Friday, June 06, 2008

between moondog and exotica...

thurston knudson tropic drums

picked up this thurston knudson 7" - tropic drums - at the flea market last sunday, mainly because of the stellar cover. the scratchboard image with pre-psychedelic lettering has all the best qualities of early sun ra record covers. the dealer said he saved it from the garbage can and he was just happy someone wanted it, so it's nice to know that once again the archives are living proof that one man's trash is indeed another's treasure...

it seems a lot of folks online credit knudson's early drum records as pre-cursors to what became known exotica. according to the web, "Thurston Knudson brought African drums to the American album-buying public in the late 1940s, along with a crackpot theory relating rhythm to bondage and footstep speed."

the 7" clearly has ethnic music overtones, but fortunately it's also pretty awkward and a distant hillbilly cousin to the smooth sounds of exotica. although not nearly as amazing, the music here does sound a little like teiji ito's early music for maya deren films, as well as some of some of yusef lateef's earliest records with african instruments. there's a homespun feeling to the recording, which, along with all the drum repetitions, brings it right into the land of moondog. most of the tracks are just drums, a few have chanting, and the one i've posted has some kind of wind instruments and horns.

i believe the tempo record label was knudon's own, as it says "this is a custom-made record" on the cover, as well as the index number being 1100. i couldn't find a picture of it online, and it would seem from a space age bachelor pad music chat room, that it is quite a rarity.

the track here is called ju-ju. this from the back cover: "the reason why this african spirit call - which knudson brings to you precisely as it is performed today by the swahili of zanzibar island - is so oriental in its mood is because these are the natives who traveled - as bearers - with the indian slave traders on their raids - and their music still reflects this influence."

unfortunately there is no mention of the other instruments or who is playing them, because they are pretty amazing, especially the big chords near the end. i swear this red vinyl gem is not even slightly warped (in the physical sense). knudon went on to do some discs with augie goupil , and you can read about their collaborations here somewhere in this mess i have a couple of 78's of goupil doing tahitian drum duets, and i'm 99% sure they are with knudson...

click here to listen to juju .

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Blogger DougH said...

Hey, I have the 10" LP (TT2212) that this is from, if you're jonesing for more. No more session data except one mention of "native musicians" on one track, but the album contains the following recordings: Gae Jangoro, Joruba Quimbombe, Ju-ju, Ti Ura I Te Rai, Motoraa Rahi, and N'Goma Ruanda. Now get back to your paints!

12:52 PM  

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