Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The John Berberian Ensemble - "Oud Solo" (1966)

Born in New York City to Armenian immigrant parents, oud master John Berberian introduced the fascinating sounds of his heritage to many an American ear during the 1960s. Although his music's immediate danceability was special, it didn't compromise any of its authority. What happened to the once-prolific Berberian, whose prodigious output appeared on labels like MGM, Roulette, and Verve? Nothing dramatic. He still makes music, but he simply allowed his life to diversify in other directions.  

The John Berberian Ensemble - "Oud Solo" (1966)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Marsyas - "Studená Koupel" (1982)

Named after the Greek mythological figure who challenged Apollo to a flute contest, the Czech folk-rock group Marsyas's debut LP appeared in 1978 and they've recorded a few live reunion albums in recent years. Their second album, from 1982, contains a soothing, organic cover version of Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "From the Beginning" that sounds as though Crosby, Stills, and Nash could have consulted on the vocal arrangement. From what I gather, the words' meanings are quite different from the original, with the title translating to "cold bath."

Marsyas - "Studená Koupel"

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Antonio Giron - "Corrido a Honduras" (1955)

Tucked away on this 1955 Folkways release, which otherwise has a field recording sound, is a quite polished "ballad for Honduras." The song's main thrust is loyalty to the beautiful Central American country, but it also name-checks both the national hero Morazán (a freedom fighter and eventual president of the Federation of Central American States who fell to an assassin in 1842) and the Virgin of Suyapa, patroness of Honduras.

Why do the liner notes, written by Doris Stone, go out of their way to keep the suave-sounding performer of "Corrido a Honduras" a mystery? This is a mystery in itself. Is it to preserve an aura of authenticity for Peter K. Smith's field recordings? Performing credits go to "Instrument: Guitar," and a footnote cranes its head in to point out that the contracted usage of "que ellos" is typical of songs "not sung by a professional singer." Writing credit, though, is given to a man named Antonio Giron, so I'll assume that the performance, worthy of much better recognition and respect, is also by him.

Antonio Giron - "Corrido a Honduras" (1955)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Mazhar and Fuat - "Adımız miskindir bizim" (1974)

This song's Sufi-tinged title translates to "they call us mystics," and it's the kind of alluring Turkish folk-rock I could spend a lifetime listening to. An online translation of the first verse leaves me entirely satisfied: "We're called mystics, our enemy is called malice. We hold grudges about no one because all creation is one." The bad news: Mazhar and Fuat eventually added a third member, whose first name was Özkan, which turned them into MFÖ, a trio who represented Turkey twice in the '80s with two synth-cheese entries.

Mazhar and Fuat - "Adımız miskindir bizim" (1974)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Zainidin Imanaliev - "Gül (Flower)" (2006)

This Folkways Kyrgyz release includes a number of performers, but it's Zainidin Imanaliev, the man on the cover, who's doing the song I'm linking to. He plays the komuz, a pear-shaped instrument with a long neck that you see players holding upside down (as he does in the photo) or cradling guitar-style.

The song tells of hollyhocks and nightingales who "cling to the flowers" like dew and "exchange glances." It's written by Atai Ogonbaev, the region's best-known bard, who lived from 1904 to 1949. Songs such as this, according to the notes, express a general optimism wafting through early thirties Kyrgyzstan, notwithstanding Soviet occupation. ("Our spirits rise and we open up [like fine flowers] in this new era," goes the final verse.)

Listening to this mountain music, with its sunny strums and falsetto phrase-endings, I wonder how it might sound coming from an Appalachian interpreter.  

Zainidin Imanaliev - "Gül (Flower)" (2006)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Lionel Loueke - "Rossignol" (2007)

On his 2007 Virgin Forest album, guitarist Lionel Luoeke mixes his West African roots and his jazz chops into an especially fine purée. As you can hear on this track, the sound is entrancing and organic, featuring chanted vocals that could be sung in Fon or French - the prevalent languages in his native Benin. Or Loueke could be using a lexicon of his own invention, for all I know. Whichever it is, it gets my attention. (The female voice on "Rossingol" and others on the album belong to Gretchen Parlato.) Loueke is currently based in New York City.

Lionel Loueke - "Rossignol" (2007)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Khalifa Ould Eide and Dimi Mint Abba - "Art's Plume (Sawt Elfan)" (1990)

The late Moorish singer Dimi Mint Abba's clarion vocals relayed key cultural info in songs that stretched out like the sand-dune landscapes of her native Mauritania. Her 1990 album on the World Circuit label, a collaboration with Khalifa Ould Eide on the West African lute, gave her a boost in overseas recognition. This song features especially dextrous instrumentation and lyrics to live by: "Art's plume is a balsam, a weapon and guide enlightening the spirit of men."

Khalifa Ould Eide and Dimi Mint Abba - "Art's Plume (Sawt Elfan)" (1990)