Tank Music. The New Yorker, July 24, 2017.
Qawwali is a devotional music in Pakistan and popular around the world. Simon Broughton picks the best recordings of traditional qawwali, plus some interesting fusions
Faiz Ali Faiz
Your Love Makes Me Dance
(Accords Croisés, 2004)
Faiz Ali Faiz is probably the leading figure in Pakistani qawwali music today. The music with solo voices and backing singers driven by tabla drums, breaks over you in waves. This well-produced album, with pictures and translations in English and French, takes its title from Punjabi poet Bulleh Shah. Reviewed in #27.
Faiz Ali Faiz, Duquende, Miguel Poveda & Chicuelo
(Accords Croisés, 2006)
This is what it says on the tin with performers at the top of their game. Spiritual qawwali marries surprisingly well with secular flamenco and both forms share a heightened passion and intensity, assisted by a stellar line-up from both sides of the spectrum. The two CDs basically alternate between qawwali and flamenco numbers, but there are three tracks in which the two forms really come thrillingly together. A Top of the World review in #37.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
The King of Sufi Qawwali
(Union Square, 2006)
There are countless recordings of the late qawwali legend, who died in 1997 – from superb concert performances on Ocora and Navras to fusion successes like Mustt Mustt (see below). This double-CD – compiled by Iain Scott with the lyrics lovingly translated by Songlines contributor Jameela Siddiqi – includes his most representative repertoire opening with ‘Allah Hoo’ and concluding with ‘Dam Mast Qalander’ as his concerts often did. Reviewed in #40.
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
(Real World, 1990)
While the above choice is of largely traditional material, this was Nusrat’s big cross-over success in collaboration with producer and guitarist Michael Brook. ‘Mustt Mustt’, a version of a song in praise of the Sufi philosopher and poet Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, has become his best-known song. It was used in Pakistan for a Coke advert and appears here as the original and in a Massive Attack remix.
Day of Colours
(Real World, 2004)
This is the most recent of Rizwan-Muazzam’s albums for Real World and it features the brothers in superb form with seven qawwalis by Rumi, Baba Bulleh Shah and Amir Khusrau among others. The 13 musicians create a robust sound with lots of punch. Reviewed in #27.
Ecstasy of the Soul
(CM Records, 2012)
Amjad Sabri was one of the preeminent star performers and the current leader of the Sabri Brothers until he was shot in Karachi in June this year. Ecstasy of the Soul is a live recording from Warsaw in 2012 celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations between Poland and Pakistan. It clearly shows what a great musical force has been lost.
The Sabri Brothers
It was actually the Sabri Brothers who first popularised qawwali in the West. They started touring in 1958 and released a record on Nonesuch in 1978. This is a later double-CD that features more unusual and contemporary repertoire.
Shye Ben Tzur & Jonny Greenwood
Junun is a curious fusion that combines the raw sound of Rajasthani qawwali, Indian brass, Shye Ben Tzur’s Hebrew vocals with Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead fame) adding bass guitar, electronics and production. It’s strangely compelling, was recorded in the spectacular setting of the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, and has become something of a cult hit. A Top of the World in #114.
Flight of the Soul
A brilliant recording of two lesser-known qawwali groups in concert in Berlin, organised by German Sufi expert Peter Pannke. It features Bahauddin Qutbuddin Qawwal & Party, who specialise in Khusrau, and Asif Ali Khan, Manzoor Hussain, Santoo Khan & Party. Wild and vibrant.
Sufis at the Cinema
This is ecstatic song on the silver screen – and often quite far from its original context. A splendid double-CD of qawwali music recorded for Bollywood between 1958 and 2007. Artists include Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Nusrat and the current star of glitzy film qawwali, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Nusrat’s nephew. A Top of the World in #77.
This article originally appeared in Songlines #124. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit: http://ift.tt/2lbcV5M
Alex Robinson looks at the amazing career of the Angolan singer-songwriter who sparked a revolution in the 70s, helping to overthrow Portugal’s military dictatorship
Bonga was born José Adelino Barceló de Carvalho on September 5 1942 in the Portuguese colony of Angola. Porto Quipiri, his birthplace, lies some 100km north-east of the country’s capital city, Luanda. His was a musical family. “My father played accordion in a rebita band,” Bonga remembers, “and we had to learn the dance steps. Of my nine brothers, I was the one who accompanied my father on the dikanza [traditional percussion instrument] and this was the beginning of all that would happen later.”
José Adelino was a talented athlete. He became the Angolan champion at the 100 metres – and then 200 and 400 metres – before moving to Lisbon at the invitation of the Sport Lisboa e Benfica club in 1966 to pursue an athletic career. In Portugal he broke the national record for 400 metres and ran for the country, seemingly a model Portuguese. But he was leading a double life, attending secret meetings of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and carrying secret messages for the MPLA as he travelled to tournaments abroad. And under the alias Bonga Kuenda (which translates as ‘he who is looking, who is always ahead and moving’), he worked as an accompanist to the traditional Angolan singer Elias dia Kimuezo and began a clandestine career as a protest singer. It was a dangerous move in late 60s Portugal.
“All Angolan culture was under Portuguese domination,” Bonga recalls. “Traditional languages were banned and African music too. Since we had no weapons to fight with, we resisted on a cultural level, especially by forming folk music groups and performing songs that re-adopted ancestral African forms. Although their lyrics clearly referred to the unrest at the time – the poverty, colonial violence and latent revolt.”
Under the Estado Novo regime, led by fascist dictator António Salazar, Portugal was conservative, backward-looking and oppressive. Its guiding philosophy of ‘Lusotropicalism’ struggled to remember a mythical golden age of racial harmony administered by beneficent colonial Portuguese. This was in part born of the nostalgic idealism articulated in the writings of Gilberto Freyre. Salazar imposed his Lusotropicalism on the remaining Portuguese colonies, including Angola and Mozambique. But Portugal’s power and its empire were crumbling. Salazar ceded the Portuguese colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu to India after a humiliating war in the early 60s and had lost the iconic fortress of São João Baptista de Ajudá to the Republic of Dahomey in 1961. Portugal clutched Angola and Mozambique close, like straws. Moves towards independence were ruthlessly suppressed in the name of ‘racial harmony’.
By the early 70s, realising that he was attracting attention from the secret police, Bonga left Lisbon and went into self-imposed exile in the Netherlands. He was determined to record an album that related his own experiences and his sense of commitment to Angola, an album that would crystallise a sense of pride in suppressed African culture and tradition. The record would be a state-of-the-nation address, a call to cultural and political arms. Bonga simply called it Angola 72. The album became one of the most powerful collections of protest songs ever recorded. A potent mix of haunting, prophetic lyrics, taking pride in indigenous Angolan culture, and a lament from political exile, it inspired a revolution. The record was banned by the Salazar dictatorship, giving it far more publicity than it might otherwise have received. Smuggled into Lisbon and Luanda as contraband, it was distributed to young would-be revolutionaries and listened to in the dead of night under bed covers. Being caught with Angola 72 meant brutal interrogation and possible imprisonment. In Bonga’s own words, his record “became a musical beacon for all our demands in Africa.”
The revolutionary theme was expanded on Angola 74, and this time Bonga’s message was for all Portuguese Africans, with music and songs from Cape Verde, in Cape Verdean Creole, not just in the Angolan Calão language. The album included the first (and greatest) recording of ‘Sodade’ – a song that would later be made famous by Cesaria Evora. By 1974 Salazar’s desperate attempts to cling on to Portuguese Africa were attracting worldwide condemnation. Articles in the international press exposed atrocities such as the notorious Wiriyamu massacre in Mozambique. Guerrilla campaigns in Angola and Mozambique had turned into protracted wars that were bankrupting Portugal and alienating a generation of Portuguese, forced into conscription. Lisbon’s people took to the streets to decry their government. And then in April 1974, the Estado Novo regime was overthrown, in a bloodless coup organised by left-wing Portuguese military officers. Known as the Carnation Revolution, it brought an end to the colonial wars, and won independence for Angola and Mozambique.
Bonga moved to Paris before returning to a newly democratic Lisbon, where he was finally free to record traditional Angolan and Luso-African music. In 1975 he travelled to the US to play a central role in the concerts celebrating the independence of another Portuguese African colony, Guinea-Bissau. By the 80s Bonga was loved by the Lisbon that had once so despised and feared him. He became the first African singer to perform in the Coliseu dos Recreios concert hall – a bastion of traditional white Portuguese culture. And through the group he put together, the Semba Masters, Bonga continued to disseminate Angolan music in Europe and the US.
Bonga’s most recent album, Hora Kota, is a reminder to Angolans of the importance that the past has for their future – an appeal for the preservation of tradition. In the face of rapid modernisation and the homogenisation of the digital age, Angolans should not forget the traditional rhythms like semba and rebita and the African-Angolan cultural identity his generation fought for. ‘The father of the father of your elder, the mother of the mother of your elder,’ he sings on the lilting title-track, ‘they affirm who you are and where you’re heading.’ Even in his 70s, Bonga is living up to his name: ‘he who is looking, who is always ahead and moving.’
Angola 72/74 (Lusafrica, 2011)
The album that introduced Bonga’s melancholic voice to the world, Angola 72 inspired a generation of Portuguese Africans. It was reissued on CD by Lusafrica with the follow-up Angola 74. It’s Bonga at his musical peak: a collection of mature, masterfully sung tracks filled with lamentation, tinged with hope and including a haunting version of ‘Sodade’.
Forty years after his first album, the husky voice, melancholy and musical mastery are all still there. Bonga is still calling his countrymen to cultural arms, reminding them to cherish and preserve their African identity.
This article originally appeared in Songlines #94 (Aug/Sept 2013). To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit: http://ift.tt/2lbcV5M
Iconic US bassist Stanley Clarke hits the road for a series of UK dates as part of his European tour, appearing tonight at 229 Venue, London. Clarke’s illustrious history as one of the key innovators of the bass guitar saw him create an incendiary blend of powerful slap and flamenco style strumming techniques, as well as fluid, horn-like solos on both electric and acoustic bass. An original member of jazz-rock super-group Return To Forever, Clarke’s hugely successful solo career of course includes his bass anthem, ‘School Days’, an extensive partnership with late, great keyboardist George Duke as well as writing scores for many Hollywood movies.
Clarke’s touring band has consistently featured emerging young jazz stars and currently includes the ferociously talented drummer Mike Mitchell, Kamasi Washington-affiliated keyboardist Cameron Graves and phenomenal 20-year-old Tbilisi, Georgia-born pianist Beka Gochiashvili. The band are due to release a new album this autumn and will no doubt be previewing material on the following dates: 229 Venue, London (17 July); Gorilla, Manchester (18 July); The Fleece, Bristol (19 July); St. Lukes, Glasgow (24 July) and Brudenell, Leeds (25 July).
– Mike Flynn
– Photo by Tim Dickeson
For more info visit http://ift.tt/1w3AYwL
Our Artist Of The Week Toni Sidgwick is an indie/folk/pop singer-songwriter based in County Durham. Her unique voice lends a cool take on traditional folk sounds that fans of Tracy Chapman and Ben Howard are sure to enjoy. Check out her song “Lions” below!
Half of the 4,500 people in the audience walked out of Linda Ronstadt’s show at the Aladdin Resort and Casino in Las Vegas after the singer dedicated an encore of Desperado to filmmaker Michael Moore and urged the crowd to see his film Fahrenheit 9/11.