MP3 Scavengers Know No Borders
A host of world music blogs to expand your playlist
image courtesy of Frank Gossner
Meet the new breed of world music experts.
John Beadle, by day a machinist at Harley-Davidson, posts streaming MP3s of little-known African pop music on his Likembe blog (likembe.blogspot.com).
Brian Shimkovitz traveled through Ghana on a Fulbright scholarship, exploring the country’s obscure music and sharing his finds in a distinctly nonacademic style at Awesome Tapes from Africa (awesometapesfromafrica.blogspot.com).
Stuart Ellis, a punk rocker turned world music freak, posts a weekly single on Radiodiffusion Internasionaal (www.radiodiffusion.net), where the playlist has ranged from the North Korean orchestral number “We Always Look Up to the Central Committee of the Party” to the fuzz-toned garage-soul raver “Morning Train” by ’60s Israeli band Uzi and the Styles.
It’s an amazing time for music listeners with adventurous ears, as MP3 bloggers ferret out music previously available only to crate-digging record collectors and their close friends. A new breed of digital-savvy amateur ethnomusicologist is scouring the planet for weird, wonderful, and forgotten records, and then posting them for all the world to hear on streaming websites.
“In a relatively short time, the blogger has absorbed an array of occupational functions, from journalist to novelist to diarist to teacher,” music writer Ross Simonini notes in the Village Voice (Aug. 20, 2008). “The recent spate of international music blogs has introduced the roles of ethnomusicologist and archaeologist.”
While Shimkovitz had the backing of a scholarship, many of his self-trained peers are no less dedicated—in fact, they’re willing to suffer for their art. Frank Gossner, a.k.a. Frank Conakry, recently spent three years crate-digging in West Africa in pursuit of “Afrobeat, jerk, and soul” records for his Voodoo Funk blog (voodoofunk.blogspot.com). During his search, Simonini reports, Gossner was robbed at knifepoint, found scorpions inside record sleeves, and got respiratory infections from mold.
If Voodoo Funk’s rich Africana is any indication, his hardships were well worth the trouble. Gossner assembles his finds into hourlong mixes, each collection a strange and captivating trip through forgotten corners of music. A recent “extra funky” mix called “Everybody Get Down” featured the off-kilter psychedelic jam “More Bread to the People” by Action 13, the burbling dance workout “Metalik Funk” by the Mighty Flames, and the spooky breakdown “If You Love Your Neighbour You No Go Die” by Rock Town Express.