Saturday, December 22, 2007

Now Available - The Complete Album!

Peace on Earth 2007 - The Complete Album!

Now available as a zipped download; either click the link above or one of the two pieces of artwork. Enjoy our holiday present to you, and have a wonderful New Year!

Lalgudi Jayaraman - Bhajan in Raga Pilu

Mysore Palace by night, October 2000.

Bhajan in Raga Pilu by Lalgudi Jayaraman.

We end this holiday music collection with a traditional closing composition by one of South India's greatest performing violinists, here playing with his son and daughter. The raga selected is a very unusual one (it blends what in Western music terms would be called major and minor scales) and involves a number of "harmonies" that are usually two instruments simply playing at separations of exactly one octave. Regardless, its earnestness and clarity/approachability of harmony make it the perfect piece to bring our holiday mix together and to its finish.

Friday, December 21, 2007

DoÍ - In Your Sigh

Statue of Holger Danske, Kronborg Castle, Helsingør, Denmark.

In Your Sigh by DoÍ.

From Hans Christian Andersen:

"...The fairest sight of all is the old castle of Kronborg, and under it sits Holger Danske in the deep, dark cellar which no one enters; he is clad in iron and steel and rests his head on his stalwart arm; his long beard hangs down upon the marble table where it has become stuck fast; he sleeps and dreams, but in his dreams he sees everything that comes to pass in Denmark. Every Christmas Eve an angel of God comes to tell him that all he has dreamed is true, and that he may go to back to sleep again, for Denmark is not yet in any danger! but if it should ever come, then old Holger Danske will rouse himself, and the table will break apart as he pulls out his beard! Then he will come forth, and strike a blow that shall be heard throughout all the countries of the world."

This song may owe much to Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Carl Cox, and countless others, but it illustrates the immediate relevance and vibrance of Scandinavian popular/rock music. A beautiful, big crashing mess of a finale to our musical Christmas, we hope.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

N Ravikiran - Smara Janaka

N Ravikiran with chitravina. Photo courtesy of Google Image Search (yeah, I'm lazy).

Smara Janaka by N Ravikiran, a master of the chitravina (pic above).

Ravikiran is an interesting character. This track is recorded when he was twenty-five, which seems relatively young for an Indian classical musician... until you realize he had been playing for twenty-three of those twenty-five years. Ravikiran had his first professional performance at the age of two, making him perhaps the world's youngest professional musician. (At that recital, Ravi Shankar was purported to have said: “If you don’t believe in God, just look at Ravikiran.”)

Ravikiran's mature phase has been quite distinctive as well: He has taken on world peace as his cause celebre, and now gives "Gandhian" performances where he plays, without eating, drinking, or taking breaks, for up to 24 hours at a time, putting the ticket sales to charitable causes and usually leading off his concerts with an expressions of his concerns at a particular ongoing conflict.

Ravikiran's biography aside, his playing comes through with power and authority on this piece, written by the medieval Carnatic composer Dikshitar, supposedly when Dikshitar was undergoing an agonizing crisis of faith. Whether that crisis of faith is visible in the music is for to you to decide, but it is certain that some of Dikshitar's most energetic compositions came from this period. It's particularly worth paying attention to the gamakas (literally "slides"; flourishes caused at the end of the note by bending the strings to move pitch up or down a quarter-step) in this tune.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tiken Jah Fakoly - Non A L'Excision

Bullock, Djenne, Mali. Sorry about the bad scan!

Non A L'Excision by Tiken Jah Fakoly.

Like Armee Malienne, this is a song in the griot tradition, but takes that background in a very different direction. The griots are a hereditary caste of West African singer-storytellers; both of Super Rail Band's most famed vocalists, Salif Keita and Mory Kante, are griot singers.

Though brought up in a griot family (in Cote D'Ivoire, though he now apparently spends most of his time in Bamako right near SRB), Tiken Jah Fakoly takes this in a different direction, gleefully ripping off whatever influences from reggae to folk to other African styles he can. (The compelling guitar hook in this track is lifted straight from Geoffrey Oryema's Ye Ye Ye.) Still, this is probably Mayur's favorite track this year, so maybe derivative's not all bad. Plus the album cover is awesome.

Balkan Beat Box - Mexico City

Tenochtitlan, Winter 1980. Photograph by Jyothi Subbarao.

Mexico City by Balkan Beat Box.

Serbo-Croatian gypsy and wedding music is one of Mayur's favorites, although he's never had the chance to sample the article in its natural habitat; Kate, on the other hand, was lucky enough to trawl around the former Yugoslavia listening to all kinds of great stuff in all kinds of interesting places.

Balkan Beat Box, on the other hand, evokes places a bit removed from Eastern Europe. Started by Ori Kaplan (fmr Gogol Bordello) and Tamir Muskat (fmr Firewater), BBB is a mishmash of Eastern European, Latin, Israeli, Spanish, North African, industrial, techno and umpteen other styles. However, in the best tradition of its wedding-band antecedents, BBB is a hoot to listen to. Also apparently to party with; we're still regretting missing out on the vodka-soaked after-party of a couple weeks ago.

This song is one of the less cacophonic on their latest album, Nu Med, and in our opinion is that beautiful part of the mishmash where all component elements merge perfectly. Between the Robert Johnson-like guitar hook (we were sure it was a sample for weeks) to the Talib Kweli-like spoken-word refrain, to the Spanish trumpet, it's a mess of elements that really shouldn't work together, and are assembled without a deep soundbed to blend them (it's piece 1 plus piece 2 plus piece 3, etc. with no linking sound effect or unifying instrumental), but somehow, it all comes together, perhaps even as much as the next tune...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Now all mp3!

Dear All,

It occurred to Mayur rather late in the day that MPEG-4 (the standard iTunes format) also happens to be a pain to use for anyone who doesn't have an iPod or use iTunes as his/her music player. So we went back and converted all the music files to mp3. If you were having trouble playing or downloading anything, you may want to go back and get it now!