V/A - Azərbaycan Ulduzları (2012)

As we all know by now, the future is looking bleak for blogs like this, and for the internet in general. It looks like some links may be gone due to the whole Megaupload fiasco. I will reupload what I can upon request (just did Aihiyo), and should this blog get closed down (what with the major losses the big labels are no doubt suffering because of me), I may start again somewhere else, I don't know... keep your eyes and ears open and fight the power, or whatever. There's more out there than the crap the majors want to cram down your throat.
Anyway, while I do plan to have some posts of my own in the near future, this one is yet again courtesy of the inimitable Mr. IX - and this time (a Schwebeablaut first!) it's an 80 minute home-made compilation ("mix tape" if you must), and even comes with some very professional-looking artwork you can print, if you want to burn your own CD. Many thanks as ever to Mr. IX!

"This is a very personal mix of music from Azerbaijan, loosely focused on muğam, but much more on personal taste. A bunch of favourite songs, limited to the length of one cd. I could make a four hour compilation but I figured to keep it snappy.

Unesco has something to say about this as well: 
The Azerbaijani Mugham is a traditional musical form, characterized by a large degree of improvisation. The Mugham, though a classical and academic art, draws upon popular bard melodies, rhythms and performance techniques and is performed in many venues throughout the country.
Contemporary representations of the Azerbaijani Mugham reflect different periods of Azerbaijan’s history and its contacts with Persians, Armenians, Georgians and with other Turkic peoples. This musical genre shares artistic characteristics with the Iraqi Maqam, the Persian Radif and the Turkish Makams. In the past, Mugham was primarily performed on two secular occasions: the toy, the traditional wedding feast and the majles, a gathering of connoisseurs in private settings. It was also cultivated by members of the Sufi orders and by performers of religious dramas known as ta’zie or shabih. Official competitions and informal contests served to establish the reputation of accomplished musicians.
This modal genre features a male or female singer accompanied by musicians playing traditional instruments, such as the tar (a long-neck lute), the kamancha (a four-string spiked fiddle) and the daf (a type of large tambourine). Since Mugham cannot be transcribed in a fixed form, multiple versions are transmitted by masters who train students in the fine art of interpretation to ensure the variety of this artistic expression.
The Mugham has lost some of its aesthetic and expressive characteristics largely due to European influences, which are particularly apparent in the manner in which contemporary musicians perform and transmit their skills to the younger generations.

There, as much as I appreciate the traditional form I also appreciate the mixing with European influences. For this compilation I kept things fairly but not rigidly traditional. I went for an entertaining listen first and foremost, keeping things diverse but within an esthetic frame, so for instance no jazz/funk, let alone drum computers. Sound quality hasn't been much of an objective either. The songs are put in order and (mildly) segued, so best listen in the order presented, whether you burn to a cdr (small booklet included) or not."

Tracklist (track title - artist):
1. Könlümə düşmüsən - Zeynəb Xanlarova
2. Bir Xumar Baxışla - Şövkət Ələkbərova
3. Sarı Gəlin - Qədir Rüstəmov
4. Mehriban Olaq - İslam Rzayev
5. Mirzə Hüseyn Segahı - Mircavad Cəfərov
6. Şirin Dil - Gülağa Məmmədov
7. Bayatı-Şiraz - Fehruz Məmmədov
8. Daşlı Qala - Əbülfǝt Əliyev
9. Çargyah - Habil Əliyev
10. Anama - Rübabə Muradova
11. Heç Küsməyin Yeridirmi - Natiq Nuriyev
12. Müxalif təsnifi - Bülbül
13. Laylay - Fatma Mehrəliyeva
14. Bakının Ulduzları - Rəşid Behbudov

And don't forget, kids: you got it from Schwebeablaut - where you can download good music in the safety of knowing that you won't have to spend half an hour trying to correct the tags.
[Bitrates are of course lower than usual this time around, but that comes with the territory.]


Grupul Vocal „Fărșeroții” - Muzică Populară Macedo-Română (1971)

Oh me oh my, here comes another guest post from the masked blogger, Mr. IX! Many thanks to him.

More vocal polyphony. This is a rip from an old Electrecord (Romanian state record company) with music from a minority that's spread all over the Balkan called the "Macedo-Romanians" or "Aromâni". These recordings are from a section of that called "Fărșeroții", who live in small groups called "fâlcare". An ancient proverb is "the Fărșeroții are never worried, they sing the whole day". They may come from the Dobrogea region in Romania (which crosses the borders of Moldova and Bulgaria), the style is surprisingly similar to South-Albanian polyphony posted here earlier. "Dzeana iu-ți vineai", the fourth track, adds a strange Afro-American gospel feeling to it.
Have at it.


V/A - Albania - Vocal and Instrumental Polyphony (1988)

So it looks like I've been terribly lazy with this blog again... Not to worry! In comes a guest post (all good blogs have them!) from a friend whom I will simply call Mr. IX, but who is also known to those who, err, know him as 'He with the vast music collection' or 'He of encyclopedic connoisseurship'. He even deigned to write a little blurb to go with it, and threw in some video links. Thanks, Mr. IX! Here goes.

As a kid I heard music from the Balkans and Anatolia but it took a while out of the parental home to start rediscovering it. The public library was the place to explore in those days and one day I got the Chants Du Monde release "Albania: Vocal And Instrumental Polyphonics". It hit me as one of the weirdest and grimmest traditional musics I heard until then, way before drone became fashionable again through Sunn0))) and the revival of the experiments in that field in the sixties and seventies. Yet, this was no experimental academic music but regular folks singing incredibly subtle harmonies dense with pain and dissonance (not as dissonant as some other traditions I learned later, like Georgian gurian style  and gange singing from Croatia, but that stuff is even more alien and hard to relate to). I've heard a bunch of collections of this style of singing and this still stands as my favourite. Especially "Legend Of The Walled-In Woman" is nothing short of breathtaking.

From Unesco.org:

The traditional Albanian polyphonic music can be divided into two major stylistic groups as performed by the Ghegs of northern Albania and Tosks and Labs living in the southern part of the country. The candidature file id dedicated to the iso-polyphonic music performed by the Tosks and Labs of southern Albania. The term iso is related to the ison of Byzantine church music and refers to the drone, which accompanies the polyphonic singing. The drone is performed in two ways: among the Tosks, it is always continuous and sung on the syllable ‘e’, using staggered breathing; while among the Labs, the drone is sometimes sung as a rhythmic tone, performed to the text of the song. It can be differentiated between two-, three- and four-voice polyphony.

Two-voice iso-polyphony represents the simplest form of Albanian polyphony and is popular all over southern Albania. Iso-polyphony is practised mainly by men, but there is a number of female singers, too. The music is performed at a wide range of social events, such as weddings, funerals, harvest feasts, religious celebrations and festivals such as the well-known Albanian folk festival in Gjirokastra.

Albanian iso-polyphony is characterised by songs consisting of three parts: two solo parts, a  melody and a countermelody with a choral drone. Four-part singing is found less often and only among the Labs. This form consists also of two solo parts, but is accompanied by a double drone, one choral and one solo. The structure of the solo parts differs according to the different ways of performing the drone, but there is also a great variety of structures within the two drone types, especially in the pedal style that is popular with all groups performing this music.

Over the last decades, the modest rise of cultural tourism, along with the growing interest of the research community in this unique folk tradition, has contributed to the revival of Albanian iso-polyphony.