A World Music Magazine
                      

world music Bonga Jean-Baptiste, a Haitian-born master vodou drummer now living in New York City has been performing and teaching children rhythm in an attempt to make sure the music’s practice lives on. Boula shows the drummer, singer, and Houngan (priest) exploring rhythms he learned as he traveled his home country as a young man. The record allows snapshots of the various regional rhythms, as well as lyrical themes shaped as songs. What they can’t possibly capture is the experience one gets from a vodou ceremony; instead, they showcase Jean-Baptiste’s vast knowledge of this music and offer an authentic recording of a centuries-old tradition. Read Bruce Miller's review and listen.

 

world music The trio plays traditional Swedish music (except for one track), but quite honestly, it’s unlike any take on the past you’ve heard. This is the lumpity-bumpity version, a gleeful rise through it all by a trio using violins, saxophones, and clarinets. Not your standard line-up, but there’s nothing standard about Massiv. Read Chris Nickson's review and listen to a few of those bumpity tunes.

 

world music Sometimes, the number of recordings being released around the world can be overwhelming for us. Some deserve our full attention, many more than this small group of volunteers can handle. Some deserve at least a mention and a quick listen, and then you can decide to follow on further. So, here is a new section - short pithy reviews to give you a heads up - or perhaps, a warning. You'll find these reviews on the web site complete with a song or video.

The latest: Catch up on music from Norwegian accordionist Mads Erik Odde, Catalan folk-rock ensemble La Coixinera, English folk artist Anna Tam and more Come get a few Sound Bites

 

world music

Music of the Month

Colombia's Caribbean coast zone has historically been a refuge for African captives who fled slavery to create palenque communities of maroon resistance. Octogenarian singer Petrona Martínez is a renowned bearer of the polyrhythmic, call-and-response Afro-Colombian bullerengue tradition, a singular female folkdance and song genre. Remarkably, it was only at age fifty that Martínez gained recognition outside her home region, after her first recording materialized in 1989. Such massively popular Colombian artists as Bomba Estéreo, Aterciopelados, and Carlos Vives cite her as a foundational influence. Joining her are a group of artists that include Peru's Susana Baca ("El Niño Roncón," Cuba's Aymée Nuviola, Benin's Angélique Kidjo and many others. With Ancestras, Martínez pays vivid homage to her own culturally vital matriarchal lineage; to the women of the transatlantic African Diaspora more broadly; and to her artistic compatriots, whom she affectionately refers to as "petronistas." Read Michael Stone's full review and hear some of the music.

Ancestras is our pick for Music of the Month for December. Find out how you can support RootsWorld by subscribing monthly or making a one time donation, and get the CD as our thank you. The CDs were donated by Chaco World Music, so all of your contribution (except the postage) goes to support the magazine and radio.

 

world music Folk fra Follo features a selection of little known Norwegian dance tunes played by Marianne Tomasgård (fiddle) and Åsmund Reistad (various guitars, mandola and double bass). Follo is the historical name for an area that includes the regions of Akerhus and Østfold, which, perhaps because they are so close to Oslo, have not maintained their folk traditions to the extent that more rural places have managed. The two featured musicians have been playing together for five years and in their duo have developed their own way of presenting this music in an instrumental combination not that commonly found in Norwegian folk music. Read Mike Adcock's review and hear some of the music.

 

world music The trio Salt House's latest recording wasn’t made under ideal conditions: it happened during lockdown, with two of the members squirreled away in the Highlands of Scotland, while the third was across the sea in Shetland. What’s remarkable is that somehow they managed to put together 5 song EP as warm, natural and utterly comfortable as Working for Zeus. It slips in, feeling like a visit from an old friend, with Ewan Macpherson’s vocals on the opening title cut summoning up images of 80s John Martyn or more recent Ben Howard. Voices flows and floats on thermals of music, with gentle accompaniment from the other members that gives some lush support. “Working for Zeus” is an earworm that manages to seem like a hug even as it flies free at the end. Hear a few excerpts from the album and read Chris Nickson's review.

 

world music The fact that this huge country has a central government often makes it appear that there is such a thing as "Chinese music," and what's usually heard is the highly organized, highly skilled instrumental and vocal music of the conservatoire, concert hall or opera, rather than the music of the villages and towns of the many disparate peoples within the political unit of China. The Folk Music Of China series does a great deal to open up an awareness of the variety to be found among those peoples, and the booklet notes are an essential guide to what we're listening to.

Despite the overall title, as the individual CD titles indicate all twenty are collections of folk songs and singing, much of it unaccompanied solo, duet or ensemble, with instruments only occasionally making an appearance. In this 20th volume, though, a variety of instruments does feature, in the music of the Manchu, Xibe, Korean and Gin people. Listen to a number of examples and read Andrew Cronshaw's review.

 

world music

world music

Days were grower darker, as the news was getting darker still about the growing pandemic... It was hard to tell if the lines on the window were being etched by Jack Frost, or if it was the fingers of the Grim Reaper, tap-tap-tapping with COVID-laced nails. But there was a glimmer of light, and that light was the news that the English folk big band Bellowhead had reunited for a one-off concert to be streamed at the beginning of December 2020. Reassembled is the document of that program. It will likely stand the test of time as a document of something much more important: the sheer joy of people being together and making a glorious noise. Bellowhead had disbanded in 2016, but – given that it was the tenth anniversary of their tremendous album Hedonism, and the general state of the world – a reunion seemed appropriate.

Fallow Ground is another reunion album: that of the duo of John Spiers and Jon Boden. Spiers and Boden put their duo on temporary hold in 2014, and here they come out firing on all cylinders. This is a handsome, beautifully played album that is so brisk that the songs and tunes sound like a much larger band. Further, Spiers and Boden venture off into Australian folk song territory, kicking off with "Bluey Brink" and "Butter & Cheese & All," both connected with the late Peter Bellamy's repertoire. These songs resulted in a revelation for me: I tend to like folk-singers with deep voices, the kind that could age whiskey just by singing at it. Boden, though, has a higher range – and through these Australian songs, the debt to Bellamy comes through. Join Lee Blackstone at the reunion of an English collective.

 

world music The booklet cover to Sofia Rei’s Umbral is an extravagant pastiche. It billows; sprouts tropical plant and avian life, including a furled peacock clinging to a drape of muted magenta flowers on her shoulder; and it woos us with floating swags of silky turquoise. Clothed in lemony chinoiserie, Rei holds up to her eye what could be a spyglass or a kaleidoscope, looking out beyond the "umbral,” or threshold, and into the future or inward at the kaleidoscope’s many colors and possibilities. The cover’s sumptuousness, harmonies, sense of movement and discovery, are elements to be reprised by the music and lyrics of this exceptional album. Umbral is painstakingly intelligent yet the album exudes the sensuality that we turn to music for. What’s more, the album can be ironic and downright humorous as well.

Rei’s muse is Chilean Nobel laureate in literature, Gabriela Mistral, whom she honors in "La Otra," borrowing Mistral’s enigmatic and much explored poem of the same name. The interpretations have been many, though they square on women’s tendency towards self-blame and to harbor an often destructive inner, other self. Channelling Mistral, she invites women to reflect on their assuming such burdens. But she also hawks Mistral’s Other as a woman ablaze, who, “where she took her siesta, the grass curled up,” and who radiated “an intense heat that she refused to cool.” I got the feeling from the poem and Rei’s rendition of it that in owning their struggle, they may be alluding to the wages women have historically paid for artistic expression, if not genius. Read the rest of Carolina Amoruso's review and listen to some of the songs.

 

world music Slovak band Hrdza (the name means ‘Rust’) have been in existence for 22 years, hence the title of their latest is 22. To celebrate that, for their sixth album they’ve recorded new versions of their most-played songs. Their sound is impressively big and powerful, with male and female vocals, fiddles, accordion, guitar and other frets, percussion, bass and drums, with guests adding cimbalom and other traditional instruments such as fujara and augmenting the vocals. Andrew Cronshaw takes you through the music.

 

world music Just now and then, a record comes along in which everything about it seems to perfectly embody the broader intentions underlying the work. Lumba is a case in point. Tamala are a Belgium-based trio featuring vocalist Molo Sylla and kora-player Bao Sissoko, both from Senegal, plus Belgian violinist Wouter Vandenabeele and this is their second album. In the sleeve notes we are told that in an unfair world where hypocrisy reigns, "Lumba" represents change, a wish to "look at the world with an open mind, a world in which everyone has the right to exist in his or her own way." Without wishing to stretch the point too much, I couldn't help thinking as I listened that the music they produce together is a telling illustration of that aspirational ideal. The songs (all but one composed by Bao Sissoko) have a predominantly African base yet the generous interplay between Sylla, Sissoko and Vandenabeele - who brings a different perspective to the mix, allows the music to transcend geographic cultural definitions to produce something new and really quite wonderful. Mike Adcock finds it to be one of his top musical finds of the year.

 

world music Sarah McQuaid is a veteran singer-songwriter and guitarist, a subtle and stunning instrumentalist. She’s toured relentlessly for years, and released several albums along the way. When lockdown came, it hit her hard; everything came to a halt. Her answer was to record this album in a church near her home in Cornwall, with only her soundman- engineer in attendance. No new material from her pen, but more like a concert, each track performed live and without overdubs, a journey through her career. The result is her latest recording, The St. Buryan Sessions. Chris Nickson explores the voice and guitar of this American-born artist from Cornwall.

 

world music

Sarah Aroeste was born in the USA, but her forebears were among the Sephardim, the Spanish Jews expelled from Spain in the 15th century and many of whom settled in the Ottoman empire, including in Monastir (now called Bitola), which is where her grandfather was born. Most of the family was taken to Treblinka and murdered by the Nazis, but her grandfather's cousin Rachel Nahmias escaped to Albania where she was taken in by a Muslim family. Aged 103 at the time of the album recording, she's heard reciting a Sephardic finger-game to one of Aroeste's daughters, singing in Macedonian. Aroeste's aim with the making the album Monastir was to select and arrange ten songs to reflect pre-WW2 Jewish life in Monastir. In the main they're from Macedonian and Sephardic tradition, with some originals by her and others, in Macedonian, Ladino and Hebrew, with the aid of over 30 musicians and ensembles from Israel, Macedonia, Spain, Germany and the USA. Andrew Cronshaw looks into the history of the city and the music it inspired.

Monastir is out newest selection for Music of the Month. Find out how you can support RootsWorld by subscribing monthly or making a one time donation, and get the CD as our thank you.

 

world music Sale Caractère - which translates roughly to “dirty character”(or personality) came out in June this year, after a seven year hiatus by Massilia Sound System. This group of gentlemen have been playing together since 1982, so the camaraderie expressed in the album is the real deal, and they take their roles as socio-political troubadours very seriously indeed. The band mixes dub, ragamuffin, reggae with lyrics in French and Occitan- a mix they refer to as trobamuffin- to create urgent, passionate music about the city and the contemporary ills that plague this most spirited of places. This album is a full-on critique of social injustices and inequities mixed with a profound love for Marseilles – a place I know well, and have been missing greatly during Covid- and this album provided a sunlit, socially conscious, musical reminder. Founded in 600 BC by the Phocaean Greeks as Massilia, it is one of Europe’s oldest settlements and the oldest city in France. Martha Willette Lewis explores the music of a city both familiar and mysterious.

 

world music Two recent releases by composer and accordinionist Guy Klucevsek will give you just a small glimpse at his range and vision. In 1992 he recorded Citrus, My Love, a cycle of original compositions for accordion and strings that featured The Bantam Orchestra. It is being reissued this month. Also, during this endless pandemic 'year,' he and pianist Jenny Lin recorded and released Simple Music, 33 miniatures for theater and film by Georgian composer Giya Kancheli.

I wanted to take these occasions to introduce to (or remind you of) the work of one of the artists I most admire. In addition to music from these albums, I have included a full concert I hosted at WPKN in 2005 with Guy, as well as diverse tracks from some of his other work. There is also a video where Guy talks about how Citrus, My Love was developed. Read the rest of the editor's commentary and listen online.

 

world music All day long, God proposes to us with music.
Thus goes the Rumi-inspired poem that appears on the back cover of Opium Moon’s second album, the double CD Night + Day. What the band has proposed for their sophomore release shows their more fiery side compared to their debut. Reflective of the title, the Night portion of the album is more meditative and relaxing, whereas by Day, things are in more of a dancing mood. Either way, the music is richly satisfying and the foursome that is Opium Moon- bassist Itai Disraeli, percussionist MB Gordy, violinist Lili Haydn and santoor player Hamid Saeidi -show their chops to be spot on and their strength as an ensemble skin tight. Read Tom Orr's review and listen to the difference between night and day.

 

world music Focusing on the instrumental and vocal traditions of Hallingdal, a valley and district in Buskerud county, west and north-west of Oslo in south-east Norway, Slåttesong alternates between Erlend Apneseth’s fiddling and Margit Myhr’s singing, each of them solo... The Erlend Apneseth Trio, with Apneseth on Hardanger fiddle and moraharpa, Stephan Meidell on baritone guitar, samples and electronics and Øyvind Hegg-Lunde on acoustic and electronic percussion, make meaty soundscapes, surging, pulsating, moving between dark, calm, threatening, soaring, with echoes and elements of traditional music particularly from the fiddle, exploring sonorities with a fundamentally Norwegian sensibility. Lokk consists of music commissioned for the dance company Frikar. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to tracks from these two albums, and get an idea of the breadth and genre-crossing uniqueness of today's Norwegian music.

 

world music

world music

Trying to pin down Barbora Xu’s music is like attempting to grasp mercury. She’s originally from the Czech Republic, but what she plays is steeped in diverse poetry-singing traditions – from both Finland and China (which prove to have more in common than you might imagine), played on various kanteles, guzheng, and guquin – all zithers of different sorts.... While the texts might be ancient, in almost every case Xu composes the music, creating a spare framework that draws on those differing traditions, yet is strongly influenced by minimalism, and interestingly, those pillars complement each other. Even when the sound is filled out, as on the title cut, there’s still a sense of stillness, of barely breathing, even as a cello forms an interesting deeper counter voice to Xu’s own singing. Read Chris Nickson's full review and listen to some of the music.

Barbora Xu’s album Olin Ennen is our selection for the next Music of the Month recording. Find out more about how to donate and receive the CD.

 

world music The music crafted by Kondi Band, the duo of Sierra Leonean kondi master Sorie Kondi and DJ/producer Boima Tucker- aka Chief Boima- has a crucial backstory. Sorie Konoma, who later took the surname of his instrument, known elsewhere in Africa as a likembe or mbira, was born blind and missed an opportunity to release his music commercially in the late 90s, just as Sierra Leone was plunged into a brutal civil war. Abandoned for several days in his home, as the city around him was destroyed, he emerged and started busking, changing his last name in the process. A chance encounter with an American recording engineer in Lungi led to Kondi’s first album in 2007. We Famous, the duo’s second effort continues the process of taking Sorie’s songs, vocals, and kondi rhythms and pushing them into the realm of the club. Boima drops in dive-bombing bass runs, dub effects such as echo and suddenly disappearing percussion, splashes of synth, and electronic drum thwacks. The end result is deep, infectious, and heavy. Read Bruce Miller's full review and listen to some of the music.

 

world music Nuevo tango isn't new. The French/Argentinean Gotan Project and a few others of their ilk have been at it for a good number of years -though there are still trails to be blazed within it. Bassist and bandleader Sascha Jacobsen no doubt knew as much when he formed San Francisco-based Los Tangueros del Oeste (Tango Players of the West). I suppose any band that mixes traditional and modern sounds still runs the risk of irritating purists, but there's no good reason to carp about Alma Vieja. The zesty rhythms of tango are at times smoothed out a bit by electronica additions but just as often enhanced by jolts of flamenco and jazz. And at no time do they lose the characteristic passion that makes tango so appealing and subtly sensual. Read the full review by Tom Orr.

 

world music There's a good argument to be made for Changüi: The Sound Of Guantanamo to take its place as one of the more revelatory recordings of Cuban roots music. There hasn’t been a release that takes such a deep dive into a musical style that has existed for well over 100 years. The Guantanamo region is in the extreme eastern corner of the island, and is isolated from the much of the world, even by Cuban standards. 50 miles from Haiti and covered in rainforest in the north and semi-desert in the south, its culture takes on elements of some of its Caribbean neighbors. It’s also the place where the tres- a guitar-like instrument heard in a number of different Cuban musical genres- was developed. What sets changüi apart from the more familiar son, is the absence of the West African-derived clave rhythm. In changüi, the tres is buoyed by a cylindrical metal scraper and punctuated by hand drumming that often sounds like the lead instrument. The riffs of the tres drive the tunes, and vocals, like so many African-based musics, lean heavily on call and response.... Bruce Miller digs into the three CDs and 120 page book that comprises this collection.

 

world music Guitarist and producer Justin Adams, probably best-known as part of Robert Plant’s band, met Mauro Durante, the violinist/singer/percussionist for Italy’s Canzionere Grecanico Salentino (GCS) when the pair of them worked on composer Ludovico Einaudi’s 2015 Taranta Project. It marked the beginning of a very firm friendship. Adams was a guest on the recent CGS release, and during lockdown the two of them worked up Still Moving. Adams’s deep roots lie in the desert blues (he produced the very first Tinariwen album) while Durante’s soul is consumed by the taranta music of his native Southern Italy. But they have found that there’s plenty of common ground between those areas. Cut in a single session in 2020 during a brief period between lockdowns, just the two of them, this is a place where ideas come together. Chris Nickson found it all rather majestic. Listen!

 

world music Madness is everywhere, it seems. Family, friends, and neighbors are emerging from lock downs due to the COVID-19 pandemic: putting on shoes, gassing up the car, heading to restaurants…while the pandemic continues. Conspiracy theories are rife, while politics have been amped up globally so that the right and the left serve as magnetic poles ripping civil society apart. Main streets lie gutted; refrigerator cars house the dead; meetings are Zoomed, groceries one-clicked. It would all be sobering, if liquor stores had not been considered essential services. Who's behind the mask?

This particular ball of confusion serves the Cypriot band Monsieur Doumani well. The trio is now comprised of Antonis Antoniou (tzouras, electronics, vocals, stomp box), Demetris Yiasemides (trombone, vocals), and, since 2019, guitarist Andys Skordis. Together, they have created Pissourin, which in Greek-Cypriot dialect means 'total darkness.' Listening to their latest music, one might think that Monsieur Doumani have written the soundtrack for the Dark Night of the Soul that we have all been blindly lumbering through. There is a spirituality here that is embodied and intoxicated, the band grabbing you by the shoulders to wake you up in these lucid dreams of songcraft. Listen with Lee Blackstone to the sounds of darkness as we look for the light.

 

world music Karine Polwart possesses an instantly recognizable voice, one that catches the ear with its gentle Scots burr. Her singing possesses such an inviting warmth that it draws listeners in and wraps the song around them, so it's not only the singer who inhabits the song, and that's a very rare gift. This time out, she puts away her guitar and teams up with her neighbor (quite literally, as they live in the same village), jazz pianist Dave Milligan, for an album that takes in a selection of traditional music, a cover or two and some of Polwart's staggeringly good originals. With just voice and piano, the pair do bold, sensitive justice to the exquisite material... Read Chris Nickson's review and listen to some of the music.

 

world music Monoswezi is a five-piece band whose name refers to the countries they hail from: Mozambique, Norway, Sweden and Zimbabwe. The title of their latest album also contains a self-referential clue, Shanu being the Shona word for five which, as well as representing a head count of the band, reflects the fact that this is their fifth album. The African input of Shanu is established from the start on "Kuwonererwa," with Zimbabwean vocalist Hope Masika accompanied solely by ensemble percussion until Hallvard Godal introduces a wash of sound from the mellotron, with Masika adding an mbira rhythmic pattern. The track makes for a promising start to an album which turns out to be something of a mixed bag. Mike Adcock takes you on their trans-continental journey.

 

world music

world music

Henri Guédon, a Martinique-born sculptor and master percussionistwas living in France where he led bands as a musician and vocalist. Karma, originally issued in 1975, shows Guédon and company's ability to synthesize Bomba, Tamboo, Biguine, and Zouk into a batch of tracks that have remained infectious.

Hocine Chaoui's Ouechesma- originally released on a cassette in the 1980's is 30 minutes of hardcore Chaoui, a Berber genre that took hold in Algeria's Aures Mountains. Featuring sandstorm blasts from the Gaspa flute underpinned by electronic beats, Hocine's vocals get into a call and response with the flute, kicking up dust and forcing the body to move. Read Bruce Miller's review of both reissued LPs and hear some of the music.

 

world music Sebastià Gris first encountered the guitar at the age of fourteen, taking private lessons in his home town in Majorca. Intriguingly, he spent a year playing on the streets of Stratford-Upon-Avon, in England – a locale famed, of course, as the home of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Gris then returned to Spain, studying guitar seriously at the Conservatorio del Liceo, Barcelona. Since then, he has collaborated with many local musicians as arranger, composer, producer and teacher. Llorer, Clau I Canyella is his first solo album. It was recorded, we are told, "almost entirely on the edge of the kitchen counter at home" in Centelles, Catalonia. The opening track "Aeroblues" will leave no doubt that this is something special. Gris coaxes sounds from his instrument which echo numerous genres yet feel entirely original. You'll hear in his music the blues referred to in the title, but also American and English folk tunes, classic country, jazz and, unsurprisingly, Spanish flamenco. Hear more and read Chris Wheatley's review.

 

world music The fairly small world of Danish folk music often feels like an extended family, and that’s perfectly illustrated by this pair of new releases. Musically, they’re very different, of course, but some of the same people appear on both, helping and supporting, the thread of people that runs through Danish folk. Mette Kathrine has been one of the country’s leading accordion players for quite a few years, but until now her focus has been on traditional music, mostly for dancing (she’s also a member of the trio Zenobia, where she stretches her wings in other ways). With Famliealbum, she puts her own compositions on display for the first time... The duo of Morten Alfred Høirup and singer/shruti box player Mia Guldhammer is still pretty new. They put a stripped-down EP in 2019, but this full-length debut fleshes it all out with a number of guests (including, inevitably, Bugge), on a mix of originals and some carefully chosen traditional pieces... Read more about both of these new recordings and hear some of the music in Chris Nickson's review.

 

world music

world music

"Music is like a tree, everything is connected, every musical line or rhythm you play is the shadow of something that came from somewhere and it is fascinating to me to see how cultural heritage continues to exist after centuries of geographical transformations."

New Orleans has been oriented to the French and Spanish Caribbean since the slave-trade era. Composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), born in this Latin American cultural crossroads of German Jewish and Haitian Creole heritage, grew up with a Haitian nanny, and traveled and performed extensively in around the world. The first internationally recognized, distinctively U.S. classical composer, Gottschalk melded his itinerant musical explorations in his work. Likewise, he engaged with and inspired such noted composers as Cubans Ignacio Cervantes and Manuel Saumell, Brazilian Ernesto Nazareth, and Texas-born Scott Joplin, among many others. Gottschalk’s life and music are the inspiration for French trumpeter-composer Yohan Giaume’s Whisper of a Shadow: Musical Conversations with Louis Moreau Gottschalk, the fruit of the latter’s own musical sojourn through Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, North Africa, Europe, and the United States. Michael Stone listens in on a conversation between two composers separated by more than century.

Whisper of a Shadow is RootsWorld's selection for Music of the Month for September, 2021. You can find out how to subscribe monthly, or donate one time, and receive this recording.

 

world music

Six years after its first, the Finnish trio Celenka’s second album focuses on material from traditional songs and lyrics of Karelians and Veps, Finnic peoples whose homelands straddle the Finnish-Russian border but are now mostly in Russia. The trio uses an unusual and effective instrumental combination. Jarmo Niemelä’s agile trumpet with Eero Grundström’s harmonium, pumping and skipping in the powerfully energetic tracks and sometimes orchestral numbers. Emmi Kujanpää contributes the ringing chimes of kantele and generally leads the strong blend of their three voices. Andrew Cronshaw reviews Celenka's Villoi Varsa

 

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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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