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

Qasim – Lagu Nuri Terbang Malam

malayfront.jpgMy earliest recording. This single-sided, 7″ record was made in Singapore by recording engineer Fred Gaisberg and his assistant George Dillnutt, on a lengthy trip through Asia for the Gramophone Company in 1902-1903, where thousands of recordings were made. Specifically, this was recorded in May, 1903.  It was the very first time in history a recording company had visited and recorded in these regions. On the same trip, Gaisberg visited and recorded artists in Bangkok, Rangoon, and Japan. The wax masters were shipped to Gramophone’s plant in Hannover, Germany, where they were reproduced, then exported back to Asia.

Gaisberg (1873-1951) is a giant in the history of recorded sound. Not only was he one of the very first “producers” of music on record, he also helped standardize the speed (78, or more precisely, 78.26) at which the music was to be played back. He made the first recordings by tenor Enrico Caruso, in 1902 – one year before he became the first engineer to produce records for emerging Asian markets.

At this early stage in Malaysia, very few people could afford Gramophone discs, much less a player. Those who could afford them included British officers and business owners, those who worked for the British (called “Babas”) as well as local merchants and traders who were particularly well-off. That said, the presence of numerous record companies in the region by 1920 proves the market was widening substantially. As if it even needs to be said, however, comparatively few of these recordings have survived.

Qasim-Lagu Nuri Terbang Malam

If you are interested in the life of Fred Gaisberg, check out this book. If you are interested in the history of recording in Malaysia, check out Tai Sooi Beng’s article “The 78 RPM Industry in Malaya Prior to World War II,” published in Asian Music, Fall/Winter 1996/1997.

Technical Notes
Label: Gramophone
Issue Number: 2-12050
Matrix Number: E 1860

Maria Alice – O Louco

mariaalice.jpgFor this week’s entry, we’ll stay located on the Iberian Peninsula and examine an early, classic fado.

Much has been written about the Portuguese “song of fate” and there is little chance that I could add anything new to the subject. However, some brief notes for those interested: the origins of the fado are muddy – some say it originated from Portuguese sailors and their songs of longing for home (there are theories that the rhythm of the fado evolved from the lurching, rolling waves at sea). Others claim that the roots of the fado came from Brazil, and made their way to Portugal in the 19th century. Some claim it came from the Moors, although other musical styles from the same general area, such as flamenco, seem more obviously connected to North Africa.

Several qualities are evident: a true fado is performed accompanied by a guitarra and a viola da franca. The viola da franca or violão is another name for the Spanish guitar. The guitarra is the name for a lute with a rounded sideboard and six double strings of wire. Perhaps most importantly, the fado is always accompanied by the inexpressible feeling of saudade. As folklorist and ethnographer Rodney Gallop put it in 1933*:

The true fado is always sad. Usually in the minor, it retains even in the major the melancholy character associated with the minor. It may be wild, finely exultant in its sadness, seeming to revel in tragedy; or, more often, striking a note of pathetic and almost languid resignation. Its sophisticated cadences breathe a spirit of theatrical self-pity combined with genuine sincerity. It is emotional, passionate, erotic, sensuous, one might say meretricious, and yet, like some rustic courtesan, fundamentally simple and unpretentious.

This fado, uncollected on any CD, was recorded ca. 1929, in Lisbon by the German Polydor company. I could find little written about Maria Alice, a genuine fadista if there ever was one. (She is NOT to be confused with a Cape Verdean singer of the same name.) I’ve been able to find imported recordings of fados by Alice that were released in the late 1920s in the United States on the Brunswick label. Unsurprisingly, little of her work has seen the light of day since. One track can be found here, although I cannot vouch for the transfers.

Maria Alice – O Louco

Technical Notes
Label: Polydor
Issue Number: P 44233
Matrix Number: 2758 BK

*Gallop, Rodney. “The Fado (The Portugese Song of Fate).” The Musical Quarterly 19/2 (1933): 199-213.

Miguel Sagastume y Toribia Narbaiza – Fandango

basque.jpgOn to the music of a stateless nation.

At first, this baile vasco starts off with a typically enjoyable folkdance melody featuring the pandareta, the Basque tambourine, and the regional diatonic accordion, the triki-trixa.

But it’s the beautifully jolting vocal performance by Ms. Narbaiza that’s the real stunner. Whether Columbia’s engineer, who recorded these musicians from Eibar in what seems to me to be the early 1930s, had the microphone up a little too close, or whether Ms. Narbaiza’s energy simply couldn’t be contained is something we’ll never know. The music obviously speaks for itself.

Miguel Sagastume y Toribia Narbaiza – Fandango

Technical Notes
Label: Columbia
Issue Number: A 5181
Matrix Number: C 8156-2

Kwaku Addae & His Band – Ogyama Abere

kwakuaddae.jpgHere’s a more substantial offering from Africa – West Africa to be precise.

The Zonophone label was the first to begin large-scale recording of records by and for Africans, with their classic EZ series which began in 1929, and featured primarily West African artists (they had tiptoed into these waters some years earlier with a “Zonophone Native Records” series). HMV started not soon after, beginning a massive spate of recording on the continent until the end of the 78 era. By the 1940s and 1950s, there were at least two dozen other labels producing 78s for the African populace. Thousands of historic, beautiful recordings were made in nearly every single existing country and region. The history of African music on 78rpm, as well as – of course – the music itself, is rich and fascinating. It’s some of my favorite music in my collection. Needless to say, African 78s are very difficult to find today.

This track by Kwaku Addae is sung in the Twi language, and was recorded in Nsawam, Ghana, ca. 1954-1955. It features lovely vocal harmonies, and some classic West African guitar picking.

For more information on the early history of recording in Africa, I recommend the excellent article by Paul Vernon, Savannaphone.

And if you’re interested in more early guitar music from West Africa, this CD from Heritage is also top notch, and thankfully still in print.

Kwaku Addae & His Band – Ogyama Abere

Technical Notes
Label: HMV
Issue Number: JLK.1069
Matrix Number: OAB 4203-1

Thanks to Bill Dean-Myatt!

Chant du Travail

sudan.jpgTo help get this blog up and running, I’ll occasionally post more than once a week, at least for a short while.

This is a brief, ethnographic recording from Mali. It’s origins are unknown, except that it seems to be a 1930s French test pressing, with handwritten notes on the label. This would seem to be either a true field recording, or a dub of one – I know next to nothing about the “Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire”…

Despite being stunningly low-fi and tinny it’s still a unique document.

Anonymous-Chant du Travail

Technical Notes
Label: Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire
Catalog Number: n/a
Matrix Number: n/a

Chahadé Saadé – Samaii Hijaz Kar Kurdi

odeon1.jpgWelcome. Finally, with a few minor trepidations, I’ve started an audio blog.

It’s been my philosophy that good music is best when it is shared. Of course, nothing beats that feeling, say, when you alone break open that box from Turkey or Indonesia, place the fragile platter on the turntable, only to feel your hair stand on end when the music begins. The feeling that you’ve never heard anything like this in your life; it transports you to a place where words are irrelevant. But part of that feeling is thinking how you’d want to share that with others, to have them feel exactly the same way.

Record collectors are eccentric people. I don’t even like the term “record collector.” They’ve been parodied far too many times. Accurately, I might add. But I could not live with myself as a “collector” without at least one person I could share sounds with. So, this blog is for my friends, and for you, stranger.

For the first installment, we have a beautiful oud solo which was recorded most likely in Syria, by the Lebanese oud player Saadé ca. 1926 or so. It appears on a 10.5” record, which a number of companies preferred during the acoustic era. I’m not sure when that format/size ended for Odeon, but I doubt it was any later than the early 30s. According to reader “pm,’ this is a recording of the “kurdilihicazkar saz semai of the late 19th century Istanbul Armenian composer Tatyos Efendi.”

For over a year, I believed this recording was made in Iran, due to the matrix number (etched into the ‘dead wax’) on the record, which was indicated in a major source as being used only in Iran. However, after digging through sources in the French language, I was able to determine that this player was indeed Lebanese, and made at least one recording for Polyphon around the same time. Syria, where the recording was most likely made, was a major recording hub – musicians from across the region would travel to record there.

Chahadé Saadé – Samaii Hijaz Kar Kurdi

Technical notes
Label: Odeon
Issue Number: X35285
Matrix Number: xES 381