Saturday, March 10, 2018

Mar* Songs: Mar Jayeen

purchase [Mar Jayeen]

Bollywood is probably not at the top of your list for music files. Then again, with ~ 1 billion listeners, maybe you shouldn't discount the genre. More than once I have pushed music from Turkey  - far from main-stream but perfectly/musically viable - if only we were more in tune or open to alternatives. Bollywood is only a few borders away.

The 3 letters <mar>  may not signify what you think they do. It depends on your language, doesn't it? It's "sea" in Spanish (but you probably know that). My concerted efforts to translate this (what I think is Hindi)  to English produce the result that "mar" resolves to "die", so Latif Aslam singing "Mar Jayeen" - is liberally translated as ?! Die In.

Sting made pretty good use of a similar style with his Morocco explorations/Desert Rose back about the turn of the century, and while there's a lot to be said for expanding your horizons,  you'll likely sense that that expansion is also shrinking as "popular" music becomes more universal. (Star Wars' Cantina Band that sound like Earth music?)

Atif Aslam, Pakistan born, has played all over parts of the world.The Wiki page for him is full of praise - as I think you might be after listening. It appears that he had an international education: Kimberly Hall School & St. Paul's Cambridge School (both in Pakistan - but that's not as unusual as you may imagine, I  know from personal experience). But beyond his upbringing, he's made a name for himself in the music world (Beyond the Western World's limited perspective)

But ... musically, it doesn't so much matter what his Hindi lyrics  translate to - more better that you listen and read the "lyrics" without needing to focus on the meaning;
Har lamha dekhne ko
Tujhe intezaar karna
Tujhe yaad karke aksar
Raaton main roz jagna
Badla hua hai kuch toh
Dil in dino yeh apna
Kaash woh pal paida hi naa ho
Jis pal mein nazar tu naa aaye
Kaash woh pal paida hi naa ho
Jis pal main nazar tu naa aaye
Gar kahin aisa pal ho
Toh iss pal mein mar jaayen

Friday, March 9, 2018

MAR* SONGS: Águas de Março

Or Waters of March, the english translation of what has been called the all-time best Brazilian song, in a 2001 poll. Written by arguably the best and certainly the best-known of Brazilian composers, the king of Bossa Nova, Antonio Carlos ('Tom') Jobim, in 1972, it has sustained myriad versions over the years since. Unusually, both the portuguese  of the original and it's translation were both written by Jobim. Bossa Nova seemed, in my youth, inescapably naff and forever attached to cheesy black and white travelogues. More recently it has seemed to attain a revisioned renaissance and  sits well alongside other latin dance and music forms, thanks in part to the dance music attuned stylings of bands such as Bossacucanova, the translation of which even I can work out.

It was Jobim's stepfather who encouraged his playing, after the he and his mother moved to Ipanema, yes that one, starting his nascent career playing in clubs and bars. Although now deemed to side most closely with jazz, in fact early influences and passions were derived from the classical field. Already big in Brazil, courtesy his writing partnership with Vinicius de Moraes, a celebrated poet, his wider breakthrough came with, in 1963, his collaborations with Stan Getz and the husband and wife team of Joao and Astrid Gilberto, including that song from Ipanema. Writing most of the music over the two volumes of Getz/Gilberto ensured worldwide recognition and many awards. The bossanova craze was in full swaying swing.

Aguas de Marco, as a song, has had a fascinating history, starting life as the 70s brazilian equivalent of a cover disc: a free and probably flimsy vinyl distributed with O Pasquim, a magazine of the day. Thereafter it was picked up by Elis Regina, later to work closely and to collaborate with Jobim, appearing on her 1972 debut. Jobim himself didn't officially release his own version until a year later, with the additional english lyric now attached to the verses in portuguese. This was then reprised, by both of them, another year later, on the seminal 1974 album Elis and Tom. (See top clip above.) Since then there have been a flood of versions from artists as varied as Frank Sinatra, Art Garfunkel and David Byrne. Unarguably now a standard, it was also purloined by advertisers, no doubt for a fat fee, but never, for me, the real thing.

So what are the waters of march? March is the rainiest month in Rio, and the words, more a tone poem of images than any narrative, are said to represent the torrents of water flowing down the steep hillsides of the city, flooding the gutters with all manner of debris. I encourage you to sift through the floodwater of what can so often be so much supper club and hotel lobby flotsam and jetsam, looking for the class of what this much maligned music style has to offer. Tom Jobim will always rise to the top.

                                                  Antonio Carlos Jobim 1927 - 1994

Still thirsty?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Mar* songs: Mary , Mary

purchase [Mary Mary]

Kind of like J David said - from the start I planned to veer off into the Mar* option rather than the full <March>. He's already said that we've been there once before (without a lot of success). I hadn't specifically thought we were flogging a dead horse, but it is starting to appear that way.

This past weekend - once again, I was faculty-on-duty for a "Retro Night" student dance- along with several other faculty members. You probably went through more than one High School dance of this kind at some time in your past, but maybe not as a chaperone. This  Retro Night was ostensibly 80s focused -a  time these kids only know about as <history>. That's the time when I had turned adult (defined by: earn your own living. A concept apparently somewhat strange/difficult to some in the newer generations. Thank or criticize others than me for that.) we are in Retro Night (80s) and the songs don't include Olivia Newton-John. Nor Blondie. Nor Paul McCartney... and on and on. It's their perspective of what defines Retro, not mine.
That said ... the theme's  <Mar*> so  I offer my perspective of Mar*, which goes to double or triple Retro because retro means going back.

Because I grew up overseas from the US  = overseas from everywhere!, grabbing the sounds (literally had to stand by the radio dial and keep adjusting the short-wave frequency to keep the channel in tune), my perspective is skewed. But ... I didn't miss the Monkeys. Much like my friends in the US, I didn't miss Archie comics (the Archies) or Sad Sack(!!), we[a group of US expat teens] somehow managed to more or less assimilate to our US peers - by catching the crazes on a time -lag loop. And so I bopped to:

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Mar* Songs: Forward March

Pat Metheny Group: Forward March

It took me a while to adjust to studying in college, because it was different from what I did in high school. The material was significantly more complex, there was much more of it, and my fellow students were almost uniformly incredibly smart. But one thing that was basically the same was that studying was a solitary act.

Law school, though, was another thing altogether. Heading into it, though, I had no idea that I needed a new approach, and fully expected that I’d continue in my accustomed manner. However, early in my first year, I was approached by a friend, who somehow knew that creating a study group was critical to success. And I’m so glad that I did. In some ways, the first year law experience, at least at Fordham Law School in 1983, was remarkably more like an elementary school or middle school experience than college. We were divided up into sections, alphabetically, and were given a set schedule, with no electives. All of my classes were with some combination of other sections, all of which were filled with classmates whose last name was from the first half of the alphabet, except for one class that was just for my section. Therefore, I didn’t really get to know anyone in the second half of the alphabet until second year, and was closest to the people in my section.

This sort of rigid scheduling was ideal for study groups, because we were all taking the same classes. And I quickly found that studying with Dave, A.J. and Bob was not only helpful in digesting and understanding the enormous mass of material that they throw at you first year, but they became my closest friends. We would meet periodically, order some sort of takeout (because we were in New York, and the choices were myriad), discuss our work, and, of course, other stuff. Sometime during second semester, Bob fell off the radar, distracted by his ultimate lack of interest in becoming a lawyer and the ready availability of college hoops at Madison Square Garden, but the rest of us continued to work together. As we approached our finals, we prepared outlines, quizzed each other, and pushed each other hard, while also becoming life-long friends.

I have a strong memory of showing up at a study group session at Dave’s apartment with a new copy of the Pat Metheny Group’s First Circle album—and by album, I mean a large slab of black vinyl.  I’m pretty sure that I picked it up, discounted, at the Warner Entertainment company store. After graduating from college, I worked at Atlantic Records for the summer of 1982, which granted me access to the discounted records, books and other items that were in the employee-only store in the basement of 75 Rockefeller Plaza. By continuing to visit the store periodically even after my employment ended, I remained a familiar face to the security guards who still let me pass into the inner sanctum for a few years.

Metheny had been a favorite of mine since I was introduced to him at WPRB, and I’ve written about him a few times here. I know that Dave, who played the guitar, was a fan (I don’t remember whether the others were, too). So, it was natural that when I showed up with the new album, in February, 1984, I would put it on Dave’s turntable, and that we were excited to hear it.

And on came “Forward March.” It was, and remains, a bit of a headscratcher. A dissonant, ragged march-like song, which eventually turns somewhat less weird, but never really sounding “perfect.” Sort of like the Portsmouth Sinfonia, or even the first rehearsal of an average high school marching band. Allmusic suggests that it might be a parody “directed at a few silly skirmishes of the day (Grenada? the Falklands?).” Another blogger considered the fact that the band opened concerts on its tour with the oddity as showing that:

While the Pat Metheny Group are all serious musicians, this was no hardcore jazz purists’ band. They want to entertain you. They want you to smile (I’ve never seen a musician look as happy as Metheny does). For all its novelty, “Forward March” made its audience smile right from the word go.

But it seems that may well just be overthinking it. Metheny himself, in response to a fan question about the inspiration for “Forward March,” stated that the song is:

really just sound - there was a thing i was messing with with [sic] a new instrument for me at the time, the synclavier, where it was possible to scale the range of the guitar by large amounts - meaning that what would normally be read as an octave could be read as several octaves and the 12 notes in between that same octave were scaled along with the octaves into 12, but now across several octaves, thereby making an "octave ratio" larger than 1:1. this was fascinating to me at the time, and that piece was one of several that came from it. the only one that was recorded. 

I’m really not sure how that really explains “Forward March,” but hey, Pat has never lied to me.

Anyway, the next song on the album is “Yolanda, You Learn,” a much more typical Metheny song. I’m sure that we listened for a while, then got down to studying whatever subject was on the docket, and maybe more importantly, eating whatever food was on the menu.

After first year, we were allowed to take electives, so the three of us weren’t always in the same classes—but when we were, we reconvened the group, and still remain good friends more than three decades later.