Friday, September 30, 2011

Dons, Gamblers and Surfing Swamis: DJ Shadow and The Automator

Released to some consternation and confusion many years ago by the DJ known as Shadow before he hit the global headlines, Bombay the Hard Way: Guns, Cars and Sitars is the pre-weekend feature today.
DJ Shadow

Mixing it up with him is another passionately confused man Dan ‘The Automator’ Nakamura of San Francisco, California.

Bollywood music was loved by hundreds of millions Indians, Arabs, Cambodians, Africans and Russians but never registered on the radars of the guys who controlled the big markets.    A few adventurous types like David Byrne of Talking Heads fame trumpeted the kaleidoscope-y grooves to small nerdy audiences of music pinheads in the early 90s. No one took notice.

Dan 'the Automator' Nakamura

But somewhere along the way the dam burst. Suddenly shops and movies and books were full of the music I grew up with and picture of the idols I fantastised about.  Everyone jumped on the Bollywood bandwagon. They even have Bollywood line dancing down the streets of Melbourne these days!

But in that quiet moment just before the storm DJ Shadow and Automator put together this mix of Bombay action soundtrack cuts with some masala of their own from the bawarchikhana (kitchen) of the electronic dance hall.

Chillout ambient music with a difference. Not to mention, Amitabh’s golden chords chiming in like a god from the Himalayan heights.

            Track Listing:
01.  Bombay 405 Miles
02.  The Good, The Bad, and The Chu
03.  My Guru
04.  Ganges a Go-Go
05.  The Great Gambler
06.  Professor Pyarelal
07.  Fists of Curry
08.  Punjabis, Pimps, and Players
09.  Inspector Jay from Delhi
10.  Satchidananda
11.  Theme From Don
12.  Fear of a Brown Planet
13.  Uptown Bollywood Nights
14.  Kundan's Hideout
15.  Swami Safari
Listen here.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Those Were the Days: Dave Brubeck Quartet

Dave Brubeck in Kabul (1958)

Sticking to the theme of better days of Afghanistan and its musical history, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that in the late 1950s and early 60s, Kabul was a regular stop for American musicians on their global tours. 
Duke Ellington touches down in Kabul

The Meridian International Center (about whose existence I was informed by an old dost, Hannah) has a wonderful site dedicated to documenting the history (albeit cultural and positive aspects, not so much the recent more ambivalent aspects) of American-Afghan relations. The Center’s basic premise that “cultural exchanges and exhibitions serve as catalysts for greater mutual understanding” is one I have no problem with and indeed endorse wholeheartedly. As another follower of the Dog said recently, "I've decided that MUSIC is just about the only thing that can be a force for Good in the world 'cause it's just about the only thing that can touch and move the human heart."

Kuchi lady

Today’s post features the West-coast jazz of the hugely popular (and not uncontroversial) Dave Brubeck.  His band visited Afghanistan in 1958 and soon thereafter released an album called Jazz Impressions of Eurasia. One of the tracks, Nomad was inspired by the Afghan kuchi nomads that tend the large herds of camels all across the southern and eastern parts of the country.
Transcript of "Nomad"

The album cover itself is a lot of fun. And historical. Not only is Pan Am such a cipher for a certain, more certain age of American involvement in the world but the goofy turban that Dave sports on his head is, I suppose, some art director’s attempt to bottle the essence of ‘East’.

Now all we can hope for is that one day soon such exchanges begin again. How about Bob Dylan in Badakhshan! Or JJ Cale visits Jalalabad. Or Mose Allison rocks Mazar-e-Sharif?!

I’ll be first in line. Let me know how many tickets you want!

            Track Listing:
01.  Nomad
02.  Brandenburg Gate
03.  The Golden Horn
04.  Thank you (Dziekuje)
05.  Marble Arch
06.  Calcutta Blues
Listen here

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Keeping the Music Alive: The Afghan Ensemble

 Music has had a rough trot in Afghanistan in the recent past. Banned and hated by the Taliban, cassette tapes and CDs were destroyed with the same sense of righteous fanaticism during their years in power as books were burned by the Nazis in the 1930s.

But things are on the up at the moment. An Afghan-Aussie recently went back to Kabul and with a grant from the World Bank set up the Afghanistan National Institute of Music.  Ahmad Sarmast’s school is open to boys and girls from the age of 10 years on and moves them through a 10 year course that delivers training in classical western and Afghan music. 

Pop music including a version of Afghanistan Idol is popular on TV and the radio. And there is renewed interest in the deep folk music tradition of Afghanistan too.  The music of Afghanistan has a strong folk base that was heavily influenced and shaped by classical Indian music when musicians from Punjab and Delhi came to Kabul to seek the patronage of the Afghan royal family in the mid nineteenth century.

The Afghan Ensemble is a group of musicians from Kabul, Kashmir, Iran and India who have come together to try to be a voice, like Ahmad Sarmast, for something other than bombs, hate, fanaticism and violence in that ancient land.

Afghan Ensemble

Zohreh Jooya, an Afghan-Iranian singer from Mashad is the ‘voice’ of the Ensemble. She was trained in the Western classical vocal tradition in Europe as well as in the classical music of Iran and Afghanistan. She has a Masters degree in music from the Arts University of Vienna. 

Ustad Hossein Arman studied in Afghanistan and in Europe and like Zohreh has an impressive musical CV. He was associated with Radio Kabul for years but then fled the country like so many other millions of this countrymen. Relocated in Switzerland he tours the world with the Ensemble committed to preserving the musical heritage of his country. 

Other members of the group are transplanted Indians who share a passion for Afghan music. Tonight’s post is collection of folk songs  from around Kabul interpreted by the Ensemble.

Though the songs are old and of the people they are treated with elegance and professionalism. The classical training and high musicianship of the group is impossible to miss.  Music of hope and a kind of resistance.

            Track Listing:
01 Ai Bote Berahm
02 Bahare Shauq
03 Dokhtare Bagh
04 Zim Zim Zim
05 Khorshid Gouna
06 Dokhtare Kuchi
07 Milade Ali
08 Nuri, Nuri
09 Molla Mamad Jan
10 Che Shawad
11 Dokhtare Kabul
12 Ai Doostan

Listen here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chai drinking music: Lakhbir 'Lovely' Singh

I wish I was in Delhi this morning.

If I was in Delhi this morning I would wander down to Paharganj.

In Paharaganj I would find a little dhaba where I could have breakfast.

I would order tea and chole bhatura.

I would watch the crowds grow and  get more frenetic as the sun rises higher in the sky.

I would ask the dhaba wala, “Who is singing that music you are playing so loud through your old soundsystem?”

He would reply, “Oh this is the voice of Lakhbir ‘Lovely’ Singh.

I would order another cup of tea, lean back in my chair and smile.

It is sweet tea.

It is sweet music.

            Track Listing:
         01 Koi Mausam Ho
02 Jiski Thi Arzoo
03 Tere Tan Badan Se
04 Thi Jisse Kabhi
05 Kisi Ne Kissi Se
06 Yaar Chahiye

Listen here

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Souls on Fire: The Neville Brothers

The Neville Brothers

The Neville Brothers have been in the business of soothing souls, bringing hope, peace and danceable grooves for about half a century.   While the Washerman’s Dog continues to hibernate, a hefty chunk of their peace-bringing groovy music is just what the doctor had in mind.

If you don’t know the Nevilles its never too late to get on the bandwagon. If you love them then perhaps you’ll enjoy this collection from a variety of places.

Play this music up load…even the soft ones. You’re going to dance and cry.

Peace and smiles. 

            Track Listing:
01 Brother Blood
02 Gossip
03 Tell Me What's on Your Mind
04 The Ten Commandments of Love
05 Yellow Moon
06 Fly Like An Eagle
07 Let My People Go
08 Saxafunk
09 Walking in the Shadow of Life
10 Rivers of Babylon
11 Soul To Soul
12 Family Groove.mp3
13 Steer Me Right
14 I'm Goin' Home (feat. Cyril Neville)
15 Fire on the Bayou
16 Sitting in Limbo
17 Rainy Night In Georgia (Feat. Chris Botti)
18 Stand By Me
19 Bo Diddley
20 Fire On The Mountain
21 Orisha Dance
22 Streets Are Callin'
23 Scrape Scat
24 Fire and Brimstone
25 Sister Rosa
26 Wake Up
27 Take Me To Heart
28 Holy Spirit
29 Sons and Daughters
30 Maori Chant
31 Hercules
32 Respect Yourself (Feat. Mavis Staples)
33 Let's Stay Together (Feat. Chaka Khan)
34 People Get ready (Feat. David Sanborn And Art Neville)
35 A Change Is Gonna Come
36 Bird on a Wire

Listen here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interlude: Peace Songs

Life is hectic sometimes. Now is one of those times.  So the Washerman's Dog is going to curl up under the stairs and uncomplicate things for a few days.  I leave you (temporarily) with some of my favourite songs about peace.  

Will return shortly with some more exciting music from Pakistan, India, America, Africa, and perhaps even Antartica.


        Track Listing:
 01 (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding [Elvis Costello and the Attractions]
02 The Ganesh Peace Spirit [New York Style Yoga]
03 Where Peaceful Waters Flow [Gladys Knight and the Pips]
04 Peace in the Valley [Jimmie Dale Gilmore]
05 Haunts Of Ancient Peace [Van Morrison]
06 (There'll Be ) Peace In The Valley [Elvis Presley]
07 Prince of Peace [Prince Far I and the Arabs]
08 Man of Peace [Bob Dylan] 
09 Peace Like A River [Paul Simon]
10 Voice Of Peace? [Sublime Frequencies]
11 Work for Peace [Gil Scott-Heron]
12 I Found My Peace Of Mind [Pee Wee Crayton]
13 The Creator Has a Masterplan (Peace) [Louis Armstrong and His Friends]
14 Peace Of Mind [Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths]
15 Peace Brother, Peace [Dr. John]

Listen here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Music for the Morning: Shivkumar Sharma

It was a glorious morning, sunny and bright, today.  The summer has come suddenly to Australia. While that might portend terrible things in the months to come for this driest of continents, for now the warm breeze blowing through the apartment is wonderfully welcome.

And so to mark the change of seasons let’s celebrate with an aptly named album by Shivkumar Sharma, The Glory of Dawn.  Foremost, and indeed, probably the only popularly renown santoor player, Shivkumar Sharma is in fine form on this 1985 release. Ably, nay, mesmeringly, accompanied by the great tabla maestro Zakir Hussain.
Zakir Hussain and Shivkumar Sharma
The santoor is an ancient Babylonian stringed musical instrument. It is a trapezoid-shaped hammered dulcimer often made of walnut, with seventy strings. The special-shaped mallets (mezrab) are lightweight and are held between the index and middle fingers. A typical santoor has two sets of bridges, providing a range of three octaves.
The Kashmiri santoor is more rectangular and can have more strings than the Persian counterpart, which generally has 72 strings. The santoor as used in Kashmiri classical music is played with a pair of curved mallets made of walnut wood and the resultant melodies are similar to the music of the harp, harpsichord, or piano. The sound chamber is also made of walnut wood and the bridges are made of local wood and painted dark like ebony. The strings are made of steel. It is especially popular in the folk music tradition of Kashmir. (Wikipedia)

Indeed a glorious way to welcome the dawn (or anytime of day for that matter).

            Track Listing:
            01 Raga Ahir Bhairav (Alap)
            02 Raga Ahir Bhairav (Gat)

Listen here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Intemperate Reverend: James Cleveland

There is just something about a large black choir in the groove!

A while back I posted a collection of the Edwin Hawkins Singers.  In the write up I mentioned the Rev James Cleveland whose music I love but would not promote.

Well, l I have thought a lot about that position and while I’m still disgusted with the alleged high hypocrisy of the ‘good’ Reverend, I just can’t get away from the music he created.  I’ve been resisting the temptation to promote it for months but at last have given in. 

Why the change of heart?

I guess I believe the music is so powerful and beautiful that it stands on its own. Whatever the deep failings of its creator this is music that deserves to be loved and listened to and absorbed by as many people as possible.

James Cleveland was an exasperating personality throughout his life including right up to and after his death.  He had a restless spirit that took him from one singing group and church to another leaving colleagues and friends and sponsors irritated and frustrated.  He also had a great ego and the thin skin to go with it. James Cleveland considered himself to be simply the greatest composer and arranger of modern gospel music. When others got recognition or when record companies dropped him or when he was challenged, he sulked.

Rev. James Cleveland

Born and raised in Chicago in 1931, James Cleveland grew up in a family of modest income. His family attended Pilgrim Baptist Church where the Father of Gospel Music, Thomas Dorsey, was a minister.  He loved the piano but his family was unable to buy one, so little James pretended his windowsill was one. “I used to practice each night right there on the windowsill. I took those wedges and crevices and made me black and white keys. And, baby, by the time I was in high school, I was some jazz pianist."

After high school he began his stop and start journey with a whole series of gospel groups, sometimes as a singer, sometimes as composer/arranger. Though he caused waves and earned a reputation as unreliable and tempermental he was already adding funk and deep soul and groove to the gospel style. His reputation grew and in 1960 his position as the absolute King of Gospel was sealed when his record Peace Be Still sold 800,000 copies to almost an exclusively African American audience.  This was at a time when a gospel record that sold 5000 copies was considered a big hit!

After this success he branched out on his own forming the Cleveland Singers out of which came a couple of rather illustrious singers: Aretha Franklin and Billy Preston! Generally, the Rev. James Cleveland is considered the most important figure in modern gospel music after Mahalia Jackson and during his career he made a huge number or recordings.

Tonight’s selection is a South African edition of a record called the King of Gospel.  Blessedly, it includes several extra tracks (including a cover of Elvis Presley’s In the Ghetto) not on the American release. So without further ado, the shiveringly good music of the Rev. James Cleveland. 

            Track Listing:
01 Peace Be Still
02 May the Lord God Bless You Real Good
03 Good Day
04 I Press On
05 Everything Will Be Alright
06 Where is Your Faith?
07 This Too Will Pass
08 Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus
09 He Didn't Bring Me This Far to Just Leave Me
10 In the Ghetto
11 A Change Will Come
12 I Can't Stop Loving God
13 The Lord is the Strength of My Life

Listen here.