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.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Of course you know that this post isn't about Fela Anikulapo-Kuti or his LP Black President.
What can I say? I never thought I would see this day as long as I lived. The whole idea that a Chicagoan would be elected President of the United States is odd enough, much less a Hawaiian. But a biracial son of a Kenyan immigrant and a white American woman, with a Muslim name, who grew up in Indonesia?! Who could have imagined it?
For those of us who are in interracial relationships Obama's triumph is especially sweet. It's not like Priscilla and I have had a hard time of it the last 23 years (it's not the 1950s, after all), but finally we feel like we've really, really arrived. Our daughters Ify and Aku have been especially ecstatic the last few months - Barack Obama after all is one of their own, or rather our own. In the last month Aku has spent 2-4 hours every evening after school down at the local Obama headquarters and walking door-to-door on behalf of the campaign.
Of course I don't think the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. I've always felt that real social progress comes when the masses of people organize in their own interests - against war and racism, for unions and justice on the job, in defense of women's rights and equality for gays. So while this may be a largely "symbolic" victory for us radicals and progressives, at least for one day the oppressed and neglected can hold their heads high.
I know this is an African music blog, but in my first post I reserved the right to write about other subjects. Thanks for indulging me this time, and anyway, if you're reading this, I'm pretty sure you're an "Obama person" (to the McCain supporters, if any, my condolences). To mark this joyous occasion, and courtesy of Steve Ntwiga Mugiri, here are a couple of tracks recorded by Congolese/Kenyan musician Samba Mapangala during his recent US tour. Click the link to Steve's blog to read more about them:
Samba Mapangala - Obama Ubarikiwe (Vocal Mix)
Samba Mapangala - Obama Ubarikiwe
Update: In the comments, Kreismyr passes on a link to this great video by Kenyan-American band Extra Golden:
Update 2: Thanks to Squeezyboy for tipping us off to this Kenge Kenge video here. And the video of the Samba Mapangala track is here.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
As I explained in "Digital Ethiopia Pt. 1," the last decade and a half have seen an explosion of Ethiopian musical releases recorded in the United States. While these productions have the benefit of state-of-the-art recording facilities, they tend to lack the freshness and immediacy of the home-grown recordings of the '70s and '80s. In this post I'll be highlighting some of the great Ethiopian female singers who have made careers in this country but I also want to post a couple of tracks by a musician who doesn't fit into that category.
Tadesse Alemu was from Wollega province in western Ethiopia and seems to have begun his recording career in 1997, when he released Ethiopian Wedding Songs (Ethio Sound Productions). This is the only recording I have by him, but he released several others, all in the same vein: traditional melodies updated for modern times. Here are two tracks from Ethiopian Wedding Songs:
Tadesse Alemu - Shinet
Tadesse Alemu - Hedach Allu
Alemu is said to have passed away in 2007, but he has a number of videos on YouTube, including this adaptation of a traditional Ethiopian Orthodox hymn (I think some of the footage is lifted from The Passion of the Christ!):
Hamelmal Abate's song "Kalkidan" was included on my compilation African Divas Vol. 1. Her career began during the dark days of The Derg when she performed with the National Theater (formerly the Haile Selassie 1 Theater) and recorded several hit cassettes. After stints with the Roha Band and the Ethio-Stars she moved to the United States in the early '90s. "Tirulegn" is from her 2006 CD Gize Mizan (Amel Productions):
Hamelmal Abate - Tirulegn
Hana Shenkute, singing with the Abyssinia Band, graced 1992's Music from Ethiopia (Caprice CAP 21432), and she's been getting rave reviews lately for her performances across the US with the Either/Orchestra. I'm pleased to present this tune by her from her debut solo release Hana (Yared Cahen Productions YCP-HSD 001). A pleasant change from most of the synthesizer-driven sounds here, backup is by the Admas Band (more about them below):
Hana Shenkute - Addis Fekere
A tune by Abonesh Adnew was featured on my collection African Divas Vol. 2. Currently residing in Washington DC, Abonesh is one of Ethiopia's finest new vocalists and sings in many of its languages. Here's a video featuring her music, and here's another. "Limitawey" is taken from her excellent 2004 release Bahilen (Electra Music & Video Center):
Abonesh Adnew - Limitawey
One of the most popular postings on Likembe has been "Ethiopian Honey", featuring Kuku Sebsebe's outstanding '80s cassette Munaye. Of course you know I'm a huge fan of this wonderful singer, and I wish I could tell you more about her. All I know is that she was apparently resident in DC for a number of years, recently had a "comeback" and is said to have returned to Ethiopia. Although I don't think her recent work measures up to Munaye, I'm happy to present another tune by her, from her 2003 CD Tinish Geze Sitegn (Nahom Records):
Kuku Sebsebe - Hallo Belat
My daughter Aku asked, "Is Chachi Tadesse trying to be the Ethiopian Beyoncé?" There's no question this sexy LA-based singer has what it takes in the looks department, although her musical stylings are quite different from those of the former Destiny's Child member. While her debut release Global Rhythm (C.T. Records, 1994) went for a "World Beat" (God, I hate that term!) feel, 2000's Medina (C.T. Records) hews closer to the standard Ethiopian sound. Here are two tracks by Chachi, one from each CD:
Chachi Tadesse - Africa
Chachi Tadesse - Medina
In the course of researching this post, I came across a very informative interview with Kay Kaufman Shelemay, a professor of music and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. Among other things, she discusses the musicians who make up the Admas Band, a group that is ubiquitous on Ethiopian recordings made in the US, in fact they play on most of the tunes showcased in this post and in "Digital Ethiopia Pt. 1." Fasil Wuhib, Abegasu Kibrework Shiota, and Hennock Temesgen, shown below (l to r) comprise the core of the group:
Bassist Fasil Wuhib played with the Dahlak Band and the Ethio-Stars before emigrating to the US in 1990. Abegasu Shiota, who plays keyboards, was born in Japan of a Japanese mother and an Ethiopian father. Like Mulatu Astatqé, he studied at the Berkeley College of Music in Boston and recently returned to Ethiopia, where he has a recording studio and teaches young musicians at the Yared School of Music in Addis Ababa. Bassist and producer Hennock Temesgen has also returned to Ethiopia. Together, these musicians have performed with just about all of the Ethiopian artists who have made their way to the United States.
None of these recordings are available through the usual channels, but they are well worth searching out. An excellent source in Los Angeles is the Merkato Ethiopian Gift Shop, 1036½ S. Fairfax Ave. (323-935-1775) which is in the middle of Little Ethiopia, a one-block stretch of restaurants and shops.
In Chicago, Abyssynia Market, 5842 N. Broadway (773-271-7133) and Kukulu Market, 6129 N. Broadway (773-262-3169) both have nice selections of music. I understand a good source in DC is Ethio Sound, 2400 18th St. NW (202-232-6076), and there are many other sources in the area. Online, AIT Records and Nahom Records are both good.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I mentioned to someone recently that with two teenagers headed off to college soon I just can't afford to plop down $17-20 for a CD anymore. Therefore, by necessity, this weblog is devoted mainly to older sounds. That means that I haven't heard African Scream Contest, Nigeria Special, or any of the great new reissues that everybody else in the African music blogosphere has been raving about.
In my younger, more carefree days it was a different story. Back in the mid-1980s, when I first discovered Sterns in London, I made several big orders, totaling well over two thousand dollars. A favorable exchange rate didn't hurt either. At one point the Pound Sterling went for $1.03! Even taking postage and import duties into account the cost of a European-pressed LP was roughly equal to what I would pay for an American one. Not, of course, that anything I could get in a U.S. record store could equal anything Sterns had on offer!
I generally didn't order specific recordings from the Sterns people (availability of particular titles was iffy anyway). Rather I would request x number of records, with the instructions that they were to select whatever was the latest and best from each particular country. It sure was a kick to go down to the post office, pay the import duty and then rush home to hear what they'd picked out for me!
In this way I was exposed to an awful lot of excellent sounds that I might not have considered otherwise. I certainly wouldn't have heard any of the music that was coming out of Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) those days. As I noted in a previous post, that country has been host to numerous musical styles over the years. The latest is Coupé Decalé, which hit the scene around 2002.
For many years the music of Côte d'Ivoire was overshadowed by the sounds coming out of its neighbors Ghana, Nigeria and especially Congo. Imported R&B from the US was also hugely popular, as it was everywhere in Africa. Local musicians like Amadee Pierre and Anoman Brough Felix made excellent music, but their popularity was confined mainly to their home country.
François Lougah (above) was one of the first Ivoirien musicians to have an international impact. He was born in 1942 in Lakota in the southern central region of Côte d'Ivoire, and had varied careers as a mason, football player and actor before hitting the music scene. His first hit was "Pekoussa" in 1973. Countless chart successes, a brief marriage to Tshala Muana and numerous tours throughout Africa and the world followed until his untimely death in 1997. Here's a hard-hitting track from Lougah's 1976 LP Au Zaïre (Sonafric SAF 50036):
François Lougah - Saka Popia
By the mid '80s, when I got hip to their music, Ivoiriens were in the throes of Ziglibithy fever following the death of the founder and foremost practitioner of the style, Ernesto Djédjé (left). Djédjé was born in 1947 in Tahiraguhé-Ziglo of a Senegalese father and a mother of the Beté ethnic group. He conceived of Ziglibithy as the first truly "Ivoirien" popular music style, a response to the imported sounds washing over Côte d'Ivoire in the 1970s. The unique "jerky" rhythms of Ziglibithy are derived from Beté folklore and the LP Zibote (Badmos BLP 5020), the first recording to showcase the style, caused a sensation when it was released in 1977. Four more successful LPs followed, but on June 9th, 1983, while preparing for his next album, Djédjé died suddenly of an untreated ulcer.
Here is the title track from Ernesto Djédjé's second album Ziglibithiens (Badmos BLP 5021, 1977). It is included on the CD Le Roi du Ziglibithy (Popular African Music PAM ADC 305, 2001), which is available from Sterns:
Ernesto Djédjé - Ziglibithiens
And here is a video of Djédjé doing "Konan Bedié":
Ernesto Djédjé's death was deeply felt all across the Ivoirien music scene, as witness this tribute from the liner notes of the album Ziglibithy-La Continuité (Shakara Music SHA 041, 1983) by Blissi Tebil (right):
Whew! Let's hear Mr. Tebil himself, in a track from that LP:
Is it necessary to repeat pain and fear? Is it necessary to relive the condemned cyclones and dirty dreams of June? He is dead, the king of Ziglibithy, and we cried all the tears of the heart and the body. That which is important was disarming for his pious and passionate disciples, and is less about crying for help or continuing to languish and always standing up tall, face turned toward the fire of the sun is the loud banner for the master whose shining image operates in them. It is about immortalizing the art of a king.
This record attests to the hope that we bring Blissi Tebil, one of the sons of Ernesto Djedje, the only one and certainly among the most filled with promise: let's hold him in our hand in order to illuminate his way that will be long, long, long. . . in order to revive in us, eternally the voice of a dead god.
Blissi Tebil - Hommage à E. Djedje
Nor was Blissi Tebil the only aspirant to the Ziglibithy throne. Lago Luckson Padaud (left), who was also born in Tahiraguhé-Ziglo, has broadened and developed the style through the years. Here he is in a tune from his '83 album Agnon-Nouke (Shakara Music SHA 0036):
Luckson Padaud - N'Gnoa Libie
Jean-Baptiste Zibodi's take on Ziglibithy is not only inventive, as illustrated by this selection from his 1983 LP Wazie Meo (Zib Production ZIB 001), but he is a prolific music executive whose JBZ Studio in Abidjan is a leading production facility in West Africa:
J.B. Zibodi - Gnia Maka
The 1980s saw the emergence onto the world stage of numerous other Ivoirien musicians who were not necessarily part of the Ziglibithy trend but forged their own styles utilizing local inspirations. Okoi Seka Athanase (left), a member of the Atché ethnic group from Affery in the southwestern part of Côte d'Ivoire, was one of them. Here is a tune from his LP Special Album '85 (OSA 2085):
Okoi Seka Athanase - Tcho Bakou
Jane Agnimel (right) hails from Dabou, west of Abidjan, and was a child star known for her songs "Joli Papillon," "La Femme," and "Le Richman et le Racoleuse" when she joined the Orchestra of Radiodiffusin Télévision Ivoirienne. Here she was discovered by Manu Dibango and joined him in performances across Africa. In 1980 she wrote the song "Oyomiya" for the Camerounian singer Bebe Manga. This song is taken from her 1984 LP Zoum/La Fête au Village (Safari Sound SAS 055):
Jane Agnimel - Zoum
Tina Dakoury was a notable musician about whom I've been unable to find any information, although I understand she died several years ago. Her 1984 album Inokeka-Nokeka (Eska Production SK 84001), from which "Fe, Fe, Fe" is taken, is outstanding for several things, including the sparkling guitar work of Souzzy Kasseya:
Tina Dakoury - Fe, Fe, Fe
Let's conclude this overview with another tune by Francois Lougah. In 1994 he released The Best 20 Titres (Gnangui Diffusion 010LSG94), a retrospective cassette featuring rerecorded medleys of his hits, including "Saka Popia," which we heard earlier. The best track, though is this one:
François Lougah - Dehyminiké
Many thanks to my daughter Aku for translations that I used in this post. Further information was derived from the liner notes of Le Roi du Ziglibithy, Ronnie Graham's Sterns Guide to African Music and West Africa magazine. I've been inspired by my research for this post and will probably post more music from Côte d'Ivoire in the future.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Thanx and a tip of the Hatlo Hat to Andy Healey, who alerted us to the existence of this incredible, mind-blowing sample of Igbo Roots music by Shidodo & ensemble from eastern Nigeria:
The amiri, or Igbo flute, gets things going here, soon joined by the ashakala, or calabash rattle. Especially notable is the masterly use of the ogene, the traditional Igbo double bell. I've never seen or heard ogenes used in ensemble in quite this manner - very interesting. The abia (drums) and opi (the conch-shell instrument that sounds like an ocarina) round things out beautifully.
With so many music videos out of Nigeria lately "underwhelming" (to say the least), it's a real pleasure to showcase one that really does justice to the true beauty and complexity of Igbo culture. More fascinating videos by Shidodo here, here, and here. And kudos to Codewit, who has diligently posted over a hundred videos like this on YouTube.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
I wrote in my first posting that through Likembe I sought to educate but also hoped to be educated. The response to the post Somali Mystery Funk has certainly borne out that expectation - in fact it's yielded an embarrassment of riches. Our friend Sanaag, who so kindly provided information on the songs in that posting, has answered a number of questions I posed to him, which provide essential background on Somali music. I specifically asked about Sahra Dawo (above), who sang lead on two of those tracks by Iftin, and the group Durdur, which she fronted. I'm just going to let Sanaag speak for himself. This is the first of several postings.
Sahra Dawo was a pop star in the 80's and probably up 'til now. As the lead singer of Durdur, she was very popular with the younger generations, specially teenagers and twentysomethings, including me at the time. I am not sure how she did with the general public. As far as I know, she didn't strike a strong chord with the older audience probably because of the obvious dissonance between her lyrics (often emotional) and music (usually joyful with sometimes an over-the-top acts in live performances).
Durdur (rivulet, creek, streamlet...) was simultaneously Iftin's little cousin and rival; they started their career in the late '70s or early '80s and were quite influneced by Iftin which was founded about a decade earlier, I think around 1970. I vaguely remember that some of Durdur's musicians had learnt their craft as trainees with/friends of Iftin.
In "Juba Juba Aaka Aka Sholo Lob" Sahra Dawo & Durdur are singing about their mutual love in a Southern dialect that I don't understand very well as I come from the North, a + 1000 km walk. The title sounds like a sort of Somali scat singing without any specific meaning. Juba or Jubba is the biggest river in Somalia. It's also the name of a famous hotel in Mogadishu where Durdur often performed. I believe some/many of their videos were recorded there:
By the way, this kind of music is quite popular in Somalia. It's actually the transcription of shareero music on modern instruments. Shareero is an old Somali instrument:
In comparison with many/most contemporary bands, Durdur & Iftin were quite atypical in the sense that their lyrics were often simple, almost exclusively about (the pains of) love and totally non-political. Iftin also sang about the importance of education (a ministerial obligation, I suppose) as illustrated in this song, "Toban Weeye Shaqalladu" (The Ten Vowels):
Iftin - Toban Weeye Shaqalladu
For most Somalis, the lyrics are at the very least as important as the music. 'The Nation of Poets' is one of Somalia's nicknames; hence the wild popularity of poetry cassettes you referred to in your post. Moreover, art was one of the major channels - if not the major channel - to ventilate dissidence during the [Siad Barre] dictatorship. Even when love was the subject matter, as was often the case in lyrics, the socio-political message was up for grabs beneath the surface. Iftin's (forced?) marriage with the authorities was probably the culprit for their political and poetic castration. I don't know why Durdur acted like an ostrich; as far as I know they were not sponsored by the Government.
"Ligligaan Jacaylkiii Hayaa" means "Holding On to Love With Tremors." It is also known as "Mays Af Garanaa?" - "Shall We Strike A Deal (and Become Partners)":
Sahra Dawo & Durdur - Ligligaan Jacaylkii Hayaa
"Wax la Aaminaan Jirin" - "Nobody to Confide In, Nothing To Trust." This is a parable for 'betrayed love and careless environment'. The girl is pregnant but the guy is shunning the responsibility and she's reluctant to talk with her family/friends as pregnancy out of wedlock is a social stigma:
"Gucliyo Orod" - "Trot and Gallop/Dawdling and Darting." I am hardly familiar with this song and the sound is so distorted that it's difficult to decipher what exactly she's saying:
Saturday, November 24, 2007
(Note: This post was updated considerably on November 29, 2007. The MP3s were replaced with new stereo versions on November 30, 2007.)
I've said this before, but I'll repeat it: The coolest blog out there is Frank Soulpusher's Voodoo Funk. Frank travels throughout West Africa digging up old obscure soul and funk records by local musicians. He posts mixes of his discoveries that usually have me dropping my jaw in wonderment. . . Whaaaa?
Of course, West Africa wasn't the only place that was obsessed with American-style R&B. Every African country had its own practitioners, some of them quite original. Ethiopia in particular created its own fusion of soul and traditional music that has drawn international acclaim.
Twenty years ago I thought that Somalia was immune to the funk virus. There was one recording of Somali music on the market, Original Music's Jaamila (OMA 107, 1987), recordings of oud, flute and voice that were interesting but not especially funky. Somali friends loaned me static-filled cassettes of artists like Sahra Axmed and others that were in a similar vein. There was a wildly-popular genre of home-made cassettes of recitations of Somali poetry. I began to wonder if there even was such a thing as modern Somali music at all.
Then my friend Ali handed me a cassette, an over-the-counter Sanyo stamped "Iftin." No case, no track listing; Ali couldn't even tell me anything about the group Iftin. He thought they may have been from northern Somalia, possibly from Djibouti or the Somali-speaking part of Ethiopia. But they definitely made modern Somali music.
Since this was first posted, we have heard from a Mr. Saanag, who provides much valuable information on Iftin. He writes:
Iftin ("Sunshine") was a big hit in Somalia in the 70's and 80's. Initially, they made theaters & schools "unsafe" with their brand of (slow) dance music and later discotheques & marriage ceremonies were conquered. It's one of the bands initiated by the Ministry of Education and Culture and they were based in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, where most of the band members originally came from. The lead singer with the "Woweeee!" hair is a Somali of Yemenite origins (does his Yemeni ancestry shed a little light on your remark?). He's called Shimaali and some of his solo efforts are on YouTube. Before I gave the tape back to Ali I dubbed it onto a 10-inch tape reel at WYMS-FM, where I used to do my radio program "African Beat." When I stopped doing the show in 2001 I had no way to listen to it, until now. I recently rented a reel-to-reel tape deck and have digitized it, so now I can give it to you!
Keep in mind that this cassette was produced in the do-it-yourself spirit that is common throughout Africa. It was no doubt duplicated on a boom box, so the sound quality isn't terrific. I think you'll agree, though, that the quality of the music outweighs this technical drawback.
This post is entitled "Somali Mystery Funk" because when I first wrote it I had no idea what the titles of the songs were or what they meant. Sanaag writes:
I think I've recognized all the tracks but keep in mind that many (old) Somali songs don't have an original title and the name of many others is unknown to the public. No-case-and-no-tracklisting is/was the daily pot-luck you just must take or leave in Somalia. So, each song gets several popular names.So, here are the song titles in Somali & English, thanks to Sanaag.
"Gabar ii Noqee" ("Be my Wife") aka "Ohiyee Ohiyee" ("Yeah, Yeah")
Iftin - Gabar ii Noqee
"Codkeennii Kala Halow" ("Our Voices Have Lost Each Other")
Iftin - Codkeennii Kala Halow
"Haka Yeelin Nacabkeenna" means "Don't Heed Our Enemies" (or those who are against our love).
Iftin - Haka Yeelin Nacabkeenna
"Lamahuraan" means "Love is Indespensible." This song is also known as "Sida Laba Walaalaa" (like two siblings) or "Qays & Layla" ("Romeo & Juliet")
Iftin - Lamahuraan
"Weynoow": "My Great (love)" aka "Ciil Kaambi": "Sorrow and Bitterness (due to frustrated love)"
Iftin - Weynoow
"Jacayl Iima Roona" means "Love is Not Right for Me (now)"
Iftin - Jacayl Iima Roona
"Hir Aanii Dhowyen ma Halabsado" means "Longing to Bridge the Big Distance." This song is also known as "Ruuney" - "Oh, Ruun (a Somali female name)."
Iftin - Hir Aanii Dhowyen ma Halabsado
"Caashaqa Maxay Baray?" "Why Get Acquainted With Love?" or in other words, "I'm too young to take the burden of love on my shoulders." The same song and singer, Sahra Dawo, are featured with another band, "Durdur," on this YouTube video.
Iftin - Caashaqa Maxay Baray?
"Baddaa Doon Baa Maraysoo": "A (fragile) boat is rocking on that ocean"
Iftin - Baddaa Doon Baa Maraysoo
Nowadays, there's a thriving modern Somali music scene, centered in Toronto (conditions in Mogadishu these days obviously not being too conducive to recording and distribution). For a sample of what young Somali musicians are up to these days, go here and here. Sanaag also recommends: Banadir City, Somalioz.com and The Real Africa.
Here are two videos of Iftin performing in the Eighties. Check out the hair on the lead singer in the second one. Woweeee!
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Sunday, September 2, 2007
I've recently learned that several years ago the Igbo traditional musician Area Scatter was killed in an auto accident. Area was a performer who achieved renown throughout Ala Igbo, and even drew some international notice. One of the more memorable sequences in the acclaimed television documentary series Beats of the Heart came during "Konkombe," the segment on Nigerian music. It featured Area Scatter, who had a performing style that was unique, or unique for Nigeria, anyway. Let's read the description of him in the book Beats of the Heart (Pantheon Books, NYC, 1985):
". . . we headed off into the forests to the hut of an infamous 'witch doctor," or shaman, called Area Scatter. His home was filled with bones and skulls and paintings of the power of good and evil. A muscular, humorous man, he explained how, after living through the civil war, he had gone into the wilderness for seven months and seven days and had reappeared transformed into a woman. The day we visited him he headed off, dressed in white smock, polka-dot skirt and a shamanist bone necklace, to the residence of his Royal Highness Eonunnoke to play for the local king and queen.Of course, in the United States there are well-known transvestite performers like Ru Paul or Divine, but I understand that this sort of thing is rather odd for Nigeria, at least among the Igbo. I'm not aware of any tradition of theatrical cross-dressing in Nigeria (as for instance in Chinese opera or during Shakespearean days), nor should we assume that Area was gay. While homosexuality in Nigeria is certainly not unheard of (a reading of Hints or any of the other Nigerian "True Confessions" - type magazines should dispel that notion!), it is surrounded by so many layers of scandal and condemnation that the idea that any Nigerian would flaunt his or her gayness is, frankly, mind-boggling. So let's just say that Area Scatter was a guy who literally marched to his or her own drummer, and leave it at that.
"Area Scatter was a highly accomplished performer on his thumb piano which was decorated with a distinctive skull and crossbones. When the king and his wife ceremonially entered and seated themselves on their thrones, Area Scatter bowed deeply and started to sing in a soft, rich voice. . ."
Uchenna, from With Comb and Razor, was kind enough to rip that segment from Beats of the Heart for us, and here it is:
When my wife, Priscilla, returned from Nigeria a few years ago, she brought back an actual Area Scatter LP, Ugwu Anya Egbulam Musical Group led by Area Scatter (Namaco ENLPS 56), excavated from a used-records shop in Ajegunle. The name of the group, "Ugwu Anya Engbulam" means roughly "The Evil Eye Will Not Kill Me." I was originally going to put up just one track from it, then decided that posting the whole album would give listeners a better feel for the talent of this unique artist, Area Scatter.
In the first song, "Uwa Marala Okaa Ome Nwachukwu," or "the well-known Nwachukwu does what he says he'll do," Area Scatter sings the praises of a certain Mr. Nwachukwu, who built a big house, who helps widows, and who pays the tuition for needy students, among other things:
Ugwu Anya Egbulam Musical Group led by Area Scatter - Uwa Marala Okaa Ome Nwachukwu
The title and refrain of this song, "Nwa Nnem Uwam Gbulam," means "my brother, my sister ["nwa nnem," literally "my mother's child"], I am just fed up with this world":
Ugwu Anya Egbulam Musical Group led by Area Scatter - Nwa Nnem Uwam Gbulam
This is a long testimonial to the "Great Chief" ("Eze Ukwu") of Ngwa-Ukwu, a township near Aba. The final part of the song apparently deals with a love triangle - there was a struggle, police were called, etc:
Ugwu Anya Egbulam Musical Group led by Area Scatter - Ajelele Eze Ukwu of Ngwa-Ukwu / Akwa Goddy Uwalalula
Many thanks to Priscilla for interpreting the lyrics. Albums of Nigerian traditional music like this are not rare - thousands of recordings of Igbo traditional music alone were issued during the '60s, '70s and '80s. What is unusual is to find any of them outside of Nigeria. To be honest, I just love the stuff, so I will be posting more of it in the future.
If you would like to see "Konkombe," or any of the other episodes of Beats of the Heart, you can order the DVD here.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Kuduro (or Kuduru) is a type of music born in Angola and immediately exported to Lisbon suburbs in Portugal, hence its two varieties Luandense and Lisboeta. It is characterized as uptempo, energetic, and danceable. . . The name itself is a word with a specific meaning to location in the Kimbundu language, which is native to the northern portion of Angola. It has a double meaning in that it also translates to "hard ass" or "stiff bottom" in Portuguese, which is the official language of Angola. Kuduro is also a type of dance where, typically (like Ragga, some forms of hiphop, and other afro-based musics) the female dancer protrudes her bottom and swings it sensuously to the rhythm of the hard-hitting Kuduro beat. It is mostly influenced by Zouk, Soca, and Rara (Haitian music genre) music genres. . .
Researching that last post has got me worked up, and I've been listening to Angolan music pretty much non-stop for the last few days. So, if you'll indulge my temporary obsession, I'd like to return to that formerly-war-torn but optimistic young country. Previously I mentioned a new musical style out of Angola called Kuduro. I don't have a lot of personal knowledge of it, but here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry:
One thing that's notable about Kuduro is its association with Angolan nationalism. In videos you'll often see Angolan flags flown, etc. This is an interesting contrast with other African countries, where the old nationalist and pan-African ideals have pretty much run their course, to be replaced by regional, ethnic and religious concerns. As to what sets Angola apart in this regard, I suspect that the end of the long-running civil war has given rise to a new sense of national purpose, and I suppose that the increase in the price of petroleum (Angola's main export) hasn't hurt either. But that's really just speculation on my part.
Information about Kuduro is all over the Internet, especially if you know Portuguese, which I unfortunately don't. You certainly won't be able to find this stuff at your local Best Buy, and Sterns has nothing, but a search of Kizomba turned up quite a bit, including some of the more popular artists like Dog Murras, Heider Rei do Kudoro, and numerous compilations (unfortunately short on recording information, much less sound clips). One release that is in fairly wide circulation is Federico Galliano's Kuduro Sound System, which I can recommend based on what I've heard.
There are a couple of CDs out there by my favorite Kuduro artist, Puto Prata, but I've been unable to get hold of them. Through diligent searches of the blogosphere (notably Masala, which has tons of info on all kinds of other great dance music as well,) and various file-sharing services, I have turned up seven tracks, which I present to you in non-stop "megamix" style as follows:
1. Poperom Beat Fat RemixPuto Prata Megamix
2. So Tchilar
3. Zuata Zuata
4. Sao Voces
6. Crianca Futuro Bate (with Fofando, Puto Saborosa & Noite e Dia)
7. Sai la Daqui
There is also a wealth of Kuduro videos out there, of which this is a prime example:
Kuduro (or Kuduru) is a type of music born in Angola and immediately exported to Lisbon suburbs in Portugal, hence its two varieties Luandense and Lisboeta. It is characterized as uptempo, energetic, and danceable. . .
The name itself is a word with a specific meaning to location in the Kimbundu language, which is native to the northern portion of Angola. It has a double meaning in that it also translates to "hard ass" or "stiff bottom" in Portuguese, which is the official language of Angola. Kuduro is also a type of dance where, typically (like Ragga, some forms of hiphop, and other afro-based musics) the female dancer protrudes her bottom and swings it sensuously to the rhythm of the hard-hitting Kuduro beat. It is mostly influenced by Zouk, Soca, and Rara (Haitian music genre) music genres. . .