Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fauré and Xzibit: A Classic Sample

A few weeks ago, I went with my lady friend to see the Basque National Orchestra at the Kursaal.  It was great to hear some quality live music in a city whose music scene consists of people playing the Txistu or Txalaparta and the occasional jazz band playing in a bar that looks like a cave.  That is not to say that there is not some cool music in the Basque Country because there most certainly is.[1]   Nonetheless, the show was much appreciated.

My favorite part of the show was when they played Pavane, Gabriel Fauré’s opus 50.  It lasted six minutes and I was bouncing and bobbing in my seat the whole time.  From the get-go until its end, the elderly couple sitting next to me must have thought I was having a sort of seizure.  I was in the groove and even busted out into a little rap from time to time.  The reason for my antics was that Pavane was sampled in the classic Xzibit song Paparazzi Live and Video.

Two great jams and one great moment for me, although I think that I creeped everyone else out. 

[1] Future JamandaHalf post pending

Thursday, May 23, 2013

JamandaHalf Does South Africa

Gator is one of the most potent DJs I have ever known.  Today, he graces JamandaHalf with an epic playlist as well as some knowledge about South African music and culture.  The Young Geezuz spent half of 2011 in his usual style, living like a king in Cape Town and studying African drum rhythms.  This is what he learned.  Thanks brother and much love!
If the United States is the melting pot of different cultures, than South Africa could be referred to as the pressure cooker.  With 11 different official languages recognized in the constitution (English being the 5th most-spoken), the people of South Africa are truly an amalgamation of different cultures, each bringing its own values, beliefs, and music styles to the incredibly diverse modern state of South Africa. 

South African music reflects the country's muddled past, with artists combining different styles and techniques to create something new.  Many famous South African artists draw from the traditional techniques of the great native cultures of South Africa, such as the Xhosa, Zulu, and Sotho.  Other modern artists have been inspired by their European side, with house and techno vibes infused in their club thumping jams.  Most South African artists, however, have grown up listening to a wide variety of different genres and styles, and incorporate a bit of this and a bit of that to create something fresh.  This playlist ranges from Techno Pop songs to the traditional hymn that was used in The Lion King, so if you don’t like one jam, just go on to the next.  


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ramblings on Dylan, Otis, Havens, Nina, Lennon, & Songwriting

Ten days ago, star JamandaHalf correspondent, Jeff Cairney sent Leks and I one of the most firey JamandaHalf posts ever.  The post was so potent that before we could make it public we needed to listen to Richie Havens nonstop for a week and a half.  Jeff has been blessing us with some of the most radical posts over the years and is one of the most soulful, intelligent, and good vibed dudes out there.  In his latest installment, Jeff gives us a little history lesson mixed with a splash of theory to sip on.  Many Thanks and Much Love. 

Richie Havens passed away a few weeks ago. I’ve thus been spending considering time recently with his repertoire and taking him in as he fades away. And I came across something...

Back in 1966, Bob Dylan wrote a “Just Like A Woman” for Otis Redding. It’s Dylan’s soul song (or one of them) and would have been incredible and at home if sung by the soulful Redding. Unfortunately, Otis passed away before he had the chance to record it (or before Dylan had a chance to convince Redding that he should record it). I've always thought of this as a missed opportunity…

So though we’ll never have Redding’s version of Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman”, perhaps what we do have is the next best thing. Richie Havens, in my opinion one of the most underrated and under-the-radar soul singers, did record “Just Like A Woman”. So in the end, this world is blessed with Dylan’s soul expressed by a great soul singer:

And it doesn’t stop there. Nina Simone, inspired by the style and lyrics of this Dylan song, decided to do her own soulful rendition (obviously not caring that the song was written for a man):

Then this got me thinking about Nina. And as Otis inspired Dylan who inspired Nina, Nina was also and continues to be an incredible inspiration for so many different people. Take even the Beatles, for example. Paul McCartney got stuck when writing the song “Michelle” and didn't know how to start the second verse. John Lennon, inspired by Nina Simone’s version of “I Put A Spell On You” that he had heard the night before, told Paul to use the phrase Nina skats out to amazingly weave the saxophone solo back into the song lyrics. This is the “I love you, I love you, I love you” that so simply sums up the meaning of “Michelle”.

Indeed, these are words that go together well.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabros: The End of a Journey

All good trips have to end sometime and this one was particularly memorable. Now that the Vagabrothers are in London, getting ready for whatever adventures and competitions may come (on their way to hopefully winning an around the world trip!!), our around the world musical journey has come to an end. But like all good adventures, the end of this one starts the beginning of another. Look out tomorrow for the start of a new chapter for JamandaHalf as we strive to bring you music that transcends boundaries. As well, to recap the 13 country journey we just took, check out our favorites from the many countries we "visited" over the last two weeks.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabrothers Destination 12: Romania

Romania’s music is good vibes.  Most of it can be roughly categorized as gypsy folk music, radical classical, crappy poppy club, or some sort of amalgamation.

The folk gypsy music is world renowned and characterized by traditional instruments such as the caboza and the tarogato  and reputed for its high energy. The country also produced many great classical composers during its time as part of the Ottoman Empire. However, today homegrown pop stars such as Alexandra Stan dominate the radio while artists like Nicolae Guta and the Mahala Rai Banda bridge the gap between old and new by fusing club and dance music with more traditional sounds. One thing's for sure Romanians must dance well! 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabrothers Destination 11: Turkey

Don't forgot to Like us on Facebook for your chance to win a free month of Spotify Premium! As well, follow us and the Vagabrothers on Twitter. 

One of the most amazing experiences you can do for under $2 is crossing the Bosphorus river in Istanbul from the European side to the Asian side. Crossing the stretch of water is the best way to get a sense of the historical, physical, and cultural immenseness of the city. An amalgamation of East/West, Istanbul can perhaps best be defined by the "/". Turkish music, although less so, is also best described as a mix between the ancient and the modern, of strong musical roots based on thousands of years of civilization, and of swirling changes that puts it directly in 2013.

Friday, May 10, 2013

JamandaHalfxThe Vagabrothers Destination 10: Ecuador

Today, we accompany the light speed traveling Vagabros to Ecuador. Ecuadorian music is a representation of the country’s ethnic and regional diversity.  The country's African, Andean, Spanish and indigenous communities have influenced its radical music. In a typical song, light guitar picking and irie flutes might accompany lovesick lyrics or songs about condors. Ecuador's music, with a more Spanish vibe, features flamenco style guitar and percussion with vocals reminiscent of great Mexican ranchero ballads.  

¡Buenazo sabor andino!  ¡Que lo disfrutáis!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabrothers Destination 9: Cabo Verde

One day it would be amazing to replicate the type of trip Griff and I are taking, in "real" life of course, and visit perhaps 30 countries in 120 days or so. We would use those 96 hours to see live music and talk to as many locals as possible about what makes the music of that country special and how it relates to their culture, history, etc. But doing this virtual traveling, delving into the depths of Spotify, does have its benefits and one of those is being able to wake up and find ourselves not in dusty Rajasthan but in the tiny Atlantic island nation of Cabo Verde.

Cabo Verde's history has been a story of transit, immigration, and emigration. Cabo Verde was used as a stopover from Europe to the "new world" and Africa and was populated by the Portuguese and the African slaves they brought with them. The tiny archipelago therefore shares links to both Portuguese and Brazilian musical cultures, while its proximity to West Africa gives it even more flavor. However, behind the veneer of beaches and sun lies decades of stagnant economic growth (until recently) and many Cabo Verdians left, looking for a better life away (there are currently more Cabo Verdians living away from the islands than on the islands themselves). Cabo Verdian music reflects both this joy and melancholiness, and its national genre Morna birthed an international superstar in Cesária Évora. For such a tiny nation, Cabo Verde bursts with music and we did our best to capture a small panorama below. Tell us what you think!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabrothers Destination 8: Rajasthan

Don't forgot to Like us on Facebook for your chance to win a free month of Spotify Premium! As well, follow us and the Vagabrothers on Twitter. 

When you're travelling, no amount of guidebooks nor internet forums can replace the wisdom of a local. Being able to see a city through the eyes of someone who lives there gives you a different perspective than being on your own, allowing you to live the city, not just see the sights.

While Griffdawg and I can scour the internet in search of the jams that begin to define a country's musical heritage, it can't come close to someone who has lived that heritage. Today's destination is brought to you by Mrinal, a good friend I met while interning in Hyderabad, India. Currently living and working in Bangalore, Mrinal's musical wisdom runs deep. A budding musician himself, Mrinal is the drummer of Divine Raaga (check out a song from them below and an interview coming soon!), a Bangalore-based band that recently made waves in the Hard Rock Cafe's global battle of the bands, playing in the top 50 out of thousands of bands worldwide. Presenting a best-of "Indian music" playlist is impossible, as is a best of "Indian food" dinner-India's cultural, linguistic, and musical landscape is so vast that it would be impossible to define in a few songs (or plates!). Mrinal writes, "I have tried to represent (albeit its impossible) the current modern soundscape that Indian music is," and shares with us a playlist that draws from many different backgrounds, some of them quite surprising to a non-local ear. Enjoy the YouTube playlist below (as many of the songs weren't on Spotify) and let us know what you think! Thanks again Mrinal.

Monday, May 6, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabrothers Destination 7: Kenya

Don't forgot to Like us on Facebook for your chance to win a free month of Spotify Premium! As well, follow us and the Vagabrothers on Twitter. 

What's amazed me more than anything as we take this jaunt around the world is the clear, distinct, links between music from starkly different places in the world. Ghanaian calypso sounds like it could have been made in Costa Rica in the 60s, Brazilian funk shares the same melancholy feel as the Delta Blues, and Omani folk shares many common sounds with today's country, Kenya. Music, like language, is alive, and throughout history different cultures have picked and chose their way across musical currents, a slow motion mish mashing that has created these undeniably unique, but nonetheless intrinsically similar, music styles and heritages. Kenya, the Vagabrother's destination of choice for today, is home to one of the richest musical traditions of East Africa. And once again exist these clear musical connections, even to the untrained ear, that shine brightly.

The opening licks of "Ajali Haikingiti" sound eerily familiar to any Vampire Weekend fan and could easily fit in with any of their track on Contra; this Kenyan jam of course came decades before the Brooklynites gave us "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa". In other traditional Kenyan folk music you can hear echos of Oman, carried by trades routes and the trading language of Swahili along the Indian Ocean. In more modern Kenyan music you hear the fruits of the musical return of the African diaspora, with New York in this case influencing Nairobi. It is this musical give and take that has always influenced and defined music. In the case of Kenya this push and pull is especially noticeable and tangible. Check out the playlist below to hear what I mean.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

JamandaHalf & The Vagabrothers Destination 6: Oman

Don't forgot to Like us on Facebook for your chance to win a free month of Spotify Premium! As well, follow us and the Vagabrothers on Twitter. 

Once again, I find myself blown away by all the sweet music that there is in the world.  Not only does Oman have a great flag but they also have amazing music. Oman sits on the Arabian Sea and borders Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and The United Arab Emirates. As we are learning, musical heritage is an expression of traditional culture, sociopolitical history and regional location. Regional instruments, neighboring countries, and countries with political ties to the sultanate (e.g. Zanzibar) have shaped Omani music. Music, dance and art play an important role in the lives of Omanis.

For more information on Omani folk music please check out the Omani Center for Traditional Music

Download Omani Music

Download Omani Music

Download Omani Folk Music 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

JamandaHalfxVagabros Destination 5: Costa Rica

Don't forgot to Like us on Facebook for your chance to win a free month of Spotify Premium! As well, follow us and the Vagabrothers on Twitter. 

Unlike its pristine beaches and lush rainforests, the music of Costa Rica isn't well known outside of its own borders. And that's a shame. While Costa Rica doesn't seem to have the heavy hitters that Brazil or Puerto Rico do, those names that a casual music fan will know, it does have a very interesting musical culture and one that seems to be rooted in traditionality while also just now finding itself. While sharing some similarities with Puerto Rico and the Caribbean sound, Costan Rican music seems to have much more of a Spanish and African influence, and some tracks on this list would sound just at home on a playlist about music from Andalucia or Ghana (especially the Calypso tracks). Last but not least, this is likely the only country we will musically visit which will feature a twenty minute track of nothing but the sounds of nature. We know the Vagabros love their oceans and the sound of daybreak at the Corcovado National Park, the blissful mix of the crashing waves and the awakening jungle, is a symphony that we hope the two will be able to wake up to in a few short months.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

JamandaHalf&The Vagabrothers Destination 4: Australia

Today we accompany the Vagabrothers to Australia!

Before last week, I knew little Aussie music. I thought all Aussie music was ACDC, Silverchair, Men at Work, and Xavier Rudd. I was way off the mark and took great pleasure in researching this country's rich musical culture. Thanks to the help (and great musical taste) of my friend Jay Donnell, we at JamandaHalf were able to construct a playlist, which I believe does justice to this radical island continent.

Aussies are renowned travelers and their music reflects this interaction with other cultures and types of music.  I have even included a song by Wadhom, a French band, because they rock the didgeridoo sooooo hard that they merit a spot on the playlist.

Life is a soundtrack and we at Jamandahalf are proud to provide the Vagabrothers with the soundtrack for their future adventures.  

*if you dont have spotify.... download it.  It is sick.  And free.  

You didnt think we forgot about ACDC did ya???