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Marlena Shaw's Woman of the Ghetto gets modernized

Marlena Shaw Woman of the Ghetto by Akshin Alizadeh

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This is a remix of a song by well known jazz singer, Marlena Shaw. It was originally composed by Bobby Miller, Richard Evans and Shaw. It dates back to 1969, and originally appeared on Shaw’s The Spice of Life album. It’s also a song oftentimes sampled on hip hop albums.

Akshin Alizadeh has been active remixing music since 2010. He’s primarily works in the funk/chill out/trip hop genres, as well as with soundtracks and records for the Cold Busted label. He’s also proof of how wide reaching music is, as he calls Baku, Azerbaijan home.

He’s not just some Johnny-come-lately-DJ, either. He’s actually been playing violin and piano since the tender age of six. His sound is notable for the way he mixes together funky grooves, soulful feelings and live instrumentation with hot hip hop rhythms.

This particular track begins with subtle strings that introduce Shaw soulful singing. Her voice is given echo effects once the quiet percussion kicks in. This vocal and percussion is followed by electronic piano over tougher drumming. Next along are a funky guitar lick and a honking saxophone solo. After the saxophone steps in, keyboards come roaring back with jazzy parts.

This mix takes the original, more subtle soul song, and cranks it up with a punchier modern feel. The way Shaw’s vocal go in and out of the mix, it may remind you a little of Adele’s music. Granted, Shaw and Adele were from entirely different sides of The Atlantic, but it’s clear Adele heard and learned well from great singers of the past, such as Shaw.

Although this is a fine sonic concoction, the original meaning of the song nevertheless gets a little lost. Whereas the initial track might be categorized as Blaxploitation music -- meaning the sort of song you might have heard in the background of a Blaxploitation movie during the 70s -- this new version doesn’t carry with it the sort of drama that made songs by such folks as Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes so influential. Certainly, it probably wasn’t even in the back of Akshin Alizadeh’s mind to try and equal some of that era’s wonderful music with his new take. Instead, he knows good, organic musical ingredients when he finds them and has applied his skills to cook up something almost entirely new.

Hopefully, a remix like this one will drive some people back to the original artists of the 60s and 70s to discover some of that great music. If Akshin Alizadeh can do it, why can’t you?