Artist Profiles: Sinikka Langeland

Sinikka Langeland – Photo by Dag Alveng

Born in 1961 to a Norwegian father and a Finnish mother from Karelia, Langeland was given a Finnish name, Sinikka, and felt the influence of two nationalities and cultures from the beginning. She lives in Finnskogen, 120 km north of Oslo, close to the border of Sweden. Finnskogen, the ‘Finnish forest,’ was first populated by Finns in the 17th century.

After an early education in classical music Sinikka started to look at contemporary folk music and the singer-songwriter genre, but this was soon displaced by an interest in older forms, intensifying as her research continued and underlined by a wish to “create an original music rooted in my own area, taking account of local possibilities and looking back into history to find out more.”

She highlights that her specific musical journey has “always been about searching. I love folksong but I’m not exclusively a traditional folk singer. There were always influences coming from other places, too.”

At 20 she changed from guitar to kantele, the Finnish table harp. She plays the 39-string concert kantele, with its five-octave range. “At first it was just an experiment – I thought it would be fun to have a Finnish instrument for one or two songs. But I became completely fascinated by it.” Meanwhile she was expanding her repertoire to include rune songs, incantations, ancient melodies from Finland and Karelia, as well as little known medieval ballads and religious folk songs.

Sinikka Langeland

Her work has flowed in several directions simultaneously. She gives, for instance, solo performances with voice and kantele, and she gives duo concerts in churches, together with organist Kare Nordstoga, in which old folk songs and Easter hymns are placed alongside with J.S. Bach’s transformations of the same sources. And, since the early 1990s, she has been working and recording with jazz musicians as part of her ensembles.

Swedish bassist Anders Jormin has been a regular colleague for more than a dozen years, joining her for the first time on the recording ‘Har du lyttet til elvene om natta’ (Grappa, 1995). Sinnika also played regularly with drummer Markku Ounaskari, a backbone of the Finnish jazz scene.

Sinikka’s songs often focus on the relationship between people and nature as it is expressed in traditional and modern poetry. Her CD Starflowers (ECM, 2007) includes her versions of the poems of Hans Borli (1918-89) and is performed with a remarkable ensemble that opens up the songs to improvisation. In its interweaving of folksong, literature, and Nordic jazz it may be considered a typical ECM production, but it is also a consistent extension of the work Sinikka has been developing over the last decades.

Discography

* Langt innpå skoga (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4074, 1994)
* Har du lyttet til elvene om natta? (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4107, 1995)
* Det syng, with Anne Marit Jacobsen, Halvor Håkanes, Eli Storbekken and Agnes Buen Garnås (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4123, 1997)
* Strengen var af røde guld (Grappa Musikkforlag GRCD 4136, 1997)
* Lille Rosa (Grappa Musikkforlag HCD 7156, 1999)
* Starflowers (ECM, 2007)
* Maria’s Song (ECM 2127, 2009)
* The Land That Is Not (ECM, 2011)
* The Half-Finished Heaven (ECM Records, 2015)
* The Magical Forest (2016)

Web Site: www.sinikka.no

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Artist Profiles: Silvio Rodriguez

Silvio Rodriguez

Singer, guitarist and songwriter Silvio Rodríguez is one of Cuba’s most influential songwriters. He was born November 29 of 1946 in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. His mother introduced him to music by singing lullabies, boleros, and sometimes sones.

His first contact with the mass media was at the age of 3, at a radio station. At 16 he took piano lessons. His musical studies were interrupted by his service in the Cuban armed forces as a conscript. Nevertheless, while in the military, he met Esteban Baños, who encouraged him to play guitar. That was the beginning of a new stage in his artistic career.

His poems, combined with his revolutionary ideology and his innate talent at making music, made Rodríguez a leading figure in Cuban music. Together with Pablo Milanés and Noel Incola, he gave birth to the Nueva Trova Cubana movement. His creative work includes hundreds of songs that made him popular throughout the Americas as well as Europe and some African countries.

Discography

* Grupo De Experimentation Sonora Del ICAIC, v. 1
* Grupo De Experimentation Sonora Del ICAIC, v. 2
* Grupo De Experimentation Sonora Del ICAIC, v. 3
* Grupo De Experimentation Sonora Del ICAIC, v. 4
* Días y flores (Egrem, 1975)
* Cuando digo futuro (1977)
* Al final de este viaje… (1978)
* Antología (1978)
* Mujeres (Polygram, 1978)
* Rabo de nube (1980)
* Unicornio (1982)
* Tríptico (volumen uno) (1984)
* Tríptico (volumen dos) (1984)
* Tríptico (volumen tres) (1984)
* Causas y azares (1986)
* Arboles, with Roy Brown (1987)
* Oh, melancolía (1988)
* En Chile (1990)
* España y Argentina en vivo (1990)
* Silvio (1992)
* Rodríguez (1994)
* Domínguez (1996)
* Descartes (1998)
* Mariposas (1999)
* El Hombre Extrano, with Grupo Sintesis
* Mano A Mano, with Luis Eduardo Aute
* Expedición (2002)
* Cita con ángeles (2003)
* Érase que se era (2006)
* Segunda Cita (2010)
* Amoríos (Sony Latin, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Sigurd Brokke

Sigurd Brokke

Sigurd Brokke was born in 1971 in Hylestad, Valle (Norway). He plays munnharpe (Jew’s harp) in the Setesdal tradition. His technique is frequently very personal, inspired by many different sources. Sigurd won the Jew’s harp class at Landskappleiken, the annual national competition, in 2003 and 2004. He has also won several local competitions in Agder and Telemark.

Sigurd has also taken part in many folk music festivals the last few years, has instructed many courses and has been teaching Jew’s harp playing at the Valle comprehensive school.

Currently, he works at the Agder folk music archives at Rysstad. Since 2001, he has been the leader of Setesdal Spelemannslag.

Discography

Rammeslag, ordinary fiddle and jew’s harp from Setesdal (Etnisk Musikklubb EM29, 2007)
Rammeslag II (Etnisk Musikklubb EM49, 2009)
Munnharpe (Etnisk Musikklubb, 2012)
Munnharpe II (Etnisk Musikklubb, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Sierra Maestra

Sierra Maestra

Sierra Maestra is a seminal son cubano (Cuban son) band from Havana, Cuba. Currently, it’s one of the finest and most popular musical ensembles performing in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.

Placing themselves apart from other Cuban acts, Sierra Maestra reawakened the traditional style son line-up: tres, guitar, trumpet, bongo, güiro and vocals, emulating the golden days of the 1920s and 30s. Sierra Maestra’s members are pioneers in revitalizing this genre for new generations and its re-introduction into the Cuban mainstream. Sierra Maestra named themselves after the mountain range in the eastern part of Cuba as a tribute to the birth place of son.

Sierra Maestra first performed in 1976 at the University of Havana, where all the group members studied. Their goal, then as now, was to recover this popular Cuban music style of the 1920 that had been all but forgotten.

The group slightly increased the original instrument line-up with extra percussion (congas and maracas) and replaced the tradiitonal marímbula with electric bass. Some of the guaracha rhythms were sped up in a move away from the slow, close pair dancing of the 1920s.

This revitalization of son with a modern attitude was a sensation for the new generation of Cubans, and Sierra Maestra quickly became popular, playing the annual festivals at the universities around the island of Cuba, capturing first place prizes in their first three years. They were also appearing regularly on national TV.

In 1978, Sierra Maestra was asked to represent Cuba a the “Festival Mundial de la Juventud y los Estudiantes” in Havana. Their first album, “Sierra Maestra llegó con el guanajo relleno” recorded in 1981, received a silver disc award for outstanding sales, spectacular popularity and critical reception. They also won individual prizes for best recording, most popular song and highest record sales. Also in 1981, they launched their first foreign tour to Nicaragua.

Sierra Maestra recorded their second LP, “Y Son Así” in 1982 and was awarded the Girasol prize for the year’s most popular group and finished the year with tours to Angola and Nicaragua.

In 1983, Sierra Maestra won the “Benny Moré” dance music prize at the Benny Moré festival and took part in the IV Song Festival held in Helsinki, Finland. They then traveled to Sweden and France and to the International Film Festival in Spain (where they’ve enjoyed playing over the years).

Also in 1983, Sierra Maestra recorded the soundtrack to the Cuban TV series “Las Impuras” and their song “A los rumberos de Belén” was used in Robert Redford’s film, “The Milagro Beanfield War”. Since then, Sierra Maestra has attracted international audiences in Europe, Africa, Asia and the United States. They have recorded numerous albums, singles and appeared on over seven compilations.

Sierra Maestra also have a French feature film called “Salsa” that was released in February of 2000 in France. It’s a feature film, written by Jean-Claude Carriére and directed by Joyce Buñuel, released by Universal Studios.

The ensemble’s arrangements generally use the classic formula: introduction of trumpet phrases over the basic melody of the song (this usually following A-B or A-B-C-A scheme) and then the montuno, based on vocal or trumpet solo improvisations with chorus work. Sierra Maestra also play Cuban rumba, a different clave -2/3- that accompanies a totally different dance to that of son.

Sierra Maestra’s leader for many years, Juan De Marcos González Cárdenas (vocals, tres, musical director) left the group to create the Afro-Cuban All Stars and Buena Vista Social Club. And Jesús Alemany, the band’s charismatic trumpet player for many years, left to form his group Cubanismo.

Discography

* Sierra Maestra llegó con el guanajo relleno (1981)
* Y Son Así (1982)
* ¡Dundunbanza! (World Circuit Records, 1994)
* Criolla Garabali (Iris Music, 1996)
* Tibiri Tabara (World Circuit Records, Nonesuch WCD051, 1998)
* Rumberos de la Havana (Iris Music, 1999)
* Rumbero Soy (Riverboat Records TUGCD1027, 2002)
* Son: Soul of a Nation (Riverboat Records, 2005)
* Sonando Ya (World village, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Siamak Jahangiry

Siamak Jahangiry

Siamak Jahangiry was born in 1971 in chaloos, in northern Iran. He started playing the ney at the age of 12. Jahangiry studied with Abdolnaghi Afsharnia before going on to study with Iran’s leading ney players, mostly with Mohammad Ali Kiani Nejad.

He received his degree in music from Tehran University of the Arts and has written a book on the ney, its playing techniques in the 20th century, and its masters.

Jahangiry is a member of the Abd-al-kadir Ensemble, a group dedicated to the compositions of Abd-al-kadir Maraghi—one of the most important Iranian music theorists and composers of the 14th century.

Siamak Jahangiry is also a member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and appears on the ensemble’s albums Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet and New Impossibilities, as well as recordings with his own ensemble. “//When you travel and play for people outside your country, they usually want to learn more about your culture and where you come from//,” says Jahangiry. “//This is an important aspect of what we do with this project. We gain knowledge about each other and share knowledge about ourselves//.”

He is currently a professor of music in the Fine Arts school of Tehran University.

Discography

* Silk Road Journeys: When Strangers Meet
* New Impossibilities
* Misty Solitude (2007)
* Tanha (Alone)
* Taranomi Baraye Sobh (2014)

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Artist Profiles: Shemekia Copeland

Shemekia Copeland – Photo by Carol Friedman

Charon Shemekia Copeland was born April 10, 1979 in Harlem, New York City. She is the daughter of famed blues guitarist and vocalist Johnny Copeland

At only 19, Shemekia Copeland released her debut recording, Turn the Heat Up! (1998). A year later, she appeared in the movie Three To Tango, while her song “I Always Get My Man, was featured in the film Broken Hearts Club.

Her second album, Wicked, released in 2000, received three Handy Awards (Song of the Year, Blues Album of the Year, Contemporary Female Artist of the Year) and a GRAMMY nomination. Two years later, New Orleans R&B legend Dr. John stepped in to produce her third recording, Talking To Strangers (2002). Afterwards, Copeland released The Soul Truth in 2005. The album was produced by celebrated Stax guitarist Steve Cropper (who also played on the CD), and featured a mix of blues, funk and Memphis-style soul.

Shemekia Copeland joined Telarc International for the February 2009 release of Never Going Back. This new chapter in the Shemekia Copeland story represents a crossroads on her ongoing artistic journey – a place where numerous new avenues are open to her. While she will always remain loyal to her blues roots, Never Going Back takes a more forward view of the blues, and in so doing points her music and her career in a new direction.

I’ve had success in my career, and I’m happy with that,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to continue to grow. In order for an artist to grow – and for a genre to grow – you have to do new things. I’m extremely proud to say I’m a blues singer, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing I’m capable of singing, or that’s the only style of music I’m capable of making.”

She added: “I want to keep growing. My main goal when I started this was that I was going to do something different with this music, so that this music could evolve and grow. I got that idea from my father. He didn’t do the typical one-four-five blues. He went to Africa and worked with musicians there. He was one of the first blues artists to do that. I want to be the same way. I want to be innovative with the blues.”

Discography:

* Turn the Heat Up! (Alligator Records, 1998)
* Wicked (Alligator Records, 2000)
* Talking To Strangers (Alligator Records, 2002)
* The Soul Truth (Alligator Records, 2005)
* Never Going Back (Telarc International, 2009)
* Shemekia Copeland – Deluxe Edition (Alligator Records, 2011)
* 33 1/3 (Telarc, 2012)
* Outskirts of Love (Alligator Records, 2015)

Web sites: www.shemekiacopeland.com

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Artist Profiles: Shams Ensemble

Shams Ensemble

Iran’s renowned Shams Ensemble, influenced by Sufi, Kurdish and Persian classical music traditions, performs powerful rhythms and haunting melodic works incorporating the poetry of Mevlana (Rumi). Founded in 1980 by musician and composer Kaykhosro Pournazeri, Shams was the first group to compose music specifically for the ancient Kurdish tanbur lute.

The award-winning Shams Ensemble has performed over hundreds of concerts in Iran and around the world and recorded many best-selling albums. In 2007, Shams Ensemble performed with whirling dervishes from Konya, Turkey for four sold-out nights in Tehran’s renowned Royal Palace, Saadabad; these performances marked the first Sufi concerts performed in Iran and attracted national and international attention.

Discography:

Nishteman (2012)
Mastan (2012)
Hidden in Heart (2012)
the Land of Love (2013)
Sewi Sour (2013)
the Land of Sun (2013)
Raindrops (2015)

shamss.org/shamss/

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Artist Profiles: Shahab Paranj

Shahab Paranj, born in Tehran, Iran in 1983, started playing the tombak as a child, encouraged by his father who was a santur player. He played tombak at an arts and music secondary school, and later at the College of Music in Tehran. He studied tombak with Homayoun Shajarian, Kambiz Ganjei and Ardeshir Kamkar, and also studied cello with Majid Ismaili and Karim Qorbani.

In 2001 he began performing with the Khorshid Ensemble, directed by Tahmoures Pournazeri, and later joined the Shams Ensemble. He also plays with the Symphonic Orchestra of Iranian Television and produces music for commercials. Shahab studied composition at San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

He currently lives in New York City.

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Artist Profiles: Sergio Monroy

Sergio Monroy

 

Sergio Monroy was born in Cadiz (Spain). He has developed a unique synthesis of flamenco and piano music. His debut album was acclaimed in the new flamenco community for its freshness and accessibility, wedding flamenco with jazz. Sergio fuses all the components of flamenco – the guitar, the palmas (hand-clapping) and the voice – without imitating them, bringing all the piano’s melodic resources, rhythm and harmony into play.

Monroy’s career began at an early age: at seventeen the pianist performed his first open air concert at the Mentidero square in Cadiz and his true debut came at twenty when he accompanied celebrated flamenco singer Miguel Poveda in the Central Lechera theatre, also in Cadiz, in 2000. Since then he has performed in many renowned theatres in Spain, ranging from the prestigious Circulo de Bellas Artes in Madrid to the Mercado de Música Viva showcase in Vic. He has also played concerts in England, Netherlands, Germany, United States of America and France.

 

Sergio Monroy

 

His first album, titled Monroy – Piano Flamenco, was released in 2003. It already showed his interest in approaching flamenco and jazz and included appearances of celebrated singers such as Javier Ruibal and Miguel Poveda. Chicuco, his second recording, showed the ancient wisdom of Cadiz flamenco and a deep respect for the folk songs as they were sung at the popular Mentidero square and where they were caught in the air by this fresh-minded flamenco artist, eager to renew his sound.

Chicuco is how you call in Cadiz the brisk boy from the northern coast who has come to the town to help out in the little corner shops. It is a true homage to his roots, to his father, to a lifestyle and a spirit. There is also a village in Mozambique and a valley in northern Mexico called Chicuco. And Monroy is wise and humble enough to listen while he’s working and melting together an universe of artistic influences: flamenco, jazz, Spanish folk music, Cuban son and other rhythms.

 

Discography

* Piano Flamenco (Ediciones El Bujío, 2003)
* Chicuco (Ediciones El Bujío, 2009)

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Artist Profiles: Segundo Falcón

Segundo Falcón

 

Segundo Falcón was born in 1970 in a section of Sevilla (Spain) that is known as El Viso del Alcor, where a family of cantaoras (female singers) by the name of Janegas are concentrated.

Antonio Mairena discovered him. Even as a child, Segundo Falcón had expressed a passion for flamenco. He debuted at a local flamenco club called El Rincon del Pilar when he was just 8 years old. His apprenticeship continued at other clubs, competitions and tablaos where he accompanied many big names in flamenco, including Mario Maya, Manuela Carrasco, Pepa Montes, Javier Baron, Israel Galvan, Juana Amaya, etc.

In 1990, he became part of the flamenco show at the tablao Los Gallos de Sevilla.

Segundo Falcón has achieved his own style and sound by re-introducing influences from certain teachers and artists whom he admires, such as Enrique Morente and Enrique El Extremeño.

 

Segundo Falcón

 

Thanks to the support of some of those teachers, Segundo Falcón’s recording career had a great start with the release of Un Segundo de cante, which includes samples of solea, fandangos, seguidillas, tangos, and bulerias.

In January 2002, he was appointed director of the Centro Andaluz de Flamenco (CAF) (Andalusian Flamenco Center). He managed the center until 2006.

In April 2002, Segundo Falcón and Arcangel performed in Sevilla with the Chekara Orchestra from Tetuan, Morocco, under conductor Jallal Chekkara. The performance was called ‘Flamenco Couscous’ as it mixed different types of flamenco with Moroccan music.

Discography

* Un Segundo de Cante (2002)

* La Chekara y el Flamenco (Musica Es Amor, 2009)

Translated by Rita Granda.

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