Sunday, November 27, 2005

Other Planes of There

For anyone who loves music from all over the world but who tires of the academic pieties of liner-note-heavy ethnographic field recordings or the coffee-sales-aids of much world music marketing, Sublime Frequencies provides a third way. The label takes a found-art, DIY, punk-scavenger ethic to recorded music from North Korea, Iraq, Cambodia, Mali and other hard-to-get-to spots. One of their releases, Bush Taxi Mali, seems to be an audio diary of someone with a digital tape recorder making their way from Bamako to Timbuktu. Cambodian Cassette Archives is a disc of Cambodian pop from the 1970s. The recordings were compiled from old cassettes found at a public library in California. A recent DVD featured musicians from Niger, some Tuareg guitar rock, some banjo-like gourd lute, some improvised drumming. Guitars of the Golden Triangle showcases Burmese guitar-pop with Southeast Asian slip-and-slide vocal melodies. These were salvaged from old reel-to-reels, and it shows. This track is called "Hopes and Goals," by Kuhn Paw Yann. Arthur Magazine and the NY Times have both run stories on the label recently. While it’s true that most of the musicians featured on Sublime Frequencies releases won’t ever see any royalties (not that the checks would be too fat anyway), the label’s curatorial and preservationist work is valuable and should be supported.

And this next one may not even be available on CD. Not sure. Originally released on a record called "Africa - Music of the Princes of Dahomey" on the Counterpoint/Esoteric branch of Everest Records, this track features the brothers Alberic and Frederic Glele singing out the components of the rhythm, "Niegpadoudou," which is performed as part of a festival to honor the ancient kings of Dahomey. This is, as they say, "strictly for demonstration purposes." The brothers are singing out the patterns of the rhythm; it’s not a performance, but rather more of a teaching example. Still pretty funky. Something like the solkattu of South Indian music.

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