Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I would like to inform you of a newsletter I will be writing beginning this winter. It will be $20/yr. regardless of location, since it will be sent directly to your email in pdf. It will be published bimonthly. It will provide a 'voice' for world music fans/academics, and it will be the only publication devoted to world music producers, labels, artists, professors, by bringing you the inside scoop on contemporary and historical issues in ethnomusicology.
***If you are interested in receiving this newsletter, please let me know by sending me a short email with your NAME, COUNTRY OF ORIGIN, CONTACT EMAIL, and SPECIFIC INTEREST IN WORLD MUSIC.***
Please direct the above information to:
You will hear from me in a few weeks if there is enough interest to continue with the project. Thanks.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Alan Lomax in Haiti [10 CD set]
The musical achievements of the late-Alan Lomax are superbly displayed in this attractive 10-CD box set with accompanying photos, map, and two books, including Alan's field journal. The songs were recorded throughout Haiti from 1936-1937 for The Library of Congress. These are largely traditional, field recordings with typically grainy and raw sound quality. However, the CD's are mastered by Grammy Award-winning engineers to elicit the best sound quality available today. The music was culled from over 50 hours of never-before-released field recordings. You will hear Voudou songs, percussion pieces, choral sounds, vocal/instrumentals of people young and old, male and female, and even Alan's own voice explaining where a specific song was recorded and/or noting the musicians themselves. The box set format of this size is unique and relatively rare in the world of international music. Still, do not let the price tag of $120+ deter you from purchasing a literally priceless volume of musical history from the perspective of the ethnomusicologist. For fans or students of traditional music, especially from the Caribbean, this is a highly-desirable gift. Of course, Alan Lomax fans will put this set on the top of their list this holiday season, for good reason. Look for more good things to come from Harte Recordings in the future! ~ Matthew Forss
Friday, October 30, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Crossing Painted Islands
The 2006 release, Crossing Painted Islands, continues the tradition of exploring the world's music. Gabe Hallberg plays the tabla, tar, kou xiang, and percussion. Mac Ritchey plays the oud, bouzouki, acoustic guitar, didjeridoo, and lends his vocals for overtone singing, which is a style commonly heard in Tuva and Mongolia. However, a majority of the tracks are of Turkish origin with one from Armenia. Even so, the music on Crossing Painted Islands is slightly different from their prior release, The Green Vine, which was also reviewed here. Instead, their latest release seems to mainly draw upon the music of the Caucasus, the Balkans, and the Middle East. Still, Crossing Painted Islands is rich with musical creativity and relaxing rhythms well worth a listen. If you are looking for a great world fusion album, then this is for you. ~ Matthew Forss
35th Parallel's 2003 release, The Green Vine, weaves through and within the world's great musical cultures. In fact, the band's name comes from the latitude of intersecting musical regions that heavily influence their music. 35th Parallel is based in Vermont, right down the road from my alma mater, Goddard College, where Mac Ritchey and Gabe Hallberg create a fusion of music from the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and North India. The entirely instrumental release features sounds on the oud, bouzouki, acoustic guitar, didjeridoo, gongs, tablas, pakhawaj, tar, tamboura, and electronic accompaniment. The tracks are never busy or overdone. Some tracks are attributed to guest musicians Mohammad Omar and Aziz Herawi) or historical figures (Gomidas) in music. Each track reveals a different musical journey, which is always surprising and fresh. The 35th Parallel is not that far away. Hear it today. ~ Matthew Forss
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Eden Mi Qedem (Eden From The East)
Sunday, August 16, 2009
If the world had a soundtrack, Strange Cousin would be it. Tribecastan attempts to showcase the world's music with various percussion, wind, string, and less-commonly-played instruments. For instance, one track, 'Tribecastani Traffic Jam', contains a Pakistani Taxi Horn. This is an instrument aficionado's fantasy. Some instruments you will hear include the penny whiste, bendir, riq, fujara, tupan, shells, mandolin, bamboo flute, koncova, dutar, tambur, Indian oboe, kanun, and many, many more. As expected, Strange Cousin picks up sounds from around the world, most notably from Europe, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean. Sometimes albums fall short when they try to incorporate too much, but Tribecastan succeeds, because each track is different and it's delivered in focused moderation. This is a 99% instrumental album with only a spattering of vocals. It's a wonderful journey to begin--and it starts in a place called New York City. ~ Matthew Forss
One of Mali's great female vocalists, Oumou Sangare presents us with her fifth album since 1989. Seya, otherwise known as 'joy', is an energetic release celebrating life, love, happiness, and independence. An impressive array of a few dozen contributors lend talents throughout the album's tracks. As a result, the tracks are richly embossed with an array of instrumentation and funky beats. Oumou's musical origins from southern Mali serve as a continued influence in her music. For instance, she combines a Wassoulou groove with a kamale n'goni instrument to honor past Wassoulou singers on 'Donso'. Seya contains great vocal melodies, pleasant rhythms, and unique instrumentation. The traditional instrumentation is played in such a way to seem more contemporary. This is funk, afro-beat, highlife, and everything in-between. Pick it up today! ~ Matthew Forss
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Decidedly Afrocentric and socially conscious, Arrested Development is the antithesis to the gansta rap movement of the 1990s. The meaningful lyrics, solid rhythm section, and funky dance moves had the audience pulsating to the beat. A folk festival is indeed a unique venue for this kind of music, but just goes to show that it caters to people with a wide spectrum of musical appreciation. ~ Paula E. Kirman
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The band's 25th anniversary compilation, Spirituality, was released last year. Spirit of the West also still tours on a regular basis, most recently as the opening act for Great Big Sea.
Spirit of the West also performed this past weekend at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Maintaining a high energy level, the band had people dancing in front of the stage and into the beer gardens, especially to such classics as "Political," "Save This House," and "Home For a Rest." ~ Paula E. Kirman
Monday, August 10, 2009
Dressed in traditional Mongolian garb, the members of Hanggai took to the stage at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival this past weekend for a workshop entitled "Newgrass." Along with The SteelDrivers, Hanggai performed some incredibly energetic music combining electric guitar work with traditional Asian instruments. One piece in particular, which kept getting faster and faster with every verse, had the audience clapping and dancing.
Mixing throat singing with rock sounds is a very unique musical combination. The band is based in Beijing and is starting to get the international recognition it deserves. ~ Paula E. Kirman
I was, of course, very familiar with Daby Touré's music before seeing him perform this past weekend at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Seeing him live helped me gain a whole new appreciation for his work. With a very laid-back and friendly approach (I don't think the smile ever left his face) he rhythmically strummed his guitar and presented songs about life and love. His songs never get repetitive and are downright captivating.
If you ever get the chance to see Daby Touré live, don't pass up the chance. ~ Paula E. Kirman
Hot Tuna is one of those bands whose reputation precedes them. A career of performing some of the finest blues-rock music ever made over four decades, to call this San Francisco-formed band legendary seems like a understatement.
According to the CBC's Holger Peterson, who introduced Hot Tuna's Sunday afternoon concert at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival on August 9, this was the band's first-ever appearance in Alberta. Looking around at the audience, I could tell some had waited a long time for this moment to come.
Founding members Jorma Kaukonen (vocals and guitar) and Jack Cassidy (bass) are still the core of the band, adding mandolin player Barry Mitterhoff. Acoustically slipping and sliding their way through traditional and original blues tunes, the trio captivated everyone watching. Particularly spectacular was Kaukonen's finger-picking and strong vocals, which at times reminded me of the late Jerry Garcia.
The numerous instrumental breakdowns and musical back-and-forth between all of the members made a hot afternoon even hotter. ~ Paula E. Kirman
Still actively recording and touring, the band was in Edmonton this past weekend for the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Performing on the Saturday afternoon main stage, Oysterband was in fine form. Smooth music, clear vocals, and an engaging stage presence had the crowd captivated.
Oysterband has been reaching a new audience in recent years. Some of their songs have taken a political direction and has put them in solidarity with fellow British musicians Chumbawumba (who were performing acoustically throughout the festival as well). The two bands have performed and recorded together on numerous occasions.
The band's latest album is entitled The Oxford Girl & Other Stories and contains stripped-down re-recordings of some of the bands favourite songs from throughout its 30 year history. Lead singer John Jones also recently put out a solo recording called Rising Road. ~ Paula E. Kirman
Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir was another Edmonton Folk Music Festival discovery for me. I had heard rumblings about the band (all good) and had a chance to check them out during a jam session workshop with Daby Touré and Hot Tuna. Thumping acoustic bass, twanging guitars, and vocals with all the grit and soul of an old Bluesman - I was so impressed, I checked out the band's latest album Ten Thousand on iTunes when I got back from the festival.
If you like traditional Blues music but are open to something different, you need to check out the Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir. ~Paula E. Kirman
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Although this was the first time I had heard of Great Lake Swimmers, judging from the enthusiastic and plentiful crowd the band already has an established following. Indeed, the band already has four albums under its belt, the latest being Lost Channels which was released this past March.
What catches me most about Great Lake Swimmers is the atmosphere of the music. Rootsy with an upbeat tempo and just a hint of twang at times, Tony Dekker's understated vocals set the tone for his songs that are hauntingly beautiful. The songs have a dreamy feel to them without becoming repetitive.
I have no doubt that Great Lake Swimmers gained some new fans during their Folk Fest performance -I can personally attest to that! ~ Paula E. Kirman
The Skydiggers is one of those bands that has fallen through the cracks time and time again. Deserving far more acclaim than it has received, The Skydiggers has been the repeated victim of record labels going under and as a result, has never been promoted to the extent it should be.
Known for melodic, harmonious songs like "I Will Give You Everything," "A Penny More," and "Slow Burning Fire," The Skydiggers are celebrating 20 years as band. Members have come and gone (most notably co-singer/songwriter Andrew Cash - Peter's brother) but the core trio of the lively and eccentric Andy Maize on lead vocals, Josh Finlayson on guitar, and Ron Macey on bass has endured.
The Skydiggers recently released a retrospective entitled The Truth About Us which features remastered versions of most of the band's best-known songs. The band still tours actively as well, and was in Edmonton for the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, playing a concert on August 8. The hour-long set saw fans old and new alike swaying and singing along.
As someone who owns the band's first album on cassette, I could not help but feel nostalgic when the host announced that The Skydigger's was celebrating 20 years this year. And despite the blazing heat of the summer afternoon, I broke out in goosebumps when they performed "I Will Give You Everything." Andy Maize was in fine form with his frenzied body movements and facial expressions, making witty quips in between songs.
The Skydiggers continue to be one of the hardest-working bands in the Canadian music scene. Hopefully, it won't take another 20 years for The Skydiggers to gets its due. ~ Paula E. Kirman
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Huun Huur Tu are throat-singing masters from the Republic of Tuva located in southern Russia. There name can be translated from Tuvan to mean "sunbeams". They have been wowing crowds with their vocal mastery since the early 1990's. The addition of electronic musician, Carmen Rizzo, adds a modern flair to the historical instrumentation of igil (two-stringed instrument), guitar, doshpuluur (lute), flute, byzaanchi (spike fiddle) and drums performed on Eternal. Additional instrumentation is provided on violin, cello, trumpet, cumbus, and bass. "Ancestors Call" is the opening track that begins with an ambulatory drum-beat indicative of galloping horses roaming the taiga. Vocals, although present, are interspersed throughout the album. "Mother Taiga" is an inviting track with all the elements of a great Huun Huur Tu track. Carmen's electronic sounds and ambient backdrops propel the songs into an otherworldly place. Yet, the unfamiliarity is broken by the slightly guttural; but hauntingly beautiful and unmistakable vocals of Huun Huur Tu. Vocals are provided by Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, Sayan Bapa, Radik Tyulyush, and Alexey Saryglar. Eternal is an album that will last for the ages. It's a perfect beginning for those seeking contemporary throat-singing. ~ Matthew Forss
Friday, July 24, 2009
Imidiwan: Companions + DVD
The release of Imidiwan, which is Tamasheq for 'companions', is another superb musical journey from the Saharan blues-guitar group. Fans of their previous release, Aman Iman from 2007, will find all the tracks easily enjoyable. The opening, 'Imidiwan Afrik Tendam', is a catchy, invitational ode for African people everywhere. An equally engaging song, 'Tahult In', is only a few lines, but funky enough to please anyone. The entire album incorporates their signature use of tinde drum, female ululations, bluesy-guitar riffs, and lyrics describing the Saharan spirit with the rest of the world. Tinariwen never disappoints; and Imidiwan is no different. It's an album that stays with you long after the final track fades out. A special feature of this release includes a half-hour documentary of candid Tinariwen moments playing guitar, singing and traveling through the desert. For those unfortunate to have never experienced Tinariwen live, I have included a link to my concert review here to satiate your appetite: www.insideworldmusic.com/library/blconcertdec07.htm. English subtitles are utilized, though sparingly, since this documentary is predominantly and observational examination of the music. Anyone familiar with the videography of Sublime Frequencies releases can attest to the very similarly observational, non-narrative nature of their musical documentaries. The liner notes are in Tamasheq and English to aid in following along, as Tamasheq language resources are relatively non-existent outside communities of indigenous speakers. As with Aman Iman, Imidiwan is also available on vinyl, but for an extremely limited pressing of 350. Come join Tinariwen as 'companions' on their musical journey across the globe. ~ Matthew Forss
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
The 70th Anniversary Album 1939-2009 [4 CD BOX SET]
Orquesta Aragon's humble beginnings began when Rufino Roque (piano), Rene Gonzalvez (violin), Filiberto Depestre (violin), Paulito Romay (vocals), Noelie Molejon (guiro), Efrain Loyola (flute), Orestes Varona (timbales) and Orestes Aragon (double bass) came together in Cuba in 1939. The result has been an extraordinary musical journey to the soul of Cuba's musical spirit. Clearly a band for the world, Orquesta Aragon has been enchanting crowds throughout Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the USA. The four cds in this attractive long box set include hours of classic, Cuban music that made Orquesta Aragon so popular with listeners and dancers alike. In addition, a 24-page booklet tracks the band's beginnings and line-up changes throughout the years. Perhaps fans of the Buena Vista Social Club should make Orquesta Aragon a part of their listening repertoire. Of course, traditional Cuban music fans probably already own music by Orquesta Aragon, but this set should be on the top of everyone's list. Enjoy the summer with the sounds of Orquesta Aragon! ~ Matthew Forss
By The Embers (Assogattis)
Northern Sweden's Sofia Jannok presents us with an introspective look at the contemporary Sami culture. The sungs are sung in Sami and incorporate elements of yoik, which is akin to Native American chanting. Sofia's voice is accompanied by drums, guitar, piano, bass, trombone, trumpet, violin, viola, and cello. The region's close affinity with nature is mentioned in many of the songs. For those familiar with contemporary Nordic music, Sofia's songs are more structured than Gjallarhorn (Finland), less aggressive than Garmarna (Sweden), and more melodic than Angelit (Finland). This is purely a modern release that transcends age and culture. The music never delves into boring repetition, dance-beats, or other impediments found in too many world music releases. By The Embers is a heart-warming introduction to contemporary Sami music for the casual to advanced world music traveler. The liner notes include English and Sami song translations. ~ Matthew Forss
Ireland's folksy crooner, Lisa Hannigan, brings us a set of simple and sweet songs to chew on. With some diverse song titles ranging from "Venn Diagram", "Splishy Splashy", and "Pistachio", she offers a glimpse into her avant-garde, musical repertoire. Lisa's voice is similar in tone and range to Heide Talbot (Ireland) and Karine Polwart (Scotland). The instruments used include harmonium, guitar, drums, xylophone, bass, trumpet, glockenspiel, violin, cello, and organ. Lisa's voice is also indicative of former-trip hop singer, Lamb. I think a vocal comparison with a combined talents of Beth Orton (UK) and Leigh Nash (USA) of Six Pence None The Richer fame, represent a not too far-fetched comparison. Moreover, Sea Sew contains a touch of downtempo, a handful of folk, and a hint of avant-garde. Put simply, an amalgation of styles is packed into one album. However, the primary musical vein of Sea Sew is best described as folk, and it never feels inorganic or forced. In short, Sea Sew is anything but so-so. ~ Matthew Forss
A multi-instrumental and multi-talented group of musicians collate into the band known as Tea. The band's repertoire is composed of member's from Benin, Cameroon, Senegal, Congo, Nigeria (by way of a Fela Kuti connection), France, and the US. The songs are contemporary musings reflective of a world traveler. A jazzy ambiance permeates a few of the tracks. Others incorporate a more downtempo or trance-like musical foundation. Many of the songs could easily fill a soundtrack to a major motion picture released in
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Rim Banna, a Palestinian singer from Nazareth, presents poignant and humorous children's songs on April Blossoms. Rim's voice is aided with bass guitar, acoustic guitar, drums, keyboards, bansuri flute, duduk, and oud. All the songs are sung in Arabic. However, song translations are provided from Arabic to English in the liner notes. The songs are so enjoyable that you need not be a child to appreciate it's musical intricacies. Overall, the melodies and vocalizations are reminiscent of North African singers, in particular, Mauritania's Malouma. A children's choir accents some of the songs. Perhaps, the Arabic songs take on a life of their own and instill in the listener a deep level of appreciation. Also, Russian and Turkic elements appear from time to time throughout the album. This is an ideal collection of songs to listen to while relaxing, or spending time with family. April Blossoms is as sweet as it sounds, and it gets sweeter with every listen. ~ Matthew Forss
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The Cape Verde islands not only evoke images of swaying palm trees, but they are also home to the swaying hips of charismatic songstress, Maria de Barros. Steeped in the Criolu music traditions of Cape Verde, Morabeza is a welcome addition to the plethora of recent global releases of music from this region. In fact, Morabeza means 'hospitality' in Creole. Essentially, it is a reflection of the close-knit communities and spirit of Cape Verde. The music draws upon African, Latin, Caribbean, and European elements. The far-reaching music could be due to Maria's eclectic background being born in Senegal to Cape Verde parents, living in Nouakchott, Mauritania, and various places in the U.S.A.. Thanks to Maria's beautiful and sincere voice, Morabeza is sure to energize any party or occasion. ~ Matthew Forss
Monday, May 18, 2009
No Life Without Roots
The People's Poets are three MCs from Edmonton, Canada who rap about a variety of political and social issues. All of them come from refugee roots in either Chile or El Salvador, and their experiences have greatly influenced their writing. No Life Without Roots is the band's first CD release and features a number of songs known to local audiences from their many performances at rallies, festivals, and activist events. In both English and Spanish, the guys present very direct messages against capitalism, war, violence against women, and other thought-provoking themes. Musically, People's Poets style is straight-ahead hip-hop with some Latin American influences. This new release is already helping the band get a much-deserved audience beyond Edmonton.
~ Paula E. Kirman
Vieux Farka Touré
Vieux Farka Touré hails from Mali and is the son of the late Ali Farka Touré, one of that country's most accomplished and famous musicians. His debut album, Touré's music is very guitar-driven and full of the rhythm and intonation characteristic of music from Mali. Originally released to worldwide distribution in 2007, the album is still doing well critically and gaining Touré fans. His guitar playing in particular is fast and captivating. Vieux Farka Touré is carrying on a musical legacy.
~ Paula E. Kirman
Aman Iman (Water is Life)
Tinariwen ("empty places" in the Tamashek language) is an African guitar band that has gained a worldwide audience thanks to its participation in the Festival in the Desert concerts in Mali. Formed in 1982 of Tuareg people, it is believed Tinariwen is the first band from this part of the world to use electric guitars. And use them indeed - combined with basic percussion and vocal arrangements of lyrics that mostly deal with freedom and independence from the Mali government, the music is rhythmic and highly addictive. Singing mostly in Tamashek and French, there is very much a rock element here on Aman Iman that makes Tinariwen's music accessible even to Western listeners.
~ Paula E. Kirman
Saints and Sinners
This latest offering from American Irish-punk-folk band Young Dubliners will not disappoint. The music is energetic and full of both contemporary and traditional Irish influences. Manyof the songs are mid-tempo and a bit more restrained than on the band's previous album With All Due Respect. Still, Young Dubliners manage to maintain the momentum throughout these songs about love, loss, workers, and life in general. Fans of Waterboys, The Pogues, and early U2 should give Young Dubliners a listen.
~ Paula E. Kirman
Slumdog Millionaire (Music from the Motion Picture)
The film Slumdog Millionaire has taken the world by storm, and now legions of people are dancing to the groove of "Jai Ho," that final piece where the entire cast bust a move, Bollywood-style. Composer A. R. Rahman brings together traditional and contemporary Indian music to bring atmosphere to a movie featuring different times and circumstances, flashing between the past and present. Another highlight is the beautiful "Dreams on Fire," which is essentially "Latika's Theme" with lyrics. If you liked the movie, you'll love to revisit your memories by listening to the soundtrack.
~ Paula E. Kirman
Minnesota-based "rock and reel" band Boiled in Lead is back with a much-anticipated album. Silver features the rocking folk that has created a huge cult following for the band for over a quarter of a century. The album also marks the return of original lead singer Todd Menton. The fresh collection of songs is exactly what can be expected from Boiled in Lead: rocking guitar solos with acoustic accents, energetic instrumentals, highly Celtic influences, and lots of other different musical twists and turns. Silver is a must for any serious BiL fan.
~ Paula E. Kirman
Lhasa de Sela's self-titled album is a bit of a departure from her previous work. First of all, the album's lyrics are in English (as opposed to French or Spanish). There is also less of a Latin American vibe to the songs, instead replaced with a consistent jazz and blues theme. Her sultry voice soars throughout the album, which resonates with bass, percussion, and guitars. Lhasa is a rich soundscape demonstrating the progression of a singer/songwriter into other musical worlds.
~ Paula E. Kirman
A Gozar! (To Enjoy)
A Peruvian-native, Cecilia Noel creates an energetic salsa and soul music that warrants a new term, "salsoul", which Cecilia coined. An obvious nod to Cuban and Latin music rumba, jazz, funk, and African elements permeates her musical creations. Most of A Gozar! is sung in Spanish, though English lyrics make a few short appearances. This is a highly danceable album best enjoyed with your favorite dance partner. The lively percussion, brass band section, and vocals section, is salsa performed in a slighty more aggressive style than the more familiar light-hearted, romantic-styled salsa. It is easy to imagine Cecilia Noel dancing around while singing these infectious tracks. The liner notes do not contain song lyrics, but song personnel are included. If you want to heat up your day, play a little A Gozar! and dance the night (and day) away. ~ Matthew Forss
Tres Tres Fort
The band's name is taken from "Benda Bilili" which means "look beyond appearances". Interestingly, the band is comprised of paraplegic street musicians from Congo. They hail from a land of diverse languages, including Kikongo, French, Portuguese, Lingala, and Kituba. Tres Tres Fort shares their musical talents on guitar, bass, vocals, and a unique one-string lute called a satongue. Eight musicians in all comprise Staff Benda Bilili. The instrumental parts are fairly simple, yet engaging. The simplicity is far from banal, as many of the tunes incorporate the rumba and funk rhythms of Latin America or breezy melodies from the Madagascar coast. In fact, you will hear a hint of Orchestra Baobab and the Bedouin Jerry Can Band. The acoustic rhythm is top-notch and the vocals are sincere. Overall, Tres Tres Fort is a pleasant listening experience free from any handicap whatsoever. ~ Matthew Forss
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Singer/songwriter, Katie Melua, grew up in the present-day country of Georgia in eastern Europe. After a short stint in Northern Ireland and current relocation in the U.K., Katie began her musical career. Pictures is a simple guitar/bass/drum-driven musical experience that shares the sounds of Western pop/folk rhythms. All the songs are sung in English and Katie's voice should have no problem drawing in youth listeners. The music is not electronica in nature. It is authentic, organic and sweetly-soulful. However, adults will be equally content with Katie's musical exploits. There is a classic, bluesy feel to some of the moments on the album. In general, it is easy to imagine the lyrical wordplay in filmic 'pictures'. Though, Pictures is about living life in motion, and struggling with snap-shots of history's memory lane. Regardless of the reason, Pictures is an album worth a listen. ~ Matthew Forss
Portugal's Lura was born to Cape Verdean parents, which allowed her to study and incorporate Cape Verdean music and rhythms into her compositions for her last few recordings, including the most recent one, Eclipse. The most globally-recognizable musician to come out of Cape Verde would have to be Cesaria Evora. Though an increasing number of musicians from the islands are garnering international attention, including Lura. Lura's emotive and sultry vocals match the gritty, earthy, and jazzy rhythms of the piano, strings, guitar, and percussion. Even though Cape Verde resides offshore of Western Africa, the primary musical influences tend to incorporate Latin or Caribbean tones. Though, Lura includes the indigenous styles of Cape Verde, including morna, funana, batuque, with a little fado thrown in. Is Eclipse the album that marks the pinnacle of Lura's musical career? It is doubtful, as each album seems to contain something new with each listen. Liner notes in Cape Verdean Creole. ~ Matthew Forss
Fadista, Katia Guerreiro, was born in South Africa, moved to the Azores as a child, and studied medicine in Lisbon, Portugal. The latter move would ultimately allow Katia to embrace her fado beginnings. The appropriately titled album, Fado, is an excellent introspective examination of fado song structure and delivery. Yet, most listeners associate the late-Amalia Rodrigues, or the currently popular, Mariza, with fado stardom, Katia is equally deserving of such attention and fame. Every song is heartfelt and passionately performed. This is one of the lasting impressions of fado music. The rich tradition of fado follows the content of a mournful nature, often about love, or poor living. At any rate, Katia's beautiful voice is a heavenly addition to the fado world. The lyrics are provided in Portuguese. ~ Matthew Forss
The French-infused rhythms and vocals of guitarist Davy Sicard carries on the tradition of contemporary music from Reunion--a small island east of Madagascar. A region of rarely heard music on a global scale, Davy's music is similar in rhythm to Mauritanian/French vocalist/guitarist, Daby Toure. Kabar is a laid-back, "lounge blues" of sorts, with melodic vocal calisthenics and pleasant guitar stylings. Davy not only utilizes the French language, but also a Creole variant spoken throughout much of the island. Some of the songs are more energetic than others, but all create a sense of emotional depth and musical richness. The breezy guitar tunings and sparkling addition of a plucked thumb piano on one track showcase some of the musical diversity on the island. Overall, the bluesy-pop tunes of Kabar should entice listeners all over the world. Liner notes include song lyrics and titles in Creole French. ~ Matthew Forss
The funky, electronic beats and ethnic infusions of U-cef's Moroccan homeland creates a truly modern form of musical expression. Ten tracks and dozens of musicians from the UK, Morocco, France, Egypt, and Tunisia accompany and comprise the album's musical backbone. The innovative electronic beats and vocals by Natacha Atlas (Egypt), Rachid Taha (Algeria), and others, create something engaging and classic. There is a fine balance between rai, rap, spoken-word, electronica, gnawa, and Arabic trance music throughout all of the tracks. Halalwood is bound to draw in younger crowds, because of its close association with Western beats and arrangments. It's easy to use the term 'fusion' for U-cef's music. In essence, U-cef's vision for the music is very clearly and intelligently defined. Halalwood not only contains sporadic female vocals, hip beats, and male vocals, but it also embraces a new musical and cultural movement, as Hollywood and Bollywood have done before. This is contemporary Moroccan music for the world to enjoy! ~ Matthew Forss
Tibet's Soname brings her magical voice to her most recent recording, Plateau. The vocals shine high as the instrumentation nicely accompanies the entire production. In fact, you will hear the tabla, drums, guitars, keyboards, Celtic harp, flute, sarangi, strings, and a few other instruments. The album's style is comparable to recordings by the Real World label. Additionally, the liner notes are provided in English, French, and German. In regards to similar music, Soname's vocal and instrumental stylings resemble Mexico's Tonana, Uzbekistan's Sevara Nazarkhan, and Tibet's Yungchen Lhamo. The wide-reaching versatility of her music is evidenced by the fact of the abovementioned musicians. Though primarily of Central/South Asian origins, Soname mixes subtle infusions of Indian tabla drumming with short, bursts of flute and (other)worldly vocals. In short, Soname's Plateau rises high above the competition. ~ Matthew Forss
The border between Mauritania and Senegal is rich in history, music, and traditions. It is also home to Boolumbal band leader, singer, and guitarist, Malick Dia. Malick teamed up with French musician and producer of blues music in Paris, and in the process, created a stunning album of Senegal River blues. To be more exact, Fuuta Blues contains earthy tunes and vocals in the Pulaar language. Musically, there are resemblances to Guinea-Bissau's Bidinte, Mauritania's Daby Toure, Senegal's Vieux Diop, and Mali's most recognizable export--the late-Ali Farka Toure. There is a nice mix of traditional instruments, including the ngoni, kora, balafon, Peul flute, djembe, and shakers. The more modern strings, piano, and guitar are not as prevalent. Fuuta Blues is an album unique to Mauritania and the Francophone musical genre. It is steeped in traditional instrumentation and simple, catchy vocals. Liner notes are in English and French. Take a trip down the Senegal River with Boolumbal. ~ Matthew Forss
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Sacred Music of India
Silk Road Communications
This recording is a collection of live performances recorded during the Global Event of the World Festival of Sacred Music in Bangalore, India from April 9-16, 2000. The event was organized by Tibet House, Cultural Center of H.H. the Dalai Lama. In fact, a short foreword and speech by H.H. the Dalai Lama is included in the liner notes. Unfortunately, the speech is not on the CD. Yet, nearly 50 pages of text accompanies the CD in an attractively-illustrated, hardbound package. 12 tracks feature contemporary and traditional instrumental and vocal music from Sri Lanka in the South to Tibet in the North. The usual instrumentation of Indian music is present, including, tabla, tala, harmonium, sarangi, dholak, ektara, flute, and more. All liner notes are in English. The vocals are superb and very lively at various points. If you want to experience a live recording of the best sacred music from india, then sit back and enjoy the engaging melodies traditional Indian music. ~ Matthew Forss
Silk Road Communications
For anyone looking for meditative or contemplative raga music, then stop no further. Shivoham is the name for Aparna Panshikar (vocals), Bhargav Mistry (sarod), and Debashish Upadhyay (keyboards). This album celebrates Shankara -- one of the great mystical poets and philosophers in India's history. There are 6 long tracks that feature sparkling and tinny sounds of the sarod, with the added beats of tabla, too. Aparna's glorious vocals add a nice touch to the music. Her voice fits quite naturally with the instrumentation and overall tempo. Shankara's 6 core beliefs of a worldview are included in the liner note book. In fact, there are nearly 50 pages of text, photos, and illustrations throughout the book. The liner notes contain song lyrics in Romanized Sanskrit and English, with commentary in English. Shankara is steeped in centuries-old tradition, but is nevertheless, a very original and contemporary album. If you want to relax, then you've come to the right place. ~ Matthew Forss