A. Kevorkian – Gigo

columbia-kevorkian.jpgAnother one of my personal favorites, thanks to the folks with foresight working for Columbia Records in the late 1920s, who managed to capture some of the greatest folk music by American immigrants (Ukrainian, Polish, Albanian, Armenian, Irish, etc.).

Mr. Kevorkian sang this track in January of 1929 in Los Angeles, and is accompanied by violin, oud, and Mesrob Takakjian on clarinet. Takakjian must have been well-known in the 1920s, as I’ve found his presence on several Armenian, New York City-based labels around that time. (Pharos records, in particular. Sohag was another short-lived label associated with Pharos.) Other recordings from this session were released by Columbia.

For more by A. Kevorkian and Mesrob Takakjian, again try The Secret Museum of Mankind, Vol. 5.

A. Kevorkian – Gigo

Technical Notes
Label: Columbia
Issue Number: 28009-F
Matrix Number: 110266

Tefanake, Reia, and Moratai – Ute

mareva.jpgFirst, a thank-you to Matt at Benn loxo and Matt at Matsuli Music for their comments and links – welcome to all who have found your way via their fine sites. I hope you enjoy your time spent here.

The beautifully designed Mareva was a painfully short-lived label maintained by amateur French ethnographers Adolphe Sylvain and Marc Darnois, and sold on the waterfront in Tahiti ca. 1949-1950, and likely in France. Super scarce. The records feature authentic folk music of Tahiti as well as music from neighboring Tahitian islands. From what I can deduce, fewer than 30 discs were issued on Mareva. They were pressed in France and sold both separately, and in a box with photographs by Sylvain. From the sound of this recording, it seems to me as if they were dubbed from original acetates which Sylvain and Darnois recorded in the field.

I seem to be stuck on accordion music lately too, so I thought I’d pass this rarity along. I find the singing a real treat.

(If you’d like to hear more from the Sylvain and Darnois archives, a different track exists on Yazoo’s Secret Museum of Mankind, Volume 5 CD.)

Tefanake, Reia, and Moratai – Ute

Technical Notes
Label: Mareva
Issue Number: 115
Matrix Number: Part 13485-1PD

Pradal & Cayla – La Crouzado

lesoleil.jpgI’m back, and will be on schedule for the forseeable future.

This track hails from the Auvergne region of France, and is an authentic bourée – a folkdance usually in double-time whose origins date back to the 17th century. Performing here are Jean Pradal on accordion, and Martin Cayla on the cabrette, the Auvergne bagpipe traditionally made of goatskin. (There are other types of bagpipes from different regions in France I’ve been able to find examples of on 78, such as the binioú kozh from Brittany, which are more reedy and high-pitched.)

Cayla was a popular folk musician of the time and the man behind the short-lived Le Soleil record label, which, as far as I can tell, was in existence from the late 20s to the early 30s. Despite the sometimes cruddy pressing quality, there’s great music on this label – besides fantastic accordion and cabrette jams, there are excellent examples of banjo and hurdy-gurdy playing as well. I’ve been lucky enough to find a bunch of them, several of which came from the collection of a certain cartoonist residing in the south of France. Even his cast-offs are great! I’m not worthy!

If you’re interested in more vintage music from France, try digging up this CD. (This one might be decent, too.)

Pradal & Cayla – La Crouzado

Technical Notes
Label: Le Soleil
Issue Number: 221
Matrix Number: C 221

Edouard & Oliveira – Ngai Abuyi

African acoustic guitar music is, for me, some of the more sublime music in the world. And certainly some of the greatest examples came from what was then the Belgian Congo, right around the mid-century mark.

Ngoma remains the most important Congolese record label, as well as one of the most important labels in all of Africa. It was started by two Greek brothers, Nico and Alexandros Jéronimidis, around 1948. Not only did they record well over a thousand discs, the first to capture all manner of Congolese musical styles (the rumba, cha-cha, and solo acoustic guitar picking of course), but they encouraged experimentation by their musicians. Ngoma records were pressed in France and distributed primarily in Central Africa – Congo and Cameroon especially – and as such are, well, impossible to find. Not only that, but all the Ngoma masters were long ago lost in a warehouse fire. As if that wasn’t enough, the company then donated all of its file copies to the Congolese government, only to have those destroyed during political strife.

Here’s a nice guitar duet by Georges Edouard and Manuel D’Oliveira, released sometime in the late 40s-early 50s.

Edouard & Oliveira – Ngai Abuyi

Absolutely worth searching out are two collections of Ngoma material, released on CD in the late 90s. The first contains all 78rpm material and is titled “Ngoma: The Early Years.” The second is mostly 45rpm Ngoma records, and is titled “Ngoma: Souvenir ya l’Independence.” I’m not sure if they’re even technically in print anymore, but they’re definitely worth digging up.

And the next two weeks are crazy for me – next post after the 18th.

I hope you enjoy this one.

Technical Notes
Label: Ngoma
Issue Number: 380
Matrix Number: J-764-2

Bohemios da Cidade – Lá Lá é Lé Lé

bohemios.jpgI thought it might be fun to start the week off with an authentic samba, recorded in Brazil in the early to mid-1930s by Victor’s productive Argentine division.

In terms of geography, the Victor company handled all of North and South America at that time, with divisions in Canada, Mexico, and Argentina – while His Master’s Voice (HMV), Victor’s larger sister company (for lack of a better descriptor), handled the rest of the world. Interestingly, Brazilian recordings were released by HMV as well, but I don’t know the exact reasons behind this. By 1933, all record companies that were still lucky enough to exist in one form or another were doing whatever it took to stay afloat, which in many cases meant merging, consolidating, or just plain selling off their catalog. Victor was the only American record company to make it out of the Depression. Surely, sales in the southern hemisphere had something to do with that, but again, this is conjecture on my part.

The lead singer of this track seems to be a well-known samba pioneer in Brazil, Luiz Barbosa. Barbosa recorded throughout the 1930s and appeared in some of the earliest films to feature Carmen Miranda. He died in 1938, at the young age of 28.

Some Barbosa material appears to be available on this CD, but as usual, I can’t vouch for the quality of the transfers.

Bohemios da Cidade – Lá Lá é Lé Lé

Technical Notes
Label: Victor (Argentina)
Issue Number: 25969
Matrix Number: 80377-1

Pieces

brokedownandbusted.jpgThis 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.

Iriarte and Pesoa – Libertad

iriarte.jpgWhile I definitely have some appreciation for the early practitioners of the Argentine tango and its singers (Carlos Gardel being the most well-known), I prefer the folk music from Argentina which was being played pre-tango, and during the same early years of the tango’s rise to international fame. In particular, folkloric guitar music brought from rural areas into the urban center of Buenos Aires.

A fine example is performed here, by Rafael Iriarte and Rosendo Pesoa, recorded for Odeon in the mid-1920s. Iriarte (whose nickname was “The Rat”) recorded a number of duets during this period both with Pesoa and with Jose Maria Aguilar, another master of the acoustic guitar. He also had a career as an accompanist for numerous tango vocalists, but again, for me it’s the folk material that stands out. He died in 1961.

Iriarte and Pesoa – Libertad

If you’re interested in more work by Iriarte, check this CD.

Technical Notes
Label: Disco Nacional
Issue Number: 9610
Matrix Number: E 1901

Chikha Aicha El Hertitia – Âaita Baidaouiya

chikha-aicha-hmv.jpgNorth Africa was a busy hub of early recording, with nearly every major label conducting numerous sessions in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia throughout the late 1920s and 1930s. (Because of its independence in 1951, 78s recorded in Libya remain a little bit of a mystery, although some do exist.) Interestingly, most of HMV’s Moroccan sessions appeared on their amazing, catch-all “K” series, which featured material from locales as disparate as Algeria, Cuba, Madagascar, and Auvergne, just to name a few places of interest.

This fantastic and spirited jam was recorded between July 22nd and July 24th, 1929, by Gramophone engineer Harold Fleming on a trip to Casablanca. The title is more of a literal designation – the term “aita” referring to the song style (literally: “the cry”), and “baidaouiya” meaning “Casablanca” – so, aita from Casablanca. The female singers are accompanied by violin and percussion (bongos or a dumbek).

Chikha Aicha El Hertitia – Âaita Baidaouiya

(Thanks to Abdelali for the title translation.)

Technical Notes
Label: HMV
Coupling Number: K-4631
Face Number: 50-2114-G
Matrix Number: BS-4219
Other: M3-43689

Sanusi – Kramat Karam

dendang.jpgI thought I’d update mid-week with a pretty solid example of mid-20th century Indonesian krontjong.

Krontjong (in relatively equal amounts spelled kronjong, kroncong, keroncong, and kerontjong) is slightly over a century old, and is an urban folk music. Ethnomusicologists would call it a syncretic music, as it developed over time from a variety of cultural influences, such as Portuguese, Batavian, African, and Malay – all of which were present in one form or another in turn of the century Indonesia.

Known for its languid rhythm, Hawaiian “walking guitar,” and partially improvised violin runs, the style was first recorded in 1904, but musically hit its stride and popularity in the 1930s. By the 1940s, independent Indonesian labels began to appear such as Dendang (pictured here), Irama, and Serimpi, and hundreds if not thousands more krontjong records were released, joining the large amount already available from HMV, Odeon, and other companies.

In my personal experience, I’ve found it difficult to track down much krontjong on 78 outside of Indonesia, nor has much, if any, early krontjong music been re-released on CD. I’ve always found it unique – it often sounds like two bands playing completely separate arrangements of the same song, and somehow landing on their feet.

Sanusi – Kramat Karam

For more information on the history of krontjong, take a peek at pages 207-210 of Peter Manuel’s essential text, Popular Musics of the Non-Western World, as well as the always entertaining Paul Vernon, and his article Kronjong Silver.

Technical Notes
Label: Dendang
Issue Number: XBK.007
Matrix Number: IMC.302