Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Caribbeana Esoterica #3: Fungi

It's great that we're searching for life on other planets, but there's so many places right here on planet Earth that we know nothing about. Ever heard of fungi music?

Named after a native dish, not fungus, this British Virgin Island style (pronounced "FOON-jee") is somewhat of a throwback to classic '50s style calypso - it's got more of a laid-back feel, with more em
phasis on lyrical cleverness and storytelling. It's performed on banjos and ukulele, with low-key percussion (e.g. triangle, bongos, calabash or squash) adding toe-tapping African dance rhythms. Today's two albums show two different approaches to fungi.

Elmore Stoutt's album features some spoken-word introductions giving you the historical/cultural context behind the folks songs (he is an educator, after all, with a school named after him). But amidst all the funny, sunny fun there's a odd song that seems to suggest that Princess Di was murdered. Huh? An amusingly risque song about Bill Clinton, however, restores the topical subjects to a more down-to-earth level.
If Stoutt seems like grandpa casually spinning tales, The Lashing Dogs sound like his younger rowdy grandkids. Tho still playing trad fungi - no electronics, no rapping - the furiously-strummed banjo and vigorous percussion (rock that triangle!) boost up the energy level. Oddities still pop in tho, like "Only The Gotter," a cranky political tirade with such poor rhymes that it almost sounds like a song-poem, and "Where The Men Dem Gone," which questions modern males' masculinity, even claiming that this situation has led to St. Thomas Island's dramatic increase in lesbianism! Otherwise, it's all rum-drenched groovers designed to "nice up de party." "No Excuse" is a particular favorite - apart from the irresistible music, we get a lesson on the B.V.I. legal system. "Ignorance is no excuse for de law!"
Elmore Stoutt - The Fungi Master "Welcome To The B.V.I."
The Lashing Dogs "What A Difference"

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