A World Music Magazine

world music

The Saami (Sámi) are an indigenous people of Northern Europe who pursue, at least in part, a traditional lifestyle still based on reindeer herding, and other resource-based lifestyles. With more than 130,000 people spread primarily across northern Norway, Sweden and Finland, as well as Russia (making up Saapmi or the Saami homeland), their music recalls, at least to this listener, elements of other nomadic cultures from Northern Canada to Mongolia.

On Odda Aigodat (New Times), Solju combine elements of Saami music (the yoik or acapella song-chant) with both modern synthesizer and rock guitar, as well as orchestral accompaniment, on 11 strong tracks. Vocalists Ulla Piirtjärvi and her daughter Hilda Lansman combine ancient, modern and even classical sounds on this new disc, accompanied by Samuli Laiho, (programming, synths, guitars, glockenspiel, piano) and Tejo Majamäki (percussion, vibes, hang). Read David Cox' full review, listen to some music and find links to the ensembles web site and a live Finnish television performance.

Odda Aigodat (New Times) is our pick for Music of the Month for May


world music According to noted drummer and bandleader Bobby Sanabria, the boogaloo movement died fifty years ago. Ay Que Boogaloo! shows that music doesn't need to ride the coattails of a movement to stay alive. Boogaloo, the '60s-spawned combination of Latin styles with soul and rhythm and blues, was one way the mambo and cha-cha-cha found their way into the mainstream. It could be campy in its approach but was too good an idea to simply perish. The members of New York City's Spanglish Fly understand this, and while they can't be called the sole revivers of boogaloo, they're certainly among the hardest and best out there. Read Tom Orr's review, listen to the music and watch a live performance video.


world music Readers probably know Moira Smiley from her work with Jayme Stone’s Folklife. But there is much more to this artist. Having mastered traditional vocal techniques from locales as disparate as Appalachia, Ireland and Eastern Europe, the Vermont-born Smiley is a songstress seemingly without limits. She’s been part of Celtic group Solas and the voice ensemble Kitka, helmed her own vocal group VOCO, performed with early music consorts in the UK, served as musical director for theatrical productions and somehow found time to become a multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger who blends the folksy with the innovative. Unzip the Horizon is her latest, and as Tom Orr writes in his review, it’s quite a reveal. Listen to some songs, see a short film and read Tom's complete review online.


world music A chart-topping singer across Latin America, Natalia Lafourcade of Mexico took a step back and decided to follow a different musical path from the one that seemed to lie ahead of her. That path led her to a rustic house in the woods, where she began a partnership with an unlikely duo – Los Macorinos, a silver-hair duo of acoustic guitarists who had played with the iconic ranchera singer Chavela Vargas.

The assembled musicians created a deftly made homage to classic Latin American songs, with the resulting album, Musas, surprising fans, but garnering a Latin Grammy for best folk album. Less than a year later, Lafourcade has released another set of vintage songs, adding in a few self-penned ones. Like the first, this is serene music that seems a world apart from the frenetic, high-volume landscape we find ourselves in. Still, Lafourcade crafts an album of varied textures and colors within her acoustic palette, featuring her lithe and versatile voice.     Read Marty Lipp's full review, and hear a few tracks from the album.


world music

world music

Darshan is a project whose intention is to bring Jewish mysticism to the people. At the core of the Darshan project is Basya Schechter, a terrific vocalist and oud player, who has been a part of the downtown New York City 'Jewish Radical Culture' musical scene. She is joined by MC ePRHYME (Eden Pearlstein), who has been invested in hip-hop for over a decade. In his rap lyrics, ePRHYME explores Jewish identity and mysticism.

For Raza ('secret' in Aramaic), Darshan is rounded out by several musical guests, such as Tamer Pinarbasi (kanun), Shanir Blumenkranz (bass, oud), and Aaron Johnston (from the Brazilian Girls, on drums and programming). There are other musical additions, such as cello, electric guitar, and human beatboxing – and even the Fire Island Synagogue Choir, where Schechter serves as a cantor... Together, Schechter and ePRHYME revisited and reconceived the Kabbalistic lyrics that comprise the Kabbalat Shabbat: the opening portion of prayerful texts for the Friday night service, or "Welcoming the Sabbath."     Read Lee Blackstone's full review and hear the music.

Raza is our April selection for Music of the Month. Learn more, and listen to some of the music, and subscribe today.


world music

world music

Formed in 1981, the Latvian band Iļģi have been busy for over thirty-five years, releasing consistently interesting and diverse albums. Ilga Reizniece, a classically trained violinist, initiated the collective; joined by Māris Muktupāvels, a bagpipe and kokle (a Baltic stringed instrument of the zither family) player, excursions began across Latvia to immerse themselves in folk songs and their traditions.

In 1993, the band wrote, “We do not know if what we play today can be classified as folklore, because we work with folk music much more freely than tradition allows. We tend to call it ‘post-folklore.’ When we play, the truthfulness and sensation of the moment is more important than the sound created and enjoyed long ago…We have always felt closely tied with the ancient stratas of folklore – mythology, the rhythm and order of traditional life, and its coexistence with the rhythm and order of nature.”

The band has been steadily producing recordings ever since then, and Lee Blackstone looks into their latest releases, that feature two very different approaches to the tradition, Tur Kur Mīti (Where Myths Dwell) and Spēlēju. Dancoju. Dejoju. (Played. Dance. Danced.). Hear some songs from the albums, watch a 360 video of a concert and learn about the band's music and history in Lee Blackstone's review.


world music Tyran Grillo attended a recent concert of The Fourth Light Project at Schimmel Center in New York City and writes, "At the core of Niyaz are vocalist Azam Ali and multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian on oud and kamaan (a custom viol-like instrument). They were joined by Sinan Cem Eroglu on kaval and komuz (Turkish flute and three-stringed lute), Gabriel Ethier on keyboards and programming, Ravi Naimpally on tabla, and whirling dervish Tanya Evanson, whom Ali credits as the genesis of this project. Live motion tracking was provided by Jérôme Delapierre, whose projections graced a series of vertical panels with ghostly echoes of the performers in real time.

To be sure, Ali was the focal point of the evening. Despite having heard her on record for nearly two decades since her days as one half of Vas, I became aware of terrains in her voice that only a live setting could map."     Read his full review, along with beautiful photos from that night, and a video of an earlier performance.


world music For listeners, unfortunately, music industry economics long ago curtailed the touring prospects of big bands like Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band, the horn-heavy Washington, DC-based 12-piece Afrofunk orchestra founded in 2007. Yet live appearances by spirited transnational ensembles like this, singing in seven languages, are precisely the point of socially provocative music in these, our times. Hence, Chopteeth has won a fierce regional following from Baltimore to DC and suburban Virginia. Bone Reader testifies to what DC metro music aficionados have long known: from start to finish, Chopteeth holds its own with the best of Afrobeat groups inspired by James Brown disciples Fela Kuti, Tony Allen and their West and West Central African confreres. Channeling the classic vocal-guitar-brass-percussion sounds of Congolese, Ghanaian, Guinean, Nigerian, Senegalese and South African popular music, Chopteeth’s sonic signature is a conscious, uninhibited, funkadelic dance mélange of crackling soul, R&B, jazz and hip-hop.     Read Michael Stone's full review, listen to a song and some excerpts, and see a live video by the band.


world music On his 4th international release, Live in Bamako, guitarist Oumar Konaté decided to capture a club performance in his home country of Mali. And among other things, this record is a reminder that this massive, land-locked nation is awash in hot guitarists. But while the occasional Takamba groove gives his origins away, Konaté can often come off as less allegiant to his roots than contemporaries such as Vieux Farka Toure or Sidi Toure. YouTube video clips show him, often as not, in power trio format, stomping on pedals and shredding in a way that’s likely to be narcotic to heads out looking for a good groove to dance to. Moreover, two tracks here, “La Plus Belle” and “Ya Foutama,” go straight for the reggae pulse, the stuttered rhythm, as well as some synth-concocted horn lines, held down by a keyboard player. Over such repetition, Konaté can crank out one flanged-out solo after another between verses, which he sings with an urgency that cuts through his playing.     Read Bruce Miller's review and hear some music from the CD and see the band in a live video.


world music

The mostly instrumental, acoustic Anarouz does much more than show off talent; it draws together musicians from Mali (kora master Ballake Sissoko), Morocco (oud specialist Driss El Maloumi) and Madagascar (valiha player Rajery) - known collectively as 3MA - to show how naturally music dispenses with boundaries when left to roam, as so many of these tracks seem to do. In fact, their instrumental voices blend effortlessly, and it often becomes difficult to discern who is playing what. Perhaps this is due, at least in part, to the fact that all three players wrote and arranged everything here. Perhaps it’s the web-like patterns, unfurled like quilts that come from giving stringed instruments so much room to dance.     Read Bruce Miller's full review and listen to some of the music


world music

world music

"It was as if his eye were an ear and a crackle went through it each time he shot a look at the accordion. ... The notes fell, biting and sharp; it seemed the tooth that bit was hollowed with pain." - Annie Proulx, Accordion Crimes

The accordion has a distinctive sound, dry but capable of beautiful melody, it is an instrument that a lot of European cultures share; its origin seems to be Lombardia, Italy. At one occasion I was very excited to open a book called "Accordion Crimes" but the accordion seemed to be just an excuse for endless mayhem against the characters. Not so this project called Accordion Samurai, by contrast a beautiful project, full of life, hope and even mystery. Masters such as Kepa Junkera and Riccardo Tesi have taught me to love the instrument, and so I was curious to hear this project with the involvement of both.

On Te, five of Europe’s most creative veteran practitioners/composers, come together for a disc that features the diatonic accordion: Tesi (Tuscany/Italy), Markku Lepisto (Finland), David Munnelly (Ireland); Junkera (Basque Country/Spain) and Simone Bottasso. Full of variety, this disc gives a nice overview of how the instrument is used by its most successful exponents, across Europe.   Listen to some of the music and read David Cox review.

Te is RootsWorld's pick for Music of the Month


world music Syrian Dreams was inspired by Maya Youssef's reactions to seeing her homeland ravaged by war in 2011. Having never written music before yet unable to ignore the compositional impulses welling up inside her, she let her melodic reactions flow into the present album. Since growing up in Damascus, where she was told that the qanun was a "man's instrument," she has cultivated a masterful relationship with the plucked zither, and from it has unraveled this honest portrait of conflict: at once privileged to have life yet knowing that the very place which gave it to her has suffered unimaginable turmoil.   Hear some excerpts from the album, watch a full length video, and read Tyran Grillo's full review


world music Rather than exploring the sounds of a full band this time around, most of Ilmamõtsan, the new recording by Estonian artist Mari Kalkun, is performed by just herself. The sonic exploration comes through the multiple instruments she uses to accompany her vocals: 12- and 36-string kanteles, accordion, harmonium, chimes and bells, and various percussive effects, often overdubbed but never overdone. There is wonderful musicality and beauty in each of these backdrops, but it is Kalkun’s vocals that propel these songs. The singing is often soft yet always intense, emotive without lapsing into sappiness, somehow bridging a chasm between soothing touch and a visceral rawness. Even for those of us who speak nary a word of Estonian, these songs are compelling and engrossing. Read Greg Harness' full review and listen to some of the music


world music

On Fertile Paradoxes, Tunisian brothers Amine M'raihi (oud) and Hamza M'raihi (kanun) combine their artistry with violinist Baiju Bhatt, saxophonist Valentin Conus, percussionists Prabhu Edouard and Fredrik Gille, and special guests besides. It's an aptly named album, as these musicians mix seemingly disparate genres, spirits, and geographic moods into an integrated whole. The commonality that binds them is an implicit understanding of not only where they've come from, but also where they're going. The ability of this ensemble, known collectively as The Band Beyond Borders, to craft splendid sonic dishes from minimal ingredients finds synchronicity in Amine & Hamza's composing.

Read Tyran Grillo's review and hear some of the music.


world music

world music

Nordic Raga is a cross-cultural project that joins together two musics from radically different climes: southern India, and the Nordic regions. This musical pollination is in accomplished hands. Jyotsna Srikanth, from Bangalore, is at the apex of southern Indian Carnatic violin players. Mats Edén has been a major figure in the Swedish folk revival ever since the 1970s, recognizable from his viola d’amore playing with such important groups like Groupa, Nordan, and on his own solo recordings. Via his musical studies, Dan Svensson (percussion and vocals) moved from pop and rock music, into folk and global music. Pär Moberg provides saxophone, flute, and didjeridoo playing; his work can also be heard with the enjoyable Eastern European-influenced group Tummel. The Nordic Raga project provides an opportunity for these musicians to explore some common ground – the points of meeting become more apparent as the disc unfolds. Lee Blackstone digs into the intricacies in his review.

Nordic Raga is our selection for February's Music of the Month.


world music

Diatonic accordionist Didier Laloy and cellist Kathy Adam, known together as Belem, combine forces with the machinery of Walter Hus for an experience like no other. Hus's creation is, at its core, an automated organ, but in the fullness of its expression a veritable orchestra, the sonic equivalent of a monochromatic film painstakingly hand-tinted. Film is indeed the metaphor du jour, as any of Belem & The Mekanics's 11 pieces could be the ideal soundtrack for, say, a Brothers Quay short (and by saying as much, I give it highest compliment). And while other albums have attempted similar experiments—notably Pat Metheney's "Orchestration" project—there's something organic about this one that sets it apart. Although I can only imagine how wondrous it must be to witness this music in a live setting, I enjoy letting its images project themselves onto the screen of my mind, to roam as they will. Read Tyran Grillo’s full review and listen to the music.


world music Italian singer Luisa Cottifogli came to my attention in 2000 with her remarkable first recording, Aiò Nenè. The recording was subtitled, "I come from the North, but I am from the South," and explored the dichotomy between Italy's colder, richer, more urban north and its warmer, poorer and more rural south. It bridged that divide, and then went on to incorporate music from Arabic and Indian traditions, as well as modern jazz and avant garde ideas. For all its worldliness, it was ultimately firmly rooted in the south that she proclaimed she was from. But she was born in the Alps and that is where she returns on Come Un Albero D'Inverno, as she and her ensemble proclaim in the opening track, "Yodel," where they take what in other parts of the world is considered a cliché of the past and place it in the bold, beautiful now. Read Cliff Furnald's review and listen to some of the music.


world music Sometimes, music falls on my desk that I know will never be fully explainable as a review. Such is the strange world of Little Big Noz, the musical offspring of baritone saxophonist Ronan Le Gouriérec and his vocal antagonist Philippe Chasseloup. Together they have created a satirical show based on the traditional dance music of Brittany.

The CD version of these performances is just Gouriérec and Chasseloup, They play word games with the dances and their sometimes rigid interpretations by the participants, and Le Gouriérec turns the music on its head in a solo saxophone attack that respects the melodies, but more importantly, the freedom those melodies offer a creative musician. Because the chatter is all in local French, and is further complicated by the inside jokes and double entendres they insert, Gouriérec offered to help me interpret a few of them for you. Read more and enjoy some of the music.


world music

world music

From Poland's burgeoning folk roots scene come two new and distinct bands. Both are trios, yet each group earmarks their locale.

WoWaKin are from the Mazovia region, an area that includes Warsaw, in the northeast of Poland. Each group creates thick clouds of trance-inducing sound built on traditional rhythms from the Polish countryside. The trio offers an array of foxtrots, tangos, polkas, oberkas, and more on their debut album. WoWaKin are comprised of Paula Kinaszewska (violin, vocals); Mateusz Wachowiak (accordion); and Bartlomiej Wozniak (drums and sound design). Their repertoire borrows from the Polish areas of Kielce, Radom, and Sanniki.

Kapela Maliszów is a family band from a small village in the Lower Beskids mountain range, located in southeast Poland, bearing towards Slovakia. The ensemble is comprised of Jan Malisz and his two children, Zuzanna (age 14) and Kacper (age 18). Jan Malisz anchors the group with his basolia, a Polish instrument reminiscent of the cello. Zuzanna sings and accompanies on percussion and Kacper plays both violin and nyckelharpa.

Read Lee Blackstone's reviews and listen to some tracks from each album.

Michal Shapiro was at WOMEX 2017, held in Katowice, Poland, and filmed each of these excellent ensembles.


world music Politics and music are rarely far apart, as perhaps nowhere more evident than in the music of exiles wherever they find themselves. At a forcible remove from its cultural foundations, dislocated artistry resides as close as memory and sentiment can bring tradition bearers to a time, place and way of life that, if now denied to the artist, can be only more unfamiliar to the audience. Yet all that changes when the artist, in the company of fellow exiles and rootless cosmopolitans, finding themselves in a strange land, commune in song. Born to a Baluchi father and Afro-Iranian mother descended from Zanzibar exiles enslaved in the Persian Gulf region of southern Iran, Saied Shanbehzadeh himself left for France when his experimental fusions of African-Iranian possession ritual music and other regional folk forms found disfavor with the cultural police (he was convicted in absentia for blasphemy and faces lashing and imprisonment if he were to return). Shanbehzadeh sings, composes, arranges and plays the neyanban (a double-reed bagpipe made of goatskin) and saxophone. On Pour-Afrigha he is joined by Iranian Baluchi singer Rostam Mirlashari, a former political prisoner, and accompanied by French guitarist Manu Codija, Shanbehzadeh's son Naghib on percussion (zarb-timpo, dammam, kesser, darbuka), and several other guests.   Read Michael Stone's full review, hear some excerpts and see a video performance.


world music

world music

The sound and spirit of Zimbabwe and Mozambique runs through the heart of Timbila and Chartwell Dutiro's double album collection Sadza with the Head of a Mouse. Timbila is a New York-based band, led by Nora Balaban, that met in Zimbabwe in 1997. Since then they have delved into the rich heritage of southern Africa's songs and instruments, adding their own East Village multicultural explorations to the music. Here they are joined by vocalist and mbira master Chartwell Dutiro, a former member of Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited who now resides in the U.K.

Strange Circles is the debut offering from Bokanté, an ensemble put together by Snarky Puppy's Michael League. The group's name translates from Creole to “exchange” in English and the eight musicians from four continents have developed a cohesive, layered multicultural sound that serves as a foundation for Malika Tirolien's rich vocals sung in Creole and French. While in Canada, League heard the voice of Tirolien, who hails from Guadeloupe and now lives in Toronto. The meeting inspired the creation of Bokanté, with League and Tirolien collaborating on the music and Tirolien handling the lyrics. They are joined by fellow Snarky Puppy guitarists Chris McQueen and Bob Lanzetti, percussionists Jamey Haddad, André Ferrari, and Keita Ogawa, as well as Roosevelt Collier on pedal and lap steel guitars.

Both reviews include full tracks from the albums.



world music The title of Svalan (Swedish for “swallow”) accurately describes this album's mood before a single note of it graces your ears. As the creation of Maria Kalaniemi (accordion and vocals) and Eero Grundström (harmonium), it thrums with songs of the Northern Karelian forests that inspired it. Recorded in Kalaniemi's childhood home, its program is a mélange of Finnish-Swedish ballads, songs of the sea, and original compositions.

The traditional tunes evoke nature and life within it. “Kom alla mina bröder” (Come all my brothers) is an ideal place to start. With an inspiring sense of community, it invites listeners on a journey far away from the bane of current political unrest. Whether through bellows or throat, Kalaniemi's exhalations are ecstatic, while Pekko Käppi (who also plays bowed lyre on the album) calls out like the voice of the wilderness. Even in the tenderer “Där sitter en fågel” (A bird is sitting there), echoes of that verve linger... Read Tyran Grillo's review and listen to some of the music online.


world music Fifteen years ago, three stars of Brazilian music came together in what seemed like a lark, a one-time knock-off project, but the album surprisingly spawned several hits around the world. Calling themselves Tribalistas, the three - singer Marisa Monte, percussionist Carlinhos Brown and art-rocker Arnaldo Antunes - were old friends, and their easy-going camaraderie imbued every song with a loose-limbed, affable charm. While the album came out of the blue, in retrospect it should have been no surprise that the trio would do so well. After all, the three were abundantly talented and creative in their own ways. In fact, one of the interesting features of the project was the creative push and pull of their three distinct personalities and voices.

This sophomore album, 15 years after their first, has arrived with little of the fanfare that one would assume from such a notable crew. The album is a digital release and there is no promotional tour. Whether this was something they spontaneously decided to do amid busy schedules, the result is still a thoroughly enjoyable balmy ride... Read Marty Lipp's full review and hear some of their music.


world music In the late 1980s, a then older gentleman with a guitar started to make a splash in the global African music scene. In 1990, the London based Stern's Music released an album, the first time most of the world had heard Boubacar Traoré. At the time, I wrote, "Mariama is a solo affair, just voice and guitar, recorded so raw you could hear his fingers on the strings and his breath between vocal lines. It was my introduction to him and I was spellbound."

All these years and 10 albums later, little has changed. Dounia Tabolo, continues his trio effort of a few years ago, with French harmonica player Vincent Bucher and Malian percussionist Alassane Samaké wrapping Traoré's voice and guitar. Recorded in Lafayette, Louisiana, the trio is joined by Cedric Watson on violin and washboard, Leyla McCalla on cello and voice, and Corey Harris on guitar. Read the editor's review, listen to a full track and some excerpts, and watch a video online now.


world music

world music

You have to imagine Puglia, the part of southern Italy that juts into the Mediterranean Sea… The south of Italy has a long history of joy and sadness; riven with poverty, many inhabitants have moved away. As with much of Italy, the influence of the Catholic Church is felt here, hot under the sun; but, there is a persistent pulse of heathenism and rhythm that runs underfoot. Puglia is the land of the taranta, the spider, which bit women (and some men) for thousands of years, causing distressed families to buy the service of musicians so that the afflicted could dance their poisoning away. The Church conflated the spider with Saint Paul, entwining in folk song a sacred/secular eroticism that feels like magic.

Amongst the musicians at the forefront of the first 1970s revivalist wave was the Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (CGS). Co-founder Daniele Durante passed on the group's leadership to his son, Mauro Durante, in 2007, and Canzoniere is the fourth album made under his tenure.

The Albanian cellist Redi Hasa and the Puglian vocalist Maria Mazzotta comprise the project Hasa-Mazzotta. The two musicians seek to explore connections between their musical traditions, and do so in experimental ways. Novilunio is intimate, bridging folk, jazz, and even cabaret in a bewitching program.

Read Lee Blackstone's in-depth article about pizzica tarantata and how these artists are rooted in place, searching in other places for new sounds and new connections, yet always circling back home. We also have full tracks from each album and some audio excerpts of others.


world music Audio Feature
I am pleased to present a live set by the Nordic ensemble, Floating Sofa Quartet, recorded in Denmark at the Tønder Festival in August as part of the FolkSpot 2017 concert series. Their repertoire is a mixture of original compositions and traditional pieces from their respective countries (Denmark, Sweden and Finland), performed with great harmonies, intensity, humor and the warm sound of wooden instruments - wooden flute, Swedish bagpipes, 2 and 5-row melodeons, harmonium, fiddle and double bass. You can hear the concert online.


world music As Ian Brennan continues to reveal music made by the world's more endangered or marginalized people, he travels deep into the hills of Rwanda to record the music of Twa pygmies, who can also be found in Southern Uganda, Northern Zambia, and scattered about the DR Congo. Frustratingly, this ethnic minority group is as voiceless as it gets in Africa, though none of that comes across in the music found here. Featuring such traditional instruments as the umuduri and the massive board zither known as the inanga, which, as played by the Twa, coaxes the vocals out as mourning-filled moans, as the inanga's plucked strings provide pulse as well as occasional heavy riffs. Here and there, short bursts of electronic noise replace the typical instrumentation for jittery warnings about AIDs; sounds like sirens or cicadas plugged into amps briefly appear to form whole, yet fleeting tracks. Read Bruce Miller's review, hear some of the music and watch a video recorded in Rwanda.


world music

world music

The Art of Allegory

Michael Stone brings us the music of Brussels based Tunisian singer Ghalia Benali, in collaboration with her musicians and the Belgian brass ensemble Mâäk. Together they find lyrical inspiration in classical and contemporary love poetry of the Arabic- and Persian-speaking world on the album MwSOUL.

Ghalia Benali appears again on one of the two recordings presented next, both the work of an innovative group of artists. Zefiro Torna is no stranger to treating the old as new, and vice versa. In addition to combining a love of medieval and Renaissance music with jazz and other modern modes of expression, the Flemish vocal-instrumental ensemble has worked extensively with performers, stage directors, and individual artists to widen the scope of their repertoire while also hinting at universal impulses within it.

Two recent CDs highlight the adventurous spirit behind such collaborations. Scattered Rhymes is created with the Frank Vaganée Trio. The Allegory of Desire finds them in centuries-spanning musical settings of the Biblical "Song of Songs" in conversation with traditional and original Arabic songs interpreted by Ghalia Benali and the Vocalconsort Berlin. Tyran Grillo explores the allegorical connections between these two worlds.


world music Musical cross-pollination is complex. Musicians may suddenly be turned on to sounds that divert their music down new paths. For Norwegian piano accordionist Anders Lillebo, the exposure to Irish music at a folk festival in Ireland spawned an obsession. Lillebo had been studying in the hopes of becoming a jazz pianist; the leap to the Irish piano accordion seemed fateful. By moving to Ireland, Lillebo was able to immerse himself in the Irish music scene. On his Departure, Lillebo is joined by Caoimhín O Fearghail (guitar); Tommy Hayes (percussion); Matthew Berrill (clarinet and bass clarinet); and Jack Talty (piano), a master concertina player who also served production duties on the recording. Esbjörn Hazelius guests on fiddle and cittern. All the tunes are traditional except for 'Liam & Diana's Waltz,' and 'Vråka,'the latter named for a place on the western coast of Sweden. Lee Blackstone reviews.


world music The Alehouse Sessions is a piece of history unearthed and mantled for new ears. Indeed, Norwegian violinist Bjarte Eike's fascinating project doesn't so much transport us back to the past as reposition the past in the here and now, when its lessons are more poignant than ever. Backed by his Alehouse Boys, a merry band culled from the Barokksolistene ensemble Eike leads, the project's latest CD is a sonic re-creation of 17th-century English taverns. Tyran Grillo was there live, and shares the music and grog with you.


world music Greg Harness writes, "Years ago, as a new parent, I was looking for songs that would engage my daughter without the insipidness that comes with much children's music. I learned quickly that Raffi was usually a good bet, and a Raffi record became a sure thing when Ken Whiteley was involved. This was my introduction to the Whiteley family, and led me to learn more about Ken and his brother Chris and their Original Sloth Band. More recently I've been drawn to Chris's own daughter Jenny Whiteley, who I just learned sang in the chorus on Raffi's “Baby Beluga.” Her newest recording is The Original Jenny Whiteley. For readers who listen regularly to the roots music of the American south -- Appalachian string bands, bluegrass, jug bands -- many of these songs will be familiar." Read greg's review and listen to some of the songs/


world music

Kries is a legendary Croatian folk-rock band that has thankfully resurfaced with Selo Na Okuke/Village Tracks, eight years after their previous album . Understanding Kries' message of solidarity and unity is essential to their mission. The band formed after the raging of the Balkan War in the 1990s, and the musicians that comprise Kries are drawn from countries caught up in - or touched by - the conflict that engulfed the Balkan region.

The founder of Kries is Mojmir Novaković. Novaković, like many musicians at the forefront of a modern revival of traditional folk music, sought to infuse the songs of Croatia and the Balkans with a progressive twist. Accompanying Novaković in Kries are folk luminaries such as Andor Vegh (a Balkan music expert) on bagpipes and flute, and multi-instrumentalist Ivo Letunic on lijerica (a three-stringed, bowed instrument), and the Serbian gusle (a one-stringed, bowed instrument). There is a roaring percussive section, comprised of Ivan Levačić on drums, and Krešimir Oreški on percussive instruments including the djembe. The group is fleshed out with Erol Zejnilović on guitar, and Konrad Lovrenčić on bass. As a result, Kries combines traditional folk music instrumentation alongside the elements of a rock band... Read Lee Blackstone's full review online, listen to some full tracks, and watch some marvelous videos.

You can also hear a few tracks of the album in an archived edition of RootsWorld Radio #249.

Kries' Selo Na Okuke / Village Tracks is our selection for Music of the Month in November. It was donated by the artists and Riverboat Records, so all proceeds go to support the magazine and radio program. We thank them for their generous support.


world music

world music

These two CDs provide different aspects of West African pop music recorded this year. Valérie Ekoumé's Kwin Na Kingue is the slicker of the two. French born, but with roots in Cameroun, she studied music formally for half a decade; youtube clips reveal a woman who can knock out a pop ballad with nothing but her own piano as accompaniment just as easily as she can slide into a Makossa-influenced vamp and bring an audience to its feet.

Leila Gobi's sophomore LP, 2017, is a different story. The recording - her voice, drenched in confident stealth over guitar, bass, and percussion - is complimented by whatever production constraints Hampathe Bah Studio in Bamako, Mali imposed on it. While no one would mistake this for the work of a Tamesheq griot, it manages to stay a bit closer to Malian pop's musical chassis. In fact, despite the stripped-down accompaniment, this record delves a bit further into dance grooves than her first one... Read Bruce Miller's reviews of both of these recordings, listen to some of the music and see a video.


world music "I want to work in this world... I'm not going to pretend I'm something I'm not"

Marty Lipp sits down with someone who has his own interesting answers to the question "What Is Americana?." Folk artist, modern composer, blues enthusiast and arranger Dick Connette made his first mark in the American music scene in the 1990s with his project, Last Forever, a duo with Sonya Cohen, abetted by a marvelous group of musicians from many areas of interest. Dick is back this year with his latest dive into American roots music waters with a new project, Too Sad For the Public, this time with a number of singers, Ana Egge, Gabriel Kahane, Suzzy Roche and Rachelle Garniez. Read the tales Dick had to tell to Marty, and listen to some of the music in his RootsWorld interview.


world music It's rare when a new disc hits you with such force you just want to absorb it, to savor it, to stay in the moment and just enjoy. Even more so when that disc has a twin, and you discover them both at the same time. In 2016, the veteran Neapolitan group Almamegretta issued Ennenne, followed by Ennenne Dub this year 2017. How to describe a Neapolitan-Jamaican mix of reggae, dub and Mediterranean sounds, a little Nico d'Angelo and a little Lee "Scratch" Perry. There are many Neapolitan artists that mix international sounds and the Neapolitan language, among them 99 Posse, and world music maestro Enzo Avitabile, just to name two. That's a rich vein of music and Almamegretta is at the heart of it… David Cox reviews the recordings, and you can read it all and listen to some tracks from both online now.


world music Afro-Venezuelan singer Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo was founded 30 years ago in the cacao-growing region where the settlement of El Clavo, located some 40 miles southeast of the capital, Caracas. Inspired by her father, a parranda trumpeter, Betsayda Machado began singing at an early age; her manifest talent eventually took her to Caracas, where she has been primarily based in recent years.

The windward Barlovento region is renowned for its African-Venezuelan parranda ensembles, Parranda El Clavo among them. The power of the genre owes at least as much to the energy of the singing as to the drive of the percussion. Indeed, on the majority of the songs, the chorus sings the opening phrase or verse a cappella to set the tune, with the percussion joining subsequently. It's all to be heard on their first album, Loé Loá: Rural Recordings Under The Mango Tree.

Michael Stone takes an in-depth look at the music and mission of the ensemble and their first recording


world music As the US withdraws from UNESCO citing so-called “anti-Israel bias” it seems a good time to reflect on what the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has done and continues to do for roots and world music… Beginning in 1961, UNESCO began collecting local music, mostly through field recordings, as a way to showcase and preserve aural traditions… Many musicians including Gilberto Gil, Manu Dibango, and Kudsi Erguner have been named UNESCO Artists for Peace… Greg Harness shares some thoughts on the importance of UNESCO


world music The musical term Americana has been tossed around in the media for ages, using it to denote authenticity for even the most manufactured musical products. Artists have long sought inspiration in the blues, R&B, spirituals, gospel, old timey, folk, civil rights song, country, rock, pop and the realm of culture, history and politics more broadly, an expansive array of influences. The recordings essayed here suggest that the politics of everyday life have much to do with how what might be called Americana has evolved. Some classic examples from the period in which civil rights, the free speech movement, anti-war activism, an emergent environmental awareness, and allied initiatives seeking a more inclusive definition of citizenship illustrate how music speaks to the social movements of its times.

Explore new works that expand those roots in new directions, with music from Jaimeo Brown Transcendence, René Marie, Ranky Tanky, Indra Rios-Moore, Brian McCarthy Nonet, Sam Bardfeld, Matt Slocum, Omar Sosa and Tim Eriksen. Michael Stone offers a different perspective from the usual in his piece, What Is Americana?


world music Jérémy Courault is the leader and voice of the inimitable trio Djé Baleti. Hailing from Toulouse, France, Baleti incorporate various African and European styles into a whirling array of music. Imagine if Hendrix was raised in Mali and grew up in Italy, and played a long-necked espina instead of an electric guitar. That's close to what Courault -- who grew up just about everywhere -- and his band does on Moko. With Sophia Ramia Medina on bass and Antoine Pedriolle on drums, Djé Baleti reimagines rock by way of highlife, tarantella, chaabi, and numerous other sources. The insistent energy of this record begins with "Manda Lo Batéu" the title track, with its descending espina riff, moments of Doors-like rock, and continues through long and short pieces, 12 in all. Read what David Cox has to say about this "esoteric and frankly eccentric album," listen to some music and watch a wonderful animated music video.


world music Clarinet Factory is a band that absolutely defies categorization. My initial impression of their latest CD, Meadows, was that this was going to be a chamber-jazz project that occasionally riffed on folk themes. I could not have been more wrong. Originally calling themselves the Czech Clarinet Quartet, Clarinet Factory's mission remains the crossing of borders. The group features four clarinet players – Jindřich Pavliš, Luděk Boura, and Vojtěch Nýdl, plus Petr Pepíno Valášek on bass clarinet. Nýdl also provides lead vocals on many of the album's songs. All the members of Clarinet Factory have a classical background, and this is more than evident in Meadows' frequent nods to the minimalist genre… On the band's website, Jindřich Pavliš states that Clarinet Factory seeks to work in 'inter-genre' projects. “We want to be an ensemble which has something to say. Not a museum!”
Read Lee Blackstone's full review, listen to some of the music and see their brand new video.


world music Vasco Ribeiro Casais is a multi-instrumentalist who plays around with traditional music in interesting and creative ways. In this new OMIRI project, the former member of Dazkarieh and Seiva, has here pasted together traditional recordings, studio effects and dance tunes to hypnotic effect. This 13-song second effort is in effect a solo project for Casais, the prolific and versatile bouzouki, violin, nyckelharpa and gaita player. On Baile Electronica he provides a new setting for corridinhos, chotiças, polcas, and other traditional dances. Mixing old recordings with his instrumentals and studio effects, Casais revisits some fine field recording material, dissecting and splicing, prompting a fresh look at what has been there all along. Read David Cox's full review and listen to some music and a video online now.


world music Mokoomba return with Luyando, an album that reveals a group that continues to grow more dynamic with each release. For this record the band wanted to place more emphasis on the area of Zimbabwe they call home. They refer to their falls as “smoke that thunders” in their language. Luyando translates to “mother's love” in Tonga and this effort proudly displays their Tonga and Luvale heritage. Alex Brown takes us to Victoria Falls


world music No doubt Namibian born Elemotho, aka Gaalelewe Richardo Mosimane, meant well with the release of Beautiful World. Alas, sometimes the best of intentions, even when teamed with undeniable talent, are not enough to make an album that shines. Leander Hobbs heads to the Atlantic shore of Nambia to look into the music of a psychologist turned prosaist, songwriter and musician.


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.


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.


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.



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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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