Monday, 30 July 2012

Jorge Ben - Samba Nova (1976)

Gorgeous, summery pop music from Brazil that has sounded superb drifting around my home on the balmy evenings we've been having recently.
"While many of the performers during the heyday of Tropicalia and the rise of MPB (música popular brasileira) opted for a more radical stance in their challenge to Brazil's political and cultural authorities, artists like Jorge Ben took a more understated approach. Rather than use overly theatrical performance to shock the audience or write songs loaded with political content, Ben became known as one of the country's great musical alchemists, a furiously eclectic songwriter who combined elements of indigenous Brazilian music with a groove from the west coast of Africa. Never a controversial figure in the manner of the tropicalistas like Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, Ben became one of the most respected and resilient figures in Brazilian pop. Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1940, Ben took up bossa nova guitar playing after hearing João Gilberto but found the style too complex to execute. This led to his developing his own approach to the bossa nova that focused on playing the guitar as one would a bass -- his early recordings are in fact bass-less. His first big hit as a singer/songwriter came at the age of 23 with "Mas, Que Nada." The song's subtle bossa nova groove proved so seductive that it was quickly covered by a number of Brazilian artists, most successfully by Sergio Mendes. During the military dictatorship's cultural crackdown in the late '60s Ben, whose music wasn't scrutinized as rigorously as that of tropicalistas like Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, was able to perform without too much trouble into the early '70s. Still, he felt the long arm of Brazilian censorship when a 1971 performance was stopped in midsong because censors felt as though Ben's backup singers were dancing too suggestively. Benjor It was from the late '60s to mid-'70s that Ben established himself as a songwriting force within Brazil. Over the next ten to 15 years he expanded his reach, with varying success, to Europe and America (he's more popular in Europe than America). In 1989 he released the album Benjor, simultaneously announcing that he was changing his last name to Benjor. During that same time period Ben realized his dream of working with prominent African musicians when he collaborated with Nigeria's King Sunny Ade, and also was represented on an anthology of Brazilian music compiled by former Talking Head David Byrne. Although not as politically radical as many of his contemporaries, Ben proved that in certain contexts and under unusually repressive restraint, music takes on a radical political dimension."


01         Oba, Lá Vem Ela        
02         Zé Cangica        
03         Apareceu Aparecida        
04         Caramba! ... Galileu Da Galiléia        
05         Morre O Burro, Fica O Homen        
06         Vendedor De Bananas Cosa Nostra - Bicho Do Mato        
07         Paz E Arroz        
08         O Circo Chegoo        
09         O Namorado Da Viuva        
10         Eu Vou Torcer        
11         Hermes Trimegistro E Sua        
12         Errare Humanum Est 

Get it HERE.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Lanrewaju Adepoju & His Akewi Theatre - Volume 3

Here's a treat.  Lanrewaju Adepoju was (is?) a famous Yoruban poet an on this 1975 recording they deliver an exciting blend of highlife, juju and afrobeat sounds that you just might like.  And if you do, you can find another wonderful LP over here.


Side One - Igba oro ki i fo/Maa see e niso/Oyinbo Kare
Side Two - Timi agbale waja/Baba dari ji wa/Oga l'olowo

Get it HERE.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Jil Jilala - Laayoun Ainya

Laayoun Ainya is one of the most famous Moroccan songs of the 1970s and something of an unofficial national anthem for many Moroccan nationals.  This is a song you will hear played by the groups that gather in the Djemaa el Fna on balmy nights when crowds gather to be entertained and sing along to popular and familiar tunes.  The song itself deals with important aspects of Moroccan nationalism and questions over the Moroccan claim to sovereignty over the Western Sahara and deals explicitly with the Green March, during which hundreds of thousands of unarmed Moroccans occupied desert lands.

On October 16th 1975, the International Court of Justice in the Hague issued an advisory opinion on the legal status of the area known as the western Sahara prior to the Spanish colonisation of the region in 1884.  That night, King Hassan II appeared on Moroccan television and radio asking for 350000 volunteers to occupy the territory in an attempt to secure Moroccan sovereignty over the land. This sovereignty was contested by Mauritania, Algeria and many of the inhabitants of the sparsely populated desert region as represented by the Polisario movement. As a result of the occupation an agreement was signed which divided the land between Morocco and Mauritania, this resulted in fifteen years of Polisario's guerilla warfare against the Moroccan government. 

I don't wish to get into the politics of the Green March, but the music contained in the grooves of this record is absolutely wonderful:

I suppose my views on nationalism and the idea of the nation state are best summed up by Benedict Anderson: 
"In an anthropological spirit, then, I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community - - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.
"It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion...all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined. Javanese villagers have always known that they are connected to people they have never seen, but these ties were once imagined particularistically-as indefinitely stretchable nets of kinship and clientship. Until quite recently, the Javanese language had no word meaning the abstraction 'society.'...The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation in the way that it was possible, in certain epochs, for, say, Christians to dream of a wholly Christian planet.
"It is imagined as sovereign because the concept was born in an age in which Enlightenment and Revolution were destorying the legitamcy of the divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm. Coming to maturity at a stage of human history when even the most devout adherents of any universal religion were inescapably confronted with the living pluralism of such religions, and the allomorphism between each faith's ontological claims and territorial stretch, nations dream of being free, and, if under God, directly so. The gage and emblem of this freedom is the sovereign state.
"Finally, it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.
"These deaths bring us abruptly face to face with the central problem posed by nationalism: what makes the shrunken imaginings of recent history (scarcely more than two centuries) generate such colossal sacrifices? I believe that the beginnings of an answer lie in the cultural roots of nationalism."
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised Edition ed. London and New York: Verso, 1991, pp. 5-7.


01 Laayoun Ainya
02 Jlatni Riahak
03 Darat Addawra
04 Ennas Fi Lahoua Nachdate

Get it HERE.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Alla Pugacheva - Mirror of the Soul (1978)

This 1978 compilation of songs by Alla Pugacheva is a quite incredible collection of Communist era prog rock, soul, psychedelia and big, ballsy balladeering from one of Russia's most popular and enduring stars.  For all the funky goodness on display here, Alla was, for many, the epitome of the State-endorsed Culture Industry of the late Soviet era - safe, manufactured entertainment designed to pacify the mind.  Sound familiar?  For all that, I'm loving some of these mad tracks at the minute - the producers obviously had lots of fun, and it sometimes seeps into a lovely kind of Pink Floyd-esque territory.  Anyone who enjoyed the Patty Pravo album I posted a while back will want to check this out.

Here is a severely abridged version of 'Shaman's Tambourine':


01         Бубен Шамана · Witch-Doctor's Tambourine        
02         Верю В Тебя · I Believe In You   
03         Сонет · Sonnet         
04         Приезжай · Come        
05         Не Отрекаются Любя · Those Who Love Don't Renounce         
06         Песенка Про Меня · A Song About Me         
07         Женщина Которая Поет · The Woman Who Sings

Get it HERE.