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Archive for May, 2010

World Music News Wire

From atop a smoldering, Afro-rock soapbox, rooted in the traditions of his homeland, an African immigrant and activist belts out this rallying cry, warning against state corruption and capitalistic greed. “People are trapped between governments and corporations,” says the Togolese-born Massama Dogo – singer, guitarist, composer, and founder of the band Elikeh. “Africans,” in particular, he continues, “are being used and abused” by these institutions.

Exploiting a musical pulpit adorned with gritty guitar-heavy grooves, Dogo’s poignant diatribes achieve full resonance on Adje! Adje!, the new release from his D.C.-based ensemble.

Dogo and his group seek to put the tiny sliver nation of Togo on the musical map. Even within Togo itself, this nation’s music has been marginalized by its own state-sponsored media. Remarking on his childhood growing up in this West African country, Dogo recalls, “the radio never promoted anything from Togo. They only played music from other countries.” Although it is improving, even today, Elikeh faces a tough Togolese media that are primarily oriented towards Ghanaian hip-life, Congolese Soukous, and Ivorian Zouglou music.

Read more about Dogo’s past as an upcoming musician here.

Illustrating the distinct sonic beauty of this creolized African dialect, Dogo relates the hardships of his adjustment to American life on the song “Madjo.” Creating an entrancing mixture of linguistic buoyancy, over the intimate rhythmic strumming of a loan crystalline acoustic guitar, Dogo trades versus with guest Malian rap artist Yeli Fezzo, who sings in Parisian French.

On Adje! Adje!, Dogo is able to realize his artistic vision, creating original music that fuses indigenous Togolese traditional elements with contemporary sensibilities. “Novi Nye” (My Brother), begins with the interlocking bell and drum pattern of a music known as Kamou. This driving triplet-based rhythm continues as a muted guitar plays off this polyrhythmic motif, accompanying a sanguine flute characteristic of the Kamou, which floats throughout the song, giving the track a refreshing lightness. As a trio of guitars produces a stir of timbres and textures, each subtly using different electronic effects, the celebratory vocals call for unity among the various ethnic and political groups within Togo. “I wrote this song just before the recent presidential elections in Togo,” says Dogo. “I was thinking that although my country is divided along political lines, with the ruling faction living in the north and the opposition in the south, we are all brothers and sisters.”

Departing form the trends, Elikeh carves out their own musical space. “Everybody is going for straight up Fela Kuti Afro-beat style right now,” Dogo claims. “We have some of that influence; we have some highlife in there, but the way we incorporate rock is not there in other bands. As a joke we call it Afro-high; but we cannot call it that because everyone would think we are high all the time.” Reminiscent of the raw and rough Afro-rock sound coming out of West Africa in the 1970s, the songs “Oleblemi,” and “Get Ready” feature hard-hitting funk-rock grooves with mildly distorted guitar solos from veteran John Lee, who has played with a number of noted African musicians, including Baye Kouyate.

The band’s sound is also distinguished by the trifecta of gravely guitars that weave throughout the album, creating dense multi-layered polyrhythmic patterns. These textures shimmer on “Let’s March,” a slow-burning re-invention of a composition by Nigerian songwriter Orlando Julius Ekemode. “The original uses keyboards,” Dogo explains, “but I think that a lot of African bands overuse keyboards.” Providing a direct connection to the roots of this song, the rhythmical guitar of Frank Martins—who also appeared on Ekemode’s original recording of this song—reverberates on this African anthem. Martins is also featured on “Aiko,” which uses a slowed-down version of a style from the Southern part of Togo called tumewe, combined with the call and response of the agbekor style.

Building on the precedent of musical political activism set by artists such as Nigeria’s Fela Kuti and Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo, a majority of the ensemble’s songs have profound political themes. Opening the record with a haunting a capella chant, the album’s namesake, “Adje! Adje!” offers a warning. “We are saying: watch out! Here they come again – the multinationals and the corrupt governments,” says Dogo. “But this time we won’t let them take over our place!” This poignantpolitical message is punctuated with tight horn stabs, interlacing guitar lines, and dense polyrhythmical drumming provided by Tosin Aribisala, who is no stranger to socially conscious music. Arisbisala has toured with Femi Kuti, in addition to recording a tribute to Fela Kuti (Red Hot & Riot), which included such notables as Macy Gray, Erykah Badu, Sade, Baaba Maal, and Taj Mahal.

With their distinct brand of Togolese-infused “Afro-high,” which merges a re-invention of the rugged Afro-rock of the 1970s with Afro-beat, highlife, and roots music of West Africa, Elikeh prove that the marginalized music of a tiny overshadowed nation can inspire engaging new sonic landscapes, and stand shoulder to shoulder with its more notorious neighbors.

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

When I think about Willie Nelson, two things pop into my mind right away: marijuana, of course, and those two long gray braids of hair that he has always sported. Well, now he’s gone and done it — he got a haircut.

According to the Yahoo! Music Blog, Nelson decided it was time to lost his trademark hair because of the constant maintenance and upkeep it was requiring. Yes, it can be difficult, Willie. Also, I might add that summer time often induces hair cuts. When you’re in 90 degree heat, you don’t want to deal with all that hair sticking to the back of your neck.

So, that being said, I dedicate this post to the memory of those long gray locks. I guess the day finally came when the ultimate hippie had to cut his hair.

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

What did you think of the season finale of Lost last night? Were you hanging on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what would happen next? I know I was.

I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. First of all, when Jack killed the man in black by simply having Desmond move a rock in a cave and then stab him, I wasn’t expecting it. I saw Locke’s body laying on the edge of the cliff and expected him to get up and keep on fighting. Killing him seemed like it was going to be such a big task and then wasn’t.

It was interesting that the creators of the show decided to turn the ‘alternate reality’ into a kind of meeting place, or purgatory, for all the characters of the show. One by one, we saw people unite and were ourselves reunited with characters we hadn’t seen in seasons, like Shannon and Boone. Once they all realized they were connected by the island and could remember their experiences together, they were good to go on towards their final end.

The final end is where I have a slight problemo. Okay, so if all the characters died, does that mean they all died within their own time and they are reuniting in heaven (the church)? That’s how I took it. Jack was the last one to die and the last one to reunite in heaven. At the very end, we see a flash of white light. Are they going onward in heaven or are they going back to the island together?

Some people have been arguing that the initial plane crash killed everyone and that they’ve all been dead throughout all six seasons of the show. I don’t see how that is possible. I see their lives on the island as real, the alternate reality as purgatory, and the final scene in the church as an end to a journey to heaven or an afterlife. But I’m sure everyone will have their own take on it. It certainly leaves room for much interpretation. I loved the way they ended Jack’s life, making him die where he initially landed on the island. And the peaceful closing of the eye…

And to follow up on my previous post, they didn’t completely tie up all the loose ends! Looks like we will have to wait for the DVD to come out to get some answers after all. That being said, it’s been a good run with Lost. It’s sad that it’s over, but hey, all good things must end.

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

For all of you Lost fans out there, I’m sure you’re pretty excited about the season finale happening tonight. It is a moment I have been waiting for for months now and my biggest hope is that they answer all of the questions I have.

But what if they don’t? According to CNN Entertainment, the final season’s DVD release will have tons of extras and will even extend an extra twenty minutes. The reason for this? The producers of the show say they couldn’t fit everything into the television finale to tie up all the loose ends.

So, with the help of CNN, here are some questions that I hope to get some answers to during tonight’s season finale:

  • Is the island really an island, or is it something else entirely?
  • What is the white light?
  • How come Jacob is talking to people when he is dead?
  • In the alternate realities of each character, some links to their roles on the island have been made. Will we see them follow through on these connections?
  • What’s up with the island’s medical capabilities? It can heal people of terminal illnesses, but women still can’t have babies there (except Claire for whatever reason).
  • Polar bears??

Whatever questions that are left unanswered will have to wait until the DVD of the show comes out. That won’t be until August!

Are there any burning questions you want them to address tonight?

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove 

Okay, I don’t know about you, but I think this sounds like something out of a movie…

The Associated Press reports that famous paintings worth almost $613 million dollars were stolen out of the Paris Museum of Modern Art. The heist happened overnight last night and the police believe it was done by a highly sophisticated criminal or group of criminals.

The works of art were expertly removed from their frames, leaving nothing behind. The security cameras were disabled, but one video surveillance camera caught a lone individual on tape. That does not necessarily mean that he worked alone. He entered the premises by cutting through a padlock on a gate and breaking a window. 

Some of the paintings stolen were those of Picasso and Matisse. Here is the full video report from the Associated Press: 

The Museum will be closed until further notice so that police can conduct investigations. 

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

Quite an interesting concept for today’s post…a book vending machine.

According to an article on Gizmodo, a German book publishing company, called Hamburger Automatenverlag,  has decided to turn a bunch of cigarette vending machines into those that will vend books instead. The article reports that the cigarette vending machines will be stocked with novels, travel guides, and poetry all written by authors local to the University of Hamburg area.

This is pretty much a genius idea. Not only is a college campus a great starting point for this concept, but it is also a way to turn an unhealthy addiction into a positive learning tool. Books definitely outdo cigarettes in my opinion.

The best part — all of the books inside the machines cost consumers a mere $5 each.

This idea has caught on in other countries as well. In Canada, they have the same general concept. All of those vending machines, which are supposedly priced at around $30,000 each, come with a secure credit card line so you don’t have to worry about having cash to purchase a book. Upgrade!

Maybe if this idea continues to spread, we could see some book vending machines in our country soon!

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

We all know that the recent flooding in Nashville, Tennessee has been devastating to its residents. People have been underwater for days, scrounging to collect any belongings they can save. But how did high-priced items, like world-famous rock instruments, weather the storm?

Not too well, according to the Los Angeles Times. An instrument storage facility, called Soundcheck Nashville, was home to the musical equipment of nearly 1,000 performers. Some of those include country stars Keith Urban and Vince Gill, along with other classic rock gurus like Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townshend. Brad Paisley apparently lost all his equipment for his upcoming tour.

The storage facility sat underwater for nearly six days before anyone could try to recover the instruments.

The owner of the facility, Ben Jumper, claimed that all musicians were responsible for having their own insurance for each instrument kept there. However, his own flood insurance on the building was minimal. Many of these classic instruments have since crumbled and are in no way recoverable.

This is sad news for rock and roll history. When we lose some of our great musical artifacts, like a guitar once played by Johnny Cash, it’s hard not to think that a little piece of the music dies along with it.

However, all the musicians housing instruments at Soundcheck Nashville are being supportive of each other. Not only are they reaching out to help, but they are also lending out some of the instruments they have that were not housed in the facility. The American Federation of Musicians Union has since set up a donation fund to help out those musicians who can’t afford to replace their equipment.

It’s good to know that when something like this happens, there are so many people who want to help.

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