Contemporary Polish Folk Music Band Lautari to Perform in New York City

summerstage_lautari

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

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The Talented Gaelic Sounds of Bywater

Elias Alexander, Eamon Sefton, Kathleen Parks and Patrick Bowling Bywater (Fresh Haggis Music, 2016)

Bywater is the debut by an American Celtic music band inspired by the traditional Gaelic music of Scotland. The project was started by American multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Elias Alexander. He spent some time in Scotland, where he immersed himself into traditional music, including reels, jigs, coalminer and boat builder songs, and sorrowful love songs.

Most of the music on Bywater is original, composed by Elias Alexander and his bandmates. It’s a set of beautifully-crafted fresh tunes and songs that are respectful of tradition, while sounding modern at the same time with the addition of elements borrowed from Irish music, American folk-rock and jazz.

Bywater was formed after Alexander graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in music from Middlebury College in Vermont and moved to Boston, which is one of the hotspots for Celtic music in the United States. In Boston he put together the Bywater Band: guitarist Eamon Sefton, fiddler Kathleen Parks and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Bowling.

The lineup on Bywater includes Elias Alexander on border pipes, lead vocals, fiddle, low whistle, and cajón; Eamon Sefton on guitar and backing vocals; Kathleen Parks on five-string fiddle and backing vocals; Patrick Bowling on flute, whistle, bodhrán and uilleann pipes. Guests featured: Nate Sabat on bass; Neil Pearlman on accordion; and Jake Galloway on trumpet and trombone.

Bywater is a superb debut album by one of the most promising ensembles in the American Celtic music scene.

Buy Bywater in the Americas

Buy Bywater in Europe

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Singer’s Warsaw Festival 2016: An annual celebration of music and culture in Warsaw

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Yiddish culture returns by way of pre-war films and contemporary performances, workshops of dance and song, Jewish paper cutting, ceramics, and Hebrew calligraphy …

 (from the Festival’s website)

Jewish culture in Poland is experiencing a renaissance. Festivals of Jewish music, language, and ancient and modern history are among the finest undertakings of this kind in Poland. This was confirmed by the 13th edition of the Singer’s Warsaw Festival, organized as always by the Shalom Foundation. The creator of the festival is the General Director of the Shalom Foundation, Golda Tencer, an outstanding Polish singer, director, and theater actress.

 

Shabbat Shalom - Sabbath of peace
Shabbat Shalom – Sabbath of peace

 

Collaborating in the organization of the festival were The Ester Rachel and Ida Kamińska Jewish Theater, the Center for Yiddish Culture, and the Edward Dziewoński Teatr Kwadrat (Square Theater). Every year, some of the global music scene’s most prominent artists, their art inspired by and created in the spirit of Jewish culture and religion, come to the Polish capital. Many of these artists have Polish roots, and thus participate with even greater pleasure in this sentimental journey along the road of their lives, one that sometimes runs through countries such as Israel, the United States, Sweden, France, Canada, and many others.

As we read on the organizers’ website, “The Singer’s Warsaw Festival of Jewish Culture has been, for twelve years, bringing back the memory of the pre-war Jewish ‘Warsze’ praised by Singer in numerous short stories and novels […] Our goal is to recreate the pre-war climate around ul. Próżna and Plac Grzybowski, if only for a few days, and show the lost world of the Polish Jews. Here we situate Jewish cafes, restaurants, small shops, and artisans’ workshops. At one of the festivals, an old bookstore made an appearance; at another, the editorial office where Singer worked before the war; every year there is also a wine bar and bakery” (see: www.festiwalsingera.pl/en/cele-i-misja).

 

Yakov Rotner conducting famous cantors: Yaakov Lemmer, Benzion Miller and Tzudik Greenwald, accompanied by Menachem Bristowski. Festiwal Warszawa Singera 2016. Photo by Janusz Paliwoda
Yakov Rotner conducting famous cantors: Yaakov Lemmer, Benzion Miller and Tzudik Greenwald, accompanied by Menachem Bristowski. Festiwal Warszawa Singera 2016. Photo by Janusz Paliwoda

 

Thanks to the Singer’s Warsaw Festival, for a short time every year the streets of the city resound with klezmer music, synagogal singing, traditional Jewish songs, and even jazz (the Singer Jazz Festival, whose artistic director is Adam Baruch, constitutes a separate part of the Festival), as well as remarkable cantorial singing.

The third edition of the Singer Jazz Festival kicked off on August 26 with an opening concert featuring Wania/Bernstein/Parker/Grey (Poland/USA), comprising Dominik Wania (piano), Marc Bernstein (saxophone), Michael Parker (bass), and Devin Grey (percussion). The following day was marked by the appearance of the Dominik Bukowski Group (Poland/USA), featuring Amir Elsaffar (saxophone), Dominik Bukowski (vibraphone, marimba), Piotr Lemańczyk (bass), and Przemysław Jarosz (percussion).

The official opening of the Singer Jazz Festival took place during a concert by the Sefardix trio (the Oleś Brothers and Jorgos Skolias). This World Music ethno-style group forms a part of the Greek-Jewish tradition, reaching back for Sephardic themes and drawing on multicultural instrumentation. In 2013, Sefardix received the Polish Radio Folk Phonogram of the Year award.

Next was a musical event with the theme “Something’s Coming: Love or War,” created by Lena Piękniewska and Paweł Skorupki, who accompanied the poems of young poets from the Warsaw ghetto. Taking part in this event were Lena Piękniewska, Paweł Skorupka, Krzysztof Dys, Sebastian Frankiewicz, Michał Górczyński, Wojciech Pulcyn, and the Royal String Quartet, with visual effects by Karolina Fender Noińska.

The same evening featured a performance by World Citizen Band (Denmark/Germany/Ecuador/USA), comprising Ramiro Olaciregui (guitar), Kenneth Dahl Knudsen (bass), Alex Terrier (saxophone), Tomasz Dąbrowski (trumpet), and Rodolfo Zuniga (percussion), as well as by the duo Oleś Brothers (bassist Marcin Oleś i percussionist Bartłomiej Oleś), with the participation of Leszek Żądło (Germany).

 

Leszek Żądło
Leszek Żądło

 

Appearing at the Singer Jazz Festival on August 30 was the Israeli trio Savannah and the Stringz, known for their daring experiments at the crossroads of music and the performing arts, i.e., cabaret, jazz, and indie-rock all in one: real World Music! They were followed by Ugo Trio (DE), comprising Federico Eterno (saxophone, clarinet), Marco Papa (guitar), and Gioele Pagliaccia (percussion), as well as by the duo Maciej Obara/Dominik Wania with the participation of Leszek Żądło (saxophone).

Playing the next evening was Trio Kuby Stankiewicza: Kuba Stankiewicz (piano), Wojciech Pulcyn (bass), and Sebastian Frankiewicz (percussion instruments). Later, the Singer Jazz Festival hosted the Francesco Bruno Ensemble (Italy). At the end of the day was a concert by Łukasz Borowicki Quartet (Poland/Denmark), with Borowicki (guitar) accompanied by Mads la Cour (flugelhorn), Mariusz Praśniewski (bass), and Karol Domański (percussion), as well as an appearance by Trio Jachna/Wójciński/Szpura with a guest appearance by Leszek Żądło (saxophone)

The next day of the Singer Jazz Festival belonged to the Francesco Bruno Trio (Italy), including Marco Rovinelli (percussion instruments) and Jacopo Ferrazza (bass), and the Małgorzata Hutek Quintet (composed of Małgorzata Hutek, Dominika Kątny on viola, Bogusław Kaczmar on piano, Paweł Wszołek on bass, and Szymon Madej on percussion). The day closed with an appearance by the Nahorny Trio: Włodzimierz Nahorny (piano), Mariusz Bogdanowicz (bass), and Piotr Biskupski (percussion), with guest appearances by Lora Szafran (vocals), Sabina Meck (vocals), Zbigniew Namysłowski (alto saxophone), Wojciech Jachna (trumpet), and Wojciech Myrczek (vocals).

The next-to-last day of the Singer Jazz Festival showed that these final days of music would constitute a transition from cultural World Music towards traditional jazz. An encounter with Warsaw jazz was graced by the Kuba Płużek Quartet: Kuba Płużek (piano), Marek Pospieszalski (saxophone), Dawid Fortuna (percussion), and Jakub Dworak (bass). Immediately following this event was an appearance by the Leszek Żądło European Art Ensemble with the project “Expulsion from Paradise,” followed by Leszek Żądło again, this time performing with the concert band Sphere.

The last day of this monumental jazz undertaking featured a performance by the group Orange Train. We listened to Dominik Bukowski (vibraphone), Piotr Lemańczyk (bass), and Tomasz Łosowski (percussion). Appearing immediately afterwards was MusiConspiracy (PL/UK): Zbigniew Chojnacki (accordion), Fabrizzio Brusca (guitar), Michał Kapczuk (bass), and Jacek Kochan (percussion).

Concerts by world-famous cantors are always a great event at the Singer’s Warsaw Festival. Cantorial concerts constitute truly unique encounters of traditional Jewish and Hasidic music. From this year’s stage we listened to the wonderful voices of Benzion Miller, Yaakov Lemmer, and Tzudik Greenwald. The singers were accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of the Warsaw Chamber Opera, conducted by Yaakov Rotner and accompanied by Menachem Bristowski. As is true every year, the performing cantors pride themselves on a traditional education under the guidance of masters, enormous talent, and international renown. They perform Chazanut singing, works from liturgical, Jewish, and Hasidic music, and traditional Yiddish songs, along with selections from the repertoires of opera and Broadway.

 

Yaakov Lemmer at Festiwal Warszawa Singera 2016 - Photo by Janusz Paliwida
Yaakov Lemmer at Festiwal Warszawa Singera 2016 – Photo by Janusz Paliwida

 

This year’s Singer’s Warsaw Festival ended with an open-air concert by The Klezmatics (US), consisting of 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). Their music is valued around the world for its experimental connections with multilingual singing, development of arrangements using many traditional and modern instruments, capitalization on Yiddish culture, and combination of contemporary styles of music. During the concert in Warsaw, The Klezmatics celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of their presence on the world music scene. Every year, the Singer’s Warsaw Festival brings us more and more excellent music.

 

The Klezmatics - Photo by Paulina Tendera
The Klezmatics – Photo by Paulina Tendera

 

We asked Nadia Issa, a Polish artist in the art of light who presented her work in the course of Singer’s Warsaw Festival in 2015, what she associates with this festival. Nadia said: “Nostalgia, tradition, music, memory. In the Old Testament, hell (Hebrew: sheol) is understood as a place of silence and forgetfulness. The Singer’s Festival protects us from the ‘sin’ of forgetfulness. In the context of the tragedy of the Second World War, there are memories about the past generation and about tradition, as well as an attempt to save the timeless values in Jewish culture as a debt to our tragically deceased ancestors.”

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Length & Time: Sevana Siren

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.

The quotidian elegance of Jamaica’s women flows forth from the culture of the Akan groups of present day Ghana, along with that of other immigrants who’ve populated the Caribbean island. The archaeology of Akan culture has presented findings that are much more elegant than the creations of the Yoruba, the people from Dahomey, and the Kongo who populated the remainder of the Caribbean. Akan art is clean and their Kente clothing patterned.  Their language, Ashanti, Asante, or Twi, is one of power and beauty, of brilliant tonality, of pride in selfhood, being that Ashanti (the most dominant of the Akan) itself translates to ‘descending from war.’

In a polity that descendants of these Akan now live, Jamaica, this femininity exists side by side with the need to thrive in Jamaican capitalist society, a ‘plantocracy’ is what President Michael Manley called it, and the urbanite conviction that the society that they desire will come from political action. Protesters are produced alongside a middle class that seeks to live in a capitalist society that is somewhere between wanting to an industrial society because of cheap labor and a post-industrial society because such a society is so good to Americans and those who live in Europe. These descendants of the Akan have been a revolting people and the Jamaican maroons are now well known. A Jamaican Boukman (man with a book) even participated prominently in the Haitian revolution.

Sevana Siren is a singer of  artful reggae pop songs as if a Jamaican version  of Brazil’s MPB genre. They are songs full of synth wherein we hear acoustic guitars and acoustic drums: meld-ings. They feel traditional because of their instrumentation, as if artful pop steeped in Jamaican tradition (though limited to the traditions that begin during Jamaica’s 20th century.)

Her songs are well written and well constructed, positive in the land of both reggae and dancehall. Her first album Sevana is titled to express self-hood. It is a reggae album. The cover is elegant pop, as elegant as her songs, pointing us in the direction of the identity that is at the foundation of this music: vibrant femininity.

 

 

Their texts are sentimental balladry: that of a woman with modernist and postmodernist sentiments. Case in point is her song “Bit Too Shy” where she is honest about how shy a boy is and the initiative that a girl must take to woo him. Its video features her in minimal, elegant, style, singing along to maximal melody: an enthralling figuration of reggae.

To her times, she sings self-hood artfully, not in its anthropological sense, but in the same sense that an artful European or American singer expresses self-hood today. This self-hood is elegant (her songs are from beginning to end,) as elegant as many Jamaican women are on a minute to minute basis.  This self-hood is loud and proud. It is full of parables “no, you can’t be dirty” that tale us that Sevana‘s art is a crystallization of what is beautiful, melodic, about Jamaica’s everyday.

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Mei Han and Red Chamber’s Globe-trotting Enchantment

Mei Han and Red Chamber – Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music (ARC Music, 2016)

Dipping into the wonderful world of Chinese music, ARC Music is set to release Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music by the esteemed zheng player Mei Han and all women musical group Red Chamber on September 30th. Appearing on the Za Discs label, Ms. Han has recordings such as Ume (2006), Distant Wind (2005) with Randy Raine-Reusch, Outside the Wall (2005) with the Borealis String Quartet and the 2014 offering Gathering with Red Chamber. Red Chamber also has the 2008 recording Redgrass, also on the Za Discs, for listeners to explore.

With the combined musical prowess of Ms. Han and Red Chamber’s Guilian Liu, Geling Jiang and Zhimin Yu, one might suspect that this “plucked string” ensemble is simply a traditional Chinese musical group, but that would be far from the width and breadth of the musical aspirations of these musicians.

Masters of the zheng or long zither, the pipa or teardrop lute, the saxion or fretless longneck lute, the zhongruan or moon lute and the daruan or bass moon lute, Ms. Han and Red Chamber’s members delve into just about every kind of music from the music of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to jazz to varied folk traditions from around the world and even slipping into the plucked goodness of Bluegrass.

Pairing elegance and pure passion, Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music opens with the jaunty “Dao Chuilian,” giving a listen into a 20th century Guangdong province, before diving headfirst into the quick work of composer Moshe Denburg’s “Dark Red Ruby” with its dashes of a klezmer and Balkan style by way of the liuqin or small teardrop lute and zheng by Ms. Han, pipa by Liu, zhongruan by Ms. Jiang and daruan by Ms. Yu.

“Xi’an Medley” is a lovely track comprised of a collection of tunes with names like “Melody of Plum Blossom” and “Moth to Flame.”

“Nokoto,” a tribute to Japanese koto master Tadao Sawai, is elegantly lush with the addition of Randy Raine-Reusch on zheng and Laurence Mollerup on acoustic bass.

Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music reveals more treats with the addition of “Girl Picking Flowers,” a composition by Red Chamber’s Ms. Yu, the Chaozhou styled track “Pink Lotus in Many Modes” and the riotously delightful Bulgarian folk dance “Gakino Horo.”

“Peng Baban” is a delicious traditional styled track from Shandong province. Other delights include the raucous folk tune “Sunny Spring and White Snow, “Datun Jelut,” a folk tune from the Kenyah and Kayan peoples of northern Borneo and the spunky “Dance of the Yao People,” a celebration of the Yao people of southwestern China.

Despite its rather prosaic title, Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music is a globe-trotting delight. Ms. Han and Red Chamber’s Ms. Liu, Ms. Jiang and Ms. Yu are truly impressive in their musical prowess as they are in the musical reach and well worth a listen.

Buy Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music in the Americas

Buy Classical & Contemporary Chinese Music in Europe

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Songlines Music Awards 2016 Winners’s Concert in London

Debashish Bhattacharya
Debashish Bhattacharya

Fado star Mariza, Malian band Songhoy Blues, Indian guitar maestro Debashish Bhattacharya and Sam Lee & friends are set to perform on October 3rd at Barbican Hall in London. These four world music acts are winners of this year’s Songlines Music Awards.

Launched in 2008, the Songlines Music Awards honor the diversity of musical talent across the globe featured in Songlines magazine. Votes for the Awards came in from Songlines readers, contributors and the general public.

19:30
www.barbican.org.uk/music/event-detail.asp?ID=19721

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Blues Guitar Stars Perform Opening Song for Tribute to B.B. King

icon_life_bb_king

A sensational band of guitarists, vocalists and the Basic Cable Band musicians performed the iconic B.B. King blues song “The Thrill Is Gone.” The late B.B. King, a 15-time GRAMMY award winner, was honored during the sold out show titled Icon: The Life and Legacy of B.B. King that took place at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, California on September 1, 2016.

The impressive list included guitarists Joe Bonamassa, Keb’ Mo’, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Slash, Quinn Sullivan, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Jimmie Vaughan, Joe Louis Walker, and singer-songwriter ZZ Ward with the show’s music director Jimmy Vivino of the “Conan” TV show, joined by the Basic Cable Band, who served as the house band for the evening.

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Artist Profiles: Cheikh Lô

Cheikh Lo - Photo by Bernard Benant
Cheikh Lo – Photo by Bernard Benant

Cheikh Lô is one of the great trailblazers of African music. A superb singer and songwriter as well as a distinctive guitarist, percussionist and drummer he has personalized a variety of influences from West and Central Africa, to create a style that is uniquely his own.

Lô dedicates both his life and music to Baye Fall, a specifically Senegalese form of Islam and part of the larger Islamic brotherhood of Mouridism. Established by Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba M’Becke at the end of the 19th century, Mouridism emerged from opposition to French colonialism and many fabulous stories are told of Bamba’s struggles with the authorities who feared that the rapid spread of Mouridism would inspire armed insurrection. Bamba’s closest disciple Cheikh Ibra Fall (also known as Lamp Fall) established the Baye Fall movement, and he was the first to wear the patchwork clothes and long dreadlocks that are still Baye Fall trademarks today. Cheikh Lô’s own marabout, Maame Massamba N’Diaye is said to be over 100 years old, and was a disciple of Cheikh Ibra Fall; Cheikh Lô wears his picture in a pendant around his neck.

Cheikh Lô was born in 1955, to Senegalese parents in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, not far from the border with Mali, where he grew up speaking Bambara (language of Mali), Wolof (language of Senegal) and French. His father was from a long line of marabouts. From an early age Lô was only interested in music, running away from school to teach himself guitar and percussion on borrowed instruments.

During his teens he listened to all kinds of music, especially the Congolese rumba which was popular throughout Africa. Cuban music was also all the rage in West Africa at this time, so when his older brothers started up their 78s and danced to ‘El Pancho Bravo’, Cheikh, without understanding a word, would mime exactly to the Spanish lyrics.

 

Cheikh Lô
Cheikh Lô

 

At 21 he started singing and playing percussion with Orchestra Volta Jazz in Bobo Dioulasso. The band played a variety of music from Burkina Faso and neighboring countries, as well Cuban and other styles.

In 1981 he moved to Dakar, Senegal where he played drums for the renowned and progressive singer, Ouza, before joining the house band at the Hotel Savana, drumming and singing an international repertoire.

In 1984 he moved to Paris and worked as a studio session drummer. He recalls: ”Studio – sleep – studio for two years. I love Congolese and Cameroonian music and I absorbed a lot of it during this period”. On his return to Senegal he found that his (now very long) dreadlocks made him no longer entirely welcome at the Hotel Savana so he concentrated on his own music.

Cheikh’s first cassette ‘Doxandeme’ (‘Immigrants’), on which he sang about the experience of being Senegalese abroad, came out in 1990. Despite his reservations about the quality of the local production, it sold well and earned him the ‘Nouveau Talent’ award in Dakar. The following year he started to work on the compositions for his album ‘Ne La Thiass’.

Youssou N’Dour first encountered Lô as a session singer in 1989. “Whenever he sang the choruses I was overwhelmed by his voice,” explains N’Dour, “but I really got to know him from his cassette ‘Doxandeme’. I heard his voice and said “wow” – I found something in his voice that’s like a voyage through Burkina, Niger, Mali”.

Lô continued to develop his own repertoire, holding out for better recording conditions for his next production. In August 1995 Youssou N’Dour agreed to produce the next album at his Xippi Studio in Dakar.

 

Cheikh Lô - Ne La Thiass
Cheikh Lô – Ne La Thiass

 

On this album ‘Ne La Thiass’, Lô is joined on vocals by Youssou N’Dour (‘Guiss Guiss’ and ‘Set’) and by musicians from N’dour’s Super Etoile de Dakar. Lo’s signature sound – a semi acoustic, Spanish-tinged take on the popular mbalax style – was an instant success in Senegal gaining him a dedicated local following. ‘Set’ – a plea to clean up the streets during a Dakar municipal strike, was broadcast on loudspeakers throughout the country in a campaign by the Ministry of Health.

 

Cheikh Lô
Cheikh Lô

 

Ne La Thiass was released internationally on World Circuit in 1996 and followed by a highly successful European tour. His early performances prompted rave reviews.

In 1997 he was awarded Best Newcomer at the Kora All-African Awards in South Africa and the following year he toured the US, as part of the ‘Africa-Fête’ line-up that included Salif Keita and Papa Wemba. In 1999 he received the prestigious ‘Ordre National de Merite de Léon’ from the President of Senegal.

Cheikh’s second album Bambay Gueej (World Circuit) was released in 1999. It was co-produced by Nick Gold and Youssou N’Dour in Dakar with additional recording in Havana and London. Expanding on his previous album, he drew on sounds from Burkina Faso, Mali (with guest Oumou Sangare), and incorporated touches of Cuban son (with Richard Egues on flute) and funk (with Pee Wee Ellis of James Brown fame on saxophone).

His eclectic mix was furthered on Lamp Fall (World Circuit 2005) by his discovery of Brazilian sounds and rhythms and he traveled to Bahia, Brazil to work with acclaimed producer Alê Siqueira (Tribalistas, Omara Portuondo). These Brazilian recordings were coupled on the album with sessions recorded in Dakar and London.

For the next few years Lo withdrew from the international stage and immersed himself in the Dakar scene playing regularly with his own band. This return to home is reflected in his album ‘Jamm,’ His which blends semi-acoustic flavors, including West and Central African, Cuban, and flamenco.

In 2015, Cheikh Lô received the World Music Expo (WOMEX) Artist Award.

 

Discography:

Ne La Thiass (Saprom Productions, 1996)
Bambay Gueej (World Circuit, 1999)
Lamp Fall (World Circuit, 2005)
Jamm (World Circuit, 2010)
Balbalou (Chapter Two, 2015)

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Chiaroscuro

Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus - Chiaroscuro
Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus – Chiaroscuro

Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus – Chiaroscuro (Bent Records, 2016)

For music junkies looking for something off the beaten path, you might want to check out Chiaroscuro, a recording out now on the Bent Records label. It’s a collaboration between harmonic singing group Baird Hersey & Prana and the Toronto-based percussion group Nexus led by Garry Kvistad.

Mr. Baird is behind such recordings as Waking the Cobra, Vocal Meditation on the Chakras and Gathering the Light with Krishna Das.

Mr. Kvistad and Nexus have an extensive performing, touring and recording history that includes such recordings as Paul Horn and Nexus, Changes, Origins, Toccata, Lullaby, DrumTalker, Rituals and Out of the Blue.

As luck would have it that this collaboration came out of a new instrument built by Mr. Kvistad– the vistaphone. The vistaphone is a set of chimes that are tuned to the same harmonics and scale to the second higher pitch used by harmonic singers. Add in the vibraphones, xylophones, orchestral drums, glockenspiel, Chinese gongs, Balinese gongs, marimba and the Balinese instrument the gender used in gamelan music and immerse the lot into the singers and harmonic singers of Prana and you turn out Chiaroscuro.

Borrowed from an art term and defined as the effect created out of intense contrast of light and dark, Chiaroscuro delves deep into contrasts of light and dark, the ancient and the contemporary and East and West.

From the very opening of “A Splinter of Dawn” through tracks like “The Rituals of Dusk” and “A Vast Expanse of Sky,” the listener is lulled by a charm of ethereal vocals, the tang of bells and gongs and the reedy turns of harmonic singing.

While this recording might not be to everyone’s taste, this combination explores the music wholly through percussion and the human voice. Tracks like “A Crown of Radiant Fire” and “Luminous Ocean, Rising Waves” build on that contrast between light and dark even by way of track sequencing.

Falling further down the rabbit’s hole, listeners get the full force of Prana’s singers by way of tracks like “We Are All in the Garden,” “The Wheel of Impermanence” and “The Lord of the Monkeys” in the Vox Pulsaitio section without percussion on the recording.

While some might pass off Chiaroscuro as a little too avant garde for easy listening, it’s always good to step out of one’s comfort zone. The performances on Chiaroscuro are as impeccable as they are impressive. Those into meditation are sure to enjoy the contrasts of the first seven tracks with their ethereal light, harmonic singing and gamelan influences and those listening for vibrancy the bare bones interworking of vocals are truly stunning.

Buy the digital version of Chiaroscuro

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Time-honored Songs of Western Siberia

Vasilyev Vecher – Siberia Land. Russian traditional songs of the Western Siberia (Sketis Music SKMR-108, 2014)

The Vasilyev Vecher a cappella ensemble specializes in traditional Russian music from Western Siberia. On their album Siberia Land, Russian traditional songs of the Western Siberia (Земля Сибирь – Песни села Богословка) the vocalists deliver a set of songs that is fruit of their extensive research.

The Vasilyev Vecher musicians from Tomsk have studied vocal music and folk dances from elders in Western Siberia and recreate the characteristic style of polyphonic and call and response songs. These traditions were brought to Western Siberia by farmers who arrived there throughout the 15-18 centuries. Additionally, Vasilyev Vecher’s members also research traditional costumes, food, celebrations, and traditional crafts. The artists wear traditional outfits during their performances.

The ensemble’s name Vasilyev Vecher (Васильев вечер) means St. Basil’s Day Eve, which is one of the most popular Russian traditional holidays. Alexander Bespalov is the ensemble’s artistic director. Daniil Krapchunov is the scientific supervisor.

The CD booklet contains lyrics and liner notes in Russian with song title translations in English.

Siberia Land is a fascinating recording of traditional songs from Western Siberia.

Buy Siberia Land. Russian traditional songs of the Western Siberia in the Americas

Buy Siberia Land. Russian traditional songs of the Western Siberia in Europe

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