Monday, December 18, 2006

Fiebre, Radio Tarifa

To coin a cliché: if there wasn'ta group like Radio Tarifa already, you would have to invent one. The affinities between North African and Spanish gypsy music are so overt as not to need any sophisticated World MusicPR exercise in product placement. The similarities just scream out at you when you listen to traditional airs like "Jota Bereber" or the wonderful version of Tarifa's self-composed classic from the album of the same name,"Cruzando el Rio".
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Made in Medina by Rachid Taha

Since rai music scrambled up from the slums and street markets of the Algerian port city Oran about 80 years ago, it has remained ineradicably urban, restless, acquisitive, and gregarious. As a lyric-heavy outlet for the female underclass, with slanguage extolling sex and nightlife while aggressively opposing French colonialism, rai was the original urchin rap. Since the European oppressor withdrew, rai's main opponents have been fundamentalists, both Marxists and Muslims. Well before the Armed Islamic Group assassinated love man Cheb Hasni in 1994—and the same gang or others gunned down progressive star producer Rachid Baba Ahmed in 1995—the rebel music was a target for terrorists.

Polyglot Oran was called the "little Paris" of Algeria, so no surprise that of late the important rai action has shifted to the big Paris of France. The only rai performer on the international marquee, Khaled, who recently canceled a major American tour just as he did after the Oklahoma City bombing, has headquartered there since the mid '80s, proving a reliable hitmaker in an almost respectable genre. Only a sturdy fan foundation could support an item like the double-CD 1, 2, 3 Soleils (Barclay), which showcases Khaled, second-generation star Rachid Taha, and young buck Faudel in a 1998 blowout-budget Paris concert featuring full string and horn sections and a foreign legion of guest players. Often the vocal interactions suggest Nashville duets or the Three Tenors, but from "Chebba" and "Le Camel" to "Didi" and "Ya Rayah," the choice material wins out.
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Thursday, December 07, 2006


Colombian rock band Aterciopelados has been on the verge of a major U.S. crossover breakthrough for oh, about six years now.

The buzz started with the band's acclaimed 2001 album, "Gozo Poderoso." That record reached the Top 10 of Billboard's top Latin albums, spawned the upbeat hits "Luz Azul" and "El Álbum," and earned Aterciopelados a coveted spot on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" – a rarity for a rock en español act.

The band – which revolves around the duo Andrea Echeverri and Hector Buitrago – released a "best of" collection on BMG U.S. Latin in 2002.

But rather than follow that up with a major album on a major label, Echeverri and Buitrago took some time off and worked on their own solo, indie projects. Echeverri had a baby, Milagros, who was the inspiration for many songs on her self-titled solo debut. The album, released on independent label Nacional Records in 2005, won critical praise and received nominations for a Grammy and a Latin Grammy.
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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Concerto Em Lisboa by Mariza

Thanks to three albums and a batch of memorable concerts, Mariza has transformed the international status of fado, the Portuguese answer to the blues, and rightly established herself as an international diva. So far she hasn't put a foot wrong, and now comes a live set recorded last year at what was clearly a memorable outdoor event in Lisbon, at which her sad-edged, passionate and dramatic singing was exquisite as ever, and she was backed by the Sinfonietta de Lisboa, conducted by the celebrated Brazilian arranger and producer Jaques Morelenbaum.
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Putumayo - Radio Latino

On Radio Latino, Putumayo, returns to its Latin roots with this collection of contemporary musicians standing at the forefront of the thriving "Rock en Español/Latin Alternative" movement. Most of these musicians are household names within their home countries, but have yet to realize their full potential in the rest of the world. While acknowledging their heritage by intertwining traditional rhythms and instrumentation with elements of popular music, Latin musicians are demonstrating that you don't have to sacrifice your cultural roots to appeal to a mainstream audience.
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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man by Waterson: Carthy

Beautifully played and sung, illuminated by Martin Carthy's scholarly sleevenotes, Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man collects together festive songs. The Passiontide carols and May Day songs hark back to a lost past, while the Christmas songs link to the present, proving that the English's weirdly masochistic attitude to Yuletide - that it's something one endures rather than enjoys - has deep historical roots.
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Monday, December 04, 2006

Interview with A Filetta's frontman Jean-Claude Acquaviva

Jean-Claude Acquaviva's charisma shines through his icy grey eyes that greet me on a beautiful Paris October morning. It emanates from his solemn, almost timeless voice, with which he has led 'A filetta' to the artistic heights of Corsican music. The very evening before I meet him, this 'a cappella' voice, together with those of the other group members, enchanted the audience at 'La Mediterranee des Musiques', in the auditorium of the Institut du Monde Arabe.

Never forget 'A filetta'

However, the Parisian venue was acoustically surpassed by the rural church in which I first heard 'A filetta'. ‘It's true,’ admits Acquaviva in easily understandable Corsican. ‘Concerts like the one at Rogliano (on the Corsican coast) allow us to keep a link with our homeland.’

Indeed, the group tries to keep the simplicity of 1978, when it was founded ‘by amateurs, mostly school teachers or priests. The then thirty-year-old Jean-Claude Acquaviva was already amongst them. ‘For our first trip abroad, to nearby Sardinia, we had to pay our own way.’ Then, in 1994, things began to change. ‘We were at a turning-point, either we continued as we were, or we could start to take it more seriously. We decided to go professional, motivated by the will to do it, and the help of the composer Bruno Coulet and director Jean-Yves Lazennac. We had one duty though - to stay true to our name.’
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Rhythms Del Mundo

Rhythms Del Mundo is an electrifying album that fuses music of different cultures and comes up with a melting pot of rare sounds. Arranged by Demetrio Muniz, Miguel Patterson and Kenito, the main recording sessions took place in Havana at Abdala Studios from the April 2005 to June 2006. While the majority of the vocals remain the same, The Buena Vista Social Club musicians took the original orchestration from each song and created something utterly unique casting their trademark mastery over each track. Their noted and exceptional musicianship seduced even the notoriously protective Arctic Monkeys into handing over their track. As a rule, the band has never licensed their music for compilation albums, but were so enamoured with the result that they were happy for it to be included on the album. As well as The Arctic Monkeys' track 'Dancing Shoes', Rhythms Del Mundo included reworked tracks such as Clocks by Coldplay, Better Together by Jack Johnson, She Will be Loved by Maroon 5, High and Dry by Radiohead and others.

Rhythms Del Mundo also includes music by famed Cuban singers Omara Portuondo and the last vocal recording of Afro-Cuban bolero singer, Ibrahim Ferrer, who died tragically in 2005. The other Cuban musicians from The Buena Vista Social Club who perform on this album are as follows: Barbarito Torres, Amandito Valdes, Virgilio Valdes, Angel Terri Domech, Manuel 'Guajiro' Mirabal, Orlando Lopez 'Cachaito' and Demetrio Muniz.
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Lura - Cape Verde

Cape Verde hardly seems well positioned to elbow its way into the highly contested world music marketplace. Made up of 10 main islands off the coast of Senegal, it is barely larger in size than Rhode Island. Cape Verde's population is about 420,000 (though the country's endemic poverty has resulted in a far-flung diaspora of another half a million people).

Cesaria Evora's rise to prominence in the late 1980s put the West African nation on the international musical map, and outside the Lusofone (Portugese-speaking) world she has continued to reign as the sole voice of the nation. But with a confluence of influences from Portugal, Brazil, and West Africa nurturing a musical culture as rich as the islands are barren, a new generation of Cape Verdean singers is coming to the fore.

Sara Tavares , Fantcha , Maria de Barros , Gardenia Benrós , and Maria Alice have all released impressive albums with distribution in the United States and Europe. None, however, is better placed to step onto the world stage than Lura , who returns to the Berklee Performance Center on Saturday for a reprise of her triumphant September 2005 debut.

"Cesaria is like our mother," says Lura, 31, who was featured on an extensive 2001 European tour, Cesaria & Friends. "She makes Cape Verdean culture known all over the world. She does it very seriously, and I learned a lot with her. I learned where my place is in music from Cape Verde and what I have to do."

Delivering contemporary songs in Cape Verdean Crioulo with her deep, sultry contralto, Lura is a captivating performer steeped in traditional styles but interested in a vast range of sounds. Born and raised in Lisbon, she started her career as a dancer, but realized she had a gift for singing when Cape Verdean-born zouk star Juka recruited her to record with him. The duet was a minor hit, and the teenage budding singer suddenly started receiving requests from established figures such as Tito Paris, Paulinho Vieira , and Angola's Bonga.
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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Second volume of Lagrimas Negras on the way

The spectacular album ‘Lagrimas Negras’ released by Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés and Madrid Flamenco Singer Diego El Cigala in 2003 is set for a sequel.

The first album, recorded in just three days, beautifully mixes flamenco with coplas, tangos and Cuban boleros and has sold just short of a million copies. It also won a Grammy in 2004.

Now Diego El Cigala has announced that a second volume will be in the shops in March or April next year. The 37 year old singer goes from strength to strength, picking up two Grammy’s this year for his latest solo album, ‘Picasso en mis Ojos’.
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Heartplay by Charlie Haden/ Antonio Forcione

Admirers of unplugged world-guitarists such as Ralph Towner and Egberto Gismonti are natural recruits for the remarkable Antonio Forcione. Born in Italy but living in the UK, Forcione plays delicate jazzy love songs, stamping flamenco, Astor Piazzolla tangos, the blues, and a lot more. He has an untamed aspect that sets him apart from most guitar virtuosos, though; it's expressed in slewing, unresolved runs, gunshot single notes and feverish hammerings on the soundbox (he used to be a percussionist). These duets with the great American jazz bassist Charlie Haden feature reflective but restlessly mobile originals by both players, plus pianist Fred Hersch's lovely Child Song.
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The Idan Raichel Project

While recent headlines are dominated by news of conflict and war in the Middle East, an Israeli musical collaborative has achieved success by looking beyond intercultural differences and celebrating the value of diversity. With its blend of traditional Ethiopian folk music, Arabic poetry, Yemenite chants, Biblical psalms and Caribbean rhythms, The Idan Raichel Project has already taken Israel by storm with multiple number one hits and triple platinum sales. On November 7, 2006, the recently formed record label Cumbancha will present the powerful music of The Idan Raichel Project to the world with an international CD release of The Idan Raichel Project.

The Idan Raichel Project is the brainchild of Israeli keyboardist, composer, producer, and arranger Idan Raichel, who invited over 70 different musicians from a wide variety of backgrounds to participate in the recordings. In particular, Raichel has long been fascinated by the music of Israel's growing population of Ethiopian Jews, and many songs feature members of Israel's Ethiopian community. The recordings also include Arab musicians, traditional Yemenite vocalists, a toaster and percussionist from Suriname and a South African singer, among others.

The Project released its first album in Israel in 2002 and quickly became one of the biggest success stories in the history of Israeli popular music. The haunting Ethiopian chorus of the first single, "Bo'ee" (Come With Me), sounded completely unlike anything most Israeli's had heard before. The groundswell of interest propelled the album to heights rarely seen in the local music scene and firmly established Idan Raichel as a new type of Israeli pop star. Now a musical icon in the Israeli community worldwide, The Idan Raichel Project has performed to sell-out crowds in prestigious venues in Paris, Brussels, New York, Los Angeles, Singapore and beyond.
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Friday, December 01, 2006

Interview with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan

Renowned Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan loves performing in India and says he perhaps receives a warmer welcome there than anywhere else in the world.

Strange, given the bitter rivalry between the two South Asian neighbours. But such is the world of Khan's music, which draws on the ancient musical traditions of the subcontinent.

To the sound of the "tabla", Khan weaves and wails verses in praise of Allah in his baritone, as he renders the "qawwali", or Islamic devotional song.

Heir to the legacy of his uncle, the legendary "qawwali" singer Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, alongside whom he performed for many years, Rahat spoke to Reuters in New Delhi on Thursday ahead of his latest performance in India.

Q: What are your first memories related to "qawwali"?

A: "Mr. Khan initiated me into it when I was seven years old. On that day, I remember Mr. Khan was rehearsing, I listened to him with a child's curiosity and wondered what was happening. I went inside the music room and sat next to him and he told me to start singing and I started singing."
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Burlesque by Bellowhead

When Jon Boden and John Spiers appeared on the English folk scene, they quickly made their mark as a gutsy duo, reverently belting out their songs and tunes with complete conviction. With Spiers on melodeons and concertina and Boden on fiddle and vocals, their youthful fervor added to the growing and vibrant roots movement, and Spiers and Boden were tapped to add texture to Eliza Carthy's Rough Music album in 2005. But by then, Spiers and Boden were already looking to expand their palette of sound. In 2004 the duo released an E.P. from a new project of theirs called Bellowhead, and it became clear that what Spiers and Boden were about was something different.

Bellowhead brings big band arranging to English music, featuring a full-on horn section and the Bellowhead of 2006 is most certainly a large band, with eleven members kicking up a wall of sound. Burlesque set me scrambling for comparisons. Perhaps Brass Monkey, which featured Martin Carthy and John Kirkpatrick with a horn section? Not really, as Bellowhead's rhythmic flair is more dynamic and diverse than even Brass Monkey had imagined. Perhaps The Barely Works? Well, not even the Barelies are a fair comparison, as that band combined horns with more of a bluegrass/Irish influence, although the sense of experimentation and having fun is certainly apparent in Bellowhead's music.
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Electric Griot Land by Ba Cissoko

No, this is not the West African answer to Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, despite the title, but a brave attempt to match traditional styles against contemporary Western pop. The Guinean Ba Cissoko is a griot, from a long line of traditional musicians, and a distinguished kora player, like his better-known Malian counterpart, Toumani Diabate. Cissoko starts out in conventional acoustic style, matching his rippling playing on the West African harp against other traditional instruments, from the xylophone-like balafon to calabash percussion. Then he adds in bass guitar, a gentle wash of programming and effects, and the input from a series of African special guests.
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In some parts of Africa you are born into music. Musicians playing in West Africa today share surnames - Diabaté, Kouyaté, Cissoko - with ancestors who have handed down craft and songs to their heirs for centuries. They are the griots: the musical caste. With that history, if you're a Cissoko then you are born to play the kora - the 21-stringed instrument that is a cross between a harp and a guitar and which has the sweetest, most hypnotising sound.

Ba Cissoko, however, is a maverick. Not satisfied with traditional griot ballads, he has put together a band, invited the hippest African musicians as his guests into the studio, and with his cousin, kora player Sekou Kouyaté, plugged koras into wah-wah pedals, backed them with driving beats and thick, throbbing bass and created an exciting, compelling sound.
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With its 21 strings, the long West African instrument called the kora delivers a sound rich in nuance and finesse. It also requires lengthy study. Together these factors have made it a vehicle for the preservation of traditional music by griots -- the praise-singing troubadours of Mali and Guinea -- rather than innovation and fusion with modern genres.

Then Ba Cissoko came along, with the band that bears his name. The Guinean combo, which visits the Somerville Theatre tonight on its maiden US tour, has jolted tradition by matching Cissoko's conventional kora with an electric version invented and played by his cousin Sékou Kouyaté . And they have taken their koras into unlikely terrain such as reggae, salsa, and rock without jettisoning traditional themes.

"Electric Griot Land," the band's second album, available as a European import, states the group's approach in its title. The Jimi Hendrix reference is no accident, but the interplay of acoustic and electric kora, backed by Kourou Kouyaté, another cousin, on bass and Ibrahima Bah on percussion, is more elegant, less dissonant than the comparison might imply. Contributions from French-African soul duo Les Nubians, Somali rapper K'Naan, and Ivorian reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly bolster the overall global-groovy feel.

Significantly, the critical plaudits for Cissoko on the world-music circuit have not come at the expense of local credibility. He spends as much time in Guinea as he does on the road, and his music has grown popular with the home audience despite his act of kora-goes-electric heresy.
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If an African kora-led album is called Electric Griot Land, it'll be different. For years, this instrument - a 21-string harp-lute with half a calabash covered with cow skin as a resonator - has been associated with the gentlest, most traditional African music, as exemplified by Toumani Diabaté and Ballake Cissoko's classic album New Ancient Strings. But Cissoko, 38, and his band are plucking the kora sound - and the ancient griot lineage - into the 21st century.

Cissoko says the album's name came about because Sekou Kouyaté, the band's electric kora player, is known as "the Jimi Hendrix of the kora", and because "all the band members are griot and from griot families. The name highlights the link between tradition and modernity." The other band-members include the bolon (a traditional West African bass) player Kourou Kouyaté and the percussionist Ibrahim Bah.

Cissoko's family has a long tradition of kora players, including his father and grandfather: "In Africa, it's common to say the 'Cissoko' play the kora and the 'Kouyaté' the balafon." As a child, he was football-mad and a bit of a rebel - playing the kora was the last thing on his mind. "But my father told me I was from a griot family and I had to at least learn the traditional tunes that all griot should play.
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Electric Gypsyland 2

Classic gypsies meet contemporary gypsies in a new Crammed Records comp, Electric Gypsyland 2. Containing reinventions and reinterpretations of 16 tracks by three Balkan Gypsy bands (Taraf de Haïdouks, Koççani Orkestar, Mahala Raï Banda) on the Belgian label , the album includes contributions from Animal Collective, Nouvelle Vague, Tunng, Cibelle, and 43 Skidoo (which is, according to the Crammed website "a fleeting reincarnation of the similarly named cult 80s band"), plus remixes by fusionists and Balkan club mainstays Shantel, Balkan Beat Box, Oi Va Voi, Smadj, DJ ClicK, Forty Thieves Orkestar, Gaetano Fabri, Russ Jones, and Russendisko.
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Celtic Legends

This is a really outstanding assortment of classic Celtic numbers by top artists and it makes for splendid listening, irrespective if you have Guinness in your blood or not.

Of the 19 tracks collected on this CD, standouts include Fiona Kerry’s stirring 'Riverdance', Daniel O’Donnel’s lump-in-the-throat 'Oh Danny Boy', Dolores Kean’s 'Have I Told You Lately' and the hauntingly beautiful soft good-bye by 'Celtic Woman'.

Lisa Kelly, Loreena McKennitt, Clannad, Mike Oldfield and The Waterboys also wave the Celtic flag with vigour. All of it really good soul touching stuff, beautifully recorded and carefully selected for maximum listening pleasure... almost as good as a return ticket to Ireland and a few pints after a round of golf at the magnificently verdant Hermitage Golf Club on the outskirts of Dublin.
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Lorrena McKennitt

A Turkish note on Loreena McKennitt's album An Ancient Muse

Loreena McKennitt, Canadian singer, composer and pianist most famous for performing world music with a new age/Celtic feel, has incorporated elements from Turkish music in her latest album, "An Ancient Muse."
The album, released this month, is the culmination of a nine-year worldwide journey and meticulous research by McKennitt through which she aimed to gain a global perspective. The music harmonizes Celtic and world melodies and is enriched by acoustic instruments including lute, clarinet, flute and viola.
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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Infinito Particular by Marisa Monte (Brazil)

New York Times' review of Marisa Montes' Infinito Particular

Simple beauty isn’t enough for Marisa Monte, the Brazilian singer and songwriter who finished her United States tour on Tuesday night at the Beacon Theater. Her music was exquisite and thoughtful, as usual; her staging was arty and often distracting.

Ms. Monte has a voice that caresses every note she sings and an ear for melody, whether it’s in an old samba or a Motown-flavored rock tune. Her aspirations are large. She started her concert with the title song of one of two albums she has released simultaneously, “Infinito Particular” (Metro Blue/EMI), cooing, “Don’t get lost when you enter my private infinity” as the music glimmered serenely. She sang in darkness, with just one spotlight illuminating her face for a few moments.

Through a career that began in the late 1980s, Ms. Monte has become a star in Brazil while her music has drawn closer to home. On her early albums she looked toward jazz and soul from the United States, drawing songs from Gershwin and Marvin Gaye as well as bossa nova, and mixing rock rhythms with Brazilian ones. “Tribalistas,” her 2002 collaboration with the songwriters Carlinhos Brown and Arnaldo Antunes that became a major hit album in Brazil, often leaned toward rock.

But on “Infinito Particular” and its companion album, “Universo ao Meu Redor” (Metro Blue/EMI), Ms. Monte personalizes the Brazilian ballad, surrounding gentle tunes in untraditional yet felicitous arrangements. Her band onstage included bassoon, flugelhorn, cello and harmonica along with the traditional small samba guitar, the cavaquinho, and enough guitars and percussion for intricate picking and subtle rhythms. “Universo ao Meu Redor,” which means “Universe Around Me,” is steeped in samba, featuring Ms. Monte’s songs alongside some older tunes, like “Meu Canário,” that have been known around Rio de Janeiro, but not previously recorded. It’s an album of delicate, small-scale samba with songs about private longings, not the booming samba of Carnival.

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Ketukuba by Africando

The seventh album of the group Africando, Ketukuba is a tribute to the singer Gnonnas Pedro, Benin's favorite son, who sang with Africando from 1996 until his death in 2004. The title song, Ketukuba was his last recording. It also marks the arrival of a new generation of interpreters, in the form of Senegalese singers Basse Sarr and Pascal Dieng, and American salsero Joe King.

Founded in 1993 by the Senegalese producer Ibrahima Syllart, Africando is today an institution, of which the goal is to federate the black cultures through Afro-Cuban music. A history born from the meeting of some of the best singers in Senegal and many of the best Latin musicians in New York. The continuation is only one succession of successful albums in spite of the periodic changes of the initial group.
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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Chico Buarque - Brazil

Chico Buarque was born in 1944 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
He passes his youth between Brazil and Italy. Influenced by the friends of his father, the historian Sergio Buarque de Holanda, he falls in love with music and more particularly with Bossa Nova. At 21 years of age, his career starts to take off. He records the single Pedro Pedreiro then written for the play Roda Viva which is prohibited by the dictatorship in Brazil in 1968. Chico Buarque makes a short stay in prison then leaves for Italy, where he stays for a year. On his return to Brazil, he signs, in 1971, the album Construcao of which two-thirds are censured. He records then Quando o Carnaval Chegar (1972), Chico Canta (1973) and Chico Buarque & Maria Bethania (1975). Chico Buarque meets Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil and plays with them in the mid Seventies. In 1980, he signs Vida. After that, and amongst others, Brazil A Banda (1993), Nao Vai (1996), Chico 50 Anos (1997), As Cidades (1998) and Carioca (2006).
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Baaba Maal - Senegal

This Senegalese musician plays a music without borders. Its simple and sophisticated style touches you in the eart. Baaba Maal was born in Podor, a small village located in the banks of the Senegal river, in the border with Mauritania. Since his adolescence he integrates the group "Asly Fouta", where he learns how to play various traditional instruments. He tours through all West Africa with Mansour Seck, a friend griot. Along the concerts, from village to village, he meets the older ones which tell him the history of each region and its music. When later Baaba Maal arrives in Paris, he impregnates his music with western sonorities and finds its way. It as an complete musician that he returns to Dakar. There, he creates his group "Daande Lenol" (the Voice of the People) and releases his first album "Firin' in Fouta". For "NOMAD Soul", Baaba Maal invites several international musicians: the female vocal quartet "Screaming Orpheans", from Ireland, Robbie Shakespeare, the mythical bass player of the reggae 100% jamaïcain and Brian Eno, pioneer of rock'n'roll and experimental music. These last years, the Senegalese musician is return to his origins by developing a more acoustic music.
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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Debra DeSalvo - The Language of the Blues

A review of Debra DeSalvo's Blues dictionary The Language of the Blues.

The music called the blues can express emotions with unmistakable clarity, but some of the words, whether sung by 1930s Mississippi Delta sharecroppers or big-city electric-guitar heroes, can be pretty obscure.

Hunting down the origins and meanings of those words was the mission of New Jersey rock musician and journalist Debra DeSalvo. The result, "The Language of the Blues," is a witty, bawdy and fascinating dictionary.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Sergio Mendes - Timeless

The fusion of hip-hop and bossa nova is certainly not new.

DJ trio Bossacucanova combined dance beats and Brazil's jazz-imbued retro sound on 1999's "Revisited Classics" - to snazzy, sizzling effect.

"Timeless," bossa nova king Sergio Mendes' first album in 10 years, carries on this burgeoning tradition of urban renewal splashed with elements of Brazilian '60s pop.

It's not necessarily timeless, but it works, and well.

You can find the article here

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Interview with Amadou and Mariam

South of the Malian capital of Bamako is a large, dusty compound that is home to one of the country's only two schools for the blind. There's a picture of a man with a stick, and a series of single-storey buildings painted in much the same orange-pink colours as the earth on which they stand. There are more than 100 children here, some attending lessons, others sitting outside the dormitories, where they sleep crammed together on pieces of well-worn foam rubber.

It was here that Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia met 29 years ago, at the start of one of the most extraordinary success stories in African music. Now, recognised as celebrities even in a city famed for its musicians, they have come back to the school. They are smartly dressed, but look like pop stars in their designer dark glasses ("Phillipe Stark", I'm told. "Specially made") as they tour their old classrooms. They are here to discuss a series of major international events they are planning to help the school, including a fund-raising concert in the school compound that will involve everyone from Manu Chao to the West African rap/reggae star Tiken Jah Fakoly, along with their son Sam and his political rap band, and even members of the original school band with whom Amadou and Mariam started out.
"Parents bring blind children here and then never come back to see them. It's like throwing children away," Idrissa Soumaoro, former teacher and bandmate tells me.

Yet for Amadou and Mariam it was very different. They not only flourished at the school, where they were married three years after meeting, but used the skills they learned to launch their career. Their 2004 album Dimanche a Bamako has sold nearly 500,000 copies, reaching number two in France's pop charts. The duo are about to embark on a major UK tour, and success in the World Music Awards looks guaranteed with nominations for album of the year and African act of the year.

Amadou is delighted. "I love English music and started out listening to Alvin Lee, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour and Bad Company, trying to find a link between them and our Bambara culture. Getting an award means that the English have understood what our music is about."

You can find the full interview here
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Tony Allen - Home Cooking

Nigerian master-drummer Tony Allen was the powerhouse behind the late Fela Kuti's bands Africa 70 and Egypt 80. By general consensus, he invented the devilishly complicated, deceptively simple-sounding rhythm that came to be known as Afrobeat. It's said that Fela needed four drummers to replace Allen when the two musicians eventually parted ways and from this record it's not hard to see why.

Blur's Damon Albarn seems to find his way onto a number of African records nowadays. Whilst association by fame can do nothing but good for African record sales, the actual artistic point of his inclusion as singer on this session's opener, 'Every Season', is questionable. Although Albarn makes a perfectly good fist of his guest spot, the tune is a success despite the celebrity presence, not because of it.

This is the key to the whole album. Although Allen brings in fresh elements to his time-honoured sound in order to attract a broader audience (another example is the convincing rapper Ty), it's still the deep afrobeat grooves that leap out here. When the rich horn section locks into Allen's supernaturally powerful percussion the whole comes into its own.

You can find the review here

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Womadelaide 2006

Back in 1992, when Adelaide became part of the world music circuit with the first Womadelaide festival, the complex rhythms, the melodic riches and the variety of music on offer were something of a mystery to the general population.

In the 14 years since, Womadelaide has grown into an annual institution and with it has come a larger, more knowledgeable audience for the world music that it promotes. Even outside of the festival, acts from Africa, Europe and South America now tour Australia more often than they did 15 or 20 years ago.

Our world music credentials were given a boost last week when it was announced that the Australian National University in Canberra is to be home to the International Council for Traditional Music for the next three years. This 59-year-old body for the promotion, playing and study of music from across the world was established in London in 1947 and was based in Europe for 33 years, and then in the US until this year.

These developments, says Womadelaide program director Rob Brookman, reflect Australia's increasing willingness to embrace forms of music that stretch beyond the mainstream of rock and pop. Record advance ticket sales for this year's event would seem to strengthen his point.

"That's liberating for me as a programmer," says Brookman, who yesterday headed to New York in his other role as general manager of Sydney Theatre Company, whose production of Hedda Gabler is about to open there.

"I suppose it makes a difference being able to say now that we can bring in Orchestra Baobab in 2006 and know that they will be greeted with the understanding in our audience that these guys are of enormous stature in their native Senegal and that they should be regarded as something special to see.

"On the other hand, back in 1992 they may have said, 'We really want to come because Crowded House are playing."'

Orchestra Baobab, one of Senegal's most enduring and hardworking bands, are a good example of the talent that will be on display in Adelaide next month and also of the cross-pollination of styles that makes world music a movable feast.

The group formed in Dakar in 1970 and their music was informed by a number of styles including - through political alignments between the two nations in the 1950s and '60s - Cuban dance music.

Their traditional rhythms and songs were to some extent overtaken in the '80s by the mbalax dance rhythms popularised by Senegal's most famous musical export, Youssou N'Dour, but the group has enjoyed a resurgence of late and their insistent groove will be one of the Womadelaide highlights, Brookman says.

Also from Africa comes Guinea's Ba Cissoko, who combine the traditional and the modern by using an electric and an acoustic kora, a 21-stringed African harp, and set that unusual mix to often frenetic dance rhythms.

Other drawcards include English-Indian dance innovator Talvin Singh, South Africa's veteran diva Miriam Makeba and Jamaican legend Jimmy Cliff.

Brookman says the willingness of musicians to experiment and incorporate other forms, other cultures, into their music is one of the most rewarding aspects of the festival.

"There was a time not that long ago when hip-hop was the domain of a few cool dudes on the west coast of America," he says. "Now you can hear it in the music of Europe and, of course, in African music."

You can find the article here

Tony Allen - Lagos No Shaking

Honest Jon's Records is fast becoming a haven for treasures left-field, lost and overlooked, and has given Allen his head and let him do Lagos No Shaking. Recorded over 10 nights in the Nigerian capital, the record effortlessly proves that this older generation can still show the Afrobeat way. As might be expected, the album is rhythmically faultless, the percussion being allowed to breathe in its own space, while the horns are reassuringly rude, and the guitar figures conjure a trance for a dance, if you will.

Lagos No Shaking plays host to a handful of guest vocalists, including highlife maestro Fatai Rolling Dollar and diva Yinka Davies, and while that might present the idea of a Buena Vista-esque rolling revue, it's actually the record's only real failing, with some performances - largely those in English - like Morose and Losun, found wanting in execution. Where Fela made a virtue of communicating in English pidgin-style, these just strike a wrong chord.

But that minor grump aside, Tony Allen's return is all anyone could wish for. It's hot and heavy, exhausting in the best possible way, and as funky as hell. It's literally in a league of its own as the dance record of the year so far. A legend still going where others could only hope to tread.

You can find the review here

Friday, February 10, 2006

Bebo Valdes wins Grammy for Bebo de Cuba

Pianist Bebo Valdes Wins GRAMMY Award in "Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album" Category for Bebo De Cuba, A 2-CD/DVD Celebrating Cuban Big Band And Jazz Traditions

Marks Valdes' fifth GRAMMY in 3 years, following two for El Arte Del Sabor (2002) and one for Lagrimas Negras (2005), featuring Flamenco vocalist Diego El Cigala.

Legendary arranger / composer / bandleader Bebo Valdes has won the GRAMMY Award in the "Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album" category for his Calle 54 Records release, Bebo De Cuba, during the 48th Annual GRAMMY Awards held on Wednesday, February 8, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Bebo De Cuba was co-produced by Spanish filmmaker Fernando Trueba, whose stylish 2000 Miramax documentary and live music film Calle 54 brought a wide range of jazz-influenced Latin music styles to the big screen for the first time, and Nat Chediak, Cuban music historian and founder of the Miami Film Festival. The production features Bebo Valdes fronting a full big band on one CD, Suite Cubana and a smaller ensemble on the other, El Solar de Bebo. Both sessions feature a veritable who's who of the Latin jazz world. The companion 23-minute DVD, New York Notebook, complements the music through interviews with Valdes, and video vignettes of the still spry pianist reminiscing while he walks the streets of Manhattan, interacting with the musicians, conducting the groups, and playing piano.

Bebo De Cuba is indeed a celebration - not only of the enduring popularity of a music tradition that has held a global audience in a trance for over half a century but of the endurance and the undiminished creative spirit of one of the idiom's more important practitioners. With the passing in recent years of such contemporaries as "Chico" O'Farrill and Mario Bauza, Valdes stands as one of the last of a generation of multi-talented Cuban musicians who played central roles in defining the state of Cuban music today. Bebo De Cuba, a truly singular release in every regard, is the consummate tribute to a master musician whose influence on the music of our time will remain a topic of discussion for decades to come, Bebo Valdes.

Bebo De Cuba also received a 2005 Latin GRAMMY for Best Latin Jazz Album.

You can find the full review here

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Echu Mingua by Anga Diaz

Latin music begins with the drum. It sings, dances, composes, improvises and tells the story of the song. Many of our favorite tunes are melodies transposed from the murmurs of a talking drum. But only a few drummers are allowed to "lead" the band - names such as Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaría. This month, in its now annual parade of releases, the World Circuit/ Nonesuch team who brought you the Buena Vista Social Club presents the Europe-based Cuban percussionist Angá Díaz.

Díaz's new album is called "Echu Mingua," after the Yoruban god Elegguá, often thought of as the guardian of the crossroads, sometimes the trickster. He's the one who haunted Robert Johnson's dreams, made Thelonius Monk get up from his piano and spin slowly in place. Díaz calls "Echu Mingua" a "religious service" of sorts, and it serves the purpose of guarding the crossroads between Cuban son, rumba, jazz, hip-hop and maybe even what Izzy Sanabria once called "salsa."

A gifted conga player, Díaz has an impressive track record: He began with the legendary Afro-Cuban jazz band Irakere; put in time with jazz experimentalists Steve Coleman and Roy Hargrove; anchored Juan de Marcos' Afro-Cuban All Stars; and made a singular impression on bassist Orlando "Cachaíto" López's 2001 solo effort, one of the best Buena Vista spin-off albums. Díaz's presence contributed greatly to that album's forward-looking avant-garde edge.

"Echu Mingua" has a similar, live- in-the-studio feel to "Cachaíto." The resulting music is decidedly "Freeform" (the name of a hip-hop-inflected jam session), with several stops and starts in rhythm, style and influence. Tracks such as the flamenco-tango inspired "Ode Mar- tima" seem better suited for experimental dance than salsa, and "Conga Carnaval" sounds like Los Van Van partying on a Brazilian tour.

You can find the full review here

Bajofondo Tango Club

Bajofondo Tango Club, a tango-meets-electronic-music project directed by Gustavo Santaolalla, came aboard Friday in the Allen Room as a satellite event in Lincoln Center's festival for the Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov.

Mr. Santaolalla is a leader in the international movement to widen pop music: an Argentine rock musician who in the 1990's became one of the world's great record producers - Café Tacuba's brilliant "Reves/Yosoy" is sufficient proof - and more recently one of the film industry's favorite soundtrack composers. (His score for "Brokeback Mountain" is an Academy Award nominee this year.)

You can find the full review here

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Interview with Emmanuel Jal

No singer in the world fits the label "soul rebel" better than the Sudanese rapper Emmanuel Jal, who launches a UK tour in Manchester this month. This former boy-soldier now sings in the service of the Christian church. His album Ceasefire, nominated for a BBC Radio 3 world music award, is, he says, "my way of passing on the message that has been in my heart for a long time: simply, peace and love. Our land is big, and there's plenty for people to share. We don't have to kill each other."

His voice is light, sincere and boyish as he talks about his short but eventful life. His earliest memories are of war songs: "Men chanting, women ululating, songs to celebrate victory, and to console them for the loved ones they lost." The drum-backed music of the villages was a peaceful kind of rap, he says, but in his town the music was for war.

You can find the full interview here

Bob Brozman, Blues Reflex

What happens when someone creative enough combines Delta blues with music from the Pacific Islands? The result is Bob Brozman's Blues Reflex. Even though the adjective "eclectic" linked to music has been used so much that it's been killed, left to rot, then buried, dug up, cremated and reformed with water and glue 10 times over, the style of Blues Reflex is just that: eclectic.

You can find the full review here

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Debashish Bhattacharya, Calcutta Slide Guitar

Now here's a great musical idea. Take the gorgeous musical tradition that is Indian raga - with all its richness, complexity and subtlety - and, instead of playing the raga on a sitar, play it on specially modified instruments based on the Hawaiian slide guitar.

You can find the full review here

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Interview with Talvin Singh

Talk? Yeah, eloquent and interesting Talvin Singh can talk. And when you are the multiskilled English cat who fused Indian bhangra with dance beats long before the Western world's recent fascination with Bollywood, you have a lot to discuss.

Particularly when he is a prominent "Asian" identity in England, which has experienced simmering racism and legislation changes since terrorist bombings struck London a year ago. "We have a policy now in the UK where I could be walking down the street with a strange-looking instrument in my hand - it could be my drums, or sitar, or whatever - and I'll be locked up for 28 days," says charming Singh, who is presenting audio/visual performance Tabtek at the Adelaide Bank Festival of Arts, and a DJ set at Womadelaide.

You can find the full interview here

7th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival

The 7th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which is now acknowledged as the biggest Jazz event on the African continent, will once again take place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) on Friday 31 March and Saturday 1 April 2006.

Festival director, Rashid Lombard, and his organisation team, espAfrika (Pty) Ltd, are more than confident that the 2006 staging of this popular festival, that has become affectionately known as Africa's Grandest Gathering, will be as successful as the previous festivals and will again feature a world-class line-up of jazz and jazz related artists.

This will be the third time that the Cape Town International Jazz Festival will be staged at its spacious and classy new home at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

The 2006 festival will again feature a spectacular bill of 40 acts, split equally between the African and International contingents, performing in five different venues situated around the Convention Centre.

There will also be the traditional free concert for the people of Cape Town prior to the festival on Thursday 30 March to be held on Greenmarket Square.

With almost four months to go till the eagerly anticipated weekend musical party in March, espAfrika have already announced the first list of artists who will be appearing at the 2006 Jazz Festival. Artists already confirmed include:

Manu Dibango & Soul Makossa Gang, Chucho Valdés Quartet featuring Mayra Caridad Valdés,Tina Schouw and Friends, Charlie Haden Quartet, Freddy Cole, Louie Vega and his Elements of Life LIVE featuring Blaze, Anane & Luisito Quintero, Nestor Torres, Terence Blanchard, Tribute to Ray Charles featuring Joe McBride, Gerald Veasley and Kenny Blake, Miriam Makeba, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Relax, Omar Sosa Quartet featuring Pee Wee Ellis, RJ Benjamin, Mario Canonge Trio featuring Horacio El Negro Hernandez, Caiphus Semenya, Heads Up Superband featuring. Joe McBride, Gerald Veasley and Kenny Blake, Unofficial Language featuring Paul Hanmer, Ian Herman and Pete Sklair

You can find the full article here

Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Long Walk to Freedom

The vocal call and response of Ladysmith Black Mambazo traces our world’s civilizations from the very beginning. As a form of communication, singing has accompanied the advancement of societies far and wide. Our ancestors undoubtedly found it as pleasurable as we do. With a cappella singing providing a natural delight that cannot be replaced by modern technology, Joseph Shabala and company deliver a series of timeless messages that grab at your soul.

You can find the full review here

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Interview with Amadou Bagayoko

Banning Eyre spoke with Amadou Bagayoko (Amadou et Mariam) on August 9. 2005, find the interview here

Toumani Diabate and Ali Farka Toure, In the Heart of the Moon

Ali Farka Toure points out in a heartfelt sleeve note that it is rare to find musicians from such different cultures collaborating in Mali. This is especially true of the northern desert traditions Ali has devoted his musical life to, and the sometimes exclusive world of Mande griots in which Toumani was nurtured. On top of that, there is the grandeur of these particular figures: Ali, the quintessential "African bluesman," legendary champion of northern music, and worldwide icon of African guitar; and Toumani, commonly acclaimed by those in the know as the greatest living player of the demanding, 21-string West African harp, the kora. Ali and Toumani inhabit the top tier of Mali’s musical pantheon, and yet there is an endearing father/son dynamic at play between them, with Ali having entered music in part under the tutelage of Toumani’s father Sidiki, and having known Toumani literally since the kora maestro’s infancy. Ali writes that Sidiki taught him the classic Mande repertoire back in the 1950s and 60s, and the songs of that era dominate here. Indeed, thought this is not the genre Ali is best known for, classic Made fare was the music that first inspired him to pick up a guitar back in 1956. Add to this compelling story line the lush, rich sound recording achieved by World Circuit’s secret weapon - engineer Jerry Boys - and this release is automatically one for the history books.

You can find the full review here

Mamadou Diabate, Behmanka

Sizing up 2005 in the final weeks, this album jumps out as a neglected gem. Lots of world music top-10 lists this year include In The Heart of the Moon, Toumani Diabate’s soulful session with Ali Farka Toure. It is a sweet, laid back encounter between two masters, but if you really want to hear the kora played with gusto, as well as mastery, Toumani’s cousin Mamadou has the record for you. Behmanka is among the most beautiful and technically awesome kora recordings ever made. From its stately opener "Touma," which revisits the title track from Mamadou’s ensemble debut album, to the lashing, 12/8 lope of the exhilarating closer, "Djimbaseh," these 8 tracks take your breath away.

You can find the full review here

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The 2005 Review - Star Online eCentral (Malaysia)

The popularity of West African musicians in world music is unchallenged yet again as the continent’s legendary names and lesser known artistes featured highly on most lists that summed up crucial work music releases from last year. At least two immensely interesting projects stood out among numerous collaborations - the stunning alliance between Amadou and Mariam and Manu Chao which produced the immeasurably blissful Dimanche a Bamako and the sublime In the Heart of the Moon from Malian master musicians Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate.

These partnerships, however, are not the only albums that will evoke wonderment and reverence long after the dust has settled. The endeavours from distinguished solo musicians such as Salif Keita (M’Bemba) and Cheikh Lo (Lamp Fall) would also emerge as significant postings in the history of roots music.

Considering most of the highlights of last year will be celebrated at the upcoming BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music 2006 (online polling ends Jan 31), it’s timely to make mention of the the notable 2005 releases that re-established world music’s presence on the racks.

Includes reviews of:
Emmanuel Jal and Abdel Gadir Salim: Ceasefire
Amadou & Mariam: Dimanche a Bamako
Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate: In the Heart of the Moon
Cheikh Lo: Lamp Fall
Salif Keita: M’Bemba
Souad Massi: Mesk Elil
Susheela Raman: Music for Crocodiles
Papua New Guinea Stringbands with Bob Brozman: Songs of the Volcano
Debashish Bhattacharya: 3: Calcutta Slide Guitar
Ballake Sissoko: Tomora Ballake Sissoko

You can find the full article here.

Susheela Raman, Music for Crocodiles

Music For Crocodiles is at once smoother, and more commercially orientated than its two predecessors, yet still has room for unexpected outbreaks of fuzzed-up guitar or cello.

It's more accessible because Raman chooses to sing a bigger proportion of songs in English, which is her native tongue, pushing her closer towards the singer-songwriter zone. Theres a soulful feeling that has its roots in her teenage days, when Raman was singing with blues bands in Sydney.

You can find the full review here.

Amadou and Mariam, Dimanche a Bamako

Together as a musical entity since 1980, three years after they met at the Institute for the Young Blind in Bamako, Amadou & Mariam have slowly gained an audience outside West Africa since achieving major label status in 1998. I have to admit to finding their work up to this point a little monochrome, but suddenly they're in Technicolor courtesy of Manu Chao, who here takes on the role of producer.

At first listen and especially on the instrumental "M'Bife Balafon" this could almost be Chao's long awaited third solo album. Certainly, the way the French public have lapped it up adds to that impression. But despite a generous sprinkling of his trademarks (frequent backing and lead vocals, the cop car siren on "La Réalité", a vibrant skanking strum on "Camions Sauvages" and the general sense of momentum created by judicious segueing throughout, to name a few), it's very much an Amadou & Mariam record.

You can find the full review here.

Best African Music - The 2005 Review

The RFI review of the year

2005 ended with an appropriately elaborate display of musical fireworks on Salif Keita's ambitious new album M'Bemba (released at the end of October). The album, entirely recorded in Keita's studio in Bamako, found the Malian star delving into his country's history and the royal courts of the past. M'Bemba, which fuses traditional Mandingo rhythms with other surprising elements such as Spanish melodies, was hailed as one of the most accomplished releases of 2005 - and rightly so, in our eyes!

You can find the full review here.

Salif Keita, M'Bemba

M'Bemba is a largely acoustic album with a strong feel for Keita's Mande roots. And his core group of musicians is more or less unchanged. Kante Manfila, ­ his old colleague from the Malian supergroup Les Ambassadeurs ­ brings back his beautifully realised arrangements and distinctive instrumental voice on guitar. Ditto long-term sidekick Ousmane Kouyaté and Djelly Moussa Kouyaté. Percussionist Mino Cinelu is still creating marvellously cinematic atmospheres. There's a swooping female chorus haunting most tracks, and producer Jean Lamoot is still exerting his guiding influence on Keitas sometimes erratic taste.

But Mbemba has a lusher, more saturated sound, and it's upbeat, featuring the kind of studio effects and urgency of voice that characterised 1987 album Soro.

You can find the full review here.

Cheikh Lo, Lamp Fall

Whatever happened to Cheikh Lo? Even by Senegalese standards, he is an outstanding singer, and that's no mean achievement in the land of Youssou N'Dour and Baaba Maal. In the late 1990s he recorded a couple of albums that showed off his versatile, soulful vocals and ability to mix African styles with anything from Cuban influences to American funk; it seemed he would become a major star. Instead, he disappeared from view. Now there's a new album: it's a wildly varied, if uneven, set with some impressive moments.

You can find the full review here.

Souad Massi, Mesk Elil

Souad Massi left Algeria for France to become a major celebrity with her unlikely fusion of north African styles and sad, gentle western folk ballads. Now she is moving on. The overall mood is still quietly tragic, and enthusiasts of her gently powerful singing and thoughtful songs will be delighted by Hagda Wala Akter (There's Worse) which deals with the depressing life of a friend back in Algiers, or a personal lament like Khalouni. But like some female Algerian answer to Morrissey, she is clever enough to match bleak lyrics with subtle and increasingly varied musical settings. So on the exquisite Malou, she brings in flamenco influences and on Ilham she provides a vocal reminder of her Berber roots.

You can find the full review here.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Third edition of Sauti za Busara (Sounds of Wisdom) - Kenia

The venue will be at the Old Fort in Stone Town for four nights and then it decamps to Kendwa beach on Zanzibar’s north coast for a special grand finale featuring international DJs.

Organised by Busara Promotions, a non-governmental, non-political, non-profit cultural organisation based in Zanzibar, the 2006 Festival showcases a rich and dynamic programme including ngoma traditional music, taarab, kidumbak, rumba, muziki wa dansi, mchiriku, Swahili hiphop bongo flava, Afropop fusions, mystic and religious music, theatre, comedy, acrobatics and dance.

Of the 40 groups participating, most are from the Swahili-speaking nations: Zanzibar, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and Burundi, with six or seven specially selected groups from Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Europe.

According to Busara Promotions Director, Yusuf Mahmoud, among confirmed artists include Ferooz (Bongo Flava megastar), Mchinga Sound (Muziki wa Dansi), Jagwa Music (Mchiriku from Dar es Salaam - favourites at WOMEX UK 2005), Lady Jaydee is also expected to show up with a live band, Culture Musical Club (Zanzibar taarab), Amina (Mombasa taarab), Sinachuki Kidumbak, Bi Kidude Msondo group, Black Roots (Zanzibar), Mkalimala Culture Group (traditional music from Mtwara), Taffetas (Kora fusion from Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Europe), Fanaza (Swaziland), Ukoo Flani MauMau (Nairobi hiphop), New Sound Band (Burundi), Atongo Zimba (Ghana) and The Shrine Synchrosystem featuring DJs Rita and Max from London, performing live with musicians and rappers from West and East Africa. Other artists are yet to confirm.

You can find the full article here

An Interview with Susheela Raman

An interview with Susheela Raman about her new album "Music for Crocodiles"

On Love Trap, released in 2003, Susheela Raman sang in Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil, the last being the language of her parents. Music For Crocodiles, which has earned her a nomination in the 2006 BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music, is mostly performed in English. This might be perceived as a commercial move, and to a certain extent, that is the case, but Raman has always been caught on the cusp between her Indian classical training and a desire to belt out the blues. She's interested in a variety of musical forms, and this is evident when listening to the range of her new songs.

You can find the article here.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Amadou & Mariam - World Music For People Who Hate World Music

Dimanche á Bamako still showcases the signature sounds of Amadou and Mariam-Amadou’s high, bluesy baritone and brittle, propulsive electric guitar with Mariam’s ardent, highly ornamented soprano-but Chao’s production adds the punch of dance-happy beats from around the globe.

The resulting international smorgasbord is accessible enough to be savored by even the most rock-centric ears, without sacrificing the music’s deep African roots. "The production and the mix may be more pop than we’ve done before," says Amadou, "but it’s not musically different from our other albums. We’ve worked with Syrian, French and African musicians before Manu Chao. Everyone brings different colors to the songs, but the root is always the music of Mali we grew up with."

You can find the full review here.

V/A - Congotronics 2

Congotronics 2 maintains the excellent standard of the first volume whilst managing to broaden the musical palette. Konono No. 1 feature again, with an excellent live track recorded during a recent trip to Belgium, along with six other bands. All hail from the suburbs of Kinshasa but have roots in diverse parts of the country meaning that each group brings its own unique heritage to the electro-traditional set-up.

You can find the full review here.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Spanish flamenco cantaor Juan Peña, 'El Lebrijano' and Moroccan violinist Faiçal Kourrich record Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Madrid, January 9 - (El Mundo)
Spanish flamenco cantaor Juan Peña, 'El Lebrijano' and Moroccan violinist Faiçal Kourrich plan to record an album based on texts by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Juan Peña took his inspiration from texts of 'El coronel no tiene quien le escriba', 'Cien años de soledad' and, from the short story book 'La increíble y triste historia de la cándida Eréndira y su abuela desalmada'.
The two musicians will start recording next February.

Flamenco Hip Hop group Ojos de Brujo presents new album

Madrid, January 9 - (El Mundo)
Flamenco Hip Hop group Ojos de Brujo presented their third album "Techarí" in a concert in Logroño.
The album will be released in February 20.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Comment on the Radio 3 - World Music Awards nominations

From The Independent

Well, blow me down: after setting our teeth on edge for their first four years, with CD after CD of global pop, Radio 3's World Music Awards have at last found their game. This time, almost every nominated record offers something arresting, or beautiful, or both.

You can find the full article here.

An interview with fado singer Mariza

"The Australian" publishes an interview with Mariza, a few days before her performance at the Sydney Festival

THE woman seems to have it all: the designer gowns, the meticulous platinum hair, those deep brown eyes and that stunning face that leaps out at you from the cover of her latest disc, Transparente.

Live on stage in Barcelona on a balmy night in the outdoor Teatro Grec, she's just as beguiling: she appears much taller than she is and radiates warmth and sassiness in equal measure. She coaxes her audience into tears with a mournful fado ballad, gets them clapping along to a happier number, then has them laughing at her stories.

You can find the full interview here.

The Independent - World Music Review of the year

The Five Best

Konono No 1: Congotronics

Amadou and Mariam: Dimanche a Bamako

Touré/Diabate: In the Heart of the Moon

Los de Abajo: LDA v The Lunatics

Pink Martini: Hang On Little Tomato

You can find the full article here.

Amadou and Mariam nominated for two BBC World Music Awards and a Grammy

Middle-aged, blind and now world stars

Alice O'Keeffe
Sunday January 8, 2006
The Observer

An album by a middle-aged blind couple from Mali, which was picked by The Observer Music Monthly as one of last year's top 20, has been nominated for two BBC World Music Awards and a Grammy in the US.
Described as 'rock from Africa', Dimanche à Bamako, by Amadou and Mariam, is an infectious combination of African and Western influences which has already sold half a million copies worldwide.

Amadou, 51, said: 'Being blind, we are just happy making music.' The couple will be in the UK next month as part of the African Soul Rebels tour.

You can find the article here.

An Interview with Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu

An Interview with Trilok Gurtu.

"Fusion is dead in the West. Nobody cares for it there. World music is upcoming, good remixes are welcomed," Gurtu told IANS in an interview.

Gurtu, the Hamburg-based son of late legendary Thumri exponent Shobha Gurtu, said the main reason for fusion's decline was that nobody wanted to look out for genuine music.

"Nobody wants to spend money to go searching for good country and folk music to bring out fusion. People who try fusion nowadays are those who have no idea what is involved in fusion.

"What we have nowadays is Bhangra beats and Garba beats in the name of fusion only because there is a large group of people from Punjab and Gujarat in the West," said Gurtu, who is currently travelling and performing in India.

You can find the full article here.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Himalaya Dawn by Kuljit Bhamra & Shan Chana

A review of Himalaya Dawn by John L. Walters

This album is pleasant, but it falls between too many stools: too sophisticated for regular World Music but not single-minded enough for the clubs; too calculatedly commercial for the creative music arena yet perhaps not straightforward enough for the mainstream audience that heard Bhamra and Chana in the hit musical Bombay Dreams (and The Far Pavilions).

You can find the full review here.