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JoeMc on 01/04/2011 at 01:00PM

Past As Present

Marika Papagika, from one of the few photos extant

It makes me happy to know that in a digital forum like the FMA, there is a cozy nook put aside for the excavations of crate diggers who don't shy away from the crackle of old shellac. A lot of great music has become forgotten or lost over the years because of changes in music technologies; fortunately, there is a small band of musical archeologists whose rediscoveries and recoveries remind us of what we've left behind. These people are making sure that past music of real worth isn't lost. In fact, they're ensuring that more people can hear it than ever before, through sites like this one.

One of these shellac saints is Baltimore's Ian Nagoski, who has for some time been transforming his love of music into musical archeology that is benefitting us all. I won't regurgitate the facts of Mr. Nagoski's career here; earlier this year a writer for The Washington Post did all of that much better than I could, anyway. You can read the article here. Suffice to say that a few gems have recently appeared on the FMA that we might have never heard without Mr. Nagoski's efforts.

Featured below is a track by Marika Papagika, a Greek immigrant who recorded over 200 records in the 1920s, and whose voice is beautiful and haunting in equal measure. Two other tracks are also available here. All of these tracks are included on a full LP of Marika Papagika's music newly issued on Mr. Nagoski's label Canary Records, in association with Mississippi Records, called The Further the Flame, The Worse It Burns Me. The LP comes with an amazing booklet with notes and photos explaining Marika's prominent role in Greek music in New York. It's really a must for any fan of music from this period. (For further study, check out the compilation of Greek music that appeared on Canary/Mississippi last year called Mortika: Recordings from a Greek Underworld. See here.)

Also featured below are a few other tracks from Mr. Nagoski's project from last year, String of Pearls: Jewels of the 78 r.p.m. era, 1918-1951, the first release on his label. La Niña de Los Peinos (Girl of the Combs) was the nickname for Pastora Pavón Cruz, possibly Spain's greatest flamenco singer; Amelita Galli-Curci, an Italian opera singer, sings Jules Massenet's "Crepuscule"; and Ustad Abdul Karim Khan, a Hindustani classic singer, has one of those pure voices you can't forget after hearing it (read more about him here).

If these tracks excite your curiosity, the FMA also hosts several tracks from Mr. Nagoski's curated compilation on the Dust-to-Digital label from 2007, Black Mirror: Reflections in Global Musics (1918-1955). Check them out here.

According to The Washington Post article cited above, soon to come from Mr. Nagoski is a compilation of music by Armenian and Syrian immigrants in New York provisionally titled Brass Pins and Match Heads. The article also mentions a compilation by "an Indian classical music singer"; perhaps Ustad Abdul Karim Khan? We can always hope! In any case, there should be much more music to come in the future through the efforts of Mr. Nagoski. Saints be praised!

ian nagoski


obitsband on 02/08/11 at 05:17PM
Thanks for this, Joe. Great stuff. I could listen to Ustad Abdul Karim Khan all day long.
JoeMc on 02/08/11 at 09:17PM
My pleasure, obitsband. Thanks really to Ian Nagoski for digging it out. I'm hoping we get more UAKK soon!
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