Travel from the Comfort of Home
I listen to a lot of Radio National, so I was excited to be invited as a guest on The Night Air Live, the summer special show that’s on of an evening until the 21st of January. Guests on the show bring in a selection of different types of music or audio, so I decided I would look through my op shop records and see what kind of story I could tell.
I decided to play songs from Eastern Europe. My philosophy with looking through records/CDs in op shops is the same as my philosophy for the rest of the store: look for things that excite my imagination somehow. There are plenty of kitsch records out there, but the ones I like the best are the ones that are surprisingly listenable. The first thing that sparks my interest, however, is the cover, and since these are hard to show over the radio, here they are:
These Polish CDs came from the same op shop, and were obviously from the same place – I wonder what the babcia would think of me taking her old albums to Radio National? I bought Ordonka first, she’s like a Polish Marlene Dietrich. I was attracted to her luminous art deco beauty. The songs are like this too, and it was seeing her songs on the other CD that led me to buy that one, too. I’m not sure what that question is, but that gent with the tremendous nose is the one to answer it.
The best song from this album is Telefony by Chór Dana, a Polish vocal quintet who deliver the most spirited and playful song about the telephone you’re ever likely to hear. I get in in my head often but have no idea what they’re saying apart from Hello, Nie rozumiem (I don’t understand), and Rebecca.
The Latest Hungarian Dance Music was the album that got me interested in eastern european music – I bought it years ago from Summer Hill Vinnies on the strength of its cover and also its name. Being a committed time traveller, I liked the idea of the latest Hungarian dance music being from the 1930s. The song I like the best on this is rather similar to Telefony, it is full of strange, sharp words that flow out in a relentless stream. It’s called “Maga meg a maga huga” and it’s by Robert Ratonyi.
Much labouring was done over the Cyrillic alphabet to find out this record is by Zhanna Bichevskaya. (The wikipedia link gives some clue as to why she’s not particularly well known in the west). I bought it in Leipzig on the strength of its cover, but sometime later saw an English copy of the same record in Pigeon Ground in Camperdown. I should have bought it, it would have saved me labouring over the text trying to work out the song I was going to play, which translated to “Limericks” from частушки (chastuski). What the limericks are, you will have to guess.
I like imagining the photographer’s assistant carefully arranging those leaves on her dress. It reminds me of the folk records my mum had when I was a child, although they were sung in English or French, and therefore not as exotic. Hearing that music as a child attuned me to a world of love and pain that I only came to understand as an adult!
Now here we come to the distressing finale:
If you don’t know this gentleman, perhaps count yourself lucky. To read my story about Heino, you will have to go off to read a post on my old blog, Froschperspektive. Beware! He is strangely entrancing.