Ikoyi Blindness

Ikoyi Blindness by Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Africa 70.
Bandcamp Link: Ikoyi Blindness

The mid-70s were Fela’s most prolific time. In 1975, when Ikoyi Blindness came out, he released around 8 albums. After you get the couple obvious ones, (Zombi, Yellow Fever, Beast of No Nation, and Teacher Don’t Teach Me No Nonsense…) it’s hard to know where to go next.

I have a bunch of Fela’s albums tagged in my streaming service, and whenever one of the two tunes from Ikoyi Blindness comes up, it always grabs my attention.

First, the tempos are a bit faster than usual. Second the horn section is on fire, with some pretty elaborate arrangements, and such an outstanding Baritone Sax solo at the end of Ikoyi Blindness that it just seems like it could go on forever. At the end, it sounds like they had to walk the microphone out of the room to get the Bari player, and the band, to stop.

Also, the rhythms section is just a little odd. In sections of, “Gba Mi Leti Ki N’Dolowo” listening to the rhythms, you’d swear it could be James Chance or some other No Wave band.

I don’t know what Fela and the band had in their coffee when they recorded these tracks, but I think I need some.

I’ve listened to a lot of Fela’s albums, and this one always stands out for me, even among the acknowledged classics.

Oh, and about the title, the bandcamp site explains:

“Fela’s definition of mental blindness is a person who, with his eyes wide-open, misses his direction and keeps turning round in circles without ever getting to his destination. Ikoyi Blindness refers to the Nigerian elite class who choose wrong professions because it provides them status in society rather than job satisfaction. Not only are they in the wrong professions, they are also blind to the sufferings of their fellow countrymen who live in ghettos like: Mushin, Ajegunle, Somolu, Maroko and even Kalakuta. Pointing to the example of a lawyer; who instead of buying law books, chooses hammer as his trade tool, or a musician who chooses spanner as his trade tool. Fela says there is still some hope for such men, if they could channel their way of thinking towards their environment. ‘…them miss road! Them find road again oh!’. Those social-climbers who see the status quo and stepping into the shoes of former colonial administrators as a sign of moving up in society.”

We could use someone like Fela in America, and Africa, today*.

*Well, minus the misogyny and mistreatment of women. We still have plenty of that to go around, thank you very much.

#FelaAnikulapoKuti #Fela #Africa70 #IkoyiBlindness

Blacks’ Myths

Blacks’ Myths by Blacks’ Myths.

Blacks’ Myths is Bassist Luke Stewart and Warren G. “Trae” Crudup III on drums.

Two great, young musicians making the music they want to make.

As a bassist Luke Stewart is impressive, handling lines on bass which many guitarists would be jealous of. Mr Crudup, similarly, is a polyrhtym machine.

They do use multitracking, particularly for the bass tracks, so he can hold down melody and rhythm parts.

But, overall, this has a live, jam, feel.

I particularly enjoyed the atmospheric, long track, “Black Flight”, which wouldn’t be out of place on an album from the German band Can.

But, despite that, I don’t quite feel this album quite comes together for me.

Steward and Crudup build excellent, moody, atmospheres and jumping tracks, but, for me, they never quite feel like they go anywhere beyond that initial idea. If you’re a bassist or a drummer, I could see you really digging it, from a technical perspective, but, for me, it doesn’t quite do it.

Maybe I’m just not wrapping my head around what they’re trying to do.

I’m gonna keep listening to it, and may change my mind.

#LukeStewart #WarrenGTraeCrudupIII #BlacksMyths #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

The White Spot

The White Spot by Way Out Northwest.
Label Website: The White Spot

Way Out Northwest is John Butcher on tenor and soprano saxophone, Torsten Müller on contrabass, and Dylan van der Schyff on drums.

If you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you will know that John Butcher specializes particularly in coaxing sounds from his saxophones which are unconventional. “Extended Technique” is often a term bandied about in “classical music” circles for producing non-conventional sounds from an instrument.

In the case of The White Spot, you are about 10 minutes in before you hear something like a saxophone sound you might normally hear on a “Jazz” album. And it doesn’t last long. “Extended Technique” seems like an understatement when applied to someone, like Butcher, who has so pointedly made creating a whole language of expression around finding new sounds from his horns.

Torsten Müller’s often bowed technique is a great match for Butcher, forcing him to react with pitch, rather than just texture. They both bounce unusual sounds back and forth between the two of them, while van der Schyff kicks around what sounds like a toolbox with a hammer and couple bells in it.

So, The White Spot isn’t “easy listening” or “smooth jazz”. But, it makes so much sense when listened to on its own terms, you forget, “Oh right, Saxophonists don’t normally play like that,” until you get caught listening to it by a friend or family member who doesn’t have the context. And, like my Dad said when he found me listening to Captain Beefheart’s “Ice Cream for Crow” in my bedroom during high school, they say, quizzically, “You enjoy listening to this?”

And, like I said to my Dad, way back when, I say to you now, “Why, yes I do, quite a lot.”

#WayOutNorthwest #TheWhiteRoom #JohnButcher #TorstenMüller #DylanvanderSchyff #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack