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Book Review: Bangkok Nature and Wonders

by Lang Reid

Asia Books are the publishers and distributors of a new series of photo guide books, and their management kindly sent over the Bangkok (ISBN 8-8540-0100-7) and Phuket (ISBN 8-8540-0098-1) versions of the Nature and Wonders publications. These were originally in Italian (though the pictures were in English - grin), but now they have had the text translated into English as well. Very glossy publications, they were printed in China, which I personally think is a shame, as there are enough good quality printing houses in Thailand to have been able to keep the work in this country. However, I am sure the publishers have their reasons.

The book is more pictorial than editorial, though there are probably just enough words to get by. The photographs have captions, which add to the editorial content; however, the placement of the captions, relative to the photographs, is very confusing. There will be a caption under one photograph that you find actually relates to the photo on the previous page! If you are not aware of landmarks in Bangkok, you have to be very wary.

The Bangkok book is divided into 12 sections, with the last two being Ayutthaya and Pattaya, which I believe is not such a good concept. Both places, and Ayutthaya in particular, deserve complete publications on their own, and there is more that could be said and seen in Bangkok itself, than covered adequately by this book. For example, Thai sport gets two pages only, with Muay Thai covered pictorially with just another thumbnail photograph. Thai cuisine also rates two pages, with the editorial space giving precedence to Thai spices and Royal Thai cuisine. Unfortunately, the paucity of pictures gives the reader neither.

In this publication, Ayutthaya gets four pages. This is a city that was the capital of Thailand for 33 kings and declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1991. As mentioned above, there is a complete book lying in wait for a photographer and writer. This book does not do it justice in any way.

The Pattaya pages have again the small ‘thumbnail’ pictures, plus a final full bleed across the book gutter of an “antiquated fishing boat” crossing Pattaya Bay. This is another result of translation, I am sure. “Traditional” fishing boat would be much more to the mark.

Comparisons with European landmarks and customs abound, showing the book’s Italian origins. The temple area in Bangkok being compared to the Vatican, and the Emerald Buddha likened to the statue of Pallas venerated in Troy.

Both books have an RRP of B. 450 which does not make them overly expensive when compared to the price of similar publications, though I much prefer William Warren’s historical overviews. These books have a few ‘grey’ areas that may relate principally to the fact that the translations were done in Milan, rather than locally. Reference to the Buddha as being a “god” being particularly incorrect. The Buddha was a man.

As a brief and colorful overview of Bangkok it fits the bill. Good as a Xmas present for the folks overseas, but not as a resource book.


Mott's CD Reviews: Osibisa First Album

Pawed by Mott the Dog Re-Chewed by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

‘Osibisa’ was formed in London, England in 1969 by a multi-racial group of musicians, all with the same interests in music. The nucleus of the band was from Ghana; others, like the unbelievable guitarist Wendell Richardson, came from Antigua; the bass player who was simply known as Spartacus (I’m Spartacus!) was from Grenada; the keyboard player from Trinidad; and the saxophonist was from Nigeria.

However, what they all had in common was great musical rhythm, enthusiasm, and ability. Their music was borrowed from Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, African based drum music, Rock, Pop, and Latin Groove, to create quite an original sound.

In Ghanaian ‘Osibisa’ means “criss-cross rhythms that explode with happiness”. Now, how one word can say all that I do not know, but that is exactly how the music sounds, and they are the very words that introduce the first song on this, Osibisa’s first album aptly titled “Dawn”.

Like a breath of fresh air, Osibisa’s music first came to prominence with the release of their first single “Music for Gong Gong’’, included here on their first album, which was released at the tail end of 1970. It is a piece of music that will get even the most conservative of souls out boogieing on the dance floor. So it was great expectations when their first album was released in the early days of 1971, and the boys did not disappoint, arriving as it did when Prog-Rock was in its heyday. Each of these percussive driven songs blew away all the pretensions of those serious minded twiddlers in the likes of Yes, King Crimson, etc. Osibisa’s unbridled enthusiasm was so infectious, you could not help but be dragged along by the sheer exuberance of it all.

Although Osibisa’s main strength was in their live concerts, they could also drum up a storm (quite literally) in the studio. Nobody at the time could have realized how influential their music was going to be in years ahead. Osibisa today is still known as the Godfather of ‘World Music’, and the effect of their big hit single “Sunshine Day” (1975) was to change the disco scene forever.

But this, their first album, was to set the template of the Osibisa sound for eternity. The band is still going today, albeit with only two of the seven original members left, which actually is not bad by today’s standards considering that the band is now in their 35th year.

Many of the songs on this collection are still in the band’s live repertoire today. Like all good albums, the songs on this set play like a live concert. Opener “Dawn”, which begins with the immortal translation of Osibisa, builds on a rhythm of percussion until giving way to let the individual soloist bring the song to a rousing conclusion - some seven and a half minutes later. You then get five other songs of criss-cross rhythms before being brought to a riotous climax by “Think About The People”.

When a band starts off its career with such a strong album, it is often difficult to keep up the standards set by its debut (especially with an ever changing line-up - Wendell Richardson, the band’s simply stunning lead guitarist, was at one stage lured away by British rockers “Free”). So it is perhaps true to say that Osibisa’s studio output has been a little patchy since then, although their live concerts have never been short of marvelous, always led by Teddy Osei out front on drums, sax, fluttering flute, and vocals. This, their first album, is nothing short of a diamond. A must buy for anybody who likes a shot of fun with their music.

Musicians on this album
Teddy Osei - Tenor Sax, Flute, African Drums, Vocals
Sol Amarfio - Drums
Mac Tontoh - Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Kabasa
Spartacus - Bass Guitar, Assorted Percussions, Whistles
Wendell Richardson - Lead Guitar and Vocals
Robert Bailey - Organ, Piano and Timbales
Loughty Lasisi Amao - Tenor Sax, Baritone Sax and Congas

Songs

Dawn
Music For Gong Gong
Ayiko Bia
Akwaaba
Oranges
Phallus C
Think About The People

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