Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Listen, Brahms, Hungarian Dance 1 in G Minor is great, but I gotta say, you don't look like much of a gypsy."



A couple of years ago, I wrote about the Awesome Tapes in Africa blog in a column in the Montreal Mirror, referring to it as "a tightly-wrapped gift from another globe-trotting trust fund brat." Naturally, the maligned blogger took the time to fire me off a feisty e-mail calling me names and proclaiming just how very un-trust-funded he was. In my defense, I thought it came across a little more tongue-in-cheek when I wrote than, well, now, when I read it.

Truthfully, I don't care if someone's parents kicks in cash to underwrite their aimless bohemian wanderings, and as for all of the arguments about the cultural politics of consumption and authenticity in music and appropriation? Well, I find them all incredibly tiring. I don't really have better things to do than read page upon page of music nerds trying to assuage a guilt that I guarantee they had to fortify with a whole lotta critical theory before it turned to shock n' outrage, but I like to think that I do. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

And all that time spent so that we can navigate some hierarchy of maligned cultures that's constantly in flux in order to properly understand, listen to and create music? If Vampire Weekend wasn't around, we'd all be listening to Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Riiiiiiiiight.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Orchestre Afrizam. These songs are from 20ème siècle Ike Ike, recorded around 1973 (or so). The songs are inspired by Congolese dances, Zébola and the Kwassa Kwassa. That's not entirely correct, as Zébola is a term that refers to an ailment (a woman is attacked and possessed by an evil spirit) and also a therapeutic treatment (the woman enters a trance, identifies the spirit and later completes a series of complicated dances. Having thus wooed the spirit, the spirit turns benevolent.) The silk-voiced crooner is Mr. Pepe Ndombe. Ghana and Nigeria tend to hog all of the attention when it comes to blogged Pan-African pop from the 60s and 70s, thanks in part to the continuing popularity of Fela Kuti and some highly-regarded and highly-recommended compilations that Soundways (like Ghana Soundz) put out a couple of years ago, but the Democratic Republic of Congo has a lot of very worthwhile stuff as well. (For example, Orchestre TP OK Jazz).

1 comment:

Nate said...

Thanks for the great songs.
I made a mashup of "Kenga" and "Warning" by B.I.G. that you can listen to and download here...you know, if you're interested:

http://aaaaeeaaeeee.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/in-celebration-of-warmth/