A World Music Magazine

world music The latest prog-folk outing of the Occitanian/French collective Artús is titled 'Ors,' named after the great bear of the forests and mountains of the Pyrenees. What the band has fashioned is a thematic song-cycle, equal parts philosophical and spiritual. The essential theme of 'Ors' is humankind's struggle with the brute beast within, and our coming to terms with our species' savage tendencies. Artús delves deep into the rift between nature and civilization. Read Lee Blackstone's review and listen to the music.


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world music

The self-titled recording by Turkish musician Görkem Saoulis is akin to taking a trip back in time. However, as the author L.P. Hartley famously stated, “The past is a foreign country.” Saoulis' skill as a vocalist and a player of kanun (a zither found in the Middle East and Mediterranean countries) is the main attraction. In addition to Turkish songs, the album features Azeri (Azerbaijani) and Greek selections as well. Crucially, Görkem Saoulis and the Greek musician Yannis Saoulis (who has arranged this repertoire) seek to infuse the music with influences from both sides of the Aegean Sea. The album thus feels familiar, in its evocation of the past, but in a contemporary twist the music conveys the desire to make clear the indebtedness of dialogue between countries and peoples. The result is that Görkem sounds as if Turkish music has been combined with the Greek rebetika tradition.


Görkem is our Music of the Month selection for September. Subscribe monthly, or buy just this CD and support RootsWorld while you get some great music..


world music As folk revivals are begun, maintained, and develop, their musical practitioners become mentors and inspiration for a new generation. The new project of Saber Système carries the torch for Occitan music, and the band is a fascinating outgrowth of the investment that members of the stunning Occitanian group Gai Saber have made in their communities. Gai Saber have formed the Associazione Culturale Gai Saber, which has made cultural outreach efforts in the Piedmont territory of Italy. The Piedmont is close to France, and it also borders Switzerland; the ancient Oc language is spoken in the valleys. The language was used by the medieval troubadours, and today the Associazione is part of the effort to keep the language current in poetry, music, and literature.

One program run by the Associazione Culturale Gai Saber took place in the school system, where one class connected the medieval troubadours to modern poetry. When the course was offered in the northern Piedmont town of Cuneo, a group of young students (around 16 years old) began to work on musical compositions under the tutelage of Gai Saber. These experiments led to a group, Saber Système ('Knowledge System'), which has its own distinct identity on its first release, Nuevo Mundo. Listen to the music and read Lee Blackstone's review


world music It is my impression that Portuguese folk music stands apart from the mainstream of Southern European and Iberian musics. While much of the region is linked by proximity to the Mediterannean, Portugal looks out into the Atlantic, and like Britain has developed links overseas rather than to the continent.     Portugal, like Galicia, has encouraged and nurtured many strong female vocalists. Two recent recordings from Portugal showcase the bright and tuneful melodies of Celina da Piedade, the singer from Alentejo, south of Lisbon, and versatile Sara Vidal of Diabo a Sete. Both discs come out of the Sons Vadios cultural cooperative, a leading Portuguese folk producer and distributor…." David Cox shares two very different recordings from Portugal that both find interesting new takes on the tradition.


world music In the hands of skilled interpreters, Sephardic music has a way of transporting not the listener to the past but the past to the listener. Mara Aranda is one such interpreter. Sefarad en el corazón de Marruecos is her latest excursion into romances of the Sephardim, and finds the Valencia-born singer deepening her love of this repertoire, focusing on the Jewish diaspora in northern Africa by way of Spain. Understanding the complex history of these itinerant exchanges and motivic blending is reason enough to own a physical copy of this album, the booklet of which contains an extensive essay by medieval historian José Hinojosa Montalvo, and informative writings by others… Suffice it to say that the mythos of Sephardic song, drawing from multiple sources as it did, is alive and well in the artful arrangements of Aranda and her ensemble. Fans of Greek singer Savina Yannatou will have no trouble in connecting the dots here, as songs of matrimony, determined women, and mortality reveal as many color combinations as there are words to describe them. Read Tyran Grillo's full review, listen to a full track and some extracts, and see a video performance.


world music If you've always hankered to while away an afternoon drinking tej and listening to Azmari music in a real live Ethiopian tej bet, but couldn't afford that flight to Addis Ababa, then have I got the band for you. Fendika is a musical collective based in Addis dedicated to exploring the Azmari repertoire - an acoustic tradition usually centered on a vocalist accompanied by the krar lute or the one-stringed masenko fiddle, and various percussion. They are back with their fourth full-length album, Birabiro, and a deep dive into Azmari tradition… Read Tom Pryor's review, listen to the music, and see a video of a live performance.


Birabiro was our Music of the Month selection for August. Subscribe monthly, or buy just this CD and support RootsWorld while you get some great music..


world music There is something about the kinship between West African and European string traditions, and the blend of kora, Mande lute (jeli n'goni), guitar, cello, string bass and piano has produced some enthralling results. Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder's Talking Timbuktu comes quickly to mind, which in turn informed the “Mali to Memphis” trope framing the transatlantic… Mande Kulu is the third release of the Malian-Swiss combo Kala Jula, teaming Bamako griot Samba Diabaté (guitar, jeli n'goni or Mande lute) and Vincent Zanetti (djembé, guitar, zena lute), backed by Jacky Molard (violin, alto, post-production) and Hélène Labarrière (contrabass). Diabaté and Zanetti have a hand in all the compositions, laid down in a Brittany studio… Deeply rooted in Manding tradition yet entirely contemporary, the work flows effortlessly from start to finish… Read Michael Stone's full review and hear some of the music.


world music Bruce Miller takes us back a few decades to hear Pop Makossa: The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976-1984. He writes that this album will bring attention back to a number of lesser known but important figures who first helped put Makossa on the map. The term itself translates from the Cameroonian Ko to “fall” and “dance,” and an immersion in the sounds collected here show just why this term stuck. Makossa is often a slick, disco-related dance form that is no less substantial for those traits. It may suffer from period production here and there, but this collection presents it as relentless club music. Nobody sat still to this stuff. Read the full review and listen to some tracks.


world music The London-based Teyr take their name from the Cornish language for 'three.' The band -- James Gavin (guitar, violin), Dominic Henderson (uilleann pipes, whistles), and Tommie Black-Roff (accordion) have been seasoned through extensive session playing. Teyr make no bones about their influences, which include the Basque traditions, as well as those from Cornwall, England, Ireland, and Scotland. No doubt there are more tributaries flowing in and out amongst the trio, whose symbol is that of a flying (sycamore) seed, represented beautifully on the cover of the CD by Cornwall artist Billy Wynter. Indeed, there is an artistic bent to Teyr's sound, and a solid, earthy, straightforward-getting-the-business-done that elevates the trio's intricate arrangements throughout their self-released album Far From The Tree. Read Lee Blackstone's review and listen to some of their music.


world music The emergence of the kamale n'goni in the 1960s allowed Malians who weren't involved in hunter's ceremonies, where musicians played the more rigid, deeper-toned donson n'goni, a larger degree of freedom. The late Vieux Kante is one such master of the smaller harp. But just to Mali's east, in Western Burkina Faso, that same mid-twentieth century invention- an instrument that, despite being termed an n'goni, resembles the kora- had a similar effect on Jelis, Burkina's griot caste. Massa Dembele makes his debut as another kamala n'goni innovator with the release of Mezana Dounia. Dembele has written every track on this LP, which was recorded in a makeshift Ougadougou studio. On tunes unhurriedly plucked, Dembele sends cascades of notes pouring from his harp as he pontificates on notions of the modern world overtaking the traditional…Read Bruce Miller's review, listen to some of the music and see a short film.


world music There is little awareness in the West of the presence of important Christian communities in the Arab world. If today there is a bit more, this is due to the very embattled position of Christian minorities in Iraq, Syria and, to a lesser degree, Egypt. The horrific violence of the present has given added momentum the notion that Muslims harbor an inherent hostility to Christians, and that what we witness today is simply the latest in a series of acts of hostility and violence of Muslims against Christians that goes back centuries. This story, of course, does not square with the fact that Christianity has persisted in the region of its birth, and that Christians have thrived and co-existed with Muslims here since the rise of Islam in the 7th century.

Erik Hillestad of the Norwegian record label KKV, in an attempt to highlight the diversity of religious faiths in the Arab world, traveled to Lebanon and made a series of recordings of Christian and Muslim vocalists, including Syrian and Iraqi refugees now living in Lebanon, as well as Lebanese nationals. The singers represent a broad range of religious traditions, all with deep roots in this region, known in Arabic as Bilad al-Sham (in English, the Levant, encompassing Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan)...Read Ted Swedenburg's full review of Syrian Prayers: Sacred Music from Bilad Al Sham, listen to some examples from the recording and see a short documentary by Erik Hillestad about the project.


world music Over the past 14 years, it's been fascinating to trace Sublime Frequencies' growth. This was a label that cranked up just prior to YouTube and blog downloads of entire albums, the latter of which, let's face it, played some role in killing CD sales. And it was the CD format, housed in shitty jewel cases and crammed with photos and almost no information, in which this label initially trucked… The label has become less allergic to liner note background, and with the release of The Photographs of Charles Duvelle, has embraced and celebrated the extensive musicological wonders of this photographer, who turns 80 this year. This is likely the most majestic entry in the label's now-exhaustive catalogue, a 296-page book devoted to many of Duvelle's photos from the five regions covered here: West and Central Africa, The South Pacific, South East Asia, and the Indian Ocean, plus track-by-track information detailing the music on the two accompanying CDs… Bruce Miller shares his thoughts on the images, the music, and the evolution of a small record label.


world music Kullakarva - Shimmer Gold is album number two from the Estonian trio Trad.Attack! It finds them in fine form; confident, assured, and playing to their gift for performing great tunes. As before, Estonian bagpiper Sandra Vabarna blows up a storm (she is also featured on whistles, Jew's harp, and vocals); Jalmar Vabarna (12-string guitar, vocals) provides driving rhythms and sensitive accompaniment; and Tõnu Tubli (drums, vocals, glockenspiel, and zither) is loose and funky… The band's formula seems established: the group roots out traditional tunes, and many of the tracks incorporate a field recording. I enjoy this approach; many 'revival' bands obviously draw on older source materials, but literally embedding the singing of an elder folksinger into one's music provides an interesting connection to the past. Trad.Attack! are clearly in thrall to Estonia's folk music. Songs are based on folk melodies; the melodic line is lifted, or otherwise reconstructed and fleshed out to meet the band's aesthetic… Read Lee Blackstone's review, listen to a full song and some excerpts, and see a live acoustic performance.


world music David Cox veers us off in a completely different direction to celebrate the return of the Cagliari, Sardinia-based roots-rap-reggae outfit, Dr. Drer & CRC Posse. Led by Michele Atzori (Dr. Drer) the band has been active at least since 1991; they've collaborated with members of Massilia Sound System and Assalti Frontali (two of their best-known counterparts in Marseille and Rome respectively) and have released five previous discs. Atzori as main vocalist is again backed up by the strong vocals of Giorgia Loi, rappers Mauro Mou and Giuanni Siccardi on Cabudanni. This is a mature recording of a veteran band that knows what direction it is going. In this case it has added electronica to its rich blend of rap, reggae and traditional Sardinian sounds. The eleven tracks are rich and varied and are sung primarily in Sardinian...Read David's full review and listen to a few tracks.


world music The Bow Project is no so much a bridge between worlds as a path through them. Its lifeblood is the legacy of Nofinishi Dywili, whose Xhosa musical bow playing is reimagined through the modern lenses. This South African style of bow playing typically serves as accompaniment to sacred and secular songs - and sometimes both, as in the so-called “beer songs,” in which performers and listeners alike commune with ancestors over communal drink. The composers featured on this two-disc set were asked to redraw the borders of music originally intended for solo performers.... Fans of the Kronos Quartet's Pieces of Africa wanting something in a similar vein will have cause to rejoice in Michael Blake's "String Quartet No. 3 (Nofinishi)." Dedicated to composer Kevin Volans and based on Nofinishi's personal favorite, “Inxembula,” it's an organic introduction to a kaleidoscopic effect of traditions. Yet where the Kronos program feels polished and concert-ready, in the hands of Denmark's Nightingale String Quartet the listener finds an earthier sound... Tyran Grillo takes you on a journey from rural South African to modern classical haunts.


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World Music of the Month

Wimme Saari is known as one of the world's foremost joikers, the form of musical expression found amongst the Sami people. Tapani Rinne has been the leader of RinneRadio, Finland's electro-jazz experimentalists who have often placed their musical expressions alongside those of folk music. Together, Saari and Rinne have released several albums of essential contemporary joik music. Wimme Saari joiks about nature and its elements; animals; places; and concepts. Saari's vocalizations have been captured solo, and he has also produced by Tapani Rinne, who has set the joiks into deep ambient textures and thudding techno-tribal workouts. Whenever these two musicians join together, there is mystery and joy to be explored... Human, their latest collaboration is a spare, uncluttered release... a work of calm beauty, affirmation, and a holistic worldview, from the top of the world. Listen to some tracks and read Lee Blackstone's full review.



world music Alternately driving and lilting, the maloya music of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion is likewise deeply traditional while reserving the right to be thoroughly contemporary where topical matters are concerned. Danyèl Waro has been maloya's leading musical ambassador for decades . He came up hardscrabble, tending fields from early childhood, living without much in the way of simple pleasures and feeling the wrath of the authorities because of offenses that included refusing military service. Waro took naturally to maloya's configuration of percussion and vocals only… Homegrown instruments and influences from mainland Africa, Madagascar and India give the percussion its foundation. The voices, led by Waro's often startling wail and shadowed by ghostly response passages, sing of poverty, spiritual syncretism and such blessings as a good mother. Listen to some tracks and read Tom Orr's full review of Monmon.


world music Brooklyn-based, Ghanaian-born Blitz the Ambassador, aka Samuel Bazawule, takes listeners to school with his particular brand of pan-African hip hop, simultaneously directing attention to key political moments and injustices, and throwing a contagious sonic dance party. His latest release, Diasporadical, is a work of prolific collaboration with artists from several metropolitan areas of the African diaspora: Blitz has sought out the younger generation of jazz musicians in New York (Igmar Thomas, Asante Amin, Christian Mendoza), producers (Optiks), and MCs hailing from his native country (M.anifest), South Africa (Tumi), Germany (Patrice), Brazil (Kamau), and even New Haven, Connecticut (Akua Naru). The unique perspectives of each performer at once shine through and contribute to the complex whole, a singular vision of Black energy and excellence. Read Dylan McDonnell's full review, listen to some tracks, and see the short film, "Diasporadical Trilogía."


world music It is not often one gets to hear samples and syntheses of musics of those residing immediately below the North Pole, especially at many different longitudes. Yggdrasil (named for the Norse tree of life) allows us that opportunity, drawing on the soundscapes and mythologies of the “circum-Arctic” region, specifically the Faroe Islands, Siberia, northwestern Canada, and the Aleutian Islands. The cinematic compositions and arrangements of Faroese multi-instrumentalist Kristian Blak and Russian singer Vera Kondrateva temper the older traditional materials with clarity and sublime sensitivity on Lipet Ei (Seven Brothers). Kondrateva sings primarily in Khanty, a language spoken mostly in western Siberia, surrounded by up to five other musicians at once, spanning string, wind, and percussion textures indigenous to these Arctic communities. Staying true to the liner notes, Yggdrasil remains “in a state of cosmic equilibrium, constantly threatened and devoured as it grows and flourishes.” Dylan McDonnell will explain it all in his review of Yggdrasil's latest recording. Listen to some of the music and see a live performance.



world music Kazut De Tyr's second album, Jojuna, takes Breton music on a journey through Central Europe and into the Middle East. The core trio of Kazut De Tyr is comprised of Gaby Kerdoncuff (trumpet, bombardes), Jean Le Floc'h (accordion), and Yves-Marie Berthou (percussion). On Jorjuna, they are joined by Maëlle Vallet (qânûn, a stringed instrument similar to the zither), Kani Kamar (voice; from Kurdistan), Éric Menneteau (Breton singing), and Lionel Mauguen (saz). The resulting mix is fascinating, and the group offers a deep revision to Fest Noz that reimagines Breton dance music with both global sounds and art-music influences. Lee Blackstone finds the effects of the fusion between Breton music and the Middle East are often subtle, and exciting.


world music Jedid, the title of the latest project by Iraqi musician Osama Abdulrasol and his quintet, might refer to an Arabic/Urdu word meaning “modern” or “new,” an apt label for a body of composition that seeks to bridge languages and musical styles with common themes in fairly refreshing ways. Abdulrasol, a master of the 'ud and the qanun (Arabic lap harp), extemporizes on romantic and spiritual love: the vocals, by Dutch singer Helena Schoeters, draw on the work of famous poets and original lyrics. The others in the quintet (Philippe Thuriot, accordion; Lode Vercampt, cello; François Taillefer, percussion) alternately support and embrace the melodies of each track. A key point of interest for this project is that the lineup is international (French/Belgian/Iraqi/Dutch) and the languages of the lyrics reflect that, yet there is almost no Arabic sung on the album despite the project's frame. However, the linguistic and purely musical elements commingle effectively due to common expressive goals. Join Dylan McDonnell in exploring the boundaries and crossing the borders.


world music The plan was to hold a music festival on the three nights leading up to the September 25th, 1974 world heavyweight boxing championship bout between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire, presenting some of the biggest American stars along with some of the biggest African stars in the same stadium as the fight just when reporters, photographers, celebrities and jet-setters from around the world were converging there for the ballyhooed Rumble in the Jungle. It didn't quite work out that way. Foreman was injured in a training spar, necessitating a five-week postponement of the main event, but it was too late to reschedule the festival. So the show went on, but without the desired international audience and news coverage... Zaire 74 The African Artists is the first proper CD release of some of the music heard in those three days, by artists including Miriam Makeba, Abeti Masikini, Orchestre Stukas, Tabu Ley Rochereau and Franco. The two CD set, packaged in a hardcover book, has its hits and its misses... Ken Braun takes us back to the festival in his review.


world music Zivo is Trio Tekke's third outing, The original trio are joined by a drummer to create what they call “Reggetika”: rooted in rebetiko, the urban Greek music that has been the voice of the people and of the underclass and outlaws, and often liked to a Byzantine blues. Trio Tekke uses rebetiko as a foundation, onto which other musical influences are added – American jazz, Latin music, reggae, and psychedelia all find themselves blended into the trio's original sound. Listen to some songs and samples from the recording and read Lee Blackstone's full review.


world music Bruce Miller introduces you to some more music from the road less traveled. Contemporary, but raw and gutsy, both Kukaya and The Tonga Boys are crucial additions to the conversation about the current state of music in Malawi. Kukaya features multi-generations of drummers and singers performing, among other items, the vimbuza, a healing dance ritual from the Tumbuka-Ngoni tribe of Northern Malawi. The Tonga Boys have added homemade instruments such as plastic buckets, ax, gravel-filled cans and wire-strung guitars to their one drum for music intensely raw, but incredibly precise. Lyrically, they mix tradition with rap-like cadences for a kind of urban DIY that shows perfectly what happens as the city environment pushes the new into the same cage as the old. Listen to some tracks and read Bruce's review.


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world music

Two albums of Irish music: one excellent label, and one superb musician in common. These are busy times in contemporary Irish music as, similarly across the globe, a wealth of new music is being created by musicians. Back in October 2010, The Irish Times speculated that we are in the midst of a Golden Age of Irish music, and it is hard to argue with the evidence.

Concertina player Jack Talty's In Flow is an example of straight-ahead, no frills musicianship. Talty hails from County Clare, and his album is full of nods to his locale.

Imbas is Ensemble Ériu's second album. The title is an Old Irish word describing creativity, inspiration, and prophetic knowledge. Talty is part of a larger group here, which features fiddle, clarinets, Pguitar, double bass, flute, marimba, and drums. Each of the tracks on Imbas has a pedigree, collected by musicians and researchers from around Ireland. In Ensemble Ériu's hands, the source material is transformed into works which sound as if they were composed by the minimalist school of John Adams, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass.   Read Lee Blackstone's full reviews and listen to some songs from both albums


world music The sounds of Mali are captured and celebrated on Vieux Farka Touré's latest release, Samba. Touré returns with a balanced collection of ten original compositions recorded in front of a small audience in Woodstock, NY. This setting draws the best out of the ensemble, giving the musicians a natural confidence that is transferred directly to the record. A variety of Malian blues, funk, gospel, and a slice of reggae fill the disc with enthusiasm and purpose. Alex Brown shares the music with you.


world music On Saturday, April 22nd at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, a fascinating aspect of contemporary Celtic music was on display for an extremely appreciative crowd. Boston is a central hub for all manner of Celtic music from Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Brittany, and Spain. But The Gloaming provided a very unique 'take' on this well loved music form. The show offered quite a bit more than the usual jigs and reels we all know so well. The Gloaming is a contemporary Irish music supergroup formed in Ireland in 2011, consisting of some of Ireland's finest musicians. With fiddlers Martin Hayes and Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh, guitarist Dennis Cahill, Irish singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, and pianist Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), The Gloaming has burst onto the music scene with a distinctive new sound.   Read David Smith's full concert review.


world music Zabad, l'écume des nuits (Zabad, Twilight Tide) is the third studio outing from the duo known as Sabîl. Oudist Ahmad Al Kathib (the project's composer and conceptual heart) and percussionist Youssef Hbeisch evoke unlimited landscapes by limited means, and here welcome the fresh continents of Elie Khoury on buzuq (a long-necked lute akin to the Greek bouzouki) and Hubert Dupont on double-bass. Although Ahmad plays in a distinctly Baghdadian style, fans of Tunisian oudist Anouar Brahem will be in good hands, as the music coaxes modern flora from traditional seeds… Read Tyran Grillo's full review, and listen to a full song and some excerpts from the album.

world music Zabad, l'écume des nuits (Zabad, Twilight Tide) is RootsWorld's Music of the Month selection for June, 2017. Find out how you can join MOTM and support RootsWorld's radio programs and magazine.
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world music Many people in sub-Saharan countries, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania among them, believe those suffering from a lack of skin pigmentation - or albinism - have magical properties. As a result, albinos are sold for tremendous sums and murdered for body parts… Those who manage to survive live in constant fear and deal with bullying and other misunderstandings from their neighbors… In Tanzania, the problems are so constant that many albinos have been abandoned on Ukerewe, Africa's largest inland island. And it's here that Ian Brennan - who has documented music made by survivors of the Khmer Rouge and the American war in Vietnam - made the boat journey in order to encourage these residents to write and sing their own stories, resulting in this new release by the Tanzania Albinism Collective, ironically titled White African Power... Read Bruce Miller's full review and listen to some of the recordings.


world music The hurdy-gurdy is already known for its unusual timbres, sometimes sounding something like a hybrid between a bagpipe and a fiddle. When it is turned into an electro-acoustic instrument in the hands of Valentin Clastrier, it flies into rather distant territory. Chorusing and other electronic manipulations bring the sound from a glorious psychedelic explosion one moment to a delicate obbligato for Steven Kamperman's superb reed work the next… Fabuloiseries is divided into five Fabulae, ranging between two and five tracks each, plus an introduction track. Although the tracks have suggestive titles, and definitely create strong moods, no program is offered, allowing the listener to create his own narrative while each of the fabulae unfolds… Listen to some examples of the series and read Erik Keilholtz' full review.


world music Songs in the Mist convenes eight Iranian vocalists and five instrumentalists (kamancheh, qanun, and upright bass, among other instruments) for a multifaceted celebration of song. It is an opportunity to experience the power of voices which, in their homeland, are forbidden to be heard solo. This makes the efforts of producers Erik Hillestad and Mahsa Vahdat even more significant for providing a stage on which these women might undo cultural shackles to let their individuality be known… The greatest value of Songs in the Mist, which by its variety of location and vocal delivery communicates an undeniable truth, is that these women are more than what they express, but are also what they impress... Read Tyran Grillo's complete review, and listen to some of the music from this new set of ancient songs.


world music Sounds From The Archipelago: An Introduction To The Lush Indonesian Tradition, Vols. 1 & 2 is a vinyl-only-with-accompanying-CD collection that certainly could be considered an “introduction,” that is unless one has already heard these exact recordings, in the exact order on a double LP set titled Music of Indonesia, recorded by Phil and Florence Walker, edited by Henry Cowell, and released on the Folkways label in 1961, something whoever is behind the Shiok! label doesn't bother mentioning. Even the photos on the back of each album are from the Folkways LP's liner booklet. What is known here is that the tracks come from Sumatra, the Moluccas Islands, Bali, Sulawesi, and Central Java. Of course, a single listen reveals how wonderful it is to have this music back in print, though it's frustrating that Shiok! couldn't have at least mentioned from where it had procured such copious musical bounty... Read Bruce Miller's review and find out about the original sources.


world music After making a name for herself on the Norwegian jazz circuit, singer Solveig Slettahjell returns with her most intimate project to date. For Poetisk Tale, she is joined by the Vertavo String Quartet, guitarist Eivind Aarset, percussionist Helge Norbakken, and keyboardist-arranger Kjetil Bjerkestrand, singing Øivind Varkøy's settings of contemporary poetry by Gunvor Hofmo, Jon Fosse, Arnfinn Haram, and Arnold Eidslott. Varkøy's binding agent is his addition of a tenth spiritual gift of “poetic speech” (poetisk tale) to the nine listed by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. The combination of these multiple facets yields something that feels like a memory even as it explores fresh connections between spiritual and creative living. Slettahjell sings from the heart, as if writing each melody spontaneously… Listen to a track and some samples, and read Tyran Grillo's review.


world music Depending on how massive a fan one is of ballad-leaning, western-influenced Cambodian pop, the story of this record's existence is likely to outshine the music. And it's a fascinating story. In the late 1970s, after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge had emptied out Phnom Penh, divvied up property, consigned folks to labor camps, imprisoned others in former school buildings, and ultimately wiped out some 1 to 3 million members of the country's population, an anti-communist rebel force, known as the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, appeared in resistance to Vietnamese forces now controlling parts of the country. They called a camp near the Thai border, known as Ampil, home base. And when they weren't fighting, they formed the Banteay Ampil Band and recorded propaganda songs that circulated without label support on cassette and vinyl… These have been reissued as Cambodian Liberation Songs...


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New sounds from Iberia

Valencian music has gained popularity in recent years and the Valencian folk band El Diluvi is making a name throughout the Catalan-speaking areas. El Diluvi fuses Mediterranean, Celtic, Balkan and Latin sounds on Ànima, the group's fourth release. Musically they cover the same territory made popular in the Basque Country by Gozategi, and sometimes reminiscent of Italy's La Lionetta. The seven-piece band featuring vocalist Flora Semprere, and vocalist/ violinist David Payà, began as a tribute to 80s singer Ovidi Montllor, also of Alcoi. On Motius, in 2014, the group began to develop its own signature style. And this advanced further in Alegria, with the social activism of songs such as the feminist anthem "I tu Sols tu." Here on Ànima we have eleven new tracks that explore the territory of love... Join David Cox in Valencia.

Europe has a whole host of bands oriented around pipe and wind instruments. A whole subset of this revivalist folk genre has morphed into the predictable mash-up of loud pipe mash-ups with heavy metal, as with Germany's In Extremo. Some pipe collectives play it more 'straight,' as with Germany's Corvus Corax, or Italy's Barbarian Pipe Band. Portugal has also seen modern band experimenting with pipes and ancient instruments the progressive folk bands Dazkarieh, and Mandrágora, come to mind. Albaluna are a rising band that one might be tempted to fit in with the neo-pagan ritualist music of Europe, but like the other Portuguese bands, more is going on in the band's music than one might expect. Nau Dos Corvos is full of head-on rollicking tunes with influences that range beyond the Celtic to Ottoman and Jewish music, as well. Read Lee Blackstone's review and listen to some of the music.


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A Trio of Nordic Trios

Lee Blackstone presents three different Nordic bands that practice different approaches to traditional and composed acoustic music. Väsen and Zephyr hail from Sweden and they are made up of veteran folk musicians, while Vrang is Norwegian and represents a younger generation. All are unique and wonderful artistic trios.

Väsen surely needs no introduction after twenty-eight years together; Brewed is the band's seventeenth album under the name. Olov Johansson is the virtuosic nyckelharpa player; Roger Tallroth anchors the group on guitar; and Mikael Marin sets dreams adrift on his viola. This time out, Väsen treat listeners to a collection of original tunes…

Zephyr is configured not of string instruments, but of flutes. Görån Mansson, Jonas Simonson (from Groupa), and Richard Ekre Suzzi utilize a variety of wind instruments from Sweden and afar, such as the bamboo Bansuri flute. An all-flute trio can certainly have an ethereal sound, as the band demonstrates, but Zephyr go well beyond such stereotyping and construct compositions that indulge in global influences in their October Ocean...

The Norwegian trio Vrang features Jon Hjellum Brodal, Tuva Faerden, and Maja Gravermoen Toresen on hardanger fiddles, fiddles, lyres, and the occasional mandolin. Their full-length debut, SæterSoul, is beautifully produced, with plenty of space and depth that let the low mellow tones of the hardanger fiddle grow and the sprightly lyres shine. Vrang are notable in that they combine a minimalist approach and a sly pop sensibility…

Read about these trios in Lee's reviews, and listen to a song from each.

Vrang's SæterSoul is RootsWorld's Music of the Month selection for May.


world music Well, I never thought I'd be writing a review that begins, "Kurt Cobain and his band, Nirvana," but there you go. These things happen. - CF

Kurt Cobain and his band, Nirvana were never known for complex songs or rich dynamics - their formula of quiet 4 and 5 note melodies rotating with loud passages of distortion and shouting created a comforting pattern that made them famous. Cobain once said that he really wanted to play in a Pixies cover band and Nirvana did pose as the crossover point for Seattle's grunge scene onto the Billboard charts of radio pop. So it will come as a bit of a surprise to hear that hidden beneath those simple, pop-rocks tunes lie some complicated musical relationships. It took artists completely removed from Seattle, completely devoid of guitars and totally devoted to dynamics to pick out the gem-like qualities of their songs.     Enter Aranis, a quintet from Belgium; players of strings, piano, accordion, flute and double bass. Smells Like Aranis tears those songs apart and reconstructs them as little works of art; sometimes pretty, sometimes weird, always intriguing… Listen to a few tracks from the album while you read the editor's review.


world music 27 years after her debut, Moussolou - an album straddling tradition and modernity that featured daring lyrics denouncing polygamy and instead calling for female empowerment, made her an instant star in Mali and elsewhere - Oumou Sangaré's sixth LP, Mogoya, continues that conversation. In some ways she hasn't changed at all. With grooves infectious enough to rattle a pop music skeptic, she sails over rhythms and melodies that, no matter how dressed up in European production sheen, never truly betray her Wassoulou-region roots. In the eight years since her last release, she's continued touring, running a hotel in Bamako, branding her name on rice as well as automobiles, and all the while demonstrating the power women have in place where female circumcision is still performed and education isn't necessarily a priority. She's working with a new label, and they produced her in way that certainly felt new to her. Sure, there are synths, distorted electric piano lines, and electric guitars that often snake in and out of the mix. There's also Tony Allen, whose unmistakable drums provide a foundation no sample could every equal. But she still hangs tightly to the kamele n'goni, the karignan, and the calabash, and it's these instruments that typically drive the tunes...     Bruce Miller delves into the complex crossing of boundaries in the music of Oumou Sangaré. Read and listen.


world music One of the most attractive elements of any recording is the expression of joy. Seydu's third disc, Sadaka (The Gift), has this quality in full measure. Seydu, born Anthony Zachariah Jalloh, emigrated 'illegally' from Sierra Leone to Spain, and records songs in Krio, English and Spanish. His world music rhythms have elements of maringa, but the sensibility is a general West African one rather than one limited to a particular country. The involvement of Joe Dworniak, an experienced bassist integrated into the Spanish/Latin music scene, and producer Hugo Westerdahl, who knows the music of the Saharan regions, means the music nicely blends a lot of these influences...    Read David Cox review and listen to some of the music.


world music As titled, Reflejos Migrantes (Migrant Reflections) can be read literally as referencing the tango quartet makeup led by Buenos Aires-born, Paris-based pianist-composer Gerardo Jerez Le Cam. But this is music infiltrated by a more profound figurative connotation, the transformation of Western European culture and demography following the Soviet Union's demise, and errant U.S. adventure in the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa since the 1990s. In any case, behold a thoroughly displaced tango 'orquesta típica,' pairing Jerez Le Cam's piano with Romanian violinist Iacob Maciuca and Belgian Manu Comté on bandoneon, and replacing the traditional double bass with the Moldavian cimbalom of Mihai Trestian. Tango's own stoic purview is drawn to social dislocation wherever it manifests. Here listeners find its existential misgivings freely associated with baroque, operatic, Eastern European gypsy and jazz inventions.     Read Michael Stone's full review, and see two videos the ensemble made to accompany the music.


world music While this disc is touted as the fourth by Ialma, the Galician pandeireta quartet of female voices and percussion, Camiño is a close collaboration between Ialma, the well-travelled and versatile diatonic accordionist Didier Laloy, and Quentin Dujardin, a sort of Belgian Pat Metheny. Both Dujardin and Laloy are prolific, and have performed in a number of formats and genres. This appears to be a new direction for both of these exceptionally seasoned, sensitive and gifted performers, and a nice addition to the sound Ialma has previously explored. On the thirteen tracks of Camiño, the two Belgians back the quartet, highlighting Galician vocal music with some beautiful four-part harmonies, in a joyful take on Galician tradition.     Listen to a full track and some excerpts from the album while you read David Cox' review.


world music The cool aesthetic of Bandakadabra is immediately evident by their matching black suits with white shirts and skinny black ties. Their music twists and turns from playful and suave to serious and methodical in an instant. Dubbed an “Urban Brass Band,” this ensemble from Torino, Italy sets their sights on all sorts of brass music, from ragtime and jazz to Balkan, rocksteady, and Latin on their rousing live recording, Entomology. A call to attention preludes “Skaravan,” which cranks ups the tempo with a delightful ska version of “Caravan” that jumps off the stage and gets the audience skanking. From there they head on to Goran Bregovic and more Duke Ellington, and dip into blues, jazz and classics from Brazil, Mexico and Cuba along the way.     Listen to a few tracks and read Alex Brown's review.


world music The Jerry Cans are a phenomenon in Iqaluit, capital of the Inuit territory of Nunavut, and across Inuit territory which stretches across the North of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Siberia… Musically the format of Inuusiq/Life is an upbeat Alt-Canuck blend of folk, pop and country, reminiscent of Willie P Bennett or Kashtin. The most interesting aspect of the five-piece group is their homage to Inuktitut, the traditional language of the Nunavut territory. Nine of 10 tracks are in Inuktitut, the last in English.     Read David Cox review and hear some of the music.


world music Finland is no stranger to cultural fusions. Russia, Sweden and Germany have all made their political incursions over the centuries, just about everyone has dropped by for a visit at one time or another. So it stands to reason that this linguistically isolated country would absorb a lot of music as it passes by… Band leader and vocalist Jaakko Laitinen, from the northern city of Rovaniemi in Lapland, and his band of horns, bouzouki, accordion, bass and percussion called Väärä Raha, let influences fly fast and loose on a series of original songs that bounce from wistful romance to dire insanity. You'll hear classic Balkan brass, the hyper-foxtrot of the Finnish huumpa, Russian balladry, and the rigid tango that has made summer nights in Finland famous.     Your editor chimes in on this one, and I've included a full track and some short excerpts.


world music "Danmarkar'n, The Man from Denmark, refers specifically to the village of Danmark in Uppland, Sweden. This waltz kicks off the debut record from Bragr, and trio of two Danes and a Swede. Many of the tunes on Danmarkar'n are traditional, but I'm enthralled by the non-traditional yet firmly rooted approach this trio takes," writes Greg Harness in his review of their new recording.


world music Les Amazones d'Afrique is an impressive collective of female musicians from West Africa who are working towards ending gender inequality. The group includes Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo, and Rokia Koné…. République Amazone will split listeners. On one hand, the adventurous contemporary approach utilizing samples and effects in a psychedelic, funky dub that is heavily influenced by the producer will appeal to those who are looking for something different. On the other hand, the production takes over the mix, which in turn often marginalizes the vocalists who are the stars of the project…" Alex Brown looks into the pros and cons.



world music

world music

New roots and welcome old routes

Seydou Diabaté, aka Kanazoé, unleashes his technique on the balafon with a talented ensemble on Kanazoé Orkestra's debut full-length release, Miriya. Born in Burkina Faso and now based in France, he and his band offer an impressive, mature record that maintains urgency throughout… Kanazoé provides some of the vocals and plays a variety of balafons. His group includes Zaky Diarra on lead vocals, Mamadou Dembélé on ngoni, flute, and vocals, Martin Etienne on saxophones, Stéphane Perruchet on percussion, Elvin Bironien on bass, and Laurent Planells on drums. Alex Brown's review finds a band that sets the bar high and delivers, with confidence and joy.


The late Tabu Ley Rochereau had a talent for picking great musicians. Just before Rochereau died in 2013, he asked his long-time sax player Modero Mekanisi to keep L'Orchestre Afrisa International going. The eventual result was Melanie, the band's first release in many years. While the unhurried but compelling grooves nostalgically echo west Africa's older, pre-soukous Congolese rumba dance styles, the uniformly meticulous playing is a treat for long-time fans. Marty Lipp shares the music of a band that carries on.


world music Charanga's Tributo'ó Ti Tobias is a peculiar kind of tribute album. Styled as a musical homage paid to an Uncle Tobias, a sort of older everyman, the album pays tribute to the long history of Portuguese folk music that has come before it. However, this isn't the pristine folk of ethnomusicologists or world music connoisseurs but the lively tradition of summer village parties with cheesy up-tempo beats and corny lyrics played by stocky mustachioed men and scantily-clad ladies. Charanga's use of such pimba music (essentially a Portuguese version of schlager) is as jarring as it is tender: their message is not political as such, but it does evoke a particularly inclusive concept of Portuguese folk music that encompasses a vast terrain of instruments and traditions, from bagpipes to synthesizers... Rosa Vieira de Almeida takes us into the strange world of Charanga.


world music Michael Stone had a chance to chat with Spanish pianist-composer-bandleader Chano Domínguez about his latest recording, Over the Rainbow. Domínguez's new solo recording, draws from a live performance in Barcelona, combining Latin American canciones with his original compositions and pieces by Thelonious Monk, Harold Arlen, and John Lewis. Domínguez observes, “Latin American popular music has been part of my life for a long time. These are profoundly expressive songs that I developed a deep feeling for from my youth.” Read their conversation, and Michael's review, while you listen to some of the music from the album.



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About RootsWorld: RootsWorld is a world music magazine started in 1993, pretty much at the dawn of the term "world music" as well as the pre-dawn of internet publishing (I suspect this was the first music magazine of any sort published on the www). Our focus is the music of the world: Africa, Asia, Europe, Pacifica and The Americas, the roots of the global musical milieu that has come to be known as world music, be it traditional folk music, jazz, rock or some hybrid. How is that defined? I don't know and don't particularly care at this point: it's music from someplace you aren't, music with roots, music of the world and for the world. OK?

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