The Worldmusic Blog (Seckou Kouyate)

Winter Blues (27/3/13) Luna Lee and The Brothers Groove

Tagged with: Luna Lee Gayageum Voodoo Chile Scuttle Buttin Blues Brothers Groove My Guitar Birmingham Andy Kershaw No Off Switch World Music

 I really don't like Winter - my hands and legs freeze, my mind slows down, my spirits crash. I just don't like it.  However, there must be something in the air because this last week or so I've felt a fresh burst of creativity.  It might be snowing again outside, there's ice all over the pavements, I'm still waiting for my daffodils and early tulips to appear, but inside me there's something happening - I'm beginning to feel hopeful again!  And here's the perfect counterpart to that...

A friend of mine posted a link on Facebook to this YouTube video of a certain Luna Lee (I'm guessing Korean descent?) playing on a gayageum (a Korean 12 string zither similar to the koto and guzheng).  OK, very 'world music' you'd say.  But check it out, the girl uses it to play blues and rock!  Just fabulous!  

The first video I heard was a jaw-dropping arrangement of Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile".  It starts off all moody and broody and dark - gorgeous, especially the way she bends the notes, all blue and mean.  As it carries on to what would normally be a guitar solo she gets all dirty and kick-ass on us!  Woah!  Somebody get this girl on tour over here!  Love it.  Here's a link to "Voodoo Chile": 

Luna Lee: "Voodoo Chile" -

But before you click it, WAIT!  There's another track I want you to check out too - so come back to this blog page and click the link on this highly addictive rendition of "Scuttle Buttin" - trust me this is one you'll want on repeat play again and again (and again!).  Luna Lee's treatment of this is like an intravenous injection of adrenaline and monosodium glutamate!  The only fault with it is that it's too short!  Check it out:

Luna Lee: - "Scuttle Buttin" -

I can also recommend her versions of Steve Vai's "Tender Surrender" and a Stevie Ray Vaughan arrangement of "Little Wing".  They've all been on the net for a few years - but here in, it's all about good music, no matter where or when it was created.

Yep!  That's definitely put me in the right frame of mind for Spring!  Now will someone just get that bleeding snow and ice to go away and let me flowers poke their heads above ground.

Now, some news just in ace broadcaster/journalist/writer Andy Kershaw has just posted on Facebook. His website is finally up and running after experiencing many difficulties last year.  So, here it is:

Use it to find out all about what he's up to, the current speaking tour to promote his BRILLIANT 5* star autobiography "No Off Switch" - and if you haven't got a copy then beg, borrow or buy one (yes, I know, Andy, 'buy' is the important word here... but you know what I mean).  

For my full and in-depth review of it just click here:  or scroll down this blog page and find it.  Wonderfulness.

In the meantime, on a bluesey tip, I want to big up a truly talented homegrown blues band from Birmingham (West Midlands, not Alabama):  The Brothers Groove (not to be mixed up with the Detroit trio of the same name).  

If things happen as they ought to, these guys should go international.  Paul Jones on BBC Radio2 is now a fan and the message is spreading...  

With a sound all their own and a deep musical and personal connection between them, the four piece have been really hitting their stride recently with electrifying performances to those lucky enought to know about them.

The line up includes a rhythm section of drums and bass, and the two guitarists (Telecaster and Stratocaster) that alternate lead and rhythm parts as well as vocals.  

I say 'rhythm section' and 'lead' but it's almost meaningless; the whole band is like an unstoppable rhythm machine and there's no tiresome lead guitar/singer ego trips as in many bands. The Brothers work to one purpose: it's all about the GROOVE. 

Their sound is so deep in the groove, not even a JCB would dig them out of it.  The rhythm section is so 'in the pocket' it's in danger of smuggling budgies.

The Brothers Groove.  Look 'em up, check 'em out  and catch 'em while you can.

(their new single "My Guitar" can be found on YouTube here: and here:

Glyn Phillips, (27/3/13)

Book Review of Andy Kershaw's autobiography: "No Off Switch"

Tagged with: Andy Kershaw No Off Switch autobiography world music BBC Radio Serpent's Tail Random House broadcasting journalism

 Back in March 2012 I finished reading Andy Kershaw’s autobiography “No Off Switch” and wrote on the blog page of

“Best autobiography I have ever read. Bar none. Thoroughly recommend it. Nuff said. I’m looking to write a review of it when I get a moment or ten and I’ll expand my thoughts in that, so watch this space . . .”

It’s taken 6 months for that moment to arrive and it’s been one of the most difficult reviews to write. I stand by what I said back then: “Best autobiography I have ever read”. Now I need to explain why…

Andy Kershaw only really popped his head up into my consciousness around 1989. Kershaw and protest singer Billy Bragg were being filmed crossing the Andes on 'The Silver Road’ from Potosí in Bolivia, one of the highest cities in the world, all the way down to Arica in the Atacama Desert in Chile (both areas I was familiar with myself having travelled them in the mid-80s, so I was interested in what they’d got to say about it). The film was for the BBC series “Great Journeys”.

Picture the scene. It’s night-time, way up high in the Bolivian altiplano. It’s bitterly cold, very dark and there’s a small camp-fire lit under the stars. Around it are our two heroes and a couple of Aymaras (members of the indigenous population). The locals finish singing and playing a piece of deep Andean music that probably has roots in pre-Incan folklore. They indicate to Barking and Rochdale’s finest that they would like to hear a piece of traditional English folklore in return. It’s the basic rules of hospitality when travelling, share and share alike. Well, there’s only one song you can sing when sat around a campfire isn’t there? Ready? All together now:

“Giiin… Gaaaan… Goolie-Goolie-Goolie, Watchum, Gin Gan Goo, Gin Gan Goo . . .”

"A man of adventure, integrity and supreme silliness."

From that moment Andy Kershaw had earned his stripes for me. A man of adventure, integrity and supreme silliness.

You might think you know all you need to about “the Boy Kershaw”, but trust me, if you haven’t read this autobiography, you know nothing. It’s a substantial book and yet he packs more into each and every chapter than most autobiographers have lived in a lifetime. It’s truly astounding. I kept thinking: he can’t top that now, can he? And yet you turn another page and he does. There’s story after story. And they’re absolute bobby-dazzlers!

"Kershaw lays it all on the line, often with embarrassing candour."

From his days as a spotty Herbert in 1960s Rochdale, becoming a cub reporter for motorbike racing, being at the helm of the famous Leeds Uni Ents Dept and Stage Crew, The Clash, The Rolling Stones, The Who, his days as a roadie to Billy Bragg, presenter for Radio Aire, presenting the Old Grey Whistle Test, consistently winning awards for his ground-breaking Radio One shows, his years spent sharing an office and producer with John Peel, championing the musics of the world, The Bhundu Boys, Ali Farka Toure, his interminable wars with the Birtists at the BBC, his globe-trotting documentaries (both on music and harrowing wars) and the switch from Radio 1 to Radios 3 and 4 and to being an official FOOC (From Our Own Correspondent), the dangers of Rwanda and to his own dark days on the run in 2008 following the breakdown of his marriage, Kershaw lays it all on the line, often with embarrassing candour.

"style, wit and ... great grace. He is a wonderful writer."

I’m barely scratching the surface with this description. What makes this book remarkable, is that not only has Kershaw led the kind of life most of us could never even begin to imagine, he writes about it with style, wit and above all great grace. He is a wonderful writer.

"Engaging, passionate and with a real love of language and storytelling."

The book is truly a joy to read from beginning to the very end. This is no dodgy ghost-written money-spinner, nor some old bore’s collection of cobbled-together after-dinner anecdotes. This is proper writing. Engaging, passionate and with a real love of language and storytelling.

"you feel you’re at his shoulder the entire way"

I promise - no, I guarantee - you’ll not only be blown away by the wealth of experiences and characters, but you’ll be laughing and crying along with him throughout. Kershaw has that quality of writing (just like his radio shows) as if he’s talking just to you alone. You feel you’re at his shoulder the entire way, whether he’s belatedly popping his cherry in the back of an Austin Allegro in Saddleworth (accompanied by a rampant girl, Van Morrison’s “Cypress Avenue” and a hundred mallard ducks - you see it’s those little details…) or, on a sober note, peering down a Rwandan well full to the brim with the chopped-up remains of machete-massacred victims and trying not to vomit. The truth is Andy’s been there, done that and - luckily for us - has now written the book.

"He’s also a serious, hardcore journalist"

Kershaw’s personality is a combination of Boys Own hero, stubborn activist, musical explorer and excitable kid and it’s this combination that is so endearing. He’s also a serious, hardcore journalist - and this is precisely because he is not part of the cozy club. It’s his status as an outsider that makes him so credible and pertinent. You might not always agree with his opinions (and he's got plenty of those), but they’re always worth listening to.

"a bottomless bag of one-liners"

One of the problems with reviewing a work like this is that it is difficult not to repeat what he’s already said or give the game away. Andy’s already taken all the best lines for himself! He has a bottomless bag of one-liners. In fact, he’s at his best when taking the curved scimitar of his tongue and slicing the legs off the kind of arrogant characters who routinely strut around the entertainments business - and there are pallets full of those . . . ! He doesn’t pull punches either. His critiques of Bob Geldof are scathing, hilarious (and worth the price of the book alone) especially their showdown at Leeds University where the Boomtown Rats were performing. I also remember seeing the Boomtown Rats at Sheffield during that same tour and likewise hated Geldof on sight too!

What’s great about “No Off Switch” is the ‘behind-the-scenes’ and ‘warts-and-all’ approach. It’s not a gratuitous kiss-and-tell as such (well, occasionally), but it is illuminating and very, very funny. The chapter on the Rolling Stones at Roundhay Park in 1982 is priceless. If you ever need to know how to find enough ‘grass-green’ paint for a mile-long 10’ high plywood fence, or more importantly, how to source a thrust-grommet for a 60˚ inverter with a retaining flange, at a moment’s notice then Andy’s yer man.

Want the inside gen on the workings of BBC Radio, (especially Radio 1 from the mid-80s)? Get the lowdown on such ‘personalities’ as Simon Bates, Steve Wright, Peter Powell, Bruno Brookes and all the rest of their happy, fun-loving gang . . . (including the currently very topical Jimmy Savile). Find out what it really was like sharing an office with the two John’s, Peel and Walters . His insights into Peel are absolutely fascinating - like shining a torch into the newly broached underground tomb of some fabled pharoah’s pyramid. Vignettes of loads of people before they were famous: Mark Mardell, James Whale, Carol Vordermann, Caron Keating, Courtney Love, Duran Duran…

Want to find out what on earth the likes of Frankie Howerd, Little Richard and Ned Sherrin could all possibly want out of our hero in person? Then you need to get hold of this book.

In fact, if you were ever even alive between 1960 and now, then this book has something for you!

"the great and the good as well as the vile and evil of the past 50 years"

It’s peopled with the great and the good as well as the vile and evil of the past 50 years - and Andy’s been there with ‘em all: talented musicians, egotistical musicians, talented and egotistical musicians (plenty of those), DJs (from the de-hagiofied John Peel through all of Radio 1, 3 and 4 down to the execrable Tim Westwood!) as well as media-types (from the awful Janet Street-Porter to innovative and committed producers like Chris Lycett and John Walters).

Kershaw also hangs out with the Heads of State of almost every African country (saints and sinners aplenty), mass-murdering warlords and dictators (from the Ton Ton Macoute to Hastings Banda of Malawi), freedom fighters and political activists (from boy soldiers in Rwanda to Jean-Baptiste Aristide of Haiti and Mandela days after his release from prison).

"you never know what’s coming next."

The thing is, you won’t believe me until you read it for yourself. People pop in and out of Kershaw’s life in the bizarrest of circumstances (from Jimmy Carter and Princess Margaret to Tariq Ali and a particularly poignant encounter with Prince). The secret of Kershaw's autobiography is that - like his radio show - you never know what’s coming next.

Let’s face it, the musicians he’s been involved with in one form or other wrote much of the soundtrack to the last half-century, and the DJs he's worked alongside have broadcast it (or in many cases didn’t!).

His job as a reporter on world events is woefully ignored by many in the business and yet he’s travelled to 97 of the world’s 193 countries and put himself, quite literally, in the front-line of wars, coups and revolutions in a way that most acknowledged reporters wouldn’t dream of - and often financed his trips out of his own pocket. As he says: “The frontlines of the Angolan Civil War were not what you’d call overcrowded with R1 DJs”. I don’t care what anybody says: the man’s got credibility.

Reading “No Off Switch” made me realise just how much more there is to ‘our Andy’ than “the one that plays all the weird stuff”, or the tabloids’ image of him as ”the troubled DJ”. The last two chapters were probably for me the most poignant in the whole book - as a loving Dad of two young boys myself I can only say I’d have cracked long before if that had happened to me.

"Just who the chuffin’ ‘eck is Andy Kershaw?"

So the big question is: ‘just who the chuffin’ ‘eck is Andy Kershaw?’ If you want to find out, then read this book. You will not regret it. I promise.

As for me, am I on any kick-back for this review? No. I’ve not been asked to write this or had any contact with him or his publishers or anything. Don’t know him personally, never met him before. I just read it and thought it was just a book that screamed for attention. Yes, I would like to meet him one day - although there’s always that fear that once you meet them in the flesh you discover a completely different person.

Thing is with Kershaw, you feel like you know him personally. That Rochdale burr, the rhythm of his delivery, it’s all there and instantly comforting. But, apart from that, I’m only also 3 years younger than him; we’ve grown up in parallel lives throughout the same periods of culture and politics, often loving the same music, so in a sense “No Off Switch” is about my life too (you see Andy, I too have an original vinyl copy of “Sixty Miles By Road or Rail” and furthermore I only have to look at a faded tartan, brushed-cotton shirt to instinctively think of Rory Gallagher).

The truth is, one day I want to ride the trail alongside Our Andy, the Boy Kershaw, The Rochdale Cowboy, as our horses trot along side-by-side to the sound of a North Korean pop band playing a jit-jive version of “Lawyers, Guns and Money” and we ride off into the sunset in search of some long-forgotten musical hero washed up in the faded hotel of a potty banana republic.

Of course, what I really want to do is pop Andy the question that’s on a million red-blooded, middle-aged blokes’ lips: did the wild, thumping beats of Eddie Cochran’s “Somethin' Else” (booming out of a Rock-Ola Jukebox at full volume) ever tickle the auditory senses of the delicious Carol Vordermann?

No idea what I’m going on about? Then you’ll have to buy the book and find out!
Go on, our Andy, spill the beans!

Glyn Phillips (4/10/2012)

"No Off Switch: An Autobiography" by Andy Kershaw is published in paperback by Random House and hardback by Serpent's Tail.

Mid-March Round-up (15/3/12)

Tagged with: Glyn Phillips world music Andy Kershaw No Off Switch Rachel Harrington Knock Outs Julaba Kunda Sensational Space Shifters Dub Colossus Spiro Putumayo Bombino Roberto Fonseca Flavia Bittencourt Soundway Leilia Ceu Rough Guide Sefiroth Omi

"Best autobiography I've ever read. Bar none"

Just a few quick observations and round-ups of what's going for me recently.  

Just finished reading Andy Kershaw's autobiography "No Off Switch".  

I'll put this as simply as I can: Best Autobiography I've Ever Read.  Bar None.  Thoroughly recommend it.  Nuff Said.  

I'm looking to write a review of it when I get a moment or ten and I'll expand my thoughts in that, so watch this space . . . 

[* The FULL REVIEW of ANDY KERSHAW's "NO OFF SWITCH" can now be found here:]

Saw the American Country band Rachel Harrington and the Knock Outs a couple of nights ago (currently on tour round the UK) -

a fabulous all-girl outfit with great musicianship, harmonies and some classy pen(wo)manship from Harrington.  


(see Review here:

And a few weeks previously saw the brilliant Julaba Kunda featuring the Scottish fiddler Griselda Sanderson and the Gambian fiddler Juldeh Camara, alongside Senegal's Amadou Diagne.  

Catch 'em while you can - before Juldeh gets too tied up in Robert Plant's new band the Sensational Space Shifters this summer . . .

(Review of Julaba Kunda here:

On my car's CD player for the last few weeks:

"Dub Me Tender" - the remix versions of Dub Colossus's Award Winning album "Addis Through The Looking Glass."  

I still prefer the original, but the remixes are great music for chilling out to when driving.  

(For a review of the original click here:

Previous to that a sampler of tracks from Spiro's "Kaleidophonica" album, Putumayo's "Latin Beat" compilation and Bombino's "Agadez" were all getting me from A to B when driving.

However, I spend most of my time sitting at my computer and these are some of the albums, artists and tracks that have been on constant rotation on my iTunes...

Soundway's wonderful compilation "The Original Sound of Cumbia: The History of Colombian Cumbia & Porro As Told By The Phonograph 1948 - 79", a must for all you colombiphiliacs out there,

Galician female vocal outfit Leilía and their new album "Consentimento" (on the Spanish Fol label) - the ladies in the groovy hats below!

Brazil's Ceú and her new album "Caravana Sereia Bloom"

and the really most excellent compilation: "The Rough Guide To The Music Of New Orleans" from World Music Network.  

(You can read my review of that last one here:

Other interesting things to drop on my digital doormat have been:

some great old Afro Jazz from Nigeria's Monomono and Trinidad's Black Truth Rhythm Band, 

Rocky ratafolk from the EP Scecchendaun from Italy's Colletivo Mazzulata, 

American folky-pop from Girlyman,

and some tasty ska and reggae from the UKs Chain SkaBrassika (EP "South East Beats").

Also flying in have been the Rough Guides to Celtic Women and Psychedelic Africa* (just two of many World Music Network releases this year),

The Sefiroth Ensemble's new EP ('Arboles Lloran Para Lluvia')*,

BraAgas's new album "Fuerte" (including a couple of versions of the classic "Chaje Sukarije")

and the album "Siempre Pa'lante" from a feisty salsa combo from Denmark called Jorge Cordero and the Gran Daneses.

[* Reviews for these two albums here]:

I've also been enjoying some mad mashups and remixes from the likes of Cafe de Calaveras & Add On de Bass who take on Pastor Lopez's "Mentirosa" in a moombahton style, Birmingham's G-Corp and Nuff Wish's delightful mash-ups of Marley and Whitney, Bobby Blue, and Michael Jackson with Adele.  

And what about Rude Hi-Fi's Barriobeat Jungle Reggae remix of "Lascia Che Sia" featuring Amparo Sanchez?  Or his Dubwise DnB version of "Jungle Reggae Party" featuring Lucky Hernan?

Also liking the Capt Cumbia remix of Chaka Demus and Pliers's "Slim Thing" and an unknown remix of Amy Winehouse on "Sweet Guitar" featuring Italian reggae supremo Alborosie with shades of Dawn Penn.  Lush.  

And how can I leave out Capt Cumbia's "Under Mi Serbie (Under Mi Sensi -Soundclash Edit)" - a mad electro-balkanic-cumbia dancehall mashup featuring Mr Vegas vs Boban Markovic vs the Amsterdam Klezmer Band!  Excellent.

On the jazzy, bluesy side I've got to mention Cardiff's Ecklectic Mick who specialises mostly in electro-swing remixes - but here has taken a little detour.  Firstly mixing jazz with Indian music, notably his gentle mash-up of that old standard "Sweet Georgia Brown" - although you can also check out his softswing treatment of it too; and then a fabulous remix of Howlin' Wolf's "Spoonful" (mixing in "Rosie/Be My Woman" along the way).

However top of the mash-up list these past few weeks has been the ever-reliable Fissunix and his deliciously creamy mash of Alicia Keys and Chic in "Good Times Fallin".  Lushness personified.  

Worth checking out his full-on and imaginative Beatles mashups too: "Beautiful Prudence" (with Christina Aguilera), "End of the Walrus", "Owner of the USSR" and "Don't Let Me Down On The Dancefloor", as well as his Zeppelin mash-ups like "HitzBreaker" (Heartbreaker sounding like it's been re-recorded inside a beehive the size of a small city!  Intense).

Loving also Diabel Cissokho's "Allah Lako",

Escalandrum's latin jazz tango treatment of "Adios Nonino",

"Cheerleader" by Jamaica's Omi

and finally, the new afrocuban jazz album "Yo!" by Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca - this is fantastic and definitely getting an in-depth review very soon!  [Oh, and here it is!]:

All this and I've been working on some lyrics in English for Brazil's sublime songstress Flavia Bittencourt for her new album...

Busy boy indeed!