Rock and World Music, an Explosive Mix

Various Artists - The Rough Guide to Planet Rock
Various Artists – The Rough Guide to Planet Rock
Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Planet Rock (World Music Network RGNET 1172CD, 2006)

Rock combined with world music (or other forms of roots music) has been around since the 1970s. Some good examples could be found in Atlantic European Celtic rock, Southern rock in the US and Rock Andaluz (Andalusian rock) in Spain. Throughout the years rock and world music have metamorphed into new forms. Planet Rock is a great introduction to sample just a tip of the iceberg of what is out there. For example, Les Boukakes offers a mix of North African beats, including Gnawa, with rocking guitar.

The term desert blues has been coined in recent years to describe the music of Malian Tuaregs, as well as Western Sahara’s Saharawis. Tinariwen‘s bluesy guitar style has turned it into one of the most popular of the Tuareg groups. Electric guitars are very popular with desert musicians because of the lack of wood.

Guinean Ba Cissoko has revolutionized ancient Manding music by playing the kora through a distortion pedal, making it sound like an electric guitar. Meanwhile, Yela, a band from Reunion Island, shows its love for American funk with its powerful rhythm section and brass riffs intertwined with local harmonies.

One of the wildest pieces featured is a Tuvan throat singing version of “In a Gada Da Vida” by Arbert Kuvezin and Yat-Kha. Things continue in a zany direction with the Transylvanians, a German-Hungarian band based in Berlin who combine Hungarian folk with humor and outlandish rock.

From Ukraine come Haydamaky, a group that is politically active. They mix rock, reggae and Ukrainian folk influences. Planet Rock also includes a compelling piece by excellent Palestinian singer Rim Banna, who has gained international recognition thanks to her recent solo album released by Norwegian company Kirkelig Kulturverksted.

Another lesser known Tuareg group is featured. Etran Finatawa, from Niger, combines the slow paced electric desert blues with Wodaabe polyphony. Konono N°1 is a Congolese band with a spectacular sound based on three electric likembés (thumb pianos), megaphones and hand-made microphones built from magnets salvaged from old car parts and plugged into amplifiers.

Planet Rock contains a data track that includes an interview with the compiler,
Johannes Heretsch. For a different approach, American band Azigza shows its passion for progressive rock and world music. Both styles are weaved easily throughout its latest album, Kriya. The group is formed by virtuoso instrumentalists who at times sound like a top of the line progressive rock outfit that has inherited the best of prog-era Yes. Azigza have elaborate guitar work and highly creative drumming. What makes the group especially attractive are its North African vocals, soaring Carnatic-style electric violin, various Indian instruments, world percussion and much more.