Fragmented Frequencies Womadelaide 2012 edition

Narasirato

Womadelaide is a four-day feast of cultural music for the soul, where sounds from the world over bask in Adelaide’s glorious Botanical gardens. The beauty is that it’s all up to you, there’s so much going on you can programme your own festival. As you wander amongst the spectacular Morton Bay Figs, relax under the flying foxes, or lie on the hill surrounded by pines, you can be guaranteed that you’ll be transported to new sonic and cultural worlds.

Anda Union

Traditional Mongolian throat singers Anda Union offered a workshop in throat singing first up, tuning the audience’s ears into the overtones in the music hovering above their deep throaty growls. The irony is the best throat singer was wearing a Quicksilver t-shirt, yet that’s a typical Womadelaide moment of cultural exchange. Over the coming days they cooked for us, and performed not only traditional drinking songs, but also a rousing horse fiddle approximation of 10,000 galloping horses.

Shivkumar Sharma

“Music is beyond entertainment, it’s food for the soul, so close your eyes and leave the rest to me,” offered gentle Santoor composer Shivkumar Sharma, a man with the whitest perm in India. The improvised music of his ensemble was hypnotic, stately and almost divine, as Sharma in the drivers seat proved as good as his word.

Later handicapped Congolese ensemble Staff Benda Bilili took to the main stage. Their homemade fiddle raised their traditional rumba sounds to ecstatic heights, and when the guy in a white suite who looked like a cross between Flavour Flav and Boss Hog threw himself off his wheelchair and started dancing on his knees the crowd went wild.

Tinariwen

Two members of Toureg ensemble Tinariwen (including founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib) were trapped by the instability in Mali, so a four piece took to the stage and they were magnetic. The stripped down version highlighted the electric bass and hitherto unheard funkiness buried within the wispy twang of their desert blues. Joined by French outfit Lo Jo for part of the performance, Tinariwen were majestic, true global superstars, offering the most powerful, compelling and evocative music of the festival, transporting listeners to the bleak beauty of their homeland with the mere flick of guitar.

Narasirato

Solomon Islands pan pipe ensemble Narasirato were the life of the festival, their infectious pipe music an energetic mix of tribal soul. They were everywhere, breathing new life into an instrument long since delegated into cliché by Peruvian market bands. With every size bamboo pipe you could imagine, they breathed into giant bass pipes, hitting some too big to blow into with thongs, dancing in unison and creating an infectious upbeat soul revue.  This is that rare kind of cultural music that seems to have fallen straight from the sky.  “Unfortunately we brought no women,” they suggestively offered.

Master Drummers Of Burrundi

The Master Drummers of Burundi returned to Womadelide after 20 years, with an ecstatic synchronised percussion onslaught, banging drums on their head, jumping impossibly high, and making a peculiar throat slitting action with their sticks, that we later discovered signals their devotion to their King. Melbourne Bollywood fanatics Bombay Royale theatrically strutted and funked across stage, Korea’s Tori Ensemble created regal court music punctuated by these bizarre moments of freejazz with a piercing female wail that could cut wood, and Palestinian’s Le Trio Joubran’s oud music resonated with centuries of tradition.

Kimmo Pohjonen

Eccentric Finish, mowhaked accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen offered metal machine music from Finland, with surround sound punctuated by avant electronics, where his midi enhanced accordion, with special microphones in its bellows, sounded like an idling motorbike, an electric guitar, or oddly enough a piano accordion.

Shantala Shivalingappa

US roots reggae exponents Groundation played into the piercing heat, seamlessly merging Jamaican beats with jazz solos, funk horns, improvisation and Rastafarian wisdom, whilst Indian dancer Shantala Shivalingappa was like a wind up doll. Or perhaps a deity. Each movement punctuated by her musical ensemble. It was hard to know who was controlling whom. Performing a traditional Southern Indian dance, everything from her hands, fingers and facial expressions were in tune with the music, and as a result we were in tune with her.

Anda Union film

Twenty years of remarkable performances and it feels like we’re only beginning. This festival is a blessing, an opportunity to engage in the global community and break down stereotypes in a joyous and meaningful way.

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Fragmented Frequencies Aug 09

dengue

US group Dengue Fever were a total assault on the senses at this years Womadelaide. Firstly it’s their revival and celebration of 60’s and 70’s Cambodian psychedelic rock, then it’s the way they look. They’re like the X-Men of music, each member is a super hero with special powers.

At the time Fragmented Frequencies wrote: “They’re the ultimate eye candy. I defy you to tear your eyes from the gorgeous five foot nothing lead singer Chhom Nimol, squeezed into a tight pink skirt who obtained these impossibly high pitches with her vocals. The guitarist looked like ZZ Top’s early years, the bass player is a giant, the sax player and the drummer both just stole the booze from a Tom Waits session and the keyboardist looks like a down on his luck pawn shop dealer. They’re a cartoon, with kitsch choreographed stage moves and it all seems like a gimmick, except their music, psychedelic Cambodian pop from the 60’s was incredible, They drew upon their last album Venus on Earth (Real World/Planet Company) and in particular their trans global duet Tiger Phone Card went down a treat. It was Kenny and Dolly for the cool kids, though you couldn’t help feeling a little uncomfortable after noticing a raincoat brigade congregating in front of Chhom.”

Sleepwalking Through The Meekong (M80/ Planet Company) is a film that peels beneath the veneer, that adds a few additional dimensions to the band. Part travelogue, part rock bio, it documents their tour to Cambodia in 2005. For Nimol, who was already apparently a successful karaoke singer before moving to the US, it’s a homecoming and for the others you can sense the tension as they’re not quite sure what the Cambodians will make of Americans plundering their heritage. Through interviews with all members, gigs in sleazy dives, visits to music schools and a large open air festival you see music used as a form of cultural exchange. The Cambodian’s are amused and seem genuinely touched by these crazy Americans. And then you understand why. The music is in danger of being forgotten, as it comes from an era that was totally extinguished in the Killing Fields of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime, where one and a half million people, mostly professionals, musicians and artists were slaughtered, and music (aside from state sponsored) was outlawed. There are some harrowing tales here and the music comes across as a way of healing some of these wounds. Dengue Fever jam with a bunch of kids learning traditional music, also Cambodian traditional and pop musicians and the film and the accompanying soundtrack are amazing affirming documents The great thing is that much of Dengue Fever’s repatoire is these old songs that everyone knows, so it’s pretty easy to get a singalong. Sleepwalking Through The Meekong features the film with a bunch of special features, also the soundtrack which blends field recordings, street musicians with Dengue Fever, with a particularly impressive version of Ethiopian legend Mulatu Astatke’s Ethanopium.

It’s album number 4 for Malian seven piece Tinariwen (Shock), and on Imidiwan Companion we’re seeing a refinement of their unique and beautiful sound. Such is this incredible Toureg ensemble’s popularity that they’ve played with everyone from the Rolling Stones to Tuung in the last few years, even landing in Melbourne earlier this year, seducing audiences with their hypnotic webs of guitar, hand drums and evocative call and response vocals. If you want desert rock, if you want to know where the blues came from, it’s all right here. It feels incredibly immediate, once the repetative riffing begins all you can see are sweeping vistas of sand. Whilst the earthy groove underlies all their tunes, ocassionally here they strip it right back to bass and percussion, amping up the funk, playing a little more with dynamics. They also do this gentle stripped back fireside groove, that when the group vocals comes in the hair stands up on the back of your neck. There seems to be a little more spoken word here than previously, kind’ve gruff and throaty, but really if you’re a fan of any of their previous releases you’re not going to be disappointed here.

Fragmented Frequencies – 1st April 09

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Possibly the greatest thing Fragmented Frequencies has ever heard ever, in the history of ever, is track five of the new Syringe Stick Up Mamma (Who Says Records/ Dual Plover) album. Whilst the rest of the album is an erratic blast of unhinged politically incorrect at times verbally abusive socially conscious hip hop, with breathless and stupidly fast rhymes over inventive, dense at times break-core beats, I Shit On Ya! takes everything to an entirely new level. It’s a level so dangerous and inventive that the air up there is so thin that few ever get there, and those that do can’t remain there for too long. It starts normal enough (or at least normal in the context of this album which anywhere else would be very very weird), with a bit of Eastern European accented ranting over industrial 4/4 beats, yet then the real ranting begins, the music stops, almost like it gives up, knowing that it can’t even begin to compete with the genius that is about to follow. Or flow. It’s a torrent of abuse for the next eight and a half minutes, a’ cappella ranting as the MC lets all those pent up grudges out, and it’s like opening the floodgates as we get swamped until we can barely breathe. ‘Cunts who are too weak to burn bridges, I shit on ya,’ ‘anyone who’s name starts with the letter a I shit on ya,’ he rails. Yet this is a far reaching totally insane and unfocussed rant so everything is fair game. You dobbed on him in kindergarten? Guess what? He remembers and shits on ya. No one is spared, even the ‘sissy’ who turned off the sound on the mic because he was spitting at the Empress the other week, or a pizza place who doesn’t put enough spinach on his pizzas. That’s right, he shits on ya. By about five minutes his flow gets scattered, he loses track, tangents away and any semblance that this was ever music, and not just a random potty mouthed unhinged lunatic is gone. What makes it so great is of course that it’s hilarious and wrong, but mostly because there’s no censorship or polish. This is not studio trickery or even rehearsal. This is straight up pure improvisation. This music is blood pouring from a wound and no one’s bothering with band aids.

Speaking of wounds, ACMI seem intent on picking the scab and reminding us of the demise of Melbourne’ s best record store a few years back. Synesthesia is a periodic experimental music and audio visual night held in Studio One up until the 18th of May. Over the coming months artists like Qua, Jean Poole and Ang Fang Quartet will be featured, though the series kicks off with colourful electro pop of Mink Engine on the 9th of April whilst the 23rd sees local AV laptop collective Outpost team up with digital messiah Robin Fox who will dust off his oscilloscope for the performance. The best thing about all these performances is that they’re free.

After being subjected to the traversty of Queens of the Stone Age you may be surprised to learn that desert rock is alive and well. The desert of course being the Sahara. Tinariwen are one of the most soulful and inspiring bands around, melding an incredible back-story with some of the most distinctive and evocative blues tinged music you will ever hear. Fragmented Frequencies can’t hear their music without being transported back to the Sahara. They’re in town playing at Hamer Hall tonight.

Of course the Melbourne International Jazz Festival is in town from the 26th of April and this year there’s some interesting internationals. Highlights include improv legend Cecil Taylor, guitarist Bill Frisell, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline (who’s doing a free improv show with Oren Ambarchi and will be interviewed in these very pages) and Ornette’s old bass player Charlie Haden. ACMI are coming to the party with a Jazz on Screen season that includes Sun Ra’s Space is the Place, the making of Charlie Haden’s recent country foray Rambling Boy, the portrait of iconic trumpeter Chet Baker in Let’s Get Lost, Jazz on A Summers Day and the excellent Mancini scored seedy noir masterpiece A Touch Of Evil, from that great man Orson Welles.