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The Excavated Shellac MP3 blog

An embarrassment of musical riches
By SUSANNA BOLLE  |  November 27, 2007
Jonathan Ward

“Dedicated to 78 rpm recordings of folkloric and vernacular music from around the world,” the Excavated Shellac MP3 blog is an embarrassment of musical riches. Founded by Massachusetts native Jonathan Ward, a young audio enthusiast and collector of 78s now living in LA, the site features a new record (almost) every week, with Ward’s informative notes and commentary. In the seven months since he started the blog, Ward has posted an astounding selection of music from India, Ireland, Turkey, Burma, Poland, Africa, Japan, Spain, the US, and more. None of the entries had previously appeared on reissue compilations, so there are some rare treats. Here are four gems he’s unearthed and uploaded thus far.

Munira al-Mahdiyya, “Aldahre Kataâ Awsali” (mp3)
As of my writing, this song by an Egyptian singer named Munira al-Mahdiyya was the most recent entry, and it’s heart-rendingly lovely. Ward reckons it was recorded around 1914 — which means al-Mahdiyya’s powerful voice is bathed in a haze of static, but that only heightens the sense of utter melancholy in this affecting lament.

Franciszek Dukla Wiejska Banda, “Nikto to nam niemo ze” (mp3)
This is a little Polish country song whose title in English is “Nobody Can.” Recorded in Chicago in 1927 by violinist Franciszek Dukla and his band, it’s a jaunty dance number, but don’t expect a hoky, brass-filled polka. This is a more elegant mazurka featuring violins, clarinet, string bass, and gravelly vocals.

Rizeli Sadık, “Erkek Kadın Oyun Havası” (mp3)
Ward describes Turkey’s Rizeli Sadık as the Jimi Hendrix of the kemençe, a three-stringed instrument akin to a violin that’s played upright. Based on this corker of an instrumental from the 1920s, his comparison is an apt one. There’s a swagger and exuberance to Sadık’s playing that’s electric.

Ranoko Sebabule, “Ditee” (mp3)
Of the many 78s from around Africa that have been posted on Excavated Shellac, this short South African song by Ranoko Sebabule is my favorite. A relatively late 78 rpm release from the 1950s, “Ditee” offers an intense vocal performance by Sebabule and an off-kilter concertina groove as accompaniment.
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