A World Music Magazine

world music Since 2019, Moldova-based Antonovka Records has released 96 digital albums of field recordings of the vocal and instrumental traditional music of largely minority peoples. These aren't from some kind of archive; nearly all are recorded since 2017 and new ones are still being recorded and released regularly by Russian-born music enthusiast and recordist Anton Apostol. Andrew Cronshaw delved deep into this expansive catalog, and interviewed Apostol by e-mail. Read their conversation and listen to just a small sampling of the musical world.


world music Dur Dur Int. was a popular golden-age dance band, making otherworldly, dance floor-saturating funk from Somalia, What makes The Berlin Session so spectacular is that its existence is the direct result of new attention directed at this highly infectious, speaker-rattling music from Somalia’s more stable past. Recorded in Berlin in 2019 with equipment that picked up the room’s echo perfectly as the band played live, the reunion served to bring exiled singers together with Dur Dur’s original bassist, as well younger players who keep the flame of this music burning. Read Bruce Miller's review and hear a few tracks.


world music To set the new album by Nyokabi Kariũki in the correct context, we need to conjure cento poems, found sounds, languages, the African diaspora, COVID as well as the music that animates Feeling Body. This work is a collage of natural elements, primarily the healing powers of water, a Kikuyu tribal philosophy, but also the power of words in convincing ourselves that there is another side to despair.

Kariũki was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. The album was recorded in New York and Maryland where the composer and musician splits her time. She has summoned a body of music that requires deep intellectual and spiritual contemplation to fully appreciate its depth. It is an engrossing work that transports the listener to a private environment that is all encompassing. Listen to some of the music and read Lisa Sahulka's review.


world music It’s a very rare thing, but once in a long, long while an album comes along to get the blood pumping, stir the imagination and upend everyone’s expectations. Hack-Poets Guild is a collaboration between three very experienced musicians and they’ve created something unique. Given access to the vast collection of old broadside ballads in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, they emerged to create Blackletter Garland, a record that sometimes adapts the originals, sometimes takes them as a springboard for something new, and sometimes uses the words directly, but frames everything in an utterly original musical context. Read Chris Nickson's review and listen.


world music When you listen to the duo of Sam Reider and Jorge Glem toss melodies and rhythms back and forth song after song, the other thing you can hear is the fun that sparks up between them. The pairing of a Venezuelan cuatro and an accordion is unusual, but the duo make the match seem natural even as they turn their joint journey into a worldwide exploration on Brooklyn Cumaná. Read Marty Lipp's review and listen.


world music Lankum do intensity. They always have; it’s pretty much their stock-in-trade. But what they've done in the past seems almost mild compared to the full-on feel that marks out False Lankum. The Dublin quartet spread their musical wings, bring in some guests and take a trip into psychedelia, and all that while upping that intensity. Read Chris Nickson's review and listen.


world music 38 years together and still going strong. That’s not a bad history, although inevitably it involves a few changes. Swedish band Väsen is making their second recorded appearance as a duo on Milliken, with Olov Johansson on the nyckelharpa and Mikael Marin playing an assortment of bowed instruments. The sound is unmistakable; rich and complex and woody, the notes flowing free, so carefully interwoven that it’s hard to tell where one player ends and the other takes over. That long-honed mix of precision and freedom is on display from the start... Read Chris Nickson's review and listen to the strings.


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Polobi and the Gwo Ka Masters' Abri Cyclonique is largely the production work of Irish-Parisian producer Doctor L - aka Liam Farrell. This record doesn't sound anything like actual Gwoka drumming and singing, which is what 69 year old Creole singer and drummer Moise Polobi, from Petit-Bourg, Guadeloupe, became obsessed with as a boy... Abri Cyclonique allows Polobi the song creator and vocalist a chance to apply his booming voice to tracks about his ancestry, fishing for crayfish, and the spirits that watch over the land in a Creole language of his own invention. In other words, this isn't a Gwoka record. It doesn't need to be. Instead, the music here is based on select tracks from a mountain of cassette tapes Polobi had recorded of himself singing and drumming, which a neighboring musician, Klod Kiavue, sifted through. Read Bruce Miller's full review, hear some music and watch 2 videos.


world music Thanks to more than a quarter century of scholarly work, as well as a growing number of young, contemporary African American banjo players, it is increasingly well understood that this often maligned, misunderstood, yet ubiquitous North American folk instrument came from West Africa... Perhaps nothing comes closer in resemblance and direct ancestry to the American banjo than the ekonting, found in far-west Africa's Senegambia region... The music on Ears of the People: Ekonting Songs from Senegal and Gambia is a revealing look at this instrument. Read Bruce Miller's review and listen to the music.


world music This is the second album from Finnish trio Ensemble Gamut!. They describe themselves as an "experimental collective of early music and folk music specialists, who are constantly searching for new ways to perform early music," and certainly do what they claim on RE. They take medieval sacred music from their country, along with some rune songs, and even an original, and reimagine them. While they never lose the eerie beauty of the original melodies, or the fragile sense of holiness, they weave a web that crosses time, from the Middle Ages to the modern day, with subtle electronics underpinning the voices, bowed lyre, flutes and harp. Read Chris Nickson's review and hear some of the music.


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Lía Naviliat Cuncic brings the polish of classical music and the romance of Latin America to Como una Flor sin Raices, the first release under her lead. Of Uruguayan and Chilean background, Natiliat Cuncic was born in Belgium and moved to France, where she studied Western classical music and voice... Now, she steers her maiden voyage back to South America and the music of her own heritage.

Como una Flor sin Raices encapsulates many-colored beadlets of musical travels and sentiment that she releases into the soundsphere with her finely honed voice, eschewing high jinks while embracing measure and clarity. Naviliat Cuncic pairs the music of the southern New World and its multiple genres with that of the Old, handily vaunting the baroque, and she uses her lyrics to summon the aching, the reckonings and the resiliency of her, and our, heart. Read Carolina Amoruso's review and hear some of the music.


world music The Canadian quartet Vinta performs their own original tunes on Beacons, reflecting the influence of musicians from the past, combining a European feel with a North American joyful spring. They have also produced a series of recordings of the tunes by many of those fiddlers, an accordionist and a singer. It was their album Vinta Plays Olitunes, with compositions by the late Oliver Schroer, that attracted Andrew Cronshaw to this ensemble and their ongoing series of releases. These encompass their versions of material from the repertoires of now-passed musicians. Without exception they are beautifully arranged and played by Nathan Smith, Emilyn Stam, John David Williams, and Robert Alan Mackie. Andrew's review introduces you to their debut album, and the first in a continuing series of great tunes from around North America and Europe.


world music The slave trade was an awful thing, buying and selling people and treating them as less than human. But those people were able to carry a few things inside them. One was music, which took on different shapes in the countries where they were carried. Largely, though, slavery didn’t exist in Britain (although black Africans have lived here since at least Roman times), so the Isles never had a similar legacy. Angeline Morrison, herself descended from African slaves, has told some of the stories of black people who’ve lived here. She brings them alive, and makes sure they have a place in history in her latest recording, The Sorrow Songs (Folk Songs Of Black Experience). Read Chris Nickson's review and hear some of the music.


world music The Nordic countries aren't the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of Roma (Gypsy) music. But there are threads of Roma music and generations of musicians in the fabric of the traditional music and song in these countries as in so many others, and indeed they sometimes keep traditions alive that have almost or completely died out in the wider population.

Elias Akselsen is 74, but there's no sign of quavery age in his strong, finely modulated singing. He was born in Norway of Romany Traveller parents. Born on the road, childhood was tough, and he spent 16 years as a street singer in Sweden... Since the late 1970s he's lived back in Norway... upholding and disseminating his culture, making records and working with leading Norwegian musicians. Brilliant multi-instrumentalist Stian Carstensen has, since the turn of the millennium, been a frequent supporter and collaborator. For the album Horta, he and Akselsen are joined by classical, traditional and jazz violinist Ola Kvernberg. Explore this little known branch of the Roma music family in Andrew Cronshaw's review.


world music Baglama master, vocalist and lyricist Derya Yıldırım and Şimşek, a trio of Roland synth, bass, and drums, owe more than a little to classic Turkish Anadolu psych. Part of the reason for the comparison lies in the Yıldırım’s baglama playing, which, connects folk and pop effortlessly. There’s also her rhythm section’s loping, analogue funk grooves that are buoyant with 1970’s warmth. Both bassist/guitarist Antonin Voyant and drummer Greta Eacott mesh effortlessly, allowing Graham Mushnik’s synth to weave melodies that complement Yildirim’s voice and saz. Bruce Miller reviews.


world music Shriekback were a big name some 40 years ago, parading their dark, intelligent dance music, their videos spreading the gospel far and wide in the days when MTV was young and daring. Formed by keyboard player Barry Andrews, once of XTC, they had a sound that was completely their own and a taste for curiously enigmatic lyrics.

Spring forward four decades and Shriekback are still going and releasing albums. Except Bowlahoola (the title comes from William Blake's poem, "Milton") is actually an Andrews solo project. Not that you’d know it from the music. Even to someone unfamiliar with the band in recent times, the sound is instantly identifiable as Shriekback... Today they still make music to propel the feet, but they’re very much about songs – which brings the realization that they were always really song and dance men. Chris Nickson reminds you to think, and to dance.


world music Recorded by the umuduri (musical bow) and ikinyuguri (rattle) duo of Justin and Eric Iyamuremye in an apartment building in Kigali,Uganda, this music features not only the hypnotic repetition of the bow and rattle’s 1-2-3-4-5 pulse, but also their vocal harmonies, which showcase an unmistakable mournful depth so unique to Rwandan music. Tracks don’t deviate much musically from one to the next, as Justin’s single-string bow remains in a fixed key. However, on occasion, the rhythm shifts in emphasis, while the duo’s vocals answer each other and work in unison or solo. Read Bruce Miller's full review and listen.


world music Orfélia note that their inspiration for the title of their new album, Tudo o Que Move comes from Gilberto Gil's tune "Aqui e Agora" ("Here and Now") with the lyrics "love is all that moves." Orfélia at its best captures this sound with the guitar work of Filipe Mattos and the vocals and piano of Antera Mattos. But it is fair to say that this music rendered poorly can sound processedt. The songs on Tudo o Que Move that stand out are lovely and have a depth that makes them intriguing. Lisa Sahulka reviews.


world music Playscapes is the third solo album from Tuulikki Bartosik and it marks something of a departure from her earlier releases. Although the accordion remains at the centre of things she has extended the possibilities it offers by using various pedals to alter the tone and also to loop short melodic motifs, which gives many of the tracks a repetitive, minimalist quality. Bartosik also plays piano, harmonium and an Estonian zither, similar to the Finnish kantele, as well as singing on some tracks. Mike Adcock listens in on her musical travelogue.


world music New Zealand band Te Vaka was founded by singer and songwriter Opetaia Foa'i in 1994. Since then the group of musicians and dancers, some of whom have Polynesian backgrounds in Samoa, Tokelau and Tuvalu, have traveled the world presenting their contemporary take on Pacific music... This new release serves to dispel any suspicions that their commercial success - including the Beijing and London Olympics and contributions to the soundtrack of the Disney film Moana, might have led them to lose sight of their musical origins. This is essentially an album of percussion - log drums, skin drums and shakers - which retains the raw excitement of the Polynesian traditions of music and dance for which the group have become ambassadors. Mike Adcock hears the Beats: Vol.3


world music Studio Shap Shap's music seems to have gone through a radical change since the Niamey, Niger-based quintet's last LP in 2016. Gone is the dominant role Laetitia Cecile's piano and voice once played, though she is still very much present. Gone too are the hazy, mid-tempo, nearly ambient excursions so plentiful on their debut. The field recordings remain, but this time, they appear to be less about capturing the group's natural outdoor studio ambiance and more to do with adding layers, before, after, and during many of Le Monde Moderne's tracks. Spoken word snippets, looped vocals coming from loudspeakers, and other veiled samples permeate tracks, causing unsettling whirlwinds... Bruce Miller reviews.


world music The trio Wernyhora come from the extreme south-east of Poland, on the edge of the Carpathians near the meeting of Poland with Ukraine and Slovakia. So it's natural that they focus on the traditional songs of their region, where several peoples meet ... The majority of the songs on Toloka, which are all in Ukrainian (with Polish and English translations of their very interesting and beautiful lyrics included in the booklet), are drawn from the many-volume collection that ethnologist Oskar Kolberg made across Poland in the 19th century, plus some from more recent sources including one from field recording work by the group's hurdy-gurdyist Maciej Harna. Read Andrew Cronshaw's full review and listen.


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Even before you start playing the album, the cover is guaranteed to grab attention: a woman walking across a field, her head replaced by a bunch of flowers. So far, so surrealist for Danish multi-instrumentalist and composer Henriette Flach. In recent years she has built quite a reputation on fiddle, Hardanger fiddle and nyckelhapa, playing variously with Mynsterland, Tailcoat, and the relentlessly questing Penny Pascal. While Skyklokke, her solo debut, stretches few boundaries, her compositions are melodic and eminently satisfying, ready to trip the light fantastic. Chris Nickson reviews. Listen along.


world music Groove& is a South Korean percussion trio with the slightly unpromising name, at least in its transliteration. The skill and precise interaction of the three women - Sang-kyung Lee, Min-ju Sohn and Ha-gyeong Kim - is extraordinary, and every sound has musical significance. Using a wide array of Korean instruments they make music of great melody and texture with a tonal spectrum more fundamental than twelve semitones or chordal harmony, one made of higher and lower, thinner and thicker, longer or short sounds that make perfect, cross-cultural, melodic and internationally accessible sense. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to some of the music.


world music It is hard to believe that this solo album from Alessia Tondo, a singer with a such high-profile band as Italy?s Canzionere Grecanico Salentino, should vanish under the radar, but that seems to be the case for the 2021 release of Sita. Intended, she says, as a healing album, this very personal collection of songs is wondrously intimate. Tondo possesses a siren voice and uses it to full effect - a soft lulling call that crosses all manner of barriers, demonstrating its beauty as she layers tracks and harmonizes with herself. Hear the varied sounds of this remarkable vocalist and read Chris Nickson's review.


world music New in our file of short reviews and audio introductions:

Here's a pair of digital-only EPs from the bouzouki player Jens Ulvsand, who is probably most familiar as a member of the Danish Trio Mio. Born out of something to fill the long days of isolation during Covid lock down, Trad-Groove 1 & 2 are explorations of traditional music, but with a twist. Ulvsand uses bouzouki and a variety of other instruments on this pair of recordings to achieve different results on each.

Come listen and get a few more Sound Bites


world music Ever So Lonely: An interview with Sheila Chandra
"The trouble was I wasn't representative of the larger Asian communities in the UK. I wasn't Punjabi, Gujerati, Bangladeshi, Muslim or Hindu... I wasn't even full blooded Asian – I have an English grandmother who never set eyes on England... Yet I was having to represent all these communities under the disapproving eye of the first generation who had emigrated who felt I was 'bastardizing' their culture with fusion. They didn't see that our culture had to adapt to its context and exist as a living breathing tradition to survive." Sheila Chandra talks with Chris Nickson about a magic time in the 1980s when everything changed.


world music Portuguese is an airy, sonorous language that lends itself especially well to music, whether expressed in the mother tongue, or inflected with Brazil’s multi culture, or fused with the Africanisms of the former Portuguese colonies. Cape Verdean Carmen Souza embodies that affinity; her music, vocals and lyrics are a feast of sensuality, intelligence, rhythm, and the unexpected. Souza’s voice, and how she invents and reinvents it in each tune, is one of her several musical gifts, which include composing, arranging, and as a guitarist and percussionist. Her interpretations of songs on Interconnectedness are so intimate that they seem to be an extension of her very self. Carolina Amoruso delves into the many voices of this unique artist.


world music Retimbrar, based in the city of Porto, is at core a group using the wide range of Portuguese traditional percussion with vocals, but its instrumentation expands to cavaquinho, violin, bass, flutes and more, and for Levantar do Chão they collaborate with a range of individual and ensemble guests, so that the overall impression isn't of a percussion album but a collection of songs, richly varied in melody, rhythm and arrangements. Andrew Cronshaw reviews.


world music It's hard to imagine that Eliza Carthy is celebrating her 30th anniversary as a professional musician. It feels like no time at all since she began, and yet it’s also as if she’s always been there, relentlessly experimental as she kicks at the tradition and writes her own material to sit alongside it. Folk music, maybe, but like her parents, Martin and the late Norma Waterson, her definition of the term has been very elastic and full of surprises. She pulls more than a few here, with a collection partly selected by Twitter. Right from the beginning she wrong foots the listener with a vocal melody on “Whirly Whorl” that works across the instruments. For a moment it’s discombobulating, but makes it apparent that Queen Of The Whirl isn’t an album of reprises. It’s a radical reworking by Carthy and her outstanding band, The RestitutionHear more surprises and read Chris Nickson's review.


world music It’s been 25 years since a compilation called Meisterspel assembled the work of the some the 20th century’s great Norse fiddlers. The problem? Every one of them was male. Celebrated hardanger fiddle player Benedicte Maurseth has put together this response – Systerspel – a pair of CDs with all women featured. Maurseth chose the tracks and wrote the book for which this is the soundtrack. It chronicles a century, beginning in 1919 with Kristiane Lund’s “Fykerud’s Farvel Til Amerika,” one of the very first pieces of music ever recorded in Norway, and carries through to recent days with works by Ragnhild Furebotten, Mari Eggen, Susanne Lundeng, Annbjørg Lien and many more. Spend 100 years with the female fiddlers of Norway and read Chris Nickson's review.


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Góbé are a Hungarian band that formed fifteen years ago in Budapest. The band has travelled all around the Carpathian (Pannonian) Basin, a huge area that covers not only Hungary but extends into Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia, Austria, Slovenia, and Slovakia. “Góbé” translates as “a man with a twisted mind” and perhaps that phrase aptly serves as the band’s manifesto since they integrate a vast number of different musical styles into their interpretations of Hungarian music.

An oft-levelled critique (for better, or worse) of folk-rock is that the music may not be reverential of source materials or respectful of source singers; but, it is worth noting that Góbé have both the training and the chops to allay jaded fears. Read Lee Blackstone's review and hear some music. 

Góbé's album Elem is our selection for Music of the Month for December.


world music At this distance, it’s hard to imagine the musical landscape of 40 years ago. Plenty of synths, crash, New Romantics and elaborate hair. MTV was still a novelty. World music hadn’t acquired its awkward name yet. Such as it was, global sounds comprised ethnological releases, classical music from different cultures, and Bollywood soundtracks that didn’t reach beyond the Asian population. Rock bands had added a sitar here and there in the 1960s, but there was no real cross-cultural invention. Then came Monsoon and the world shifted.

The single “Ever So Lonely” was initially self-released in 1981 and resurfaced a year later on a larger label. The brainchild of musician and producer Steve Coe and multi-instrumentalist Martin Smith, it was the ur-text of so much of what we take for granted today. All those fusions, the Asian Underground, so many of the albums in your collection - they all were born out of this. They also gave singer Sheila Chandra her first platform and taste of stardom. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of “Ever So Lonely,” or the album Third Eye. Read Chris Nickson's review and listen.


world music In his review of the album Where Is Home (Hae Ke Kae), Andrew Cronshaw writes: "In the past year I’ve seen two concerts by South African cellist/singer Abel Selaocoe, who’s becoming deservedly celebrated here in the UK. Each was an absolute tour-de-force.

There was a long standing ovation at a sold-out Queen Elizabeth Hall in London for the brilliant Abel Selaocoe - cellist, singer, composer, improviser, performer, a shining light in bridging between western classical, African and improvising music, in collaboration with his trio and the string players of the Manchester Collective. Inspiring, indeed awe-inspiring, and liberating..." Read Andrew's review of Selaocoe's debut album. It includes works from the album and a full concert video.


world music Some three years after his passing in mid–2019 at 77, we have the final studio album by Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John). Karla Pratt (executive producer and estate executor) relates that Things Happen That Way is her father’s long-contemplated tribute to the country and western music Rebennack imbibed as a youngster. But the repertoire, pacing, tone, and laid-back groove comprise something closer to musical autobiography and memoir. Michael Stone takes us for one last visit with the Doctor.


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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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