Bunny Wailer, founding member with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh of the Wailers, and the last surviving member of the original trio, died last week. The importance of the Wailers to the development of reggae was immense. So, in tribute, two tracks from the Old Grey Whistle Test from May 1973, just before the original Wailers broke up. There are too few videos with Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer all together.
. It seems appropriate to see off 2020, and welcome in 2021, with songs of despair and hope. There are, of course, a hundred songs I could have included in either list. To choose just five in each category was an almost impossible task, and the selections are rather arbitrary. To pare it down a bit, I excluded songs primarily of heartbreak and love ache and straightforward protest songs too, though some here (Lauryn Hill’s “Black Rage”, for instance) may […]
. A few weeks ago, I published a post about discovering the double bass as a classical instrument. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss not to return to this theme, but with my favourite jazz bassists. So, here they are. Enjoy. . Charles Mingus – Moanin’ . Jaco Pastorius – The Chickenwith Biréli Lagrène & Peter Lükba . Paul Chambers – YesterdaysPaul Chambers Quartet . Dave Holland – Opening Day, with Anouar Brahem, Jack Djontes & Django Bates . Ray Brown […]
The double bass is well established as an instrument in jazz – l love Charles Mingus, Paul Chambers, Ray Brown and Scott LaFarro in particular – but one rarely talks about it in the classical tradition. I’ve only recently discovered it, both music specially created for the double bass, and music transcribed from cello pieces. And it’s every bit as gorgeous, dramatic and soul-stirring as in jazz. So, a few performances showing off the classical double bass. . Dominik Wagner […]
. A shorter version of this article appears in the Observer, 20 September 2020 It is one of the defining moments in the story both of rock and of black expression. Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock 1969, finishing his set by deconstructing the Star Spangled Banner. A black man on stage, claiming the anthem as his own, stripping it of its reverence, and, against the backdrop of the Vietnam War – in the midst of the song Hendrix recreated the sound of […]
Almost by accident, the German musician and sculptor Armin Küpper came across a set of huge gas pipes. Yelling into them, he discovered the beauty of natural delay and reverb. So, he returned with his sax, and later with a guitar – and a new genre of call and response was born. The sounds he creates, and the accompaniment of the perfect-pitch echo, is quite extraordinary. Küpper has posted a series of YouTube videos of his pipe gigs. Enjoy. .
Bill Withers, who died lat week, was one of the most underrated songwriters of his generation. Everyone knows his popular songs – ‘Lean On Me’, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, ‘Lovely Day’ – but it is in his lesser-known works that his craft really shines. He was, as the Beach Boy’s Brian Wilson observed in a tweet, a‘songwriters’ songwriter’, a story teller as much as a writer of songs. So, here are some of his less well-known recordings, which bring out both his […]
McCoy Tyner, one of the great jazz pianists, died last week. A cornerstone of John Coltrane’s seminal 1960s quartet, he was, with his his rich percussive style, as influential as Coltrane in shaping the jazz of following half century. Tyner, Coltrane once observed, ‘holds down the harmonies, and that allows me to forget them. He’s sort of the one who gives me wings and lets me take off from the ground from time to time.’ As a tribute to Tyner, I thought […]
For Valentine’s Day, BBC Radio 6 challenged people to make a mixtape of their six favourite love songs. Of course, I couldn’t resist, though it was a task reducing the list down to six. I just about managed it, though there are dozens of others I might included – from Aretha Franklin to Radiohead, from Bob Marley to Lauryn Hill. And just to add a twist, I’ve added six of favourite heartbreak songs, too. And I’m sure nobody else agrees […]
When the US soprano Jessye Norman appeared on Desert Island Discs in 1981, her first choice was Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody, with the great African American contralto Marian Anderson. Norman had been ten years old when she first heard that recording. “I listened, thinking, ‘But this can’t just be a voice! A voice doesn’t sound this rich and beautiful,’” she told the music critic Matthew Gurewitsch. Many felt the same about Norman, who died last week. Sumptuous. Voluptuous. Shimmering. Majestic. The descriptions of her voice […]
Every newspaper and media outlet over the past week seems to have put out a soundtrack to accompany this week’s anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon mission. But most of the songs they have chosen (Fly Me to the Moon, Moondance, Marquee Moon, Walking on the Moon, etc) have little relation to the moon landings or even to the moon itself. While the moon landing had enormous impact on popular culture, including music, there are not that many tracks that […]
The oud has over the years come to be one of my favourite instruments. I discovered it first through the music of Anouar Brahem and of Dhaffer Youssef, both North African, both jazz musicians, though very different in their approach. And through them I came to discover a whole new world of music, one that can be both joyous and sublimely beautiful. The oud is a fretless, pear-shaped, lute-like instrument whose origins go back several thousand years. (There is a […]
Categories: Culture & Books • Tags: adel shams el-din, anouar brahem, chafer youssef, driss el maloumi, hussein mohamed, jazz, munir bashir, music, naseer shamma, oud, rehab azar, said chraibi, tarek abdallah
This essay, on the clampdown on drill music, was my Observer column this week. It was published 10 February 2019, under the headline ‘Since when was it a police job to impose sanctions on drill musicians?’ The authorities ban musicians from playing without official approval. The police prevent them from performing a song deemed unacceptable. The courts threaten to imprison them when they do play it. All this not in Russia or Iran but in Britain. Last month, two drill musicians, Skengdo […]
Not a compilation of my favourite music from 2018, but ten tracks from bands, singers and music that I discovered for the first time last year. Many I should have known about already, but I’m glad I’ve discovered now. And I might make this an annual post… . Driss El Maloumi, Imtidad (from the album Makan) Possibly my favourite discovery from last year. Driss El Maloumi is a Moroccan oud player, his style lyrical and haunting, melding classical Arabic and […]
What is it that links Big Mama Thornton’s ‘Hound dog’ to Sam Cooke’s ‘(What a) wonderful world’ to the Kinks’ ‘You really got me’ to the Supremes’ ‘You can’t hurry love’ to Toots and Maytal’s ‘Pressure drop’ to the Undertones’ ‘Teenage kicks’ to Prince’s ‘When doves cry’ to the Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever fallen in love (with someone you shouldn’t have)?’? It’s one of those strange questions that popped into my head this week after the death of Pete Shelley. Shelley was […]