Week 236: “Hopopono” by GoGo Penguin


Jazz has come to an interesting point in the life cycle of musical genres.

It’s old enough that universities teach courses in it, but young enough that some of its pioneering legends are still alive.

It’s gone through all the stages that any genre goes through. In the 1920s, it was an underground scene hated by the older generation, accused of being the source of all society’s problems. By the 1950s it was a mainstream phenomenon filled with huge-selling artists. By the 1980s it had jumped the shark, bloated with hyphenated sub-genres, hopelessly out-cooled by the emergence of hip-hop. By the 1990s many people saw it as an out-of-date style of music only enjoyed by people over 50.

And now, a century after its birth, jazz is settling into a comfortable stage in its evolution. It no longer has to prove anything, it doesn’t have to try to be cool. 21st-century jazz artists are as happy covering the classics as they are melding the genre seamlessly with other styles.

GoGo Penguin has everything that a 21st-century jazz group should have. Musicianship. A wacky name. Cool videos. Sleek album cover design. Critical acclaim. A sound that is different enough to be interesting, but familiar enough to avoid alienating people on their first listen.

This song, especially, manages to sound new while echoing the hundred years of history behind it.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The slow, simple beginning reminds me of Ahmad Jamal.

2 .The fast, fluttering right hand of the pianist reminds me of Oscar Peterson.

3. The range of emotion they get out of three instruments reminds me of Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Recommended listening activity:

Researching your family tree.

Buy it here.