Reggae star Alborosie has a new music video titled Strolling featuring guest artist Protoje. Strolling appears in Alborosie’s new album Freedom & Fyah.
The animated video was directed by Mauro Russo with art direction, animation and design by Fabio Gaudio. Editing and color grading by Andrea Belcastro. Animation team: Rob Grasso, Marcelo De Vivo, Eugenio Lostumbo and Giuseppe Talarico.
Robert Glasper Experiment – Artscience (Blue Note, 2016)
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.
We’re explained Artscience on the track “This Is Not Fear”: ‘my people’s music’. In other words, ‘my people’s music’ is its genre, ‘my people’s music’ is its purpose, ‘my people’s music’ is the root of its songs’ aesthetics.
When famed ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax went looking for Jazz’s roots (he documents this in the book Mister Jelly Roll) he found himself speaking to folks who all had a trade, a prestigious thing in old New Orleans, played Jazz for the art. Alphonse Picou, a legendary clarinetist, who wrote the classic “High Society,” owned several homes. Eventually, the often creole tradespeople he met were ostracized from the roles they traditionally played in New Orleans society. Some of these creoles became professional Jazz musicians to make a living. Thus began the second chapter to the history of a music meant to both be fine art and entertain seedy society: both an art and a science.
“Day To Day” sounds a bit like disco, with hints of go-go. The singing is auto-tuned which is very unexpected in a Jazz song. The organ playing reminds of a Stevie Wonder performance and the beat Micheal Jackson; it’s a medley of musical goodness. The lyrics are sung in the present tense in which a guy quite plainly tells a girl / boy that he’s “living day day to day” and to “show me the way to your heart”; nothing that would persuade a girl / boy really but easy to sing along to. It ends with the band laughing, as if the end of a Hip Hop song.
Like for “Day To Day,” the lyrics of “No One Like You” are pretty simple and don’t get under the skin. However, they are easy to sing along to. The song’s drums are out of this world, to be up front about listening to them play through this composition. The piano playing is impressionistic, controlled; beautiful.
“Find You” is sung in the past tense and the future tense, in aim to produce an ideal present. The jamming in the song is great Jazz. It’s the best written song on this album and a song for our times obsessed with becoming and with change. “Find you” could be about a man or a woman but it could also be about social peace; the ambiguity of its lyrics makes it phenomenal to sing along to.
This is an avant-garde listen: songs by those who venture out to test the waters, as the term first meant in military speak. This is spirituality, intellect, and beauty.
This is a special re-edition of the Fuxan Os Ventos’ album originally released in 2009. This release of Terra De Soños includes a beautifully packaged hard cover book, a music CD and a DVD featuring the live performance and additional information about the band.
Terra De Soños showcases the work of one of the most veteran and influential Galician folk music bands in the past decades. In this case, the band got back together after 20 years and invited well-known Galician musicians to join them on stage in Santiago de Compostela (Spain).
Fuxan Os Ventos’ music features beautiful vocal work featuring several vocalists, zanfona (hurdy gurdy), guitars, flutes, gaita (bagpipe) and percussion.
Although the Fuxan Os Ventos lineup has changed throughout the years, the band members that appeared on Terra De Soños include Carmen Vázquez on vocals; Tereixa Novo on vocals; Xoán Fuertes on violin, bouzouki, guitar, and vocals; Alfonso Fernández on vocals; Maruxa Fociños on vocals; Moncho Díaz on guitar, flutes, vocals; Antón Castro on mandolin, zanfonas, ocarina, and vocals; Xosé Vázquez on traditional percussion and vocals; and Pedro Lucas on gaitas, flutes, ocarina, and vocals.
Fuxan Os Ventos was supported by a band featuring Xose Lois Romero as musical director, on accordion and traditional percussion; Simón García on acoustic bass; Benxamín Otero on oboe and English horn; Guillerme Fernández on guitar; and Roi Adrio on percussion.
The Cuarteto Saiva Nova also participated in the concert with Fernando do Campo on concertino; Iván Novo on violín; Sergio Sieiro on viola; and Rosalía Vázquez on cello.
Additional guests: Mercedes Peón on tambourine and vocals; Pepe Ferreirós on gaita, uilleann pipes and tambourine; Uxía on vocals; dancers Vicente and Jaime of Nova Galega de Danza; Guadi Galego on vocals; Rodrigo Romaní on harp; Sabela Rodríguez on spoken word; Xabier Díaz on vocals; and Miguel Lustres on accordion.
Fuxan os Ventos, also known as Fuxan, was founded in 1972 in Lugo, combining traditional song and dance with new compositions. They sing in Galician and their lyrics celebrate Galician traditional culture. Their repertoire includes songs about women, love, smugglers, blind men songs, clothes washer songs, seamstress songs, knife sharpener songs, etc.
Terra De Soños is a splendid recording by an essential Galician folk music band.
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.
Not too long ago, populaces loved and lived mainly along to the sounds of acoustic instruments. These days, electronic songs thrill larger crowds. It’s the case for Jazz, where electronic Jazz, especially electronic Jazz-fusion, became the new popular Jazz with Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. Some musicians, nonetheless, despite the dominance of electronic music, continued and continue to practice acoustic Jazz. Ashleigh Smith’s Sunkissed is some of the most pleasant acoustic Jazz recently released, especially because of Smith’s vocals.
Smith is this album’s main attraction. Though her band plays hard and is full of instruments, her alto singing resonates more than the rest of her band. In “Love is You,” and in “Sara Smile” her voice steals the show. For “Sara Smile,” the drumming is loud but the song is about her singing. Smith’s singing ‘my / darling’ resonates more than heavy drumming, impressively.
“Blackbird” is a song that features a blackbird: that bird-muse of classical poets like Wallace Stevens (Among twenty snowy mountains / The only moving thing/ Was the eye of the blackbird.) When she sings “black / bird / fly,” it is a metaphor of someone presented in elsewhere in the song “you / were / only waiting.”; it is well sung poetry. The song features incredible piano and cool (calm and collected, not cool jazz) drumming.
About her own art, black woman painter of Color Fields Alma Thomas has stated that she strove to, simply, “paint something beautiful.” “Something beautiful,” as opposed to entertaining, moving, or political, is a traditional aesthetic in the Jazz singing and art in general of black women. It is “permission to be who I am” as Smith sings on “Love Is You.” Smith is the very best of the young black women who are in line to sing primarily beautiful Jazz, like Cassandra Wilson, have before her. As with Alma Thomas, there is hedonism to this beauty, though the sober kind.
The sultry acoustic Jazz song made for radio play that Ashleigh Smith and her band practices comes off as being that of a tradition. Along with it sounding traditional, Sunkissed seems to ask of its listener to dance like one did in the past, as opposed to as one does in this boisterous present. If anything, it’s neo-acoustic jazz, the sort that enlivens with traditionalism.
Contemporary Polish folk music ensemble Lautari is set to perform on Friday, September 23, 2016 at Subrosa in New York City.
Members of the band Lautari met in 2000 and performed together until 2008, playing modern world jazz rooted in the traditions of Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe and Caucasus. During that time they produced two well-received albums Azaran and Muzica Lautareasca Nova.
Lautari’s latest album, released in the summer of 2015, is Lautari: Vol. 67 Live 2014. At this point, Lautari is reunited after several years to produce their first project fully dedicated to Polish folk music.
Lautari has long been dedicated to restoring the magnificence of Polish folk music: from playing in crudo, to accompanying dancing as their rural predecessors did, to participation in avant-garde music projects.
The group has performed at barn dances, in jazz clubs, and in large concert halls in Poland and abroad. Firmly believing musical notation to be a totally ineffective means of recording folk music, they have made a point of learning their repertoire directly from village musicians.
During this musical research, Lautari have often turned to the work of Oskar Kolberg.
Subrosa, 63 Gansevoort Street, NYC
Doors for first set at 6:30pm, second set at 9:00pm – $15 per set
Presented in Partnership with The Polish Cultural Institute of New York
Like doling out single pieces of candy to a greedy child, the world music community is treated to another precious goody from the audio archives amassed over the years by the revered Ravi Shankar. On tap this year is the double CD set Ravi Shankar In Hollywood, set to hit the music marketplace on September 30th on the East Meets West Music label, although pre-orders are available.
I imagine since his death in December of 2012, there’s been a bum’s rush to sift through the collection of recorded music by the famed sitarist to scrounge out all the recordings that were passed over for release. It was bound to happen.
Ravi Shankar in Hollywood stands out from some of the other releases in that it was recorded in 1972 in Mr. Shankar’s home on Highland Avenue as a private concert for invited guests. It was a rare morning concert with the likes of George Harrison in attendance. It was also the impetus for the Concert for Bangladesh intended to benefit those suffering in the wake of Cyclone Bhola in East Pakistan, those areas that would become Bangladesh. The recording of Ravi Shankar in Hollywood is precious indeed, not only for the concern Mr. Shankar expressed for those suffering to just the right ears of those with the means to do something, but also the elegant intimacy and brilliance of the recording.
Joined by tabla player Alla Rakha and tanpura player Kamala Chakravarty, Ravi Shankar in Hollywood leads listeners through the elegant lines and rippling waves of unfolding ragas “Hollywood Raga Vibhas” and the almost hour long “Hollywood Raga Parameshwari” on disc one.
Disc two offers up two more equally hypnotic tracks by way of “Hollywood Dhun” and “Hollywood Raga Sindhi Bhairavi.” The music of Ravi Shankar in Hollywood is indelibly gloriously Ravi Shankar.
Sukanva Shankar, Mr. Shankar’s widow offers her comments for the liner notes and best sums up the influence of her late husband’s music, “What is core to the raga is its Prana or life and its power to be heard and to be propagated, to instill its emotional message in the heart of as many musicians and listeners as possible. Time will tell the validity of a new raga creation, by its acceptance, popularity and longevity. No matter how beautiful the raga, if you are only one who can perform it, it is not considered to of any consequence. Raviji’s ragas can be found in many artist repertoires – that tells you the intensity and emotional effect of his music and his creations.”
Being a self-styled traditionalist doesn’t mean my musical tastes are so staunch that I shun any sonic adventurousness that steps over traditional boundaries. Cross the line into an over-reliance on gimmickry (which can take the form of too much technology or pop pandering for commercial purposes), and you’ve lost me. Taking chances by mixing traditions or styles in ways that leave musical integrity unscathed? You’ve got my attention.
Aziza Brahim, a Sahrawi woman who was born in an Algerian refugee camp as the war over the Western Sahara region was raging, doesn’t exactly go in for traditional Sahrawi music on Abbar el Hamada (Glitter Beat, 2016). Having lived and studied in Cuba and currently a citizen of Spain, some of her songs have an expected, and very welcome, Iberian and Latin edge. She even sings in Spanish for much of the album, the title of which refers to rocky desert landscapes and subject-wise deals with activist concerns like the ongoing plight of the Sahrawi.
The disc also digs into a measure of the “desert blues” sound that many Saharan musicians have become known for, as well as a few galloping rhythms that suggest a more laid back version of Senegalese m’balax (which has always had its own Latin flavors).
Brahim isn’t as frequent in her use of wailing, undulating tones as a lot singers with Arabic roots tend to be. Her approach is more pensive, but she sharpens her tone when needed, and partly because she also plays the bowl-shaped tbal drum while she sings, her voice fits the grooves as naturally as the grooves themselves, be they acoustic or electric. A stunning release all around.
She’s already a groundbreaker for use of the Swedish nyckelharpa (keyed viola) in the music of her native Spain, and now Ana Alcaide takes things a few steps further with Leyenda- World Music Inspired by Feminine Legends (ARC Music, 2016). Female folkloric characters from various cultures (including Spain, Mexico, China, Scotland and Alcaide’s own imagination) are celebrated in songs that range from lullaby-like softness to ritualistic and pulsating.
Nyckelharpa, baroque guitars and bouzouki are sweetened with other strings, reeds, percussion and celestial production values that surround Alcaide’s gracefully penetrating vocals and construct a pair of instrumentals that seem to tell otherworldly tales without any words at all. This is music that could serve as a soundtrack for any ancient or modern fantasy worth conjuring, or bring about just enough of a dream state to take you blissfully away from reality for a while. Either way, it’s stunning.
Chicha, the Peruvian-originated, organ-tweaked, fuzz guitar-laden psychedelic style of music with similarities to Colombian cumbia and Jamaican dub, continues on its revival path courtesy of Austin-based band Money Chicha. Their debut album Echo En Mexico (Vampisoul, 2016) is an irresistibly throbbing beat fest where unyielding layers of Latin percussion support keyboards, guitars and bass that are as trippy in their wall of sound as they are intertwined in their tightness. And tightness is indeed the key.
The chicha sound is one that must not lag in its skipping rhythms or spot-on melodic mesh that weighs in somewhere between surf rock, alternative Latin, Andean tradition, the ghost of Arsenio Rodriguez and music that simply wouldn’t appeal to polite society in Lima, Bogota or, well, Austin. Money Chicha go their own way by eliminating vocals entirely and giving the tracks a subtle funk push with a little extra breathing room among the instruments, resulting in a disc that satisfies to the frenzied max.
Lovers of African drumming and African music in general will happily tune in to West to West (ARC Music, 2016) by Nii Okai Tagoe. He’s a master of many a drum and percussion instrument affiliated with the Motherland and treads a beaten (beating?) path away from tradition by lacing his danceable pieces with horns, keyboards, violin, harp, bass and guitar.
Some unexpected turns are taken with arrangements as well, such as the blues sway of “3 Monkeys.” Not surprising for a gent who’s played with outfits as diverse as Baka Beyond and African Head Charge. This sort of thing has been done before, but Tagoe certainly does it spot-on.
A very different take on percussion and its relationship to the human voice can be heard on Chiaroscuro (Bent Records, 2016) a collaboration involving Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus. Nexus is a virtuosic percussion ensemble; Prana is a group of singers who all specialize in singing two pitches simultaneously. That dual pitch knack helped inspire Garry Kvistad of Nexus to invent the vistaphone, four octaves worth of chimes gathered into one instrument and the perfect companion to the harmonic series scale of notes that the singers use to achieve their second level of vocal prowess.
The grandiosely-titled tracks on the album (“The Rituals of Dusk,” A Crown of Radiant Fire,” etc.) combine orchestral drums, gongs, glockenspiel, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, voices and the debuting vistaphone to create music that I can only describe as equal parts refined and primal, rhythmic and atmospheric, structured and seemingly spontaneous, eerie and comforting, earthy and not of this earth. Repeating patterns of percussion and wordless voices ascend to mesmerizing heights and hover there, exploring in sonic terms the disc’s titular concept of light and dark contrasting yet harmonizing.
The three concluding compositions (including a mind-and-ear-altering Balinese monkey chant) are voices unaccompanied and lose nothing in the absence of their percussive counterparts. So is this disc the pinnacle of traditional music, the complete lack of it or something else altogether? Get it and decide for yourself. And prepare to be spellbound.
I don’t know a great deal about traditional Welsh music and thus can’t say how closely 9Bach adheres to it with their latest release, Anian (Real World, 2016). But I am quite taken with the shimmery emotiveness of singer/pianist/composer/lyricist Lisa Jen’s lead vocals, as well as the sparse yet very sturdy support her bandmates offer on guitar, bass, percussion, harp, hammer dulcimer and harmonies.
While some of the instruments used reportedly stray from tradition, the end result is a perfect fit, with modern production adding a kind of cool mist to softly enveloping music that often has a melancholy, longing feel offset by pure beauty. Anian is one to savor repeatedly.
There’s also a bonus disc, Yn Dy Lais (In Your Voice), that features Welsh-influenced poetry and storytelling rendered in English by the likes of Peter Gabriel and Rhys Ifans. It’s meant to make the nuances of the Welsh language more accessibly artsy and is worth a listen, but the lovely sounds on the first disc are the true reason to get this album.
A world away but still bringing tradition to a different level, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars take music with roots as old as the Louisiana bayou itself and jolt it full of rock, soul, blues, zydeco and funk energy. Gulfstream (Octavia Records, 2016) is a swampy, sultry, swaggering, sizzling slab of deep-south musical gumbo that will delight anyone who loves the celebratory sounds of New Orleans and Lafayette and appreciates the need to cool down for a ballad like the Aaron Neville-ish title track. It’s a party, albeit from the heart.
Richard Bona, the “African Sting,” melds his smooth Cameroonian roots music with the sounds of Afro-Cuban band Mandekan Cubano on Heritage (Qwest Records, 2016). African and Latin musical traditions have been best friends for a long, long time thanks to their shared origins, and Mandekan Cubano’s piano, dual percussion, trumpet and trombone lineup expertly underpins Bona’s joyous salsa-infused numbers and his softer side. Primarily a bassist but adept on numerous instruments, Bona adds unexpected touches like electric sitar to the range of Afro-Latin delights that comprise a very fine release.
Brazilian music, a familiar world staple for decades, has more recently been fused with electronica to degrees that some traditionalists have accepted and others rejected. Put me in the former category. It’s telling that Luisa Maita waited six years since her first album to put out a followup; perhaps she wanted to see how the Brazilian/electronica scene would play out in the interim. Her sophomore release Fio da Memoria (Cumbancha, 2016) has the breathy, sensual feel that’s nearly a given when it comes to female Brazilian singers, and the tunes roll out on a foundation of grooves rooted in samba, even if they’re not always rendered on organic instruments.
Maita’s steamy sentiments translate well, as the sung-in-English “Around You” demonstrates, and she’s got some stories of substance to tell, like “Na Asa,” a musical tale of dreams realized. Fio da Memoria is a keeper for sure, but Maita’s vocal mix of subtle and searing would benefit even more from backing that likewise balances real and electronic sounds equally.
If you need a reminder of how well traditional Ethiopian music meshes with jazz, The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz (World Music Network, 2016) will handily serve. Trailblazer Mulatu Astatke kicks off with the horn-heavy proclaiming of “Gamo” and things jump ever further back into the Swinging Addis feel of the 60s and 70s from there.
While at only 9 tracks the collection can’t cover the whole spectrum, what you get is choice. Serpentine instrumentals are the bulk of it, including NYC’s Budos Band providing impressive overseas translation of the sound, but the soulful vocal thrills of Tlahoun Gessesse and Gabriella Ghermandi show just how large a role male and female voices also played (and play) on the scene. A superb sampler.
A nation’s folk music is not merely a hodgepodge of tunes from some vague, past period. Within that broad definition is an axis that is that nation’s most dramatic, memorable period, the time in which the nation’s entire populace observed and participated in great changes, triumphs and tragedies. For England, that was the period of transition from rural to urban and from nation to empire, roughly from the 16th through the 18th centuries.
As England settled into the Industrial Revolution’s prosperity and stability, its folk music, with an overall expressive style in which each song’s story was imbued with an ambiance of power and importance, diminished in popularity. Largely superseded by generations of what we might generally label, “pop,” English folk received new attention in the days of skiffle and the folk revival from which many British Invasion single B sides sprang.
Those B sides made it on to full albums and were copied and covered by a new generation familiar with and respectful of hoary roots, but wholly receptive to new instruments, techniques and technologies. This fairly young group with long pedigree is the one captured and presented on this lovely ARC anthology.
Two CDs, 35 songs in all, tell stories of traders, craftsmen, seafaring men and the women who hope for their return and other folk archetypes. There is not a lackluster tune in the bunch. Indeed, one hesitates to select any favorite or favorites from this culling from the entire, diverse country, because all offer reward to all.
Whether one comes from the lightest pop, heaviest rock or most stringent folk perspective, this collection will earn appreciation and frequent play.
This is an excellent release to keep in mind for upcoming holiday gift-giving.
“Yiddish culture as it existed in Eastern Europe can never be revived as it was. Luckily, enough of the culture has been preserved in books, on recordings and by older mentors to have allowed us to pick up the thread and be a part of our tradition, even if it has evolved into something new and different.” – Lorin Sklamberg
On September 4, at an outdoor performance at Grzybowski Square in Warsaw, the Klezmatics celebrated their thirtieth anniversary. The fruits of the group’s activity include eleven discs (released from 1989 to 2011), and, among other awards, a Grammy in the category of World Music. The crowd was large, the artists gave us a demonstration of the best music, and the weather was surprising. The concert took place as part of the 13th Singer’s Warsaw Festival.
The Klezmatics gave a concert which can be summarized briefly as an expression of joyful thanksgiving: they captivated the audience, bewitching it with their singing, passion, and sound. The show will remain in our memory as a souvenir of holiday colors and sounds.
In the Klezmatics’ music, old Yiddish melodies come back to life, mingled with the sounds of contemporary musical genres such as rock, jazz, gospel and ethno/folk. In this music, the hybrid of styles and genres serves to affirm that Yiddish music is still part of living tradition and culture. The artists do not skimp on delighting our senses, reaching on stage for more than a dozen different instruments, both traditional and modern, and singing in several languages.
Today, the Klezmatics are already Jewish music classics. They create important arrangements and interpretations of traditional Yiddish songs, changing today’s view of the Jewish and klezmer culture of Eastern Europe. Thus, in a strange way, this music connects longing and nostalgia with a passion for life, love, and joy.
For this work, thanks and great appreciation are due to Lorin Sklamberg (lead vocals, accordion, guitar, piano), Frank London (trumpet, keyboards, vocals), Lisa Gutkin (violin, vocals), Matt Darriau (kaval, clarinet, saxophone, vocals), Paul Morrissett (bass, tsimbl, vocals), and Richie Barshay (percussion instruments).
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