The Last Holiday: A Memoir

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, February 5, 2012 02:18pm | Post a Comment
If you are looking for a tell-all autobiography about the tumultuous life of Gil Scott-Heron, chances are you are going to be disappointed by The Last Holiday: A Memoir. What Gil Scott-Heron gave us were selected memories, the ones that resonated in his mind before his death. He is a man full of inspiration and controversy, but chose to reflect on his accomplishments and share the memories of people who most inspired him most.

The autobiography jumps around in the beginning, from his tour stories from his 1980 tour with Stevie Wonder to his upbringing with his grandmother in Tennessee. Gil writes eloquently about being raised in the south and being one of the first black students to integrate into an all-white school public school. After his grandmother’s passing, he moves with his mother to New York, in which his mixture of book smarts and street smarts ends up going to a private high school mostly reserved for students of privlege. From there it covers his college days, in which he takes a leave of absence to finish his first novel, The Vulture. From there, he returns to school and starts on a path as the musician the most people know him as.

Gil never dwells too much on his accomplishments. For instance, Gil spends more time writing about his appreciation how other artists covered his songs off his excellent album, Pieces Of A Man than he does about writing the songs himself. Much praise in the book was given to the people that he felt helped him along the way, such as his family, instructors, musicians as well as guys such as Bob Thiele and Clive Davis, who both released his albums and helped make him the icon that he became.

The most praise and perhaps could have been a book on its own, was Gil’s stories about tour with Stevie Wonder in 1980. The significance of that tour was that Stevie Wonder used the tour to help spearhead the campaign to make Martin Luther King Jr. day a national holiday, with a show at the Washington Monument, the very spot were King gave his infamous, “I Have A Dream” speech. Gil admiration for Stevie, who though blind, was keen in every other sense. He was a person who could say exactly what was needed to be said and do what was needed to accomplish his goal of a Martin Luther King Day, an accomplishment that was achieved during one of the most conservative governments in U.S. history. It is also noteworthy to add that Gil was supposed to do a few selected dates on the tour, as Bob Marley was the opening act. But as it was, Bob was diagnosed with cancer and had to cancel the tour.

Once again there are many holes if you are looking for the true memoir of Gil Scott-Heron. There is nothing on his criticism of rap music, his drug addictions, legal issues, the fact that he was HIV positive or his time in prison. There is also the fact that his main musical collaborator for several albums, Brian Jackson, gets less coverage than Gil’s favorite road manager, a man known as "Keg Leg". I’m sure as time goes on there will be more Gil Scott-Heron biographies that will tell the whole story. The Last Holiday: A Memoir is just that, memories of events and opportunities that turned his life around. A tribute to those he had fond memories of.

The Last Holiday: A Memoir  is available at Amoeba Hollywood's new expanded book section or at IMIX Books, located inside Mi Vida Boutique in Highland Park.

Tu Cárcel: A Tale Of Working Men, Los Bukis and Lila Downs

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, January 29, 2012 11:59pm | Post a Comment

My guiltiest pleasure in Latin music has to be the songs written by Marco Antonio Solis during the years he was fronting Los Bukis. There is not a time when a Bukis song comes blasting out of a car or jukebox in a Mexican restaurant/bar where I don’t smile inside. Solis was the master of the balada, or ballads. Although Los Bukis music will forever be dated by their matching suits and that stock 80’s Latin Pop sound, the core of his songs were brilliant.

I didn’t always feel that way. One of my first jobs out of high school in the late 80's was working at a warehouse that custom cut various pieces of foam for Aerospace companies. It was there I discovered a few things. The first thing I discovered is that manual labor sucks. The pay was bad and so were the early work hours for someone who was in the mist of his partying years. The upside is that I had no stress. I lived cheaply and the hours of mindless repetition of cutting and rolling foam around a tube left my mind free to be creative. I wrote songs and stories frequently in my head, sometimes writing my ideas quickly on any scratch piece of paper during my fifteen-minute break.

I discovered that this foam we had called Temper-Foam, was great to sleep on. It was used for the Space Shuttle for shock absorption. We used it to nap on during our half an hour lunch break. I would immediately knock out once I laid down on it. If I had a late gig the night before I wouldn’t have time to sleep. I’d go straight to work and that 30- minute nap made me feel like I slept all night. We now know it as Tempur-Pedic, the company that makes expensive beds and pillows.

Another thing I liked were my co-workers. All of them were great guys coming from all parts of Mexico, South and Central America. There was Marco, who had his first child when I first started, then proceeded to knock up his wife every year after that. By the time I left the job he had five kids. Naturally, he always looked tired but took care of me like a little brother. He made sure I was always fed, which was something I couldn’t seem to do for myself being so young and stupid at the time. There was his brother-in-law, Beto, who was training to be a radio announcer. He eventually got a job in Texas as a radio host for a Regional Mexican station. There were the guys my age, Arturo and a kid we called “El Morro” Then there was Segundo (Yes, that was his real name) from Argentina who ironically was the laziest worker at the job. The Mexicans got a kick out of that because it validated all their preconceived notions about Argentineans. There was Oscar from El Salvador, escaping the war torn country in the mist of the revolution. He was one of the toughest guys I knew. He had to be to escape the war. Then there was my personal favorite. We called him "El Bombero" (The Fireman) because he was a certified fireman in Tijuana. He kept his certificate in his wallet. He resembled Super Mario, with the mustache and the overalls. I’d imagine him as Super Mario trying to fight a fire in TJ, climbing the video game ladders with a pixilated water hose while jumping over the flaming rolling barrels.

All day was the usually workingman’s banter. We would make fun of each other. We make fun of each other’s country or small town if someone was from the same region. We questioned each other’s sexuality, we brag about crap we did or didn’t do. It male- bonding that only one could understand if you worked in sweat shop conditions. It didn’t matter if you were an intellectual and above it. It didn’t matter if you went to school and well read. It didn’t matter if you treated your wife, girlfriend and kids with the utmost respect once you got home. You talked a lot of crap all day just to get through the day.

Musically I was in my extreme phase. It had to be gangster rap, hardcore punk, free jazz or noise bands or I didn’t like it. My co-workers couldn’t have been more different. We listened to KLOVE on the radio all day. KLOVE is Los Angeles biggest Latin Pop station then and still to this day. To be subjected to KLOVE “Radio Romantica” for eight hours a day was a shock to my system. The endless baladas by likes of Luis Miguel, Ana Gabriel, Ricardo Montaner, Juan Gabriel and other pop sensations used to make me physically ill, I kid you not. What’s worse is that KLOVE usually repeats every song once every couple of hours. I would hear the same saccharine romantic ballads at least four or five times a day. Anytime I grumbled my co-workers would laugh at me and say, “What’s wrong, you’re not a romantic?

While listening to the same play lists multiple times a day, I started to know all the lyrics. When Los Bukis would come on the radio, my jokes on how such macho guys could love such pansy music subsided. That Marco Antonio Solis, he sure could write a song. Yes, Los Bukis music was filled with bad fluffy synth sounds that made them sound like a slightly tropical version of Air Supply with those awful 80’s Linn drum rolls. But to me, hearing a Los Bukis song on the radio were like a breathe of fresh air while working in a sewer. It all smelled of sewer but for three minutes and thirty seconds you could swear you smelled the forest.

So why did I take you on a trip down my memory lane? While checking out the new Lila Downs CD, Pecados Y Milagros, out on 1/31, I noticed she covered one of my favorite Los Bukis songs, “Tu Cárcel”. although there are many versions “Tu Cárcel”  covered by such artists as Los Enanitos Verdes, Marisela and Tito Nieves, none are as stripped down as Lila Downs version. It’s acoustic guitar, bass, slight horns, harp and her big voice. If you didn’t know the original version, you could swear it was an old ranchera done by the likes of Jose Alfredo Jimenez or Chavela Vargas. It’s a fine treatment of a song that I always liked but was embarrassed to admit that I did. Pecados Y Milagros as a whole is one of Lila’s best work in quite some time. You can compare both versions of “Tu Cárcel” by going here and here.

Taking Discos Inmigrantes on the Road

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, January 15, 2012 11:43pm | Post a Comment
Discos Inmigrantes, my radio show on returns on Tuesday, January 17th at 8PM-10pm PST. My guest this week will be Arshia Haqqani, aka Aruna Irani from Discostan, playing nostalgic LPs from her native India and other worldly treats. As always, Discos Inmigrantes is all analog, all LPs and 7’ singles. To check out the show or to listen to past shows, go to

On Saturday, January 21st, I’ll be taking Discos Inmigrantes on the road. First, with an in-store DJ set at Amoeba San Francisco in celebration of the compilation, Juan Lennon Presents: 213 Cumbia Vol. 1. I’ll be playing tracks off of 213 Cumbia as well as vintage Cumbia. My set will be from 2pm-4pm.

Later that night I'll be at Brick and Mortar at the 213 Cumbia Release party with my L.A. homies Buyepongo and San Francisco’s own Cumbia Tokeson.  Brick and Mortar is located at 1710 Mission St., San Francisco. Show starts at 9 pm

Once I return to Los Angeles, I have two shows. The first is in Boyle Heights for a Radio Sombra fundraiser called Transmission. Myself, along with fellow Radio Sombra DJ’s Reyes (Arts & Grooves) and Libre (Radio Merkado Negro), will be broadcasting live from the M Bar. The M Bar is at 1846 E. 1st Street In Boyle Heights.

Finally, I will be at Craft & Folk Museum for the opening of two new art exhibits. I’ll be playing a two-hour set from 6-8 pm for the opening of Máximo González: Playful and Deconstructing Perestroika…finally, a chance to mix my love of Mexican and Russia music!

The Craft & Folk Museum is located at 5814 Wilshire Boulevard (at Curson) in Los Angeles across the Street from the La Brea Tarpits

Best World Music Releases of 2011, Part 2: The Best of the Rest

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, December 25, 2011 11:18pm | Post a Comment

Best Artwork:
V/A: Brazil Bossa Beat-Bossa Nova & The Story Of Elenco Records

Best World Music Album Title:
Joan Sebastian-Huevos Rancheros

Best Of The World Music Releases That NPR Likes:

Best World Fusion Album:
Ballake Sissoko & Vincent Segal-Chamber Music

Best Retro World Release:
V/A- Chicas: Spanish Female Singers

Best New World Release On LP
Frente Cumbiero- Frente Cumbiero Meets Mad Professor

Best World Music Box Set:
V/A-Opika Pende: Africa At 78 RPM

Best World Music Compilation:
V/A-Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque

Best Of The Many World Psychedelic Compilations We Saw In 2011:
V/A-Psychedelic Pernambuco

Best Retro African Compilation:
V/A-Bambara Mystic Soul (The Raw Sound Of Burkina Faso 1974-1979)

Best New African Compilation:
V/A-Jess & Crabbe Present Bazzerk African Digital Dance

Best Retro African Release:
Na Hawa Doumbia-La Grande Cantatrice Malienne Vol. 3
L'Orchestre Kanaga De Mopti-S/T

Best New African Release:
Seun Kuti-From Africa With Fury

Best Usage Of World Music Without Being A World Music Album:
Quantic- Cumbia En Hip-Hop

Best LP That I Wish I Bought But Now Is Sadly Out Of Print:
V/A-Istanbul 70: Psych, Disco, Folk Edits By Baris K Vol. 1-3

Best World Music Album That I Liked Better After Seeing The Artist Live:
The Echocentrics-Sunshadows

Best New Brazilian Release:
Kassin-Sonhando Devagar

Best Retro Brazilian Release
Lula E Lailson-Satwa

Best Brazilian Compilation:
V/A-Bossa Nova & The Rise Of Brazilian Music In The 60’s

Best Of The Fania Reissues On CD:
Fania All-Stars -Our Latin Thing

Best Of The Fania Reissues On LP-
Tipica 73-S/T

Best Salsa Release Of 2011
Bio Ritmo- La Verdad

Best New Middle Eastern Release:
Omar Souleyman-Haflat Gharbia: The Western Concerts

Best Of The Many Retro Middle Eastern Releases In 2011

Best Of The Many Retro Chicha Releases In 2011
Los Destellos-Constelacion

Best Of The Many Retro Asian Compilations Released in 2011:
V/A-Those Shocking Shaking Days: Indonesian Hard Psyche

Best Of The Many Retro Indian Music Compilations Released In 2011
V/A-Bollywood Bloodbath

Best Retro European Compilation:
V/A-Acid Rumba: Spanish Gypsy Grooves 1969-1976

Best New European Album:
Charlotte Gainsbourg-Stage Whisper

Lifetime Achievement Award:
Enrique Bunbury-Licenciado Cantinas

Best World Music Album That I Raved About Last Year That Got Popular This Year:
Chancha Via Circuito- Rio Arriba

Best World Music Album Of 2011 Sadly Not Available At Amoeba:
Sistema Bomb-Electro Jarocho

Best In-Store Performance By A World Music Artist:
Celso Pina- Sin Fecha De Caducidad

Best World LP Lifesaver When You Didn’t Bring Enough Records To The Club:
V/A-Fania Records: 1964-1980 The Original Sounds Of New York

Best Retro Latin Compilation:
V/A-The Original Sound Of Cumbia

Best International Rap Album:
Los Rakas-Chancletas Y Camisetas

Best New Latin Release:

Best New Latin Music Compilation:
V/A-Juan Lennon Presents: 213 Cumbia Vol. 1

Best World Music Release That Would Make You Travel To A Remote Part Of The World Just To See Them Perform:
Boban Markovic Orkestar Vs.Fanfare Ciocarlia-Balkan Brass Battle

Best World Music Release Of 2011:


Best World Music Releases of 2011, Part 1

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, December 18, 2011 05:39pm | Post a Comment
Bombino-Agadez CD/LP

My first experience with Omara Mochtar (Bombino) was on the Sublime Frequencies release, Music from Niger: Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2, which was recorded live and sounded like something recorded in a juke joint in Mississippi. On Agadez, Bombino recorded in a studio where all the richness of his guitar tone comes through, making this the guitar album that all guitar players should own from 2011. Much like their contemporaries Tinariwen and Group Inerane, this album is heavy on the Toureg blues, with trance-like guitar drones that conjures the sound of many lonely desert nights in Niger. Soulful without effort, Agadez has led Bombino out of the desert and hopefully into your stereo.

Adanowsky- Amador CD/LP

With the rep of being the son of filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Santa Sangre) and being a kid that hung out with members of The Beatles, you would expect Adanowsky to be either the second coming or some spoiled kid with talent and nothing to say. (i.e. Sean Lennon) Well, Adanowsky is neither. Is Amador a psychedelic masterpiece? No. Is Amador some over-indulgent dribble? Far from it.  Amador is a heartbreak record. It’s full of pain and letting the heartbreak of broken relationship take over. From the heartfelt piano ballads to the tequila-fused Rancheras, it all stages of a post break-up. Much like John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band, it’s very minimal in instrumentation and lets emotion carry the songs. In the end, I can’t imagine Adanowsky being single for that long. Amador is too charming of an album to let that happen.

V/A-213 Cumbia CD Only

I was a little skeptical of 213 Cumbia in the beginning. First off, unlike other New School Cumbia compilations that come from one geographical area or another, Los Angeles Cumbia has no one sound. At any given day you can check out Cumbias your uncle and aunts would like. There are Cumbias that are only liked by immigrants. They are Electro and club Cumbias that only hipsters seem to appreciate. To top it off, every local band south or East of Downtown L.A. play at least one Cumbia song in their sets. So rather than focusing on one sub-genre, Lennon added them all and he made it work. Beat makers DJ Lengua and Mexican Dubweiser are along side the kids playing traditional Cumbia such as Buyepongo, Chicano Batman and Bardo Y Su Conjunto.213 Cumbia is filled with old school players and new school fools making their interpretation of what they think Cumbia is, and that is the L.A. way. Los Angeles may have not invented Cumbia, but as 213 Cumbia proves, L.A. always makes it their own.

Bituaya-Electrocaribe CD Only

Hailing from Venezuela, Bituaya is like the guest that is a little late to the party but it’s the one that keeps it going till the wee hours of the morning. Bituaya is another in a long lineage of great Latin music fusion bands, bringing Salsa, Cumbia, Merengue, and Venezuela’s national music Joropo together with heavy dance beats, dub reggae and street Hip-hop. What I like about Bituaya that they are musicians first. When they reinterpret a style of music you know that they can play the original with ease. That cannot be said with the new generation of Latin American beatmakers, whose musical training comes from making beats first. Bituaya could be great at any one style of Latin music but choose to forge their own path, and that’s what I like about them.

Tinariwen-Tassili CD Only

This being Tinariwen’s fifth album, you pretty much know what to expect from them. The Toureg blues, the stories of struggle and revolution and an awesome twin guitar attack. But with each album, Tinariwen brings something new. Collaborations with members of TV On The Radio, Wilco and The Rebirth Brass Band may seem like it may homogenize the group’s sound but the guests doing a great job of blending into Tinariwen’s style. Collaborations aside, my favorite track is the solo track from bandleader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, called, "Tameyawt" recorded out in the Sahara desert with a silence that no studio could replicate.

Quantic-Hip Hop En Cumbia (LP & Out Of Print)

For Quantic, if Hip-Hop is the love of his life, what is Cumbia?  Quantic lives in Colombia and is studying accordion with the Cumbia master Anibal Velaquez. On Hip-Hop En Cumbia, it’s old love and new mistress together at last, and the result is much better than one would think. This is not a club mash-up or a remix album, rather it is Quantic forming a conjunto and covering Hip-Hop classics Cumbia style. Dr Dre, Missy Elliot, Pete Rock, Dilla and even Blondie’s Rapture all get Cumbia treatments. It is as clever as it is danceable. It is a natural progression from all the Cumbia artists that covered the likes of Rod Stewart, The Bee Gees, Michael Jackson and Fela Kuti in the 70’s and 80’s.

Chancha Via CircuitoRio Arriba CD/LP

I got this release almost a year ago at a ZZK Records showcase. I wanted badly to write about it but this is a blog about what you can get at Amoeba, right? In March, the CD/LP release of Rio Arriba became available in the U.S. and I couldn't be happier. Chancha Via Circuito explores the world of South American folklore, blending his hypnotic beats with the revolutionary past of South America. The result could be considered another sub-genre of the digital Cumbia movement…perhaps Digital Nueva Trova?? Nevertheless, it is one of the most beautiful and organic electronic records released in some time.

Omar Souleyman- Haflat Gharbia (The Western Concerts) CD/LP

Haflat Ghabia is a collection of live performances recorded while Omar Souleyman was on tour in 2009. Along with his cohorts Rizan Sa'id on keyboards and electric saz player Ali Shaker, Omar just destroyed the stages across the western world, appealing to new fans and Arabic music fans alike. Omar plays an electrified version of Dabke music, mostly popular in weddings and parties in Syria is and Iraq. At his show over the summer at The Echo, he had the whole crowd going, from hipsters with their ethically ambiguous girlfriends to aging world music types to Syrian nationals. Everyone was dancing their asses off and having a good time. Listening to Haflat Gharbia is a reminder on how awesome that night was.

Los Rakas-Chancletas y Camisetas CD Only

It used to be the Rap En Español used to get points for just being that; Rap in Spanish. There weren't many people doing it and it was a welcome break from all the bad Roc En Español I had to endure over the years. Still, until recently, I would prefer to hear the likes of Freestyle Fellowship, Snoop Dog or Nas over anything that came from Latin America. Over the years as mainstream Rap has gotten worse, Rap En Español has improved. My favorites such as Calle 13, Tego Calderon, Ana Tijuox and Marcelo D2, all come from various countries around Latin America.

Los Rakas are Panamanians via Oakland. You can tell they are just as influenced by East Bay Rap as much as what is going on around Latin America. They are intelligent lyricists; make bangin’ beats and has that swagger that only one can from growing up street.  Chancletas Y Camisetas is the CD that you would play to your Hip-Hop heads to make them come around to liking Rap En Español . It’s the type of album you can imagine bumping in any barrio in New York, L.A., Oakland, San Juan or Colon.

Ballake Sissoko & Vicent Segal-Chamber Music CD Only

The face of World Music has changed in the last ten years. The term “World Fusion” has become somewhat a derogatory musical term, conjuring images of pony-tailed guy wearing sandals, Guatemalan pants and Kufis. I call him “World Fusion Guy” In my mind, World Fusion Guy does yoga, works as a masseuse and gets excited about an artist who can blend Tuvan throat singing with just about anything. Then there is  “Global Pop Guy” (or girl) They are products of the 80’s/late 90’s, former fans of The Police and The Talking Heads who see Global Pop a way to get music from all over the world without getting dirty, having to live in a foreign place or know any actual foreign people. Seriously, unless you live in Berkeley or Santa Monica, can you really get exited about a new Youssou N'Dour album?

What has replaced World Fusion and Global Pop guy is the new school of DJ and remixers making mash-ups and remixes of various World Music styles. Some of it is interesting, as is some World Fusion and Global Pop. But World Remixer Guy is usually not that knowledgeable about the music they are remixing. They’ll change a song that is supposed to be in 3/4 into 4/4 to match their beats. They’ll cut off key lyrics or repeat insignificant lines in a song because they think it, “sounds cool” Much of what World Remix Guy does is because they don’t understand the culture or the language of the music they are remixing. It’s the same trap World Fusion guy and Global Pop Guy fell into. It’s changing ingredients to a recipe before one has ever made the original.

Having said that, what makes Chamber Music work is that both Ballake Sissoko & Vicent Segal are both masters of their instruments on their own. Both have worked in classical and in crossover music. I had no expectations when I first played Chamber Music, other than I hoped it wasn’t another bad World fusion album. It’s a quiet album amongst the hype of the next big World Phenomenon. Both Kora and Cello are complementary instruments. The Kora can sound like a harp or a guitar and the Cello’s richness comes out when played with the bow but also can sound like a percussive instrument when plucked. It is what every World Fusion release promises: the mixing of two cultures to make something new, and it works. Chamber Music is a beautiful album that quickly relaxes the savage beast in all of us. Play this after work, while driving in traffic or shopping in those crowded stores and you might learn to appreciate the chaos that surrounds us.

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