The hot season is definitely upon us (at least, as much as it can be for London) and the poor algorithm that chooses the Your Mix selection on Youtube must be excused to be thinking that the heat has made me lose the plot. Because, these days, the music I’m listening to doesn’t seem to be following an order not even if you tried. Here’s some of it.
A song I’ve made a mental note to add to my ever-looping-mixtape in the event I become a cabbie in the Middle East, Yali Yali is a song by Neşe Karaböcek, a Turkish singer, revisited by a Norwegian DJ, Todd Terje. I don’t think we hear enough Turkish songs, which is a shame for that language seems to be designed for singing. All I need now is an old Mercedes saloon, fitted with carpets on the dashboard, a steering wheel cover with pompoms and the pennant of Al Ahly football club hanging from the rear-view mirror, like my neighbour in Italy used to.
There’s this guy, called El Búho, who does incredibly elegant melodies. Think of him as Bonobo relocated in Colombia, or perhaps perched atop Huayna Picchu with turntables and whatever these guys make music with. If you scroll down his videos it’s just a sequence of ecstatic comments in Spanish, from me incanta to the outright offers for wedding, one-night-stands or anything inbetween. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that this guy, whom to me is the personification of new Latin music, a mixture of Lulacruza, Bomba éstereo and the best cumbia artists is actually called Robin Perkins and hails from Northern England. Music transcends borders and all that, for real.
Angry people with nothing better to do but to scream nonsense on Twatter (pun very much intended) would call it cultural appropriation and would call for an immediate boycott. Plus, it ain’t Arab at all! Scandal! Yet, the good fellas at Acid Arab didn’t worry about the potential backlash, partnered from Cem Yıldız, folk singer from Erzincan, deep into Turkey’s altiplano, and came up with Stil. It’d be again on my cabbie mixtape, but deserves a lot more than that.
Earworms can be really irritating, especially when you can’t quite remember the name of the song. I was on the company shuttle bus on my way to work, with Take Five’s alto sax solo looping constantly in my head. I tried furiously to remember who wrote it, who did it. Thelonius Monk? Nah. Coltrane? Nah, again. Perhaps it was Herbie Hancock? They used to use both that song and Cantaloupe Island on a RAI Radio jingle from one of those old-fashioned shows my mum used to listen to when we were on holiday and thunderstorms blocked the telly signal. So I went on to listen to that record, but what was to be Take Five wasn’t there. Slowly, the earworm dissolved. Then, one day, I chanced over Dave Brubeck’s Essential. And the first song was… voilà, the earworm.
There used to be a time, many moons ago, when pretty much all I used to listen to was this sort of music. I was 17, 18, doing a sort of pilgrimage every year to Ibiza. Then the rave circuit in Turin. Most probably we were the only ones on a dancefloor at 3AM not high on drugs (in fact, come think of it, I’ve never done MDMA, ecstasy or that sort of stuff. We used to do practical chemistry at school and we knew some of the industrial uses for the substances that, we heard, were also used to manufacture the pills. Nah, not my thing). Anyhow, I was doing some mundane chores, Youtube shuffling in the background. A guy’s mix, Boris Brejcha @ Art of Minimal Techno Tripping, comes up. It’s well done, a great mixing, and what makes it remarkably odd is the fact that the music is paired to some old school cartoons. Mickey and Pluto. Woody the Woodpecker. A monkey that goes hunting. Sometimes around the 8th minute mark, this one comes up, and it’s a smash.
This is the only song that survived an iOS update that hadn’t been properly regression tested by some find mind over in Cupertino. In other words, it was the only song I had during a six-hour layover in Shanghai, where I found myself walking like Vinz in Chanteloup-les-Vignes. It felt rather absurd, and it certainly was, but as I heard the song over and over, struggling to understand the convoluted verlan slang that made the flics become keuf, I couldn’t help but feel captivated by the lyrics. La loi de la jungle tue, si tu es pas roi tu es perdu.