2 Dec 2022

Durham, North Carolina

"The past is never dead. It's not even past."

A record which displays a deep affection for traditional music while placing it at the heart of a living process.

By Richard Parkinson

‘While You Were Slumbering’ takes its title from the penultimate line of Joseph Decosimo’s version of ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ and in a way describes the twin themes of the record in the old-time language and music and the dream-like reimagination of the past in the characters and stories that inhabit the songs.

One of the so-called New Young Fogies – a generation of younger traditional Appalachian musicians – Decosimo has spent a long time researching the musical traditions of that part of the world; he was awarded his PhD in American Studies by the University of North Carolina with his thesis Catching the “Wild Note”: Listening, Learning, and Connoisseurship in Old-Time Music.

The traditions of the past feature throughout the album with its focus on traditional tunes albeit in lesser-known versions and the collaboration with giants such as Alice Gerrard. However, this is also a modern record with Decosimo bringing in his own style and arrangements as well as involving younger players like Stephanie Coleman, Cleek Shrey and Joe O’Connell.

Opening track ‘The Fox Chase’ features fiddle and banjo underpinned by a pump organ drone leading into a lyric referencing the hunt in England and Kentucky and the singer’s old hound. The organ chord bleeds straight into banjo instrumental ‘The Lost Gander’. After this we get Decosimo’s take on ‘Will Davenport’s Tune’. Clyde Davenport was a fiddle and banjo player in Kentucky and Decosimo’s mentor. Will was his father. It’s also the lead-off single.

Next up is ‘Trouble’ performed as a soothing duet, despite the subject matter, followed by the more up-tempo dual fiddles on ‘Possum Up A Gum Stump’. Pretty much anyone reading this will be familiar with ‘Shady Grove’ and ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’. The former comes in with a fiddle and pump organ blend conjuring up images of misty mountainsides. The latter is banjo-led underpinned by an infectious percussion beat.

The short ‘Wild Goose Chase’ banjo instrumental is another tune learned from Clyde Davenport which sounds like it might have been recorded in a living room and the hunting theme continues with fiddle tune ‘Coon Dog’. ‘Apple Brandy’ features a lead vocal from Alice Gerrard over Decosimo’s banjo while he joins her on harmonies for a wistful tale of separation.

Alex Spiegelman’s clarinet opens ‘Young Rapoleon’ – a variant on ‘Bonny Bunch of Roses’ – joined by pump organ guitar and banjo. Decosimo is clearly a fan of ballads and his delivery here is soft and intimate. ‘Clear Fork’, is led out with the banjo before the fiddle joins in and the two instruments dance around the tune and with each other before slowing to a close.

A second Alice Gerrard vocal, accompanied by Decosimo’s fiddle, is featured on ‘Come Thou Fount’, a variation on the 18th century English hymn, before the record closes with a medley of ‘Wild Goose Chase’ (reprised this time on fiddle) and ‘Bob Wills Stomp’.

‘While You Were Slumbering’ is a record which displays a deep affection for traditional music while placing it at the heart of a living process. For those familiar with Decosimo only as part of MC Taylor’s supporting cast on Hiss Golden Messenger records this is well worth checking out.

''Joe Decosimo plays rare fiddle/banjo tunes and sings old songs, especially fiddle/banjo music from the Appalachian South. Joseph has made a deep study of the the music of the Cumberland Plateau/East TN/Western NC regions and has performed and taught it around the world with the Bucking Mules. Beyond trad music, his fiddle/banjo can be heard on projects by Hiss Golden Messenger and others.''

Joseph Decosimo Transforms Old-Time Repertoire into Cosmic Appalachia

Sourced from Decosimo’s work befriending older artists and plumbing the multigenerational depths of music sprung forth from his native Cumberland Plateau in the Appalachian Mountains, these 14 tracks update old-time tradition for today’s fractured world.

By Nick McGregor

"The past is never dead. It's not even past." So goes one of the most famous lines from William Faulkner, the eminent Mississippi novelist commended for his unflinching view of the American South.

The phrase is also relevant to Joseph Decosimo’s new album, While You Were Slumbering, out November 11 on Sleepy Cat Records. Sourced from Decosimo’s work befriending older artists and plumbing the multigenerational depths of music sprung forth from his native Cumberland Plateau in the Appalachian Mountains, these 14 tracks update old-time tradition for today’s fractured world.

These aren’t just “distant interpretations of exotic repertoire,” as Decosimo writes in the album’s extensive liner notes. Instead, old English ballads like “The Fox Chase” and “Young Rapoleon” enter the modern lexicon, with Decosimo adding his dearly departed corgi, Charlie, to the first song’s venerated pack of hounds.

Other tracks retain their primordial narrative power while riding a wave of sonic dexterity. Decosimo’s delicate vocals transform “Trouble” and “Man of Constant Sorrow” from haunting laments into supple jaunts. Thoughtful instrumental contributions from young collaborators like Stephanie Coleman, Joe and Matt O’Connell, and Cleek Schrey add ethereal texture to “The Lost Gander” and “Clear Fork,” elevating hidebound Appalachian fare into the experimental cosmos.

Most stunning among the mix is “Possum up a Gum Stump.” Adapted from a 1940s western North Carolina field recording, the song—its title provincial to the point of pantomime—is made eerily transcendent thanks to resonant Hardanger d’amore (a 10-string bowed instrument) and pulsing bass clarinet from Alec Spiegelman.

Still, the strongest moments on While You Were Slumbering might be the most traditional. The keening voice of bluegrass legend and fellow Durham resident Alice Gerrard animates “Shady Grove,” “Apple Brandy,” and “Come Thou Fount,” all traced to old field recordings and recorded en plein air in Gerrard’s backyard. Meanwhile, the songs sourced from Decosimo’s mentor, Clyde Davenport, who died in 2020 at the age of 98, start with simple fingerpicked banjo before building outward into expansive contours of dissonance and consonance.

The Davenport repertoire exists in few other corners of the recorded American canon. That makes Joseph Decosimo a savior of sorts—who else could expose us to the microtonal pleasures of “Will Davenport’s Tune” and “Wild Goose Chase”? But far more is afoot on While You Were Slumbering.

You can feel the exultation and veneration informing Decosimo’s trained folklorist methods. You can hear joy, anguish, satisfaction, and sorrow—all the same emotions braided into these songs’ old-time roots.

“Never dead,” indeed.

1. The Fox Chase 2:49
2. The Lost Gander 1:26
3. Will Davenport's Tune 2:52
4. Trouble 3:03
5. Possum Up a Gum Stump 2:49
6. Shady Grove (feat. Alice Gerrard) 3:09
7. Man of Constant Sorrow 4:29
8. Wild Goose Chase 1:32
9. Coon Dog 2:59
10. Apple Brandy (feat. Alice Gerrard) 2:57
11. Young Rapoleon 3:06
12. Clear Fork 3:05
13. Come Thou Fount (feat. Alice Gerrard) 3:28
14. Bob Wills Stomp/Wild Goose Chase 4:11

Notes
Incl. Pdf

Personnel:
Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar, Pump Organ, Vocals - Joseph Decosimo
Pump Organ, Hardanger d’Amore - Cleek Schrey
Vocals, fiddle - Stephanie Coleman
Percussion - Matthew O’Connell
Vocals, Pump Organ - Joe O’Connell
Vocals, Banjo - Alice Gerrard
Bass Clarinet - Alec Spiegelman

1 Dec 2022

Virginia

First solo record in a decade from Pelt / Black Twig Pickers / Eight Point Star stringman highlights gorgeous octave and hardanger-style fiddle explorations.

'Available on vinyl and presenting a remarkable program of solo Hardanger and octave fiddle music, 2022's 'Evening Measures' is the first solo-album in a decade from long-time Pelt, Black Twigs and Eight Point Star leader Mike Gangloff. On this set of all-original compositions (save the traditional 'Wild Geese Chase'), Mike's playing is languorous and expressive, with the sympathetic strings of the Hardanger-style instrument ringing out on some cuts like multiple players. The album touches on a variety of styles, keeping things fresh for the entire playing time.'

'Mike Gangloff has had a busy last couple of years, with new works coming out from The Black Twig Pickers, Pelt, and Eight Point Star. He serves up yet another addition to that bunch this month with a solo record on VHF that finds the balance between the traditions of the latter two and the more outre aspirations of the former. Evening Measures is steeped in bluegrass trappings, putting Gangloff’s fiddle front and center, though the record swaps in much of the exuberance and communal spirit for solo pondering that plunges the melodies into an entrancing candlelight lilt.

Underscored with drone, or simply left bone dry, the fiddle often works towards something ceremonial — folk traditions that pick at pieces of Eastern European tapestries as often as those of the Appalachians. “I’m Asking” saws through sadness and solace with a sour stomach, a feeling of loss permeating the piece. The opener captures that firelight flicker, but like the rest, there seems to be something heavier rippling beneath the surface. Even at its most free-spirited on “Wild Goose Chase,” Gangloff lends a caustic edge, threading the needle between anxiety and glee. If you’re already watching Gangloff’s previously mentioned outlets, then this will act as an amiable companion to the works from the last few years, but on its own, Evening Measures stands as a work of startling depth'. -Andy


'Mike Gangloff is a Virginia-based fiddler and multi-instrumentalist who journeys back and forth between traditional and avant-garde music, seeking unity -- and beauty -- in archaic tunes and long drones, in melodies wrapped in freeform scree. He is a founder of bands that include veteran improvisers Pelt, old-time rowdies Black Twig Pickers, and most recently, the cosmic Appalachian quartet Eight Point Star. His new album, "Evening Measures" (VHF Records), focuses on solo fiddle compositions played on hardanger-style and octave-string instruments.'

Boomkat Product Review:

Pelt/Black Twig Pickers fiddler Mike Gangloff appears with his first solo LP in ages and tracks through American folk styles with a sensitive ear, smartly absorbing drone elements into the shimmering atmosphere.

'Mike Gangloff's been a constant on the US avant-folk scene for years, and his compositions have helped define a certain strain of American folk music that's often shrouded in nationalistic politics and misinformation. With Black Twig Pickers he re-contextualised Appalachian traditional sounds, and in Pelt - accompanied by the sorely missed Jack Rose - Gangloff made important connections between psychedelic music, folk, and global drone music.

Considering the amount of music he's put out, his solo material has been relatively thin on the ground - in the last few years he's spent more time putting together charming records with his wife Cara. "Evening Measures" then is a rare, single-minded statement from the Virginia-based musician, made using the Hardanger fiddle (a traditional Norwegian folk instrument with resonant sympathetic strings), and an octave fiddle, a violin strung with octave strings to give it a lower tone. 

Mostly original music (only 'Wild Geese Chase' is a trad fiddle standard), the album does a fantastic job of evoking the complex desolation of the Virginia landscape. By using instruments that have long sat at the center of the American primitive sound, Gangloff's compositions are immediately placeable - even if we don't know the instruments by name, we know them by ear. That windswept sound - microtonal by nature - manages to bridge the gap between folk music and experimental drone, suggesting an inherent psychedelia in the original music that might not always be obvious. If it feels cinematic, it's because we're projecting our interactions with this music, no doubt from absorption of US documentaries and plains movies, onto what it is Gangloff is representing. Truly though, he's doing something way less musically manipulative, and slips into a delightfully post-Fahey musical nook that manages to sound at all times doggedly avant-garde while also being lashed to a history that's so tangible you can taste it.

Very good indeed.'


Mike Gangloff - Evening Measures

Cat No: VHF157 
Release date: 25 November 2022 
Label: VHF 
Genre: FOLK / ROOTS

1. The Other Side of Catawba 6:53
2. The Colors of Her Hair 5:35
3. I'm Asking 6:01
4. Wild Geese Chase 4:09
5. New River Suite 10:05
6. Halfway from Shawsville 4:09

Credits
Mike Gangloff: composer, Hardanger-style fiddle, octave fiddle, producer
Cara Gangloff: cover art, sruti box
Kaily Schenker: cello
Joe DeJarnette: mastering engineer, co-producer

Manchester

more Vini gold.

'These tracks are absolutely exquisite but rarely heard, My favourite DC album was made around the same time, "Vini Reilly" in 1989, and this collection really does carry on in the same vein, I was actually thinking about Vini, today, after the recent, sad passing of Keith Levene (one of Reilly's few peers as a guitarist). I wonder how he is, the old boy?' -Richard Simpson

Vini Reilly & Bruce Mitchell

Burned Beans
'Vini could have very easily sold his exceptional talents for fame and fortune...instead he stayed true to his art. I have so much respect for Vini Reilly. Master musician...master composer.' 

grizcuz
'One of the very few modern musicians to only ever play/compose/record exactly what he wanted to, when he wanted to. Without giving consideration to the financial or critical reception he would receive from doing so.

I think Tony Wilson/Factory deserve a mention for supporting DC/VR as well though, they pretty much released DC LP's through the 80's 'no questions asked'. He'd write some songs, they'd give him a recording budget, he'd deliver the master tapes, it would be released. Not many, if any, other record labels would give someone such artistic freedom. Especially when DC were hardly known for releasing big selling, accessible LP's. I know TW and VR did occasionally have their disagreements, but they'd always 'make up' and it was a friendship that lasted until Wilson's early demise.

I once had the pleasure of spending a few hours in Vini's company in Dry Bar during a 'private party' one weekday afternoon in the early 90's (I have friends who work/ed for the biggest selling Factory band). He never tired of me asking about his playing/equipment and how he went about writing. It was just after 'Obey the Time' had been released and I was listening to it a lot at the time. He's such an unassuming and relaxed chap as well, I don't think anyone else on Factory in that period would have spent that amount of time with someone they'd never met before just answering questions. So, I have a lot of time for Vini's music and Vini as a person. I did feel that he was a man that wasn't really suited to the cut throat nature of the modern music business though. He was probably the most talented musician in that room, but also the quietest. He certainly wasn't there for the free bar and food, I remember he was drinking Appletise and he drunk about 3 of them over the afternoon, he did like smoking cigs though, we went through a pack of B&H between the two of us.'

Burned Beans
'@grizcuz  Thanks for sharing that. Meeting Vini would be great but I couldn't take him putting down his own music. Vini has called his music "rubbish" and "just tunes" which boggles my mind. "The Room" from this Domo live set is just incredible.'

grizcuz
@Burned Beans  I think him putting his own music down is just a part of a Northern/Mancunian self deprecating personality. We tend not to like people who think and say that they're the bee's knees. I've found that the few famous musicians that I've met are like that, more willing to talk up other people's music than their own. Hopefully, deep down he knows that he's got a back catalogue that will be enjoyed for decades to come.


Vini Reilly – The Sporadic Recordings

Label: TTTTTTTTT – SPORE 1
Format: CD, Album, Compilation, Limited Edition, Numbered
Country: UK
Released: Dec 1989
Style: Avant garde, Jazz, Classical

The Sporadic Recordings, A TTTTTTTTT'S RELEASE. Limited Edition of 4000, not sure how many were signed like this one. Features tracks such as Shirt No. 7 (for Pat Nevin the Scottish footballer), For Steven Patrick (for Morrissey) and Rob Gray's Elegy. Total running time 72.25, 28 tracks. Credited to Vini Reilly and not The Durutti Column.

Most of the tracks on this album were later re-released on Kooky Records' 'The Return of the Sporadic Recordings' which was a double cd combining one disc with all of The Sporadic Recordings (except for those tracks which had already been released as extra tracks on the Factory Once re-releases) and a second disc with new tracks, rarities, and outtakes, etc.

At the end of the last track there is an audio clip of Vini Reilly at an international border checkpoint. The immigration official can be heard asking Vini what he does for a living. Vini replies that he is a musician. The official asks what type of music. After barely a beat Vini replies 'Avant garde jazz classical'.

Tracklisting and notes
1. Buddhist Prayer -- Played on Charlie's L14 guitar after reading 'Page after Page' and not being disappointed. Starring Japanese monks.
2. Pathway -- This is how far you can 'pull' strings before they (or your fingers) snap.
3. Nile Opera -- Starring Egyptian drummers discovered in Andy's obscure C.D. collection.
4. Shirt No. 7 -- Starring a vintage semi-acoustic Gibson 'Stereo-Switchmaster' -- not plugged in.
5. Kind Of Love -- Jazzers would call it syncopation but the time signature was irretrievably lost two bars in and never found again.
6. Rob Gray's Elegy -- Starring Rob's harmonica and Jeremy Kerr's bass.
7. Misere -- Starring the most beautiful voice EVER.
8. For Steven Patrick -- ...for Steven Patrick with love and affection.
9. We Stumble -- Recorded in Belgium for Michel Duval.
10. Sketch For A Manchester Summer 1989 -- The essential Mancunian summer, captured on DAT before the greenhouse effect changes the climate irrevocably.
11. Arpeggiator II -- Starring a now obsolete gimmick.
12. Diazepam 5 mgs -- (Enough to relax you.) Starring a very expensive Bosendorfer piano played on a very cheap synth.
13. But Was I...? -- An attempt to disguise voices through the S.P.X. 90 mk.1.
14. Pol In A-flat -- Played through an ancient Space Echo, therefore the hiss is compulsory.
15. Real Drums -- Real Drummer -- Starring Bruce Mitchell demonstrating the inadequacies of computer generated drums.
16. Another Mirror -- Another Wall -- Another Michel Duval project. Another song with these lyrics, starring Pol's voice and Alain Lefebvre's congas.
17. 30 Oldham Street -- In praise of DRY's decaffeinated coffee and in spite of Leroy's jokes.
18. 4.10 am -- Recorded then.
19. For Lydia-- Voices and flute played on a keyboard.
20. Detail For Heidi And Jodie -- Played on a Yamaha owned by the recipients of the tune.
21. Zinni's Dance -- Bruce's daughter's birthday tune. Played the way she dances, -- out of time.
22. PPP Version -- Based on a description by Anthony H. of a park in Hong Kong.
23. For Lucy H. -- Dedicated to a very nice old lady who lived and died alone. Starring the trumpet of Kaire Gedal.
24. 4.30 am -- Slightly later the same morning.
25. It's A Bright Guilty World -- Part I -- Inspired by an Orson Welles interview.
26. It's A Bright Guilty World -- Part II 
27. Nile Reprise -- See Track 3 
28. Diazepam 10 mgs -- Enough to send you to sleep?

Notes

All songs [...] published by: The Movement of the 24th January / Zomba Music.

As always the music produced itself.

Recorded mostly at Sporadic Studios, Manchester (plugged in by Paul Miller) except: [track 6 and 23] Out of the Blue, Manchester (plugged in by Nick Gartside).

Special thanks to Factory Communications Ltd., and particularly Anthony H. Wilson, Tina Simmons and Bruce Mitchell, without whose help and guidance this project would not have materialised.

Thanks to Tony Michaelides and Picadilly Radio for the use of 'Lucy H.'. This track was recorded in March 1987, during a session for Tony the Greek's 'The Last Radio Programme'.

Thanks also to Karl Lynch for NE 5532 and Stuart James and the Canadian Customs & Excise for the closing statement.

Finally thanks to Michel Duval and David Handley.

Respect and thanks to those we have sampled.

℗ + © 1989 Sporadic Productions

This C.D. is a limited edition of 4000.

Warning: this C.D. contains music of a non-ambient nature.

Packaging: standard jewel case with 12-page booklet with stamp numbering

30 Nov 2022

Ethiopia

Lo-fi recordings of music blessed by the closest thing to genius. -unholymatter

'Reissue of her first LP, originally released in Germany in a very small pressing - a most unusual & stunning album. Tsege Mariam Gebru is an Ethiopian nun who has dedicated her life to helping others. She has been composing & playing music on the piano since the 1960's. Her music is a unique mix of Western classical music in the vein of Erik Satie, Ethiopian music & Religious Christian meditation music. On this album, we find Tsege Mariam Gebru playing her own compositions solo on piano. She plays with restrained grace & purity. The record invites repeated listening well and is filled with spiritual warmth.'

First volume of solo piano compositions by Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru, finally back in print.

'Born to an aristocratic family in Addis Ababa in December of 1923, Emahoy spent much of her youth and young adulthood studying classical music in Europe. She returned to Ethiopia in the 40s, where the war interrupted her musical studies. In 1948 during a church service in Ethiopia, she found her faith and began years of religious training.

Throughout her physical and spiritual journeys, Emahoy continued to compose for the piano. She first released this album in Germany 1963 as small private press record. The tracks reflect her own travels, seamlessly moving between Western classical and traditional Ethiopian modes, evoking Erik Satie, the orthodox liturgy, and meditative Christian music all at once. Her work is like no one else in the world, lyrical, hypnotic, full of spiritual warmth and a direct connection to the divine.

Emahoy is now 98 years old and still lives in Jerusalem. She continues to play, and the funds from her work go to the righteous causes to which she has dedicated her life.

We are incredibly proud to present this music on vinyl again, mastered by Timothy Stollenwerk and presented in collaboration with the EMAHOY TSEGE MARIAM MUSIC PUBLISHER and Foundation. This black vinyl LP version includes a new reproduction of the original artwork, with the composer’s own notes, translated from the original German.' -Mississippi Records


Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru – Spielt Eigene Kompositionen

Label: Mississippi Records – MRP-025
Format: Digital, Vinyl, LP, Reissue
Country: US
Released: Apr 30, 2022
Style: African, Folk, Contemporary

1. The Homeless Wanderer 7:05
2. The Last Tears of the Deceased 8:26
3. A Young Girl's Complaint 6:10
4. The Mad Man's Laughter 3:57
5. Presentiment 3:43

29 Nov 2022

Indonesia

This is an amazing piece of Indonesian history. The compilation journeys to the origins of the country’s contemporary recording industry.

Soundway compilation celebrates birth of modern Indonesian music

A press release for the compilation explains:

“Modern Indonesian music of the 1950s & ’60s incorporated sounds from around Southeast Asia but in reality, Indonesia at the time was still a fairly insular place, until in 1965 a huge political upheaval occurred and President Soekarno was overthrown.  Based mostly in the capital city Jakarta, musicians from around the archipelago were adept at assimilating elements of Javanese, Sumatran, Malay, Chinese, Arabic, Hawaiian, American, British, and Indian music, to create cultural hybrids across a variety of local, national, and international genres”.

'Soundway Records’ newest compilation journeys back to the origins of Indonesia’s contemporary recording industry, featuring 27 archive tracks that paint a vivid picture of the state-sponsored sounds crafted to help galvanise a sense of identity in the nation’s formative years.

‘Padang Moonrise: The Birth of the Modern Indonesian Recording Industry 1955-1969’ presents a section of handpicked tunes based on traditional songs from all corners of the archipelago’s 17,000-plus islands and 1300 distinct ethnic groups. After gaining independence in 1945, the Indonesian government were tasked with finding ways to consolidate the geographically disparate nation, incorporating a new language and new ideas of national identity.

Drawing on influences from regional pop music, Islamic Gambus, Javanese & Balinese Gamelan and Kroncong, state-sponsored musicians and arrangers re-imagined the far-flung forms with elements of jazz, Afro-Latin music and instrumentation, alongside vocal harmonies influenced by American doo-wop and rock & roll. Traditional songs from Java, Sumatra, Bali and beyond were reformed by the groups, and the unique blend of styles and sounds that resulted were barely known outside of Indonesia until the resurgence of interest in vintage international sounds helped to shed light on some of these esoteric recordings..' -Soundway


Another phenomenal history lesson from Soundway, "Padang Moonrise" tells the story of modern Indonesian music, bringing together recordings that fuse gamelan, regional pop and folk, and kroncong, with jazz, doo-wop, rock 'n roll, and Afro-Latin sounds.

'Back in the 1950s and '60s, the Indonesian music industry began to grow, sponsored by the state to bring together a diverse group of 1,300 distinct ethnic groups under a new language and fresh culture that aimed to unify 17,000 islands, including Java, Bali, Sumatra, Sulawesi, and parts of Borneo and New Guinea. Western rock 'n roll music was considered decadent by the Old Order regime, and bands trying to import the style were subject to prison sentences (one such punishment was handed out to the Beatles-inspired Koes Plus in 1965), but the sounds still made it into the Indonesian musical lexicon, often via the Netherlands, where repatriated Indonesians would hear American and British music on local military radio stations. Most of the new pop however was combining elements of music closer to home: Javanese and Balinese gamelan, regional folk sounds, and music made with the gambus or kroncong. Rooted in Muslim identity in Indonesia and the surrounding area, the gambus is a lute-style instrument that's carved from a single piece of jackfruit wood, while the kroncong is a ukelele-like instrument and genre that developed from Portuguese music imported by sailors in the 16th Century.

These sounds might feel disparate even now, but the compilation is surprisingly coherent; the recording techniques no doubt helped create a sense of unification between the vastly different artists and troupes, but there's also a few elements that connect each track. Early Indonesian pop music isn't widely known outside of the archipelago, so hearing these recordings is a revelation. They sounds stunning - this isn't a set of crackly radio recordings of the kind you might find on a Sublime Frequencies disc, Soundway have done a bang up job of making sure these ones sound as punchy as they must have decades ago. And while the material can be hard to place, some of the tracks slide into an ethereal zone that harmonizes with library music and experimental sounds that wouldn't emerge in Europe for decades later. Fab.' -Boomkat

Various – Padang Moonrise (The Birth Of The Modern Indonesian Recording Industry ⋆ 1955-69)

Label: Soundway – SNDWLP151
Format: Digital, 2 x Vinyl, LP, Compilation Vinyl, 7", 45 RPM
Country: UK
Released: Nov 25, 2022
Style: Pop, Keroncong, Rhumba, Indonesian Music 

1. Orkes Teruna Ria - Bulan Dagoan 3:17
2. Yanti Bersaudara - Gumbira 2:23
3. Orkes Suita Rama - Tepui Tepui 3:08
4. Band Nada Kentjana - Djaleuleudja 2:55
5. Orkes Lokananta - Nganggo Teklek Nang Krikilan 3:06
6. Orkes Teruna Ria - Budjang Talalai 3:36
7. Orkes Kelana Ria - Ya Mahmud 3:12
8. Orkes Teruna Ria - Geleang Sapi 3:19
9. Zaenal Combo - Ampat Lima Dalam Djambangan 3:17
10. Zaenal Combo - Seruling 2:49
11. Orkes Kelana Ria - Sojang 2:22
12. Mus D.S. - Neleng Neng Kung 2:57
13. Orkes Gumarang - Malin Kundang 3:06
14. Orkes Tropicana - Pantjaran Kasih 2:19
15. Orkes Teruna Ria - Tak Ton Tong 2:45
16. Orkes Lokananta - Tari Bali 2:51
17. Orkes Kelana Ria - Emplek Emplek Ketepu 3:05
18. Mus D.S. - Ahai Dara 2:26
19. Orkes Kelana Ria - Semoga 2:21
20. Zaenal Combo - Kaden Sadje 3:03
21. Orkes Irama - Gendjer Gendjer 2:39
22. Orkes Teruna Ria - Modjang Parahyangan 3:40
23. Orkes Sendja Meraju - Bubuj Bulan 2:42
24. Mus D.S. - Tautjo Tjiandjur 3:22
25. Nada Kantjana - Nelengnengkung 3:24
26. Ivo Nilakreshna - Ka Huma 2:33
27. Zaenal Combo - Tandung Tjina 2:22

28 Nov 2022

Albania

"A rarely opened musical universe that becomes deeper and more soulful with every listen." Joe Boyd

Wonderful, wonderful old music!

'In depth selection of rare music that is wonderful to hear. Mostly great recording quality: sound is lively not deadened to remove crackle.' -Darcy

Great collection of authentic archaic Albanian folkmusic

'This is a wonderful collection of authentic Albanian folk music from the period 1924-1948, beautifully remastered. Be aware -- this is not for everybody. This music is the real deal, powerful, expressive, moving, and traditional -- it is not stuff prettied up for modern tastes. If you are fond of traditional Balkan music, you will like this. I keep listening to it over and over, and my appreciation of it grows and grows. It's a superb collection. -AKL

'Albania holds several groups of people within it's borders. The primary division lies between Ghegs, who inhabit the territory north of the Shkumbin river, and Tosks, who live south of it. There are only a small number of songs on this collection that might be labelled as 'Gheg' - characterized by monophony, well-defined rhythm and musical accompaniment (today often a two-stringed chifteli). The most distinctly so feature a single, strident voice and a triumphal tone that recalls the northern tradition of epic poetry. The Tosk musical dialect is defined by polyphony, imitative melodic lines and, prior to urbanization, a total absence of musical accompaniment. The Tosk sub-dialect is heavily represented in this collection, particularly by the Asllani family of Leskovik, who not only recorded prolifically but were also responsible for three of the labels represented on this collection. The eldest brother, Ajdin, owned and operated both MI-RE and ME-RE and, finally, BALKAN, making recordings in New York, Detroit, Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Athens, and Istanbul. Most of the music is drawn from a very distinct 'acoustic niche' in a very particular place, southern Albania-a topography, a way of life-in a dialect laid down, layer upon layer, from parent to child, over many hundreds of years. This music is rendered in a musical dialect both very rich and very close to home. Imagine the former inhabitants of Leskovik coming home at the end of a long day pulling their grocery cart through the streets of Boston to drop the needle on one of these 78s, or tuning in to Nuçi Cujo's radio hour, and hearing their song. We may not have heard this song before, but with a little training conflict gives way to a singular harmony, and emotions ring crystal clear.'


French

"Songbirds", trésor albanais d’avant-guerre
https://www.rts.ch

La passion d’un collectionneur de 78 tours fait resurgir le formidable passé musical d’Albanie. La saga de Christopher C. King débute dans une ruelle d’Istanbul, passe par Tirana et Athènes pour s’achever en Virginie avec 84 perles musicales inespérées.

"J’avais pris des vacances avec ma famille du côté d’Istanbul. On m’a parlé d’une rue pleine de gramophones". L’accent fleure bon les montagnes de Virginie. Christopher C. King est l’un des collectionneurs majeurs de la musique américaine en 78 tours. Blues, country, musique cajun, polka, ragtime… tout ce qui a pu faire guincher les Américains avant-guerre. Avec un collectionneur, le hasard n’existe pas. Ces personnages ont l’odorat du loup affamé. Cachez une pile de disques au fond d’un arrière-magasin balkanique, ils vont la dénicher. Inévitablement.

Et c’est ainsi, dix ans plus tôt, que Christopher C. King découvre un univers: les musiques grecques d’Epire du Nord et d’Albanie du Sud. Soit des chanteuses qui font dresser les poils, des clarinettistes funambules et des violoneux qui semblent avoir pactisé avec le démon. Comme un certain bluesman de légende nommé Robert Johnson.

Une histoire de migrations

La suite est une histoire d’amour inconditionnel, une quête minutieuse à la recherche du moindre indice laissé par ces saltimbanques à chapeau feutre dans les années 20, 30 et 40. Christopher C. King ne cesse de quitter sa pastorale Virginie pour arpenter les rues de Tirana, de Ioannina, d’Istanbul ou d’Athènes.

Parfois ce sont les villes portuaires d’Amérique qui lui révèlent des trésors cachés. L’histoire des Grecs et des Albanais est aussi une histoire de migrations, de transatlantiques et de musique que l’on conserve aussi précieusement qu’un passeport, un tapis ou une icône. "Cette traque m’a envoûté et m’a même coûté mon mariage" résume le limier américain.

Cette traque a aussi rapporté ceci: de fabuleuses rééditions de musique grecque auprès du label Third Man Records, la maison de disques du rocker Jack White; l’estime du dessinateur culte Robert Crumb qui lui livre des pochettes de disques aux petits oignons; la publication d’un livre passionnant ("Lament from Epirus", chez Norton); l’édition ces jours-ci de 84 musiques albanaises, instrumentaux et chansons, rassemblées et commentées sur 4 CD sous le titre "Songbirds – Albanian music from 78s 1924-1948".

Des voix perdues

On découvre enfin les frères Asllani, la chanteuse Hafize ou encore la mystérieuse Riza Bylbyli, autant de voix perdues qu’avaient naguère capturées les producteurs itinérants des firmes Columbia ou La Voix de son maître.

Comment ont réagi les Albanais face à cet Américain à grosse voix qui leur exhume leur passé musical? "J’ai été très touché. Certaines vieilles personnes ont fondu en larmes à l’écoute de ces enregistrements qu’elles n’avaient plus entendus depuis 60 ans. C’était toute leur jeunesse qui réapparaissait subitement", raconte le producteur. "Faleminderit, Mister King". -Thierry Sartoretti/mcm

"Don’t trust your Neighbors, Early Albanian Traditional Songs & Improvisations, 1920s-1930s”, LP, Hinter Records 2011

“Lament from Epirus”, livre chez Norton, 2018

"Songbirds", 4 CD, JSP records, 2020


Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

"Songbirds", Albanian pre-war treasure

A 78-rpm collector's passion brings Albania's formidable musical past to life. Christopher C. King's saga begins in an Istanbul alley, moves through Tirana and Athens, and ends in Virginia with 84 unexpected musical gems.

"I had taken a holiday with my family in Istanbul. They told me about a street full of gramophones. The accent smells of the mountains of Virginia. Christopher C. King is one of the major collectors of American music on 78 rpm. Blues, country, Cajun music, polka, ragtime... everything that made Americans dance before the war. With a collector, there is no such thing as chance. These characters have the sense of smell of a hungry wolf. Hide a pile of records in the back of a Balkan shop and they will find it. Inevitably.

And that's how, ten years earlier, Christopher C. King discovered a world: the Greek music of Northern Epirus and Southern Albania. That is, hair-raising female singers, tightrope walkers and fiddlers who seem to have made a pact with the devil. Like a certain legendary bluesman named Robert Johnson.

A story of migration

What follows is a story of unconditional love, a painstaking quest to find the slightest clue left by these felt-hatted acrobats in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Christopher C. King keeps leaving his pastoral Virginia to walk the streets of Tirana, Ioannina, Istanbul or Athens.

Sometimes it is the port cities of America that reveal hidden treasures. The history of Greeks and Albanians is also a history of migrations, of transatlantics and of music, which is kept as carefully as a passport, a carpet or an icon. "This hunt has enchanted me and even cost me my marriage," says the American sleuth.

This hunt has also brought about the following: fabulous re-releases of Greek music by Third Man Records, the label of rocker Jack White; the esteem of cult cartoonist Robert Crumb, who has provided him with exquisite record covers; the publication of a fascinating book ("Lament from Epirus", published by Norton); and the recent publication of 84 Albanian instrumentals and songs, collected and commented on on 4 CDs under the title "Songbirds - Albanian music from 78s 1924-1948".

Lost voices

Finally, we discover the Asllani brothers, the singer Hafize and the mysterious Riza Bylbyli, all lost voices that were once captured by the itinerant producers of Columbia or La Voix de son maître.

How did the Albanians react to this big-voiced American exhuming their musical past? "I was very touched. Some old people burst into tears when they heard these recordings that they hadn't heard for 60 years. It was their youth suddenly reappearing," says the producer. "Faleminderit, Mister King. -Thierry Sartoretti/mcm


Various – Songbirds (Albanian Music From 78s - 1924-1948)

Label: JSP Records – JSP77216
Format:  4 x CD, Compilation
Country: UK
Released: 2020
Style: Albanian Folk Music

Disc 1
1.1 Islam Jonuzi & Friends - E Qarë E Leskovikut (Cry of Leskovik)
1.2 Çoban Arifi and Sabri Fehimi - Me Doçkën E Bardhë (With Your Little White Hand)
1.3 Riza Bylbyli - Korba O Çeço (Poor Me, Oh Çeço)
1.4 Vangjel Leskovikut - Kaba Me Gërnetë (Lament with Clarinet)
1.5 Selim Asllani and Group - Valle Krushkave (Dance of the In-Laws)
1.6 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Laca Kapetani (Captain Las)
1.7 Zonja Qerimé and Friends - Ballét Me Sedef (Forehead with Mother of Pearl)
1.8 Riza Bylbyli - Pogonishte (Dance from Pogoni)
1.9 Jonuzi and Friends - Valle Devolliçe (Dance from Devolli)
1.10 Andrea Pappas and Athanas Mone - E Mjera Unë E Mjera (Poor Me, Poor Me)
1.11 Jonus Lamçe and Sabri Fehimi - Valle Devolliçe (Dance from Devolli)
1.12 C. Cercis Nesim - Dorën O Djal Dorën (Your Hand, Oh Your Hand)
1.13 Riza Bybyli (Vlonë) - Kapitani I Vlonës (The Captain of Vlora)
1.14 Riza Bylbyli - Bahje Dru Me Pershullim (Get the Wood Ready to Burn)
1.15 Konitsa - Vallja E Manushaqeve (Dance of the Violets)
1.16 Z. Kjuj - Ngrehun Mahmudi (Get Up Mahmudi)
1.17 Grupi Sazet - Valle Kolonjare (Dance from Kolonja)
1.18 Zoj Hatixhja - Ç'u Ngrys Herët në Mjes (It Got Dark Early in the Morning)
1.19 Riza Bylbyli - Kishin Uj Ata Burime (Those Springs Had Water)
1.20 Paulin Pali (of Shkodër) - Re Moj Vajz e Mas Qit Ojna (Girl, You Fell, Don't Whine)
1.21 Girls Choir of the Franciscan Convent of Shkodër - Valle Shqipnijet (Albanian Dance)

Disc 2
2.1 Khemal Asllani and Sabri Fehimi - Hunde Bukur Qelibar (Beautiful Nose like Amber)
2.2 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Viktori T'u Bëftë Nëna (Victoria, I (Your Mother) Will Sacrifice Myself for You)
2.3 Konitsa - Valle Me Dy (Pogonian Dance in Two Parts)
2.4 Selim Asllani and Faize Asllani - Goca E Berberit (The Barber's Daughter)
2.5 Musikantet Zotto - Taksim-Sazesh
2.6 Rafail Bulgareci and Risto Pandavani - Nja Shtatë Kokona Duall Në Vodenë (About Seven Beauties went Out in Vodena)
2.7 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Untitase Me Sake
2.8 Z. Hamid Latifi - Prendoj Dilli Dha Aksham (The Sun Went Down and Brought the Night)
2.9 Z. Islami Riza - Lace Gjinokastra
2.10 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Valle Sta Triya (Dance in Three Parts)
2.11 Zoti Khemal Asllani - Ne Rrapi në Mashkullor (Gjinokastrite) (At the Plane Tree in Mashkullora)
2.12 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - E Qarë E Asllan Leskovikut (The Cry of Asllan of Leskovik)
2.13 Riza Bybyli - Sikur Merrje Xhemalin (If You Took Xhemal)
2.14 Z. Kjuj - Kanga E Dhanfrrit (The Groom's Song)
2.15 Jonus Lamçe and Sabri Fehimi - E Qarë Me Gërnetë (Cry with Clarinet)
2.16 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Tjalem T'Ambël Se
2.17 Jonuzi and Friends - Valle Beraçe (Dance from Berati)
2.18 Ajdin Asllani - Këngë Si Hëna Katërmbëdhketë (Song of the Full Moon)
2.19 Shoqnija Toshkrisht - Napuljoni Izet Bej Taksim
2.20 Riza Bylbyli - Osman Taka
2.21 Mati Kola - Ç'e Ninjova Ramazanin (I Heard Ramazani)

Disc 3
3.1 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Qarë E Selimit (The Cry of Selim)
3.2 Chiorchi Gazeli - Delvino Zaza Delvina (Two Towns in Southern Albania)
3.3 Pando Opingari and Spiridon T. Ilo - Valle Kasapçe (Hasapiko Dance)
3.4 Konitsa - Samari I Bariut (The Shepherd's Saddle)
3.5 Z. Islami Riza - Bahje Dru Me Pershullim (Get the Wood Ready to Burn)
3.6 Rafail Bulgareci and Risto Pandavani - Mos E Mer Rrëmbyer (Don't Rush into it)
3.7 [unknown artist] - Valle Çamçe (Dance of the Çams)
3.8 Z. Sylejmani - Alija Fetah Rikut
3.9 Riza Berati - Ç'a Miku (Çam Dance)
3.10 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Hysnije Moj Dylbere
3.11 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Kush Të Ka Moj Ruskë (Who are You Russian Girl?)
3.12 Rukia Me Gocat E Eumes Tiranë - E Bukur Je Fatime (Fatime, You're Beautiful)
3.13 Pando Opingari and Louis Rassias - Vaslle Devolliçe (Dance from Devolli)
3.14 Selim Asllani - Valle Hasanajt, E Shtruar (Dance of Hasanajt)
3.15 Spiridon T. Ilo, Pando Opingari and Louis Rassias - Kënga E Bektashinjve (The Song of the Bektashi)
3.16 Z. Sadik Asbiu - Vajze e Valavet (Girl of the Waves)
3.17 Z. Cercis Nesim - Ballet Me Sadefe Korçarçe (Forehead with Mother of Pearl from Korçë)
3.18 Jonuzi and Friends - Këngë E Gjethes (The Song of the Leaf)
3.19 Ajdin Asllani - E Qarë Kaba Me Gërnetë (Lament with Clarinet)
3.20 Ajdin Asllani - Këng E Gjethës (The Song of the Leaf)
3.21 Rizai with Friends - E Qjare e Merenkes (Lament of Merenka)

Disc 4
4.1 Riza Bylbyli - Taksim Myzeqarçe
4.2 K. Afes Shok and Selim Asllani - Vura Shkallët Mbi Avlli (I Put the Ladder in the Yard)
4.3 Zoj. Havaka - Moj e Vogla Saj Mexhide (Oh, Little Mexhide)
4.4 Vellakt Tija and Sabri Fehimi - E Qarë E Bajram Fehimit (Lament for Bajram Fehimi)
4.5 Z. Cercis Nesim - E Tredelines (Of Fenugreek)
4.6 Chiorchi Gazeli - Kapetan Kirjako
4.7 Çerçis Nesim and Sabri Fehimi - Kur Më Shkon Sokakut (When You Walk Down the Street)
4.8 Mehdi Permeti - E Qarë Me Gërnetë, Kaba (The Cry of the Clarinet)
4.9 Jonuzi and Friends - Viktori T'u Bëftë Nëna (Victoria, I (Your Mother) Will Sacrifice Myself for You)
4.10 [unknown artist] - Valle Salushe
4.11 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Kur Jeçë Vetum (When You'll Be Alone)
4.12 Riza Bylbyli - Kapitani Las
4.13 Jonuzi and Friends - Vome Kabá
4.14 Selim Asllani - Valle Janë Dy Kunata (They're Two Sisters-In-Law)
4.15 K. Afes Shok and Selim Asllani - Keta Lesh Si Filli Arit (This Hair Like Threads of Gold)
4.16 Llaqi and Friends - Çobankat Që Shkojnë Zalllit (The Vlach Women that Goes to the Rocky Place)
4.17 Z. Sylejmani - Medet, Medet Kam Nji Mik (Oh, Oh, I Have a Friend)
4.18 Selim Asllani and Hafize Asllani - Dembe Katarose
4.19 Riza Bylbyli (Berati) - Ja Thoshte Bylbyli (Thus the Nightingale Sang)
4.20 Adjin Asllani and Nichola Donnef - E Tredelinës (Valle Dhe Këngë) (Of Fenugreek - Dance and Song)
4.21 Girls Choir of the Franciscan Convent of Shkodër - Ora E Shqypnis (The Time of Albania)

Credits
Design – Andrew Roberts
Producer, Remastered By – Christopher King
Producer, Sleeve Notes – Ramona Stout
Restoration, Remastered By – Anders Peterson
Translated By – Auron Tare, Enea Rrapokushi, Steve John
4 CDs in regular plastic cases with black trays, in a card slipcase.
Each CD includes a 4-page booklet.

Notes
Sources and recording details:
1-01 HMV 70-1333 (BW3699-1): 19 June 1930, Shkodër
1-02 Balkan 514-A: January 1947, Athens
1-03 Columbia 23159 (WTA 25-1): 1931, Tirana
1-04 ARK-101 B
1-05 Balkan 535-A: prob. September 1948, Istanbul
1-06 Columbia 18808 (WT 22855): 22 July 1929, Istanbul
1-07 HMV 70-1347 (BW3715-1): 20 June 1930, Shkodër
1-08 Columbia 23109 (W 37818): November 1929, Shkodër
1-09 HMV 70-1394 (BW3762-1): 22 June 1930, Shkodër
1-10 Victor 78001 (B29667-2): 15 March 1924, Camden N. J.
1-11 Balkan 518-B: January 1947, Athens
1-12 Balkan 522-A: January 1947, Athens - Doren O Djal Doren / Kenge Kur Z-Bret-Jorgaqi
1-13 Columbia 23049 (W37697): November 1929, Shkodër
1-14 Columbia DT-23052 (W 37703-1): November 1929, Shkodër
1-15: Balkan 814-A: February 1947, Athens
1-16: Columbia MT-23156 (WTA-48): 1931, Tirana
1-17: Balkan 523-B: January 1947, Athens - Ne Rapi Ne Mashkullor / Valle Kolonjare
1-18: Columbia DT-23014 (W 37628): November 1929, Shkodër
1-19: Columbia MT-23160 (WTA 23): 1931, Tirana
1-20: Columbia 72024-F (WTA 107): 1931, Tirana
1-21: HMV 7-1395 (BW3770-1): 24 June 1930, Shkodër

2-01: Balkan 517-B: January 1947, Athens - E Qare Bajram Fehim / Hunde Bukur Qelibar
2-02: Homokord T. 4-28165-1 (T.C. 114): 24th December 1928, Istanbul
2-03: Balkan 812-A: February 1947, Athens - Valle Medy / Valle Me Ma Mleth Manushaqe
2-04: Columbia 18804 (W 22863): 23 July 1929, Istanbul
2-05: Victor 77386 (B29458-2): 9 February 2914, Camden N.J.
2-06: HMV 70-1377 (BW3744-1): 21 June 1930, Shkodër
2-07: Decca 31018 (CO 711): 1928, Istanbul
2-08: Columbia 72041-F (WTA 149): 1931, Tirana
2-09: Columbia MT-18802 (W 22827): 22 July 1929, Istanbul
2-10: Odeon A 202128 (CO 713): 1928, Istanbul
2-11: Balkan 523-A: January 1947, Athens - Ne Rapi Ne Mashkullor / Valle Kolonjare
2-12: Homokord T.4-28117 (T.C. 110): 24 December 1928, Istanbul
2-13: Columbia DT-23051 (W-37702-1): November 1929, Shkodër
2-14: Columbia MT-23156 (WTA 45): 1931, Tirana
2-15: Balkan 515-B: January 1947, Athens - Këngë Neplepi Bilistit / E Qare Me Gërnet Jonus Lamçe
2-16: Columbia DT-18803 (W 22858): 22 July 1929, Istanbul
2-17: HMV 70-1356 (BW3724-1): 20 June 1930, Shkodër
2-18: Columbia 72039-F (W206573-1): January 1932, New York
2-19: Columbia DT-23009 (W 37617): November 1929, Shkodër
2-20: Columbia D-23050 (W37700-1): November 1929, Shkodër
2-21: HMV 70-1328 (BW3764-1): 23 June 1930, Albania

3-01: Odeon A-20217-B (CO 718): 1928, Istanbul
3-02: Victor 78000 (CG 7901-): 24 May 1930, Athens (Recorded by HMV)
3-03: Albanian 150 (A): early 1920s, N.Y.
3-04: Balkan 813-B: February 1947, Athens
3-05: Columbia 18802 (W 22826): 22 July 1929, Istanbul
3-06: HMV 1378 (BW3745-1): 21 June 1930, Shkodër
3-07: Albanian 158 (A): early 1920s, N.Y.
3-08: Columbia D-23026 (W 27671): November 1929, Shkodër
3-09: Columbia D-23050 (W 37699): November 1929, Shkodër
3-10: Columbia 18803 (W 22864): July 23 1929, Istanbul
3-11: ?Odeon A 202128 (CO 717): 1928, Istanbul
3-12: Columbia 72024-F (WTA 89): 1931, Tirana
3-13: Albanian 132 (A): early 1920s, N.Y.
3-14: Balkan 501-A: prob. September 1948, Istanbul
3-15: Albanian 130-A: early 1920s, N.Y.
3-16: Balkan 525-A: January 1947, Athens
3-17: Balkan 521-B: January 1947, Athens
3-18: HMV 70-1351 (BW3719-1): 20 June 1930, Shkodër
3-19: MI-RE 501 (A): around 1930, N.Y.
3-20: MI-RE 505 (B): around 1930, N.Y.
3-21: HMV 70-1930 (BW3757-1): 21 June 1930, Shkodër

4-01: Columbia D-23109 (W37817): November 1929, Shkodër
4-02: Balkan 533-A: prob. September 1948, Istanbul
4-03: Columbia MT-23167 (WTA-14): 1931, Tirana
4-04: Balkan 517-A: January 1947, Athens - E Qare Bajram Fehim / Hunde Bukur Qelibar
4-05: Balkan 514-A: January 1947, Athens
4-06: Victor 78000 (CG 789-1): 24 May 1930, Athens (recorded by HMV)
4-07: Balkan 518-A: January 1947, Athens
4-08: ARK-101 A
4-09: HMV AM-2996 (BW3750-1): 21 June 1930, Shkodër
4-10: Me-RE 510-B: October 1946, Ioannina
4-11: Columbia 18804 (W 22856): 22 July 1929, Istanbul
4-12: Columbia D-23049 (W 37698): November 1929, Shkodër
4-13: HMV 7-1352 (BW3720-1): 20 June 1930, Shkodër
4-14: Balkan 502-A: prob. September 1948, Istanbul
4-15: Balkan 533-B: prob. September 1948, Istanbul
4-16: HMV 7-1765 (BW3733-1): 20 June 1930, Shkodër
4-17: Columbia D-23036 (W 37672): November 1929, Shkodër
4-18: Homokord T. 4-28165-1 (T.C. 113): 24 December 1928, Istanbul
4-19: Columbia D-23053 (W 37705-1): November 1929, Shkodër
4-20: MI-RE 503 (B): around 1930, N.Y.
4-21 HMV 70-1396 (BW3772-1): 24 June 1930, Shkodër

Greece

The Man and the Bouzouki

''The bouzouki is what the hardened criminals laid hold of, killers with life sentences, the guys on death row… it’s a sacred thing. They didn’t want it to spread. But it did spread'' — Markos Vamvakaris

'In Piraeus during the 1930s and 40s, dockworkers, tradesmen, thieves, and ex-cons sat together in shacks or mountain caves smoking the arghile and playing stringed instruments. They wrote songs in profusion, about their tough, anarchic lives, their loves, their sacred rituals, and the beloved haunts of a now vanished city. They sang and played Rebetiko. Markos Vamvakaris is the undisputed Patriarch of Rebetiko. Out of the lowlife of the port, the brothels and hashish dens, the man and the bouzouki trod an unlikely path from disgrace to glory.

Markos Vamvakaris was a man fully conversant with his own myth. In the 1930s he transformed Greek music by popularising the bouzouki – an instrument he first heard during a brief spell in prison – making it central to his take on rebetiko: the rebel songs of manghes – the social outcasts who haunted the docks of Athens. Markos (and what pleasure he took in being on first-name terms with fame) described himself in his autobiography as “the best kind of mangas”: rather than drift into petty crime, he devoted himself to rhythm and blues.

Markos Vamvakaris, born in 1905 in Syros was a pioneer of rebetiko, the urban folk music of Greece. The bouzouki was a disreputable instrument but he paved its path to glory. He spent many years, first as a stevedore in the port of Piraeus and then as a butcher in the slaughterhouse. During this time he fell in love with a tigress, his first wife, he learnt to smoke hashish and to play the 'sacred' instrument: 'I had a great passion. My life was all bouzouki. It took me over - but it also took me up in the world, way up ...' This is the first ever translation into English of the autobiography compiled by Angeliki Vellou Keil in 1972. It opens a window onto a time of extraordinary creativity in the history of Greek music, an explosion of songwriting in the interwar period. Its composers wrote about themselves and each other, the rituals of hashish smoking and the landmarks of a now vanished city. Markos the repentant sinner and living legend, looks back at childhood idylls in Syros, the arrival of the Asia Minor refugees, the terrible years of the Nazi Occupation, the ceaseless love affairs and disappointments, and the triumphs of the bouzouki. He offers a rare insight into the lives of toiling workers and the lowlife of one of the world's most ancient ports, where East meets West. Out of this melting pot he produced the classic songs that Greeks of all ages still love and know by heart.'

Sonic psychopomps Mississippi bridge ‘30s Greek Rebetika to modern ears with an essential showcase of its patriarch Márkos Vamvakaris and his incredibly mournful but uncannily timeless songs for brothels, bars, and hash dens.

'Hailing form the island of Syros in the Aegean, some 100 miles from Athens, at the interzone of Europe and Asia Minor, Vamvakaris travelled to Athens as a 12 year old fleeing the police on a false tip-off. He ended up working various jobs in and around the port of Pireus (stevedore, shoe-polisher, paperboy, butcher etc.) and picked up the bouzouki with the claim that he would learn to play it within six months or chop his hand off with a cleaver. This fortuitous event led to him becoming an innovative virtuoso of the instrument, writing his own deadly simple but effective songs that were popular in the tekés, clandestine bars for hash-smoking and the like, and he was cutting his first records by 1932 and regularly playing the city’s ruder establishments.

‘Death is Bitter’ is drawn from his work 1932-36, and spans 12 rarely heard songs about drugs, love (lust), and life in the Greek working classes that could be compared to an early form of Greek folk as rap, with songs stripped to the bone and dealing in life’s more immediate matters. The simple but deadly tight rhythms also reflect Márkos’ background as a champion zebekiko dancer, and it’s not hard to hear how they would have brought red-eyed port workers and seductresses of the night to their feet for a bop in low-lit taverns.

It’s utterly entrancing stuff that casts its magic with a heavy pall of smoky atmosphere that still resonates thru the ages. Skin up, press play, and sit back with your worry beads for the best time here. And if it really gets you, make sure to run go check Mississippi’s ‘Mortika’ collection and the outstanding set of Márkos peer, K. Kostis in ‘The Jail’s A Fine School’.' -Boomkat


HEAVY, ENTRANCING TRANSMISSIONS FROM THE GREEK UNDERWORLD

'Continuing Mississippi's exploration of the darkest reaches of Greek music, we bring you 12 rarely heard recordings of addled suffering and love from the most legendary of all Greek rebetika artists, Markos Vamvakaris.

Rebetika is the sound of Greece and Asia Minor clashing amid civil war, mass population exchange, and the anarchy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Poetic, mournful, and bitter, rebetika music was born in the hash dens (tekes) of Mediterranean ports, its verses whispered in Greek prisons before spilling out to the greater population in the 1930s, propelled in no small part by a series of remarkable recordings by Markos Vamvakaris.

Markos (first name basis for all fans of Greek music) sang heady, drugged out songs of love, pain and yearning at brothels, bars and hash dens in the port of Piraeus. He arrived as a youth in 1917, working as a skinner in a tannery. By the time he picked up the bouzouki around 1924, he was fully taken by the life of the manges, the lowest rungs of the Greek social ladder. They lived by their own code and in total opposition to the rest of the population, dressing, walking and speaking in their own style. Rebetika was their music.

On these twelve early tracks, recorded in Athens between 1932 and 1936, Markos was already a master of the bouzouki. His forceful, clean playing compliments his hoarse voice and his stunning rhythmic sensibility, the result of his years as a champion zebekiko dancer. Tracks build and spiral outward, his open-note drones and melodic lines drawing calls of ecstasy and encouragement from his fellow musicians. Translations of songs like “Hash-Smoking Mortissa” and “In The Dark Last Night” provide a glimpse into the life and language of the manges - Ottoman cafe music, the calls of displaced Greeks of Smyrna, the chaos and suffering of port life, it all comes through Markos’ songs.

These recordings, incredibly rare and expertly remastered, mark the height of rebetika, the brief period between the music’s emergence on the recording scene in the early 1930s and government censorship of all lyrics starting in 1936. During the Axis occupation there was no rebetika recording, and though Markos had some hits in the years after the war, he never again attained this level. These are the dizzying, entrancing, and heaviest works of one of the great artists of the 20th century.' -Mississippi Records


Markos Vamvakaris – Είναι Πικρός Ο Θάνατος = Death Is Bitter

Label: Mississippi Records – MRI 133, Olvido Records – OLV 10
Format: Digital, Vinyl, LP, Compilation, Mono, 160g
Country: US
Released: Nov 4, 2022
Genre: Folk, World, & Country
Style: Rebetiko

1. We Were Smoking One Evening [ Εφουμέρναμ’ ένα βράδυ] 3:10
2. Hash-Smoking Mortissa [Μόρτισσα χασικλού] 3:17
3. Bitch, You Made Me Waste Away [Σκύλα μ’έκανες και λιώνω] 3:14
4. The Spinner [Η Κλωστηρού] 3:22
5. Arap Zebekiko [Αραπ ζειμπέκικο] 3:23
6. The Butcher [Ο Χασάπης] 3:05
7. Serfo Taxim [Ταξίμ Σερφ] 3:15
8. Your Arabian Eyes [Τα μάτια σου τ’ αράπικα] 3:20
9. My Woman's Jealous [Η γυναίκα μου ζηλεύει] 3:18
10. In The Dark Last Night [Χτες το βράδυ το σκοτάδι] 3:16
11. Markos From Syros [Ο Μάρκος ο Συριανός] 3:09
12. Death Is Bitter [Πειραιώτικος μανές (Είναι πικρός ο θάνατος)] 3:10

Notes
12 of the heaviest early tracks by the master of rebetika music. Markos Vamvakaris sings from the hash dens of the Greek ports of the 1930s - mournful, poetic, bitter music of love and long nights.

Remastered from rare 78s by Stereophonic Sound, pressed on heavy 160g vinyl at Smashed Plastic, includes full-size eight-page booklet with detailed historical notes, rare photos, and lyric translations.

Front cover has a large sticker with the main artist name and title on top of the chipboard sleeve, presumably correcting a printing error.

The Greek inscriptions in the runouts are a line from track A6.
Side A: παλεύεις με τα αίματα = you struggle with the blood
Side B: μα δεν πονεί η καρδιά σου = but your heart doesn't hurt

1, 7 recorded June 1933, originally released as Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Εφουμάραμ' Ένα Βράδυ / Ταξίμ Σερφ.
2 recorded December 1933, originally released on Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Ο Μαστούρας / Μόρτισσα Χασικλού.
3 recorded May 1936 (probably), originally released on Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Σκύλα Μ' Έκανες Και Λιώνω / Το Διαζύγιο.
4 recorded June 1934, originally released on Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Τα Μαγεμένα Μάτια Σου / Η Κλωστηρού.
5 recorded December 1932, originally released on Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Καραντουζένι / Αράπ Ζεϊμπέκικο.
6 recorded June 1934, originally released on Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Ο Χασάπης / Στα Σίδερα Με Βάλανε.
8 recorded 25 November 1933 originally released on Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Ώρες Με Θρέφει Ο Λουλάς / Τα Μάτια Σου Τ' Αράπικα.
9 recorded September 1935, originally released on Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Ο Ισοβίτης / Η Γυναίκα Μου Ζηλεύει.
10 recorded September 1935, originally released on Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Φραγκοσυριανή / Χθες Το Βράδυ Στο Σκοτάδι.
11 recorded 25 November 1933, originally released on Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Μάρκος ο Συριανός / Όταν Πλύνω Τουμπεκάκι
12 recorded January 1934, originally released on Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης - Για Το Γινάτι Σου Μωρή / Πειραιώτικος Μανές (Είναι Πικρός Ο Θάνατος).

Αφιερωμένο στη μνήμη του Μάρκου Βαμβακάρη (1905 - 1972)
Dedicated to the memory of Markos Vamvakaris (1905 - 1972)