Thursday, February 17, 2005

Brazil comes to Buffalo, part two

If you're in the WNY area these days and share my interest in Brazilian culture, check out this exhibition of work by performance/installation/media artist Janaina Tschäpe at the UB Art Gallery.

The show opens this Friday, Feb. 18, with a walkthrough by the artist at 5, a reception from 6-7:30, and video screenings at 6, 6:30, and 7. The exhibition is up through March 26.

Brazil comes to Buffalo, part one

Last Sunday I saw Luciana Souza's concert with pianist Edward Simon at the Albright-Knox here in Buffalo, part of the gallery's "Microsoft Art of Jazz" series. I confess I was a little nervous at the outset; I'm not a huge fan of the soprano-plus-piano combo to begin with, and the opening number left me kinda cold. But Souza's range of material is amazing, from her own settings of poems by Pablo Neruda to Jobim chestnuts to American standards she picked up from Chet Baker and Billie Holiday to choro, and so on and so on. And she's a wonderfully natural stage performer with a great sense of humor; my favorite part of the afternoon was hearing her stories between songs.

None of this inspired me to pick up one of her albums at the show. I'm intrigued by them; but they seem at first glance to be single-concept affairs, whereas the strength of the live concert was her aforementioned ability to pick and choose from each of these projects. Even so, I felt the record-shopping jones, so I headed to the used bin at the nearest Record Theater (big sale on Sunday), where I found two gems for next to nothing: Vinicius Cantuária's Sol Na Cara and Aphex Twin's Drukqs. This pair might seem to have little in common, but, weirdly enough, the little squiggles of noise running through some of Cantuaria's songs could have come straight from any number of Aphex songs, and the opening track on disc one of Drukqs (with the quintessentially Aphex-y title "Jynweythek") is surprisingly delicate (sounds like some sort of hammered dulcimer action, of all things) and wouldn't be out of place at all as a backing track on Vinicius' album. Go figure.

For the record, the Aphex album seems fine, but other than that opening number and some pure piano tracks, most of it sounds like stuff he's already done elsewhere. I'd heard this criticism when the album first came out, but now I really get it. And I don't care all that much, because it's still nice (in its own sometimes-nasty way). Cantuária's disc is even better. Since I didn't recognize the title, I was worried that it would be one of his earlier schlocky pop albums I've been warned against, but nope, it's a delight.

So I went home happy: lovely concert on a snowy afternoon, couple of unrelated albums, a bunch of work postponed.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Big Brass Band

Can it really be more than a month since my last entry here? Yeah, probably so, given how busy I've been on several fronts at once. Fortunately, I left a brief note for myself when I heard a segment on the PRI show The World on Indian brass band music that I've been meaning to mention here since it first aired on Jan. 12. Always exciting to discover a subgenre that I never dreamed existed. Plus the radio story contains an interesting observation from one of the music's practitioners, Hamid Khan Kawa of the Jaipure Kawa Brass Band, on the way they've benefitted from their country's colonial legacy:

"For India and for our Indian philosophy it say, any part of the world, we have to take the best thing of the world, we have to take the best thing of the person. That makes life. So today we have for example, there is harmonium, it comes from the English organ, and today we don't find it in England this instrument. And it's one of the most popular instruments in India, this is called harmonium. And so, we love also our things, like sitar, tabla, but we love also another instrument because for us it's something different to really appreciate."

I'm hopelessly behind on other stuff that I want to write about here, so I'll get the ball rolling by spreading the word about Ari Joseph's supercool MP3 blog devoted to ... you guessed it... Brazilian music. It's called An Order of Progress and a Side of Fries, and I've only just begun to mine its treasures myself. One of the most exciting things about the blog is that Ari writes about very recent music as well as older stuff; in my experience it's much harder to find out what's going on in Brazil right now than to learn about its legendary past. I take it as a good sign that I haven't heard of many of the folks he writes about (or else I've heard of them without ever having heard the specific songs he writes about).

From Ari's blog I found my way to AudioScrobbler, a site that--with your permission--records what you listen to on your home computer and posts a constantly updated list for the world to see. (Well, it's designed so that only people whose taste overlaps with yours are likely to see your list.) This in turn becomes a tool that allows you to find other music you might be interested in, as organized in all sorts of ways. (Five minutes of browsing, and I found a grouping called "Gay Indie Lovers" which tells me I should check out The Libertines--something I probably wouldn't have done otherwise, even though I've seen their name dropped here and there for the last year or so.)

Normally I hate this sort of voluntary invasion of privacy, but, what the hell, I just woke up from a nap and decided to surrender still more of my inner life to the Matrix. So behold my playlist. (I do fear that the "party shuffle" mode of iTunes is going to portray me as a complete wacko, but so be it.)