What can I say about this mix? Sprawling, open-armed, a tonic for my admin-riddled eyes and ears. Bristol’s Will Newsome is a singer, multi-instrumentalist, and – based on this evidence – an exceptionally gifted observational writer. The warmth of his character is practically radiating through my laptop. He also likens Manhattan harp music to “smelly, gooey and stringy” fermented beans. This has to be one of our best pieces yet! Check out Will’s own enchanting music here, but not before taking your world trip…
1. This track comes from the 1971 album Mali – Cordes Anciennes. It’s sublime, a kora conversation between virtuosos. It has the feeling of the laid back playing I heard in The Gambia when my teacher, his brothers and their friends sat under the mango tree in the evening, brewing hataya tea and relaxing.
2. In this piece by an Ethiopian nun, the ornamentation falls downwards, reminding me of the rolling improvised ‘birimintingos’ played on the kora. This is graceful and beautiful, it’s also a deep shade of blue – it falls and it flies. The piano can sound so many sentiments at once. It’s mournful and hopeful, calm and complex.
3. The first recording of Aster Aweke (late 60s/early 70s) – there’s so much motion in this style of playing and the urgency of her voice. (Found on the incredible Awesome Tapes from Africa blog.)
4. Most of the Japanese music I’ve been exposed to is playful, witty and idiosyncratic – this is steel pan player Tonchi, and it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever heard.
5. Shugo Tokumaru is a guitarist, arranger and singer-songwriter. He often has colourful little instrumentals dotted about his albums. This one is like a meeting between Button Moon and Willo The Wisp.
6. I can’t praise the album, Un Dia, which this is from highly enough. For me it’s its own complete little world of sound, using Juana Molina‘s own pallete of colours. I feel the same about Rock Bottom by Robert Wyatt and Hejira by Joni Mitchell.
7. Born Heller was a collaborative project between Josephine Foster (a favourite singer of mine) and bassist Jason Ajemian. This song is like stretching your arms out into a sunny morning when you’re not quite awake yet. Josephine Foster’s entire musical career is fascinating and her voice is an awesome instrument. She’s arranged Schubert songs with an electric guitarist improvising, recorded sight-readings of old Japanese folk songs, written happy and quirky ukulele songs, made folk-rock, freak folk, set Emily Dickinson (backwards that’s no snickidy lime) poems to music… Wonderful!
8. Naoto Kawate is a dear friend and a very clever man. His guitar playing is so much fun. He writes of this album: “One of the reason I started solo-guitar was to put ‘multiple personality music’ into a guitar. I was living with a child in those days, and she gave me a lot of inspiration, and I wrote some ‘multiple personality guitar music’ with her imagination. I think it was beginning of ‘How could I make music that could sound like it is from a child to aged person in such a personal way?’.”
9. French musician Yann Encre chopping up string samples and kora sounds. It’s pefect music for watching starlings murmurate when you’re a bit stoned.
10. Rei Harakami died sadly in 2011 – this is a cover of a 1971 Japanese folk song from his incredible album Lust.
11. Amelita Galli-Curci was the singer of some of my maternal Grandmother’s favourite music – I bought her a CD of it for a birthday many years ago and after she died we were sorting through her things and I stumbled across it again. Such a voice. I’d not paid much attention to it at the time but I love every moment of it now and it’s becoming a favourite among friends of mine – I think she’d be very pleased about that.
12. I don’t know much about Susanne Lundeng but I like Scandinavian folk music a lot. For want of a better description, it sounds to me like instruments are being played backwards or inside out, it’s a little mischievous and there’s a roughness to the sound of the strings. It’s broody and earthy.
13. This track comes from The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto compilation which was the first CD of African music I owned. It opened up a new world of music to me – township jive music is overflowing with sunshine, it’s pretty much impossible not to move or dance or smile to it.
14. Ethiopian music is very special. This is Ethiopian Orthodox Christian devotional music and it’s awe inspiring.
15. I have a love/hate relationship with the music of Larkin Grimm, a bit like whole fermented soy beans (natto) which are smelly, gooey and stringy but also very tasty and healthy – or maybe really strong cheese that makes your mouth itch so you feel like it shouldn’t really be eaten but are compelled to carry on anyway. This is a weird, eccentric little song. It’s also very inventive.
16. This song from Roberto Cacciapaglia‘s 1981 electronic album with Ann Steel is fascinating. It makes me laugh and it makes me sad. I find the lyrics very unsettling. However it was intended it comes across to me as both a dystopian vision and a pardoy of dystopia – it also feels like a clever warning. The singer sounds reluctant, almost robotic but happy with her life. It’s very sad – it’s an exaggerated truth:
Stored on the shelves of my memory
My thoughts are in perfect array
My life runs smooth like a highway
Billboards show me the way
My way of life has the glamour
Of an artificial neon ad
Stored on the shelves of my memory
My thoughts are in perfect array
I learn do it yourself cybernetics
While I’m jogging on a rolling tray
I love my weekends in the pure air
On the heights of the Eiffel tower
My time my time I love my time
My time has something more
My time’s the best there’s ever been
My time I love my time
Thank you my time
17. Lalo Keba is my favourite kora player. His playing is incredible, it’s really fun with lots of complex flourishes and rhythmic variations and not only that but the quality of the available tape recordings is right up my street. I’d love to be able to replicate this sound with the kora. Lalo Keba’s voice is very powerful – he usually sang with his wife in shrill unison an octave above him. I love that he’s also a mumble singer who sort of grumbles along with the instrumental parts as well – a bit like Glenn Gould and…
18. … Joseph Spence who is perhaps the most blatant grumble singer around. Search youtube for his wonderfully refreshing version of Santa Claus is coming to town. The album this is from is of 1958 recordings made by a folk musicologist on his porch in the Bahamas. He’s influenced countless musicians but isn’t well known enough. His style is truly unique – I’ll never get bored of his music.
19. Bereket Mengistab‘s music has the same played backwards feeling that Susanne Lundeng’s ‘Old Squaw’ has but it has a relentlessly pounding beat as well. It’s very exotic, I’m addicted to it. (Another Awesome Tapes from Africa find…)
20. Ivor Cutler has brought so much happiness to me and my friends. He could brighten the dullest day and make the simplest thing profound with his immense wit and sense of humour. He brings Glenn Gould to mind again who I paraphrase here: “The purpose of art is…the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.” That seems to me to be what Ivor Cutler’s life was all about and I aspire to be more like him.
21. Jan Johansson was to Swedish folk music what Jacques Loussier is to Bach’s Goldberg Variations. This is from the best selling Swedish jazz album of all time – Folkvisor, a collection of jazz versions of Swedish traditional folk tunes. He was an incredible pianist.
22. Alicia Svigals is a klezmer fiddler and composer – listen to how her playing mimics the clarinet. It’s wonderfully expressive. It’s perfect for very late at night, it carries you somewhere else…