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]. (more…)