femme Noire)

Idrissa Diop - Sahel

Friday, February 6, 2009

Forty Years of Xalam

Remember back in the early '80s when King Sunny Adé hit the scene in America? Not only was he said to be the next Bob Marley, the record companies were falling all over themselves to find the next "Big Thing" out of Africa. In short order Sonny Okosun and Tabu Ley Rochereau were launched on US tours, and there was a sprinkling of record releases by various artists. None of this had much impact - the "African Music Explosion" of the early '80s turned out to be a bit of a dud, although it paved the way for World Music™ a few years later. Whoopdy-doo!

One group that had more of an impact than most during this time was Touré Kunda, a Paris-based combo founded by a group of brothers from the Casamance region of southern Senegal. Touré Kunda didn't get a lot of respect from the more hard-core African music fans. A friend of mine came back from one of their concerts in Madison sneering at their "African bubble-gum music."

I've always thought Touré Kunda got a bum rap. Behind the slick production values their sound was always true to the music of their native region, which has never been as "angular" as that of Senegal's North.

Popular around the same time, although not so much in the US, was the Paris-based "Afro-Jazz" group Xalam, which if I am not mistaken, also has its roots in the Casamance. The group was founded in 1969 by percussionist Abdoulaye Prosper Niang. Xalam achieved a level of "mainstream" success that most African musicians can only dream of: recording with the Rolling Stones, opening for Crosby, Stills & Nash and Robert Plant, soundtrack gigs and innumerable world tours over the years. After a few rough years following the death of Niang in 1988 and the replacement of most of the original members, Xalam is this year celebrating its fortieth anniversary!

I've always loved Xalam's LP Gorée, released in 1983 by the French label Celluloid (CEL 6656). The album updates Senegalese folkloric themes to great effect, highlighted by spot-on percussion and the brilliant trombone work of Yoro Gueye. If you like this one, be sure to check out some of Xalam's other recordings, some of which are newly available after many years out of print.

Here's the music, along with song descriptions from the liner notes:

Derived from Mandingo folklore, "Sidy Yella" was also a hit for Touré Kunda. "A Mandingo son, a brave humanitarian warrior, defended his people against the invader with dignity, and died on the battleground":

Xalam - Sidy Yella

"A song about motherly love. A child sings for her mother at the first rooster call. 'When the rooster announces the start of the day, when the girls sing and the boys dance. . . ,' the child sings to her mother. Serere song. N'diouf rhythm":

Xalam - Ade 2

"Gorée is an island located 3 kms from Dakar. An important place, it was made a Portuguese, Dutch, English and French trading post. Thousands of Africans were 'exported' to the USA, the West Indies, Brazil, Haiti & Cuba, transporting a whole culture and civilization. Diola rhythm (Saw Ruba)":

Xalam - Gorée

"Song of the struggle. An old champion recounts his feats and speaks of struggle, of the life which demands sacrifice, courage, patience, willpower and faith: 'There where we pass, the one that passes collects mud.' Life is an eternal struggle. Wolof song. Saban rhythm":

Xalam - Kanu 2

"The story of a woman who prays to the god Djisalbero for a child. Her prayers go unanswered and she sees that around her the other women who have children hardly spend their time caring for them or simply abandon them. Diola song. Boncarabon rhythm":

Xalam - Djisalbero

"The struggle for the liberation of oppressed black people and of man in his home and birthplace. The struggle for the unification of African people. the struggle against racism and apartheid":

Xalam - Soweto

Many thanks to my daughter Aku for translating these liner notes. Click on the pictures at the top of the post and below to reveal the album sleeve in full. Download Gorée as a zipped file here, and thanks to reader/listener Soulsalaam for making the Xalam LP "Ade" Live at Festival Horizonte Berlin available here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Spear of the Nation

What a shame that South African saxophonist Dudu Pukwana died in exile on June 30, 1990, four years before the coming of democracy to his homeland and the end of the hated apartheid system. Perhaps he took some solace, on February 11 of that year, in seeing the release of freedom fighter Nelson Mandela after 27 years of incarceration.

Born on July 18, 1938, Pukwana was a titan of the South African jazz scene who played a critical role in the Blue Notes and Jazz Giants in South Africa, and in exile with Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath. He later co-founded the Afro-rock group Assagai and Spear, which recorded the influential In The Townships (Virgin C1504) in 1973.

I was inspired to post Pukwana's live recording Life in Bracknell & Willisau (Jika Records ZL 2, 1983) by Matsuli Music's recent post of the wonderful South African jazz LP Armitage Road by the Heshoo Beshoo Group. Released on Pukwana's own label, Life didn't achieve wide circulation, which is unfortunate, as it features some inspired performances, especially the vocals of Pinise Saul.

If you'd like to invesitigate more of Pukwana's music, In The Townships is out of print, but available
here. Another popular album of his, Diamond Express (Arista/Freedom FLP 41041, 1975), is also out of print, and available here.

Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Hug Pine (Bambelela)

Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Mahlomole (Lament)/Lafente (Ntabeni-In the Mountains)

Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Baqanga Bay

Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Freely

Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Funk Them Up to Eriko

Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Ziyekeleni (Let Them Be)

Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - The Big (Pine)Apple

Dudu Pukwana & Zila w. Pinise Saul - Zama Khwalo (Try Again)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Instrumental Break

Pour a tall cold one, sit back and relax with this sweet track by Moges Habte, formerly of the Wallias Band in Ethiopia. The tune is "Musicawe Silt" and it was recorded in 1994 with the Ethio-Jazz Group in Washington, DC. Don't know much about the musicians, but I suspect they're the crew that's recorded with so many Ethiopian musicians in the US. For one I recognize Abegasu Kibrework Shiota on keyboards.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) Live at the Smithsonian Institution

I rescued this recording from the "bulk" pile at WYMS-FM many, many years ago. It was made as part of the "American Jazz Radio Festival" program. Unfortunately I have no recording information - not even a set list. I presume it was recorded around mid-1985. "Date Recorded" on the tape box is 10/12/85, but that's probably the date it was recorded from the satellite feed.

I've never been particularly "into" Abdullah Ibrahim, but I know many people are, so I hope they'll enjoy (I compressed the file at 320 kbps rather than my usual 192 for the audiophiles).

Coincidentally, Matt over at Matsuli Music has posted for a limited time another Abdullah Ibrahim album here. Get it while it's hot!

Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) - Live at the Smithsonian Institution