Fragmented Frequencies Nov 10 (a)

Rango

Since the late 80’s Nigerian bandleader Femi Kuti has struggled to his assert his own voice over the imposing din of his father’s legacy. He’s done so with a quiet grace, incredibly adept at treading a respectful line between honoring his father’s music and striking out for himself. He began by playing with his father in Egypt 80, however in 1986 he started his own group Positive Force. He’s since released a slew of albums which possess that driving repetitive Afrobeat groove, but also draws on more fusion elements from other genres, often the jazzier elements, taking the music into new realms. He’s collaborated with US hip hop artists like Mos Def and Common, been remixed by Ernest St Laurent and Faze Action and even had his voice as a DJ on Grand Theft Auto IV. His most recent work Africa for Africa (Shock) is due to drop any day now and he’ll be in town soon as part of of the third annual Australian World Music Expo, playing on the 21st of November alongside local Bollywood fanatics Bombay Royale.

It’s great timing because the appeal of Afrobeat seems to be at an all time high, what with numerous compilations and the reissuing of his father’s entire oeuvre via Knitting Factory (Planet Company here). The most recent is the classic Shuffering and Schmiling which has been combined with No Agreement, which means you not only get trumpet from Lester Bowie (Art Ensemble of Chicago), but is also a savage indictment on the religions peddled by Africa’s colonial masters.

Then there’s Fela! The musical, a Tony award winning broadway play currently tearing it up in the US. Even if it’s terrible at least the music will be good. In fact the soundtrack has just been released (again via Planet Company) and features a backing band of no less than New York Afrobeat fanatics Antibalas doing covers of Fela’s music. A film of the performance will be playing at the Nova on the 5th and 6th of February 2011 so I guess we find out then.

Paris based Gotan Project have been applying the fusion blowtorch to tango since the late 90′s, merging tango with elements of electronica, jazz, house and dub, with a distinctly folkloric Argentine flavour. It’s almost club based music with the exotic flavours more often than not falling between their rigid 4/4 beats. Earlier in the year they released Tango 3.0 with guests like Dr John on Hammond B3. Their first single was the super cool electro of La Gloria which features the legendary football commentator Victor Hugo Morales offering some commentary inspired by Marradonna’s second goal against England. ‘Gooooooooooooooooooooal.’ They’re on their way to Melbourne and playing the Forum on the 8th of December. If you’re curious to know how they sound live check out their double cd from 2008 set simply entitled Live.

On a sweeter and more experimental bent Japanese avant pop chanteuse Tujiko Noriko is returning to Australia, this time with her trio consisting of sound artists Lawrence English and John Chantler. They’ve previously released U (Room40) together and the rough live footage I’ve seen from their European dates has Noriko gorgeously intoning above English and Chantler’s dark synthetic drones, delaying her voice yet still singing sweetly. It’s what’s always been so interesting about Noriko, her desire to treat and layer her voice, creating these gorgeous vocal melodies over all kinds of instrumentation. Crazily enough it’s at the Empress on the 4th of December and you can pre book tickets. You better, it’s going to be squeezy.

The first Womadelaide acts have been announced and whilst Afro Celt Sound System and lush Indian beat maker Nitin Sawney might be getting the most attention, some lesser known artists feel a little more exiting. Firstly there’s Hanggai, a bunch of ex Beijing punks now peddling a gentle traditional folk music with Mongolian throat singing and horse hair fiddle. They released their debut album Introducing on World Circuit (Fuse) a couple of years back, which mixed their traditional music with subtle flourishes of electric guitar and banjo. Beautiful. Secondly Rango, a Sudanese Egyptian ensemble play one of the only three balafon or Rango’s left in existence. They released Bride of Zar (30IPS/ Planet Company) earlier in the year, a spirit cleansing Nubian trance music, with heavy percussion creating a joyful rattling textural hypnotic stomp. More acts to be announced.

Finally I’ve regretfully discovered the passing of English composer and field recorder David Fanshawe in July. Best known for African Sanctus, his mind numbingly bizarre mix of African tribal recordings and English chorals, he left a legacy of pristine field recordings of Africa, the Middle East, and Pacific as well as a lasting effect on the tribes he visited. He was 68 and a true eccentric. Fragmented Frequencies will miss you David.

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Fragmented Frequencies 7th Dec 08

The problem with Femi Kuti is his father Fela. How can you possibly compete with a legacy as immense as that? Or at the very least forge your own identity? It’s the Ted Whitten effect. What chance did Ted Jnr have when his father was Mr Football? If he played well, it was never as good as his father, and if he played poorly then he was an insult to the legacy. The solution? Retire at 25 and run a foundation dedicated to your father’s memory. So to with music. We’re so desperate for another piece of Fela that we try to build Femi in his image, willing him to commit just one more epic Afro-beat freak-out, and he regularly obliges. Femi was in his father’s band, so he knows the ropes, though he’d also no doubt feel the pressure. On his latest album Day By Day (Wrasse/ Filter) he does give us a couple of tastes of Afro-beat, and shares his fathers desire to meld politics and music, yet he also diversifies, attempting to move beyond his father and create his own path. He’s moved from sax to trumpet, and the music takes on a jazzier and at times a light, relaxed, and mellow feel, moving at a gentle cadence with the occasional brass stab. It’s definitely Femi’s most interesting and complex work to date, and solidifies his reputation as an artist in his own right. For those still yearning for the Fela experience, Femi’s brother Seun has enlisted Fela’s Egypt 80 band and is making his way to Womadelaide next year, and legendary percussionist and bandleader of Fela’s Africa 70 Tony Allen will also playing the Corner – both in March 09.

Another man with family issues is Lulo Reinhardt, grand nephew to gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt. In fact there is a certain similarity between Lulo and Femi. Both have an incredible affinity with their famous relative’s stock and trade, yet use it as a launch pad to explore their own musical whims. His Latin Swing Project (Toca/ Filter). begins with gypsy swing yet also dips into elements of samba, flamenco, tango and jazz influences. He’s in town and playing at the Famous Speigeltent tomorrow night. His musicianship is incredible, and his live show incendiary. He’s also got one up on Django: he has all his fingers.

Not only is there a new 2 disc compilation, but also an accompanying coffee table book for Dancehall: the Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture (Soul Jazz/ Inertia). With text and hundreds of photographs from Beth Lesser, it’s a definitive chronicle of the phenomenon which began in the 50’s in Kingston Jamaica with Coxsone Dodd’s sound system and has continued to this day. Lesser was there 27 years ago and her accounts come from this insider perspective as she talks of her experiences at sound clashes, The DJ’s, the police, the poverty and the political violence. The photos too are incredible. everyone from Sly and Robbie, Gregory Isaacs, King Jammy, everyone you could think of back in the day. It’s an incredibly creative time in the history of music, where the scene was experiencing a resurgence and the creativity was rampant.

Stutter is pleased to be hosting a four-way, a combined Christmas party with the excellent Sabbatical Record label (www.sbbtcl.com/sbbtcl), the dark brooding Sweat Lung (www.sweatlung.blogspot.com), the launch of issue 21 of Cyclic Defrost Magazine and their own celebration of a year of incredible experimental music. It’s on at Horse Bazaar on Wednesday the 17th of December.

Finally tonight, and when I say “tonight!” it’s with a high pitched squeal and a metal salute, Philip Brophy is living out his metal fantasies. Bare-chested and adorned with long flowing black metal-dude hair, flailing away at the drums, he will be flanked by two exuberant explosive dancers. No words. No guitars. No other visible instruments. Just a set of skins sandwiched by skin. It all sounds very wrong, yet it’s a performance to end the One of Us Cannot be Wrong Exhibition and it’s at the TOFF in town. And yes Phil, sorry to say but I know which of us is wrong.

-Bob Baker Fish