TAARAB: Songs of the Swahili Coast

21 tracks from the 78 rpm era of this beautiful and hypnotic East African music.

The first in a new series of compilations of vintage music called ShellacHead Archives.

“Poetry and languid charm,” is how legendary recording pioneer Hugh Tracey once described the city of Mombasa, and the phrase applies just as nicely to the music known as Taarab. Taarab consists of sung poetry with Arabic-influenced melodies and a laid back groove that gives the music a pleasing, hypnotic sound. Taarab was born in Zanzibar in the 19th Century and eventually spread throughout the Swahili coast of East Africa, especially to cities such as Mombasa and Dar es Salaam, due in no small part to the popularity of phonograph records. This compilation focuses on that early phonograph era, the late 1920s to the 1950s, the “golden age” of taarab.

ShellacHead Annual 2016: Hear Your Favourite Artists

2016 is drawing to a conclusion, which means it’s time to reflect on all the sounds that have flooded our ears, filtering the musically nutritious records like plankton through baleen. As usual, ShellacHead searches the nooks and crannies of the 78 rpm realm in search of those special moments of musical epiphany that exist outside the safe confines of popular mainstream pablum. While it was a particularly depressing year, watching humanity blindly rush hell-bent toward self-destruction, I hope these recordings will provide some solace as reminders that music is perhaps the one true thing of beauty that we’ve created during our time on this planet.

Get it Here.

The Lost 45s of Sudan

So, yeah, I was getting ready to work on this year’s ShellacHead Annual when I realized I hadn’t posted a damn thing since last year’s Annual! Wow, I guess 2015 went by pretty quick. I’ve mostly been working on recording an album with my rock band, SKUNK, but I’ve still been collecting old records and fantasizing about various reissue projects. I promise to try to make 2016 a bit more exciting here at ShellacHead.

This year’s Annual is worth the wait though – 15 super rare tracks from Sudan’s Munsphone label. Go ahead and look on Ebay for a Sudanese 45, there’s one there right now for $500. Take a look on the collecting site Discogs. Yep, there’s one there too and the asking price is $1000. Suffice it to say, these are much sought-after records! The records are difficult to find and so is information about the Munsphone label or the artists, but I’ve included what I know in a downloadable pdf.