Nola-Phonic, Volume One
The talk of the town these days is unity. The overarching narrative of the Saints saga has been the way in which this Super Bowl season has brought New Orleanians (wherever they are) together across all lines and boundaries, whether economic, geographic, generational, or racial. Even more than during Mardi Gras, the Who Dat Nation found a strong, common bond with which to relate to one another in the tribulations and successes of the Saints.
That sublime harmony must have rubbed off strongly on Ben Ellman, Galactic’s saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist by day, Gypsyphonic Disko producer by night. At the beginning of January, he and Katrina-displaced DJ Quickie Mart released the first Gypsyphonic Disco mixtape, Nola-Phonic, Volume One, a near-perfect melding of hip-hop a cappella tracks mixed with Eastern European and Central American beats. Most of the vocals come courtesy of New Orleans artists, from sissy bounce rappers Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby and Katey Red to local pioneers DJ Jimi and the Big Tymers, Mannie Fresh and Birdman.
The culmination of the recent unity in New Orleans was the election of Mitch Landrieu as Mayor, winning a resounding victory in all neighborhoods, white and black. Landrieu may not know it, but this would have made a perfect campaign soundtrack. African-American meets Caucasian (geographically, even) and Latin on this mixtape, and it all comes together to produce a sound that is ideally New Orleanian. These songs are a new color, some hybrid of black and gold. Best of all though, they work perfectly for Mardi Gras. This is simply fun dance music, and smart too. Ellman and Quickie Mart found the universal bond between the music of our streets and those across the Atlantic and south of the Gulf of the Mexico. The American, European, and Latin elements here all come from folk music as party music, and this mixtape shows us all getting down to the same beat. With the city pouring out into the streets this Mardi Gras weekend, Nola-Phonic, Volume One fits naturally as a companion.
If bounce rap and polka sounds absurd to you, give it a listen (it’s a free download, available at http://gypsyphonicdisko.blogspot.com). Just last month many people thought the Saints winning the Super Bowl was equally ridiculous. Take a listen to the new New Orleans, and if you hear someone blasting this album from their bicycle this Mardi Gras weekend, give me a “Who Dat!”
Click here to download Nola-Phonic, Volume One for free.
The Feasts of the Appetite of Eris
Krewe of Eris is an annual Mardi Gras marching parade, a swarm of costumed miscreants who meet in the Bywater and meander through the Upper Ninth Ward and the French Quarter. Those with instruments number more than 60 strong, but their numbers swell in the moonlight. They parade, putting a premium on spirit over technique, warbling and screeching, squirming and flailing. Their cares are few, their delights plentiful. A boom mike hovers above their heads, illuminated cupcakes in their midst. They celebrate the Greek goddess of strife (Discordia in Latin), and pass apples to stunned tourists still hazy after Bacchanalian feasts. The bravest of the recipients join the ranks while others flee behind sirens and screams. If there is one constant throughout the night, it is howls and yelps. And drums—many drums. These are not cries of anger or mockery, however—just pure jubilation. They dance, sometimes alone, sometimes together, a rag-tag bunch. When the time comes they join together and sing. No words, just a repeated syllable that spreads along the streets like the happiest of plagues.
Chaos is their appeal, but the disorder has been captured. Sixty-two percussion and horn players and one big second line were recorded the Sunday night before last year’s Fat Tuesday by Mid-City’s Domino Sound Record Shack owner Matt Knowles, who just released a selection of the night’s recordings on his own Domino Sound record label. And despite (or because of) all the mischief, it is Mardi Gras music at its most honest.
The Feasts of the Appetite of Eris is available as a vinyl LP at Domino Sound Record Shack, located at 2557 Bayou Rd., a block from the intersection of N. Broad and Esplanade.