Monday, May 31, 2010

Interview with Seun Kuti

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Alfredo Marceneiro: Cabelo branco é saudade

Manu Chao: Mala Vida

Lúnasa: Lá Nua

Deanne Sole reviews Lúnasa's Lá Nua
Some Irish folk groups power along on their fiddles. On this, its eighth album, Lúnasa powers along on whistle and drone. The fiddle is there too, but it is outnumbered. The credits inside the cover list a single fiddler against tin whistle, flute, three sets of low whistles, and some uilleann pipes.
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Etran Finatawa: Surbajo

Etran Finatawa - Surbajo from Musical Instrument Museum on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Lloyd Gedye on Tinariwen and the future of Tuareg Rock.
When this band of former rebel warriors laid down their guns to pick up guitars they placed the Tuareg people on the cultural map, bringing some much-needed awareness to the plight of the nomadic people's difficult existence in the Sahara desert.

Although they regularly play shows across Europe and the United States, their music has also been promoted by mainstream media, raising the profile of the Tuareg's first rock stars.

Influential British music magazine Uncut recently awarded Tinariwen its Uncut Music Award for their 2009 album Imidiwan. The band returned to the desert with a makeshift studio set-up to record an earthier collection of songs for Imidiwan, after the experimentation of 2007's Aman Iman and 2004's Amassakoul, which saw the band incorporating some Western influences into their music.

So while Tinariwen return to their roots, their music has inspired a new generation of Tuareg rockers who are hell-bent on carrying their legacy forward. The most exciting of these young groups is Tamikrest, which translated from Tamasheq means junction, connection, knot or coalition -- a fitting name for the seven-piece band whose members hail from Mali, Niger and Algeria.
Click to read the full article

Tony Allen: Secret Agent

Richard Elliott reviews Tony Allen's Secret Agent.
As the co-creator with Fela Kuti of the Afrobeat style that emerged from Nigeria in 1970, drummer and arranger Tony Allen is a deservedly legendary figure in popular music history. However, Allen is very much a figure of the present, as he continues to prove via recordings released under his own name and with the group responsible for The Good, The Bad & The Queen—featuring Allen, Damon Albarn, Paul Simonon, and Simon Tong. Secret Agent was released in Europe in 2009 to considerable acclaim and is now being given a North American release by Nonesuch prior to a string of dates that Allen and his band will undertake on the continent in June of this year.

This brilliant album showcases Allen’s distinctive drumming style and represents his considerable skills as a producer and arranger. He is accompanied by his touring group, a highly skilled octet whose instrumental palette mixes the expected (heavy bass, high electric guitar, horns) with the more surprising (accordion, Vocoder). Allen has written the music for all the tracks and some of the lyrics. Other lyrics are provided by the various vocalists featured on the album, some of whom double up on backing vocal duties. Vocal call-and-response is utilized fantastically throughout.
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Visa for Music

Robin Denselow looks at the new visa rules in Britain and how they can affect the World Music circuit.
The biggest of those problems is the UK's move to biometric passports. Once, musicians could send their agents across borders to get visas, but now they have to apply in person, every time they ask for a visa, so they can be photographed and fingerprinted. But in west Africa alone, there are no facilities to issue such visas in Mali, and the service in Senegal is slow, so applicants are advised to go to the Gambia, which is now the regional biometric processing centre (that is why Daara J were sent there). One popular alternative for those performing in Europe is to get a "Schengen" visa that covers the continent (but not the UK), and then apply for a UK visa in Paris – but again that can be a time-consuming and costly process, and it means musicians have to book their UK gigs and then hope they can get a visa when they reach Europe.

But does all this really matter to British music fans? Yes. The situation may have improved, but it's clearly still not fully understood by many musicians or their sponsors – in the case of Daara J, someone seems not to have realised that by not ticking the maintenance box, they were wrecking the band's chance of getting a visa. And now many African musicians have to travel to other countries to get visas, and then spend money waiting around in foreign cities, there's a danger that some will simply not bother to come here. Why go through the hassle and expense of getting a UK visa when it's easier to get a Schengen visa and play across mainland Europe? There are signs that is happening already. David Flowers points out: "Malian stars like the Rail Band now refuse to play in the UK because it's so complicated".

And despite the enthusiasm of some sponsors, there are concerns that the expense and bureaucracy involved might deter others. "Without maverick small operators, audiences will no longer get the chance to discover exciting unknown groups from the non-EU world," argues Page. Ashbridge agrees. "Would major African stars be here now if this system existed in the past?"

And as for Jah Wobble? "I had to do Chinese Dub myself," he says, "because no one else would touch it with a bargepole. This new system hits the small operator. I didn't become a bass player to be an unpaid civil servant."
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Sargento García

Sargento García in concert in Santiago do Chile on June 1st.

Bruno García, el músico franco español más conocido como Sargento García, llega por primera a Chile, enamorado de los ritmos latinos. El hombre que fusiona el rock, la salsa, el reggae y las cumbias en busca de la fiesta perfecta, tiene cita este martes 01 de junio en el Centro Cultural Amanda
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Monday, May 24, 2010

Salif Keita: La Différence

There's a preview of Salif Keita's La Différence that will be released in June 8th.
Listening to Salif Keita's plumy vocals on his latest recording La Différence there can be no doubt that his is the very soul of African music. La Différence, set for release on June 8th on the Emarcy Records label, is a warm, welcomed addition to this summer's musical releases, cementing Salif Keita into one of world music's true masters. Mr. Keita's familiar poignant vocals suffuse this latest CD, standing center stage in the last of a trilogy of acoustic recordings that include 2002's Moffou and 2006's M'Bemba, much of it recorded in Mr. Keita's own Bamako studio.
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: I Speak Fula / Things About Comin' My Way -- A Tribute to the Music of the Mississippi Sheiks

I Speak Fula
Michael Lipton reviews Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba's I Speak Fula.
While the music of Mali griot Bassekou Kouyate is steeped in centuries of tradition, Kouyate -- who was recently tapped by Bela Fleck to participate in "The Africa Project" -- brings the music into the 21st century without sacrificing one iota of passion, reverence or musicianship. A master of the ngoni (an ancient precursor to the banjo), Kouyate's music is imbued with the gentle, buoyant spirit, otherworldly vocals and intricate rhythms that make up West African music.

A Tribute to The Mississippi Sheiks - Things About Comin' My Way
and Things About Comin' My Way - A Tribute to the Music of the Mississippi Sheiks.
The ubiquitous "tribute project" has become something of pest in the world of CD releases. For the most part, they consist of mildly interesting (at best) versions of an artists' canon of songs and usually have more to do with promoting the participating bands.

However, this tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks, the long revered string band that was a top-seller in the 1920s, is different on a few counts. Not only is the lineup interesting -- from the North Mississippi Allstars and Bruce Cockburn to Danny Barnes and Bill Frisell (a trombone/guitar version of "That's It") -- but the arrangements are well-conceived and creative.
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Interview with Toumani Diabaté

Peter Culshaw interviews Toumani Diabaté.
When I visited the great Malian kora-player Toumani Diabaté’s compound in Bamako to pay my respects a few years ago, it was clear he is a big man locally, “a godfather – chef de famille”, he calls himself. There were seemingly scores of children running about. “I am the eldest son,” he said. “It is my responsibility to look after the families of my brothers and sisters.” So how many children does he have? “That is not the point. This one is Toumani’s, or that one. They all call me uncle.” Family, he says, “is something you have lost the importance of in the West”.

I was in good company paying court to Diabaté in Bamako – both Björk and Damon Albarn had also done the same before recording with him. The evening after meeting him at home, he was playing, with his band the Symmetric Orchestra, some of the funkiest music I’ve ever heard to a crowd of hundreds of dressed-to-the-nines dancers in his old club, the Hogon.
Click to read the full article

Fishtank Ensemble

An opera-trained singer from the US, a French fiddle player who learned from the finest Roma players in Europe, a Mexican-born flamenco guitarist and a Serbian bass player who literally wrote the book on slap bass.

No, this isn't the cast of a new reality show. These are the eclectic and eccentric members of LA's Fishtank Ensemble. This quartet with a quirky name blazes new musical trails on their new album, Woman in Sin.

Vocalist Ursula Knudson, violinist Fabrice Martinez, guitarist Doug "Douje" Smolens and bassist Djordje Stijepovic were brought together by their passion for unbridled creativity and love of music with Roma roots.

With a new emphasis on original material and old-school skills, Fishtank Ensemble has matured into their distinctly odd yet remarkably apt name, performing a self-aware selection of twisting timbres and tempos that capture and ineffable joy.

Click to read the press release

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

31st Calgary Folk Festival

The alignment of the 31st Calgary Folk Festival his out.
Here's the full list:


Karla Anderson (AB) Intimate and direct songs with understated-but-powerful instrumentation.
Annie Lou (YT) Northern solitude and grit wrapped in Southern old time string band music from songwriters Anne Louise Genest and Kim Barlow.
Asani (AB) Fresh traditional Aboriginal vocals incorporate jazz and blues, underpinned by drums and rattles.
Natacha Atlas (UK)Electronic beats fuse with North African and Arabic sounds, often in collaboration with a diversity of international artists.
Avett Brothers (USA)This high-flying ensemble incites stomping audience sing-a-longs with theirbrotherly harmonies and twangy acoustic punkgrass.
Axis of Conversation (AB) A broken-hearted dance party of strings, samples and stolen noises covered in Canadian snow.
Baskery (Sweden) Three sisters perform high voltage bluegrass with a no-holds-barred punk attitude.
Bette & Wallet (NS) Foraged fiddle tunes, unearthed melodies and repurposed lyrics that synthesize Maritime and Quebec traditions.
Debashish Bhattacharya (India) Ground-breaking slide guitarist renowned for his dynamic improvised raga music and broad-ranging musical grounding.
Greg Brown (USA) A wickedly sharp observer of the human condition with a worldly hillbilly's take on the poetry of love and grooves from the Delta, the plains and hills.
The Burning Hell (ON) A cinematic multi-instrumental circus built around the black wit and cracked genius of songwriter and history teacher Mathias Kom.
Caracol (QC) Her acoustic music is filled with raw emotion and draws from folk and Jamaican rocksteady with an indie-pop and vintage '50s feel.
The Cat Empire (Australia)Mashup a smorgasbord of ferocious grooves into their own funky musical hybrid.
Coolooloosh (Israel/USA) The cultures and streets of Jerusalem and Baltimore are personified in a fresh hip-hop-jazz-funk mash-up.
Delhi 2 Dublin (BC)A dubwise, Bhangra-based electro-acoustic collaboration that meshes Irish and North Indian folk melodies.
DJ Dolores (Brazil) Rooted inventive electronic beats from northern Brazil villages that engage the mind and motivate the feet.
DJ Logic (USA) This master turntablist and collaborator mixes tablas into drum 'n' bass, re-imagines jazz, co-anchors rock bands and meshes MCs with Afro-Cuban rhythms.
Dojo Workhorse (AB) Dan Vacon and gang create soulful, honest rock with an eclectic fusion of backing vocals and instruments.
El Puchero del Hortelaño (Spain) A quintessential Andalusian band constructs urban flamenco rock with a unique twist.
e.s.l. (BC) Uniquely orchestrated songs that range from heartbreaking ballads to roaring gypsy-punk dance numbers.
David Essig (BC) Wise songwriting from a virtuoso instrumentalist who's penned classic Canadian folk songs from Delta blues, bluegrass and country roots.
Etran Finatawa (Niger) Hypnotic nomad's desert bluesunites theWodaabe and Touareg tribes on an evolving journey built around laid-back guitars, driving rhythms and compelling voices.
Roberta Flack (USA) This musical legend has been killing us softly with her insightful and effortless soul for over 40 years.
Michael Franti and Spearhead (USA) A global troubadour who moves hearts, minds and limbs with his passionate soulful and funky protest music.
Fribo (UK) Fresh and inventive 'nu-Nordic' artists explore historical links between British, Irish and Nordic traditions.
Chris Gheran (AB) has a working man's demons to exorcise, complaints to make and passions to turn into tunes that pulse in your right brain.
Ghostkeeper (AB) Idiosyncratic stories told through raw outsider blues and heartfelt pop.
Thea Gilmore (UK) Sharp, astute songs that are deceptively populist and deceitfully dark.
Haydamaky (Ukraine) Exotic, daringmusic that melds traditional sounds with the heavy groove of a punk rhythm section.
Joe Henry (USA) Producer extraordinaire and the creator of memorable, intelligent lullabies that detail the lives of heroes and ordinary folks.
Hill Country Revue (USA) Modern southern rock and blues represents a return to Northern Mississippi's juke-joint one-chord trance blues.
Robin Holcomb (USA) This pianist and cultural iconoclast's adventurous compositions are elegantly simple and utterly original.
Honeybear (AB/US) Low-key, mesmerizing and charming indie-folk songs built around the ukulele.
Jon and Roy (BC) Intoxicating new urban folk with worldly influences and sounds.
Jordan Klassen (AB) Quietly intricate, delicate melodies with poetic and whimsical lyrics.
Konono N°1 (Congo) Thumb-piano wizards create distortion-fuelled traditional trance music on their home-made sound system.
Library Voices (SK) Sophisticated hooks and melodies plus complex harmonies and anthemic choruses.
Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans (AB) Original, 21st century punk-influenced country music and vivid depictions of the Canadian west.
Madison Violet (ON) Channel vintage music into tumbleweed pop loaded with harmonies, stringed instruments and lovely tales of heartache and loss.
Dan Mangan (BC) His trademark rootsy laments use razor-sharp phrasing and sage poetry to evoke the wonder and absurdity of everyday life.
Man Man (USA) Torchbearers of the unusual, these enigmatic multi-instrumental experimental rockers create strange, beautiful and profound sounds.
Laura Marling (UK) A Victorian ghost sent to the future, she constructs acoustically lush indie folk around her husky voice and dark insightful songs.
Mauvais Sort (QC) Reinvented Quebecois music through a global exploration of old folk rhythms.
The Mississippi Sheiks Tribute Project (BC/USA) Steve Dawson and his stellar band create modernized 1930s country blues with co-conspirators Robin Holcomb, Del Rey and Geoff Muldar.
Geoff Muldaur (USA) A singular approach to American music from a producer, composer and roots music force.
Ohbijou (ON) A seven piece pop orchestra whose tender compositions eulogize humbling encounters in a city's changing streets.
OX (ON) Textured dust bowl soundscapes make an alt-country/indie hybrid.
Po' Girl (BC) Homespun urban roots music that's fluid and joyous with back-porch harmonies and a sultry ambience.
Finley Quaye (UK/USA) His multifaceted, multi-ethnic catalogue mashes pure pop to the underground, characterized by his sweet voice and feel for a soul groove.
Peatbog Faeries (Scotland)The future of Celtic dance music is an adventurous melting pot of fragmented fiddle and pipe tunes, deep dub bass lines and spacey electronics.
Steve Pineo (AB) His large bag of songs, virtuosity and versatility have made him an oft-covered songwriter.
Del Rey (USA) Country blues, ragtime, classic jazz and hillbilly boogie through the sensibility of an autodidact trailer-park esthete.
Romantica (USA) Catchy, richly arranged pop-folk with rural influences, from Minnesota via Ireland.
Tom Russell (USA) A quintessential songwriter whose music and powerful observations help reinvent the Americana genre.
Shakura S'Aida (ON)gives life to '40s and '50s blues, performs original, funky, boundary-pushing songs and acts in films and theatre.
Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens (USA) Authentic, classic and rich soul music characterized by her sweet raspy tones and backed by a smooth band.
JR Shore (AB) At the crossroads between Texas and Alberta lives the musical soul of this storyteller, social commentator and performer.
Samantha Savage-Smith (AB)Sparse, stripped-down accompaniments support her strong voice and lyrics inspired by a love of classic songs.
Stars (QC) Loved for their knack for creating melodic, literate, sophisticated pop songs in a natural, off-the-cuff manner.
St. Vincent (US)After time in the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens's band, multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark's solo work is cinematic, eerie and dramatic.
Sunparlour Players (ON) Dark-but-delicate rhythms from folk revivalists who find poetry in their own backyard.
The Swell Season (USA) At the group's core are the stars and songwriters of the sleeper hit film Once, The Frames's Glen Hansard and classically-trained Czech pianist/vocalist Marketa Irglova.
Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir (USA) The spirit, history and sounds of African America are brought to harmonic, percussive life.
Timber Timbre (ON)His sound is characterized by a confident, hushed voice, understated guitar, strings, keyboard flourishes and a subtle beat.
Frank Turner (UK)Folk-punk strummery from a post-millennial troubadour whovociferously preaches the gospel of action.
Ian Tyson (AB) has forged a distinctive trail over his long career; his new songs reflect Alberta's cultural landscape and the disappearing cowboy.
Ukrainia (ON)From the streets of Kyiv to Ottawa, they'll kick your kishka with vintage Ukrainian music, hardened by the members' rock roots.
United Steelworkers of Montreal (QC)Play a unique brand of blue-collar swing and gospel-based alt-country featuring historical ballads, dry wit and tall tales.
For more details check the festival's site

Nas and Damian Marley talk Distant Relatives, Africa + more

Nas & Damian Marley: Distant Relatives

Distant Relatives
Melanie Sims reviews Nas & Damian Marley's Distant Relatives
Nas and Damian Marley meet in the middle to create an empowering collaborative album, entitled "Distant Relatives." The New York street poet and the Jamaican reggae man take turns playing lead role over a mix of hip-hop and reggae beats melded with trumpets, congas and electric organs, among other instruments.
Click to read the full article

Gotan Project: Tango 3.0

Tango 3.0
Avinash Chak reviews Gotan Project's Tango 3.0.
Gotan Project, with their new release, build on the successful model they have already established. They stay true to their tango roots but combine various other genres and styles to offer something new. “Tango 3.0” ultimately lacks the quality of “La Revancha del Tango” or “Lunático.” But it would still be an excellent addition to any lounge music collection.

Featured in many commercials and films, Gotan Project serves as great background music. It’s the kind of music you want to hear in a bar or lounge. If they played it in elevators, you would push all the buttons so you could listen longer.
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Baaba Maal: Television

Mark Jenkins reviews Baaba Maal's Television.
Longtime fans may miss the more emphatic singing of Maal's previous recordings -- his power is showcased here only on the flamenco-tinged "Dakar Moon" -- or wish that he hadn't ceded so many vocals to Sciubba. On its own terms, however, "Television" is a success. Such songs as "Miracle" and "International" claim the whole world with a gently lilting assurance.
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Ayobaness! - The Sound of South African House

Ayobaness: Sound of South African House
Claire Allfree reviews Ayobaness! - The Sound of South African House
This is neither a conventional ‘world music’ release nor a standard dance music compilation and that’s what makes it so special. It offers a welcome blast of inspiration for the four-to-the-floor formula of British and American house music. It’s also another fine release from independent label Out Here Records (forthcoming compilation Yes We Can: Songs About Leaving Africa is also worth checking) and it introduces plenty of big characters – not least Pastor Mbhobho on the title track. Perhaps the most fabulous offering comes from DJ Sumthyn Black featuring poet Ntsiki Mazwai; their fierce, soulful dance/spoken word collaboration Wena is levelled at a disloyal lover or a more sinister foe. Mazwai argues that ‘house is the language of the people’. On Ayobaness! that language translates as a call to party on a triumphant, transcontinental scale.
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Raghu Dixit

Robin Denselow on Raghu Dixit.
Raghu Dixit is a bestselling curiosity, an Indian musician who has created a new style that has little to do with either India's great classical tradition (even though he is a master of classical dance) or with the exuberance of Bollywood. Instead, he has pioneered a folk-rock fusion, in which his fine, soulful vocals are matched against programmed drums and guitars, with influences that range from traditional Indian folk songs to rock, reggae and funk.
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Omar Souleyman

Luke Turner reviews Omar Souleyman's concert at London's Scala.
If you'd asked me two years ago whether I'd be spending a Monday night watching a man who in robe, kaffiyeh, dark glasses and tightly clipped moustache send the Scala beserk with music that sounds like being simultaneously crushed with a piledriver and attached by swarms of killer bees, I wouldn't have believed you. Yet Omar Souleyman's frantic combination of hyperspeed electric oud, overdriven keyboard and intimidating yet deadpan stage presence has clearly struck a chord.
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Bonga: Best of Bonga

Best of Bonga
John Clewley reviews Best of Bonga
Bonga's music is a bubbling mix of Portuguese folk music, local roots rhythms and styles like kizomba and samba, with some strong Latin elements (during the Angolan civil war, Cuban soldiers were stationed in Angola). He has a haunting voice that ''cracks'' in a in a way similar to the blues singer Bobby Bland as he soars over an accompaniment that features twirling guitars _ reminiscent of Portuguese fado music _ and subtle hypnotic percussion. At first I only liked his sad ballads _ the so-called lamentos _ like the spellbinding Mona Ki Ngi Xica and the forlorn Kianje, the former from his debut album, but now I've started to really appreciate the other rhythms he uses; you can hear Brazilian sounds on some tracks which is not surprising when you consider that samba was taken to Brazil by Angolan slaves and can be found in Bahia, where samba became the basic template for the development of one of Brazil's most famous rhythms, the samba.

There are also some connections between Angola and the other former colonies _ you can hear strains of the Cape Verdean morna, for instance. There is a version of the Verdean song Sodade (the Portuguese Creole for saudade, that bitter-sweet melancholic feeling that permeates all Portuguese influenced music) that Bonga recorded in 1974, years before Cesaria Evora would make it one of her torch songs and an international hit.

If you track down this album and enjoy Bonga's music, I recommend that you check out his heir apparent, Waldemar Bastos, whose music I reviewed a few years back. Both are major artists and both have been somewhat overlooked by critics more interested in West African music. This compilation by Bonga is changing this view somewhat _ in the past year the album which is mid-priced, has cropped up on many Top 10 lists and has sold well in Europe. Highly recommended.
Click to read the full article