September 28, 2010

KHANA RUNG THAWI (คณะ รุ่งทวี) - แห่สดดนตรีพื้นบ้านหนองโก ชุดที่ 8 + 9 (hae sot dontri phuen ban nong ko, vols. 8 & 9) (20??)

Khana Rung Thawi's electric phin freakout was made available online for the first time just a few months back at the venerable มนต์รักเพลงไทย.  Two glorious 25 minute slabs of instrumental molam sing improvising with requisite keyboard washes and drum machine accompaniment, insane enough to fry even the most hardened of fuzzed-out minds.  This isn't the kind of epic psych that takes ten minutes to get flying. It wastes no time hitting its stride.  Kicking off with rapidfire electronic drums, the speed never lets up a minute, and before you know it, it all abruptly fades out at the end of the tape.

Lam sing is a recent style of Molam which emerged some time in the mid-80s in and around Isan (Thailand's northeastern provinces) and has become very popular there in recent years.  Lam sing is a reference not only to the speed and ferocity of the musical style but also to its original roots in Isan's biker fraternity culture. An appropriation of the English word "racing," sing literally means to go racing by on motorcycles.  The performers wear gawdy and outrageous costumes and the lyrics are often filled with sexual innuendo.  Scantily-clad female dancers, known as hang khreuang, serve as the hype crew.  Usually recorded live at festivals, lam sing songs are long because they were orginally a way of speeding through traditional luk thung and lam songs in a medley form.  Recently, much has been made in Thailand (and Laos especially) of Molam's loosening morals.  Lam sing is just one of many modern styles that has abandoned Molam's traditional lyrics of moral instruction for more lucrative themes as jilted love, carefree partying, and, of course, riding motorcycles.

Here's hoping volumes 1-7 of "Fantastic Festival Sounds of Ban Nong Ko" find their way online soon!

คณะ รุ่งทวี

September 14, 2010

So The Birds Will All Be Clean

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my music.  I want to achieve immortality by not dying." --Jack Blanchard (Facebook status)

Floridian pair Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan perform "Tennessee Bird Walk" from their Birds of a Feather LP (1970).

September 5, 2010

ABY NGANA DIOP - Liital (1994)

Aby Ngana Diop's truly awesome mbalax cassette has already been posted at Likembe and, more recently, Awesome Tapes from Africa, but it's far too mind-blowing not to propagate further.  Mblalax (literally "accompaniment" in Wolof) is a modern dance genre very popular in Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritania, where it has dominated the radio waves since the 80s.   Aby Ngana Diop, from Dakar, was the first taasukat (singer) to record an album of modern mbalax music.  The mixture of styles creates an intense listening experience:  Diop's modulated voice reminds me, at times, of the lady from Poltergeist, shouting moral instruction to the youth behind the veil.  Musique concrète horses, trains and sweeping brooms are overwhelmed by insanely complicated sabar drum rhythms, which sound like they may fall apart any moment.  The whistling synth loops offer an other-worldly parallel to trance music coming out of the West at the time.  Liital was a huge hit in Senegal, and musicians like Diop's nephew, Cheikh Lô, continue to create popular variations of its songs.  The extreme popularity of the mbalax genre is unique to the region.  Since at least the 90s, it has been a staple at baptisms and weddings, and its fanbase transcends social barriers like age or class.  Aby Ngana Diop died in 1997.  This cassette is her only known recording, though one can hope there are wedding videos and live recordings out there somewhere.

Originally, mbalax referred to a specific accompanying rhythm in a sabar drum ensemble.  Sabar was incorporated into the popular Afro-Cuban sound after Senegal's independence from French colonial rule in 1960.  Use of sabar, along with singing in native Wolof, were similar to other cultural shifts in Africa's so-called Négritude movement, attemping to reclaim a pre-colonial identity untainted by colonial influence (see Guinea). 

Essential ingredients of mbalax include: 1) a taasukat, usually from a griot family background, who sings about moral issues, offering social advice.  Taasu, a poetic story-telling form usually performed by women, has been sited as an antecedent to rap music. 2) Sabar drums, the fundamental root of mbalax; the term itself refers to an accompanying Sabar rhythm.  Sabar, usually an ensemble of twelve or more drums of different kinds, create incredibly complex rhythm patterns which rely on bukk, or smaller phrases, like a vocabulary that all the drummers are familiar with.  3)  The Yamaha DX-7, called marimba in Senegal-- though real marimbas have never been used in Senegal--  refers to a specific marimba sound the Yamaha DX-7 makes and has been the third essential component to mbalax since the 80s. 

[For those who like their figgers bigger, the Likembe link has a 192kbps cassette rip.  I like the way this 128kbps rip sounds better.]

• Ethnomusicologist Patricia Tang's work was an essential resource for all things mbalax
• A lot of great mbalax can be found over at freedomblues, including Fatou Guewel Kara's 2002 album and this old burner from the "I Don't Give a Damn" Generation of the 90s.
Is "Dieuleul-Dieuleul" sampled on NWA's "Express Yourself"?  [EDITOR'S NOTE: not unless Dr Dre had a time machine.]