September 2009  
  Artist of the month  

Imants Kalniņš

Travelling the Baltic States the influence of the Russification that was applied by the Soviet regime for more then forty years is notable everywhere. Also in the music scene. During the Soviet period, artists and writers were kept under surveillance and their work was heavily censored. This was done largely through state sponsorship. Artists who were approved by the state were given superior accommodation and the state purchased their work. There were also artists that tried to find mazes in the Soviet regulation and were able to keep local culture alive.

In musical terms the Latvian traditional music originates in the Daina. A mix of music and poetry telling stories about local mythology and legendary Latvian heroes. No wonder the Soviet rule wasn’t to keen on these nationalistic songs. With this in mind the work of composer Imants Kalniņš is undeniable of great importance. Born in 1941 he was brought up under Soviet rule. Still he was interested in the old Latvian daina’s and mixed them in his classical work. This did not go down to well. To make things even worse he became interested in rock ‘n roll in sixties and founded the first Latvian pop-band 2xBBM. After a short-lived succesfull start the local officials banned the band just a year after their first appearance.

Probably pretty pissed off Kalniņš started to work on a project that would be released as ‘symfony 4’ in 1972. The project was no classical work but is in fact the first progressive rock album in Latvia history. Inspired by illegal music like Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ and Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ Kalniņš mixed rock and Latvia folklore with classical music. To make things even worse he incorporated poetry from American beat poet Kelly Cherry (who was his lover at the time) for the final movement. Still with all these obvious attempts to irritate the Soviet officials the symphony was allowed to be released if Cherry’s poem would be left off. Although it looks like a minor step for some the relevance of this work for Latvian people must have been huge. Note that a copy of the album is even on display at the Riga Occupation Museum as a symbol of the Latvian culture being cherished in the seventies.

Unstoppable Kalniņš kept composing, writing for other rock groups and organizing folklore festivals throughout the seventies. Finally in the eighties some hope arose when Gorbachev's glasnost policy allowed more freedom of speech in the Soviet Union than ever before. Latvia's independence movement started with small demonstrations for independence and human rights in 1986. The breaking point came in summer 1988 when a strong resurgence of Latvian national identity had started. Tautas Fronte was one of the key organizations in this and Kalniņš was one of their prominent members. Allowed to join the elections in 1991 the party became the governing party quickly to call out independence. Of course the Soviet Union tried to oppose this and quickly send a tank battalion to set things straight. In Riga unarmed people built barricades and spent days and nights guarding them, singing Latvian songs (which must have been some of Kalniņš compositions) . Because of this the independence movement is now known as "the Singing Revolution".  After the independence music culture started to develop again and also Kalniņš started recording again with a regular output until this day. His role was and is still regarded highly by the Latvian people.

Click here to visit Imants Kalniņš page on europopmusic.eu...

  July 2009  
  Artist of the month  

Udo Lindenberg

On our page ‘what is Europopmusic’ we lay down some definitions of what we think is typical European popmusic. First of all it’s music that is made in Europe (of course) genre generally stays within the cultural borders of Europe without crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Second it has to be mostly sung in the local language. And third it usually incorporates fragments of local folklore. This last aspect can also be extended to be very aware on the local political situation. For instance countries like Greece, Italy, Former Yugoslavian republics have this incorporated in their local popmusic. But Germany had this as well, especially during the excistence of the Berlin wall and the DDR. A good example of an artist incorporating all definitions of Europopmusic and being very political outspoken is rock ‘n roll rebel Udo Lindenberg. Especially in the eighties der Udo was very active to start with the single ‘Wozu sind Kriege da?’. The following album ‘Utopia’ is a methaporical excercise for Germany as it should be. With his usual mix of rock and chanson Lindenberg made his point.

In 1983 Lindenberg focussed his political arrows at the DDR. Or more precisely at the fact that East- and West German artists weren’t allowed to perform on the other side of the wall. For his album ‘Pankow odyssey’ he writes the song ‘Sonderzug nach Pankow’ (Pankow is a place in East Berlin). The track is a reaction to the rejection of his desire for a concert in the DDR by the authorities. The text of the roughly three-minute song is ironic in the way directly to the former State Council Chairman Erich Honecker. The melody is based on the classic swing-Chattanooga Choo Choo by Glenn Miller from the year 1941, the text is based on the song train to Kötzschenbroda of Bully Buhlan from the year 1946. The reference to the Berlin district of Pankow in the title based on the fact that the castle located there Schönhausen 1949 to 1960 the seat of the President and was the State Council of the DDR. The government of the DDR responded with an invitation to Lindenberg to be present at the festival 'Rock for Peace' in East Berlin's Palace of the Republic. Although he was not allowed to sing, Udo did go and addressed the public.

If this didn’t go well with the officials we do not know but fact is that a year later Udo’s tour through the DDR was cancelled. In response he wrote ‘Hallo DDR!’ for the ‘Götterhämmerung’ album. Apparently Moscow is less rigid of inviting western artists cause Lindenberg gets an invitation to perform there in 1985. Here he sings 'Wozu sind Kriege da?' in duet with Russian pop-diva Alla Pugacheva. Interestingly, he changes in the first line of the song 'And I am afraid in this nuclear missiles forest' into 'I fear me in this forest of western missiles'.
In 1987 Lindenberg gives DDR partyleader Erich Honecker, during his first visit to West Germany in Wuppertal, a leather jacket next to a guitar with the words "Gitarren statt Knarren". In return he receives a Martin trumpet which he uses on the song ‘Secretary’. His first tour of the DDR has to wait until the fall of the Wall. In June 1988 Lindenberg plays with numerous musicians at a rock concert in front of the Reichstag in West Berlin. Nowadays Udo is still very political outspoken, not about the DDR, but the environmental destruction and the bad sides of the digital age are one of his major issues.

Click here to visit Udo Lindenbergs page on europopmusic.eu...

  The best album from...  

Frank Boeijen Groep
Frank Boeijen Groep

Luz Casal
Un mar de confianza (2000) - ♪♪♪♪♪

A good example of an artist that made the transistion from simple hitparade star to serious artist is Luz Casal. Born in Boimorto in the province of La Coruña, on November 11, 1958, she moved to Madrid in the seventies. She started to sing in several rockgroups, musicals and choirs. In 1980 she was discovered during the participation on a Bob Marley tribute single. With the franco-era over musical liberty made it possible for the recordcompanies to show some marketing ambition and Casal was just the girl they were looking for. With a reasonable budget recording sessions in Madrid, Brussels and Amsterdam and help from Roque Navaja, Noel Soto and Narea the album had to be a succes. Indeed it was and the commercial hold would last untill 1991. No suprise it would take four years of silence for Luz to create a more personal style and album with ‘Como la flor promitida’. The lyrics to the title track are evident of her selfdoubt: “singing with her own voice, Why? if fight we must fight, close to you and yell or resist the temporal when things go wrong.” The album was her biggest success and gave the means to create, what we consider, her best album ‘Un mar de confianza’ (a sea of confidence).

The album is deeply personal and Casal displays many doubts about her talent she had in the past. But most of all it seems to be an album telling of a relationship falling apart under her hands. The lyrics of ‘La confianza’ say enough: “I put my trust in you, you do not leave me, never betrayed me, two pulses and one being making me think I can stand, never lose my confidence in you.” That her fame left its marks on her personal (love)life is reported on several tracks on the album like in the bitter ‘Aparte de mi’: “I want to know what strange power is behind your eyes. You lie so well pretending to believe your cynical words. Oh, oh, shut up. Oh, oh, let me. There is a sting in your voice as a lethal sword.”. Also ‘Tu silenzio’ tells of a relationship gone bitterly wrong: “A great fatal silence, We have been hurt. The long night and pain grows.. a great silence wraps me like fog.”. Whatever the relationship was, Luz is done with it as can be heard on ‘Prefiero morirme’: “Continue or stop, increase or decrease, I prefer to die from a direct blow then to be a tattoo engraved on your body.” But it's not all doom and gloom. One of the best tracks 'Sentir' delivers a message of courage and hope although the person adressed does not believe it: "Open your wings to the thought and let us bring; live and enjoy every moment with intensity, because I believe in you every morning, but sometimes you do not believe anything."

The album was a huge success and established Luza Casal abroad. She became on of the few Spanish singers to fill the Olympia theater in Paris and gave five sold-out shows at the theater La Cigale. The album itself was awarded with the Ondas Prize and the Goya prize. Although the sales of ‘Un mar de confianza’ were never surpassed (800.000 copies in Spain alone) Casal stayed a popular artist. In 2007 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and after treatment this gave inspiration for a new album ‘Vida tóxica’. But that is a whole new story. For now enjoy ‘Un mar de confianza’.

Listen to 'Sentir'

Click here to link directly to Luz's page...

  June 2009  
  Artist of the month  

Juliette Gréco
Lucio Battisti & Mogol

Ten years after his death Lucio Battisti is, to many Italians, one of the greatest songwriters their country ever had. Most Italians still can sing songs Battisti had on its repertoire. The odd thing about this is that Battisti himself hardly wrote any lyrics during his musical career. He was the composer and arranger while dedicated others (mostly Mogol or Panella) wrote the lyrics. In fact if it wasn’t for meeting his first musical partner it is highly doubtfull Battisti would have climbed the stage at all.

Giulio Rapetti (a.k.a Mogol) already had reasonable success as a songwriter for Gina Paoli and Mina when he met Battisti. The meeting on February 14 of 1965 was set up Christine Leroux, a talentscout for Mogol’s father (who worked for the label Ricordi). Years later Mogol remembered the meeting by telling that he was not particularly impressed by the songs that Lucio had proposed, but had decided to collaborate with him for his humility in admitting his own limitations and the desire to do and to improve. In 1966, it was Mogol who persuaded Battisti, himself skeptical about his own vocal talents, to start performing the songs they have written. The first efforts were almost immediatelly a succes as well as songs they wrote for others. Among them ‘ Il Paradiso’ which they wrote for Patty Pravo that proved to be an international succes. As we already concluded Battisti influence may not be based on his lyricall skills but as an arranger and produces he meant a turning point in pop and rock Italy: from a strictly musical, Lucio Battisti has innovated and customized in every sense the shape of songs traditional and melodic to a whole new style. With the lyrics written by Mogol, Battisti relaunched topics deemed exhausted or hardly innovative, such as the emotional involvement and small events of daily life, but was also able to explore topics that were unusual, sometimes controversial.

Their music appealed to a wide audience, from progrock fans to more traditional songlovers and enabled the duo to start their own label, Numero Uno. At the start of the seventies it seemed their succes was limitless. They wrote some of the greatest Italian songs like come ‘Un'avventura’, ‘Fiori rosa, fiori di pesco’, ‘Emozioni’, ‘Il mio canto libero’, ‘La canzone del sole’, ‘E penso a te’ and ‘I giardini di Marzo’. Their album ‘Il nostro caro angelo’ (1973) was even able to keep international top-sellers ‘Dark side of the moon’ (Pink Floyd) and ‘Don’t shoot the piano player’ (Elton John) from the number one position in the album charts. The catholic church wasn’t too pleased with the album since the titletrack meaning ‘Our dear angle’ was a furious complaint against them. The duo was able to uphold the succes throughout the decennium with people lining up in front of the stores the day a new album was released.

In 1980 their partnership ended however over the sharing of copyright: the revenue in fact went to a fourth quarter to Battisti and Mogol in the remaining was for the publisher, the Blue Water Editions. Within it, however, Battisti had a market share of 40% while Mogol controlled only 10%. Mogol confronted Battisti with this fact and wanted to open the contract. Lucio responded with ending their relationship and seeking another poet to persue his career with in the eighties. The years with poet Pasquale Panella are characterized by more experimental and electronic albums. In the end Battisti, like a true hermit, kicked out most of the musicians and worked alone in the studio brewing up very desolate-sounding albums like ‘Cosa succederà alla ragazza’ (1992) and ‘Hegel’ (1994). In august 1998 rumour spread that Battisti was hospitalized in Milan. After a lengthy sickbed Lucio Battisti died on the morning of 9 September 1998, at the age of 55 years. For the funeral, only twenty people were invited, among them Mogol. Now working with Gianni Bella writing for Adriano Celentano he wrote the song ‘L'arcobaleno’ (The rainbow), included on the CD ‘Io non so parlar d'amore’, dedicated to the memory of Battisti and their special partnership: “Then i am left so suddenly / I did not have time to say goodbye / short time to live but even more short / like a light that pierces your heart. I miss you so much dear friend indeed / and many things are left to say / always and only listen to real music / and if you can try to understand.”

Click here to link directly to Lucio Battisti's page.

  The best album from...  

Frank Boeijen Groep
Frank Boeijen Groep

Anne Linnet
Jeg og du (2000) - ♪♪♪♪♪

For some of our favourite albums it seems some kind of mystery how they came into existence. What was the artist thinking or doing at the time? Usually these are albums that are released on private labels or very small distribution companies and show a far going degree of artistic freedom. ‘Jeg og du’ ('You and I') by Danish singer songwriter Anne Linnet is such an album. Released in 2000 we did not have a clue what drove Linnet to compose and record this selection of very personal songs and why it was released on such a small label. Since it is such an outstanding album, we made it this months 'Best album from...' and took some time to dig into the background of this record....

What we do know is that Linnet was already a distinctive figure on the Danish music scene and a valued writer and composer. Born in 1953 in Århus she created an impressive oeuvre of albums, exploring all kinds of music styles, and showing a constant desire to try something new. Her last project at the time, the 1997 ‘Bitch Boys’, was an exercise in all-female rock, obviously in need for 'something completely different' after writing an opera and children’s music. I can imagine that her then distributing company, Sony music, wasn’t too pleased with all these hard to sell projects. To make it even more difficult Anne is a very outspoken person, known for her uncompromising opinions, honesty and openness about her bi-sexuality. I know from a Danish collague that she was considered a bit of a bitch and a pain in the ass. And outdated by a younger generation as well. You have to take into account that the biggest Danish musical export product at the time was bubblegum act Aqua..

I assume that in 1998 Sony was all too glad to let Anne go. Since being the mother of five children (two of ex-husband and jazz musician Holger Laumann and three adopted) I guess she didn’t mind that much, having her hands full at home. Sitting at home must have sparked her to take a look back at her life. The result was that in 2000 she released her memoirs called ‘Hvor kommer drømmene fra’ ('Where dreams come from') and this highly retrospective album. She sings on one of the keytracks ‘Identitet’: “You gave me mother's name / tell me about my father's embrace… a rootless pale face / Showing me the way /deep in my own roots / I wonder if the coming storm / shows me how far I go”. Also ‘Som en stjerne’ shows Anne reminiscing about life and things to come: “like a star
to break the darkness / in a night sky, I / I will light for you / I will light a life before disappearing.” The lyrics give the impression that Linnet wasn’t sure what to do next. On the openingstrack ‘Nattehimmel’  it almost seems as if she speaks to herself, to take matters in her own hand again: “you should not just wait for everything that happens / you should not just wait for members.”

This might sound a bit depressing but ‘Jeg og du’  is actually the opposite. It’s an uptempo album with al lot positive well crafted songs on it. Also Linnet took to London to record the album incorporating influences from triphop and urban music into her Danish sound. It’s a modern sounding and in fact one of the best she made since years. That the album in the end found distribution on the Norwegian Grappa label shows what her country thought of her at the time. No Danish distributor was interested to release ‘Jeg og du’. Last year Anne got her revenge when she received IFPI Denmark’s prize of honour for her work of many years on the Danish music scene. Her two latest albums, 'Akvarium' (2007) and 'Anne Linnet' (2008), were released on major labels and - again - put her in the front league of Danish music scene.

Click here to link directly to Anne Linnets page.

  May 2009  
  Artist of the month  

Juliette Gréco
Juliette Gréco

This year madame Gréco celebrates her 60th year as a recoring artist. She will performing a few recitals in the Champs-Elysées theatre this June and she has just released a new album containing 14 new songs. (Click here to read the review of the album ‘Je me souviens de tout’.) It is only natural that we will pay homage to madame Gréco’s anniversary by presenting her as artist of this month.

La Gréco was born on 7 February 1927 in Montpellier, in the south of France. After the world war II she went to Paris, where she rapidly became part of the young art scene, with many now famous people like Cocteau, Sartre, De Bouvoir, Vian etc. After participating in local cabarets, she picked up singing on stage – and later in the recording studio - in 1949. She performed now classic songs like ‘Si tu t’imagines’ (by Vian & Queneau).

Gréco’s career took of very successfully and already in 1954 she performed at the famous Olympia theatre in Paris. Besides singing, she also acted in movies and tv-series. Although she rapidly becomes very successful, she always remained loyal to her modern, ‘left-wing’ (some say: communist) convictions. She is extremely open minded and contributed to the liberation of French morals long before the sixties. The lyrics of some of her songs were considered rather sensual and (for that time) explicit: ‘Déshabillez-moi’ (‘Undress me’) speaks for it self but also the beautiful ballad ‘L’embellie’ was actually a song about a woman’s orgasm… Gréco’s start as part of the existentialism movement left a huge mark on her; she never stoped performing in simple, long black dresses. Actually, this would become one of her trade marks. With heavy black eye-make up the audience would only see her face and her hands, thus entirely focusing on her expressive mimics. This explains why people sometimes nickname her ‘Les mains’ (‘the hands’).

Juliette Gréco mainly interpreted songs from other people, although she did write some song lyrics. Her enormous influence on (French) music throughout the past sixty years is not so much on her songs or albums (although she has an excellent capacity for selecting great songs), nor on her voice or performance (although she has a unique voice and stage personality). Her influence is first and foremost based on her being present at the right time at the right place with the right people. Already at an early stage in het career, she selected songs composed by young artists and thus helping them with their careers. Think of ‘La Javanaise’ by the young Gainsbourg and ‘Le diable (ça va)’ by the young Brel. She also encountered – and enjoyed a short romance with – Miles Davis in Paris, right at the point when his completely new definition of jazz music would shake the jazz scene in Europe. And even in the new millennium, Gréco already being in her mid-seventies, she and her husband Gérard Jouanest (Brel’s pianist and composer of many Brel-classics) prove again and again that they are eager to work with young and creative new artists like Bénabar, Miossec, Biolay, Manset etc. In 2003 this resulted in ‘Aimez-vous les uns et les autres…’, one of her best albums ever.

It is clear that Juliette Gréco is one of the few living legends of French chanson (next to Charles Aznavour and Zizi Jeanmaire). We can only hope and pray that she will be able to hold on to her strength and youthfulness for many years (and beautiful albums) to come…

Click here to link directly to madame Gréco's page.

  The best album from...  

Frank Boeijen Groep
Czesław Niemen (Poland)
Enigmatic (1969) - ♪♪♪♪♪

In our monthly feuilleton about the rise of electronic music in European pop and rock we came in 1969 this month. 1969 seemed to be a key-year for the pioneers that took the synthesizer out of it’s novelty niche into a full blown rock-stage act as an additional instrument to the classic guitar-bass-drums line up. It would lay the basis for a genre that would become known as progressive rock (or progrock as the fans call it). Most progrock directories will look at England for groups that were active at the time. In doin this they miss out on a classic progrock album being made in Poland by Czesław Niemen that would lay the basis for a whole musical scene in this Eastern European country.

Niemen was already a well-known figure in the Polish rockscene when he came up with idea of a concept album. According to the memoirs Niemen impulse came when he met Wojciech Młynarski at 1968 Festival in Sopot. The two were listening to the poet C. Norwid on stage and wondered what it would be like if such poetry would be turned into a mournful rhapsody. Thus the seed was lain for the 'Bema pamieci zalobny - rapsod' or 'Rhapsody in the Memory of Bem'. The 16 minute long epic track was filled with Gregorian chorals (recording took part in the choir), poetry, drums and the Hammond organ. This last element was very innovative since electronic organs weren't used much at the time as a rock instrument let alone being the leading one.

Three more tracks were added at the B-side of the album 'Jednego serca' (based on a poem by Asnyk), 'Kwiaty ojczyste' (with a poem by Kubiak) and 'Mo do mnie jeszcze' (based in a poem by Pzerwa). Later Niemen would also embrace the Moog synthesizer as his mayor instrument. With this album Niemen not only removed himslef from the blues but also able to created its own original, "Slavic Language" model. The album met with great acceptance with the majority of critics and audiences, and the 'rapsod Bema' spent 18 weeks at the top of playlist of Studios rhythm. The whole album was awarded a golden record in 1971. There was also some criticism mainly from Roman Catholic groups that could the rhapsody a "slander on national holiness". History proved them wrong, 'Enigmatic' is considered a classic album in Poland and should also have that status elsewhere in Europe.

Click here to link directly to Czeslaw's page.

Listen and watch a rare 9-minute performance of the rhapsody made at the time for TVP

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  April 2009  
  Artist of the month  

Josipa Lisac

This time Josipa Lisac is artist of the month. That is not entirely coincidental, since she has just released a new album 'Zivim po svome'. There is propbaly no-one in Croatia that will deny the fact that La Lisac is one of the countries most important ladies on the music scene. Not just because of the innovative, sometimes groundbreaking albums she recorded, but also because of her expressive personality and looks. With the ever-changing colour of her hair and extravagant gowns, she turned herself into a piece of art...

But do not let yourself be fooled by her extraordinary appearance. This woman has been around since the late sixties in then Yugoslavia, ruled by communist leader Tito. Politically, Yugoslavia always took it's own direction among the Eastern European communist countries. And so it was slightly easier for Yugoslavian artists to build a musical career, influenced by modern Western influences.

After several singles and appearances at festivals, Lisac met popular Croatian rock'n'roll singer and composer Karlo Metikos. The couple started an impressive musical journey together and they became partners - in love and profession - for life. Their first joint album from 1973, 'Dnevnik jedne ljubavi' ('Diary of one love'), is considered one of the best Croatian rock albums ever made. It is a concept album in (soft) prog rock style. After this impressive first joint achievement, they made around 13 albums, in all of which Karlo Metikos acted as an author and a producer.

After releasing a jazz album in 1976 with some of the best jazz musicians at the time, Josipa and Karlo left for the United States. They stayed there for three years and recorded with musicians like Ira Newborn, Paulinho da Costa and Joel Peskin. After returning home in Croatia, she picked up her recording career but also started performing in films and theatre plays. The nineties started as a very black period for Josipa, since her country was at war and her beloved Karlo died on December 10, 1991.

In the following years she prepares numerous concerts as a tribute to him, which are traditionally held until today. It lasted until 2000 that she released an album with new song material, symbolically called 'Zivot' ('Life'). It contains a collection of songs, some by the hand of Karlo, with very modern, experimental arrangments, thanks to the collaboration with producer and orchestrator Gojko Tomljanovic. Josipa Lisac never took the easy way in her career. She is always focussed on experiments, discovering new directions, thus evolving as an artist. She detests the average, the grey, devoting her life to finding the new, original and often shocking solutions, which always and in every occasion makes her attractive, interesting and provocative. It is probably this drive and attitude that makes La Lisac such an original and influential artist in Croatia.

Listening to Josipa, all sorts of refferences come to mind, especially Janis Joplin (her work in the seventies and eighties) and Patty Pravo (the strong voice and dramatic stage personality). If you are interested in Josipa Lisac, but you are not yet familiar with her music, watch her clips on youtube. Or even better, buy 'Dnevnik jedne ljubavi' via online stores like www.croart.com or even at eBay. And you will discover for yourself why Josipa Lisac is the grand dame of Croatian pop music.



  The best album from...  

Frank Boeijen Groep
Silly (Germany)
Bataillon d'amour (1986) - ♪♪♪♪♪

In April 1986 the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands) held their eleventh congress in the presence of party leader Honecker and Russia’s new leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The SED celebrated its achievements as the "most successful party on German soil", praised East Germany as a "politically stable and economically efficient socialist state", and declared its intention to maintain its present policy course. How different reality outside the congress walls in fact was is documented on the fourth album from East German band Silly. The band already gained (unwanted) interest from the SED and Stasi police with their previous album ‘Zwischen unbefahr'nen Gleisen’(Between untraveled tracks; presumably those between the two German states). The album was pulled on the verge of it’s release by East German officials, who had taken notice of the "subversive" message in several tracks. It was eventually re-released as ‘Liebeswalzer’ (Waltz of Love), containing rewritten lyrics. The pressure on the group also resulted in the departure of Schafmeier who was replaced by Herbert Junck.

In reaction to the censorship songwriter Werner Karma was even more cryptic in his lyrics for the follow up album ‘Battailon d'amour’ (Battalion of Love). The result was one of the best en most poetic albums to come out the former DDR. And an album that is actually one big warning to the DDR public not to stick their heads in the sand but to do something about the situation. The atmosphere of social life in the state at the time was captured in the opening title track: “Like white chariots the fog floats through the streets / the pavement is wet, the stones look slippery / On the floor of my house shines a bleak yellow light / It picks me up from the dark, a bleak children’s face”. Bassist Jäcki Reznicek, formerly of the band Pankow, plays fretless bass giving it that extra desolate, dark and melancholic feel.

After the biblical allegory ‘Jozef & Maria’ the desolation of the DDR is again present on ‘Schlohweißer Tag’ (Snow White Day): “everything is so cold and empty, the neonlights roar at us, just me, just me and you ... you turned grey so young, I feel whole in my own skin, you who are a blanc piece of paper, what should I do with you?” The track was later used in Heiner Carow's 1989 film ‘Coming Out’. Allegedly the first film to come out of East Germany to openly deal with gay issues. In ‘Dein cabaret is tot” (Your cabaret is dead) the state of the East German society is symbolized by a theatre in decline while the public only cares about their own wallets. Another warning is uttered in ‘Panther im sprung’ where the listener is told he will be “shot like panther in the midst of his jump, emotions will be turned, you will receive nothing”. But the most direct comment comes with the closing track ‘Jeder’ (Everyone): “Everyone has their fences, everyone has their pleasure, their trust is betrayed, everyone is thin, somewhere under their skin, every person is in demise, just one more push, one more nod”. In the end of the album even singer Tamara Danz falls silent in a haunting instrumental reprise of the titletrack.

While at the congress Honecker signed a hard-line communiqué that attacked the policies of the West German government and placed all foreign policy under Soviet direction, Silly released ‘Bataillon d’amour’ on CBS Records in West Germany. Although CBS did reject the East German cover artwork as amateurish and supplied their own. In 1994 an unaltered and uncensored version of ‘Liebeswalzer’ was released on CD but in perspective it is still outclassed by ‘Bataillon d’amour’: “Lost in love, like in a labyrinth / we can not defend ourselves, once it all begins”. Three years later it would begin when the walls and fences came down.

Click here to link directly to Silly's page or visit Silly's website.

Listen to 'Bataillon d'amour', 'Schlohweißer Tag' (live on ZDF TV) and 'Panther im sprung'


  March 2009  
  Artist of the month  

Sezen Aksu

She started her career in 1975 and since than she has released 14 singles and 22 albums and has sold more than 20 million copies. She has performed live more than 1,500 times. Her songs have been recorded and played by more than 100 other artists and she has won over 200 awards. Internationally, many people might know her from some of the hit songs she co-wrote for singer Tarkan.

In 1978 La Aksu released the album ‘Serçe’ (‘Sparrow’), which was the first ‘double’ album ever released in Turkey. ‘Serce’ was a keynote album in Aksu’s career because some of the songs were influenced by Turkish classical music. During the release of ‘Serce’, she appeared for the first time in a feature film, entitled ‘Minik serce’ (‘The little sparrow’), by Atif Yilmaz. Later on, she performed in two musicals with very prominent artists: ‘Saz mi, caz mi?’ (‘Hejaz or jazz?’) in 1981, ‘Sezen Aksu aile gazinosu’ (‘The Sezen Aksu family club’) in 1982 and ‘Bin yil once bin yil sonra’ (‘Thousand years ago, thousand years later’) in 1986.


With the 1982 album ‘Firuze’, recorded with one of Turkey’s leading musicians, Attila Ozdemiroglu, Sezen marked the beginning of a new era in Turkish pop music. In 1984 she started working with Onno Tunc which resulted in the release of ‘ Sen aglama’ (‘You shall not cry’), which became the best selling record of all time in Turkey.

International success followed in 1997 after the release of ‘Dugun ve cenaze’ (‘The wedding and the funeral’) with Goran Bregovic. After releasing many classic pop albums, she started to focus on supporting and producing new music talent in Turkey. One of them, Sertab Erener, would become the first Turkish winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 2003. Sezen has become an internationally highly acclaimed singer and songwriter. She recorded with major artists like Haris Alexiou (Greece), Goran Bregovic (Former Yugoslavia), Alessandro Safina (Italy), Udo Lindenberg (Germany) and many, many Turkish artists.

Sezen has always been socially involved. In 1995 she released a single for ‘Saturday mothers’ whose children were lost under police custody. In 2005 she released the album ‘Kardelen’ (‘Snowdrop’) which is a charity album for the education campaign that carried the same title. Furthermore, she supported a comprehensive educational schooling campaign for girls who have less opportunities compared to boys due to the poor socio-economic backgrounds of their parents. She created national awareness on the subject with her concert tours and a dedicated album.

Sezen Aksu is the first female Turkish artist to compose and perform her own music. Since Turkey was - and still is – for a huge part a traditional muslim society where women and men did not have the same rights and privileges, launching a singer-songwriting career back in 1975 was a major achievement by Sezen. In that perspective it is no wonder she has become a role model for many young female singers who wanted to follow in her footsteps.

Go directly to Sezen's page at europopmusic.eu...

Listen to ''Hadi Bakalim', ''Arka sokaklar' and 'Hâlâ haber bekliyorum senden', snippets courtesy of Muziekweb.nl:

  The best album from...  

Frank Boeijen Groep
Miguel Bosé (Spain)
Bajo el signo del Caín (1993) - ♪♪♪♪♪

In a previous newsletter we paid attention to Claudio Baglioni reinventing himself at the start of the nineties. In Spain singer and teen-idol Miguel Bosé found himself in a similar position at the start of that decennium. Although already stepped up to a more serious pop-singer with the 1985 album ‘Sevilla’ he still was not categorized as an adult artist. After an exhausting tour (documented on ‘Directo ’90’) it was either taking a next step or being surpassed by the new generation. The toll of his fame and how the public viewed him felt heavy. The already more introvert 1990 album ‘Los Chicos no Llornan’ was a mere test for things to come.

Bosé also felt more and more the urge to take things further in his lyrics. This also due to his performances as an actor in movies like ‘La reine margot’ and ‘Tacones lejanos’ from Almodovar. Although universal themes like love and hate would always be in his music he started to display a social and theological awareness. The search for faith in God (the titletrack), the war in Bosnia (Nada particular), the longing for freedom and the environmental crisis (Wako Shaman) are themes that he worked into an album that got the title ‘Bajo el signo de Caín’. On the album he sings with his usual emotional and sensual energy but the lyrics give it a whole new dimension. Let alone the quality of the recordings that, with the help of a Spanish and English crew (amongst whom members of Tears for Fears and the Penguin Café Orchestra), let to an almost impeccable production.

But, of course love remains an important theme for Bose. As sung to in the opening track ‘Te comería el corazón’: “Candy to grow dark/ without wanting puts me between the sword and the wall /, a prisoner, I wait until the dawn for you / warm candy and sweat / that I drink from your neck woman.” On of the keytracks on the album is the love ballad ‘Si to no vuelves’ (If you don’t come back) with very poetic lyrics: “If you don’t come back / All seas will dry out / and I’ll wait without you / imprisoned at the bottom of a memory” (first verse). Another love affair is sung on ‘Mayo’ in which he sees the coming of spring (May) as the end of a love affair. He sings in the last sentence: “The love stops… because?/ the indifference makes suitcases of memories.”. And of course there’s the ode to ‘Sara’.

The album sold about 600,000 copies in the year after its release and led to the recording of an Italian version, ‘Sotto il segno de Cain’, and an English-language edition for the British and North American markets in 1994. In all of its various formats, the album sold more than one million copies worldwide. Later on ‘Si tu no vuelves’ turned out to be a true Spanish evergreen in the new millenium with covers in 2006 by Spanish bands Amarel and Sin Bandera and the Mexican band Chetes. In 2008 he himself rerecorded the track for his ‘Papito’ project as a duet with Columbian singer Shakira.

Click here to link directly to Miguel Bose's page or visit Miguel's website.

Listen to 'Si tu no vuelves', 'Nada particular' and 'La Americana', snippets courtesy of Muziekweb.nl:

  February 2009  
  Artist of the month  

Kari Bremnes

For 52 year old Norwegian singer Kari Bremnes the title ‘Reise’ from her recent live album could have more meanings then just travelling from concert hall to concert hall. It almost seems that her live and career have been a constant travel. Travelling comes already at a young age for Kari. Born in the coastal town of Svolvær on the island Lofoten she sees the ferry’s and big sea ships come and go. In her own words she got intrigued by the dynamics around this never ending stream of arrival and departure. In 1977, at the age of 19, she could not stand to be a passive bystander any longer and took the ferry herself to travel to Oslo. She took acting lessons and started a job in a psychiatric hospital before going to University to study Nordic language and literature. Again she was drawn towards poetry and stories that concerned travelling especially those of Danish poet Tove Litlevsen. After university she started working as a journalist for the Nationen newspaper, and later at Aftenposten. In her free hours she started singing and performing with her brothers.

Together with arranger Petter Henriksen she set the poems of Litlevsen to music and started to look for a company to release it as an album. Eventually, after much struggle, Kirkelig Kulturverksted decided to give in and in doing so started another journey for Kari. That of a professional entertainer. Soon enough Kari’s star rose as well as criticism on her spacious way of arranging and singing. Kari herself usually discards this with the remark that while living in between fjords you get a spacious perspective on the world. Personally her melancholic approach to music and her cool voice are so very typical Nordic to me. Like a snownymph whispering in your ear Kari tells tales from ancient runic era’s. Eventually her talent took her to several European countries and even Japan (which she herself finds a very interesting experience). Cities she visited usually pop up in one of her lyrics like in the song ‘En stemme i Athen’ on her recent ‘Over en by’ album she tells about a visit to the Greek capital.

Now all this gives the impression that Kari is a lady that is focussed on moving forward but in fact most of her lyrics are memories and personal accounts on looking back. ‘Det skjer nå med oss alle underveis’ ('Something happens to us along the way') explains that travelling colours the way a person is and how he or she looks onto the world. In the end in her mind she finally returns to Lofoten to stand again in her parent’s garden overlooking the fjord and watching the ships go by. As sung in one of her most beautiful sings ‘Du skulle vært her’ ('You’d had to be there'):

“In my head I’m seeing a garden, a place I keep longing to show you
It’s northerly facing and close to an open fjord
The wind was moving the rhubarb, moved through my childhood too
Calling so slowly from summer’s before“.

Kari will be touring Norway in January-February and Germany in March-April!
Go directly to Kari's page at europopmusic.eu...

Listen to 'Du skulle vaert her', 'En stemme i Athen' and 'Skrik', snippets courtesy of Muziekweb.nl:

  The best album from...  

Frank Boeijen Groep
Frank Boeijen Groep (Netherlands)
Foto van een mooie dag (1985) - ♪♪♪♪♪

The career of Dutch singer Frank Boeijen can easily be divided into two periodes: the first period with his group and the second his solo work. While the group was more focussed on the popscene, Frank’s solo work tends more and more towards serious Dutch chanson. The 1985 album ‘Foto van een mooie dag’ ('Picture of a beautiful day') could be considered as combining the best of both worlds and is a highlight in Boeijen’s career. The album was made at a time when the new wave of Dutch-sung popmusic was almost at it’s end. Flagship Doe Maar ended their career a year before and interest in Dutch sung music was already waning. In that light the title and openings track is almost a plea not to forget those golden days: ”When night falls we ask ourselves, was this the last day?”. In the end the album turned to be one of Boeijen’s biggest successes with his group that was on it’s peak (with guitarist Maarten Peters and producer Jaap Eggermont) and song material that could stand the test of time.

Biggest push for commercial success was the single ‘Kronenburg Park’ named after the park in his hometown Nijmegen. At the time the park was a workplace for prostitution and one evening when Boeijen was driving through the park, he saw an old schoolfriend working the streets. The experience was turned into a musical warning to “leave that world, leave it in a second”. After the second chorus the background singers (the then already successful group Mai Tai) burst into an adlib that would become the trademark of the song. The follow up single was the track ‘Schaduw’ ('Shadow') in which Boeijen takes on the role of a stalker begging: “I’m the shadow on your shower curtain, I’m the foam moving over your body, please give it, give it, give it to me”.

The single didn’t make it into the charts turning ‘Foto’ into a true album’s album. More songs about tragedy and lost love make up the album where keywords like ‘the hour of truth’, ‘destiny’ and ‘fate’ pop up more then once. And fate cannot be turned as he sings in ‘Wij overlevenden’ ('Us survivors'): “I wash these dirty hands in my tears, I couldn’t have helped it, I plea not guilty, like us survivors do every day”. The album ends with the murderous story of a ‘crime passionel’ closing with a sad piano played by Jos Haagmans. Even for non-Dutch speaking Europeans a classic europop album.

Click here to link directly to Frank Boeijen's page or visit Frank's website.

Listen to 'Kronenburg Park', 'Schaduw' and 'Wij overlevenden, snippets courtesy of Muziekweb.nl:

  January 2009  
  Artist of the month  


The end of the seventies was the time of punk around Europe. Although under a tight communist regime the punk wave also hit Poland and blessed the country with one of the most popular Polish bands ever: Maanam. Singer Kora and partner Marek Jackowski formed Maanam Elektryczny Prysznic (as the band originally was named) in 1979. About the origin of the band’s name the members are unclear. Kora claims it comes from an old Persian saying for ‘I am’ . Marek claims it’s a abbreviation for his ‘duett’  with Milo in 1975 called 'M-a-M'. After two singles (‘Hamlet’ and ‘Boskie Buenos’) the band releases their first album filled with a energetic, guitar-centred post-punk sound laced with Kora's vocal gymnastics. Looking back Marek says: “Reviewing the album makes more or less as much sense as reviewing the Palace of Culture (red: the monumental building in Warsaw centre). Despite the competition, to me it is still one of the most magnificent monuments of Polish rock & roll.” That this kind of progressive music could be released at all may be considered a miracle since the regime of wasn’t too fond of outspoken cultural productions. In this you might say that they profited from the fresh wind the Solidarity movement ("Solidarność") temporarily brought.

Tracks like ‘Boskie Buenos' ('Buenos Aires)’ and ‘Oddech szczura’ ('Rat breath') became classics of the Polish punk and popscene. Although the political wind favoured the new musical movement there were other facets that made an international breakthrough difficult. A German tour was cancelled after financial problems and the follow up album ‘O!’ was cut short of a megasale due to the shortage of vinyl to press enough copies to meet the demand. With the third album they tried to break the western market again with a bilingual project. ‘Night Patrol' / 'Nocny Patrol’ which was - again - only a local success. The fourth album represents the end of an era since the regime tightened their grip on daily life again by then. As Marek Jackowski says in an interview: “I remember the whole mess, the difficult situation on the border, this hassle with passports: do we get out or not ... The ‘Mental cut’ imposed purely a case of survival and at the same time deadlines, which could not be exceeded. You can say that of all our albums - this is one the lesser’.

The band returned in 1991 with ‘Derwisz i anioł’ ('Dervish and angel') after a period when most band members (besides Kora and Marek) wered replaced. Up until today the band remained very popular. Singer Kora even added to the experimental side of Maanam with several difficult but very interesting solo projects. The last milestone being the project with dance-act 5th element where she takes old Maanam songs (‘Lipstick on the glass’ ) and new material to a whole new electronic level.
Go directly to Maanam's page at europopmusic.eu...


  The best album from...  

Haris Alexiou
Claudio Baglioni
Io sono qui (1996) - ♪♪♪♪♪

Baglioni, a constant factor within the Italian popmusic scene since the beginning of the seventies, was at a threshold in the midst of the nineties. The choice was to be overtaken by the younger generation (which was keen to dethrone him) or step onto new paths himself. His albums since his ultimate breakthrough ‘Strada facendo’ (1981) were laced with synthesizers, elaborate production, the obligatory live albums with each tour or a lack of capability to exclude songs from albums (as with 1990's ‘Oltre’). Although still very popular, Baglioni must have felt that this was not the route he wanted to take.

So in 1995 he send out the message 'Io sono qui' (‘I am here’), as if to say “don’t write me off yet”. The album is one of his strongest if not the strongest he ever made. Out with the synthesizers and the underhanded emotions. With an international crew, compositional refinement and excluding false sentiment he made an adult and poetic album. “We are all in history, late or early, and I am here” he sings in the opening track as if to make the public witness of the choices he faced. He observes the younger generation on ‘Nudo di donna’: “Last night you took me flying inside your video clips, like when we were whistling at a rate or jump over the bus”. He wants to confront them with the question whether they are coming from the same heritage or not:”Sky and ocean in water, wave and cloud in water, breath in your breath, I in you which past?” ('Acqua nell’acqua'). But most of all he faced his inner demons as written down in ‘Male di me’:”Only in my own skin meet chills vultures, the evil in me”.

Baglioni chose to renew himself within the limits of his genre with very convincing result. He repeated the trick in 1999's ‘Viaggiatore sulla coda del tempo’ which is his second greatest album in the nineties but the tone was set in 1995.

Click here to link directly to Claudio Baglini's page or visit Claudio's website.

Listen to 'Io sono qui', 'Acqua nell' acqua' and 'Male di me', snippets courtesy of Muziekweb.nl:

  December 2008  
  Artist of the month  


“Spppllliiifff” sighs Nina Hagen in ‘Heiss‘ from her debut album. Up until today it stays unsure if she is referring to a cigarette filled with marihuana or to theband that creates the greatinstrumental environment around her. The then called Nina Hagen Band was in fact already the band that would later become known as Spliff. For her second album La Nina was already fed up with the band and ‘ Unbehagen’  was created with her in the US and Spliff in Berlin. From 1980 the band goes ‘solo’  and it becomes evident that an important part of the Nina Hagen sound was created by Mitteregger, Potschka, Praeker and Heil. Their debut ‘Radio show’ may not be the best album they delivered but from ‘85555’ they cough up three classic German pop albums. Mixing rock, reggae and electronics they go beyond the borders of the then popular Neue Deutsche Welle. After this the band splits up for solo projects (like Herwig Mitteregger or Reinhold Heil in Cosa Rosa) or extensive production work. But they never get to the level they had as a group. Too bad cause with their four albums they show that they could combine talent with good music and humour.

Read more on the Spliff page on this website...

Listen to 'Carbonara' and 'Heut' Nacht'', snippets courtesy of Muziekweb.nl:

  The best album from...  

Haris Alexiou
Haris Alexiou
Di Efchon (1992) - ♪♪♪♪♪

Greek music has been popular throughout the world since many years. Just think of Mikis Theodorakis, Nana Mouskouri, Demis Rousos and Melina Mercouri, to name a few. Whatever you may think of them, Greek pop music never really became exportable. One of the few pop music artists who successfully launched a career outside of Greece, is Haris Alexiou. She did not have any success in the charts outside of Greece, but built a very loyal fanbase worldwide. Her music is a melting pot from influences like traditional Greek music (rembetika), folk and - naturally - European chansons (Italy, France, Germany). She started her recording career at the first half of the seventies with folky stuff. Towards the eighties, the material on her albums got more popular and she recorded many famous Greek standards at the time. She maintained success during the eighties, but it was not before the early nineties that Alexiou wanted something different. She chose to follow an entirely different path when she recorded 'Di Efchon'. It would become her international breakthrough album. Apart from commercial success it contained ten very strong songs. Many of them have become standards - 'Di Efchon', 'Magissa', 'H Patrida' - and she still performs them on stage to this day. The songs are arranged beautifully with both traditional and modern electronique instruments. When you listen to this album, you will sense the history of Greece and Byzantium, thanks to the eastern/ethnic influences. And there is that voice - Alexiou, already a very succesfull singer, never sang better than on this record. And what an instrument it is, with that deep that dark sound - sheer power! Since 'Di Efchon' Alexiou released many other interesting records, always trying to experiment a bit. 'Odos Nefelis '88' is a great accoustic singer-songwriter album, 'Hey!' is a nice modern pop album. They are all worth listening to, but still 'Di Efchon' remains her absolute masterpiece to date.

Click here to link directly to Haris Alexiou's page or visit Haris' website.

Listen to 'Di Efchon', 'Magissa' and 'H Patrida', snippets courtesy of Muziekweb.nl:

  In memoriam...  

Hector Zazou
Hector Zazou (11 July 1948 - 8 September 2008)

The French-Algerian composer and arranger Hector Zazou was a bridge builder between music genres that apparently had little to do with each other. He combined classical music, minimal, poetry, world music and pop creating a complete new but still natural sound. He preferred creating projects, for which he chose a certain theme and invited a variety of guest to contribute. Country of origin or music style was of no importance to him. For his latest project 'In the house of mirrors', he brought together Tibetan Yungchen Lhamo, Uzbek Sevara Nazarxon, Swiss Laurence Revey, the Gaelic flutist Carlos Núñez and the Italian group PJC. The album, recorded in India, was released in October of this year, but unfortunately Zazou already left us by that time. On September 8 he died, sixty years old.

Click to read the complete article...


Marc Moulin (1942 - 26 September 2008)

A lot of people will remember Belgian keyboardist Marc Moulin from the hit singles 'Amoureux solitaire' and 'Banana split' that launched singer Lio's career at the beginning of the eighties. The sound of these jumping, almost popcorn-like songs was mainly due to Marc Moulin. It was his vision to combine deceptively simple pop melodies with synthesizers and other electronics. This resulted in the first Lio-albums, but is also recognisable in the material of his own group Telex. Their singles 'Twist à San Tropez','Moskow Diskow' and 'Rock around the Clock' from 1979 already were small local hits. Little people knew that in 1980, Moulin already had an entire career in jazz music.

Click to read the complete article...

  November 2008  
  Artist of the month  

Catherien ribeiro
Catherine Ribeiro (France)

The voice of thunder from France. Catherine Ribeiro is still going strong, although not as productive as she used to be.

Starting her career in the sixties she more and more became radical and political involved in her lyrics in the 70's accusing the French state of bad politics and turning heavily to the Humanist movement. She started her musical career with the band Alpes, releasing some captivating progressive rock albums. During the mid seventies she also launched a solo career, recording original material as well as some beautifull interpretations of Piaf, Prevert and Manset compositions. Hardly known outside France she is definitely worth checking out.
Click to go to Catherine's page on this website or to go to Catherine's own website.

Listen to 'La grande deglingue' and 'Carrefour de la solitude', snippets courtesy of Muziekweb.nl:


  The best album from...  

Alice (Italy)
Il sole nella pioggia (1989) - ♪♪♪♪♪

Many people might only remember Alice from her Eurovision Songcontest duet with Franco Battiato 'I treni di Tozeur' (1984). But she already started her recording career in the beginning of the seventies and she still releases a new album every once in a while. She has not recorded a bad album, so it is quite hard to determine which of her albums is actually her best one. In the end, I definitely have to say it's 'Il sole nella pioggia'. On her former record, 'Park hotel', she decided to explore new musical directions. On 'Il sole...' it all comes to a perfect fit. The great, great voice, the beautiful songs (composed among others by Juri Camisasca), great lyrics, telling us about nature, meditation and light. On the album, she collaborates with many important artists, like Peter Hammil (Van der Graaf Generator), Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri (Japan). But first and formost it is Alice herself, the completely unique singer/artist, that impresses us the most on this 1989-gemm. Satisfaction guarenteed!

Click here to link directly to Alice's page or visit Alice's website.

Listen to 'Il sole nella piogga', 'Visioni' and 'L'era del mito', snippets courtesy of Muziekweb.nl.