Friday, March 30, 2007

Ojos de Brujo

Spain has a badly spotted history of mistreating "outsiders," but the country's music is heavily influenced by these same groups. Even Spain's signature music, flamenco, sprang from persecuted Gypsy, Jewish and Moorish communities. Three recent releases demonstrate the beauty created by this once-feared diversity.

Since the 1970s, when Paco de Lucía began fusing flamenco with jazz and rock, one wing of the genre has broken free of its traditional moorings, while staying respectful of its origins. After a spectacular U.S. debut in 2002, the Barcelona-based collective Ojos de Brujo returns with Techarí, which again pulls in a variety of styles - most obviously flamenco and hip-hop. But like all the bands I'm writing about today, Ojos de Brujo (Eyes of the Warlock) is not easily pigeonholed.(...)

Techarí, on "Six Degrees," lacks some of the excitement of "Bari," but is still a vibrant brew. This time around, the group is joined by guest artists, including flamenco guitarist Pepe Habichuela and Asian Underground leader Nitin Sawhney, but the draw here is still the group's unique sound. Heavily percussive, the band uses palmas or handclaps, the South American box- like drum called the cajon, the Indian dhol drum and handfuls of turntable scratching.
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ghulam Ali Interview

Q: Where do you think the traditional ghazal (Urdu poem) fits into the contemporary music scene?

A: Today's music is far removed from the ghazal. 'Ghazal ek apna muqaam rakhti hai.' (Ghazal has its own status.) It's not just a genre, it's a thought, an attitude and a way of life. When a ghazal is featured in a film, it acquires exceptional longevity. My ghazal 'Chupke chupke, raat bhar' in 'Nikaah' is remembered to this day. I've sung many ghazals in films. They're all loved to this day.

Q: Do you still feel satisfied singing ghazals?

A: My love for my work remains undiminished. I never gave up singing in the style and mood that I had adopted from the start. That's what keeps my love for my art alive. One should love and respect one's own work. I never sing at a venue where my musicians and I aren't comfortable.
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Daara J Interview

If the patois of hip-hop is slang, its attitude is subversivness in baggy jeans and its beats can very well border on the rude. A refined namaste and a polite satsriakal that will make your grandma happy can sound strangely out of place on a rapper’s lips. But then the Senegalese band Daara J, which sings in the tribal language Wolof, English, French and Spanish, wants to break stereotypes. In the Capital for Alliance Francaise’s Francophone Week, they belted out an unusual blend of bhangra, reggae and African music. And N’Dango D, Aladji Man and Faada Freddy, who make up Daara J, say they want to talk love, not war.

“Our music is derived from the Senegalese oral tradition of tasso and we use it to discuss environment, the living conditions and the country’s situation. But we also want to say that Africa is about youth and great music,” says 33-year-old N’Dango D, before they head home to Dakar, Senegal. “Through our music, we are also trying to break the dark image of Africa, often associated with AIDS, drugs and poverty.”
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Monday, March 26, 2007


Can blue men sing the blues? The Tuareg are proud, nomadic desert people who were sometimes known as "the blue men" after the clothes dye that stained their skin.

Tuareg nomads Tinariwen ("the people of the empty spaces") are currently the hottest band in world music, with their new album Amar Iman (Water Is Life) climbing the charts in numerous countries.

If the roots of blues music are in West Africa, Tinariwen have plugged into its ancient sources, mixing them with Western rock influences (Robert Plant, the singer with Led Zeppelin, was in the audience and will sing on stage with them later in the tour).
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Friday, March 23, 2007

Robin Denselow reviews "Segu Blue" Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni ba.

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Lima's Musical Panorama

The penthouse recording studio of musician Manuel Miranda enjoys a panoramic view of this ancient and strangely compelling city. When he turns down the lights and turns up his bewitching brew of ancestral Andean melodies, jazzy rhythms and soaring synthesizers, he creates a mystical ambience that converts his 17th-story condo into an Inca temple.

Miranda, a guru-like figure who sports earrings and a beaded necklace, plays a battery of historic instruments over the recorded tracks from his upcoming album, "Brujos Voladores" (Flying Wizards). He rattles shells and blows on flutes made of wood, stone and pelican bone, evoking the mysteries of the cosmos, the primitive search for water, the origin of civilization.

In Lima, experimental artists like Miranda are concocting new ways of salvaging Peru's rich musical traditions by updating them with contemporary elements of jazz, rock, salsa, reggae and electronica. During a visit last fall, I was thrilled to discover these artistic efforts to revive Peruvian music, one of the most powerful yet underappreciated cultural traditions in the Western Hemisphere.

Though less well-known than the Argentine tango, the Mexican mariachi or the Cuban son, Peruvian musical traditions are no less rich. Ardent proponents are working to ensure the survival of the country's distinctive sound, worried it could be lost as youth turn to foreign pop fads.
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If there were any doubts about the younger woman's potential, they are swept away by her album M'bem di Fora ("I've Come From Far Away"), a recording as satisfying in its way as any of the grande dame's recent releases. The fact that Lura was not born in the islands does nothing to undermine her claim to carry on the tradition. Marooned off the coast of Senegal, the archipelago is, after all, a land that has spawned its own diaspora: more Cape Verdeans live abroad than on the islands themselves. For all the recent excitement over an explosion in tourism, their country has traditionally been a land of modest resources, where drought and poverty are part of the natural order. Exile has become a way of life. Yet, thanks to its historic role as a way-station on the nautical routes between Africa, Europe and South America, Cape Verde has nurtured a strikingly rich Creole culture, blending the fatalism of fado with the delicacy of Brazilian samba and the rhythmic intensity of West African pop.

Evora arrived late on the international stage. While Lura's ascent may not have been quite as leisurely, there is no question that it has taken her a long time to find her true voice. Her first record, released a decade ago, was dominated by youth-oriented zouk rhythms and echoes of glossy American R&B. It was not until 2004 that she released what she regards as her first "authentic" Cape Verdean album, Di Korpu Ku Alma ("Of Body and Soul"). It was, she says, a conversation with the famously laconic Evora, with whom she had been working as a backing singer, that helped her to find the right path: "Cesaria doesn't talk much," Lura explains, laughing. "When I recorded my album In Love [in 2002], I sang in English and Portuguese, and did some R&B and soul. So I asked her: 'Do you like this album?' And she said: 'I don't have to like your album. You have to like it.' And she told me I had to sing the music that I felt. They were such simple words, but it was like a door opening. That was when I realised my music is the music of Cape Verde."
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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Interview with Mariza

Mariza doesn’t just sing fado, the emotion-packed Portuguese song form. She gives this old-school music a new sense of cool.

World-music fans adore it, but her task is a bit trickier in Portugal, where a nasty whiff of fascism still surrounds fado.

“We’ve heard the stories and we’re still trying to understand what happened,” Mariza said in accented English from her home in Lisbon. “But I didn’t live at that time. That was the old generation.”

Long before the 33-year-old singer became the international phenom she is today, the traditional music she mines was abused as an implement of oppression by Portugal’s fascist dictatorships.

For decades after the 1930s, fado lyrics had to be approved by censors so as not to undermine the reigning nationalist party line, and this haunting music - often compared to the blues - took on yet another layer of dark melancholy.

For Mariza and other young fado singers such as Cristina Branco, Misia and Katia Guerreiro, the history they’re building on isn’t political, but musical and cultural.
“The fado of today is about the new generations, the new Portugal, while also gravitating towards some of the traditional things,” said the singer, who appears Saturday at Berklee Performance Center. “Our music isn’t connected to political history.”
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The Divinas

Lila Downs, Azul, Magos Herrera. Three Mexican singers with strong ties to the United States, each with her own ideas about what modern Mexico sounds like. Together they are the divinas, the divine ones. Not exactly divas, but not exactly not.

"I understand the term," says Herrera. "But mostly it's for marketing, something to call us. Do I think I'm a diva? No!" she laughs. But then she pauses, grows somber and continues, "At the same time, everyone has that divine spark, a connection to something divine."

Lila Downs is the most well-known of the trio. Her music was part of the Oscar-winning soundtrack for Selma Hayek's film Frida (that was her onstage with Caetano Veloso during the awards ceremony). From a mixed Mixtec Mexican-white American background, Downs sings traditional folk songs -- with a twist. The opening bars of "La Cucaracha," for example, become a flamenco opera in her hands. Then she launches into a more or less straight rendering for the first verse before she breaks into a rap for the second.

"She's really wonderful," says Azul, admiringly. Azul (her name is the Spanish word for blue) talks with a soft Mexican accent, hesitating while she searches for the right words in English. She tells me, "Lila's voice is one of the few that makes me stand still; when I listen to her I can't really move or anything. I have to stand still and just listen; she's that powerful."

Magos Herrera, who has shared the stage with Downs several times, adds, "She's wonderful, a great artist."

Does Herrera worry the Divinas concert might become the Lila Downs show? "It's hard to put all these vocalists together on one stage, all these egos and everything," she admits. "But for me, it's very clear that no one can express what you can express, it's unique in every artist, so there's no competition. Art is to be shared, so to me it's wonderful to be onstage with her."
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Interview with Antibalas

Antibalas, the politically charged Brooklyn-based ensemble that meshes Afrobeat, Latin rhythms and any other appetizing world-music stylings it finds to its liking into a musical melting pot uniquely its own, is a dozen men strong. How will they all manage to fit on the tiny Troubadour stage for their show on Thursday?

"We've played in kitchens," Stuart Bogie, the group's tenor saxophonist, recalls with a laugh. "We get real close. In a lot of places, we're physically touching each other for the duration of the show."

"A lot of times, our best shows are on small stages," says Martin Perna, who assembled the group a decade back and plays baritone sax.

"We hear each other a lot better on small stages."

Antibalas (Spanish for bulletproof) broke through with its universally acclaimed 2004 recording "Who Is This America?"; its current release, "Security," continues the band's ascent with impossibly infectious, swinging grooves and heartfelt, defiant political idealism.

"Most of us would like to be singing about flowers, trees and love, but Afrobeat is a music of resistance," Perna notes. "There are issues independent of major global geopolitics or American domestic policy. There's war going on, but people would get tired of an album of songs of how ridiculous and deceitful and expensive the war is."

To that end, "Security" begins with "Beaten Metal," a tune inspired by the fact that many of Germany's World War II weapons were melted down and turned into musical instruments. Perna says that lyrics were written for the songnumber, but the group decided the vibe came across just as persuasively as an instrumental.
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World music stars Manu Chao, Cesária Evora and Seu Jorge will headline the 28th Montreal Jazz Festival.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Review - Fanfare Ciocarlia: Queens and Kings

When seen live, as at last year's World Music awards (where they celebrated their victory in the Europe category), Fanfare Ciocarlia are extraordinary. One of the great Gypsy bands from Romania, they match furious rapid-fire drumming and brass with exuberant songs that would surely topple over if attempted by lesser players. It's hard to capture such energy in a recording, but this is a brave attempt to present the Fanfare sound on what is also a Gypsy super-group session. The band are joined by a whole batch of celebrity singers from across the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and France, including the exuberant Macedonian Esma Redzepova and the powerful Serbian Saban Bajramovic. But it's the furious brass work and the intriguing, playful blend of European and Asian themes with jazz or rock that makes them special. There are even echoes of Steppenwolf's Born to Be Wild.
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Out on April 2nd is "Você e Eu", the first real solo debut from Teresa Salgueiro, the frontwoman of the succesful portuguese (fado) act Madredeus. The release comes after "Obrigado", a record that compiled all of her duets with such singers as José Carreras, Caetano Veloso and Angelo Branduardi. On the record you will find 22 Brazilian classics from legendary songwriters such as António Carlos Jobim, Vinícius de Moraes, Chico Buarque and Pixinguinha. Teresa Salgueiro has been the leadsinger of Madredeus since 1987. The band has recorded 11 albums so far released through record companies such as Blue Note Records, Nettwerk and EMI Records. Madredeus has sold over 3 million albums worldwide. At the moment Madredeus is taking a sabbatical year after the 2006 release of "Obrigado".

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Rainforest World Music Festival Line-up

The Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and the organiser, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), has promised to stage an event with a blast.

To keep to the promise, STB has listed up an impressive line up of performers. STB's public relations officer Letitia Samuel said in a press release here on Sunday that 20 bands had been listed and all of them had performed in the festival in previous years.

"While most of the bands are making their second appearances in this year's festival, bands like Inka Marka from Peru, Black Umfolosi (Zimbabwe), Shooglenifty (Scotland) and Aseana Percussion Unit (Kuala Lumpur) will be making their third appearances.

"And, when they assembled at the Sarawak Cultural Village, it will be a reunion of the big names in world music of sort for everyone," she said.

Given that scenario, this year's RWMF should not be an event to be missed as other bands included in the line-up are Huun Huur Tu and Malerji from Tuva and Russia, Khac Chi (Vietnam), Ensemble Kaboul (Afghanistan), Shannon (Poland), Foghorn Stringband (USA), Tarika Be (Madagascar), Tammora (Italy) Mas Y Mas (UK), Doghouse Skiffle Band (UK), Mah Meri (Kuala Lumpur) and the maestro of world music Randy Raine Reusch (Canada).

"It will definitely be a proud and memorable moment for Reusch to come back and perform at RWMF stage after his six-year absence from the event. Being the consultant of the festival in the early years, he was instrumental in demarcating the direction of the festival then," she added.

To share that glorious moments are also Sarawak's very own groups like Anak A'dik Rurum Kelabit, Jerry Kamit, Taboh Pak Ainal and Kelapang Kelabit Bamboo Band.
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Stage Review: Tinariwen

Their third album, Aman Iman (Water is Life), is their heaviest and best-selling release and this was the first night of the UK tour. On stage and on record, Tinariwen weave hypnotic lines of arresting simplicity and crackling power. As a group, their ensemble sound has become tighter and stronger since they first hit international attention via the first Festival of the Desert in 2001.

A concert platform in Guilford, Surrey, is a long journey from their home base in Kidal, northern Mali, but the ley lines of rock'n'roll stretch an awful long way. Tinariwen's North African roots, thickened since their formation in the early 1980s by the sound of battery-powered amps that almost breathe at you, are as binding as any contract.

Much has been made of Tinariwen's exotic in "otherness'' - and the back story is dramatic: exile, guerrilla training in Gaddafi's camps, the Sandinista-era Clash vision of rebel rockers with Kalashnikovs, causes and guitars. But the music - that is something everyone can understand.

It's the international festival of music and the Electric Theatre had cleared the floor for a standing-only gig, which is just what you want. The show begins with dry ice and a female vocal - a perfect illustration of Tinariwen's synthesis. Ibrahim, the group's most distinctive character, opens with a haunting solo number on an amplified acoustic guitar. And then the full group come on, Ibrahim in the centre, one of four guitarists, with a percussionist crouched at the front and the three chorus singers and hand percussionist to one side.
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Monday, March 19, 2007

Review - Womad New Zealand

The best thing about Womad is wandering up to a stage and coming across something you've never heard or seen before. Where else will you see a guy from the Sahara, who's draped in traditional garb, with an electric guitar slung around his neck?

Then there are those Tuvan throat singers; the Fado diva, who looks like she'd be a right diva too; the crazy women from the Mahotella Queens who were the first act; or that Albino-African singer. And you can wash all this down with a slice of Maori bread or a curry from the Global Food Village. Yum.

Womad (World of Music Arts and Dance) is a worldwide tour showcasing the top world music groups and musicians from around the planet. It's been to New Zealand many times but after the success of New Plymouth's first Womad in 2005, organisers claimed it had found its natural home at the beautiful Bowl of Brooklands.

And on Friday night, as French/Argentine group Gotan Project woo the crowd with their saucy brand of Argentinian Tango, that claim is in no doubt. Gotan tell the crowd it's the nicest place they've ever played, and who's arguing? It is one of the world's best.
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Review - Nass El Ghiwane: La Légende

A Legendary Band from North Africa: The Best of ‘Nass El Ghiwane’, has gone a long musical journey and is finally available on CD so listeners can enjoy the essence of traditional Moroccan music in its best

‘Nass el Ghiwane’ was formed in the late 1960's by four young men from the impoverished district of Hay el Mohammadi in industrial Casablanca.

The group began performing in the theater troupe ‘Tayeb Essidiki,’ and while performing the piece "Al Majdoub" for Parisian crowds in the summer of 1969 they had the novel idea of using traditional Moroccan music onstage.

‘Nass el Ghiwane’ specialized in writing colloquial poetry about topics related to the social and political climate of the time, arranging their prose to music in the Moroccan tradition.
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Cambodian Rock

The jubilant sound of Cambodian rock, nearly destroyed in the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge, is making a comeback.

Several American musicians and filmmakers who were captivated by the music have formed a band, gone on tour and made movies to preserve the once vibrant genre that was formed during the Vietnam War era when Cambodian artists blended the sounds of American pop heard on U.S. military radios with their traditional music.

"It's pretty incredible that somehow Cambodian musicians got rock 'n' roll right during the late 1960s and '70s," said documentary maker John Pirozzi, whose film "Don't Think I've Forgotten" is about the emergence of Cambodian rock and the fate of some of its iconic stars.
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Friday, March 16, 2007

Interview with Angelique Kidjo

Yes, Angélique Kidjo drops a lot of names. But you would, too, if you knew and worked with all the people she does; and you probably wouldn't do it as entertainingly as she does. Like classical-pop singer Josh Groban, who appears in a starring cameo role on her upcoming album, "Djin Djin" (out May 1 on Razor & Tie Records) -- and whose show Kidjo will open at Raleigh's RBC Center tonight.

"We met a few years ago, when Jimmy Carter received the Nobel Peace Prize," Kidjo says, calling from a tour stop in Philadelphia. "Josh told me, 'I am a huge fan of your music,' and I thought, 'OK, who am I to say to the contrary?' Then I thought he was amazing, his voice and the way he sings. We kept meeting here and there. The second time was in Rome at 'We Are the Future: You Are the Answer,' a concert for children in countries at war. So finally, I called to have him come sing with me, and he did when he was in New York to do 'Good Morning, America.' "
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Interview with Asha Bhosle

Bollywood cinema might be a celebration of passion and unrequited love - albeit without any physical demonstrations of the same and always with a happy ending - but in this multibillion-dollar industry it is often the singers, not the actors, that garnish the greatest acclaim.

Sure, the actors can deliver their lines, dance up a storm and lip-sync to the music, but it is the performances by so-called "playback singers" that can make or break a film. Of all the playback singers, there can only be one queen, and the crown belongs to Asha Bhosle.

Bhosle has no idea how many songs she has sung, but the 73-year-old grandmother has more than 12,500 titles to her name, including collaborations with players as diverse as Code Red, Michael Stipe and, well, Brett Lee. Her music has been sampled by both the Black Eyed Peas and Nelly Furtado.

It's a colourful career trajectory for an artist who began singing, aged four, with the musicians who gathered in her father's Mumbai lounge room each weekend to practise. Years of classical singing lessons followed, and then, lured by the glamour of Bollywood, Bhosle took to the screen.

"There are so many different styles of singing that are used in Hindi films,'' she says. ''Ghazaal singing and classical, it isn't just about pop, and the actresses were so beautiful that I wanted to work with them and give them my voice. I was fascinated by the film industry."
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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gotan Project at Womad

At long last the French masters of the contemporary tango Gotan Project, are set to play in New Zealand this March. The full 10 piece ensemble of Gotan Project will perform in at Womad in New Plymouth Friday evening March 16th. Described as ‘intoxicating tango chic’, Gotan Project has developed a new style by combining classical tango, nightclub beats with dub, hip-hop and jazz influences along with visuals and live performance to create a rich and sensual musical experience.

Gotan Project consists of a core nucleus of three French musicians: Phillippe Cohen Solal, Eduardo Makaroff and Christoph H. Mueller, all with an equal love of traditional Argentinean tango. Drawing on everything from Jamaican dub music and hip-hop to ambient drift, Gotan Project re-shapes tango with a contemporary dance feel whilst retaining tango’s soulful beauty.

Accompanying the core Gotan Project performers, the full ensemble consists of two DJ’s, an enigmatic lead singer, a live tango band performing against a backdrop of archival footage and visual images to help bring the essence of tango sensuality alive.

With an already substantial ‘tango loving’ following, many others may be surprised to find that they too have enjoyed Gotan Project’s works when watching Sex in the City, Nip/Tuck or the famous romantic dance scene with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in the smash hit, Shall We Dance.

Gotan Project’s debut album La Revancha Del Tango, has sold over a million copies and the current album Lunatico has topped the itunes charts across Europe, debut at #1 on itunes Australia’s club chart and once again New Zealand is one of their strongest per capita sales territories.
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Baba Zula

The Japan Times Online - March 15, 2007
Underground music maniacs, the real hardcore otaku (obsessed fans), have long raved about the Turkish psychedelic music of the 1960s and '70s -- crazy reverb-drenched, twangy-guitar tracks that sounded like The Ventures if they'd been a belly-dancer backing band with a taste for hashish and quarter-tone tunings.

This stuff never traveled much, though, and only recently has this music started reappearing on cleverly packaged compilations wrapped in an aura of retro-chic, on albums like "Love, Peace, and Poetry: Turkish Psychedelic Music" and "Hava Narghile," which is the "Nuggets" of Anatolian psyche-pop.

A first glance at Istanbul-based band Baba Zula -- with their garish, baroque visual style and classic, shaggy boho looks -- might leave you thinking that one of these '70s hippie bands has aged particularly well. When you listen, though, you'll hear a stylistic pastiche that is thoroughly postmodern -- mixing traces of dub and improv-rock with traditional Turkish instrumentation.
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Liberation Music

all about jazz - March 13, 2007

Protest music has a long and honourable tradition in southern Africa. In the colonial era, it began at least as long ago as 1897, when the South African songwriter Enoch Sontonga wrote his classic “Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika” (”God Bless Africa”). The song went on to become the anthem of the country's African National Congress and, translated into Shona and Ndebele, a rallying cry too for the liberation movement in neighbouring Zimbabwe. (Eventually, after the fall of apartheid, it would become part of the South African national anthem, fittingly enough.) Throughout the 20th Century, Sontonga and his successors played an important role in defying, and eventually overthrowing, European colonialism, and music remains in the vanguard of opposition to evil and oppression in the region.

Two outstanding compilation albums—Golden Afrique Vol.3, which collects South African, Zimbabwean and Zambian township music recorded from 1939-88, and Choice Chimurenga, which cherry-picks tracks from six more recent albums by the Zimbabwean singer Thomas Mapfumo—demonstrate different responses to repression by rebel musicians; the first by standing tall and laughing in its face, the second by recording explicit protest material. Both have produced uniquely stirring music.
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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Review: Peret - Que levante el dedo

"No estaba muerto, estaba tomando cañas…" (“I wasn’t dead, I was having some beers”. Chorus of one of Peret’s songs). When nobody expects it the king of Catalonian rumba comes back to life. After a ten year absence, and having been acclaimed as a musical reference point by many young musicians and now that rumba has recovered its importance in Spanish music, Peret returns to the limelight with a new album called "Que levante el dedo" (Raise a Finger). With this new production the 71-year-old veteran reclaims his status as a unique and unforgettable artist.
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Interview with Ozomatli

Two-time Grammy winning U.S. band Ozomatli says its new album, "Don't Mess With The Dragon" which will be released in April, is its most "cohesive, joyous" record to date.

The Los Angeles-based 10 member band, which is known for its political and social lyrics, was formed in 1996 and plays Latin, hip-hop and rock music. Their first eponymous album was released two years later to mixed reviews.

Ozomatli -- a Nahuatl word for the Aztec astrological symbol of the monkey, the god of dance, fire, and music -- won a Grammy in 2002 for their second album "Embrace the Chaos".

Popularly called "Ozo", the multi-ethnic band won its second Grammy in 2005 for "Street Signs". They have shared the stage with music greats like Carlos Santana and Lenny Kravitz.

The band recently toured India and Nepal and is known for songs which deal with social and political issues.

Q: What will "Don't Mess With The Dragon" offer your fans?

A: "In our new album, we basically continue our journey singing about social issues. On this album, for the first time we actually wrote a song in homage to Los Angeles, the city where we come from.

"We also do a song about New Orleans, that's after (Hurricane) Katrina and that one's called 'Magnolia Soul'. There are a few social issues we wanted to sing and this came out as our most cohesive, joyous record to date."
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Japanese Hip Hop

Interview with Ian Condry.

Six months of hanging out in smoky, grungy "genbas," or Japanese hip-hop clubs, gave cultural anthropologist Ian Condry insight into how American rap music and attitudes were being transformed by the youth in Japan.

But he couldn’t figure out the mirror balls.

Every club, from large to small, had a mirror ball that sent glittering light into the sweaty haze above the Japanese hip-hop fans, artists, music executives and first-timers.

So "I had to develop my own philosophy of the mirror ball," Condry, associate professor of Japanese cultural studies, told an audience on March 1 during a discussion of his new book, "Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization" (2006, Duke University Press). That philosophy highlights the relationships within the hip-hop community, he explained.

The mirror ball illuminated "no single star on stage but rather spotlighting and then passing over all of the participants," Condry said, reading from his book. "The dynamic interaction among all these actors is what brings a club scene to life. Mirror balls evoke this multiplicity, splashing attention on each individual for a moment and then moving on--not unlike the furtive glances of desire between clubbers in a zone of intimate anonymity."

Such details were crucial to Condry’s insight into how affluent Japanese youth had transformed the music that came straight out of Compton into something distinctly Japanese.

"The evolution of the Japanese hip-hop scene reveals a path of globalization that differs markedly from the spread of cultural styles driven by major corporations such as Disney, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart,’’ Condry said. "Indeed hip-hop in Japan is illuminating precisely because it was initially dismissed as a transient fad by major corporations and yet took root as a popular style, nevertheless."
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Interview with Antibalas

Twelve musicians and no band leader: Sounds like a recipe for disaster in logistics, organization, command, finances, you name it.

But the musical "collective" known as Antibalas wouldn't function any other way.

"Operating this way can be frustrating," allows Martin Perna, the band's saxist. "But in the end, it's more rewarding. You can get very lazy when you have a leader. You just let somebody else figure it out. Here, everyone has to figure it out."

Ironically, Antibalas' messy setup has resulted in music with a rare sense of order. In the past few years, this Brooklyn-based band has become one of America's prime promoters of the "Afrobeat" sound, a complex style pioneered by the Nigerian artist Fela in the '70s.
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Review: Antibalas - Security

Antibalas, the horn and percussion driven Brooklyn collective, is best known for their energetic afro-beat grooves that channel the legendary Fela Kuti. But with careful attention to refining their sound—adding distinct Latin, jazz and funk elements—the group has emerged as a well-rounded and diverse sonic force. On Security, they demonstrate their growth, with the capable guidance of producer John McEntire (of Tortoise and The Sea and Cake fame), post-rock pioneer and a consummate shaper of dynamic soundscapes.
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Review: Los Hijos del Maiz - Kinto Sol

Kinto Sol’s Los Hijos del Maiz takes protest music to a new level. The Chicano rap / hip-hop group uses its music as a vehicle to denounce discrimination, prejudice and advocate for the rights of Hispanics.

The band, comprised of three brothers Skribe, DJ Playback Garcia and El Chivo, has been taking the Latin rap scene by storm after their debut album dropped in 2000. Since then, their music, with its clearly spoken Spanish lyrics set to hip-hop/rap beats, has gotten the attention of youth throughout the country.

Los Hijos del Maiz, which translantes to “Children of the Corn,” the trio’s most recent album released in mid-February, provides a balance of social commentary and great hip-hop that speaks to love and relationships. Where the 18-track album shines is when it taps into the anger, frustration and culture of some Chicanos and Mexicans.
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Interview with Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval knows what Dizzy Gillespie liked about Cuban music. "Dizzy was one of the most musical (people) I have ever known," he says by telephone from Miami, where he lives. "He appreciated the rhythm of Cuban music. He enjoyed that very much."

Gillespie's major introduction to Latin music came from Mario Bauza when both were in Cab Calloway's band. Gillespie explored how African rhythms influence the music of the Caribbean. He found ways to fuse the music of Cuba with the bebop jazz that he had helped to create.

That fusion would later be called Afro Cuban jazz, which Sandoval will bring to the Morris Performing Arts Center today during a performance with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra.
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Friday, March 09, 2007

Review: Women of the World: Acoustic

Women of the World: Acoustic is an exploration of acoustic music by some of the world's leading female artists.

Some of the women featured on Women of the World: Acoustic such as Sandrine Kiberlain and The Wailin' Jennys are already well known in various parts of the world. Kiberlain is known first and foremost as an actress, having appeared in over 20 French films, "M'envoyer des Fleurs" is from her first and only album: Manquait Plus Qu'ça. The career of Canadian trio The Wailin' Jennys' has been sparked by Garrison Keillor, an avid fan who has featured them on his radio program A Prairie Home Companion on numerous occasions. The group harmonizes together beautifully on "One Voice," a song from the group's debut album 40 Days, which won the 2005 Juno Award for best roots/traditional album.

The half-Icelandic, half-Italian Emiliana Torinni is perhaps most recognizable as the voice behind the enchanting "Gollum's Song" from Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. She has also toured with Thievery Corporation and penned Kylie Minogue's "Slow". For her second album from which "Sunnyroad" is taken, Torinni stripped away the elements and recorded just her voice and guitar, making this a perfect addition. Likewise, Algeria's Mona traded in her rhymes of her alternative rap career for the softer strains of traditional sounds from her Andalusian birthplace to deliver "Sekna."

Other artists on Women of the World: Acoustic have found their inspiration down different paths. Marta Topferova was born in the Czech Republic, but found her voice in the folk traditions of Latin America after discovering the Chilean protest group Inti-Illimani at an early age. Colombia native Marta Gomez contributes the haunting "Paula Ausente," a song based on the book "Paula" by noted Chilean author Isabelle Allende.
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Review: Brazil Classics volume 7

David Byrne has done it again. Ever since the former Talking Head released the first of his Brazil Classics series, Beleza Tropical, in 1989, he has provided fine primers in some of that country's best music. With this seventh volume, the focus is on the exciting sound, hailed by some as the most significant Brazilian musical movement since Tropicália, that has emerged from the north-east.

Pernambuco is a neglected, swampy, poverty-stricken area; its capital, Recife, was named the "fourth worst city in the world to live in" by an American research institute in the 1980s. But local artists responded to their situation by drawing up a manifesto. Calling their music "mangue bit" ("mangue" from the mangroves of the region's swamplands and "bit" in a nod to the computers that help produce the electronic element of their sound), they fused traditional Brazilian rhythms with electronica, hip-hop, punk and folk. It's a hybrid that is as startling as it is subversive.
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Review: Gypsy Groove

When you listen to the “Gypsy Groove” CD, a new disc from Putamayo, you are presented with a cornucopia of styles of music from across the sea. World music is exactly what it’s called and it will inject some fresh forms and styles of music into your record collection or MP3 player.

Of the 11 songs on the “Gypsy Groove,” three focus the listener’s attention. The first song, “Balkan Beat Box,” opens with a contemporary drum machine beat that would easily be right at home with P-Funk or Sly and the Family Stone. This is a very danceable song that stays on-the-one till the end of the song, and includes some good harmonized horns.
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Review: The Rough Guide to Salsa Dura NYC

For many years we've been hearing about the decline of salsa, with the chorus often led by some of the great stars of the past. The prepackaged, formulaic salsa that took hold in the mid-'80s was dubbed salsa monga (weak salsa), because it lacked the fire and conviction of the urban-flavored salsa of the '70s. The pretty-boy front men had become the focus, not the musicianship.

The inevitable reaction has been building for years now, on New York City dance floors and around the world, and it's called salsa dura (hard salsa). The music, played by a combination of older veterans and young turks who want to bring back the sound of generations past, is captured on a new CD released by World Music Network, called "The Rough Guide to Salsa Dura NYC." It's put together by Pablo Yglesias, a DJ and author of "Cocinando" (Princeton Architectural Press), a book that compiles classic salsa album covers from the golden era.

The tracks on "Salsa Dura NYC" come from acts ranging from veterans Eddie Palmieri and Joe Quijano to newer performers such as Ricky González and Jimmy Bosch.

"The CD came out of meeting all these great artists during the research on 'Cocinando,'" Yglesias said. "The albums that Jimmy Bosch and others were putting out were so perfect for the modern sound systems that I just had to put it all together under one roof, you might say."

The momentum of the salsa dura idea - that newer, more spontaneous bands with higher degrees of musicianship and a responsive relationship with dancers could slay the salsa monga beast - was greatly enhanced by Jimmy Bosch's 1999 release called "Salsa Dura." Almost single-handedly he gave voice to such acts as Los Soneros del Barrio and Chico Alvarez, which had been toiling away on the New York dance club circuit and virtually ignored by commercial tropical format radio.
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South African Music Awards Nominees

The nominees for the 13th annual South African Music Awards have been named.

1. Best Female Artist Maduvha - 'Maduvha' Rae - 'Kwenzekile' Simphiwe Dana - 'The One Love Movement on Bantu Biko Street' Siphokazi - 'Ubuntu Bam' Vicky – 'Halleluyah'

2. Best Male Artist Bheki Khoza - 'Getting to Heaven Alive' Kabelo - 'Exodus' Musa Manzini - 'Simply Life' Paul Hanmer - 'Accused No.1 Nelson Mandela' Vusi Mahlasela - 'Naledi Ya Tsela'

3. Best Duo/Group Cassette - 'Welcome Back to Earth' Grassroots - 'African Moods' Mafikizolo - 'Six Mabone' Shwi No Mtekhala - 'Angimazi Ubaba' Trompies - 'Can't Touch This'

4. Best Newcomer Lesego – 'MyMusic' Lucas Senyatso - 'All of Me' Maduvha - 'Maduvha' Rae - 'Kwenzekile' Siphokazi - 'Ubuntu Bam'

5. Album of the Year Bheki Khoza - 'Getting to Heaven Alive' DJ Sbu - 'Y-lens Vol. 1' Simphiwe Dana - 'The One Love Movement on Bantu Biko Street' Siphokazi - 'Ubuntu Bam' Vusi Mahlasela - 'Naledi Ya Tsela'

6. Best Traditional Afrikaans Music Album Klipwerf Orkes - 'Hantam Kwela' Boeremusiek Groot 5 - 'Banjo Volume 1' Die Grafsteensangers - 'Tannie met die Rooi Rokkie'

7. Best Tsonga Music (XiTsonga) Album Themba Chauke - 'Ntsena Volume 4' George Maluleke - 'Hirwele Makhomba No. 22' Matshwa Bemuda - 'Chom Na Chom No. 10' Doctor Sithole - 'Nghoma Ya Mundawu Vol.9' MD Shirinda - 'Gama Ra Nsele'

8. Best Mbhaqanga Album Soul Brothers - 'Into Yamahala' Bhekumuzi Luthuli - 'Inkinga Ngu R7' Thokozani Langa – 'Lishonil’ ilanga'

9. Best Maskandi Album Imithente - 'Ake Niyek’ Ukukhuluma' Ikhansela No Jbc - 'Ivila' Shwi No Mtekhala - 'Angimazi UBaba' Ovezuthanda - 'Ugandaganda' Izinsimbi - 'Ibhanoyi'

10. Best Traditional Accapella Album Ladysmith Abafana Bezamanani - 'Webafana Bami' Colenso Abafana Benkokhelo - 'Induku' Pongola Home Train - 'Inganono' King Star Brothers - 'Angethuswa Izigi'

11. Best Instrumental Album The Moreira Project - 'The Journey Vol 1' Paul Hanmer - 'Accused No.1 Nelson Mandela' Dna Strings - 'Live in Cape Town' Denzil Weale - 'Symphony On Fire' Wessel Van Wyk - 'Piano Favourites Vol 3'

12. Best Contemporary Jazz Album Simphiwe Dana - 'The One Love Movement on Bantu Biko Street' Lucas Senyatso - 'All of Me' The Moreira Project - 'The Journey Vol 1' Khaya Mahlangu - 'Khululeka' Ngwako - 'Ramelodi'

13. Best Instrumental Jazz Album Sizwe Zako & Friends - 'Sizwe Zako & Friends Volume 1' FourForty - 'Us + Them = 1' Paul Hanmer - 'Accused No.1 Nelson Mandela' Bheki Khoza - 'Getting To Heaven Alive'

14. Best Vocal Jazz Album Rae - 'Kwenzekile' Simphiwe Dana - 'The One Love Movement on Bantu Biko Street' Estelle Kokot - 'Information'

15. Best Adult Contemporary Album : English Harris Tweed - 'The Younger' Johnny Clegg - 'One Life' Chris Letcher - 'Frieze' Laurie Levine - 'Unspoken' Just Jinjer – 'Just Jinjer'

16. Best Adult Contemporary Album : Afrikaans Chris Chameleon – '7de Hemel' Karin Hougaard - 'Hartstukke' Kurt Darren - 'Lekker Lekker' Amanda Luyt - 'Deel van my' Eden – 'Eden'

17. Best Adult Contemporary Album : African Mafikizolo - 'Six Mabone' Siphokazi - 'Ubuntu Bam' Musa Manzini - 'Simply Life' Vusi Mahlasela - 'Naledi Ya Tsela' Grassroots - 'African Moods'

18. Best Urban Gospel Album Not Just To People - 'Appreciation' Redeemed - 'Live in Soweto' Joyous Celebration - 'Joyous Celebration 10' Benjamin Dube - 'Eh Yaweh - Live' The Bala Family - 'Genesis'

19. Best African Contemporary Gospel Album Rebecca - 'Umthombo' Avante - 'Indumiso' Vicky - 'Halleluyah' S'nethemba - 'Ezenkolo' Hlengiwe Mhlaba – 'Jesu Uyalalela'

20. Best African Traditional Gospel Album Lusanda Spiritual Group - 'Ixilongo' Winnie Mashaba - 'Thola Ngwaneso' Solly Moholo - 'Ba Mo Kobile Kerekeng' Sipho Makhabane - 'Indawo' Jabu & Sipho - 'Send your Fire'

21. Best Traditional African Accapella Gospel Album Old Time Religion Quartet - 'Nkosi Ngiphe Ukholo' Amadodana Ase Wesile - 'Ke Na Le Modisa' Thulani Manana - 'Impi Kasathane' Blessings of Christ - 'Izono Zomuntu' Amadodane Ase Postile - 'Moya Oyingcwele'

22. Best Pop/Rock Gospel Album Jam On Tuesday - 'Scratching the Surface' MiC - 'Snapshot' Trusted Silence - 'Because of You'

23. Best Kiddies Album : Afrikaans Carike Keuzenkamp - 'Carike in Kinderland 4' Various - 'Kersfees vir Kinders' Steve Hofmeyr - 'Laaities & Ladies'

24. Best Country Music Album Die Campbells - 'Vat my Vas' Ray Dylan - 'Hokaai Stoppie Lorrie' Fredi Nest - 'Hey DJ'

25. Best Rock Album : English J – '{Clo.sure)' Wonderboom - 'City of Gold' Chris Letcher - 'Frieze' Cassette - 'Welcome Back to Earth' Just Jinjer – 'Just Jinjer'

26. Best Rock Album : Afrikaans Fokofpolisiekar - 'Swanesang' Valiant Swart - 'Horisontaal' Carle van Deventer - 'Vyf Ster Suicide Hotel' Jan Blohm - 'Groen Trui' Albert de Wet - 'Dagboek van ’n Dromer'

27. Best Alternative Music Album Chris Chameleon - 'Shine' Lark - 'Razbliuto' The Sick-Leaves - 'Tunnel Vision' Martin Rocka - 'Through Sick and Sin' Prankster - 'Bravo'

28. Best Pop Album : English Jamali - 'Yours Fatally' NKD - 'Whats that Noise' Dr Victor - 'When Somebody Loves you Back' Danny K - 'This is my Time' Cassette - 'Welcome Back to Earth'

29. Best Pop Album : Afrikaans Kurt Darren - 'Lekker Lekker' Pieter Koen - 'Tattoo' Robbie Wessels - 'Halley se Komeet' Amor Vittone - 'Voluit' Eden - 'Eden'

30. Best Pop Album : African Mafikizolo - 'Six Mabone' Puleng - 'Thaba Tshoeu' Kelly Khumalo - 'Itshitshi' Lesego - 'Mymusic' Joe Nina - 'Travel the Gravel'

31. Best Urban Pop Album Maduvha - 'Maduvha' Morafe - 'A Ene: The Revelation' Jozi - 'Muthland Crunk' Lesego – 'MyMusic' Jamali - 'Yours Fatally'

32. Best Dance Album : Afrikaans Desmond Wells - 'Heeltyd Speeltyd' Kurt Darren - 'Lekker Lekker' Hi-5 - 'Versoeking' David Fourie - 'Kom hier na my toe' Ray Dylan - 'Hokaai Stoppie Lorrie'

33. Best Urban Dance Album Revolution - '4 U' Shana - 'Iyo Londaba' Dj Cleo - 'Eskhaleni Zone 3' Dr Duda & Dr M-bee - 'House Prescriptions' Dj Sbu - 'Y-lens Vol. 1'

34. Best R&B/Soul Album Noss - 'Versatile' Gugu Shezi – 'GuguLam’' Swazi Dlamini - 'Dance with me' Danny K - 'This is my Time' Claire Phillips - 'Say my Name'

35. Best Rap Album Proverb - 'Manuscript' Flabba - 'Nkuli vs Flabba' Zubz - 'Headphone Music in a Parallel World' Tumi - 'Music From my Good Eye' Tumi and the Volume – 'Tumi and the Volume'

36. Best Kwaito Album Kabelo - 'Exodus' Thebe - 'Tha Rocka' Sgonondo - 'Amadragon' L’vovo - 'Derango' Trompies - 'Can't Touch This'

37. Best Music Video Rolisizwe Nikiwe - Mafikizolo - 'O Tswa Kae' Marcell Mouton - Hip Hop Pantsula - 'Tlhabane yo Maftown' Lianne Cox- Lebo - 'Brand New Day' Claudio Pavan - The Parlotones - 'Dragonflies & Astronauts' Lara Hollis - Lira - 'Feel Good'

38. Best Live DVD Soweto Gospel Choir - 'Blessed Live in Concert' Ringo - 'Ringo Live 2' 1st Project - 'Play it to Break it' Hugh Masekela - 'Live at the Market Theatre' Nicholis Louw - 'Rock Daai Lyfie Live'

39. Best Compilation DVD Deborah - 'Best of' Arthur - 'Best of Arthur' Ringo - 'Love Songs' Oliver Mtukudzi - 'Wonai' Mafikizolo - 'The Hits'

40. Best Producer Bheki Khoza (Simphiwe Dana - 'The One Love on Bantu Biko Street') Lawrence Majiza (Siphokazi - 'Ubuntu Bam') Ringo Madlingozi (Ringo - 'Ndim Lo') Moreira Chonguica and Mark Fransmar (The Moreira Project - 'The Journey Vol 1') Lloyd Ross (Vusi Mahlasela - 'Naledi Ya Tsela')

41. Best Engineer Dave Segal (Lucky Dube - 'Respect') Robin Walsh (Véronique - 'As I Am') Lloyd Ross (Vusi Mahlasela - 'Naledi Ya Tsela') Deen Gillan & Richard Mitchell (Khaya Mahlangu - 'Khululeka') Dave Reynolds (Grassroots - 'African Moods')

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Review: Antibalas - Security

Aside from the Brazilian Girls, there's probably no other Brooklyn band that embodies and embraces the cultural melting pot of New York City's five boroughs better than Antibalas. At their deliriously funky live performances one finds an eclectic smorgasbord of fans, listeners from different scenes, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds. Antibalas' bombastic cannonade of horns and polyrhythmic beats proves that music will always be a barrier breaking common language for the people of the world.

Sure, some are quick to point out the Fela Kuti vibe, but Afrobeat is only the foundation of Antibalas' sonic dynamic. Security finds this 14-member plus collective grooving on a wave of Latin, calypso, reggae, salsa, juju, world jazz, Middle Eastern accents, and a whole lot more to create a simmering cauldron of spicy world stew.

Security's opening salvo, "Beaten Metal," is a thunderous array of clanking tremors and guitar riffs, while "Filibuster XXX" is evocative of a car chase scene from a '70s Blaxploitation flick with a meringue sizzle and a lashing Farfisa organ. Frontman Duke Amayo ponders what GOP stands for ("greedy old people," "gas, oil and petroleum," "guilty of perjury"). "Hilo" is funky, shadowy, and exotic. "I.C.E." is an album highlight that starts out like soundtrack composers John Barry or Lalo Schifrin writing for a cock fight scene in the back room of a Bushwick bodega at 3 a.m. before descending into an ambient, psychedelic flurry straight out of a 19th century opium den.
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Interview with Yasmin Levy

It is her first visit to Australia, but the fifth WOMAD concert Yasmin has appeared at around the world since reviving the lost art of Ladino singing with her 2002 debut album.

"There is something very special about WOMAD, because people come with open minds and open hearts," Levy, 31, said in Adelaide yesterday.

She will join more than 300 artists from 20 countries – including Nigerian singer-saxophonist Femi Kuti and Mali's Salif Keita – at Womadelaide in Botanic Park from tonight until Sunday.

Yasmin was born in Jerusalem, surrounded by the Ladino songs of the Sephardi people – Jews who lived in Spain until they were exiled in the 15th century.

Her father Yitzhak Levy was a pioneering researcher of Ladino songs, which were passed orally from generation to generation.

"He used to go from one Sephardi family to another with a big machine to record anyone who had anything to sing from this tradition," she says.
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Review: 12 Segundos de Oscuridad by Jorge Drexler

Jorge Drexler is the kind of songwriter who cheerfully explained, near the end of his concert at Town Hall on Tuesday, that he had based a song on the laws of conservation of matter and energy: “Toda Se Transforma” (“Everything Transforms”). In that song the heat of a kiss has repercussions reaching distant galaxies.

Subtlety went a long way for Mr. Drexler’s concert. Alone onstage with a nylon-string guitar and some electronic gadgets, he had a rapt audience leaning in closely to savor his pensive, puckish songs. Mr. Drexler won an Academy Award for “Al Otro Lado Del Río,” a song in “The Motorcycle Diaries,” but he didn’t perform it.

Concentrating on material from his latest album, “12 Segundos de Oscuridad” (Warner Music Latina), as well as a few older Latin American hits, Mr. Drexler had songs about technology, loneliness, religion, global interconnectedness and romance. One, which neatly summed up his perspective, was “La Vida Es Más Compleja de Lo Que Parece” (“Life Is More Complex Than It Appears”).

The new album’s title song, which means “12 Seconds of Darkness,” is about a lighthouse, insisting that the 12 seconds in which the turning light is invisible are as crucial as the light itself.
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Robin Denselow reviews Tito Paris' Acustico.

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Andy Gill reviews Ibrahim Ferrer's Mi Sueño

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Concert Review: Lila Downs at Centennial Hall Sunday

The outburst was not an everyday occurrence for a venue used to prestigious symphony orchestras and internationally acclaimed dance companies, but par for the genre.
Rancheras are passionate ballads known for evoking tears, hearty shouts of joy and pain, and, yes, even the occasional sing-a-long.
It is the kind of music that inspired Downs to create her 2006 album, "La Cantina," a collection of these classics — some original, some penned by famed artists like Jiménez — recorded and played Sunday with electric guitars, drums and the occasional sax riff courtesy of Downs' husband and artistic director, Paul Cohen.
"When I was very young I used to love this music," Downs confided to the audience of 1,600. "I didn't know at the time the songs were about drinking and dying loved ones."
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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Review: The Rough Guide to the Music of South Africa

South Africa has fostered its own musical traditions since long before the earliest days of the colonial era, but the 20th Century saw an explosion of new styles and their widespread documentation on record.

The mass relocation of rural blacks to urban areas, where they sought mining and service jobs, led to the establishment of poor township communities and the concomitant development of iscathamiya, maskanda and marabi, then later on kwela, mbaqanga, contemporary gospel and kwaito—the latter a fascinating, massively hybridized style characterized by rapped lyrics, swaggering hip-hop attitude, house beats and production, and huge popularity among the urban poor in places like Soweto.
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Interview with Femi Kuti

Nigerian musician Femi Kuti was recently in Britain as part of the third African Soul Rebels tour.

Femi burns with conviction that music can have a social impact. “What I do is communication,” he told Socialist Worker. “My music says the struggle is not over. Africa still has a very long way to go, but the fight is on.”

His father Fela Kuti was a seminal African musician and a powerful political focus in Nigeria in the 1970s.

Influenced by the Black Power movement in the US, Fela developed Afrobeat – a fusion of different styles of African music with jazz and funk.

A long series of albums denounced the state and led to continual raids from the Nigerian state, beatings and imprisonment. Fela died in 1997.

Femi’s music is smoother and less confrontational than his father’s – but it is still overtly political.
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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Interview with Mariza

"The word fado means destiny or fate and I started singing the traditional songs when I was five years old."

She says fado is characterised by emotional tunes and lyrics.

According to one world music website, fado music is the heart of the Portuguese soul and is arguably the oldest urban folk music in the world.

Some say the music came as a dance from Africa in the 19th century and was adopted by the poor on the streets of Lisbon.

"Whatever its origins, its themes have remained constant: Destiny, betrayal in love, death and despair."

Mariza was born in Mozambique, but her family moved to Portugal when she was a baby. There she got involved in fado houses where singing was a spontaneous part of everyday life.

For a while she gave up fado and started singing soul, gospel and jazz. But she was drawn back to fado in her 20s and hasn't looked back.

"I think that people see my personality on stage and that's my way of showing this. What people are going to see is an artist and I hope they like what she represents."
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Interview with Lila Downs

Care, dedication and a soupcon of imagination are required to make a great mole (not the animal) sauce. Like all recipes handed down through the generations, the traditional essence of the Mexican dish can be enhanced with a little experimentation.
The combination of chocolate, chilli and (most often) chicken is an acquired taste, of course, and not one that appeals to all palates this side of the Sierra Madre.

To singer Lila Downs, however, mole represents more than just her favourite meal. The Mexican delicacy is a staple in the Oaxaca region where Downs spent her early childhood. It's as much a part of the culture there as the traditional folk music she grew up listening to and singing to her mother. That's why, for her most recent album, La Cantina, she wrote a song, La Cumbia del Mole, that pays tribute to the women of Oaxaca who make the dish and to its central role in the region's culture.

"It has such a ritual surrounding it," she says from her home in Mexico City, "from roasting all the ingredients and hanging in the kitchen and the smells that come out. It's something that you definitely miss when you are far away from Oaxaca."
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Monday, March 05, 2007

Caetano Veloso's biography at World Music Central

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Interview with Jorge Drexler

Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler knows all about the so-called tenets of Latin pop music.

"It tends to be about the lighter side of life -- fun, joy, sex, and dance, which is all great," he says from Madrid, where he lives. "It's a privilege to be a part of it, and I love that it's associated with Latin culture, but. . ."

But what?

"But none of those things are really a part of my music, well, except maybe sex," he says. "That's not a critical judgment of Latin music at all, but that's what happens with stereotypes: They diminish the bigger picture of what a culture is about and what it is capable of."

Drexler, who makes his Boston debut tomorrow at the Museum of Fine Arts, is indeed an anomaly in Latin music. He's an unusually perceptive songwriter blessed with a lilting voice and a keen talent for illuminating everything from love and politics to lust and religion. That he just happens to be a heartthrob who began his career as a doctor is merely a bonus; that he's not marketed as a sex symbol is truly rare.
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Interview with Lila Downs

Lila Downs admits she is surprised her music has become internationally successful. After all, much of what she sings is in Spanish, it speaks of the pride and plight of the Mexican and Indian communities, it can be politically flinty, and she has even managed to alienate folk purists by mixing in rock guitars, hip-hop, jazz and reggae influences.

As a cocktail of musical styles it just doesn't seem to fit anywhere in the musical spectrum. Her early albums from the mid-90s often went unreviewed in mainstream media in Mexico where she was born, and in the United States where she spends much of her time.

But in the past few years all that has changed: her striking appearance in brightly coloured traditional clothes and with her long dark hair in severe plaits has drawn comparisons with Frida Kahlo. That association was enhanced by her appearing on the soundtrack to the 2002 Salma Hayek movie Frida. Her song Burn It Blue was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song which she performed at the awards ceremony the following year.

Subsequently Billboard magazine said she had "one of the most spell-binding voices to grace the world music scene" and the LA Times, "Lila Downs is a reflection of a 21st-century world culture where ethnicity and national boundaries blur".
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Gary Kaill reviews Tinariwen's Aman Iman (Water is Life)

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Interview with Amadou Bagayoko

They are best known back home as “the blind couple of Mali.” Here they are known by their first names. Amadou Bagayoko, 52, and Mariam Doumbia, 48, met in 1974 in the orchestra of Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind. They began touring in 1978 with their band, Eclipse, and in 1980 they were married. Ten albums later, as Amadou & Mariam, they are renowned in world music circles. Amadou, who plays electric guitar and is a fan of Led Zeppelin, calls their music Afro-rock. On 2005’s “Dimanche á Bamako” (Nonesuch), they teamed with the Franco-Spanish producer Manu Chao, the patron saint of found sounds, and the result won them a Victoire, the French equivalent of a Grammy. They sing in French and Bambara, Mali’s national language, and write their songs together, after a fashion: He’s an early bird, she’s a night owl. Via translator, Amadou spoke recently by phone from Bamako, the capital of Mali, with Winter Miller about the predominantly African music he’s listening to now.
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Interview with Ry Cooder

If Ry Cooder were English, it's near certainty that he'd have a sizeable shed at the bottom of his garden in which to potter about. As it is, the 59-year-old singer, guitarist and producer - he celebrates his 60th birthday later this month - has lived most of his life in Santa Monica, California, and a few years back took possession of a small hangar at the local airfield in which to potter about. It is where 'Okies and Arkies' - migrant workers from Oklahoma and Arkansas - flocked during the Second World War to build Douglas fighter jets, but now it more suggests tumbleweed.

The taxi driver ferrying me from west Hollywood, near where Cooder briefly experimented putting down roots when he married (later writing the funky 'Down in Hollywood': 'You better hope that you don't run out of gas!'), certainly has no clue where he's going. But when we eventually find the site, there's a weathered figure, in a red, zip-up corduroy jacket, blinking in the early spring sunshine, already waiting. Cooder leads me into the small, dark room, perches himself on the leather sofa and starts talking.

Cooder doesn't like to dwell on the past, can be cranky, cantankerous even; on the walls, there is nothing to suggest that this is one of the most influential figures in the history of contemporary popular song. No old photographs posing with Captain Beefheart or the Rolling Stones (Cooder played on Let it Bleed, but fell into a dispute with Keith Richards, who confessed he took him 'for all that he knew', over ownership of the 'Honky Tonk Woman' riff); no gold discs commemorating his string of classic Seventies solo albums such as Chicken Skin Music; no framed guitar from the soundtrack sessions for the Wim Wenders movie Paris, Texas, the most feted of several film scores he wrote in the Eighties; nothing to mark his ground-breaking collaborations with Malian bluesman Ali Farka Toure or Hindustani musician VM Bhatt in the 1990s, never mind his work with Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club, whom he helped rediscover and produce. Put it to Cooder that he's nothing if not versatile and he says genially: 'Well, I'm sort of an osmotic fellow.'
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Friday, March 02, 2007

Gene Armstrong interviews Lila Downs on her album La Cantina.
"One of our real goals with this album was to take music made a long time ago and make it appealing for younger people to relate to in this climate and culture. At the same time, we try to respect the intimacy that those songs may have had."

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Robin Denselow review's Lura's new album M'Bem Di Fora.
This album shows off her cool, clear vocals on a series of songs that are all very pleasant and easygoing but fail to give any indication of her full musical range or her stage personality. Maybe a live album would put that right.

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