jade warrior

Category: By the bug

Jade Warrior was one of the most original and unusual progressive rock bands to come from Britain in the early 70's. They combined strong ethnic influences (mostly from Chinese/Japanese culture) with progressive rock that ranged from heavy, flute-driven Tull-like riffs to peaceful and atmospheric parts. The main musicians in the band were Tony Duhig on guitar and Jon Field, who contributed with flute and lots of ethnic percussion. Especially the first side on their self-titled debut showcased their originality very well. The three-part "Masai Morning" is an orgy of ethnic percussion and very fuzzed and heavy riffs played on guitar and flute. But Duhig's distinctive sound on the guitar is actually best heard on the more quiet songs, like "The Traveller" and "Dragonfly Day". "A Prenormal Day at Brighton" is structurally a quite straightforward, flute driven heavy-prog tune, but the band manages to integrate their ethnic influences into even this one. The second side is a bit more basic but still good, although I don't care too much for the the stripped-down blues of "Petunia". The hard rock of "Telephone Girl" is better, and one of the best known tunes ehre. "Psychiatric Sergeant" has some cool jazzy flute, and the two last tracks are quiet pieces with more of the band's ethnic influences. A unique and strong debut that clearly showcased what an original and creative band Jade Warrior was.



dennis greenidge

Category: By the bug

Giant Man, Giant Plan is a cassette editing odyssey, an epic journey embarked upon by 57 year-old Music & Video Exchange patron Dennis Greenidge. Using only the simplest tapedeck-to-tapedeck bouncing techniques Greenidge has put together an exhaustive catalogue of idiosyncratic sonic marvels, with all manner of detritus, exotica and ephemeral stitched together into a backdrop for insane vocal ranting and raving. 'The Amazing Colossal Cucumber Man' might be the single daftest piece of 'music' you'll ever hear, making outsider songwriter luminaries like Wesley Willis sound like Bono. It's actually a bit like hearing an uncle you've never liked pretending he's Mark E. Smith over the top of some 'hold music'. It's hard to tell whether Dennis is for real or a mere character invented for a bad show at the Edinburgh Fringe, but certainly the harrowing trance singalong 'Invasion Of The Beetroot People' touches on a kind of lunacy that's hard to fake. In any case, trawling through this insanely over-long archive of witterings and bad cassette dubs might be regarded as a must-have experience for any intrepid connoisseur of nonsense.



rabih abou khalil

Category: By the bug


In a satisfying stylistic experiment, Lebanese composer and oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil has decided to put together an album of jazz numbers with no Western instruments other than Glen Moore's stand-up bass. There is Yassin El-Achek on violin, but the violin is almost as much a Middle Eastern instrument as a Western one. El-Achek usually remains in the Middle Eastern style of playing, but occasionally, as on "Wordless" he double-stops and trills like Paganini.

The tracks are nicely constructed, and the improvisations are not allowed to run amuck or become shapeless. The tunes are, as usual with Abou-Khalil, Middle Eastern melodies with phrases and turns that nod at Western notions of what "Oriental" music sounds like. This conceit paves the way for the extremely rare event of Abou-Khalil covering someone else's song. And which did he choose? Duke Ellington's "Caravan," the all-time most famous faux-Arabic jazz number! The song turns into a duet between El-Achek's violin and Selim Kusur's nay (Arabic flute). It's fun but lightweight compared to the album's originals.

All the instrumentalists are in fine form, particularly Glen Velez, who really shakes his tambourine as well as pulling out his snare drums for several numbers.

Abou-Khalil has never been better as a performer, especially on the opening of "Remembering Machgara," where he makes his oud sound like an electric guitar. It helps that the album is unusually well-arranged, even for Abou-Khalil, and well-recorded, even for Enja, everything sounding wonderfully present and defined. This album represents the expatriate Lebanese composer-musician in his prime



the focus group

Category: By the bug

caetano veloso

Category: By the bug


In "Fora da Ordem," the opening cut on Caetano Veloso's Circuladô, the great Brazilian singer-songwriter reflects on a world in which "something has gone out of order." Brooding on a fractious urban environment where children bite "the barrel of the pistol," he concludes: "I don't wait for the day when all men will agree/I only know several beautiful harmonies without a final judgment." "Fora da Ordem," with its twangy funk groove, is the most American-sounding song on Veloso's third album (of twenty-three total) to be released in the United States. Musically as well as politically, it evokes Veloso's pluralistic vision of a diverse world culture composed of "several beautiful harmonies."

If you blended Stevie Wonder's mysticism and social consciousness, Cole Porter's romantic sophistication and the hushed intensity of the Brazilian singer-guitarist João Gilberto, you might begin to have some idea of the range of inflections in Veloso's music, which is written and performed in Portuguese.

What sets Veloso apart is the fact that he is a true poet as well as a brilliant pop musician; his lithe, guitar-based melodies carry lyrics that make astounding leaps to grasp the essences of things. Those lyrics can be ecstatic, as in "Itapuã," a gorgeous ballad arranged for guitar, voices and string quartet that evokes a Bahian childhood idyll in language that is both religious and sexual. Almost as lovely is "Lindeza," a quiet ode to joy that acknowledges how "humanity grows" from an apprehension of beauty. The delicate "Boas Vindas" may be the most beautiful song about the birth of a child since Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely." "There is the fear and there is the rose," he intones softly. "I say it's delicious."

These celebrations of life are balanced by harsh reflections of social discord. The most searing, "O Cu do Mundo" (which means "asshole of the world"), describes "the saddest nation," torn with theft, rape, kidnapping and lynch mobs. Although Veloso's singing rarely rises in volume above the level of an intimate conversation, the emotional crosscurrents that ripple through his intense murmur convey feelings that include even the staunchest outrage.



nusrat fateh ali khan

Category: By the bug


Qawwali : Music of the Sufis

Where: India and Pakistan
What's it about: Spiritual Islamic song of the esoteric Sufis sect, highly improvisatory and hypnotically repetitive

Qawwali is a form of music practiced by Sufis to inspire religious devotion and instruction. Sufism is a mystical school of Islamic thought where truth and divine love are achieved through personal experience. Sufis are synonymous with the 'Whirling Dervishes' found in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Unlike Muslims, Sufis believe that one can reach God during your own lifetime and one of qawwali's formal names means "royal court of saints". The Qawwali form of Islamic song is practiced in India and Pakistan.

Buried Deep: History of Qawwali

The roots of Qawwali began in the 11th Century with the tradition of sama, spiritual concerts which predate the birth of Muhammad. Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya, a follower of the Christi school of Sufism used music extensively in his prayer gatherings, creating tension with the orthodox Islamics in Delhi. However, the godfather of Qawwali is said to be Amir Khusru from the 13th century, a legendary musician, politician and philosopher who mixed elements from Turkey, Persia and India in the creation of a new music.

In Qawwali, Persian moqquams meet Indian ragas (similar to scales in western music). Not all people were a fan of this new music. Qawwali alongside Sufism suffered a decline and repression during certain periods of Islamic history when fundamentalists attacked the liberalism of the Sufis and their 'depraved' experimental music. One opponent was Aurangzeb - when the musicians held a 'funeral' with their instruments wrapped up in corpses to signify the death of their music under his rule, the cruel emperor was reported to have said: "Good! Bury it so deep that never a sound should be heard again."

Qawwali in the Modern Age

Qawwali achieved a recent wave of popularity in film music, where it forms one of the key components of Hindi films. Without a live audience, these pre-recorded qawwali soundtracks have a more muted and detached character, with virtuosity pumped up and devotionalism played down. Secular qawwali is often seen by its true exponents as being commercial and shallow. The rich, sensual and spiritual words are often twisted in the context of more earthly romantic cinema.

At the Qawwali Concert

Qawwali concerts are a musical gathering, containing a lead singer, second singer, harmonium and tabla and a small choir of other singers all sitting on the floor. It is a communal experience, with the audience being participators and no single person is considered to be more important, in fact, one of qawwali's formal names means "gathering for listening". The traditions of Persian poetry which influences qawwali have similarities here; in the 13th Century Persian poet Attar's epic poem "conference of the birds", a group of birds and a leader go a transformative journey. During the journey the birds realise they do not need a leader as they contain within themselves the inherent powers which the leader showed. The collective experience of Sufism and qawwali is like this, but one can only truly understand the power of qawwali if one experiences the holiness and spirituality of the form.

Qawwali players must be extremely talented musicians and poets, able to adapt to different moods of ceremonies and able to improvise in several languages in different poetic traditions. Often, qawwals are part of historic families who pass down this 'trade' to their offspring. Praise of saints and martyrs of Sufism as well as direct address to the Prophet are common themes in the qawwali.

During the concert, one singer will recite poetry, hand gestures and religious phrases and the second singer will create improvised call and response variations. The main singer then commands the chorus to sing a hypnotic refrain. The variation, improvisation and repetition are carried out to such an extent that the music become hypnotic and meditive, rather like the whirling of the dervishes, leading to a trance-like state. Similarities are seen here with many kind of communal music and shamanistic traditions, from voodoo to African drumming to House and Techno and the minimalist music of composers like Steve Reich. In this heightened state, the participants can achieve fana - spiritual enlightenment. The structure of each song is usually the same - it starts off with a slow ambient opening, then becomes more rhythmical and driving as the music becomes faster pulsed and more intense. It is not uncommon for members of the audience to become extremely ecstatic and throw money at the musicians. Audiences in the States even bang their heads against the wall until unconscious in more extreme manifestations of this ecstatic ritual. One legendary star of qawwal said that "the violence of the ecstasy depends on each person's pain of seperation from his homeland".

Qawwali Guru - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

The speaker was the biggest ever Qawwal star, known as 'Pakistan's Pavarotti', Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Khan said: "When I sing for God, I feel myself in accord with God, and the house of God, Mecca, is right in front of me".

Khan was from a family of qawwal, although he claims he only decided to follow the tradition when he had recurring dreams that he was singing where no other qawwal had sang before - in the shine of Muinuddin Christi, a founding saint of Sufism. His prophecy was later fulfilled and a glorious career ensued. Posssibly the most famous ever name in world music, Khan was one of the truly great cross over artists who was able to bridge geographical, religious and cultural divides with his powerful voice and traditions. Projects included a collaboration with Massive Attack, Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam and Peter Gabriel. Some of his great albums were originally released on Gabriel's Real World record label.

Khan was a huge legend, not just physically, but in his stature, he was worshipped by his fans. Unlike many singers of today, he was admired purely on his amazing vocal skills and also the passion and spirituality he displayed in his amazing improvisations. He was not afraid to mix the sacred with the profane, the popular with the niche, and a meeting of the East with the West, which has lead to his popularity and longevity. Khan died in 1997 aged just 49.


the deviants

Category: By the bug

An album designed to shake the Empire probably shouldn't be characterized as "charming," but the Deviants' Ptooff!, an artifact from England's freak underground circa 1967, is nothing if not beguiling. After all, most people today are afraid to shake the state much, lest it get an upset stomach and spit up. Or, worse yet, it could fall down on top of them. But then! Then! Well, a group of "anarchist art student teenage asshole[s]" could really put the ol' scare into the fattened-for-slaughter ruling class by combining elements of the Fugs, Charles Mingus, and John Cage into something unfathomably artistic, couldn't they? Well, no. But as Mick Farren's sage bio notes: "You live and learn, don't you?"



art ensemble of chicago

Category: By the bug

If only for its sublime evocation of bagpipe tunes of glory and its redemptive use of synthesizer – still an expensive plaything in the hands of most jazz musicians – saxophonist Joseph Jarman's "Prayer for Jimbo Kwesi" is the most striking cut on The Third Decade, the Art Ensemble of Chicago's first studio album since 1980. But, as you might expect from the band that gave eclecticism a good name, there is a little bit of everything here, all of it dazzling: a chiming sonic meditation by saxophonist Roscoe E. Mitchell; an affectionate sendup of a moony 1930s ballad written by Mitchell's amateur-songwriter father; a taut bop line by trumpeter Lester Bowie that would do the Jazz Messengers proud; the requisite pots-and-pans percussion rampage, which leads up to an all-out collective improvisation; even some wicked in-the-pocket funk, with bassist Malachi Favors Maghostut and drummer Famoudou Don Moye showing the way.

The Art Ensemble's five members play more than three score musical instruments and noisemakers. Their versatility, together with the band's respect for textural and dynamic nuance, ensures surprises not only from track to track but from measure to measure. The tranquil interludes that grace even The Third Decade's harsher and more dour selections make it the Art Ensemble of Chicago album to recommend to listeners who categorically reject most avant-garde jazz. Few bands have exerted as decisive or as salubrious an influence on jazz over the last two decades, and on the evidence presented here, it looks as though the Art Ensemble's third decade as a performing unit is off to a promising start.

the third decade



gale garnett

Category: By the bug


Category: By the bug

melodic energy commission

Category: By the bug

MELODIC ENERGY COMMISSION was formed many centuries ago to investigate and experiment with the energy caused by melodies, portrayed through sound patterns often classified as music.
Their original sound patterns were inscribed into clay cylinders and later, vinyl platters then distributed throughout the galaxies. Eventually, the investigations expanded to rhythmic and atonal pattern interpretation. So, more recordings have been created during these investigations and began appearing around planet earth.
On their recent plastic discs the Commissioners have placed advanced communications, disguised as songs and elaborate soundscapes

melody is energy 7"