September 28, 2008
Over the next couple of weeks, I thought I’d revisit some music from regions I hadn’t been back to since the early days of the blog. With the spirit of Lydia Mendoza in mind, and after a recent viewing of Chulas Fronteras instigated by my friend Chimatli, I thought I’d spin some more early Tejano music from the Texas-Mexico border.
Alejandro Luna and Regino Delgado recorded several sides for Victor’s Depression-era, budget-conscious subsidiary label Bluebird in the mid-1930s, including this one, “Sal A Tus Puertas” (meaning “Come To Your Doors” – thanks, Dax). This particular track was recorded at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio on January 25th, 1935, and the duo accompany themselves on guitar and bajo sexto.
The Bluebird “ethnic” series began in about 1934 and lasted until 1939, totalling about 1400 records. The recording industry had been crushed by the Depression, but Victor, in large part due to their Bluebird subsidiary (which also released country, blues, jazz and pop), were able to ride out the difficult times. For example, in the late-teens, it was not uncommon for a 78rpm record to cost $1.00, or even $1.25. Very pricey, considering. Well, by the early 30s, with sales in the tank and record companies folding left and right, Bluebird records went on sale for 35 cents.
Finding Mexican or cajun records on the Bluebird ethnic series is possible, but it is quite difficult to find them in decent condition. Today’s track has some wear, but we embrace surface noise here at Excavated Shellac, though we try to soften it up just a little bit! Plus, it’s an enjoyable piece of music that has not yet been compiled or written about…
Issue Number: B-2317
Matrix number: n/a
September 21, 2008
I feel like I have to say that every once in a while, both for anyone new who may have found themselves here, and for myself, to keep my motivation going. Excavated Shellac has been online for 18 months now, and I have shared a total of 81 different records. I still think it remains a unique spot – on the web, at least. I could conceivably do this for a long time, though I have no idea how long I will continue – just as I have no idea how long I will continue the collecting, the scheming, the acquiring, the hunting for these pieces of music that make me happy. I’ve been away for the past few weeks, so I wanted to say thank you to those who continue to stop by and listen, and for allowing me to indulge.
With that, we’re off to Uzbekistan, after World War II. Before 1917 and the Russian Revolution, quite a bit of recording was made in the Caucasus region and Central Asia, as European record companies were interested (somewhat amazingly) in exploring new markets in places like Tashkent and Tbilisi. Few original copies of those very early recordings have turned up (for a sample, I would recommend the Topic CD Before the Revolution). And, according to much of what I’ve been reading, very little recording was made in Central Asian regions between 1917 and the Second World War. However, in the early 1950s, the Russian label CCCP recorded “ethnic” folk music on 78 from the Caucasus to Central Asia and beyond. Some was imported into the United States even, with English translations on the label, presumably for immigrant communities or sold in Russian record stores. Still, even those are quite difficult to find today.
Zainab Palvanova’s piece, sung in Uzbek, is translated as “Glory” and she is accompanied by a “folk instruments orchestra” led by Y. Radzhabov. The folk instruments I can detect are at least one long-necked lute (probably a tar or dutar), the nay flute, at least one fiddle, and the unmistakable sound of the doira frame drum. It’s from ca. 1955.
For music from the CCCP label during this period, the Secret Museum’s Central Asia CD is heartily recommended.
Issue Number: 24932 (a)
Matrix Number: 24932/4-1
September 14, 2008
Back to the Congo and the incredible Ngoma label. In fact, this week we are returning to the same important Congolese artists who appeared in my June 7, 2007 post. However, this time they are accompanied by their band San Salvador, named by Manuel D’Oliveira after his birth place in Angola. This track, an outstanding example of Congolese pop from the early 1950s, features three guitars, a beautifully captured upright bass, some subtle percussion, and not a clarinet as the label states, but a phenomenal solo on the Solovox keyboard. This is a good one.
Ngoma, as mentioned in my previous post, was one of the first independent labels to start producing records out of Léopoldville (now Kinshasa), and was run by two Greek brothers: Nikos and Alexandros Jéronimidis. They recorded their first records in the late 1940s on acetates, which were then shipped to Belgium for duplication, and shipped back to Léopoldville for sale. However, Belgium proved too expensive for duplication because of import taxes, so the brothers eventually bought a tape machine for use in Congo, and a record pressing factory outside of Paris. By the late-50s, they had recorded some 2000 records, and had moved into the production of 45s. As far as I can tell, they were sold in Congo and Cameroon, with perhaps some distribution in West Africa and elsewhere (?). The original Ngoma master tapes were destroyed in a fire in 1963, and apparently the only complete collection of file copies of Ngoma releases was destroyed during internal strife in 1989.
Before you African music aficionados jump up, I will admit that I’m doing something a little different here. This track originally appeared on the now out-of-print CD, Ngoma, The Early Years, 1948-1960. Although a terrific CD in its own right (with great notes by Dr. Wolfgang Bender and others), many of the tracks on that CD, including this one, were culled from less-than-perfect sources (i.e.: often muffled tape copies of original vinyl EPs, as opposed to original 78rpm copies). This song is also IN print on a Buda Musique CD titled Musique Populaire Africaine. While my copy of this record is not stone perfect, I believe this mix is a marked improvement on both the existing CD versions (give ’em a try, you’ll see) so if you are familiar with either of them, I think you will be happy.
Issue Number: 1283
Matrix Number: J 2569
September 7, 2008
Back to India so soon? Yes, I’ve focused on the music of India several times over the past 17 months on Excavated Shellac, but haven’t until now posted an example of a Indian soloist in the South Indian, Carnatic classical tradition.
The partially blind violinist Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu was born in 1893 in Bangalore, and rose to fame as a professor of music at the Maharajah’s College in Vizianagaram, the first college in India established to promote music. In 1936, he had become the principal of the school and by 1938 was giving solo, improvisatory concerts. He died in 1964.
Naidu’s technique is renowned. Much has been written about him and how he fits into the history of Carnatic music, but certain words crop up often when discussing his technique: “simple,” “deceptively simple” and even “minimal.” He was known to be a listener of Western and Hindustani music, and would imbue his solos with occasional flourishes from outside influences – without disturbing his own music’s tradition. This was one of the very first Indian records I’ve ever owned, found in a heap at the bottom of an apartment complex I lived in around 1993, in New York City. While I am by no means an expert, this record made me appreciate Carnatic soloing, and Indian classical music in general.
This piece is a “thanam” (or taanam), an improvisatory section of the Kalyani raga. I believe it was recorded sometime in the 1940s or so. There is a subtle, uncredited accompanist on the veena.
News: by the end of the month, I will be adding catalog and matrix numbers (the numbers/letters that are stamped or etched into the “dead wax”) for each record, at the end of each post (including old posts). While this is of zero interest to most people and can be ignored, these numbers can be very helpful to pinpoint dates and recording locations by historians and collectors, and can help flesh out some of the info on Excavated Shellac.
And next week, we will return to Africa with a beautiful piece of music. It will be a limited download, so get ready…all will be revealed…
Issue Number: N.8970
Matrix Number: OMC. 11839-1