The ‘world’ genre of music can turn up some real gems sometimes, and that’s what we world music aficionados live for, those acts that define and refine the musical, cultural, and linguistic quirks that we love and live for. Dengue Fever, everybody’s favorite Cambodian band (bassist Senon is not really Cambodian, but don’t tell anyone), is certainly one of the best examples of this. Formed and founded by brothers Ethan and Zac Holtzman from LA and fronted by Ch’hom Nimol, the sweetheart songstress of Khmer Karaoke from Battambang, these guys rock and roll in Khmer and English like no other, with quirks and hooks and feeling to boot. This is modern indie rock inspired by 60’s killer Cambodian pop, tweaked to their own subtle frequencies and timing, and performed with… okay, a fever, yeah, that’s right. They’ll be at El Rey this Saturday, not to be missed.
Rupa and the April fishes is another example of the quirkiness that we love in world music (I’ll just say WoMu for short, OK? We do offer CD’s). They showed up for a noontime Grand Performance gig at Cal Plaza on Friday in some significant summertime LA heat, no problem for an Angeleno but maybe problematic for a fog-bound Franciscan. If so, it didn’t show; they were great. Look out, Manu Chao. You may have some female competition. Of Indian descent, San Fran birth, and world-wide travel and residence, Rupa sings mostly in French, with some Spanish and English, and rumors of Hindi and Roma. Nevertheless, regardless of the language, the musical idiom is French, complete with abrupt tempo changes and extended leads by accordion and cello. As Manu Chao himself proved long ago there’s healthy demand for someone who can tame that farcical romantic but sometimes overwrought French ballad genre and channel it into some healthy digestible pop and roll. Rupa succeeds. I only hope she doesn’t jeopardize it by casting herself too strongly as a reborn ‘hippie chick’ singer, performing barefoot, looking for berries to pick, and hanging with repatriated mojados in TJ. All that’s fine and good, of course, but once typecast, it can be hard to change.
This past week may have been a little less exciting than some previous ones for me, but that’s partly because I’d already seen some of the acts, such as Baka Beyond at Skirball and Quetzal at Levitt Pavilion in
But this is a music blog, not a dance blog, so that’s what I’ll talk about. As always there’s so much good salsa here that you start looking for added flavor. Chipotle? Cilantro? Corn and beans? This week I went and heard Pete Escovedo at
Last but not least I managed to catch part of the Rogelio Mitchell show at LACMA Saturday. Since I wasn’t familiar with him, so didn’t expect much, I was pleasantly surprised. I even made some smart-ass remark about never having heard of reggae en Espanol, so now I have not only heard of it, I’ve heard it. Still most of his songs are in English, though there was a notable Hispanic contingent in the audience in addition to the Rastafarios and Homies. Sparsely backed by a minimal rhythm section and occasional violin, Rogelio mostly evoked Richie Havens and Bob Marley in his songs of love and peace and forgiveness. He even had an itinerant rapper for creative effect. I even like rap better now since I heard it referred to as ‘talking blues.’ Maybe there’s hope for me yet in the world of hip-hop.
This week, in addition to Dengue Fever at El Rey on Saturday, there’s Del Castillo, ELAN, and Sambaguru at Levitt Pasadena and Celtic Spring and Rolando Morales at Levitt McArthur. The there’s Otmaro Ruiz and Bobby Matos at LACMA. The only problem with world music in LA in the summer is making decisions.