The Tangled Questions Of Yalla Yalla

Jul 19th, 2007 // 7 Comments

yy001.jpg Baltimore’s Yalla Yalla label has already been tagged by numerous critics as “this year’s Sublime Frequencies” for the small corner of the music world where that means as much as “white is the new black” and “Akon is the new pop music.” Shepherded by Drag City, Yalla Yalla’s Jack Carneal has slipped out three CDs–all packaged in intriguing but ultimately opaque black and white photographs and haiku-brief liner notes–of recordings he made and/or purchased while in Mali. Many of those same commentators, however–from our own Michaelangelo Matos to the folks at The Wire and the Washington City Paper–have pointed out that the Yalla Yalla discs step onto the same minefield as the SF discs, and that makes it easy to lob claims of chauvinistic bootlegging at Carneal, since there’s little research into his subjects and no renumeration for the original artists.

But much like the best of Sublime Frequencies collections of jackleg “world music,” the records are so intriguing that you almost want to overlook your liberal qualms about appropriation. The best of Carneal’s discoveries so far–a disc of four long, winding tracks split between musicians Pekos and Yoro Diallo taken from an overdriven cassette–feels almost like a razor-edged African take on the lapidary jams of the classic Gil E Jorge. The pair’s electrified Malian lutes shoot off sparks like Link Wray’s rumbling guitar and the force of the singing can jolt you right out of your office chair and onto your ass. You can get a taste of the Pekos/Yoro Diallo disc at Meshes of the Afternoon, which also goes into more detail about the thorny issues thrown up by the series.

Pekos/Yoro Diallo [Meshes of the Afternoon]

  1. PengIn

    You lost me at “Baltimore”.

  2. Al Shipley

    Funny, I never realized this guy was working in the English dept. at Towson probably at the same time that I was a student there. But yeah, this kind of thing has always seemed sketchy to me. I’m sure it’s a little harder to go through all the legwork of permission and detailed credits and royalties to release music by someone who lives in another country and doesn’t speak English. But if you just put out their music without doing all that stuff, you’re not really a label, you’re just a bootlegger. I kinda doubt this guy would borrow an American friend’s demo or rehearsal tape and then release it without permission on his label with vague/misleading liner notes and no songwriting credits and get away with it.

  3. Bazooka Tooth

    “The best of Carneal’s discoveries so far–a disc of four long, winding tracks split between musicians Pekos and Yoro Diallo taken from an overdriven cassette–feels almost like a razor-edged African take on the lapidary jams of the classic Gil E Jorge. The pair’s electrified Malian lutes shoot off sparks like Link Wray’s rumbling guitar and the force of the singing can jolt you right out of your office chair and onto your ass.”

    This music sounds not interesting at all to me.

  4. Paperboy 2000

    Does anyone know if the artists on the Soul Jazz or Numero Group releases are paid? Those records are much more “properly documented,” but I just wonder if it’s still the same kinda deal.

    At the same time: I seriously doubt that there’s a lot of profit coming from this label or the SF stuff…

  5. Paperboy 2000

    Oh: and how about the thorny issue of linking to a blog that’s linking to a “MegaUpload” of the whole album?

    Ultra-classy.

  6. the rich girls are weeping

    Dearest Idolator, the recent rash late-afternoon cultural imperialism posts is kind of a bummer.

  7. gilscottheroin

    There are many labels doing exactly the same thing on all or some or a few of their releases(Shadoks/QKD media/Trikont/Subliminal Sounds/Parallel Worlds and many many more!). There is so much sampling going on unchecked and the stories of Folkways, Ocora, and Lomax and all the rest ripping people off blind for decades is legendary if you look it up. Anyone who would want to be a music cop or feels like they need to defend developing countries from THESE particular guys have their heads up their asses. I tend to look at it as them promoting those musicians and their music, not the other way around. These releases are incredible and seem much more honest in their approach to me. We would probably never hear this music otherwise. And, since these labels aren’t hiding anywhere and seem available to access, I suppose that, in this age of communication if someone has a problem with it the labels can be easily contacted and accessed for whatever can be worked out. And they probably are. Not to mention that many more copies of these CDs are downloaded or burned for free than ever actually sold. Hardly enough money to go around for anyone I would guess.

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