In 1912 Trinidadian metalworker and violinist George Lovelace Baillie â aka Lovey â and his band headed to New York City to play engagements and record for the Victor Talking Machine Company and the Columbia Graphophone Company (sic) â the first recordings by a black band from the English-speaking West Indies.
Adverts described them as playing music ânever heard before in America.â
They recorded for Victor on June 20 1912, as Loveyâs Trinidad String Band, and for Columbia over the next two weeks as Loveyâs Band.
They waxed an unknown number of 78s featuring an array of string instruments, including twin fiddles, string bass and guitar family variants including the four-string cuatro and the braga.
Black string bands were common in Trinidad, specialising in waltzes, tangos, and paseos (calypso), performing dances during holidays and at Carnival time â many slaves had learned to play string instruments to entertain white audiences.
Prior to the outbreak of WWI Columbia engineers visited Trinidad and recorded them on over 50 sides in late July and early 1914.
This three-CD set contains all the known surviving recordings from 1912 sessions and reprises 40 of the 50 selections recorded in 1914.
They reflect the rhythms of the Caribbean as well as mainland South America. With the exception of Cuba, Argentina and Brazil, Loveyâs band was the earliest black band to record in the Americas specialising in hot dance music with 19th-century roots.
Lovey and his band were still performing throughout the 1920s. Lovey died in 1937 following an operation.
Produced by noted musicologists Dick Spottswood, Steve Shapiro, and John Cowley complete with remastered sound, historic graphics and detailed booklet by Cowley, this is the roots of West Indian music.
Encore Lovey! The Historic Trinidad String Band Recordings 1912 & 1914 is released by Richard Weize Archives (RWA).
At the beginning of the process, things were moving ahead just as they had with so many previous productions: liner notes were finalized, licensing requests were submitted, audio was digitized and restored, and the text and graphic elements were being laid out and designed. Then, like everyone, we were impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout 2020, there were postal service delays, shipping container shortages, record store closures, and manufacturing plant shutdowns. In response to this new reality, D2D made the tough decision to forego a physical version of the Excavated Shellac box set that we had been planning for years, and in December 2020 it was released digitally.
in late 2021 D2D began moving toward fulfilling the original vision for this release. Our designer Barb Bersche who had originally designed the set to be printed and had modified the format for digital release, set to work once again to finalize and submit the files to our printer. D2D decided to expand some of the elements into features like a gloss-laminated box, artbook-quality paper, and die-cut reproductions of vintage record store stickers from Jonâs collection.
The production process was moving along well when they were informed that to print the book we would need to comply with government imposed censorship of the words Dalai Lama, Tibet, and other terms deemed problematic. They found this unacceptable and moved production to a printer in Hong Kong which had a significant impact on the cost of the set.
Now, seven years later the set is now releases in a physical CD box set.
Jean-Christian Mboumba Mackaya (aka âMack-Jossâ) fronted Gabonâs Orchestre Massako from 1971 – when the armed forces formed their own band. Aged 17, he was well known on Gabonâs nightlife scene having released the pan-African hit record âLe Boucherâ.
Between 1968 and 1970 Mack-Joss and his Negro-Tropical recorded 45s at an open-air studio. In the late 1970s his Studio Mobile Massako was built and he would fly to France, (carrying the master tapes in his hand luggage), press the records and ship them back to African distributors.
Searching for tracks for reissue on his Analog Africa reissue label Samy Ben Redjeb recalled: âThe last time I heard Mack-Jossâs voice was in August 2016. We had spoken a fewÂ times before – but on that particular day,Â I could hear gunshots being fired. Libreville (the capital city of Gabon) was in turmoil following the re-election of president Ali Bongo.â Ali Bongo and his corrupt father Omar Bongo who had ruled Gabon for forty years is believed to have ripped off $130 million (a conservative estimate) of Gabonâs assets.Mack Joss had retired in 1996. âBy the time I was ready to go ahead with the reissue project, Mack-Jossâs phone number had been disconnected. Shortly after-wards I found out that he had passed away in 2018. I regretted that we hadnât been able to be in touch after that tumultuous dayâ says Samy Ben Redjeb.
His father, who died in 2006, was the finest guitarist Africa has ever produced. Following in his fatherâs footsteps Vieux is now known as the âHendrix of the Sahara.â
Because of the pandemic he spent two years making the album. âIâve had a desire to do a more traditional album for a long time. Itâs important to me and to Malian people that we stay connected to our roots and our history. Early in my career people asked why I wasnât just following my father. But it was important for me to establish my own identity,â he says. âNow people know what I can do, I can return to those roots.â
Recorded in Bamako in his home studio, the album is steeped in the mesmeric music of West Africa. With 10 original songs, Vieux addresses the problems Mali faces after a brutal civil war which saw Islamist militants destroy recording studios, close down radio stations and ban music in parts of the country.
âIn Mali many people are illiterate â music is the main way of transmitting information and knowledge. My father fought for peace and we have an obligation to educate people about the problems facing our country and to rally people.â
Les Racines is also a tribute to his father whose name is invoked in the albumâs closing track Ndjehene Direne. âThe album is an homage to my father but, just as importantly, to everything he represented and stood for.â
Les Racines is available on World Circuit Records.
This article appeared in my Global Routes feature in the Morning Star April 15th 2022
The country suffered from a serious lack of proper recording facilities, and the process of committing your song to tape could become a whole adventure unto itself.
Of course, you could always book the national broadcasting company together with a sound engineer, but this was hardly an option for underground artists with no cash. But luckily an alternative option emerged in the form of an adventist church with some good recording equipment.
Many of the artists on this compilation recorded their first few songs, secretly, in these premises thanks to Monsieur Awono, the church engineer. He knew the schedule of the priests and, in exchange for some cash, he would arrange recording sessions. The artists still had to bring in their own equipment, and since there was only one microphone, the amps and instruments had to be positioned perfectly. It was a risky business for everyone involved but since they knew they were making history, it was all worth it.
At the end of the recording, the master reel would be handed to whoever had paid for the session, usually the artist themselves. And what happened next? With no distribution nor recording companies around this was a legitimate question. More often then not it was the French label Sonafric that would offer their manufacturing and distribution structure and many Cameroonian artist used that platform to kickstart their career.
Mballa Bony & the Ndenga Boys, 1977 (Copyright: Analog Africa)
What is particularly surprising in the case of Sonafric was their willingness to take chances and judge music solely on their merit rather than their commercial viability. The sheer amount of seriously crazy music released also spoke volumes about the openness of the people behind the label.
But who exactly are these artists that recorded one or two songs before disappearing, never to be heard from again? Some of the names – like Jean-Pierre Djeukam whose song “Africa Iyo” from 1978 opens the compilation – were so obscure that even the most seasoned veterans of the Cameroonian music scene had never heard of them.
The songs may have been recorded in a church, with a single microphone in the span of only an hour or two, but the fact that we still pay attention to these great creations some 50 years later, only illustrates the timelessness of their music.
Cameroon Garage Funk is available on Analog Africa o a double LP pressed on 140g virgin vinyl with gatefold cover + full colour 12-pages booklet and on CDÂ with a full colour 28-pages booklet (AACD092)
Rob Bell and Rusty Zinn to talk about their contributions to Trojan’s latest release – ‘The Trojan Story’. Rob Bell was the brains behind the original release of ‘The Trojan Story’ back in 1971, exactly 50 years later he talks about his motivations behind the release and reveals life at Trojan in the 1970’s.
Watch the Full interview here.
Find out more about The Trojan Story: https://Trojan.lnk.to/thetrojanstoryFA
NASHVILLE, TN – AUGUST 29: Peter Guralnick Moderator/Music Historian/Author attends ‘Go, Cat Go! Sam Phillips In The Studio’ Discussion Panel at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on August 29, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum)
In his decades-long career, Peter Guralnick has written about some of the biggest icons in American music. He wrote what may be the definitive books on Elvis Presley, as well as biographies of singer Sam Cooke and Sun Records founder Sam Phillips.
His latest work, Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing, is a collection of essays, based on his interviews with many legends of early rock and roll, blues and country. At the center of it is Guralnick himself â because, in some ways, the book is about his own journey in music journalism.
Guralnick is the son of an oral surgeon. He grew up in Massachusetts with big dreams of being a novelist, but as a teenager in the late 1950s, he got bitten by the blues. He writes, “I lived it, breathed it, absorbed it by osmosis, fantasized it. Don’t ask me why.” Even now, he says he can’t quite explain why he was so instantly compelled.
“At 15 or 16, the brother of a friend of mine went to the Newport Folk Festival, and he brought back these blues records,” Guralnick says. “My friend and I started listening, and we were just totally captivated and carried away. And I never looked back.”
Peter Guralnick spoke with NPR’s Rachel Martin about music writing and research as a journey toward the discovery of his own voice. Hear the radio version at the audio link, and read on for an edited transcript.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Rachel Martin: People like Eric Clapton or Keith Richards, they heard the blues and then picked up a guitar. You heard the blues and wanted to learn how to write about it.
Peter Guralnick: Well, kind of. There was no way to write about the blues when I first started listening â there was no outlet for it. And then, all of a sudden, this sort of underground press came along. Anybody who knew me was gonna know about my mania, and so a few people asked me if I wanted to write something. But what I wrote was never criticism â it was really advocacy. If James Brown was coming to town, I would just try to persuade people: “Go out and see this. This is the greatest thing you’ll ever see in your life.”
Did people accept your stuff at first? I mean, you weren’t a musician yourself, right?
No, no, not a musician in any way. That was never part of my makeup. At the beginning, I really didn’t meet the musicians for the most part. But I started writing profiles â I found that to be the best way I had of communicating my passion. And it allowed me to use my own language to describe what they were trying to do: in the language of the artist, to find themselves.
In your essay on Ray Charles, you focus on the song “I Got a Woman,” which you learned was based on a song by the gospel group The Southern Tones called “It Must Be Jesus.” Recount that story for us: He’s in a car with his buddies, he hears this song and they start riffing?
Yeah, he’s in the car with his musical director, Renald Richard. And Ray Charles was such a fan of gospel. Ray and Renald are driving along, listening to the car radio; the song comes on, and Ray starts singing secular lyrics to it. The two of them got such a kick out of it, and they kept going on it from there, sort of amusing themselves. But Ray immediately recognized this was something that he wanted to do. This was an adaptation, or a turn, he wanted to take.
That was what led me to write a story which I could fill in in such telling details about a moment that was so significant, a song that really was one of the great, most influential songs of the 20th century. It was the first R&B song that had been explicitly based on a gospel song.
Did Ray Charles ever tell you personally what that song meant for him?
It meant two things. It gave him his voice, once and for all, without any doubt. At the same time, by its success, it gave him what he absolutely needed: the ability to put together and hold together a band of his own that would enable him to express himself in the way that he wanted to. With the success of “I Got a Woman,” he put together a band and he never looked back. He was able from then on to express himself in whatever manner he chose to, whether it was “Georgia on My Mind” or “What’d I Say.”
If we look at your body of work as an exploration of creativity, what did you take away from all this?
Every single person I wrote about looked back upon the moment that they discovered their voice, in one way or another. It represents, for me, something very personal, in the sense that I was searching for my own voice. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I discovered in my writing about these musicians a way to express myself in a way that I never quite imagined â to be able to write in this fashion about music and about people that I cared so much about.
This year, SenegalâsÂ Orchestra Baobab celebrate their 50th Anniversary. Its major milestone for any band but their story is even more fascinating.
To celebrate the band has announced the issue of their landmark 2002 classic reunion album âSpecialist In All Stylesâ for the first time ever on vinyl, on September 25th. Alongside this comes a previously unseen video from the archive â a performance of âJiin Ma Jiin Maâ from their 2015 show at Jazz Ă Vienne Festival in France.
âSpecialistâ was the first album by the full group since 1982âs legendary âPirates Choiceâ, a holy grail for African music fans. Recorded at Londonâs Livingston Studios in just ten days and produced by World CircuitâsÂ Nick GoldÂ withÂ Youssou NâDour, âSpecialist In All Stylesâ is a definitive illustration of Baobabâs Afro-Latin magic, introducing new material and reinventing some of the old tunes that made them famous.
By the start of 1970, at the height of the Star Bandâs fame, a new fashionable venue, Club Baobab, opened its doors in Dakarâs European district. Well known as a hangout for those with status and power, the club was built around a baobab tree, and to fire up its musical roster, its well-connected owners poached Star Band singers Balla Sidibe, Rudy Gomis and guitarist Barthelemy Attisso. Bassist Charlie Ndiaye and percussionist Mountaga Koite soon followed, joined by rhythm guitarist Latfi Ben Jelloun, Nigerian clarinet player Peter Udo, and veteran griot singer Laye Mboup.
With that, the stage was set for Orchestra Baobab to set the tempo for a new era of modern Senegalese and African music, drawing through the clubâs doors a diverse urban crowd ranging from businessmen and politicians to army officers and expats.
Combining pop, soul and traditional music from across Senegal and beyond, Orchestra Baobab quickly developed a distinctive raft of styles that reflected the cultural mix and the strong musical personalities of its members. Balla and Rudy hailed from Senegalâs culturally rich Casamance, saxophonist Issa Cissokho from Mali, and Latfi from Morocco. Guitarist Attisso â the lawyer-turned-guitarist whose arpeggio runs would become one of the bandâs scintillating trademarks â came from Togo, but what bound these myriad elements as tight as a drum skin was a strong Cuban influence, introduced to Senegal by sailors flowing in and out of the Port of Dakar.
Over the next decade, Orchestra Baobab kept evolving with an ever-changing lineup of members and released a number of classic records along the way.
However, by the end of 1983 Baobab had unofficially disbanded, and it wasnât until Nick Gold and Youssou NâDour encouraged the group to reform 15 long years later that Orchestra Baobab rose again at their now-famous London Barbican gig in 2001 and received a standing ovation that seemed to go on forever.
Celebrating 50 years as one of Africaâs greatest bands is an achievement few can equal, and while special Anniversary shows have been put on hold as a result of the global Coronavirus outbreak, plans remain in place to celebrate the band and their story through filmed performances and interviews, remixes and playlists, to help the prestigious Orchestraâs global legion of fans celebrate their half-century milestone.
Chris âC. P.â Lee, leader of Greasy Bear, the legendary Manchester underground died suddenly on July 25th.
Chris Lee, was born in Didsbury, Manchester in 1950 and as well as being a musician, he was a writer, broadcaster, performer and university lecturer.
A student at The Manchester School of Art, in 1969 he formed Greasy Bear along with his friend Bruce Mitchell – of The Durutti Column fame – as well as Ian Wilson, Steve Whalley and John Gibson.
Greasy Bear were christened âManchesterâs answer to The Grateful Deadâ and they were managed by Manchester music promoter and DJ Roger Eagle.
Greasy Bear played countless gigs in the North West and Manchester area.
They seemed to play every local festival, all dayers, as well as pub and college gigs and of course at Manchester’s Magic Village. Their gigs were promoted in the Manchester underground newspaper Grass Eye.
In 1970, with a collection of songs penned by Chris Lee and Ian Wilson, Greasy Bear recorded nine tracks, hoping to secure a deal with the Philips underground and progressive label Vertigo. They worked with producer Terry Brown, who had recently produced the work of Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick.
After the deal with Philips/Vertigo fell through the band went their separate ways.
In 2016 the album, âIs Adrian There?â, finally saw the light of day after being released by Vinyl Revival on Record Store Day.
C.P. Lee and Bruce Mitchell formed Manchester anarchic-satirical rock band Alberto Y Los Trios Paranoias. Bruce went on to form half of Factory records duo The Durutti Column.
Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias released three albums in the 1970s and were scheduled to appear on Top Of The Pops to promote a new single but a power cut meant they couldnât appear.
Their remarkable story is told in C.P.âs own memoir, âWhen We Were Thinâ.
This was one of many books that Chris would write over the years including âShake, Rattle & Rainâ, is an adaption of his PhD thesis on popular music making in Manchester.
A fanatic of all things Bob Dylan, Chris attended Dylanâs Manchester Free Trade Hall âJudasâ concert in 1966, of which he later wrote about in his book âLike The Night (Revisited)â.
He hosted hosted a number of film, music and performance events at the Kings Arms in Salford over the years.
In more recent years he toured as C.P. âUkuleâ Lee in a bid to keep the Albertos legend alive by going on the road and performing his bandâs hits.