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The Hum by Bob Doran

Sept. 9, 2004
Photo and headline of Ming & FS

THEY'RE CALLING SUNDAY NIGHT'S HSU ASSOCIATED Students show in the Kate Buchanan Room "Humboldt Experimental Music Vol. One," a handle suggesting cutting-edge sounds, but also an indication of the juxtaposition of three very different bands.

Robert Walter's 20th Congress is a jazz-funk-boogaloo outfit originally out of San Diego. In its current incarnation it's a very cool, particularly jazzy trio with Robert Walter on organ, joined by saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum, and Jason Smart from Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey on drums.

San Francisco-based Hamsa Lila on the other hand is an organic trance jam band with Moroccan tendencies, utilizing chants, hand drums, a Turkish saz, and the Gnawa's earthy bass, the sintar, a two-stringed thing made with goat skin. (Hamsa Lila also plays Friday night at the Trinity Tribal Stomp.)

Then there's the very urban hip hop duo known as Ming & FS [photo above], from another side of the country, and seemingly a different musical universe.

I spoke with Ming (aka Aaron Albano) in the group's New York City studio. "I would describe our music as progressive hip hop," he began. "It's hip hop-based, using elements of drum and bass and breakbeats. In the past we've used more dance elements, but on our current record, Back to One, it's more beat oriented. We appeal to people who like Amon Tobin or Thievery Corporation."

The tools of the trade? "For our live shows we do a four turntable set, doing live remixes of our music and other people's music. Then we switch from turntables to playing guitar and bass and we have an MC that comes out, Napoleon Solo, who was on the record, to do a set with guitar, bass and drum machine, then we'll go back to the tables, throw in some beat-boxing and stuff. It's a pretty eclectic show.

"In the studio it starts with a beat: programmed drums with sampled sounds. From there we'll add a bass line or a melody line on programmed keyboards, Rhodes piano or maybe guitar. Some aspects are programmed, some are recorded live -- it's like any type of production nowadays whether it be rock, pop or hip hop."

For some reason the very urban sounds of Back to One come in a package showing a primeval redwood forest. "The concept was back to nature, back to the original one love, back to original man, back to simplicity," explains Ming. "This record is more organic than our others, less angular, not so hard-edged and sharp, with more emphasis on the beat. Drums were the original instrument besides the voice. That's what we were getting at."

The message? "We've been talking a lot of politics on our tours; we're doing "Rock the Vote" and registering people to vote, suggesting that they register Democrat. We try to explain what's going on with the current administration and why we want a change. But the album is more tuned to Napoleon's rhymes, which are typically about keeping it true to the streets and not creating this fake, blinged-out atmosphere, which is more of a Hollywood hip hop creation than a reality."

Arcata's self-described "leftist political hardcore band," Winston Smith, plays Thursday, Sept. 9, at the Redwood Peace and Justice with a couple of other anarcho-punk bands from Eugene, Happy Bastards and Human Certainty. This may come as a surprise, but the local punkers will use the occasion to announce their support for the re-election of President George W. Bush and the formation of the ad-hoc group, Anarchists for Bush.

The band says they have been inspired by Bush's record on prisoner rights. "He has appointed more convicted criminals to presidential administration positions than any president in U.S. history and changed U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts," stated Winston Smith bassist Ryan Emenaker, an ally of the prisoner advocate group Bar None.

Singer Tim Miller commented on the candidate's military record, saying, "President Bush's decision to go AWOL from the military during the Vietnam War was inspirational; as an anarchist that is exactly what I would have done. I fully support the President's decision to protest the government's policy of forcing its young men and women to give their freedoms over to the state along with their right to decide who to hate and/or kill."

The band also feels that four more years of Bush will encourage dissent. "It's better to have war mongering conservative George W. Bush with a country voicing its dissent than having war mongering conservative John Kerry with a pacified public," concluded Emenaker.

Joel Sonenshein of the Humboldt Folklife Society presents the first of what he hopes will be a monthly series of Song Circles on Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Arcata Yoga Center (up above the Outdoor Store on the plaza). Sonenshein explained that the idea grew from similar circles he ran at the Folklife Festival this year and last.

"What I found doing these circles at the folk festival is that there are a lot of people out there who love to sing, but they have no forum in which to do it. That's what we're hoping to provide," he said. "Basically a bunch of people will gather together; I'll have my guitar and others may bring instruments, and people are encouraged to sing their favorite tunes. I can accompany them; they can accompany themselves. They can bring lyrics and pass them around to the group, but the main thing is to just get a lot of voices singing. There are a lot of people out there with amazing voices and a wonderful ability to harmonize. I'm hoping some of them will join us."

While we're talking songs, a fine songwriter from Texas, Matt the Electrician, is headed back this way, playing a show Wednesday, Sept. 15 at Muddy Waters. Once again he has a new batch of songs to share. I caught Matt's show last time he was in town and dug his sense of humor, and the way he weaves words. I wonder if I can convince him to do some electrical work before the show.

For those still in festival mode, the 11th annual Trinity Tribal Stomp takes place this weekend at the Trinity County Fairgrounds, up in Hayfork. The three-day sleep-over music fest begins Friday night with the above mentioned Hamsa Lila and Ancient Future offering world music jams; Saturday's line-up leans toward the psychedelic with the Steve Kimock Band and the Flying Other Brothers plus the ubiquitous Wisdom and hot, hard Native American rockers Blackfire. Sunday it's the David Grisman Quintet plus the David Nelson Band, Clan Dyken and Joanne Rand with her band, Open Heart.

Closer to home, it's the annual I Block Party, Sunday, Sept. 12, near Lob Bagels in between 11th and 12th, on I Street (of course). Proceeds from the street fair benefit the ongoing Arcata/Camoapa Sister City Project with a barbeque, a silent auction, fun for kids, and of course, music by some of Arcata's finest: the venerable bluegrass kings, the Compost Mountain Boys, (who BTW, are also playing Saturday morning at the Farmers' Market) and the very soulful, always excellent Joyce Hough Band. Good food, good people, great music --

what else could you ask for? Well, sunshine would be nice.


Bob Doran



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