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

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