Author: Jonathan Ward

Pachač a Juskanič Slovenská Orkestra – Žnivarský Čardáš, Čast 1

pachac.jpgOkay, it’s back to the regular schedule for a while!

In the late 1920s, the Victor company decided to begin producing recordings of music geared specifically to Slovakian immigrants in the United States. It was a short-lived effort, yet it yielded some fascinating music, most of which was performed by a cache of immigrants (quite probably coal miners) from western Pennsylvania. I’ve heard other Slovenian/Slovakian 78s, but nothing matches the wild, almost primitive energy of these Victor recordings, which don’t turn up too often.

The Pachač a Juskanič Slovenská Orkestra recorded this, Part One of their “harvest” čardáš, on December 6, 1929, in New York – the same date they recorded the bulk of their entire output (the group would later record a few more releases in that dark year for the American recording industry, 1932). The čardáš is a closed-circle folk dance in 2/4 time which originated in Hungary, but has close gypsy connections according to Richard Spottswood, in the notes to his excellent CD Slovak Csardas: Dance Tunes from the Pennsylvania Coal Mines. In his opinion, the Slovakian music on Victor from this period may be a peek into what music from the area may have sounded like in the nineteenth century.

There are several tracks by the Pachač a Juskanič Slovenská Orkestra on Mr. Spottswood’s CD, but this track remains unreleased. Listen close for the whistling!

Pachač a Juskanič Slovenská Orkestra – Žnivarský Čardáš, Čast 1

Technical Notes
Label: Victor
Issue Number: V-22038
Matrix Number: n/a

Urbano A. Zafra – Danza Filipina

urbano1.jpgAn early post this week – I will be busy through the 10th.

This track, a steel guitar solo by Mr. Zafra accompanied by Mauro Baradi on a standard acoustic guitar, puts me in the strange position of not exactly knowing how to react when listening to it. It sounds awkward enough to be the first time the musicians have played the number…or, that could be my own cultural ignorance and the piece is meant to slowly lumber along. Probably the latter, as the flip side is a more standard, uptempo folk melody. Either way, I’ve always liked this, and have never found anything quite like it. Being from the Philippines, you can definitely hear the influence of 300 years of Spanish colonial rule.

This was released on Columbia’s “X” (for “export”) series, and recorded in November of 1929, in New York City.

Urbano A. Zafra – Danza Filipina

Technical Notes
Label: Columbia
Issue Number: 3910-X
Matrix Number: 111286

Raoul Journo – El-Oua’che-Ouel-Ghorba

raoul.jpgWhen I first received this record, I thought, “Gee, could a record possibly be in worse condition?” I had purchased it for a cheap price knowing that it was heavily battered, which is pretty uncommon for me. I don’t often want to go down that road of buying records that are destroyed simply because they are rare. Not really my style. It has less to do with feeling high and mighty, and more about conserving space! However, this was Raoul Journo, perhaps the greatest male Tunisian singer ever, so I made an exception.

It paid off in a way. Yes, this record is heavily worn, but it doesn’t sound nearly as bad as it looks, with its wasteland of grey grooves, thousands of scratches, its myriad of “digs.” Like everything else I offer on this blog, it has never been made available in any format as far as I know (although I’m betting he re-recorded it later in his long career). And, again – did I mention that this is Raoul Journo we’re talking about? In short: my apologies for the sound, but I thought it was worth it in this case. These are not common.

Journo (1911-2001) was a Jewish Tunisian singer, and I believe this stems from one of his earliest sessions, in 1935 for the Polydor company. He’s accompanied by percussion, violin, and oud – plus, there’s a nice qanún solo in the introduction.

Also – I included BOTH sides of the record this time (Parts 1 and 2).

For more of his work, try the Secret Museum’s fantastic North African compilation. This outfit offers some later releases, as does this one. And here’s another site of interest.

Raoul Journo – El-Oua’che-Ouel-Ghorba

Technical Notes
Label: Polyphon
Issue Number: 46.402
Matrix: 0212-ACP/0213-ACP

Rizeli Sadık – Erkek Kadın Oyun Havası

sadik.jpgOk. Here’s a doozy. Really, this is one of my absolute favorite, favorite 78s of all time.

You want hyperbole? You’ve got it. I’m casting aside all restraint on this one, and probably my critical faculties. This is one of the most entertaining instrumental soloists I’ve ever heard. Sadık must have been from the region around the Black Sea, because his kemençe technique, well, rocks. He’s like the Jimi Hendrix of the instrument, which is a 3-stringed fiddle, held upright. It sounds like he’s taunting the competition when he plays.

I’m not positive when this recording was made, perhaps between the late 30s and mid-40s, on the Turkish HMV imprint, Sahibinin Sesi. I have been lucky to find a second Sadık 78 on Turkish Columbia. And as long as we’re in the nerdy, provenance-related paragraph, I should mention another, extra-special reason I enjoy this 78 so much: the surface of this record looks like garbage, yet it sounds beautiful! Hats off to the Turkish pressing. I really hope you enjoy this. For more, here’s a great video of a present-day kemençe master.

Rizeli Sadık – Erkek Kadın Oyun Havası

Technical Notes
Label: Sahibinin Sesi (Turkish HMV)
Issue Number: AX. 2023
Matrix Number: OTB 593

Kunai-sho gakubu – Koromogo-e

japan.jpgWhile I do have some examples of Japanese instrumental folk music 78s, I thought this might be unique to post: an example of gagaku, or the traditional court music of Japan, recorded in the late 1920s or so.

First off, I have to send heaps of thanks to Steve and Sari at Airform Archives and inbetweennoise.com, as well as Rika Hiro, for going far beyond the call of duty for translations and meanings. Without their help and information, I’d be more or less clueless. So, this entry was co-produced!

Gagaku is truly an ancient form of music, dating as far back as 700 CE, when it was employed by the Imperial court. There are numerous styles and variants of gaguku, and the one being played here is an example of saibara. I don’t think I could explain the song type better than my friends, who wrote:

Sai-bara is a kind of gagaku song that is grew out of the folk songs of horsemen….basically the folk song of someone who owns a horse and sort of used the horse like a taxi cab (holding the reins while the rich person rode on the horse, because the rider is above the horse person in class)…[saibara] was eventually, during the 700’s, influenced by gagaku or entered the canon of gagaku and became more of a proper song.

The players listed, Kunai-sho gakubu, are the Music Department of the Ministry of Imperial Household. And the song title, Koromogo-e, roughly translates to “exchange of clothes,” in the sense that changing of clothes means the changing of seasons. And in the sense that in ancient Japan, this phrasing was a another way of suggesting the union of a man and woman.

Kunai-sho gakubu – Koromoga-e

Technical Notes
Label: Victor
Issue Number: 13024
Matrix Number: 273

Lidya Mendoza – Olvidarte Jamás

lidya-mw.jpgThere’s precious little that can compare with the unmistakable voice and guitarra doble of Lidya Mendoza, also known as “La Alondra de la Frontera,” or “The Lark of the Border.”

Lidya (commonly known as “Lydia”) was born in 1916 and began singing with her family in the Plaza del Zacate of San Antonio at a young age. In 1928, the Mendoza Family recorded 10 sides for the Okeh label. However, in the early 1930s, she signed a 10 year contract with the Victor subsidiary Bluebird, and recorded hundreds of tejano classics.

This canción, uncompiled as far as I know, was recorded on August 12th, 1935, in San Antonio’s Texas Hotel. The title translates to “I Will Not Forget You.” Her 78s can be found, but most often in one condition: trashed! They were well loved, and finding a decent copy of any early Mendoza is a good thing.

She is a legend, and there’s little else but hyperbole I can add to her biography. For more, go here. Or here. And if you’re interested in music, please go to the Arhoolie label and check out their fine Mendoza releases.

Lidya Mendoza – Olvidarte Jamás

As a recent reader noted, Lydia Mendoza passed away on December 20, 2007. The New York Times obit can be read here.

Technical Notes
Label: Montgomery Ward
Issue Number: M-4866
Matrix Number: B-2379A

Trutone Dolls – Kudala Ngikutshela

winner.jpgI couldn’t resist heading back to Africa this week. And not only that, I’m taking a brief break from the really early material I’ve been posting and moving ahead to the 1960s for this release.

And why not? South Africa (as well as other countries, such as India) kept pressing 78s up until the late 60s, at least. There were a slew of local labels churning out hundreds of fantastic jive singles throughout that decade – labels like Troubadour, Tempo, Stokvel, Tee Vee, F.M., Gallo New Sound, and Winner, which is where this nice jive track comes from. The pressings were great, too. A mint copy sounds like a mint copy with little to no surface noise. For you folks who prefer the older stuff, give this a try!

I have no idea what happened to the Trutone Dolls, although I have another great record by the group on the Stokvel label. It’s titled “Jo Jo In School.” If any of you out there are familiar with the late-60s, South African jive compilation on Mercury Records titled “Ice Cream and Suckers,” you might remember that title track’s melody. The Dolls used that same backing track for their “Jo Jo” song. It was written by Strike Vilakazi and I guess he tended to reuse backing tracks for other artists as he saw fit!

Enjoy!

Trutone Dolls – Kudala Ngikutshela

Technical Notes
Label: Winner
Issue Number: OK.263
Matrix Number: 15055

Phước Cương troupe – Xử án Bàng Quí Phi (excerpt)

bekavietnam.jpgThanks to reader Linh and Jason Gibbs, we know know that this is a piece featuring the famed Phước Cương troupe. They are performing an example of cải lương, a “classical” type of Vietnamese theater music played on traditional instruments, and it is an excerpt of a piece known in English as “Sentencing the Precious Consort Pang.” The record dates from the mid- to late 20s. According to Linh’s description, cải lương sets lyrics over older, classical Vietnamese songs. The songs that are played in this excerpt are Khoc huang thien, Ngu Diem, and Thien Tuong.

Beka was sold to Columbia in 1926, although the Beka imprint seemed to last well into the 1930s. The company made at least 140 recordings in Vietnam, and had a considerable presence in Asia throughout the early part of the century, having begun to record there since ca. 1906, when they first landed in Hong Kong.

The singers are accompanied by a bamboo flute (either the sao, or the tieu), a bowed instrument (probably a dan gao or dan nhi), and a plucked lute of some kind.

Khoc Hoang Thien – unknown

Technical Notes
Label: Beka
Issue Number: B 20107
Matrix Number: 92380

Peara Saheb – Gazal

peara.jpgSome “light classical” music from India, for this week’s post.

This record was recorded in India on October 20, 1910 (thanks to reader Howard Friedman for the sleuthing). In 1908, the Gramophone Company opened a pressing plant in Calcutta, and this record was pressed there for local distribution.

Mr. Saheb was a contemporary of this singer featured in this article, and was also credited on other recordings as “Peara Sahib.” For a more detailed biography on Peara Saheb, I am indebted to Suresh Chandvankar of the Society of Indian Record Collectors in Mumbai, who has graciously allowed me to distribute a recent edition of their newsletter. The newsletter can be downloaded in .pdf format here, and the biography on Peara Saheb appears on pages 14-15.

Saheb’s lilting voice is accompanied here by harmonium and percussion, and he sings a ghazal, an ancient poetic form originally from Persia. Listen closely at the very end of the track for a common occurance in early Indian music: the singer announcing himself in English. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

Peara Saheb – Gazal

If you’re interested in more information on early recording in India, there’s this article. There is also the fine article by Gerry Farrell in the British Journal of Ethnomusicology (Vol. 2, 1993), titled The Early Days of the Gramophone Industry in India: Historical, Social and Musical Perspectives. There is also yeoman’s research by Michael Kinnear in his book The Gramophone Company’s First Indian Recordings (1899-1908).

Technical Notes
Label: Gramophone Concert Record
Issue Number: G.C. 9-12117
Matrix Number: 13469

Athanasia Atraidou – Sti Raxi Stin Kriovrisi

orthophonic.jpgThis week, I offer a nice example of Greek dimotika from the mid-1930s.

Dimotika refers to folk songs traditionally from the Greek countryside, as opposed to rebetika, which is an urban song type that I’m sure most listeners/viewers out there are doubtlessly familiar. This dimotika track is a syrto, a folkdance and song generally in 2/4 time, usually danced in a circle. The title roughly translates to “Up on the Ridge at Kriovrisi.” The transliterated name “Kriovrisi” is actually a reference to the municipality of Kria Vrisi, located in the Macedonia region of Greece.

Alas, I could find scant information on the vocalist, Ms. Atraidou. However, the clarinetist, also credited on the record, is Yiorgo Anestopoulos, a master player and an accompanist on hundreds of classic recordings. A collection of his recordings can be found here. The “L. Rouvas” listed as composer is most likely Lazaros Rouvas, who was also a lute player.

The Orthophonic label was a Victor subsidiary, run out of the United States by Tetos Demetriades. Throughout the 1930s, they released countless fine examples of Greek and Turkish music (much of which was originally recorded in those countries).

Athanasia Atraidou – Sti Raxi Stin Kriovrisi

A big thanks to Dave at Spectacular Opticals for help with translation, as well as musical info and insight.

Technical Notes
Label: Orthophonic
Issue Number: S-737
Matrix Number: n/a