Tomas Palermo

Vieux Farka Toure


PREVIEW A torrent of questions arose amid the global mourning over Michael Jackson’s sudden passing. Was he addicted to prescription pain meds? How much was he actually worth? Did his father’s abuse scar the star beyond repair? Speaking of paternal influence, will 12-year-old Prince Michael Jackson follow his famous father’s musical calling? If he displays even an ounce of MJ’s talent, the pressure will be enormous.

A similar scenario played out in the African music world following the 2006 passing of Malian blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré from bone cancer. Farka Touré’s son Vieux expressed an early interest in music, but his father objected, hoping to shelter him from a professional musician’s grueling tour circuit. It didn’t work. Vieux picked up the guitar, releasing a self-titled debut on Modiba/World Village in late 2006, followed by the creative, youth-embracing Remixed: UFOs Over Bamako (Modiba) in 2007. With guidance from legendary Malian kora player Toumani Diabat, the younger Touré’s first two releases express a reverence for his father’s emotive, blues-soaked guitar style while exploring rock and electronic music interests.

These traditional and modern threads entwine so thoroughly that they fuse on the new Fondo (Six Degrees). Vieux gives voice to swirling Saharan dust storms on the energetic "Sarama," explores Mali’s quiet spirituality on "Paradise" (featuring Diabate’s kora solos) and ponders West African struggles in the 21st century on the reggae-tinged "Diaraby Magni." Like his father, Vieux’s music has taken him from Bamako, Mali to Bonnaroo, the massive Tennessee music festival where his American summer tour begins. As U.S. indie bands like Vampire Weekend and Fools Gold incorporate African rhythms into their repertoires, it’s worth hearing a talented African guitar hero whose taste for rock isn’t just skin deep, it’s in his DNA.

VIEUX FARKA TOURÉ With Luke Top, DJ Jeremiah. Sat/18, 8 p.m., $20. The Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1420.

Anthony B


PREVIEW Keith Anthony Blair, also known as the fiery Rasta reggae sing-jay Anthony B, is becoming a multigenerational artist. The 33-year-old began recording in his late teens and over 15 years has helped usher in a cultural revival via a dozen albums, thousands of singles, and relentless touring. Still, he was surprised while on his last trip through Europe when promoters asked him start his shows early to accommodate his many preteen fans. "The shows were full of kids," Blair says, speaking by phone from Jamaica. "We had 10-, 12-, and 14 year-olds come out — that’s a fanbase for the next 10 years." Apparently the youth are drawn by Blair’s lively shows and enthusiastic recordings. "But they’ll go home and ask their parents what my lyrics were talking about. So a conversation can build in the home between the parents and the different generations over music."

Blair arrived on the reggae scene in the early-1990s among a Jamaican cultural contingent that included Luciano, Sizzla, and others. Blair and his camp stood out with their turban-wrapped locks and Bobo Ashanti Rastafarian faith — a sect that imposes restrictions on diet, conduct, and appearance — as well as songs that promoted a positive identity, equal rights, and gave a voice to the poor in Jamaica. After recording for Star Trail, Xterminator, and Fat Eyes, he formed his own Born Fire imprint and issued three self-produced full-lengths, including 2008’s brilliant Life Over Death. His music has always contained conscious content, dating back to 1995’s daring political indictment "Fire Pon Rome," a track recorded at considerable risk. "I’ve had to sidestep police," he explains.

Blair’s latest album, Rise Up (Greensleeves), continues that social justice thread: the title track is an acoustic number that echoes Bob Marley ("emancipate from mental slavery") and urges listeners to be mindful of global issues. With its innovative roots-meets-hip-hop production ("Stop Fight Reggae") and great combination tracks with Chezidek, Lukie D, and Horace Andy, Rise Up is an exemplary recording by a reggae artist that has no problem setting an example. "We have to go out into the world," Blair says, "and come back and show people what can achieved by doing good."

ANTHONY B With Native Elements. Tues/16, 9 p.m., $25. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1422,

Serene dreams


Leeds, U.K., native and Ibiza, Spain, resident George Evelyn has recorded lush and laidback beats for two decades as Nightmares on Wax. As British tastemaker label Warp’s longest-serving artist, he’s shared space on their roster with Autechre, Aphex Twin, and Squarepusher. But in stark contrast to his labelmates’ hectic, densely layered electronic productions, Evelyn’s music sonically embodies the phrase, "Let’s just chill a moment." And despite his scary moniker, most of what Evelyn creates will induce sweet daydreams.

String pad– and Rhodes-soaked numbers like "Calling," from his sixth and newest album, Thought So (Warp, 2008), unfold methodically, weaving rich synth layers together with jazzy loops before a slow-burning beat drops down without fanfare. The result is soothing, headphone-friendly songs that stand out among electronic music’s more conceited and bombastic projects.

Written mostly in an RV while moving from Leeds to Ibiza, Thought So rides on a broad variety of lazy beats and sumptuous songs that lounge comfortably at 84 beats per minute. "Moretime" is built on raw, funky loops that recall Cut Chemist or Quantic, while "Still? Yes?" meshes thick breakbeats and reggae snippets à la local beatmaster Romanowski. The aforementioned "Calling" also resembles Evelyn’s most notable track, "Nights Interlude," from Smokers Delight (Warp, 1995). The former follows an almost identically melodious composition trajectory but drifts dangerously towards wanky smooth jazz before Evelyn reels it back in. This quality of sonic consistency and balance has obviously bolstered NOW’s longevity.

Evelyn and Kevin Harper conceived NOW in 1988. Harper split a few years later before Smokers Delight became one of the most successful downtempo chill-out albums ever. Like other mid-1990s trip-hop material by Massive Attack, DJ Shadow, or Mighty Bop, NOW’s blueprint encompassed thick dub bass, hip-hop drum programming, soulful loops, samples, and velvety keyboard embellishments. So does it still sound as fresh 15 years later?

In Evelyn’s hands it does. He has evolved and enlisted great vocalists such as Chyna Brown, Ella May, Mozez, and Ricky Ranking, several of whom appear on the recent album’s best tracks. Evelyn and a full band including keyboardist Robin Taylor-Firth, guitarist Chris Dawkins, drummer Ize, and bassist Hamlet Luton touch down at the Independent Feb. 4 for a show that’ll remind folks that slow-mo music is good for the soul. Let’s hope they showcases gems such as "Damn" from 2006’s In a Space Outta Sound (Warp) and the Rankin’ toast "195 Lbs" from the latest full-length.


Wed/4, 9 p.m., $15


628 Divisadero

Bringin’ on the heartache


Twenty-year-old North London–born heartbreak crooner Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, or simply Adele to her fans, has had some big breaks amid her romantic woes. She appeared in 2007 on the BBC alongside Paul McCartney and Björk, and performed this past October on a Saturday Night Live episode that not only included Sarah Palin, Mark Wahlberg, Oliver Stone, and Tina Fey, but was seen by 17 million viewers.

Since then, her Burt Bacharach–styled symphonic pop hit "Chasing Pavements" has been ubiquitous, receiving constant airplay on local stations like Alice 97.3 FM. Her debut, 19 (XL/Columbia), is nominated for four Grammys, but Adele has had a tough time shaking comparisons to other British female neo-Motown vocalists such as Amy Winehouse, Duffy, and Lily Allen. "We’re a gender, not a genre," she quipped recently to London Guardian reporter Hannah Pool, revealing the same strong, honest qualities heard in her music. Adele’s songs revel in love’s bittersweet see-saw emotions ("Crazy for You," "Melt My Heart to Stone") while her equally elastic voice recalls Dusty Springfield and Jill Scott.

No telling if her luck will hold up, but with a new album for 2009, her formidable voice, and self-assured performances, Adele’s likely to outlast the trends.


With James Morrison

Jan. 29, 8 p.m., $24


982 Market, SF

Hang on, Ramsey


Venerable jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis will be 74 in May, but you’d hardly know it from his packed tour schedule and mounting awards. The Chicago native and 2007 NEA Jazz Master honoree hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, has recorded nearly an album a year since 1956 plus tours with his trio, does regular duets with Dave Brubeck, and moonlights as a member of smooth jazz supergroup Urban Knights. But perhaps Lewis’ greatest accomplishment was bringing jazz and pop together in soulful harmony.

Sample libraries and hip-hop production would be diminished were it not for Lewis’ funky covers ("Dear Prudence," "Soul Man," "People Make the World Go Round," "Slipping into Darkness"). Likewise Lewis, whose been playing since age four, has a sense of history: he studied Bach, Beethoven, Hayden, Duke Ellington, and Art Tatum before forming the Cleffs with Eldee Young on bass and Redd Holt on drums, his first of many trio configurations.

As the Ramsey Lewis Trio he scored hits in the mid-1960s on Chess-Cadet label releases like "Wade in the Water," "The In Crowd," and Motown cover "Hang on Sloopy." Lewis did for the piano what Stevie Wonder did for the harmonica, made the instrument swing. He also managed to evolve with the times, switching to Fender electric piano and writing originals like "Uhuru" and "Bold and Black" on 1969’s Another Voyage (Cadet) produced by studio great Charles Stepney. Sun Goddess (Columbia, 1974), which showcases enduring Lewis collaborator Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire on drums and vocals, was rediscovered by DJs decades later and ushered in the early-’90s acid jazz movement.

His most recent recording, 2005’s With One Voice (Narada) includes gospel standard "Oh Happy Day," redone with a house groove, and soulful reggae number "Keep the Spirit." These days bassist Larry Gray and drummer Leon Joyce fill out the trio, and the group makes an extended stop at Yoshi’s SF, a great prelude to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and Barack Obama’s inauguration.

In 1967 Columbia Records president Clive J. Davis said: "In the next century or so, we may very well no longer draw distinctions between what is ‘jazz,’ what is ‘classical,’ what is ‘progressive,’ ‘rock,’ or ‘soul.’ It may all just be called music, and let it go at that. For it’s all here, in the music that Ramsey makes." Davis’ hope for an end to genre distinctions may not have come to pass yet, but he was right about Lewis, it is all in him.


Thurs/15–Fri/16, 8 p.m., Sat/17, 8 and 10 p.m., Sun/18, 7 p.m.; $65

Yoshi’s SF

1330 Fillmore, SF

(415) 655-5600

Ane Brun


Fall is San Francisco’s most gothic and recognizable season. In contrast to our drab winter skies, unpredictable spring showers, summer microclimates, and endless foggy afternoons, autumn arrives in a snap, with crisp air, long shadows, and dramatic full moons. Stockholm-based Norwegian singer-songwriter Ane Brun’s introspective music is perfect for fall: she thoroughly explores uneasy moods on her aptly named fifth full-length, Changing of the Seasons (Cheap Lullaby).

The album’s hushed title track includes gently picked acoustic guitar work and a spacious arrangement where Brun muses about the moment when one contemplates leaving a lover for someone else. "It’s hard to be safe," she sings, "difficult to be happy." Tension and uncertainty is ever-present in Brun’s writing. She excels at exposing love’s contradictions and disappointments with a delicate emotional perception that, despite all the heartbreak, doesn’t wallow in self-pity.

Whatever her poetic narratives are about, Brun sounds fantastic singing them. She’s a rare talent who wields an arresting falsetto that’s both classic and modern. She’s been compared to Dolly Parton, Carole King, and Nico as well as Björk, Adele, and K.D. Lang. Excellent phrasing and austere lyrics invite the listener to contemplate, debate, and empathize with her subjects and material, which is often intimately autobiographical. Listening to Brun’s work, it’s tough not to feel like a guilty eavesdropper sneaking a look in a friend’s diary while house-sitting. Not that Brun would mind.

She isn’t afraid to sound vulnerable, barely holding on to her emotional composure on songs like "The Fall," in which she croons, "We were wrong, to stay this long / Let me go, let me fall to the ground." Like other numbers on Seasons, the track is laced with tasteful string accompaniment, arranged by Denmark’s Malene Bay-Landin and New York City’s Nico Muhly.

Although the "strings and sad singing" motifs conjure Nick Drake in his Bryter Layter (Island, 1970) period, Seasons also showcases inventive, percussive numbers like "The Puzzle" and "The Treehouse Song," which gallop, swing, and accentuate Brun’s cadence. "Armour"’s heavenly harmonics could support a scene from the 2001 French movie Amelie.

At the wonderfully cozy Café Du Nord, listeners will have an excellent chance to hang on Brun’s graceful notes, which trapeze playfully through compositions like "My Star" and "Linger with Pleasure." One hopes she’ll touch on selections from 2004’s masterful A Temporary Dive (DetErMine/V2), a putf8um seller in Scandinavia, and with drummer and vocal accompaniment in tow, Brun will usher us effortlessly into autumn’s dark, hopeful moments.


With Tobias Froberg

Tues/28, 8 p.m. $12

Café Du Nord

2170 Market, SF

(415) 861-5016

Sound in the balance


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"Anger is an energy," sang John Lydon in the Public Image Ltd. tune "Rise." San Francisco electronic artist Kush Arora harnesses a similar combustible force in his live shows and on the three full-length recordings that have made him an established club fixture and touring act. "I try to do something different with music and express the frustrations of the youth in this country," says the affable 26-year-old Haight District resident, who performs with Chicago’s MC Zulu July 13 at Dub Mission.

Arora’s ragga-techno fusions have struck a chord with audiences from the Bay Area to New York, while monthly hybrid live/DJ sets at Club Six’s Surya Dub night have earned him a broad audience that includes dubstep heads, bhangra fans, experimental electronic admirers, and grime listeners. It makes sense as the former Montessori School teacher has always balanced different cultures.

Born in San Leandro and educated in Orinda’s leafy suburbs, Arora ingested death metal, punk, and experimental-industrial sounds, as well as his family’s Indian and Punjab music, learning traditional instruments like the single-stringed tumbi and algoze flute. His music experience increased after interning at his uncle Aman Batra’s Manhattan hip-hop studio Sound Illusions, and later working for sound-editing software company Arboretum Systems.

In high school he formed an experimental band called Involution, which he helmed for six years before launching his solo noise project Clairaudience in the early ’00s. But it was while attending a 14-month audio recording course at Emeryville’s Ex’Pressions that he learned a signature skill: recording live vocals. "When I was writing songs for my first album [2004’s Underwater Jihad (Record Label/Kush Arora Productions)], I wasn’t impressed with my own work or where electronic music was at the time. It wasn’t badass enough," explains Arora, who also felt there was a lack of high quality, vocal-based dance music in the Bay.

Soon Arora contacted and tracked stateside Punjabi singers and ragga MCs, including Chicago’s MC Zulu, Trinidad’s Juakali, Jamaica’s N4SA, Los Angeles’ Wiseproof, and San Jose’s Sukh and Sultan. "I wanted to work with people who were dangerous and different, especially vocalists who didn’t fall into their music’s niche or category," Arora says of the often confrontational and political artists he’s recorded on full-lengths like 2006’s Bhang Ragga and 2007’s From Brooklyn to SF, both released on his Kush Arora Productions imprint. The albums brought club bookings far and near.

Over the past several years Arora has played large Indian gatherings, small IDM shows, underground warehouse events, raves, and the monthly Non-Stop Bhangra party in San Francisco. His performance breakthrough happened in 2006 at DJ Sep’s weekly Sunday-night reggae party at the Elbo Room, Dub Mission. "That changed my whole presence in the city," he says.

Arora believes his family’s roots in the often-volatile Punjab region between India and Pakistan breathes through his music. "That’s why I like bhangra. It has an element of aggression and sadness," he reflects, acknowledging that those also are traits he looks for in his vocal collaborations. "The artists I work with have a real tug-of-war between good and evil in their lives. My music is their redemption and my redemption in a fateful balance." *


Dub Mission on Sundays, 9 p.m., $6

(Arora and MC Zulu on July 13, $7)

Elbo Room

647 Valencia, SF



REVIEW Twenty-two-year-old South London producer Beni Uthman, a.k.a. Benga, gave dubstep its first crossover hit with last year’s "Night," coproduced with the artist Coki. The track caught the attention of British radio tastemakers like the BBC’s Judge Jules, Gilles Peterson, and Mary Anne Hobbs, and was played relentlessly by Europe’s biggest club DJs. With its marching cadence and hypnotic lead bass synth, "Night" signaled that dubstep’s moment had arrived, and that 1990s dance music producers had serious competition from the PlayStation generation. So what could Uthman do to top this success? Make a new beat.

Since his 2002 debut 12-inch, "Skank" (Big Apple), Uthman’s artistic output has been prolific. According to an XLR8R article, he made 250 songs in 2007 alone. Uthman’s broader success is due in part to his music’s recognizable fusions: electro, techno, drum ‘n’ bass, and dubstep’s UK garage roots all mingle on hyperkinetic rhythms that reflect South London’s urban-tribal sonic milieu. These elements shine through on the mostly instrumental Diary of an Afro Warrior (Tempa), an album that is best absorbed through uninterrupted, start-to-finish listens.

Opener "Zero M2"’s delicate Rhodes notes recall Bristol jungle producer Roni Size’s jazz-inflected work, but Uthman’s growling digital bass pulses quickly dispense with any chin-stroking. Elsewhere, skittish tracks like "Emotions" and "E Trips" mimic club drugs’ racing heartbeats with start-stop kick drums and swirling acid-laced keyboards, while "The Cut" employs chainsaw bass notes and cut-up funk samples. Diary‘s otherworldly compositions and signature programming should establish Uthman alongside Underworld, Aphex Twin, Goldie, and Orbital as the UK’s next great dance music innovator. That might seem like a lot to put on a twentysomething’s shoulders, but based on Diary‘s strength, it’s not beyond this bass warrior’s capabilities.

BENGA With Skream. Wed/18, 9 p.m., $20. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. (415) 626-7001,

The funk this time


With gas prices topping four dollars in the United States this summer, Americans are educating themselves on where their fuel comes from. Often it’s from places like Nigeria’s Niger Delta, where multinational petroleum giants face armed resistance from local groups that see foreign oil developments as resource exploitation. So why are groups like Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) fighting the Nigerian government, Chevron, and Shell?

As John Ghazvinian points out in Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil (Harcourt, 2007), "In Nigeria, 80 percent of oil and gas revenue accrues to just 1 percent of the population…. Virtually everybody in the Delta scrambles to get by in shantytowns built of driftwood and corrugated zinc, watching children die of preventable diseases, while their corrupt leaders whiz past behind the tinted windows of air-conditioned BMWs."

Against this backdrop rises 25-year-old Seun Kuti, whose potent self-titled debut for Disorient Records directly addresses Nigeria’s issues. Seun is the youngest son of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, who before his death in 1997 popularized the funk-influenced West African Afrobeat sound worldwide throughout the 1970s and ’80s. Backed by his father’s 20-piece Egypt 80 orchestra, Seun invokes his dad’s fiery political rhetoric on protest songs like "Na Oil" and "African Problem" that lyrically excoriate foreign and domestic oppressors. In keeping with his father’s work, Seun’s backing music is as engaging as his commentary.

Seun Kuti is carrying Fela’s music to a new generation. But unlike his older half-brother Femi, whose recordings incorporate hip-hop and dance motifs, Seun revives Afrobeat’s original big-band blueprint and injects it with a fresh urgency. He’s helped by Fela’s longtime bandleader Baba Ani, along with Adedimeji Fagbemi (a.k.a. Showboy) on saxophone, Ajayi Adebiya on drums, and a dozen or so other Egypt 80 veterans who’ve been playing regularly for nearly three decades at the family’s Kalakuti compound.

The group stretches out on eight-minute songs like "Don’t Give That Shit to Me," where dueling guitars trade jabs, a full brass section swells mightily, and Seun Kuti adds vocal diatribes. Kuti’s sax flourishes lead the charge on that track, one of the album’s most spacious, jazz-improv-driven numbers. Similarly, blazing trumpets and speedy percussion-laden polyrhythms transform "Mosquito"<0x2009>‘s serious anti-malaria message into a rebel-dance anthem.

Kuti closes his first full-length with the punchy, mid-tempo "African Problem," which is replete with street traffic samples and the band leader’s passionate, rapid-fire lyrics. "Make you help me ask them sisters / Why no get houses to stay / Salute my brothers when they fight / Fight for the future of Africa," he sings in a militant call-and-response with the horn section. And like the campaign waged by one of Kuti’s American supporters (Barack Obama, who helped Egypt 80 get visas for a benefit show in Chicago), Kuti’s album resonates as an authentic political expression where expression and message are aligned.


With Sila and the Afrofunk Experience

Sun/22, 2 p.m., free

Stern Grove

Sloat and 19th Ave., SF

Year in Music: Sub obsession


When listeners go mad for a track they hear on London’s dubstep pirate radio station Rinse FM, the DJ quickly backspins the vinyl or CD turntable and says, "All right, from the edge!" It’s an apt metaphor for music that has San Franciscans like myself clinging to bass bins and feverishly tracking the music’s forward march from South London across the globe.

Dubstep was 2007’s most fun and relevant electronic music form. The sound encompasses our war-weary planet’s apocalyptic throb, with the promise of technology’s tones twinkling in the distance. It welds dub reggae’s weighty bass with UK garage’s insistent rhythmic pulse and, like a massive black hole, draws in techno, grime, industrial, drum ‘n’ bass, and other electronic subgenres.

This year, seven years after its gritty South London birth, dubstep music was everywhere in the Bay Area, from small bars like Underground SF to multiple Burning Man camps. Parties like Grime City, Narco Hz, Brap Dem, and Full Melt drove the music, while promoters like SureFire booked big out-of-town acts. Brit expat Emcee Child ruled the mic with Axiom and Audio Angel contributing vocal vibes, and DJs like SamSupa!, Djunya, Ripple, Cyan, Subtek, Kozee, Jus Wan, and Kid Kameleon sorted the platters.

So why dubstep, and why now? Well, house, techno, hip-hop, and mashups have mined familiar, even worn, territory for years, addled by heaps of cocaine and mediocre productions. Meanwhile, innovation is dubstep’s main component: London’s Benga dropped electro-influenced steppers, local artist Juju gave us dub-fueled tunes, Skream issued acidy tracks, and new names like Elemental offered glitchy breaks as dubsteppers broke all the rules. This inspired a clutch of devoted SF enthusiasts to launch a full-scale takeover, with club nights, legal and pirate radio shows, and labels and local producers getting international acclaim. SF is now respected internationally as America’s dubstep ground zero.

The good news: this scene is more down-to-earth than the city’s notoriously cliquey drum ‘n’ bass crews were in their mid-’90s prime. The first time you go to a dubstep party you’re more apt to be handed a shot than shot down as a newbie. And remember: when you hear a sick dubplate rinsed out there, don’t forget to put five fingers in the air and shout, "From the edge!"


1. Various artists, Hotflush Presents: Space and Time (Hotflush)

2. The Bug featuring Killa P and Flow Dan, "Skeng" (Hyperdub)

3. N-Type’s Sunday radio show, Rinse FM

4. Benga, "The Invasion" (Big Apple)

5. SamSupa!, Fallinginto DJ mix

6. Cotti and Clue Kid, "The Legacy" (–30)

7. Burial, Untrue (Hyperdub)

8. Babylon System, "Loaded" (Argon)

9. Coki, "Spongebob" (DMZ)

10. Skream, "Skreamizm Vol. 4" (Tempa)

DJ Youngsta


London’s DJ Youngsta would much rather be heard than seen. Even at his recent spotlight guest DJ appearance on Mary Anne Hobbs’s top-rated BBC Radio 1 electronic program, Youngsta uttered nary a word. Known as dubstep’s most peerless and perfectionist technical mixer, Yunx — as his friends casually call him — lets the tunes do the talking. Same goes for his own weekly radio blasts on London pirate Rinse FM, where MC Task handles the instant message shout-outs and track title announcements.

But although Yunx (né Dan Lockhart) speaks little — as Hobbs revealed in her brief on-air bio — the 22-year-old phenom carries major weight in the exploding international dubstep scene. His background includes work as an A&R consultant for the genre’s top label, Tempa Recordings, run by his sister, Sarah Lockhart; as an employee at top record store BM Soho; and as booker for the scene’s most important club night, Forward, at Plastic People in Shortditch, East London.

Yunx will certainly prove his infectious dance floor popularity on our shores again when he returns for his second visit to San Francisco in a year. His previous set, with DJ Hatcha at the Dark Room, had dancers bawling for "reloads" — translation: when the DJ lifts the needle and replays the song — almost every other track.

He’s unique: Yunx spins vinyl acetate dubplates almost exclusively. "It ‘ain’t even a case of whether you prefer CD or dubplate; it actually sounds better on a dub, and that’s the bottom line," he remarked to the Drumz of the South blog. Yunx also freely admits that he leans towards playing dubstep’s darker, bassier tunes — don’t expect any fluffy, life-affirming anthems during his sets. His inclement sound is wobbly, tense, and low-end-shaking, like a storm brewing in the distance. Paired with some of San Francisco’s finest regular dubstep DJ talent, Yunx’s latest SF appearance should reveal where dubstep is headed seven years into its lifespan. (Tomas Palermo)


With DJ Ripple, Sam Supa, and Selector Dub-U

Wed/5, 10 p.m., $5


1337 Mission, SF

(415) 255-1337

People’s choice


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"We ram dancehall and cork party / Papa Jammy in your area."

Johnny Osbourne

The 1980s was a turbulent decade in Jamaica. Government control had shifted from Michael Manley’s socialist-leaning People’s National Party to Edward Seaga’s free market–oriented Jamaican Labour Party. As Prime Minister Seaga tilted the country’s foreign policy to the right, American political and economic meddling in the region, combined with the nascent drug trade from Colombia to Miami via Jamaica, threw the island into flux.

Against this backdrop, in the Kingston ghetto enclave of Waterhouse, record producer and engineer Lloyd "King Jammy" James embraced the emerging digital reggae era and became its king. E-mailing from his office in London, reggae historian and author David Katz asserts that it was James who revolutionized Jamaican music overnight in 1985 with the release of Wayne Smith’s "Under Mi Sleng Teng," precipitating the shift from analog to digital. None of the precious few digital rhythms that came before "Sleng Teng" had its tremendous impact; Katz notes, "Jammy was the one who embraced the use of technology in its totality, in such a way as to be far in front of his rivals."

James honed his talents in the 1970s, working alongside another major production figure, Osbourne Ruddock, otherwise known as King Tubby. While assisting Tubby, James moonlighted and recorded albums for Black Uhuru and Johnny Osbourne. By the mid-’80s, James was ready to strike out on his own, and he recruited several impressive vocalists and toasters from his neighborhood.

Indeed, James is revered as much for his ability to discover raw talent as for his innate mixing skills. You’ll find visual evidence of the latter in several recently posted YouTube videos that show James executing dub versions of songs by Smith, Johnny Clarke, and others. Seeing James use all 10 fingers on the faders certainly authenticates his mastery. Now VP Records has released another document that reveals James’s genius.

The New York label has amassed a four-double-disc collection of King Jammy 12-inch single releases, circa 1985 to 1988. Selector’s Choice organizes each batch of recordings by "riddim," or common backing instrumental, which enables club and radio DJs to easily play several different artists with the same musical arrangement consecutively. For instance, disc one features the Tempo riddim with individual songs by Nitty Gritty, Pad Anthony, and Tonto Irie, and also the Stalag riddim with work by Smith, Osbourne, and Dean Frasier. The collection is a DJ’s nirvana.

Other chapters in Selector’s Choice show the evolution of Jammy’s roster from a primarily vocalist-focused endeavor — composed of reggae legends Nitty Gritty, Little John, and Tenor Saw — to a toaster-oriented team with key artists such as Ninjaman, Admiral Bailey, Major Worries, and Shabba Ranks. On the phone from his still-Kingston-based studio, James explains that back in the day, aspiring artists lined up down the block, drawn to his yard by the amount of good riddims the studio produced. "We never kept anybody out," he says. "We invited everybody to come in."

Katz notes that the toasters James attracted added value to his stable. "[Toasters such as] Josie Wales were very influential," Katz says of the Wild West–inspired micsmith. "Josie had style, verve, wit, and longevity, and he spoke of reality but was also humorous." Wales inspired fellow toaster Admiral Bailey, who became tremendously popular in dancehall with his rapid rhymes, producing hits for Jammy such as "Big Belly Man," "Jump Up," and "No Way Better Than Yard," all included on Selector’s Choice. Bailey in turn shaped James’s biggest find, Shabba Ranks, who later went on to greater popularity and a Grammy award on the Digital B label, with Jammy’s apprentice Bobby "Digital" Dixon at the helm.

But as Selector’s Choice deftly proves, James was the dominant hitmaker between 1985 and 1989, a reign born partially out of a love for his profession. James describes producing music during the mid-’80s as a joyful experience, one that saw him craft hits almost daily. "It was a very good [studio] environment," James says. "All the artists, producers, everybody used to live close, like a family. We used to cook and eat [together], go in the studio, and work hard."

A hard workday typically entailed building two or three new riddims with musicians Wycliffe "Steelie" Johnson and Cleveland "Clevie" Brownie or with Smith, and then voicing artists into the night. James kept his personal living quarters in the same building as his studio, so at the end of the session he could just walk a few meters to the bedroom and catch some z’s. Music journalist Rob Kenner relays personal details such as these — and the backstory of each song — in Selector’s Choice‘s liner notes. Kenner’s revelations about the dual meanings of tracks such as Nitty Gritty’s "Hog in a Minty" and Major Worries’ "Babylon Boops" add another layer to the greatness of James’s productions.

Many label compendiums try to account for every session, take, and rough draft a producer laid hands on. Selector’s Choice instead packs its eight 20-song discs with true dancehall smashes, records that bear the unmistakable stamp and production ethic James uses to this day. He summed up his creative philosophy this way: "I’d rather do original music than covers, because I learned that you own that stuff and it lasts longer." *

Boys? What boys?


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I meet bandleader, videographer, and Mission District indie icon Leslie Satterfield at Ritual café on a summer evening as she walks up Valencia Street looking weather-beaten and weary from her recent travels. Is she just back from a cross-country tour, I wonder? No, she was precisely where you’d expect the guitarist from Boyskout to have been: camping. She survived days of deer watching and near–bear sightings in the Sierras, and despite her desire for a hot shower and warm bed, Satterfield settles in with a cappuccino and some good stories.
Satterfield may be best known for her post-punk quartet Boyskout, a band that’s risen the ranks since its inception in 2001 to tour around the United States and Germany and headline major local venues including Mezzanine and Bimbo’s 365 Club. But the sandy-blond, late-20s songwriter has been also turning heads of late with her filmmaking.
Her video for Film School’s song “11:11” — a minimalist travelogue set in San Francisco streets and tunnels — is the latest work for her own Sharkbone Productions, which has also produced Boyskout videos shown internationally at major gay and lesbian film festivals. Her latest projects include a video for Rough Trade UK–signed act Scissors for Lefty and a self-produced experimental film that she describes as “being about love and creating what you believe.”
“Most of my films have been about how we create our own realities with our mind and how powerful the mind itself is — how your thoughts create everything that happens to you,” Satterfield says.
With her Mission artist garb — black boots and worn dark denim — I figure Satterfield had a youth spent in mosh pits and zine-collective punk hangouts. On the contrary, she grew up listening to the Beatles, Olivia Newton-John, and Simon and Garfunkel, while spending a lot of time drawing. She earned a BA in photography from Savannah College of Art and Design and resided in Amsterdam for a year before moving west. Now in addition to classics from Elton John and Heart, her iPod holds songs by Coco Rosie, the Libertines, and Tapes ’n Tapes. It’s an eclectic collection of music, similar to the local bands she holds dear and performs with regularly. The list includes up-and-coming acts like the Fucking Ocean, Tartufi, Full Moon Partisans, Death of a Party, and the Mall, as well as Shande — the group fronted by her sometime–guest guitarist Jennifer Chochinov.
Admittedly a shy, coy romantic who’s just completed an all-acoustic album, Mixing Memory with Desire (Dial), as J-Mod, Satterfield was initially a reluctant lead vocalist. You wouldn’t know it from Boyskout’s recent rock-out performances: Satterfield’s steely, saucerwide blue eyes zap the audience playfully while she mixes it up with her bandmates onstage. Along with bassist Piper Lewine, keys and violin player Christina Stanley, and drummer Ping (and occasionally adding guest guitarists like Chochinov or Daniel Dietrick to the lineup), Satterfield slayed audiences at South By Southwest this year in Austin and returned immediately to begin recording Boyskout’s now completed second album, Another Life (Three Ring). At the time we speak, eight of the planned 11 songs are done but won’t be out, well, until they’re done. “I’m a huge perfectionist,” Satterfield confesses. “The biggest in the world. I really like to take my time and do things to a tee.”
The songs I’ve heard from the project, including the Nocturne-era-Siouxsie-sounding “Spotlight” and the jittery dance-rock slab of “Lobby Boys,” are as refreshing as local underground music can get (word to Live 105). Meanwhile, Satterfield’s singing on the J-Mod disc (fantastically recorded at Hyde Street Studios) resembles Nico or Hope Sandoval in their darkest, most mysterious moments. Each album serves as an introduction to Satterfield’s thoughtful and dissonant guitar playing, a style that compliments her alabaster-smooth voice. Based on her range of projects and contacts, I get the impression that Satterfield has some big opportunities on the horizon.
Other recent adventures include a trip to Portland to teach at the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls. “I taught last year in New York, and it was really fun. I worked with a group of 8-year-olds who formed their own band called Pink Slip.” Which reminds me, I never did get to ask Satterfield what her day job is. For now I’ll just assume it’s the professional term for “brilliant multidisciplinary artist.” SFBG
With the Mall and the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower
Oct. 5, 9:30 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455