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The music on The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah was highlife getting a much needed makeover. Alhaji Waziri Oshomah and his bands de-emphasized the jazzy swing and large horn sections of highlife’s outdated past, and instead, brought local rhythms to the foreground, allowing electric guitars and keyboards to drive languorous, unhurried melodies for extended grooves. Luaka Bop’s latest in its 'World Spirituality Classics' series demonstrates Waziri’s leisurely approach with a collection of 7 songs anywhere from 8 to 17 minutes long.

Perhaps what makes Waziri's brand of highlife trance so special comes from his home territory in Auchi, located in Northern Edo state in southern central Nigeria. Edo is a place that has found Muslims and Christians intermingling peacefully for decades, a fact that adds complexity to the typical understanding of Nigeria’s Muslim north and Christian south. Read Bruce Miller's take on this wonderful new album and hear some of the music.

The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah is our selection for Music of the Month for October, 2022. Find out how to subscribe and receive a copy of the album, while supporting RootsWorld with your donation.

 

world music Spanish composer Feliu Gasull, who normally writes for larger forces, offers an album of (mostly) solo guitar music, Pit roig. Coaxing a rich palette from his instrument, Gasull gives voice to an alluring range of textures, technical flourishes, and tunings. The title track sets the mood for his five-part 'La Finestra,' shuffling through scenes as a camera might cut from one apartment window to another: different lives, same building. A lithe yet grounded quality to his writing, rendered with a sensibility that embraces the value of past and present, ensures that quiet reflections hold their own against evocations of pure exuberance. Read Tyran Grillo's full review and listen to some of the tracks.

 

world music I very much enjoyed the showcase set at the 2015 Womex by Polish trio Sutari, with their quirky music, and vocals accompanied by a mixture of instruments including violin. For a self-contained creative unit, collaboration with another band can result in a dilution of the distinctiveness of both, but Tamoj, with Polish instrumental trio Bastarda, works really well, emerging as a single well-balanced five-piece. Bastarda takes early music as its source and develops it with arrangement and improvisation using clarinet (Pawel Szamburski), cello (Tomasz Pokrzywinski) and contrabass clarinet (Michal Górczynski). The deep woody tones of their three instruments create a rich foundation and environment for the Sutari duo's voices, violin, frame drums and occasional chimes of kankles (Lithuanian Baltic zither, close kin of Finnish kantele, Latvian kokle and Estonian kannel). Their material for the album draws on Polish, Lithuanian and Belarusian musical traditions, exploring the old cultures of these bordering countries, with original lyrics by Songin and Kapela inspired by, and sometimes quoting, tradition. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and hear a few songs.

 

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

There’s folk dance music, and then there’s hardcore Nordic folk dance music. Optur definitely strut their stuff across the floor in the latter camp. The four-piece, which highlights fiddle and sax over a rhythm section, is the brainchild of violinist Søren Korshøj, possibly best known for his time in innovative Danish folk-rockers Instinkt. The idea is to mix Nordic-influenced folk dance with improvisation, and it works like a charm. The first cut, “4 Drops,” sets out the stall in belting style, while “Polska Nu,” with its twisting melody, is full-tilt madness, giving space for sax man Mikael Fleron to show his ability. Even if you’re just listening, you’ll be out of breath by the end.

Come get a few more Sound Bites

 

world music O Ku Ngwo Di Ochi is the first new record in over 20 years for Oriental Brothers International Band. Since their last efforts, key members have passed away; however, original members Ferdinand Opara- aka Dan Satch- and Livinus Akwila (Aquila) remain. Musically, little has changed. Clave rhythms continue to underpin guitar weavings, as songs truck across the 10-minute mark, forcing the body to react. To hear any of their earliest records is to hear highlife getting an infusion of sounds from Congo, with a de-emphasis on brass while the guitars eschewed chord changes for longer, more hypnotic grooves. It’s this basic concept that fuels Satch, Aquila, and their band to this day... This release, digital only for now, houses five ten-minute tracks with no high points or filler. Listen to some of the studio tracks, as well as a live performance, as you read Bruce Miller's full review.

 

world music Loudon Wainwright III seems to be enjoying a renaissance with his new album, Lifetime Achievement, which isn't bad for a man who's already spent a little over half a century as a singer and songwriter. Interviews and reviews are plastered everywhere, quite something for an artist who's just turned 76. The thing is, it's actually a very good record. Sharp, often lyrically acute, a little sentimental at times, and he still has one hell of a voice. Read and hear why Chris Nickson thinks he's ready for the award.

 

world music

world music

The wildlife of Madagascar is special and very distinct from that of Africa, and so are its people and their music, as are the instruments they play, prominent among which is a variety of stringed instruments including the valiha, marovany, jejy voatavo, lokanga and kabosy. Nowadays, there are also very Malagasy approaches to the standard acoustic or electric guitar. Malagasy singer and songwriter Berikely plays the kabosy, which is akin to a small guitar of varying body shape but often rectangular. Usually some of its frets don't go all the way across the fingerboard, an arrangement that helps with making chord shapes, as the player's fretting hand moves up and down the neck while the other creates an intricate, highly syncopated strum.

Berikely is an established, indeed veteran, artist in Madagascar, who now lives in France. There, with the help of the group's guitarist and arranger Erik Doboka, he has assembled an excellent band, Zama, that really grasps and masters the essence of Malagasy music. It comprises three Frenchmen - Doboka on guitar, bassist Thomas Boucherie, drummer Jean-Yves Boucherie - and Malagasy percussionist Bema Ratovondrahery. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to some of the music.

Elaela is our Music of the Month selection for September 2022. Subscribe now, or make a one time donation and get this recording as my 'thank you' for supporting RootsWorld.

 

world music Emanuel Vigeland’s mausoleum in the hilly, leafy northern suburbs of Oslo is a big, windowless, barrel-vaulted space, which one stoops to enter through a low doorway... it’s a wonderful place to play or sing, if one keeps the music fairly uncluttered... it suits the ringing strings of solo Hardanger fiddle very well indeed. Notes overlay one another and become chords, double-stopping becomes orchestral.

Erlend Apneseth is a leading player of the instrument who, with his trio and other ensembles crosses the divide between traditional music, Norway’s distinctive form of atmospheric, misty jazz that’s a long, long way from New Orleans, and contemporary classical. For Nova he’s entirely solo, which is the traditional context of Hardanger fiddle playing, and the building provides the ensemble for his minimalist playing... Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to this unique open sound and space.

 

world music Lidija Dokuzovic is a versatile gem of Croatian tradition-rooted song, whether as singer with folk band Afion, leader of a vocal ensemble, as fishnet-stockinged rock-chick fronting the splendidly rousing Zykopops (inspired strapline 'Even worse than turbofolk'), or here with her Lidija Dokuzovic Trio.

The majority of the material on their debut album, Cula Jesam - I've Heard, is from Croatia, but some is from, or shared with, other traditions of the South Slavic area – Serbian, Kosovan, North Macedonian and Greek. Despite recent and less recent history, music recognises little in the way of borders. Dokuzovic and her Swedish partner Allan Skrobe met when both were mentors at the international Ethno music camps, and while they now live in the southern Swedish city of Malmö she hasn't lost touch with Croatia and its traditions, and returns often. With her in the trio are Skrobe on guitar and mandola, and double-bassist Jesper Nordberg, and they make a beautifully balanced unit. Right from the start, even before Dokuzovic's voice enters, it's clear that Nordberg is a very fine bassist, making big contributions... Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen.

 

world music The second solo album from Finnish fiddler and singer Päivi Hirvonen builds with fire and intensity as it progresses. Serene as it begins, with fiddle and vocals on “Kulkuat/Travellers” – the only track with guests, two other singers lovingly layered alongside her own voice and some programming to flesh out the sounds – it’s the lull before a storm of passion that takes in subjects close to her heart: shattering glass ceilings, polyamory, societal expectations and more. Ultimately, however, what’s more important than the subject matter on Kallio is how it’s presented. Here’s where things become interesting. Hirvonen is superb at evoking atmosphere, like the darkness that creeps around “Varjot/The Shadows,” where she multi-tracks violin parts to impart a strange, creeping eeriness... Chris Nickson explores the darkness and the light of this new album.

 

world music Mohamed Abdel Wahab (1902-1991) was one of Egypt’s greatest songwriters. Never afraid to incorporate influences from near and far, he gifted his music to humanity at large, casting through the lens of his native land a light of love that continues to glow in the many musicians he has influenced, from Omar Faruk Tekbilek to Anouar Brahem. Among them, too, is oud and viola virtuoso Simon Shaheen, whose renderings of Wahab’s sound are now the subject of a vinyl reissue. Originally produced by Bill Laswell and released in 1990, The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab has given this seminal album new life in a different world. Tyran Grillo explores this rich reissue.

 

world music Ethiopian popular music makes you stand up and take notice. From the myriad local genres that funnel into the sound, to the brilliance in color and tone of Mulatu Astatke’s Ethio-jazz, to influences from the rest of Africa and the Gulf States, and the inevitable infiltration of Western pop, this amalgam is a national treasure that offers endless discoveries. Minyeshu Kifle Tedla's fifth release presents us with a cornucopia of these intriguing sounds, stamped with her distinctive lyrics and vocals, and her collaboration with Eric van de Lest on composition and arrangements. While the mood of Netsa‘s ten tracks varies from rousing to contemplative to sentimental, one comes away from the album elated. Minyeshu sings in lesser-known trgional languages, yet she has a way of reaching all takers with her varied tones in seductive minor key selections of Ethiopia’s pentatonic scales. Carolina Amoruso takes you inside.

 

world music As the title gives away, Anon II is the second album that Norwegian fiddle-player Ånon Egeland has put out under his own name. The first was released over twenty years so it's probably about time, and in fact this is his first purely solo album, the previous one having musical support from two other musicians. Egeland is from the Agder region, to the south of Norway, which stretches down to the country's southern coast. Anon II features both the regular four-string fiddle and the Hardanger variety with its underlying sympathetic strings and both types have long been played in Agder, though the Hardanger fiddle tends to be heard more in the areas where Agder borders with Telemark and with whom some of its tunes are shared. Listen to some tunes and read Mike Adcok's review.

 

world music Langt Ud' I Skoven slipped under the radar, even for many of the band’s fans. Here is Dreamers’ Circus (with a few friends), plus a Danish children’s choir, performing largely traditional songs for children – a interesting subset of Danish folk. It’s not something that’s been slapped together for an album and performance; there’s plenty of time and imagination gone into the arrangements, and everything soars with the trio's usual sense of melody. Chris Nickson reviews.

 

world music Rose Jimetta is a native of Los Angeles and is part of the independent music scene there. She, like many jazz performers, uses R&B, Hip-Hop and choral jazz to make her distinctive sound. Parts of this album channel Charles Mingus; think “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.” Raised in church and choir from birth, the soul-jazz singer easily conjures the sound of gospel music and then enhances it with other genres. With her ensemble Voices of Creation, she channels gospel, jazz and praises God and the gods of music like Sun Ra, Coltane and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Have your spirit lifted as you listen to the music and read Lisa Sahulka's review.

 

world music Wantok Music Vol. 3 opens with a song from Torba Province in Vanuatu, north-east of Australia. It tells of how, in the late nineteenth century, a white man arrived there bearing gifts as a way of enticing the local people to trade with him. Subsequently, having continued to raise his prices to a level they were unable to afford, he persuaded them to grant him some land, where he then set up a trading center to make the local people dependent on him. The fact that the song, by Father Levi Sandy, is delivered unaccompanied helps to give it a timeless quality, but unfortunately that's not the case with the majority of tracks on the album which, through their arrangement and production, have an overtly modern sheen to them, which already makes them sound rather dated, at times. Read the pros and cons of the label's approach in Mike Adcock's review, which includes a few songs and videos.

 

world music Jagdselskabet is one for those who delight in hardcore instrumental Danish folk music. The trio of violinists Krtistian Bugge and Steen Jagd, and pianist Malene Beck, used to play together regularly, and recently began collaborating for dances again, performing traditional music and for this album, Jagd's compositions. His music is certainly inspired by the tradition, and it's very much music for dancing, even with the delightfully quirky touches that pepper tracks. Listen and maybe even dance a kvadrille or a vals, as you read Chris Nickson's review.

 

world music Avishai Cohen, the trumpeter from Tel Aviv and now New York based, takes the work of Miles Davis in a parallel but similar direction. Miles Davis wanted crowds and more accessible music but always at the core he was interpreting emotions. Cohen is doing the same thing in reverse, using his trumpet to express emotion in a way less accessible, but more stream of consciousness, dream state. When Davis went into the studio, the space he gave his musicians to improvise was legendary. In a similar way, Cohen has brought musicians together to improvise emotions. The songs are simply "Part 1," "Part 2," and so on. We get more information in the last tune, which is a spoken word composition. In this space, it is interesting to think where Davis might have gone if he did not head towards fusion, and intriguing to think what Cohen is doing in this improvisational, dream-like space. It is haunting and so personal. Lisa Sahulka listens in.

 

world music Langt Ud' I Skoven slipped under the radar, even for many of the band’s fans. Here is Dreamers’ Circus (with a few friends), plus a Danish children’s choir, performing largely traditional songs for children – a interesting subset of Danish folk. It’s not something that’s been slapped together for an album and performance; there’s plenty of time and imagination gone into the arrangements, and everything soars with the trio's usual sense of melody. Chris Nickson reviews.

 

Music of the Month

world music The craggy black and white photo on the pack gives a clue about the cragginess of the music within, and indeed of Tomás de Perrate’s singing. This isn’t the flamenco of dazzling guitar and dance. Perrate (Tomás Fernández Soto), who is of an Andalusian gitano flamenco family, has long focused on the emotion of cante jondo, ‘deep song.’ After mostly listening to a variety of rock and other musics, but conditioned by what he heard in his family, he took up flamenco singing relatively late, and has taken an individual, non-mainstream path within it. Tres Golpes, his first album in eleven years, is his most extreme statement to date. Much of the material on it comes from 16th and 17th century sources, while the title track is an Afro-Colombian song accompanied by palmas (clapping), shouts and rough group singing. He recorded this material as demos, but when producer Raül Refree heard them he wanted to work with Perrate on making them an album. Refree comes from a rock and pop background but is currently lauded for his work with Iberian roots musicians such as his collaboration with Portuguese singer Lina. Read Andrew Cronshow's critique and hear a number of the songs.

 

world music Shriekback's 1000 Books would seem to fall well outside of our usual 'roots.' Perhaps so, but it became the subject of much discussion among a number of our contributors this year, and so here it is. Lee Blackstone writes, "It’s taut, funky, humorous, and politically-charged. There is a lot of musing on where we are all going, personally and collectively, and every inch of it is worth lending an ear... It’s a beautiful Frankenstein’s monster, grasping for sympathy and understanding, eyes cast in wonder at the fish below the ice and the gill-less humans on the streets." The album includes what at least 3 of RW's writers consider to be one of the best songs of the year, but you can listen, read and decide where to pigeonhole it, if you care and dare.

 

world music "The Nearness of You" is a jazz standard written in 1938 by a vaudeville lyricist and a Tin Pan Alley composer. It has been interpreted so many times but always in a certain genre and in a space where jazz elevates simple tunes. Norah Jones, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald have all taken it into a more complex but very mainstream jazz sound. Along comes Lynn Adib, a singer and composer born and raised in Damascus, Syria, who along with bassist Marc Buronfosse reshapes this song into a haunting painting of sounds. The duo have ushered their jazz to another level, injecting it with music from Syria and translating some of the lyrics to Arabic. Lisa Saulka explores Nearness, an album of traditional songs and pop standards that defies genre.

 

world music Imagine you’re a Danish quartet with one album under your belt. You’re invited to play only your second-ever gig (!), a prestigious event in Warsaw, Poland. What do you do, perform pieces that people might know, or write something entirely new that will never be repeated after that night? If you’re Penny Pascal, you opt for the latter, with a pair of lengthy pieces. The first, “Danish Tunes” is far more than a perfunctory pastiche of Danish dance styles and familiar melodies. Instead, it takes all that as its inspiration, then aims high with original tunes that to flow with the head-raised-feet-moving lightness that characterizes Danish music. The second nods toward a few different styles as well as classical music with remarkable writing skills. Join Chris Nickson in Warsaw and enjoy the entire concert.

 

world music Folk and Great Tunes from Siberia and Far East is double album compilation that brings together tracks from artists across the enormous Russian region, including rarely heard material from the far north and east. There is singing, both solo and in groups, as well as instrumental music; music traditionally played and also traditional music re-interpreted for a modern audience. Mike Adcock shares his thoughts on the many and varied artists he finds on the recordings.

 

world music The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies began in 1979 as a means of documenting the lives of thousands who survived the horrors of World War II. Since 1981, the collection has been housed at Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library, where it has garnered international renown for its historical importance. Part of that importance, however, was at risk of being lost: namely, the songs recounted by survivors in their video testimonies. These caught the attention of Belarusian musicologist and multi-instrumentalist Zisl Slepovitch, who saw an opportunity to revive all-but-forgotten musical legacies of the Jewish ghettos and concentration camps. Joining forces with his ensemble and Latvian singer Sasha Lurje, he set out to arrange and record these songs to “remind us that the survivor singing them represents all those who did not survive to sing again.” The result was the 2020 album, Where Is Our Homeland? Now, Slepovitch and company have returned with a second installment, entitled Cry, My Heart, Cry. Join Tyran Grillo and explore the archive's music, images and video.

 

world music Colours In Black, the second EP from Kinaara, the Leeds, England trio of guitar, bass, voice, sees them building on the success of last year’s Across The River EP, with six pieces covering a broad range of styles, all threaded together by the very sinuous, sultry voice of Satnam Galsian. It springs out of the traps on with “Kaalay Rang,” a Punjabi folk song with a decidedly desert blues groove, featuring some excellent guitar work from John Hogg, playing nicely punchy filigree around the vocal. It’s a mix of styles that startles at first, but works in a surprisingly effective fashion, opening up an avenue that could well be ripe for further exploration. Find out where else Kinaara are going in Chris Nickson's review.

 

world music Gnawa is an ancient music from Moroccan and West African which are near bordering areas. These sounds are familiar to us as they influence jazz, blues and many genres of modern music. What you will hear on Moktar Gania And Gnawa Soul's Masterisé are Islamic and religious songs with rhythms which will sound surprisingly familiar along with ritual poetry, an inspiration to dance and think. Artistic director Jacques Sanjuan has transformed this music into a gorgeous 21st Century ride. The album has 150 years of Moroccan tradition informing it, yet it would sound innovative in any of the Brooklyn clubs. You will hear guitarist Jean-Marie Ecay, a French Basque guitarist, and Israeli singer of Moroccan origin Neta El Kayam in the groove as well. Lisa Sahulka finds an album cast in a mix of modern sounds, mysticism and incantations.

 

world music Lima-based Buh Records has been feverishly bringing attention to experimental South American artists over the last few years; however, they’ve also dropped recordings of contemporary, roots-based Peruvian sounds not always well known outside the country’s borders. These releases have served to celebrate the massive, geographically complex South American country’s rich cultural diversity. With its latest releases from Los Hermanos Ballumbrosio and Perkutao, the label digs deep into coastal Afro-Peruvian vocal and percussion based ensembles, both of whom demonstrate Peru’s Afro roots run as deep as Colombia’s or Brazil’s. Bruce Miller listens to two albums of the country's unadorned, contemporary, always-innovative Black roots.

 

Music of the Month

world music Stian Carstensen's Musical Sanatorium is a brilliant piece of work by an extraordinary musician; for me, his greatest yet. It is astonishingly ever-changing in sound and direction, not just from track to track but within each track. While it sparks all kinds of images and resonances, there's not a cliché nor a predictable development to be found. Carstensen is that rare thing, a genuine multi-instrumental virtuoso polymath. He's a master of accordion, banjo, kaval, pedal steel, guitar and more, with wide experience in several musical genres, including the Norwegian accordion and fiddling traditions of generations of his family, and the dazzling, asymmetric rhythms of the accordion and kaval music of Bulgaria and other parts of the Balkans where he's frequently travelled, and adding to them high skills in classical music and jazz. Join Andrew Cronshaw as he dissects the strange brain of this Norwegian artist.

 

world music You could come to this album simply intrigued as to how a Barcelona born, Paris educated jazz violinist might interpret the classic song “My Favorite Things.” John Coltrane famously took the composition composed in 1959 by Rodgers and Hammerstein to a completely different place just a few years later in 1961 and defined what modern music was, or could be. Coloma Bertran takes “My Favorite Things” apart into nine additional compositions on the album Principis (Principles) with flavors of the original... Bertran lives in Barcelona, where the native language is Catalan, which gives the title track, “Principis” a double meaning. In an email exchange, she says it is “one of the main themes of the album, which I wrote to remind me where I come from and what my principles and values are.” The title tune begins with a lone violin, then drums and then it explodes into a joyous romp. Her take on the jazz violin is also interesting; an instrument that is relatively rare in jazz, she makes it the center of attention. Lisa Sahulka reviews this unique album.

 

world music

world music

Amélia Muge first appeared on my radar in a 1998 recording of romanciero, a style of narrative poem that was popular on the Iberian peninsula in the 15th and 16th centuries. Novas Vos Trago (Tradisom) featured a group I had already come to love, the energetic percussion, bagpipe and vocal group Gaiteiros de Lisboa, and she appeared on a few tracks with them. While she is often promoted as a fado singer, and sometimes fits well into the category, it is her unyielding interest in the ancient and how it can inform the new that has made her essential listening for me over the last two decades. She has flirted with pop music and some purist fado in that time, but Amélias brings her fully into her own, in an album completely focused on the voice, the lyric, the stories. Hear more from this finely performed and beautifully illustrated recording, reviewed by your editor.

Amélias is our pick for Music of the Month for July, 2022.
Find out how you can subscribe monthly, or get the CD for a one-time donation.

 

world music Magalí Sare is a pianist, vocalist, flautist, percussionist, composer, arranger, lyricist, and more from Catalonia, with training in Western classical music and jazz; these elements combine to give a sophisticated and lyrical sound to Esponja (Sponge), Sare’s second album released under her own name. Esponja is both alluring and infectious, made ever more captivating by the polished elasticity of Sare’s voice. She adorns her gift with a palette of vocal accents, chirps and sighs for example, to illustrate her stories, confessions, her soul, further enhanced by toothsome lyrics and classy instrumentation. There’s little here that is not immensely pleasing. Carolina Amoruso soaks it all in.

 

world music Jerry Jeff Walker, the late, great singer-songwriter, wasn’t a Texan. That’s a surprise in itself; his music seems organically entwined with the Lone Star state and it did become his home for many years, but he was born in New York state. Steve Earle, who was born in Texas but now ironically lives in New York, is an unabashed fan who worked with Walker back in the 1970s. Jerry Jeff is Earle's way of paying homage to a man who was a huge influence on him. Read Chris Nickson's review and hear how Steve Earle and The Dukes pay tribute to the great songwriter.

 

world music Estonian artist Eva Väljaots plays a variety of kannels, zithers with different sounds, strings and using different techniques, and her album Hundinuiaois - Bulrush Bloom taps into the essence of that delight in sound. Conceptually this series of pieces, all her own compositions, relate to aspects, and neighboring plants, of the bulrush (great reed mace), whose stiff brown sausage shaped flower-mass, atop a tall swaying stem, fragments as it matures, into a blizzard of white down that floats off in even the gentlest breath of breeze. Her simple, rather Moomin-like, line drawings of it and other plants in the CD booklet illustrate each track. Andrew Cronshaw takes you deeper into the instrument and the music.

 

world music There is a depth to the music of Soadan that takes a minute to define. Pieds Nus isn’t a day at the beach barefoot, minimal clothing and a band playing all day on the shore. It is an extended time in a place that is both familiar and exotic, joyful and serene; that experience of waking up from a distant dream to sunshine, waves and new places. Soadan is the trio of Gregory Audrain (vocals, guitar, bass), Armel Goupil (marimba, keyboards) and Jean Marie Lemasson (vocals, drums, percussion), all natives of Brittany in France but steeped in the roots of not only their own culture, but a wide range of music from far flung places in Africa, the Indian Ocean and South America. Lisa Sahulka takes you on a trip inside this unique 'jazz' trio. Lisa Sahulka takes you on a trip inside this unique 'jazz' trio.

 

world music A classically trained cellist, banjoist, singer, and songwriter, Leyla McCalla, born in New York of Haitian immigrant parents and activists is now based in New Orleans. Her work has drawn upon her Haitian heritage and many other influences. When Duke University acquired the archives of Radio Haiti (1957–2003), McCalla took on the challenge of reviewing and incorporating elements of that material into a multi-disciplinary theater project that became Breaking the Thermometer. She weaves Radio Haiti’s humorous and provocative archival broadcasts, interviews, traditional Haitian tunes, and her original compositions into a varied and engaging reflection upon the cultural, social, and political struggles of latter 20th Century Haiti, and the effort to trace her personal trajectory in that dynamic context. Read Michael Stone's review and hear some of the music.

 

world music

world music

There are bits of free jazz, sci-fi and a complicated mix of the African Diaspora in the music of Irreversible Entanglements' Open The Gates. The incendiary poetry that accompanies the music is beautiful in this context. Music is more powerful than the sword and this music is a tsunami of thoughts on justice and equity laced with various rhythms.

Shabaka Hutchings' new album Afrikan Culture fits well in this space, a most welcome addition to jazz and its continuing evolution. It melds Japanese wood instruments with the kora and mbira to an effect that isn’t entirely expected. Lisa Sahlka listens to two recent recordings that explore politics, jazz and new ideas.

 

world music On the second album from Anna Dantchev and her ensemble Dantchev:Domain, The Lions We Are, the Bulgarian singer who lives in Finland finds them exploring the theme of courage, a concept that’s not always easy to define. Perhaps aptly, then, it’s an album of surprising twists and turns in music, brimming over with ideas. That surfeit is evident on the very first track. “Goodbye” shifts quite abruptly from lament to a hyperspeed disco bassline, colored by deep brass that morphs into jazz. It’s quite astonishing, and there’s no doubt the musicians are exceptional, but the track, like the rest of the album, is very much an album of shadowed textures; plenty of darkness without the relief of light, only a few swirls of guitar and xylophone to offer occasional counterpoint. Read Chris Nickson's review and hear some of the new music online.

 

world music

 

world music

Orchestre Massako is an EP length 4-song collection that pays homage to late, prolific vocalist and songwriter, Jean-Christian Mboumba Mackaya aka Mack-Joss, a Gabonese musician who spearheaded this band from the late 1970s until their mid-1990s demise. Orchestre Massako, which was formed by members of Gabon’s National Gendarmerie, eventually became Gabon’s national orchestra and starting making records in Paris, where they were pressed and sold in Gabon. The band also came to include Amara Toure, a singer who had found fame in Senegal before moving first to Cameroun and then Gabon, where he joined Massako (you can hear him on two of this album’s tracks). Musically, the sound here is polished but not slick, and like many West African bands of the time, owes some of its sound to music coming in from Cuba and elsewhere in the Caribbean African diaspora

Saturno 2000 is an odd release. The recordings come from Mexico City. Well, sort of. Essentially, this compilation is indirectly the result of records that were sold to sonideros- block party DJs in Mexico City. The art of Mexican DJ culture runs along a timeline roughly the same as the earliest hip hop parties in the Bronx or the heavy, dub-drenched toasting of sound system DJ. What they all had in common was creativity based on economic decisions where money was tight. Whereas hip-hop’s origins or Jamaica’s toasters rapped over manipulated vinyl, Mexican block parties thrived due to the invention of turntables with pitch control, meaning DJs could slow records down from 33 to 20 RPMs, a concept that came to be called rebajada, or "to lower or reduce." This collection’s real inspiration comes from an accident at a Monterrey block party when a local sonidero’s turntable connection overheated, causing the records to slow down. The next day he started receiving requests for mix tapes of the tracks at the slower speed and a movement was born as more and more people wanted recordings. So, while the music here is largely from Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Venezuela, it comes via purposeful and accidental tweaking much farther north. And it’s astounding stuff, meant for a slow, hot summer day and a joint. Arguably, slowing the tracks down allows a listener to get inside the music. Truly, except on rare occasions where vocals appear, one would never know this music had been manipulated unless they were familiar with the original recording. Bruce Miller delves into two very different brands of popular music, from Gabon and South America.

 

world music

Music of the Month

Singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Drew Gonsalves is a native of Trinidad, transplanted as a teen to Canada. Inspired by the Kaiso tradition of such definitive purveyors of calypso as Neville Marcano “Growling Tiger” and Calypso Rose, Gonsalves pens most of Kobo Town’s material. Carnival of the Ghosts delves more universally than its predecessors into the metaphysical vein. As Gonsalves relates in the album notes, "While much of my writing has been inspired by the history that has shaped the Caribbean and its diaspora, leaving its marks and scars in all our manners and doings, this album takes a wider look at our human condition­here the lingering past is not just beneath the surface of the present, it is also something we are all quickly becoming part of." Read Michael Stone's full review and hear some of the music.

Carnival of the Ghosts is our June, 2022 selection for Music of the Month. Read more about it and subscribe to our monthly CDs, or purchase this one for a donation to RootsWorld.

 

world music Nyokabi Kariũki gives us a highly personalized sound journey in peace places: kenyan memories. She takes us down a path through the sound images that haven’t left her; rather they have been informed and transformed by her artistic growth, and by the vividness as well as the fickleness of memory. Hers is a twenty-first century African interpretation of the environment and its relationship to traditional music. She teases us gently with console-tweaked natural sounds and with electronic fabrications. We share with her an intimate passage, one in which we feel, at the same time, enclosed within her secrets. Carolina Amoruso takes you to some of those secret places in her review. Listen.

 

world music Any Westerner who’s heard music of the Beja people, who live near Port Sudan, a city located on Sudan’s Red Sea coast and responsible for perhaps 90% of Sudan’s trade, discovered it via a 1995 CD release titled Rain in the Hills: Beja Ballads of Port Sudan. The album, released on the late John Storm Roberts’ defunct label Original Music, featured solo oud laments as well as tunes played on the basankoob, a Beja lyre. This new Ostinato release may not be the first to reach western ears (as they claim), but Beja Power! Electric Soul & Brass from Sudan's Red Sea Coast gives this music the largest Western audience it’s likely to have. It has also introduced a hybrid instrument, the tambo-guitar, a combination electric guitar and tambour (aka the basankoob). Also, the music on Beja Power! differs radically from the OM release as it’s electric, vocal-free, and played by a band that includes hand drummers, a sax, a second guitar and bass. Noori, the tambo-guitarist, sails over the album’s six tracks as his Dorpa Band rides subtle, breathtaking vamps. Bruce Miller gives you the rest of the story.

 

world music The seljefløyte is a Norwegian flute made from willow and Hans Fredrik Jacobsen reckons his latest album Svadilja is the first ever to solely feature the instrument in its traditional form. Jacobsen prefers to make his own flutes, in the traditional way. “One of the things I love doing most is whittling a willow pipe. This is something I do every spring, when nature is awakening with new life, colors are appearing, sap is rising in the trees, birds are singing and the world is a better place.” Svadilja is a collection of solo pieces he chose to record in the open air, in a forest not too far from Oslo. Mike Adcock reviews, and Hans Fredrick will show you how to make your own seljefløyte.

 

world music Those of us who listen to music constantly, particularly jazz, wait for the next burst of creativity that further defines the music. Jazz has been influenced by so many genres, including the African diaspora, Latin music and now every other form of music. It leads to the question: “Is this jazz?” Enter Maga Bo and his new album Amor (É Revolução), which recently stopped me in my tracks one morning while listening to WPKN radio. Maga Bo is an American-born music producer who has spent many years living in Brazil and mixing indigenous Brazilian roots music with 21st Century production and an amalgamation of various music forms... On Amor (É Revolução), his music is channeled in a glorious salute to Brazil, conjuring earth and spirit. Read Lisa Sahulka's review of the album and hear (and see) some of the music.

 

world music Long Term Parking is made up of the Czech trio of Christineck (aka Michal Krystýnek of the band Ponk), Kolib (aka Libor Koutník), and Pavel Bríza. Their first album Luxury Luxury is dark material. At this uncomfortable moment in time, something ecstatic just sounds wrong to my ears. A bit of keening anxiety is in order, along with spoken word droning, some catchy hooks to keep humming to and a bit of experimental sound atmospherics mixed with strings to get to the heart of the zeitgeist. We are (perhaps) coming out of the covid pandemic and into who-knows- what. The album is made up of songs laying bare moral struggles of the mind in the face of technological intrusions, and the collapse of self-identity and agency within the internet age. It’s heady, deep listening stuff. Luxury Luxury has a message, delivered via elaborate lyric imagery and sonic textures. Join Martha Willette Lewis and explore a different take on Luxury.

 

world music Stelios Petrakis is top of the tree among Cretan musicians and instrument makers. He’s particularly known as a leading player and maker of Cretan lyras, including the lyra with sympathetic strings that he and Ross Daly developed, but he’s also master, and luthier, of laouto and saz, and here he brings in a new development of his, a bass lyra he calls ‘Cretan cello.’ This is a beautiful, richly textured, dazzlingly played album, of mostly his own compositions which, like his instruments, embrace and expand on the finest and subtlest parts of Cretan tradition, in instrumentals and songs with lyrics traditional or by his brother Yannis Petrakis.

His quartet consists of himself on the aforementioned instruments, with Dimitris Sideris (laouto and vocals), Michalis Kontaxakis (mandolin) and dancer Nikos Lembesis. For this album they’re joined on some tracks by singer Vasilis Stavrakákis, great Iranian percussionist Bijan Chemirani on zarb, daff and bendir, Charalambos Paraskakis on askomandoura (Cretan bagpipe), and Valencian musician and recording engineer Efrén López on pandero. His latest recording is titled Spondi. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review of Spondi and listen to some music.

 

world music The mere concept of a bunch of white folks from the states or Europe deciding it would be a great idea to collaborate with the Black musicians who inspired them is worrisome. From white-boy “blues” musicians such as Clapton playing with Howlin’ Wolf to Jon Spencer’s party record with RL Burnside, these collabs might have helped the aging bluesmen gain a larger audience, but they couldn’t help but come off as patronizing... There’s no escaping the dilemmas this inequality places on such pairings. Globally, there was the well-intentioned but problematic Real World Records run by Peter Gabriel, which, while introducing African musicians to the west, also seemed to sonically flatten what many of them had on offer, suggesting western production values were somehow more palatable.

But sometimes we simply hear something and like it, finding familiarity and letting the influences wash over us. And that’s precisely what happened when Belgium’s Crammed Discs started releasing records in the West by raw, Congolese tradi-modern, electric ensembles who jacked their instruments into homemade-out-of-necessity amplification for a sound teetering on punk-rock sensibilities... What sets Congotronics International apart from the troubling white/Black collabs of the past is that Western artists featured here- Deerhoof, Juana Molina, Skeletons, Wildbirds & Peacedrums aren’t enlisted by the label to give Konono #1, who reunited for these sessions, or Kasai All-Stars any larger audience. Instead, they’re here to work their way into the Congolese bands’ tonal and rhythmic spaces out of sheer love. As a result, Where’s the One? truly feels like a more global celebration... Listen along while Bruce Miller gets deep inside this unusually successful collaboration.

 

world music Meneet, the long-awaited follow-up to Maija Kauhanen’s remarkable 2017 solo debut, Raivopyörä, might well be even more satisfying that its predecessor. No other musicians this time around, it’s simply her on various kanteles, both natural and prepared, along with all the voices and percussion, including “stuff from flea markets.” Working alone is demanding, but Kauhanen has been careful and precise with the arrangements, yet still allowing space to work up a real fire. That’s most apparent on the deviliish “Käärme” (“Snake”) where she spits out the words like venom over the heavy bassline from the kantele, and a rising crescendo of instruments, erupting in a snake charm chant that pulls from several historical texts. The evil slithers along, insidious, dangerous and deadly, and the track becomes a musical battle. Who wins? Well, you'll just have to listen and read Chris Nickson's review to find out.

 

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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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