Hugh Masekela – Masekela (1968)
Jan 30th, 2012 by robert

Today I have a very special post for you, a rare recording from Hugh Masekela. Masekela has never shied from speaking out for justice, and this recording, made in the U$ during a rebellious 1968, bristles with outrage from its first track, “Mace and Grenades.”

The record sleeve is trashed, but the sound quality of this record is mostly excellent. Digitizing it was a small challenge because many of the cuts virtually crossfade into the next. In fact I left the tracks “Gold” and “Subukwe” conjoined because they work splendidly together. Most of the songs were written by Masekela, with one Dollar Brand song (“Gafsa”) and another by saxophone legend Kippie Moeketsi. “Head Peepin’” certainly sounds dated due to its groovy language, but most of the album is timeless.

One intriguing quirk about the record is that the last track, a snippet of “Grazin’ in the Grass,” is separated by a gap. The record apparently finishes and rotates continuously without getting to the “Extra Added Attraction” unless you physically lift the tonearm and put it at the beginning of the 1-minute teaser. Was that intentional?

There is absolutely no information about the musicians participating in this gorgeous session, on the record sleeve, but thanks to Doug Payne’s essential discography research, we can attribute this fine music to these musicians:

  • Hugh Masekela (tp, vcl)
  • Wayne Henderson (tb)
  • Al Abreu, Wilton Felder (sax)
  • Bill Henderson (p)
  • Arthur Adams (g)
  • Henry Franklin (b)
  • Chuck Carter (d)

Do not hesitate to listen to this one!

Enjoy!

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Endangered Blogging
Jan 29th, 2012 by robert

In the last ten days, three of the blogs I have followed – and kept listed at the bottom of the left column on my other site – have been crippled or deleted by service providers. There seems to be a sudden, worldwide effort to implement dramatic suppression of internet freedom. It appears that the impetus may originate with the U$ FBI, which may be acting to enforce stymied SOPA/PIPA legislation. In effect, enforcement is happening because corporations have pulled the strings of their politician servants, who so far have not been able to legislate internet repression because of public outrage.

What we witness is a battle over intellectual property rights. It is prudent, for our sanity, to understand that we live in a capitalist system where property rights trump all other rights. In an era when corporations are deemed to be humans, where that particular race of humans has unlimited access to and control over the politicians that rule our lives, how could it be otherwise? Until and unless the system itself is changed so that human rights are the basis for society, there will be endless battles between people like us – the 99% – and the privileged few cloaked in corporate power.

I have been scrupulous to avoid copyright violations when posting to my other Rhythm Connection site, and totally open to remove posts if someone who owns the intellectual property right to a recording requests I delete it. Yet realistically, considering the obscurity of copyright tendrils that may exist among corporations – and most likely do not connect to musicians, by the way – I may inadvertently violate rights, when I intend only to help preserve for humanity valuable works of art. So there is the possibility that my blog may be eliminated by corporate action, as the battle for a free internet broadens.

I may try to mirror that blog or move it here, but I’ll attempt to carry on there until Google bows to its master.

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Soul Brothers – Jive Explosion (1988)
Jan 28th, 2012 by robert

The Soul Brothers are one of the most successful bands in South African history, having sold millions of records and CDs in their country alone. Rising from humble, working class roots in the early 1970s, David MasondoZenzele “Zakes” Mchunu and Tuza Mthethwa created a particularly infectious style of mbaqanga by fusing soul-influenced vocals with township jive. While Mosondo’s iconic, soprano vocals instantly identify the band, the phat bass of Mchunu and the intertwined, inventive guitar of Mthethwa helped define its unique character. The early addition of Moses Ngwenya brought township keyboards into the mix. With additional vocalists for harmony, a full, dynamic band and vibrant choreography, the Soul Brothers built an mbaqanga dynasty that has weathered challenges from other pop music styles through the decades.

The Soul Brothers suffered several tragedies early in its history, including the death in car accidents of four members, including founders Zakes Mchunu and Tuza Mthethwa. Today’s share is a 1988 compilation of Soul Brothers recordings from 1983-1986, selected by Earthworks’ Trevor Herman. It was one of the major hits of the “world music” phenomenon of the day. Since Mchunu died in ’84, several of the songs include his bass. The entire collection is outstanding, and I cannot understand why it has not been reissued. Enjoy!

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Review: Vijana Jazz – The Koka Koka Sex Battalion
Jan 25th, 2012 by robert

Whenever there is a rumor of a new East African collection being put together by Doug Paterson for Sterns, I wait in anticipation. I have never been disappointed and usually am completely blown away by the music he uncovers. A while ago I reviewed a killer release of music from Issa Juma and Super Wanyika on another siteNow in my greedy hands I have another choice selection of Tanzanian pop music, this time from the Vijana Jazz Band, one of the country’s best bands that is barely known around the world. 

Koka Koka Sex Battalion is the album’s title, but it’s also an alternate band name the band and its Kenyan producer used to finesse more money from the record label, AIT Records, which did not want to have too many songs from one band circulating. 

Vijana Jazz Band began as a government-sponsored youth band in 1971, becoming very popular throughout Tanzania and Kenya from the mid-1970s through the ’80s. Almost all of the fourteen songs on this collection were written by vocalist and band leader, Hemedi ManetiThere is a generous, nearly 80 minute collection of Vijana Jazz songs on this release, mostly from recordings made in 1975-6. 

Most songs, like the wonderful opening “Magdalena,” are in the band’s koka koka style that points directly to the Swahili rumba style that would dominate Tanzanian pop for decades. A couple of songs are much more folkloric, including ”Heka Heka,” which begins with horns and sounds like the coastal tarab music, before the guitars and percussion kick into a koka koka dance groove. The sweet instrumental “Koka Koka No. 1″ begins with the percussion that defines the style, with conga and what sounds like pounding on a hollow log. One song I like particularly for the looping guitar phrases is “Lela.” The sound is great throughout, taken from master tapes and obviously treated with great restorative care. 

Here for your enjoyment is “Koka Koka No. 1″, provided by Sterns.

The CD comes with a 24-page booklet that has abundant notes about the band and its music, written by Paterson, along with translations of the Swahili songs into English. These are the things, along with the superior sound quality, that make me dread the impending death of physical music distribution. You can get this wonderful release here now, and it will be available in the US soon (I’ll post a link). Inferior digital downloads are available at the usual places, though I notice you get the digital booklet through iTunes. By the way, I found another, excellent, wobbly-in-places and presumably 1980s Vijana Jazz tape here, along with a few other Tanzanian tapes.

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Lost in Etherland
Apr 27th, 2011 by robert

This site has languished for months. It’s not that there has been nothing to write about; with everything going on in the Arab world and analogous developments in the U.S., there is a TON I have started writing, at least in my mind if not here or on paper.

The truth is I have been focussed on music lately, learning how to convert my record albums into pristine digital recordings. In fact I have developed another blog site to share my obsession. I encourage you to go there for a taste. Clicking on the album image to the left will get you there!

Now that that site is more or less under control, I’ll try to focus on weightier topics. Like the Woman in Red, for example. If you are reading this, you probably are one of the few because the infrequency of my writing here does not invite return visits. I have learned the value of frequent posts. Since focussing on developing my other site, in one month it has gone from receiving zero to over 300 visits per day. I’ll see what I can do here. . .

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