Racha Rizk

Racha Rizk: “Diva of the Damascus Opera”

Racha Rizk

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What a voice. Racha Rizk is a singer from Damascus now based in Paris. “Sakru Shababîk” is my current favorite Rizk track for that soulful, powerful voice and bonus electric guitar – something I don’t hear too often in Arabic pop. Check out her interview with Onorient from earlier this year, and check her out via Facebook.

From Onorient (translated):

“Passed far too unnoticed, the first album of the Syrian diva, “Malak” released early 2017, deserves to be widely presented on new scenes.

The compositions of Racha Rizk tell with troubling softness the destructive consequences of the war in Syria. Her past of prima donna at the Opera is guessed in the elegance of her phrasing and the amplitude of her melodies. With the freedom of the great artists, she sings in Arabic on oriental music tunes, tinged with jazz, pop suspicions, or a few rock riffs.

His enveloping voice has already charmed several generations of moviegoers in France. A few years ago, she had lent her voice to the films of the Lebanese director Nadine Labaki Caramel and And now we go where?  From now on, its homage to Syria and the Syrians is a tribute to the web, beyond the borders.”

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Jo Tongo

Jo Tongo: Parisian Funk via Cameroon

Jo Tongo

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The latest Africa Seven release is a collection of old and new tracks from Parisian funk great Jo Tongo. Active for many decades, Tongo is apparently working on new music to come out soon. Give this new collection a spin to hold you over and get your daily fill of high-quality afro-funk.

From Bandcamp:

“Our hero, Jo Tongo (born Joseph Ekambi Tongo Mpondo) was born and raised in Douala Cameroon. In 1964 he headed off to Paris to begin Pharmaceutical studies. Somewhere along the way the music in his soul eventually won out and he embarked on a life of music. In the latest of our series of “Funk Experimentals” LPs we dig for the funk. Not necessarily the artists greatest hits but most definitely the funkiest ear benders. We proudly compile together tracks from 1968 to 3 new brand new exclusive tracks from present day 2017. And yes, they all have the funk. In spades.

The album opens up with stunningly catchy Jangolo. Jo’s awesomely funky bass and percussive “jangly” guitar. The track is underpinned by African drums, funky stabs and 70s nascent synthesiser string machines. Next up we take a trip to 1979 and “Funky Feeling” from Jo’s “Those Flowers” album. Here the beats are big, the strings are sweet and the clavi is into overdrive. We then jump back to 1976 for the evergreen, horn-puncher, funk stomper “Piani”. Before the sweet smooth funk of “Those Flowers”.

Next up is “American Lady” with the bright strings, jangly guitars and driving keys. All locked on to maximize the groove. We then take a trip back to 1968 for Jo’s second single the ever so funky and ever so ahead of its time, “Dig It Babe”. Soul, horns, groove and punch all in two perfect packages. Part 1 and Part 2. Next up it is the funk boogie afro swingers “Ewande”.

Bringing things up date we jump forward to 2017, present day. Jo has been making music more or less non-stop and here we are lucky to premier three brand new tracks. The drums are punchy, the guitars ooze the funk and the locked on keys tie the tracks together in one tight-as package. Jo is on the production and at the controls for the mix. “Lion Roar” is first with its driving clavinet and all-out-assault funky drums. The brass is big and this song is Bold with a capital “B”. “It’s The D Day” is next with swinging soul style groove before “Mystic Power” features a ballsy brass-laden beat and jazz funk overtones.

Many thanks Jo for choosing the music. Nearly 50 years at the top of the game.”

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Oiseaux-Tempête

Oiseaux-Tempête: for fans of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and uplifting dread

Oiseaux-Tempête

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You know that feeling when you listen to Godspeed You! Black Emperor and you sense that the world is about to fold onto you and crush you and everything you’ve ever known, but somehow this is OK and in tune with how the world should be? Parisian band Oiseaux-Tempête knows this feeling, and they add a Middle-Eastern flavor to their uplifting dread that takes its time with you. Stick around for all of ‘AL – ‘AN ! الآن (And your night is your shadow — a fairy – tale piece of land to make our dreams)’ and you won’t be disappointed.

From Bandcamp:

“These are some live epiphanies improvised between Middle-East and Europe during the year of chaos 2016…Field recordings shot in Lebanon between March and October 2016…Poems by Mahmoud Darwish extracts from ‘The Offering’ and ‘Red Indian’s Penultimate Speech to the White Man'”

Oiseaux-Tempête: website Bandcamp Facebook

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Dead Pirates

dead pirates

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Bandcamp Daily did a great profile on the Paris-based rock group Dead Pirates and how it transformed from a fake cartoon band into a real band. I recommend reading the entire profile as you check out the music video for “Ugo” below.

The group began as musical accompaniment for a music video by French illustrator Matthieu Bessudo (known as Mcbess). At first Mcbess did all the music, but soon he recruited other members and began touring the music. A side project turned into a full-time gig.

“It was strange,” Mcbess tells Bandcamp. “I went to South America to do an exhibition, and a friend of mine there was into some good music and said it would be easy to set up a tour. He landed us like six or seven dates.”

Highmare is the group’s debut LP. The “Ugo” music video features Mcbess’ trademark Max Fleischer-inspired artwork as the video is some sort of twisted adult spin on the classic animation.

Dead Pirates: Bandcamp Website Facebook Twitter

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Pierre Boulez – “Le Marteau Sans Maître”

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Year: 1955

I always think of the ’50s as an innocent and square time (think Happy Days). But classical music in the ’50s challenged the restraints of its romantic past to confront a less romantic modern world. The US was fighting Russia in a Cold War, a conflict that was affecting most other countries still coming to terms with the devastation caused by two back-to-back World Wars. Surely the world was going to end in fire or nuclear radiation. This reactionary movement among artists was happening even before Schoenberg and the atonality movement, but several new composers throughout the world came into their own in the ’50s to challenge the notion of classical music’s place in modern culture.

One such artist was Pierre Boulez, who passed away earlier this year at 90. For his famous piece “Le Marteau Sans Maître,” the French composer took the surrealist poetry of René Char and used its words as the focal point for a chamber ensemble to create an unsettling, random sounding composition. Except everything was in order. The piece took two years to write and incorporated flutes, xylorimbas, and a contralto, a classical female singer with the lowest possible vocal range who provides the only sense of human life. Everything else sounds cold and calculated. It’s long, but random hits of the bongo and crashes of instruments keep you engaged. It’s a piece I’ve come to enjoy in a certain mood (if you encounter me in such a mood, run away from me).

As with any classical music I write about, I encourage you to read the master Alex Ross for more details into the life of Boulez.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Air – “Le Soleil Est Prés De Moi”

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Year: 1997

Album: Premiers Symptômes

Sounds like 2013 Daft Punk, or should I say 2013 Daft Punk sounds like 1997 Air. Either way, the French House sound is undeniably cool. With auto-tune vocals, space invader keys, downtempo pacing, tasteful horns, and, hardest of all, a proper use of a wah-wah pedal, this song has everything you could ever want for your French alter ego.

Premiers Symptômes was Air’s debut EP. Collectors and obsessed fans argue that this collection of the band’s earliest singles and B-sides was the best thing they ever released. I don’t listen to enough Air to know or care what place this EP has in relation to Moon Safari. I do care, however, that a song like this exists, something that is so humble and moody for any nighttime occasion.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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Kyo Itachi – “Andromede Vibes”

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Year: 2010

Album: Love Mugen

I was at the perfect age for Adult Swim, which premiered its first original shows in September 2001 (unfortunately the same week as 9/11). Adult Swim is still going strong, but it’s hard to beat those few years that included Aqua Teen Hunger ForceRobot Chicken, and the rebroadcasting of FLCL, Dragon Ball Z, and many more international shows that essentially found its American audience through AS. It also saved Family Guy and Futurama from cancellation purgatory and was resurrected on Fox and Comedy Central respectively, no doubt by its popularity on AS. MTV had already transformed into a reality channel, and MTV2 would premiere the occasional My Chemical Romance music video to keep me interested, but to me Adult Swim was the great TV inside joke that MTV was to the previous generation.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force might have been the definitive AS show (if you don’t believe me, read Tim O’Neil’s excellent profile of the show’s history), Samurai Champloo is how I’ll always remember AS. Never before had I seen a show that so perfectly blended cool music, violent animation, and taboo topics (sex, drugs, and hip-hop music, all things my sweet Midwestern mom did not want young me to know about) and made it fun and enlightening to watch.

Samurai Champloo, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, the same director of Cowboy Bebop, follows two samurais and the girl who hires them to help her find “the samurai who smells of sunflowers.” But I don’t remember the show for its plot – it’s the music that made me care. The soundtrack features only DJs and hip-hop producers who created tracks to accompany the show’s sword fights and other settings. It was a seemingly unlikely marriage that worked, and it recreated Japanese history in a playful way.

I went back recently to watch Samurai Champloo and was disappointed with the show’s weak plot, but the music still made me smile. Long live Samurai Champloo, and long live Adult Swim.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber
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