Tune in to the radio program airing this weekend to hear these albums and more. I’ll feature new music from Cuñao, Ssewa Ssewa, and Siti Muharam, as well as some other recent favorites like Les Amazones d’Afrique and Grupo Fantasma. Go to the Listen page for details about when and how you can hear the show – on your radio dial or live-streaming on the internet – from wherever you are.
My Tulsa friends Josh Massad and Dylan Aycock have just released a new self-titled duo album through Dylan’s label, Scissor Tail Records. Dylan writes this about the album on the website:
“These four improvisations were recorded in 2016 in my living room with my longtime friend Joshua Massad. Josh is an Indian classical musician living between Tulsa and India, studying tabla for many years under Zakir Hussain and recently studying sitar. We’ve been trying to capture some moments for the last 6 years and this is the first batch of songs to come out.”
The album consists of four long tracks, and I’ll be playing the opening piece – entitled “One” – on the radio program that will air this weekend. I love the free-flowing interplay between Josh’s sitar and tabla and Dylan’s 12-string guitar playing throughout the whole album. That sound is beautifully complemented by the various percussion instruments, air organ, and synths played by Dylan as well. It’s a wonderfully rich listening experience. I look forward to playing other pieces from this album in the future, and hope they have more recordings in store for us. When we can gather for live music again, I hope we can hear them perform together too.
The album is available in digital formats as well as a limited edition cassette in a case featuring hand letter-pressed art by Dylan.
Dear Listeners: as the COVID-19 crisis escalates here in the United States, I will be rebroadcasting some past programs over the next few weeks since I’m not able to go in to the studios of Public Radio Tulsa to produce new shows. Tulsa is not under full shelter in place orders – yet – but business as usual is strictly limited, which includes the University of Tulsa campus where the PRT studios are located. I have rebroadcasts prepared for the next three weeks (starting with this weekend, March 28-29) and it seems likely I’ll have to air more past that time. (I don’t have the capability to produce programs from home at this time.)
The program you’ll hear this weekend on Spokane Public Radio and Public Radio Tulsa originally aired on November 3, 2019; it features music from some really wonderful albums that had been released in 2019. Listeners in Spokane will not have heard this show yet, since SPR only picked up the The Rhythm Atlas at the beginning of 2020. Go the Listen page here on the website to find details about when, where, and how you can hear the show.
I hope you’ll find some joy and comfort in this music. Without having planned it, there’s one song on this playlist that I think speaks beautifully and powerfully to this moment we are living through together: “The Lost Words Blessing.” It comes from the album ‘The Lost Words: Spell Songs.’ As the website for the album says:
The Lost Words: Spell Songs is a musical companion piece to The Lost Words: A Spell Book, the acclaimed work by authors Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, responding to the removal of everyday nature words from a widely used children’s dictionary [in the U.K.] which grew to become a much broader protest at the loss of the natural world around us, as well as a celebration of the creatures and plants with which we share our lives, in all their characterful glory.
Recognising the great musical potential within the pages of The Lost Words book, with its poetic rhythms, imagined birdsong and resonating watercolours, Folk by the Oak Festival eagerly commissioned Spell Songs. They invited eight remarkable musicians whose music engages deeply with landscape and nature, to respond to the creatures, art and language of The Lost Words. Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Kerry Andrew, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter and Jim Molyneux sing nature back to life through the power of music, poetry, art and magic.
Take a few minutes to listen to this truly beautiful song and see the artists who made it in the video they released. (The full lyrics are included if you go directly to YouTube to watch it.) Here is the last stanza of the song:
“Walk through the world with care, my love
And sing the things you see
Let new names take and root and thrive and grow
And even as you stumble through machair sands eroding
Let the fern unfurl your grieving, let the heron still your breathing
Let the selkie swim you deeper, oh my little silver-seeker
Even as the hour grows bleaker, be the singer and the speaker
And in city and in forest, let the larks become your chorus
And when every hope is gone, let the raven call you home…”
May you all be well…take care of yourselves and take care of each other.
On the program that aired the weekend of January 11 and 12, I played two pieces from the wonderful new compilation ‘Sound Portraits from Bulgaria: A Journey to a Vanished World, 1966 – 1979,’ released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. You can read more about the collection on the Smithsonian Folkways website. This music was recorded by educator and cultural documentarian Martin Koenig during six trips he made to Bulgaria. Here’s more from the press release accompanying the album:
Martin Koenig arrived in Bulgaria in 1966 at age 27 with letters of recommendation from fellow recordist Alan Lomax and anthropologist Margaret Mead, an educator and cultural documentarian determined to study the folk dances of rural communities throughout the country. The work of Lomax and Mead, two legendary cultural preservationists and thinkers, is an apt frame for the work documented in Sound Portraits from Bulgaria in its forthright, yet affectionate, look at the way music and dance impacted the life of rural Bulgarians and what is lost as it disappears. As Koenig writes in his introductory essay, this music and culture “should not be forgotten, as it reveals a dimension of strength and beauty in the human spirit that we, in our longing, may not even know we are missing.”
It’s an impressive album set which includes a 144-page book with detailed notes about the songs and performers as well as many photographs that give you a real sense of what Koenig experienced all around Bulgaria. I’m sure I’ll be playing more from this collection in the future.