Music has always been a world commodity. This is part five of a multi-part series showcasing some sounds from around the world.
This week we start our journey with the B countries including a couple of tiny island nations, so keep your expectations kind of low for this one – kind of like writing about the WAC basketball conference…prove me wrong Vandals, prove me wrong.
We start with a
place created by the tourism industry the tiny island nation of the Bahamas. I wish I could say there is a fledgling musical scene here, but alas I shall start and end with the alpha and the omega of Bahamian music. The Baha Men. Two things I learned about this group – #1. They formed in 1980. #2. They were around for 31 years. They also won a Grammy in 2000. For those trying to remember back what happened in 2000, I can sum it up by this. Santana pretty much won everything – 9 total awards. . Black Sabbath won best metal performance with Iron Man (huh?) and Sarah McLaghlan won best “Pop Vocal” performance with “I will remember you” (huh?). Anyway, the Baha Men have taken their place in pop culture royalty next to Los Del Rio and Psy.
I am going to go out-of-order for a second, just for the sake of comparing these two island nations. On the surface, it may look similar in respect to its size and location, however its cultural scenes are vastly different. It would seem that this tiny commonwealth has a steady little export of musical acts, starting with Rihanna. No introduction is needed; here she is with “Diamonds,” which has 350 million views on Youtube…
Shontelle is the poor man’s Rihanna. This R&B singer is trying to carve herself out a modest career by following in the footsteps of Rihanna. This 28-year-old has opened for acts like New Kinds on the Block and Beyonce. Arnthor Birgisson, A Swedish producer who has co-written/produced songs for Janet Jackson, Jessica Simpson, Enrique Iglesias, and Celine Dion, hooked up with Shontelle on her biggest single to date, “Impossible.” She is currently working on her 3rd album with hit producer Rockwilder (Redman) and that should be out by the end of the year. Here she is with “Impossible”
Rupee is a famous “pop-reggae” artist who has had worldwide success and his song “tempted to touch” was smack in the middle of the mid-2000’s raggaeton explosion thanks to a Daddy Yankee remix. Although this dance hall artist hasn’t done much mainstream, he has collaborated with other artists in creating the theme song for the 2007 World Series of Cricket. This is the original version of “Tempted to Touch.”
Standing Penance is an alternative rock act, who, at present, are the only rock act from the island to be on an American record label (Steel Records). Although they have only been together for a handful of years, they don’t sound that bad, sort of a nu-metal amalgamation. The lead singer has sounds similar to that of the lead singer of Disburbed, I hear some old Sevendust in the intro of the song, a Stuck Mojo breakdown in the middle, some Skindred melodies in the middle, overall they kept everything really simple and “Don’t Bury me” gives me a bit of hope with this band because they seem to have a solid foundation built from the start.
Conrad is your Barbadian representative to the black metal genre. You know what, this might by my obscure combination of the week. Barbadian Black Metal. It can go along with Albanian Reggaeton and Argentinian Celtic. This band released their debut album in 2011, and this song isn’t really “Black Metal” per-se. It starts off with a surf-rock guitar solo before breaking into the traditional cookie monster vocals…and I’m not one to question their credentials, but their music just doesn’t seem evil enough. It seems like evil-lite, or diet evil zero. Here they are with “Spectral Manifestations ov Olodumere”
We now trade in a couple of Caribbean island nations for one in the Persian Gulf. This island nation is located just off the coast of Saudi Arabia and is known for its immense wealth thanks to oil money. More recently, however, they have been caught up in the recent Arab Spring, but this is not a political blog, so I will just skirt part all that and go right into the Music.
If we are going to start with the biggest thing to come out of this country, we need not look any further than progressive rock band Osiris. Having been around since the late 1970’s, this band has been labeled as “Bahrain’s answer to Pink Floyd or Genesis.” They have the similar formula as those other two bands, but I can describe it with one simple phrase – 1980’s. Its sound has that “yes, this is totally retro” feel to it, which is now acclaimed for totally different reasons. Don’t forget, back in 1983 Tron was a high-tech futuristic thriller. Back then it was cutting edge, now it is more comedic than anything else. Anyway, here is Orisis with the single “Myths and Legends” off their 1984 album of the same name.
Scarlet Tear is an alternative rock band fronted by two women which is noteworthy only considering their location in the socially progressive middle east. It’s not hard to draw comparisons to them as the number of popular female-fronted rock acts are rather few. So, like every other band, they fall in the range between Flyleaf and Evanescence. They put out a five song demo a few years back, but there hasn’t been a lot of news from them in the past year or so, but hopefully we can hear more from them in the future. This is one of the songs off their demo, “Scarlet Tears”
Lunacyst is your Bahraini death metal band. They are from Bahrain. They are a death metal band. What more do you want me to say about them? The released a demo in 2010 and had a live DVD out in 2012. Here is a clip from their live DVD: Resurrection: The Bahrain Underground Vol 1
Smouldering in Forgotten is also on the Resurrection DVD. They are more established than the previously mentioned Lunacyst. They have two full length albums in addition to this live DVD, and as a little factoid, they named themselves after a lyric from a Goatwhore song. So for all those goatwhore fans out there, these guys are also goatwhore fans. That’s all I got, sorry.
Moving on to hip hop, Flipp (Aka Flipperachi) is a Bahraini rapper who sounds decisively like he is not from Bahrain. His sound is that of Atlanta or other parts of the “Dirty South.” The whole time in the background the Bahraini DJ Clue keeps saying “This is a hood anthem” What hood is that exactly? Between 1980 and 2010 the population tripled in size thanks to its oil money. The country hosts a Formula 1 race every year sponsored by the king. Ironically, Bahrain is one of the few (if not only?) middle eastern country that permits alcohol. Another amusing part of this video is that Mr. Flipperachi is rapping in front a Ford F-150. Maybe out there that’s an exotic status symbol? Who knows. Here he is with “We So Fly”
The Mystro is a Bahraini rapper who raps in Arabic, so I cannot really say much on that other than the usual- It’s always amusing to hear random English phrases. I do believe I heard “Obama” rhymed with “Stick it your mama.” Listen for yourself. It’s at 1:05 in. Also, DJ Outlaw,a Bahraini DJ also produced this song. So unlike the mystery known as Flipp above, this is all Bahrain. Another thing to point out how things are lost in translation, if you look at his crew behind him, one of them has a New York Yankees chain, the guy to his immediate left is wearing a Red Sox hat. Come on guys, get with the program. I’m not going to even mention the guy Bulls hat. Pick one team, please and thank you. Anyway, this is the Mystro with “I’m Back.”
Bangladesh is a country known for its
sweatshops clothing manufacturers, devastating floods, and massive population (8th largest in the world). However, in the past dozen or so years, the country is starting to turn itself around and have been labeled as one of the next 11 countries with high potential economic growth (by Goldman-Sachs). So, since their independence from Pakistan in the early 1970’s, an era of westernized music start and now two generations later, we have a little diverse musical scene coming from this tiny nation.
Local modern rock music can be traced back to three early 90’s bands – Ark, LRB (Love Runs Blind), and Crypric Fate. Regardless of the genre, these big three can be credited with being the godfathers of modern Bengali rock. Quick note: all three of these groups sing in Bengali, not enlgish. Starting with L.R.B., (not to be confused with the Little River Band) this band has produced 11 albums, a live acoustic album and two greatest hits albums. The have performed twice in Madison Square Garden. They have a sound that sort of reminds me of Deep Purple. Here they are with their single “Shahbag Mor”
The second of the big three is a traditional pop/soft rock band Ark. They were around from 1991-2000 and produced four studio albums until their lead singer left the group. They reunited in 2010 and are currently working on their 5th album. This is a live clip from a TV show where they perform the song “Dura Bohu Dura Gangchil.” A couple things to mention about the video. I was completely confused listening to the host go back and forth between speaking English and Bengali. It’s like literally sentence to sentence. Is that what people do out there? I can’t even understand English half of the time (the south..i’m looking at you) Also, the lead singer’s hat seems to be too small for his head, but that doesn’t stop him from “rocking.”
Last of the three is Cryptic Fate, which is a progressive rock band that has released four albums and, if judging anything by the music video, is fronted by Horatio Sanz. Wasn’t he in another band, too? Yes, Armenian Space Station. Yes, that guy gets around. Anyway, CF started off heavier, but has started to mellow out with age. Here they are with one of their newest songs, “Bhor’er Opekkha”
Artcell is the current big “rock” band hailing from Bangladesh. The only issue I have with this is I have yet to find anything “rock” related, let alone the “heavy metal” sound they are sometimes credited with. They have released two official albums and good number of independent singles. How hard do they rock, you ask? Here they are with a live TV performance of Dukkho Bilash.
Pledge Karma is part of the new school of “heavy metal.” Having formed in 2010 from other successful bands, this super group has released its debut album last year and is already working on their sophomore release. If you listen to their sigle below, “Chhobi,” you can hear the 80’s hair metal just oozing out of this song. It’s like they wanted to cover 20 bands, but wanted to put them all in this one song.
Moving on to my favourite band name from this weeks’ list, Severe Dementia is a death metal band…that named themselves Severe Dementia. I got nothing else, sorry. This is….Severe Dementia with “The Bengal Regiment”
Android Lust is a techno/DIY one woman project currently based in Los Angeles that is in th way that Nine Inch Nails is a one man project. She has been around since 1998 and has released five albums. So if the sounds of Nine Inch Nails or How to Destroy Angels, then Android Lust is for you! Here she is with Dragonfly.
Last on our list is rock group Crematic X, who formed in 2010. Not really much is known about them as they have released a few demos and currently their lead singer and guitarist are “on leave,” whatever that means. But in this video for their song “Aurthohin Stobdhota,” I want to point out how hip and cool this band is. Ayone can play their keyboard at a normal angle, but only someone who is so hip and cool can play theirs at 45 degree…incline? Decline? It’s like flat keyboards are so passé. All joking aside, this song isn’t that bad. It sort of reminds me of Gravity Kills.
That brings an end to this week’s journey. Next week we’ll be in Europe a bit more (as opposed to none. And as always, hopefully you enjoyed the column. Who knows, maybe there’s something that catches your ear…stranger things have happened. Thank you for reading.