CANNABIS CULTURE – Since the dawn of humanity, people have been using music to express their experiences of the divine and journeys into higher states of consciousness.
This time around, we’ll take a listen to some musicians like Curumin and Shammi Pithia’s Flux who are bringing their traditional music into an electronic context. Then, we’ll sample a few new discs from artists who first came into prominence in the 1960’s – Ravi Shankar and The Grateful Dead – before kicking back and taking in two great new reggae documentaries about Bob Marley and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.
Arrocha by Curumin
Curumin is an up and coming singer, composer, multi-instrumentalist and electro-hip hop artist from Sao Paolo, Brazil and one of the most exciting performers I have heard in a good while. He has the youth, swagger and intense energy of a young Bob Marley when he sings and has the charisma to create excitement in a room like few others this side of Manu Chao and Michael Franti. When he’s not raising a conscious riot, Curumin dips into the sensuous beats of the bossa nova and salsa musics of his homeland, blending everything with tropicalia dance textures and heaping dollops of old school funk.
Born 35 years ago to Spanish and Japanese parents, Curumin’s real name is Luciano Nakata and ‘Arrocha’ (which means ‘hold on tight’) is his third album. Every song on the disc is a winner, but standout tracks include ‘Afoxoque’, ‘Paris Villa Mathilde’, and the reggae-inflected ‘Vestido de prata’ that features fellow Brazilian artist, Ceu on vocals.
‘Arrocha’ is a perfect hot weather record. Check it out.
Flux – Mirror
Shammi Pithia is an Indo-British musician and composer who has been combining elements of Indian and Western classical music with electronica and techno grooves for the past several years now with wonderful results. Following in the footsteps of his first two solo albums, ‘Audio Descriptive’ and ‘Paredolia’, his newest release ‘Mirror’ is a group effort and as such features some amazing interplay between some very fine young musicians who came together with Pithia to form ‘Flux’. ‘Flux’ is a perfect name for this ensemble because the music they create ebbs, flows and changes direction many times as it reflects and captures the players’ shifting moods. At times, the music is lovely and quiet and is reminiscent of old chamber music while at others it explodes into a flurry of Prog Rock and jazz fusion expressions with tantalizing textures of electronica thrown in for good measure.
‘Flux’ offers a full musical experience with some of the tracks perfect for late night chill outs – especially those lead by Pithia’s gorgeous bansuri flute textures – while others are great to listen to while warming up for an evening out. Taken as a whole, ‘Flux’ is a very full, rich musical experience that is not for close-minded or timid listeners.
Ancestor chill – Ravi Shankar – The Living Room Sessions Volume 1
George Harrison of The Beatles famously credited Ravi Shankar with inventing world music. While that might be a bit of a stretch, the Indian sitarist certainly has done more to introduce the music of his homeland to the world at large than any other artist. Over the years, he has toured the world endlessly and recorded hundreds of albums of Indian classical music. In fact, Shankar has only very recently quit touring as the demands it places on his ninety-two year old body finally became too great.
This newest recording – as the title ‘Living Room Sessions’ suggests – originates from a session held with percussionist Tanmoy Bose in Ravi Shankar’s living room last year. Featuring four long improvised ragas or mood pieces lead by the sitar, the performances on this disc represent some of the best, most introspective work Shankar has ever recorded. ‘Living Room Sessions Volume 1’ is an absolutely indispensible album whose power and magic will never diminish with the passage of time.
Archival Highlight – The Grateful Dead – Dave’s Picks Volume Three
For the Deadheads out there, fellow BC native’s David Lemieux’s new Dave’s Picks series has just released a third volume culled from a concert that took place in Chicago on October 22, 1971. Like the previous two volumes, this one’s a winner from beginning to end and finds The Grateful Dead in chatty form as they engage the audience in between classic songs like ‘Truckin’, ‘Dark Star’, ‘Sugaree’ and a wonderful early version of ‘Playing in The Band.’ At three CDs for around twenty-five bucks, this one’s a great deal and a heckuva lot of fun. There’s no better way to remember Jerry Garcia who would have been seventy years ago this August.
DVD reviews – The Upsetter and Marley
You can probably count on one hand the movies about music that are worth watching all the way through. Somehow, musical performances have never really translated very well to film, but these two new reggae documentaries are welcome exceptions to the general rule. The long awaited Ken McDonald film, ‘Marley’, may not offer the final word on this reggae pioneer, but it is still the best of many films that have been made about this still little understood artist to date. What sets it apart from other attempts to explain Marley’s unlikely ascension from the ghettos of Kingston’s Trenchtown to concert stages in almost every country in the world is the access McDonald had to the Marley family and their personal musical and visual archives. Previously unseen footage of Marley relaxing, rehearsing and recording make this a ‘must see’ for even the hardest core reggae fans. ‘Marley’ is now available for rent or download on iTunes or for purchase as a DVD.
As much as I enjoyed watching ‘Marley’, I loved taking in the new Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhal Lough film, ‘The Upsetter’ that traces the life and career of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry even more. Until recently, Perry’s name was virtually unknown outside of Jamaica, with his work recognized by only a small coterie of record collectors and fans of early reggae and dub. Often credited with helping Bob Marley create his trademark sound in the late 1960’s, Perry recorded thousands of albums and singles at his infamous Black Ark studio until he burned it down in a fit of hallucinogenic pique in the mid 1980’s. During his most active years, Perry continually amazed producers the world over with his ability to create highly complex, layered sounds using very basic technology. By snipping, slicing and stacking tracks by hand, and manually applying tape delays, he virtually created dub music; and by recording off key toy instruments, random noise from radios and televisions and filtering these found sounds into his work, he is also credited as an early pioneer of sampling. Since the late eighties, though he has still remained active as a producer, Perry has become increasingly well known as a singer and avante garde reggae performer in his own right.
The temptation for many people in the media who have reported about Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry has been to treat his work as well as his larger than life persona and novelty songs as a joke, and that’s something Higbee and Lough never stoop to. Those who have spent time with Perry and have carefully listened to his music know that he is a very sensitive and deep thinking individual who takes what he does very seriously. Listen again to his off colour jokes and stream of consciousness rambling and you’ll soon discover that Perry is a witty, committed artist and observer of all he sees and experiences in the world around him. Narrated by Benecio Del Toro, ‘The Upsetter’ provides a great introduction to the music, art and philosophy of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry for those new to his work. For those who have been following the diminutive artist’s output for many years now, it provides a great overview of his career that’ll remind them of what they found so appealing about him in the first place. ‘The Upsetter’ is available on DVD.
BC Notes – Congratulations to Adham Shaikh, the electronica genius from the Kootenays who has just completed his first big tour of the US in support of his new Refractions remix CD. A master of Indian-tinged techno and soundtrack composition, Shaikh plays regularly around BC and is not to be missed.tter’ is available on DVD.
In a completely different musical vein, Vancouver’s alt-country favourites, The Be Good Tanyas have had a busy summer touring. While they were in San Francisco, a dream came true for Sam Parton, the group’s resident Deadhead, when the group was invited to jam at Bob Weir’s TRI studios where they recorded a killer version of Neil Young’s For the Turnstiles.