While the name and music of Bobby Womack has been ubiquitous my entire life, I have many gaps in my personal knowledge of soul and blues music and this includes true understanding of the importance of Bobby Womack. Womack passed away this past weekend and this has led to an outpouring of tributes and retrospectives of his music. A tribute that particularly is moving me right now is by hip-hop producer and rapper 9th Wonder.
Please check it out here and may we all appreciate the awesomeness of Bobby Womack and the talent of 9th Wonder:
Choklate is a soulstress out of Seattle. Her latest single “Whales” was released on Seattle’s legendary London Tone Music (who owns the studio where Nirvana was recorded). Her single is included with the 52×52 project (where they are releasing 52 singles/52 artists in 52 weeks). Choklate’s single was released May 5, 2014. The single can be heard here via soundcloud and can be downloaded via iTunes and Amazon. Here is the single, “The Stand Pt. 1″ (Part 2 is yet to be released) featuring Musiq SoulChild:
Here is one of her biggest hits in the UK called “The Tea”:
Summer begins next weekend, and there is no better place to spend it than at an outdoor music and cultural festival. The Long Beach Bay Festival has family-friendly Cajun, Zydeco, and Blues music, food, and dancing. It’s from 11 a.m. through the evening and they have dance lessons and a crawfish eating contest. All the vendors are local Los Angeles Creole or Cajun restaurants. The whole vibe feels like being at a festival in New Orleans or Louisiana. Everyone is having fun, is friendly, and it is one of the best festivals I’ve been to. Please buy at the gate or online here and go for one or both days!
Cultural and musical events like these are vital for the communities we live in; they bring the generations and cultures together for a positive purpose and we all feel like family. Because we are. And festival remind us of that.
“Everything comes out in blues music: joy, pain, struggle. Blues is affirmation with absolute elegance. It’s about a man and a woman. So the pain and the struggle in the blues is the universal pain that comes from having your heart broken.”~ Wynton Marsalis
I don’t remember the first time I heard the blues, it was likely via the reimagining of the blues through Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath in high school. When I started digging deeper and started learning about Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, I was made a disciple of the blues. And since then, I haven’t looked back.
My Mexican grandmother told me of the story of La Llorona (the wailing woman), and how she was a woman who drowned her own children and was doomed to haunt the valleys in Mexico. Where my grandmother lived in a small, dusty, California town of Corona, La Llorona could be heard wailing and haunting in the back alleys of urban areas. The legend had traveled to the Mexican-American areas of the US as well.
Besides scaring the bejesus out of me, the fact that this legend birthed a folk song about this “wailing woman” has always fascinated me. I recently saw a Frida Kahlo photo exhibit at the Museum of Latin American Art and was reminded of the song, which appeared in the movie, Frida, in which she was portrayed by the effervescent Salma Hayek.
From the wikipedia entry on the song “La Llorona”: “It is difficult to pinpoint exactly who was the first to compose the song “La Llorona”, since it stems from the hundred-year-old urban legend. However, the song was first made well-known to contemporary audiences in 1993 by the Costa Rican-born singer Chavela Vargas. The song’s name and inspiration comes from the urban legend of La Llorona popular in North and South America. The story is of a woman said to haunt the valleys of Mexico, weeping for her children whom she drowned in a fit of madness.”
Here is the version made famous by the inimitable Chavela Vargas:
Also from wikipedia: “Although several variations exist, the basic story tells of a beautiful woman by the name of Maria who drowns her children in order to be with the man that she loved. The man would not have her, which devastated her. She would not take no for an answer, so she drowned herself in a river in Mexico City. Challenged at the gates of Heaven as to the whereabouts of her children, she is not permitted to enter the afterlife until she has found them. Maria is forced to wander the Earth for all eternity, searching in vain for her drowned offspring, with her constant weeping giving her the name “La Llorona.” She is trapped in between the living world and the spirit world.”
Here is the version from the movie “Frida” by the lovely Lila Downs:
And here is another version I found by a singer of Mexican folk songs:
This year I’m especially pumped to see unique trance-blues artist Otis Taylor headline along with a large roster of Zydeco, Cajun, and other blues acts. The festival also features dance lessons and a crawfish eating contest.
In the meantime, check out the psychedelic blues styling of Mr. Otis Taylor and his band. In two of the videos, the beautiful and talented Anne Harris is on violin. Unfortunately she will not be at this year’s Bayou fest due to scheduling conflict, but check them out on the road!
When I saw this video for “Bad Girls,” I was impressed by the challenging of the cultural and gender norms of the perceptions Westerners have of the Middle East. And she did it with such cool and nonchalant swagger.
Growing up in Southern California, the sounds of ska and reggae were ubiquitous. The lull of the slow beat of reggae and Bob Marley’s mythology hypnotized me.
Ska, rocksteady, and reggae are important historically (and musically) as they were influenced and directly descended from the Rastafarian religion/movement and contained lyrics of social justice, poverty, and the realities of third world living and taking a stand for oneself and people. Granted, some songs are just simply for the fun of it and party music, however, the political importance of reggae cannot be discounted.
Recently, a friend introduced me to an important historical song and artist in the history of ska and reggae, Count Ossie and his version of “Oh Carolina” recorded in 1973. “Oh Carolina” was originally recorded by the Folkes Brothers in 1960 and some say is the very first ska song. Count Ossie actually played drums on the 1960 Folkes Brothers Version! In 1993, reggae/dancehall artist Shaggy did a version of the song that became very popular.
Count Ossie is considered a reggae and Rastafarian legend. Here is a little background according to Wikipedia: “As a young boy Ossie grew up in a rasta community where he learned techniques of vocal chanting and hand drumming under the tutelage of Brother Job. In the early 1950s he set up a Rasta community in Rockfort on the east side of Kingston, where many of Kingston’s musicians learned about the Rastafari Movement. In the late 1950s, he (with other percussionists) formed the Count Ossie Group. His first sound recordings were made after meeting Prince Buster. One of those was a song by the Folkes Brothers, “Oh Carolina”, regarded by some music historians as the first-ever sk record.”
Here is the original 1960 version of “Oh Carolina” by the Folkes Brothers with Count Ossie on drums:
The 1973 Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation version:
Duke Ellington was a native son of Washington DC and his icon and energy is everywhere. I lived there from 2000 through 2005 and always felt the presence of his legacy during my time in that beautiful city. I was browsing Politics & Prose Bookstore on Connecticut Avenue on a rainy day and I was drawn in by the sound of the rain co-mingling with the piano keys of the most sophisticated jazz music. It was “Money Jungle” by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach.
Up until then, I knew Duke Ellington as a band leader and for his earlier music like “It Don’t Mean A Thing” from 1943. Money Jungle was released in 1962 and is a stripped-down post-bop jazz trio music, very different from the big-band sounds I was used to hearing from Ellington.
I promptly bought a copy and haven’t stopped for the past 10 years playing this album on a regular basis. When I listen to it, I feel urbane and funky, and it allows my mind to wander on about society, politics, and the culture we are living in.
It’s simultaneously contemporary and classic, as it was recorded more than 50 years ago, but sounds as current as something recorded last year. It was recorded in one live session and was not rehearsed. The album you hear is the first time these musicians played together. Remarkable.
You should buy this album for your essential albums collection whether on iTunes or the CD version.
Here is the second track from the album “Fleurette Africaine (African Flower)”, composed by Duke Ellington:
Here is the second to last track “Caravan” composed by Juan Tizol:
What hasn’t been said or written about Queen Nina Simone? She has been called an icon, a legend, and a genius, and she is one of my favorite artists of all time and I would be remiss if I didn’t use my blogging platform to honor her music – especially her love of blues and her strong political stance. She passed away in April of 2003 and she has haunted me since.
My late father told me a story of being about 16 years old in Hollywood, I believe at the Formosa Cafe. This would have been in the early/mid 60s. Nina Simone was playing at a club and he snuck in to see her. He met her for a few seconds and she told him how adorable he was. He used to listen to her version “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” over and over, which the Animals covered a few years later. After my pops passed, I would listen to that song over and over too. It was soothing to my soul. She was incomparable and a complete bad-ass in everything she did.
Here are some of my favorite Nina tracks, starting with the aforementioned: