Orchestra Fuego is a great classic salsa band from the Tampa Bay area in Florida. The high energy twelve-piece band composes its own material and their old school style incorporates Cuban and Nuyorican elements. In addition to salsa, the band also performs other Latin American music genres such as merengue, bolero, bachata and cha cha chá.
The band is led by two musicians from New York City’s salsa scene, pianist and musical director Marcus Hernandez and lead vocalist Luis “Torpedo” Aponte, who reunited in Florida several years after moving from New York.
Orchestra Fuego plays irresistible hip-shaking salsa and deserves more attention outside of its region.
Malian vocalist and advocate Oumou Sangaré is the winner of the WOMEX 2017 Artist Award. The acclaimed singer will perform as part of the Showcase Festival and Professionals’ Meeting in Katowice, Poland this October.
“This award is for all African women and people from all of Africa. They are the ones who have encouraged me to keep singing and writing songs. I am so glad and honored to receive this award from WOMEX, one of the festivals that always believed in my music, and this is really the icing on the cake of my career. Thank you!” Oumou Sangaré, August 2017
The award honors Oumou Sangaré’s dedication to activism and advocacy for the underprivileged in Mali and abroad, her innovative changes to Wassulu music and her longevity as an internationally-cherished star.
Mountain Voodoo was released on November of 2016 and it’s a superb contemporary bluegrass album by western North Carolina band Balsam Range. This talented group of musicians is one of the rising stars in the bluegrass scene with its captivating mix of harmony vocals and masterful instrumental virtuosity.
Mountain Voodoo features dazzling instrumentals and deep-rooted ballads where contemporary bluegrass, classic country and blues are skillfully intertwined.
The lineup includes Buddy Melton on fiddle, lead and tenor vocals; Darren Nicholson on mandolin, octave mandolin, lead vocals, baritone and low tenor vocals; Dr. Marc Pruett on banjo; Tim Surrett on bass, dobro, baritone and lead vocals; and Caleb Smith on guitar, lead and baritone vocals.
The Best of Lau 2007-2017 is a great opportunity to discover the music of Lau, one of the finest British folk groups of the past decade. The trio’s inspiration draws from Scottish and English folk music as well as contemporary bluegrass and acoustic jams.
The album features a well-balanced mix of instrumentals and songs, with masterful accordion, fiddle and guitar work along with memorable songs.
The lineup includes Kris Drever on guitar and vocals; Martin Green on accordion, piano, electronics; and Aidan O’Rourke on fiddle.
The song selection was chosen by fans and band members so sit back and enjoy this outstanding band.
The raw, percussion-driven but still melodic sounds of Farafina burst forth on this 1992 release. Layers of drumming provide a solid foundation for bala (wood and gourd xylophone), flute and lyrics that focus mainly on the subject of man’s place in the world and the fulfillment of destiny. But don’t get the idea that it’s heady-sounding stuff. It’s energetic and passionate, with a thunderously tight ensemble sound that knows when to fuel the fire and when to sit back and let it burn. So grab your drum, join in, and feel the spirit.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival, now in its 39th year, is regarded as the world’s largest jazz festival. The music line-up includes ambassadors of jazz and blues – as well as a generous dose of artistes in world music and fusion. See my writeup from the previous editions of MIJF (2016, 2015); fans of jazz and world music can check out my app ‘Oktav’ as well, a collection of witty quotes about music (available on Apple iTunes and Android).
The 2017 edition of MIJF featured artistes from Canada, USA, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Congo, Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Nigeria, Cameron, Guadeloupe and Switzerland. An estimated two million attendees flocked to the stages, spread over 10 days and two dozen venues. The long summer days of late June and early July made for perfect outdoor performances, along with ticketed indoor events.
Check out some of the highlights in this photo tour of MIJF 2017, and make sure you attend the 2018 edition!
Flavia Coelho from Brazil played for the first time at MIJF, and featured tracks from her third album, Sonho Real. Funk, forro, ragga, ska and dub fused together in a high-energy set at the indoor venue Club Soda.
Bixiga70 was another outstanding band from Brazil at MIJF. The Sao Paulo collective featured ten musicians with a combination of Afrobeat, Ethio-jazz and funk.
Gypsophilia played a joyous set of gypsy jazz blended with funk and Latin rhythms. Anchored by Adam Fines, the septet from Halifax kicked off a fine evening of music at the outdoor Club Jazz Casino stage.
Gypsy Sound System featured a broad range of gypsy music anchored by Swiss couple DJ Olga and Dr. Schnaps. The music blended Slavic salsa, electronica, and brass. The group drew loud applause for their energetic set and sheer musicianship.
The Django Festival Allstars paid tribute to the legendary gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Featured artistes included Samson Schmitt, Ludovic Beier and Pierre Blanchard. Their indoor set at the Gesu venue transported gypsy swing into the 21st century.
Rosalía Refree is an outstanding vocalist from Barcelona, and was accompanied by Raül Refree on guitar for a soaring set of neo-flamenco. The youthful duo played tracks from their recent album, Los Angeles.
The Gipsy Kings, celebrated masters of flamenco, salsa, and pop fusion, have been on tour for over 25 years and show no signs of stopping. Their booming vocals and guitars had the audience on their feet clamoring for more, as the band played classic hits as well as new tracks from their album Savor Flamenco.
A-Wa was another astonishing band at MIJF, featuring three sisters from Israel: Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim. Their music featured Yemenite vocals, hip hop and electronica rhythms. Their hits include Habib Galbi (Love of My Heart).
Gabacho Maroc had an unusual lineup of eight French, Moroccan and Algerian musicians. The stage was filled with bendirs, drums, keyboards, darbukas, and jembes. The creative set fused gnawa, Afro, berber, trance, jazz and electronica, breaking new frontiers in world music and jazz.
Djmawi Africa brought a touch of Algeria to jazz, and the eight-member troupe blended gnawa, rai and reggae in their phenomenal one-hour outdoor set. The music crossed new domains of North African sound, particularly appreciated in an era of growing cross-border hostility.
Coyote Bill is a Montreal collective blending Afro-beat, jazz, funk and reggae. Their incendiary set was a perfect closing act in the indoor Metropolis venue, with hybrid beats and energetic horns.
Jazzamboka is a Montreal quintet powered by two Congolese percussionists. It brings to urban audiences the spirit of African village music (yamboka means village in Lingala, a Bantu language). Funk, rock, be-bop, soukous, and electronica brought the sounds of Central Africa to new frontiers in this outdoor set.
Afrikana Soul Sister were closing acts on two nights of MIJF 2017, with a high-powered set of electro-house. Artistes include Jean-François Lemieux on bass, Joanie Labelle and Fa Cissokho on percussion, and Djely Tapa on vocals. The quartet blended house with African musical roots, and played tracks from their latest album Mayébo.
Bokante played a spirited set of Caribbean and African music blended with jazz, thanks to the influences of Michael League (bassist-composer of Snarky Puppy) and vocalist Malika Tirolien. Malika is from Guadeloupe and is now based in Montreal. The high-energy performance drew loud applause for the percussion and vocal-bass duet with Malika and Michael.
Just Wôan is a bassist-vocalist from Cameroon, and delivered a set of jazz blended with Afro-groove. He was born in Yaunde and already has three albums to his credit. He sings in French, Bassa, Duala, and Ewondo or Creole.
Huu Bac Quintet featured a range of instruments from Vietnam and China such as dan bau (Vietnamese monocord), erhu (Chinese fiddle), and even the quena (Andean bamboo flute). Multi-instrumentalist Huu Bac did a great job of blending Asian sound with North American jazz.
Fwonte is a Haitian-born Montreal artist who blends tropical rhythms with electronica. Caribbean sounds were reinterpreted for the digital age in his one-hour set.
Ife is a collective from Puerto Rico playing ‘live electronic music’ without remixes and computers. Their indoor set celebrated Yoruba cult music and explored new frontiers in fusion.
The Villalobos Brothers featured three brothers originally from Mexico and currently based in the US. The violinists, singers, songwriters and arrangers were all over the stage in their high-energy set, and reinterpreted original folk compositions with jazz and classical music.
Jocelyn Medina – Common Ground (Running Tree Records, 2007)
Common Ground is Jocelyn Medina’s third album. She’s a talented jazz singer and composer who incorporates world music elements to her music, inspired by her travels to India, Brazil and Ghana. On Common Ground you’ll find a great set of original songs by Medina that mix contemporary jazz harmonies, Indian melodies and Ghanaian rhythms.
Medina is joined by a superb multinational cast of instrumentalists who have plenty of opportunities to showcase their talent. In addition to Jocelyn’s vocals, highlights include Steve Gorn’s bansuri work throughout the album, Samir Chatterjee’s dazzling tabla, the guitar lines delivered by Pete McCann and the delightful female/male vocal interplay between Jocelyn and Achyut Joshi on the opening track “Two But Not Two.”
The lineup on Common Ground includes Jocelyn Medina on vocals; Steve Gorn on bansuri (Indian flute); Hadar Noiberg on flute; Pete McCann on electric and acoustic guitar; Art Hirahara on piano and Rhodes; Evan Gregor on bass; Mark Ferber on drums; Samir Chatterjee on tabla; Robert Levin on percussion; and Achyut Joshi on vocals.
The “new” in the title of this fine compilation is not necessarily in reference to these being up-to-the-minute selections, but more so the spirit of innovation that many of them represent. When Celtic music crosses boundaries without going too far afield of the traditional elements that make it so distinctive (and in recent years, so popular), the results can be thrilling. This disc gives us Celtic sounds with pan-African overtones (Kila, Old Blind Dogs), rock and roll leanings (Wolfstone), bluegrass-meets-zydeco energy (Reeltime) and much more, along with tracks that stick closer to familiar ground. There’s tons of Celtic music available out there; this collection is a solid overview of some at it’s most vital.
Strange Circles is the superb debut album of Bokanté, a new supergroup that features a multinational and cast of musicians, including members of the cutting edge jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy, percussion masters Jamey Haddad and Keita Ogawa (Banda Magda, Yo-Yo Ma), Väsen’s André Ferrari, steel guitar master Roosevelt Collier, and talented Montreal-based Guadeloupian vocalist Malika Tirolien.
Strange Circles crosses genres with total ease, incorporating Caribbean and other global beats, fabulous guitar work, blues, progressive jazz, rock and more. This is world fusion at its best.
Bokanté is the project of Snarky Puppy bassist and founder Michael League, who plays baritone guitar in this ensemble.
The lineup includes Malika Tirolien on vocals; Jamey Haddad on percussion; André Ferrari on percussion; Keita Ogawa on percussion; Chris McQueen on guitars; Bob Lanzetti on guitars; Roosevelt Collier lap and pedal steel guitars; and Michael League on guitars and bass.
Strange Circles is world music cool with some stellar individual playing.
The Finnish fiddle wizards are back with another remarkable album. Frost on Fiddles takes you into a wild sled ride inspired by the folk music of Finland and Norway, modern bluegrass, Celtic music and fabulous Transylvanian-style rapid fire fiddling.
The four fiddlers and string musicians display their talent with flavorful intertwined layers of fiddles, guitar, mandolin and bass.
The line on Frost on Fiddles includes Tommi Asplund on fiddle; Tero Hyväluoma on fiddle; Alina Järvelä on fiddle; Esko Järvelä on fiddle; Juho Kivivuori on bass; Tuomas Logrén on guitar; and Petri Prauda on cittern and mandolin.
Frost on Fiddles is yet another exceptionally good contemporary folk music album with an array of top Finnish talent.