Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 33: Rizwan - Muazzam Qawwali "Sacrafice to Love" and Blues Routes sampler

Another day, another bag, the same old Albatross. I'm back and the stack of CDs doesn't seem any smaller. I've found a bag of 'fresh' CDs, it seems, and there should be less 'failures' in this one. But just from the surface of it, it's also a bag I'm not entirely aware of. Both of today's CD's I don't really recall seeing that often if at all. I don't know how this bag (it's still in a paper bag, most of the CDs had been moved to a re-usable shopping bag) managed to survive, but now it's the second to be digested into the Project. Let's get to it.

Rizwan - Muazzam Qawwali
Sacrifice to Love

This is another Real World CD, Peter Gabriel's vanity world music label. I've talked about it before. We move from Africa to Asia for this collection of Pakistani music by Rizwan - Muazzam Quawwali.

I know next to nothing about what's going on, to be honest. Fortunately, the liner notes are intact.

Of course, the liner notes are a little sparse on the subject. This seems to be a Real World failing. These are the nephews of the renowned Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who introduced the west to Qawwali music, essentially (from the liner notes) Sufi and Islamic devotionals. Musically it seems to rely on heavy call and response, lengthy flowing vocal lines and a diverse and driving percussion, though not really heavy. The harmonium is kind of cool. According to wiki (no thanks, Real World liner notes...) the music is supposed to be rather high energy to "induce hypnotic states both among the musicians and within the audience." 

No warnings to not drive or operate heavy machinery seen on this CD however.

Maybe it's the harmonium working overtime, but I'm feeling a lot of similarity between this and Zydeco music. It's not just the drone of the harmonium sounding like an accordion (natch), the percussion and tempo kind of fit in, too. Zydeco doesn't really go for as long, flowing vocal lines, but otherwise, it's not entirely different.

These are some long songs, each over 15 minutes.

The liner notes have a weird quirk. On the translation of the third track (the lyrics are remarkably short for songs that go on for so long), it starts off with what the Qawwali is supposed to be. This one is called I Am the Dust of the Street of Mohammed. The discription contains a brief note on the piece, "A 'naat' - a song in praise of Prophet Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH)." It's that last bit that seems trippy, the acronym there. I mean, I'm used to hearing that following the mention of Mohammed, but I've never seen anyone put it down as just initials. I wonder what the story there is.

This was released in 1999 when the two artists that make up the group were teenagers, apparently. I don't have anything insightful to fill in that information, really. I think it just exhausts what I know about this CD.

Various Artists
Blues Routes: Blues & Jazz - Worksongs & Street Music - Heroes & Tricksters

Well, another bag, more blues compilations. This is pretty interesting in that it's part of a Folkways series of concerts. Apparently it collects various folk permiatations of the blues in American culture. It started off with a raildriving song by the Gandy Dancers (Gandy Dancers apparently a term for railstraighteners for the tool manufacturer, Gandy...see Real World, those are useful liner notes...) lead by a guy named John Henry followed by the song John Henry.

Not that anyone can tell, but I haven't been writing much about this CD because the liner notes are actually fantastic. I've had my fun with some of the more over the top liner notes so far, and of course blues has been a leader in the field of ridiculous.

But these, these are pretty good. Each track gets its own little section where the style of blues represented is given a brief but clear introduction including what makes it distinctive, its history, development and place in the rest of the blues cannon. So while I should be winging my way through commenting on the music and searching the nooks and crannies of my brain to try and remember all of this stuff that I may not have known in the first place, I'm instead filling in a bunch of gaps, like the railroad thing at the beginning. Or the history of the banjo, which I never apparently knew.

According to the liner notes it more or less evolved from a stringed gourd instrument brought over by slaves from West Africa. When it became a common feature of minstrel shows mocking black culture it sort of fell out of favor for the guitar. I never knew that. Of course, I never really liked the banjo, but I should have at least known where the instrument came from.

This is another Smithsonian CD so I guess it shouldn't really be that much of a surprise.

I'm on to a recording of the Mardi Gras Indians, black groups that act as 'tribes' during Mardi Gras with elaborate costumes. It even gives a list of CDs that contain nothing but Mardi Gras Indian recordings. This is like the champion of liner notes.

Following that is a band with paint bucket percussion. I had the opportunity to interview San Francisco's own Bucketman (who will be the first to tell you that he's been featured in Pursuit of Happyness and various TV shows.) He's a pretty entertaining guy to talk to. Doesn't really relate to this recording, but he was fascinating to talk to. This recording is apparently an example of Washington D.C.'s go-go music, a sort of folk rap form using bucket percussion. Awesome.

This CD should come with a unit of American Music History. It's probably the most informative thing I've listened to without actually getting a unit or two in the process.

See, I didn't know there was a San Francisco/Oakland 'sound' to blues. But it's clearly awesome. Joe Louis Walker is quoted in the liner notes describing it as "more swinging, as opposed to th real hard Windy City shuffles. It's more of a swing jump thing --very danceable."
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But mostly it started off with some heavy slide guitar, which I love.

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