Thursday, October 9, 2014

Luke Spehar-Sweet Memories

Madrid is very reluctantly letting summer slip from her sweaty palm. Hints of chilliness make their way down from the mountains only to be squashed by the sun who cheekily waves its finger back and forth like a celestial Dikembe Mutumbo.

Despite the warmth, autumn has begun and my ear has been calling for music that leaves the pounding melodies of summer behind. I always find myself slanting towards acoustic tunes around this type of year and today's jamandahalf was a great discovery. Luke Spehar just put out his third album and it's been the perfect autumn herald. Spehar draws on themes from his past, growing up with a love for wilderness, and a deeply religious upbringing, including time spent pondering priesthood. 

Produced by JamandaHalf favorite Ben Harper, All Is Gift is full of of mellow sounds, gentle riffs, and lyrics. All three of these attributes shine on today's track, "Sweet Memories". Check out "Sweet Memories" on Spotify below or purchase All Is Gift here and make start this fall off right. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Divine Raaga-I'm Divine Raaga (Album Review)

Listening to Divine Raaga's debut album I was magically transformed into a Bollywood movie star, aviator sunglasses on, zooming away on a Royal Enfield motorcycle after beating the bad guy, the faint hint of my mullet dancing in the humid Bombay breeze.

I'm Divine Raaga is above all sonically cinematic, layers of sounds coming together to tell seven four-minute long stories. It's not much of a reach to picture each one as the musical side dish to your favorite Indian movie although by themselves they are also unique and filling.

While I can't understand the lyrics, no Duolingo is needed to understand the breadth of influences present in the too-brief 34 minutes of the album. Although rooted in classical Indian music, the boys are never afraid to surprise you with sounds borrowed sounds from other musical cultures: a little didgeridoo here, a honky tonk piano there. What holds the album together, and what might be most surprising to a listener who is unfamiliar with Indian music culture, is that Divine Raaga is never afraid to rock out. Metal riffs give a welcome edge of their sound and surprisingly sound right at home next to flutes and more traditional Indian instruments. There is a deep love for heavy metal in India (check out this video of Metallica's concert in Bangalore) and the boys of Divine Raaga pay homage to their style throughout.

I strongly recommend checking out I'm Divine Raaga below on Spotify or paying a little more than $1 for their full album. It's a great 30 minute introduction to modern Indian music and is a stellar debut. Look out for more from my buddy Mrinal and the rest of the band on these pages soon!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jorge Ben Jor-País Tropical

The World Cup recently closed its door on arguably the greatest month of football that the world has ever seen. Germany took home the trophy after probably playing the most consistently good footie and are world champions for the next four years; not that most Germans needed any more reason to be smug :).

Although the Die Mannschaft took the hardware and the glory, Brazil as a country was the true champ of the tourney. Despite FIFA inefficiencies, broken promises by their government, and a pretty nasty media wave before the Cup, Brazilians were incredibly hospitable and warm to my buddy Kai and I in our two weeks there. We got to see four great games and crisscrossed the north in an incredibly memorable trip with my only real regret being that we weren't able to see more live music. When I do think back I realize that although we didn't see any shows we were constantly surrounded by music-live forró on the way to games in Fortaleza, the drum rhythms of impromptu capoeira sessions on the beach, samba blasting from cars... Brazilians are famous for having a joie de vivre and a song that captures this is "País Tropical" by Jorge Ben Jor. Today's jamandahalf moves to the beat of Brazil-fast, energetic, and alive-and has me nostalgic and shaking my butt within seconds of putting it on every time.

Thanks for reading, more jams are coming!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Choice Nugs: Juan Cirerol

Although I am tempted to describe Juan Cirerol as a Mexican Johnny Cash stirred up with some Bob Dylanesque harmonica, Juan is his own man. He hails from Mexicali and plays Musica Norteña, which is traditional ranch music from the Mexican American border.  Nevertheless, Juan does not sing about cows.  He prefers songs about love, loneliness, and drugs. A complete singer/songwriter, Juan boasts a great voice, provocative lyrics, amazing skill on the guitar, and talent with a harmonica.  

On Saturday, I drove to Tijuana, with my friend Samalama, to see his show at the Black Box.  Before leaving, we checked Juan’s Facebook, and Twitter pages to confirm that he was going to play the show.  The day before, he posted multiple comments about having already arrived in Tijuana and his upcoming performance at the Black Box.  Upon arrival, we were greeted by bewildered concertgoers.  Why were the doors shut and ticket office closed?  A handwritten note on the venue door said that the concert was cancelled due to reasons out of the venue’s hands.  I got the feeling that this was not the first time Juan had been a no-show for his own party.  Over the past few years, he has earned quite the reputation for being a wild character

Like countless musicians before him (and despite or perhaps because of his brilliance), Juan seems to be on a path of self destruction.  I fear that he will not live to be very old. Next time he says that he is going to be in town I will be there even though I will not expect him to do the same.