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Sep 26/09

Pause

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 16:54

Yes, there haven’t been many posts lately. Let’s just say that Benn loxo du taccu is on pause until further notice.

It’ll likely be back in some form, at some stage, but for now we rest.

Thanks for following me this far: five years and nearly 500 posts.

Cheers,
Matt

Jul 19/09

alt.congo

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 13:00

Staff Benda Bilili

What’s most interesting to me about Crammed’s Congotronics bands, Konomo No. 1 and the Kasai All-Stars, plus their compatriots Staff Benda Bilili, is that they’re for real.

When you read an intro like “a group of Congolese street musicians fronted by four eldery, disabled men in wheelchairs and backed by formerly abandoned street kids” or “an urban electro-traditional Congolese musical phenomenon, lost since the late 70s” the sceptics among us will ask, were they really playing together before they were “discovered” by a European label? Did they sound that way before they were brought into the studio?

The thing is, they did. In fact everything that Crammed producer Vincent Kenis finds is pure gold and 100% authentic. Kasai, Konomo, Staff; these guys stayed true to their musical roots both before and after their brush with fame. Their incredible backgrounds may cause you to pause over their record review for a few moments longer than usual, but it’s their stunning, authentically original music that keeps you on the dance floor.

I first saw Konomo No. 1 live in 2005 at the New Morning in Paris, then again at that epic show at 2007′s Couleur Café, then again last week at the Cabaret Sauvage, this time along with the Kasai All-Stars and Staff Benda Bilili. Amadou and Mariam also played at that 2007 Brussels show, but unlike Konomo they’ve since lost touch with what made them best – Mali. The hype now surrounds their association with Manu Chao and their blind love. Their music may still be entertaining but it’s no longer, well, the fresh Malian style that it once was a few years ago. They’ve gone pop.

Konomo haven’t gone pop. In fact, they’ve sounded pretty much exactly the same since they started recording music in the late 70s. I appreciate that because their sound is unique and it gets me every time.. shakes me into a sweat.

The Kasai All-Stars are newer to “that world music scene” and are still finding their footing on stage, but after a few missteps they, too, grabbed the crowd and got them moving. By any stretch they are a pretty weird group but in a charming, original way that makes you shake your head, smile and start bouncing to the rhythm. It didn’t hurt that the sound was way better this time around.

Staff Benda Bilili’s live show really impressed me. I’d class them as true entertainers – and this is my highest praise for a live show – in the sense that they were there to entertain their audience, not just to play their music to a roomful of pre-convinced fans. They were trying to impress us, sweating, really rocking it, to make sure that we all came away tired from dancing, loving their music.

Classy and full of energy, Staff stole the show.

With its big outdoor terrace including BBQ, beer on tap and a very good pre-show DJ, a beautiful interior venue with good sound, there is nothing not to love about the Cabaret Sauvage. It was there at a private party in 2000 that I changed the course of my life… but that story is for another day. Today let’s just listen to some of the music from last week’s triple-Kinshasa-bill and relax.. just as I’m relaxing in a friend’s garden in Normandy as I write this. Summer is amazing.

ps- if you haven’t already, watch the Staff trailer

Staff Benda Bilili – Tonkara
Kasai All-Stars – Quick As White
Konono No.1 – Mama Liza (live at Couleur Café 2007)
Konono – Mungua (1978)

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Jul 8/09

The n’goni travels well

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 10:15

Cheick Hamala Diabate

Last week the good people at Rock Paper Scissors introduced me to Chieck Hamala Diabate‘s upcoming release, Ake Doni Ani.

I always approach new-world/old-world West African albums with care, but on this one things come together nicely. The opening track that we’ll hear today, Den Woulou Lalou, features Corey Harris‘ slide guitar blending well with the n’goni and a riddim feel riding well with the Malian griot sound. The results are very listenable and make a great start to my mid-week morning.

Cheick Hamala Diabate lives in Washington DC but has some big-time musical genes cred: he’s Toumani Diabate‘s first cousin and Djelimady Tounkara‘s nephew. On this release he teamed up with Corey Harris, some members of Chopteeth and others to produce a distinctly Malian-sounding album with tasteful hints of other influences.

I haven’t been back to Mali since that amazing road trip several years ago and I haven’t been back to DC in even longer.. but hey, I’ll play it like Diabate and stick to what I like from a distance for now.

Speaking of which, many upcoming shows and trips in the mix. August is pretty dead in Paris (in a good way if you ask me) but July and September are chock-a-block with great live African music concerts. Let me know if you’re around for any of these:

Staff Benda Bilili, Konomo No.1 and the Kasai All-Stars on July 15th; Seun Kuti & Fela’s Egypt 80, Amadou & Mariam and Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou on September 1st; Hank Jones & Cheick Tidiane Seck, Mahmoud Ahmed and Alémayèhu Eshèté on September 12th.

And if you know anything about the music scenes in Australia or Borneo…

Cheick Hamala Diabate’s latest release, Ake Doni Doni (Take It Slow) will be out on August 11th, 2009, on Grigri Discs.

Cheick Hamala Diabate – Den Woulou Lalou

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Jul 3/09

La plage

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 13:11

King Khan and The Shrines at the Glaz'art in Paris, France, on July 2nd, 2009

Last night I drank too much beer and danced on a beach to live Canadian-German rock and yéyé 45s at the Glaz’art Plage. What a great place.

It was said that it didn’t feel or look like Paris, what with these youth in interesting outfits – Parisians generally don’t do costumes – cheering on a crowd-surfer who lost his short-shorts and underwear in the fray. But at the same time we were very much in Paris, beside the Parc de la Villette, watching fork lightning-infused storm clouds all around us as the sun miraculously kept shining.

There are few things better than outdoor concerts, especially ones by crazy motherfuckers like King Khan. But add an afforable barbeque, free-flowing headachy beer, sand everywhere and pétanque à volonter and you have the makings of a great evening.

So I’m moving a little slowly today but it was worth it. It’s nice to have these kinds of nights in Paris. Not all Paris dancing has to be done in a dark room behind a burly bouncer at the door, and not all indy bands must be seen at the Maroquinerie. There exists a sunnier, gentler Paris where mod kids in flip-flops slurp beer and let loose to rock’n'roll.

King Khan and The Shrines – How Can I Keep You Outta Har

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Jul 1/09

Couleur Café 2009

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 08:41

Couleur Café 2009 music festival, Brussels

I was in Brussels last weekend for the 3-day Couleur Café music festival. It was my third Couleur Café – it’s becoming a bit of a tradition.

If you’ve never been you should definitely check it out next year. I think the venue is changing in a couple years, so next year will be your last chance to check-out the festival at Tour et Taxi, a great festival grounds on the edge of Brussels. It’s apparently moving to the Atomium or thereabouts.. we’ll see how that works out. (Is there still that hilariously frightening Charlemagne Palestine exhibit of weird puppets inside the Atomium?)

The music at Couleur Café is always good, the event is well-organized, you eat well, the weather is inevitably sunny – at least every year I’ve been – and Brussels is a very fun place to spend a weekend if you know/meet the right people. A big plus is that Couleur Café, like Solidays in Paris but minus the attitude, is in a city instead of a muddy field somewhere.

The line-up this year was pretty good. You can never see everyone at these festivals, especially if you’re going to survive the million chopes in the uncharacteristically hot, sunny Belgian weather, but I did manage to catch quite a few good shows.

Today we’ll hear some music from some of this year’s highlights including Bibi Tanga, Asian Dub Foundation, Khaled, Alpha Blondy, Patrice, Cesaria Evora and the Kasai All-Stars.

I didn’t know Bibi Tanga before the festival – great show. Asian Dub Foundation put on a good, loud and sweaty set as usual. Patrice really rocked the crowd. Unfortunately for me, the Kasai All-Stars set had some of the worst sound I’ve ever heard. I was really looking forward to seeing them but the show was almost unlistenable due to bad mixing, bad mics.. oh well. Alpha Blondy was, well, an Alpha Blondy show with plenty of smoke in the air and dazed franco-reggae youth in the sun. Cesaria Evora looked like she’d seen a ghost or suffered a stroke, but her music still goes so well with the nice weather. (And no, Hocus Pocus didn’t actually play with her. That’s just a 20syl remix I like.. a nod to the Paris hiphop scene.) And we all know that Khaled is classic.

There was much, much more – some that I saw, much that I didn’t – but that’s enough for a big weekend. I’m still tired but Couleur Café is well worth the trip every year.

Big love to the whole Belgium crew – always a pleasure to see you guys.

PS Happy Canada Day!

Bibi Tanga – It’s The Earth That Moves
Asian Dub Foundation – Flyover
Alpha Blondy – Brigadier Sabary
Cesaria Evora – Petit Pays (20syl remix)
Kasai Allstars – Quick As White
Patrice – Fear Rules
Khaled – Raba Raba

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Jun 26/09

Hats & The Angolan Panamanian Pizza

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 10:21

Elena Montilla / Panama

Now I’ve never been to Panama but my friend, Rob, has.

“There is a lady called Elena Montilla in a little town in the middle of Panama called Ocù. She’s one of the last panama hat makers since they are almost all made in Ecuador these days. But though Ocù’s hat industry may be dwindling, Angolan pizza manufacture is on the up there. The main square is home to Pizza Angola – a one man mission to bring pizza to Panama along with some fine African music while you wait. And how did this Angolan fellow end up in Ocù? Via the Ukraine obviously! Turns out he won a scholarship to the university in Kiev at the same time as a girl from Ocù. They met, got married and he moved to Panama and started a pizza joint.

Over to Matt for today’s rocking Panamanian track.”

Thanks, Rob. I for one am all for meeting people in foreign countries and then deciding to get married!

I’ve selected two tracks for today’s guest post, both from Soundway Records’ excellent Panama complilations. Panama 2: Latin Sounds, Cumbia Tropical and Calypso Funk on the Isthmus 1967-77 was just released this month. It’s the follow-up to their 2006 release, Panama: Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus 1965-75.

ps- I’m heading to Brussels tonight for the Couleur Café festival. Will report back next week. And hey, if you’re going to be there then drop me an e-mail; the Benn Loxo Free Beer On Matt deal still stands!

Bush Y Sus Magnificos – Nana Nina
Alfredo Y Su Salsa Montanera – La Escoba

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Jun 23/09

“So London”

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 14:29

Lokkhi Terra

Despite what some people think, Parisians are fascinated by the Anglophone world. English-speakers are often surprised to learn that it’s the dream of many French youth to leave France for the UK or N. America so that they can escape the constraints of their relatively conservative society. Those without the gift of language skills look longingly to Montréal, that dreamy city where one can speak French but still feel American. (Most return after their first Québec winter.)

Relatively conservative? Paris? Well, compared to London… yes. In cuisine, fashion and music, absolutely. A trip across the manche will quickly convince anyone who has lived in Paris for a while that, for better or for worse, often the latter in my opinion, people make a much greater effort to individualize themselves in London. Goodbye to the seas of matching black clothing at Paris cafés; farewell to blandly-spiced “asiatique” cuisine; adieu to attractively unhappy brunette singer-songwriters. Hello to gutsy use of colour, brash drum’n'bass, fiery south Asian eats and an unabashed fusion of cultures everywhere you turn. I may be a francophile at heart – I’ll take Paris over London any day – but I’ll readily admit that Paris is London’s tamer, less integrated neighbour.

I was in London last week. Most evenings were busy with work nights out and catch-ups with friends but I did manage to see some music upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho. It was Friday, so it was Viva La Revolucion! night featuring live latin music. The band was Lokkhi Terra, a “Cuban Bengal” group from London.

Talk about a good example of London cultural mixing. Lokkhi Terra features Bengali, Indian and Cuban vocalists, drummers on congas and tablas, and horns backing-up the frontman, Kishon Khan, on piano. The enthusiastic crowd – very mixed in age, ethnicity and ability to dance – worked the bar for mojitos between salsas.

While I’ve grown to love the Paris music scene in its many forms, this live show was something that you wouldn’t find here. As a French teen might say, it was “so London.”

Lokkhi Terra – Gottogotodhaka
Lokkhi Terra – Nodir Kul (BAS remix)

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Jun 6/09

HK Wow Factor

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 11:37

Hong Kong guitarist

I spent a week in Hong Kong on the same trip that took me to Seoul. I’m rarely wowed by a city these days but Hong Kong really blew me away. What an amazing place.

True, I was set-up in a great hotel on the island with a view of the harbour and, true, the weather was great while I was there – people tell me that summer in the city is hell. But every city has its bad seasons. Paris isn’t exactly Rio, and I grew-up in Canada where the entire population has convinced themselves that a few months of slush is a good thing since “seasons are important”. (This is not true.)

It wasn’t just the nice weather after a week of smoggy, hazy Seoul, that convinced me that I could easily live in HK. There are very, very few safe and vibrant cities in the world where you can walk to work in the morning, eat at a world-class restaurant for lunch, go hiking or lie on a beautiful beach in the afternoon, order fish at an unpretentious seaside restaurant in the early evening, then bar hop and hit the clubs until dawn. The city, the people, the green… I had no idea that the place was so green. There are even carefully designed clusters of ex-pats bars designed to keep drunk Brits out of the better parts of the city. Key.

I’m slowly discovering Asia, or at least its big cities. Why did I wait so long? I’m an urban Asia convert. Singapore and Malaysia soon.. and then hopefully Tokyo at some stage?

There is one bad thing about Hong Kong: the music. The Canto-pop revolution is still in full swing and most if it is so cheesy to my ears that it’s not even worth an ironic post. Luckily I played pétanque the other day – yes, with a Ricard in hand amidst the bobos of the Bassin de la Villette – with a girl who grew-up in Hong Kong. She gave me a few tips, a couple of which we’ll hear today.

My Little Airport is a Hong Kong duo who’ve released three albums since 2004. They’re “cute” but good. We’ll hear four tracks from each of their three albums plus one from a 2004 Hong Kong indie mix that I picked-up somewhere.

PixelToy is another Hong Kong girl-guy duo with a similar sound to My Little Airport. They have a couple LPs out. We’ll hear a song from each, including a fun Love Will Tear Me Apart cover, plus another from a mix that their label put out back in 2004.

My Little Airport – Edward, Had You Ever Thought That The End of The World Would Come On 20.9.91
My Little Airport – 悲傷的採購 (digilick remix)
My Little Airport – 悲伤的采购
My Little Airport – Romantic Kowloon Tong
PixelToy – Beautiful
PixelToy – Good Morning
PixelToy – Love Will Tear Us Apart

Jun 1/09

Oh, Charlotte, I knew it would last

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 00:10

Charlotte DadaWho knew that the day would finally come when Charlotte Dada was revealed: http://combandrazor.blogspot.com/2009/05/charlotte-dada-revealed.html

You know it’s the only track that I never remove from this blog?

Many thanks to With Comb & Razor for this precious late night Sunday moment. I feel like we should throw a party. Wait, we will! I don’t want to steal the fire by re-posting Ms. Daddah.. so let’s celebrate another way.

While Charlotte’s Don’t Let Me Down may still be the unofficial theme song of Benn loxo du taccu, Maître Gazonga’s “Les Jaloux Saboteurs” is in many ways the theme song to my life.

First featured on Benn loxo in 2005 (thanks, Mr. Bida), this song-of-songs has rocked dance floors at parties in Bolivia, Ireland, China, Canada, France, Senegal and elsewhere. It broke a dance floor outside of Galway and brought everyone to their feet in La Paz. It’s a standard now in Paris and rung in the New Year in Toronto.

Friends, if there is any way to celebrate the Finding of Charlotte it is by dancing to Maître Gazonga.

As Franco once said to Sam Mangwana, “on danse!”

Maitre Gazonga – Les Jaloux Saboteurs

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May 31/09

The G.I. Effect

Matt Yanchyshyn @ 12:20

Seoul

I had the good fortune to spend a week in Seoul, South Korea, this past February. The weather was hazy and cold almost every day and the pollution hung in the air like a bad Beijing day, but I still thought the city was pretty cool. It was much bigger than I imagined and it takes you hours to get anywhere.. my meetings seemed to always be at opposite ends of the city.

I could go on and on about how great Korean food is, but I’ll let Louise handle that. Let’s focus on some music.

I have to admit that I’ve had a hard time penetrating the K-Pop scene to find some truly good contemporary Korean music. There were whispers and clips of good Seoul-based hip-hop and reggae but language barriers and time didn’t allow me to follow-up.

Luckily, it turns out that South Korea had a very active – and good – psychedelic folk and rock scene in the late 1960s through to the mid-80s. Why? Three words: United States Army.

It’s interesting how much the military has contributed to music all over Africa and Asia in the 20th century. Colonial-era soldiers and sailors from Europe stationed at ports throughout West and Central Africa swapped music, instruments and ideas with African musicians which eventually led to an explosion of soul, rock and folk as well as home-grown hybrid styles. Similarly, Korean musicians quickly stepped in to fill an entertainment void for American GIs stationed in post-war Korea during the 50s and 60s.

By the middle of the 1960s people like Shin Jung-Hyun, Korea’s “Godfather of Rock”, moved from Army concert halls to recording studios so that their music could reach a growing local audience. Jung-Hyun (also written Jeong-Hyun, also written Jung-Hyeon) produced or was at least partly responsible for much of the music you’ll hear on today’s post, so it’s appropriate that we start with a track from his first band to press an LP, Add4, released in 1964.

Next we’ll listen to his 1969 release featuring Lee Jung Hwa on the mic. This is where we start to get into the Korean psych-rock vibe; the track is an epic 16+ minute psychedelic ballad complete with multiple instrument solos. Unfortunately the recording isn’t great but I love the song.

Moving on, we’ll hear a couple tracks off Kim Jung-Mi’s 1973 album, Now, and one from her 1973 release, Wind. She’s probably my favourite of the bunch, but I don’t know much about her except that she was also under Shin Jung-Hyun’s sphere of influence.

Next up the popular Korean rock group, San Ul Rim (The Mountain Echo). We’ll listen to a track from each of their first three albums. First, the title track from their first album, released in 1977. Next an acoustic joint from their second album, the aptly named “Laying Carpet On My Mind” from 1978. Last a track from their second ’78 release, My Heart.

We’ll now move back to the 60s and early 70s for some Beatlemania à-la-Korea in the form of The Keyboys and two later spin-offs, He5 and He6. Fun and poppy in that 1969 way.. lots of male vocal harmonies and organ use. One day I’m going to make a cop film set in Seoul 1971 and I’ll have the perfect soundtrack. Or maybe the film could take place in both Seoul and Rome…

Following that awesome version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida it’s only appropriate that we finish off with another cover by The Pearl Sisters.

You can learn everything you ever wanted to know about the history of 20th century Korean rock and folk, as I did, at this amazing site: http://koreanpsych.homestead.com/.

That was fun… next stop, Hong Kong.

Shin Jung-Hyun & Add4 – 소야 어서 가자 (Cattle, let’s go soon)
Shin Jung Hyun & The Donkeys feat. Lee Jung Hwa – Mah-Eum
Kim Jung-Mi – Toward The Sunlight
Kim Jung-Mi – Wind In The Trees
Kim Jung-Mi – 불어라 봄바람
San Ul Lim – Oh, Already
San Ul Lim – Like A Child Sleeping On A Shoulder
San Ul Lim – Become A Bird
The Keyboys – Unknown
He5 – Lonely Sun
He6 – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
The Pearl Sisters – I Love You

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