There are many great things about the Free Music Archive, but one of the greatest is the number of live sets it offers that were recorded right in the WFMU studios at 43 Montgomery Street in Jersey City, New Jersey. More and more bands are jumping aboard the FMA, allowing us to share their live sessions with those who may have missed the original broadcasts. 2010 brought a bumper crop of great new live sessions of all kinds, from punk to electronic to experimental to whatever you call that thing Arrington de Dionyso was up to this year. The FMA was able to share a whole bunch of them.
New live music isn't the whole story, though. In 2010, the FMA continued to plumb the WFMU archives for worthy older sessions, too. WFMU has featured (and preserved) live music in one form or another for well over 20 years, and as the old DATs get dusted off and resurrected, hopefully there will be more "lost" radio sessions that will reappear on the FMA by bands still with us as well as some that are no more.
The mix I've made below is a collection of live music highlights from sessions added to the FMA in 2010. Some were performed as recently as a month ago, and others are almost ten years old, but all of them are from sessions worth checking out in their entirety. My choices aren't really representative of the great breadth of live music offered by the FMA; I just picked some personal favorites in a highly subjective way. I encourage you to dig in and make your own mix from the best of WFMU live music. You probably won't be able to stop at just one.
One of the greatest little stopovers on this gigantic, expanding planet known as the FMA is the archive for the 78 blog Excavated Shellac. I've sung the praises of this blog many times in the past, here and on the air, but as the end of the year approacheth, I feel compelled to finish 2009 with another huzzah for this wonderful project. Curator Jonathan Ward has personally purchased, cleaned, and digitized highly rare 78s from around the world, and here they are for you, ready to be downloaded and enjoyed in your home. Modern technology hasn't always improved the way we live, but here is a nice example of how it sometimes does.
The FMA has dozens upon dozens of great material from the Excavated Shellac archive; you can always spot an Excavated Shellac song because it's accompanied by incredibly useful and well-informed notes about what you are going to hear on the 78 being presented. Needless to say, this makes my job today quite easy. All I need to do is hold up the "Go Thattaway" sign and you can find out what you need to know about each song in my mix.
Ah, yes, the Mix. The mix that follows is simply a selection of some of my favorites from the collection. There is fandango from the Basque region of Spain; amazing kemençe (three-stringed fiddle) playing from Turkey; some beautiful singing from Morocco and Greece; Balinese Gamelan, among the first ever recorded; and to finish things off, an amazing piece by Mohamed Effendi El-Achek, one of the kings of Middle Eastern music. The title of this last piece translates as "Be Happy, My Heart," and that's not much of a stretch for me when I hear this wonderful music. I hope this mix makes your heart happy, too.