Friday, December 18, 2009

BLK JKS Triumphantly Return to S.A.

Wills Glasspiegel checked in from South Africa once again via OUTSIDE MUSIC BLOG

This time Wills reports on BLK JKS's triumphant return to their homeland. For more on BLK JKS, check out the mini-doc on their record release show at S.O.B.'s Matt and Matt from Afropop (that would be Payne and McMahon) produced for Afropop with the help of Victor, Danny and Chris Saddler. That was the very first night of the tour that ended where Wills picks up...


Last night was my first night in Johannesburg and I headed straight from the airport to see BLK JKS.

"We've come to you all the way from South Africa," Mpume joked with the crowd between songs.

The JKS are back in Soweto after touring for six months in support of their Secretly Canadian release, After Robots.

Here at ground zero, the boys sound different from when I heard them last at Santo's in New York. The songs are mutating. Each tune has its own goals, logic, paranoia.

After only a day in Johannesburg, I don't see exactly how BLK JKS are a by-product or a reflection of "life in South Africa". But maybe that is what's being celebrated here -- the surprises, the disconnect, the animism and self-determination of the art itself.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

First Hugh Tracey Report from Wills in South Africa

Wills, one of our fantastic Associate Producers, is traveling in Africa and has been posting updates on his blog. Recently, he wrote about Hugh Tracey and Tracey's extensive audio field recordings (starting in the 1920s) made in Africa. He'll be producing a Hip Deep show on the subject in 2010--read below to get your first peek...

Thanks, Wills!

Friday, December 4, 2009 posting from Wills' Outside Music Blog:

Hugh Tracey's audio field recordings from Africa constitute what's been called "the musical memory of half a continent." Starting with acetate recordings in the late 1920s, Tracey made it his life's work to document the disappearing music of Africa. I'm here in Grahamstown, South Africa to research that legacy and to learn about Tracey's life for a radio show I'm producing for Afropop Worldwide.

"It seemed clear that unless someone devoted more time and energy to appraising the social value of authentic African music, it would go (away) by default," Tracey wrote in his The Sound of Africa Series. "The challenge remained as to. . . what techniques should be employed to ensure that the unwritten composition of genuine African musicians would not be ignored or thrust aside by the artificially stimulated demands of commerce and radio, and the intrusion of non-African popular music on films and records."

Tracey was old-school, he was a purist, and a bossy one at that. He plowed "tradition" into acetate, aluminum, and eventually on to tape. Over the next few weeks, I'll write more about Tracey and his work.

This is a place to start listening. With the breath:

"Saliwe Ngamadoda (Malicious Desertion)" a Xhosa song from Tracey's LP series, The Sound of Africa.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Best music of 2009

The honest truth is I always resist having to pick the best CDs of the year. First of all, at Thanksgiving time, I haven't actually had time to listen to them all, and they're still pouring in! And who knows how many are out there I never even heard? Then there's the question of true "greatness," usually not possible to assess until years later. So all these thoughts weigh on me as I survey a shelf full of candidates and feel the heat of having to pick favorites. This year, duty called hard as I had my first experience of producing the annual Afropop Worldwide Stocking Stuffers show. I like the idea of gift recommendations more than picking favorites, so the resulting show covers an amazing number of CDs, thirty-five if I'm not mistaken. I believe that's a record for an Afropop show. This means listeners will get only a taste of the recommendations, no full songs. But the payoff is the diversity and range. There is a mega-load of awesome music in that show!

The best part of this experience for me was hanging out in Georges Collinet's home studio in Washington, DC, on the day after Thanksgiving, chewing over all this music and recording the show. I don't usually speak on air on Afropop Worldwide, and when I direct Georges on a show I'm producing, I'm usually in New York, and he at Lion and Fox Studio in Maryland, so this was a treat in more ways than one. Some of Georges's commentary had to be cut for family listening, but a good deal of the hilarity of the afternoon we spent together, with Sean Barlow at the controls, does come through on the program, and the music is awesome.

Anyway, in the end, working with a number of folks in the Afropop Worldwide family, we did come up with some actual lists. Click here to see the result. It's all great stuff, and if you click through and buy these titles from Amazon, you'll also help keep the Afropop ship afloat, so shop away!!

And while you're listening to cool music, check out this awesome web video of Pancho Sanchez going through his shopping bag after a recent trip to Amoeba Records. Fun stuff.

Watch this space for my ultimate, personal, on-the-record Top 10 of 2009 list. I'll post in in January 2010, when the present year lies peacefully in its grave...