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Africa Mokili Mobimba: Tabu Ley Rochereau Classic

africa_dancesOne of the great musical loves of my life is African music. I was introduced to this vibrant and endlessly inventive musical tradition by my then roomate, Michael Furmanovsky, who now teaches at a Japanese university. He turned me on to C.C. Smith’s brilliant and late-lamented KCRW FM show, The African Beat. C.C.’s opening song was always the Tabu Ley classic, Africa Molkili Mobimba (Listen to it Here). C.C. has just e mailed me a correction, saying the song was actually recorded by Kabasele’s Orchestre African Jazz, for which Tabu sang. Its rollicking and hypnotic rhythm and beautiful harmonic refrain, “Africa,” seemed to represent the life-affirming qualities of Africa itself.

If you want to hear a classic and try to gauge what brought me to see Tabu Ley and all of African music as an artistic revelation, take a listen to Africa Mokili Mobibmba. The Tabu Ley recording appeared on the seminal John Storm Roberts compilation, Africa Dances on his Original Music label.

Africa Worldwide--Buy it from iTunes

After much web chasing, I discovered that the record is (great tragedy!) no longer available for purchase, though some folks do have it in their collection (one generous RootsWorld devotee burned me a copy a few years ago and I’m enternally indebted to him). Tabu Ley has added the song to his 1994 release, Africa Worldwide, and you can purchase the song or the record at either iTUnes or Real Rhapsody.

C.C. no longer does a regular radio show in L.A. (alas!) but she does sub on a few local African music shows. She is editor and publisher of an African music magazine, The Beat. Somehow, I don’t feel the vividness from it that I felt when I listened to her spin sides on the radio. But it’ll have to do until there’s another radio show from her.

WARNING: This mp3 blog exists to spread the wonder and genius that is traditional music. It does NOT exist to enhance your private mp3 collection. So by all means come, listen, enjoy, then follow the links to buy the music. If you come, listen, download, then leave—you’re violating the spirit behind this blog and doing nothing to support the artists featured here. And if you link to my mp3 file at your own site, then you’re stealing my bandwidth and being pretty uncool. So please don’t do it.

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • E. C., Former Original Music employee December 16, 2004, 11:43 AM

    You’re violating copyright law by posting clips from Original Music recordings — especially since they are no longer available. (The company went out of business in 1997.) I appreciate your love for the music on these recordings, but what you (and some other MP3 bloggers) are doing with it is another thing entirely.

    In addition, you’re violating other copyrights as well; Afrodisia Records being one, and the Hugh Tracey estate bing another. Much of Original’s output was licensed from these sources, and the Tracey recordings are being reissued by Sharp Nine. (Check Amazon for recordings and http://www.calabashmusic.com for some LEGALLY licensed Tracey collection downloads.)

  • Richard Silverstein December 16, 2004, 1:52 PM

    Thanks for raising these important, albeit complex issues. I want you to know that I have not undertaken my world music blog blithely with the sole intent of violating people’s copyright rights. I hope you will read my “About Me” page where I have a long explanation of my thoughts about creating this blog & the copyright issues involved.

    I have nothing but respect and admiration for the musicians who created this music & the record companies like Original Music which released & copyrighted the material. I hope you’ll note that wherever possible I create links to legitimate etailers who sell the music I feature here. I encourage viewers every chance I get to buy it legitimately. Some do because I can track those who purchase items from my site.

    I did not create such a link for the Original Music release because, as you noted, it’s no longer available (a great tragedy, I think). I do link to Calabash music (as you suggested I do) several times in various posts here. I do legally own all the CDs whose music I upload here (except for the Original Music recording which I did not learn about until after it passed out of public circulation).

    You seem to be among those who believe that by uploading such music, people like me are ‘cheating’ the musicians who created it. I take a different view…that is, that those who hear this music at my site, especially if they’re unfamiliar with it, may become devotees of it as I did in the 1970s when I first heard C.C. Smith’s “African Beat” on KCRW-FM. Then, they will buy much of this music themselves. If you balance the fact that they’re heard a single song here that doesn’t pass formal legal copyright muster against all the music that these folks could buy in their lifetimes if they like what they hear here–I feel this is a bargain worth making (though you clearly don’t).

    I’ve been able to find exactly three bloggers who maintain world music bloggers. So there aren’t a lot of us out there trying to proselytize the music.

    Another factor I’d like you to take into consideration is that there are now thousands, if not tens of thousands of mp3 blogs all doing more or less what I’m doing. While that certainly doesn’t make what they’re doing legal, I think it indicates a societal trend that will only expand in time. Many record comapnies & musicians (Bela Fleck and the Grateful Dead, for example) have embraced these blogs as an extension of their marketing programs. They see these blogs in the same way the blog owners do–as a means to spread the word about the music and introduce newbies into the fold.

    I note in my site that requests from any legitimate copyright holder to remove material from my site will be honored immediately (though with a heavy heart). If John Storm Roberts (if he’s still alive) were to ask me to remove this song, I would do so. But I hope he might see the usefulness of what I’m doing and not want to shut off access to this seminal song & recording, Africa Mokili.

    I also don’t want you to think that I haven’t grappled with issues of music filesharing & copyright. I have written many posts here about this subject. I hope you’ll review that before you decide that I’m doing a bad thing here.

    I don’t fault you for wanting to maintain your anonymity here. That’s your prerogative. Other commenters here have done so. But you don’t have anything to be concerned about in terms of feeling you need to guard your ID. I respect your point of view. But I do feel more comfortable debating with folks who are willing to make themselves known.

    Finally, I’m not in this for the money. I’ve earned precisely $15 in Amazon.com commissions since I started featuring links here to recordings and books. I’m in it for the love of the music.

  • Former Original Music employee December 16, 2004, 3:56 PM

    Yes, John Storm Roberts is very much alive…

    And Sharp Wood is the label that’s reissuing large portions of the Hugh Tracey catalogue. (My mistake – Sharp Nine is a jazz label!)

    If you don’t have a legal agreement with labels and artists to post MP3s, you are indeed violating copyright laws, and depriving artists of royalites. Your ownership of the recordings in question is irrelevant – if you did a streaming MP3/RA show, that would be different. Every time someone downloads an illegally posted MP3, they’re depriving the ARTIST of much-needed revenue, which can literally make the difference between being able to keep a title in print (and/or keep recording) or not.

    Yes, lots of people have illegal MP3 blogs. Saying you’re part of the crowd doesn’t wash — everyone who’s doing this illegally is stiffing the artists, and that’s just plain wrong. (BTW, I’m a musicians myself.)

    As for Calabash’s “limited” selection, you avoided the fact that they are a FAIR TRADE site – i.e., artists get paid and everything is done legally. It costs a lot of money – and takes a great deal of time – to work on projects like this, and Brad Powell (owner) is one person, working alone. I have no association with him, but really admire his philosophy and his accomplishments.

    I also have a music blog, but there are no MP3s there, nor will you ever find any, for the reasons stated above.

    As I said previously, I share your passion for good music (from anywhere). But I’d far rather see you simply writing about it – or posting legal files – than doing what you’re doing.

    All the best,
    E.C.

  • Richard Silverstein December 17, 2004, 1:49 AM

    E.C.: Sorry, but we have completely different perspectives here & we’re never going to bridge them.

    A few comments on what you wrote: to merely write about the music w/o actually providing a way to listen to it–well, that’s sort of like saying you’re going to broadcast “Citizen Kane” on radio. Sure, you’ll get something from the experience, but what is it w/o the pictures??

    Copyright ‘absolutists’ like you & many others who’ve criticized me regarding my views may have a legally “correct” view of the law in this case (btw, no case that I know of regarding mp3 blogs has ever been adjudicated so we can’t really say yet that you are legally “correct”), but you’re totally divorcing yourself from the reality out there in the world. People are doing these things you consider horrible by the millions. Do you sit there & gripe about it or do you figure out a way that musicians can make money from the new means of distribution? Bela Fleck & countless other musicians are adapting to new digital technology. They’re not threatened by downloading. In fact, they encourage their fans to do it. What’s good enough for Bela is good enough for me.

    Are you aware that nearly half of 2,000 musicians surveyed by the Pew Internet Project said they thought music filesharing should be legal? And well over a majority of these same musicians believe that filesharing will not pose a serious threat to their livelihood. I don’t for a minute doubt the sincerity or strength of you convictions. But I do hope you will stop for a moment to consider that so many of your fellow artists hold views different than yours on this subject.

    Since you’re a musician and a former record company staff member why don’t you encourage those in the industry you know to figure out a way that bloggers could license copyrighted material for use in an mp3 blog. I’d be happy to pay a small, but not insignificant sum for every upload I placed on my site. Do musicians or record labels have such arrangements? Beats me, but I seriously doubt it. I say, if you want us bloggers to be “legal,” give us an inexpensive & easy way to be legal & we’ll embrace it.

    But if you lecture us about legal rhetoric & wag your fingers at how bad we are, that’s not exactly going to win hearts or minds out here where I live.

    And why, for heavens name, didn’t you provide a link to your music blog here?? You’ll actually get people who come to my site to visit yours–unless of course you don’t want viitors or so disdain me & my blog that you don’t wish to gain any advantage for yourself from anything I do here.

  • Former Original Music employee December 17, 2004, 9:32 AM

    Plesse see this discussion in Allaboutjazz.com:

    You seem not to have contacted any of the musicians whose work you postt, and are avoiding any discussion of “fair trade” altogether. I rest my cae.

  • Richard Silverstein December 17, 2004, 11:25 AM

    That’s not fair, E.C. You ignore all the arguments I advance and then you dismiss me because I haven’t addressed one point you bring up. If you don’t address any of my arguments, how can you reasonably expect me to do the same? The rules here apply to both sides of the argument & not to me alone.

  • Former Original Music employee December 17, 2004, 11:41 AM

    Frankly, you and all the other illegal MP3 bloggers out there deserve to be busted. You’re stealing from artists, no ifs, ands or buts, which is I why I’m not going to get into some long-winded discussion with you.

    If you were willing to do a *streaming-only* webcast, that would be a totally different matter. You speak of radio, but you aren’t willing to do the internet equivalent of it – you’d rather not go through all the hassle of contacting artists and labels in order to get permission to do LEGAL filesharing. I find this reprehensible, and I suspect the majority of artists out there would, too. There’s a world of difference between artists who make free MP3s available on their websites and what you’re doing.

  • Richard Silverstein December 17, 2004, 12:06 PM

    This is some dialogue. I do most of the intellectual heavy-lifting & you just sniff & say I’m such a bad person I’m not worthy of addressing seriously. And, hey if you think I’m ‘long-winded,’ who asked you to come here & engage me in monologue?? Since you so dislike what I’m doing so, perhaps you should go find more congenial company for yourself.

    You are barely correct in saying that a majority of artists think filesharing should be illegal. But it’s barely a majority & that number keeps decreasing as filesharing becomes more embedded in popular culture. As time goes by, your views will become the miniority and eventually but a still small voice in the debate.

    Your position is to tell me and millions of others who feel like me: “you’re bad, you’re stealing, you should be busted.” Everything’s neat, simple & clear in your universe. Well, in mine there are shades of gray. I’m glad you’ve attained certitude. Most of the rest of us humans aren’t quite there yet.

    Another thing artists & record companies should do is make it easy for people like me to find who they should contact to request such permission and how to reach them. I don’t have lawyers on staff to negotiate permissions. I don’t have staff to make calls & write myriad e mails requesting permissions. But if every record’s printed material included an e mail address for people to contact regarding getting permissions, well then it’d be that much easier to do what you say. As it is, in addition to the serious research I do before writing every mp3 blog post, you’re asked me to double or triple the amount of research time by contacting record companies, negotiating with them and then possibly getting one out of 100 to grant permission.

    In a perfect world in which I did nothing in life more than write my blog, this might be possible. Alas & alack, that’s not so.

  • Former Original Music employee December 17, 2004, 2:59 PM

    “Another thing artists & record companies should do is make it easy for people like me to find who they should contact to request such permission and how to reach them. I don’t have lawyers on staff to negotiate permissions. I don’t have staff to make calls & write myriad e mails requesting permissions. But if every record’s printed material included an e mail address for people to contact regarding getting permissions, well then it’d be that much easier to do what you say. As it is, in addition to the serious research I do before writing every mp3 blog post, you’re asked me to double or triple the amount of research time by contacting record companies, negotiating with them and then possibly getting one out of 100 to grant permission.”

    You have e-mail, and i’m sure you have a telephone. So go to http://www.dirtylinen.com, check their list of record label/artist contact info., and start writing! It’s clear that you haven’t made any effort to contact artists, as I’ve seen nothing to indicate that you’ve gotten anyone’s permission to post files, so your argument is very hollow. And in certain cases, you would have to deal with people’s estates. My guess is that you’d like to dodge that entirely.

    As for a lack of staff…. Brad Powell does what he does on his own. It seems you could, too. Journalists (and I am one) also have to spend a lot of time contacting labels, publicists, etc. — I don’t have a staff, either, I do it on my own (unpaid) time, just as you could, if you were really willing to acknowledge the legalities of your position. But you won’t, so it’s clear that there’s no use trying to communicate with you.

    As is, I’d like to see you poll the artists (and/or estates) of the musicians whose work you have posted to see what they think of wht you have done. I doubt many of them would be terribly appreciative!! Again, a streaming show (which some bloggers do) would be OK. But you avoid addressing this option.

  • Former Original Music employee December 17, 2004, 7:54 PM

    Music, and making music, is a marginal occupation (financially) at very best. Unauthorized copying and illegal filesharing can ultimately make the difference between a musician’s next project and NO project at all, ever. Don’t believe me? Please check out the thread I posted from All About Jazz — a lot of musicians post there. Most of them have very strong feelings about illegal filesharing – understandably so. It directly affects their ability to pay the bills and put food on the table.

    Now, down to brass tacks:

    1. What if your boss suddenly announced, “This week I’m giving your paycheck to someone else.” How would you feel? That he’d stolen the money he owed you in compensation for the time you’d put in, and — quite possibly — what you had made/produced? (As in, with your own hands, sweat and brainpower.)

    2. What would you do if you found out that someone had copied your posts (in any given section of this blog) without your knowledge or consent, reposting them on another site and passing them off as their own work? You, after all, own the copyright on your original work…. It’s theft.

    3. What would you do if someone came in the night, dug up some of your rosebushes, and took them away, withough your knowledge or any kind of compensation? It’s theft, and I”m sure you’d report it to the police as such.

    4. Do you expect to go to live gigs and hear artists without paying a cover charge or the price of a ticket? (Free concerts excluded, of course.) I’m sure your answer would be “no.”

    Here’s a bit of a post from Brad Powell’s site. he just got back from the South Pacific, where he recorded a number of artists. Please think long and hard about the final paragraph – it’s the reality for most musicians around the word, including here in the US and other “first world” countries.

    CD Title: Somai Serenaders ‘Mereula’

    At the end of November we traveled to Fiji to record the South Pacific World Music Festival. Over a period of ten days we lived and worked alongside a Fijian camera crew and all of the artists.

    This recording, of a local Fijian string band, was absolutely the most exciting moment of our time in Savu Savu. The Somai Serenaders were not an official part of the program — they are just part of the prolific local Fijian music scene. Every village has a string band and this group has earned the reputation of being one of the very best.

    Exclusive Fair Trade Music: These musicians will earn 50% of the revenue from the sale of their recordings. This group has never been recorded before. The group members all work as day laborers at a local resort. The minimum wage in Fiji is $1.05/hour. Lead guitarist, Apenisa Waqa, is a mason and carpenter who is currently building his own house — typical local style with corrugated metal walls and roof. Apenisa’s most telling comment was “We didn’t know we were good, we just do this to make the kava taste better”. Want to change their lives? They don’t own the guitars they play on… Imagine if just 500 of you decided to buy ten of their songs this week — that’s more than a year’s salary in Savu Savu.

    I hope this was helpful.

  • Richard Silverstein December 17, 2004, 8:06 PM

    For a person who claims it’s ‘no use trying to communicate’ with me, you sure do try to do precisely that. Or perhaps you’re arguing past me at the few people who might read this thread & trying to convince them of the virtue of your position?

    You say you’re a journalist. That term usually indicates someone writing in return for compensation. I assure you, if I earned any income from my blog (other than the $15 in commissions from Amazon.com I mentioned earlier), I’d be much more willing to invest the time that you & I both know adhering to your high standards would require.

    I have replied to other self-righteous commenters here by saying “if you truly wanted to change my mind, why would you write so dismissively to me.” Usually, those who really wish to influence someone to change their point of view couch their arguments in terms that grant some respect to their opponent.

    You see, E.C. you make a serious misjudgment of me in presuming even in your holier than thou approach to this argument that I’m a pigheaded SOB who simply will not listen to reason. In fact, after a similar ‘discussion’ about use of photos in my site, I decided it would be relatively easy to attribute credit to photographers whose images I use here. The individual who criticized me had the exact same sledgehammer approach you did. But I decided that at least part of his argument was valid & changed my approach (though not nearly to his satisfaction).

    Since you keep taunting me & contending that I never would try to do this, I will try to approach a copyright holder for one of the songs I’ve uploaded to test out what attitudes they might hold toward my using their song. In fact, if John Storm Roberts still maintains copyright for the song featured here, I’d be happy to contact him. I don’t know whether you still maintain contact with him. But if you do & wouldn’t mind telling me how to reach him, I will do that. If not Roberts, I will pick another one of the songs. If that copyright holder asks me to remove the song, I will.

    And please, let’s consider this discussion at an end. I think we’ve all spent a lot of time on it & made our points as well as we could. Since you seem eager & deterined to have the last word here, all I can say is that if you answer here I may or may not retain the comment. It’s time for both of us to move on (at least that’s my opinion).

  • Former Original Music employee December 17, 2004, 8:29 PM

    “You see, E.C. you make a serious misjudgment of me in presuming even in your holier than thou approach to this argument that I’m a pigheaded SOB who simply will not listen to reason. In fact, after a similar ‘discussion’ about use of photos in my site, I decided it would be relatively easy to attribute credit to photographers whose images I use here. The individual who criticized me had the exact same sledgehammer approach you did. But I decided that at least part of his argument was valid & changed my approach (though not nearly to his satisfaction).”

    You SHOULD be compensating photographers. The owner of an image has copyright of that image.

    Am I to assume that you have no income except for the $15.00 you make from this blog?

    Also, please talk to some music journalists — you’ll find that it’s a pretty hand-to-mouth existence. I do if for love, no money, and in most cases I’m paid nothing at all. When i am paid, it’s usually 40.00-50.00 max.

    If you cannot see the sense in what Powell said about people’s houses – and their ability to live a halfway decent life – then you’re a very, very stubborn, prejudiced man. If you put $5.00-10.00 toward downloading some of this group’s songs, you’d be able to make a palpable difference in their lives. Who, exactly, is benefiting from your MP3 posts? Not the artists, that’s for sure. A quick talk with any copyright lawyer worth his/her salt would change your ideas about not violating fair use. Link all you want to legit free samples of music — that’s what i do on my blog; also to archived radio programs, artists’ sites, etc. (I’m glad you do all of this except for posting legally available music samples…)

    You again refuse to answer some questions that should hit home, if you try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, that is. (Or even your own…)What if YOU were a musician yourself, trying to make a living by that means alone? Please, please think about it from this standpoint.

  • Former Original Music employee December 17, 2004, 8:39 PM

    “…I will try to approach a copyright holder for one of the songs I’ve uploaded to test out what attitudes they might hold toward my using their song. In fact, if John Storm Roberts still maintains copyright for the song featured here, I’d be happy to contact him. I don’t know whether you still maintain contact with him. But if you do & wouldn’t mind telling me how to reach him, I will do that. If not Roberts, I will pick another one of the songs. If that copyright holder asks me to remove the song, I will.”

    I can put you in touch with John Storm Roberts, but my guess is that Ken Braun, at Stern’s Music US (the absolute best place for music from anywhere in Africa) could be of more help.

    I also know Kepa Junkera’s booking agent. And people at Piranha and their US distributor, Harmonia Mundi USA. And know people who know the folks at Northside (etc. etc..)

    Another excellent source for you in terms of contacts: http://www.rootsworld.com They would, I’m sure, respond to a query, as would many other publications. (But much of the info you need is available via Dirty Linen’s list of labels…) If you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, please write to me and I’ll do my level best to help you out.

  • Steve Owens December 18, 2004, 10:25 AM

    I’d like to come in here in support of Richard. How is posting a music file on this site harming the artists concerned? In fact, in my opinion, it’s doing the opposite.

    There’s so much music out there competing to be heard that anyone promoting a particular artist the way Richard does is opening up that artist to a public the same way that the TV or the Radio do. OK the traditional broadcast media have to pay copyright, but they are commercial enterprises, this website, apart from commission from Amazon, is not.

    It would be different if Richard was posting an entire CD and encouraging people to copy it all and produce bootlegs, but he isn’t.

    What he is doing though, is promoting the artist – a job that some people get highly paid for!

    Yes, there are issues with organised file swapping and bootlegging of music, and I’d agree that there are times when this can affect an artist’s livelihood, but what Richard is doing is not the same.

    Richard, please keep promoting music this way, it’s helpful, not harmful to the artists. It brings little known music to wider audiences and, in my opinion, is more likely to enrich artists than deprive them of renenue.

  • e.c. January 29, 2005, 10:28 PM

    Just to clarify, I owe Richard an apology for having written while angry… I attacked him, and I was wrong in doing so. Although we have different perspectives on filesharing, there was no need to get into virtual fisticuffs — and I know he cares passionately about music (and many other things).

    I hope you will all accept my apology for having fired away without thinking things through 1st.

  • Richard Silverstein January 29, 2005, 11:33 PM

    Thanks, E.C. for your last comment. Apology accepted. I think you need a yin & yang regarding this issue & both of our perspectives represent legitimate voices in the debate.

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