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Dream 102.9 FM Featured Artist
Every month Dream FM takes a closer look at some of the artists or bands in our playlist.
This month we are taking a look at Japanese Jazz group Jiro Inagaki and Soul Media
JIRO INAGAKI & SOUL MEDIA
Jiro Inagaki (born Nagaki Jirō in 1933) is one of Japan’s foremost jazz musicians and one often overlooked by English music media. The ease and fluidity within all of his musical endeavors perfectly capture the essence of American Jazz. As one reviewer put it, Inagaki makes one wonder if Japan does American better than America?
Inagaki came of age in an era when Japan was leaning into American culture, including it’s music scene. Before forming his most celebrated Jazz group, Soul Media, he played with the top musicians in the Japanese Jazz scene, like Frankie Sakai, George Kawaguchi, Hideo Shiraki, Hajime Hana, and the Crazy Cats.
In 1969, Inagaki put together the now internationally revered Soul Media. A varying composition of players included Shunzo Ohno, Tetsuo Fushimi, Ryo Kawasaki, Masahiko Satoh, and Takeshi Inomata, who flowed together throughout the 1970s. Although this group issued only three albums, Head Rock, In The Groove, and Funky Stuff, these albums have been reissued over and over again, often getting more international attention in recent times than during their initial release.
Inagaki went on to become a prolific Jazz performer and musician. Fantastically proficient in not just one but four different instruments, he has lent a hand in more than 15 albums over the years, producing another seven. His current discography includes more than 20 albums listing him as the leader, with most issued through the record label Nippon Columbia.
Jiro Inagaki and Soul Media’s albums are by far Inagki’s most revered work outside of Japan. They have become the stuff of legends for groove-heads around the world. They are talked about as the perfect, quintessentially American jazz sound. In one reviewer’s words, Funky Stuff is pure perfection, “with the spirit of rebellion and culture of disciplinarian perfectionism behind this music, it’s easy to say this is probably one of the best recordings coming out of Japan in the ’70s.”
For anyone looking to expand their jazz chops beyond the usual, Jiro Inagaki and Soul Media are bucket-list albums to have in your collection.
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OJOS DE BRUJO
Ojos de Brujo (English translation “Eyes of the Wizard”)’ blew open the world of flamenco with their debut album Vengue in 1999. In the beginning, the eleven-member ensemble originally had flamenco purists up in arms. Purists perceived this upstart Catalin musical group as a radical interpretation of the traditional music style. However, flamenco wasn’t exactly what this group was trying to pursue.
As percussionist Xavi Turull explained, “…we aren’t trying to do flamenco. What we are doing is using the richness of flamenco and the richness of other music to build up something different. Maybe sometimes I would say that flamenco is the strongest ingredient, but we aren’t trying to do flamenco.”
In the early 2000s, legions of fans from around the world overcame the few upset flamenco purists. An Ojos de Brujo live show became the sort of event legends were made of. The band’s shows were always sold out, no matter what corner of the world they played in.
During Ojos to Brujo 11 year existence, their approach blended electronica and world beats with strong flamenco rhythms and percussion. They connected old-world traditions with the evolution of music unfolding all around them in the streets of Barcelona. In part, the signature flamenco influence came from lead vocalist Marina “la Canillas” Abad, but these notes were infused with funk, samba, reggae, and electronic sounds.
Following their debut album in 1999, the group released another nine. They released Bari (2002, and a remix in 2003) at the peak of their success, followed quickly by Techarí (2006, plus a live edition in 2007).
The group used their global platform to highlight issues facing cultural minorities, including that of the Roma people. Many of the band members were of Roma heritage. Through Marina’s lyricism and the musical incorporation of traditional beats, the group worked to fight back against globalization.
Ramon, Ojos de Brujo guitarist, explained to Six Degrees Records, “We think every minority culture has something special to offer, and we shouldn’t lose all this wisdom from all these ancient cultures all around the world.” He went on to explain, “Gypsies are losing their Romany languages because no one is doing anything to help preserve them. They’ve always been repressed. By using gypsy words which have been nearly erased from the current vocabulary, we support Ramon in not letting his culture disappear.”
In 2010, Ojos De Bruju released their final album “Corriente vital 10 años.” The band wrapped up a whirlwind decade of musical evolution with an extensive world tour. Many members, including Marina (now Mariah), have gone on to pursue solo projects.
In March we put together a special tribute to Bunny Wailer, a Reggae legend who passed away on March 2nd, 2021, at 73.
Bunny was a founding member of The Wailers, alongside his Kingston friends and neighbours, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
This month we have put together a special tribute to Bunny Wailer, a Reggae legend who passed away on March 2nd, 2021, at 73. Bunny was a founding member of The Wailers, alongside his Kingston friends and neighbours, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
Bunny, born Neville Livingston, grew up in what one news story called the ‘village’ of Nine Mile in Saint Ann Parish. In reality, Nine Mile was a notorious slum on the outskirts of Kingston. This landscape influenced much of his musical career and guided many of his religious and spiritual messages heard in his songwriting.
The Wailing Wailers came together in 1963 with Marley, Tosh, and several other notable names (Junior Braithwaite and Beverley Kelso). The Wailers quickly became international Reggae superstars, touring North America and Europe. While Marley frequently sang lead vocals, Bunny’s lyricism crafted many of their greatest hits, and his beautiful harmonies can be heard across all the Wailers’ work.
The New York Times interviewed Vivien Goldman, author of “The Book of Exodus: The Making and Meaning of Bob Marley and the Wailers,” about Bunny’s place within the Wailer’s famous trilogy. Goldman explained, “Peter Tosh was the real militant one, then Bob was the poetic revolutionary humanist,” and “Bunny was regarded as the spiritual mystic.”
Bunny wrote one of his most famous pieces during his decade in the Wailers. “Dreamland” became one of his signature hits and, clearly, one of his favourites. He re-recorded it and released it under Blackheart Man, a solo album from 1976.
When Bunny quit the Wailers in 1973, he went on to become a prominent and prolific Reggae artist in his own right. Starting from his 1976 solo album, Bunny released 25 albums over the following decades. While many stayed true to the traditional Reggae form, he also experimented with disco, rock, and pop.
Over his career, Bunny won three Grammys starting in 1991 for the album Time Will Tell: A Tribute to Bob Marley, followed by another in 1995 and 1997. Other accolades he received in the last few decades included the Order of Jamaica and the Order of Meritt (the country’s 4th and 5th highest awards).
Bunny passed away in early March following complications from a stroke in the summer of 2020. Ziggy Marley stated to Rolling Stone after Bunny’s passing, “His contribution to our music not only as a member of the Wailers but as a solo artist has been an enormous influence for me personally and to many more around the world. Pass It On.”
FRUKO y SUS TESOS
Salsa lovers worldwide are likely very familiar with the Colombia musical group Fruko y Sus Tesos. Fruko and the band have been around in some form or another since 1969. If you are counting, that’s more than 50 years of music and 42 studio albums.
Founded and led by Julio Ernesto Estrada (or Fruko), the musical extravaganza of Fruko y Sus Tesos has become a staple for salsa dancers all around the world. Their international tours, of which there are more than a dozen, are religiously attended by their global fan base of salsa aficionados.
Estrada’s original inspiration for creating a salsa group was following a trip to New York City in 1968 with Lisandro Meza’s popular group, Los Corraleros de Majagual. Estrada’s interpretation of big city lights and the exploding salsa scene of the late 1960s has inspired more than half a century of music.
But Fruko is only one aspect of a many-member group. The name Fruko y Sus Tesos translates into “Fruko and his treasures.” But who are these many treasures?
Over the years, the lineup of musical additions has included Edulfamid Molina Díaz, Gustavo Garcia, Joe Arroyo, Joseito Martinez, Julio Ernesto Estrada, Piper “Pimienta” Diaz, Rafael Benítez, Rodolfo Aicardi, and Wilson Saoko (among a few others). Over the decades, many of the band members have gone on to lead internationally successful musical careers of their own.
No salsa collection is complete without at least one (if not twenty) of Fruko’s many albums. One of their most popular hits, even outside of salsa, is “El Preso.” Fruko has called “El Preso,” “un himno mundial de la salsa.” Translated to “a world anthem of salsa music.”
In 2018, Billboard named “El Preso” one of the most influential salsa songs of all time. As the critic noted, this “1975 anthem is the most liberating Salsa song about prison ever recorded.”
To this day, Fruko y Sus Tesos continues its salsa-legacy in Colombia and beyond.
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