Having spent a week in August during my 50th birthday celebration and being hosted by my friend, Béla, I was treated to some new Hungarian bands I had, up until this point, never heard of. One which stood out was the Hobo Blues Band.
A late night of doing paperwork for an upcoming trip to Hungary and move to Czechia brought me to this absolute gem of a folk-prog album. Yoshiko Sai released a few albums in the mid-1970s which were not well-received at the time, but listeners’ tastes have finally caught up with her mellow, trippy, slightly psychedelic songs.
Mojito, his latest hit, has busted charts in China, and just might have the possibility of crossing over in Europe, the U.S. and Latin America. He mixed his version of C-Pop with Cuban music, making a song that flows rather nicely. Chou is actually noted for being revolutionary in the Chinese music business as being able to blend Western and Eastern music into a cocktail that isn’t saccharine or cheesy.
This is probably the best modern pop song to come out of China in the last 10 years, at least to my taste. It’s my hope that with Chou’s rather brave (for China) mixing of cultures that producers there will start implementing more and more culture-blending in their music scene.
I thank my former student, Alyssa, who kindly introduced me to his music recently. One of the great benefits of teaching in China was to have students like her introduce me to part of the popular culture I would have otherwise missed. I’m indebted to her, and to all my kids who were kind enough to help keep me in the loop in Beijing.
It’s hard to believe a band which now sounds like a contemporary of Neil Young or other rock stars at their most reflective (and yes, that’s a compliment, as I still have a healthy respect for rock & roll music’s transformative powers) began their career as an utterly brutal agit-punk band, A Subtle Plague, whose first demo was produced by Beastie Boys legend Adam Yauch, if memory serves.
This particular song has a rather personal meaning explained to me by my dear friend and damn near older brother, Ekke. It’s perhaps too personal to get into here, but let’s say it’s a song based on the oldest of topics – love and loss.
The core members of The Durgas, Christopher and Benjii Simmersbach, have managed to maintain high music quality despite many personnel changes, genre changes, location changes and more. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them, and of course, I wish them continued success. They’re good lads from a good, good family.
I really like The Monkees. Sure, the TV show was a little corny, but the music was enjoyable. I particularly liked “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone,” which I always felt was their strongest track. I’ve heard Jimi Hendrix cover it, and of course the original done first by Paul Revere & The Raiders, and as wonderful as those were, they paled a bit to The Monkees‘ version.
The Flies, an English band, took a crack at it in 1966, and they slow it down just a touch, making the song that much more of a keeper.