|by Blair Fraipont|
Tabu Ley Rochereau The Voice of Lightness (Sterns Music)
When I first heard this compilation of congolese rumba (soukous) from the 1960s-1970s, I wasn't really listening. It was the esoteric-white-anti-xenophobic-guilt that drove me to claim "it was great" and "something was happening" within the content of these two discs, yet I couldn't put my finger on it. The first three listens were an apostasy: Tabu Ley was relegated to "pleasant background music."
That was so until I woke up from my dream intoxicated by the spindrift of delicate guitar reverb of "Christine." From then on, I heard new rhythms and layers with each listen. Whether it was the Hawaiian inspired slide work in "N'daya Paradis," or the versatile tenderness that Tabu Ley Rochereau brings to every track here, I was addicted.
I'd never heard guitar playing that was so intense, yet mellifluous; soft, but not placid. Mr. Rochereau's voice weaves in and around all the instruments masterfully. The gentle trills in his voice are otherworldly. Voice of Lightness provides a time-line from where Tabu Ley began with simpler, more precise sounding rumbas in the early sixties. These evolved into longer, more astral soukous of the seventies.
Though the real genius of this music is its inexplicableness.
Saban Bajramovic A Gypsy Legend (Times Square Records/World Connection)
The Serbian man who recorded these songs in 1999 after having fallen into obscurity in the decades prior, passed away in June of this year. He was callous from years of living the life of a rebel who believed that a person who had not lived in prison was no person at all. Here, his voice is tormented and husky. Musically, this could be described as romani blues, though I may be wrong.
Mostar Sevdah Reunion deftly support Saban with their sound which evokes late nights where there's nothing left to do but listen to the world weary singer tell his story. We are given tales of woe, tales of a gypsy thief locked up in a Budapest jail, beautiful women and their scarves, deals gone down, laments, jealousy and even accounts of Saban's stint in Croatia's Goli Otok prison.
Bajramovic's stirring performances on Fanfare Ciocarlia's Queens and Kings only hints at his vocal prowess as displayed here. The way his voice cascades over the snaky clarinet lines in "Djelem, Djelem" or his weary vibrato in "Hanuma" exhibit a man who's best days are clearly behind him. This is the strength of A Gypsy Legend, which features some re-recordings of his well-known songs.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 13 September 12, 2008