Tuesday, April 30, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabrothers: Destination 3 Hawaii

Within easy reach of the desk that I write from is a tenor ukulele. Although I don't play it nearly as much as I should, it's there, always within reach whenever I get the urge to strum away. I remember telling my dad  that I was going to get a ukulele because I wanted to learn how to play Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's timeless "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World" medley. He laughed and didn't think much of it. The next time I saw him I pulled out my ukulele and did my best Kamakawiwoʻole impression; well, the best a haole like myself can. I don't think it was a coincidence that I was inspired by a 700 pound Hawaiian man to play a ukulele. The ukulele is the perfect "get-away" instrument, just as Hawaii for generations has been the epitome of get-away.

Today's destination is the music of Hawaii, music that reflects this ideal. Hawaii's isolation has allowed the islands to develop their own musical sound. This sound, like Hawaii, is a mix of influences; in this includes Polynesian instruments, mellow beach living, and a fierce sense of local pride. I had a great time researching these jams and got a real appreciation for their musical styles and genres like the slack-key guitar, Jawaiian (Hawaiian reggae), and traditional Hawaiian folk music. Check out the playlist below to get a small taste of the many musical sounds of the islands.

Monday, April 29, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabrothers: Destination 2 Rio de Janeiro

Que Beleza!

Brazil is arguably the most musical (and overall radical) country in the world. I lived there in 2012 and arrived during carnival. My friend and super talented artist (future Jamandahalf post pending) Lu Negrao picked me up from the airport. After a quick shower, we hit the street to start drinking beers, Brazilian style, in a small corner bar. It was the middle of Carnival. There was a group sitting in the street playing samba music with hordes of people dancing around them. From there we went to one of the most local and rootsy samba spots in the world. We danced the night away to a live band of about 15 musicians; many of whom were playing traditional Brazilian instruments. It was one of the most fun nights of my life. In Brazil music is culture.

Samba is the iconic genre of Brazilian music. However, Brazilians are responsible for spawning dozens of different styles of music e.g. Forró, Funky, Samba Rock, Bossa Nova, MPB, Choro, etc.

The playlist that follows is not a complete representation of Brazilian music but it is a small taste of how diverse and amazing it is. Jorge Ben and Seu Jorge are the kings of samba rock, Natiruts kicks irie reggae vibes, Marcel D2 fuses rap and samba, and Tim Maia brought funk music to what is already a ridiculously funky country.

*Dont forget to check out the video of the most popular “Brazilian Funky” song ever, which talks about life in Brazil's favelas around in and around Rio.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabrothers: Destination 1 Puerto Rico

To start off this whirlwind tour of the world there are few places that would make a better first stop than today's country, Puerto Rico. This tiny, unincorporated territory of the US has a rich musical history, one that rivals its more well known Caribbean neighbor Cuba. Although we might associate musical genres such as Salsa, Reggaeton, and Merengue more with other Caribbean nations, Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rican artists, has taken these genres and made them its own. Puerto Rican artists dominate Reggaeton, spawning worldwide hits that provide a respite from recent tough economic times. Puerto Rican salsa artists have weaved rhythm that will have you humming along even though you think you've never heard the song. And our favorites Calle 13 have become global artists while never forgetting their whimsical style nor their own people's struggles. Puerto Rico starts us off on our musical journey with bright eyes and ears itching to hear more of the world's best music.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabrothers: 30 Musical Countries in 30 Days

Griffdawg's childhood friends Marko and Alex Ayling, who I've gotten to know over frequent trips to San Sebastian, are in the running for a radical journey of a lifetime. They are in the Top Ten finalists of the Biggest, Baddest, Bucketlist Competition, and are a few weeks away from finding out if they'll be the winners of an all expenses paid, six-month, six continent, (and a $50,000 cash prize) journey around the world. As a finalist they have made a bucket list of the 30 countries they would visit and are posting each day at www.Vagabrothers.com about why they have picked that country. To accompany them around their fantastical 30 day journey, we here at JamandaHalf are going to make a playlist and post each day for 30 days to highlight and describe one of the most important parts of travelling and getting to know a culture: the music. We'll start off tomorrow with Puerto Rico and then journey around the world with the Vagabros. Check out their great video below (which got them to this point) and vote for them here. Best of luck Vagabros!

Friday, April 26, 2013

GriffDawg's Choice Nugs: Los Delinqüentes

I moved to San Sebastian, Spain in January of 2012 on the recommendation of my great friends and Vagabrothers, Marko and Alex Ayling.  I moved for the wild adventures, excitement and new experiences.  Hemingway, stories about Spanish culture, bullfights, tapas, warm weather, and flamenco stoked my excitement. 

I took the train from Madrid to San Sebastian on a cold January night.  As our train pulled into the station, the conductor announced that we were arriving in “Donostia.”  I was confused because the next stop should have been San Sebastian.  I looked around wildly and noticed that no one looked as concerned as I did.  In a wave of panic, I ran to an elderly gentleman who was donning a funny little hat and asked,

“Disculpé señor pero, ¿¡¿ Cuándo llegaremos a San Sebastián?!?”

With a quizzical look on his face he replied,

“Pues, hijo, ya estamos en Donosti.”

That moment I realized I was on a different adventure from the one, which I had envisioned. Donostia, or Donosti for short, is the Basque name for San Sebastian. I quickly learned that natives proudly consider themselves Basque and not Spanish. They have culture, language, and history different from the other parts of Spain and they have oft been ostracized.

I love the Basque Country.  It is an amazing place that is as culturally and traditionally rich as it is naturally beautiful.  However, here, Spanish is not cool.   If you come here with a Real Madrid jersey you will probably be called a fascist.  No one listens to flamenco music, bull fighting is frowned upon, and tapas have been renamed “pintxos.”

When Basques allow something Spanish into their little world you know that is radical.[1]  My favorite examples of Spanish imports are; ham from Extremadura, wine from La Rioja[2], and the super radical band Los Delinqüentes from Andalusia.    

Los Delinqüentes, made music worthy of Spanish adventures, life on the streets, farms, and in the plazas of southern Spain.  The band’s members came from humble backgrounds and frequently busked in the Central Jerez Train Station.  Later, they adopted the tick as their symbol due to its association with farm and street life. The music, deeply rooted in flamenco and rock and roll, was crisp and energetic.  Their lyrics highlighted the tomfoolery omnipresent Spanish plazas and in their “tick” lifestyle. 

The band was formed in Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz in 1998 by Marcos del Ojo and Miguel Benitez who were both 15 at the time.  Because Los Delinqüentes were always in the street their mentor and guitar teacher, Diego Pozo, gave Marcos and Migue guitar lessons on the front step of the Jerezano Movie Theater.  Later that year, Marcos y Migue incorporated Diego into the mythical band.  After recording their second demo, the band was signed to Virgin Records.

The trio, made three albums before Migue died of a heart attack at the age 21.  Migue had the attack shortly after a series of stints in rehab.  The band has since come out with three more albums and gained a certain amount of international exposure.   What follows are just some of their JAMANDAHALFS!

[1]The autonomous community of the Basque Country is located the northeastern corner of Spain and is the about the size of Delaware.  The unofficially recognized Basque Country, which includes parts of other Spanish communities and a part of France, is closer in size to New Jersey. 
[2] Basques claim that the part of La Rioja which lies north of the Ebro River as their own.