Top Ten 2008

(In No Particular Order)

By Joel Okida

PERFORMANCES:

1. McCabe's 50th Anniversary Show - Concert@ Royce Hall, UCLA (October 2) [www.mccabes.com]

A great sampling of the performers who have graced the stage at the homey westside music institution.  As well organized as one could hope for with rapid and efficient set changes. Jackson Browne, Odetta, Dan Hicks, etc.,.... and Richard Thompson in the house band.  Wow!

2. Monsters of Shamisen - Concert @ The Coffee Gallery Backstage (December 4) [www.nittaoyako.com/monster/top.html]

Three guys taking the three-stringed Japanese instrument into new territory. Exotic, eccentric, eclectic and electrifying!

3. Los Angeles Accordion Festival - Concert @ Fraternal Order of Eagles, Eagle Rock (May 30-June 1) [myspace.com/losangelesaccordionfest]

Grassroots production presents the first ever local showcase for the oft-maligned instrument. Quirky, uneven, but heroic effort with the promise of more in the new year.

4. Jimmy Carl Black Memorial Concert - Concert @ Thousand Trails Campgrounds, Acton (December 7)

This tribute to the late drummer for the Mothers of Invention was remote geographically, but offered up some real paragons that hit close to home. One set with former Mothers, Don Preston, Bunk Gardner, and Ener Bladezipper, with the addition of local drummer extraordinaire, Joe Berardi, and guitarist, Rusty Anderson, may not have been totally a Mother's tribute, but approached the essence of that sound and then some. Were the Mothers of Invention folk music? Well, they took the traditional, bonged in some jazz, shook in a little blues and then threw it all away and came up with something you could folk dance to...if you dance like a sheet metal piZata in an electrical storm. It's complicated.

5. Cheb I Sabbah and 1002 Nights - Concert @ The Getty (July 12) [chebisabbah.com]

The soulful Algerian mixmaster was joined by Pakistani vocalist, Riffat Sultana.  Earthy electronica, looping African, Asian and Arabic music and fusing traditional, classical, secular and spiritual with a beat track and transcendent singing from Sultana which could bridge the gap between India and Pakistan, if they would only listen. Check Sabbah's Devotion CD (Six Degrees) for the spiritual side. For another strain of Persian cum Indian exotica made elastic, investigate Niyaz and Nine Heavens (Six Degrees)

6. So. California Ukulele Showcase 2 - Concert outside of the Japanese American National Museum (July 10) [myspace.com/socalukeshowcase]

The cute little stringed instrument gets to perform center stage at this growing showcase and flex its musical muscles beyond the prevailing image of its limitations.  Among the purveyors: Paula Fuga, Brittni Paiva, The Moonlighters and MC Ali Lexa (KPFK), a superb uke player himself.

RECORDINGS:

7. Chicha Libre - Sonido Amazonico! (Barbes Records) [barbesrecords.com/chicha.html]

Peruvian cumbia dredged up thru a river of Amazonian funk, by way of Brooklyn, NY.

8. Chiwoniso - Rebel Woman (Cumbancha) [www.cumbancha.com/chiwoniso]

Chiwoniso Maraire comes back after 8 years off with a recording which leans away from her last recording by emphasizing more of the Afro than the pop. An accomplished mbira (thumb piano) as well as a vocalist, the Zimbabwean born in the U.S., returns in good form.

9. Bernie Pearl - Old School Blues, Acoustic/Electric (Bee Bump Music) [www.berniepearl.com]

Blues straight, no chaser. Ya wanna feel it, listen to side 1; ya wanna move it, side 2.

10. I See Hawks in L.A. - Hallowed Ground (Big Book Records) [www.iseehawks.com]

Intelligent country music that can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

Lagniappe. Michael Doucet- From Now On (Smithsonian Folkways)

Up for a Grammy in the category of Best Zydeco or Cajun Album this year, the reigning king of Cajun fiddle swings out in many directions, displaying his very versatile chops.


Joel Okida is a struggling artist, struggling writer, and struggling musician. It occurs to him that life is all about the struggle. Fortunately, he did not take up acting. However, he's not half-bad as a zydeco dancer and the ability to make a mean gumbo and lovely walnut tortes has gotten him by.