Month: February 2008

Juan Rodríguez – Prenda Gaucha

rodriguez.jpgReturning to South America for a moment, I thought I’d post another pre-tango folk song, this time from gaucho country.

Little is known about Juan Rodríguez, except that he settled in Buenos Aires around 1920, and eventually became an artistic director for the fledgling Disco Electra label. According to the information I’ve been able to dig up (most of it from Omar Facelli in Montevideo), Rodríguez recorded approximately 25 records for Disco Electra, most of them stellar examples of criollo folk songs from the River Plate region, accompanied by guitars. He later recorded some for Columbia before passing away ca. 1935. This piece stems from ca. 1928, by my best guess.

Disco Electra was, as far as I can tell, an early independent label out of Buenos Aires. Because Victor, Columbia, and Odeon essentially monopolized all the recording in the region, smaller outfits like Disco Electra probably had to work hard to compete. Despite the fact that the quality of their pressings can’t hold a candle to the major labels’, and that they were still recording acoustically until at least 1928-1929 (most companies worldwide had switched to microphone recording by 1926), important music was recorded on Disco Electra…and here’s but one example!

Juan Rodríguez – Prenda Gaucha

A note: my bandwidth usage has skyrocketed this month, interestingly. While this heartens (and kind of amazes) me that so many people are downloading and listening to this lost music, I will have to (insert hangdog look here) keep a sharp eye on usage. In other words, I may have to resort to what every other blog does – keeping only the most recent tracks downloadable. I’ve kept this issue at bay by purchasing what I thought was a massive amount of bandwidth, but I may have to humbly ask your forgiveness in this arena. If you see early tracks disappear in the next week or so, don’t be surprised. Get ’em while you still can!

Technical Notes
Label: Disco Electra
Issue Number: 153
Matrix Number: 815

Pandit Omkarnath Thakur – Garawa Mayi Sang Lage, Pts. 1 and 2

omkarnath.jpgThe life and long career of renowned Khyal vocalist Pandit Omkarnath Thakur (1897-1967), or Pujya Pandit Shree Omkarnathji Thakur as the record label at right would have it, is documented colorfully elsewhere. Born in poverty, he eventually spent years in Pandit Vishnu Digambar’s music school in Bombay, and became the principal of a music school by age 20. By ca. 1934-1935, when this record was pressed in India, he was already recording masterworks.

Blessed with, according to legend, his father’s “precious mantra” written on his tongue, Thakur’s vocal style is immediately dramatic. He improvises and modulates his voice on lyrics and syllables in an almost dizzying fashion (most apparent in Part 2 of today’s post), known as bol taan in Indian classical music.

This well-known track was most likely released decades ago on LP – it was also released on a hard to locate Indian CD titled “Golden Milestones” but as far as I can tell, the sound quality on that CD is quite poor. Therefore, I offer both sides of this fine performance here.

For more Thakur music on the web, check this post on Mehfil-E-Mausiqi.

Omkarnath Thakur – Garawa Mayi Sang Lage, Pts 1 & 2

Technical Notes
Label: Columbia
Issue Number: VE.1016
Matrix Number: CEI.7358-1, CEI.7359-1

Levon Hampartzoumian – Menk Arghez Zinvor

levon.jpgNow, we move from Azerbaijan to Armenia. Well, not exactly Armenia per se, but Istanbul/Constantinople, where this Odeon recording was made probably in the late teens-early 1920s.

While I could not locate any information on the singer, Levon Hampartzoumian (not to be confused
with the present-day banker in Bulgaria of the same name) or the accompanying two violinists, the song is a stirring, Armenian classic. It’s true title is transliterated as “Menk Angeghdz Zinvor Enk” and is an example of an Armenian patriotic, revolutionary song. A song sung by many in the past to unite Armenians across the world and give recognition to their struggle, it is still sung today (see here).

The English translation is roughly “Honest Soldiers Are We” (thanks, Tina!), and is associated with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. I was able to find the lyrics translated into Western Armenian, so you can follow along here.

Levon Hampartzoumian – Menk Arghez Zinvor

Technical Notes
Label: Odeon
Issue Number: 46266
Matrix Number: x.c. 2085

Temiuv Damirov – Jeirany

damirov.jpgI’m kicking off February with a series of musically intense posts. Get ready.

Today, we move over to Central Asia for a blistering solo by Mr. Damirov, performed, I believe, on the garmon, a Russian button accordion commonly used in Azeri folk music. I find this piece to be absolutely perfect – both frenetic and fluid, deeply traditional yet utterly contemporary.

The “Dictaphone” label – well, that’s a story in itself. In the US in the mid-1940s or so, someone, somewhere (a record shop? a multilingual entrepreneur?), decided to bootleg music from the Near and Central East, presumably for sale to immigrants in the States, probably around Fresno, California or perhaps on the east coast. This someone set up a series of more or less uniform-looking record labels with the same typeset, and little to no pertinent information on them, save for the artist and title. Sometimes, the original title was changed or altered. “Perfectaphone” is the label that I’ve seen most often – that was for Turkish music. “Armenophone” is another that crops up, obviously the Armenian imprint. Then there was “Dictaphone” for music of Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and other Central Asian countries – and the rarest, “Kurdophone” for music from Kurdish regions (though most if not all of the discs I’ve seen on this label are Turkish). The latter two labels are about as rare as the original records that they were bootlegged from. This beautiful Dictaphone record was most likely bootlegged from Russia’s state-run Melodiya label, which was a real giant in terms of output.

Whomever was running this outfit had a pretty good ear – most everything I’ve heard on all of these labels is really quite good, if not stone beautiful. Yes, Perfectaphones have quite a bit of Turkish popular music from the mid-20th century on there, but also plenty of folk and classically-tinged material. And, surprisingly, as bootlegs they sound pretty nice.

For more Damirov, check the Secret Museum’s Central Asia CD. There are some garmon players on YouTube, as well – try here.

Temiuv Damirov – Jeirany

Technical Notes
Label: Dictaphone (originally from CCCP, most likely)
Issue Number: No. 15
Matrix Number: n/a