Saturday, 29 March 2014

Ariadna Castellanos Trio live

Yesterday, I went to see the Ariadna Castellanos Trio in the Auditorium of the ULPGC (University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria). The most shocking thing about this concert was that the Auditorium was not even half-full. It wasn’t even one-third-full. They really could should have advertised it better. Anyway, I was there, and that’s what counts. And the music was pure magic.

By the time the concert finished, I realised that I had a camera with me. Damn. Luckily, the (small but devoted) audience managed to deliver a standing ovation and the trio came back for an encore.

Ariadna’s album Flamenco En Black & White is out now.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Novel Notes

by Jerome K. Jerome

As already mentioned, there is no such thing as common or garden Englishman who read Three Men in a Boat. I guess those who read Novel Notes are even rarer and... what is the opposite of garden?

Compared to Three Men, this book (featuring four men) is altogether more reflective, at times sombre affair. Still, Jerome’s incomparable humour shines through here and there. Read it.

؂ ؂ ؂
Another time he showed us how to make coffee — according to the Arabian method. Arabia must be a very untidy country if they made coffee often over there. He dirtied two saucepans, three jugs, one tablecloth, one nutmeg-grater, one hearthrug, three cups, and himself. This made coffee for two — what would have been necessary in the case of a party, one dares not think.
؂ ؂ ؂
Houseboats then were not built to the scale of Mississippi steamers, but this boat was a small one, even for that primitive age. The man from whom we hired it described it as “compact”. The man to whom, at the end of the first month, we tried to sub-let it, characterised it as “poky”. In our letters we traversed this definition. In our hearts we agreed with it.
؂ ؂ ؂
“What the intellectual woman requires in man is not something to argue with, but something to look at. To an empty-headed woman I can imagine the soldier type proving vapid and uninteresting; to the woman of mind he represents her ideal of man — a creature strong, handsome, well-dressed, and not too clever”.
؂ ؂ ؂
There is a story told of an elderly tramp, who, overtaken by misfortune, was compelled to retire for a while to the seclusion of Portland. His hosts, desiring to see as much as possible of their guest during his limited stay with them, proceeded to bath him. They bathed him twice a day for a week, each time learning more of him; until at last they reached a flannel shirt.

Friday, 14 March 2014


by Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha

Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha had two songs featured on the Balkan Fever Helsinki album. And since I managed to remember the band’s name (Väärä Raha means “False Money”), I couldn’t simply ignore their new album. Not with that cover art.

According to Finnish Wikipedia, all members of the Helsinki-based band are originally from Lapland. If you ignore for a second the fact that it is sung in Finnish-ish, the music sounds more Balkan than what is offered by many “real” Balkan bands. Most of the songs on Lapland-Balkan are originals, apart from Verkkaan and Kiidä troikka (at first, I read the title as “kinda troika”), the latter being a Finnish version of Тройка мчится, тройка скачет by Pyotr Bulakhov.


  1. Kasa tuhkaa (Jarkko Niemelä & Lucie Niemelä)
  2. Verkkaan (trad.)
  3. Pölyiset tiet (Jaakko Laitinen)
  4. Pettymys (Jarkko Niemelä & Lucie Niemelä)
  5. Raikas henkäys (Jarkko Niemelä)
  6. Unta vai totta (Janne Hast)
  7. Ihmehyrrä (Marko Roininen)
  8. Keisari (Janne Hast, Jarkko Niemelä & Jaakko Laitinen)
  9. Mies menestyvin (Jaakko Laitinen)
  10. Kuollut rakkaus (Marko Roininen)
  11. Kiidä troikka (Pjotr Bulahov)
  12. Suuren maailman suurilla teillä (Jarkko Niemelä & Lucie Niemelä)
    Jaakko Laitinen: vocals
    Jarkko Niemelä: trumpet, alto horn, bouzouki, backing vocals; organ (5)
    Marko Roininen: accordion, backing vocals
    Tuomo Kuuri: double bass, backing vocals
    Janne Hast: drums
    Antti Kujanpää: organ (1, 8)
    Matti Pitkänen: violin (2, 9)
    Laura Airola: violin (3, 6)
    Lucie Niemelä: vocals (6)
    Juho Kanervo: cello (6)
    Tomi Rikkola: viola (6)
    Petri Kautto: guitar (7, 11)
    Heikki Tuhkanen: trombone (10)
    Valtteri Bruun: guitar (12)
    Recorded at Hästholmen 13—24.2.2013
    Recording and mixing by Valtteri Bruun
    Mastering by Pentti Dassum
    Cover illustration by Fanny Felicia Svanberg

Monday, 10 March 2014

The Original Sound of Cumbia: The History of Colombian Cumbia & Porro as Told by the Phonograph 1948—79

compilation, research and liner notes by Will Holland

If Diablos del Ritmo focus on Afro-Colombian fusion styles other than cumbia, The Original Sound of Cumbia, as the title suggests, is mostly cumbia. This monumental 55-track compilation is the result of five years research by Will ‘Quantic’ Holland, the English DJ now based in Colombia. The first CD (or, if you prefer vinyl, the first three LPs) contains some of the earliest cumbia recordings, of 1940s and 1950s, taken from the original 78s, while the material for the second CD (the second triple LP album) is derived from the later 45s and LPs. If I had a permanent address and a turntable, I would certainly go for the vinyl version which come with free MP3 bundle and has, well, vinyl-only bonus tracks: Cumbia Alegre by Angel Martínez con Los Sabaneros and Cumbia Linda by Heber Macias.

In a post-internet world of traffic light CD compilations and auto-tune Tropi-pop, the 78 format is out of both context and fashion, rather like asking for Edison wax cylinders in your local HMV. But the 78 format does seem to provide some respite in the digital audio circus; it’t that old workhorse that keeps on pulling, the cartwheel that keeps on turning regardless of losing its tread. It’s for the same reason that sound engineers still use microphones engineered in the 1950s and children still marvel at the sound of a spinning disc with a vibrating stylus, an effect that no-one can truly replicate, no matter how many ‘i’s you put in front of the name.
By the way, I learned from the very informative liner notes that “Colombia continued to produce 78 rpm records well into the late ’70s, partly due to the country’s network of jukeboxes that still utilised the 78 over the 45”. This probably also explains why Holland was able to acquire his 78s on Colombian flea markets well into the 21st century.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive

by Jared Diamond

If I had to reduce this 560-page book to one idea, to one formula, it would be:

Earth = Easter Island

Let’s face it, there are no habitable worlds in our vicinity. There is nowhere to go and nobody is going to help. Yet we are seem to be bent on destroying our land and erecting huge ugly statues all over the damn place.

Collapse does not flow as smoothly as Guns, Germs and Steel. According to Diamond, his book resembles “a boa constrictor that has swallowed two very large sheep”, the first sheep being the Chapter 1 on the environmental problems of southwestern Montana, while the Chapters 6 to 8 dedicated to Norse Greenland constitute the second sheep. I did not know much about Montana until reading this book and, to be honest, the reading still didn’t get me interested enough to read more about it, let alone to plan holidays there. I was much more fascinated with chapters on Greenland and tiny Polynesian islands.

The author describes himself as a “cautious optimist”. He points out that, in contrast to collapsed past societies, we have the opportunity to learn from their histories. Of course, we are not going to; we all know what Hegel said about history lessons. Just read the news. Any news. I feel sorry for our planet, Easter Island with a single remaining tree, “which an islander proceeds to fell in an act of incredibly self-damaging stupidity”.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Carnival Conspiracy

by Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars

I first learned about Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars thanks (once again) to Songlines. To be precise, it was Our Ancestors Forty Thousand Years Wide which appeared on Top of the World CD back in 2006. It took me only eight years to get hold of the album. And it is one worth listening to, during the carnival or otherwise. The music is crazy. The liner notes are hilarious and as relevant now as they were then.

Carnival has power to elicit cathartic laughter in even the most constipated. Not the “Heh-heh-heh we stole the election and made billions of dollars pillaging the environment and launching an illegal war” laughter so fashionable in these times; but true Ambivalent and Universal Laughter which does not deny Complexity but affirms it. Laughter that purifies from dogmatism; liberates from fascism and pedantry, from fear and intimidation, from didacticism, naiveté and illusion, from the single meaning, from sentimentality. Laughter which Restores the Almighty Ambivalent Wholeness of our Existence.
Esteemed reader, you have purchased the greatest recording of all time, a CD so powerful that it will cure you of all ailments from impotence to flatulence. Let my bowels be ripped out and roasted if I am exaggerating. Simply carrying this disc on your person will lead to untold fortunes! Wrap this compact disc in warm, moist linen and apply it directly to any afflicted area of your body. It has the strength to cure Toothache, Ulcer and STDs. Is this nothing? Find me any Klezmer recording which possesses such virtues and properties! It relegates to the dung heap of history all the other Radical-Jewish-Soul-Music-Brave-Old-Klezmotic-Golemic-Conservatory-Kaplyen-MadAsYahoo-Klezwhatever recordings, surpassing even Beethoven, Bird and Beatles. If anyone contradicts me, let her be herewith denounced as a false prophet, a Jew for Cheeses, a seducer of the people. Of all the recordings made by Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars, this is the Third!

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Girl Who Married a Lion

by Alexander McCall Smith

This is an odd collection of folk tales from Zimbabwe and Botswana re-told by Alexander McCall Smith (with a foreword by Mma Ramotswe). Of them, I liked Brave Hunter, Children of Wax and Sister of Bones the most — my kind of fairy tales. Some others are a bit weird; and a few are rather too violent for bedtime children’s stories (although not nearly as violent as the brothers Grimm). And yet some others are worth reading if only for their deadpan endings.

The elders were surprised that such a short boy could be so brave but they remembered their promise and agreed to make him chief.
Later, when he was chief, the short boy grew taller.
Great Snake
🐾 🐾 🐾 🐾
The aunt was very quiet during the journey back home. The next day she was quiet as well, and she never shouted at the boy again. Being swallowed by a strange animal had taught the aunt not to waste her time shouting; now, all that she wanted to do was to sit quietly in the sun.
The boy was very happy.
Strange Animal
🐾 🐾 🐾 🐾
The following night, many people came to see that family to help them eat the elephant meat. They ate many pumpkins too.
🐾 🐾 🐾 🐾
“Your sons are not lions,” the uncle said to the boys’ mother.
“I am glad,” she said.
The Girl Who Married A Lion
🐾 🐾 🐾 🐾
Hare did not return. The girl who caught him was praised by all the animals, and was allowed to share their water. This made her happy too.
Tremendously Clever Tricks Are Played, But To Limited Effect

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Ina Forsman with Helge Tallqvist Band

by Ina Forsman and Helge Tallqvist Band

I may have learned very little Finnish (I mean language), but I did learn about many other Finnish things. That includes something that does not sound Finnish at all. It’s ... blues!

But it is Finnish all right. Watch this video and you’ll see why.

Featuring a large house in the middle of nowhere; a man in overalls and dirty wellies; a tractor; and, of course, a femme fatale... On the sunny side of Finland, mademoiselle chante le blues.

This and other terrific renditions of blues classics can be heard on the album released in 2013 by Q-Records. (I never heard of this label before and still cannot find out much about it.) As one could expect, the physical album is not available on Amazon (only MP3). To get the real thing (the CD looking like a mini-vinyl replica, even the readable surface is black!), shop elsewhere.

Now listen to it. There is a chance that you’ll be listening with your mouth open, as I did. Luckily, nobody was watching. (If you really need to know, I was replacing the stones in the sauna at the time.) After that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ina Forsman & Helge Tallqvist Band will represent Finland at this year’s European Blues Challenge in Riga, 11—12 April 2014.

Ina Forsman with Helge Tallqvist Band

  1. Something’s Got a Hold on Me (Pearl Woods/Leroy Kirkland/Etta James)
  2. What Have I Done (Samuel “Magic Sam” Maghett)
  3. Queen Bee (James “Slim Harpo” Moore)
  4. 5-10-15 Hours (Rudy Toombs)
  5. I’d Rather Go Blind (Ellington Jordan/Billy Foster)
  6. That’s All I Need (S. Maghett)
  7. Got Love If You Want It (J. Moore)
  8. I Got Trouble (Christina Aguilera/Linda Perry)
  9. He Belongs To Me (Maghett/Al Benson)
  10. Number 9 Train (Bobby Robinson)
  11. Willie and The Hand Jive (Johnny Otis)
  12. All I Could Do Was Cry (Billy Davis/Berry Gordy/Gwen Gordy)
  13. What Have I Done Wrong (S. Maghett)
  14. Every Night About This Time (Fats Domino/Dave Bartholomew)
  15. Slow Walk (Sil Austin/Irving Siders/Connie Moore) / Honky Tonk (Billy Butler/Bill Doggett/Clifford Scott/Shep Shepherd)
    Ina Forsman: vocals
    Helge Tallqvist: harmonica
    Jonne Kulluvaara: guitar
    Iiro Kautto: bass
    Harri Ala-Kojola: drums
    Songs 1 & 7:
    Tomi Leino: guitar
    Jaska Prepula: bass
    Mikko Peltola: drums