Various Artists: International Sad Hits

[28 March 2007]

By Dave Heaton

PopMatters Associate Music Editor

Considering the increasingly international scope of Damon and Naomi’s music, and their prolonged interest in melancholy (their first LP was titled More Sad Hits), it makes sense that they’d put together a series like this: a collection of tearstained art-folk music from around the world. It’s not surprising, but welcome. This first volume features two musicians from Japan (Mikami Kan and Tomokawa Kazuki), one from Turkey (Fikret Kizilok) and one from Korea (Kim Doo Soo). Each has his own style, lyrically and musically—some more philosophical, some more directly political, some more cynical—but each is a serious talent, though nearly unknown in the US. As the liner notes point out, the four draw less from their country’s folk traditions, are more poetic singer/songwriters in the tradition of a Bob Dylan. The 16 songs here are all remarkably powerful works, and they’re only hints of what these musicians have accomplished in long careers. The copious liner-notes bios detail the ups and downs—stylistic changes, battles with censorship and personal addictions, falls in and out of favor with fans. Even in this supposed global information era there’s still music of stature and depth being made in other countries without our knowledge—it makes me wonder if “world music” as a genre isn’t often a limiting force, the way it tends towards sociology, towards music that represents the perceived culture of the musician’s country of origin.

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