04 September 2006

Monday's mp3: Bumbershoot

It's Labor Day weekend here in the USA, and in this area that means some small recognition of workers; much visiting of friends, family, and the great outdoors; and the massive Seattle arts festival known as Bumbershoot.

There's irony in the festival's name, as the summers here in the northwest are as notoriously dry as the rest of the year is wet. When your humble dj earball trekked to the thronged Seattle Center yesterday for a big dollop of culture, the sun was hot, the music loud, and the people sweaty.

It's KAOS Out There
First stop was at the Northwest Court Lounge, where the Jim Knapp Orchestra was throwing down some big-band jazz under the watchful eye of our friends at KAOS radio. Also present were trees wearing little knitted sweaters. Turns out they were part of a "subversive domestic arts" show -- didn't find out any more, but I'll be keeping an eye out around town for politicized potholders.

Everybody's Got the Fever
Then it was over to the Bumbrella stage for my first live look at the LA-based band Dengue Fever. They're essentially a rock band, but one with a definite twist. Their playlist mashes Cambodian pop with psychadelic rock, resulting in something I can only describe as Cambodian spy-dance music. It's loud, attitudinal, and like nothing you've heard before. Imagine a 60's movie soundtrack by Natacha Atlas and Ethiopiques -- now picture that in Southeast Asia. Check out the audio samples from their second album Escape from Dragon House.

[mp3] Dengue Fever: "Hold My Hips"
from the 2003 debut album Dengue Fever

Cooling Off
For those feeling overheated, there was the giant International Fountain with its dome of squirting nozzles and hundreds of revelers. Or this small fountain, in which kids of all ages waded and splashed.

Gokh-Bi System
After some people-watching and mingling with vendors of unusual products (duct-tape wallets, sock monsters) and buskers (bed-of-nails recliners, a trio of 5-gallon-tub drummers, and statue-mimes), it was time for another show. Back at the Bumbrella stage, the growing throngs were being whipped into a frenzy by the drumming and rapping of Senegal's Gokh-Bi System. Their name means "neighborhood," though it's a long trip across cultures from their Dakar 'hood of Pikine to this mostly-white Seattle crowd. Which proves something about the universality of music. Refreshing for a hip-hop group, Gokh-Bi brings live rhythm in the form of a kit drummer, two percussionists on African drums, and a bass player with ankle-length dreads. They pumped positive vibes into the appreciative crowd. A true moment of cross-cultural bliss. Check out Gokh-Bi System samples/mp3s (here's a sample of "Stand for Hip Hop") or buy their album Mission of Music. Unkh.com has an interview with Gokh-Bi.

Ears full, we headed off for a vegan Asian dinner before contemplating our next musical adventure. Bumbershoot continues today at the Seattle Center.
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