Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Pusherman Prophet: Johnny Cash

One of my earliest musical memories was hearing Ring of Fire cracking out of my dad’s Rambler’s AM radio as we crossed the middle expanses of America in the early 60s. My dad took his religion seriously and still does. But he always had time for Johnny Cash. Several years later when we were back in India, he brought me a cassette of Johnny’s greatest hits from one of his foreign trips.  I thrilled to hear the mariachi trumpets of Ring of Fire once again, but also got my first introduction to Cash’s basic repertoire: Five Feet High and Rising, Ira Hayes, I Walk the Line and Were You There When They Crucified My Lord and of course, Folsom Prison Blues.

That Johnny sang heaps of gospel songs, many that my dad recognized from his own poor, rural American childhood, was no doubt what attracted him to the Man in Black. As for me, sure, I liked the gospel songs too, but not as much as his clackety clack railway train guitar rhythm style or his out of this world bass voice.  After, Ring of Fire, the only Johnny Cash song I knew was his duet with Bob Dylan, Girl From the North Country. The depths, both sonic and emotional, that Cash plumbs in that song are simply inspired.

Amazingly it was not till many years later that I began to understand what a true giant of American music Johnny Cash was.  His songs were so simple, a sort of musical amalgam of Hemingway and SteinbeckJohnny never left you in any doubt about  the point of his song.  Whether he was telling you about murdering for fun, and going crazy on cocaine or whether he was telling you how much he loved America yet couldn’t countenance the injustice America meted out to its natives, blacks or poor.

Kris Kristofferson wrote what is about the best and most beautiful summation of Cash in his song Pilgrim Chapter 33:
            He's a poet, he's a picker--
He's a prophet, he's a pusher--
He's a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he's stoned--
He's a walkin' contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Takin' ev'ry wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

It is that walkin’ contradiction part of Johnny Cash that means more to me these days than even his voice.  A man who was equally believable and compelling when he was giving the finger to society as when he was on his knees calling on the love of Jesus.  Johnny Cash had a huge resurgence in popularity the last decade of this life.  Since his death I think his peers and fans and the critics have realized just how deep and wide is the hole he has left in American music and society. Always one of the Greats when he was living, in his passing he has ascended to the level of one of the very Greatest.

I hope you enjoy this collection of Johnny Cash faves from Washerman’s Dog. 

            Track Listing:
            01 Johnny Cash Show Intro And Theme 
02 Five Feet High And Rising
03 Guess Things Happen That Way
04 Get Rhythm
05 One
06 Closing Medley: Folsom Prison Blues/I Walk The Line/Ring Of Fire/The Rebel Johnny Yuma
07 Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)
08 Ragged Old Flag
09 Joshua Gone Barbados
10 One Piece At A Time [Album-Version]
11 Girl From the North Country (w Bob Dylan)
12 Have A Drink Of Water [Album Version]
13 The Man Comes Around
14 Jackson (With June Carter)
15 How Great Thou Art (Previously Unreleased)
16 Gospel Boogie (A Wonderful Time Up There)
17 We'll Meet Again
18 Over The Next Hill (We'll Be Home) [Album Version]
19 Hurt
20 Far Away Places
21 Big River [Demo]
22 There'll Be Peace In The Valley
23 Life's Railway To Heaven [Album Version]
24 Satisfied Mind
25 Folsom Prison Blues
26 Wide Open Road [Album Version]
27 Delia's Gone
28 The Old Account Was Settled Long Ago
29 Veteran's Day
30 Put The Sugar To Bed [Single Version]
31 When He Comes (w. Rosanne Cash)
32 I'm On Fire
33 I Walk The Line (w Bob Dylan)
34 Ring of Fire
35 Bird On A Wire
36 What On Earth (Will You Do For Heaven's Sake) [Album Version]
37 I Walk The Line [Early Demo]
38 Careless Love (w Bob Dylan)
39 Cocaine Blues
40 Highway Patrolman (Album Version)
41 Luther Played the Boogie
42 Long Black Veil

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Music for a Callous Society: Coke Studio 4

The music that comes out of Pakistan is just plain wonderful.  It is not the only country about which this can be said but there is indeed something quite unique about the musicians who are working out their salvation in Pakistan at the moment.  While their ship of state lists in angry seas, tossed violently by economic stagnation, insecurity of life and livelihoods, global chess games, obscurant fanaticism and social unrest, Pakistani musical artists seem to exist in a sublime state of bliss.  The music they are producing is truly Spiritual in the sense that is offers a higher vision that is hope filled and beautiful.  In a time of chaos and confusion the musicians of Pakistan are taking up the historical responsibility of keeping their eyes on the prize of Truth.  Like the great poets of similar past eras, Ghalib and Zafar, (to name just one pair), who produced their art in times of tremendous cultural and political violence, it seems Pakistani musicians are mining the deepest vein of whatever it is that holds their people together. 

That it is music, not poetry, that is the medium doesn’t make any difference. The inherent spirit that animates their art has the identical capacity to heal and invigorate a callous society as much as the ghazals, masnavis and nazms of their artistic forbears. Indeed, that it is music and not an ossified literary form is no accident. The world has changed beyond common understanding, not the least in that it has shrunk. Or at least we comprehend a smaller world these days.  Influences in the form of technology, sounds and sights come from not just the neighbourhood but across the globe. Time has sped up and things never stay the same for very long. There is more urgency in the ether.

Music is uniquely placed to both convey and counteract human urgency.  Because we need only put ourselves in its presence for the magic to work music is able to untangle our troubled souls by switching the focus from words (we live in epoch of excessive words: advertising, political slogans, celebrity gossip, fanatic babbling) to pure sound.  The vibration of music soothes us.  In the next instant the musical vibrations can be so driven and intense that we are compelled to wake ourselves and take action and refocus.

The Coke Studio concept and format in Pakistan exemplifies this ‘gorgeous space’ that music enjoys. Old artists have found new life and new audiences by revamping their music in contemporary clothes. Newcomers have made a place for themselves by digging up the roots and cooking them in a new way.  And without any shyness but rather, with supreme confidence they have mixed in everything from bluegrass (Kikrkir Kirkir) to New Orleans funk and Hindu chants (Nar Bait).

This selection of music from Season 4 is probably the best yet.  Absolutely stunning music delivered with humour, soul, vision and love by an amazing clique of contemporary Sufis who have no option but to shine while their country shakes.

            Track Listing:
            Volume 1
            01 Senraan Ra Baairya [Ashraf Hussain Samrat &    Zoe Viccaji]
02 Ni Oothaan Wale [Attullah Khan Esakhelvi]
03 Kangana [Fareed Ayaz & Abu Muhammad]
04 Nindiya [Kaavish]
05 Kirkir Kirkir [Sajjad Ali]
06 Lamha [Bilal Khan]
07 Qurat ul Ain Balouch Panchi [Jal]
08 Baageshri-Instrumental [Mole]
09 Ith Naheen [Sanam Marvi]

            Track Listing:
            Volume 2
            10 Mundari [Ustaad Naseer ud Din Saami]
11 Nar Bait [Akhtar Chanal Zahri]
12 Pyaar Naal [Attaullah Khan Esakhelvi]
13 Lambi Judaai [Komal Rizvi]
14 Rang Laaga [Sajjad Ali Sanam Marvi]
15 Mandh Waai [The-Sketches]
16 Beero Binjaaro [Asif Hussain Samraat]
17 Mori Bangri [Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad]

Friday, October 26, 2012

Viva Africa Vol. 2: Cross Continental Africa Mixtape

I wanted to post this second volume of African musical nyama choma last night but got waylaid by YouTube and a few videos on Biocentrism.  Apparently, Frank Lanza, the promoter of this topsy turvy scientific idea is considered to be one of the top three scientific brains in the world, if you believe the New York Times.   He is frequently name dropped along with Albert Einstein as a thinker of radical creativity.   He is the pioneer of stem cell medicine but is more famous to scientific dullards like yours truly as the guru of Biocentrism. 

In a nut shell, Biocentrism claims that the entire Universe is a creation of Consciousness or Life. 

Not the other way round.  In other words, the Big Bang didn’t happen 13.8 billion years ago. It was ‘created’ as a concept in our minds in the 20th century. And indeed, everything that exists is only Consciousness’s perception of it. Nothing exists in any particular form without our (human consciousness) engagement.  

Fascinating and compelling stuff. I immediately went on line and bought his book.

Which means that all the music in Africa doesn’t exist except between my ears. And hopefully yours too!  How we share the same non-reality across time and space, well I’m not sure, except that time and space don’t exist either. And according to quantum physics everything exists in multiple places at the same time and everything is all entangled!


I think I’ll just let the music do the talking.  This is a big file today, but well worth the weight!

            Track Listing:
            01 Watch Out [The Syndicate] SOUTH AFRICA
02 Algerie Mon Beau Pays [Slimane Azem] ALGERIA
03 Feso Jaiye [The Sahara All Stars of Jos] NIGERIA
04 Awela-awela [Franco and Sam Mangwana] DEMOCRATIC REP. CONGO
05 I Put A Spell On You [Natacha Atlas] MOROCCO/EGYPT/BELGIUM
06 Youyou [Les Quatre Etoiles du Zaire] DEMOCRATIC REP. CONGO
07 Chapita [Dick Khoza] SOUTH AFRICA
08 Margret Odero [D.O. Misiani and Shirati Jazz] KENYA
09 Natali Nato [Henri Bowane] DEMOCRATIC REP. CONGO
10 Shango II [Mombasa] GERMANY/KENYA
11 Warm Heart of Africa (featuring Ezra Koenig) [Warm Heart of Africa] MALAWI/USA
12 Tijaniya [Youssou n'Dour] SENEGAL
13 Cinquante Six [Ali Farke Toure] MALI
14 Namibia [Pops Mohamed] SOUTH AFRICA
15 Qula (Remix) [Brenda Fassie] SOUTH AFRICA
16 Mpenzi Azizi [Zuhara and Zein Musical Party] TANZANIA/ZANZIBAR
17 Kabu [Aster Aweke] ETHIOPIA
18 Disgraciado [Rui Sangara] GUINEA BISSAU
19 Dubulamanzwe [Thapelo Khomo] SOUTH AFRICA
20 N'Zingu - Pasi [Tchiho Tchico] REP. CONGO (BRAZZAVILLE)
21 Annil [Mounira Moutchala] CHAD
22 Dissan Na M'bera [Super Mama Djombo] GUINEA BISSAU
23 Onipa Dabre Mu [Obiba Collins Marfo and Super Stars] GHANA
24 Dhow Countries [Taj Mahal and Cultural Music Club of Zanzibar] TANZANIA/ZANZIBAR/USA
25 I Djo Famâ [Salif Keita MALI
26 Utrus Horas [Orchestra Baobab] SENEGAL

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Viva Africa: Cross Continental Mixtape

Good evening!

The sun has finally gone away on this Australian spring day and night has fallen.   I’ve been really enjoying a bunch of music from all across Africa in the last couple of weeks, marveling, as usual, at the variety of ways it can bring joy to the soul.

With the televised Presidential debates going on in the USA one’s mind is taken back to when Dubya pronounced, “Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease."  And whilst I was recollecting that gaffe I stumbled upon some other things said about that wonderful continent.  A few are appended in no particular sequence or priority.

“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”  (Desmond Tutu)

The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it.” (George Kimble, explorer 1912)

So geographers, in Africa maps, With savage pictures fill their gaps, And o'er uninhabitable downs Place elephants for want of towns” (Jonathan Swift)

I am the hero of Africa.” Idi Amin Dada

“People go to Africa and confirm what they already have in their heads and so they fail to see what is there in front of them. This is what people have come to expect. It's not viewed as a serious continent. It's a place of strange, bizarre and illogical things, where people don't do what common sense demands.”  (Chinua Achebe)

“Humans have been evolving for millions of years longer in Africa than in Europe, and even anatomically modern Homo sapiens may have reached Europe from Africa only within the last 50,000 years. If time were a critical factor in the development of human societies, Africa should have enjoyed an enormous head start and advantage over Europe.” (Jared Diamond)

First, white folks discovered Africa
and they claimed it fair and square.
Cecil Rhodes couldn't have been robbing nobody
'cause he said there was nobody there.
White folks brought all the civilization,
since there wasn't none around.
They said 'how could these folks be civilized
when you never see nobody writing nothing down?'
(Gil Scott Heron /Black History)

I hope you enjoy this mixtape of African sounds as much as I have in recent days.

         Track Listing:
         01 Heaven [Ebo Taylor]  GHANA
02 Safi [Rachid Taha] ALGERIA
03 Pachange Maria [Os Bongos] ANGOLA
04 Dododo (ekassa 1) [Sir Victor Uwaifo] NIGERIA
05 Hawa Dolo [Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabete] MALI
06 Thuto ke senotlolo [Mahlathini Nezintobmi Zomgqashiyo] SOUTH AFRICA
07 Maqtool Hawaki Ya Kordofan [Abdel Gadir Salim] SUDAN
08 Tenere (The Desert, My Home) [Bombino] NIGER
09 Gua [Emmanuel Jal and Abdel Gadir Salim] SOUTH SUDAN AND SUDAN
10 Salome [I.K. Dairo and His Blue Spots] GHANA
11 Salam [Youcef] ALGERIA
12 Miwa [Gangbe Brass Band] BENIN
13 Ghanili Chweyi [Oum Kalthoum] EGYPT
14 Rosa [Francisco Mahecuane] MOZAMBIQUE
15 Riberonzinha [Maria de Barros] CAPE VERDE
16 Tiebaw [Oumara Sangare] MALI
17 Coup De Chapeau [Thu Zahina] DEMOCRATIC REP. CONGO
18 Sene' (Working the Land) [Afro Celt Syound System] IRELAND
19 Deka [Ade Liz] COTE D’IVOIRE
20 Paradiso [Konono No.1 ] DEMOCRATIC REP. CONGO
21 Xigevengu [Wazimbo] MOZAMBIQUE
22 E Nan Man Nuku El Rego et ses Commandos] BENIN
23 Tea samba [E.T. Mensah] GHANA
24 Rouh Adhqimagh [Lounis Ait Menguellet] ALGERIA