I’m proud to bring our first calypso entry to La Pelanga. Calypso is of course the official music of Trinidad that goes back over 100 years and has it’s roots with French troubadours. The 1st time I heard this song by the Lara Brothers I knew instantly I needed to hear it again and again. Oddly the Lara Brothers are 1 of the most famous parang groups of Trinidad, (parang is a form of traditional Trini Christmas music ). I say odd because this song titled Sans Humanité (without mercy) is straight lyrical murder. These types of lyrics are more associated with Jamacian dancehall, (think Cutty Ranks’ “Limb by Limb”), but this song proceeds it by about 20 years.
Taken from an amazing 1971 National Geographic Society compilation filled with live recordings from local artists, 100 person steel pan bands and even school children. The recording is a bit wobbly, but I transcribed the lyrics for you to follow along. Be warned, this song is about as addictive as they come. Enjoy!
Sans Humanite by Lara Brothers
No no no no no I say no
My answer is no
No no no no I say no My answer is no
You may come with your rod of operation
No no no no consolation
Grieve and pain with bad education
Man, I pity their condition
When they have no ammunition
For to fight with a lion in an open competition
In anticipation for the coming celebration
War, man, this is war and rebellion ’cause from me they shall suffer execution
For against me they use their bad diction
And I highly eloquent in the House of Parliament
The very first day I sat on the throne
I caused every man to grumble and groan
Boy, you could hear my voice through the atmosphere
They thought I was an angel from heaven up there
So to fight will be agony
But I still got a community (his crew that will go to battle with him)
I didn’t mean to carré (an defensive position)
But I got my dignity
Tell me what death would you like to die
For your crucifixion is drawing nigh
Tell me what death would you like to die
For your crucifixion is drawing nigh
I’ll giveyou a crown out of old boxwood (a coffin)
And a gallon and a half (refers to rum, used to bathe corpses back in the day)
it will do you good And for your dirty behavior you’ll be buried as a pauper
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One of the controversies at this year’s World Cup in South Africa (beside the horrendous officiating) has been the ball, known as the Jabulani, Zulu for rejoice. Strikers hate it, goalkeepers find it unpredictable, and even the all-powerful and usually clueless FIFA has decided it will look into the issue once the tournament ends. The ball has been called “capricious” and likened to “a crazy gerbil.” Luis Fabiano, Brazil’s top goal scorer, said of the Jabulani: “It’s very weird. It’s like it doesn’t want to be kicked.” Maybe that’s why he felt he had to use his hands to control the ball and score against Ivory Coast.
I’m no Luis Fabiano, but I did play with a Jabulani last weekend, and can attest to the fact that it seemed a litte light. A friend told me about a game on Sunday here in Oakland where the ball spiralled off the crossbar, bounced over a fence, and then over the eight-lane highway beside the field. Clearly, something is amiss.
Naturally, I turned to music for an explanation, and remembered this track from Abdullah Ibrahim’s beautiful 1977 album “The Journey”, recorded live at Alice Tully Hall in New York. Ibrahim, whom you may also know as Dollar Brand, is one of South Africa’s true jazz heroes, and he assembled an all-star band for this show, including trumpet great Don Cherry, baritone player Hamiet Bluiett (co-founder of the World Saxophone Quartet), and one of my favorite bassists, Johnny Dyani. All were in fine form that night. The complete track is about 18 minutes long, but I’m only posting a five minute excerpt so that you might understand a bit about this ball. If you haven’t watched a game of the World Cup yet, and are wondering what the hell I’m talking about: this song pretty much describes what the ball does.
As an added bonus, I think I can hear the pleasing drone of a vuvuzela or two at the end… Or maybe, after 50+ matches, it’s just ringing in my ears.
Growing up, this track and Piero’s other hit, “Mi viejo”, had the same effect on us: those songs my family would listen and fall into a respectful silence. Though Piero is Argentine, the context and history described here could have applied to any number of Latin American countries; as the war in Peru got worse, the lyrics seemed to be addressing the situation there very directly, which would explain our family’s love for this track. I generally can’t stomach anything that smacks of protest music, but “Coplas de mi país” has a solemnity to it that can’t be ignored or dismissed. This live version was recorded in Buenos Aires on March 5, 1972.
Coplas De Mi Pais by Piero
Coplas De Mi Pais
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Sometimes I like to kick start my mornings with a nice strong 6 8 rhythm. My theory is that it’s good for circulation, since I can feel my blood accelerate while I listen. Son Jarocho and Joropo are my two favourite cousins of 6 8 time: Son Jarocho from Veracruz, Mexico, and Joropo from the plains of Colombia and Venezuela.
Over Memorial Day weekend we were incredibly blessed with a visit and spontaneous performance by L@s Cafeter@s from Los Angeles, who came to visit us from LA and play some fútbol. Juancho posted a live recording of their show that night, and I’d like to share another, from their live CD. Definitely keep your ears open to the footwork (zapateo) in the recording, because more fancy footwork awaits you in the Joropo post below. The music also features a marimbol – bass and mbira in one instrument! I can’t wait to get my hands on one of those…
Look for L@s Cafeter@s at the Eastside Café in El Sereno, Los Angeles, contact them for classes on how to play, or find more info here
(Note: a very different version of this same song was posted by Juancho here)
They say you haven’t truly heard maracas (called capachos in los llanos de Venezuela and Colombia) until you hear Joropo. And perhaps you haven’t really seen a harp being played until you see one of these rockstars pulling their crazy harp antics –playing above their head and even behind their back. Here’s a little treat we picked up in Colombia for you:
Rare footage from an effort to assemble the baddest Colombian salseros in the mid 70s (I’m guessing) in one group: Fruko, Joe Madrid, Joe Arroyo, Piper Pimienta, Saoco, Juan Piña, Jairo Licazale…
They never made it to the recording studio, probably too many superstars in the same group for it to work. (You can see that Joe Arroyo is not too happy just singing backup vocals…)
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