Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Zeca Afonso at the Coliseu Lisboa (1983)

Zeca Afonso is one of the most influential folk and political musicians in Portuguese history. He became an icon among Portuguese left-wing activists due to the role of his music in the resistance against the dictatorial regime. In the ensuing Portuguese revolutionary process, after 1974, Zeca Afonso was a very active musician and continued composing political and folk songs, often criticizing the post-revolutionary changes. Years after his death, Zeca Afonso is still widely listened to, not only in Portugal, but also abroad. He died in February 23, 1987.

Coliseu de Lisboa, January 1983

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Kroke: Live at the Pit

Essential World Music Records #2: Kroke - Live at the Pit

Anyone who had the opportunity to see Kroke live will hardly forget them. They may not be Jewish, but the whole feeling that the eastern Diaspora introduced into klezmer music is very present. You just need a bass, violin and accordion to make this replica perfect and the concept reinvented. Kroke is Yiddish for Krakow. The birthplace of this trio was until 1939 one of the major European centers of Jewish culture.
"Live at the Pit" despite being a live album, reproduces only the sound stage, that in itself worthy of note. But a Kroke show is much more than that. It lives from a strong presence of the musicians who dress just like the orthodox Jews, together with a virtuosity and remarkable rapport. The feeling is Jewish, the energy seems to have been stolen from the Balkan gypsies, the strumming of instruments denotes a classical education and the rapport of a group that plays on average more than 250 times a year. Throughout the performance of "Live at the Pit" we are deceived by the unexpected. The ease with which they change rhythm in "The Night in The Garden of Eden" or the ordered disorientation of "Sher" in which musicians play at different times for fun, are examples of this.

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Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabete: Ali and Toumani

Ali & Toumani
Mikael Wood reviews Ali Farka Touré & Toumani Diabete's, "Ali and Toumani"
"Ali and Toumani" contains the final recordings made by a pair of master musicians: the Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré, who died in 2006, and the Cuban bassist Orlando "Cachaíto" Lopez, who died last year. But this 11-track album -- the second collection of collaborations by Touré and the Malian kora player Toumani Diabeté -- doesn't sound like death. Rather, it's an early contender for the warmest, most life-affirming listen of 2010.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ali Farka Touré - "Niafunké"

Essential World Music Records #1: Ali Farka Touré - "Niafunké"

Ali Farka Touré - Niafunké

Before Ry Cooder started the Cuban boom thru the Buena Vista Social Club project, he had already recorded "Talking Timbuktu" with Ali Farka Touré. Artistically "Talking Timbuktu" represented the definitive affirmation of a Malian blues man that from then on, intensified the number of shows worldwide, in personal terms however it meant a drift from values that he considered more important.
Ali Farka Touré was never happy with the show business life, many were the times that Touré thought of abandoning his life as musician. This sentiment is reflected in his last rare live appearances outside their natural environment: the village of Niafunké, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, around the Niger River, where there is no electricity or running water. There, Ali Farka Touré, father of 11 and 60 years old, has put the cultivation of the land above the music, investing all the money earned from this activity in agricultural machinery. He felt a certain discomfort in his successive world tours for losing the essence of his roots, it would be inevitable to record Niafunké the 'place of origin of this music - deep Mali', recorded by a mobile studio fed by a generator.
"Niafunké" is probably the greatest album of the life of Ali Farka Touré and a serious candidate to best world album of the 90s. In "Talking Timbuktu" the production of Ry Cooder created a greater range of sounds that helped build the great songs sweetened for western ears; in "Niafunké" we see the return to land and sound of the first recordings that "Radio Mali" (96) document. "Niafunké" is the return of someone who matured his musical vision on a global stage and works the land every day. "Niafunké" may not have songs as melodic as "Talking Timbuktu", but gains in authenticity that is reflected not only in Toure's most audacious guitar playing, as the musicians accompanying him. The warm female choruses, the rhythms of the turbulent calabash, the djembe and congas to remind Oumou Sangare, the sound of Njarka 's trance, lead us into a journey of devotion and drunkenness and giving us all the purity of deep Mali, where the blues were born.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Milo Miles writes a biographical piece on Franco.
The African guitarist, singer and bandleader known as Franco was the first modern international pop-music superstar in the continent, a sensation not only in his native Republic of the Congo, but throughout central Africa. He sustained a busy career from when he was 18 in 1956 to his death at 51 in 1989. Yet he remains little known in America — he never found a US record label to support him and he did only two brief tours here in the mid-80s. Fortunately, Franco recorded a huge amount of material — and two collections were recently released that could finally establish him in this country.

Now that Nigerian Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti has a hit Broadway play devoted to him, it's safe to say he's finally edged into the pop culture pantheon, a dozen years after his death. It's an open question whether an even bigger star in Africa, who's been dead even longer, the Congo's soukous master Franco, will ever get the same acclaim. He deserves it, but he doesn't translate as well, and not only because he never sang in English. Even so, two recent collections, Francophonic Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, make a powerful case through music and performance alone that Franco was an irresistible force — the so-called "sorcerer of the guitar." When Franco started out in the '50s, "jazz" was a generic term in the Congo for modern music and his band was called OK Jazz. They could be wonderfully sweet even when loudly boasting, as in an early hit that might have described their effect on audiences. Translated, it says "You Come in OK, You Leave KO'ed."
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John Mayall: Tough

ToughMike Joyce reviews John Mayall's Tough.
"Tough" marks a lineup shift; Mayall isn't fronting yet another edition of the Bluesbreakers. Not only is he in good form, singing and playing organ, guitar and squalling harmonica, he's in good company, leading a robust quintet that boasts keyboardist Tom Canning and guitarist Rocky Athas. The songs aren't exceptional, but they are sturdy, and the best of them, including Gary Nicholson's dire blues "How Far Down" and Jeff Pitchell's "An Eye for an Eye," are keepers. Hard times and emotional despair inspire recurring themes, as the album's title suggests, but the performances are also a reminder of Mayall's remarkable resilience.
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Tommy T: The Prester John Sessions

Prester John SessionsJill Turner reviews Tommy T's The Prester John Sessions.
Enjoy a musical road map of Ethiopia, and discover a musical Eden full of treasures as Gogol Bordello bass man, Tommy T, inspired by the legend of Prester John, leaves the harsh punky Balkan sounds behind as he explores his Ethiopian roots in The Prester John Sessions.

Tommy T puts the music of Gogol Bordello firmly to one side and in contrast to both the bright blue and orange graphics of the sleeve cover and the harsher punk stylings of the Bordello brand of Balkan pop, we find a lush, well rounded, rolling album that fuses some of Ethiopia’s many musical forms with jazz, reggae and dub that you’ll want to play it over and over again. Its softer and perhaps more accessible than last year’s offerings of Ethiopian Dub / Jazz fusion from Nick Page's 'Dub Colossus in a Town called Addis' and more focused, less psychedelic and meandering than Dan Harper’s 'Punt'.
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Robin Denselow reviews Tommy T's The Prester John Sessions.
He may be best-known as the bass player backing Eugene Hutz in the frantic and highly theatrical ­American punk gypsy band Gogol Bordello, but Tommy T is also an Ethiopian ­multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter determined to make his own contribution to the Ethiopian ­fusion scene. He is influenced both by the ­classic, brass-backed songs of 60s ­Ethiopian dance music and by the ­contemporary blend of dub ­reggae and Ethiopian traditional styles ­pioneered by Dub Colossus, and to all of this he has added a dash of cool American funk and moody jazz.
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Julie Fowlis: Uam

UamJulie Fowlis releases her new album Uam on March 9th (Cadiz Music/ Shoeshine Records).

Audio Samples available here.

Press release available here.

More on Julie Fowlis on Wikipedia.

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The Zero Hour Tango Fest

Between Shadows and Longing:
The Zero Hour Tango Fest Brings the Sensuality of Late Night City Streets onto the Stage

A tango festival unlike any other.

Walking among dimly lit streets, a clock strikes midnight and the mythical "zero hour" is upon you. It has long past since the skyline swallowed the sun, as familiar city scenes are reborn with a mysterious air. Shadows take on a life of their own, slipping between the glow of streetlights and neon signs. The seductive melancholy of a slow tango creeps into your heart, transporting you to a nostalgic dimension where memories of home, lament for lost loves, and hardships of daily life flash across your mind. The breaths of the concertina-like bandoneón reverberate throughout your body as they merge with a passionate delivery of poetic lyrics and the sultry intimacy of a dancing couple, stirring a swirl of emotions within your soul.

On March 26th and 27th, 2010, a commissioned ensemble of renown all-star tango masters will descend on the byways of Bloomington, Indiana, to put in motion the Zero Hour Tango Fest, an immersive, multi-sensory theatrical experience that will reinterpret this urban landscape through the lens of tango. In addition to musical and dance performances, throughout the evening concerts, local videographers, armed with cameras, will comb the corners of Bloomington's avenues and alleyways. Projecting live video onto the screens of the theatre, they will bring the street onto the stage. As these images merge with the musical performances, it will become clear that tango is not only an art, but also a way of being in the world. Tango is a worldview that works as well in a town like Bloomington as it does in Buenos Aires , Argentina. "Tango is music, dance, and poetry," explains Alfredo Minetti, musician, scholar, and producer of this event. "Tango is an expression, a gaze, a walk, and a type of character-an entire moral system. It is rare to see all these things represented on stage together. Usually, people just emphasize the dance or the music." Through the course of concerts, workshops, an open dance floor, and roundtable discussions, this festival will explore the intersection of these elements, connecting the shadowy zero hour with the darker sides of the human condition.
Check the Zero Hour Tango Festival Event Schedule

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World Music Charts Europe (February 2010)

1 -Vagarosa, Ceu, Brazil
2 - I Speak Fula, Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, Mali
3 - Opa Hey!, Kottarashky, Bulgaria
4 - Oyo, Angelique Kidjo, Benin
5 - Lhasa, Lhasa de Sela, Canada/USA
6 - Hand Made, Hindi Zahra, Morocco/France
7 - Nha Sentimento, Cesaria Evora, Cape Verde
8 - Ghana Special: Modern Highlife, Afro Sounds 1968-1981, Various Artists, Ghana
9 - La Difference, Salif Keita, Mali
10 - Scent of Reunion, Mahsa Vahdat & Mighty Sam McClain, Iran/USA
11 - Este Mundo, Rupa & The April Fishes, USA
12 - Pariwaga, Yapa, France, Burkina Faso, Maghreb
13 - Pueblo Vivo / Vibrant People, La Otrabanda, Venezuela
14 - Devla, Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar, Serbia
15 - Bonjour, Rachid Taha, Algeria/France
16 - Nigeria Afrobeat Special, Various Artists, Nigeria
17 - Panama!, 3 Various Artists, Panama
18 - Brazzaville In Istanbul, Brazzaville, USA/Turkey
19 - Smaa Smaa, Hasna el Becharia, Algeria/France
20 - Tudo E Possible, Che Sudaka, Spain (Argentia,Colombia,Catalan)
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back

Michael Kendall reviews Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back.
Peter Gabriel, one of the music industry’s most prolific contributors, will release a new album later this month. Scratch My Back is a collection of cover songs originally penned by some of the most famous stars of the last twenty years, including David Bowie, Bon Iver, Talking Heads and Regina Spektor.

If every musician that had success in the late-70s and early-80s continued to pursue their career as doggedly as Gabriel has, the market would be saturated, world music would most likely be considered pejorative, and the earpiece microphone never would have been laid to rest. It is almost as if he failed to consider such a thought, or just didn’t care, when setting his career trajectory.

Thankfully, these descriptors fail to encapsulate Gabriel’s donations to his craft. Scratch My Back resounds in the universe in a uniquely Peter Gabriel manner, featuring only the acoustic instruments typical to the symphony orchestra and piano.
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Asere: Junio Groove

Robin Denselow reviews Asere's Junio Groove.
Asere continue to surprise. It's been well over a decade since this young Cuban band were discovered and promoted by the Colombian singer Toto la Momposina, and they have gone on to shake up the Havana music scene, carefully balancing a respect for the traditions of Son, the dominant Cuban dance style, with unexpected new influences.
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Corey Harris: ''

Geoffrey Himes reviews Corey Harris's ''.
Corey Harris first made his reputation as a rural blues revivalist with his 1995 debut album, "Between Midnight and Day." His scope has now broadened to incorporate African diaspora music, from Malian jali and Jamaican reggae to '70s American soul. On his new album, "," he begins to fuse those sources, and the dissolving agent is the keyboards of producer Chris "Peanut" Whitley.
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Angélique Kidjo: Oyo

Robin Denselow reviews Angélique Kidjo's Oyo.
There are Makeba songs here, of course, including an overexcited version of Mbube and a well-performed treatment of the lullaby Lakutshon Llanga. Then there are some unremarkable covers of songs made famous by Curtis Mayfield, James Brown and Otis Redding. A treatment of Aretha Franklin's Baby I Love You is genuinely soulful and there's a surprisingly successful version of Sidney Bechet's Petite Fleur (in French), along with a song that Kidjo co-wrote with the great Brazilian guitarist Vinicius Cantuária (who sadly doesn't make an appearance), and an upbeat traditional song from Benin. In short, this is a typically uneven set of songs that will sound better in Kidjo's bombastic stage shows.
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