I will not open the Lester Bangs book to a random page and build another entire post on a creative misreading of one of his sentences. I will not open the Lester Bangs book to a random page and build another entire post on a creative misreading of one of his sentences. I will not--
Oh, hey; how you doing? I didn't hear you come in. Heh. Happy Bastille Day! Sit, sit. Have some tea and help yourself to a bit of the baklava; I'll be right with you ...
So! While you were away, I received a couple of very sweet, appreciative emails from folks who recently wandered into the Bodega. In addition to making me feel warm and fuzzy, they also reminded me of why I started this blog in the first place: the fact that there has been, historically, so little attention paid in our culture to music from around the world. If, by "attention" we mean "reviews, essays and books," then this is still very much the case, although music blogs like the dozens of examples I've linked to in the right-hand aisle are one medium or platform or whatever where music from all over the world is finally getting some of the international exposure that so much of it deserves.
The great Druze superstar and pop innovator Asmahan was one of the first non-western voices your Bodega proprietor ever heard; it was back in the 1990s when I discovered this CD in the stacks of the since-closed Daff and Raff Arabic Bookstore in Boston. I remember it as though it was just yesterday ... but worry not, I shan't bore you with that particular memory. Suffice to say that it was a purely random find and that, along with a handful of other random finds, also in the 1990s, completely changed my musical horizons forever.
The present CD--would you like some more tea?--was a more recent find, mid-2000s maybe, most likely at (the since-closed) Princess Music on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge. I had, by that time, read Sherifa Zuhur's Asmahan's Secrets: Woman, War, and Song, one of the few (like, three? four?) books on Arabic music in English, so I had some context for her, or at least knew something about her life and influence as well as about her mysterious death, on this very day in 1944, an event that has given rise to a thousand conspiracy theories--everything from Asmahan being a Nazi spy to Oum Kalsoum having her rubbed out so she, Oum, could take over as the First Lady of Arabic Song.
Before you leave with your precious download, I should say that--and I'm being completely honest here, I swear--I had no idea that Asmahan died on July 14 when I pulled her CD down off the shelf tonight to post it and, yes, when I glanced at the Wikipedia page I linked to above and saw that date, I got a body-wide case of goosebumps. So, I don't care what your religion is, things do happen for a reason and, despite my use of the word a paragraph or two above, there is probably no such thing as "random."
Soon after I moved to New York City in 1997 I began to notice that bodegas run by people from around the world sometimes stocked CDs and DVDs of music and film from the countries they had come from.
The music I've collected from these bodegas can almost never be found in the "World Music" sections of the few remaining places to buy CDs in the U.S.; nor, for that matter on iTunes (or cheapo MP3 sites like Soundike).
If you are an artist or publisher and do not want your music here, just let me know and I'll remove it.