You Should Be Listening Toby Sannie Fox / 20.11.2013
Last month we said we were going to get hold of one of our friends and the people we’ve worked with down the years to pick some of their favourite tracks for you, and explain why they love them so much.
This month, we got one of our good friends, and an amazingly talented musician, Sannie Fox, to sit down and explain why she loves the following 17 tracks so much. We’re so lucky to have got to work with her on new material (it will be coming out shortly). Her music is amazing. Here’s her mix for Mahala.
Fugees – Zealots
90’s hip hop masters, Pras Michel, Wyclef Jean and Lauren Hill make up what is one of the greatest hip hop groups (with accompanying album to prove it) ever to have existed.
The Score: The one and only Grammy award winning album these lyrical magicians put out is flawless from beginning to end. Two of the members are Haitian, Lauren is a formidable rapper as well as composer. The eclectic elements of ballads, 50’s crackle and samples, reggae, bass beats, lay the solid foundations for a truly original sound.
Their genders, backgrounds and personalities combined, as well as impeccable musical timing, higher level rapping and song-writing mixed in with Lauren’s undeniable vocal licks, plus conceptual and intellectual production puts them at the top of the hip hop universe hands down. Word.
Fairuz – Kamat Mariam
This is an Arabic hymn; I first heard it on the sound track to the incredible film, Before Night Falls directed by Julian Schnabel (starring Javier Bardem) in 2000 about the life of the Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas.
The film is a work of art and shot like a dream. Javier was nominated for an Oscar and the accompanying soundtrack is superb. Kamat Mariam is an astoundingly beautiful song, I love the recording and Lord knows I am always a sucker for a bit of choral singing.
Quindon Tarver – Everybody’s Free (to feel good)
Another choral beauty: “Everybody is Free (to feel good)” is a track off the 90’s Baz Lurhman cinematic masterpiece Romeo and Juliet. Texan-born Quindon Tarver’s vocal is breath-taking, he was a jaw dropping 14/15 years old when he recorded this.
I am in a state of semi-coptic levitation when I listen to this song. The combination of the cinematic experience and the music creates an emotional river of big feelings like nostalgia and extreme happiness. Why take drugs when you can just listen to Quindon Tarver.
Gospel singing is a style I am consummately inspired by, it is inherently linked to blues which is another genre I hold close to my audio heart. I love the way gospel and blues singers use the voice, I love the simplicity, the rawness and effortless, artillery-like, hard-hitting of the bull’s-eye notes. Etta James, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin and Screaming Jay Hawkins are all gospel/ blues-style singers I listen to over and over again throughout my life and for whom my love won’t ever change.
James Blake – There’s a Limit to your Love
This is an undeniably hip and forward thinking remix to Feist’s original “Limit to your Love”. James Blake takes Feist’s original composition to other dimensions with his choice to drop an unforeseen bass tone of massive and oceanic, bottomless proportion on the choruses. That, matched with the stripped sound elements, is literally, as the idiom goes, ‘music to one’s ears’.
Too much layering of sound can at times be a drag for me, there’s a supreme power and catharsis in the apparent transparency of less instruments- you know exactly what you are listening to. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everything. The world would be an empty place without its gallant classical symphonies. “Limit to your Love”, displays the concept of audio-simplicity in close perfection. The lyrics are poetic and Blakes vocals are cool as fuck.
Sergei Prokofiev – Dance of the Knights
I think I am familiar with this Russian composition due to my unforgettable childhood memory of watching the animated film, Peter and the Wolf. Prokofiev wrote the music as well as text for this children’s story which was aimed at culturing children musically from a very young age.
Prokofiev is regarded as one of the great composers of the 20th century. What I love about this piece is the apocalyptic size of things and the march which is reminiscent of a heavy guitar riff but more dynamic. I love the danger and aggression of the march; the drums, the horns and the violins as well as the melodies of the lighter parts with flutes and again, the violins.
Linton Kwesi Johnson – Sonny’s Lettah (Anti Sus Poem)
An artist I hold very close to my heart, this man is special on multiple levels. UK based Jamaican poet Linton Kwesi Johnson’s lyrics are conscious, political and intellectual. In a world where one can feel at times deprived of conscious art on a commercial level and where a large portion of commercially released music is a product of the shallow ethics of a dumbed down, materialistic, capitalist world-community I am comforted in knowing there are true/pure artists who still exist.
When at times lyrics tend to serve only as a vehicle for a ‘hook’ on yet another musically challenged plastic pop single, I yearn for a song with an authentic soul. It is power to put words to music, to entirely annihilate this sacred creative marriage in large quantity at frequent capacity is sacrilege. I saw Linton live in SA a few years ago, it was one of the best concerts I have ever been to in my life. Linton plays with the Dub Bovell band, a chunking, grooving, blazing force of Dub power, elevating the award winning poet, his songs and his cool hat to prophet-like status.
Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy
This 90’act is one of my favourite electro-dance projects, mainly because the songs are really fucking good, but also because Massive Attack feature orchestras, singers and musicians in their live shows. The duo consists of Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall, I remember smoking my first joints to Massive Attack as a young teenager.
The duo have a very nostalgic quality for me. Chris Cornell (of Sound Garden) says of released music, “…the fans own the records and listen to them, it becomes the soundtrack to a part of their lives…” and this couldn’t be truer for me with Massive Attack, whose sparse overdriven guitar riffs hit all the right spots, with vocalists to match who are original and undeniably hip.
Take “Unfinished Sympathy” for example, featuring Shara Nelson: Above and beyond the dream-like percussion and ethereal string arrangements her vocals soar over this song in a strange blend of operatic-tinged, arabic and soulful vocal phrasing, its understated, unusual and a great example of an irresistible classic 90’s Brit dance sound.
Mahotella Queens – Kazet
I grew up listening to the Mahotella Queens. This all-woman group was formed in the 60’s by producer Robert Bopape. The grooves are undeniable, the guitaring picks you up and moves you along like a springbokkie out of lion territory early on a sunny morning. The vocal harmonies are reminiscent of an older South Africa, the music is steeped in history and it brings back my childhood. The 80’s synth and snare are semi-dodgy in such a good way.
Rage Against The Machine – Killing In the Name Of
LA rap metal Gods, Rage Against the Machine came to huge success in the early 90’s and are recognised as one of the best rock acts in the world with some of the best rock albums ever to have been crafted.
The band was comprised of Zach de la Rocha (vocals), Tom Morello (guitar), Brad Wilk (drums) and Tim Commerferd (bass). I appreciate the anger and anarchic energy of this music, the riffs and grooves are enough to give you a serious neck injury. What makes it all the more compelling sonically is the placement of Zach de la Rocha at the helm. Mexican Zach is a grandson of a revolutionary, an activist, a leftist and a no bullshit lyricist and rapper. There is an articulated reason for the tone of the music and intellectuality behind the viciousness. He swears a lot too and I fucking dig that.
Led Zeppelin – Dazed and Confused
Led Zeppelin: Epic, immeasurably great and one of the best, possibly the best rock band ever to have landed on planet earth. Where the fuck did these guys come from? I still find myself asking after all these years. London apparently.
This is one of my favourite songs out of a list of many. “Dazed and Confused” in essence is not dissimilar to Profokiev’s “Dance of the Knights” in the sense that it is a piece of music which can be segmented into movements. The song has an outer-worldly apocalyptic and absolutely massive quality.
These four musicians (if you can even call them that) are consummate rock wizards. There is something distinctly medieval to the sound (listen to “Stairway to Heaven”, obviously written when they were touring the Shire). When Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Johns play together they magically and inexplicably combine to make one interconnected organism that is Led Zeppelin and can go at full atomic tilt without losing a micro-inkling of power or conviction.
Is Jimmy holding a guitar or a wand. I am not sure.
Marcus Wyatt – Gone
“Gone” is off Marcus Wyatt’s 2006 album, Language 12. Wyatt has taken his trumpet into the ring with virtually every South African jazz heavy-weight in the country, from Carlo Mombelli to Jimmy Dludlu and Miriam Makeba.
He is an eclectic and contemporary SA Jazz musician who is welcomed at festivals all over Europe, and has had two of his albums nominated for SAMA’s. I have watched him play with Carlo Mombelli and more recently Finely Quay. Both concerts were mind-blowing and unforgettable. I can listen to “Gone” on repeat.
The vocals are sung by the multi-talented force of trumpet, vocal and modern composition that is Siya Makuzeni. Her timbre has me hearing slices of Morcheeba’s Skye Edwards and Ella Fitzgerald combined, though her vocal is totally unique. Watch out for this woman, she’s an audio steam train coming. The production on this track is flawless and cinematic in proportions. You need to buy this album. Be a babe and go to cdbaby.com.
Carlo Mombelli – Soi
Self taught bassist and composer Carlo Mombelli can be found performing or giving workshops across the globe. It is normal for a dude like this to be invited to give a bass master class at Berklee in the US. He has written a book – Mombelli’s Intergalactic Bass Program Volume 1 – (sounds difficult)m and has a doctorate; Carlo is not an underachiever.
It is no surprise that his last album was called Prisoners of Strange, he does at times seem to be a being who has come from another strange planet where musical agility, creation and composition are part of the inherent gene mapping.
Because Carlo’s predominant instrument is bass, he has a naturally tight control and attention to the groove of music, which in his songs can get heavy and aggressive and be entirely accessible at the same time.
I am consciously aware of the his brain behind the music when I listen to the music in the sense that I am fully aware that there is thought and intention behind the compositions; intro’s and songs are at times made up with foley sounds, ie: the sound of snipping and cutting scissors’ in a barber shop, because as he explained, “I like the sound of scissors”. A pioneer of contemporary Jazz and a real gem to this country, the last time I saw him do a concert, when he played the last song he got a standing ovation by the entire audience who were weeping. Definitely catch him at a show and buy one of his albums. Or just buy all of them.
Jimi Hendrix – Voodoo Child
Jimi Hendrix: The one and only. Possibly the greatest guitarist to have ever lived. I realise there are other highly skilled guitarists but there is no guitarist like Jimi. With Jimi Hendrix, playing guitar simply seems part of his being, as though he was born with a guitar in his hands- the ‘God of guitar’, his playing is effortless and organic.
His style is heavily rooted in blues and he was one of the first crusaders of the rock & roll blues sound which hundreds have tried to emulate and which we still hear musicians happily emulating today. Jimi put blues on the map in a modern context. I believe at the time (and still now, though we know it is not possible- because he is a God) everyone wanted to be able to play like Jimi Hendrix.
“Voodoo Child” has got all the right notes, it hits all the core blues, sweet, mean spots in a wild, free and powerful way. This is some mean-ass shit and my only regret is that I wasn’t sitting there at Woodstock when he played this. The opening lyrics are magnificent, ‘and I stand up next to a mountain and I chop it down with the edge of my hand’.
The Dead Weather – I Can’t Hear You
Blues, blues and more blues. This track is a great example of how blues has evolved over time and is still blazing its fires in modern music. I am a fan of Jack White. The Dead Weather are a super band: Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs) on drums, [when he is not singing, playing piano or playing some of the meanest guitar you ever heard in his other projects], Alison Mosshart on vocals (The Kills), Dan Fertita on guitars, keys/ organ (Queens of the Stone Age), Jack Lawrence on bass (The Raconteurs).
The guitar on this track catapults me to a state of grinding nirvana, the groove is sensational, the bass is killer. Alison’s vocals are like sandpaper (in a good way), the drums keep you chunking along on a black dynamite loaded cargo audio train, pump this on my stereo any time.
John Lee Hooker – No Shoes
Mr John Lee Hooker: I have spent my life listening to this artist and his many albums. There is something in the quality of his voice which is honey to my ears. There are dozens of successful blues-men from the 40’s and 50’s and before, (Lead Belly, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, love them all) but Johnny Lee is my favourite. His guitaring is deceivingly simple, true and beautiful. His bands/guests are famous for having to adapt to whatever he feels like playing at the time because he deviates from structure at a whim.
He is renowned for saying, ‘people can play better than me but there ain’t no one who can play like me.’ He is a great writer of boogie-style songs and has countless song structures which hold themselves to one riff through all kinds of dynamic highs and lows and this is one of the things I love about his songs (ie: listen to “This is Hip”, “Boogie Chillen’’, “Tupelo”, “I’m Going Upstairs”). Although I am a bit of a one-riff type of girl-child I have decided to go with one of Johnny Lee’s standard 12 bar Blues songs called “No Shoes”. Let’s dance.
Bob Dylan – A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall
Bob Dylan, one of the most accomplished, talented and influential musical icons of the 20th Century. At 70 he is still gigging and putting out albums today. He wrote “Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall” when he was a mere 21 years old in 1962, which is impressive, the lyrics are legendary and staggeringly powerful. His career spans 5 decades.
What I love about Dylan is his enigmatic quality and most importantly his words. The images he creates in this song are unforgettable and prophetic. I appreciate the combined allure of great poetry and music and this is what Dylan as an artist is able to provide his listeners with.
What comes close to this, is the combination of music and cinema, a combination, which, when matched in the right way has the ability to emotionally move an audience to outer worldly dimensions, which is really what art is supposed to do. Or just make you dance in an outer-worldly way. That’s cool too.
Bob Marley – Sun is Shining
This list simply would not be complete without a track from the reggae king Nesta Robert Marley. I do not like to use the word ‘genius’ at a whim, however when talking about the work of Robert, I feel comfortable using the word – GENIUS. His musical wielding on all facets and levels is flawless.
He is not just a dude with some vocal chops and a joint, he is most distinctly and importantly a highly accomplished song-writer. He could have great vocal chops and a great band but if the songs weren’t as good as they were Bob would not have achieved the dread-lock Jesus-like status he holds and will always hold many years after his passing .
Next to the timeless songs, his voice is like that of a Reggae angel, his melodies are hypnotic and impossible not to enjoy, his stage presence was a gyre of positive vibrations and not to be over-looked, his army of a band with the best back-up harmonies (on the best songs) to date, absolutely seductive and tantalising guitaring and one of the most powerful rhythm sections to enter the smoky ear. Hail Bob the King.