Inspired by the aesthetic of the intrepid recordists at film and record label Sublime Frequencies, this series explores the sounds of North Africa as captured by two of the label’s key directors Hisham Mayet and Olivia Wyatt and their influences.
Mon, Mar 4, 2013 430PM, 930PM Trances
Directed by Ahmed El Maanouni | 1981
With Larbi Batma, Nass El Ghiwane, Abderrahman Paco, Omar Sayed, Allal Yaala
A concert film unlike any other, Trances presents extraordinary footage of the Moroccan band Nass El Ghiwane, known as the Rolling Stones of Africa, whose legendary performances combined music, poetry, and theater. “Nass El Ghiwane was singing their nation, their people–their beliefs, their sufferings, their prayers” (Martin Scorsese).
The 9:30pm screening will be introduced by acclaimed critic and poet Byron Coley. One of the central writers at the iconic 1980s indie music magazine Forced Exposure, he has also written for Spin and is currently the senior writer at Arthur Magazine.
Mon, Mar 4, 2013 7PM Musical Brotherhoods From the Trans-Saharan Highway
Directed by Hisham Mayet | 2008
Musicians, fortune-tellers, snake charmers, dancing boys, medicine men and magicians all converge at the nightly spectacle of Marrakesh’s Jemaa Al Fna square, where the traditions of the Arab North and the Berber South meet.
Screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Hisham Mayet and critic and poet Byron Coley. Mayet is an acclaimed documentarian and co-founder of Sublime Frequencies.
Mon, Mar 11, 2013 4:30PM, 9:15PM Staring into the Sun
Directed by Olivia Wyatt | 2011
“Traveling from the northern highlands to the lower Omo Valley via bush taxi, Isuzu cargo trucks, and any means possible, Wyatt brings together the worlds of Zar spirit possession, Hamer tribal wedding ceremonies, Borena water well polyphonic singing, wild hyena feedings, and bizarre Ethiopian TV segments. An enchanting look at these otherworldly images, stark landscapes and captivating sounds from the horn of Africa” (Sublime Frequencies).
Mon, Mar 11, 2013 7PM Deep Hearts
Directed by Robert Gardner | 1981
A model for Sublime Frequencies’ filmmaking practice, pioneering ethnographer Robert Gardner’s Deep Hearts follows the ecstatic male beauty contests of the Bororo people in the Sahel desert.
Screens with Unsere Afrikareise (1966)
Directed by Peter Kubelka
Originally paired with Deep Hearts during that film’s initial run in 1981.
+ Q&A with Robert Gardner and Olivia Wyatt
Mon, Mar 18, 2013 4:30PM, 9:15PM Summer 70
Directed by Nagy Shaker, Paolo Isaja | 1971
Full of the youthful energy of the 1970s, this experimental work is an essential entry in the counterculture canon and features a score by Egyptian composter Soliman Gamil.
Mon, Mar 18, 2013 7PM Folk Music of the Sahara: Among the Tuareg of Libya
Directed by Hisham Mayet | 2004
A rare look at the music and dance of the matriarchal Tuareg of North Central Africa. “If you ever wondered where some of Western music’s more exotic ideas originated from (Sun Ra’s Arkestra, call-and-response choruses, trance drumming, and even some forms of modern hip-hop) this is a great place to start!” (Sublime Frequencies)
Above: Sublime Frequencies announces a new film by Hisham Mayet: The Divine River: Ceremonial Pageantry in the Sahel. Condensed from 40 hours of footage shot between 2007 and 2012, The Divine River is an exhilarating, hallucinatory, harrowing record of music, ritual, life, and landscape along the Niger River — which the Tuareg call “Egerew n-Igerewen,” or “River of Rivers” — as it winds through Mali and the Republic of Niger.
TV on the Radio “Dry Drunk Emperor” (Touch and Go) D: I’ve listened to this probably a hundred times by now, and I still find it overwhelming. It’s a devastator. C: For those out there who haven’t heard it yet, this is the song TV on the Radio released in the wake of Katrina, free to everyone via the Touch and Go website [go here]. This is what they said at the time: “we were back in the studio thinking and feeling again and made this song for all our everybody… in the absence of a true leader we must not forget that we are still together…. hearts are sick … minds must change … it is our hope that this song inspires, comforts, fosters courage,and reminds us… this darkness cannot last if we work together. let us help each other… heal each other …. look after one another … the human heart is our new capitol…. this song is for you…. us…..we….them… it is free. pass it on. TO THOSE AFFECTED BY HURRICANE KATRINA: NEW YORK CITY’S HEART IS WITH YOU… STAY STRONG! WE LOVE YOU.”
We don’t usually do this sort of thing, but this is a special case. Here are the song’s lyrics:
DRY DRUNK EMPEROR baby boy dying under hot desert sun, watch your colors run.
did you believe the lie they told you, that christ would lead the way and in a matter of days hand us victory?
did you buy the bull they sold you, that the bullets and the bombs and all the strong arms would bring home security?
all eyes upon dry drunk emperor gold cross jock skull and bones mocking smile, he’s been standing naked for a while! get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!! and bring all the thieves to trial.
end their promise end their dream watch it turn to steam rising to the nose of some cross legged god gog of magog end times sort of thing. oh unmentionable disgrace shield the children’s faces as all the monied apes display unimaginably poor taste in a scramble for mastery.
atta’ boy get em with your gun till mr. megaton tells us when we’ve won or what we’re gonna leave undone.
all eyes upon dry drunk emperor gold cross jock skull and bones mocking smile, he’s been standing naked for a while. get him gone, get him gone, get him gone!!! and bring all his thieves to trial.
what if all the fathers and the sons went marching with their guns drawn on Washington? that would seal the deal, show if it was real, this supposed freedom.
what if all the bleeding hearts took it on themselves to make a brand new start. organs pumpin’ on their sleeves, paint murals on the white house feed the leaders LSD grab your fife and drum, grab your gold baton and let’s meet on the lawn, shut down this hypocrisy.
C: The harmonies they get on this are just shattering. And the chorus… D: This is soul, with zero retroism. That’s not supposed to be possible anymore and yet here it is. Pure righteousness. C: I find this song overwhelming too. Not just for the song itself, but for the spirit in which was recorded and offered to the public, and the immediacy and selflessness involved. That’s what being an artist is about, in times like these. They get to something really tragic about the current situation: all those poor idiots who have been buying the Bush balderdash since 9/11… because they did that, now we are all paying for their mistakes, and will do for decades. And I’m broke, man. My pockets are empty. And I’ve got it easy. Think of all the unnamed, uncounted dead civilians in Iraq, all the dead and mistreated in New Orleans, all those detained in the secret torture prisons in Poland… D: This song is so good I can’t believe somebody made it. The build and release, the chorus, the singing, the lyrics, the fife and drum… C: It’s a call to imaginative action, for less talk and more walk. This is prime Fela Kuti-level stuff, seriously: talking truth directly to power, giving comfort and uplift to the powerless. I’ve never heard this song on the radio, yet it’s exactly the kind of song radio was made for.
Cast King Saw Hill Man (Locust Music) C: Debut album from 79-year-old white fella. Recorded in a shack in Alabama. D: Seniors rock. Look at this guy. I think our friend T-Model Ford might have some new competition! C: He recorded eight songs for Sun Records in the ‘50s. He he had a touring country and bluegrass band, Cast King and the Country Drifters, but it didn’t work out and he never released an album. D: Sweet baby Jesus, what is wrong with this country? C: I find myself wondering that often these days… D: The first line of this song is “I don’t care if your tears fall in my whiskey.” What more do you need? C: The guy’s voice is so rich, it’s a pleasure just to hear his singing. The sadder the lyrics, the brighter the music. The songs are clever, catchy, simple. How could nobody care for three decades? This nation is so cruel to its artists. D: There’s some Johnny Cash here for sure. C: To our modern ears, of course. But I’m starting to wonder. Who came first? Not that it matters as much as, well, just how many other guys are out there still who are this good, who we’ve never heard? Maybe it’s a lot more than we think. People who got skipped over by accident of history or circumstance. That’s the lesson of the reissue culture that’s so strong right now—the Numero Group label’s releases, the stuff they talk about in Wax Poetics, all the rediscoveries of people like Vashti Bunyan and Gary Higgins and Simon Finn—all of this teaches us that actually the cream doesn’t always rise to the top. It often sinks to the very bottom.
Nina Simone The Soul of Nina Simone dual disc (Legacy/RCA/Sony BMG) C: You’re not going to believe this, either. A new dual disc release: one side is a greatest hits run, the other side is vintage live footage. Deep vintage. D: [looking at track listing] Whoa! None deeper vintage. Pure black power, 1960s. Look at this!!! [Reading aloud scrolling text on screen] “By the end of the ‘60s, the civil rights movement was in a shambles; its key leaders were dead, and race riots had erupted in several U.S. cities. ‘It felt like the shutters were coming down on anyone who dared to suggest there was something seriously wrong with the state of our country,’ said an angry Nina Simone. A ray of community hope appeared in the sammer of ’69, when the Harlem Festival—called ‘a black Woodstock’ by its producer, Hal Tulchin—came to Central Park. Crowds of up to 100,000 flocked to six free concerts. The stars included Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, Gladys Knight and the Pips and Simone. These excerpts from Simone’s performance have never before been shown in America.” C: I’ve never even heard of this festival. D: Me neither. C: How is that possible? I thought we knew our shit. My god. Are they saying this footage has just been sitting there since 1969? Listen to her go. Listen to this band. Look at that set, look at this audience. Look at the songs she’s playing—“Revolution,” “Four Women,” “Ain’t Got No—I Got Life” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” Look at the setting. Look at the situation is which this was performed. D: This is right before she went into self-imposed exile. C: She looks absolutely purposeful. There is a resolve in her voice, in her comments to the band and the audience, in that gorgeous face of hers as she sings that is just absolutely… She looks like a woman about to leave, because she’s been wronged. You know she’s gonna slam that door. D: No whining. “My life has been much too rough,” she sings. [Listening to “Ain’t Got No—I Got Life”] Listen to the band swing! Unbelievable. C: She’s holding back tears for the entire performance… She finally breaks—just a bit—on “To Be Young Gifted and Black.” D: I think this is the greatest single live performance I have ever seen. C: Especially when you consider the context. This is just extraordinary. Le Tigre and other no-skill apologists who say technique is irrelevant would do well to watch this. The reason people are listening to what she has to say is because she had skills beyond even her conviction. D: It’s an absolute travesty that the American public hasn’t seen this footage until now. C: Can you imagine what the rest of this festival must have been like? Look at that lineup. Sheesh. We’ve got to ask again: WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD OF THIS UNTIL NOW? Where are our cultural historians? Why do we know about Jimi liberating the national anthem and not taking the brown acid and all that other Woodstock jive but not about this? It’s criminal.
Niger: Magic & Ecstasy in the Sahel dvd by Hisham Mayet (Sublime Frequencies) C: And now for somebody who knows how to document and distribute important stuff immediately, rather than waiting for 36 years… D: [spills beer in joy] YES! The mighty Sublime Frequencies strike AGAIN! C: 70 minutes of footage of hot blast from the streets of Niger, one of the quote poorest unquote nations in the world. Oil can drum duos, one-stringed instrument maestros, harmonizing ululators, invocation dances. Divination ceremonies and informal nighttime initiation rituals, Taureg trance funk at the end. D: Absolutely riveting.
OOOIOO [Untitled] (Thrill Jockey) C: New album from project featuring Yoshimi who is in Boredoms. Don’t really understand the provenance of this album—recorded in 2000 but only released this year? Weird vocal calisthenics, big tribal drum thrusters, chimes and flutes and birds and trumpets, synthesizers, tablas, loopage and harmony chants, Sean Lennon and Yuka Honda amongst the guests, the best album booklet I’ve seen in 2005—it seems to illustrate a place directly midway mushroom wonderland of the Allmans’ Eat A Peach album centerfold and the post-toxic landscapes of Lightning Bolt—and check it out, here on Track 7: straight-up female Tuareg ululations! D: Sometimes I think Bjork gets all the attention for trying to do what Yoshimi is already doing.
Pearls and Brass The Indian Tower (Drag City) C: We really shouldn’t be reviewing this til next issue cuz it’s not out til January 24. But excuse me, I think I need to turn this up. D: Cream covered by Kyuss? C: Yeah, kind of, huh? It’s actually three dudes from Pennsylvania. D: These are some pretty knotty riffs. Quite a brush. A hedgerow. C: Thorny stuff, but they still give you a riff. Here, have one. D: Why thank you. C: Total air guitar and drum practice CD. “The Face of God” is the face they make when they play, I bet. And there’s the vocal harmonies, and the fingerpicked acoustic blues. D: This is bigrig truck driving music. C: Forty-wheeler stuff—for the poor dudes trying to forget about the price of gas as they drive the nation’s clogged freeways. If it’s time for a Convoy remake, then this is the soundtrack.
The Fall Fall Heads Roll (Narnack) D: The Fall is now at its best since the ‘80s, and I can say that with some authority. C: This is the kind of spare, rocking Fall we all want. I like the words—Mr. Smith’s is still a totally idioscyncratic lyrical approach—but sometime I think just hearing his caffeinated bark against a good beat is enough. It’s a very rhythmic thing—the words are almost secondary to the song’s breath. There’s something about that “ah” that he still does at the end of each line that just feels good when you imitate it. I know that sounds weird but try it-ah.
Baltimore: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 8pm
at Floristree- 405 W Franklin St 6th fl
Philly: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 8 pm
at Space 1026- 1026 Arch St.
Hisham Mayet will dj after the screening
at Kung Fu Necktie 1248 North Front St.
NYC: Thursday, June 24, 2010 8:00pm – 10:00pm
at Anthology Film Archives
32 2nd Avenue New York, NY
Plus Frank Sumatra djs the after party
at Zebulon, 258 Wythe Avenue, 11 pm- ?
There will be two films, with filmmakers in attendance and Q&A after films, plus Sublime Frequencies CD/DVDs/LPs for sale after screening. The films are:
Staring into the Sun
A film by Olivia Wyatt
Staring into the Sun is the latest ethno-folk cinema classic from Sublime Frequencies. Ethiopia is known to be one of the oldest areas inhabited by humans and presently has over 80 diverse ethnic groups. Photographer/filmmaker Olivia Wyatt explores 13 different tribes throughout Ethiopia in this visually stunning film. Traveling from the northern highlands to the lower Omo Valley, Wyatt brings together the worlds of Zar spirit possession; Hamer tribal wedding ceremonies; Borena water well polyphonic singing; wild hyena feedings; and bizarre Ethiopian TV segments; presenting an enchanting look at these ethereal images, landscapes and sounds from the horn of Africa. The tribes featured in this film are captured with an unflinching sense of realism and poetic admiration resulting in a visual and aural feast of the senses.
Land of the Songhai
A film By Hisham Mayet
Hisham Mayet’s latest film explores the music and landscape of the Songhai, around the Niger River in Western Niger. Zarma mock possession hoedowns, Wodaabe trance vocal performances, Spirit possession ceremonies, Godje one sting laments, contigi string masters, comsaa griots and Sahel night markets create a bizarre and fascinating glimpse into the arid and culturally vibrant bend in the Niger river.
1. Easily the best-looking LP we’ve had the pleasure of grappling lately is Light by Reiko and Tori Kudo, issued by Siwa. Reiko and Tori are best known for their work with Maher Shalal Hash Baz, but this stuff is even more casual, diffuse and haunting. Mostly just piano and female voice, the sound has an elegance and mystery that makes our veins wiggle. It’s like some sort of otherworldly cabaret, beamed in from Planet X. And while the music is available now as a CD, the LP version is just incredible—a wooden box, with nine separate compartments, each containing a printed booklet with lyrics. Quite unbelievable, even for Siwa, which has long set a tough-to-match standard for packaging. Hats off to the label’s Alan Sherry and all who sail with him.
2. Just got a couple of fine new books by the great Cleveland poet, Bree. The bigger of the two (although printed in a wee small format) is was chicken trax amidst sparrows tread (The Temple Inc). This one collects a bunch of Bree’s fantastic prole poesy and uses it to sorta set the scene for a long prose piece about asshole blood. Amazing stuff. There’s also if i cld a body slam on her own imprint, Green Panda Press. This one’s a slim, folded sheet with six “peace poems” (one of which is purely visual). What makes them “peace poems,” we can only guess, but they’re boss and loud, which seems like a good thing. It should be noted that Bree is also hosting the Tres Versing the Pandapoetry festival in Cleveland on May 8-10, this year, which should be an excellent place to be.
3. Great new guitar record out by William “Willie” Lane, called Known Quantity (Cord Art). Willie lived up here in Western Mass. for a good long while and was involved in lots of weird musical shit. Not much of it got proper documentation, however, although Child of Microtonesdid issue a fine CDR, Recliner Ragas , a few years back. Anyway, Willie moved down to Philadelphia a couple of years ago, and we get a chance to hear him now and then when we’re down there, or he chooses to hit the road with one of the MV & EE traveling carnivals. But his solo work has always been amazing and rare. Well, not so rare this week. There’s this new LP, and it was recorded throughout 2006-2008, and is a total blast. Willie’s mostly solo (save for some licks by Samara Lubelski) and his playing ranges from Wizz Jones power-pluck at its cleanest to Michael Chapman electro-smear at its phasingest. But Willie knows his stuff cold and this instrumental slide through the gates of Neverland is one of this year’s great rides.
Duplex Planet editor David Greenberger and poet Ernest Noyes Brookings at Dunkin Donuts, Jamaica Plain, MA. Summer 1985 photo by Stephen Elston
4. First new issue in a long time of David Greenberger’s vastly entertaining magazine, Duplex Planet. Issue 184 doesn’t revolve around a central theme, but details various conversations David had with the residents at senior centers in East L.A. My favorite is the one with a woman who claims to be the 23rd of 24 children in her family, and also to be a great-great-grandmother. There’s no earthly way to know if she’s full of shit or not, but it’s nice to read her thoughts. Greenberger has a gentle way of probing the memories of these folks that is funny, sad and surprising—sometimes simultaneously. His work is always cool. The same is true of his sometimes collaborator, longtime pal, Terry Adams . Adams, a founding member of NRBQ as well as a legendary Sun Ra collector, has a new CD called Holy Tweet (Clang!).
Primarily recorded as a trio date with Tom Ardolino and Scott Ligon, the vibe is like a stripped down version of the Q Mothership—rolling bones of uniquely shaped, instantly recognizable goodtime roots pop whatsis that transcend boundaries of “mereness” by a mysterious propulsive force. The stuff is always just off-base enough to keep our interest thoroughly poked (especially as the first zephyrs of spring beckon us to the hill towns beyond). Sometimes it’s enough to just enjoy.
5. Mats Gustafsson has ten of the busiest fingers in all of Sweden. And yes, his primary focus is record collecting. But he does a few other things and he does them well. Three recent albums attest to this (lord knows how many record he has released since we last met) and they also map a width of style-ass as impressive as it is bounteous. First is The Vilnius Implosion (No Business), which is a solo work for baritone saxophone, slide saxophone and alto fluteophone. What the latter of these two instruments look like is best left unmentioned, but the sounds are swimming! The music (recorded in concert in Lithuania) is explosively sculptural—three-dimensional blocks of sound bursting through sheets of reality as though it was all a crepe paper curtain. That’s the first side, the flip has longer, grouchier masses of tongue flex, approaching jazzic concepts at times. Lovely! Then we have Mats G Plays Duke E (QBICO), a one-sided LP with Mats playing nearly-straight versions of several Ellington tunes on tenor, enlivened by primitive vocls and raw, live electronics. Parts are sweet enough to play for yr grandma, others will just make her ass bleed. The final piece is a split LP with Dutch pianist Cor Fulher on Narrominded. Fulher uses some extended techniques to take his piano sounds into vast regions of new, and Gustafsson is equally adept at squeezing sounds from his sax that are beyond the ken of most of his peers. Using rolling sequences of tongue-clacks, overblowing, breath-splatter, he ends up doing things, making sounds, that seem impossible. But Mats is more than up to the task. Amazing shit.
6. Hisham Mayet is one of the geniuses behind the Sublime Frequencies project, which is attempting to document many strands of ecstatic global culture before they are bulldozed into oblivion by Western hegemony. His efforts have been prolific and inspired, and his latest DVD, Palace of the Winds, is no exception. It combines snippets of performance footage with long shots of Saharan landscape in motion, and various other shots of the sun-smacked towns and people of the region.
Less tripped out than some of his other films, this one is carried along by the amazing guitar music of Group Doueh, Group Marwani and others. As beautiful as any foot.