Fourteen years ago I went to visit my uncle Eberhard on the Bahamas together with my then girlfriend Minou. My uncle has lived on Long Island, Bahamas for almost 40 years, working as a electrical engineer. I had never been there and I remember that I was really impressed by the beauty of the island.
When I came back home I wrote a little story about it in the comic book “Artige Zeiten” that I was doing at the time. It´s still available through Reprodukt.
The story reads like this:
“Naturally the hotel also had a hotel band, a calypso band. Music for the mostly elderly audience of the hotel who expect a confirmation of their cliche idea of Caribbean life. What they do get is actually much more: beautiful, simple, mostly self-written songs, performed by lead-singer Leroy Ivan Jackson or “Bodo”. His guitar playing and his soulful voice still sound exactly like the 60`s.
Minou and I are in awe. Especially one song catches our attention:”Witchcraft” . He keeps singing the chorus:”Witchcraft” but we can not make out the rest of the lyrics. Later at the hotel bar we ask Bodo about the song. He has had some drinks and to the best of his knowledge, he can not remember this particular song. They have a huge repertoire and also many songs covering that subject. It (“witchcraft”) would all be coming from Haiti.
Bodo tells us that he had played in a real calypso big-band in Nassau. And he had even recorded a 45 once. Suddenly I`m wide awake: records! I gotta hear this. He claims that he still has some of them laying around somewhere. After a week of intensive enquiry and investigation and after lying, that we we had to suddenly leave to go home, Bodo finally appears with a stack of records. They look like they had been stored between car tools and machine oil for approximately 14 years. Some are totally bent. The labels have mold on them. Over the years the heat and the humidity and the salt have really left their mark. I buy them all off him and I don`t even know what songs are to be heard on the record. Doesn`t matter. I don`t care. A souvenir couldn`t be more personal for me than that”.
I remember my uncle driving us in his jeep on the dirt-roads of Long Island over to Ivan Jackson`s house. On appointment and he wasn`t there. And then meeting him in the hotel bar again when he brought the records. My uncle said:”Now he just made the bargain of his life!” He thought I was completely stupid to buy a bunch of bent and moldy old records.
14 years later I still like these two Ivan Jackson originals a lot and apart from a couple of copies that I gave away to friends I`ve kept them all. But now I also feel kind of bad that I took these records from him, even though he didn`t care for them at the time and even though they are in very poor condition. I tried to find something about Ivan Jackson on the Internet but the only mention was on the myspace-site of the Hip-Hop group RIVAL SLANG from Nassau, Bahamas that featured a MC Marlon Jackson. I contacted his site and it turned out that Marlon Jackson is the son of Ivan Jackson! Now myspace is not that bad is it? His father is still living on Long Island, Bahamas and playing. I`m going to send one copy out to Marlon tomorrow because he does not own one.
And now let yourself be taken to the Caribbean and enjoy the music. The a-side is a slow, soulful ballad that sounds like Ivan Jackson had listened to a lot of Otis Redding.The b-side is a mid-tempo calypso song about life on the islands. Like I wrote 14 years ago: simple and beautiful.
Just a short post this week because I was occupied with a new blog I`ve been doing. It`s a little esoteric in nature but so is this blog, so if you are a bit open minded you might want to check out Berlin DIY HC Punk.
On to the music. When I bought this record, I didn`t know what it was, and when I listened to it at home, the Twinkle Stars brand of soul music sounded really cool, but still made me curious. This was not the usual Northern Soul sound.
After a little investigation it turns out Oscar Harris is from Suriname, South America. Oscar Harris was born in Suriname in 1943 and came to Holland when he was 20 years old. He had a long career in Holland and still performs today.
Either way, some nice soul music from Holland via Suriname from Oscar Harris and the Twinkle Stars!
OSCAR HARRIS AND THE TWINKLE STARS, Whole lot of dances, 1966
OSCAR HARRIS AND THE TWINKLE STARS, I`ve got witnesses, 1966
This is probably my find of the week, so for no other reason than that I`m posting this 45 by the Croatian band Dubrovacki Trubaduri. I bought a bunch of records at a thrift-store that I check regularly and almost left this one, thinking it was the usual, boring Yugoslav folk music. But for 50 cents a piece I gave it a chance and what a surprise! The b-side “Luda pjesma” is a lightning-fast beat stomper with a touch of soul music and great saxophone, trumpet and drum breaks!
Dubrovacki Trubaduri ( The troubadours from Dubrovnic ) were a popular pop/beat group from, you guessed it, Dubrovnic, Croatia. In 1968 they won the Yugoslav preliminaries to the European Song Contest and came out 7th in the finals, together with Belgium and Monaco. Most of their songs were a mixture of folk and pop music, hence the historical costumes.
Finding the Dubrovacki Trubaduri record has kind of inspired me to post three more of that style and period. I don`t really know how to call the style, a mix of pop, beat, soul, big band and a slight East-European touch.
Pro Arte, founded in 1967 by Dorde Novcovic, was a popular band in Yugoslavia. Novcovic became a successful songwriter in Yugoslavia and later Croatia. Pro Arte released many records and performed until 1980.
“Liza” is a fast pop/beat/soul number, with a touch of Tom Jones. I often see these kind of records advertised as “mod dancer” on eBay. I don`t know. Would a mod-DJ play this? I doubt it, but I`d be happy to be wrong…
As I`ve written before in some older posts, I discovered East-European beat music when I moved to Berlin in 1997 and then developed a habit of buying those records in huge quantities. And cheap too then. I don`t find much any more, the collector-market has caught on, so my own collection seems to be stagnating.
Back then I found them anywhere: in thrift stores, book stores, record stores, even in the trash. This record was from a East-Berlin library that sold their vinyl stock. It has a small sticker saying “Einlage”(store-copy). Mihai Constantinescu is a popular Romanian artist who is still working. He played with the seminal Romanian rock band Mondial and then took of for a solo career.
“Teiul”, written by Constantinescu himself, is a swinging soul/pop/beat dance number with nice horns and organ.
Vaclav Neckar needs no introduction to East-Germans who saw him on television in the 70s and 80s. Vaclav Neckar was one of the biggest stars of Czechoslovakia and has been performing since 1965. Together with the great Czech beat band Mefisto he recorded some nice stuff in the mid-sixties. He is still performing today.
“Kdyz ti nejsem hezkej” is probably the best song of the whole batch. Incredibly fast, nice guitar, horns, piano and the great voice of Vaclav Neckar!