Music is human. And here, King of Bongo will show you the best music available on the internet. What you will find: a vibrant source of sounds and vibes, grooves and noise, some you will never have heard before. Are you ready to go on the journey?

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Session 7: Zydeco Pioneer

Clifton and Cleveland Chenier Hey people, King of Bongo hopes you're all enjoying yourselves. Today, a little treat from one of the most under-appreciated forms of music.

Louisiana-based Blacks probably picked up the accordion in advance of their Cajun neighbours, and cooked up what's now called 'Zydeco'. Originally a fusion, as of so many displaced-peoples' music, of elements both near and far, in zydeco you can hear Caribbean, Afro and Latin influences. The music was a slow, relaxed groove, sung in French.

Then, along comes Clifton Chenier. Born in 1925, given his first accordion in 1937, playing with his brother Clevland on rub-board ('frottoir'), his professional career began on '54 when he released minor hit record "Clifton's Blues". He gave up his day jobs (truck-driving and pipe-hauling) and began touring extensively with the Zydeco Ramblers. Clifton injected an immense energy and style into the formerly slower-paced music, and couldn't help but build up a loyal following.

But you don't just want the history - you want to know about the music. So KoB has 2 tracks today, capturing cape'n'crown-wearing Clifton at the top of his form. Recorded in 1965 for Arhoole Records (and cleaned up in 2005 to sound good-as-new), 10 years after his professional debut - Clifton had been given a new lease of life after signing to the label, and over the next 20 years he recorded and toured to acclaim.

Louisiana Blues & Zydeco, by Clifton Chenier
Buy "Louisiana Blues & Zydeco" from Amazon

Stricken by illness, Clifton still carried on performing, and was on stage a week before his death on December 12, 1987.

Clifton Chenier: "When the red light goes on and the tape is running through the machine, I want to perform the song just once and go on to the next tune. Let's not mess around trying to get a better take. The best is the first."

Ladies and gentlemen - enjoy some fine zydeco accordion from Mr Clifton Chenier:
Zydeco et Pas Sale [mp3 | 03:15 mins | 192 kbps | 4.48 MB]
Louisiana Two Step [mp3 | 03:48 mins | 192 kbps | 5.23 MB]
File under: Squeezbox Francais
[Click on the link and you’ll be taken to yousendit where you can download the track. First come first served people, only 7 days and/or 25 downloads allowed!]

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sonic Dragnet #2: BendingCorners

Every month King of Bongo moseys on down to BendingCorners, a cool place to hang out and where the music is groovy, jazzy, and eclectic, to pick up the wicked hour-long mix from the resident DJ. The mix is generally based on a theme - e.g. "Luscious" is a set that 'explores the lush and lovely side of jazz-n-groove,' and "Desert Moments" is a tribute to the 'Burning Man' wackos.

Of ultra-high quality, these sets blend known and some not-so-well known tracks, ranging from artists like Herbie Hancock, Miles, Cecil McBee to high-calibre Scandinavian warblers like Jaga Jazzist. Slip a mix onto your mp3 player, close your eyes, and enjoy an hour-plus of excellent beats and grooves.

Support the guy! BendingCorners is a CRUCIAL website!

One of KoB's favourite mixes is the sublime "Hangin' Onto Summer", created in 2004, where BendingCorners takes you on a journey celebrating that 'Indian Summer' mood. The vista opens with Lonnie Liston Smith, passes through Pharoah Sanders (King of Bongo stalwarts!), and spins into a delicious meld of modern beats and rhythms, perfectly capturing that fleeting summer moment. Lie back and bliss out!

hangin' onto summer [mp3 | 79 mins | 67.5 MB]
Lonnie Liston Smith "Meditations / Love Beams"
Teddy Rok Seven " Feel"
Minus 8 "White"
Paola Fedreghini "Please Don't Leave (The Essential Mix)"
Pharoah Sanders "Pharomba"
Donald Byrd "Places & Spaces"
DJ Spinna "Lansanna's Priestess"
Luke Vibert "Start The Panic"
James Hardway "Velocity Curves"
Yannah "Bagdance"
Les Gammas "Mango Boogie (Solinarium Strings Remix)"
Spinning Wheel "Sunshine In My Soul"
Build An Ark "The Blessing Song"
SK Radicals "Reachin 4 Da Farside"
Faze Action "Samba"
Kabuki "Tempest (AtJazz Mix)"

Friday, April 28, 2006

Session 6: S.O.U.L.

Hey people

Time to move away from jazz for a while, and explore the other sounds and concepts that make up the rhythmic world of King of Bongo.... Today is our first foray into that deep well of sorrow and happiness, that combined repository of true spiritual wisdom and profane sexual lusts. Yep, soul.

At one end of the spectrum is the gospel-tinged ecstatic music of the late fifties, where girls called Sister Waynetta Thorpe belted out songs in voices that belied their pure appearance. At the other, mid-seventies funkmasters engaged in hour-long jams of pure sweat and little lyrical content. And in the middle, some sublime sounds and stirring rhythms created a beautiful mix of the Sacred and Profane....

And what better way to begin our celebration of soul than with an eponymous song from THE eponymous band:
What Is It/Can You Feel It, by S.O.U.L.

S.O.U.L. (Sounds Of Unity and Love) emerged from Cleveland in 1970, and at once it could be seen they were something a bit special. On the track today, "Soul" Lee Lovett here sings a truly sad tale of an elderly rich man who, though well off, feels something is missing from his life. Lee, weeping, tells the old man that what he's missing is "soul", his tearful explanation accompanied by angelic voices spelling out the elusive quality so desperately searched for. But, as Lee says, "you may be old, but you can still have soul."

Buy "What Is It/Can You Feel It" from Amazon

A monster track, clocking in at almost 9 minutes, the first half is entirely given up to a funky flute/bass mezcla, underpinned by a skipping drum pattern. As the song kicks into gear, Lee lets loose with mighty exhortations - "Soul, Good God Almighty!" A blistering track, now handily collected into a two-album-one-one-cd. Buy - Good God, buy!

King of Bongo says, you may be old, but YOU can still have soul, by downloading it here...
Soul, by S.O.U.L. [mp3 | 08:53 mins | 192 kbps | 12.2 MB]
File under: Funky Exhortation

[Click on the link and you’ll be taken to yousendit where you can download the track. First come first served people, only 7 days and/or 25 downloads allowed!]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Session 5: AfroAmerica Part 2: Pharoah Sanders

Sun Ra dubbed 22-year-old Ferrell Sanders "Pharoah" when they performed together in New York in 1962. Why? Well, who knows, but the name stuck - and of course, from Sun Ra it was a prophecy. It's hard to believe that going through your life named Ferrell would inspire you to commune with your ancient and mystical roots....

Moving into the John Coltrane Jazz Universe in '65, young Pharoah gleefully joined in with 'Trane's experimental flowering, until the master's death in '67. After spending a while in collaboration with Alice Coltrane, Pharoah began an earnest exploration of his African roots, culminating in some exquisite sounds, a pure meld of African and Jazz.

Less political than Mr Shepp, Pharoah delved in to the spiritual side of music, and despite some ill-advised forays into commerciality, has maintained that link.

Trying to select a sample Pharoah track from his early '70s period is difficult, as his LP's are of a piece. Collaborator (and soon to be reinvented 'Love-Boat'-style character) Lonnie Liston Smith and Sanders created a strong theme of Afro-centric rhythms, over which Pharoah and other initiates such as Cecil McBee (Bass) soloed and worked-out. It's at this time that Pharoah developed the uncanny ability to make "a saxophone to continue to shriek for minutes after removing it from his mouth".

To King of Bongo, it's a toss-up between 'Thembi' and 'Summun, Bukmun, Umyun' as to the best LP of the period. And as the 2 tracks of 'Summun, Bukman, Umyun' are 20 mins each, 'Thembi' it is.
Thembi, by Pharoah Sanders

Buy "Thembi" from Amazon

From the origal liner notes by Keorapetse Kgositsile:
Continuities, yes,
the song, memorial and now.
It is from here
Pharoah takes our ear
breaking the silence of our spirit & walls.
Remember slave bells?
And desire? Red, Black & Green;
THEMBI, the woman, home.

The six tracks on the album explore the full range of Pharoah's preoccupations: Astral Travelling (composed by Lonnie Liston Smith) is a melodic meditation piece, Red, Black & Green is a true wigout; Love contains a celebrated bass solo by McBee; Morning Dance follows, with a celebratory theme overlaid on tribal percussion, merging into the final track, Bailophone Dance, where Pharoah does his furious sax delivery.

Featuring Pharoah (soprano & tenor sax, bells, percussion), Michael White (violin, percussion), Lonnie Liston Smith (piano, electric piano, claves, percussion), Cecil McBee (Bass, finger cymbals, percussion) et al, title track Thembi was recorded on November 25 1970 at The Record plant, NYC. Dedicated to daughter Nomathemba Sanders, a Xhosa name meaning hope, faith and love. And with love, King of Bongo presents:
Thembi, by Pharoah Sanders [mp3 | 07:02 mins | 192 kbps | 9.96 MB]
File under: Thembi, the woman, home
[Click on the link and you’ll be taken to yousendit where you can download the track. First come first served people, only 7 days and/or 25 downloads allowed!]

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

King of Bongo's Sonic Dragnet #1 - Maga Bo

Hey people, what's going on? Hopefully you're groovin' and enjoying the selections here at King of Bongo - the aim is simple: to please, man, just to please.

Right now KoB is going to give you the first in a series of recommendations of crucial sounds you can find on the internet. KoB shouts out to all mp3bloggers out there, and also those DJ's and mixers out there. You're doing a vital and fundamentally righteous job.

And to all you copyright freaks out there - well, KoB believes that these mp3blogs (including home sweet home) act as conduits - we recommend sounds we love, and encouraging others to love the sounds can only be good. If people support the featured artists and buy their music because they heard a cool track or sound on an mp3blog - and ONLY because they heard it - then that enriches the artist AND the listener.

OK, enough polemic - right now KoB is going to give a huge recommendation to a certain Mr Maga Bo. For those of you who don't know....

Maga Bo is a hi-tech DJ based in Rio de Janeiro, and his groove is to weld beats and styles from all over the world. And in this case, that means ALL over the world; a true blend of unclassifiable beats and sounds liven up an already inspiring mix of cutting-edge ragga, dub and breakbeat, plus truly atmospheric samples from street markets in Senegal, pirated tapes, choice vinyl, banglabeat, Hindu chants and smoking Moroccan cuts. It has to be heard to believed, and has barely left KoB's headphones in the last 2 weeks as he's working out in the sweatshop.
Maga Bo
The Inspiring Maga Bo

KoB isn't gonna snatch Maga Bo's bandwidth - his website is easy enough to navigate, and there are some KILLER tracks and mixes. But, in particular, you MUST check out Live Mix from Fez, Morocco, May 30 2005 and his work on the Brazil Network where every month this hardworking soundsmith produces a half hour show of the best of Brazilian music, old and new. Oh, yeah, Maga Bo has just released a twisted mix of found sounds and other madness at Blentwell's Blentcasts.

You just have to check out the tracklist for the Fez gig; 49 tracks squeezed into 1 hour, including Marvin Gaye, Brazilian and mixed rhythms, spliced with pirate tapes and Senegalese madness! Personal favourite - the accordion-backed Portuguese rap (of course!)

Support the man - he's doing CRUCIAL work!

Respect and love
King of Bongo

Monday, April 24, 2006

Session 4: AfroAmerica Part 1: Archie Shepp

Recorded in a frenetic 3 day period at the end of January 1972, Archie Shepp's "Attica Blues" remains a fierce indictment of America's treatment of Black prisoners in particular, and the "last days of judgement in North America" in general.

Having emerged from the shadow of John Coltrane in the mid-60's, Shepp followed his own path, indulging and stretching his musical and political instincts, and forging mighty ideas in the crucible of East Coast Black culture. LPs such as "Fire Music" (including a tribute to Malcolm X), "The Magic of Ju-Ju" testified to his interests in the African roots of Jazz, and in his particular schtick of be-bop.

Then came two defining events for Black Americans, with ultra-significant after-affects that still resonate down the years.

On August 21 1971, 3 days before his case was to go to trial, Black Panther George Jackson was killed during an "escape attempt" at San Quentin prison. The official report into the killing accused Jackson of participating in a riot earlier that day, involving two dozen other prisoners, where three corrections officers and two inmates were tortured and killed.

Mere days after, on September 9 1971, prisoners at Attica, after demanding better living conditions, showers, education, and vocational training, exploded in a 4-day riot of violence and hostage taking. When over one thousand NY State police and correction officers stormed the facility to end the revolt, over 40 people died, including 11 of the 39 hostages.

The media claimed that many of the hostages had been killed by the prisoners, but it was later established that all but one of the hostages were shot by state troopers or prison officers. The public was faced with the following telling factors: of the 2,300 inmates, between 75% to 85% were of Afro-American or Puerto Rican extraction. All of the 383 correctional officers where white. Reports of beatings with batons dubbed "Nigger Sticks" were rife, and in the heady days of the Black Panthers, many prisons transferred their troublesome revolutionary Black inmates to Attica.

Attica Blues, by Archie Shepp
Buy "Attica Blues" from Amazon

It doesn't take much insight to see that Archie Shepp must have composed "Attica Blues" in a torrent of rage - but that didn't prevent the 10 experimental and groovy cuts on the album being tight and compelling. Referencing both events, Shepp weaves a magical spell, even cutting a vocal track with flugelhornist and lyricist Cal Massey's daughter Waheeda, who was 7 years old at the time. A vital slab of vinyl at the time, now lovingly reissued by Impulse!

Postscript: 27 years after the Attica riot, the State of New York settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the families of the slain inmates, paying a 12 million dollar financial settlement in autumn 2004.

King of Bongo presents:
Blues for Brother George Jackson, by Archie Shepp [mp3 | 04:00 mins | 192 kbps | 5.64 MB]
File under: Inspirational Elegaic Jazz

[Click on the link and you’ll be taken to yousendit where you can download the track. First come first served people, only 7 days and/or 25 downloads allowed!]

To come: AfroAmerica Part 2: Pharoah Sanders!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Session 3: Cabo Verde Dreaming

Funaná is the name of the traditional music of the interior of Santiago, one of the islands that make up the archipelago state of Cape Verde (Cabo Verde), some 450 km off the coast of Senegal. Originally a Portuguese slave trading colony established on the formerly uninhabited islands, Cabo Verde gained independence in 1975.

Only then did Funaná emerge into the world, as it was prohibited along with many other non-Portuguese cultural aspects for many years. The oppression of the transplanted slaves and their descendants reigned for a long, long time.


Cape Verde

As is often the case, oppression leads to a vibrant culture of music and tradition. Life on the islands was hard enough (and still is) due to droughts and lack of arable land. To alleviate the troubles, the Cabo Verdeans created a rich music, uniting various strands of African homeland culture, European melodies and instrumentation and a mixture of Portuguese and Crioule songs.

There are three types of Funaná: a fast style at 150bpm, samba, and a slow beat. This is a regional variation, with tempos rising the deeper into the interior you go.

Which brings us to our selection today - in 2003 King of Bongo was privileged to visit Ilha Sal, one of the 10 islands in Cabo Verde, and named for its history as a salt producer. Flat, sandy, and windswept, the island is home to the Santa Maria Beach Festival, a two-day event that attracts thousands of people to the isle. On the beach, is the restaurant Funaná, where the house band has a residency in its 10th year. For one night, KoB was entranced by the music, and the dancing - if ever KoB is on the lookout for a new wife, he knows where to go to find a girl with universal hips.

So, picking up a CD (not available in shops, fellas):

Gaita'l Funaná was a good way to take a little bit of Cape Verde home.

KoB has two selections for you from this smoking disc: Djon is a two-stage tune, cranking up a typical Funaná wigout, whilst Menina Bonita is a lilting song, guaranteed to drift into your mind and stay a while. Both songs feature the trademark Funaná accordion melodies and will get anyone into a dreamy, beach mood!

For your enjoyment:
Djon [mp3 | 05:15 mins | 192 kbps | 7.39 MB] and
Menina Bonita [mp3 | 06:35 mins | 192 kbps | 9.26 MB]

File under: Sparkling Concertina AfroAtlantic Rhythms
[Click on the link and you’ll be taken to yousendit where you can download the track. First come first served guys, only 7 days and/or 25 downloads allowed!]

Friday, April 21, 2006

Session 2: Out of Africa comes the CONGOMAN

Among the feverish and frantic output of Lee “Scratch” Perry’s Black Ark studio in the mid ‘70s, few albums stand out as much as The Congos’ Heart of the Congos.

The almost holy alliance of Cedric Myton, Roydel Johnson and Scratch produced a slab of pure, Biblical roots reggae, to King of Bongo’s mind actually the finest album to come out of the Ark. Myton’s angelic falsetto combined with the Johnson’s amiable tenor may just have been enough to make a good group, but add Scratch’s trademark extraterrestrial production (plus cows) and the uniquely Rastafarian take on Biblical imagery featured on most of the tracks, and you have in your hands a document, a missal, no, even a pure Ark of the Covenant of Music!

Heart of the Congos Buy Heart of the Congos from Amazon

During the recording (aided by such stalwarts as future No 1 artist Boris Gardiner on Bass and Sly Dunbar on Drums), the Congos actually convinced Perry to adopt some strictures on his life – he ran with them every morning on Hellshire Beach, and began growing dreads for the first time in his life. Overdubs and African rhythms were loaded onto the groaning master tapes, and the sessions were a wellspring of mystical Rasta musings. This atmosphere is well documented in the BBC documentary Roots Rock Reggae, produced at the time by English film-maker Jeremy Marre.

The pure spirituality of the music is worth noting, fans: the first two tracks (Fisherman and Congoman, whilst smoking, say little of what’s to come. Then, Open up the Gate, and impassioned plea for repatriation to Africa and a stinging indictment of Babylon; Children Crying (“send us another Moses”); La La Bam Bam is a Rasta retelling of Bible stories of the betrayal of Christ, Daniel in the lion’s den, and Joseph and his coat of many colours. Can’t Come In sings of the strictures necessary to make it to Heaven; Sodom and Gomorrow - a King of Bongo standout track in a standout album: “they keep on BURNING!” The WrongThing rails against the divisiveness of orthodox Christianity; Ark of the Covenant, a monster track of the Flood; Solid Foundation is a reaffirmation of Rasta faith.

A special edition of the album has been released, with extra tracks including the mighty Nicodemus, retelling the story of the Pharisee who followed Christ in secret whilst denying him in public.

Whatever your religious beliefs, such a passionate and strong sustained burst of soulful creativity has to be a must for your collection!

Unfairly ignored for many years, due to Island’s intransigence in the release schedule, Heart of the Congos is garnering much-needed attention. Sadly, the protagonists have splintered, and each holds a little ball of poison in his heart for the others. Having reached a pinnacle, maybe it had to be that way. The Black Ark burned, and Scratch ekes a living in exile in Switzerland. The Congos severed connections with Perry in 78, tempted by a lucrative contract. He responded symbolically by cutting off his locks. The new deal didn’t come off, and Cedric and Roy went their separate ways.

Children Crying

Beginning with Cedric Myton’s falsetto harmonies, Roy Johnson leads us into a vision of the children crying in the wilderness. He tries to draw Jah’s attention to their pleas: send us another prophet! The music, a mellow reggae beat underpinned by Boris Gardiner’s staunch bassline and fleshed out vocally by Myton and backing vocalists the Meditations, drives the story forward. Scratch livens up the proceedings with his trusty cow moos. Ladies and gentlemen, assume the correct posture and enjoy:
Children Crying [mp3 | 04:13mins | 192 kbps | 5.94 MB]
File under: Life Affirming Roots Reggae

[Click on the link and you’ll be taken to yousendit where you can download the track. First come first served guys, only 7 days and/or 25 downloads allowed!]

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Session 1: Dizzy’s indefatigable chops

Hey, King of Bongo is bushed from that major refurbishing job – but now the place looks nice, no?

OK fellas, welcome to the inaugural session of
King of Bongo – the Sound System is buzzing, and KoB is itching to spread love and appreciation of good, under-appreciated music. And music, to King of Bongo, means real, groovy, wild and deep sounds – nothing plastic here!

For our first session, a nod of respect to one of the finest jazz trumpeters ever to grace the planet:
Mr John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie, and his hypnotic ‘Afro’.
Buy 'Afro' Now from Amazon
So, first off, a little history: May 24th, 1954 to be precise. The Fine Sound Studio at New York City is filled to bursting with some major talent – some not even discovered yet. In the room: Dizzy Gillespie, young Quincy Jones, Ramon ‘Mongo’ Santamaria, amongst others. At the stand: Chico O’Farrill. In the booth: Mr Norman Granz, egomaniacal and heretical producer. Mercifully absent: Buddy Rich.

After weeks of rehearsal, Dizzy & Co have something special up their sleeves: a four-movement blend of Jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms, entitled after it’s best-known segment, the Manteca Suite. A shock to the system? Let’s just say things were smoking (or some of the guys were…)

Dizzy, calmed down somewhat from the earlier days when he was known to attack a certain Cab Calloway with a knife, was on steaming form. But, although turns such as ‘A Night in Tunisia’ and ‘Caravan’ hit the spot, it’s on the spooky, voodoo-laden themes of ‘Jungla’ that the whole idea comes together. A monster of a cut, opening with a striding conga beat, building to a repeated phrase lifted from ‘Manteca’, but giving it a life all of its own.

Dizzy was to leave the clutches of Granz and forge his own way, but in the mid-fifties, this was as good as it gets.

So, cats and chicks, welcome to King of Bongo, and enjoy:
Jungla! [mp3 | 04:44mins | 192 kbps | 6.7 MB]

[Click on the link and you’ll be taken to yousendit where you can download the track. First come first served guys, only 7 days and/or 25 downloads allowed!]
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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Draining the swamp

King of Bongo asks you cool people to bear with him whilst he gets his joint into some shape.

Over the next few days the page will have a fresh lick of paint, some nice pics, and man, it's gonna groove.

Tomorrow, the first free sounds will throb out - whatcha want? Bossa Nova? Jazz? Man, we'll see what we can do.

Later, people

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Manifesto - King of Bongo Speaks!

Music is human - every human culture has music.

Dancing is human - no other animal dances to music.

Music and dance - a uniquely human combination.

And here, King of Bongo will show you the best music available on the internet.

What you won't find: top 10 hits - plastic muzak - manufactured groups

What you will find: a vibrant source of sounds and vibes, grooves and noise, some you will never have heard before.

Are you ready to go on the journey?

Join King of Bongo!