Stuff in the Air That Came Out of Speakers Today #68: Master Musicians of Jajouka

A latter-day release I did not have until recently: The Source (Le Son Du Marquis, “Recorded in 2010”). I pick up whatever I run across by this, uh, “outfit,” because, as much as any performers I know, their works all sound the same but the more you listen the more each has its own language. Obvious this was worked on and worked on, until leader Bachir Attar says, “Let’s go — this is a set.” (And who can resist titles like “Hadra of Sidi Amed Sheik (music for healing sick people on Friday at the tomb of the Saint)”?)

Nearly every time I listen to the Master Jajoukas, I think of the late pioneering music critic and musician Robert Palmer, because the one time I met him, he was sitting next to use at a Jajouka concert in Harvard’s Saunders Theater (incredible acoustics, what a treat). After the show, I introduced myself and tried to ask him about not just Jajouka but his recent Rock & Roll: An Unruly History and even Deep Blues, one of the most profound and enlightening books about the South and that more-defiant-than-sad music from there. He was pretty grunt-and-nod in a sadly too-short exchange, but I now understand he was quite ill by then (did not last all that long after) and wanted to get backstage to talk to the musicians. Sorry, Bob Palmer, that I did not get to tell you how much Insect Trust and Hoboken Saturday Night changed by life.

Famous-Misfit Fables

I see there’s a new translation of “Aladdin,” and I’m a bit tempted. Some observations:

From the printed versions I’ve read, the original Aladdin is precisely as different from his Disney rendition as the original Pinocchio is from his Uncle Walt treatment. Primarily in being almost repulsively unpleasant characters with a lot more doom and violence swirling around them. Since I saw the animated version of Wooden Head well before I read the source, it was a searing jolt to make the adjustment. Then I realized, whoah. Carlo Collodi’s story has survived for a reason — it’s scary, even harrowing, like the best of the oldest fairy tales.

With Aladdin, the most profound change is with the genie — fables often suggest that genies take on the personality of their Masters and Aladdin’s is a monster. Couldn’t have that on the big screen, of course, and it’s a testament to Robin Williams’s genius that he incarnated a non-insipid alternative. Finally, I have to concur that “Aladdin” is merely lumped in with the so-called “Arabian Nights” — it reads different and tells a story in a way that none of the others do.

R.I.P.: Tomi Ungerer

I think I was a bit too old for his kid books, but I’ll never forget that in a used bookstore (in Bozeman, MT?) I ran across a collection of his erotic drawings from a French publisher. I thought “Humph! Yeah, sure.” But when I checked it out –YOWSAH! They were vivid, inventive wildies with a heavy S&M component. I remember I had to hide it away in my bedroom in my parents’ house, but boy, was it a find, a revelation. I was saddened, but not surprised, that it almost ruined his career when the kid-book publishers found out about his porny works. Deserves a major revaluation.

Fine profile from Paris Review.

 

Who Wins If the Lottery Loses?

Here’s another issue that even Grown Olde me can’t quite sort out.

I was confidently informed in publications for kids that I read in grade school that lotteries were being ended and even outlawed in America because the people who could least afford it spent the largest part of their income buying tickets. The same problem casinos present. I’ve always disliked gambling because I know first-hand it can ruin lives and because ultimately it plays on human weakness.

But now I understand it isn’t as simple as that. Casinos, and more commonly the lottery, can be embraced out of desperation — the only way for true discriminated-against outsiders to grab some real power. I’m not certain how true it is, but I get it that they feel the lottery odds may be long but the straight-life odds are zero.

So I now argue that players can include the frantic as well as the foolish. That lotteries might be eliminated because they give too many undesirables a shot at moving up.

Floating around in my head, still.

Puss and Glop 2018

This poll that started back when Neanderthals voted in the Village Voice has acted like I don’t exist for years and years now and I’ve returned the favor for a while.

I’ve only thought of one new thing to say: the poll had a lot of power in its peak era because it damn near covered the popular-music profession. The whole gang voted.

Now, given the interwebs horde of podders and posters and piddlers and poopdits, the poll doesn’t represent anything except another Usual Gang of Idiots among the zillions.

So — eeeh.

A Tiny Miracle I Don’t Praise Often Enough

A two-way MBTA train runs about 50 yards behind my office. I was sick with worry when we first moved in that the noise would prevent me from being able to concentrate on writing.

I plowed into the first serious project and a glorious feeling poured over me when I finished it and realized the train racket absolutely vanished when I was draining my brain onto the screen. I never hear it while writing.

When having trouble falling asleep, on the other hand …