Following our last post, we’ll continue in Israel. To show you a little forgotten 45 single, re-released by Fortuna Records. Established in 2012, this new label is aimed to reissue psychedelic nuggets printed in Israel, as well as Middle-Eastern grooves in general, although this time ain’t a Koliphone release. There are only two songs but I was really impressed with the fabulous crossover between east and west!
Let’s go to her history:
Born in Radda, South East Yemen in the late ’40s, Tsvia Abarbanel immigrated to Israel with her parents and settled in the north of the country. She was raised in a traditional Yemenite house where she learned the culture and traditions of Yemen.
She spent most of the youth as a Shepherdess looking after her family’s herd, during the long hours in the fields, Tsvia developed her singing skills, practicing traditional Yemenite chants, typical to the region of Radda. When she was 25 years old, she bravely left home to go and study Ethno-Musicology and Fine Arts at the Los Angeles University. The early hippie movement dominated the college halls and soon enough she started frequenting the LA club scene. It was by pure chance that she found herself at Watts, queuing for a Dinah Washington concert at the Kabuki Theatre.
Every night from midnight to 6, Tsvia, would flock to the Kabuki to get a glimpse of the biggest musicians of the time such as Ramsey Lewis, Ray Charles and more!
This community-only event drew her deep into the sounds of soul and jazz, inspiring Tsvia to give her own musical background a totally new interpretation. Before even recording her first song, she started performing throughout the west coast, in big venues such as the Hollywood Bowl & The Cow Palace in San Francisco, showcasing her unique brew of traditional Yemenite singing and western jazz rhythms.
A beautiful 26 years old Yemenite girl was an odd sight in the Afro-American music scene of LA in the mid-’60s. She looked different, she sounded different, but her musical talent was so explosive she was immediately embraced by local musicians!
Let’s go to our record:
Returning to Israel in 1970, Tsvia started working on her debut album with a prominent Tel Aviv jazz band called Piamenta’s Guys. Led by Albert Piamenta, musician and arranger, who introduced funk and western elements into traditional Israeli songs, the result was one of the most magical recordings to ever come out of the region. However, the Israeli record industry found it far too strange and of no commercial potential. (!) And so Tsvia and her husband released a limited 45, making this one of the most obscure and hard to find Israeli records ever.
The ‘IM’ highlights spare any comment: Yahalel Hawa, has an strong percussion pace and a sour folklore singing, assisted by this little cool jazz veil. A classy ethnic one! And Wings of Love, certainly a challenge to anyone who admires the frontiers from music, with a Yma Sumac’s intro, this jazzy soul got some horn attacks, organ, sax solos, heavy drums, and the always lively percussion, recalling us the strong geographical bond that Yemen has with Africa. Unluckily both sounds end up until 3 minutes, but the fusion stamp that Tsvia left are forevermore!
Our little Shepherdess, is still performing, writing and composing her own material, spreading Yemenite music in Israel to this day. Hyvää Matkaa!
Israel. Jaffa in the late ’60s and early ’70s had an exciting and exotic sound to offer, where folk musicians performed live at its taverns seven nights a week. It was far from the mainstream hit-parade of swinging Tel-Aviv but close enough geographically to attract listeners from across the Tel-Aviv / Jaffametropolis. The scene got bigger and wilder, as it embraced the Middle Eastern celebration style known as Hafla, involving heavy drinking, local food, and music of course.
Standing at the center of old Jaffa and its vibrant music scene was the record store and label, Koliphone Records. Owned by the Azoulay brothers, Koliphone tirelessly recorded these artists and sold their records to the growing masses. At first, they released mostly Greek and Turkish music, shortly followed by Yemenite, Moroccan and Hebrew records, showcasing the cultural melting pot of this ancient town.
The biggest and most influential artist of the time was Aris San. A singer and guitar virtuoso, San created the Israeli-Greek style and introduced the drums-bass-guitar rock combo to folk audiences. His fans thought they were listening to traditional bouzouki melodies, but in fact, San’s music was a lot heavier, strongly influenced by American surf, verging on the psychedelic. San’s huge popularity attracted many other artists to record the new style he had pioneered. Artists such as Trifonas, Levitros, Nino Nikolaidis and many more began to appear on Jaffa’s record stands. Among them was a young girl who sang in Turkish. Her name was Grazia Peretz (גרציה פרץ)!
Grazia was a wonder kid in the early ’70s. She started singing at the age of nine, performing at Turkish weddings and Mediterranean nightclubs, sharing a stage with Aris San and Trifonas. Soon, she became an in-demand act for events up and down the country, landing herself a weekly TV spot on the Channel 1 music segment!
Let’s go to our record:
For her 16th birthday, her father sent her to record a full-length Hafla style album at the Koliphone Studios. Marko Bachar, who was the label’s in-house producer, arranger, and keyboard player, was in charge of the project. Bachar had just sold his organ and bought a monophonic Moog synthesizer. Grazia wanted to break free from the conformities of Greek and Turkish folk music and introduce the early sounds of disco she and her peers were getting so much into.
When the album finally hit the shops it sold… nothing! Hard funk drums, pounding bass coupled with synth blips and psychedelic Turkish guitars, well… it was all a bit too much for the unsuspecting folk audience. At the age of 18, disheartened by the music industry and the undue touring environment she had to endure at such an early age, she stopped singing and never returned to the studio or the stage.
The ‘IM’ highlights unfold us a distinctive tinge from the east, beautifully sang in Turkish, with utmostmoogs: Soyle Beni, with an eerie sci-fi feel, this Israeli disco prog shows us the kind of sound that people used to dance, back on Jaffa nightclubs. And Rampi Rampi, an upbeat with broken pace, key winds solos, luscious chorus and the usual Arab/oriental scales with its minor harmonics. A Rocky feel at its best!
Greece. The cradle of modern civilization, an amalgamation of elements of Minoic, Phoenician, Doric, and Ionic cultures that at one time spread from the Caucasus to the Pyrenees via Asia Minor, and from the Crimean to Sicily and the North-African coast. Plato, Xenophon, Homer, Socrates, Pythagoras, Archimedes still live on, in their works, thoughts, and writings. Despite its glorious past, Romans, Byzantines, Visigoths, Slavs, Bulgarians, Venetians, Crusaders, Serbs, and finally, Turks took it in their turn to occupy Greece for about 1,800 years!
The last Turkish garrison left Athens in March 1833, they managed to stay more or less independent for just over 100 years, when Hitler and Mussolini decided they’d go for a life-long supply of Ouzo (a greek drink) in April 1941. After a good 20 years of turbulent democracy, Greece was back in the hands of the extreme right when the colonels took over on April 21st, 1967, they were to remain in power ’till 1974.
A democratic and republican constitution was promulgated only in June 1975.
The presence of the military junta during the late ’60s and early ’70s has been quite a deterrent, having prevented a musical development concurrent with that of other European countries. To complete the picture, the continued loss of civil rights, widespread censorship, political detentions, and torture, caused countless confrontations and assassination attempts on both sides. In 1969, Costa-Gavras masterpiece Z, was the first attempt to internationalize the message of serious lack of civil rights and its situation. The film was banned from Greece, at the time.
The late ’60s were characterized by political oppression from the authorities and a strong folk movement (oriented by the political left) that sought its identification in the traditional Hellenic roots. A lot of male and female folk singers were known throughout Greece but the outside world remained virtually oblivious to them. Most of the bands that existed back then, however, played only cover versions of English-sung hits and their overall approach was orientated towards light pop and beat. They were called The Rabbits, The Stormies, The Teenagers, The Knacks, etc.
In the very beginning, the most well-known bands were from outside Greece: Aphrodite’s Child and Axis, achieved relative commercial success in France, singing in English, debuting albums, single charts and appearances on TV shows.
Domestically, over the ’70s, bands and artists like, Socrates Drank the Conium, Nostradamus,Akritas, Iraklis, Dionysis Savvopoulos, Manos Hadjidakis, Kostas Tournas, and Pavlos Sidiropoulos, were largely observed, censored or even arrested by the military junta. (!) This is some of the key figures in the national rock scene, ελληνικό ροκ(Greek Rock). Even the term psychedelic is derived from the Ancient Greek, words psuchē(ψυχή – psyche, mind) and dēlōsē(δήλωση – manifest):
Translating to mind-manifesting!
But today we’ll speak of a woman, their achievements and wonderful music.
Let’s go to her history:
Mariza Koch is one of the most renowned Greek singers of all time (together with Fleury Dandonakis). Endowed with a superb voice and a colorful timbre, she’s famous for served the Greek traditional music and been the first to introduce electricsound to folklore. Always working beside poets, such as Sappho, Kostas Varnalis and the Greek poet of the seas Kavvadias; its lyrical depth is one of the aspects, which will always be remembered, her minstrel attitude, the freedom of speech and its political views over one of the heaviest cultural heritages from our history.
Born March 14, 1944, in Athens by a Greek mother and a German father, member of the army occupation, he was executed by the Nazi forces the very year of her birth. Mariza and her sister Eirini grew up in her mother’s native Thera (Santorini).
From four to nine years old, she grew up in an institution, the widowed mother had problems growing two kids and working alongside. This fact develops a strong bond with her work on itself. Nowadays, she established an own record label (Verso Music) destined to folklore/traditional songs from all over Greece and more specifically, music for children. The experimental music center, Movement & Logos Mariza Kochdesigned for experimental music teaching only for children has its own choir, plays, books, and cd releases; this is her flag today, an author and educator.
But let us return to our biography…
The time lived in Santorini, founded the roots of its musical expression: the contact with Byzantine music and insular songs. At age 16, she returned to Athens to take music lessons. There, gained contact with the common wave, it’s performers, and debuts commercially in 1967. Two years later, shares an Lp with Nick Chouliaras, based on folk and traditional songs. The year 1970, in Greece, marks the very birth of greek bands singing in greek, Koch’s album ain’t the original first one, but it’s way thicker than other releases from the time, more distant from original folklore.
Based on several traditional regions of Greece, Arabas saw huge commercial success and led her to a large career on different record labels, through the decades.
Mariza: ‘When I started singing was in the era of dictatorship, the very beginning. I wanted to sing an uncensored version from numerous songs, but they all passed through censorship and I can not say exactly what they wanted. So I chose to sing traditional songs that I love very much and I had grown up with them. So the cry of protest is not like before, I took through the text, through the electric instruments and cover versions of songs that I did. It was my personal revolution.’
Soon established as a premier folk singer in her country, instructed by Manos Hadjidakis, she took part in the Eurovision Song1976 contest, held in Hague, with the song Panagia Mou, Panagia Mou, written by herself, in protest by the Turkish occupation of Cyprus. The coup within the coupled more than 5,000 dead and wounded on and off the isle. (!) The song ends up in 13th place, but its performance, transmitted live through Europe, unleashes her success worldwide.
From that point, she traveled around the globe singing in greatest theaters and recognized music festivals in Western Europe, Russia, Canada, USA, Latin America, Australia, India, Middle East, and Africa as an ambassador of Greek traditional music. Dozens of albums were launched, and over time its aesthetic transformations changed the main proposal of its career: original folklore, from the past with traditional instruments formations (lyres, flutes, and Cretan lyras).
Let’s go to our record:
Today’s record is a bit different, this is for all those who do not resist an acoustic side with strong connections to the traditional folklore.You all will be pleased with a blessedvoice, a tuned backing band (bass, drums, guitar, keyboards) and all these beautiful songs and instruments from the Mediterranean!
Mariza’s unique vocals became the centerpiece of the music, which one, more than one occasion needed no accompaniment. Indeed, it’s first solo forayArabas(Αραμπάς),released in 1971, wasa step forward on a greek musical constellation, the first gold album (50.000) in its history! An almost rock album with traditional blends, heavy drums, swing guitar, light fuzz, breakbeats, led by a powerfulfemale voice, who was also a sharp musician and composer, something unusual for the time!
Mariza: ‘Nothing is difficult if it comes from your truth. The difficulties aren’t that will run, as long as it will go, how they establish what you have inside you. For me, it was not difficult this blend, these traditional covers. This sounds like to give and I’m fortunate that he loved and fell in a good time when the audience of my generation understood what was needed. It was a model that was presented as a personal need.’
The ‘IM’ highlights are Arabas (Αραμπάς), a mysterious lute introduction unravels a psych melody with hard percussion pace, eerie organs and sweet rhythm guitar, like many others of the album, none of its songs overlaps 4 minutes! And: Smyrna Dance(Σμυρνέϊκος Χορός), an instrumental one, apropos, the unique in that feel on all record, by the way, Smyrna is an ancient city located on the coast of Anatolia, showing us how Greek and Turkish culture can merge, despite the old cultural brawl.
On the back cover, Mariza writes: ‘I started with the desire to keep up with the evolution of our time carrying through my experiences, which are directly associated with the traditional song. So I began an effort to the contemporary expression of traditional song, encouraged by the fact that it always transformed into the tradition.’
Here’s a TV appearance, from 1973, where she sings in a psychedelic scenario, and on its final seconds, her brilliant hippy political view.
Born January 2, 1951, in the city of Chuncheon, the youngest in a family of 5 sisters, Kim Choo-Ja (김추자) is considered the first sex symbol of Korean pop music. Despite being an unknown worldwide, she’s one of the most influential artist’s from the Republic of Korea. Born with a lascivious curvy body, something unusual for an Asian, she was not afraid to show off in her dances, performances, clothes and record covers, wearing tight jeans or mini skirts, tops with cleavage-boosting and tall boots, a real foxy! During her career, Choo-Ja passed through a lot of personas and attitudes, that not only reflected on her appearance but also on her sound and sexuality, like the early beat-girlie, the stoned-rock-hippy, and ultimate ferocious diva!
Even didn’t write her songs, as an interpreter, she was much helped by Shin Joong Hyun, the godfather of K-Rock, through her career, especially in her first steps. They met each other in 1969 after she had won the first prize in a festival of Arts at the University of Dongguk, where she graduated in Theatre and Cinema.
In October’s same year, debuts her first album: Before Its Late (늦기 전에), produced by Shin and accompanied by the band The Donkeys, the record reached great commercial success, introducing a new face in Korean pop music. Based on the psychedelic combo bass-drums-guitars-keyboards they Americanize traditional folk/trot music, until then, sung only in a high pitch by singers that looked like plasticized mannequins with their stern-tacky Hanboks.
With more than 30 (!) albums released between 1969 to 1975, Kim Choo-Ja completely dominated the70’s and has established herself as one of the greatest singers of an era. She had problems with the censors for her hit ‘It’s a Lie’, which was banned by the military dictatorship, on the allegation that it instigates distrust. The military government, ruled by the infamous Park Chung-hee, also suspected her dance moves to be a hand signal for North Korean spies. (?!)
There was a period of blacklists and stronger repression, motivated by Shin’s charge and arrest for marijuana possession, in December 75. During those years she was out of the charts, but it won’t last much, her big comeback took place in the series of shows Recital 78, released on 1980, the album brings her greatest hits on some different live arrangements, but it’s probably the cover, its most iconic and extravagant leap, an incredible Korean Power Booty!!
For a society that has lived under a dictatorship for decades, Choo-Ja suffered constant boycotts from the government until its fall in 1988.
With the ’80s, she launches more than 15 (!) discs from live shows (mostly) and romantic collections; due to their children, a remarriage and family reasons, she retires from the market in 1988. But the legacy of Choo-Ja can be seen, in parts, with all those never-ending pretty dolls who littered the Korean pop music scene today.
Let’s go to our record:
Today’s album is actually a Mixtape, organized by myself, traversing many records, trying to go through all periods from our Korean Bombshell!
It’s a pop-psychedelic beginning, the encounter with the Soul and its variations, the Latin accent, their romantic-modern versions of Trots and even a medley from the aforementioned ‘Recital 78’, with several successes, such as ‘Sgt. Kim’, ‘Regret’, ‘Rumour’, and even a version from ‘Ani Holem al Naomi’, single that sold more than 1 million copies in 70s Japan, from the Israeli duo Hedva and David!
We would be unfair to Choo-Ja if we just label her as an exclusively psych-folk singer, such as Kim Jung Mi (김정미) was. What we see here are Big Bands and their orchestrations, Brass Funk-Soul, Psych, Rock, Trots, Ballads and a familiar Korean tendency to put a few spoons of sugar into the romanticism: ‘Nangman’ (낭만)!
Unfortunately, the translation and reading in Hangul are extremely difficult, the content of the lyrics is still an incognita, as well some of the albums where the songs came out. A large number of compilations, pirate and collaboration albums, contribute to make this a HARD work, but in almost all themes the year is indicated on the mp3 file.
The ‘IM’highlights today are for: ‘No’ (아니) a megaton groove, with breakbeats, brass, and an outstanding guitar swing! This is a really infectious soul that could be covered by any funk masters, such as Earth, Wind and Fire, Tower of Power or even the pope James Brown! The other one is ‘Rain’ (비), one of the few that I couldn’t retrieve any info, what a pity! I’ve got a sentimental keen on that, a standard ballad, with Big Band accompaniment and a blue finale, an instant CLASSIC!
Lastly, don’t forget to check our special gallery selection, with some personal and rare photos. Phew! Perjalanan Yang Baik!