Deciphering Culture

Posts Tagged ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll

Updating the archive: interview of Moroccan rock star Reda Allali (Hoba Hoba Spirit)for MTV IGGY

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Moroccan Rock Legend & Journalist

Reda Allali Wants to Save The Music

Moroccan Rock Legend & Journalist Reda Allali Wants to Save The Music


By MTV Iggy
October 10, 2012

Words by Jeffrey Callen, Ph. D.

Hoba Hoba Spirit was there when an alternative music scene came together in Casablanca in the late 1990s. They were there on the front lines of the protests after 14 heavy-metal musicians and fans were arrested and accused of being satanists in 2003. Creating distinctively Moroccan rock ‘n’ roll (with lyrics in French, Darija and English, and music infused with healthy doses of Gnawa music, reggae & Moroccan rhythms), many critics and supporters considered them too hip to ever be popular outside of Casablanca. Playing wherever they could get a gig, they introduced the live experience of rock ‘n roll to audiences in small cities and villages throughout Morocco and, by 2007, they had become one of the most popular Moroccan musical acts of any genre. More than any other alternative band, Hoba Hoba Spirit has advocated an opening of the Moroccan cultural landscape—through music and through the writing of bandleader and journalist Reda Allali in the magazine Telquel. In a far-ranging interview, Allali talks with ethnomusicologist Jeffrey Callen about the Hoba way, their unexpected road to success, the alternative music movement and the obstacles to making a living as a musician in Morocco.

(to read the rest, click here)


New book: Peter Gabriel, From Genesis to Growing Up

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Self promotion aside (although my chapter, “‘I need contact’ – rock ‘n’ roll ritual: Peter Gabriel’s Security tour, 1982–83” is quite good), this is an excellent collection on an influential figure in popular music. Out on Ashgate on December 23, 2010. From the publisher’s press release:

Ever since Peter Gabriel fronted progressive rock band Genesis, from the late 1960s until the mid 1970s, journalists and academics alike have noted the importance of Gabriel’s contribution to popular music. His influence became especially significant when he embarked on a solo career in the late 1970s. Gabriel secured his place in the annals of popular music history through his poignant recordings, innovative music videos, groundbreaking live performances, the establishment of WOMAD (the World of Music and Dance) and the Real World record label (as a forum for musicians from around the world to be heard, recorded and promoted) and for his political agenda (including links to a variety of political initiatives including the Artists Against Apartheid Project, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Now tour). In addition, Gabriel is known as a sensitive, articulate and critical performer whose music reflects an innate curiosity and deep intellectual commitment. This collection documents and critically explores the most central themes found in Gabriel’s work. These are divided into three important conceptual areas arising from Gabriel’s activity as a songwriter and recording artist, performer and activist: ‘Identity and Representation’, ‘Politics and Power’ and ‘Production and Performance’….

“S.F.’s Cuban Cowboys flavor Latin grooves with punk power” (SF Weekly)

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[A duplicate post from Pop Culture Transgressions]

The Cuban Cowboys bring together rock ‘n’ roll and Latin beats with a punk sensibility that brings to mind such post-punk genre busters as The PixiesManu ChaoJonathan Richman, and Moroccan cha’abi rockers Hoba Hoba Spirit. Musically promiscuous and lyrically inventive, head Cuban Cowboy, Jorge Navarro, has found the musical voice on their new album Diablo Mambo that was only hinted at in the Cowboys’ debut album, Cuban Candles — but he didn’t find it on his own. A couple weeks ago I interviewed Jorge for a piece in SF Weekly and found out the fascinating backstory behind the band and the new album. Check it out!

Trails Mixed

By Jeffrey Callen

The Cuban Cowboys‘ new album, Diablo Mambo, doesn’t hesitate to let you know what it is all about. Drop the digital needle on the first track and you learn all you need to knowwithin the first 50 seconds: A Jimi Hendrix lick establishes the rock bona fides before the track morphs into a mambo section overlaid with a post-punk, art rock guitar pattern. The Hendrix lick then returns and signals the transition to driving punk guitars, but with a difference — the usual straight up-and-down thrash is blended with the sway of a Cuban son rhythm pattern. Two musical streams — rock and Latin music — are introduced, then blended, before the story of the song begins.

Bandleader/songwriter Jorge Navarro has interesting, engaging stories to tell. The opening track, “Cojones,” relates an early lesson in navigating the contradictions of the code of machismo taught by his knife-wielding grandfather. Navarro’s songs portray his family’s memories of a mythical Cuba born out of the nostalgia of exile and his experiences as a first-generation Cuban American, immersed in American pop culture and drawn to cowboy boots and rock ‘n’ roll. These two themes establish the narrative poles for the songs on Diablo Mambo, and Navarro skillfully navigates this bi-cultural territory, spinning tales of romance, sex, politics, and family. The music plays an essential role in the effectiveness of the stories, weaving together various tributaries from the two main musical streams — classic rock, punk rock, doo-wop, post–punk, rockabilly, and son, mambo, calypso, and salsa. (to read the rest, go to SF Weekly).



Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Fat Freddy’s Drop: Live in San Francisco (

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Here’s my review of the best live show I’ve seen this year — published on today.

Fat Freddy’s Drop: Live in San Francisco

Fat Freddy’s Drop tore up the Independent in San Francisco on Friday, June 25. Soul drenched vocals and reggae riddims mixed with electronic effects, club beats and a killer horn section to create a fresh sound that is contemporary but deeply rooted in a diverse collection of black music styles that came of age in the 1970s. Funk, soul, reggae, ska, dub—sometimes straightforward, sometimes deconstructed—were not unexpected from an outfit that started out as a jam band. What was unexpected was that it all worked!

I was drawn to Fat Freddy’s Drop’s show by the song “Boondigga” (from their last album Dr. Boondigga and the Big BW), which had been firmly entrenched on my personal playlist for a month before the show. The song came early in the eighty-minute set so if things had bogged down or fell flat, I wouldn’t have second thoughts about cutting out and looking for a plan B but I didn’t leave until the show ended. Now back to the song that drew me to the show because I think there’s something in there that explains the appeal and brilliance of Fat Freddy’s Drop. “Boondigga” opens on a smooth soul groove, anchored by the sweet Philadelphia sounds laid down by the horn section and driven by a very ‘70s electronic drum track. Joe Dukie’s smooth vocals ride on top of the slowly building arrangement that does not gain its full power until after the break, three minutes in. A subtle shift in the horn chart brings in the more harmonically extended controlled dissonance that Tower of Power brought out of Oakland signaling the beginning of a major deconstruction of Boondigga’s smooth soul sound. The horns exit and a soulfully deviant aural soundscape is created from distorted guitar, swelling keys and electronics. Live the horn section left the stage at the start of the deconstruction, which was given twice as long to develop as on the album – a full four minutes. And that was true of the entire show: (for the rest…)

Written by Jeffrey Callen

July 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Local Bands Get a Boost at Noise Pop

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Judgement Day and the Mumlers headline for the first time this year.

By Jeffrey Callen

From its humble beginnings in 1993 as a single club show of five bands, Noise Pop has grown into a week-long “celebration of indie music and culture.” It now includes a film festival, art shows, a music industry mini-conference, and a design fair and marketplace. However, music remains Noise Pop’s focus with more than thirty shows in large and small venues scattered around San Francisco and, for the first time this year, at the Fox Theater in Oakland.

While there are no designated headliners at Noise Pop, each year’s lineup includes internationally prominent performers. This year it’s the Yoko Ono Plastic Band and the Magnetic Fields. Star acts add excitement to the festival but Noise Pop’s national status is based on it being one of the premier showcases for that most loosely defined musical genre, indie rock. Noise Pop prides itself on bringing exposure to emerging bands, (to read more go to the East Bay Express).

Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Rock ‘n’ Roll & Ritual (’80s Peter Gabriel)

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“I need contact” (from Performance and Popular Music) — a nice piece I wrote in 2006 for Performance and Popular Music: History, Place and Time, (Ian Inglis, ed. – London: Ashgate Publishing). It’s going to be reprinted in Peter Gabriel: From Genesis to Growing Up (Michael Drewet, Sarah Hill & Kimi Kari, eds. – London: Ashgate Publishing) in 2010. The chapter analyzes Gabriel’s use of ritual in his live performances of material from the influential Security album and discusses the musical sources (and inspirations) Gabriel drew upon.

Album cover from Peter Gabriel Plays Live

Gabriel has continued create innovative music (and hits) but, for me, none of it has the creative spark of his ’80s work after leaving Genesis.  The latest effort, the forthcoming Scratch My Back, is interesting in theory, featuring Gabriel covering a dozen songs written by other songwriters. The set list if intriguing but the instrumentation (an orchestra) plays into Gabriel’s worst musical instincts that haven’t had such free rein since his over-dramatic and sometimes treacly performances with Genesis on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Selling England by the Pound. At least that’s my impression from hearing clips of the first three tracks — AND I hope I’m wrong. Check it out yourself at

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 17, 2009 at 4:32 pm

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