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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.

 

world music

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.

 

world music

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.

 

world music Rather famously, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and many others have all questioned the idea of jazz, believing the term to be too small to encompass a genre better defined as 'black classical music.' Drummer and writer Yuseff Dayes uses the term to define the 19 compositions presented here. It is a dreamy meditation with tiny interludes for connective tissue. His album Black Classical Music is so remarkable that it is humbling to review.

Kassa Overall’s music, like Dayes' work, is a watershed moment for jazz; a true child of bebop, hard bop and cool jazz, not a regurgitated half mix of rap, hip-hop, R&B and jazz. It is definitely not smooth jazz. It is its own genre, specific to Overall’s time and place in this universe.

Lisa Sahulka digs in deep to the how and why of this music.

 

world music There's such a solid instrumental dance tradition in Québec, so sometimes it's hard to sort through all the fine artists making music there. Nordri's new album Échos des mers du Nord jumped right out at us, though. We'll have a full review soon, but for now, give one of their more exclamatory tunes a listen. Bet you can't dance to it!
Sound Bites is our collection of short reviews, and well, sound bites.

 

world music Eventyrferd (Fairytale journey), the second release from Norwegian saxophonist Camilla Hole and her trio, demonstrates perfectly how music brimming over with new ideas and varied instrumentation can really work when understatement is the guiding principle, where nothing is ever allowed to outstay its welcome. Sometimes there's more than a brush with free jazz, at other times there's electronic wizardry, but pretty much at the heart of all the tracks is music from, or informed, by Norwegian traditional music - dance tunes, wedding marches and different vocal styles. Mike Adcock reviews.

 

world music Between 2020’s Vodou Alé and this year's Somanti, Chouk Bwa - the collective of Vodou-steeped musicians from Gonaives, Haiti - and Brussells-based electronics duo The Ångströmers faced pandemic-based separation, but also managed to release a few EPs as well as a European tour in 2022. Somanti certainly feels as if they never stopped, though its power might be a reaction to the fact that a public health emergency forced them to do that very thing. The basic concept- relentless hand drumming and call-and-response vocals filtered through an often subtle haze of electronics hasn’t changed. Yet the new album feels busier, more urgent, louder. At times, it’s unclear just what role The Ångströmers play in any of this; elsewhere squelches and blips sneak in and out of the stew Chouk Bwa create. It’s a bit like trying to spot Brian Eno’s contributions to those first two Roxy Music albums. The fact that this record was done in a single day after their tour last year might have something to do with the energy here.     Bruce Miller reviews the latest from this collaborative ensemble.

 

world music Trio Grekow-Peev-Tsvyatkov features three musicians who come to this project having each made a name for themselves in numerous other collaborations. Accordionist Jacek Grekow is Polish but has long been interested in Balkan music; Peyo Peev is already a renowned exponent of the gadulka, the bowed instrument from his native country Bulgaria, and guitarist Hristiyan Tsvyatkov, also from Bulgaria, has played internationally with various ensembles. They have now come together to produce the trio album Balkan Grooves, and it certainly makes for an interesting listen. Read Mike Adcock's review and hear the music.

 

world music The Aga Khan Master Musicians display a high level of musicianship, presenting coherent collaborative performances which belie the fact that they emanate from a range of musical backgrounds, encompassing the Middle East, Central Asia and China. “Tashkent,” the opening track of their debut album Nowruz showcases this admirably, setting the style of what is to come... Each of the six musicians playing have contributed at least one composition to the album, either played solo, as in the case of Jasser Haj Joussef's "Cadence" performed on the viola d'amore, or anything upwards of that. Read Mike Adcock's review and listen to some of the music.

 

world music In 1944 a teenage gospel sextet from the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind appeared on 'Echoes of the South,' a popular Birmingham program hosted at radio WSGN. They had formed in 1939, inspired by their idols the Golden Gate Quartet, they called themselves the Happy Land Jubilee Singers. In 1948, they rechristened themselves The Five Blind Boys of Alabama. Nearly 85 years later, with an ever-shifting lineup, The Blind Boys of Alabama continue to record and tour today. They return this year with Echoes of the South, as well as a documentary about their remarkable history. Read Michael Stone's review, listen to some of the songs, and see the trailer for the film.

 

world music Flamenco is one of the best-known folk music forms in the world. The sheer visual image of dancers, draped in sweeping red or polka dot floor length dresses that they harness like bull fighter capes as they spin to castanets and flamboyantly strummed guitars, certainly has had much to do with its fame. One of its most famous singers, the silver-voiced Camarón de la Isla, with his guitarist Paco de Lucia, is also crucial to its international acclaim. So, it might seem odd for Dust to Digital, a label known mostly for housing boxed sets of obscure 78 RPM artifacts to focus its attention on it at all. But then, there must be some part of flamenco’s story missing. And it’s the desire to cut through the cheap, tourist-based flamenco performances and get to the music’s mysterious soul that is the reason Bolinus Brandaris- Flamenco from the Bay of Cadiz exists. This is a book first, though the accompanying 42-minutes of music on the CD explains in sound the story that the book tells. Bruce Miller delves into the stripped down rawness of the real flamenco presented in this box set of book and music.

 

world music Singer, accordionist and pianist Ondrej Druga's ensemble, Ondro A Kamaráti present traditional and new works with deep roots on Pod Oblockom. After a tepid start, Andrew Cronshaw writes that the transformation into the album he wanted to review comes with the third track, “Hora Mi Je Hora.” A brief tinkle of piano, then in soars the strong, traditional voice of Sabína Ladecká in a song from the Horehronie village of Vernár. Druga joins her with a much more powerful voice than he used in the first two tracks, then the track really opens up gloriously as violins, viola and double bass join the piano in an arrangement that’s anthemic, rich - indeed lush, but really comprehends the modal nature of the melody, and both singers let rip, individually and in duet. Read the full review and listen.

 

world music We get a tour of 20 tracks of new music on World Music From Slovakia - Best of 2019-2023. These songs, not a weak one among them, exemplify what a head of steam the current Slovak roots scene has developed. Most here have won or been finalists in Slovakia’s Radio Head Awards, and quite a few have appeared in the higher reaches of the world music charts. Thirteen have credits that include the word ‘traditional,’ with arranger or co-writer credits to band leaders or members; the remainder are new compositions, and all have pretty highly-developed arrangements. In a nice touch - unusual in compilation albums, the enclosed notes list each track with descriptions, the names of the band or lead musician, all band members, and their instruments. Andrew Cronshaw explores these tracks and you can listen as you read.

 

world music

world music

Tajikistan, bordering on Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and China, is a mountainous country with a population of about ten million, the great majority of whom are Tajik. It became independent in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Lost in Tajikistan is what producer Lu Edmonds describes as “just a tiny slice of the mountain music... whose rich traditions have soaked up the traffic of the Silk Roads and beyond for thousands of years.” These recordings aren’t from archives. They’re from 2008 when Edmonds and musician Iqbal Zavkibekov put together a 16-track recording setup in Dushanbe’s Gurminj Museum of Musical Instruments. We’re not talking Abbey Road here. It was -20°C outside, and although the museum was heated, much of the warmth came from the musicians who packed in to grasp an opportunity to record. It’s only now that those recordings have been cherry-picked and mixed to finally make this album by an interesting collection of musicians and singers. Andrew Cronshow delves into the tracks. Andrew Cronshow delves into the tracks.

This album is our selection for Music of the Month for October. Monthly subscribers will get the full digital album and notes as my thank you for supporting RootsWorld. Subscribe now and get this and a previous CD selection.

 

Support RootsWorld. Subscribe to Music of the Month.

 

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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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