In the interest of driving the final nail into the coffin that holds the rapidly decomposing corpse of 2006, let’s talk about Discoveries – those albums/songs/artists/etc. that were not new in 2006, but which I encountered for the first time, and was glad I did.
Perhaps the biggest personal discovery was that of three artists featured on the outstanding Ethiopiques series of CDs on the Paris-based Buda Musique label. The compilations have been coming out since 1997, but it wasn’t until I was putting together a radio show last summer that I heard anything about them. But soon, having listened to the bulk of the 21 volumes, I found myself particularly drawn to:
Getatchew Mekurya – “The Negus of Ethiopian Sax” whose sound is at once earthy and otherworldly.
Mulatu Astatqe – Astatqe represents something of a lynchpin of the Ethiojazz community, both during its brief flowering in the 1970s, at the end of Haile Selassie’s reign, and during its recent resurgence. Astatqe’s music – exotic, R&B-inflected, soulful, but unmistakably foreign – also features prominently in Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers.
Mahmoud Ahmed – An uncommonly soulful vocalist, whose mastery of the tezeta form (think Ethiopian blues, simplistically) isn’t lost on those of us who don’t speak Amharic.
The Shivers, “Beauty” – Found this song on a blog somewhere, and fell hard for it. When I read, later that day, that The Shivers, a.k.a. performance artist and asexual farmer Keith Zarriello, also covered “Chelsea Hotel #2” on the Charades album, I ordered it immediately. The album is good, eclectic indie-folk type stuff, but “Beauty” remains the centrepiece for me. Haunting, forlorn, anguished, sincere and pretty, it’s almost endlessly repeat-able.
Destination: Out – There are a million music blogs out there (probably more), but this is my current favourite. Generous to a fault with mp3s of out of print improvised music (or “fire music,” or “free jazz,” or “avant-garde,” etc.) recordings posted twice a week, giving reader/listeners just enough time to digest one artist or style before moving onto the next. Curators Chilly Jay Chill and Prof. Drew LeDrew know their stuff and present it in an entirely un-stuffy way, without dumbing anything down.
So there it is, 2006 summarized. My fond reminiscences of the year that was now done, the question must be asked: what’s next for This is Our Music? Suggestions, please.