A World Music Magazine

world music The word Wassoulou might put you in mind of the folksy but popular form of female-dominated Malian music (named for its region of origin) that Oumou Sangare and others brought to the world in the early '90s. But the all-guy Bamba Wassoulou Groove, formed in Bamako in 2013, salutes their country's musical roots in a more electrified manner. When early post-independence outfits like the Super Rail Band began bringing as many funk and rock influences as traditional twang to their plugged-in guitars, a new sound was born that swelled national pride and filled dance floors... BWG's triple guitar attack force creates a soaring wall of sound throughout Dankele, and it's a mighty one. Tom Orr reviews.


world music I confess I was dubious. I guess it was the blurb for the album by Frenchman David Brossier and his group saying "Quintet Bumbac is a new vibe of Balkan melodies". No problem with musicians being influenced – we all are, and there's much to learn from Balkan music – but commitment to the tradition from somewhere else has to bring with it something more than just playing tunes from there. Well, there's so much in the music of the Balkans and their neighbors, Kurdish, Turkish, Klezmer and beyond to inspire musicians anywhere, and Bumbac draws on all of these and really does bring its own approach; this is no wannabe imitation. All the material on Miroirs is written by Brossier, who has deeply immersed in these musics, and it draws deep on the traditions to make luscious original music.    Read Andrew Cronshaw's full review and listen to their music.

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world music After showing a precocious early talent on the trumpet, Dzambo Agusevi began leading his own band from when young, yet another of those young and fiery Balkan trumpet talents – his group won first place in the prestigious Guça band festival in 2011. Now he's matured, and as the title implies, he's aiming for a much broader acceptance for his band from Skopje in North Macedonia. Aguševi's eyes are definitely on the global prize.

The music on Brasses for the Masses is hot. Of course it is; this is a group packed with virtuosos, not least Aguševi himself. But in the Balkan brass world, if you don't sizzle, you go home. The difference here isn't in how well they play, but what they do with the music. Take the title cut, for instance. It kicks off the album in a powerful blast of very soulful horns that could have wandered over from a vintage Tower of Power recording session to explode on the track    Read Chris Nickson's review and hear some of the recording, and see a full concert from the Kennedy Center.


world music One of the women in Farafi comes from the US, the other from Britain, with French-Indian roots. Darlini Singh Kaul and Jot Tyson met in Goa in India, started singing together unaccompanied, found their voices and musical ideas clicked and decided to do more with it. Now they both live in Berlin, and after a pair of official bootlegs, this real debut does credit to their mix of percussion and singing, along with ngoni, kashaka, and ghungroos, and the duo often sing in languages which aren't theirs, mostly from Africa, as well as one of their own invention.

So far, so cultural imperialist, right? Well, not really. The music on Calico Soul might nod vaguely towards different cultures, but everything here is their own invention. While the heart of it all is just the pair of them, they actually sound at their best and most adventurous when accompanied by a full band, as on the opener, "Desert Sun," which quickly catches fire. There are plenty of African inflections, yet it still possesses something that's completely its own.     Read Chris Nickson's review and listen to some of the songs.


world music In the ever-expanding reissue campaign scouring Africa's 1970s golden age, attention has increasingly turned to the island nations considered part of the continent... So, it's not surprising the Bongo Joe label would finally bring us Léve Léve: Sao Tomé & Principe Sounds 70s-80s, an infectious collection of post-colonial grooves from the former Portuguese islands 240 or so kilometers off the coast of Gabon. These two sister islands were first founded and inhabited by all manner of European explorers, traders, bandits, and risky entrepreneurs late 15th and early 16th centuries, with slave labor brought in from the African mainland an inevitable outcome due to rich soil perfect for growing sugar cane. However, alongside the ugliness of that endeavor came music, in this case rhythms connected to other Portuguese colonies such as Angola, Mozambique, and Brazil. Independence finally arrived in 1975, but big dance bands had been active for over a decade prior, rooting their music in earlier theatrical and dance ensembles... Bruce Miller takes you there to listen.


world music Seamus Egan is the kind of trailblazer that Irish music that breaks the chains of stereotyping. A multi-instrumentalist who's had a hand in soundtracks, symphonies and leading the renowned band Solas, Egan helped change many a listener's perception of Irish and Celtic music, bringing a broader reach of global influences including healthy dollops of Americana. Early Bright, the result of musical ideas that Egan has kept in his head for a long time and nurtured during his relocation from Philadelphia to rural Vermont, flows like 43 minutes of wordless melodic poetry. Each track features finessed but often-sprightly sounds on a variety of acoustic instruments, many of them (including banjo, nylon string guitar, mandolin and low whistles) played by Egan himself. Read Tom Orr's review and listen to the music.


world music

world music

While Albaluna hail from Portugal, and Els Berros de la Cort from Catalonia in northeastern Spain, both bands share a similar philosophy towards music-making. Albaluna began a decade ago, with research into medieval instruments, tunes and songs from Portugal; in essence, the group were initiates into historical re-enactment. Fifteen years ago, Els Berros de la Cort also rooted themselves in arcane musical instrumentation and medieval street theater. Both bands have evolved in remarkable ways.

I would not describe either as a 'metal' band (although, in this latest iteration of Albaluna, the band leans on a lot of electricity), but rather as groups informed by how rock dynamics can be applied to acoustic, medieval instrumentation. We are faced with two paths…First, the brand of folk-rock that has seen ethnic instruments express a form of nationalism by drinking at the wellspring of folk song... The second path is a sound built around medieval music, particularly bagpipes and other wind instruments, undergird with percussion. Albaluna and Els Berros de la Cort remind me very much of the DIY ethos of the German medieval metal scene – with Els Berros de la Cort's sound especially being a direct descendent of Corvus Corax's experimentation. Read more about these bands and hear their music in Lee Blackstone's review.


world music The title of Anne-Mari Kivimäki & Palomylly's Hämeen Laulaja, and the cover, which shows the three group members posing in traditional costume, might lead a record-shop browser (though shops for such browsing are sadly now rather fewer) to assume it's an album of traditional pelimanni music. Indeed its inspiration is the folk culture of Anne-Mari Kivimäki's home region of Häme in SW Finland, and the design is a tribute to that; as she puts it, "a sense of homeland and old stories". But the only wholly traditional song here is the short final track, the lullaby well-known in Finland. Some of the lyrics are traditional, but all the melodies are by Kivimäki, or made in conjunction with Palomylly bandmates, bassist/guitarist Ville Rauhala and Pekko Käppi, the latter renowned for his own projects that bring a metal/blues/grunge approach to the jouhikko (bowed lyre) but here also playing fiddle.   Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to some of the music and a video


world music Singer-songwriter Perrine Fifadji may be trilingual, but when listening to her latest, Une Goutte D'Eau, I cannot help but feel the presence of many languages besides. Her breath is the sound of soil, welcoming all seeds to share root space. The album's title song, "a drop of water" is sung in French and Lingala, a Congolese tongue that is her vehicle of choice and is the aphorism of an artist who sees herself as only she can: through the filter of lived experience. From that philosophical starting point emerges a wondrous sound, at once subterranean and stratospheric, inviting instruments as if they were destined to dance together. In each song, however joyful, there is a thread of mourning, paying respects to everyone who took their last breaths so that we might take our first. Read Tyran Grillo's review and listen to some songs.


world music Live albums can create and cement an artist's reputation. When they manage to fully capture the intense, sweaty atmosphere of a gig, they're electrifying, as James Brown discovered decades ago. While the audience can make a live disc with their energy, sometimes their enthusiasm can be go over top – as it does here with the clapping out of time that opens this album from the Danish/Swedish quarter Bragr, recorded Live at Engelsholm Castle. It's unfortunate, but once it passes, the music really takes over and soars. It's certainly an ambitious gesture to record a live concert for your second release, but musically it pays off handsomely. Their debut was as a trio of fretless acoustic bass, percussion, and nyckelharpa/cister (a six-string lute). Since then they've added pianist Kristian Bisgaard, who proves an idea foil for Parry Stenbäck's strings. It gives the band more texture, and they have more instruments that can take the lead individually or play off each other. .. Hearing them live, it quickly becomes apparent that Bragr are actually jazz musicians in folk clothing. They use the largely original compositions as springboards for improvisation... Read Chris Nickson's review and listen.


world music Joseph Shabalala, who introduced the sound of traditional Zulu and South African gospel music to the whole world, died February 11 at the age of 78. The musician was best known as the founder and director of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I first heard the ensemble singing their gospel tinged Zulu music on a tape compilation in the early 1980s, then got their first US album (a Gallo recording reissued by Shanachie) and they became a regular part of my radio programs. Then of course, Paul Simon came along in 1986 and turned them into a phenomenon. Some of their choices were dubious as they tried to hang on to popular fame, like a set of duets with singers like Dolly Parton, and the infamous Lifesavers commercials, but their pure a cappella music was always powerful and uplifting. Shabalala led the goup on numerous world tours until just a few years ago, and they never ceased to bring audiences to their feet with the genuine joy and zeal they brought to the music.

The national radio in South Africa sent him off with this:
"Ulale ngoxolo Tata ugqatso lwakho ulufezile."
(Rest in peace, Father, your race is complete.)


world music Somaliland has long been set apart, politically, from their Somali cousins. In the colonial era, the region was a British protectorate, while the rest of Somalia flew an Italian flag, and Somalilanders had their own nation for a brief, shining five days in 1960, before being absorbed into the newly independent Republic of Somalia. Sahra Halgan has been one of the strongest voices in the current struggle for independence, both as a musician and cultural activist. Her latest album, Was Dardaaran is the culmination of her journey so far. The album takes it's title from a polite form of address that Somalis use to speak to the powerful ­ but don't mistake this for timidity on Halgan's part: this is a bold, brash, statement of a record that kicks down doors. Don't expect straight-ahead Somali music. Like her previous album, this is a multinational project with a hybrid sound that owes much of its sonic palette to Sahelian "Desert Rock." Don't expect delicately-picked ouds accompanied by stately sung poetry. Instead, think big, ballsy, distorted guitar riffs that build and repeat hypnotically, backed by a rocking backbeat and punctuated by call-and response choruses. You can read a short history of the region and the artist in Tom Pryor's review.


world music Carmen Souza's latest album, The Silver Messengers, pays homage to jazz piano great Horace Silver. Silver was a touchstone in the hard bop era of the 50s and 60s, joining the likes of Les McCann, Cannonball Adderley and Charles Mingus; among other innovations, hard bop incorporated the rhythms and the feeling of R&B and soul into the jazz canon. Souza and Silver's roots both lie in Cabo Verde, the island conglomerate far off the coast of Sénégal in the Atlantic. Souza's beat, so to speak, is jazz; she has ten CD releases under her belt, primarily as a vocalist with a predilection for scat singing, but she's also a composer, guitarist and keyboardist. Souza's partnership with bassist, arranger and producer Theo Pascal, beginning in 2003, has been fruitful and her star is rising, especially in Europe. Drummer/percussionist Elias Kacomanolis, and pianist Benjamin Burrell round out her current quartet. Read Carolina Amoruso's full review, and listen to some songs from Carmen Souza and the band, as well as Horace Silver's original recordings of the songs.


world music Finnish singer and composer Emmi Kujanpää has a deep, long-standing love of Bulgarian music. She studied in Plovdiv and at home she assembled the group Finno-Balkan Voices, which takes from the tradition of both countries. Three years ago she began working with La Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vocal Academy, the successor to those Bulgarian choirs whose beautiful polyphony was so thrilling and new to Western ears in the 1980s and '90s. They pop up all across this first solo disc from Kujanpää, backing and adding to her singing. Other guest contribute trumpet, harmonium, and even a touch of throat singing, on the (mostly) original compositions. Read Chris Nickson's review and hear some of the music


world music

Part of the magic conjured up by the always entertaining Hazmat Modine is that the New York-based group's music seems instantly familiar, yet that familiarity quickly gives way to a realization that there are some unexpected exotic threads woven throughout the intricate tapestry of the songs. As it has on past albums, the group continues to have a retro blues-jazz feel, but the music never sits in one genre too firmly. One of the consistent hallmarks of the group has been its collaborations with musicians from other countries – this time it's Malian-born Balla Kouyate playing the wooden marimba-like balafon, keeping pace amid the galloping brass, drums and electric instruments... One common theme throughout Hazmat Modine's career has been the gathering of highly talented instrumentalists who serve each song in precise arrangements, then are given liberty to step out for eye-opening runs, as they do on the band's latest recording, Box of Breath. Read Marty Lipp's review and listen to some of the music


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world music

Manhu are from the Stone Forest region of Yunnan Province in Southwest China, home of the Sani people. The Sani have lived in this region for many years, probably going back as far as the Qing Dynasty (1600s), The Chinese government categorizes them as part of a large combined ethnic group called Yi, even though the Sani have maintained a strong and unique linguistic and cultural presence in the region for all of that time. On Voices Of The Sani, the quintet explores the tradition of their own people, but acknowledges the cross hybridization of the many cultures who share the region. They also clearly want to make the music live in the present, as you can hear in many of the songs on the album. They even dip into the global with their own Sani rendition of an old American mountain tune they call "Brothers and Sisters." - CF
Listen to some of the music


world music IN…SE… -dawning- is an opera by Cypriot composer Andys Skordis. Sharing as much affinity with the “Licht” cycle of Karlheinz Stockhausen as with the Balinese traditions from which it absorbs so much atmospheric wonder, Skordis’s interdisciplinary experience weaves gamelan, voices, and dance into a constantly morphing whole. Recasting the tale of Prince Bima and his quest for holy water (from the Mahabharata), the libretto overlays Bima’s transfigurations with those of a modern woman named Ida, whose sense of oppression compels her to embark on a fiercely inner journey of her own. Listen to or watch the opera and read Tyran Grillo's full review.


world music Hrubá Hudba glorious, beautifully mysterious music, soaringly uplifting but also evoking deep historical melancholy and a vision of the richness of Central European folk music in general and in particular that of the small region Hornácko in Moravia’s Hodonin district. It’s in the south-east of the Czech Republic, close to both the Slovak and Austrian borders, roughly midway in the 130 Km between between label Indies’s Moravian base Brno and Slovak capital Bratislava. Cultures don’t stop at borders, so there’s a lot of kinship between this music and that of Slovakia.

It’s a double CD. On the first, Rugged Music, are Jirí Hradil’s treatments of studio and field recordings he’s made of songs from a variety of male and female traditional singers, with the instruments of his fiddler colleague Petr Micka‘s Hornácko Band, the sort of string band that still plays at village events in Moravia and Slovakia... The second, Voices From The World Of Old, doesn’t have Hradil's developments, but is lovely in its own right. Traditional singers are accompanied by members of Petr Micka‘s Hornácko Band. Read Andrew Cronshaw's full review and listen to some of the music


world music

world music

Two new releases serve as a fantastic reminder of the kinds of ethnomusicological benevolence that’s opened up thanks to the low cost of digital field recordings as well as streaming platforms. Russia-based Antonovka records’ mission statement is simple: “We are agile and low cost ethnographic music label.” There are no physical copies of any of their recordings, though they stream via bandcamp, where digital downloads can also be purchased. Read Bruce Miller's reviews of ngombi harp player Jospin Pendere-Ye from Central African Republic and The Asif Zaman Band from Northern Pakistan.


world music On Dziemas No Aulejas - Songs From Auleja, the six women who make up Tautumeitas give their own take on a particular strand of Latvian traditional music. It’s an homage to the singing of Aulejas Sievas (Women from Auleja), who come from a single village in the eastern Latgale part of the country and have been keepers of one of their country’s oldest vocal traditions – one that differs markedly from elsewhere in Latvia in both its melodic style and the type of harmony... Tautumeitas member Asnate Rancãne studied the music of Auleja in depth for her degree dissertation, making field recordings, talking to villagers and singers. One thing she needed to do to obtain her degree was put on a concert of the music – an event which first brought together several members of Tautumeitas. So, in some ways, their own roots lie in this music. too... The nature of it is that this is decidedly niche, but by God, it’s powerful and invigorating. Read Chris Nickson's full review and listen to some of the music.


world music To listen to The Good Ones is to experience the redemption that follows heartbreak. There’s a slight creak in the harmony vocals, a sense of the forlorn in the acoustic guitars. Rwanda, You Should Be Loved presents music of endless depth, something that bears witness to not only tragedy but the hope that follows. And because the lyrics are sung in various dialects not widely spoken, it’s easy to imagine the lyrics telling of hard won battles, sufferings overcome, obscure pathways to enlightenment, or long lost, forbidden lovers reunited after years of anguish. In short, it’s probably some of the most beautiful music to emerge from Rwanda... Listen to a few of the songs and read Bruce Miller's review.


world music

world music

Two new bands from Denmark have similar personnel and a common factor, but quite different approaches to music. Penny Pascal boast two fiddles, cittern and bass, and state that they’re a band where “rules, conventions and comfort zones do not apply.” Their digital-only release Grand Voyager, is a step outside music that might be termed folk.

One of the violin players in Penny Pascal is Henriette Ambæl Flach, who recently won New Talent of the Year in the Danish Music Awards. She is also a member of Tailcoat, bringing her fiddle and hardingfele to work alongside cittern, bass, percussion and nyckelharpa on a selection of original compositions that comprise Tall Tales In Tiny Pieces... You can read Chris Nickson's reviews, hear some songs and watch a video of each ensemble online.


world music While the British Protestant tradition sees hymns come as complete entities, with specially-composed words and music, in the Nordic countries they do things a little differently. There’s a long history of mixing the hymn words with folk tunes. It makes sense: the tunes were simple and memorable, people already knew them, and they’d be likely to take up the new words (the oldest text dates from 1572, just to give you an idea). It’s this history mingling folk and church that Phønix jump into on this new album and they do it with glee on their new release, Hvad Intet Øre Hørte End.   Hear the music and read Chris Nickson's review.


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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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