A World Music Magazine


world music Andrew Cronshaw writes, "I’ve seen guitarist and singer Yann Falquet with Québec trio Genticorum in various places around the world. But his new album Les Secrets du Ciel, while still very much an aspect of Québécois music, takes a different approach. All the songs on the album are in French from the French-Canadian ballad tradition, found by Falquet mostly in books or archives. I try to avoid comparisons in reviews, but just to give an idea, the melodies and Falquet’s warm vocal and elegant guitar accompaniments sometimes remind of the solo works of France’s Gabriel Yacoub." Read Andrew's full review and listen to some of the music.


world music Truly a pan-Nordic project, this pairing of the Floating Sofa Quartet (Denmark, Sweden, and Finland) with Norwegian hardanger fiddle player Guro Kvifte Nesheim creates a kind of Scandinavia dream team. They’re not strangers – Nesheim subbed with the band three years ago – but this is their first planned project together. Kystnært highlights the connections between the music from the southern coast of Norway with other regional cultures, and Nesheim looked to master fiddler Ågon Egeland to help her research.

Given that the music moved between countries with boats and trade, it’s apt to begin with “Devil Among The Sailors.” The set kicks off with a Swedish polska before veering into variations on the tune from elsewhere that bring into focus the similarities and difference in styles. Read Chris Nickson's review and listen to some of the tunes.


world music Roughly a decade ago, a Durban-based EDM/house-subgenre known as gqom (pronounced “gome”) emerged. Pioneered by such names as DJ Lag, Distruction Boyz and others, the music takes subtle elements from 1990’s house offshoot kwaito, snags some features from amapiano, gqom’s contemporary dance/pop music counterpart, and cranks the bass, minimalizing everything else, for stutter-y, dank club grooves. And the trio of Andile Mazibuko, Franco Makhathini, and Njabulo Sibiya- aka Omagoqa - have been spitting out single tracks and EPs at a ferocious rate since 2021. Umqhumo Wethu is experimental South African dance music at its most radical. Bruce Miller reviews.


world music

The hands-down winner for both wittiest title and album cover of 2024 - Proxy Music, is the very welcome return of Linda Thompson on her first proper solo album since 2013. Well, sort of. She provides the songs, either written alone or with others, but her voice only crops up once, among the backing vocalists on one track. No surprise, perhaps, given her longtime problems with spasmodic dysphonia that's so often prevented her from singing. But instead of trying to put herself front and centre on the recording, she came up with a very cunning plan using other singers - proxies. It turns out to be very much a family affair, involving son Teddy and daughter Kami, along with her son-in-law, grandson, ex-husband, and many other willing spirits joining in. Chris Nickson's review concludes "Quite simply, it doesn't get any better than this," and the editor heartily agrees.


world music Upon touching down on the grounds of the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, New York, Cyro Baptista began an ongoing adventure with jazz that changed him, not only musically, but as a person as well. It was 1980, and Baptista’s hometown, Sao Paulo, Brazil, was not yet percolating with the new explorations in modern jazz to come, and so this wildly exuberant percussionist set forth to chart new territory. Baptista found himself in the august company of co-founder Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Trilok Gurtu, John Zorn, Sun Ra, and his compatriota, Naná Vasconcellos. The Studio was a daunting challenge but an ideal setting to nurture his creative soul. Too, it was here where work and life became one, as Baptista experienced a profound commonality among his fellow musicians. “It was not like a school,” he told me in our April interview at his home in New Jersey, “It was a hang!” Cyro Baptista talks with RootsWorld's Carolina Amoruso.


world music Portuguese singer, songwriter and musician Ana Lua Caiano’s first record has a narrative bent with each song acting as a short story. By turns melodic and cacophonous, she offers a pleasing debut. The whole project has a rich mix of layered sounds, experimental singing, and electronic music which plays with modern and traditional conventions.

Vou ficar neste quadrado is, by its tone and content, clearly the product of Covid lock down, a reflection of isolation, creatively keeping oneself company and carefully working away electronically. Strata of audio morsels are manipulated by Caiano, pushing the edges of what can be done by one person, and stressing tech and editing over live group dynamics. She plays, sings and does almost everything on the recording herself. There is a sharp focus on detail and a modestly scaled world that feels very apt for the lock down moment it was born in. Martha Willette Lewis takes a deep dive into these new sounds from Lisbon.


world music The sight of a person hunched over a laptop hardly makes for an entertaining live gig; it can be like watching someone checking their emails. But as just audio laptoppery in conjunction with traditional music, done by someone who is sensitive and understands the form and its possibilities can sometimes be very effective and a liberation from standard instrumentation. And it certainly is here.

Vaev is the Danish duo of well-known fiddler Poul Lendal (of Lang Linken, Harpens Kraft et al.) who, as well as fiddle, here plays spoons, rummelpot (friction drum), seljefløjte (no-hole whistle) and jew’s-harp, and David Mondrup, who’s the laptopper but also contributes piano and other keyboards described as ‘with and without bellows.’ Andrew Cronshaw introduces you to their latest exploration, Sløjfen.


world music In the basement of a restaurant in the city of A Coruña, Galicia, we find fifteen guys in black shirts, black trousers, black trilbies. Eleven sing and play traditional hand percussion including pandeiretas (tambourines), cunchas (scallop shells) and tarabelas (split bamboo slap-sticks), the other four add gaitas, accordion, saxes, bombo (bass drum) and cymbals. Os do Fondo da Barra (literal translation: ‘The ones at the bottom of the bar’) is kind of like a male version of a female pandeiretera group plus instrumentalists. While being very much a lively present-day thing, not a historical exercise, the group reflects and draws upon the repertoires of the old Galician corales or coros, the singing, playing and dancing ‘grupos folkloricos’ on their new recording, BâNZô. Andrew Cronshaw takes you there.


world music Mountains function as natural barriers between cultures, and the Caucasus region, a landscape squeezed between the Black and Caspian seas, serves as example of how this can be. Comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Dagestan area of Russia, and framed by the Caucasus Mountains, these countries and regions act as a barrier between Eastern Europe and Western Asia. And needless to say, musical traditions connected to, but not exactly like their cross-continental counterparts, flourish. Stringed instruments such as the tar, the gopuz, the saz, and the avar tambur drive sometimes frantic, other times hypnotic classical Caucasus modal music known as mugham. So, when Jolana electric guitars, imported from what was then Czechoslovakia, became popular in the 1960s, musicians tuned them to quarter tones and deployed them to move the mugham into the latter half of the 20th century and beyond.

Rəhman Məmmədli, whose music relies heavily on traditional sounds from the Caucasus, is perhaps the leading example of electrified mugham, something the new collection Azerbaijani Gitara Volume 2 makes apparent. Using distortion to parrot Azerbaijani vocal styles and adding frets to better achieve traditional accuracy, his music overflows with intensity and mountain-swept power. Check out “Uca Dağlar Başında” to hear it. The tune begins with his guitar, playing a suspected chord over a subtle synth bed, the piercing high tones echoing as off the mountains themselves before the canned rhythm track kicks in, adding chords for him to flit between, his guitar tussling with itself, scaling heights and plummeting to cavernous depths. Read Bruce Miller's review and hear some of the music.


world music

world music

If you’ve heard any maloya music from the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, the chances are it brings to mind a characteristic rhythm played on percussion, and probably an image of today’s best-known maloya musician internationally, Danyel Waro, energetically shaking his rectangular flat kayamb shaker. Ann O’aro’s third recording isn’t at all like that, even though she’s toured with Waro, and his son Bino is the percussionist in her band, along with trombone player Teddy Doris and electronic manipulations by Brice Nauroy. Bleu is an album far from the usual, far from what’s generally thought of as maloya, and indeed music that wouldn’t immediately be identified as from Réunion. For both Ann O’aro and the music of Réunion, it’s quite a step, and an interesting one. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to some of the music.

Bleu is our June, 2024 selection for Music of the Month. Subscribers will receive the recording along with new music each month. Find out more and consider subscribing to support RootsWorld


world music Part of the Wagogo tribe, the Zawose family are the most internationally recognized group of musicians from the hilly Dodoma region of Tanzania, and they are masters of Gogo music, which not only incorporates chizeze, musical bow, and ilimba (sanza/mbira), but also includes haunting choral vocals as well as dance. And The Zawose Queens, a duo featuring the late Hukwe Zawose’s daughter Pendo and his granddaughter Leah, are making their debut on Real World, the same label that recorded their father 28 years ago. Maisha has its roots in Wagogo legitimacy. Read Bruce Miller's review and listen to the music.


world music Kurdish Syrian Bouzouki player Mohammad Syfkhan now calls Ireland home, after fleeing the war in Syria in 2011. The record, which features his electrified bouzouki, sometimes accompanied by cello or saxophone, weaves over a canned rhythm section and is deliriously infectious. The rhythms conjure limitless expanses. There are undertones of Egypt here, occasionally the speed of dabke from Syria?s Houran region there. Needless to say, this debut is long overdue. With nary a duff track in the mix, Syfkhan wraps his bouzouki around the programmed percussion in a way that makes at least some of what?s here ready for the dance floor. But he never lets go of the music?s romance. Read Bruce Miller's review and listen to some of the music.


world music

world music

Acapella singing is the poetry of sound at its purest form. It is naked. This undressed music can sound like an orchestra in the right hands. Faraualla is a female vocal quartet from Apulia, Italy, formed in 1995. Their music is ethereal at times but also has the vocal rat-a-tat-tat sound that creates urgency and rhythm. The songs on their 2024 release Culla and Tempesta ('Cradle and Storm') speaks to our transgressions against nature and the impact it has on sea life and on our children who will suffer the consequences. Lisa Sahulka introduces you to a vocal group of unique talents and power.

The album is our May 2024 selection for Music Of The Month. Subscribe, and get this recording as our thank you for supporting RootsWorld.


world music Zosha Warpeha's debut solo album Silver Dawn features her playing a Hardanger d'amore as well as some vocalisation. The Hardanger fiddle is most closely associated historically with the viola d'amore, itself a baroque instrument, usually with six or seven played strings. Warpeha's hybrid instrument has five bowed strings plus five sympathetic strings resonating below the top ones.

From the outset we are reminded of Norwegian fiddle music, not just by the distinctive sound of the fiddle but in the way the pieces are structured... Warpeha has taken the structural characteristic of the older Norwegian fiddle music and used these as building blocks... However, despite her indebtedness to these Nordic influences this record does not sound like Norwegian folk music. Having used that as a reference point, Warpeha, who lives in Brooklyn NY, has succeeded in producing a sound which is very much her own. Mike Adcock reviews and you can listen along.


world music 88 Well-Tuned Drums opens to a darkened screen and a deep-voiced invocation: “Maferefun Ogun, Mareferefun La Ocha.” A faint light then appears, revealing a gracefully moving hand with long, slim fingers, its wrist cuffed in cowry shells. A cardboard-like silhouette emerges now of a young boy facing a cavern brightly illuminated with red and yellow light... The hand belongs to Omar Sosa, and the image is of a young Sosa, about to begin his life’s journey as a pianist, percussionist, composer, and bandleader. Sosa’s story is told with warmth and intelligence in Soren Sorensen’s documentary film. Read Carolina Amoruso's review of this remarkable documentary.


world music
world music
Mauro Durante and Antonio Castrignanó, preeminent figures in Salentine music, have launched an exciting new project that celebrates their cultural heritage while taking it to a new level. Their brainchild, the Super Taranta Orchestra, is an ambitious ensemble whose 12 musicians and three dancers comprise many of the foremost artists in Salento’s pizzica music and dance.

Durante, the leader of Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (CGS), the Lecce-based, internationally renowned pizzica ensemble, and Castrignanó, a singer, percussionist, and composer who leads Taranta Sounds, first discussed forming Super Taranta in 2022. Together, they shaped the concept and form of the orchestra. Then, they spoke with the artists they wanted to involve and began rehearsals. All the members of CGS and most of Castrignanó’s Taranta Sounds are part of Super Taranta. Read George De Stefano's interview with Mauro Durante and Antonio Castrignanó.


world music There's no doubt that Eliza Cathy has folk music in her DNA; after all, her parents are Martin Carthy and the late, much-missed Norma Waterson. But that background alone was no guarantee that she'd turn into the towering, adventurous musician she's become, constantly pushing new ideas But on No Wasted Joy, she strips everything all the way back to simply voice and fiddle. The result is a stark, wondrous window into her talents. Chris Nickson reviews and you can listen along.


world music

Labels Analog Africa and Soundway have done some of the most exhaustive work in reissuing essential music from sub-Saharan Africa's 1970s golden age, radically expanding western heads' knowledge of how prolific and groundbreaking the music was. Two new collections, from each of these labels, look at the music through a new lens: Congo Funk! - Sound Madness From The Shores Of The Mighty Congo River (Kinshasa/Brazzaville 1969 - 1982) and Ghana Special 2- Electronic Highlife & Afro Sounds In The Diaspora- 1980-93. Bruce Miller reviews.


world music The record label calls it 'dream folk,' but there’s plenty of crunch and bite to the music in the debut from Alterne, an ensemble from Denmark, Belgium and Estonia who met while studying at the Sibelius Academy in Finland – about as much of a mish-mash as you can find. Ida Marie Jessen composes the outstanding music (playing violin and kantele), but all three can explode with fire and passion... The trio have made an astonishingly assured, ambitious debut, and created a unique, pan-European sound. Chris Nickson reviews.


world music Sväng has been one of the Finnish folk scene’s most notable exports over the twenty years of its existence... Perhaps the idea of a harmonica quartet might evoke some kind of music-hall novelty act, but Sväng is a combo of amazing skill and creativity making a big, fat, complex sound using only harmonicas, from the familiar diatonic blues type and chromatic through double-sided and the keyed Harmonetta to big chuffing bass. Bass harmonica isn’t acoustically very loud, but its beefy deepness in the ensemble... Their tenth album, Svängo Nuevo, also sees the introduction of an extra tone color from a new Suzuki instrument, the Cello Bass low-tuned chromatic harp. Andrew Cronshaw reviews.


world music

world music

Zither - a very wide term, generically meaning an instrument with one or more strings stretched over, and parallel to, a sound-box of some sort, without a neck... Finland in particular has, since the late 20th century, seen a resurgence of interest and the development of skills and in the construction of the instruments.

Here are reviews of two recent Finnish kantele albums - Kantervo by Arja Kastinen and Talende strenger / Kertovat Kielet by Pauliina Syrjälä & Ragnhild Knudsen . Andrew Cronshaw also talks a bit about the diverse forms of the instrument, and some significant players of the present and past.


world music
world music
Kiran Ahluwalia's new album is rich, provocative and, like the moral universe, it bends toward justice. Ahluwalia is an Indian born, Canadian singer who marries ghazal, a type of Indian classical vocalizing, with Punjabi folk music, sufi music and jazz. She is married to the jazz guitarist Rez Abbasi, a much loved musician who performs his Pakistani infused rhythms in this collaboration. He makes the complexity of jazz resonate with a moral authority. Ahluwalia and Abbasi were meant for each other, one born in Pakistan, the other in India, both now living in their adopted Harlem home. This love story began over a breakfast in Mexico when Ahuluwaia shared her meal with Abbasi, which is details on "Pancakes," and provides the duality for the title Comfort Food. The other part of the comfort is the effort to fight for justice, to protest, to fight the good fight. Ahluwalia's songs are profound and enduring, They are specifically a protest against Hindu fundamentalism and ethnic nationalism, but also they call for the world to shed anachronistic beliefs which subjugate, marginalize and ultimately abandon the most in need. Lisa Sahulka reviews.


world music Bass players often fall beneath the radar. With a few exceptions, people rarely notice the rhythm section unless they make a mistake. Ben Nicholls isn’t a household name to listeners, but to musicians, he’s gold. He’s played with a range of lauded names, and he’s gathered some here for his first solo album, Duets. The title says it all – a real chance for a dialogue between two artists. And a fine group of artists, including Tim Eriksen, Sam Sweeney, Nadine Shah, Martin Simpson, Kris Drever, and singer-guitarist John Smith on Richard Thompson's "Down Where The Drunkards Roll." Chris Nickson reviews.


world music For the 12th release in Glitter Beat's Hidden Musics series, award winning producer, traveler and radical documenter of unknown music from around the globe Ian Brennan heads into Suriname to record the brother duo of Dwight Sampie and Robert Jabini, who go by the name Saramaccan Sound. Recorded in the field alongside a river in Suriname's Amazon region, and on the duo's front porch over bottles of rum, what's heard on Where The River Bends Is Only The Beginning features nylon-stringed acoustic guitar strumming and vocals, sounds that seem instantly familiar to anyone who's spent any time around unproduced singer-songwriters here in the US. Read Bruce Miller's full review and listen.


world music A Strange Day In June is a curious album, almost chamber Americana in places, and one that manages to be long on both charm and substance. The brainchild of New York multi-instrumentalist and composer, John Kruth, The Folklorkestra calls on some pretty heavy musical hitters, artists whose range of experience covers pretty much everything in music. There's no shortage of great melodies, all performed with panache and plenty of humor, drawing on influences not only from the US but all across the world. Chris Nickson reviews. Chris Nickson reviews.


world music It’s hard to believe that Minneapolis’s Boiled in Lead have been going for four decades – well, plus a year now, but the time keeps passing. Yet, how the hell can they rock traditional music so hard after all that time? But the evidence is there for everyone to hear on 40 Years, recorded live in March 2023, by a new, slimmed-down version of the band that’s as full of spiky energy as if they were all still 20 years old. Must be something in the Minnesota water. Chris Nickson reviews.


world music Thandi Ntuli begins Rainbow Revisited with a zen-like, blurred chant to the sunrise in California. She sings later of the California sunset. She pays tribute to her ancestors on "Nomayoyo,” laments the rainbow that never fully formed in South Africa, performs experiments in breath, synth and voice, sings of “The One” and ends with “Lihlanzekile,” a Zulu word that means ‘It has been cleansed.' It is an album that fits together like the puzzle pieces artist Shabaka Hutchings created for the cover art.

And so, on a Venice Beach afternoon, Ntuli created an intimate and political album. The inventiveness of this music is in part due with the sweetness of the vocals, offset by tight parenthetical ideas on the piano. It touches on the avant garde with warmth. These in-between spaces are so lovely and compelling, layered to make it feel familiar and yet strange, much the way Thelonious Monk deconstructed a jazz standard. Lisa Sahulka takes a deep dive into a unique artist's new music.


world music We've been hearing a lot of quirky new music lately that takes the singer-songwriter genre and turns it more than a little atilt. Matt the Electrician is one of the latest curios to cross my desk. Matthew Sever is the tradesman in question, and The Ocean Knocked Me Down is his 11th album, and yet, it's the first to ever cross my path. Written in the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, it has more than its share of challenging moments to recount, and yet each one comes back around to the feelings of hope and resolve expressed in the albums title. And not just a little humor. Cliff Furnald reviews.


world music When you learn that GLARC (the label) stands for Greater Lanarkshire Auricular Research Council and that the album is only available digitally or on cassette, it’s a tipoff that something a little out of the ordinary is going on here. Listen to Durt Dronemaker After Dreamboats and the strangeness leaps right from the beginning. It is, however, a rich and curiously satisfying weirdness.

Harry Gorski-Brown is a multi-instrumentalist (voice, pipes, fiddle, organ, bouzouki, electronics) who takes traditional Scottish Gaelic songs and rearranges them in the shape on his own imagination. While these are new takes on old songs, they sound deeply rooted in the soil and stone, uncompromising in the way they’re presented. Chris Nickson takes you on a musical journey that strays outside of the roots. Chris Nickson takes you on a musical journey that strays outside of the roots.


world music Anna Massie is seen and heard very frequently playing guitar (mostly, but also fiddle, mandolin and banjo) with many of Scotland's current leading musicians and bands, and is a member of Blazin' Fiddles, Rant and more. Two Down is only her second solo album; hard to believe, given her youthfulness, that the first was twenty-one years ago, the year she won Scottish Young Traditional Musician of the Year for 2003.

It really is solo, too. Apart from a couple of tracks where she's joined by her mum and dad on spoons and mandolin, she does everything - vocals, guitars, fiddle, mandolin, banjo and more, and produces. In some musicians' projects that can result in something carefully multi-tracked lacking the liveliness of interaction with others, but not so here. Andrew Cronshaw reviews.


world music A quarter of a century ago, three musicians put the windswept North Sea island of Fanø, just off the west coast of Denmark, on the global musical map. ULC - fiddler Peter Uhrbrand and melodeon player Sonnich Lydom, along with an Irish transplant, Brian Cahill, on guitar and bouzouki - played the music of Fanø, which Uhrbrand and Lydom had known almost all their lives. 'The island's tradition is one that has been passed on locally, usually within families. Nothing was written down, with each generation adding its own touches. 25 years on from that debut, Sik Og Sejs (Come and Go) has been reissued. The music that helped inspire a generation of young Danish musicians and sold out three pressings on its release has returned. It?s dance music with an 18th century country gentility, music for looking your partner in the eye as you move around the dancefloor. It?s a reflection of how much Danish music can trace its origin to the English music of the period and its influence in the country. Chris Nickson introduces you to one of the great recordings of the Danish roots revival. Chris Nickson reviews.


world music

world music

This new self-titled album by Dieuf-Dieul De Thiès makes a strong argument for the power of reissue labels. Two volumes of the band’s only known recordings came out in 2013 and 2015, and a band who had split in 1983 without ever releasing a record suddenly had something of a global audience. Ultimately, it’s difficult to imagine their 40-years-late, self-titled debut album is just coming around, and not a moment too soon either, as one of the only two founding members present on this recording, guitarist Papa Seck, died prior to this album’s release. And despite being an almost entirely different line-up (only vocalist Bassirou Sarr and the late Seck are present), they seem to pick up right where they left off. Mbalax rhythms underpin split-second horn blasts, hypnotic, stoned discharges of Seck’s fuzz-drenched lead guitar, and Sarr’s deep, soaring vocals. Bruce Miller reviews.

Dieuf-Dieul De Thiès is our pick for Music of The Month.


world music

From Italy’s southern Apulia region, singer Maria Mazzotta has a remarkably memorable voice, and a taste for musical adventure. For a decade and a half she was a member of the acclaimed Canzionere Grecanico Salentino, before branching out into solo projects exploring her regional traditional in different ways. With Onde, she’s literally electrified things. The opener, “La Furtuna” lays out the manifesto quite explicitly: a reinvention of the tradition with beautifully scuzzy guitars and electronics. It’s a shock to the system – a very welcome one. Chris Nickson takes you into the music.


world music

Concertina, double bass, trumpet and a couple of voices (plus a touch of violin here and there) seems an unlikely combination, but Strandline have hit on something unique in mixing them together. The trio of Kat Blockley, Claude Lamon and Lizzie Pridmore play a unique, beautifully wonky style of folk music. Inland, their debut five-track EP, has a sitting room intimacy whose closest parallel maybe be the unforced, charming eccentricity of Ivor Cutler. Chris Nickson finds it all endearing and off-kilter.


world music

world music

Two veteran and venerable artists, Robert Finley and Bobby Rush, affirm the vitality of the blues. Their latest works - Black Bayou and All My Love for You - demonstrate how the blues, far from being only a music of sorrow and suffering, speaks to the whole range of human experience. Tribulation and troubles? Yes, and both can deeply move a listener with their sad songs. But their albums also are ribald, even raunchy, reveling in the frank sexuality of the blues. There's also humor, wisdom, braggadocio, and resilience. In other words, all of life.

For both men, recognition and success came late in life. And while the blues is their fundamental point of reference, they also bring the funk, soul, R&B, and rock to the mix. George De Stefano takes a deep dive into the music of two very different artists.


world music Irish traditional music has been handed down across the generations during face-to-face interactions, whether it was at a pub session or a kitchen table or gathered together to enjoy an atypical unrainy day. In more modern times, conservatories and online videos have augmented the traditional ways, but long-time fiddle master Kevin Burke has created Music from an Irish Cottage, a hybrid for the digital age – a series of videos with small knots of old hands playing their beloved instruments and swapping stories in front of a wood stove in a small, rustic cabin in the Irish countryside. Marty Lipp invites you to sit by the fire and listen.


world music There are many albums that are of interest for various reasons, but I guess what really attracts me to the entirety of an album is that it starts intriguingly and maintains my attention throughout. Here's a prime example. Alessandro D'Alessandro is a leading player of organetto, the Italian name for a diatonic button accordion (the sort that makes a different note on the push from the pull). Canzoni is a tour de force of D'Alessandro's constantly unusual and innovative arrangements, featuring a variety of singers and instrumentalists, of songs and tunes by a range of mostly Italian composers. It doesn't come across as an organetto showpiece; his highly skilled playing and techniques are subsumed to the creation of fully rounded, rich pieces of music, and only by checking the credits is it clear just how much of the sound comes from that instrument. Andrew Cronshaw reviews these 'Songs for prepared and electronic organetto.'


world music Les Cousins: The Soundtrack Of Soho's Legendary Folk & Blues Club may be a memory of a time and place that’s long gone, but what a time and what a place. Down in the cellar of a restaurant in the middle of London, Les Cousins (originally intended to be pronounced in the French way) was one of the crucibles of the British folk scene, playing host to quite a few artists who’d go on to become famous. The club’s all-nighters on the weekend gave musicians chance to develop their skills and be paid for the privilege. People like Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Sandy Denny, even a pre-pop fame Cat Stevens and many Americans like Jackson C. Frank and Derroll Adams honed their sound on that stage. Chris Nickson explores the riches of this collection compiled by musician and editor of the late and equally legendary fROOTS, Ian A, Anderson.


world music Here it is, the odds and sods from Tiger Moth, the band that gleefully trampled all over English ceilidh music in the 1980s and introduced it to sounds from around the globe. Ostracon collects the tracks from the two LPs they released that didn't make it on to the Mothballs best-of collection, and adds on a 2004 track from the band's reunion in 2004. You've never heard the old-time banjo frailing track "Soldier's Joy" sound like this before, and who can resist something titled "Hunt The Goat"? Much more besides to send you crashing round the living room and breaking the lamps as you dance.

Sound Bites is our collection of short reviews, and well, sound bites.


RootsWorld Recommends
Some of our favorite recordings of the past year

Not so much a Best Of list, but simply some of the editor's and writers' recommendations for listening to the world in 2023. In random order, here are notes from RW editor Cliff Furnald, and writers Michael Stone, Chris Nickson, Andrew Cronshaw, Martha Willette Lewis, Lee Blackstone, Marty Lipp, Mike Adcock, and Carolina Amoruso.

The artists we picked for 2023 are (in mostly random order): The Hack-Poets Guild, Shirley Collins, Laura Itandehui, En Gramma, Too Sad For The Public, Hiram Salsano, Hazmat Modine, Sarah-Jane Summers, Blind Boys of Alabama, Maria Ka, Jake Blount, Mar Grimalt, Seckou Keita, Snowapple, Lankum, Eliza Carthy Trio, Chango Spasiuk, Abel Selaocoe, Brighde Chaimbeul, La Bottine Souriante, Erol Josué, Baaba Maal, Camilla Hole Trio, Carminho, Jody Stecher.

Read more about our picks and listen to a song from each one.


world music Wrong Feet is a celebration of the music of South African jazz saxophonist Sean Bergin by Snowapple, a trio of Laura Polence, Laurien Schreuder and Bergin’s daughter Una. They present an album that tackles heavy topics with good-humored absurdism, carried by inventive musicianship with strong Afro-Caribbean rhythms, spare clapping, and multiple sonic surprises, and lyrics that have a wry sharpness, about the foibles of human behavior. Read Martha Willette Lewis's review and listen.


world music Carolina Amoruso sat down with Cuban pianist and composer Omar Sosa to talk about music and food, the changes in Cuba over the last few decades, and his musical adventures in various parts of the world. They talk about Sosa's latest latest adventure, a collaboration with Italian trumpeter and composer Paolo Fresu. Together, they roamed around, listening to the sounds of kitchens and family dinner tables, before settling in for two days of recording improvisations based on those experiences. Read the full interview and hear some of the music.


world music The original Spell Songs album grew from a pair of books from Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, words and illustrations that became complementary incantations to nature in the compositions and performance of this group of very fine British folk musicians - Karine Polwart, Julie Fowlis, Seckou Keita, Kris Drever, Rachel Newton, Beth Porter and Jim Molyneux. All well-known individually, they set aside any solo egos to bring us some light and magic for the dark days and nights of winter, with this new live album recorded on their 2021/22 tour. Listen to and watch these artists at work, and read Chris Nickson's review.


world music Chris Stratchwitz never saw himself as a record producer, even though his label, Berkley, California-based Arhoolie records, produced hundreds of albums. Likewise, he never saw himself as a photographer either, even though he always brought a camera to recording sessions and festivals where he visually documented the various streams of mid-twentieth century American folk music released on Arhoolie. And because he passed away at the age of 91 earlier this year, it only made sense to collect many of his best photos for Arhoolie Records Down Home Music: The Stories and Photographs of Chris Strachwitz. Read Bruce Miller's review.


world music It’s been several years since Denmark’s Helen Blum & Harald Haugaard Band released their last album. Life and a global pandemic intervened, but they began performing again, and they’ve finally returned to the studio, with the old crew still together, alongside a few guests. The sound of Den Store Sommer is pared back, with a focus on original material from Blum and husband Haugaard, with a couple of traditional pieces and covers in there, like an aching version of Tim O’Brien’s lilting “The Garden.” Listen to the music and read Chris Nickson's review.


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Back in 2019, we were introduced to Bâton Bleu's Weird and Wonderful Tales and their "hybrid of styles from France, Louisiana, Mongolia, and elsewhere” as David Cox wrote in his review. The France based duo of Maria Laurent and Gautier Degandt, and their quirky songs in French and English, were enchanting and sometimes disorienting.

As we approach the end of 2023, Gautier Degandt returns with a new ensemble, with all the quirkiness, and a harder edge. En Gramma ("the trace that memory left”) is a trio of Degandt on lead voice, and kalimba here and there, with Oscar Philéas on guitars and chorus, and Pierre-Yves Dubois on percussion, chorus and occasional violin. Beau Brûlis (Burnt Beauty) is an adventure, a complex mixture of subtly, rawness and humor. It leans heavily on blues guitar structures, but I'll not call it blues, or rock. They call it 'trance rock,' but I am not sure if I am so much mesmerized as simply fascinated. Find out more about this intriquing trio.


world music At the 2023 edition of EXIB Música, a showcase of music from Iberia and Latin America by engaging performers from both sides of the Atlantic, one who particularly charmed, a considerable discovery, was Mexican artist Laura Itandehui. There’s a lovely clarity in the sound of her self-titled debut, with her voice always floating clear and direct over beautiful, varied arrangements. Itandehui presents us with a short but perfectly formed album, with not a note wasted; a luminous, melodious gem that deserves to be a classic. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen.


world music The fourth album from The Furrow Collective celebrates a decade of them playing together with a glory of material and perfectly judged performances. We Know By The Moon is very much a nighttime collection of traditional songs and a bit more... Quite a grouping it is, too, with Emily Portman, Alasdair Roberts, Rachel Newton and Lucy Farrell all returning. Between them, they boast impressive resumes and instrumental skills, as well as their vocal abilities. Chris Nickson lights a fire and invites you to listen.


world music Folk icons Eliza Carthy and Jon Boden have thrown down the gauntlet in the Christmas stakes with Glad Christmas Comes. Where some might see the lengthening shadow of the commodified Christmas season to be unseemly, Carthy and Boden respond with more Christmas, by which they mean more wassail and more cheer for these blighted times. It’s the message of Christmas that ultimately matters, and that message encourages us to be our best selves. And to sing. Across a generous sixteen tracks, they lay out a strong holiday repertoire. They and some friends offer a contribution in terms of lyrics, music, and exploration of source materials. Lee Blackstone settles in with some new Christmas revels.


world music Wherever European expatriates landed in the Americas, the accordion often followed, as in northeastern Argentina, where accordionist-composer Chango Spasiuk’s Ukrainian grandparents immigrated in the late 19th century. Over a career spanning 35 years, Spasiuk has become a distinguished exponent of the unique chamamé style, and a scholar of folk traditions from Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Brazil. Spasiuk and his artistic partners summon an atmospheric music of profound serenity, beauty, and feeling on Eiké: Entrar en el alma. Michael Stone listens in.


world music There are albums that find their homes burrowed in the dark, deep recesses of our minds. No earworms, no bright, catchy melodies, just a profound sense of disturbance. That’s Cyrm, the first album from Irish quartet Øxn, taking the music about as dark as it can go. No redemption, no light and shade, nothing but shadows and fleeting ghosts. Listen to their take on the traditional song “The Trees They Do Grown High,” and the bleakness is obvious from the first piano chords. It’s Lear’s blasted heath set to music. Chris Nickson reviews.


world music There’s quite a variety of bagpipes across the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Well-known pipers from Serbia include Bokan Stankovic, the late Darko Macura, and here, Vanja Ilijev from the city of Zrenjanin in the northern plain of Vojvodina recorded solo at his house in Zrenjanin in April 2023. He plays the local form of gajde (the Serbian word for the range of bagpipes). It’s bellows-blown, with a single drone and a large double-bore chanter terminating in a wooden horn. On the album Made in Zrenjanin: Serbian Music from Vojvodina he uses gajdes of this type in three different keys, each with its own tonal character. Andrew Cronshaw reviews.


world music Four years after this Italian vocal quartet first began, Mesudì are releasing their debut album, Nodi. Three women and one man who create a labyrinth of voices shifting and sliding around each other on arrangements so intricate that each song must take days to rehearse. The results are quite majestic, starting with “Anvaca,” where the females singers and driving percussion provide a base for Simone Pulvano’s raw sprechgesang, something very close to rap on the traditional lyrics. Chris Nickson reviews.


world music I am very pleased to be sharing some wonderful performances of new Danish music, recorded live at a festival in Denmark in August of 2023. Both were part of a series dedicated to promoting Danish music to a wider audience, both locally and globally. Here are the first two.

Høst is a quartet of women from Denmark and Sweden with an interesting take on tradition and voice. Listen here!
Danish Fiddle Quartet is a string quartet formed by violinist Jørgen Dickmeiss that plays modern Nordic folk music. Listen here!


world music Nordri is a quartet of superb Québecois musicians bond over a love of Nordic music. What they put together in Échos Des Mers Du Nord is nothing short of sparkling. Virtually all original work, there’s a real joy in their exploration here, a sense of listening and giving each other space, as well as excitement in performing which gives such a driving quality to the opener, the very Swedish-inflected “Le Retour Du Drakkar.” The interplay between the violins, viola, mandolin, Baroque guitar and bass is always delightful, and the very clear separation of instruments in the mix makes listening a sheer pleasure. Hear more of the music while you read Chris Nickson's review.


world music In a Facebook post about her latest album, Rhiannon Giddens self-deprecatingly joked that it wasn’t until she turned forty-six that she finally made a record composed entirely of her own songs. But maturity has its rewards. With You’re the One, the singer, banjoist, and violinist delivers the most assured and enjoyable work of her career. She weaves together the various strands of her brand of Americana with flair and confidence, and her singing, which at times could be note-perfect to the point of sounding studied, now has a welcome looseness and freedom. The pure tones and deft way with melody (legacies of her opera training at the Oberlin Conservatory) are still there, but she can dirty up a line with bluesy growls and moans. Read George De Stefano's review and listen to some of the music.


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Luzmila Carpio’s Inti Watana: El Retorno del Sol provides moments when the earth opens up and a bird-like cry echoes from the interior. We are listening to a conversation with Pachamama or Mother Earth and in this world “god is alive and magic is afoot.” At 74 years old, these may be some of Carpio’s last words on women’s rights and the rights of her indigenous kindred, the fate of the planet and her spiritual values. She is a messenger of social justice, her music an expression of rebellion.

Many of her songs are sung in her native Quechua. She grew up on the high plains in Bolivia, where her mother taught her to carefully listen to bird calls and mimic their pitch in order to penetrate the temporal world and converse with Mother Earth. She was told to refine her sound to a pitch as thin as a strand of hair so the earth will receive it. On this album, a backdrop of electronic and acoustic instruments is provided by producer Leonardo Martinelli, aka Tremor, an artist dedicated to joining Latin American folk rhythms with modern electronics. His sound is added in a respectful way that elevates and enhances Carpio’s music.

Read Lisa Sahulka's full review and hear some of the songs from the album.

The album is our pick for Music of the Month for November, 2023.


world music Hazmat Modine has the soulful, scruffy feel of traditional music, but the magic of the band is that it never quite lands in one specific tradition. On Bonfire they continue to call out from a unique musical territory that co-locates with American genres. But they do so with some sleight-of-hand, introducing instruments from other cultures as well as concocting powerful songs with varying mixes of wise man and wiseguy... Though Hazmat Modine's nominal ancestry is based on folk traditions, careful listening shows that the band's music is a thoughtful refinement of that global heritage. Band leader Wade Schuman and company are not folk musicians—no blacksmith cum fiddler here—they are artists channeling the egalitarian heart of roots music for everyday folks; preserving its urgency while making it sophisticated too. Marty Lipp reviews. Come read and listen.


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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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