17/01/2021: “Capullito De Aleli” by Pepe Jaramillo

“Capullito De Aleli” was written in 1930 by Rafael Hernandez for Los Jardineros. It’s been covered many times since then, not least by Nat King Cole!

This is a solid version though, evocative of the Spanish speaking Americas even though it’s completely instrumental.

Pepe Jaramillo was a Mexican pianist, who rose to international fame after moving to London. He even gave a performance to the Royal Family…

This version of the song was released in 1960 on South Of The Border, and remastered in 2014 for a re-release as Al sur de la frontera.

14/12/2020: “Dr Kitch” by Lord Kitchener

Before reggae, before ska, before soca, there was calypso.

Calypso directly descends from the musical styles brought over from African due to slavery. It blends many different styles – it sounds much closer to the music of the Spanish and French Caribbean.

Lord Kitchener, born in Trinidad in 1922, was a leading figure in the development of modern, popular calypso from the traditional folk styles.

This song shows how Calypso was often used to circumvent the moralistic censorship of the day. Double meanings had been used to allow criticism of whites, but soon grew to encompass all kinds of topics. Baudy innuendos being one!

I won’t tell you what the song is about. You’ll probably figure it out soon enough. And if you can’t, then good for you!

“Dr Kitch” was released in 1963.

10/12/2020: Drømte Mig En Drøm (Arranged for Strings) by The Danish String Quartet // Traditional

Everywhere has history. Some cultures, however, wrote more down. Icelandic poems are some of the oldest, for this reason.

This song, “I dreamt a dream”, is within that Norse tradition. It’s strictly Danish, although Scandinavia at that time wasn’t divided in the same way.

This string version is very beautiful. This is a modern take on the song, but roughly speaking, this song was written over 700 years ago!

A nice lullaby for centuries of Danish kids, I’m sure…

The first song – the song itself is for ‘premium users’, apparently…

11/11/2020: “Bofou Safou” by Amadou & Mariam

Amadou & Mariam are a couple from Mali, both blind, both excellent musicians.

A lot of their music is lighter than this track, which leans into its danceable bass and kick with vigour.

It’s the vocals which provide the most interest, although the instrumental is littered with brilliant flourishes, such as the electric piano part. The percussion is varied and vibrant too! It’s a busy track, but not overcrowded.

Loosely speaking, the song is about the virtues of not being lazy.

Malian music reflects the diversity of the country. This more modern song retains that energy, to a degree, but is easy to listen too.

“Bofou Safou” was released in 2017, as a single from La Confusion.

30/10/2020: “Cuando Ya No Estes” by Danitse

I first found out about Danitse through one of my favourite artists, Mala. He used her vocals for “Cunumicita”.

Her voice is like a beautifully carved wooden mantelpiece – majestic, homely, and comforting.

“Cuando Ya No Estes” was released on Viaje, in 2012.

It’s a wonderful song. The melody, outside of that fantastic voice, is provided by guitars. The soft bass plucks add that warm depth, and then halfway through, the song intensifies. The tempo increases, a trumpet kicks in, the bass speeds up, she’s louder, the drums pick up, it’s fast!

Then, right at the end… it relaxes. Peace, tranquility, quiet.

Love it.

05/10/2020: “Song Of Old Hawaii” by George De Fretes & His Royal Hawaiian Minstrels

I’ve never been to Hawaii. I’d love to though. Seems like a great place.

It’s also well known for being intensely relaxed, which naturally filters through to the island’s music.

Case in point – this song. It’s a classic Hawaiian folk style, instantly recognisable as being from the Aloha isles.

Funny really, because George de Fretes was Indonesian and spent a lot of his career in the Netherlands.

Still – if you’re craving a soft ukelele, a slide guitar, and a blast of sonic sunshine, then whack this on!

It’s hard to say when this was recorded, because it appears on a posthumously released album called The Home Recordings Vol. 1. that was released in 1998.

29/09/2020: “La Leyenda Del Tiempo” by Camaron De La Isla

For an artist specialising in flamenco, this kind of music is a big step away from tradition. So much so, that the album this is drawn from has since been viewed as a key milestone in the development of ‘new flamenco’.

However, as an English speaker, I have to say that I’m not too fussed – ‘real’ flamenco is still out there!

What this is, though, is fun. Camaron’s intensely performed vocals swell with passion, and rip through the song with gusto. There are naturally a few flamenco based elements, with a speedily picked guitar, and an array of clapping.

The rhythm section is energetic, with a bass part careering up and down, while the drums rattle out a military-esque beat.

The song was released in 1979, on an album of the same name.

25/09/2020: “Martha” by Tom Waits

‘Martha’ is taken from Waits’ 1973 debut album, Closing Time. If you’re a Tom Waits fan, you’ll notice immediately that his voice, by his standards, is clear as a bell.

In fact, on a scale from butter and silk to gravel and whiskey, this only comes in at dust and wine. There’s some light distortion but otherwise, he sounds fine.

The song is otherwise laid out very simply. The main accompaniment to Wait’s inimitable vocals is a piano. Later, a delicate string arrangement comes in to add another layer of depth. No drums. Just harmony.

The lyrics are poignant – it’s about an man reminiscing about a woman he was going out with, and still loves. The sad part is that they are both married, adding a heavy cloak of wistfulness to proceedings.

18/09/2020: “A Andorinha Da Primavera” by Madredeus

Madredeus could loosely be said to be a Portuguese folk band. They come from a tradition of fado music, which is a distinctive style of mixed guitar/stringed instruments, and depressing/beautiful female vocals. Take your pick.

The style is incredibly old, soaked through with centuries worth of tear-soaked tradition.

This one has a xylophone or marimba of some kind, adding further notes of pleasant but haunting contemplation.

The song has a soothing quality that is reminiscent of Muzak, or elevator music. Which isn’t to say that this song is bland – quite the contrary. It’s a very rich, full and deep song.

The piece was released in 1997 on O Paraiso.