While I love turning people on to music, it turns out there are some bands and records that are mine and mine alone. Some bands and artists I have kept to myself. Some bands that my friends don't know about and even my "music friends" could not find on a map.
As I started thinking about bands that fell into this category it made me realize that it was time to open the floodgates. The fact is, these albums are too good not to share.
The albums on this list have a few things in common; 1) each is an album I truly love, and 2) to make things more interesting, each artist is from a different country.
01. Coconot - Cosa Astral (BCore Records, 2008)
Coconot were a 3-piece band from Barcelona, Spain. They put out two records before disbanding in 2008. While the band did not garner the attention it deserved, one member - Pablo Díaz-Reixa subsequently went on to international fame as a solo artist called El Guincho and for his work as a producer.
Díaz-Reixa grew up in the Canary Islands listening to his dad’s Latin and Krautrock records. He learned music theory from his opera singer grandmother. He studied classical percussion at music school and taught himself guitar in his free time. This melting pot of cultures and influences are all evident in Coconot's music.
Cosa Astral's Tropicália meets latin-carnival-music vibe is an adventurous and highly creative endeavor that beguiles the band's age.
02. Johnny Hawaii - Southern Lights (Hands In The Dark, 2013)
There is not a lot of information available about Johnny Hawaii so I can't tell you much. I know the artist is from Marseille, France and his real name is Olivier Scalia. His Instagram bio simply states..... "Recording imaginary waves since 2008". In my opinion this soulful, percussive, and dreamy album of downtempo electronic music is the perfect soundtrack for watching the sun set over your favorite beach.
03. Pekos / Yoro Diallo - Pekos / Yoro Diallo (Yaala Yaala, 2007)
When it comes to "outsider music", the origin story behind an artist or album is typically interesting. How for instance does music recorded live to a battery powered boombox in a market in Kolondieba, Mali in the 1990's get released in the U.S. by a subsidiary of American indie label Drag City Records in 2007?
Evidently, the story goes like this.... "One afternoon while meandering through Bougouni's sole market, a line of tar paper and lean-to shanties, I heard what initially sounded like an insane man giving birth. Listening more closely, I heard an insistent and funky beat percolating forth from the shadows of my main cassette man Abdoulaye's stall, interspersed with the utterances of the same man who sounded so insane; now he sounded as if he was gargling glass. I wandered into Abdoulaye's place and pointed at the boombox. He immediately started laughing. The tape was recorded in Kolondieba, a village not too far from Bougouni. The performers, Pekos and Yoro Diallo, were quite popular in the region. They were playing electrified Ngonis, a four to five foot length of wood jammed into a hollowed out gourd with strings connected from a bridge at the base of the instrument to the end of the neck. Only the fancier Ngonis have tuning pegs; most are tuned by pushing the strings with the thumbs. To generate their sound, the musicians put old mics inside of the gourds of their Ngonis, run it to a preamp, and then to a horn speaker. As with just about all of the music I listened to in Mali, I have no idea what they're singing about but I do know they're reciting litanies of names prompted usually by the laying of small bills or coins at their feet. As a sign of thanks, they sing about how great Coulibaly is, Sidibe is, what a strong man Traore is, etc."
The appeal of this record is its rawness and the musicians' impassioned performance. The duo play off of each other as if they are having a personal conversation. In this instance, not knowing the language does not diminish the thrill of listening to what they are saying.
04. John Wizards - John Wizards (Planet Mu Records, 2012)
I have never embraced the term "World Music". Unless I missed something, and all of the kids are listening to some cool new band from Jupiter, all of the music available on planet earth falls into the World Music category. If the moniker is so generic, how effective can it be when used to classify a band's origin or sound? With that said, Cape Town, South African band John Wizards' Wikipedia page describes their music as a mix of R&B, soukous, Afropop, reggae, South African house, Shanagan electro, and dub. Maybe in this case it might just be easier to refer to their sound as World Music.
To my ear, the band's sound is rooted in Afropop. They also sound like carnival music fused with reggae and dub or perhaps Lady Blacksmith Mambazo on acid doing Paul Simon and Bee Gees covers.
05. Radio Zumbido - Los Últimos Días del AM (Palm Pictures, 2002)
In 1999, after years of touring with Guatemala City, Guatemala rock band Bohemia Suburbana, Juancarlos Barrios started Radio Zumbido - a band that fuses electronic beats, latin rhythms, and a wide variety of sampled material to create a truly unique fusion of sounds.
On Los Últimos Días del AM, Barrios layers dub bass lines, horns, electronic loops, beats, and samples taken from Guatemalan shortwave radio programs. Samples consisting of merengue and tex-mex music, evangelist preachers, and political propaganda are used to create a soundtrack that reflects on Guatemala's social and political life.
06. Yonatan Gat - Director (Joyful Noise Recordings, 2015)
Yonatan Gat is a guitarist, producer and experimental composer from Tel Aviv, Israel. He is currently based in New York City. On Director, his band consists of Gat on guitar, Gal Lazer on drums, and Sergio Sayeg on bass.
Gat became known as one of the world's top performers as founder and guitarist of Monotonix, once hailed by SPIN magazine as "the most exciting live band in rock’n’roll”. As a solo artist, his guitar style falls somewhere between jazz fusion and rock but there are influences from many musical cultures woven into his music.
As much as I enjoy this album's recorded material, it is the videos of them playing these songs live that is even more impressive. Most of the performances were conducted in-the-round where the band plays surrounded on all sides by their audience. Sometimes the musicians are just inches away from the crowd.
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