Christine Salem sings songs that are old: They’re work songs and chants from the maloya tradition on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean. I first heard her in New York City as she shook a flat board called a kayamb, made of cane reeds, with two percussionists flanking her to provide rhythm.
Salem makes powerful, strongly focused music in which all the elements are essential, with nothing superfluous. She says it feels like the spirits move through her when she plays, and though you may doubt her if you’re a nonbeliever, you’d be hard-pressed to deny her your attention once you hear her.
And that’s pretty spot on. She sings like a woman possessed–but in a good way–serious catharsis for these intense pieces which are amazingly musical for songs with no instruments except percussion.
“Listwar” showcases her strong, powerful voice when she sings by herself but the whole thing grows amazing when the other voices come in. But even that doesn’t even prepare you for the wonders of the percussion that come next—that kayamb is mesmerizing, the big drum is so deep and the percussive sticks (which seems like he’s hitting what might be a lectern) all work perfectly. All of the melody comes from their voices. The backing guys also seem possessed by the music and the drummer is even laughing he’s so filled with joy.
“Alouwe” begins with claps and rhythmic chanting, which is pretty cool, but again, when the drums come in its even better. Halfway through the tempo picks up and she grabs that kayamb again and the intensity ratchets up. There’s chanting from the men with lots of laughing and clapping at the end. The final song is “Komor Blues.” For this one, she is just by herself playing the drum. While not as big as the other songs, it is just as intense, especially when the pace speeds up about halfway through.
I have no idea what she’s singing about, but I was mesmerized by the whole thing.
[READ: May 15, 2016] Tiny Tyrant
I read this book last year, never even imagining that it could somehow be comparable to our then highly unlikely leader. Reading back on it now, I can’t get over the similarities between this fictional character and our television-inspired president. I mean, look at how King Ethelbert is described: “Selfish, short-tempered, unscrupulous, stubborn, and willing to do anything to get what he wants.”
This book collects all of the Tiny Tyrant stories into one volume (Volume One: The Ethelbertosaurus & Volume Two: The Lucky Winner) were published by First Second with six stories each). They were originally collected into four books in French (and translated into English by Alexis Siegel).
First Second had a lot of books by Lewis Trondheim in their earlier publication days but that seems to have gone by the wayside somewhat this decade.
Perhaps it is because his books are hard to classify. They are basically kids books but they are pretty dark kids books–there’s usually death and blowing up and horrible things happening to people.
Tiny Tyrant is one of the sweeter Trondheim books that I’ve read. Because even though the Tyrant is a tyrant, he is mostly unsuccessful in his demands and nobody blows up [let’s hope we are so lucky with our country’s current wanna-be-dictator].
There are 12 stories in this collection. In each one, the Tiny Tyrant (a king who is six-years old) makes absurd demands (boy it sounds so relevant). And it’s fun to see the way Trondheim works his way around the crises.
In the first one, a scientist discovers a new species and when it is not names after King Ethelbert, he goes into a rage and demands that they find another fossil to name after him.
In the second, Ethelbert puts his new bodyguard through an impossible series of tests. “The Great Love Race” is funny for the premise of it–it’s not a speed race, everyone is just meant to get to the destination eventually. And Ethelbert hates that idea.
In “Picture Perfect Children,” Ethelbert has all the children sent away and replaced with identical robots of himself. Then he learns just how tough he can be to live with.
There’s another royal child who is in the books too, Princess Hildegardina. She is a snooty and well-read and has an amazing vocabulary. Ethelbert’s head of state hope they can marry to combine their fortunes. But Ethelbert doesn’t understand anything she says. Using an earpiece has very funny consequences.
I loved “A Routine Investigation” in which Ethelbert tags along to investigate a group who are making counterfeit toys with Ethelbert’s likeness on them. But he isn’t going to try to get them arrested, he is going to ask for more.
And in “Rightsizing,” Ethelbert is annoyed that everything is too big, the castles, the cars, so he has the scientists invent a shrink ray. What could possibly go wrong? More than you think.
It’s a very fun collection of stories.
I especially liked the really clean drawing style of these books (Trondheim tends to veer a little ugly in his work, so these drawings by Fabrice Parme are really nice). I also liked that each story had a different page color, making it very easy to find them.