Sunday 8 August 2010

Greatest Hits - Track 8

'Autumn Songs' was a short-lived section I introduced in 2007. It ran from September until November, halted by the arrival of winter. I had fun writing about one of my two favourite seasons (the other one is spring) and as the temperature feels already slightly nippy in the mornings, I thought it appropriate to include this post in my 'Greatest Hits' volume 1. Yes, I'm still on holidays.

With autumn now on the verge of becoming winter and my synaesthesia producing only dark reds and yellows whenever I hear the soft rustle of a well-played guitar, I open this session with one of the most under-rated singers this country has ever produced. When I purchased her debut album my DiscMan would not let it go away for a single minute. Martina Topley-Bird's voice can be soulful, rocky and playful, sometimes the three at once. My favourite song from her record 'Quixotic' is not available on you tube yet (Soul Food), but I found this little gem that attests to her wonderful voice.

And so, we plough on. And so we arrive at the majestic erstwhile The Police frontman, Sting (reunions count, but only as money-makers) and a dilemma as to which song to choose from his prolific music career. You see, I'm a Sting fan. I've seen 'Bring on the Night' approximately twenty times and I can quote some of the dialogues by heart. But nothing prepared me for the second track on his album 'Brand New Day'. The inclusion of the Algerian raï isinger Cheb Mami was a wise move for the northeastern bassist and the result, 'Desert Rose' helped internationalise raï sounds, plus catapulted the song to the top of the charts. And I just love it. Really. I do.

Lastly, this man's voice drips with pastel shades, yellow chromes and nostalgie. Ignacio Villa (Bola de Nieve), our very own show-man, was born in the legendary town of Guanabacoa, Havana, a hotbed of Afro-Cuban culture and one of the first few places where the Carabalí culture from southeastern Nigeria settled down and created its first cabildos, thus becoming the Abakuás, the only surviving secret African society in the Americas. Bola's voice was seductive, mirthful and full of joie de vivre, even when singing sad songs like the one below. The video is a collection of photos of him rather than a performance, but still that voice is incomparable.

As autumn is drawing to a close, I've been thinking about doing a similar series of winter songs. Just do not expect Christmas tunes. Thanks for your feedback, it's always appreciated.

© 2007

Next Post: Greatest Hits - Track 9 to be posted on Sunday 15th August at 10am (GMT)


  1. I enjoy autumn, but don't hurry it along too fast ;)

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  3. Thank you for the introduction to the Abakuás as I had never heard of them before. If you are ever moved to write about them at greater length, I would enjoy it. By the way, I love Sting, too. Keep having fun on your holiday.

  4. Yikes - not autumn already! Still I enjoyed the music. I love Sting. Enjoy your vacation and happy birthday to your wife!

  5. Thank you CiL for introducing me to a wonderful artist - I very much enjoyed listening to your selection by Martina Topley-Bird.

    I agree with your comments about Sting - Desert Rose is a distinctive and delightful piece of music and right up there with his best work.

    Lastly, thanks for the introduction to Ignacio Villa and the links here - as you might recall, I am very interested in Cuban music and culture.

    By the way, hot as Hades here in Toronto - no sign of autumn in the air as yet - and I hope it doesn't arrive any time soon.

    Enjoy your vacation.

  6. Don't want to leave this just engulfs me! Thanks so much for introducing me to what I don't know...but do know that Sting won't be held back. Loved his background vocals with Krishna Das/Pilgrim Heart.. on Amazing Grace..

  7. I love Desert Rose! It's one of my favourite Sting songs. I remember when it came out i was in junior college and we sat there in drama class listening to the cd over and over again. I was in love with it.


  8. Many thanks for your kind comments. I remember, too, Jai, when I first heard 'Desert Rose'. It was on Jonathan Ross just as the album was about to come out. And I knew I had to have it. It's a great record, all in all.

    By the way, do not be fooled by the theme of the post. Temperatures have been anything but autumnal these days. Sweltering 25 degrees yesterday, which was just as well, as we were celebrating my wife's birthday and we all decided to take a walk in the beautiful English countryside.

    However, right now there's a nice, cool breeze wafting through the window which reminds me of what's to come as soon as September arrives. And I loved writing about autumn and linking it to songs I liked. :-)

    Judith, one of my posts when I come back will be an article which was published in Noticias, a monthly newspaper for the Spanish-speaking community in London. A friend of mine was the editor of the English language section and she asked me to pen a few columns about various subjects like art, culture and sport. She would translate them into English afterwards. The post I'm thinking of publishing on my blog deals with the Afro-Cuban identity, a subject about which you have written a lot, I know, and at which you excel greatly.

    Greetings from London.

  9. Like your selection and it's always good to hear new things. I rather like autumn and prefer to summer, so quite glad to have it hurried along.

  10. I've never heard of Martina Topley-Bird, but I've just finished listening to her and she is amazing! So, I will give her a whirl... As for Sting, I remember when he came to Cairo and performed by the Pyramids... and when the first notes of this song hit the night air... oh my god... the crowd went crazy... including yours truly!

    I hope you're having fun on your holiday break, Cuban. Hope to see you soon! :-)




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