Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Warm Heart of Africa: the alternative World Cup podcast

To write 'Recently I've been digging music from Mali' feels so pretentious and old... 'Watch out, he's exploring world music.' Dude must be getting deep into his 30s and frustrated with his diet of white-guy indie rock like Wilco, The Hold Steady and TV on the Radio.
But what with everyone else cashing in on the World Cup, why can't I? If a Colombian can make a theme for Africa then I will too. So to get Shakira's kaka cover of a Fozzy Bear tune (get it - 'waka waka') out of your head and stop the swarming hum of the Vuvuzela, listen to my Warm Heart of Africa podcast.

Warm heart of africa by colinrdelaney

Track listing
1. The jagged Sahara desert blues of Tinariwen is heady psychedelia. I caught the nomads at the Paradiso last year and it was worth skipping out of a Yo La Tengo show and crossing town for. More recently they appeared at the World Cup opening ceremony. Wikipedia has it that leader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib made his own guitar out of a tin can, a stick and a bicycle brake wire not long after seeing his father killed in the 1963 Mali uprising. This tune is 'Ahimana' from 2007's Aman Iman.

2. From Damon Albarn's 2002 Mali Music project that featured Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté & their mates, 'Le Hogon' is a more chilled affair, a laissez faire jam session in the dusty sunset of numerous towns throughout Mali that Albarn and friends visited.

3. If there were a God and he had a voice it would be Ladysmith Black Mambazo belting out the South African style of a cappella, called Isicathamiya, across the clouds. They're teamed here famously with Paul Simon from his album Graceland. 'Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes', an African expression similar to 'filthy rich', opens with Ladysmith's mesmerising harmonies, followed by Simon's idiosyncratic lyricism to weave a beautiful two-worlds tale like a global version of Billy Joel's 'Uptown Girl'. And when the horns kick and the bass pops to make you move, man, it's magic.

4. Vampire Weekend seemed like an obvious choice to mix with Simon, having appropriated and modernised from him generously. 'Horchata' has only grown on me since adding this song - the heavy drums coupled with the unflappable glockenspiel (possibly xylophone?) feels like the two sides of Africa, the hard and the playful.

5. On their opening track 'Suprise Hotel' of the self-titled album, Los Angeles' Fool's Gold play a similar jangly indie mixed with twangy guitar and Afrobeat but couple it with gutteral Hebrew lyrics over top - a delicious melting pot of rock. (Followed on their album by 'Nadine' which brings elements of Tinawiren's staccato desert groove - the whole album is great value. They're touring Europe this summer).

6. 'Tonight's Today' hand claps, chants and choir feels like Jack Penate has matured since rambunctious 'Torn on the Platform'. I'm surprised I haven't heard the vibrant live-in-the-moment, party song in the BBC's wrap-up package from Match of the Day, but then maybe they're waiting for England to actually win. ZING!

7. On The Clash's 1980 record Sandanista they tried pretty much every genre, for the most part succeeding. 'Let's Go Crazy' keeps Penate's London party thriving with the Afro-cuban rhythms, kettle drums, the whistles and Joe's dare - 'So you wanna go crazy'. The guy at the beginning I imagine is at the Notting Hill Carnival but could well be speaking about the World Cup Carnival. He gets his chance at the end of the podcast too.

8. Possibly the hardest band name to search for online, The Very Best from London/Sweden/Africa, lend their song to the podcast name 'Warm Heart of Africa'. Ezra of Vampire Weekend collabs here on vocals for what could be the coach's song of the World Cup - 'When the boys move fast, you should take it slow, We all need someone to tell us when to go.' The choir harmonies and infectious rhythm definitely sum up the warm heart of African music, feel good hit of the summer.

9. I first saw Mali's Amaduo and Mariam supporting Blur in Hyde Park last year. They are an amazing married blind couple (in music and life) who blew the crowd away with up tempo Afrobeat syncopation, funk rhythms and shredding surf/garage guitar, shredding since the 80s too. As 'the original east coast/west coast collaboration' they're joined by Senegalese rapper K'naan on 'Africa', a simple love song to the continent.

10. From the Australian radio station, Triple J's Unearthed initiative is Jinja Safari out of Sydney. 'Peter Pan', with an Indian zitar up front and a Afro-back-beat is an ethereal trip, like Ravi Shankar and the Beta Band on an African savannah safari. I look forward to hearing more from them.

11. Underneath Jinja Safari, and playing out the podcast is again, Ladysmith Black Mambazo again with the a cappella 'Music Knows No Boundaries'. Haunting and emotive, their collective voice is so affecting.

12. I let our preacher man-come-record & clothes salesman from The Clash's 'Let's Go Crazy' say a few words at the end: 'We don't want no war at the carnival today - all we want is peace, love and happiness.'

It's a shame there are still so many boundaries today. I'm not sure if the World Cup accentuates boundaries and borders or helps to bring them down. Nevertheless it was a thrill to see an unexpected North Korea give Brazil a real run for the football poster-boys' money (let's ignore Portugal and that amazing Ronaldo goal).

Anyway, some analogy about music, sport and the 'level playing field of life'. Enjoy the podcast.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Taylor Hawkins and the Coattail Riders

Failed drummer Colin Delaney spoke to one of the most exciting drummers today, Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, about singing in his new band, playing with Dave and wearing Britney Spears mics.

From: TNT Downunder

The name Taylor Hawkins may not jump at you straight away but if I say the Foo Fighters’ drummer you should be picturing a blonde-haired, wild-limbed drummer that’s always pinching the microphone from Dave Grohl in interviews. Now, he’s grabbed the mic for good with his side project Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders.

You recorded this album quite quickly. Does that make it more fun?

I think a lot of the best music comes quickly. Sometimes if it's been too laboured over it sounds like it’s been laboured over. That’s not always the case. I think there have been a lot of great recordings that took a long time to do, 'cos they were real studio-type things. You know ‘Good Vibrations’ took a real long time to do. Because this is my first album with my own songs I think it’s important to get the quick energy. No point trying to do Sergeant Pepper’s the first time around.

You obviously played drums and sang on the album. I’m a drummer, a poor one, but I am. What is it with drummers wanting all the limelight?

I don’t know if I want the limelight necessarily. I like to write songs to hear what they sound like after they’ve been recorded and played live. I don’t go out front and sing these songs, I’m behind the drum kit whenever we do play live. I’m not looking for more fame, I just like to play and do something creative. I don’t think this album is gunna make me more famous.

You mean we’re not about to see you become the next Tommy Lee and have your ego become bigger than your rock?

No. I think Tommy Lee is a really great rock ‘n’ roll drummer and I think people forget that, because he’s in the media for everything else other than his drumming. There’s no reality shows or sex tapes. I don’t see that in the future.

Did you have to change your aggressive drumming style to accommodate your singing?
Yeah, it changes a bit, otherwise I could never get my head next to a microphone. I tend to flail around a lot. I didn’t know until I saw it when I was a kid. I wasn’t conscious of it, I just love Keith Moon, Tommy Lee and those kind of drummers. Your body does it naturally to get the job done. I enjoy it. I play a little more controlled actually. I think I keep better time when I sing. I don’t know why. You’d know - you’re a drummer.

A drummer who tried to sing and failed.

Give it another shot. I thought I’d have to have one of those awful Britney Spears-type headset mics. I tried a couple but they just felt so stupid and they never worked so I said fuck it and used a mic stand.

Was it intimidating when you first started with the Foo Fighters to have Dave Grohl looking over your shoulder?
He's actually been very much ‘do your thing’, especially live, as long as I’m staying true to the thing. They’re pretty crafted drum-lines, so I always stuck to a programme to a certain degree. I feel like I got more intimidated from what other people would say. Well, he’s really nice, he’s really cool and we’re not that competitive. I think Dave is one of the best drummers ever in rock ‘n’ roll. I can’t be Dave. There’s no way, and I don’t try to be, I just try to be myself. There are definitely elements you pick up from just hanging around, trading licks, maybe he shows me a thing or two here and I show him a thing or two there. Dave was always pretty damn cool and wanted to make sure I felt okay about it. The only pressure was what I put on myself, for the most part. When we get in the studio he pretty much knows what he wants to hear from the get-go. He’s the songwriter and even if you’re not a drummer you’ve got an idea of how it should go. I think John Lennon had an idea in his head when he went to Ringo with ‘Come Together’. You’re a fucken drummer, you know. You’re basically there to support the songwriter.

And what would it take to get you to tour Australia?

Not much, we’re working on it man. We’ll sleep on people’s floors and play the bad bars.

Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders is out now through Inertia.
August 16th, 2007