Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Musically and sartorially, the Kyrgyz ensemble Tengir-Too was the concert's peak."

glisten: Zainidin Imanaliev

Zainidin Imanaliev - Gul

Zainidin Imanaliev - Kuidum Chok

About a month ago, I was lucky enough to attend a performance by Tengir-Too as part of the excellent Via Kabul: Central Asia Without Borders program. The band was excellent but I found myself especially drawn to the komuz solos by Zainidin Imanaliev, the gentleman who seemed to be the group's elder statesmen.

Imanaliev follows the Kyrgyz tradition of the akyn; professional, nomadic poet/musician/storytellers. What I found most striking about Imanaliev (and, to a lesser degree, Tengir-Too in general) is how closely his playing and singing hued to the sound of American bluegrass; that mountain folk from two such drastically different worlds could come, independent of one another, to play such similar songs is one of the little beauties of life that keeps my heart lighter.

Imanliev's performance on the Komuz is visually impressive; he will flip the instrument upside down, throw it on his shoulder and generally perform Hendrix-esque feats of showmanship, all without missing a note. His resonant, ominous vocal tones recall Ralph Stanley.

tell me more about it...

Buy Tengir-Too's album direct from Smithsonian Folkways for twenty bucks. This is a set worth the Jackson; you get a lengthy and interesting set of liner notes with song translations and considerable background, an eighteen track CD and a DVD with a half hour documentary about the band that culminates with a live performance.
If you'd like, you can also read a review of the disc and learn considerably more about the Via Kabul tour and Tengir-Too at the tour's PR site.

That last link also features a realaudio download for the beautiful full length track 'Kyiylyp Turam,' sung by Tengir member Kenjegul Kubatova. It's gorgeous Kyrgyz bluegrass; Kenjegul has a voice like Patsy Cline, only stronger.

Just FYI, the "Too" in Tengir-Too is pronounced "toe".

Watch Zainidin Imanaliev perform his unique brand of stunt-komuz playing (the link is in the "clips" section).

If you're in the UK, you should definitely see Tengir-Too as part of Via Kabul when it passes nearby; it's a memorable show.

Learn more about Kyrgyz musical history, instruments and musicians at this Kyrgyzstani music site.


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Yikes Stripes!

blah blah blah
I've gotten myself into the position of writing for Stylus; mostly as an excuse to get my writing sharper and also to keep me plugged into what's what on the worldwidepop airwaves. Here's my weekly snarkiness, along with a bunch of corporate or media or youtube links where you can hear the cut so you can make up your own mind.

Jose Gonzalez - Crosses
Gonzalez is the anti-James Blunt: underhyped, underproduced and understated. Jose's restrained guitar work and his oddly gentle, nasal vocals are effortlessly evocative and plenty radio-friendly; 'Crosses' is best known to US audiences from the Fox teen-soap 'The OC'. Like Leslie Feist, whose work Gonzalez's resembles in spirit if not in sound, Jose's music is ethereal, quizzical and challenging; a lovely blend of classical, folk and punk. 'Crosses' has the same timeless quality as much of Gonzalez's catalog; it's hard to believe that it isn't already a standard. Soon enough, it likely will be.

Kelis - Bossy
This is why people drop six figures on Pharrell for a song; when you go the xerox route, you get what you pay for. Producer X on this cut (Swizz Beatz? Scott Storch?) mistakes a waltz metronome and a meandering harpsichord for a hook and the results are predictably mixed. The oom-pah-pah of this carousel is lean and striking but somewhat flimsy, enough so that it's unlikely to spin through August. Kelis' braggadocio and Too $hort's grandpa raps hold up their end just fine but the beat is so shallow that it's as barely there as barely there gets. 'Bossy' is a cherry coke to Milkshake's indulgent bravado; just as tasty but with less to savor. I only wish Kelis had taken the time to put a scoop or two of ice cream in this pop; it's in imminent danger of going flat.

Saving Jane - Girl Next Door
Pop/country Junior High existential despair for emo girls from Indiana, 'Girl Next Door' is neither fish nor fowl. You can't dance to it; it's not a feel good hit and you can't make out to it on the band bus. Instead, it functions as a solitary anthem, designed for repeat play behind closed doors by overwrought anti-Lohans determined to wallow in Indigo Girl-y, feel-bad angst. Luckily for the parentals, 'Girl Next Door' is unobtrusive, reasonably lyrically clever and light on the bass, so they won't have to suffer along with their daughters.

Snook - Snook Svett Och Tarar
The Swedish chefs of Snook have whipped up something pretty special here; equal parts Herb Alpert horns and J Dilla bassline. Throw in a completely unsingable chorus (with the exception of a stray "so fuck you", the lyrics are blissfully unknowable), an always-essential clap-track and a weekend's worth of joy and you've got happy-time marching music that leaps twelve hours of time zones in a single bound. Ecstatic and sweet, it's the underground hip hop hit of the spring; get on th' bandwagon now!

Caparezza - La Mia Parte Intollerante
Is that supposed to be Dante Dre on the beats? Caparezza's got legit (if oddly derivative) flow, but I get a strong sense that the lyrics are what buoy this track up. I'm at a bit of a loss to translate on the fly and more's the pity; without a plotline this is interesting but not very catchy, a riddle that you never get the answer for.

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