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Archive for the ‘Mohsin Hamid’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AMADOU & MARIAM-“Wily Kataso,” (Field Recordings, April 11, 2012).

The story of Amadou & Mariam is fascinating.  I was really made aware of them in 2018, where I saw their Tiny Desk Concert and learned

Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia met when they were children in Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind. Both had lost their sight when they were young and they began performing together. Later, in the 1980s, they married and began a career together.

This Field Recording [Amadou And Mariam: Finding Mali In Harlem] is six years prior to the Tiny Desk and Amadou & Mariam are on a bench outside The Shrine in New York City.

One major gathering point for Africans and non-Africans alike in this neighborhood is The Shrine, a nightclub and restaurant whose clout belies its small size. So when Malian breakout superstars Amadou and Mariam happened to find themselves with an extra day in New York recently, we invited them up to The Shrine to sing a quick, unplugged set.

There’s not a lot in New York City that looks much like Bamako, the capital city of Mali, but there are pockets uptown where a West African might feel a little closer to home. With increasing numbers of immigrants to Harlem from countries like Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Gambia and beyond, jewelry shops sell the beautiful, bright gold twisted hoop earrings traditionally worn by Fulani women; men stride along the street wearing the elegant, flowing robes called grands boubous; and restaurants sell bissap, the sweet cold drink made from hibiscus flowers that’s beloved across the region.

Amadou plays a simply guitar melody and Amadou starts singing with a repeated refrain of “Baro bom baro negé ta na” which means something like: Away, away, Go home.

The song almost becomes a drone since the music is repeated almost constantly throughout.  There is one part near the end where Amadou plays something a little different on the guitar–a kind of solo–but that’s the only variation.

It was just their two powerful voices, Amadou’s blues-soaked guitar and an incredibly catchy melody that lit up The Shrine.

They are mesmerizing and their voices are wonderful.

[READ: January 10, 2017] “Of Window and Doors”

This story was depressing and brutally honest.

It is about Saeed and Nadia and how their (unnamed) city was constantly at war.  Neighborhoods fell to militants quite easily.  Nadia was living alone and Saeed was with his parents.  He continually tried to get her to move in–chastely of course–because it was so unsafe for her to be alone.  But she refused.  Until Saeed’s mother was killed.  Then she agreed to be with them.

The title refers to actual windows and doors.  Window were now the border through which death was likliest to come–windows could not stop ammunition and they turned into more shrapnel.  Many windows were broken, but it was winter and people needed to keep the cold out.

Saeed’s family did not want to give up the windows, so they covered them with bookcases and furniture to block out the light and visiblity and to make them less vulnerable.

Doors were something different.  Rumors began to spread that doors could take you elsewhere–to places far away.  Some people claimed to know others who had been through the doors. And that an ordinary door could becomes a special door at anytime.  But others believed that this was all superstition.

Saeed and Madia get word of a possible door through which they can escape.  The rest of the story concerns their attempts to escape without being captured by militants.

This story was well-written and powerful.  It made me really fear for what life would be like if our country ever turned into a lawless land like this.  It was really frightening and real.

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SOUNDTRACK: CONSTANTINES-Live at Massey Hall (May 27, 2015).

From the clips I’ve seen, Constantines are (were?) an incredible live band.  They have so much intensity.

In the opening, they are asked  Are you guys nervous?  They don’t seem to be although they concede that “Nervous is good, it keeps you on your toes.”

At some point we decided to run the band where we would play anywhere with a three-pronged outlet.  It led to playing a lot of amazing spaces…non-performance spaces like skate shops and basements and art galleries.  This feels like an incredible extension of that to play Massey Hall… a historic venue.

“Draw Us Lines” opens the show with thunderous drums and squalling feedback as the band gets the audience clapping along to a simple rhythm while Bry Webb sings in his deep raspy voice.  I love how much noise the keyboardist makes just pounding on keys–at times leaning on the machine with his whole arm.

“Our Age” has martial beats and an interesting low riff that runs through the verses–but the choruses burst forth really catchy.  “On to You” was a single I believe.  It has loud verses and a quiet, understated chorus.  I love how much they raise their guitars–the bassist even plays with the instrument raised over his head

“Young Offenders” rocks as hard as anything else they play, but it adds the surprising lyric: “young hearts be free tonight … time is on your side,” before launching into the heady section with the crowd shouting “Can I get a witness.”

“Nighttime/Anytime {It’s Alright)” has a great slinky guitar intro and sounds very familiar–as if it’s quoting another song, but I can’t figure out what.

More thumping drums (the drummer must be exhausted) and some distortion and feedback introduce “Young Lions” which starts as kind of catchy rocks song but features wonderful noise section in which everyone plays with feedback and the keyboardist actually sits on the keys before returning to that really catchy section.

The show ends with “National Hum,” a blistering loud track with discordant chords and intense vocals.  The drums just seem to go faster and faster as the song goes on.

They play this show like it’s the most important show they’ve ever played.  And the crowd responds accordingly.  It’s unclear to me if Constantines are broken up or not, but if they ever come around, they are a must-see show.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “What is Possible”

This issue of the New Yorker had a section entitled “Parenting.”  Five authors tell a story about their own parents.  Since each author had a very different upbringing the comparison and contrasting of the stories is really interesting.

I love the opening of this essay in which Mohsin says that his mom worked an entry-level job at what would now be considered a Silicon Valley tech business.  They made audiocassettes.

His father made peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and picked Mohsin up from school on his bike.  His dad had a mustache and sideburns but no hair.  They went to the university where his father was studying.  Or they went home to watch cartoons on the small black and white TV.

Mohsin says he always saw colors on it “though I was told by friends that this wasn’t possible.”  I relate to this because I had a black and white TV in my room growing up and I was sure it was color until one day when I went to my parents TV and compared sided by side and saw just how colorful their TV was. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KATHLEEN EDWARDS-Tiny Desk Concert #206 (April 5, 2012).

Kathleen Edwards has a great voice and she writes great songs.  There’s not much more to this set than her singing four fantastic songs in the Tiny Desk setting.  Although her songs have full band arrangements on records, they do not sound out of place in this smaller, acoustic environment.

As she introduces the final song of the set “Change the Sheets” she says it’s the first time they’ve played it acoustically.  You’d ever know.  It sounds great.

There’s not a lot more to say about this Tiny Desk set–it highlights a great songwriter with a great voice.

[READ: October 15, 2012] “The Third Born”

I had a wee bit of trouble following this story, although I admit I didn’t give it my undivided attention at first.

If this isn’t an excerpt, then it’s a fairly disconnected story with large gaps–it reads like a few distinct scenes that happen so far apart as to be almost disconnected.  (I re-read it to make sure).

The story begins with a boy in a village in India.  He is sick and his mother knows how to help him with this not uncommon rural disease.  He watches the village as he lays there, more or less immobile–how the women seem to do a lot of work, although his mother doesn’t work outside the house.  Eventually his father returns from the city where he is a successful cook.  The boy’s mother asks if the whole family can move to the city.  He balks at the idea–he spends several month sat a time in the city where he makes good money, although he claims it is not enough for a family to live on in the city. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PINK FLOYD-“Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict” (1969).

I‘ve mentioned this song a few times here so I figured I’d talk about it itself.  This bizarre song comes from PinkFloyd’s bizarre album Ummagumma.  Back in high school we ranked albums by a very specific content rating and this one received the highest: SDI-seriously drug induced.

Disc One is a live album but disc two contains compositions by each of the band members.  They each received about thirteen minutes of time to do what they wanted.  And they really seemed to go to town.

Roger Waters created this track, and it is very, very weird.  I’ve always loved it, probably because it is so audacious.  Wikipedia gives us this:

The track consists of several minutes of noises resembling rodents and birds simulated by Waters’ voice and other techniques, such as tapping the microphone played at different speeds, followed by Waters providing a few stanzas of spoken word in an exaggerated Scottish burr.

The Picts were the indigenous people of what is now Scotland who merged with the Scots.

You can hear it in all its glory (and then marvel that the guy who made it later when on to make some of the most famous music ever released) in this video.

I also love that someone liked this bizarre thing enough to put it on a Pink Floyd compilation (Works) as well.

And the wind cried Mary.

[READ: January 25, 2012] “Terminator: Attack of the Drone”

I found a link to this story somewhere, I can’t recall where, now.  It was mentioned with excited breath that Moshin Hamid, who I don’t know, had written this exclusive short story for The Guardian.  Hamid has been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize and has written two novels: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) and Moth Smoke (2000).

This story was not quite what I expected from the brief biography I’d read.  Because of the ominous title, I assumed it might have something to do with Iraq (I realize that this came out before the recent downing of the U.S. drone in Iraq, but it still seemed plausible).  Rather, what we get is a bit of sci-fi about smart machine that are on a murderous rampage.

The story is not really as sci-fi as all that, except that what I wrote is true. But it’s more about two boys as they try to deal with this new world of death, machines and heroism.

It begins with the note that “the machines are huntin’ tonight.”  (There’s an interesting dialect in the story, especially from someone who lives in Lahore, New York and London.  We get lines like “Sky’s light enough so’s we’d maybe see the machine but all’s quiet and it ain’t about,” which I register as Southern American.  And yet the characters are named Omar and Yousuf.  I can’t decide if that’s an attempt to show a future world of total integration or just a total disconnect.)

There aren’t many humans left–his Pa is dead, his ma got her leg blown off by a landmine.   But at least his sisters are still alive–that’s more than most people have.

The machines come thundering through, crushing everything in their sight.  They also fly–you can’t see them, but you can hear them.  No one has ever killed a machine. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GIRL TALK-All Day (2010).

Girl Talk is the product of Gregg Gillis.  Gillis doesn’t play any instruments.  All he does is mash-up different songs into a killer DJ mix.  There is absolutely nothing legal about what he does (in terms of copyright), and for that reason alone, I love it.  But beyond that,  he does a great job of mashing two (and more) songs together.

Mostly this is a fun way to play “spot the song” [Hey: “In Your Arms,” Hey “War Pigs”].  And when you give up you can check out the samples list (which has 37 entries under the name D alone). [Hey, Spacehog’s “In the Meantime”]

I knew a lot of the songs that he sampled, but he also put in a lot of rap which I didn’t know.  The rap works well over the original music (what sampling would be like for real if it was legal).  [Hey, Portishead!]

Mostly you get a minute or maybe a little more of each song, [Radiohead’s “Creep”] sometimes the clips are sped up or slowed down to merge perfectly with the other.  And it’s a whole lot of fun.  [The Toadies!] As someone described it, it’s like listening to a whole bunch of radio stations at once [“Cecelia”].  And, if you don’t like the song that’s on [two seconds of the Grateful Dead?], just wait a couple seconds. [INXS].

Gillis doesn’t (really) sell his music.  Indeed, you can download all of All Day for free fromIllegal Art.  [Hey, the middle of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”].

I’m not sure if it’s art, per se, but it’s clearly a lot of work, and it takes a lot of skill to make it so seamless [White Zombie!].  It probably works very well at a party too.

[READ: June 20, 2011] Five Dials Number 13

Five Dials 13 is more or less the music issue.  It is specifically dedicated to festivals and their overindulgence of everything.  And so it is long (63 pages), it is full of rather diverse points of view, it even has clouds!  Thankfully it’s not full of overflowing portapotties.  It also has lots of artwork from Raymond Pettibon, which is pretty fantastic in and of itself.

CRAIG TAYLOR-Letter from the Editor: On Festivals and George Thoroughgood
The letter opens with some comments on Festivals–two paragraphs of complainants about festivals with a final admission that the interlocuter is going to Glastonbury.  The end of the letter is devoted to a story from George Thoroughgood.  Usually I agree with the Five Dials‘ tastes without question, but I have a serious complaint about their love of Thoroughgood, about whom it would be charitable to say that he has written one song seventy-five times.  And I have absolute incredulity at this quote from George:

The promoters had gone to another festival where we played on Thursday before Roskilde, and they were so knocked out by the power of the performance they called me the next day and asked if we would mind if they changed our show time to close the festival.

Are you seriously telling me that they would change the headlining act a weekend before the festival?  How pissed would you be if your headliner was bumped for 90 minutes of ‘Bad to the Bone’?  Good grief. (more…)

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