Monday, October 6, 2008

The river, the desert, the wild...

On Saturday a jolly band of misfits joined adventurer Rob Buchanan on a row up the Hudson river to the mythic ruins of a castle along the Palisades, near a sandy bank a quarter-mile past the George Washington Bridge. The tip of the island sat before us. We assembled benches from logs, collected fagots to make fire, played the celebrity game (Wim Wenders and William Carlos Williams, if just a W!), and drank white wine and beers and cider into the night, while the remaining dots of cityscape radiance endured.

When all was quiet on the lawn of the ruins, overgrown with lush green grass, I slept beside Martine Holmquist, an old friend of mine. But the sudden rattling of rain drove me to consciousness. Dreamily content, massaged by the oppressive sound of the water, I immediately fell back asleep. After I emerged from the tent, I took strange-tasting instant coffee, in my glass jar-cup, and for a moment it felt as if I hadn't had coffee in days, weeks, months. Ha!

Back on the Whitehall gig, in the fog and sprinkle, the world was a damp and cold gray. It felt broken.

This week on the Glow, a review of Group Inerane's Guitars From Agadez:

The Tuareg people, camel-herding nomads of the unforgiving Sahara in West Africa, are known to perform a unique kind of blues known alternately as Tichumaren (which means “music of the unemployed” in their native tongue of Tamasheq) and simply “guitar music.” In the ’90s, it sprung up as a form of local communication—often the only means of distributing information, cassettes of Tuareg bands like Tinariwen spread from refugee camps in Lybia and Algeria into the villages deep in the Sahara and Sahel deserts, telling the news and calling for freedom from oppression. But over the past several years, the genre has rocketed to international fame and taken on new meaning. It has spoken to oppression worldwide: In 2003, the Navajo traditional/punk band Blackfire performed in solidarity with their subjugated kindred spirits at the “Festival in the Desert” in Mali. And Tichumaren has unified musicians hitherto unrelated: lately, Tinariwen has teamed up with the French band Lo’Jo and… Robert Plant! Guitars From Agadez, the latest installment of what Sublime Frequency calls the “Tuareg Guitar Revolution,” is a set of live recordings by Group Inerane, a ragtag band of men and women from Niger, headed by Bibi Ahmed, a master of languid guitar grooves. The record is a nice historical document, but it’s the band’s hypnotic desert blues that will make English-language listeners smitten. Continued here...

And a Q&A with Portugal. The Man's John Gourley:

When they’re not touring, half of the foursome Portugal. The Man resides in the northwest. The other half hails from the sylvan wilds of Alaska. Songwriter John Gourley, for his part, is a native of Wasilla, the epicenter of the state’s evangelical movement and the home town of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Last month, Gourley posted a touching missive against the Alaskan governor on his band’s website. Over e-mail a day before the vice-presidential debate last Thursday, he didn’t have any juicy tidbits on Palin to share, but he shouted out to his musical allies, recommended some Alaskan bars, explained how his father might’ve met Jesus and discussed the band’s new album, Censored Colors. Read more...

Photo by Nadia Chaudhury.

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