20th October 2020
Starting with field recordings of some rather special music thanks to our friends at Rootspring Music in Cape Town, to the Psy-Trance of Younger Brother and the once-taboo subject of cross-dressing, Loving the Music covered a lot of territory during the first week of June.
1st – 7th June 2020 – Featured Musicians:
Amathongo ft Madosini – Vuyo Katsha – Indwe ft Intone – The Kinks – Lou Reed – David Bowie – Q Twins – Younger Brother, Howe Gelb – Amy Winehouse – Annie Lenox
1st / 2nd June: I have a local treat in store today with a selection of wonderful tracks from the lovely people of Rootspring Music in Cape Town.
To get into the mood I have chosen the song Mjeko by the Cape Town band Amathonga recorded on a field recording trip by team Rootspring. The song was written by Madosini and features her playing the traditional Mhrube mouth bow.
This is a gentle journey that starts in the traditional and evolves into a harmonious fusion of Jazz which is just beautiful. Musicians: Madosini – Mhrube mouth bow / Hilton Schilder – Keyboard / Lungiswa Plaatjies – Vocals and Percussion / Pedro Espi-Sanchis – Vocals and Percussion / Jonny Blundell – Dobro slide guitar. Heres Amathongo featuring Madosini and the song Mjeko
The second choice from the Rootspring Music vault for tonight is a beautiful song by SAMA nominee Vuyo Katsha. His mastery of numerous traditional musical instruments coupled with his innate talent has led him to perform with the likes of Youssou N’dour, Ismael Lo, Baaba Maal among many other top names.
So much of our wonderful musical heritage would disappear and future artists overlooked and/or completely discouraged to pursue their musical dreams if it were not for collectives and organisations like Rootspring.
This is a recording made at Cape Town’s Sunbird Cottage and features Vuyo Katsha on Mbira playing the song Chemtengue. Musicians: Vuyo Katsha – mbira / Willy Mason – guitar / Mark Fransman – guitar / Jonny Blundell – guitar / James van Minnen – percussion
In closing this selection from Rootspring Music I have a very special piece of music which forms a part of The Cave Project, a double album of music, rhythms and lullabies by a unique combination of musicians: Percussion duo Intone (Ronan Skillen and James van Minnen), and Indwe (Singer and Xhosa-bow player). The album was recorded over three days in a cave off the West Coast of South Africa.
The purpose of the Cave Project was to create music and sounds that is soothing to babies out of and in utero and, of course, their mothers. Disc 1 is a series of interlocking rhythms by Intone while Disc 2 is a collection of mesmerising Xhosa songs composed by Indwe that centre on the theme of motherhood and femininity, supported by rhythms from Intone. This remarkably powerful, yet completely soothing album, is a unique work and deserves a prominent place in the global World Music arena.
For those who don’t know about Rootspring Music I suggest the following; immediately after listening to today’s selection (and shared it widely), visit their YouTube channel, website, Facebook page and any other platform you can find them on to keep abreast with the fantastic range of artists and remarkable work they do, all in the name of local music.
I have posted the link to a short clip about the making of The Cave Project in the comments section, but in the meantime here is Indwe (ft Intone) and the composition Itolofiya. I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s music selection. If so, please share my posts amongst your friends and help me grow my page and group. Keep safe my friends – catch you soon. 😎
3rd June: Today’s choice was sparked by three songs I heard play on the radio this morning, all within 30 minutes of each other. I had been singing along with the first two and when the third started I realised the connection between them – crossdressing.
Back in the ‘70s, a decade when crossdressing was still a taboo topic, tonight’s three songs went on to be huge hits and, despite the controversy they caused at the time, have been included in the annals of Top 500 Songs of All Times. Herein lies a message of a topic that’s time has come…
The first is, of course, The Kinks and their classic tale of a young man’s accidental hook up with a transvestite. Although it was banned for a short while in Britain and Belgium, and some legal wrangles that saw the brand Coca-Cola changed to the words Cherry-Cola, it went on to be a chart-topper worldwide.
And the story behind the song? There are a few, but drummer Mick Avory claims that it was inspired by a character named Michael McGrath. Avory relates, “He used to hound the group a bit, and being called The Kinks, we did attract these sorts of people. He was a publicist for John Stephen’s shop in Carnaby Street and used to have a place in Earl’s Court. He would invite us to all these drag queen acts and transsexual pubs. They were like underground, secret clubs. That’s where Ray [Davies] got the idea for Lola”. All harmless fun by the sounds of it, after all, they seemed to end up friends. What better opening song in this mixed up, muddled up, shook up world but this? When everything gets too much, be like Lola!
The second classic track that touched on the ‘70s taboo subject of crossdressing is, of course, Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side. Come to think of it, it was more a full-frontal assault than a touch! This must be the first mega-hit that discusses transvestites, male prostitutes, junkies and fellatio all in one song.
Lou Reed had a fascination with the world of the transvestite which he explored in the song, Candy Say’s, the lead single from his third album, The Velvet Underground. It was a tribute to Candy Darling, the tragic transexual member of the Andy Warhol crew who died at 29 years old.
As fans are aware, Walk on the Wild Side’s characters are all based on real people. Joining ‘all the Coloured girls’, there is Holly Woodlawn (Peurto Rican transvestite), Candy Darling (mentioned above), Joe Dallesandro (Warhol actor and youth sex-icon), Jackie Curtis (drag pioneer of the glam-rock style) and Sugar Plum Fairy (Joe Campbell), all members of the famed Andy Warhol crew.
Rather macabrely, Lou Reed said in an interview that he knew how his obituary would one day start – ‘Doot, di-toot, di-toot…’. I wonder if it did. Here’s Lou Reed and the iconic Walk on the Wild Side.😎
To close today’s selection of songs that touched on the ‘70s taboos of crossdressing is the master of androgeny himself, David Bowie. Rebel Rebel, the song about the hot tramp who has his/her (them/their) mother in a whirl, was Bowie’s farewell song to the Glam Rock era that he had helped create. It was a huge commercial success with its distinctive guitar riff making it an immediately recognisable anthem of the age. Rolling Stone magazine rates it as one of Bowie’s top five songs.
If you are one who likes to analyse songs and their lyrics, you may like this observation from a blog site named Bowie songs. Unfortunately, I can’t find who authored it, but I have taken the liberty to jack-up the language to be PC compliant with today’s gender-based lexicon (inclusions used for clarity for anyone not fluent in snowflake).
They say “Rebel Rebel is Bowie’s parting benediction. Despite its title, the song is more reconciliation than a revolution. It is generous, an offer of pure acceptance. In Rebel Rebel, the singer sizes up a teen whose outrageous style catches his eye. The singer’s perspective isn’t that of a fellow teenager, though, but someone a bit older, someone out of the scene, who’s a bit jaded, who’s bemused at first by the tacky kid’s antics. The non-gender specified teen is young enough not to know better, and he is old enough to care. But as the song goes on, the singer grows more inspired by ‘them’. ‘They’ break him of his habits, so he gives ‘them’ his backing. ‘They’ strike a bargain: youth and outrage for his knowledge of how ‘they’ can all fit into the world.
I love a happy ending, but enough PC re-worded analysis for one day! Let’s join David and his nod to all those hot tramps out there. I hope you enjoyed the words and music in today’s selection. If so, why not help me grow my page by sharing, liking or recommending it? It’s always appreciated. As always, stay safe, stay sane, and keep on listening. Catch you soon. 😎
4th June: I was asked recently why I don’t feature more local music. You’ve asked and I have listened. Today is dedicated to twin sisters from KwaZulu Natal, Viggy and Virginia Qwabe, otherwise known as the Q Twins.
The 23-year-old sisters’ love of music started, like so many, singing gospel. This is understandable with their father being the founder of the Pure Freedom Christ mission and growing up in a strictly religious home. The twins rose to prominence when they participated in the 2019 SA Idols competition, but enough of the background story for the moment. The first track is the song Hamba (Go Away)
We are celebrating local South African music tonight with the Q Twins, sisters Viggy and Virginia Qwabe. The sisters made headlines locally when they left the SA Idols show after allegation from their father, that the show and judging was rigged. It may not have seemed to have done them much good at the time, but the publicity ensured that the Q Twins name was known.
It was due to the competition that the well known local DJ Tira expressed interest in signing the twins to the Afrotainment label. They also appeared on his video, Woza Mshanami. Here are the Q Twins with their second single that was released in February, the song AmaGifts.
The final Q Twins track for today was released in December, the song Umama (Pitipiti). The twins’ much-publicised exit from SA Idols didn’t have any effect on their career or popularity and they hit the ground running, thanks to the interest of DJ Tira. I foresee them becoming one of our country’s new top acts and look forward to seeing where they take their music – hopefully worldwide.
When I put together the info for today’s posts I uncovered a number of artists that I will be listening to and finding out about in the near future. With all the problems and turmoil that South Africa regularly faces, one thing we are not short of is musical talent. It was a pleasure to bring this selection to you today. If you enjoyed the selection please like and share it with your friends. It helps me enormously. As always, keep safe, keep sane and keep listening. 😎
5th June: Sometimes people let musical genre names get in the way of listening. This is something I have proven on a couple of occasions, especially when it comes to one of my favourite electronic outfits, Younger Brother. You see, the duo behind the genius of Younger Brother is Simon Posford and Benji Vaughn, names that people normally associate with Trance Music and artists from the trance-orientated Twisted record label.
I have managed to convert the most diehard ‘non-trance’ people to avid fans of the three albums that Posford and Vaughn have released since 2003, and it is these three albums I am featuring tonight – one track from each starting with an album that became an immediate cult classic on release, A Flock of Bleeps.
Posford and Vaughn decided to form Younger Brother after mixing a charity record together, A Flock of Bleeps was born and released on the Simon Posford’s own Twisted label in 2003. The distinctive soundscape that these two maestros managed to create led to the duo being invited to play shows from London and New York to Moscow, and further established their names as leaders in their field.
You may not think you’ll like what is loosely termed ‘Trance Music’, but you could well change your mind after this track, Receptive, from the album, A Flock of Bleeps. Headphones are optional but advised.
I have been featuring the psytrance duo, Younger Brother today with one song from each of the three albums they produced. After the huge success of A Flock of Beeps, Simon Posford and Benji Vaugn decided to move away from a purely electronic sound and introduce a more organic feel. The second album, The Last Days of Gravity (2007) saw the couple’s mastery in electronics being combined with instruments that they played themselves and vocals from Leftfield’s Ruu Campbell. The result is mesmerising.
The album was a huge critical success and almost won a nomination for 2008 Mercury Music Award. The cover artwork for the album was created by non-other than Storm Thorgerson, who was responsible for the iconic images on albums by Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons and Led Zeppelin, immediately making it a ‘collectable’. So, from album number two from Younger Brother’s ‘The Last Days of Gravity,’ I bring you Psychic Gibbon.
The final song from Younger Brother tonight comes from the last album they released as a duo. The album Vaccine was immediately welcomed with open arms by die-hard fans and see’s the duo at their most melodic, with haunting lyrics, hooks and melody lines. Interestingly some critics termed it too soft, which in a way is understandable. By 2014 the face of Trance Music had changed, becoming harder paced and more brittle in sound, possibly due to the change in the type of recreational drugs that were flooding the scene at the time.
The early ‘2000s saw some of the best collaborations of the trance genre. Outfits like Hallucinogen, OTT, Shpongle, Infected Mushroom and Prometheus all carved their place in the musical landscape, but I think it is Younger Brother that ensured their longevity when they decided to involve their fans in their music. They launched an app that allowed fans to remix the Vaccine albums songs and compile their own videos to the tracks. This led to a second release of the Vaccine album of remixes named Vaccine Electronic. Clever!
On 16 August 2014 Benji Vaughn stated on Younger Brothers’ Facebook page that he would “be going quiet for a while” and that “it’s time to disappear for a few years. Except for a 1:49 min track called ‘Untitled’ that was released for streaming platforms last year, we haven’t heard anything since. Let’s hope that changes in the near future. The world needs more Younger Brother. It was hard for me to choose just one song from the album. They are all good, they work together as a concept album and singularly as tracks, but I decided on the song Shine – because it does.
Thanks for visiting Younger Brother with me today. Wherever you are and whatever you have planned, may your Friday night be happy. If you enjoyed the tracks today please give them a like and a comment, or maybe even a share. It helps this little page grow. Thanks! 😎
6th / 7th June: To close this week I am sharing a trio of covers that recently caught my attention. I like it when a cover brings something new or special to a song, and these three ticks those boxes perfectly.
To start with is an artist I know very little about, Howe Gelb. Just because I haven’t heard much about him doesn’t alter the fact that he has released 25 albums with his band Giant Sand, a loose affiliation of musicians who have teamed up for various albums. Gelb evidently doesn’t do the ‘frontman’ thing, which is why he prefers this group structure. Apart from Giant Sand, he has also collaborated on numerous projects and solo recordings. Along the way, he met up with a musician I particularly admire, M Ward, and produced his first album. This first song is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s classic A Thousand Kisses Deep and features M Ward. If ever there was a combo that can take on a Cohen song, this is it. What do you think?
The second song in tonight’s selection of really good covers is a classic composed by The Beatles and performed here by none other than Amy Winehouse. All My Loving was a huge Pop hit for the fab four, but Amy puts a spin on it that is unique.
I have to admit that, although I appreciate and admire Amy’s voice and style, I was never her greatest fan. I put her voice in the same category as Shirley Bassey, powerful and strident and in a league of its own, but I can’t listen to more than a couple of songs at a time. This clip is from a BBC recording and was featured on the posthumous Amy Winehouse at the BBC album. Here’s the lady herself with The Beatles, All My loving.
The final track for the week comes from Annie Lenox, who picked up a lot of flack for performing the song normally associated with Billie Holiday and the Black Consciousness Movement, Strange Fruit. There was a backlash from numerous Black civil right’s groups claiming that a white woman, as good a singer as she is, should dare record the song.
In all this hoo-hah and finger-pointing, the song’s origin was actually forgotten. Strange Fruit was written by a White Jewish man from the Bronx, Abel Meeropol, after he saw a picture of a lynching that haunted him. He couldn’t forget it. So, he wrote a poem, and then he wrote the music. Mr Meeropol published Strange Fruit under his pseudonym, Lewis Allan. Put that in your PC pipe and smoke it.
Such a pity his name has been forgotten along the way, but that’s what often happens to facts. Ladies and Gentleman, without any further ado, Annie Lenox and the song that always stirs up emotions, Strange Fruit. I hope you had a happy weekend and are ready for whatever the new one brings. As always, keep strong, keep sane and keep listening to good music. Catch you next week. 😎
This article was first published on the Design Train website for Loving the Music
Words © Andrew Knapp
The author does not own the copyright of any of the videos or images used in the article