Reupped here. RIP [Originally posted on October 1, 2012.] Found a couple of weekends ago in Millennium Records (4045 White Plains Road). Actually, owing to the bizarre lettering on the cover of this one, whoever had added this CD to the shelves had placed it upside down pointing face outward, so my eye kept gravitating toward it, trying to figure out what it was. I finally asked the owner: "Hey what is that grayish-blue CD with the bizarre lettering?"
"Junior Murvin," he said, once he'd figured out what I was talking about, and brought the CD down for me to examine up close. "You know him; he did 'Police and Thieves.'"
The owner was right: Though I'm no fount of knowledge when it comes to reggae, I had certainly heard "Police and Thieves" before, and not just the Clash's version--although, admittedly, that's where I'd heard it first.
Junior Murvin, who's still alive, was not particularly prolific: Muggers in the Street was only one of seven total albums (not counting compilations) he released over the years since debuting with "Police" in 1977.
Oh, and before I forget ... as I said in previous posts, I'm considering changing the layout of this blog to something more like this. But in a sense, it's your blog, not mine, and I'd like you to decide what format you'd like to experience when you visit the Bodega. A couple of people have already chimed in, but I'd like to hear your thoughts as well ...
Listen to track 1 Get the 16-track album here I've got a number of gnawa and chaabi CDs that I've yet to post -- I suppose I've been reluctant in the past for two reasons: (a) I can't translate/or even transliterate the tracklists for you and (b) I don't know much about either genre, other than what each, generally, sounds like. Most were plucked from the Moroccan aisle of the late, great Princess Music in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; a few were brought back home with me from a trip to Marrakech. In the case of this morning's offering, I'm almost certain I picked it up in Marrakech, though I'm not 100% sure. While it looks like the CD version of this cassette posted by the mighty Tim at the xtremely fabulous Moroccan Tape Stash, the CD version here has 6 more songs, so could either be the cassette + 6 or simply a bunch of different songs with a similar cover image. If we're nice, perhaps Tim will hip us to what we've got here. [UPDATE: Special thanks to Tim, who provides a track list in the comments below.]
Listen to the first track (a bit muddy for the first minute)
Listen to the second track Grab the 20-song CD, reupped in 320 ever-lovin kbps, here
[The first reposting of this CD, for which the following text was written, was on April 8, 2012.] This is a reposting of one of the first posts I made to this blog, two years ago, here, and the last of the "housecleaning" reposts from that first month or two, before I was uploading whole CDs in a single zip (or now, rar) file.
A lot has happened in the two years since I started this blog on April 5, 2010. Three people I've either known or who were people who were close to people I know, have since passed away--all of them living in, and/or connected to people who are living in, Portland, Oregon, where I found this CD in a Cambodian grocery store on Foster Road. In late August, my soon-to-be ex-wife and I separated, and I moved from Brooklyn, where I'd spent most of the 15 years I've lived in New York, to Astoria, Queens, where I am now. (If you look at this blog's history, you'll see that there's an abrupt end to posting in August and that I didn't pick it back up until April of 2011.)
Any listener familiar with Cambodian rock of the 60s and 70s will notice, listening to the CD I've posted tonight, that these are not exactly original recordings. They retain the original vocals--from Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron, Ros Sereysothea and others--as well as some of the original instrumentation. But other instrumentation has been added, as though to contemporize the songs, to lift them out of the past and insert them, however awkwardly, or even painfully, into the present. Though purists might bemoan the addition of drum machine and god-knows-what-else (Casio?), for me, there's something beautiful about the gesture, as blasphemous as it might strike many others.
It means one thing to archive, to select from and to present artifacts from one's (personal or cultural) past; it means something different altogether to contemporize these same artifacts, to attempt to situate them within one's present. It isn't, in this case, an act of rewriting history; it's something more complicated. More painful, perhaps, but closer to how memory, the past, does live within, or haunt, the here and now.
I started this blog two years ago as a way to share some of the music that meant the most to me with a handful of friends who I thought would derive some pleasure from it. But there was always another agenda behind taking on and continuing this project, which was to foreground the extent to which the United States has always been haunted by a fluctuating but nonetheless steady stream of immigration. An immigration not just of people and their pasts, but of cultures and their pasts (and presents). These recordings are not just glimpses into other cultures, they're clues into our own constantly evolving culture, as well as our own recent past. (Consider: How did a Cambodian grocery store wind up in Portland, Oregon? Is it, in other words, a direct consequence of the U.S.-Soviet proxy war in Vietnam, or more specifically of the U.S. bombing of PAVN targets in Cambodia and Laos for more than a decade in the 60s and 70s?)
Watching the 2012 GOP primaries and the pandering to what one can only assume to be a white middle-aged heterosexual Western-religion-identified male American target, the insanity of any genuinely held belief that America is, in fact, that hardly needs me or anyone else to point out just how absurdly out of sync with reality that it is. But being who we are and knowing who we are are two entirely different things.
I was at a wedding reception last month where a second- or third-generation Asian-American referred to other (first-, second- and third-generation) Asian-Americans as "Asians" and white Americans as "Americans; it was hardly the first time I've heard that particular distinction being made.
"die Vergangenheit ist klar vorbei" ("the past is clearly over"), wrote Ernst Herbeck, an Austrian schizophrenic patient whose poetry I've been translating off and on over the last 10 years or so. (Ugly Duckling Presse, here in New York, will be publishing a selection of some 30 of my Herbeck translations this summer--I'll post an announcement when it's available.) I love that line, not because it's obviously the case ... but because it, so clearly, isn't.
Reupped in case you missed it the first time, here. [Originally posted on April 13, 2013.] I know I promised you more Fairuz this weekend, but it was such a warm day today I wound up spending all of it on my bike. And I think you know what that means. Yes, that's right: I wound up at Blessing Udeagu (99-08 Lewis Avenue, Corona, Queens), where I picked up a dozen or so mostly Nigerian CDs, including this mind-blowingly great collection of 70s hits by the legendary Celestine Ukwu.
From LASTFM: Celestine Ukwu began his musical career during the 1960’s with Michael Ejeagha’s Paradise Rhythm Orchestra in Enugu, capital of the former Eastern Region of Nigeria. He left four years later to launch his own band, the Music Royals. Following a hiatus caused by the Biafran war of independence from 1967-70, the Music Royals were resurrected as the Philosophers National, who distinguished themselves with a series of sparkling, subtle highlife releases during the 1970s. Sadly, Ukwu perished in an automobile accident in 1977, depriving Nigerian music of one of its shining stars.
Listen to the next track
Listen to track 8
Grab the 24-song mix here. Before I moved into my new apartment last month and discovered the little Mexican bodega off Broadway near Steinway from whence the CDs on which I found many of these tracks were plucked, this mix wouldn't have been possible. Was that sentence grammatically correct? It's late; I can't tell. More importantly, I don't care. I do care about my regular visitors and I'm well aware just how much I've neglected the Bodega shelves since the big move. So this insanely great ear-curling collection goes out to all of you, with the promise of much more to come.
Listen to the second track UPDATE: Reripped at 320kbps with formerly missing track 2 and reupped by reader request here. [Originally posted on April 22, 2012.] As you know if you read the previous post, I was down in Washington, DC, this weekend to give a reading with younger experimental poet Megan Ronan and legendary language poet (and a major hero of mine) p. inman. I visit DC somewhat regularly, at least once or twice a year, almost always seeing a number of poet friends while I'm there.
I've long known that DC is home to the country's largest Ethiopian community, and I was certain I'd someday stumble onto an Ethiopian bodega or music store where I might pick up a few musical treasures, old and new. But it never happened. So, when Bryan Koen and Mel Nichols invited me to read for Ruthless Grip, I hinted that I'd be searching out Ethiopian music while I was there and--lo and behold--received an email back from Bryan with the address of Nahom Records Inc., situated a bit east of where I had spent the last decade trying futilely to find any of this stuff.
How excited was I? On Friday, the day of the reading, I sat bolt upright in bed at 6:00 a.m. and managed to Amtrak it down the nation's capital by 11:30. I was at Nahom's door at precisely 11:47. They weren't open. I called the number on a sign near the door and was told that someone would be in in about an hour. I walked down the street a bit and had a long, leisurely Ethiopian lunch.
An hour later, I emerged from the restaurant, my belly bloated with injera, the sponge bread that, unfortunately, you use in lieu of utensils. Unfortunately, as it means you wind up eating a lot of it. And injera expands throughout the day as it makes its way slowly down your intestinal tract.
So I go back to Nahom and I see that the lights are on and I can hear music coming out of the store. But the metal gate standing between me and the front door is locked. I stand there, frustrated, about ready to call the number again, when an older Ethiopian man comes up to me and asks me if I'm looking for Ethiopian music. I say yeah, but that I'm not sure if Nahom is really open yet.
"Across the street," he says. "At the market."
"They have music?" I ask.
He motions with his head for me to follow him as he crosses the street and leads me into Habesha Market & Carryout (1919 9th Street NW), which was packed with people, some having coffee at tables, others buying bread and other staples. My guide pointed to the barista area, behind which I saw a small but well-stocked section of the wall with a bunch of CDs and DVDs.
I don't care how nice a person is--and the women behind the counter were incredibly sweet and helpful--it's just frustrating when you're forced to have to point and grunt at CDs until you find a few things you think might be good bets. Especially in a hopping joint like Habesha; a line began to quickly form behind me, ensuring that I would feel more awkward than I already did, what with all of the pointing and grunting and clear lack of knowledge about what I was pointing and grunting at. Add 5 or 6 guys waiting for their coffee, and, well--let's just say I didn't stay there quite as long as I typically would at one of these places.
I did, however, come home with a few mind-blowing treasures, all of which I'll share over the coming days and weeks. This incredible CD is one of them.
Listen to track 7 Listen to track 9 Get this 12-track album here, you lucky bastard, you. My god I have a lot of CDs. I'm not bragging. (Okay, I'm kind of bragging.) I'm still unpacking and there's just -- there's so much. So, so much. How is it that I've never shared this with you? I don't care how many Cambodian rock comps you've already got, you most likely don't have at least a few of these Ros Sereysothea tunes. So, a big shout out to everyone who has bought some art in our Help Put Bodega Pop on WFMU campaign. I have thrilling news: Someone has come through and is sending us a used Mac that we're 98% sure will work to stream the show. Fingers crossed. And final word in a week or two. Meanwhile, there's some art left if you wanna put something sort of groovy on your wall. Check eet oot!
Reupped by special request here. [Originally posted in January 2013.] I recognize track 1 as the basis for Dengue Fever's "Tiger Card" from 2008's Venus on Earth; the rest of this album is completely new to this listener, a listener who--I should point out--has amassed somewhere between 750 to 1,000 Cambodian songs from the 1960s and 70s over the last half decade or so. I picked up this plus two other similar compilations at Thai-Cam Video in Portland, Ore., in December, and this one includes some of my absolute favorite tracks. (I'll upload the other two discs in the coming days.) I asked Thai-Cam's owner, Nang, if she wouldn't mind ordering me the entire series while I was there in Portland, seeing as how the CD's back cover said they were right over the river in Vancouver, Washington; alas, she explained that this company had long gone out of business.
Listen to "Чирибим" Reupped by reader request here. "Chiribim, Cherry Bomb, Chiribim Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb ..." Does this CD even really need an intro? Obviously, I picked it up for its cover. I think I was actually in Brighton Beach with Kasey Mohammad and his girlfriend that day; Kasey was in town for the Flarf/Conceptual reading we did at the Whitney. I say this because I remember bringing the CD that evening to a Spanish restaurant/bar in Chelsea, where we met Christian Bök and Kenny Goldsmith for a few drinks. I figured that, being (a) Jewish and (b) a WFMU DJ, Kenny would be especially appreciative of the CD. He was.
Listen to an awesome track from this magical disc of polycarbonate plastic
Reupped by special request, here. [Originally posted on February 24, 2013.] Tonight, as most of the U.S. tunes in to the Oscars, I'll be finishing up the latest "New Life" comic for Rain Taxi using text from Mellow Actions, a new book by an old friend of mine, Brandon Downing. I don't mention Brandon idly: He was, after all, the person who introduced me to Cambodian music of the 60s and 70s in the first place. Today's offering comes to us via Thai Cam Video on Foster Road in Portland, Oregon (get volume 11 here and 13 here). I have a lot more stuff I brought home from Thai Cam that I'll eventually upload, but this is the last of the 60s-70s Cambodian collections. Awrighty. I'd love to stay and chat, but I really do have to get back to this comic; deadline's tomorrow morning.
Listen to "Jabar" Grab the whole album here. Kazim mad! Kazim riiiiiip paper! Yeah, uh, I'm not sure precisely what's going on in that fabulous cover, but whatever it is, the CD's publisher wanted to underscore its importance:
As you can see above, the image is repeated on the CD itself. Well, more than just repeated, actually; it's freaking hand drawn. I'm trying to imagine the marketing meeting for this one: A: We must show Kazim as resolute--he is through with this %#*$@%! So, he rips the [unintelligible: love letter? lease?]. B: Sitting cross-legged on the floor, perhaps? Grounded. Close to the earth. Close to life. A: Listen. Listen to what I am telling you. We will then hand draw this same image of Kazim ... on the CD. B: On the CD ... ? A: Yes, on the CD itself. Drawn ... by hand! B: Wait, I have it ... I have it. In red. Blood red. According to the meta-data, this album is titled Kazem Al Saher and is dated 2009; the former is unlikely (it's a live album and I think there's a title of some kind there on the cover) and the latter is impossible. That's a relatively young Al Saher on the cover and, more importantly, the instrumentation and sound quality suggest that we're listening to a performance from the 1980s or, at latest, the very early 90s. I'm almost certain I found this gem at the Nile Deli on Steinway Street. In fact, I think it was relatively recently, within the last six months to a year. As I said in my last post, I'm gong to be DJing for WFMU's Give the Drummer Radio in the next month or two, but in order to do that, I need to get a new computer, specifically a Mac of some kind, and Macs are not cheap. In order to help raise funds I'm going to start selling and/or auctioning off original artwork and rare books and CDs to help defray the cost. I have to finish a comic under deadline today, and if I get done with time to spare, I'll start posting things for sale as early as this evening. Stay tuned ...
Soon after I moved to New York City in 1997 I began to notice that bodegas run by people from around the world sometimes stocked CDs and DVDs of music and film from the countries they had come from.
The music I've collected from these bodegas can almost never be found in the "World Music" sections of the few remaining places to buy CDs in the U.S.; nor, for that matter on iTunes (or cheapo MP3 sites like Soundike).
If you are an artist or publisher and do not want your music here, just let me know and I'll remove it.