March 31, 2011

ግልጽ ያልሆነ ጉድጓድ: Tsehay Yohannes

The fact that Tsehay Yohannes (ፀሃየ ዮሃንስ) has not been featured on the voluminous Ethiopiques series is a testament to the richness of Ethiopia's musical history. Born in 1961, Yohannes (also spelled Yohanis) started singing for the Kebur Zebegna band at age 14 and recorded his debut album, Tey Munit, in 1974. He later played with the Roha Band and Dadimos Band. Having grown up in Tigrai but born in Gondar, Yohannes sang both in Amharic and Tigrinya and promoted cultural unity in his lyrics. Great dissension remains today between separatist Eritreans, Habesha, and Ethiopians alike. Because Amharic is considered an invasive language to the other cultures, illiteracy is a complicated issue in Ethiopia. Yohannes' hit song "Berta Zemede," a tribute to activist Edeget Beheberet Zemecha, became the official theme for the the "Manbebena Mestaf" and "Meseret Temehert" movements which almost doubled the literacy rate of the country in the 70s and 80s. He released a new album in 2007 and continues to perform today. The videos below range from fried psych funk to the more traditional and show this electric performer's full range as well as his special way of singing with his hands.

See more of the amazing Tsehay Yohannes hear, hear, hear, hear, and hear.
Wade deeper into Murky Recess' ongoing ግልጽ ያልሆነ ጉድጓድ series.
Visit the man's lionizing website
A partial discography is posted in the Comments Section.

March 27, 2011

STEVE TREATMENT - 5A-Sided 45 (1978) + Heaven Knows (Juvenile Wrecks) 7" (1979) + Change of Plan 7" (1979)

Not long after moving to the city in the 1975, Steve Treatment fell in with the glam kids who haunted Marc Bolan's central London office, most of whom would people London's punk scene in the years to come. Steve became fast friends with Nikki Sudden, who had already started Swell Maps with his brother, Epic Soundtracks. Steve and Nikki became kind of Bolan's main youngblood associates. It was by their heed that T. Rex brought The Damned on the Dandy in the Underworld tour in 1977. As an interesting aside, Steve Treatment also caught the eye of director Derek Jarman at this time. He helped Jarman cast Jubilee by serving as liason with London's punk kids and can himself be seen in Jubilee's bonfire scene.

With the success of Swell Maps' first single in 1977—released on their own Rather Records—they started to put out music from other bands. Rather's second release was Steve Treatment's debut EP, 5A-Sided 45. Swell Maps served as Treatment's backing band on this record, but you'd hardly be able to tell. Stripped to their essential core, some of these songs have just one or two chords and were recorded in as many takes. The slipshod approach imbues the record with that infectious joy of creating. Everything's drowned in reverb and rendered weird by Treatment's double-tracked vocals, and yet his Bolan kick remains front and center. In fact, an engraving on the run-out groove says "BOLAN WAS STOLEN." Steve Treatment never once played out for these records, despite finding some success on the independent charts. He self-released two more 45s on his own Backbone Records, delving even further into rock'n'roll hysteria. His double vocals can even be heard arguing with each other at the end of "Step Into a Worn Out Shoe!" Treatment would go on to play with Ticket Inspectors in the late 80s and early 90s but didn't release music under his own name again for 25 years. He has become quite active in the past ten years, releasing new music on Messthetics and, in 2006, a CDR compilation of his early recordings.

I don't understand why you bit the head off a raven

March 24, 2011

Ganesha In Spiderman Incarnation

I want to extend heartfelt appreciation to Doug from Give the Drummer Some on WFMU for devoting an hour of his show to music posted here at Murky Recess. To receive praise from a brother strange to you is beautiful indeed. If you are not already a follower of Doug's ongoing series, Mining the Audio Motherlode, I advise you rectify your unfortunate situation sooner than later.

Murky Recess as through the well-pricked ear behind Give the Drummer Some.

March 20, 2011

ROS SEREYSOTHEA - Boiled Snail Girl: Chlangden Pops from Phnom Penh's Golden Voice [MR#2, 2011]

When Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk gave her the official title, "Queen of Golden Voice," Ros Sereysothea was the most popular female singer in Phnom Penh's psychedelic scene; but ultimately her life was an unhappy one. Born Ros Sothea to a large family in the Battabong province, Sothea's father walked out early on, leaving her mother struggling to provide for her five children. As a way to help support the family, Sothea sold boiled snails in the village and was often heard singing as she walked from place to place. In fact, her family sang and performed to earn extra money; Sothea and her brother, Serey, became known throughout the area for their powerful voices, even winning local singing contests. Sothea would eventually pay tribute to her brother by combining their names.

Changing her name when she moved to Phnom Penh to pursue a music career, Ros Sereysothea sang in a variety of restaurants and bars before catching the attention of Sinn Sisamouth, the most popular male singer in Cambodia. She recorded her first single in 1967 and a number of duets with Sisamouth, eventually catching the ear of the once and future King Norodom Sihanouk (Sihanouk was ousted in 1970 by the Lon Nol government, reinstated by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, ousted again, and reinstated in 1993). Starting in the 60s with the invasion of Vietnam, the US Armed Forces Radio broadcast pop and rock songs throughout the region, including Phnom Penh, where many people fled during the US bombings of rural areas in Cambodia. Inspired by these new sounds, Western-inspired bands popped up around the city, infusing traditional Khmer songs with Anglo pop hooks. The most hopeful time in Sereysothea's life was in the early 70s when she fell in love with a parachutist for the Lon Nol government. She experimented freely with different musical styles, starred in a few movies, and became a consummate parachutist with the help of her lover. After the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot took power in 1975, they sought to purge the country of Western influence. Sereysothea was kidnapped in 1977 and treated with great cruelty. She was forced to dig ditches, sing revolutionary songs for the new regime, and married against her will to one of Pol Pot's assistants, who savagely beat. Her whereabouts after 1978 are unclear, but there were rumors she was found shackled and starved in one of the rural work camps. Another account found her cleaning out the pens at an industrial pig farm and subjected to general humiliation. Regardless, she was never heard or seen from again and most likely died, along with her family, at the hands of Khmer Rouge.

The songs compiled on this collection are inspired by Sereysothea's haunting voice in light of her tragic life. It should be noted that these are not original recordings, but rather products of the karaoke lip-syncing phenomenon endemic to Southeast Asia. Chlangden pop is the pervasive and ribald practice of adding a drum machine track and sometimes other instruments over a classic tune to make the song "new" again. Primarily used in karaoke bars, these songs have been reviled, justifiably, both for their disrespectful treatment of cultural history and also for ruining many songs by drowning out the vocals and muddying the tracks. Just the same, it is almost impossible to have access, in Cambodia as well as in the West, to many of the original recordings. Culled from over 300 hundred Chlangden tracks, Boiled Snail Girl offers songs more or less unavailable in any other form. While far from substituting the originals, Chlangden appropriations like "saryka prot ku" and "lolok sor kut" showcase Ros Sereysothea's fearless experimentation while offering a transcendently mutant view into how classic Khmer singers continue to live on in Cambodian culture today. 

 រស់ សេរីសុទ្ធា
[Tracklist is provided in Comments in both anglicized and Khmer form; any help with translation would be greatly appreciated.]

March 11, 2011

Graces Me!

March 7, 2011

SALI SIDIBE - L'enfant cheri du Wassolon, Vol. 1 (1980) + Formidable! (1982)

Sali Sidibé is one of the best-known kamalen n'goni singers from Mali's southern Wassoulou region. Since the 90s, her Wassalou-pop style has made her popular in the West, exemplified by the Divas from Mali (1997) compilation. She was a forerunner in modernizing the n'goni style and her contemporary music has since become available the world over. And yet any trace of her prior career, purported to span over 30 years, has been more or less lost to the ether—until now. worldservice has only recently proffered the hard proof that Sali Sidibé indeed recorded as early as the late 70s and possibly even the 60s. I'll leave it to wrldsrv to expound upon the particulars, but suffice it to say that the two rescued artifacts there posted provide ample claim to Sidibé as a godmother of modern n'goni and a matchless singer. Let this be the quintessential example of how music blogs are creating new canons and rescuing histories from oblivion.

L'enfant cheri du Wassolon, Vol.1 (1980)
Formidable! (1982)

Another great Sidibé cassette Radio Mali (197?)

March 4, 2011

Left My Baby Down by the River

Memorial portraitures, otherwise known as memento mori, were a common means of remembering loved ones in America until the turn of the 20th century; it is still popular in parts of the world.