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Sublime Sounds from Sublime Frequencies

December 31, 2007

I’m sure many of you know about the fine releases from this amazing label, but if not, I cannot recommend any of their products enough. Founded by Sun City Girls alumni Alan and Sir Richard Bishop, as well as Hisham Mayet, Sublime Frequencies documents folk music from some of the furthest flung and most obscure corners of the world. Many albums contain audio recordings from the streets and from local radio of the country of focus. I own most of the ‘Radio’ series, each of which offers a dizzying array of found recordings and broadcast snippets of Morocco, Palestine, Syria and many other countries that the Bishop brothers and like-minded cohorts recorded on their many musical exploration treks throughout the last two decades.
Another amazing CD in this series is Choubi Choubi! Folk and Pop Sounds from Iraq, a collection of folk and pop songs from the pre-Gulf War I Saddam-era. It was nothing like I had anticipated it to be. Its modern -and at times militaristic- sound belies Hussein’s vision of a secular, Pan-Arabic future in the region. Highly recommended.

I also have seen many of their similarly-themed DVDs, all of which are breathtaking. All are shot cinema vérité style with no narration, set up or much post production at all. But the results are nothing short of hallucinogenic. You become totally immersed in the music and ritual of a world you’ve never been to before. My favorites were Phi Ta Khon: Ghosts of Isan, a Halloween-like spirit celebration in an obscure ethnic-minority of Thailand, with hypnotic music and amazing costumes; Jemaa El Fna: Morocco’s Rendezvous of the Dead, a bizarre night celebration of frantic music on the edge of the Sahara.

If you are a fan of world music, folk music, and even contemporary pop music from Asia, South East Asia, India, Africa and the Middle East, you owe it to yourself to check out this amazing collection.

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