This year we begin the list of best world music album with our most recent contributor, Tony Hillier. He is based in Cairns in far north Queensland, from where he has been actively involved in all areas of the music industry in Australia for the past 25 years, primarily as a journalist, writing for national publications such as the Weekend Australian and Rhythms magazine.
Tony Hillier‘s Top 20 Albums of 2011 (in alphabetical order)
- Afrodiaspora – Susana Baca (Luaka Bop) The Peruvian standard-bearer for Afro-Andean culture steps outside of her comfort zone with excellent results.
- Ashore – June Tabor (Topic) English folk diva puts her inimitable contralto stamp on a range of maritime-flavoured songs, from traditional epics to contemporary classics.
- Band of Brothers – Slava & Leonard Grigoryan and Joseph & James Tawadros (Universal Music Australia) Two pairs of virtuosic Australian siblings combine their incomparable stringed instrument and percussion skills to create a concept that traverses complex time signatures and rhythms and crosses stylistic boundaries.
- Carried In Mind – Jeff Lang (Universal Music Australia) Aussie slide guitar maestro and his trusty sidemen bond in glorious communion to sculpt multi-dimensional soundscapes with a combination of precision and improvisation.
- Cicada – Hazmat Modine (Barbés) Despite their multi-musical personalities, New York band Hazmat Modine makes surprisingly coherent music, bound together by the blues and inventive arrangements.
- Egypt Unveiled – Hossam Ramzy & Phil Thornton (Arc Music) Underpinned by Ramzy’s exquisitely rhythmic and inventive playing on a variety of drums and Thornton’s keyboard and EBow guitar washes, the album showcases the cream of traditional Egyptian players.
- El Olvido – Watussi (MGM, Australia) Sydney band Watussi’s sound vacillates between classic Santana and Ozomatli’s more modern streetwise mix of Latino and hip-hop, but with an Aussie accent.
- Empire & Love – The Imagined Village (ECC) British folk songs brilliantly updated for the 21st century, with multi-cultural elements and electronic beats.
- Fatou – Fatoumata Diawara (World Circuit) Paris-based Malian singer-songwriter nods to compatriots Oumou Sangaré and Rokia Traoré without forfeiting a soupçon of personal integrity or promise.
- From Africa With Fury Rise – Seun Kuti (Cartell Music, Australia) Recording in Rio and harnessing the production and musical expertise of Brian Eno has given afrobeat prince Seun Kuti’s music as sharp a focus as his words.
- Little Stories – Harry James Angus (Vitamin) Sans trumpet, the Cat Empire’s hirsute frontman is revealed as an idiosyncratic and compelling storyteller, in the mould of an embryonic Randy Newman or Tom Waits.
- Neptune – Eliza Carthy (HumHum) Everything is dilated in the English diva’s epic musical mash-up of genres that genuflects more to burlesque and cabaret, classic British prog-rock, world music and US pop, gospel, soul and blues than the folk tradition.
- Oi! A Nova Musica – Various Artists (Mais Um Discos) The vibrant and varied nature of 21st century Brazilian music is brilliantly represented in a selection of 40 songs from new wave acts from a wide sweep of regions that extends from the populous states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to the borders of Amazonia.
- Purpose + Grace – Martin Simpson (Topic) English guitar hero returns to trad roots in the company of stellar guests like Richard Thompson, BJ Cole, Andy Cutting, Dick Gaughan, Jon Boden and June Tabor.
- Ragged Kingdom – June Tabor & Oysterband (Topic) The belated follow-up matches 1990’s Freedom And Rain, with Oysterband again lifting Tabor into a realm that invites direct comparison with Sandy Denny’s liaison with Fairport Convention on 1969’s classic Liege & Lief.
- Saturnine – Jackie Oates (ECC) An admirable variety of tempos, rhythms and instrumentation stamps the English singer/fiddle player’s fourth solo album, along with several pieces from Cornwall, a much-neglected part of the Celtic diaspora.
- Shadow and Light – John Doyle (Compass) This stalwart of the US-Irish folk scene and former member of Solas deftly draws on Irish history and folklore from both sides of the Atlantic to prove himself a stellar solo singer-songwriter.
- The Reckoning – Steve Tilston (Hubris Records) The album offers a cornucopia of delights from the veteran English singer-guitarist while genuflecting to the late, great guitarist Davy Graham.
- The Road To Damascus – Syriana (Real World) Conceived in London, part-recorded in Syria and produced with due deference to the culture, this road trip represents a veritable Damascene conversion for Count Dubulah (aka Nick Page).
- The Woodbine & Ivy Band – The Woodbine & Ivy Band (Folk Police) An instant folk-rock classic and this reviewer’s clear-cut album-of-the-year. Eerie, atmospheric and modern, it has distant echoes of Fairport Convention, Pentangle, Steeleye Span and Neil Young’s Crazy Horse, features some terrific singing from the likes of Fay Hield, Jackie Oates and Jim Causley and some brilliant arranging and playing from the Manchester, UK-based band.
Next comes the list of Tom Orr. He is a California-based writer who collaborates with various music magazines. He has been writing reviews for World Music Central for many years.
Tom Orr’s Top World Music Albums of 2011
- Addis Acoustic Project – Tewesta
- Vlada Tomova – Balkan Tales
- Aurelio – Laru Beya
- Vieux Farka Toure – The Secret
- Dub is a Weapon – Vaporized
- Bombino – Agadez
- Boubacar Traore – Mali Denhou
- Seun Anikulapo Kuti & Egypt 80 – From Africa With Fury: Rise
- The Creole Choir of Cuba – Tande-La
- Joshua Alo – Orchid Unknown
- Tinariwen – Tassili
- Ocote Soul Sounds – Taurus
- Blue Glaze Mento Band – We Will Wait
- 10 Ft. Ganja Plant – Shake Up The Place
Patricia Herlevi is a fiction writer and also writes about world music and jazz. She has contributed to World Music Central for many years. She has her own blog called The Whole Music Experience.
Patricia Herlevi’s Top 10 of 2011
- Paulo Fresu, A Filetta, and Daniele di Bonaventura – Mistico Mediterrano (ECM)
- Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal – Chamber Music (Six Degrees Records)
- Le Trio Joubran – Asfar (World Village/Harmonia Mundi)
- Gabriel Ayala and Will Clipman – Passion, Fire, Grace (Canyon Records)
- Ana Moura – Coliseu (World Village)
- Genticorum – Nagez-Rameurs (independent release)
- Amjad Ali Khan and Scottish Chamber Orchestra – Samaagam (World Village)
- Kyle Carey – Monongah (independent release)
- Yamandu Costa and Hamilton de Holanda – Live! (Adventure Music)
- Maeve Gilchrist – Song of Delight (Adventure Music)
- Mamadou Diabate – Courage (World Village)
Lastly, Angel Romero’s list. Angel is the managing editor of World Music Central. He has been actively involved in the music industry as a music journalist and record producer.
Angel Romero’s Top World Music Albums of 2011 (in alphabetical order)
- Alison Krauss & Union Station – Paper Airplane (Rounder)
Some of the finest contemporary bluegrass musicians return with a fine album
- Amina Alaoui – Arco Iris (ECM Records, 2011)
Another ECM gem featuring the talented Moroccan singer
- Azam Ali – From Night to the Edge of Day (Six Degrees Records)
Mesmerizing Iranian world fusion
- Bio Ritmo – La Verdad (Electric Cowbell Records)
Talented and innovative salsa band
- Cecilia Gauna – Aliento
One of the emerging talents form Argentina
- Mamak Khadem – A Window to Color (independent)
One of the finest voices in the Iranian diaspora
- Natacha Atlas – Mounqaliba Rising – The Remixes (Six Degrees)
Outstanding global electronica
- Syriana – The Road to Damascus (Real World), released in the U.S. in 2011
Contemporary Middle Eastern dub and other explorations
- Tinariwen – Tassili (Anti)
Tuareg masters and friends
- Zoobazar – Uno (Santa Fe / Ojo! Records, 2011)
Spain’s emerging world music fusion band
- Fanfare Ciocarlia and Boban & Marko Markovic Orchestra – Balkan Brass Battle (Asphalt Tango)
Two of the best Balkan brass bands join forces
- Qristina & Quinn Bachand – Family (Q&Q Music QQ1002)
Young Celtic music emerging talent from Canada
- Sofrito – Tropical Discotheque (Strut STRUTO70CD, 2011)
- Bill Frisell and Vinicius Cantuária – Lágrimas Mexicanas (Entertainment One Music, 2011)
Two guitar masters making world fusion and beyond
- Al Di Meola – Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody (Concord)
Legendary fusion guitarist masterfully blends jazz and global music
- Doa – A Fronda dos cervos (Do Fol 100FOL1053)
Veteran Galician Celtic music band returns with beautiful album
- Steve Khan – Parting Shot (Tone Center TC40702)
Jazz guitar master dedicates full album to Latin jazz.
- Loga Ramin Torkian – Mehraab (Terrestrial Lane Records/Electrofone)
Outstanding Persian world fusion
- La Sonora Ponceña – A Band And Their Music (Codigo Music/Fania 463 950 8014-2)
A double set with truly the best music by legendary Puerto Rican salsa band