Three continents in less than a week has left me burning the midnite oil, sipping yerba mate, and falling into deep R.E.M. sleep the moment I sit down in NYC’s shuddering metro system. Naturally, the blog suffers.

But you can expect a grip of print pieces from me in the near future: Fader, Frieze, repeat.

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We’re just trying to find the greatest next 3 minutes of your life” – a great Observer (Guardian) article on mp3 blogs, in which MuddUp! is featured!

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I’ve been wrapping my ears around lady ‘harp’ music from Peru. Especially Anita Santivañes, totally hypnotic even though it all kinda sounds the same, these intermodulating waves of complicated & repetitive string arrangements falling from cracks in the sky down to a world holding less love than it needs.

Here’s Anita Santivañes from Anita Santivañes vs Anita Santivañes. Guess who wins!

Anita Santiva̱es РBebi La Miel de Tus Labios

(heartbreak poetry encoded at 56 kbps, a MuddUp! low-fidelity record!)

anita santibañez

& because it is late-nite and late-nite allows for little if any organizational logic, here’s a scratchy old banjo-powered recording of Algerian chaabi great Dahmane El Harrachi that i picked up at the Barbes Fassiphone shop a few days ago, where Sonido Martines took great pleasure in watching the Parisian Arab girls in impeccable makeup make fun of my musical selections.

Dahmane El Harrachi – Khabi Serrak

Nettle covers this tune in fact; this is the first time i’ve heard a recording of it by its original composer.


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speaking of Sonido & cuuuumbia, He’s straight outta Bogota via BnsAires and ON TOUR IN EUROPE RIGHT NOW! AY AY AY! & he’s got some killer CD-r mixes with him… be sure to ask…



Today is my first Thanksgiving in America in ages. 5 years? more? It’s a nice DIY holiday, not about buying buying but rather about staying home and cooking your own food and sharing it. So that’s nice.

Violeta Parra’s Gracias a la Vida is a generous, poignant song whose meaning grows sadder and deeper the more you learn about the Chilean artist’s life, and how she ended it herself, and how its poetry survives her doubly, sung into international fame by Mercedes Sosa and Joan Baez, converting itself into a himno humanitario.

The kind that locates pain in an honest way – next to a beauty so full and embodied that its absence can be lethal. Going to another country in search of her lover. Finding him, married. All that depth of feeling unrequited.

So everything is delicate. Gracias a la vida, que me ha dado tanto… The song graces its original singer, still, better than all the subsequent & less fragile versions.

Violeta Parra – Gracias A La Vida


Sizzla is generous too — or at least hard-working. And that’s the thing about Mr Kalonji: when he is off he’s screaming some too-loud Bobo Ashanti pulpit whatever, but when he is on, he’s deliriously good, overflowing with unquantifiable vocal power which lights from surprise to surprise. Here Sizzla rides the foundational Truth & Rights riddim as versioned by Brooklyn’s Massive B.

Sizzla – Give Jah Thanx


People talk about how Eskimos have a few dozen words for snow, how rappers have a few dozen words for cocaine, how Republicans have a few dozen words for fukallyall. It’s an amazing phenomenon. So too is the opposite – single words possessing multiple meanings.

A troubling example of this – if you, like me, think of pigeons as flying rats – is the Spanish noun La Paloma. It means dove or pigeon. That’s what I call a perverse ambiguity.

The white dove, beloved of poets & lovers since time immemorial.

The nasty pigeon, pecking away at nuggets of vomit & discarded fast food in alleys, staining city roofs with its corrosive droppings. Each one a paloma.

vagabond shoes

[Image: vagabond shoes, from brainware3000’s cc flickr pool]

“I’ve got my four palomas” goes the chorus of this tune…

Totó la Momposina – Las Cuatro Palomas (from Carmelina)

there must exist a language with a word to describe how those flutes relate to the rumbling drums, one specific adjective for the beauty & movement conjured by that relationship and another for what happens when her voice enters into it.

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“The music I play has its roots in mixed race,” Totó explains. “The flutes are pre-Columbian, the drums of course are from Africa, and the guitar from the conquisadors.”

Totó La Momposina is a towering figure in (indigenous-) (Afro-) (Latin-) Colombian folk, with good reason. “I don’t think of it as ‘folklore’. To me, folklore means something that is dead, in a museum. Traditional music, music from the old days is alive.”


Totó la Momposina – La Sombra Negra (from La Candela Viva)

La somba negra – the black shadow. Listen to the way this song starts as an orderly Latin love song, spare acoustic guitar and voice strolling along… then Afro-Cuban drums creep in, slowly accelerating the rhythm. The guitar shifts from lead instrument to accompaniment. The solo vocalist gets swept up into call & response, not one or two people but many; black Africa eats up the solitude. This becomes a communal tune and its drums are racing.

La Candela Viva