A Malian's Musings about Music and Mali…

“Underwater Love” by Smoke City

Underwater love…

Smoke city began to develop somewhat of a cult following after “Underwater love” was featured in a ‘Levi’s Jeans’ tv commercial in 1997, a few months before the group released its first album “Flying Away”.

I really like the analogy used in the title of the song to draw a parallel between the overwhelming feeling of newfound love and the all consuming physical sensation of being well…..under water.

“This must be underwater love

The way I feel it slipping all over me”

“This is it, Underwater love

It is so deep, So beautifully liquid”

I find it really difficult to categorize or place a stylistic label on this song.  The tempo is typical of trip-hop, the drums elements (shakers, brushes) of brazilian samba, the sound effects of electronica and there is a hiphop verse in there just for good measure.  All this from a British band with a brazilian lead singer !!???! Nina Miranda is equally fluent in English and Portuguese and she navigates between the two almost playfully on this song.

Underwater love has been in every playlist I’ve created since the first time I heard it.  I’ve never been able to resist the positive vibes emanating from the song….It always takes me to a happy/sunny place.

Title: Underwater Love / Artist: Smoke City / Album: Flying Away (1997)


“Spend a lifetime” by Jamiroquai

Like the morning sun has just begun, Girl, Like the rain on my window pane, Girl, If I could make you stay more than one day..

Title: Spend a Lifetime / Artist: Jamiroquai / Album: Traveling without Moving (1997)

Listen on Apple Music

“Blue in Green” by Miles Davis

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.  

You know: about the “big” questions.  What’s next? How to approach that potentially life-altering decision, and of course the biggest of them all: what does it all mean?

Such an exercise is less about finding exact answers than it is about developing self-awareness.  After all, as James Arthur Ray pointed out: “The journey of true success and lasting leaderships begins with the inward journey to the soul.”

What’s a journey without music to accompany you? Better yet, what’s a moment of reflection without Jazz?  

As I take the road on this “inward journey”, I’m bringing along Mr Miles Davis on the trumpet, Mr John Coltrane on the saxophone, Mr Wynton Kelly on the piano, Mr Paul Chambers on the bass and Mr Jimmy Cobb on the drums.

Good travel companions indeed.

Title: Blue in Green / Artist: Miles Davis / Album: Kind of Blue (1959)

Listen on Apple Music

“Dance Naked Under Palmtrees” by Mo Horizons

Despite the rather ominous bassline, I can’t help but feel reinvigorated by this track.  The sequencing of the instruments is pure genius.  The cloudiness of the dark bass undertones slowly makes way for some brighter sounds….Sort of a slow escape from captivity.

To “Dance Naked Under Palmtrees” sounds to me like a metaphor for a newfound sense of freedom. 

 But what do I know?  I’ll let you call it.

Title: Dance Naked Under Palmtrees / Artist: Mo Horizons / Album: Remember Tomorrow (2001)

Listen on Apple Music

“Al Vaiven de Mi Carreta” by Afrocubism

Afrocubanismo was a term coined in 1920s Cuba to describe a movement that worked to recognize and promote the Cuban historical link to Africa.  Its focus on “Black Culture” resulted in a far-reaching impact on Cuban literature, poetry, painting, and of course music.  At the heart of the movement, was an expression of the struggle for Cuba’s independence from Spain, slavery and the quest for a national identity.  90 years after its first shout, Afrocubanismo echoes on with “Al Vaiven de Mi Carreta”.

When the Cuban and Malian legends got together to record for the first time, producer Nick Gold from World Circuit Records described it best: “It was as though the musicians had been holding back their ideas and energy for that moment… The group had never played together before but the music just poured out and it continued to flow…”.

As for Cuban and African instruments sounding good together, no surprises there, I suspect they were meant to be together in the first place.

Viva Cuba…..et Vive le Mali.

Musicians:

Cuba: Eliades Ochoa, Osnel Odit, Virgilio Valdes, Jorge Maturell, Jose Angel Martinez, Eglis Ochoa

Mali: Toumani Diabate, Kasse Mady Diabate, Bassekou Kouyate, Lassana Diabate, Djelimady Tounkara, Baba Sissoko

Title: Al Vaiven de mi Carreta / Album: AfroCubism (2010)

Listen on Apple Music

“Corcovado” by Joao Gilberto / Stan Getz / Astrud Gilberto

Putting the magic of the music itself aside, Corcovado is a classic by default when you read the production credits.  The song boasts no less than four pioneers of the genre on the same record: Astrud Gilberto on the vocals, Stan Getz on the saxophone, Jobim on the piano and Joao Gilberto on the guitar and vocals.   This was originally recorded and released in 1964 on probably the greatest bossa nova album ever: “Getz/Gilberto”.

The lyrics are in both Portuguese and English with Astrud providing an English intro to the song, and Joao continuing in Portuguese from then on.  You can sense a slight hesitation in the way Astrud sings in English, but the beauty of her voice overshadows any imperfections in her pronunciation:

Quiet nights of quiet stars,

Quiet chords from my guitar,

Floating on the silence that surrounds us,

Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams,

Quiet walks by quiet streams,

And a window that looks out on Corcovado,

Oh! How I lovely……..

Stan Getz’ melodies on the saxophone evoke a bittersweet longing experienced by someone who is reminiscing about good times spent in his favorite place on earth.  In this case, he is referring to the mountain that towers over Rio de Janeiro: “Corcovado”.

This is one of those songs that stands out in so many ways, that you love it more with every listen.  

Take your time with it…

Title: Corcovado/ Artist: Stan Getz/J. Gilberto/A. Gilberto/ Album: Getz/Gilberto (1964)


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