Mamer, Eagle


The production on this album is astounding. If folk music from the western Xinjiang province is not your bag then at least marvel at the rich sound of this Chinese gem. Mamer sings with a warm bassy croak while gentle guitar and lilting dombra fill in the gaps and if at times the morose low-fi threatens to teeter your speakers off the table and disturb sleeping dogs — as on Mountain Wind (aka While My Catarrh Gently Weeps) – you soon get used to the sonic depression and to be honest I actually started to find the whole effect kind of soothing and, whisper it, accessible.

Of course I’ve no idea what he’s singing about (for what it’s worth it don’t sound like no Chinese I ever heard) but to help you along, the tracks for the most part are given simple one-word English monikers — Eagle, Blackbird, Man – and seem designed to evoke wistful contemplation of mother Earth as you light another scented candle. This is no bad thing.

If the language is alien then hopefully the sounds won’t be. Fans of Led Zep’s Bron-Yr-Aur will love Celebration and while overall the album stays on the introspective side of chilled there’s some beautiful melodic respite in Blackbird.

One scallion please, and hold the entrails…

According to Lonely Planet’s China guide:

China has one of the finest cuisines in the world, and from back-alley dumpling shops to four-star banquet halls, travellers surely won’t leave disappointed


You’ve got to ask if this is yet more Lonely Planet chicanery? I’ve never been to China but if my experience in rural Thailand and Laos is anything to go by, I’ll bet the vast majority of the population have never seen the delights on offer down London’s Chinatown (crispy fried aromatic duck, pork-belly stockpot etc etc) . Far more likely for your average Chinaman the daily grind of the above menu which comes courtesy of Lawrence Meakins. Although even the presence of a translation probably means this menu is aimed at the tourist-level wallet.

Incidentally if you’re wondering what scallion is, it’s spring onion although that last sentence there is somewhat suspicious, the lack of a subject hints strongly that we are to assume some sort of entrails is going to feature along with the greens. Also of note, item 1. and item 3. on the menu have identical English translations but the Chinese lettering is different. Any Chinese speakers out there care to enlighten me?

UPDATE. The World Service’s very own Mandarin expert Fuchsia Dunlop says: “It’s because the two dishes have two different coooking methods, neither or which is translatable into English! The first dish is ‘guo qiang’, a kind of stir-frying; the second is ‘hui’, which usually means cooking slivered ingredients in a wok in quite a bit of liquid.”