Artist Profiles: Foday Musa Suso

Foday Musa Suso
Foday Musa Suso

Foday Musa Suso is an internationally recognized musician and a Manding griot from the West African nation of Gambia. Griots are the oral historians and musicians of the Manding people, who live in several West African nations.

Griots are a living library for the community, providing history, entertainment, and wisdom while playing and singing their songs. The history of empires and kingdoms, tribal conflicts, cultural heroes, and family lineage are all part of a griot’s traditional repertoire.

Foday is a direct descendant of Jali Madi Wlen Suso, the griot who invented the kora over four centuries ago. In 1977, he moved to Chicago and became the first kora player to establish himself in the United States. He formed The Mandingo Griot Society with 3 American musicians, playing a fusion of traditional and jazz that is now known as “world music”. Since 1977, he has performed as a soloist and with other musicians throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America.

Interested in both traditional and cutting-edge music, he has also written many original compositions, toured and recorded with many prominent musicians. Foday Musa Suso’s collaboration with Herbie Hancock began in 1984, when Bill Laswell introduced them and they co-wrote a composition for the Los Angeles Olympics entitled ‘Junku’ (‘Let’s Do It’). This song was included on the official Olympic album and on Herbie’s ‘Sound System‘ album. Herbie then invited Foday to join his band for a tour of the United States and Japan, where they co-wrote and recorded a duet album entitled ‘Village Life’.

In 1987, both Herbie’s and Foday’s bands joined forces to record ‘Jazz Africa’, a live concert which was released as a CD and video.

Foday also has a long history of collaboration and performance with renowned composer Philip Glass. In 1985 they co-wrote the soundtrack for the movie ‘Powaqqatsi’, and in 1990 co-wrote the music for a revival of the Jean Genet play ‘The Screens’.

In 2004 they collaborated on the music for ‘Orion’, a concert work commissioned by the Cultural Oympiad which premiered in Athens Greece preceding the Olympic Games. Since the early 1990’s, Foday and Philip have performed in concerts together at venues all over the world, including Carnegie Hall, and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Barbican Center in London, and the Melbourne Arts Centre.

In addition, Foday has worked closely with the Kronos Quartet, an ensemble who commissioned him to compose five works. ‘Tillyboyo’ (Sunset) was released on their 1992 CD ‘Pieces of Africa‘. Foday and Kronos have performed together at venues such as Lincoln Center in New York, Staatsoper Opera House in Vienna, and the Royal Festival Hall in London.

From 2003-2005, Foday and Jack De Johnette toured extensively together and recorded 2 CDs, ‘Music from the Heart of the Masters‘ and ‘Ripple Effect’.

In 2008, Paul Simon invited Foday to perform with him in ‘American Songs’, a weeklong musical retrospective at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Also in 2008, Foday composed music for the acclaimed Susan Cohn Rockefeller documentary about Dr. Rick Hodes work in Ethiopia, titled ‘Making the Crooked Straight’, due to be released on HBO in 2010.

Discography:

Kora Music from Gambia (Folkways, 1970)
Mandingo Griot Society (Flying Fish, 1979)
Mighty Rhythm (Flying Fish, 1982)
Hand Power (Flying Fish, 1984)
Mandingo Featuring Foday Musa Suso – Watto Sitta (Celluloid, 1984)
Sound-System, with Herbie Hancock (Columbia, 1984)
Village Life, with Herbie Hancock (Columbia, 1985)
Mansa Bendung (Flying Fish, 1986)
The Dreamtime (CMP, 1988)
Jazz Africa, with Herbie Hancock (Verve, 1985)
Music from “The Screens”, with Philip Glass (Point Music, 1992)
Off World One, with Possession & African Dub (Sub Meta, 1995)
Jali Kunda: Griots of West Africa & Beyond (Ellipsis Arts, 1996)
Music from the Hearts of the Masters, with Jack DeJohnette (Golden Beams, 2005)
Hybrids, with Jack DeJohnette’s The Ripple Effect (Golden Beams, 2005)
The Two Worlds (Orange Mountain Music, 2008)
Koralations: Heart to Heart, with Gretchen Rowe (2012)

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Artist Profiles: Seleshe Damessae

Seleshe Damessae (also known as Sileshi Demissie and Gashe Abera Molla) is an extraordinary singer and musician from Ethiopia. He uses a complex vocal styling, sung in Amharic, his native language. He accompanies himself on the krar, a 6-string lyre which dates back to the ancient civilizations of the Nile.

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Seleshe Damessae began studying the krar at an early age with his father, and later attended the Yared School of Music. He spent nearly four years studying traditional Ethiopian culture in northern rural areas, and today is highly respected for his knowledge of the vocal and instrumental music of his native land.

Seleshe is also a skilled instrument maker who builds and plays a variety of folk instruments such as krars, fiddles, harps and drums. He has performed throughout the United States, Europe and Africa.

Seleshe Damessae founded the Gashe Abera Molla Association, upon returning to Addis Ababa after 20 years as a successful singer in the United States and decided to address the social and environmental problems that plagued his home city. He set up the new organization and named it after a character in his songs – Gashe Abera, the old man who takes care of his local community.

Discography:

Tesfaye: a future hope (Music of the World MOW 107, 1987)
Songs from Ethiopia today (Wergo/Haus der Kulturen der Welt SM1516-2, 1993)
Sorene: Children’s Songs from Ethiopia (1999)
Yamiral Hagere (2013)

Credits

Photo by Lorraine Tipaldi

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offWOMEX Showcases Confirmed

Anelis Assumpção - Photo by Renato Stockler
Anelis Assumpção – Photo by Renato Stockler

WOMEX 2016 organizers confirmed the offWOMEX showcase program which will bring artists from Canada, Mexico, Chad, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Japan and Portugal. WOMEX 2016 will take place in Santiago de Compostela, Spain during October 19 – 23.

List of offWOMEX artists at WOMEX 16:

Anelis Assumpção (Brazil)
Brazilian-afrobeat-dub.

Boogat (Canada/Mexico)
Latin Quebecois rapper, writer, producer.

H’Sao (Chad/Canada)
band of brothers merging global influences into Chadian roots.

iLe (Puerto Rico)
Calle 13’s little sister vintage Latin styles with post-nostalgic sheen.

Les Tireux d’Roches (Canada)
Québécois story-tellers.

Maltese Rock (Japan)
Avant-garde activists furthering positive social change with gypsy-punk-rock-enka-tinged Okinawan minyo.

Nomade Orquestra (Brazil)
Sao Paolo big-band’s widescreen mergings of Afro-beat, Ethio-jazz, reggae, hip-hop and psychedelic funk.

Quique Escamilla (Mexico/Canada)
Toronto-based Mexican singer who blends huapango and ranchera with country-and-reggae.

Reyfado Lisboa (Portugal)
Ensemble of young fado artists.

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Interview with Zydeco Accordion Virtuoso Jeffery Broussard

Jeffery Broussard
Jeffery Broussard

Louisiana accordionist Jeffery Broussard is considered one of the most influential accordionists in modern Zydeco music. He has innovated Zydeco, developing the new Zydeco sound in Zydeco Force. Jeffery currently plays more traditional Zydeco with his own band, Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys. Zydeco music was developed among Black Creoles in Southwest Louisiana in the 1940s. Zydeco mixed traditional Creole music, the Francophone fiddle and accordion traditions, blues and R&B.

Jeffery Broussard was born in Lafayette, Louisiana on March 10, 1967 to Ethel and Delton Broussard. He is the youngest of 11 children, having 5 brothers and 5 sisters. The family lived in Frilot Cove, Louisiana, a rural community northwest of Opelousas, in southern Louisiana, on a farm where his father was a sharecropper.

Jeffery grew up fishing in the bayous (marshlands), riding horses across the fields with his friends. His music career started very early in life. At the age of 8 he started playing drums in his father’s band, the acclaimed Delton Broussard & The Lawtell Playboys. After seventh grade, Jeffery left school to farm full time to help his parents. Jeffery spent long days digging and sorting potatoes.

Whenever he could, Jeffery would sneak in to the house and played his father’s accordion, teaching himself how to play.

During his teen years, Jeffery played drums in his oldest brother Clinton’s band, Clinton Broussard & The Zydeco Machines. It was in this band that Jeffery played the accordion in public for the first time. His brother would let him play a few songs from time to time. It wasn’t until Jeffery joined the band Zydeco Force that he began to sing.

Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys are set to perform at the National Folk Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina. Concerts dates include Friday, September 9 at 6:00 pm at Wrangler Stage; Saturday, September 10 at 2:45 pm at Dance Pavilion; Saturday, September 10 at 9:30 pm at Wrangler Stage; Sunday, September 11 at 12:00 pm at Dance Pavilion; and The Big Squeeze: Accordion Traditions on Sunday, September 11 at 3:15 pm at Lawn Stage.

World Music Central talks to Jeffery Broussard and band manager Millie Broussard about the upcoming concert.

Angel Romero – Can you tell us about the band you will be taking to the National Folk Festival 2016 in Greensboro?

Millie Brossard – I’ll first start off by saying Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys are excited about performing at the National Folk Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys as you may know plays the traditional Creole Zydeco. He is commonly referred to as pound for pound the best accordion player around, although he is not limited to just the accordion. Jeffery plays every instrument. He is an awesome fiddler which he also uses in his performance… and there is a point in his performance where he does the old “switch-a-roo” with Djalma Garnier III who is the bass player, and in the midst of a song Djalma will take over fiddle and Jeffery will play bass, the crowd goes wild.

The rubboard player, which is the youngest member of the band but also the largest, we have given him the nickname “Big Truck,” is Jeffery’s youngest son, Jeffery Broussard Jr.

The guitarist Daniel Sanda is an awesome guitarist. “Daniel Boone.” as we refer to him. He has a way to make that guitar sing with his soulful notes.

The drummer, Paul Lavan Jr is not only talented on drums but accordion as well. He is the comedian of the group and never misses a beat.

Together these guys make up Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys. We are not just a band. We are family. We laugh. We cry. We love.

Jeffery Broussard - Photo by Robin Murray
Jeffery Broussard – Photo by Robin Murray

When and why did Jeffery start playing?

Millie Broussard – Jeffery first started playing professionally at the tender age of 8 in his father’s band as a drummer when the original drummer could not make it to gig. Jeffery’s father (Delton Broussard of The Lawtell Playboys) told Jeffery “get dressed boy, you are playing drums tonight.”

So as many Zydeco musicians today, the accordion was not Jeffery’s first instrument. It wasn’t until his teenage years that he picked up the passion for the accordion and has then mastered it.

When did the band come together?

Jeffery Broussard – The Creole Cowboys has been in existence for approximately 9 years and going strong. Thanks to God and my fans.

Tell us about Jeffery’ first recordings and musical evolution.

Millie Broussard – Jeffery’s first recording was in the 1980s when he was accordionist/vocalist for the ever so popular band Zydeco Force. Still today many of the younger Zydeco musicians try to mimic Jeffery with old tunes from Zydeco Force. However, as the sayings goes, “often imitated but never duplicated” (laughs out loud).

How’s the current Creole music scene in Louisiana?

Jeffery Broussard – The Creole music scene in Louisiana is still going. However, with the new generation of music and younger musicians adding their own zest to the music, I’m afraid it will lose its authenticity as the younger artist are adding more hip-hop and less accordion, so my goal is to keep the tradition and culture going, not by preserving the music but by performing and promoting it!

Which are your favorite musical festivals, and what makes them so special?

Jeffery Broussard – I really can’t say I have a favorite festival or place of performance as each festival or place has its own uniqueness…and I love spreading my love for the music and culture everywhere. I can say this, no matter where we perform no matter the size of the crowd, we give it our best. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 or 10,000 in audience, the performance will still be the same.

What are some unusual reactions you have got during your live performances?

Jeffery Broussard – I can’t recall any unusual activities at any of my performances because I myself and band members are of high energy and we cut up and act silly interacting with audience, so anything unusual I wouldn’t notice. It’s all about fun. Zydeco is a happy music.

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with who would that be?

Jeffery Broussard – If I could collaborate a group of musicians my choices would be as follows: Buckwheat Zydeco; Nathan Williams and The Zydeco Cha-Chas; CJ Chenier; Terrance Semien; Steve Riley and The Mamou Playboys; Geno Delafonse and The French Rocking Boogie Band; and I have to add as he is not a Zydeco musician but he is an awesome awesome accordionist, Joaquin Diaz. He lives in Montreal by way of Dominican Republic.

What music are you currently listening to?

Jeffery Broussard – As I love Zydeco, playing and listening to Zydeco. I listen to Gospel a lot more, because it is God that blessed me with this talent.

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with our readers?

Jeffery Broussard – Not only will I have new Zydeco CD but a Gospel CD as well, and, yes, I will be playing all the instrumental parts myself so be on the lookout for more of Jeffery Broussard and The Creole Cowboys.

Discography:

Keeping The Tradition Alive! (Maison de Soul, 2009)

Return of the Creole (Maison de Soul, 2011)

Live at Jazzfest 2013 (Munck Mix, 2013)

Live at Jazzfest 2014 (Munck Music, 2014)

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Traditional and Modern Sounds from the Pacific

Various Artists - Discover Music from the Pacific with ARC Music (Arc Music, 2016)
Various Artists – Discover Music from the Pacific with ARC Music (Arc Music, 2016)

Discover Music from the Pacific with ARC Music gives the listener an opportunity to learn more about the music from the various islands of the Pacific Ocean. The compilation combines field recordings by David Fanshawe, including recordings of surf and other natural sounds as well as traditional music chants; along with contemporary studio recordings.

The best known act on the album is Te Vaka, an excellent band representing Tokelau and other Pacific Islands. They have traveled throughout the world, showcasing their mix of pop, folk and spectacular island percussion numbers.

Another familiar name is Hawaii’s Harry Kalapana, who plays the twangy traditional slack key guitar.

Islands represented include Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Hawaii, Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands, and Easter Island.

The CD booklet provides additional details about each track and the islands.

Discover Music from the Pacific is a likeable exploration of the vocal and percussion styles in the Pacific Ocean island communities.

Buy Discover Music from the Pacific with ARC Music

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Artist Profiles: Ba Cissoko

Ba Cissoko
Ba Cissoko

Ba Cissoko is a master kora player. He belongs a long lineage of griots (jelis), master singers and musicians. His uncle M’Bady Kouyate transmitted his knowledge to Ba cissoko since he was a child. Since then, Ba Cissoko has renewed the kora while refining his knowledge of the art of storytelling.

His 2006 album, Electric Griot Land, is a wink to Jimi Hendrix’s vision, who adjusted his blues origins to his time. That’s Ba Cissoko’s musical process, who was just born when the guitarist was starting on his revolution.

In 2009 he released Séno, another nod to Jimi Hendrix’s vision. By his side in 2010, his band included his two cousins, Kourou the elder on bass and bolon, and Sékou, the young prodigy who transforms the kora with saturated effects, and Dartagnan (percussion) and Abdoulaye Kouyaté (guitar). ”To modernize the Manding tradition to better spread it; to transgress it, to really honor it,” says Ba Cissoko.

Discography;

Sabolan (2005)
Electric Griot Land (2007)
Séno (2009)
Nimissa (2012)
Djeli (2016)

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Rainforest World Music Festival 2016: 25 bands covering all 5 continents!

The annual Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching, Sarawak (Malaysia) is now in its 19th edition, and featured 25 bands from around the planet. The venue is the lush equatorial rainforest of the Sarawak Cultural Village – located between Mount Santubong and the South China Sea.

The 2016 lineup featured 17 international and 8 Malaysian groups. The overseas bands included Auli (Latvia), Broukar (Syria), Derek Gripper (South Africa), Dol Arastra Bengkulu (Indonesia), Dya Singh (Australia/Malaysia), Krar Collective (Ethiopia), Lan Dieu Viet (Vietnam), Naygayiw Gigi (Australia), Nukariik (Canada), Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band (Ghana), Shanren (China), Stelios Petrakis Quartet (Greece), Chouk Bwa Libete (Haiti), Teada (Ireland), Vassvik (Norway), Violons Barbares (Bulgaria, Mongolia, France), and Vocal Sampling (Cuba).  The Malaysian lineup consisted of Alena Murang, Gendang Melayu Sri Buana, Mathew Ngau, Sape’ Sarawak, The Thunder Beats Of Nanyang Wushu Drums, Unique Arts Academy, and 1Drum.

See also my coverage of earlier editions of RWMF: Collaboration, Creativity and Community, and Global Sound, Diversity and Celebration; as well as interviews with some of the performers (eg. Rafly wa Saja, Drew Gonsalves, ShoogleNifty).

Festival previews

Kuching Festival Food Fair.
Kuching Festival Food Fair.

 

Before the Festival, some of the bands held preview concerts in local pubs, cafes and the Kuching Festival Food Fair. One of the previews was rained out due to a torrential downpour, but I caught the next superb performance by percussion troupe Dol Arastra Bengkulu from Indonesia. They are influenced by the ‘percusi dol’ ritualistic traditions of Sumatra, celebrating acts of heroism.

 

Dol Arastra Bengkulu - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Dol Arastra Bengkulu – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The musicians carried the thunderous ‘gendang dol’ drums with them as they danced around the stage, occasionally even lying down on their backs while playing them. They alternately formed circles and rows, sometimes even playing on their neighbors’ drums.

 

The Thunder Beats Of Nanyang Wushu Drums - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
The Thunder Beats Of Nanyang Wushu Drums – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Day One

Each morning of the festival began with a media meet between journalists and musicians; see my earlier articles on artiste insights: Fusion without confusion – how world music bands blend multiple influences (2016), How world music bands build collective vision, promote indigenous culture and yet adapt to changing times (2015), World music bands address the importance of heritage, messages and innovation (2014) and World music bands address their role in social change, cultural preservation and creativity (2013).

The media meet was followed by an afternoon of indoor workshops and performances, starting off with Vietnam and Malaysia. The five members of Lan Dieu Viet are all music teachers at the Vietnam National Academy of Music. Trương Thị Thu Hà played a dazzling solo on the beautiful trung (bamboo xylophone), and Cồ Huy Hùng (moon lute) and Nguyễn Hoàng Anh (bamboo flute) also stood out in the folk performances.

 

Lan Dieu Viet
Lan Dieu Viet

 

They were followed by Alena Murang on sape and vocals, performing traditional music of Sarawak in the language of the Kenyah and Kelabit people from Ulu Baram. Murang is one of the few young women to openly perform and teach the sape, an instrument from Borneo that used to be a taboo for women to even touch. She learnt from masters such as Mathew Ngau, and has played overseas and gives talks and lectures on the sape.

 

Alena Murang - Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board
Alena Murang – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

 

Each evening, a drum circle was facilitated by Malaysia’s 1Drum (their slogan is ‘Drum, Cause You Can!’). The outdoor acts at night were held on two adjacent stages set in the picturesque rainforest. Traditional ceremonies to bless the festival were conducted by local cultural groups and musicians.

Sape’ Sarawak is a band drawn from the various Sarawak ethnic groups such as Orang Ulu, Iban, Bidayuh, Melanau, Malay, Chinese and other communities. The 17 players presented age-old tales of ancient warriors and supernatural princesses.

Naygayiw Gigi then wowed the audience with an astonishing array of costumers and ritual dances. The troupe, whose name means ‘Northern Thunder,’ hail from Bamaga, the northernmost town in Queensland, Australia. They played the music of seven clans from the Torres Strait, in the form of stories about celebration as well as defense from other attacking clans.

 

Naygayiw Gigi - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Naygayiw Gigi – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The focus shifted back to Asia with the Unique Arts Academy, performing music and dance of the South Indian communities in Malaysia. Folk drums such as thappu, kottu, chimta, and ganjira filled the stage, along with harmonium and bass guitar. The group has performed at the International Folklore Festival and World Harvest Festival.

 

Unique Arts Academy - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Unique Arts Academy – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Acclaimed Irish folk band Teada then took the stage; ace fiddler Oisín Mac Diarmada regaled the audience with his humor along with his fellow musicians on percussion and guitar. “Ireland is so nice a place that all our neighbors invaded us,” they joked. They dedicated a song to the freedom-fighters of Ireland.

 

Teada - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Teada – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Their high energy set also featured some enthusiastic step-dancing by keyboardist Samantha Harvey, and the audience clapped loudly in appreciation. “Thanks, but your kindness will be forgotten,” the band joked again. Over the past 15 years, Teada has also performed at the Edmonton Folk Festival in Canada and Harare International Festival of the Arts.

The energy picked up several notches with a thunderous performance by Dol Arastra Bengkulu (Indonesia), who had also played a shorter set at the previous day’s preview showcase. The first African band of the festival then took the stage: Krar Collective from Ethiopia. The set had elements of electro-folk and rock, with the talented Temesgen Zelekeis on electric krar, Grum Begashaw on drums, and Genet Assefa on vocals and dance.

 

Krar Collective - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Krar Collective – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Assefa changed costumes six times during the set! and the audience had a tough time trying to imitate her ‘shoulder dislocating’ dance moves! The band has also collaborated with Baaba Maal and Rokia Traore, and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones.

The night came to a climax with the high-energy bagpipe and drum music group Auļi from Latvia. The band revives Latvia’s earlier bagpipe traditions, and added a terrific percussive layer with some of the biggest ‘tree trunk drums’ in the Baltics. They played danceable tracks from some of their earlier albums, which include the aptly named ‘Etnotranss.’

Day Two

The indoor performances on Day Two were kicked off by Sikh hymn singer Dya Singh, who grew up in Malaysia and is now based in Australia. He has released over 25 CDs, and has performed at dozens of festivals including WOMADelaide, Vancouver Folk Festival, and California World Music Festival. His uplifting spiritual incantations actively involved the audience as well; he was accompanied by Dheeraj Shrestha (tabla) as well as his own daughter Gimel.

The second indoor performance featured solo acoustic guitarist Derek Gripper from South Africa, who has nine albums to his credit. He interpreted a number of kora compositions on his guitar, for which he had earlier received acclaim from classical guitar legend John Williams and kora maestro Toumani Diabate. The audience showed their appreciation by lining up immediately after his performance to buy his CDs and get his autograph.

 

Derek Gripper - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Derek Gripper – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

An hour of torrential rain got the night performances off to a delayed start, but the show went on; after all, what’s the rainforest festival without some rain? The performances began with Mathew Ngau, master sape player and story teller, who also makes his own range of sape instruments and teaches the young Sarawak generation about their traditions.

The next band was Stelios Petrakis Quartet, performing the lively music of Crete from Greece. Petrakis also makes his own instruments such as the lira and laouto, and the pride and respect he had for his traditions shone through in his performance. The accompanying dances also drew loud applause from the audience.

Naygayiw Gigi from Australia treated the audience to some more brilliant costumes and dances; they were followed by Band Girl LKNS from the Sabah state of Malaysia, who showcased a wide range of traditional local gongs.

 

Band Girl LKNS - Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board
Band Girl LKNS – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

 

One of the most unusual bands at RWMF was Vocal Sampling, a male a capella sextet from Cuba, with a lineup that included Rene Baños Pascual, Pedro Bernard Coto, and Reinaldo Sanler Maseda. If you closed your eyes, you could almost visualize a real Latin band playing with congas, bass, trumpet, trombone and guitar! They have performed with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Bobby McFerrin, Ray Barreto, Celia Cruz, Chick Corea and Gal Costa.

 

Vocal Sampling - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Vocal Sampling – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The group has played at Couleur Café, WOMAD, Festival de Jazz de Nice, Jazz Festival Istanbul, and World Music Festival Sukiyaki. Their rendition of the rock classic ‘Hotel California’ drew loud applause as well at RWMF.

Another range of instruments then featured on the next stage, with Shanren from China playing high-energy folk-rock music from the Yunnan region. Reggae was also blended into the set as the quartet showcased instruments such as xianzi, qinqin and dabiya (four-stringed plucked instruments) as well as xianggu and sun drum (percussion). They have performed at Barcelona Festival Asia, Canadian Music Week, Midem in Cannes, Turtle Island Festival and Liverpool Sound City.

 

Shanren - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Shanren – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The perfect closing act for the Saturday night performances was Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band from Ghana. Called the ‘Golden Voice of Africa,’ Pat Thomas filled the stage with a phenomenal range of musicians including multi-instrumentalist Kwame Yeboah (guitar, keyboards) and saxophonist Ben Abarbanel-Wolff. The set blended Ghanaian highlife, afro-beat, afro-pop and even disco – spanning four decades of genres and fusion. The aptly-named ‘I Need More’ was the encore.

 

 Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band - Photo by Madanmohan Rao

Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Day Three

The indoor performances on Day Three featured some outstanding throat singing from Norway and Canada. Torgeir Vassvik and his trio kicked off the first performance; Vassvik is an artist from Sápmi’s northernmost tip, Gamvik in Norway. The Sami joik and resonant throat singing reflect the diverse textures and climates of the Arctic zone.

 

Vassvik - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Vassvik – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The second Northern band on stage was Nukariik from Canada. The duo consists of sisters Kathy and Karin Kettler. Their Inuit throat singing and breathing styles, performed while facing each other, were inspired by the birds, animals and seasons of their region; a backdrop of photographs provided stunning visuals as well. “The mosquitoes in the Arctic are much bigger than the Malaysian ones,” Kathy joked.

 

Nukariik - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Nukariik – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The sisters explained how the alternating scales and close sequencing of tunes lead to complex yet entertaining melodies. They have performed at the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, and are on the Inuit Throat Singer’s Committee.

The night performances on the last day were kicked off by the youthful band Thunder Beats of Nanyang Wushu Drums, from Sarawak in Malaysia. It included 12 drums representing the 12 months of a year, which are performed for prosperity, fortune and abundance.

The eagerly-anticipated Syrian band Broukar took the stage next (I was fortunate to also catch their performance earlier in July at the Forde Festival in Norway; see my writeup here). They were founded in 2007 in Damascus by Taoufik Mirkhan (kanun), and the musician lineup now includes his sister Hadil Mirkhan (oud) and Modar Salameh (percussion).

 

Broukar - Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board
Broukar – Photo courtesy of Sarawak Tourism Board

 

The kanun has 78 strings, which means 78 minutes of tuning,” joked Taoufik Mirkhan, during one of their earlier afternoon workshops. “We also teach this music to our younger generation so they can keep the culture alive – and hopefully one day perform at festivals like this,” he said, referring to the sad plight of Syrian refugees.

The highlight of their performance was three sets of whirling dervish dance by Ahmad Alkhatib – twice in traditional white Sufi costume and finally in a breathtaking black-and-white dress.

Another high-energy trio then took the stage: Violons Barbares, with members from three countries: Dandarvaanchig Enkhjargal (or Epi, from Mongolia), Dimitar Gougov (Bulgaria) and Fabien Guyot (France). Epi blew the audience away with his deep throat singing and sense of humour, and sizzling work on the morin khoor. The Malaysian expression for ‘thank you’ (terima kasi) spoken in his super-deep voice drew delighted whoops from the audience.

 

Violons Barbares - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Violons Barbares – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Dimitar Gougov played haunting tunes on the gadulka, and Fabien Guyot was simply magnificent on percussion. The trio played a range of love songs and high-energy tracks (including the Afghan ‘Caravan’), and pushed the frontiers of tradition and cross-boundary fusion.

Gears shifted to the largely percussion band Chouk Bwa Libète, a traditional Haitian Mizik Rasin (roots music) band. The voodoo music featured an astonishingly intricate yet highly danceable array of rhythms and chants, with multiple fades and crescendos. The energy was so infectious that lead vocalist Jean Claude Sambaton Dorvil even seemed to be possessed with a spirit for some time, adding a layer of drama to the performance.

 

Chouk Bwa Libete - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Chouk Bwa Libete – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Drummers Lakous Badjo, Souvenance and Soukri showed unbelievable energy and variation as they alternated between their instruments. The audience joined in a chorus of ‘Amun Aye’ for the last track, and a rousing conch tone wrapped up the set.

The place slowed down a bit with the traditional joget (Malaysian dance) by the group Gendang Melayu Sri Buana, and picked up once again with Latvian bagpipe-drum band Auli (who had also finished up Day One’s performances).

 

Auli - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Auli – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

All the bands from the three days of the festival came together on stage for the grand finale, and the audience cheered them on loudly as they took their final bow. The black-and-white twirling cape of Broukar’s dervish dancer Ahmad Alkhatib soaring above the rest of the musicians was a memorable sight. The festivities carried on with a poolside jam at the musicians’ hotel, with samples of Greek, Arabic and Canadian indigenous music!

 

Rainforest World Music Festival 2016 grand finale - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Rainforest World Music Festival 2016 grand finale – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

I picked up a stack of CDs from the bands over the three days of the festival, which should keep me busy with reviews for the next couple of weeks. We already look forward to the next Rainforest World Music Festival in 2017, which promises to be extra special since it will be the 20th edition!

 

Performer CDs 1
Performer CDs 1

 

Performer CDs 1
Performer CDs 1

 

Sunset in Sarawak - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
Sunset in Sarawak – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Headline photo: Dol Arastra Bengkulu

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Artist Profiles: Juldeh Camara

Juldeh Camara
Juldeh Camara

Juldeh Camara is a master musician from Gambia. He was born in 1966 in Basse, Gambia. Camara is a virtuoso of the ritti, a one-stringed fiddle, and renowned griot (a West African poet and praise singer) in traditional Fula society. Juldeh has the drive and effortless flow of a great bluesman. While his instrument brings to mind Mississippi Delta players like Big Joe Williams, as well as Ali Farka Toure – one minute it’s Blues harp, the next a Celtic fiddle, then a Saharan herdsman’s flute.

Juldeh and British musician Justin Adams have been playing together since 2007, following the release of the critically acclaimed “Soul Science” in 2007 (winner of the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award in the Crossing Continents category), touring at festivals in Siberia, Mexico City, Morocco and WOMAD. The touring experience has clearly brought them closer together as musicians and added to the unique nature of their musical style.

“Tell No Lies” (2009) is another collaboration between Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara.

Discography:

Soul Science (World Village Records, 2007)
Tell No Lies (Real World Records, 2009)
The Trance Sessions (Real World Records, 2010)
In Trance – JuJu (Real World Records, 2011)[13]
Traders (Waulk Records, 2011)[14]

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Reggae Star Alpha Blondy to Perform at SummerStage in Manhattan

Alpha Blondy
Alpha Blondy

African reggae star Alpha Blondy is set to perform at Marcus Garvey Park in Manhattan on Tuesday, August 16. Admission is free.

Since his first success in the 1980s with the pan-African hit “Opération Coup De Poing (Brigadier Sabari),” Alpha Blondy has taken his unique form of reggae to music fans across the globe.

His latest release, 2015’s Positive Energy, features acclaimed musicians such as Jamaican artists Ijahman Levi and Tarrus Riley, the zouk master Jacob Desvarieux, and promising young Congolese singer Pierrette Adams.

Doors and Show: 7:00 p.m.

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Length & Time: Murray, Allen, and Carrington

Murray, Allen, and Carrington - Perfection
Murray, Allen, and Carrington – Perfection

I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time.

Town these days is a place where opposing political ideologies confront the other or work with the other to define life and space. Children sing along to mass culture songs, though in love with the humanity in having heard the song on a car ride with a parent on a parent’s day off thanks to the local labor union.

The other side of town, these days, is where profound artistry thrives. Town is the place for song, music with text, and for the musical solo in a song. The other side of town is where pieces thrive, music without texts, along side more poetic songs than those in town. Pieces require plunging into and so sitting for a while at the other side of town despite town’s attraction, often until music’s end.

Murray, Allen, and Carrington are: David Murray, Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington. They are three ambitious musicians whose album’s cover communicates hip as much as any album cover in town. Their album Perfection is of 10 pieces, each a thrilling piece of excellent instrumentation.

The song named “Perfection” is, in terms of the musical technique  of its musicians, objectively perfection. In terms of if it pleases a listener is a whole other question though its fast pace and Murray’s Sax parts will hardly bore. “Barbara Allen” is another great piece made from the ballad “Barbara Allen,” at a time the most popular song based on the sale of broadsheets in the US; on the other side of town, pieces are produced from songs and are gorgeous.

“Cycles and Seasons” could have had a simpler name, like “walking down whichever street” and it would have been the case during the heyday of Jazz as popular music (Kind of Blue.) With these musicians at the helm of an album, complexity is King and Queen. Complexity, here, flows well and it is this album’s forte.

These songs are not radio songs though they could be played on radio. They are formatted to stir and jolt with instrumentation and feel much longer than  their actual lengths. What they bring to their time is phrasing from that other side of town, where women and men devise and implement ideals to benefit human life.

Buy Perfection

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