November 24, 2008
Years ago, when I was completely green when it came to collecting 78s, I sought out arcane knowledge* wherever I could find it. And since I was broke most of the time, I had nothing but time to spend listening to more experienced collectors talk and talk (and play records). During that period, I was getting into early American jazz, blues, and country, but really had no idea where to begin. These collectors were equally irascible and incredibly generous. There was, however, one piece of dubious information that was drilled into me: red Columbias are a waste of your time, son. The mere mention of a “red Columbia” would make older collector’s eyes roll. I’d hear things like, “I drove all the way down to Philly for that estate sale – and all they had were red Columbias!” or “The guy wanted $5 each for all his red Columbias!” They were the most plentiful 78rpm record around (and probably still are), and the vast majority of what you’d find would be Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, big band…top sellers. It wasn’t until a few years down the road that I realized that the red label Columbia 78 wasn’t to be ignored whatsoever - that everything I’d heard up to that point was an elitist myth.
The American Columbia imprint was ravaged by the Depression like many other labels, and it vanished by the early 1930s (after beginning around the turn of the century). By 1939, it had been resurrected with a new red label. And yes, while it is true that it quickly became a profitable bastion of mid-20th century popular music, the red label Columbia, at least in some ways, continued where the old-school Columbia label left off when it came to international folk music. They resurrected Syrian and Egyptian recordings from the 1920s Columbia “X” (for “export”) series, and brought them back to life. They reissued fado records from Portugal, tough to find and out of print for years. And with Greek music – forget about it. The red Columbia label issued loads of amazing rebetika and Greek folk – recordings originally made in Greece and pressed on the European Columbia imprint (by then run by HMV) in the 30s, as well as more current, and often no less rootsy, recordings made in the United States by Greek immigrants.
Which leads me to today’s offering, another continuation of our 4-week exploration into aerophones. Clarinet master Kostas Gadinis was born sometime between 1885 and 1890 in the town of Siátista, in West Macedonia. He immigrated to the United States ca. 1915, and began recording as soon as the early 1920s. Legend has it that Benny Goodman and Dave Tarras saw Gadinis play live, and were suitably blown away, with Goodman referring to him as the “Benny Goodman of Greece.” This terrific instrumental rebetika track, in the sabah dromo (or maqam), was recorded October 22, 1940 in New York, with John K. Ginaros on accordion, and unknown accompanists on oud and drum. The title “Aebali” is better translated as “Aïvali” in Greek or “Ayvalık” in Turkish, and is the name of a town located on the northwest coast of Turkey which had a large Greek population until the end of the Ottoman Empire. This song was apparently also released under the title “Remembrance of Aebali Village.” Gadinis died in 1987.
Issue Number: 7209-F
Matrix Number: CO 28951
Thanks to Tony K. for info, as always – and thanks to Dave M. for turning me on to Gadinis’ work to begin with. For more Gadinis on CD, there are a couple of tracks on Topic’s Blowers From the Balkans CD. There is also an entire CD of Gadinis’ work on the Greek Falireas label, but it appears they are not yet equipped to take credit card orders.
*”I wanna keep my place in this old world – keep my place in the arcane knowledge” – Jonathan Richman, “Old World”
November 17, 2008
I’m pleased to present another guest post this week – this time from David Seubert, the curator of the Performing Arts Collection at the University of California, Santa Barbara. David is the man behind the groundbreaking and renowned Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project, which I’m sure many readers of this blog know quite well. He is also the current president of ARSC, the Assocation of Recorded Sound Collections (at whose conference we were introduced, several years back), and involved in their Copyright and Fair Use Committee which is trying to garner support to make changes to U.S. copyright law as it pertains to pre-1972 recordings in particular. In short – a rock star in the 78rpm world. – JW
For my first guest post for Excavated Shellac, I’ve chosen a recording of Parisian accordion music by Charles Péguri. Since this is my first (but hopefully not last) guest post, I wanted to pick a disc that is interesting on many levels. First, it’s good music, which always seems to be the number one prerequisite for a record to appear on Excavated Shellac – obscurity never is an end in itself. That being said, as a record nerd I also love all the strange and obscure early French record labels like Disque Aérophone. There seems to be no end to their bewildering variety. This disc also highlights one of the newest collections to come to the UCSB library, where I curate the collection of historic recordings.
Charles Péguri (1879-1930) is the accordionist and composer who is credited as one of the inventors of the musette style of French music popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The musette, a type of bellows-powered bagpipe from the Auvergne region of central France became popular in the Bal-musettes, small Parisian dance halls that catered to the Auvergnat immigrants in Paris in the late 19th century. Later, when Italians like Charles Péguri (whose father, an accordion maker, emigrated from Piedmont in the 1870s) brought their accordions to the dance halls and began playing the traditional minor-key dance forms, one of the world’s classic forms of accordion music was born. Piétro, performed and probably written by Péguri, is an example of this quintessential style of Parisian accordion music that can still be found being played by buskers in the Paris Métro today.
Musette records remained popular through the 1940s, but this early example on Disque Aérophone dates from around 1911. All the Aérophones I’ve seen, including this one, are 27 cm (10 3/4″) discs. Some have paper labels and some have etched labels. Surprisingly (or not, since Aérophone was a French company), some Aérophones like this one are lateral cut and others are vertical. Aérophone discs aren’t common, but they aren’t impossibly rare either. This and about 20 other Aérophones are a recent acquisition by UCSB and are part of the Bruce Bastin/Interstate Music collection. Folklorist Bruce Bastin founded Interstate Music in the 1970s to reissue folk, jazz, country, blues, and ethnic recordings on LP. Over the years, he issued some 850 compilations on LP and CD, featuring music from The Americas and the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and Africa. His compilations of ethnic music primarily appeared on his Harlequin and Heritage imprints. Ethnic 78s are one of the focal points of UCSB’s collection and the library recently acquired a large portion of Bastin’s collection, consisting of about 10,000 78rpm ethnic and folk recordings from Latin America and Europe, as well as recordings in popular traditions, such as the Argentine tango. This disc is one of hundreds of similar recordings from continental Europe in the collection that falls outside the conventional boundaries of European classical and popular music.
Thanks to Jon for the opportunity to share one of our records and I hope you enjoy the selection. Feel free to send feedback or ask me any questions. - David Seubert, UC Santa Barbara
Label: Disque Aérophone
Issue/Matrix Number: 874
Note: The French Fremeaux company offers an entire CD of early Péguri recordings which is currently in print. It contains a version of Piétro which may or may not be the same one offered here (we were unable to locate a copy in time). Regardless, we still thought it was important to highlight this important early recording and label.
November 10, 2008
The events of this week find me wanting to temporarily curtail my sojourn into woodwinds in world music and present something both fun, and from Kenya. So here we are, spending a little time with an East African bar band; a bar band putting their own particular spin on a classic Perez Prado tune, in fact. While the Cuban influence was felt from West Africa, across Central Africa, and into East Africa in the 78rpm era – boleros, rhumbas, and cha-chas galore, especially in Congo - this is one of the few 78s in my personal collection where Africans actually cover a Cuban pop song.
Where were the Kiko-Kids from exactly? According to the scant information available, they were from Kenya, though there’s at least one source that indicates they were itinerant. The independent Tom Tom label, who released this week’s post, was based in Kampala, Uganda, and recorded music from across East Africa. The sleeve for this record, however, indicates that it was recorded in the Equator Club in Nairobi. (Boy, would I love to see some photos from that place in full swing.) Making things more complicated, on one of John Storm Roberts’ long out-of-print CD releases on his phenomenal Original Music label (Dada Kidawa Sister Kidawa) they are credited as Kiko Kids Jazz, from Tanzania. So, it’s quite possible that they should be best referenced as an “East African” band, but let’s, just for today, say they’re from Kenya.
As mentioned, Tom Tom was based in Kampala and their records were pressed there too, by the Opel Gramophone Record Factory, Ltd. “Opel” stood for Dr. Georg von Opel (1912-1971), the German industrialist. I’m not sure what brought Opel to Kampala to start a tiny, fledgling record label – this is a man who was the founder of the Opel automobile company, a member of the International Olympic Committee, and Vice-President of something called the International Leisure Association (I must remember to emulate that career track). I have no idea how long Tom Tom lasted as a company, but probably for at least a few years in the 1950s, judging by their scarcity, their pressing quality, typeface, and musical content. The independent record label scene in East Africa runs deep, even with 78rpm records, believe it or not. I’ve discovered a few labels that seem to have no written history whatsoever (Maringa, anyone?). Meanwhile, have fun with this.
Label: Tom Tom
Issue Number: TR 683
Matrix Number: T 5007
November 3, 2008
After a long break, we’re back in mountainous Basque country – País Vasco – continuing the theme of woodwinds that aren’t particularly well-known in the West. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m always amazed at the variety of Spanish folk music captured on 78. According to Paul Vernon in Arte Regional, it’s quite possible that no other single country except for the United States had such a wide range of regional styles. The fact that such a broad palette of recordings were made makes sense for several reasons. First, Spain was quite accessible in the early 20th century by record companies in operation in Europe (England, Germany and France – and Spanish independents). But second, and just as important, many of Spain’s rural regions, while comparatively close for engineers to travel to, were remote, autonomous communities. Real roots music was recorded in Spain during those years. Well, phenomenal roots music was recorded throughout the vast majority of European countries during this period (with a few notable exceptions) and it’s all tough to locate, let’s face it.
The txistu is the three-holed, Basque wooden flute, which can be held and played with one hand, so the player can usually play a drum at the same time. Instrumental Basque music during this period was used mainly for dancing – which is obvious in the title to this track, “Fandango Contradanza.” To many listeners this music might sound like processional or formal fife and drum music – but indeed it is authentic, traditional folkdance music.
The Txistularis (“txistu players”) Hermanos Landaluce were a trio, it appears – with Sr. Elola on the tamboril drum, I’m betting. They recorded this and several other tracks in Barcelona, on December 12th, 1928, for HMV. Gramophone’s engineer for this session was H.E. Davidson, the man who managed to record some of the most important Spanish folk music in history - peasant songs from La Montaña, Valencia, and Asturias, actual cave-dwelling gypsies in Andalucia, a true, live “Saetas” flamenco recording made from a bell tower - radical stuff for the company used to planting recording horns in front of Caruso and Chaliapin. Not that you would know it, as next to none of it is available in any format today.
One person did notice the music at the time, however: Rodney Gallop, a British ethnomusicologist before the term was coined, was particularly interested in music from Spain and the Basque region (his Book of the Basques, originally published in 1930, is still in print today). Gallop was one of the first – perhaps THE first – person to champion international folk musics on commercial 78rpm records and it’s a shame he isn’t known more today. He had his particular tastes for sure, but his series of articles for The Gramophone in the 1930s are pieces I turn to for inspiration, once I had read of their existence (thanks to Paul Vernon’s articles and books mentioning Gallop, I found copies of my own). In fact, in the November 1930 issue of The Gramophone, Gallop recommends two Basque recordings by this very band, including this record, to his staid, British audience.
For more of Gallop’s legacy and Spanish regional music from this era, seek out the Voice of Spain CD on Heritage, the only broad collection of Spanish regional 78s from this period that I know of (though there are 3-4 nice cuts scattered about the Secret Museum series). Unfortunately, while it contains terrific music from nearby Asturias and Santander, it does not contain any of the Basque recordings that Gallop loved so much.
Coupling Number: AE 2467
Face Number: 2-260706
Matrix Number: BJ1692