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Friday 12 July 2024

Learning From The Master

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure and privilege of visiting some charity shops in Newcastle with Charity Chic (as the great man himself mentioned yesterday). Seeing him in action was a revelation and having observed him closely I am making some changes to my own charity shop CD scanning methods which I hope will make them more productive. 

But as well as a great technique CC also possesses physical attributes that I lack which mean I will never be able to emulate his efficiency: strong but supple fingers which enable him to rifle through the racks at a rate of knots; eagle-like eyesight to identify a potential purchase in an instant; and the ability to sit on his haunches to scrutinise the bottom shelf, an opportunity that my bulky frame and bad knees deny me.

When not gasping in awe I found some time to pick out a couple of CDs myself, including the one we are featuring today - "New Roman Times", the first album of new material released by Camper Van Beethoven after they reformed in 2002. Font fans may appreciate the album title.

It is a concept album which according to the blurb "details the rise and fall of an idealistic Texan whose disenchantment following a stint with the American military redirected him towards organized terrorism". You don't need to have been through a similar experience in order to enjoy the album ("but it helps!").

"New Roman Times" - Camper Van Beethoven

"Civil Disobedience" - Camper Van Beethoven

The Blogger's Code states that any post about Camper Van Beethoven must include a reference to one particular song, so here it is. Always a pleasure, never a chore.

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Still Under Observation

Last week I featured a couple of tracks from Disc 1 of the "Dreadlocks Coming To Dinner" compilation of Niney The Observer productions from the early 1970s. I said then that if you all behaved nicely I would share a couple from Disc 2 this week.

I can't conclusively prove that you have all been angels but I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. So here they are.

"For I" - David Jahson

"Fire Bunn" - Big Youth

Before you ask, David Jahson is not the popular actor David Jason of 'Only Fools and Horses' and 'The Darling Buds of May' fame. Mr Jahson's real name is actually Everald Pickersgill, a name which sounds like it should belong to a character in Mr Jason's 'Open All Hours' not a reggae singer. 

One of Mr Jason's best known characters did have a small impact on reggae culture though or, more accurately, on Smiley Culture. Perhaps also on Undercover Cockney, whose debut single came out last Friday. 

Monday 8 July 2024

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 40 - Rwanda

We're back on the road and well into our journey - 40 countries down, 15 more still to go. And we are in Rwanda, the destination of choice for asylum seekers according to the recently departed UK government who managed to spend roughly £300m to send a grand total of one person there. Maybe I should have got them to subsidise this post before they lost power.

I have had some logistical issues of my own with Rwanda. It has proved difficult to track down enough music to fill the post. Last time out in Nigeria I had a shortlist of 80 artists, for Rwanda the long list was nine. But fear not. While the quantity may be lacking the quality is not.

We will start with the only Rwandan CD in my collection, "Gakondo" by Mighty Popo. His Mightiness lived for several years in Canada where he recorded this album on which he revisits and reworks traditional musical styles to fine effect. I acquired the CD by revisiting traditional methods as well - I bought it off Ebay - but you can pick up a copy on Bandcamp if you feel so inclined.

At some point after releasing this album in 2011 Popo returned home to become a director of the Rwanda School of Creative Arts and Music. As far as I can tell he has not released any further albums but you can find one or two more recent videos on YouTube. 

Unusually for this series that is the oldest recording you will be getting today. The Rwandan music scene seems to have escaped the attentions of the various record labels responsible for some of the many vintage reissues and compilations that I have shared with you on the journey. 

Until someone plugs that gap I would point those of you hankering for a compilation in the direction of "Why Did We Stop Growing Tall?" which features recordings by Abatwa pygmies. Ranging from lullabies to a sort of rap, and often accompanied by a mbira-like instrument called the ikembe, its an interesting listen. I've opted for one of two tracks on the album by Emmanuel Hatungimana.

Probably the best known internationally of today's featured acts is Cécile Kayirebwa, who got a bit of mainstream attention as a result of releasing a few albums on European labels in the 1990s and performing at Womad in 2001. Andy Kershaw was a particular fan and included her song "Umunezero" as one of his 'Desert Island Discs'.

Today's selection comes from "Imyaka 20 Ishize", which was released in 2014. Described as "a compilation of carefully selected tracks to mark the 20th commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide", it is not entirely clear whether they were all new recordings, but Cécile was still making music as of late 2022 so it is possible they were.

Moving forward from 2014 to 2019 we have a pair of albums for you - "Rwanda You Should Be Loved" by The Good Ones and "Isoko Disangiye" by Munyakazi Deo. I'm sure we can all agree with the first sentiment, and Brexiteers apart probably also the second one if Google Translate's claim that it means "our shared market" is correct. 

The Good Ones are a trio of hill farmers who also play guitar and sing (or a trio of guitarists who also farm, whichever you prefer). "Rwanda You Should Be Loved" is their third album and features guest spots from the likes of Nels Cline of Wilco, Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney and Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. None of them appear on the track below though.

Munyakazi Deo is an inanga gun for hire (the inanga being a traditional stringed instrument from the region). He has supported local stars such as Cécile as well as the likes of Keziah Jones and Joss Stone. None of them appear anywhere on his album, the ungrateful b*****ds.

As always we bring this part of the proceedings to a close with some Mandatory African Reggae. And who better to provide it than Darius Rurangirwa, better known to his many fans as Jah Bone D. He has been recording for about 20 years now. This track was released as a single in 2021 and is available through many of the usual outlets.

"Rwampunga" - Mighty Popo

"Rwanda Nziza" - Emmanuel Hatungimana

"Ubutumwa" - Cécile Kayirebwa

"Marciana, You Should Love" - The Good Ones

"Urakwiriye Mwami" - Munyakazi Deo 

"Si Abantu" - Jah Bone D

Friday 5 July 2024

The End Of An Error

Here in the UK we had a general election yesterday. It is 5am and with the majority of the votes now counted it has just been confirmed that after 14 years we have an overdue change of government. So this is my heartfelt musical message to the outgoing maladministration. 

"Get Up And Get Out" - Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

"Go Man Go, Get Gone" - Tex Zario

"Pack Your Lies And Go" - Celinda Pink

"Glad To See You Go" - Ramones

The message continues courtesy of some veteran calypsonians. 

Wednesday 3 July 2024

Observation Time

I recently bought an excellent new 2 CD compilation called "Dreadlocks Coming To Dinner". Released on the Doctor Bird label, a subsidiary of Cherry Red, it brings together 49 Niney The Observer productions from 1973 to 1975.

Niney was one of many great producers operating in Jamaica back in the golden age of the 1970s, when he emerged from an apprenticeship as an engineer for the likes of Joe Gibbs and Bunny 'Striker' Lee with the all time classic "Blood & Fire". He recorded and produced regularly well into the 1990s but for sustained superb sounds you can't beat his early period.

This compilation features his productions for the likes of Dennis Brown, Delroy Wilson, Big Youth, Horace Andy, Ken Boothe and many more as well as Niney's own recordings. Here are a couple of tracks from Disc 1. If you behave nicely you might get some from Disc 2 next week.

"No Portion A Gal" - Sang Hugh

"Hail I" - Niney The Observer

Niney's birth name is Winston Holness. He is not related in any way to the former Countdown presenter and radio James Bond Bob Holness, but there is an unsubstantiated rumour that he played the sax on this 2023 MRV take on "Baker Street".

Monday 1 July 2024

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 39 - Nigeria

We are onto the 39th leg of the grand tour and it is one of the big ones - Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and sixth most populous in the world. 

It occupies a similar position in my record collection, with South Africa being the only country on the continent from which I have more music. Even after getting Fela Kuti out of the way last month and leaving out personal favourites who have popped up here frequently over the years like Orlando Julius and Sir Vixtor Uwaifo I still found myself left with a 'shortlist' of 80 tracks for this post, each by a different artist. 

After several days writing and rewriting the perfect selection to the point where it was adversely affecting my work and personal hygiene I decided just to pick ten and get on with it. This is it. They are all top notch tracks in my opinion but with one exception, maybe two, it would probably be a completely different list if I did this again tomorrow. 

The two exceptions are both African standards that were very popular well beyond the borders of Nigeria. The first of them is "Papa's Land" by Sonny Okosun.    

While many countries were independent by the time it was released in 1977 the song really resonated down in the south where the Portuguese had only recently left Angola and Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe were still officially South West Africa and Rhodesia respectively and the end of apartheid in South Africa was a long way off. 

There is another version of the song from 1980 made with Eddy Grant at the controls that has featured here before. That is excellent in its own right but you can't beat the original.

The second standard is "Sawale" by self-anointed Cardinal Rex Lawson. I don't think I am giving away any secrets when I say the tune is nicked from the old Cuban classic "El Manisero", which separately reappeared in the US as "The Peanut Vendor" and in the UK in old adverts for Golden Wonder peanuts. So we will dedicate this to a Portuguese peanut farmer of our acquaintance.

"Sawale" has in turn been adapted and adopted many times by various African musicians since it was first a hit in the late 1960s. If you go back to the Ethiopian leg of the journey you'll find it in the videos there, and Flavour's remade and renamed 2011 hit version kicks off today's visual stimulation.

Having dawdled at length over the first two tracks I am going to rattle through the other eight otherwise we will all have fallen asleep before we get to the music. We kick off with Bola Johnson who, like Cardinal Rex, was big back in the high-life era, although he later became better known as a journalist and radio personality. This track from 1973 is on a compilation of his work called "Man No Die".  

The early 1970s was also when the local mutant Afro-rock scene started to emerge, and Soundway Records excellent 2008 "Nigeria Rock Special" compilation picks out many of the highlights.  I have gone with Tabukah 'X' about whom I can tell you nothing at all apart from the date of the track (1975). Soundway seem to have stopped selling the album but it is available through some other outlets.

We skip forward to the early 1980s for the next few selections. First up is trombonist and singer Fred Fisher Atalobhor with a song originally released on his 1981 album "No Way" but now more easily found on his "African Carnival" compilation. Next is Akaba Man from Benin City, one of the pioneers of what was known locally as Edo funk. You can find several of his tunes on "Edo Funk Explosion Vol. 1" along with the great Sir Victor Uwaifo and others. 

Julie Coker's career was sort of the reverse of Bola Johnson's. Nigeria's first ever TV presenter, she was already a star of the small screen by the time she decided to turn her hand to music in the mid 1970s. "A Life In The Limelight" brings together some of her best bits, including this disco smash from 1981. 

I am sure the gossipers and scandalmongers Julie rightly castigates do not include any Igbo lady socialites as they are all paragons. If they were not why would Onyeoma Tochukwu Nnamani pay them such fulsome tribute. I can tell you no more about Mr Nnamani other than that this is from his 2019 album "Nnamdi Kanu Nno Ije". I found it on EMusic but if you are not a subscriber the tax dodgers seem to be your best bet.

For our penultimate tune we pop back briefly to the 1980s to catch up with juju giant Sir Shina Peters. This track comes from his 1986 album "Sewele". And we round things off, as we always do, with the Mandatory African Reggae slot. It comes courtesy of the late great Ras Kimono and I have selected the title track from his 1994 album "Lone Ranger".  

And breathe...

"Papa's Land" - Sonny Okosun

"Sawale" - Cardinal Rex Lawson & His Mayors Band Of Nigeria

"Lagos Sisi" - Bola Johnson

"Finger Toe" - Tabukah 'X'

"W.T.F.S." - Fred Fisher Atalobhor & His Ogiza Dance Band

"Popular Side" - Akaba Man & The African Pride

"Gossiper Scandal Monger" - Julie Coker

"Igbo Socialite Ladies Tribute" - Onyeoma Tochukwu Nnamani

"Yabis" - Sir Shina Peters & His International Stars

"Lone Ranger" - Ras Kimono

Friday 28 June 2024

Conventional Thinking

I had not been planning to post again this week but I had such a good time in Newcastle with the proprietors of Charity Chic Music, What's It All About?, Sun Dried Sparrows and Are We There Yet? plus assorted partners that I thought I should thank them all at the first opportunity. Classy and cultured people every one of them.

On the subject of culture we visited the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art while in the area (Newcastle, not the Baltic). It was a bit of a mixed bag but there were some exhibits that caught my eye. Like this one.

The piece is called 'Aspiration 2' and it is by George Ginnis, a new name to me. According to the artist's blurb in the exhibition catalogue: "The dichotomy of the dog and owner being both absent and present prompts reflection on the persistence of the class system that still lurks behind displays of brash materialism".

Now I'm just a simple country lad so I don't know about all of that but I would be interested in the thoughts of our artistic readers (and the rest of you philistines of course).

We'll finish with a few pieces of music that will help me recall the visit when I hear them in the future. For Ms Ross's interpretation of the Nick Lowe classic please replace "when" with "in the hopefully unlikely event that".

"Battlefield" - Diana Ross

"Tube Disaster" - Flux Of Pink Indians

Monday 24 June 2024

Of Power And Pendulums

No sooner had I finished preparing the previous post running down some of my favourite promos that I have received recently than another one arrived in my inbox that I need to tell you about.

This one is by a gent who I have been a fan of for some time, Jeffrey Foucault. His new album is "The Universal Fire" and having listened to it a couple of times now I am pleased to say it is well up to his usual high standard. It doesn't come out until September but you can pre-order it on Bandcamp and check out his back catalogue while you are there.

Having checked my records it seems that inexplicably Mr Foucault has never featured on these pages before. Let's put that right with three oldies and but goodies. They come respectively from "Ghost Repeater" (2006), "Cold Satellite" (2010) and "Blood Brothers" (2018).

"Ghost Repeater" - Jeffrey Foucault

"Geese Fly By" - Jeffrey Foucault

"Dishes" - Jeffrey Foucault

That's it from me this week. Tomorrow morning I'm heading off to spend a few days hanging out with some of the cool kids. I imagine it will go something like this.  

Thursday 20 June 2024

Newness Abounds

After last Sunday's Single Song Sunday another one of our exceedingly intermittent series makes a return today. This is the one were I share some of the best things sent to me by the nice people in Promoland over the last few months and encourage you to buy them. Links to Bandcamp are provided where available.

Two of the best albums I have received since the last time we did this have already been mentioned here after I attended gigs by the acts in question. The albums are "Strange Medicine" by Kaia Kater and "Chicken Dinner" by Luiz Bruno. Both have now been released into the wild and are just waiting for you to snap them up.

Our round-up of the rest starts with a man who deserves praise for a multitude of reasons. Gabriel Birnbaum's day job is in Promoland and he is responsible for alerting me to many things you have heard here over the years. He is also a fine musician in his own right, originally with Wilder Maker but now as a solo artist. His latest album "Patron Saint Of Tireless Losers" is out on 28 June.

You will have to wait until 12 July to get hold of "Time Is A Walnut" by Hannah Mohan, but trust me when I tell you it is well worth the wait. Formerly the front person for indie-pop band And The Kids, this is her first solo album and it has been racking up the plays here at Goggins Towers.

On the subject of indie pop, here are Lightheaded. Hailing from New Jersey and signed to the Slumberland labal whose roster includes The Reds, Pinks, & Purples, The Umbrellas and Jeanines (all of whom have featured here previously). They share some of those bands' influences as you can hear on "Combustible Gems" which came out last month.

Slumberland had a good month in May because they also released "New Town Dreams" by Neutrals. Also based in San Francisco the album's theme - "snapshots of mundane lived realities in the New Towns that proliferated in the UK during the '60s and '70s" - may tip you off to the fact that they are not originally from there. Those of you with a keen ear for accents may pick up a very slight hint of a Scottish one. 

You will search in vain for any hint of a regional accent from Cardiff's No Thee No Ess. On their latest album "Distant Country" they seem to have relocated in spirit to the West Coast (by which I mean Laurel Canyon not Llanbedrog), but they fit in quite nicely there. "Distant Country" came out earlier this month but does not seem to have made it to Bandcamp. You can find some of their earlier records there though.

Last but not least is Sonny Singh, a Brooklyn-based Sikh musician who was formerly the trumpeter with Red Baraat. His latest album "Sage Warrior" fuses devotional music with assorted other styles and has been developed in parallel with a book of the same name by Valerie Kaur. Both the book and the album come out in September, but the single "Pavan Guru" is already available.

"Drinking Year" - Gabriel Birnbaum

"Time Is A Walnut" - Hannah Mohan

"Moments Notice" - Lightheaded

"Stop The Bypass" - Neutrals

"Snow White" - No Thee No Ess

"Pavan Guru" - Sonny Singh

Other albums I've been sent that I have quite enjoyed include "Ego Ride" by Asha Jefferies, "Planet Perfect" by Energy Slime and "For Every Set Of Eyes" by J. Mamana. So here is a video from each of them.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Johnny Canary

Some sweet sounding soul for you today courtesy of the late great Johnny Adams (no relation as far as I know to other famous Adamses such as Bryan, Douglas, Ansel, Tony or Sweet Fanny).

Mr Adams hailed from New Orleans and was known as 'The Tan Canary' because of his vocal range. He  released his first single - produced by the future Dr. John - in 1959. His recording career lasted right up until his death from cancer nearly 40 years later. He left behind a lot of great music. 

The two most successful periods of his career were his time with SSS International (1968-71) - which included his biggest hit "Reconsider Me" - and his stint with Rounder Records from 1984 until his death in 1998. This version of Bobby Charles' "I Don't Want To Know" comes from his final album "Man Of My Word" which was recorded during a brief period of remission. 

He was no slouch before and between those two periods either as the third selection shows. It is the A-side of a 1980 single on the excitingly named Hep' Me label. Take it away, Mr Adams.

"Reconsider Me" - Johnny Adams

"I Don't Want To Know" - Johnny Adams

"Love Me Now" - Johnny Adams

Sunday 16 June 2024

Single Song Sunday

It's back! Our long-running but rarely sighted series once more ambles into view.

I was surprised to discover when preparing this post that it has taken 13 years and 66 episodes to get round to featuring a Bob Dylan song. I can only blame myself.

The song we have chosen to break Bob's duck is "Just Like A Woman". Originally appearing in June 1966 on his "Blonde On Blonde" album, it was released as a single in August the same year and struggled its way up to #33 in the Billboard charts.

Bob's own version of the song was not the first to be released as a single though. Over in the UK Manfred Mann recorded a cover within days of "Blonde On Blonde" coming out. Their version was released as a single in July, reaching the Top 10 in the UK and many parts of Europe.

"Just Like A Woman" was one of three Bob songs that the Manfreds took into the charts, and the next two versions in our list are also by regular Bob botherers. The Byrds recorded it in 1971 but it stayed in the vaults until it appeared on their 1990 self-titled 4 CD box set. Richie Havens recorded the song more than once - I have opted for the version on his 1972 live album "On Stage".

Also bringing it to you live (or at least live in the studio) is Van The Man. This version was recorded at the Pacific High Studios in San Francisco in 1971 and that session has been bootlegged many times over the years. I have it on an Italian bootleg called "Buonasera" - an album I believe may have been a formative influence on our old friend Furgone di Piufiglio.

Next up we have three versions of "Just Like A Woman" sung by actual women (where will this madness end?). It won't surprise you to learn that Nina Simone's take is the pick of the bunch, but I also like Bridget St' John's version. 

Nina's recording first appeared on "Here Comes The Sun" (1971) and can be found on numerous compilations of hers. I found Bridget's cover on a 3 CD collection called "From There / To Here - UK/US Recordings 1974-1982" from 2022. As far as I can tell was previously unreleased.

The final female version is by Charlotte Gainsbourg, ably supported by Calexico. It comes from the soundtrack album from Todd Haynes' 2007 film "I'm Not There". That is the one where he got actors to "dramatize the life and music of Bob Dylan as a series of shifting personae" (quote), including Christian Bale, Cate Blachett, Heath Ledger, Jeanette Krankie and Richard Gere among others.

We round things off with a Swedish interpretation from 1980 by one Ulf Lundell and the Mandatory Reggae Version from Mr Pat Kelly. For some reason when Pat and Duke Reid released this as a single in 1974 they decided to use the title "Nobody". I don't know why, perhaps they were trying to put Bob's royalty collectors off the scent. 

"Just Like A Woman" - Bob Dylan

"Just Like A Woman" - Manfred Mann

"Just Like A Woman" - The Byrds

"ust Like A Woman" - Richie Havens

"Just Like A Woman" - Van Morrison

"Just Like A Woman" - Nina Simone

"Just Like A Woman" - Bridget St. John

"Just Like A Woman" - Charlotte Gainsbourg & Calexico

"Precis Som En Kvinna" - Ulf Lundell

"Nobody" - Pat Kelly

Friday 14 June 2024

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 38 - Niger

The bandwagon rolls on and we reach Niger, a country that has had its ups and downs since gaining its independence from France in 1960. In February 2021 it saw its first peaceful transition of power. Those hoping this would prove a defining moment were quickly disappointed when there was an attempted military coup a month later. That was thwarted but another one in July 2023 was not. The country is currently under its fifth period of military rule. 

There is happier news on the cultural front though, as the wider world has started to wake up to the rich musical scene in Niger. This is partly down to the recent success of Mdou Moctar - who featured in our side trip to Length Land earlier in the week - and to the pioneering efforts of labels such as Sahel Sounds.

If you like Mr Moctar and today's selection then I can recommend many other Nigerien artists you may want to check out - Atri N'Assouf, Etran Finatawa, Bombino, Tal National and Toumast to mention just some.

We are going to kick things off with the man who has been described as the godfather of modern Tuareg music in Niger and been cited by Mdou Moctar as his primary influence, Abdallah Oumbadougou. Hailing from the Tuareg capital of Agadez, he was one of the many musicians in Niger and Mali who went into exile because of their involvement in the fight for self-determination. 

Today's selection comes from his first studio album "Anou Malane", which was recorded in Benin in 1995 and reissued by Sahel Sounds in 2019. It is a great starting point from which to explore Tuareg guitar music. Sadly Mr Oumbadougou passed in 2020 but he has left a huge legacy.

From "Tenere" to Dag Tenere, who are old friends of the blog. Formed by ex Etran Finatawa guitarist Goumar Abdoul Jamil, they released their first record under the name Timasniwen in 2018. When we featured the album here they got in touch, and then did so again in 2021 to let me know that the were releasing a new album under the new name. This track comes from the second album "Iswat" but both albums are great and available at their Bandcamp site.

Another personal favourite of mine are Kel Assouf. Very much from the heavier end of the Tuareg guitar scene, some parts of their 2019 album "Black Tenere" could pass for Black Sabbath. I was lucky enough to see them live in Brussels in 2016 and they blew me and everyone else away. Their front man Anana Ag Haroun - that's him in my photo below -  is a very charismatic dude.

Aroudaini Ismaguil is yet another experienced Tuareg musician who has performed with many artists over the last thirty years or so including Koudade and Etran Finatawa (but hasn't everyone?). He finally released his first solo record in 2020. It is called "Amidinin" and you can find it on Bandcamp. Today's track is "Kayyu Teglegh" which is dedicated to the memory of Ghala Addaba, his best friend and first musical partner.  

We'll take a trip over to the distaff side now, which is where we find the mighty Les Filles de Illighadad, another band for whom we must give thanks to Sahel Sounds. Hailing from the remote village from which they take their name, Les Filles take the Tuareg guitar sound and apply it to their local traditional music known as 'tende'. The result is something rather wonderful.

You can find all their albums on their Bandcamp site. Today's selection comes from their 2021 live album "At Pioneer Works". Listen to them winning over Brooklyn's beard-stroking hard-bitten hipsters and you will be won over too.

And finally, some MAR. In the early 1990s Salim Jah Peter moved from Niger to Cote d'Ivoire where he sang with a group called Mystic Vibration which gave him an opportunity to hang out with MAR giants like Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly. 

A solo artist since 2003, he has not always been appreciated at home by the powers that be. 2008 single "La Paix Au Niger" (see below) and the subsequent album "Hold-Up De Pouvoir" led to him being banned from entering Niger until the fourth period of military rule ended a year later.

"Tenere" - Abdallah Oumbadougou

"Koud Edhaz Emin" - Dag Tenere

"Tikounen" - Kel Assouf

"Kayyu Teglegh" - Aroudaini

"Surbajo" - Les Filles de Illighadad

"La Paix Au Niger" - Salim Jah Peter

Apologies for the pretty ropy quality of most of these vintage videos, but I hope you'll agree that they are worth squinting for.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Sophisticated Ladies

It takes a lot of effort to appear effortlessly hip. Even for we seasoned surfers of the zeitgeist the pressure of trying to find the next obscure thing - be it Paraguayan prog or Bhutanese beat-boxing - can sometimes be a bit overwhelming.

When that happens I like to decompress by listening to something that might not be considered cool by my achingly hip audience but can help me attain inner calm and regain my equilibrium. In which spirit, here are two tracks from Ms Joan Armatrading's self-titled 1976 album.

When I was about 17 and living in Dorset I won a bottle of pomagne at the local church fete. I went home, ran a hot bath and sat there sipping the pomagne and listening to this album on a cheap cassette player. At the time I thought it was the height of sophistication. 

"Somebody Who Loves You" - Joan Armatrading

"Save Me" - Joan Armatrading

Of course the real height of sophistication is the great Françoise Hardy, who I have just heard left us yesterday. I have had a crush on her since I found this EP when I was an impressionable young man and was instantly smitten. RIP Ms Hardy.

"Only Friends" - Françoise Hardy

P.S. After the typing the drivel in the first paragraph I felt obliged to go googling and can confirm that both such styles exist. And here is the evidence (audio only for the Paraguayan prog I'm afraid, George).

Monday 10 June 2024

Long African Monday

Those of you who've been following our African odyssey will know that we we have recently visited Namibia. This means the next two stops will be Niger and Nigeria.

I am lucky enough to have an abundance of fantastic music from both countries and will only be able to feature a small percentage of it in each case. At earlier stops on the tour I have left out some of the big stars to make room for lesser known names, and will be doing the same again. As a result there will be no Mdou Moctar when we get to Niger and no Fela Kuti in Nigeria. 

However it would be wrong not to acknowledge them at all. Mr Moctar is one of the hottest acts out of Africa at the moment while Mr Kuti is arguably the most influential African musician ever. So as it is a Monday we have a very long song from each of them for you (apparently that is a thing in some quarters). 

Both of them have teamed up with Americans on these tracks. In Mdou's case he is joined by Elite Beat from Portland, Oregon. They had a jam session in 2017 during which they reworked this track from his then new album "Sousoume Tamachek" (also the title track of his homemade and heavily auto-tuned 2008 debut). 

Meanwhile, way back in 1980, Fela and Roy Ayers got together in Lagos to produce "Music Of Many Colours". Each contributed one side-long song to the album. This is Fela's, with Roy guesting on vibes.

You'll need 35 minutes to listen to both tracks - going up to a full hour if you also watch the videos - so maybe get a cup of tea before you start.

"Anar" - Mdou Moctar & Elite Beat

"Africa Centre Of The World" - Fela Kuti & Africa '70 (with Roy Ayers)

Friday 7 June 2024

Fly Guy

The great Richard Thompson released his first new album in six years last week. Called "Ship To Shore", it is very good by all accounts. I've not had the chance to listen to it yet but no doubt I will soon.

We're going to mark the occasion with a couple of tracks from his debut solo album "Henry The Human Fly" which came out a mere 52 years ago. It seems like only yesterday. Largely ignored at the time and slightly disparaged by Mr Thompson himself (who apparently felt that his singing didn't do the songs justice), it has always been a favourite of mine.

"The Angels Took My Racehorse Away" - Richard Thompson

"The Old Changing Way" - Richard Thompson

I've been told that "Ship To Shore" was originally going to be Richard's Chris de Burgh covers album but that he abandoned the idea having concluded that he could not improve on the originals, keeping only the title. But I don't know whether that's true.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 37 - Namibia

Once upon a time I lived in Namibia. We moved there when I was seven and stayed for just over a year. My Dad was working for Wimpey at the time (the construction company not the burger chain) and was project managing the building of the first motorway north to Angola from the capital Windhoek where we lived. Many good and bad things have gone up and down that road since.

I have many happy memories of trips to places like Swakopmund and Etosha, and the monitor lizard, scorpions and other wildlife that made going into our garden such an adventure. But the happiest memories are of the gang of lads from Mayo and Achill Island who were working with my Dad who were enormous fun and whose antics were the talk of the town.

Enough mawkish sentimentality, on with the show. To be honest I am a bit disappointed with this episode. I am sure there is plenty of excellent Namibian music but compared to most other countries in the series very little is available from my usual sources, and much of that is rather dull local house and rap.

But while I suspect this is not the optimum Namibian playlist I mean no disrespect to the artists that are featured, all of whom are fine in their own right. And none finer than the mighty Ugly Creatures, who in the 1970s were the local equivalent of all the powerhouse Zamrock bands in their near neighbours Zambia. A couple of tracks from their 1978 album "Creatures Of The Earth" can be found on Bandcamp.

Next we have Gal Level, an R 'n B duo who were very big regionally in the 2000s and according to Wikipedia were compared to Destiny's Child (probably by themselves). They split in the early 2010s and while this 2015 article claimed there were no hard feelings it is clear Daphne was still peeved with Frieda. Let's hope they have patched things up. This track is on their album "Next Level", available via the tax dodgers.  

Bullet Ya Kaoko have been described as "one of Namibia’s leading cultural groups whose sound fuses traditional Oviritje and modern kwaito grooves", and I am in no position to disagree. They apparently performed at the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups in South Africa and Brazil respectively but did not make it past the group stages on either occasion. "Ombura" was a hit for them in 2011.

We now have a pair of artists about whom I have been able to discover very little. Sagarias Tsam is a singer-songwriter based in the coastal town of Swakopmund (see above) who has been recording since 2020. This track is on his 2022 album "Nâma He Ta Gehâ". 

The Sebulon Gomachab track can be found on the 2004 compilation "A Hand-Full Of Namibians" which also features Dungeon Family - the band that begat Gal Level - and today's MAR contributor. Also known as Axue, Mr Gomachab sadly left us five years ago and this obituary contains all the information I have been able to find about him.

Which brings us on to the MAR star himself, Ras Sheehama. He has had quite a life. In the days when Namibia was still a South African colony and known as South West Africa his father was a prominent supporter of the liberation movement SWAPO, as a result of which he was killed by state-backed forces in 1980. 

Young Ras and the rest of the family went into exile in Zambia and then Nigeria during which time he started playing reggae and adopted the rastafarian faith. Returning after independence in 1990 he established himself as a major artist locally, playing with the likes of South African reggae giant the late Lucky Dube. This track is from his 2005 album "Travelling".

"Exit For The Artist Exists" - The Ugly Creatures

"Mbeta" - Gal Level

"Ombura" - Bullet Ya Kaoko

"//haixa-Xuê" - Sagarias Tsam

"Gai Igoni Ge" - Sebulon Gomachab

"Nekwa Lyatsima" - Ras Sheehama

The first of today's videos is a Namibian-Nigerian collaboration. We will be reaching Nigeria in a couple of stops so consider this a taster. Here Fishman represents the local scene and M'Jay is the interloper. 

Monday 3 June 2024


After a few weeks with no live music I went to a couple a gigs last week that could be described as 'interesting and varied'.

On Bank Holiday Monday Mister F and I ambled over to the Sebright Arms in Hackney to see three bands for £4.50 (two pounds less than a pint of their distinctly average beer - one of two is a bargain). We were there specifically to see the band that was bottom of the bill, Tamesis. 

Tamesis are an old-fashioned folk-rock band in the style of Trembling Bells and (for older readers) Trees, with a great singer in Maisie Ashford and some fine guitar work from Joseph Jones. Nothing wildly original but if you like that sort of thing you will like them a lot. I know I do.

I'll skip over the second band as my sainted mother taught me that if you can't say anything nice it is better to say nothing at all, so we'll head straight to the top of the bill. This was Last Apollo (a.k.a. Lucy Rice), an Irish indie singer-songwriter. Not my sort of thing really but she is a strong and very personable performer.

After a rest to recover from all the excitement I headed south of the river to Peckham on Thursday for a memorable double bill.

First up were Ichigo Evil. Impossible to describe but if you head over to Charity Chic's place and listen to "A Fish Needs A Bike" by Blurt and then imagine that sung by a Japanese man who seems to have based his vocal style on Eek-A-Mouse you will have the general idea. They were very entertaining live but probably not the sort of thing I'll listen to a lot at home.

Really though we were all there for the headline act, the great Cabo Verde funaná band Grupo Pilon. Originally formed in Luxembourg in the mid-1980s they remain popular with the Cabo-verdiano diaspora across Europe and have started performing regularly again in recent years. This was apparently their first ever gig in the UK which might explain why the large group of ladies of a certain age next to me were getting very overexcited.

They played a great set and were decidedly funky all the way through. The keyboard player was definitely the man of the match. He cajoled the keyboards into making some extraordinary sounds, from cheap horror film soundtrack to muffled farts, but made them all work with the groove.

Here is a track from each of the acts mentioned above. You can find all of them on Bandcamp if you want to hear more (and why wouldn't you?).

"Cosmic Heat" - Tamesis

"Moonlight" - Last Apollo

"Nee Naw" - Ichigo Evil

"Longi Di Bo" - Grupo Pilon

As a bonus on Thursday we were treated to a very good DJ set by Ian Parton of The Go! Team between the bands. So here are some videos from the Team to finish things off, the first featuring Benin's fabulous Star Feminine Band.

Friday 31 May 2024

Of Pigs And Pearls

Some Rapp music for you today. Tom Rapp that is. 

Mr Rapp was the presiding genius behind Pearls Before Swine, a band who released two albums of what would probably have been called acid folk if the term had been invented then on ESP in the late 1960s then four more on Reprise. The band only existed to provide a vehicle for his distinctive songs, so when he went solo in 1973 it really just amounted to a change of name.

After a couple of solo albums Mr Rapp packed in the music business to become a civil rights lawyer and apart from a one-off album in 1999 and the occasional live guest appearance with his son's band that was pretty much it. He died from cancer in 2018 but his legacy lives on.

I was previously only familiar with Pearls Before Swine's debut "One Nation Underground". It is quite a thing - the choice of Hieronymous Bosch's "Garden Of Earthly Delights" for the cover art perhaps gives you an idea of what to expect. But then last week I found in a charity shop a copy of the 1998 compilation "Constructive Melancholy" which includes highlights from the four albums on Reprise originally released between 1969 and 1971. Here are a couple of them.

"Rocket Man" - Pearls Before Swine

"The Wizard Of Is" - Pearls Before Swine

Bernie Taupin has admitted to being influenced by "Rocket Man" when writing the lyrics for his and Elton John's better known song of the same name which came out a couple of years later. Here are two contrasting cover versions of that song.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

Freddies Got Soul

Question: What does 4 x Freddie make? 

Answer: 100% Soul

Here are my workings if you want to check.

"Cuss The Wind" - Freddie North

"Are You Lonely For Me Baby" - Freddie Scott

"You Had It Made" - Freddie Terrell

"Singing A New Song" - Freddie Waters

I should qualify that by saying that the calculation may not work with all Freddies.

Monday 27 May 2024

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 36 - Mozambique

I like to spend some time in Mozambique. The sunny sky is aqua blue. And all the couples dancing cheek to cheek. It’s very nice to stay a week or two. 

So sang Bob Dylan back in 1976, which was probably the only year in the 1970s when it would have been a good time to visit the country. The war of independence against Portugal that had started in 1964 ended in 1975 when the country got its freedom. There was then a brief lull before a devastating civil war kicked off in 1977 that lasted another 15 years.

The simplest way for you to experience the culture of Mozambique is to visit your local Nando's, which has come a long way from its origins as a Mozambican takeaway in Johannesburg run by ex-pats. But if you are looking for a more immersive multimedia experience, come with me.

We start with one of the greats, Xidiminguana, who hopefully is still with us today. He certainly was as of 2021 when he celebrated his 85th birthday. This article covers the occasion and tells you more about his long and distinguished career. There is nothing more recent on Google so fingers crossed no news is good news. Today's selection comes from his 2015 album "Xikona", released when he was a slip of a lad of 79. 

Almost as venerable as Xidiminguana is Mofene David Sitoe, the man behind Banda Six. He had some songs played on local radio as early as 1964 but his recording career proper did not start until the early 1980s by which time he was living and working in South Africa. A mutual friend introduced him to Lucky Monama, the main traditional music producer at Gallo (the biggest record label in South Africa at the time). Lucky for us that Lucky took a shine to Mr Sitoe. This track is from his 1982 debut album "Mbilwini Yamina".

Marrabenta is a popular style of local dance music combining traditional rhythms with Portuguese folk music. One of the finest proponents are Ghorwane who formed in 1983 around about the same time Banda 6 were getting into their stride. It has been a while since they released a new album but they are still touring, including a set at George's local festival last year. "Txongola" is from their 1997 album "Kudumba" which is available on Bandcamp.  

We'll move over to the distaff side now, starting with a woman who has featured on these pages before, way back in the early days when my mission was to tell the world about Tsonga disco. Zaida Chongo was a glittering star who lit up the Mozambique and Tsonga music scenes in the 1990s before her tragically early death in 2004 aged just 33. If you are willing to consort with the tax dodgers you can download a fine compilation album called "Homenagem a Zaida Chongo" on which this track features.

Next up we have Helena Nhantumbo, about whom I been able to find out absolutely nothing. But she has a fine pair of pipes and this track from her 2015 album "Niwawena" makes good use of the penny whistle, which is always a plus point.

This edition's Mandatory African Reggae slot is filled by one Ras Skunk. Mr Skunk is a man with a mission whose Bandcamp blurb for his 2018 album "Born In Africa" tells us that "he sings reggae as a ‘Gospel’, in the hope of healing the hearts of the black movement and to encourage peace, love and liberation among all nations". Let's hope he succeeds. 

"Djoni" - Xidiminguana

"Uvuya Uyo Shama Tihamela" - Banda Six

"Txongola" - Ghorwane

 "Alfandega" - Zaida Chongo

"Ahinyoxeni" - Helena Nhantumbo

"I & I In Foundation" - Ras Skunk

Here come the videos. Brace yourselves before watching the last one. Nothing can prepare you for the excessive emoting of Elsa Mangue.

That brings us to the end of a long line of Ms. I'm going to take Bob's advice and stay a week or two, dipping my toes in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, before heading due west to start on the Ns.

Friday 24 May 2024

Squirrel Invasion

Just a quick one today. I have been away for a few days and have some catching up to do.

I hope shortly to have one of my irregular round-ups of some of the new music that the nice folks in Promoland send me. To tide us over until then today we will focus on just one name that might by new to some you - Squirrel Flower (Ella Williams to her Mum and Dad).

Ms. Flower has just started a North American tour to promote her most recent album "Tomorrow's Fire" which came out on Polyvinyl late last year. She will be following that up with gigs in the UK and Europe and to encourage us all to go along Polyvinyl have shared this video of Squirrel and friends performing Neil Young's epic "Cortez The Killer". It can't compare with the original (nothing can) but it is still pretty splendid.

To go with the video we have a track from each of Squirrel Flower's two preceding albums, "I Was Born Swimming" (2020) and "Planet (i)" (2021). All three albums and much more besides can be found on her Bandcamp page.  

"Street Light Blues" - Squirrel Flower

"Deluge In The South" - Squirrel Flower

Monday 20 May 2024

Ångströms In My Pangströms

The other day The George and I were corresponding about an excellent bargain price compilation on the Bongo Joe label called "Black Voices: Solidarity Compilation", which I would heartily recommend (and I think George would too).

In the course of the correspondence George noted that "I am delighted to see a backing band on Track 8 called The Ångströmers, after a unit of measurement I used to work with". Here is Track 8. Chouk Bwa are a six piece from Haiti who regularly team up with The Ångströmers, a Belgian production duo. If you like this there is plenty more at their Bandcamp page.

I have paired "Negriye" with an old favourite from the man they call 'the Italian Van Morrison'. I think it works thematically but no doubt Teacher will correct me if I am wrong.

"Negriye" - Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers

"Lunghessa d'Onda" - Furgone di Piufiglio

Friday 17 May 2024

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 35 - Morocco

The juggernaut rolls on and this week we reach Morocco, a country that I've been lucky enough to visit a number of times over the last 20 years or so. 

On my first visit me and a couple of pals got the ferry from Malaga to Melilla and made our way east along the coast to the Algerian border. On my most recent one in December 2019 I visited Tangier, Tetaoun and - as a treat to myself on Christmas Day - spent one night in a fancy hotel in the seaside resort of Martil. This was the view:

Tangier has been home to many interesting characters over the years, including the American writer and composer Paul Bowles who lived there for over fifty years. He was one of the first people to make field recordings of traditional local music, and our first track by Moqaddem Mohammed Ben Salem from 1959 is one example. You can find it on a compilation of Mr Bowles' recordings released on the Dust-to-Digital label.

I have chosen a more recent field recording next. This one comes from an album called "Ecstatic Music Of The Jemaa El Fna" (the main square in Marrakesh) recorded in 2005. If you have ever been to Marrakesh you will know that all human life and much more beside can be found in Jemaa El Fna of an evening - snake charmers, shysters, sellers of snail-based snacks and musical groups. Troupe Majidi are one of the latter and may perhaps dabble in the others as well for all I know.

I don't know whether the music of either of those acts would technically be described as gnawa music  but it shares some of the characteristics. Gnawa is probably Morocco's biggest contribution to global music and is still influential today. The most prominent of the current wave of gnawa inspired bands is Bab L'Bluz. Their new album "Swaken" came out last week. This track is from their previous album "Nayda!".

After that carefully curated first half things go a bit haywire now. First we have some frenzied Arabic rhythm 'n blues from Fadoul, the James Brown of Casablanca, courtesy of the estimable Habibi Funk label. This track is on the "Habibi Funk 007" compilation but there is a whole album devoted to Fadoul's work which you really need to get.

Also hailing from Casablanca around the same sort of time is "bachelor hairdresser and composer" Abdou El Omari - an odd blurb but that what it says. It goes on to describe "Nuits D'​É​té", the album from which this track comes, as being "an Oriental psych monster from the organ king of Casablanca, combining traditional rhythms with spaced out modern sounds", which sums it up nicely. Vocals by local diva Naima Samih.

We rounds things off with some MAR from Cheb Kader. Kader was one of the pioneers of the modern rai sound and while he has not enjoyed the same level of success as the likes of his friend Cheb Mami he has been extremely influential. "Reggae Rai" comes from his 1986 album "El Awama" and can also be found on the "A Moi La Liberte" electronic rai compilation which I raved about when we kicked the tour off next door in Algeria a year ago last Wednesday.   

"Third Zqel" - Moqaddem Mohammed Ben Salem & Ensemble

"Afriquiya" - Troupe Majidi

"Gnawa Beat" - Bab L'Bluz

"Bsslama Habiti" - Fadoul

"Zifaf Filfada" - Abdou El Omari

"Reggae Rai" - Cheb Kader

As some of you may have spotted we had Eurovision last weekend. I had not realised until I started what passes as research for this series that Morocco once participated Eurovision. They could probably do so again if they wanted to as the national broadcaster is a paid-up member of the European Broadcasting Union, but clearly they decided once was enough (and who can blame them).

The year was 1980, the song was called "Bitakat Hob", the performer was Samira Bensaïd, and they came second to last. They were robbed.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Liza & The Lollipop Man

There are many unbelievable stories that have come out of Hollywood. This is one of them. 

It concerns the great Telly Savalas, who first found fame in the 1960s in films like "The Dirty Dozen" and "Kelly's Heroes" before going on to attain superstar status in the 1970s with his portrayal of lollipop-loving TV cop Kojak.

When the original run of "Kojak" ended in 1978 Telly found himself a bit of a loose end. Thinking back on his chart success with the spoken word smash "If" in 1975, and reflecting on Robert Mitchum's reinvention as a calypsonian in the 1950s, he decided to head to Jamaica to try his hand at toasting.

Once ensconced in Kingston, Telly teamed up with leading producer Joe Gibbs and over the next five years or so put out a steady stream of top notch singles. Many of them featured one or other local female vocalist, all of whom were called Liza on the records. 

You can find a few of the Kojak & Liza singles, including the two below, on a great compilation called "Joe Gibbs Presents Dancehall Stylee 1979-1981" which came out on Cherry Red last year.

Now I have to concede that you probably won't find this story elsewhere on the internet. Wikipedia would have you believe that the 'real' Kojak was one Floyd Anthony Perch who was a big fan of the TV series and so adopted it as his stage name. But as we all know Wikipedia is woefully unreliable.

"Hole In The Bucket" - Kojak & Liza

"Sky Juice" - Kojak & Liza

And now, some of Telly's finest work...

Monday 13 May 2024

Vive La Diff'rence

It has been a while since we had some soul music on here. We are here to put that right with the late great Esther Phillips and a couple of tracks from her excellent 1975 album "What A Diff'rence A Day Makes". 

Many of you will be familiar with the title track which was a Top 10 smash in the UK and crept into the Top 20 in the US (and if you are not you will be shortly). It is a top tune although not representative of the album as a whole.

My assumption is that the home Esther wants the person to whom the first song is addressed to return to is the not the hurting house that she describes in the second one. But I may be wrong. She had a complicated life, old Esther, so who knows. 

"You're Coming Home" - Esther Phillips

"Hurting House" - Esther Phillips

Friday 10 May 2024

Ernie's African Odyssey Pt 34 - Mauritius

Before we get to the post proper, a public service announcement. An anonymous commentator on the last African post asked "when you've completed this musical odyssey, how or where will we be able to find the complete 27 Leggies African playlist?". 

I promised them I would put up a link to the audio clips for the whole series when it finally ends. But that is a still a long way off so if you want to catch up in the meantime you can find the first 34 instalments here.

Now on with the tour. We leave the sun-drenched deserts of Mauritania on the Atlantic coast in the west and head to the eastern-most country in Africa, the equally sun-drenched Indian Ocean tropical paradise that is Mauritius. 

Today's post is heavily dominated by 'sé​ga', a traditional music that is believed to have originated among the slave populations of Mauritius and Réunion back in the 19th century. It is thought to be a fusion of music from Madagascar and Europe, and the shuffling beat is certainly reminiscent of dances like the waltz and the polka.

By the 1970s, when we pick up the story, sé​ga was being further fused with other styles like soul, jazz and zouk. There is even a variation called 'seggae' - you can probably work that one out by yourselves. 

The first I heard of sé​ga was back in early 2016 when my friend and former colleague Tulsee, a model Mauritian, tipped me off to a newly released compilation on Strut Records called "Soul Sek S​é​ga". It then briefly seemed to become a thing. A few months later the Bongo Joe label put out "Soul Sega Sa! Indian Ocean Segas From The 70s" and then followed it up with a second volume in 2019. 

We start with two tracks from the Strut compilation, including the one that gave the album its name. It is a tribute to James Brown delivered in fine style by Ti L'Afrique (Roland Fatime), one of the pioneers of the funky sé​ga scene. Dig those crazy moaning keyboards (or at least I think they are keyboards).

He is joined by one John Kenneth Nelson who, according to Strut, "called heavily on séga's rural roots for his guttural vocal style and folk arrangements and was a part of a leading Mauritian musical family alongside two brothers, Harold and Eric (who was known as the local Jimi Hendrix)". I assume that is Eric wrangling away from the 1:42 mark.

Now we hop over to the second volume of the Bongo Joe series where we find Cyril Labonne with this cover of a song by Ti Frere, considered by many to be the father of Mauritian music. I have not found out much about Cyril other than that he was born in a place called Curepipe and released his first record in 1969 at the age of 18. 

There is a lot of overlap in the artists on the three compilations. Cyril is also on Strut and John Kenneth and Mr L'Afrique both pop up on Bongo Joe Volume 1, where we also find ace percussionist Lélou Menwar (real name Stéphano Honoré). Later in his career he chose to be known just as Menwar, which apparently means 'dark hands'. This comes from his 2016 album "Vwayaz Ar Mwa". 

We finish things off with two fine slices of Mandatory African Reggae - or more correctly Mandatory Mauritian Seggae - one old and one new. The old one can be found on yet another Bongo Joe compilation and comes from Ramone whose T-shirts are inexplicably popular with the Mauritian youth. Disappointingly it doesn't start with either "Gabba Gabba Hey" or "1-2-3-4". 

The new one comes from a band called Zilwala. At least that is what they were called in 2017 when they recorded their album "Idantite". It seems they have had some line-up changes since then and these days are known as Zilwala Renesans. Either way this track is a tribute to the late Joseph Reginald Topize (known as Kaya), the seggae pioneer who died while in police custody in 1999.

"Soul Sok Séga" - Ti L'Afrique

"Z'Enfant Misère" - John Kenneth Nelson

"Roseda" - Cyril Labonne

"Ti Lele" - Menwar

"Soul Reggae Prisonnier" - Ramone

"Seggae Mo Lamizik" - Zilwala

We'll sign off now with many thanks to Tulsee and Bongo Joe, without whom etc etc.