The Tangled Questions Of Yalla Yalla


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]