Friday, May 18, 2007

El Cultural(Spain) interviews Cameroonian saxophonist Manu Dibango.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Pierre Perrone's interviews Afro Celt Sound System's founder Simon Emmerson.
"Afro Celt Sound System, they do exactly what it says on the tin. That's what they told the audience when we got the Radio 3 Listeners' Award five years ago," remembers Simon Emmerson. The frontman for Afro Celt Sound System says he first thought of blending together African and Celtic music while producing the Senegalese singer Baaba Maal in 1992. "He was asking me about my roots," he explains. "I realised he was just as interested in music from the British Isles as I was in what was coming out of West Africa. Later, I had Davy Spillane play this lovely Irish whistle on a track for Lam Toro, the first Baaba Maal album I did. It worked perfectly, it was sort of an epiphany for me. I became really interested in marrying the pentatonic scales from both traditions and putting them over a techno beat to see where it led. That became the basis for the Afro Celt Sound System."

With the benefit of hindsight, album sales of 1.2 million, two Grammy nominations and triumphant appearances at Womad, Glastonbury and other festivals around the world, Afro Celt Sound System seems like a natural fusion of genres and a bankable proposition. But Emmerson is convinced that, back in 1995, most record labels would have balked at the idea of bankrolling such a venture. "If I'd said to anyone else, this is what I want to do, they would have shown me the door," he says.

"Peter Gabriel gave us a week at Real World. We had Davy Spillane, several members of Baaba Maal's band, Myrdhin, from Britanny, on Celtic harp, a piper called Ronan Browne. I already knew James [multi-instrumentalist McNally] from his work with rap band Marxman. They were neighbours of mine in Hackney. Iarla [O'Lionaird, the Gaelic vocalist] was there, Martin Russell and Jo Bruce came in to play keyboards. I saw the whole thing as a one-off project. That's why we had Sound System in the name. I'd made so many albums over the years that didn't sell for one reason or another so I didn't really plan ahead." Read More

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Andrew Gilbert interviews Lura.

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.

A duet they recorded was a minor hit, and the budding teenage singer suddenly started receiving requests from established figures such as Tito Paris, Paulinho Vieira and Angola's Bonga. She recorded her first album, "Nha Vida," in 1996, and made a splash when the title track was included on the 1997 AIDS benefit compilation "Onda Sonora: Red Hot \+ Lisbon," alongside pieces by stars such as Caetano Veloso, Djavan, Marisa Monte and k.d. lang.

Like a number of other young Cape Verdean singers, Lura is determined to spread awareness of styles beyond the lilting minor-key mornas and sprightly coladeras popularized by Evora. Lura has delved into accordion-based funana, a sensuous style long repressed by Cape Verde's Portuguese colonial administration before independence in 1975, and batuku, a rhythm that originated among groups of women beating folded stacks of clothes, accompanied by topical, often satirical improvised verses.

Her gorgeous third album, "Di Korpu Ku Alma" (Lusafrica, 2005), features five batukus, including her signature tunes "Na Ri Na" and "Vazulina," by Orlando Panteira, a gifted composer who died before he had a chance to release his own album. "Di Korpu" also features a separate DVD shot during a 2004 concert opening for Evora at Le Grand Rex in Paris, which captures Lura's infectious, youthful energy.

Her second U.S. release, "M'bem Di Fora (I Come From the Country)," came out in March on Times Square Records. It continues her exploration of her family's rural Cape Verdean roots, with a strong tinge of jazz and R&B.

"There's a new generation, and I'm just a piece of a puzzle," Lura says, speaking by phone from her home in Lisbon. "We sing and play traditional music from Cape Verde with influences from all over the world - soul, reggae, blues, samba." Read More

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Howard Male reviews Bebel Giberto's performance at the Roundhouse, London.
If I died tomorrow, rather than have the burnished baritone boom of a James Earl Jones God welcome me to through the pearly gates, I'd opt for the everything's-okay-really-it-is purr of a Bebel Gilberto God. Maybe this gives us a clue as to the secret of this Brazilian singer's huge success (her debut Tanto Tempo was the biggest Brazilian album ever in the USA.) It's a comfort thing: she's never in-your-face, just softly in your ear; she doesn't grab her material by the throat, she sidles up to it, throws an arm around its neck, and takes it for a stroll along the beach. But surely being carried on stage and carefully lowered onto a chaise longue is taking the whole laid-back thing a bit too far.

But before we get to the seduction by stealth methods of Ms Gilberto, a few necessary words about the support band, Kassin + 2. Playing tracks from their bold new album Futurismo they produced a constantly surprising and playfully original post-rock-meets-tropicalia sound. As soon as you felt you had them figured out, they'd shoot off on another tangent altogether. A hard act to follow. Read More

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Andy Gill reviews "The Rough Guide to African Blues"

Apart from the Tinariwen-shaped hole at its heart, this is a fine anthology tracking the resurgent blues consciousness in African music. The emphasis on Saharan and West African forms means there's no room for Mahlathini, the Howlin' Wolf of South Africa, or Thomas Mapfumo, the conscience of Zimbabwe; but it does impose a stylistic congruence on the contributions, linking the Berber blues of Mariem Hassan and Niger's Etran Finatawa with the quietly moving manner of Nuru Kane, the Senegalese guitarist influenced by the gnawa music of Morocco. The US contributions are of dubious value: Corey Harris's attempt to return Skip James's "Special Rider Blues" to its African roots via the one-string fiddle of Ali Farka Touré is OK, but Bob Brozman's affected singing spoils his duet with kora maestro Djeli Moussa Diawara. Better, surely, to note the cultural correspondences between the continents, in which Boubacar Traoré's vocal serves as the equivalent of the "high lonesome" style of American country, and Oumou Sangaré's stirring, passionate approach makes her the African Bessie Smith.

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