Lesser-Known Gem: Guruh Gipsy – Guruh Gipsy

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Band: Guruh Gipsy | Album: Guruh Gipsy | Genre: Progressive rock, Gamelan music | Year: 1977

From: Jakarta, Indonesia | Label: Paramaqua

For fans of: Yes, Genesis, ELP

In Lesser-Known Gem entries, I’ve explored acts that combined progressive rock with Orthodox chants, flamenco music, and country and honky-tonk. The act I’m writing about today also blends progressive rock with the music of their homeland. That homeland, though, is Indonesia (specifically Java and Bali), which is quite far from progressive rock’s European homeland.

Guruh Gipsy were a one-off project. All the music was written by artist Guruh Sukarnoputra (a son of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno), and he worked with the band Gipsy to record the material. Unlike the previous acts I’ve written about, Guruh Gipsy’s sole album was a widely-acclaimed and highly-influential success upon its release in Indonesia. However, as of the time of publishing, I’ve had exactly zero Indonesian readers of my blog, according to WordPress’s stats. It’s probably a safe bet that this is a rather unknown album to most of my audience. Continue reading “Lesser-Known Gem: Guruh Gipsy – Guruh Gipsy”

Lesser-Known Gem: Zerfas – Zerfas

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Band: Zerfas | Album: Zerfas | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock, Folk rock | Year: 1973

From: Indianapolis, USA | Label: 700 West

For fans of: The Beatles post-1967, Yes, Yezda Urfa, The Grateful Dead

Zerfas are one of those bands that there isn’t much information about beyond their music. I’ve ascertained they were formed in Indianapolis in the late 1960s by brothers Dave (drums, vocals) and Herman Zerfas (keys, vocals), and they persisted under a series of names until the early 1980s. They released one album, Zerfas, in 1973.

Zerfas, however brief their career, showed a lot of potential to fill several niches in the realm of progressive rock. Prog is a genre notorious for taking itself too seriously, with the music being played with near-surgical precision. A lot of the music on Zerfas, while structured and arranged in uncommon ways, has a loose, fun atmosphere to it. The timbre is frequently warm and sunny, thanks in large part to the vocals. Imagine if The Beatles (c. 1968) had tried to record a progressive rock album, and you’ll get a decent idea of what’s here. Continue reading “Lesser-Known Gem: Zerfas – Zerfas”

Lesser-Known Gem: Mezquita – Recuerdos de mi tierra

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Band: Mezquita | Album: Recuerdos de mi tierra | Year: 1979 | Genre: Progressive rock, Flamenco-rock

From: Córdoba, Spain | Label: Chapa Discos

For Fans Of: Yezda Urfa, Gentle Giant, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Flamenco music

Córdoba was a stronghold of Islamic culture and influence from its conquest by the Umayyads in 711 until its recapture by the Castilian-Leonese king in 1231. Those five centuries of Islamic rule left an indelible influence on the region’s culture, most notably in music and architecture.

Mezquita was formed in Córdoba in 1978, in the wake of the death of Francisco Franco and Spain’s transition to democracy. This quartet drew heavily upon local Andalusian history as a center of Islamic culture: “mezquita” is Spanish for mosque, the album cover features Arabic text, and the music is powered by Moorish influences alongside Spanish ones. Continue reading “Lesser-Known Gem: Mezquita – Recuerdos de mi tierra”

Lesser-Known Gem: Эпос – Илья (Epos – Ilya)

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Band: Эпос (Epos) | Album: Рок-Былина Илья (Rok-Bylina Ilya) | Year: 1989 | Genre: Progressive rock, Progressive folk

From: Leningrad, USSR (now Saint Petersburg, Russia) | Label: Мелодия (Melodiya)

For fans of: Magma, Batushka, Sigur Rós

I have an inexplicable affinity for Eastern Bloc progressive rock. I suppose it extends to music from oppressive regimes more generally, but Communist Europe had a rather thriving artistic scene (outside of Albania). Epos was among the most distinct groups to come out of the Soviet Union, a bizarre blend of cosmic synthesizers, earthy strings, and haunting vocal arrangements. That being said, there is almost no information available about the band. The musicians’ names are listed on the back of the record sleeve, but the (English-language) internet holds very little background about the group. Even looking through the first two pages of Russian-language Google results didn’t yield anything at the time of writing.

This album tells the story of Ilya Muromets, a folk hero of the Kievan Rus. It bills itself as a “rock-bylina” (a bylina being traditional East Slavic style of epic poetry), and this album is one of relatively few that actually feels uniquely Slavic. Continue reading “Lesser-Known Gem: Эпос – Илья (Epos – Ilya)”