A World Music Magazine


What you may have missed in 2016 - RootsWorld Writers Get Their Say
Some Choice Selections From 2016: Volume 1
(Read Part Two)

I asked a number of our writers to write about some of their favorite recordings and overlooked gems from 2016. Marty Lipp wrote, "It was tough, dispiriting year, but there were some bright spots among the new releases of 2016. Artists - some from very troubled nations - showed us that hope and joy are available with a willful turn of our proverbial internal dial."

In this first installment, we'll hear from Marty (ML), Michael Stone (MS), Alex Brown (AB), Tyran Grillo (TG), Greg Harness (GH) and your editor, Cliff Furnald. They are not ordered by "greatest" in any fashion, simply the picks of a number of our writers, randomly presented to allow you to wander through the world of music they represent. On some of these picks, you'll find links to more music, videos or the full reviews in RootsWorld. - CF

A CD that spent most of the year sitting in my carousel was Rokia Traore's Ne So (Nonesuch), which seemed to be a great follow-up to anything that I was playing prior. Her simmering funk is totally her own, growing out of her Malian heritage and her years abroad as a diplomat's daughter. With a multi-national band and an eye on her troubled homeland, Traore creates sinewy, sinuous music that is an intense as it is beautiful. - ML

The top of your editor's list this year is NYN (Riverboat), a work of poetry and politics by the Greek duo of Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis. In the midst of the political and immigration turmoil that has rocked their country, they have composed a set of songs that address these issues with absolute devotion to poetry above polemic. RootsWorld's Nondas Kitsos, who also made this as his best of the year pick, summed it up perfectly in his review. "In the song 'NYN,' Stassinapoulou sings, 'I threw away the past in the garbage bin.' It's one of the most revolutionary phrases ever uttered in Greece, a country that sometimes seems exists just to justify its ancient history. In this hymn for the here and now they sing 'I'll just lie down in the Ypsilon of the NYN' (the õ of the íõí in Greek letters)." Delivered in their raw self-named Greekadelia style, Stassinopoulou and Kalyviotis offer a convergence of art, hope and determination that is what I consider the essence of both rock and folk music. - CF
NYN was one of our Music of the Month selections for 2016.

Why The Mountains Are Black (Third Man) is a collection of primeval Greek village music recorded between 1907 and 1960 with cover art by R. Crumb. The promotional material claims this "sounds more like free jazz or doom folk, feral and trance-like," and that is, surprisingly, not an exaggeration. Listen!- GH

world music Carrie Rodriguez makes hard hitting original songs and striking takes on ranchera classics wrapped up in a message of perseverance and hope on Lola (Luz). This is what Americana is supposed to be. This is hands-down my "Record Of The Year." - GH

With Navega! (Manivette), Moussu T e lei Jovents serve up an unsentimental, bittersweet mélange, blues-cabaret-chanson rooted in a fiercely local Languedoc sense of place, profoundly altered by the history of French colonialism, immigration from the colonies via the Mediterranean port of Marseille dating to the ancient Greeks, Festus Claudius "Claude" McKay's 1929 novel Banjo (the Harlem Renaissance classic about Caribbean immigrants set in Marseille), labor organizing, the Socialist International, World War II and the contemporary European conundrum. - MS
Navega! was also one of our Music of the Month picks for 2016. Buy this CD and support RootsWorld.

world music Cuban pianist-composer Omar Sosa is an artist abundant with musical ideas, working with an ever-surprising cross-section of immensely talented international compatriots, pursuing multiple projects that never repeat themselves—as with his live outing JOG (Otá) allied with German trumpeter-flugelhornist-EFX-vocalist Joo Kraus and Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles. - MS

On Canta Cartola (Nonesuch), singer Teresa Cristina perfectly matched her sweet, earthy voice with a wonderful solo accompanist, the amazing guitarist Carlinhos Sete Cordas, and a rich repertoire from the late samba songwriter known simply as Cartola. While samba is generally seen as ecstatic party music, Cristina turns it down to showcase Cartola's emotionally complex lyrics. Not unlike the experiments of the early bossa nova pioneers, Cristina produces tunes that are delicate, but have an irresistible swing. Listen - ML

Belizean producer Ivan Duran is best known for his work with indigenous and Creole folk artists from Central America's Atlantic coast, most notably Garifuna standard bearers Andy Palacio and Aurelio Martínez. To showcase Calypso Rose, the genre's rare female master, Duran recruited Manu Chao and Trinidad neo-kaiso purveyors Kobo Town to help transmit her inimitable delivery on a dozen searing, eminently danceable classics and originals on Far From Home (Because Music). - MS

If Sidestepper was the mere germ of a musical idea when producer-mixmaster Richard Blair went to Colombia in 1993 to work with Totó La Momposina, today with Supernatural Love (Real World) the ensemble projects a fully developed conscious soundscape that draws inventively from across the palette of Colombian and Caribbean music. Sidestepper taps the fundamental precepts of African Diaspora music: a contemporary caldo of polyrhythm, communal call-and-response, and the endless looping of simple musical riffs. - MS
Buy this CD and support RootsWorld.

From Colombia, a country that has seen more than a bumpy ride in recent decades, the young group Monsieur Perine, released an album of shiny carefree fun. Often described as a Django Reinhardt "gypsy swing" band, their album Caja de Musica (Sony), proved to be much more diversified than that. Fronted by the charming Jennifer Garner lookalike Catalina Garcia, this sunny retro pop band has already jumped to Latin American notice despite their non-mainstream sound. - ML

A moving representation of the personal as political, Kobani is a heartfelt musical act in solidarity with oppressed peoples in singer Ferhat Tunç's native Turkey and surrounding regions. Couched in modern arrangements with a traditional twist, the album tells stories of tragedy as means of paving a road to hopeful futures. This is one to be heard...and lived. - TG
Kobani was one of our Music of the Month selections for 2016.

world music Arbina presents incredible Moorish from Mauritania. The passionate vocals of Noura Mint Seymali, the harp-like ardine and swirling electric guitars power an impressive ensemble. We have a review coming in RootsWorld later this month. - AB

world music Anian (Real World) is another visionary gem from the ambitious Welsh group 9Bach. The vocal harmonies and instrumentation create a fascinating and unique atmosphere. - AB
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Rather than a nostalgic reproduction of the original material, under the direction of founder Chucho Valdés, this youthful ten-piece touring ensemble reimagines the memorable originals to pay Tribute to Irakere: Live in Marciac (Jazz Village). They span the genre spectrum from conga to tango, Afro-funk to salsa, and rumba to blues, with Valdés swinging harder than ever in his 75th year. - MS

As a member of the choir, I was not unhappy to be preached to by American Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate of Guinea on Monistic Theory (Cumbacha). Combining rap and modern instruments with west African kora proved that heart and soul can overcome what could have been a gimmicky hybrid. Overtly political, the duo keep the songs urgent but not angry, with Kouyate's kora adding a shimmering beauty. Listen. - ML

Julian Gaskell & His Ragged Trousered Philanthropists created a very good album of "agricultural psychedelia" from this ensemble from Cornwall. The title track of Carvery Of Blight (Carvery Of Sound) gets my vote for "Song Of The Year."- GH

Like some celestial body that arcs through on its own timetable, the band Hazmat Modine released another bright streak of an album this year, Extra-Deluxe-Supreme (Barbes). This multi-generational, multi-pedigreed band again created songs that seem both familiar and a bit different, as if a roots blues band had been grafted and cross-pollinated with other seed cultures, so New Orleans brass seamlessly intertwine with Tuvan throat singing. - ML
Extra-Deluxe-Supreme was one of our Music of the Month selections for 2016.
Buy this CD and support RootsWorld.

world music On Like a Bird or Spirit, Not a Face (Ponderosa Music & Art), Tuvan throat singer Sainkho Namtchylak lets loose a striking composite of desert and steppe, nomadic wandering and communion with a natural world indifferent to spiritual invocation and hominid fate, enigma, big sky, mysterious light, melancholy, the ethereal character of all things—human vanity—or as she intones in "The Road Back,": "All will come to an end / After long roads… You will remain / A star not yet discovered by anyone." - MS

world music Debo Band follows up their strong self-titled debut album with Ere Gobez (artist release) an outstanding record from start to finish. - AB

Continue to Part Two


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