Each month, we are focusing on a record label founded by an active digger. This month, Hisham Mayet, co-founder and co-owner of Sublime Frequencies, a label which, since 2003, has been documenting many obscure scenes, from eastern psyche pop to sahel post folk, from ancient to more futuristic.
When did you start digging records?Early 80’s, in my early teens.
What LPs did you buy at first?I was buying punk and post punk LPs. Some early hardcore singles, stuff on SST (Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Black Flag, UK shit, early Cure, Joy Division, New Order, Mekons, Gang of Four, Wire…).
Do you still listen to them?Not so much, but I still have most of it.
Do you have any particular style or favorite period?I don’t have a particular style that I collect. I’m into so many styles and genres. I collect Calypso, Free Jazz, ethnographic records, international sounds from around the globe from the mid-50s to the mid 70s, late 60’s psych from around the world and 60’s/70’s Italian/Euro soundtracks and library LPs… The list is endless. My collection is staggering in its diversity.
Why Sublime Frequencies ?I think it perfectly captures the mission of the label.
What was your first issue?
We released five titles at once. Three albums (‘Folk And Pop Sounds Of Sumatra Volume 1’, ‘Radio Java’, ‘Night Recordings From Bali’) and two DVDs (Nat Pwe: Burma’s Carnival Of Spirit Soul, by Alan & Richard Bishop, Jemaa El Fna: Morocco’s Rendez-vous Of The Dead by myself).
Were you at the beginning of story, with Alan Bishop ? How and when did you meet him ?Yes, I approached Alan about the idea to start an ethnographic style label. When we discussed it further, we launched Sublime Frequencies officially in 2003. But, we had already been discussing and collecting for many years prior. I was a fanatical fan of Sun City Girls (Alan’s along with brother Richard and Charles Gocher’s unclassifiable musical universe for some 30 years)… We started communicating with some regularity in the mid-90’s.
What could be the editorial/esthetic line of the label ?We release things we’re passionate about. We all have our own particular aesthetic and the collective is diversified enough to make it interesting moving forward.
What could be your leitmotif for the label?I think our mission statement sums it up pretty well. « Sublime Frequencies is a collective of explorers dedicated to acquiring and exposing obscure sights and sounds from modern and traditional urban and rural frontiers via film and video, field recordings, radio and short wave transmissions, international folk and pop music, sound anomalies, and other forms of human and natural expression not documented sufficiently through all channels of academic research, the modern recording industry, media, or corporate foundations. »
How do you decide on the choice of reissues or new releases? Is it a team decision?Alan and I often discuss and have a final say on what is released. We both have very similar tastes so there really is a unified vision moving forward.
or is it more complex ?
If you look at our discography, you’ll see that we are well beyond « oriental/arabic music ». We have outside of SF released (Alan with Abduction/Myself with Outernational/Assophon) over 100 other releases outside of SF. So, we – me as Alan – are not confined to certain geographic regions.
How did you discover musicians like Group Doueh ? Rumors? Listening to a tape?All the rumors are true. I landed in a house in Dakhla un-announced and a cassette and boombox later, history was made.
Were you surprised by the success story of Dabke groover Omar Souleymane?Yes we were. So much so that we decided he was too big for us.
Are you still digging, buying vinyl, visiting record shops?Yep. Still digging. I’m writing from Trinidad now and just spent a day digging in a storage space. I was just in Paris and digging at Superfly. I know Paulo, Manu and Nico and have been shopping there over the years…
What is the best deal/business : to make reissue or to produce new records?Both!
Are they two different jobs?It can be. Re-issues sometimes deal with dead artists or defunct labels and their archives. Sometimes, there is a lot of missing informations when you are dealing with obscure material from a forgotten location. Lots of archeology in that process. Contemporary artists require a different approach and the variable can be much different. There is touring and new material and a host of logistics involved.
There are more and more reissues of old LPs. Do you think that the LP reissue market could ever reach saturation point?I think there is a saturation point, but it is always exciting to see what coming out via the mafia of reissue labels. The production values are amazing as well. I don’t know as a collector, it is an exciting time. But then again as a collector it is always exciting!
What are your next releases ?We are excited about the debut LP of Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band and releasing Thai Pop Spectacular for the first time on vinyl.
What is the LP you dream of reissuing?An 8 LPs boxset of Ennio Morricone conducting a pygmy orchestra playing free jazz.
Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band are a contemporary group from Burkina Faso. Coming from Bobo-Dioulasso, the group is steeped in the Mandingue musical traditions of their ancestral legacy. The enigmatic lead singer Baba Commandant (Mamadou Sanou) is an original and eccentric character who is well respected in the Burkinabé musical community. A sort of punk Faso Dan Fani activist for traditional Mandingo music, Baba continues to redefine the boundaries between traditional and modern. In 1981, he joined the Koule Dafourou troupe as a dancer. Later, he embarked on his current musical direction as a singer, first in Dounia and then in the Afromandingo Band. His current band -- when he's not playing with the now-famous Burkinabé musician Victor Démé -- is the Mandingo Band. At present, he is a practitioner of the Afrobeat style, drawing inspiration from the golden era of Nigerian music. Fela Kuti/Africa 70 and King Sunny Adé are big influences, as is the legendary Malian growler Moussa Doumbia. Baba Commandant plays the ngoni, the instrument of the Donso (the traditional hunters in this region of Burkina Faso and Mali). His audience comprises multiple generations and strata of Burkinabé society; he accordingly adapts his repertoire to his surroundings, which range from cabaret Sundays in Bobo-Dioulasso to the sound systems of Ouagadougou. Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band are a formidable force steeped in Ouagadougou's DIY underground musical culture.Juguya is their sound. Limited edition LP housed in a Stoughton tip-on sleeve.
This year marks the 100th birthday of folklorist Alan Lomax, whose field recordings provided scholars and musicians with essential examples of American folk music. Sublime Frequencies co-founder Hisham Mayet carries on in this tradition with his own series of field recordings that go further than Lomax would have ever dreamed of. The first volume of the new Sublime Frequencies series Folk Music of the Sahel focuses on ethnic groups in Niger, and consists of field recordings Mayet made in his travels through the country in the past decade.
Mayet’s interest in the region stemmed from an ethnographic film about the Bori possession cult of Niger. You can’t get more exotic, and “other” than that, but if the allure of the spirit world was what started Mayet on this journey, he found not just spirit ceremonies but the extraordinary music of ordinary life.
Opening track “Al Fulani” comes from the Hausa region and features two musicians playing the gourmi, three-stringed instruments played with a stick, accompanied by vocals and a talking drum. The traditional string instruments are percussive, and bring complicated polyrhythms to a song that praises the beauty of women in a region of Western Niger. Lyrics aren’t provided, but I imagine this frenetic music boils down to, “I wish they all could be Fulani girls.”
Other tracks from the Hausa region tackle more serious matters. Ceremonial music performed by The Orchestra of the Sultan of Zinder has the chaos of free jazz, vocals and horn lines and drumbeats all in apparent discord from another. But there must be some kind of structure I can’t hear, because the chants are in honor of the Sultan, and you’d think he’d demand order in his praises.
If you came to this set looking for music from possession ceremonies, you won’t be disappointed. “Music for a Hauka Ceremony” is led by a goje, a one or two-stringed fiddle frequently used in possession ceremonies. This track is a rare recording of such a ritual, the musicians performing along with a priest, two mediums and a client in spiritual crisis. It’s distracting that, if you’re wearing good headphones, you can hear someone cough and hock up a luger near the end of the track, but perhaps this unceremonious sound is a signal that the spirit was expelled and the ritual was a success. The album includes a brief recording of a second possession ceremony in which the goje solo septs out from the traditional rhythm for some free spirited, incantatory improv.
Traditional instruments are featured through much of the set, but Niger is also known for a vibrant modern music scene. The seven-minute “Denke Denke” is guitar-heavy music for a Fulani wedding. “Bismillhia” is a collaboration between Ousenni, master of the stringed molo, and Koudede, a beloved Tuareg guitarist who died in a car accident in 2012. Those intrigued by this sound should track down music by Mdou Moctar, whose modernized Tuareg guitar music with electronic treatments are featured on albums released by the Sahel Sounds label. The booklet that accompanies Folk Music of the Sahel includes vividly colorful photographs of the people of Niger. I wish there were more photos to accompany the set, but as Sublime Frequencies has promised more volumes in this series, I’ll just have to wait for their next exploration of the region.
Par Jean-Jacques Birgé, jeudi 12 février 2015 à 01:03 :: Musique :: #3041 :: rss
Filmés "roots" comme par des amateurs appliqués et passionnés, évitant souvent les commentaires pour laisser parler les images et les sons, ces field recordings ont plus de charme que bien des documentaires peaufinés et formatés. Axés sur la musique traditionnelle des pays visités, ces récits de voyage s'attardent sur le contre-champ de la vie quotidienne, révélant le paysage sonore et social contemporain où surnage la tradition. The Stirring of Thousand Bells de Matt Dunning oppose ainsi le gamelan javanais à la fête populaire du Festival Sekaten, un cours de danse dans le Palais Mangkunegaran se superpose à la vie nocturne de Solo.
Small Path Music est un voyage de Laurent Jeanneau filmé par David Harris sur les plateaux du Sud-Est asiatique à la frontière entre la Chine et le Laos. De rituels shamaniques en chansons d'amour le collecteur de sons commente sa démarche et ses rencontres. Le road movie s'axe sur les musiques rarement entendues des minorités ethniques qui risquent de disparaître rapidement.
Le film de Hisham Mayet, Vodoun Gods on the Slave Coast, dévoile diverses cérémonies vaudous du Bénin (ex Dahomey). On y découvre le culte Sakpata, dieu de la terre, de la variole et de la guérison, les Egoun-gouns, revenants du Royaume des Morts pour conseiller les vivants ou la police secrète des Zangbeto se déplaçant la nuit déguisés en meules de foin... Ces trois DVD appartiennent au label de Seatle, Sublime Frequencies, dirigé par Alan Bishop des Sun City Girls, qui a déjà publié une centaine d’enregistrements en cd, vinyles et dvd en provenance d’Asie du sud-est, du Moyen Orient, du Maghreb et de l’Afrique. Une partie (dont ces DVD) est distribuée en France par Orkhêstra. Ils n'en révèlent pas seulement les musiques traditionnelles ou actuelles, mais aussi la vie quotidienne, "les curiosités, les petits riens « en voie de disparition », ceux-là même que les reportages s’échinent à gommer si scrupuleusement".
Les enregistrements de rue sont évidemment passionnants, mais ce sont les programmes radio qui me font le plus rêver. Certains sont des plunderphonics, zapping de séquences plus ou moins longues comme j'en réalise depuis les années 70, suite de mon enfance où je cherchais les bruits du monde sur les ondes courtes du gros Telefunken de mon grand-père. Radio Java, Radio Morocco (on y est transporté mieux qu'avec n'importe quel disque), Radio Palestine (cosmopolite à fond), Radio India, Radio Phnom Penh, Radio Sumatra, Radio Pyongyang (sous-titréCommie Funk and Agit Pop from the Hermit Kingdom !), Radio Thailand, Radio Algeria, Radio Myanmar, Radio Niger, Radio Vietnam... Au catalogue on trouve aussi des albums trépidents du Syrien Omar Souleymane ou du Turc Erkin Koray, des groupes Inerane, Doueh, Bombino et des kitcheries délicieuses de la compilation birmane Princess Nicotine, la merveilleuse Bollywood Steel Guitar, le Choubi Choubiirakien, le guitariste égyptien Omar Khorshid, le Pop Yeh Yeh malais, 1970's Algerian Proto-Rai Underground et tant d'autres. Il existe d'ailleurs un DVD mp3 réunissant les 51 premières références dont beaucoup sont aujourd'hui introuvables car le label sort souvent en tirage limité. "Vivantes mais également vibrantes, humoristiques, souvent low-tech (parce qu’à l’exacte fréquence des pays traversés), plus proches de l’art audio que des projections « Connaissance du Monde » telles sont les productions Sublime Frequencies".
dcNombreDeLectures dcNombreDeLectures("update");Pour faire un trackback sur ce billet : http://www.drame.org/blog/tb.php?id=3041
I happen to live in an area of the country that is rather optimistically dubbed “The Sun Belt,” but whoever gave it that name has never spent a February in North Carolina. We are in the cold, gray days my friends, and Punxsutawney Phil has forsaken us. Thank God, then, for the sunny sounds of Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band to carry us through these dire times. Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band (henceforth BCMB) hail from Burkina Faso and play a heady brew of Afrobeat and folk music rooted in the Burkinan tradition. Their bouncy jam “Juguya” makes you want to dance until you can’t feel your feet anymore, but it’s not just fun and games: there’s plenty of grit to go around.
On “Juguya,” Baba Commandant alternately croons and howls his way through waves of dense funk, his voice shifting back and forth like a nimble reveler threading their way across the dance floor. His donso ngoni, a traditional West African hunter’s harp, skitters underneath the electric instrumentation, giving the song’s monster Afrobeat funk a delicate skeleton upon which it ceaselessly dances. Towards the song’s conclusion a saxophone cuts in and picks up speed, racing pell-mell onward to collapse at the finish line, utterly spent. It’s a sentiment anyone who listens to this track can appreciate. Sublime Frequencies is slated to release the JuguyaLP in late February. I think I speak for all my fellow stir-crazy, frozen-ass Sun Belters when I say it can’t come soon enough.
Gamelan is one of the ancient music traditions of the world. In Solo,
it’s still a part of everyday life and an important cultural custom. A
complex wonder of human invention, it comes from a timeless world of
aural tradition, contemplation, and relaxed living. These films capture
the essence of the gamelan tradition, in the context of the changing
modern world. Come and experience Java and feel what it’s like to be
lost in a world of history.
The Stirring of a Thousand Bells (Sublime Frequencies 2014, 51 min), by Matt Dunning
1. Sekaten - 35’15” - Experience Java's most cosmic music festival where
the old world and the new are colliding, creating captivating images
and sound. It attempts to put the viewer in the perspective of someone
experiencing the Sekaten festival for the first time, leaving a sense of
curiosity, and desire to learn more about Javanese culture.
2. Srimpi Muncar - 15’20” - Enchanting melodies and meditative dance
from Mangkunegaran Palace, with arresting images from throughout Java.
The evening will start with a musical performance:
An Imaginary Live Soundtrack for Ambient Worlds: Indonesia meets Canada by the Andrew Timar & Bill Parsons Duo
Playing Sundanese instruments from West Java, Indonesia Canadian
composer-musicians Andrew Timar (suling: ring flute & kacapi:
zither), and Bill Parsons (kacapi, & guitar) with guest Matthew
Dunning (kendhang sabet: Central Javanese barrel drum) weave an ambient
soundtrack to an imaginary film, woven with fixed and improvised
interlocking minimalist sonic textures, using threads of Sundanese
songs, bronze Javanese kemanak, bells and gamelan drumming.