22nd November 2020:
We’re into the final rundown to 2020 and have some fun and unusual artists lined up for your listening pleasure. Who remembers the avant-garde artists of the ’80s like Klaus Nomi and Lena Lovich? We do! This and so much more for you in this edition…
December: Musicians Featured
Klaus Nomi – Lena Lovich – Nina Hagen – Melbourne Ska Orchestra – Jacob Collier – Morcheeba – Crimson House – Congo Cowboys – Msaki – Robin Ford & Susan Tedeschi – Maddy Prior
2nd Dec: Seeing that we are in the grip of a heatwave throughout the country, I thought some really cool, hot music would be in order to start the week. While researching a Ska piece a few weeks ago I came across The Melbourne Ska Orchestra and knew I had to do a feature on them soon, mainly because they are really good musicians and great fun to watch live and in their videos.
What started as a one-year project in 2003 ended up being so popular that the Ska sound became the main focus for this size adaptive outfit. Size-adaptive? The MSO has anything between 18 and 36 members depending on the gig, or the track, and is home to some of Australia’s finest musicians and performers, all led by the charismatic Nicky Bomba (John Butler Trio, Bomba, Bustamento).
The bands’ debut self-titled release resulted in sell-out national shows, multiple major festival appearances, three international tours and a host of awards and nominations. But don’t take my word for it, let’s take a listen to Get Smart from their debut album.
There are so many really cool clips from the Melbourne Ska Orchestra that it was tough to choose just three tracks for tonight’s mix. However, I have decided on another great song, and really fun video for tonight’s number two slot, Lygon Street Meltdown, again from their self-titled debut album. Enjoy!
This year saw The Melbourne Ska Orchestra win the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Best World Music Album award for their album One year of Ska, which stemmed from a project to honour the founders of Ska who used to record a new track every week. The Melbourne Ska Orchestra uploaded 52 tracks in 52 weeks, which is a pretty tall order for any group, but for an outfit of MSO’s size, it must have taken a superhuman effort.
The MSO has become a favourite on the international festival circuit, with sold-out capacity crowds at each event. To close this Monday night trio of songs I have chosen the off-beat video, Satalite, from their second album, ‘Sierra-Kilo-Alpha’. I hope that tonight’s happy Ska sound sets the mood and tone for your week. Catch you soon! 😎
4th Dec: After a long chat with my old friend, Anthony Shelley, a few days ago I started to think about the musical influences that we have had on each other over 40+ years of knowing each other. Tonight I am going to share tracks from three musicians who were pretty ‘out-there’ for the time, that he dropped in the middle of my musical safety zone. Punk had run its course and the New-Romantics were starting to show their influence, but lurking in the shadows was an avant-garde collection of musicians who wouldn’t have been in out of place in a sci-fi version of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin.
You will either love or hate tonight’s selection, but whatever your feelings about Lena Lovich, Nina Hagen and Klaus Nomi, you can’t deny that they were completely unique, very entertaining, and extremely talented. It would be impossible to cover the extraordinary careers of these three geniuses in just a few paragraphs, so tonight it is all about the music. I’m starting the selection with Lena Lovich and the song that introduced her soon-to-be adoring fan base, Lucky Number.
You either get Nina Hagen or you don’t. It’s that simple. There were many who saw her as an overly theatrical novelty act that would fade out of existence pretty quickly, but I am happy to report that she is still touring regularly and still pushes the envelope. In the comments below you’ll find a movie collage of how she has changed her persona over the years, and it makes for a fascinating few minutes of viewing (Evolution of Music – Nina Hagen) Here’s a live performance of New York, New York (NOT the Sinatra song!), from her 1984 album Fearless.
I’ve saved my favourite avant-garde ‘80s musician/performer until last. Klaus Nomi. As a natural countertenor, his vocal range was remarkable. Combine this with his high-camp theatrics and you have an act that was hard to ignore. Sadly Klaus Nomi is no longer with us, having passed away from AIDS-related problems in 1983.
Unfortunately, there is little footage available of live performances with decent audio quality, and this clip of him performing the song Total Eclipse from his 1981 album, is the best I can find.
In the comments section, I have included an extra couple of links that are worth watching. The first is the Klaus Nomi cover of the Lesley Gore song, You Don’t Own Me, which shows some lovely footage from various performances and interviews. There is also a link to a song that I pranced around to many times, Three Wishes. In closing, I’d like to thank my old friend, Anthony, for introducing me to this wonderfully bizarre trio of performers way back in those fun, strange, wild ‘80s days. May we be sharing music for many years to come. 😎
11th Dec: Dodging power outages due to Eskom load shedding coupled with some work I needed to get finished in a hurry, I haven’t shared much of anything over the past week. Between the lights coming back on and me hitting the sack, I spent a few hours checking my YouTube subscriptions last night and came across a couple of new uploads from Jacob Collier that I’m happy to share.
Jacob Collier, for those of you who don’t know, is the Mozart of modern times. This 25-year-old has grasp and understanding of music, along with his infectious personality, always leaves me astounded. For serious musicians, I recommend watching his masterclass clips about harmony and rhythm, of which he is a master. I‘ll post some links in the comment sections for the interested.
Starting tonight’s threesome from Jacob is a video I hadn’t yet seen of a song from his first album, In My Room, (on which he played all the instruments, did the production and made the video clips, all in his own music room at home). He was 22-years-old at the time and this first album won him a Grammy. Not bad going! Here’s Hajanga – Enjoy!
I normally like to give a bit of a break between my music posts, but with a list of things to do before the next power-outage, I’m sharing the whole selection at once. Hope you don’t mind! The second in the Jacob Collier mix for tonight is from his Djesse Vol. 2 album (part of a series of 4 albums). Don’t let the title Make Me Cry mislead you, this is a truly beautiful, feel-good song.
When a musical genius covers one of Carole King’s classics in front of an audience comprising of fellow musicians, expect a jaw-dropping response in the sing-along section! Although the sound quality of this clip isn’t the best, it shows Jacob’s virtuosity on the piano, and his ability to include every person in the room. Here’s You’ve Got a Friend as you have never heard it performed before. 😎
13th Dec: I was given the heads-up on an album from one of my favourite Trip-Hop bands that I hadn’t yet heard. I’m talking about the wonderful Morcheeba and the 20018 album Blaze Away, which is now sitting happily in my Spotify Trip-Hop playlist. Needless to say, I’m going to share a few tracks with you tonight.
In their 24 year career, Morcheeba has sold over 10 million copies, which shows the huge fan base this outfit has. Although one of the founders, Paul Godfrey left the band a few years back, it hasn’t affected their quality of sound.
Track two in my mix from Morcheeba’s Blaze Away album is full of the rich electronics combined with perfect vocals that fans have come to expect from them. I could listen to Skye Edward’s voice all night. Here’s Never Undo – Enjoy!
Here’s a bit of Morcheeba trivia that you may not have known. The name Morcheeba is derived from the Latin Mor, meaning ‘the way’ and Cheeba is a slang term for cannabis. The way of cannabis or not, I’m sure Morcheeba’s fans is not limited to stoners!
As the last track from my Blaze Away album mix for tonight, I am leaving you with ‘Gimme Your Love’. From the opening notes you know you’re in store for a future classic from this talented crew. Have a great evening folks! Happy listening 😎
15th Dec: Local is Lekker!!! A few days ago my friend Pat posted a link to a track by a South African band that I had heard of, but never listened to, and I’m very glad she did. The Cape Town-based Crimson House (ex Crimson House Blues). Frontman Riaan Smit and Arno Van Zyl founded the band in Namibia in 2010, and since then they have grown to a 7-piece powerhouse that has played hundreds of venues throughout the country and all the local festivals, big and small.
I’ll leave it to you to decide what genre they fall into, but they have been described as ‘”A grungy, genreless mix of gipsy blues rock funk’ and ‘bluegrass western punk with a Tom Waits/Joe cocker styled vocals soaked in gipsy undertones’ – and if that doesn’t whet your appetite, then nothing will!
In 2014 they were invited to tour the USA, but budget restrictions only enabled two members, Riaan Smit and Nick Bekker (alto sax), head off under the Nick & Riaan Crimson House Duo name. They have returned each year and have become micro-celebrities at the Alpine Arizona Music Festival. Why micro? The town only has a population of around 400, and the festival attracts around 2000 over the weekend. They are invited every year and are the only act to feature on the poster! I’m kicking off tonight’s selection of three tracks with Hoodoo Mask from the 2015 ‘Come Alive’ album.
Crimson House story I love is how, due to their travels to the USA, they received an email from none other than Alan Sanderson, who has produced records for The Stones, Fleetwood Mac, BB King and Elton John. What did he want? For the guys to drop off a cold Windhoek and a Tafel lager from Namibia, a place that he particularly loves! How could they refuse?
I’m sure they are glad they did. As thanks for sneaking two beers across the country, he invited them to have an impromptu recording session. Nic and Riaan recorded two tracks, and original and the well-loved jazz standard that’s origin has been lost in the depths of time, St James Infirmary Blues. I featured a recording done by Hugh Laurie a while back, so couldn’t resist adding this almost Ska-like version to tonight’s line-up. Unfortunately, this video isn’t the San-Diego recording but was recorded in Cape Town’s Popsicle Studio. Enjoy!
The track that Pat posted is a feel-good, proud to be South African moment from their latest album, Bounceology. I’ve watched all the links and listened to the whole album on Spotify, and this is South African music at its new best. The blend of styles, influences and genres shows true musicians paying tribute to their roots. Thanks Pat for leading me to Crimson House, and thank you Crimson House for your infectious music. I’m closing off this Sunday night threesome with Mama Land with the beautiful Nhoza.
17th Dec: Heard of the Congo Cowboys? I hadn’t either, but am happy that a friend of mine was listening to Michelle Constant’s ‘Jet Set Breakfast’ on Saturday and popped in later that day to tell me to get onto the net and check them out. When I heard them I knew I had to share the news.
Formed by members from the hugely popular SA band, Freshlyground, this is a combination of styles from the member’s home countries, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, DRC, and fronted by Congolese vocalist, Chris Bakalanga.
So what makes their music so different? You’ll have to take a listen to find out. I think you may be pleasantly surprised. The first track from Congo Cowboys in tonight’s threesome mix is the popular Dolly Parton classic, Joelene, covered in a way you would ever expect!
The banjo has a history and heritage that stems back to Africa. Similar stringed instruments were introduced to America by slaves way back in those dark days and adapted over time into Bluegrasses staple instrument. Congo Cowboys have taken the foot-stomping qualities of Bluegrass & Country and reimagined it through Kwassa Kwassa African rhythms and Soukous guitar, so bringing the banjo back to its area of origin. The second Congo Cowboys song in the mix is a take on an old traditional English folk-song that found its way to the Americas and has been covered by hundreds of artists through the years. Here’s The Cuckoo with an African twist.
The good news is that the Congo Cowboy’s EP is already available on Spotify which makes dropping it into a playlist a pleasure. The band already have a number of gigs lined up in Europe for 2020, which they are happy about, but are still uncertain how this new sound fusion will be met by South African audiences. I don’t think they have anything to worry about. It’s always a pleasure featuring local acts and I’m looking forward to hearing a lot more from these musical mavericks. I’m closing the Congo Cowboys selection for tonight with the track My Old Hen. Enjoy! 😎
19h Dec: Msaki Magic! I love this lady. This is South African talent at its beautiful best. I felt like sticking with a South African theme this week and what better way to bring in a Thursday evening that a few tracks from this special performer. I’m kicking off with a track from her 2016 album, Zanaliza – How the Water Moves. Here is her song, Dreams, that comes complete with an evocative video shot in my old stomping ground, Yeoville.
When one of South Africa’s top DJ’s collaborates with a lady as talented as Msaki you can expect a world-class outcome. Here’s Black Coffee with Msaki with Wish You Were Here (no, not that one). This is road trip music, so buckle up and enjoy.
I was very happy to find a clip of song Msaki released last month featuring the Congolese/South African musician Tressor and Kid X. This lady could sing the phone book and I’d be mesmerized! If you love local South African music and haven’t taken a good listen to Msaki yet I suggest you do. Catch her on Spotify, Deezer, and all the normal online music platforms.Here is Pearls to Swine. Enjoy 😎
20th Dec: One of the amazing tracks featured on Chris Prior’s weekly and worthwhile podcast. Robin Ford and Susan Tedeschi covering Paul Simon’s One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor. 😎
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas – Catch you next year!
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