Sad news from New York tonight. Ric Ocasek was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Sunday, law enforcement confirmed. Some reports say he was 75 and some say he was 70. Ric wrote some of the best pop hits of the late seventies and eighties for the Cars. The Cars were a big part […]
Listening to what I would assume is microtonalguitar work (if my friends would be so kind as to correct me, I would be much obliged) proved to be a very rewarding expeience. HJ Ayala, a friend of this blog, collaborates with cellist Stéphane Clor in this release clocking in at just under 40 minutes. This is a quiet release, but the interplay between guitar and cello seems to intricate that it managed to hold my attention throughout. I’m already a fan of Ayala’s guitar playing, so I’m not surprised he continues to release improvisational music of such great quality, but it’s nice to see him collaborate with Clor, whose work I had never heard until today. A recommended disc.
I can’t say I know much about DjClick, who is an electro DJ and remixer based out of Paris. I know even less about the Alaev Family, who are traditional musicians from Tajikistan. The pairing of these two, however, leaves a spectacular impression. Deep, ancient grooves are updated, not quite for the dance floor, but for powerful listening.
Never think that the Middle East is ignorant of current musical (or anti-musical) trends. They are probably better informed that a fair amount of their Western colleagues, and are making music that proves it. Once again, many thanks to the brilliant Raffaele Pezzella for being such a visionary.
Following the Anthology of contemporary music from the African continent, this new collection released by Unexplained Sounds Group, focuses on experimental and alternative music from the Middle East and includes artists from Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Israel, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Afghanistan, Cyprus. A kaleidoscope of sounds by artists rooted in their traditions, but at the same time projected towards the new frontiers of music. The minimal melody of Ahmed Saleh introduces us to the exploration of sound paths that unfold through the electronic experimentation of Cenk Ergun, the radical improvisation of Mazen Kerbaj, the pulsating and disturbed electronic of Tony Elieh, the noise drone of Nyctalllz, the tribal and psychedelic music, in the Velvet Underground style, by Afghan musician Naujawanan Baidar, the lysergic ambient of Bloom Tribe, just to mention some projects included in the compilation. An intricate and exciting sound puzzle in which the listener will find his favorite way to a new promised land of sound.
Santiago Fradejas’ latest release features him on electric guitar, with some effects, and he ends up making a sonic world which envelops you straightaway. For an experimental record, this one almost qualifies as pleasant listening, though there is always an element of tension and danger to each of his compositions. Seminal.
Few albums in the history of jazz created as much controversy as On the Corner, the album Miles Davis released in 1972. Stylistically, the music had very little to do with the jazz tradition, and was a departure from Davis’ already out-there jazz-rock explorations found on Bitches Brew and Live Evil, released a couple of…
In Western countries, when we speak about exotica, we think about the likes of Martin Denny, Les Baxter or Arthur Lyman. Musicians who created an exotic dream world by incorporating instruments and rhythms from other cultures in their compositions. The musical influences from Oceania, Asia, Africa, Latin America or the Orient provided a way for the listeners to wander off to an imaginary paradise and escape from their grey, daily routine.
In the late 50’s and the 60’s, it was not only in the West that people felt the need to flee from their regular life. In quite some countries that were considered to be ‘exotic’ from a Western point of view, you can find examples of composers who approached music in a similar way as their Western counterparts. They created their own imaginary paradise by adopting musical influences from other cultures.
We went through the archives of Sono Cairo, Disques Sharara and Misrphon to introduce the world to the exciting world of Egyptian exotica. You will hear Jazz, bolero, mambo, twist, … but with a different, unexpected feeling. What makes it interesting is that the Egyptian interpretations of the music from other ‘exotic’ countries are very similar in sound, then again very far from the musical traditions of the original country. Crossover styles in an early stage are always unique because different strong traditions can clash abominably but can also blend in a most harmonious way.
The first Egyptian composer who brought striking elements from other cultures into his music was Prof. Mohamed Abdel Wahab. Since the 1930’s his work was punctuated with Western classical music as well as rumba, bolero and tango. Many later composers in the Middle East, especially Egypt and Lebanon, followed his example.
As Cairo and Beirut were flourishing metropoles and beating hearts of cultural life, it’s needless to say that those places boosted the music and record industry. Since more than a century ago European record companies began to collaborate with the Arab music scene to press records, build top notch recording studios and invest in new record labels such as Baidaphon, Cairophon, Misrphon… The latter, which had a partnership with Philips, became nationalised around 1960 and a colonel of the Nasr regime occupied founder Mohamed Fawzy’s chair. Suddenly Fawzy became an employee of the Egyptian state and his salary decreased with 90%.
Sono Cairo, governmental institution, was the country’s national proud and during more than a decade they recorded hundreds of famous Egyptian singers but also artists of varied origin like French, Italian, Greek, Lebanese, African etc.. This big boom of cultural crossover and a sparkling nightlife called for new dancing rhythms and innovative styles. Egyptian movies were hyper popular throughout the Arab world and featured foxtrot, twist and cha-cha-cha. Talented composers were affected by the same craze and started to mix eastern themes and oriental makam with Latin rhythms and jazz harmonies. We tracked down a few Sono Cairo recordings by the great Cuban pianist Luis Varona (Tito Puente Orchestra) playing Exotica sounds à la Yma Sumac and we stumbled on a pair of massive mambo jazz instrumentals composed by Salah Ragab’s tenor sax player Sayed Salamah (tracklist).
We tried very hard to find information about the music and artists in the track list but most of the band members who played during those sessions are long gone and many tracks we selected from 45rpm records seemed to be difficult to identify by several old musicians and producers we interviewed. When we talk about the Sono Cairo archives we are mainly referring to the collection of records we build up during our travels to Cairo in the past 5 years. Upon consulting the digital catalog provided by the staff of Sono Cairo, we couldn’t find any of the selected track titles.
We especially want to use the term ‘Exotica’ because this type of music is so obscure and mysterious in a way to let your mind drift off to wherever it takes you, far away from the normal, the average, off to your own Shangri-la.
The songs on this compilation were licensed from the legendary Sono Cairo label, founded by Mohamed Fawzy during the late 50’s and later taken over by the Egyptian state. Sono Cairo was one of the most important record labels in the Arab world, producing records for many artists, among them, the biggest star of the Middle East, Oum Kalthoum. The heritage of this label is enormous and we’re working on several projects to reissue music from this wealthy catalog.
strom|morts have a very odd, warped take on electronic music which at ones reminds me of the weirder moments of Aphex Twin and something you would hear in a B-movie soundtrack or special effects catalog out of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (think Delia Derbyshire). And yes, this is high praise. The sounds are disconcerting, uneasy listening, and that’s precisely what has impressed me most.
Eurock Documentary Fundraiser from Don Slepian on Vimeo.
When I was growing up and getting into strange music during the early to mid-1980s, I had several resources I would go to monthly (or quarterly, after a while) to find out about anything that had to do with progressive rock: Audion, a magnificent English magazine which covered pretty much everything I liked at the time, and the American equivalent, Eurock. I had the pleasure of meeting Archie Patterson, the mag head, a few times when I was working at a record shop in Los Angeles, and the guy was absolutely brilliant.
Eurock has a 47-year history of giving their readers a peek at the best in avant-progressive music. He is working on a documentary on both the magazine and some of the musicians he has been doing business with for the past 40 years, including Gilbert Artman, Mikhail Chekalin and Luis Perez.