Yesari Asim Arsoy (Bey), born in 1900 in present-day Drama, Macedonia, was a legendary composer and singer of Turkish folk, classical and pop music. In his childhood, because of his strong, beautiful voice, he was a muezzin, which was the person who announced the Islamic call to prayer twice a day. From 1929 until his death in 1992, he composed and recorded about 300 songs. Arsoy is regarded as a very important musician because he innovated the singing style, lyricism, diction and songwriting approach of popular Turkish music of the 1930s and 40s.

Here he sings the self-penned duet “Kadinlar Erkekler”, “Men and Women” in English, with another famous Istanbul-based singer (and cinema star), Madame Mahmure Hanim. From the 1920s through the 1950s, she was very well-known in Turkey and in Anatolian culture around the world, recording many Turkish folk and pop sides and also appearing in over 30 films.

Besides the vocal duo, the accompaniment I hear is an oud, extra male and female voices, and violins, with one of the violins typically doubling and/or harmonizing the singing melody.

 

 

 

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Pastora Pavón Cruz, best known as La Niña de Los Peines (“the Girl of the Combs”), was born in Sevilla, Spain in 1890 and is probably the most important flamenco singer of the 20th century. She never learned to read or write, but began singing at 8 years old and was a prodigy. She was already celebrated in her teens and came to be regarded as a genius of many Spanish song-forms, or “palos”, including: tangos, tientos, malagueñas, tarantas, cartageneras, granaínas, peteneras, and the bambera. Cruz has been compared to historical illuminators of music like Bach, and her mark on Spanish cultural history is indelible.

In 2010, UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity; the contribution of La Niña de Los Peines undoubtedly playing a large part in this distinction.

Here she sings an absolutely haunting “saeta”, a revered style of Spanish religious song, here simply titled “Saetas”, and she is joined by cornets, trumpets and a tambourine player. Stark and striking, her voice so thick and impassioned, this kinda of performance slows down time with it’s gravity and almost certainly evokes mortality. This is one of the great songs of all time, and I am so lucky to have found an impeccably clean copy of this Columbia-reissued classic.

 

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Jacqueline Francois was one of the greatest singers and interpreters of French song. There are so many classic recordings, and some of the repertoire is considered cabaret. She exemplified a certain kind of charming, classy diva and was popular from her very first singles, and a global star a few years later. Born Jacqueline Guillemautot in 1922, she had a very long life in singing, recording countless, mostly French-penned, songs. Her voice, a rich alto with a ton of character and a certain smokiness throughout her range, is one of my favorite voices of all time. The feel of her voice on the microphone is something so soothing but commanding, hypnotic but laid-back.

“Mélancolie” (Melancholy) is a haunting, lesser known number which was written by the famous songwriting duo Al. Romans & Pierre Dudan. Recorded in 1951 for French Polydor, it features Jo Boyer and His Orchestra (who also worked with greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Django Reinhardt) and Francois’ mesmerizing voice singing the lonesome lyric:                              (English translation is below)

Mélancolie un jour s’achève,
Mélancolie on n’y peut rien.
Chaque jour dans la fumée et dans l’alcool, on noie ses
rêves,
Seul, jusqu’au matin…
Et chaque nuit, ça recommence
Pour torturer le coeur trop lourd,
Le cafard dans la fumée et dans l’alcool, mène la danse
Jusqu’au jour.
Demain y aura d’ l’amour et d’ la lumière,
Peut-être bien, ça m’est égal…
Barman jusqu’au matin, remplis mon verre,
Je veux rêver que j’ai moins mal.
Mélancolie… tu nous enchaînes,
Plus fortement qu’un grand amour,
Un beau soir dans la fumée et dans l’alcool, on noie ses
peines

Melancholy one day ends,
Melancholy can’t be helped.
Every day in smoke and alcohol, we drown our
dreams,
Alone, until the morning…
And every night, it starts again
To torture the heavy heart,
The pointless depression in the smoke and in the alcohol, leads the dance
Until the day is over.
Tomorrow there will be love and light,
Maybe I don’t care…
Bartender till morning, fill my drink,
I want to dream that I have less pain.
Melancholy… you chain us,
Stronger than a great love,
One fine evening in the smoke and in the alcohol, we drown its pains

 

 

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Made in Chicago, this Magic Sam side, on the Cobra Record Corp. label, is a classic – this one has been haunting me for weeks now, and I just can’t get enough of this all-out soulful, electric blues sound. Late 50s cut; Magic Sam has a vocal delivery so reminiscent of the great Otis Rush at this time in his career (and they were Cobra label mates during these years, so); the guitar sounds like voltage being strummed.

Yes, this one is a tad scratchy because it has been loved to death in one jukebox or another for many years, years ago. I dug it out for free virtually at a favorite vinyl shop. I hope to have this one forever.

 

Magic Sam - Everything Gonna Be Alright