Deciphering Culture

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“Desert Rock”

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Desert Rock

Tinariwen brings rebel music out of the Southern Sahara.

By Jeffrey Callen

A slow Hendrix blues riff, deep, rough and insistent, slashes through the aural space. Broken down and repeated, the opening riff is joined by the offbeat upstrokes of a second, trebly electric guitar establishing a shuffle counterpoint. A fast rap barely breaks through the sound of the guitars, becoming louder when it morphs into a sung chorus with backing vocals (three, maybe four words). About four minutes in, the guitars drop out and the song is stripped down: a fast rap over a loopy funk bass line, accompanied by handclaps and soft percussion. The offbeat guitar upstrokes return joined by an arpeggiated riff on a second guitar, then a lead guitar. The vocals become secondary as the guitars propel the song to its ending and the opening riff returns. While the description could fit a performance of an up-and-coming indie band at the Noise Pop festival later this month, (to read more click here for the East Bay Express article)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm

"Desert Rock"

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Desert Rock

Tinariwen brings rebel music out of the Southern Sahara.

By Jeffrey Callen

A slow Hendrix blues riff, deep, rough and insistent, slashes through the aural space. Broken down and repeated, the opening riff is joined by the offbeat upstrokes of a second, trebly electric guitar establishing a shuffle counterpoint. A fast rap barely breaks through the sound of the guitars, becoming louder when it morphs into a sung chorus with backing vocals (three, maybe four words). About four minutes in, the guitars drop out and the song is stripped down: a fast rap over a loopy funk bass line, accompanied by handclaps and soft percussion. The offbeat guitar upstrokes return joined by an arpeggiated riff on a second guitar, then a lead guitar. The vocals become secondary as the guitars propel the song to its ending and the opening riff returns. While the description could fit a performance of an up-and-coming indie band at the Noise Pop festival later this month, (to read more click here for the East Bay Express article)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Selected Writings from my examiner.com page (3/09 to 12/09)

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Written by Jeffrey Callen

January 5, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Deciphering Watcha Clan: Interview with Jeffrey Callen

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As the year wound down, I found myself thinking a lot about my favorite albums of 2009. They’re not falling into an easy categorization but there is a thread that ties them together. They all are based on crossings of musical boundaries. My runaway favorite album of 2009 is Omar Sosa’s Across the Great Divide, a brilliant jazz album that does the usually impossible: tells an engaging story, melds music and spoken voice, and makes a profound musical statement without losing the listener. A wonderful album that ignores boundaries of musical genre as it traverses the Black Atlantic, incorporating a diverse range of musical influences (including the incredible “Northern Roots” singer Tim Eriksen), to capture the musical and spiritual profundity of the Middle Passage. The other album that keeps finding its way to my digital turntable is the debut release of Warsaw Village Band. Brilliantly executed Polish music that crosses musical borders—check out the wonderfully funky “Skip Funk” and “Polska Fran Polska,” an inspired meeting of Swedish and Polish dance musics—but always remains rooted in Warsaw. It has a sense of travel, meeting, and exchange but it’s always rooted in a sense of place, a sense of home. That sense of musical travel, meeting and interchange is what is drawing me to cds this year. Last year’s Snakeskin Violin by Markus James was another effort that worked for me but there are all the misses, mostly World Music endeavors that perpetuate the worst of the North–South colonial heritage under the auspices of intercultural understanding. It’s the forefronting of the “Western” artist or musical reference and a certain rhetorical smugness that stands out. But all of this is just preamble to an album I don’t know what to do with. I should hate it. It’s rootless, “multi-cultural” music produced by “musical nomads.” On the surface, it’s all too precious but it’s got something and, sometimes, it’s got a lot.  (to read more click: Deciphering Watcha Clan: Interview with Jeffrey Callen).

Watcha Clan

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 22, 2009 at 5:16 pm

“The Virtual Maghreb” (The Beat, Vol. 28 #1 — 2009)

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The Virtual Maghreb:  “The digital world has created greater access for artists, particularly those from small markets whether due to geography, language or genre. Particularly good news for alternative artists in small countries and that brings us to alternative music artists in Morocco. The virtual world has created a platform for alternative artists in Morocco (hip-hop, fusion, rock, electronica, singer-songwriters) that was hardly imaginable 10 years ago.” {Click on the link to read more}

Reda Allali of Casablanca rockers Hoba Hoba Spirit

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm

"The Virtual Maghreb" (The Beat, Vol. 28 #1 — 2009)

with one comment

The Virtual Maghreb:  “The digital world has created greater access for artists, particularly those from small markets whether due to geography, language or genre. Particularly good news for alternative artists in small countries and that brings us to alternative music artists in Morocco. The virtual world has created a platform for alternative artists in Morocco (hip-hop, fusion, rock, electronica, singer-songwriters) that was hardly imaginable 10 years ago.” {Click on the link to read more}

Reda Allali of Casablanca rockers Hoba Hoba Spirit

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm

Review of King Sunny Ade at the Independent in San Francisco (Afropop.org)

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King Sunny Ade in San Francisco — review of King Sunny Ade in San Francisco in June 2009 and the re-release of Seven Degrees North.


Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 13, 2009 at 6:04 pm

“The Blues Metaphor” (Moroccan Roll column from The Beat, Vol. 27 #4)

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_The Blues Metaphor_ (Moroccan Roll column from Vol. 27 #4) — discusses the often-tenuous use of the blues as a metaphor to describe and pigeonhole genres of popular and traditional music, particularly music from Africa or the African diaspora).

Tinariwin -- a "bluesy" Tuareg band

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 13, 2009 at 3:37 pm

"The Blues Metaphor" (Moroccan Roll column from The Beat, Vol. 27 #4)

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_The Blues Metaphor_ (Moroccan Roll column from Vol. 27 #4) — discusses the often-tenuous use of the blues as a metaphor to describe and pigeonhole genres of popular and traditional music, particularly music from Africa or the African diaspora).

Tinariwin -- a "bluesy" Tuareg band

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 13, 2009 at 3:37 pm

“The Sentir is a Whole Civilization” (Moroccan Roll column from The Beat, Vol. 27 # 3)

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“The Sentir is a Whole Civilization” (Moroccan Roll column from Vol. 27 # 3) — A look at the use of Gnawa music, particularly the sentir (or hajhouj), in Moroccan pop music from the ’70s Folk Revival (i.e., Nass el Ghiwane) to “fusion” efforts of the last decade in Morocco, Algeria and beyond

Gnawa sentir of hajhouj

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 13, 2009 at 1:55 pm

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