Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Oct 23rd 2007 11:00AM by Steve Hochman
But can a case be made that these fall under the pertinent Merriam-Webster definition: "Imitating, suggestive of or reproducing effects (as distorted or bizarre images or sounds) resembling those produced by psychedelic drugs"? Well, sure -- if you think the sound of some old guy hocking up phlegm fits the bill.
That's exactly what you get a few minutes into Track 2 on 'Yagé Pinta,' which was released a few months ago by Chicago's always-adventurous Locust Music label. The thing is, this is not "imitating, suggestive of or reproducing" the experience. It is a recording of the experience, an ethnographic document of an actual shaman at work, altered state and all, recorded in Colombia by anthropologist Michael Taussig in 1976. Mutumbajoy shakes a rattle, chants in a fairly monotonic alto, shuffles about and, yes, clears his throat and spits. But it is hypnotic. And it is a valuable cultural artifact.
But does calling it psychedelic somewhat trivialize it, hanging on it a term (and perception) that no matter what its dictionary definition has a pop-culture connotation that can't be escaped? On the other hand, the experience captured in these recordings were no question altered and altering -- Mutumbajoy performed his healings under the influence of the hallucinogen yagé and Taussig wrote of the chants creating "pictures in your mind while dissolving your body." So psychedelic it is.
Too strong for you? Then maybe a little chicha will do. The substance for which the music is named is also altering, but nowhere near the levels of yagé, rather a fairly mild drink made from fermented maize, and quite popular in the Andean regions it is. But it very much fits the sounds on the new 'Roots of Chicha' disc from Brooklyn-based Barbès Records, recordings from between 1968 and 1978 compiled and annotated by Olivier Conan. For the most part these are cumbias (the sturdy 4/4 trot most associated with Colombia but well-established in several Latin American countries) and hauynos (the stutter-stepped rhythms and up-and-down pentatonic tunes with deep folk roots high in the Peruvian Andes), and musically they're largely played pretty straight. Just add some Farfisa-esque organ and a little distorted electric guitar, and presto! We're transported to the Fillmore.
Well, not quite. Rarely does any of this get as out there as the contemporaneous music of Brazil's Os Mutantes and others from the Tropicalia movement, let alone the Northern Hemisphere's leading liquid lights. But it is pretty cool, even when the lysergic ornamentation is largely superficial, as with cumbia-derived 'Linda Nena,' by Juaneco y Su Combo, or the tremolo-guitar-powered 'La Milagro Verde,' by Los Mirlos, two of the six acts represented on this album. Still, it does lend itself to the psychedlicization nearly as well as some of the best examples coming from, oh, Turkey in that era (heard on such compilations as 'Hava Narghile' and the Turkish entry of the 'Love, Peace and Poetry' series). And even when the Peruvian acts did head into the ozone (the trippy, echoed vocal utterances of Los Hijos del Sol's 'Linda Muñequita') or even head-turning novelty ('Para Elisa,' a cumbia adaptation of none other than Beethoven's 'Für Elise' by Lima guitar god Enrique Delgado with his band Los Destellos), it proves surprisingly natural.
Psychedelic? Well, if calling it that leads more people to these terrific, geographically close though musically quite different albums, that's good enough. They deserve listeners. Love beads not required. Or spitting.