October 31, 2007
Bolivia had its own record label in the mid-20th century called Mendez, pressed in La Paz. Although the examples I’ve come across were pressed poorly – with heavy, bumpy shellac and often in irregular sizes (9 3/4″ as opposed to the standard 10″, for instance) – they were purely a Bolivian product and that counts for a lot. There seems to have been some wonderful regional music captured on Mendez, although I know next to nothing about the extent of their output or how long they existed before being bought up by a larger entity (I do know that they pressed labels in turquoise, gold, and dark blue, as seen here).
The mysterious ensemble known as “31 de Octubre” consisted of a couple of guitar players, at least one probably playing the charango, and a soloist on the quena, or the traditional Andean flute. This track is labeled as a carnaval (the flip side is listed as a danza indigena), also known as a carnavalito, a particular musical style of Bolivia. It is a song from the Eastern part of the country, interestingly, not the Andean side. The title, Milongueros, refers to Milongas (or Milonga), the Argentine style of music, and playing. It’s a nice tune – short and sweet!
(Special thanks to Carol Blenda for help and information!)
Issue Number: 203
Matrix Number: 53-L15
October 21, 2007
Here’s a track from Burma, also known as Myanmar. [According to a variety of sources, the name Myanmar was given to the country by the military junta in 1989, and many still prefer the name Burma (including the Library of Congress Subject Authority headings).]
Burmese records are difficult to find. I only have a few, and the majority are in pretty dicey shape. This piece was recorded by the Indian branch of Columbia records ca. 1932 or so. It starts off a little rough then improves – but the music is really evocative. It sounds like an interesting conglomeration of Southeast Asian and South Asian musical styles. The instrument being played is the Burmese harp, known as the saung, the national instrument of Burma, and an ancient one, possibly dating to around the 8th century. You can also detect a subtle accompaniment of accordion and percussion.
Thanks to reader Thuya, we know that the singer is singing about how in the summer, after a long monsoon season, flowers are in bloom, and the wavy horizon of mountains is in view. Apparently, the color and smell of each flower is described by the singer.
Issue Number: V.E. 2107
Matrix Number: CEI. 7910
October 14, 2007
First, thanks to any and all who happened to catch the set I spun at KXLU last week. Nearly all the tracks I played were newly transferred and cleaned up – with only two exceptions. Over the next several months, I will post many of those tracks. The set contained 78s from Azerbaijan, Turkey, Armenia, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, South Africa, Congo, Sierra Leone, País Vasco, Ireland, France, Andalusia, and Argentina. This was the Irish track I played…
Irish fiddler James Morrison (1893-1947) was truly a master player. Born near the town of Collooney in County Sligo, Ireland, Morrison immigrated to the U.S. in 1915, first settling in Boston, and then in New York City. His first recordings were as early as 1921, and in the ensuing years he recorded for Vocalion, Okeh, and Gennett.
In March of 1926, he paired with pianist Claire Reardon, and recorded his first electrical recordings for Columbia, which is where this track stems from. Both “The Lark in the Morning” and “The Wandering Minstrel” are classic Irish jigs, and Morrison seems to play them effortlessly.
Columbia’s Irish output during the late 20s and early 30s is formidable. Incredible, in fact. So many wonderful musicians recorded for Columbia during that period – John McKenna, Frank Quinn, The Flanagan Brothers…on and on. Interestingly, I don’t believe this track has ever been compiled. However, there are excellent CD reissues with early Irish recordings that I can heartily recommend, namely Yazoo’s two CDs titled Wheels of the World, and Arhoolie’s Frank Quinn CD. For more on James Morrison, here’s a nice website with information on a Morrison festival in Ireland.
Finally, rest in peace, Mike Stewart. I puchased many fine records from him, and his was the first print auction I ever subscribed to, when I was 23 years old.
Issue Number: 33108-F
Matrix Number: 106431 (2-C-3)
October 9, 2007
I will be a guest on the KXLU (88.9) global music program, Wandering Medicine Show, this Wednesday from 8-9 pm, PST, in Los Angeles. You can stream the station live from their website, or hopefully tune in if you’re in the L.A. area. I will definitely be playing some nice material from across the globe – all from 78s, of course. I might use a couple of tracks from the blog, but the majority if not all of the material will be new.
October 7, 2007
Columbia, in the late 1920s, released approximately 1300 records by Italian-American immigrants, for purchase usually at record stores within, or nearby, their communities across the United States. A wide variety of Italian regions were musically represented, and this one claims to be a song from the Abruzzo region, on the eastern coast of Italy.
As far as I can tell, little is known about Pasquale Sciascia and his musical troupe of violin, guitar, bass, flutes, and singers. Pity, because I really enjoy the singing on this track. Sciascia did record in New York City for the Brunswick label around the same time, and also with two other musicians as the “Trio Sciascia,” both for Columbia and Brunswick. This track was recorded in March of 1929.
Issue Number: 14455-F
Matrix Number: 110450 (2-A-3)