Friday, May 22, 2009

Maria de Barros: Interview

The vast distance between the Old World and the new isn't merely a matter of miles. Immigrant communities can share the language, music and customs of their homeland, but the harsh realities of the old country often start to fade as people put down roots in the United States. Listening to the buoyant, often celebratory music of Los Angeles-based Cape Verdean singer Maria de Barros and the ache-filled mornas of her famous godmother, Cesaria Evora, it's clear that while the two artists are united by a common culture, America's affluence and West Africa's poverty have set their music on divergent paths.

"Cesaria's life is a morna," de Barros says, referring to the blueslike musical form popular in Cape Verde's bars and cantinas. "This is someone who has suffered a lot, and now, thank God, she has been given everything she merits. My life is a completely different picture than hers."

De Barros celebrates the release of her gorgeous new album Morabeza with a series of Northern California gigs, including a Zookbeat concert at Don Quixote's this Tuesday and a show at the Big Sur Spirit Garden on Saturday, May 30. It was Evora who introduced the world to the music of Cape Verde in the early 1990s with her ineffably graceful, minor-key songs describing lives of hardship, heartbreak and anguished longing for absent loved ones. The morna is much like the blues in its heroic transcendence of hard times, but strongly inflected by the rhythms and cadences of West Africa, Brazil and Portugal, the colonial power in Cape Verde until 1975.

Endemic poverty on the island nation off the coast of Senegal has forced generations of Cape Verdeans to seek work far from home. One of the largest expatriate settlements is in Rhode Island, which is where de Barros settled with her family as a child. Born in Senegal and raised in Mauritania, she moved with her parents to Providence at the age of 11, joining a thriving, close-knit community.

She struck up a close friendship with Evora on a trip back to Cape Verde in 1988. When people asked if de Barros was the great singer's daughter, "She finally said, 'You know what? I'm your godmother,'" de Barros says. "'You baptize children and you never know how they come out. If I had to choose a godchild, I would choose someone like you. I know exactly how you are.'"
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Khaled: Liberté

Robin Denselow reviews Khaled's Liberté
The most popular performer in the Arab world is still extending his range. Khaled, the "king of Rai", became a celebrity across Europe and the Middle East in the early 1990s, provoking scenes worthy of Beatlemania with songs that matched the rousing dance music of Algeria with western influences that included a swirling layer of synthesisers. His last album Ya-Rayi, five years ago, showed his growing interest in acoustic styles, and this new improved set takes the process further.
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Emmanuel Jal: Interview

Fiona Purdon interviews Emmanuel Jal
Jal, 29, was a boy soldier in the Sudan People's Liberation Army – the veteran of many confrontations in Sudan and Ethiopia.

His battle experiences and rise to become an international rap star, performing alongside the likes of Peter Gabriel and Coldplay, are detailed in his memoir War Child: A Boy Soldier's Story.

The London-based writer and rapper is still tormented by his childhood, as he explains from Kenya. He is performing in a series of fundraising concerts in Africa.

"I hear gunshots from an AK-47, I feel the bombs exploding, they wake me up. Certain sounds come into my head, they cloud my head," says Jal, who has been a guest of this month's Sydney Writers' Festival.

"I can hear people screaming. I hear the sounds over and over."
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Catherine Bourzat: India: A Cultural Journey

India's emergence as an economic power, coupled with the popularity of the movie "Slumdog Millionaire," has made this ancient country, with its rich cultural and religious heritage, a renewed subject of American curiosity.

Putumayo, a company best known for world music, offers a coffee-table book that introduces a broad view of the country through excellent photographs by veteran travel shooters Laurence Mouton and Sergio Ramazzotti.

Divided into nine chapters, the book takes some surprising byways. The first chapter, "Indian Pink & Saffron Yellow," explores the importance of color in traditional Indian culture. "The Tumult of the Towns" extols the energy of the country's cities but does not neglect to show children sleeping on sidewalks.


The CD that accompanies this book, sold separately, highlights India's musical variety, from Bollywood tunes to acoustic, traditional and electronica, but too many of these tracks have the soulless sheen of cookie-cutter hits churned out by the likes of the Pussycat Dolls. Exceptions: the jazz- and folk- influenced tunes by Sanjay Divecha, Susheela Raman and Deepak Ram.
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Blick Bassy: Leman

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and percussionist released his first recording, titled Leman. On 'Leman' (World Connection, 2009), Blick Bassy connects the music of Central and West Africa and mixes it with bossa nova, jazz and soul.

Bassy's guitar playing and his intoxicating, warm voice are enriched by the kora, calabash and a double bass resulting in a unique, haunting sound which is velvety with subtle harmonies, yet also raw with groovy rhythms. 'Leman' was recorded in Salif Keita's studio in Bamako, Mali, and in Bassy's current hometown of Paris, and co-produced by Jean Lamoot (known for his work with Souad Massi, Salif Keita, Nneka and Kasse Mady Diabaté) and Jean-Louis Solans.
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Vieux Farka Touré: Fondo

Robin Denselow reviews Vieux Farka Touré's Fondo
When Vieux Farka Touré released his debut album two years ago, it seemed an outrage. Here was the son of the finest guitarist in Africa daring to move into the same territory within a few months of Ali Farka Touré's death. Young Vieux (as he must get fed up with being called) startled his critics because his album was so good. His live performances have shown an increased confidence, after a wobbly London debut, and here's a new set to show that he has become another great exponent of the African blues.
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Albert Kuvezhin Merited Artist of Republic Tuva

The famous rock-musician Albert Kuvezhin of the legendary group Yat-Kha, the only group in Russia which won a Grand-Prix in the annual international competition BBC Radio 3 Awards in World Music in 2002, received the title "Merited Artist of Republic Tuva". The government award was given to the remarkable rocker at his concert in Kyzyl by the head of the republic, Sholban Kara-ool.
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Kronos Quartert: Floodplain

John L. Walters reviews Kronos Quartert's Floodplain
Recent Kronos albums have been exemplary reminders that classical music is "world music", too, and vice versa. And that traditional music has a vital place in the contemporary repertoire. This generous, 12-track album is based around the concept that the world's great floodplains, such as those of the Nile, Ganges and Volga, are the cradles of humankind, and sublime sources of sustenance and fear. Kronos's selection of music from these regions is engaging, challenging, complex and rewarding.
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