Nope, this ain’t about Gino Washington! On one hand…have you ever felt like you just want to get out of this country for awhile? Yeah, me, too, so I did so through musical trips to Agadez, Lagos, and Rio (I also went to Manhattan, but it might as well have been Rio or Sao Paulo).
Also, unlike the night before, I was not about to get distracted by a damn haint (aka Hank Williams, Sr.) while I was trying to read. I am borderline insane when it comes to reading, and I added three new books to my active stack of three. If you’re curious, they were Colin Escott’s update of his solid Williams bio, I Saw the Light (the Hank fire’s done been lit); Gayle Ward’s Rosetta Tharpe book Shout Sister Shout!, which for some odd reason I didn’t read when immediately when it was published; and Patrick Parr’s account of the late-teenage MLK, The Seminarian: Martin Luther King, Jr. Comes of Age, which tells many relatively new stories, including this one. So, anyway, I picked some international groove music, though at least two of my selections were jumpy and angular enough to break my page-gaze.
You cannot go wrong with Bombino, the great guitarist from Niger. The man can work up a serious head of sustained, flowing steam with just six strings and percussion propulsion. His album from 2013, Nomad, is a great introduction to his work, and, if you get the chance to see him live, GO–we witnessed him at Minglewood Hall in Memphis opening for Gogol Bordello, and he made it very tough for the headliners to keep us at the venue:
Despite the man’s sprawling discography, you also cannot stumble randomly selecting works by the great Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti. I did not choose randomly; I picked my favorite Kuti Komp, The Best of Black President, Volume 2, which features an extended version of the eternal, and eternally sorrowful, and eternally motivating “Sorrow, Tears, and Blood” (“it’s their regular trademark”). It’s where I’d start anyone new to Fela’s Afrobeat wiles.
Have you heard of Elza Soares (that’s her pic at the top)? That’s OK, neither had I until a couple years ago. Apparently, she’s thought of by some as the Tina Turner of Brazilian music, but what you need to know is that she’s a defiant octogenarian who, in 2016, plunged headlong into an thrilling avant-garde setting and sprung some samba sujo (“dirty samba”–that alone should tempt you to put it on) on our unsuspecting ears. The resulting record, A mulher do fim do mundo (The Woman at the End of the World), intentionally or not, captures the beauty, sensuality, surprise, and madness of modern Brazil. Come to think of it, I think Brazilians have it a good deal worse than we do.
I’m not the first and won’t be the last to say it, but if you go Brazilian on a particular day of listening your ears likely won’t go back to where they were until the next day. I closed out with Arto Lindsay’s Cuidado Madame; Arto’s a New Yorker, but he’s been dedicated to adapting classic Brazilian musical styles–bossa nova, samba, and the wild, wooly, and wonderful variant called Tropicalia–to stateside pop forms, though it’s sometimes been hard to discern much of our traditions in his more recent music. This is his most recent release; it’s quite great, especially after repeated exposure. I love it in particular for two reasons: the opener, which features Mr. Lindsay writing his name on his lover’s naked belly until she forgets her own, and the multiple tracks on which, more often than has been his recent habit, he expresses himself on his inimitably untutored guitar. Also, the critic Robert Christgau once described Lindsay as being James Brown trapped in Don Knotts’ body; I’d update that from the Godfather of Soul to His Purpleness.
Tapper Zukie: Man Ah Warrior–Spacey early ’70s dub, driven by the bass line from “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Here, take a hit: