More Music

by wjw on September 29, 2008

Interesting. All my posts these days seem to be about music or disaster. This one’s about music.

My second-favorite band from Globalquerque was Lo Cor de la Plana, a buncha guys from France. (I tried to link to a suitable video, but they all either had terrible sound quality or were untypical of what I actually saw. This is the best.)

To describe them as an a capella band would probably stretch the term: they accompany themselves with stomping, hand claps, and hand drums. They sing mostly in Occitans, the native language of southern France (also known as Langue d’Oc). And they sing with utter ferocity. The sonic assault coming from the stage was colossal, both in volume and energy.

Their music shows the influence of all the many cultures that have straddled the Pyrenees. A song would start out sounding Moroccan, then turn into a Gregorian chant, then finish as Moroccan again. I heard folk, I heard rhumba flamenco, I heard pure joy and exuberance.

Also humor. “When we tell people where we’re from,” one said, “they say, ‘You’re from the dirtiest place on Earth.’ So we decided to make a song about the unique way that we smell, and it’s called ‘Let’s be Proud.'”

(I’m not sure whether the dirtiest place on earth the fellow mentioned is supposed to be France or Marseilles. Never been to Marseilles, but the parts of France I’ve visited seemed reasonably fragrant to me.)

I also caught two concerts from Hapa, a band from Hawaii. The interesting thing about the two concerts was that they were completely different. One was instrumental, featuring Barry Flanagan on Hawaiian slack-string guitar. (Which is actually Latin American slack-string guitar, learned when King Kamehameha III imported a bunch of vaqueros to teach Hawaiians how to be cowboys. I wonder if even Ned Sublette’s excellent book has this information.)

The other concert featured vocals. (My, Hawaiian has a lot of vowels!) There was a third, older gent onstage, and a hula dancer. At one point the older man asked, “Are there any Hawaiians here?”, which question was followed by a lot of yelling. (Apparently there are a lot of Hawaiians in New Mexico: who knew?) He invited them onstage to hula along with the band, and they did. And that was pretty nifty.

This music is just pure fun. I bought Hapa’s CD Maui. It’s been on continuous play ever since.

I was also impressed by Orchid Ensemble, a group from the northwest that features two chinese women on zheng (the large wooden zither, pronounced “jun”) and erhu (the two-string knee fiddle), and a third non-Chinese member on percussion and the highly traditional Chinese marimbas. (I am, by the way, a total sucker for the erhu, which plays in the same range as a cello. I just love that sound.)

Orchid Ensemble played a kind of Chinese jazz, improvising off traditional music. My problem as an observer was that, unfamiliar as I am with Chinese musical traditions, I didn’t know when they were improvising, or for that matter how brilliant the improvisations were. All I knew was that it sounded good, pretty much.

Sure did enjoy that erhu, though.

I also enjoyed the German band 17 Hippies (of whom there were actually only thirteen). At their best they sound like a demented Kurt Weill, but they’re such a wild collection of musical influences that a good deal of the time they sounded like several different orchestras playing one after the other.

It should also be pointed out that most of them were too young to have ever seen an actual hippie.

I had a good time with the Mexican Institute of Sound, basically a plump, bald producer/executive/performer/synthesizer jock named Camilo Lara who does a kind of polycultural Mexican hip-hop. The audience didn’t want to let these guys go. They jumped up and down, they screamed, and finally Lara just had to say, “We didn’t bring any more music!”

That was a pretty freakin’ great weekend.

And now we return you to the economic meltdown.

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