May 26, 2007
This is a rare occurance, but I am briefly going to vent about the knock-down, drag-out, laugh-in-the-face-of-death world of collecting “ethnic” 78rpm records. It will not happen often – maybe never again – and if you don’t want to hear it, move on and check out all the music below. But, you see…
I received a broken 78 today. Shouldn’t be a surprise, no? Yeah, well. Fine. But, it was rare. Oh, damn, it was SO rare, I can’t even tell you. It would have been a standout jewel in my collection, a superb example of rarely heard and painfully scarce regional music. The historical import was sky-high. Possibly, it was the only known existing copy. And it was in pieces. Despite the expensive (yet nominal when considering it’s rarity) price this record cost, I’m not worried about that loss. That’s the least of it.
What’s strange is that it was not the Post Office that destroyed the record. My beefs with them have been limited. No, it was the 78 seller – a good person, too – who packed my record so poorly, it wouldn’t have made it from his door to the mail truck, let alone reach me thousands of miles away. And what’s upsetting me more is that this is a trend…
I buy lots of 78s, nearly all the time, from all over. I love them. It’s ridiculous. I constantly, and considerately (I hope) ask if sellers know how to properly ship these items. And 95% of the records I receive arrive in fine shape. But last year I received a broken 78 of rare Haitian music. I received a stunning Gallotone 78 of Chopi music from Mozambique – in pieces. I received a Ugandan 78 on the Tom-Tom label – cracked to the center. A French regional dance tune from the late 20s – cracked. A cheap, but lovely, Cousin Emmy record on Decca – broken in pieces. A brutally scarce Ngoma 78 from Congo – cracked to the center. And in just the past few months I received a broken Ghanaian high-life 78 from the 30s, a cracked Lidya Mendoza 78 (aah!) and now this. Fine music! Some real would-be stunners. Done in.
78s are like glass – you have to pack them very carefully, following a pretty much agreed upon packing standard, if you want to guarantee their safety. You can’t wrap them in one layer of bubble wrap, dump them in an LP mailer, and figure you’re set. They will break within seconds. THIS is EXACTLY the way to ship 78s. Nothing else will suffice, and there’s no reason for me, or anyone else, to suffer the wretched goddamn consequences. I’ve even taken to shipping my OWN packing materials to sellers to make life easier for the both of us. A good, rare 78 with unique music unavailable in any other format is something that deserves some respect.
Anyway, that’s my rant – hitting my head against the wall, with ears that will never hear the music on that record. Those lost sounds are lost, yet again.
An mp3 post will follow the day after tomorrow.