Forgotten: Field recordings of West African griots

14a0723a254c273b7e5d76f4d306c2ef487b6c8dWolof Song: Abdu Njai

by Nyama Suso – on the album “Griots: Ministers of the Spoken Word”

This 1975 Smithsonian Folkways recording is long on authenticity, at least as measured in the gap between the melodic tunefulness of the kora and the shout/talk/sing style of West African griots. Forgotify took me to the second song on the second side of this collection of Gambian and Malian griots. I also listened to “Tiramang” by Falie Kuyateh and Nyama Suso.

I actually listen to a lot of West African music in my non-Forgotify Files life, so I’m familiar with the style but these raw field-style recordings are a dimensional jump even from the smartphone recordings of today’s kora and guitar slinging blues griots.

Here’s the Smithsonian Folkways catalog page for the album: Griots: Ministers of the Spoken Word Various Artists FW04178 / FE 4178. I include it here so you can marvel at the informative catalog notes. (This previous is deadpan irony. Do not be fooled.)




Stark and stunning piano and cello from Mischa Schneider and Peter Serkin

Sonata in A Minor for Cello and Piano, Op. 116: I. Allegro moderato

by Peter Serkin – on the album “Music from Marlboro – Busoni: Fantasia Contrappuntistica for Two Pianos / Reger: Cello Sonata”

6dd7bd04df449d2967566e76f0da6f4e82ab4c74Ah… being first is neat… but rather bittersweet. I mean, here is this really quite stunning festival recording of a Reger piano and cello sonata from two masters,* yet no one has listened to it yet on Spotify. Where they could listen for free. (Or at least at the pain of an advert every once in a while — keep a hand ready to turn down the volume, since the ads are about Skrillex level, relative volume-wise.)

The work, itself, has a haunting, brooding quality (not like all those happy-go-lucky piano-cello sonatas, yeah?) perfect for the right rainy day. (But watch out on the wrong one. Do not follow with Billie Holiday singing, “Gloomy Sunday.”)

Strong performances, I think, a rapt audience, and darkly hypnotic material. What’s not to like? You’d think it would have caught on. (But, hey, maybe it went up yesterday, right? But not all of the 4 million unheard tracks on Spotify went up yesterday.)

On Google Music:

* Someone else had listened to the Busoni piano duo. And, in fact, someone else on Forgotify will likely be served up the second movement of this sonata, since I switched to my own (‘hi fi’) all-320 kbps subscription service when the sound on Spot — who have a mix of stream qualities — seemed a bit dodgy — that said, there’s a bit of noise on this live, festival recording at the very beginning of the sonata, sounds like something scraping a live mic. But the rest of the recording is fine, I often ‘forgot’ I was listening to a live recording.

Alaskan history told in song…

Stampede: Stroller White’s Account / Battleship Maine (medley)

by Walter Krauss – on the album “Southeast Alaska Folk Tradition, Vol. 2: Stampede and Settlement, 1898-1941”

cdcdb182bf27b812b9a35b03ef38eff49bd52e4aThe language is a bit bluer than we might expect from an anthology of old-time music, but this collection of spoken word, found sound, narration, and musical recreations aims to reveal Alaskan history mostly through song from the era — and is probably one of the most on point collections of folk music around when it comes to history and storytelling.