ListN Up: Marshall Trammell (January 15, 2021)

ListN Up is a series of weekly artist-curated playlists. Born from a desire to keep artists sharing and connected during times of isolation, ListN Up offers an intimate sonic portrait of contemporary artists by showcasing the diverse and stylistically varied music that influences their creative practice. 

Marshall Trammell is an Experimental Percussionist and self-styled Music Research Strategist combining Critical Ethnography, Creative Improvisation Studies and community partnerships. He is known for his role in the Oakland-based, electro-acoustic duo Black Spirituals (SIGE Records) and current projects such as In Defense of Memory, featuring Laura Ortman and Carlos Santistevan, and collaborations with Raven Chacon, John Dietrich, Marisa Demarco, Jamal Moore, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, John Brennan, Tashi Dorji, Aaron Turner and Natalia Ivanova. He was a 2020 recipient of the Music/Sound Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts and Rauschenberg Residency, Common Knowledge Platform Fellow at Pro Arts Commons and the 2022 Borealis Festival Resident Artist. Mr. Trammell lives in Oakland, California, USA.

Welcome to my “Heavy Discipline: Islands” playlist. I grew up on Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands in the 1970s in a military family and, in my mind, return as often as I can to revisit memories of land, sea, and air expressed through the natural world and cultural poetics. Each track represents and reveals inextinguishable complexities of disciplines, both sacred and profane, which have a bearing on my soul. Each track represents and reveals an ecology of disciplines guided in guilds bound to community poetics and individual effort. These tracks are unchained islands made by warriors who defend, represent and reveal the ethos of places, people and dynamics in the world we share.

Okinawa Folk Songs

Island: Okinawa

This mix just blends well, is uplifting, and always a bit surprising.

“Heavy Manners” by Prince Far I

Island: Jamaica

The “Voice of Thunder,” exhorter-style dub classics

“Hate This Pain” by Tricky

Island: England

RIP Mazy. I have been feeling this track quite differently after learning of the record’s dedication.

“Negrito Bonito” by Roy Brown and Silvio Rodriguez, performed by Susana Baca

Island: Cuba

Peruvian Diva/Ethnomusicologist Susana Baca’s rendition followed me in travels in Peru, but I am still chasing their cajon featured elsewhere on this record.

“Tambor de Cierra” by Grupo Abbilona

Island: Cuba

These spiritual and secular recordings are borrowed from the sacred, ceremonial songs of Orisha worship in Cuba and were reassembled by enslaved Africans. The words are sung in Yoruba (Lukumi) by Spanish-speaking Cubans.

“Sodade” by Cesária Évora, with Bonga, Mariza, Dulce Pontes, Marisa Monte

Island: Cape Verde

I was lucky enough to experience the undulating graces of Sra. Évora at the Virgin Record store in San Francisco almost 15 years back. This concert recording of another performance features the great Angolan semba singer Bonga, whose albums Angola 72 and Angola 74 are classics.

“Duyog” by The Kalanduyan Family

Island: Philippines

Each track on this album is a gem and jam of pre-colonial Filipino cultural medicine in the form of music performed by the San Francisco Bay Area’s Kalanduyan Family.

Live Bomba Music in Old San Juan Puerto Rico

Island: Puerto Rico

This beautiful video document illustrates my introduction to experiencing the traditional music and dance styles of bomba y plena in the San Francisco Bay Area, performed with the similar informal formality of individual dancers parading the choreography’s nuances.

2017 Queen Liliuokalani Keiki Hula Competition, performance by Hula Halau ‘O Kamuela

Island: Hawaiian Islands

Before the last day of a similar three-day festival I attended, the Mistress of Ceremonies acknowledged we would all carry with us a piece of their cultural treasure and asked us to think about what we give back to Indigenous peoples. I love the keikis (children).


Thanks to Kristy Edmunds for her generous support of ListN Up.

I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF. 

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