Friday, April 30, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - April 28/10

A.B. Crentsil is one of the first names I encountered when shopping for African music a long time ago. This is likely because he and other Ghanaian stars like Pat Thomas and Jewel Ackah were based in Toronto for a while, which represented the first wave of African music in Canada. One of his LPs, Sweet Elizabeth, was released through World Art And Decor on Queen St. This was once just about the only place to find African music (downtown) outside of a big chain store, like Sam's or A & A. I think I scooped my copy of Sweet Elizabeth at the Canadian National Exhibition "multicultural marketplace" when the store was trying to unload all its vinyl! After checking into Crentsil, I discovered he was the lead singer of the Sweet Talks, one of Ghana's most popular highlife bands of the 70s. That's part of the reason I'm chuffed about this reissue.

Soundway of course has done a great job of exposing obscure music from Nigeria, Panama, the French Caribbean and so forth, but it's nice to see them reissue music by better known artists like the Sweet Talks and Hedzoleh Soundz (later of Hugh Masekela fame). For funk-and-beyond collectors, obscurity is a virtue. In one sense, the Sweet Talks are obscure, with only one prior international release to their name, but they were one of the biggest bands in Ghana during the seventies. It's welcome news to hear the kind of music which was critically and commercially successful during that era. Soundway paints a clearer picture of West African sounds with releases like these, and I don't even have the liner notes which are no doubt up to the usual informative standard.

The Kusum Beat, from 1974, finds the Sweet Talks in a distinctly Afrobeatish mood with its heavy funk riffs and driving rather beat. According to the Soundway site this was far from typical of their output, and from what I've heard this is indeed much heavier music than I thought it would be. Here's hoping this reissue raises their profile.


escape the night - root 70 (nonplace)
the opposite - steve raegele (songlines)
the thing - the minotaurs (saved by vinyl)
akampanye - sweet talks (soundway)
wartef jigen - orchestre guelem de banjul (syllart)
zol - blk jks (secretly canadian)
tuareg goosi jam in tent - tuareg nomads & kiah keya/nomadic remix (kiahkeya productions)
fishsticks - samiyam (all city)
skip - out to lunch (accurate)
me gusto - mexicans with guns feat. chico mann (friends of friends)
can't feel nothing remix - high places (thrill jockey)
thunder soul - kashmere stage band (now again)
victory - the soul messengers (numero)
come with me - jahdan blakkamoore rmx by sabbo (gold dust)
blackmagic - jose james (brownswood)
heavenly hash - ufallani (no label)
no entry - gussie clarke (17 north parade)
brimstone and fire version - atarra (pressure sounds)
mr. universe dub version - mos def (no label)
fight you down - jah cutta (stomp)
love song - skeat (akwaaba)

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Monday, April 26, 2010

So Nice, We're Doing It Twice

Toronto just doesn't know what to do with us this week: three gigs in a week - we are triply blessed.

Mas Tigre! was a big hit last Saturday, and we're following it up with two free gigs in quick succession.

The first will be this Thursday at the Gladstone's Melody Bar. We're playing two sets, so we'll really stretch out. Sergio and I will be supplying incidental tuneage as well.

Next Saturday, we're at the Cloak and Dagger at the behest of the lovely and talented DJ Anousheh. Her Move On Up nights are simply one of the city's truly essential soulful experiences, abetted by a drink-track of fine beerage. This is going to be tiny and packed!

Hope to see you at one, the other, or both!

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - April 21/10

It's not the greatest band name, but it's accurate.

I was trying to describe this record to someone and talked about the hooky, melodic, heavily filtered synth workouts, the sometimes robotic, sometimes swinging beats and terse vocals. She responded "So they could be from anywhere, right?" Which was exactly the point. They could be just a band from Toronto, or London, or even Kenya.

Just A Band is worldly, but coming from a different place in the world, and theirs is a well-curated survey of many contemporary trends and sounds in hipster dance music. There are several obvious questions: do I like this particular collage because it's African, whereas I might not give it a second thought if it were some buzz band from Brooklyn? By the same token, do I, or other listeners, expect something more African or specifically Kenyan out of this music? To what extent is a band like this a new phenomenon?

Though there are plenty of historical examples of transglobal African sounds produced by Africans and non-Africans alike, there are surely more examples than ever these days. The local origins of this band aren't downplayed or watered down, they're updated and placed on equal footing with all the other international musical and technological influences; there's no subordination or fetishization of geographically based stereotypes. Probably the clincher for me in this case are the vocals, which sound like a seriously spliffed-out Tone Loc wrung out through an autotuned vocoder. The declamatory singing and spoken word style combined with the melodic sweetness is quite appealing.

This album represents yet another round in the continuing debate over "what do North Americans expect from African music?" We should know by now that contemporary African sounds are not just furious drums, chanting and nine-minute dance til you drop workouts; but manifestations of a continuous flow of music from and back to Africa as channeled by myriad individual, local and national circumstances. Even so, Just A Band anticipates and leads such conversations rather than simply follow them. These guys may be Just A Band, but they're far more talented than Just An Example.


kamiki - orchestre kiam (syllart)
carruseles - afrosound (vampisoul)
latin roots - larry harlow (fania)
tingiza kichna - just a band (akwaaba)
thermodynamic orchestra - pierre bastien (western vinyl)
chocolate - l'ordi (zonda)
maze - actress (honest jons)
hela mmaneyu - kabasa (atlantic)
pecoussa - francois lougah (syllart)
united nation/saidi style - mahmoud fadl (piranha)
immigrant visa - poirier feat mc zulu rmx by maga bo (ninja tune)
cancion para colombia - huelepega sound system (inyrdisk)
alergia - very be careful (barbes)
n'ouhoumba - bako dagnon (discograph)
think twice - gilles peterson's havana cultural band rmx by 4 hero (brownswood)
end titles - jamshied sharifi rmx by solar lion (kiahkeya productions)
brigadier sabari - alpha blondy (syllart)
time tough - romain virgo (vp)
tribute - jah cutta (stomp)
don't fool the young girls version - the gladiators (studio one)
flash gordon meets luke skywalker - roots radics rmx by bill laswell (trojan)
log on dub - horsepower productions (tempa)

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mas Tigre! Mas Accion!

Mas Tigre! is Sergio Elmir's latest epic throwdown. This one promises to be a showcase for Toronto's freaky-Latino scene.

Of course, you can't throw a party like that without Huelepega Sound System. Joining forces with us will be the dynamic Lido Pimienta, and the all-international Caballo. The not so mysterious Bakanchido DJs (aka Sergio & El Intern from Dos Mundos) will be supplying the sonic connective tissue for the affair.

It's just five bucks, so don't sleep. Denise Benson says it's a Best Bet.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cause It's A New Day, A New Time

It's 420, so I'ma quote Sir Bob as much as I wanna.

But seriously, big tings a gwaan: the Abstract Index is moving.

As of May 13, I will be the proud resident of Thursday night 10-midnight. I look forward to the switch. The show will no doubt be a bit different. For starters, I won't be playing reggae and dub exclusively in the last half hour - it will be spread out amongst the other sets. Beyond that, the shift will be more subtle, but can probably be best described as the difference between how you feel at 6PM while stuck in traffic/making dinner and 10PM when you're sparking up spliff number two on the couch. The new timeslot comes with the additional appeal of one Jason Palma setting the table with top class grooves.

Thursday night feels right. I hosted a Thursday night show for 4 years in the late 80s/early 90s, which turned into Vibes And Stuff, and now Higher Ground.

I think this is going to be a good night for Toronto and environs to listen to CIUT.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - April 14/10

Three weeks ago, Professor Fingers dropped by the Abstract Index to talk about what turned out to be a very successful performance of "First Public Trip To Outer Space". He later sent me an email to introduce the work of his fiance, Vanese Smith aka Pursuit Grooves.

Her Myspace tag actually sums her music up quite successfully as "bionic.future.soul.tronics". Hey, I like all of those things, but it takes some care to balance the elements. This music has a basic, home-made feel which is easy to love. It sounds like there isn't much technology at work, but what she accomplishes with her imagination and especially her voice makes the most of the elements at hand.

Whether singing or rapping (both impressive)
Smith knows when to float over a track and when to use percussive vocal samples to deepen the rhythms. The mildly stuttering grooves stick to a deliberate pace, with Burial-friendly sounds illuminating all those shades of blue shown in the cover art.

Erykah Badu? Georgia Anne Muldrow? So say the comparisons, but this music isn't as lush and, while plenty soulful, doesn't sound like it's intentionally reaching for soul music fans. Fox Trot Mannerisms is a highly individual statement with rhythms as angular as they want to be. This album is released by Tectonic, so it will likely attract an audience who appreciates adventurous listening.

Thank you, Professor: once again I have gained knowledge. And mazel tov on the nuptials!


kid-napping - doctor l (colored-inc)
hedzoleh - hedzoleh soundz (soundway)
ijo - tony allen rmx by dennis bovell (world circuit)
fiebre de lepra - wganda kenya (vampisoul)
kirkland 29 km - ziya tabassian, pierre-yves martel, kiya tabassian (ambiances magnetiques)
kisaltmalar - baba zula & mad professor (doublemoon)
order of the golden dawn - daedalus (brainfeeder)
eyesdown - bonobo feat andria triana (ninja tune)
antiguos denos del skunk - doma tornados (hipi duki)
no question - sarah linares (PTR)
recall - lina allemano four (lumo)
say chin - nomoreshapes (drip audio)
earth magic - heaven and (staubgold)
whisper - pursuit grooves (tectonic)
north of the border dub - prince douglas (wackies)
never get burned - twinkle brothers (virgin frontline)
five man army - dillinger, wayne wade, al campbell, trinity, junior tamlin (oak sound)
praise him - horace andy (joe gibbs)
ten ton woman version - g.g. allstars (GG)
rootboy rhythm - dj karim (zonda)
hau dena - fermin muguruza/zion train rmx by dj canalh (no label)
riddim culture - citizen sound (vx)


Monday, April 12, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - April 7/10

No writeup this week, but isn't this a great Tito Puente album cover... thanks Orgy In Rhythm!

This week marked CIUT's spring fundraising drive. I never archive these shows so I decided to post a mix that I made for the recent gig that Huelepega Sound System played with Microbunny.

It's an hour and fifteen minutes of gentle globetrotting: psychedelic, often sepia tinged and featuring the kind of vintage electronics that Microbunny's Al Okada loves so much.

You can find the podcast and its playlist here.

And here's this week's playlist:

t.p. on the bridge - tito puente (tico)
do the afro shuffle - godwin omabuwa & his casanova dandies (soundway)
ayenlo - tony allen (nonesuch)
zrkadlo mirror - longital (slnkorecords)
mi camino - sonido del principe vs. dj la lengua (no label)
strawberry kiss - orien (no label)
barefoot dub - jahcoozi (bpitch control)
shabaps - pursuit grooves (tectonics)
so it go - south rakkas crew (mad decent)
if jesus came - the gospel soul revivals (numero)
i learned the hard way - sharon jones (daptone)
to be whistled in the rain forest - st. dirt elementary school (barnyard)
live at hotel palestine - guitar (onitar)
gold ropes - bulbs (freedom to spend)
pretty boy floyd - tommy babin's benzene (drip audio)
book of glass - jaga jazzist (ninja tune)
moses version - brentford reggae band (soul jazz)
peace version - brentford disco set (soul jazz)
gimmee gimmee - bonjay (no label)
rebel culture dub - dubmatix (7 arts)
ganja - friendlyness & human rights (no label)
dub charge - aswad (island)
a bright and sunny day - delroy wilson (pressure sounds)
play - meditations (makasound)
glory glory - beshara (home spun)


Sunday, April 11, 2010

April Showers Of Feature Articles

A bit late in the month to be getting to this, but I wrote three substantial features at Exclaim this month.

The first is the lead feature (prior to Dimitri Nasrallah's excellent cover story on Poirier) about soul sister supreme Sharon Jones, who looks like she's moving up to a new level in popularity with her new disc, I Learned The Hard Way.

Also, I squeezed some more juice out of my interview session with Christine Duncan to write an article which was somewhat different than my Eye Weekly profile last month.

Finally, I got the chance to interview Ethio Jazz legend Mulatu Astatke. I spoke to him on the phone, but we decided that medium wouldn't cut it, so we did an email interview instead. He's a beautiful guy...


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

CIUT Spring Fundraising Drive - April 7

CIUT's spring fundraising drive starts tomorrow, April 7. For a change, the Abstract Index is on day one. Please consider becoming a member with a donation of $25.

Why support the Abstract Index? I devote my life to music promotion, and of all the work I do, I’m most proud of this radio show. Every week I challenge myself to tell a new story with music. It’s a tremendous privilege to have the opportunity to improvise over the airwaves every week – how often does an individual have the chance to pilot a mass medium?

CIUT prides itself on being a source for all kinds of music not heard on commercial radio in Toronto. As regular listeners know, I don’t specialize in one genre, this show is about making connections with a mix with breadth and depth.

On Wednesday, I will be joined in the studio by Exclaim’s hip hop editor Del Cowie, Editor In Chief of Musicworks Magazine Micheline Roi, local electro dancehall heroes Bonjay, and superfan Marcel Strohmeier, among others. There will be plenty of CDs to be given away as well.

Please don’t hesitate to make a donation right away – I have a special early bird prize of a year’s subscription to Musicworks Magazine. This prize will be drawn from those who become members of CIUT before Wednesday’s broadcast. It’s much easier to raise funds on air if there are a few pledges already in the bank.

You can email me back if you want me to fill out a pledge form, or pledge online and make sure you indicate that you're supporting the Abstract Index.

I'm still looking for another phone volunteer. If that appeals, just let me know.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - March 31/10

An early contender for album cover of the year.

I suspect Very Be Careful wouldn't stand for too much analysis of their music, though they boast a two page press release.

This is some heavy duty vallenato delivered with a slack, alcohol friendly lope. On the one hand,this is absolutely traditional music delivered as it was intended to be performed (albeit often with new lyrics). But it's all about the 'tude. It's as if the Pogues hailed from northern Mexico via L.A., but were able to remain a bit more upright after many consecutive nights of revelry. The accordion is so rheumatic it ought to be quarantined.

I can't decide whether the similarity in BPMs through most of the album is a blessing or a damper, but it makes for a steady rolling hip hop aesthetic that keeps heads nodding hypnotically. Nobody rushes tempos, but everyone sounds like they could instigate a bar brawl with a chord change. The term "punk vallenato" has been thrown around this band, but to me it sounds like a slower burn with equal parts festiveness and menace.

Escape Room comes out April 13.


yekermo sew - mulatu astatke rmx by te'amir (mochilla)
taj mahal - gilberto gil & jorge ben (philips)
departure - kieran hebden & steve reid (domino)
dunya - bibi tanga & le professeur inlassable (nat geo)
throat IV - little women (aum fidelity)
the root - tommy meier (intakt)
el viajero del tiempo - very be careful (downtown pijao)
onu kwulunjo - chief stephen osita osadebe (phonogram)
umtshi tshimbo - dark city sisters (gallo)
wha la la lent - poirier feat. face t rmx by uproot andy (ninja tune)
song for the solstice - out to lunch (accurate)
auterzonik - calamalka (plug research)
bigfoot dub - echo (in tha chamber)
harmoniser dub - dennis bovell (pressure sounds)
black foundation - gussie clarke (motion)
natty bring the cochi - lion youth (virgo stomach)
wa do dub - citizen sound feat ammoye (vx)
coulda never - solo banton & jahtari rhythm force (jahtari)
down town - the dynamites (pressure sounds)

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Thursday, April 01, 2010


Huelepega Sound System is a couple of men short for tomorrow's gig with Microbunny, but it'll be epic nonetheless.

is Al Okada's downtempo project which has run off and on for 10 years. The first comparison most people make with Microbunny is to Portishead, and it's not inaccurate. I was an early member of the live ensemble, running loops and doing dub effects - not so different than Huelepega, really.

HSS join Mean Red Spiders and Microbunny for their release of the CD 49 Swans tomorrow night (Friday April 2) at the Rivoli. As mentioned, this will be a duo edition of HSS, which will sound more like our first disc, if that appeals. I'll also be running pre-mixes between sets.

Hope to see you out on what will no doubt be a lovely spring evening.

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