Category Archives: UK

Stiff Devil: Graham Parker

butterfly girl

I was never a huge fan of punk rock. But some of the bands and artists of the so called “New Wave” were interesting (and listenable, to my admittedly naïve, ears) among them being Graham Parker. Though I wouldn’t classify myself as a hard core fan of the man, I’ve always liked his voice which has the same ‘shouter’ capacity as say, Delbert McClinton. Yes, very different artists from different continents but in their own contexts, they came out of a similar milieu: the public bar. Sure, it was called a honky tonk in the southern USA where McClinton got his start. In the UK it is called the pub. But in both instances, the lead singer of any band had to have a voice that would not just carry over the din of smashing billiard balls, fighting patrons and a competing jukebox and TV, but also grab the attention of the hall. Graham Parker was probably the best pub band singer of his time (mid 1970s- late 1980s) and his voice certainly commanded attention.

I picked up this album at some record shop in the UK many many moons back. It  is one of the more obscure compilations in his ouvre,  which is a pity because it is a fine example of the man’s work. Pub rock with ska/reggae inflections tossed in here and there, it captures those heady days when the musical landscape was up for relandscaping and the terms of doing business for renegotiation. (Or so it seemed, as the 70s morphed into the 80s).

Graham Parker (born November 18 1950 in London) is an English rock singer and songwriter.

Graham parker_effectedIn the late 1960s and early 1970s, Graham Parker sang in small-time English bands such as the Black Rockers and Deep Cut Three while working in dead-end jobs like a glove factory and a petrol station. In 1975, he recorded a few demo tracks in London with Dave Robinson, who would shortly found Stiff Records and who connected Parker with his first backing band of note.

Graham Parker and the Rumour (Brinsley Schwarz and Martin Belmont on guitar, Bob Andrews on keyboards, Andrew Bodnar on bass and Steve Goulding on drums) formed in the summer of 1975 and began doing the rounds of the British pub rock scene. Their first album, Howlin’ Wind, was released to acclaim in 1976 and rapidly followed by the stylistically similar Heat Treatment. A mixture of rock, ballads, and reggae-influenced numbers, these albums reflected Parker’s early influences (Motown, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan) and contained the songs which formed the core of Parker’s live shows — “White Honey”, “Soul Shoes”, “Lady Doctor”, “Fool’s Gold”, and his early signature tune “Don’t Ask Me Questions”, which hit the top 40 in the UK. Parker and the Rumour built a reputation as incendiary live performers: the promotional album Live at Marble Arch was recorded at this time and shows off their raw onstage style. Like the pub rock scene he was loosely tied to, the singer’s class-conscious lyrics and passionate vocals signaled a renewal of rock music as punk rock began to flower in Britain.

Parker preceded the other “new wave” English singer-songwriters, Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson. Early in his career his work was often compared favorably to theirs, and for decades journalists would continue to categorize them together, long after the artists’ work had diverged. Characteristically, Parker would not hesitate to criticize this habit with caustic wit.

The first 2 albums’ critical acclaim was generally not matched with LP sales. Graham Parker and the Rumour appeared on BBC television’s Top of the Pops in 1976, performing their top 30 hit version of The Trammps’ “Hold Back the Night”.

At this point, Parker began to change his songwriting style, reflecting his desire to break into the American market. The first fruits of this new direction appeared on Stick To Me (1977). The album broke the top 20 on the UK charts but divided critical opinions, particularly with numbers like “The Heat in Harlem” — the band’s longest song at the time. Nick Lowe’s production also came under fire: some critics complained that the band sounded thin and Parker’s voice was mixed down, when in fact a studio mishap had compromised the original recordings and forced the group to remake the album on short notice. An official live album The Parkerilla, issued in 1978, showed that the Rumour’s vibrant live style remained strong, though some critics saw Parker in a holding pattern 2 years after Heat Treatment. It was a crucial juncture for the young musician.

Parker had long been dissatisfied with the performance of his US record company, Mercury Records, finally issuing in the 1979 single “Mercury Poisoning”, a public kiss-off reminiscent of the Sex Pistols’ “EMI”.

Energized by his new label, Arista, and the presence of legendary producer Jack Nitzsche, Parker followed with Squeezing Out Sparks, widely held to be the best album of his career. For this album, The Rumour’s brass section, prominent on all previous albums, was jettisoned, resulting in a spare, intense rock backing for some of Parker’s most brilliant songs. Of particular note was “You Can’t Be Too Strong”, one of rock music’s rare songs to confront the topic of abortion, however ambivalently.

Squeezing out Sparks is still ranked by fans and critics alike as one of the finest rock albums ever made.Rolling Stone named it #335 [1] on their 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In an early 1987Rolling Stone list of their top 100 albums from 1967-1987, Squeezing Out Sparks was ranked at #45, whileHowlin’ Wind came in at #54 [2]. The companion live album Live Sparks, sent to US radio stations as part of a concerted promotional campaign for Parker, showed how well the songs worked on stage, and included another snapping r&b cover, the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”.

Although marginally less intense than its predecessor, 1980’s The Up Escalator was Parker’s highest-charting album in the UK and featured glossy production by Jimmy Iovine and guest vocals from Bruce Springsteen. Nevertheless it was Parker’s last album with the Rumour, although guitarist Brinsley Schwarz would join most of the singer’s albums through the decade’s end.

The 1980s were Parker’s most commercially successful years, with well-financed recordings and radio and video play. Over the decade, the British press turned unkind to him, but he continued to tour the world with top backing bands, and his 1985 release Steady Nerves included his only US Top 40 hit, “Wake Up (Next to You)”. The singer began living mostly in the United States during this time.

An uncompromising attitude toward his music ensured that Parker would clash with the changing priorities of the major label music business, and the label changes came quickly after the mid-1980s. This situation partly accounts for the remarkable number of compilation albums in Graham Parker’s discography. Particularly unproductive was Parker’s tenure at Atlantic Records, where he has said he was told to collaborate with other songwriters and to focus on “a big drum sound.” Instead, Parker ended the deal and signed to RCA Records. He began producing his own recordings and stripping down his sound with The Mona Lisa’s Sister, a success in the new “modern rock” format. The groundbreaking work gained the singer renewed critical attention for his followup albums.

After the movingly personal 12 Haunted Episodes, his first release on an independent record label, Parker grew quiet in the late 1990s, but began an extraordinarily active period in 2001, with the UK rerelease of his early Rumour work, and with Deepcut to Nowhere, a penetrating collection of new songs that seemed intended to reflect comprehensively on the singer’s life and aims.

A number of albums have followed since, with different stylistic emphases, but Parker continues to write songs of struggle, compassion, and defiance in a hostile society. He has meanwhile adapted to the instability of his industry. Like many of his peers, he now works comfortably with independent labels, tours often as a solo performer, and converses freely with fans at shows and online.

In addition to his records, Parker published a set of short stories, Carp Fishing on Valium, in June 2000. His second book, a novel, The Other Life of Brian, appeared in September 2003.

Enjoy!

Stiffs & Demons_ A Collection 1980-1993

Track Listing

01 Get Started, Start A Fire

02 Empty Lives

03 Back In Time

04 Little Miss Understanding

05 Soultime

06 The Beating Of Another Heart

07 A Brand New Book

08 Love Without Greed

09 You Got The World (Right Where You Want It)

10 Yesterday’s Cloud

11 Ten Girls Ago

12 White Honey (Live)

13 Protection (Live)

14 Hotel Chambermaid (Live)

15 Don’t Ask Me Questions (Live)

16 Women In Charge

17 That Thing Is Rocking

18 Museum Palace

Stiff demon

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Heal thyself: Cymande

Cymande

Cymande

Wo!

Just the first day of the working week and one’s soul and body is already aching. No complaints, mind. Just a cold assessment of the current reality. Several more similarly long and full days await until the weekend arrives and I depart on another trip. This time to my favorite part of the world, India. Mumbai for a couple of short weekend days and then the nation’s capital for meetings and hopefully a bit of down time to stalk through the streets with all my senses open to ‘receptive’.

 

One does find there are days and weeks of days when despair and sadness are hard to keep at bay. What with all the shit happening in the Middle East and the suffering and rudeness of the ruling classes towards anyone who is not one of ‘us’ is enough to make the heart break.

When I get into those kind of places I generally find a long walk outside followed by a cold beer and some fine tunes return my inner barometer to the normal range. And over the weekend the tunes I turned to were from an old band with the slightly hard to pronounce name of Cymande (Shamaanday).

I used to spy this album in record stores years back and inevitably paused to take in the intriguing cover art. There was something just off beat enough about it to want me to try it out but of course I would opt for the more familiar product. In those days of youth when one is supposed to be full of adventure, I have to confess my musical tastes were firmly unadventerous. But let’s not look back.

Except perhaps to give praise. And much praise is due to these chaps with the unusual name. A group of West Indian immigrants in the UK, Cymande mixed together reggae, proto-dub, funk, sweet soul harmonies and a righteous message on their very limited number of records.   Except for a tiny number of music snobs, club hounds and critics the records didn’t get much uptake; the band disbanded in the late 70s.

Rediscovered by samplers a number of decades on, Cymande has probably reached a wider audience in the past 20 years then they ever did in their heyday.

This is very groovy music. Listen. And you’ll instantly be aware of its healing qualities. The deep throbbing bass shakes the blues loose (or perhaps packs it further down?) and slowly draws you to surrender.   Like a musical body tonic, Cymande, are an elixir.

Heal thyself!

The Message

Track Listing:

01 Zion I

02 One More

03 Getting It Back

04 Listen

05 Rickshaw

06 Dove

07 Bra

08 The Message

09 Rastafarian Folk Song

C Y M A N D E

 

Down wind from Molvania: 3 Mustaphas 3

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About 10 years ago bookstores in Australia promoted a new guide book to a little heard of country, Molvania.  Put together as a spoof of the Balkans and of travel guide books in general, the author’s spun ridiculous, crude and often funny snippets of mis-information about this made up land.

 

The Republic of Molvanîa is a composite of many of the worst stereotypes and clichés about Eastern Europe held by people in Australia (like Russkieswogs or Hunyaks). The exact location of Molvanîa is never specified. It is said to border Germany, Slovakia, SloveniaHungary and Romania. The shape of the country with its divisions strongly suggests Moldova, and the name has similarities (as has the location description by the authors as “somewhere between Romania and downwind from Chernobyl“); it can also represent a composite country consisting of parts of Hungary, Czech Republic, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia and perhaps Austria and Poland). The book mentions Bulgarians, Hungarians and perhaps Moldovans (ethnic Romanians) as its inhabitants: “The Molvanian population is made up of three major ethnic groups: the Bulgs (68%) who live predominantly in the centre and south, the Hungars (29%) who inhabit the northern cities, and the Molvs (3%) who can be found mainly in prison.”

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The book describes the nation as having been a desolate wasteland for much of its history, similar to Russia since the 12th century, torn by civil war and ethnic unrest. Eventually Molvanîa’s various warring factions were united as a single kingdom, ruled by a series of cruel despotic kings. In the late 19th century the monarchy was overthrown, but the royal family remained popular in exile. During World War II the country was allied with Nazi Germany, and then afterwards was occupied by the Soviet Union, who set up a Communist puppet government. After the fall of European Communism in the 1990s, the country became a dictatorship run by a corrupt government with heavy ties to the Mafia.

Molvanîa is described as a very poor and rural country, heavily polluted and geographically barren. The infrastructure is terrible, with necessities such as electricity, clean water, and indoor plumbing being rare finds, largely due to bureaucratic incompetence. Though the travel guide tries to suggest otherwise, there is little to do in the country, the hotels are tiny, filthy and dilapidated, the ethnic cuisine disgusting, and the “tourist attractions” boring and overpriced. (Wikipedia)

The book struck a particular chord of humour in some people’s hearts but others found it offensive, though no one could really say who was being offended because the country and all its ‘facts’ were made up.

imgres-1Beginning in the early 80’s, for about a decade, a similar scam was foisted upon ignorant and unsuspecting people.  It was a group of musicians who went by the name of 3 Mustaphas 3who insisted they were Balko-Turkic nephews of a minor Pasha from a strangely named and incredibly obscure country. They insisted on being called things like Kemal, Isfahani and Ahmet but played every sort of gypsy and folk instrument known to man.  The music they made was lively, full of exotic sounds and a familiar rocking beat.  These guys knew how to have fun. And they were a far sight more interesting and humorous then the Australian piss take book.

Other albums by 3M3 are better than this one we share tonight but everything they did was good. In this collection they rework some of their best known ditties and throw in a few unheard melodies sung in French, Arabic and other non-English languages. Always worth your time, are the boys from the Balkans (and Britain).

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Track Listing:

01 Si Vous Passez Par Là

02 !Starehe Mustapha! I, II & III

03 Maldita Guajira

04 Linda, Linda (Ach ya Linda)

05 Kopanitsa

06 Linda, Linda [Szegerely Megarely Mix]

07 Fiz’n [DJ Trouble Fezz re-edit]

08 Bukë E Kripë Në Vatër Tonë _ Kalaxhojnë

09 Anapse To Cigaro

10 Shouffi Rhirou

11 Niska Banja

12 Kač Kuzulu Čeylan

13 Selma

✪✪✪

On Fire: Mahavishnu Orchestra

 

John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin

For a brief sizzling moment in time, as the 60s stumbled into the 70s, the Mahavishnu Orchestra was the benchmark of rock n’ roll.  The world’s best, most exciting, most risky, most ‘spiritual’ and most together band of musicians that ever set foot on stage. Jazz Times in its March 2014 issue dedicated a wonderful article to that group’s first album, The Inner Mounting Flame, a little of which I exerpt here.

The first Mahavishnu Orchestra was born and died in New York City. Two and a half years separated those events. In between, they released three records, played somewhere in the region of 500 concerts and managed to astound the world, or that part thereof which took notice of modern music. And, in the early ’70s, that was a lot of the world. There were still vast, uncharted realms of sound for music to inhabit, still record-making corporations willing to fund the voyages of exploration and still hordes of listeners eager to make new discoveries. Popular music informed the culture, it was muscular and virile, and the feeling was abroad that perhaps still it could change the world. Mahavishnu John McLaughlin had not a shred of doubt about that.

Mahavishnu_orchestra1973Changing the consciousness of the world was, for John, the whole point of the thing. For the other guys, whatever turned John on was fine: They were simply ecstatic to be playing in what felt like the greatest band on the planet. The band, like the city, was a melting pot of nationalities and cultures: John McLaughlin from England; Billy Cobham from Panama; Rick Laird from Ireland via New Zealand, Australia and London; Jan Hammer from Czechoslovakia, as it was then, via Germany; and Jerry Goodman from Chicago. Many roads had led each of the five to New York where the first Mahavishnu Orchestra came together in the summer of 1971.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame, with John pictured in lotus position among his cohorts on the cover and a poem on aspiration by Sri Chinmoy within, was recorded on August 14 1971. Released before the year’s end, it sold 20,000 units in its first three weeks.

The music was astounding. While some of the elements and ideas within it may be glimpsed, in retrospect, scattered here and there across Devotion, My Goal’s Beyond, the recordings with Miles Davis, Lifetime and Carla Bley, and even back to Extrapolation, those were but doodles on paper compared to this fully formed masterpiece.  It was a music that was wholly new and which could not have been predicted.

John’s compositional maturity had finally arrived. As fabulous as Extrapolation was, this was a level beyond.  There was an indestructible immortal aura around several of the album’s pieces. A lesser item like Vital Transformation—its title reflecting Sri Chinmoy’s preoccupation with the lower and higher vitals of the soul—grabbed the listener by the throat with its superficially Hendrix-esque riffing and sound, but even here the lascivious blues-rock overcoat gave way to a clean ascending movement.

Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy

 

It was in the contemplative pieces, Dawn, You Know, You Know, A Lotus on Irish Streams—where space, restraint and the wisdom to use it were the key—that the caterpillar truly emerged as a many-coloured creature in winged flight.  The yin to their yang were the unholy behemoths, Meeting of the Spirits and Dance of Maya. Those two introduced the world to a device that might as well be known as ‘Mahavishnu arpeggios’—weird, unresolving, cyclical guitar patterns that formed the basis of many of John’s compositions of the Mahavishnu era. It was high art for the masses. And the masses came.

“I notice some difference in the music I played before I became a disciple and the music I play now,” John mused, early in 1972.  “When I play now, I think of Sri Chinmoy. I think of him as my higher self, and me as his lower self. I think of my music now as an offering to God…the master musician, the soul of music, the spirit of music. I’m just trying to reach him by letting myself be his instrument. That’s what I’m striving to become.”

Perception is half the history; truth is the rest.  To the record-buying, concert-going public of the early 70s, the substantial coverage given to John McLaughlin as the face of the Mahavishu Orchestra, and his serene demeanor onstage, asking for moments of silence before every show and presenting the performance as an opportunity for all assembled to reach their highest heights and deepest depths, fuelled a general fascination with the man.  His extraordinary virtuosity, and his band’s extraordinary music, spoke for itself, but his commanding, slightly otherworldly personality and spiritual commitment behind it all not only added weight and portent to the music, but conversely, suggested that such singular accomplishments were achieveable by all and sundry through the path being espoused.  Mahavishnu John McLaughlin was not a man on a table-tapping weekend in Bognor Regis. He was deadly serious.

Music was more than a pastime of an income or even a vocation to John McLaughlin.  It was a mission from God.  Among Sri Chinmoy’s many aphorisms was one that explains John’s extreme devotion to the cause of spreading his music as a gateway to God for the masses: If you say that a musician is not God, I may agree with you. But if you say music is not God, then I totally disagree with you. [Jazz Times (Vol 4. Number 2) March 2014]

 

This is indeed amazing, confronting and deeply moving music.

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Track Listing:

01 Meeting of the Spirits

02 Dawn

03 Noonward Race

04 A Lotus On Irish Streams

05 Vital Transformation

06 The Dance of Maya

07 You Know, You Know

08 Awakening

***

 

 

In Love: Barb Jungr

Barb Jungr

Barb Jungr

 

In an era during which rap and electronic music rose to commercial ascendancy, cabaret music could have easily become, to say the least, a quaint, passé art form. But during the last quarter of the 20th century, an alternative cabaret circuit developed and actually began to thrive throughout pockets of Europe. One of its catalysts and mainstays was Barb Jungr. Among Great Britain’s best-kept secrets, she helped spread the word as a writer, advocate, and educator, but more importantly as one of the genre’s most bracing and distinctive practitioners; a “chansonnier” who extended the French and German art song tradition into a new millennium by mixing it with jazz, blues, folk, world, and pop music.

Barb Jungr arrived in London in the mid-’70s from the northwest of England and quickly became involved in its music, theater, and film worlds. Soon thereafter, CBS Records released her fist single, “He’s Gone,” and NME selected it as one of its “Singles of the Week.” With Jerry Kreeger and blues guitarist Michael Parker, she formed in the waning years of the decade the Three Courgettes, which got involved at the very beginning of the city’s alternative cabaret scene. The vocal trio was discovered by Island Records busking new wave versions of gospel songs in the Kings Road and Portobello Market. They released a pair of well-received singles on the label, ultimately leading to tours with such acts as Sade and Kid Creole & the Coconuts.

After the Courgettes came to an end, Jungr released a solo album on Magnet Records that would eventually become a collector’s item, before reconvening with Parker in the early ’80s as the duo Jungr & Parker. They would spend the next 13 years touring extensively and internationally, as well as frequently performing their quirky mix of folk, blues, and jazz on British television and radio, ultimately winning a prestigious Perrier Award for their trouble. They also released six records, including one on Billy Bragg‘s Utility label.

By the outset of the 1990s, however, it was the ambitious, thematically assembled live shows that had become Jungr‘s primary artistic outlet. She spent the first half of the decade developing and directing the acclaimed showcases, both for groups and as solo pieces. The shows were usually tied together conceptually and, drawing on her background, presented theatrically at such esteemed venues as the Purcell Room and Pizza on the Park. Chief among these were “Hell Bent Heaven Bound” (with Ian ShawChristine Collister, and Parker), another Perrier pick, and “Money the Final Frontier” (with Mari Wilson and jazz singer Claire Martin), which were eventually combined on the cassette Hell Bent Heaven Bound II by JungrCollisterParker, and Helen Watson.

In the midst of her busy performing and touring schedule, Jungr also found time to pursue a plethora of extracurricular projects. With co-writer James Tomalin, she began composing the music for a variety of television programs and theater companies. She also became a director of workshops for vocalists, and arranged for and conducted various choral groups and choirs. In addition, Jungr began to research, teach, write, and speak about the voice and European cabaret. In 1996, she earned a master of music degree in ethnomusicology from Goldsmith’s College, which led to the formation of the trio Durga Rising (originally called JBC) with tabla player Kuljit Bhamra and longtime piano accompanist Russell Churney. They recorded and released the one-off project Durga Rising that same year.

By the end of the decade, Jungr had begun to contribute songs to various cabaret compilations, often for Irregular Records, which also released the singer’s Bare, a collection of intriguing covers (Jacques BrelRay Davies, Kris Kristofferson) and original compositions. It was not, however, until her next record, Chanson: The Space in Between, that the full range of her abilities were brought to record. Released on Linn Records, Chanson was full of beautifully expressive performances of songs by BrelJacques Prévert, Léo Ferré, and Cole Porter, often in fresh, specially commissioned translations and with unique arrangements. Britain’s Sunday Times named it to its year-end jazz Top Ten list. Jungr followed up the album with the luminous Every Grain of Sand, a whole set from the pen of Bob Dylan, who she treated as a stylist on a par with the greats of American song.  (AMG)

 

The album on show tonight is one I’ve listened to a lot in the past several weeks.  As the title suggests, these are songs by some of her favourite male song writers: Dylan, Jimmy Webb, Paul Simon, David Byrne, Bruce Springsteen and Gram Parsons.  Her ‘cabaret’ style is present in each and every number. Mellow cellos keep guard as she stretches the notes and finds breaks and opportunities that surprise and intrigue.  Each song is beautifully interpreted, though my least favourite, is her version of Dylan’s You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,  which stripped of its perky cheekiness falls a bit flat.

 

But all in all, a very listenable record worth repeated listenings.

 

Happy Friday.

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Track Listing:

01 Once in a Lifetime

02 I’m a Believer

03 Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache

04 Night Comes On

05 Can’t Get Used to Losing You /Red Red Wine

06 The River

07 I Saw the Light

08 This Old Heart of Mine /Love Hurts

09 Everything I Own

10 You Ain’t Going Nowhere

11 My Little Town

12 Wichita Lineman

⌫⌫⌫

 

Prophets of Fun: 3 Mustaphas 3

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I once spent some time in the Balkans.  At first I was not much taken with the region.  Perhaps because of the horrible war that saw concentration camps, ethnic cleansing and the siege of Sarajevo, those rugged ancient lands seemed a cursed and ugly place.

But as I travelled across Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and parts of Croatia my resistance fell away.  The hatreds and blood feuds ran deep, for sure, but so did one of the world’s most original and heterogenous cultures.  The amalgam of Turk, Slav, Russian, Bulgarian, Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox ways has thrown up a society that is amazingly fissiparous but also deftly interwoven.  When things go bad, like they did in the early 90s, all hell is unleashed and misery stalks the hills and valleys.  But in times of peace there is nothing quite as lovely as an orchard in Gorazde, the wide plain of Drvar or snowfall on one of the great mosques of Sarajevo.

3 Mustaphas 3 are a musical collective who specialize in the ethnically blurred melange of Turko-Albanian-Slav-Arabic-Indo-bellydance-gypsy-jazz-dance balladry that is part of the Balkan atmosphere.

 

Core members are Ben Mandelson (under the name Hijaz Mustapha), Tim Fienburgh (1954–2008) (under the name Niaveti III) Colin Bass (under the name Sabah Habas Mustapha), and Nigel Watson (under the name Houzam Mustapha), around which orbit many other Mustaphas – all supposed to be the nephews of Uncle Patrel Mustapha. They claim to originate from the Balkans, but play music from almost every continent; their slogan, “Forward in all directions!”, is an expression of this musical diversity. Active at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, they have now stopped producing and performing together, but haven’t officially disbanded.

 

Liner notes from their albums would have it that the band was created in a Balkan town called Szegerely, where it played at the Crazy Loquat Club, before the members were transported inside refrigerators to England.

In truth however the creation of the band began in 1982 when guitarist and musicologist Ben Mandelson, also known as Hijaz Mustapha, and Uncle Patrel, also known as Lu Edmonds, started playing together, along with Patrel’s other “nephews”, namely Houzam, Isfa’ani, Oussack and Niaveti III. Before World music became a genre, they were already playing musical styles from all around the globe. According to band members the first concert was held in a London restaurant that year. The early 3M3 lineup was noticed by BBC radio’s John Peel, for whom they recorded several Peel Session broadcasts. A concert in Berlin made them more, and two mini-albums were subsequently released, but their first full length album, Shopping, was recorded in 1987. The album covered a wide array of genres also including a cover of Moroccan Najat Aatabou’s Shouffi Rhirou. By then Oussack had left the band, but bassist Sabah Habas Mustapha, who may in fact be Colin Bass, and accordionist Kemo Mustapha had joined.

3 Mustaphas 3

3 Mustaphas 3

Their second full length album, Heart of Uncle, was released in 1989 and showed Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Irish and even Latin American influence. Soup of the Century, released in 1990, was their most acclaimed success however. With tracks ranging from a Country song in Japanese to a Mexican traditional sung in Hindi, and going through a mix of Irish, Scottish, Greek, Albanian, Klezmer and many more styles, the Mustaphas had broken the last barriers separating ethnic music styles.

Daoudi joined during the recording and performed woodwinds. The Mustaphas had also been assisted on occasions by Lavra Tima Daviz on vocals and Expen$ive on trumpet, while guests Israeli singer Ofra Haza, and kora players Dembo Konte and Kausu Kuyateh from Gambia and Senegal respectively have played alongside them in the 1980s.

The band toured extensively in Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, the USA and Canada, playing clubs and international festivals (Moers, Glastonbury, Winnipeg).

A final album, Friends Fiends & Fronds was released in 1991, although it contained mostly remixes from previous albums. By the end of the year the band was no longer playing together. Sabah Habas pursued a solo career, releasing albums as Colin Bass, or performing with his band Camel as well as the Jugala Allstars from Indonesia, and Hijaz became a producer. The two were featured, together with Houzam, in an album from Zimbabwean artist Stella Chiweshe. Between 1988–1992, Hijaz, Houzam and Sabah Habas worked together on further recording projects with renowned artists from the World Music scene: Tarika Sammy (Madagascar), Rinken Band (Okinawa), Dembo Konte & Kausu Kuyateh (Gambia). Oussack (Ray Cooper) joined the Oysterband under the name Chopper.

Another 3M3 album was released in 1997 containing live performances, and Sabah Habas and Hijaz came together again in 2001 to pick songs to include in their final live album, Play Musty for Me.

During the height of their fame, the  invited audiences to bring ripe cheeses to concerts, which the Mustaphas would attempt to identify on stage. An onstage refrigerator holding fresh fruit which could be offered to the audience was an essential item demanded by the band from any serious concert promoter. Indeed, the fridge itself was a revered item for the Mustapha family (as it keeps food fresh) hence the cry often heard in intense moments of performance: “Can we take it to the fridge? Let me take it to the fridge!” (Wikipedia)

The record we share today, Shopping, is their debut. Full of fun, humour, odd twists and turns and incredible music, this is a ‘must have’ for anyone interested in music beyond the radio dial.

Shopping

Track Listing:

01  – Medley

02  – Medley

03  – Shika Shika

04  – A Night Off Beirut

05  – Selver

06  – Voulez-Vous Danser

07  – Darling, Don’t Say ‘No’

08  – Choufi Ghirou

09  – Valle E Pogradecit

10  – Musafir Hoon Yaaron

11  – Szegerely Farewell

♫♭♪♫