03 May 2023
Sounds of the shellac!
With a full public launch of the new BL Sounds website just around the corner, EAP would like to highlight this month’s blog relating to two sound projects that have been catalogued, and share some phonograph record treasures and images of singers and musicians from South America and Azerbaijan.
If you are a collector of all things vinyl you may have one or two of these squeezed between the sleeves. Affectionately known as 78’s, these two collections of shellac discs have been transferred to digital for research, inspiration and enjoyment. Although the quality of a few recordings is quite weak every piece of audio has one or more stories to tell.
Valparaíso’s musical heritage (EAP359)
The Valparaíso’s musical heritage collection holds shellacs dating from 1910 to 1959 and primarily contains folk songs and folk music dances, like the renowned foxtrot, waltz and tango to, possibly, the less popularised dances of Western Europe; cuecas and corridos. The cueca is known to Chileans as their national dance because of its cultural, social, and historical relevance – it’s one of the most popular music genres in Chile. However, under General Pinochet it went from a sign of freedom and fun to a sign of oppression and force. But since Chile’s return to democracy 44 years ago, la cueca has lost much of the stigma that it had during the dictatorship. The themes on cueca songs are very diverse, but all are incredibly poetic. The lyrics are usually romantic, and often related to the hardships of the poorest in big cities. Other audio treasures include the tonada – a folk music style of Spain, boleros, and Mexican corridos, which is a form of musical folk ballad that has been a typical expression of Mexican life. They are a way of documenting the experiences of people who often have no other voice. Whereas the bolero, the dance and music is centred on themes of romantic love.
These discs were produced by various record labels, which, at the time, were the top of their game; Victor (incl. RCA Victor), Columbia, Odeon Records and Decca, to name but a few.
With a multitude of dynamic singers and musicians from this collection, I would like to highlight an artist that is one of the earliest female folklore names of the 20th century before the appearance of referential artists in history. Singer-songwriter Derlinda Araya was one of the first to record Chilean folklore. In the 1930s she began a successful career as a radio singer and since 1935 she recorded several albums. Her voice and the panache of her interpretation is very present. Eloquent, emotionally expressive and inspirational, which precisely earned her that popularity, embodied in dozens of records. Here's a recording of Derlinda accompanied with her guitar, singing 'Mi cantar'.
I would like to draw your attention to a rendition of ‘Night and Day’ written by American composer and lyricist, Cole Porter. This has been covered by many an artist over the years. Here, Noche y Día is performed by Chilean vocalist Humberto Lozán and accompanied by the Jackie Kohan Orchestra. It’s always a pleasant surprise when you find a song you’re fond of that is sung in another language, as you can pick up the words to it and their correct pronunciation.
Pages of Azerbaijan (EAP124)
What first struck me about this collection was the intriguing design of the record labels. The visual imagery of most discs have survived, with just a handful that have been vulnerable to fading and deterioration over the decades. The creation of the artwork is aesthetically pleasing – pretty and effective. No doubt some labels played a relevant role in the distribution sales of the discs. As the EAP cataloguer, when the labels were missing, it proved difficult to identify exactly who the artists were and when the music was recorded.
The other interesting find I had while cataloguing this project, were the images of the musicians and singers, such as this Azerbaijani folk singer below:
You can see the intricacy and craftsmanship of not only the instrument but the garments he is wearing. Immaculate!
However, what captured my imagination was listening to and discovering a variety of instruments. Each recording gave me a thought process and insight into the ideas and imaginations of the instrument makers. For example; the kamancheh, which appears to combine systems of a violin and a cello, as it is bowed with the right hand in a palm-up position and held vertically with an endpin rod (or spike). Here you can hear the kamancheh, with the accompaniment of a tar, and singer and daf (drum) musician, Islam Abdullayev.
We hope that on reading this blog post you will be inspired to delve into a selection of EAP sound projects from around the world.
Remember, you will be able to access these on the new BL Sounds website. It is an exciting time to try out the new Universal Player. Have fun!