24 April, 2007

Travel to Madagascar through Music

I just finished an amazing book about Madagascar ("The Eighth Continent" by Peter Tyson), and now I'm pumped to visit the island. Unfortunately, I can't just go gallavanting off to another country whenever wanderlust strikes. So instead of jumping on a plane, I'm taking a little trip to Madagascar through the music of the Malagasy people.

There's some amazing music made on the island, but it's frequently overlooked around the world. I know this article will only touch the surface of the music made in Madagascar (and to answer everyone's question, NO, I'm not including "I Like to Move it" from the movie "Madagascar". By the way, I just found out that "I Like to Move It" is sung by a certain Mr. Sacha Baron Cohen of Ali G and Borat fame. Freaky!) Hopefully, this sampling of foreign sounds will spur your appetite for world music.

Hazolahy is a "pop" band from Madagascar. You can download many of their songs at their website, and they're really gorgeous songs. I listened to "Sabarera" which is just an amazing song for sunny days. The drumming is exceptional and tight, and the melody is repetitive without becoming annoying. Very pretty! If you like world music, then you should certainly listen to Hazolahy.

Tarika is possibly the most globally popular of current Malagasy bands, and you can understand why when you listen to their album "Soul Makassar". Harmonies and a definite Asian/African feel which really mirrors the Malagasy culture. The musicianship on this album is very beautiful, and the sound strikes a perfect balance, being neither over-produced nor under-produced. Since very little of the Tarika catalogue is widely available, I would recommend finding "Soul Makassar" as soon as you can. It's on iTunes!

Vaovy has an undeniably strong sound on their album "Vamba", which is recorded beautifully. Strikingly reminiscent of creole on the song "Vamba", which is heavy with harmonica and accordion sound, the band expresses its musical heritage while bringing to mind a world of musical influences. Equally striking and beautiful is the song "Ranobey" which has a violin playing the melody and a chorus of voices repeating the lyrics. "Ranobey", despite flying my ears to Madagascar, also reminds me of American bluegrass.

This is only a small sampling of the sounds of Madagascar! When you listen to this music, you feel a cultural bond, an overwhelming similarity of expression. We are all connected.

17 April, 2007

Raw Radio and Revolution

You've found an unusual treasure when you come across a band that sounds better live than they do recorded. State Radio happens to be just that kind of band. Luckily, these boys have finally made their great album - The Barn Sessions - an economical ten song masterpiece that includes all of their great songs in their original wonderful rawness.

Starting off with an obvious tribute to their reggae/ska revolution rock influences, "State I and I" sets the groove, while the vocals echo. State Radio follows "State I and I" with two of the most mosh-worthy tunes on their first album, Us Against the Crown. Fortunately, these songs are even more head-bangworthy than their counterparts (and, again that echo enhances the sound.) "Rushian" is one of my favorites off The Barn Sessions, because it translates with such pure live joy. "Camilo", on the other hand, feels passionate and painful. "Olli Olli" is the song that sounds most like Bad Brains and also, in my opinion, really showcases State Radio's talent.

I would never say that a song was missing from the collection, because the album plays so well, but the boys did decide to leave out my favorite song (after "Olli Olli") "Gunship Politico". This was really the song that made me love State Radio's music, and I'm not sure whether it's a good or bad thing that it was left off of The Barn Sessions. Besides the fact that the songs are played with more spirit on The Barn Sessions, the big difference between this new album and Us Against the Crown is the fact that every song on the new album could be a hit. Unlike Us Against The Crown, which called for a lot of song skipping, you can listen to The Barn Sessions all the way through without skipping a song and without any noticeable decline in song quality.

These boys have always had talent, and a revolutionary spirit that's at its strongest when they're banging out tunes for a live audience. Until State Radio plays a show in your town, The Barn Sessions is the closest to revolution that you're going to hear, and that's definitely not a bad thing.

If you want to catch a show, here are some State Radio dates:

04.18.07 Toad's Place New Haven CT
04.21.07 Trackside Teen Center Wilton CT
04.21.07 Green Apple Music & Arts Festival New York NY
04.26.07 Pearl Street Nightclub - Ballroom Northampton MA
04.27.07 Colgate University Hamilton NY
04.28.07 Avalon Boston MA
05.01.07 High Fidelity Rochester NY
05.02.07 The 8x10 Baltimore MD
05.04.07 Theatre of Living Arts Philadelphia PA
05.06.07 Bamboozle East Rutherford NJ
05.08.07 Cabaret Montreal QC
05.09.07 El Mocambo Toronto ON
05.11.07 Metro Chicago IL
05.12.07 Beachland Ballroom Cleveland OH
05.13.07 The Icon Buffalo NY
06.22.07 Hurricane Music Festival Scheessel Germany
06.23.07 Southside Festival Neuhausen Germany

12 April, 2007

So it goes.

Kurt Vonnegut has died at the age of 84. So it goes.

An anti-war activist, social prophet, poet, and a truly thoughtful person; a rare soul in today's world. I only recently finished Slaughter-House-Five, but that book affected me more powerfully than anything has for a long time. I'm trying not to be sad, because the man lives on in 84 years of moments and in the numerous books he wrote during his career.

Most importantly, I think we should take this moment to think about his principles and the point of his stories. Rabidly anti-war after witnessing the destruction of the Dresden fire-bombing at the end of WWII, Vonnegut's books questioned things we take for granted in society.

Why do we have to make bombs? Why do we have to make war? Let's think about these things before we dismiss them as inevitabilities of the human existence.

According to CNN.com, "there have been 3,558 coalition deaths...in the war in Iraq as of April 12th, 2007" (CNN Casualties in Iraq). That's at least 3,558 families directly affected by those deaths. So it goes. The number of civilian deaths are unclear, but UN estimates for 2006 alone were equal to a total of 34,452 people (UN Special Report) and the deaths per month are on the rise. Tens of thousands of families directly affected. So it goes.

Please join me in a moment of silence for ALL of these people.

Beyond this moment, let's hope that we can move forward, laugh at whatever adversity comes our way, and allow these deaths to affect our lives. Let's find our humanity. Laughing helps.

"And Lot's wife, of course, was told not to look back where all those people and their homes had been. But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned to a pillar of salt. So it goes."
Kurt Vonnegut (1922 - 2007), Slaughter-House-Five

"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."
Kurt Vonnegut (1922 - 2007)

So it goes.

Jimi or John

I admit that I'm enamored with John Mayer. In my opinion, he's an incredibly talented boy who doesn't get enough credit as a musician. To prove my point, I want everyone to listen to Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" followed by John Mayer's "Bold As Love" from Continuum. I'm not saying that Mayer is Hendrix reincarnated, but you can feel that simmering guitar line and that blues influence in both songs. So what if Mayer makes popular music? Jimi Hendrix made popular music.

"...My red is so confident that he flashes trophies of war and
ribbons of euphoria
Orange is young, full of daring,
But very unsteady for the first go round
My yellow in this case is not so mellow
In fact I'm trying to say it's frigthened like me
And all these emotions of mine keep holding me from,
Giving my life to a rainbow like you
But, I'm, yeah, I'm bold as love..."
- John Mayer

10 April, 2007

Spring Songs

Here's a little playlist for ya'll! Some music that will get you into the happy spring mind-set that we all need right now. Everything will soon be green, and it will smell like spring. For now, you should be able to hear spring at the very least. While you're waiting for the flowers, listen to this music.

"Rainbowarriors" by CocoRosie. These gals are from France, and this song (off their new album, The Adventures of Ghosthorse and Stillborn) are pretty weird. There are some exotic beats surrounding unique vocals. Actually, the vocals remind me the most of a shy Lady Sovereign (an oxymoron, I know). It's difficult to explain what these women are doing with their sound, but I definitely enjoyed this song.

"Good Vibrations" by Gym Class Heroes. The Gym Class Heroes, besides having an awesome name, are talented boys. They had me jumping around on Valentine's Day with their hit, "Cupid's Chokehold". This song is a cover of the Beach Boys' hit, and they manage to cover the song in a way that does justice to the original, without being a blatant copy. The Heroes inject their own spunk into the mix, and it makes for easy breezy listening with an edge.

"Love Today" by Mika. Another highly successful iTunes add (I don't know how those guys do it, but they sure know how to market those iPods), this song is technolicious rock. I usually stear clear of electronic music, because I'm not a huge fan, but the intro captured my attention. Now I'm wondering if I'm the only person who hears the late great Freddy Mercury in Mika, and especially in "Love Today". A neat song that meets all of the spring ear-candy requirements.

"You Know I'm No Good" by Amy Winehouse. Amy can belt out vocals that are reminescent of some of the greatest soul divas, and she adds some smooth beats. Layering the horns and drums, this song captures the best of hip-hop, soul, and motown. It even has some pretty guitar playing. This song is awesome!

Spring on my friends!!

04 April, 2007

Activism in Action: Step It Up 2007!

As you all know, I get pretty into my causes. I'm a rebel girl ("she holds her head up so high!" -Bikini Kill), with a million different opinions and thoughts on the way the world could be better. Way back in 2005 (?) I wanted to attend the huge anti-war rally in D.C. Now, granted I first heard about this rally because I was on a Dead Kennedys streak at that point in time and I really wanted to see Jello Biafra, but I really am anti-war. Unfortunately, Boston's a bit far from D.C. and I know that that's true of quite a few places in the U.S. (it's a big country!)

That's why I think this new form of protest is so cool. It's called Step It Up 2007, it is the brain-child of Billy Mckibben, and it will be the most widespread Global Warming protest ever held in the U.S. By widespread, I mean gigantic. At this very moment there are 1215 actions that will take place in all 50 states!!! The rallies will be held on April 14th, and they should be excellent fun and educational (what a beautiful word.) Anyway, I'm pretty psyched for this National Day of Climate Action, and I hope you guys are too! For more information about the actual individual rallies, check out the Step It Up 2007! website.

"Be the change you want to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi