Monday music: for Jams

It’s been a long while since I did this, but I was moved to hear of the death of my friend Shaun Downey, also known as blogger Jams O’Donnell of The Poor Mouth. Read an obituary here. The first of these songs are Bebo Valdés, the wonderful Cuban pianist who died on the same day as Shaun. I don’t know if Shaun liked his music, but I think he probably would. The other songs are songs that I know he did like.

Bebo Valdés: Diane

Bebo Valdés & Diego El Cigala: Veinte Anos

Mari Boine: Cuovgi Liekkas

Mor Karbasi: La Pluma

Rajna: Epidauros

Mindful of the fact that neglected blogs are so easily hacked and stolen, I plan to re-post, with attribution, Jams’ series of extraordinary posts on the great Red Cushing, over the next couple of weeks.

No Direction Home

“Harsh voiced and nasal, his guitar hanging like a tire iron on a rusty rim, there is nothing sweet about Woody, and there is nothing sweet about the songs he sings. But there is something more important for those who will listen. There is the will of the people to endure and fight against oppression. I think we call this the American spirit.” John Steinbeck on Woody Guthrie

From Mick Hartley:

A particularly poignant image from Dorothea Lange:

SHORPY_lange8b38486a
[Photo: Shorpy/Dorothea Lange for the Resettlement Administration]

August 1936. “Example of self-resettlement in California. Oklahoma farm family on highway between Blythe and Indio. Forced by the drought of 1936 to abandon their farm, they set out with their children to drive to California. Picking cotton in Arizona for a day or two at a time gave them enough for food and gas to continue. On this day they were within a day’s travel of their destination, Bakersfield. Their car had broken down en route and was abandoned.”

Full size.

As it’s Music Monday, and I haven’t honoured it for a while, here’s some songs. The road in the picture must be Route 466, the road that leaves the iconic Route 66 at Kingman, Arizona, ran through Bakersfield on to the California coast. These were the routes that carried thousands of migrants westward from the ecological and economic disaster of the Dust Bowl: half a million Americans made homeless, 15% of Oklahoma’s population moving to California.

Here’s Woody Guthrie and “Dust Cain’t Kill Me”, from his Dust Bowel Ballads, which Steinbeck was describing in the quote at the start of this post.

And here is Red Kilby doing “Bakersfield Sound”, explaining and celebrating the amazing musical culture created by the dustbowl migrants and their children in the interior of California. That’s the great Ralph Mooney on steel guitar; he passed away last year: incredibly influential in country music, but little known outside it.

Here’s a young ex-con Merle Haggard  singing “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive”  (“Down every road, there’s always one more city/I’m on the run, the highway is my home“) on the Buck Owens Ranch Show. Owens was the king of the Bakersfield sound.

And finally, here’s Merle again, with his Okie anthem, “Okie from Muskogee“, with Willie Nelson, in a lovely self-parodic mode:

Merle HaggardWorking Man’s Blues; Jesus ChristWoody Guthrie at 100Vigilante Man; Hobo’s Lullaby.

Music Mondays: Cante Flamenco

For the Sake of the Song, a fantastic music blog, occassionally posts briliant Spanish music, and I have linked there before in this series, I think. Here’s the lastest:

[...] a quartet of fantastic flamenco pieces from thirties Spain. Featuring Pepe Pinto, Antonio Mairena, Manolita from Jerez, and last but not least the legendary Tomás Pavon. ¡Palmas y agua!
Pepe Pinto – Hermanita, Sientate A Mi Vera Cuando Querra La Virgen Del Mayor Dolor
Antonio Mairena – Soleá De Alcalá
Manolita De Jerez – Bulerias
Tomás Pavon – Cantes De Triana

This release is on Arhoolie, mainly a bluegrass label, although it also carries loads of stuf by the great Flaco Jimenez. Some of the music is incerdibly rare. These are almost all Gyspy singers, who hunkered down in the years of the Spanish Civil War and Franco dictatorship, playing in late night dives in the urban ghettos of Andalusia. They sang a deep, rough, almost orgasmic cante flamenco, at a time when the fashion (and, after Franco’s victory, state approval) was for a more Castillian, operatic, smooth, flamboyant style. (more…)

Music Mondays: Woody Guthrie at 100

[This post is cross-posted from Bob's Beats]

Saturday would have been Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday (thanks to Carl for blogging about this already). Woody Guthrie is one of my favourite singers, and surely one of the greatest ever songwriters as well as a great American radical. As a wordsmith, he is up there with Bob Dylan (whose whole oeuvre is un-imaginable without Guthrie’s influence), with John Steinbeck or Kenneth Patchen.

My mother brought me up on Woody, and I believe her parents brought her up on him. I’ve passed him on to my sons, who sing songs like “Pretty Boy Floyd” and the Car Song.

A number of blogs have featured nice tributes to him: my comrade Jim Denham at Shiraz Socialist, Ernie at 27 Leggies, and Boyhowdy at Cover Lay Down. That last one is covers, of which Jeffrey Foucault’s “Philadelphia Lawyer“, John McCutcheon’ “1913 Massacre“, Pierce Pettis’ “Pastures Of Plenty” and Slaid Cleaves‘ “This Morning I Am Born Again” are particularly good. Beck is not up there with them, but is surprisingly good.

I’ve written a fair amount on Woody before, at BobFromBrockley and Poumista. Here’s some links: “Folk music”, folk music, trad jazz, and the trad left; This Land Is Our Land; Good and bad versions of Deportees; Our Humanly Race; Stalinist songs of the Spanish Civil War (scroll down); Jesus Christ; We Shall Be Free; Vigilante Man; Hobo’s Lullaby.

Like Jim, I have reservations about a hagiographic approach to Woody Guthrie, who was at the very least a close fellow traveller of the Communist Party at a time when the Stalinist regime was committing some of the worst crimes of the twentieth century. (Jim recommends Scott Borchert’s very interesting “Woody Guthrie: Redder than Remembered” from Monthly Review.) But that does not diminish him as an artist in my eyes.

I’ve had a hard time choosing which song to accompany with post with, but I think “Jesus Christ”, which Carl’s post featured, is the right one:

Published in: on July 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm  Comments (3)  
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Music Mondays: Flamenco Candido

Kellie of Airforce Amazons has a post about his first and last vinyl LPs at Bob’s Beats. This is an extract from that:

The other early LPs I remember my brother and I listening to were two Burl Ives LPs, and a loud flamenco record: Flamenco Candido, by The Curro Amaya Dancers with Domingo Albarado, vocal, and Juan Jiminez, guitar. The record was first published in 1959, but ours was a later reissue on the Pye Golden Guinea label.

Flamenco Candido back of sleeve

Here is another Amaya, Carmen Amaya performing Buleria from a 1963 film, Los Tarantos. I think Curro Amaya was Carmen Amaya’s nephew, and Buleria is also included on his LP. More about the Amaya family on Omayra Amaya’s website.

So, here is the guitarist, Juan Jimenez, with the great dancer Eduardo Serrano Iglesias, El Güito, again performing a bulerías.

And here is a granaína taken from a Curro Amaya record:

Music Mondays: El Grito

Contentious Centrist writes:

In the art of poetry, silence is usually a fraction of a void, an emptiness, a pause, between words that sound and resound. And for some poets, the silence can only be contrasted by a great scream of emotion or anguish or joy.

Lorca was such a poet.

None understand better the meaning of the cry (“el grito”) — the scream, the howl, that is punctuated by short, stylized silences — than the Spaniards, with their Flamenco, their duende, and the immensity of feeling they funnel through their poetry and music.

“Not unlike the guitar, in fact, the voice of the cantator is considered an instrument of the cry, the cry that dares to break the silence, just as the hands are an instrument to break the stillness, and the feet. “

The Cry

The ellipse of a cry
echoes from mountain
to mountain.

From the olive trees
a black rainbow
veils the blue night.

Ay!

Like the bow of a viola
the cry vibrates long strings
of wind.

(Translated by Ralph Angel)

There are two different choral settings of El Grito, one by Argentinian composer Maria de los Angeles cuca Esteves (here) and one by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (below). To be honest, I don’t much like either one. Although they do use silence and are powerfully unsettling, they lack duende. Would you agree?

Music Mondays: Tiene Corazón

I just read this post at one of my favourite blogs, For the Sake of the Song:

Back with the only album I managed to score during a wonderful but busy trip to my beautiful Catalunya: Canastera. One of the few Camarón classics I didn’t own yet, it’s another collaboration with the mighty Paco De Lucía on guitar. Here’s two choice cuts, sung straight from the heart as always.
El Camarón De La Isla – No Dudes De La Nobleza
El Camarón De La Isla – Las Campanas También Lloran

Here is a YouTube video of “No Dudes De La Nobleza”. The song is a fandango, I think written by Antonio de la Calzá, from Seville, and it celebrates Gitano (Gypsy) identity, which was quite subversive in 1972, the dusk of the Franco dictatorship, when Camarón and De Lucía made this record, the fourth in their string of more or less annual collaborations in this period.

Published in: on June 4, 2012 at 8:41 am  Leave a Comment  
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Monday music: New York mining disaster 1941

In memory of Robin Gibbs, and suggested by Entdinglichung, the Bee Gees

Brilliant lyrics. According to Wikipedia:

The song recounts the story of a miner trapped in a cave-in. He is sharing a photo of his wife with a colleague (“Mr. Jones”) while they hopelessly wait to be rescued. According to the liner notes for their box-set Tales from the Brothers Gibb (1990), this song was inspired by the 1966 Aberfan mining disaster in Wales. The song’s lyrics do not contain the song’s title.[1] However, some copies were pressed with the title “New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones?)”, as the bracketed subtitle does appear in the lyrics of the song. In the second and third verses, the lyrical lines get slower and slower, as to indicate that life is about to expire for the miners.

There are stodgy stodgy, dreary covers by The Levellers and Martin Carthy, and a much better a cappella version by Chumbawamba: (more…)

Published in: on May 21, 2012 at 3:01 pm  Comments (1)  
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Music Mondays: Los Jaivas

Los Jaivas: Mira Niñita (1972)

From the great music blog, Rising Storm:

To the average Chilean, writing an article about Los Jaivas’ 1972 sophomore record La Ventana may very well read like beating a dead horse. Indeed, there is perhaps no single band here in Chile which has become more representative of Chilean culture and patria than this psychedelic folk-rock ensemble, and no song more universally known than their anthem of popular unity and brotherhood, “Todos Juntos.” Though the band was born from the great social and political revolutions of the early 1970s, they are today accepted even by the more conservatively minded members of the populace as, at the very least, an established symbol of Chile’s national artistic identity.

[...]  Though the concept of combining late-1960s rock and roll with traditional Chilean folk music may not seem so novel today, at the time there was a strong gap between the folksingers and the mainstream rock and roll youth crowd. Like everything in Chile, this was a conflict born out of radical politics and social consciousness as the country tried to break the stranglehold countries like the United States and Britain had on its economic and cultural life. Los Jaivas refused to accept this unnecessary barrier between musics, however, recognizing both the radical consciousness and importance of their country’s folkloric movement as well as the raw excitement and appeal of the burgeoning psychedelic rock scene.

[...] The band’s fight to draw the threads of Chilean music together was strengthened by the participation of Patricio Castillo and Julio Numhauser, former members of the revolutionary Nueva Canción ensemble Quilapayún, then working in their own way to help build Chilean folk-rock as Los Amerindios. [...]

Following the success of the song “Todos Juntos” La Ventana was reissued under the same name with new album artwork adhering to the progressive rock aesthetics that the band began to take on in the later seventies. The record is widely available in Chile and neighboring countries, but somewhat more difficult to come by north of the equator. Import Chilean copies include several bonus tracks that, while not essential, help to expand the album’s artistic scope and give further testimony to the group’s ground-breaking work during this era.

mp3: Todos Juntos
mp3: Indio Hermano

:) CD Reissue | Ans Records | buy here ]

Written by  |
The band took refuge in Argentina after the military dictatorship took over in Chile in 1973. In 1977; they headed to France, where they resided for a long time. Lots more information here.

Music Mondays: Grândola, Vila Morena

On every corner, a friend
In every face, equality
Grândola, swarthy town
Land of brotherhood

Zeca Afonso: Grândola, Vila Morena

Today’s song is from History is Made at Night. Here’s a short extract from a great post.

n April 1974, left leaning military officers overthrew the Portuguese dictatorship and ended its colonial wars in Africa. For the next two years Portugal was in turmoil, with workers taking over workplaces and many hoping to push the revolution further. The radio stations were one of the key sites of struggle, in particular Rádio Renascença.

The Revolution Started with a Song by John Hoyland (Street Life, November 1 1975): 

‘3 am, April 25 1974. By prior arrangement with the rebel Armed Forces Movement (AFM), a DJ on Lisbon’s Radio Renascenca plays ‘Grandola, Vila Morena’, a popular song of the day whose possible subversive meaning had escaped the censor’s ears. The song is a signal for a military uprising that, with scarcely any opposition, overthrows the Caetano Government, and brings to an end 50 years of fascism in Portugal. The next day, the people pour into the streets, and give the soldiers red carnations. The soldiers stick the flowers in their guns…’

Previous: The music of the carnation revolution, The Carnation revolution, Anarchist fado.

Music Mondays: Songstresses

Three women singers tonight. First, via Martin in the Margins, the sadly departed and truly great Cesaria Evora.

Second, via Mike Killingworth, Maria Farantouri, socialist and anti-fascist, performing “Asma Asmaton” (Song of Songs). The first of four songs of the “Ballad of Mauthauzen”, a set of songs inspired by the experiences in the Mauthauzen death camp.

Third, via Mike Killingworth, via Jams O’Donnell: Mari Boine, Sami ant-racist.

Published in: on December 19, 2011 at 8:05 pm  Comments (1)  
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Music Mondays: Montserrat Figueras

Montserrat Figueras, the great Catalan soprano, died in Cerdanyola del Vallès on 23 November, after a long struggle with cancer. Here are two wonderful songs, via Entdinglichung. The first is Hespèrion XX, her ensemble, singing a gorgeous Sephardic Jewish song.

The second, recorded in 1988, is “El Cant de la Sibil·la“, the song of the Sybil, “a liturgical drama and a Gregorian chant, the lyrics of which compose a prophecy describing the Apocalypse, which has been performed at some churches of Mallorca (Balearic Islands, Spain) and L’Alguer or Alghero (Sardinia, Italy) in Catalan language on Christmas Eve nearly uninterrruptedly since medieval times… The Song of the Sibyl was almost totally abandoned throughout Europe after the Council of Trent (held in 25 sessions from 1545 to 1563) declared its performance was forbidden. Nevertheless, it was restored on Mallorca as soon as in 1575.” Interestingly, the great leftist musicologist Alan Lomax recorded a fragment of a version during his Balearic fieldtrip of 1952, in the Franco years. Franco of course suppressed Catalan language, and Figueras and her husband Jordi Savall lived in exile in Switzerland until after Spain democratisation in the 1980s. The decision of Hesperion XX, formed in 1974, to record Catalan songs (and to recover the repressed memory of Jewish Iberia) was thus an act of defiance against the Francoist regime.

These songs are part of an on-going series on Catalan music. Previously, I have featured Jordi Barre, Pau Casals, Isaac Albinez, Enrique Granados, and Enrique Morente.

Music Mondays: The Marion Massacre

From Gene at Harry’s Place:

“The Marion Masscre,” recorded in 1929 by the duo of Welling and McGhee, is about the deaths of striking textile mill workers in Marion, North Carolina, in a confrontation with sheriff’s deputies.

‘Tis ere the same old story
With the laborers of our land.
They’re ruled by mighty powers,
And riches they command.

If Paul Ryan and his fellow Republicans think that requiring the very rich to pay at least the same rate of taxes as the middle class is class warfare, imagine how they would react to words like those.

Note the remarkable combination of class warfare and old-time gospel, of a kind regrettably rare these days.

Why is it over money,
These men from their friends must part,
Leaving home and loved ones
With a bleeding, broken heart?

But some day they’ll meet them
On that bright shore so fair,
And live in peace forever,
There’ll be no sorrow there.

Credits: Welling and McGhee (Billed as The Martin Brother)(Frank Welling [vocal, steel guitar], John McGhee [vocal, guitar]) New York c October 1929. On Paramount Old Time Recordings box set 2006.

More about Benjamin Franklin (Frank) Welling here. (more…)

Published in: on December 5, 2011 at 6:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Music Mondays: Anarchist fado

Via Sam Geall’s Twitter, here is some rare anarchist fado.

According to the info on YouTube, this is a clip from the documentary Mariza and the Story of Fado.

Here are the lyrics: (more…)

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm  Comments (1)  
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Music Mondays: Aurelio Martinez

Aurelio Martinez: Tio Sam

Aurelio Martinez, Garifuna musician and activist from Honduras, sings about migrants in the US. The album, Laru Beya, is on Real World, and is a tribute to the late, wonderful Andy Palacio. Part of it was recorded in Senegal, and the title, meaning “On the beach”, refers both to the coastal lives of the Garifuna and to the experience of seeing the coastal forts where Africans were taken out of the continent into New World slavery.

But by the time the Grammy-nominated album Watina was released in 2007 by his Belizean friend Andy Palacio, Aurelio was off the radar. He’d gone into politics – spending four years in the Honduran congress, the first   politician of African descent in the country’s history.

Four years was long enough: “Corruption, discrimination, everywhere. No one was interested in indigenous rights, only in getting rich. And I had no time for music,” he says. “But through music I can reach out to everyone.”

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Music Mondays: Cable Street

The Men They Couldn’t Hang: The Ghosts of Cable Street

[The whole story here, including event listing below the fold. (more…)

Music Mondays: Manu Chao

Mano Negra: Malo Vida

Published in: on September 26, 2011 at 10:32 am  Comments (1)  
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Music Mondays: Irhal

Ramy Essam: Irhal

The skinny:

Irhal means ‘leave’ (as an imperative) in Arabic and became the anthem of the Egyptian protests in Tahrir Square against President Mubarak’s dictatorial regime.

Popular poetry, improvised colloquial verse and a mix of high and low Arabic characterised the protest’s political slogans, and singer Ramy Essam set this particular chant to a simple acoustic guitar backing. He became a YouTube sensation and a revolutionary figurehead of the Arab Spring.

Mubarak finally got the message to ‘Irhal’ and was forced to resign, but when Essam returned to the square after this historic announcement, he was identified as an agitator, arrested and detained for four hours, during which time he was beaten and Tasered.

‘Irhal’ is one of the most influential songs on the mordern age. And so it should be, considering the source material: the song itself was stitched together from the catchiest chants Essam heard while camped out in Tahrir Square.

But what really makes ‘Irhal’ significant is how it caught the public imagination, and conscience, at precisely the right moment. ‘Irhal’ struck a resonant chord with Egypt’s dissatisfied citizens, and the rest is, literally, history. It’s this ability to give a unified voice to a disparate crowd which makes music such a powerful catalyst. Intriguingly, the acoustic flamenco stylings of ‘Irhal’ belie Essam’s actual musical tastes, which run more toward metal. He didn’t think he could make a living playting heavy rock, however, so it’ll be interesting to see if ‘Irhal’ opens up a new future for him.

Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 6:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Monday music: 11 September

…not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious. (Walter Benjamin, died Catulunya, September 1940)

So we set out, with cameras at the ready, for New York, another city of my dreams assaulted on another September 11, again a Tuesday morning when fire fell from the sky. Though by 2001 very few people in the world recalled the existence of that remote Chilean date, I was besieged by the need to extract some hidden meaning behind the juxtaposition and coincidence of those twinned episodes bequeathed to me by the malignant gods of random history. There was something horribly familiar in that experience of disaster, confirmed during my visit to the ruins where the twin towers had once reached for the sky… every citizen of the United States forced to look into the chasm of what it means to be desaparecido, with no certainty or funeral possible for those who are missing. The photographs were still there in 2006, pinned on the wires separating the ogling spectators from the abyss… (Ariel Dorfman, 2 September, 2011)

Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the horrific attacks on New York and Washington, carried out by far right Islamists. Below, Bruce Springsteen’s “My city of ruins fanfare for the common men and women killed that day, and his hope for a new, better tomorrow. 9/11 is of course also the anniversary of the 1973 military coup in Chile, which replaced Allende’s elected government with one of the most brutal dictatorships of our time, a dictatorship supported by the American and British governments.

In the first months after the coup d’état, the military killed thousands of Chilean Leftists, both real and suspected, or forced their “disappearance“. The military imprisoned 40,000 political enemies in the National Stadium of Chile… In October 1973, the Chilean song-writerVíctor Jara, and 70 other political killings were perpetrated by the death squad, Caravan of Death (Caravana de la Muerte). The government arrested some 130,000 people in a three-year period; the dead and disappeared numbered thousands in the first months of the military government.

Below, for all the victims of Pinochet’s regime, Victor Jara‘s “Preguntitas sobre Dios” (Little Questions About God), written by Atahualpa Yupanqui.

One day I asked grandfather ¿where is God? My grandfather was sad and gave me no answer. My grandfather died in the field without prayers or confessions, and was buried with the Indian bamboo flute and drum. When I asked ¿father where is God?  my father got serious and gave me no answer. My father died in the mine without doctor or confession, sweating the miner’s blood for the boss’s gold, and was buried with the Indian bamboo flute and drum… I sing when I am free and when I’m in prison I feel the voices of the people who sing better than me… God watches over the poor, maybe yes or maybe not but he surely lunches at the table of the boss.

September 11 is also the Catalan national day. Being an anti-nationalist, I will not play the turgid Catalan national anthem, “Els Segadors“, but rather “El Cant dels Ocell” (The Song of the Birds), a Catalan folk song which Pau Casals always played at the end of his concerts, looking forward to the moment when Catalonia would be free of fascism, and when humanity as a whole would be free.

From Ariel Dorfman’s Open Letter to America:

How could I not wish you well? You gave me, an americano from the Latino South, this language of love that I return to you. You gave me the hot summer afternoons of my childhood in Queens when my starkest choice was whether to buy a Popsicle from the Good Humor Man or the fat driver of the Bungalow Bar truck. And then back to calculating Jackie Robinson’s batting average. How could I not wish you well? You gave me refuge when I was barely a toddler, my family fleeing the fascist thugs in Argentina in the mid-Forties. One of you then. Still one of you now. How could I not wish you well? Years later, again it was to America I came with my own family, an exile from the Chile of Pinochet you helped to spawn into existence on precisely an 11 September, another Tuesday of doom. And yet, still wishing you well, America: you offered me the freedom to speak out that I did not have in Santiago, you gave me the opportunity to write and teach, you gave me a gringa grand-daughter, how could I not love the house she lives in?

Where is that America of mine? Where is that other America? Where is the America of ‘as I would not be a slave so would I not be a master’, the America of this ‘land is our land this land was meant for you and me’, the America of all men, and all women, everyone of us on this ravaged, glorious earth of ours, all of us, created equal? Created equal: one baby in Afghanistan or Iraq as sacred as one baby in Minneapolis. Where is my America? The America that taught me tolerance of every race and every religion, that filled me with pioneer energy, that is generous to a fault when catastrophes strike?

Monday music: Lhasa: I crawl under the sky And the clouds of winter

(more…)

Published in: on September 5, 2011 at 1:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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