Archive for July, 2008


Interlude of the week (II): Bobbejaan

29 July 2008

And here is a second clip, full of whistling and yodelling. More info on Bobbejaan Schoepen sooner of later…:


Interlude of the week (I): Bart’s cumbia

29 July 2008

Holidays… not a lot of time spent on the computer, and even a few days without internet…

But here is one cumbia song, dansed by Bart Simpson:


Do they yodel in Colombia ?: cumbia

21 July 2008

Cumbia is, with salsa, one of the most important popular musics of Colombia. It is associated with the coastal cities of Cartagena and Baranquilla but it has also rural qualities. That’s where you find yodels ! You can hear the rhythms of the horses and the yodelled calls of the cowboys. The origins are African but also Indian and European (the Spanish melodies). The style spread over time into a wider population and by the fifties, every dance band played cumbias. There are influences from salsa and vallenato (those high-pitched cowboy voices). The dance is simple and the songs are about love or sex. Most of the songs presented here come from the Discos Fuentes label, the dominant national record company for decades. (More info about cumbia here).

Why do they yodel in cumbias ? I’ve no answer for the moment. It could be the African influence or the cowboy calls… If you have more info, tell me !

There is quite a buzz now about nueva cumbia, a new scene emerging in Argentina where producers rediscover old cumbias and mix them with electronic sounds and hip hop beats. (For more info, you can go to La onda tropical or Mudd up !)

Conjunto Tipico Vallenato is a vallenato group. But this accordion style is very close to cumbia and groups often play both. Cumbia Cienaguera sounds really rootsy, with the percussion played on cajones (tuned boxes) and guarachaca, a wooden scraper, and with the accordion and the flutes. For the yodel, you have to wait for the end of the song. It was composed in the fifties by Luis E. Martinez and was sung by many different artists, but often without yodel, like the second version here, very different in style, more big-band like.

Lito Barrientos was born in San Salvador but made music all over the Latin American continent. In Colombia he recorded cumbia in a big band style in the 1940s and 50s. In Cumbia en do menor, the yodel is very short in the song but there is one ! The song is a real classic that lingers in your head for a while…

Los Gavilanes de la Costa (composed by José Castro, Policarpo Calle, Eusebio, Cástulo Padilla, Armando Barrios and Esmelín Zambrano) is a group from the northern coast of Colombia. They seem to have recorded only one album in 1965, Dame el café, with gaitas (a style close to cumia), cumbias and merengue. That’s them on the photo ! Here are two songs from them, in a rural style with accordion and percussion, and with yodel.

No more examples now because of a very slow internet connection… Lots more to come !

Conjunto Tipico Vallenato – Cumbia Cienaguera

Luis E. Martinez – La cumbia cienaguera

Lito Barrientos y su Orquesta – Cumbia en do menor

Los Gavilanes de la Costa – Los gavilanes

Los Gavilanes de la Costa – Cumbia milagrosa


Do they yodel in the USA ?: Gene Autry (I) 1929

13 July 2008

Known as a singing cowboy but also as an actor, as a businessman, as owner of a baseball team, a record label amongst may other things, Gene Autry (1907-1998 ) was an important artist in the country music scene. He sold millions of records, convincing his public with his gentle and straightforward singing style, with his considerable technical skills as a vocalist and his likeable personality.

He was born in a small community in Texas but moved several times, ending up in Oklahoma. His father was a poor farmer but the family was musical. He did his first public singing in the choir of the local Baptist church. He was also interested in the cowboy songs he heard while growing up and his mother taught him to play the guitar. After graduating from school, he worked as a railroad telegrapher but wanted to make a show business career. At the age of 20, he travelled to New York to make auditions for the major record companies but was advised to gain further experience. He finally recorded his first songs just weeks before the crash of 1929, copying Jimmie Rodgers and his yodelling blues. It was singer and steel guitarist Frankie Marvin, a huge Rodgers fan, who introduced the songs to Gene Autry.

Autry became one of the most accomplished Rodgers’s imitators: he could capture the nuances of the Rodgers songs, imitate almost perfectly the yodels, the Mississippi dialect and the guitars sounds. His voice was sweeter and with a wider range and he was a terrific yodeler. He made dozens of cover versions of the songs or other songs in the same mould for various companies. These records were sold at bargain prices and he had some succes: people could buy three Autry records for the price of one Rodgers record !

His first released record was Blue yodel no.5, with Left my gal in the mountains by Cason Robison on the other side, just accompanied with his guitar. These tracks were issued on Columbia’s budget labels, Velvet Tone, Diva and Harmony. (recorded October 24, 1929)

In December 1929, he covered Rodgers’ California blues (Blue Yodel No.4), the hobo song Waiting for a train and the ballad. His friend and steel guitarist Frankie Marvin wrote for him Dust Pan Blues, Slu-Foot Lou and Stay away from my chicken house (where he made the animal imitations).

In the next chapter, we’ll look at the following years of his career, still faithtfull to Jimmie Rodgers but also begining to record his own material.

Blue yodel no.5

Left my gal in the mountains

California blues (Blue Yodel No.4)

Waiting for a train

Frankie and Johnny

Dust Pan Blues

Slu-Foot Lou

Stay away from my chicken house

You can find the songs on this cd or in this Bear Family box.


Interlude: do they yodel on other blogs ?: Excavated shellac

7 July 2008

There’s a nice Austrian yodel on Excavated shellac this week !

This great blog is devoted to old 78rpm recordings of music from around the world and for the first time, it goes into yodelland. If you’re interested like me in old world music records, it’s a very good place to go to every week: the songs are very different and with a precise commentary, it’s a good way to understand how the music was before and the influences it has on the expressions of today.


Do they yodel in Malaysia ?: Noel Felix

6 July 2008

Yes ! They yodel in Malaysia ! That’s how you can see the big influence of Jimmie Rodgers all over the world but also the influence of western music in general. Noel Felix makes a local imitation of the international star with a cowboy yodelling song. It’s a bizarre and wonderful track, that begins as an unaccompanied ballad in Creole Portuguese but it changes after about a minute in a prairie song with a quite authentic yodel. Malaysia was influenced a lot by Portuguese culture, but as you hear, it doesn’t stop there.

Who is Noel Felix ? He was born in 1932 in Malacca, in Malaysia, in a poor eurasian (Kristang) fishing family. He joined the British army in 1952 where he learned to read and write. After that, he worked at the water company of Malacca. As leader of the dance group Tropa de Malaca, he plays Portuguese-style music for tourist shows or for festivals, in hotels or even abroad but he also is a good interpret of songs in Kristang for the locals. I have no idea why he yodels in this song or if he does it regularly.

Noel Felix – O amor, recorded October 19, 1990

Found on A viagem dos sons : Malaca. Kantiga di padri sa chang, recorded and compiled by Margaret Sarkission, also the author of this book, where the photo comes from.