Back in 1998, I spent a very long lunch with Diamanda Galas (she had turkey on white toast with mayo) for a magazine article dealing with her then-new album of covers, Malediction and Prayer. The focus was a survey of her myriad influences, sort of an Idiot’s Guide to Diamanda. I’ve long since lost the interview tape and the final press clip, and that vexes me. Because I love learning about influences on the artists I admire (Henry Rollins’ Fanatic: Song Lists and Notes from the “Harmony in My Head” Radio Show is a favorite of mine; ditto the monthly “Last Night A Record Saved My Life” and “Invisible Jukebox” features in MOJO and The Wire, respectively), and I knew there were items on Diamanda’s list I’d forgotten over time.
Surprise! Yesterday, while cleaning out a box of old journals, letters, etc. I found two pages of computer generated notes that Diamanda presented to me at the top of our chat, sort of a syllabus cum crib sheet, as it were. So here are the highlights — notes in italics are my own, added while doing subsequent research; comments in quotes are Galas’ own words; bracketed info is for those of you who don’t have psychic power and/or an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz, French poets, etc.
I encourage anyone with a rabid curiosity about music, literature, and film to investigate some or all of these names. In the years following our 1998 meeting, I got into Oum Kalsoum (rent the DVD “Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt” immediately), Amalia Rodrigues, Annette Peacock, and Patty Waters. And since re-discovering this “cheat sheet,” I’ve been ransacking the Seattle Public Library for Greek folk music, Corbiere and Michaux, and so on.
Nina de las Pienas
Amalia Rodrigues Queen of Fado
rembetiko/amanethes Greek equivalent of early Delta blues
Patty Waters ESP Disk in the mid ’60s
Cheikha Remitti “Bessie Smith of Rai”
El Camarón de la Isla King of Flamenco singers
“Just heard something of Wynton [Marsalis] that was extraordinary”
Cecil [Taylor] “called me a Satanist so I have to rethink that — he should talk”
(Note on attached Post-It: Peter Balakian Black Dog of Fate) This is a compelling book about the 1915 genocide of over a million Armenians. During our lunch, Galas insisted I read it immediately — which I did. Would you disobey this woman?