All posts by Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced "Musica NA", a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

Habano Cigar in Honor of Compay Segundo

(Prensa Latina) Havana, Cuba – Montecristo Compay 95 is the brand name of the new cigars in honor of Cuban musician Compay Segundo. The cigars have a label with the smiling face of the 95-year-old “King of Chan Chan”, who is still active in the music scene and has become one of the most famous Cuban musicians internationally. Compay Segundo, once member of “Matamoros” and the duet Los Compadres, was a cigar-maker by trade, self-taught musician and he is considered a living myth of Cuban traditional music.

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The Rough Guide to Ska

 The Rough Guide to Ska
The Rough Guide to Ska
San Francisco, USA – A source and inspiration for the future reggae explosion, ska developed in Jamaica in the early 1960s, helped by one of the pioneering producers of the time, Vincent ‘Randy’ Chin. The Rough Guide to Ska collects twenty cuts from those early days, a dozen of which are reissued for the first time in over thirty-five years.

Included are some of the great names associated with Jamaican music, such as the Skatalites and the Maytals.

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Mestre Ambrosio’s European Tour

Mestre Ambrosio
Mestre Ambrosio

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Mestre Ambrosio, founders of Pernambuco’s new music groove will begin a spring European tour in April.

Mestre Ambrósio masters a breathtaking show mixing the finest musical performance with irresistible rhythms and outstanding dance steps.Mestre Ambrósio’s six members graduated in modern and classical music. They are: Siba (fiddle, guitar and voice), Helder Vasconcelos (fole, percussion and voice) Mazinho Lima (bass, triangle and voice) Sergio Cassiano (percussion and voice) Mauricio Alves and Eder Rocha (percussion).

Tour dates:

19.04 The Moods-Zurich (CH)
21.04 Alien Bar – Orleans (F)
23.04 Botanique-Brussels (B)
24.04 Melkweg-Amsterdam (NL)
26,27.04 Bordeaux (F) show + Masterclasses Maracatu & Cavalo Marinho
29.04 “Roda de Coco”; Favela Chic (Paris-F)
30.04 New Morning; Paris (F)
01.05 Orleans (F) Masterclasses Maracatu & Cavalo Marinho
02.05 Astrolabe; Toulouse (F)
04.05 Serpa (P)

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Instrumental Tangos Reissued and Remastered

Que Bonboncito
Que Bonboncito
Hamburg, Germany – Que Bonboncito is a recording of beautifully-restored tracks from 1929 to 1932. The album, released by Germany’s Danza y Movimento label, is a valuable asset to those who love the tango.

By the mid-1920s Buenos Aires was divided into two camps concerning the tango – traditionalists and the evolutionists.

Julio De Caro and Pedro Maffia defined the evolutionary style. In fact, the great classical composer Manual de Falla wrote at the time, “From what I have heard in Argentina, De Caro’s music is the most precious and points the way ahead.” These men enriched the tango, as it then existed, with exaggerated melodic phrasing, romantic treatment of the violins and the orchestrally-arranged individual parts.

De Caro’s group was formed in 1924 and lasting, through personnel changes, all the way up to 1952. Pedro Maffia was the bandoneon player in De Caro’s group until 1927 then founded his own orchestra around 1929. Today, the Orquesta Tipica Brunswick is relatively unknown. Like many other labels (RCA Victor, for example) Brunswick employed an in-house tango band. But Brunswick was done by 1932, so these recordings are rare indeed.

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Barahúnda – Al Sol de la Hierba

Barahúnda

Al Sol de la Hierba (Nufolk, 2002)

Barahúnda is part of a growing number of Madrid contemporary folk bands. The group draws most of its inspiration from various Spanish folk music traditions and the Sephardic diaspora. Barahúnda was initially led by singer Helena de Alfonso and stringed-instrument specialist Miguel Casado (he left the group after the recording). The all acoustic band features Helena de Alfonso’s outstanding Medieval, Sephardic and Spanish folk vocal stylings combined with various Spanish and Middle Eastern string instruments, along with superb zanfona (Spanish hurdy gurdy) work, all accompanied by Spanish, Middle Eastern and Indian percussion. The pieces included in this recording include original compositions as well as Medieval Galician-Portuguese cantigas, Arab Andalusian music, jotas from Zamora and Burgos, a Breton tune, and Sephardic lullabies and love songs.

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XIII World Music Festival in León, Spain

Berroguetto
Berrogüetto
León, Spain – The XIII Muestra de Nuevas Músicas will be held in the city of León. This world music festival, held in April, features concerts and street performances by Celtic, folk and world music artists. The musicians come from Africa, Spain, the Celtic world and some European countries. The concerts take place at Teatro Emperador. Programming: April 22 (Africa Day)

Seydu

Lokua Danza

Hijas del Sol

Bonga

Magic Mali

Kora (street performance)

April 30

Mastreta

Zuco 103

Kad Achouri

La Accoustel Gang (street performance)

May 9

The Phamie Gow Band (Scotland)

Juan Mari Beltrán

Berrogüetto

Parr

Ursarii Fanfare (street performance)

3 day ticket: 30 €, day tickets: 15€

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Zouk: Rhythm of the Lesser Antilles

This article first appeared in the Spanish magazine Nueva Música, which was published in Seville. It reappears exclusively on www.worldmusiccentral.org with permission from the editors. The text has been edited to update it. Author: Carlos Galilea. Translated by: Angel Romero.

They are two small islands of that Caribbean sea reminiscent of lost paradises. Dreams of rum, of white sand beaches and transparent waters, of available bodies and sensual dances. There, where music is always presentin the buses, in the stores and, indeed, in the Saturday night dances. In the neighboring islands, Spanish and English are the dominating languages, but in these isles people speak French and Creol, a mix of French with some English words and African syntax that the slaves, arrived from different parts of Africa, invented in order to communicate. The names of these islands: Martinique and Guadalupe. Barely 2,800 square Km and little more than 650 thousand inhabitants between both islands (although there are just as many living in continental France). And, they, however, have been able to generate music whose trail can be followed through most of the planet.Of the natives that populated the islands before Columbus arrived to their coasts, there are hardly any remains. Guadalupe and Martinique are now daughters of Africa and Europe. In 1946 they ceased to be French colonies in order to be converted to a French department. A paradoxical situation, since geographically it belongs to the American continent and, on the other hand, its economy is integrated in the European Union. In spite of a rate of unemployment four times superior to which there is in the French mainland, and aside from problems of political identity, they possess a standard of life superior to that of the immense majority of the Caribbean islands. Nothing to do with the insulting poverty of other places that are supposedly a holiday paradise.

Talking about music in Martinique and Guadalupe means talking about the ‘biguine’
that was born from the promiscuity of European and African forms. It was performed
in its early stages by an orchestra that featured clarinet, trombone, banjo
and a drum, that showed clear similarities with the small jazz bands in New
Orleans. It is the same ‘biguine’ that was danced in the 1930s in Parisian clubs
like the Ba Negre or the Boule Blanche. But at the end of the 1950s, with the
first microgrooves and the first record players, the musical expressions characteristic
of the French Antilles were going to be literally demolished. Just like those
hurricanes that sweep the region with certain frequency, leaving a desolate
panorama in its aftermath. The orchestras from Haiti imposed their cadence and
compás relentlessly. Without forgetting the boleros
and sones arrived from the Spanish-speaking islands. It was that way until 1984.
It was during that period when a group called Kassav (the kassav is a mandioca
cake with coconut and sugar) was going to release a strange manifest in ‘Creol’:
Zouk-lase sel medikaman nou ni (zouk is the only medicine that we have).
The zouk were, at the beginning of the 20th century, some fiestas, popular dances
that were very ‘hot,’ to which, it seems, many gentlemen of the bourgeoisie
were accustomed to go without their wives. That is, a synonym for black music
and licentiousness. The local culture was seen then by the dominant class as
something worthless as long as it was associated with a culture that was supposedly
inferior. On the other hand, there were no aesthetic concerns in the zouk. Its
only purpose: that everybody danced until exhaustion.

What Kassav proposed, in the decade of the 1980s, with the name of zouk is an explosive rhythmic mixture: a magic cocktail with the ideal proportions of Haitian compás, calypso, funk, rock and traditional rhythms of the French West Indies. It is shaken conveniently with the help of technology in any sophisticated recording studio, and it is served in any dance hall. All those whose ears are tuned only to music from the English speaking countries should abstain. Although, as a curiosity, one could mention that Miles Davis admitted the pleasure that kassav gave him, in his autobiography, and that the New York Times has praised the music.

Kassav was the first Antillean group to receive a gold album, in 1986, gathering more than forty thousand people in a concert celebrated in the L’Anse-Bertrand stadium, in Guadalupe. In Paris, on June 21, of that same year, it would be three hundred thousand. The members of Kassav have performed in the main capitals of the globe. And, as penitence for French racists and as form of sarcasm, it is the French group that sells more CDs.

Jacob Desvarieux (1.80 meters tall, weighing 100 kg) says that “when the people went to the disco, they could not listen to Antillean music because the records didn’t sound well.”That, in fact, was one of the tricks of the group created by the siblings Pierre Edouard and George Decimus, and Jacob Desvarieux: achieving that their albums sounded in a way that they could compete in the radio stations and the discos with the most sophisticated products of the international record industry. And, also, as Desvarieux explained during that time, “we were able to find a type of music that has the rhythm of black music and the harmony of white musicthe base of the Antillean culture: the spirit of hybridization.”

After the trail of Kassav there are artists like Ralph Tamar, Tanya Saint-Val, Joelle Ursull, MariJose Alie or the women of Zouk Machine. Zouk seems to have taken over the pop charts in the French Antilles. Even, often, with recordings that repeat the same outlines, without much inspiration. But, surprisingly, its success has allowed the recovery of musical expressions that were considered unacceptable earlier, because of its ties with the times of slavery. So, syncopated rhythms like the chouval bwa, or the bele, and drums like the qwo ka or the ti bwa, are being heard again. One of the artists that has become interested in the music roots is Kali, recovering a tradition with a brilliant band named Malavoi: Creolized European dances (polka, mazurca.) served by sugary voices, charming violins and elegant arrangements.

This record, wrote Jacob Desvarieux and George Decimus on the back cover of Zouk-la-se…, is dedicated those of us that have grown on the other side of the sea, so that they don’t forget their roots. And it is to the merit of Kassav to have returned the pride of being Antillean. For that reason, if you ask a young woman from Pointe-a-Pitre or Fort-de-France which is her favorite group, she will easily respond, without hiding her pride, that it is Kassav. That is, without forgetting to give you with a beautiful smile.

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Vallenato

This article appears courtesy of the Fundación Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata. Edited and translated by Angel Romero.

Vallenato is the name of those born in the Valle (Valley) of Valledupar. It is also a music style that is composed of four airs or typical rhythms of the region. The songs talk about the personal experiences of the writers and the feelings of the mestizo (mixed race) culture that represents most Colombians.

The melodies of these vallenato songs were first performed with the carrizo (millo cane flute) to which the caja was added, a small drum hand crafted from the hollow trunk of dry trees, and covered on one head with a piece of temperate leather; and the guacharaca, an indigenous instrument that is manufactured using a cut piece of cane, forming small successive grooves, creating a scraper rubbed with a bone.

The cantos de vaquería (Colombian cowboy songs) that were sung by the ranch hands of the large haciendas during early morning as they picked up and contained the livestock, were the base of what would later become sung histories, or musical narrations, that today are known as vallenatos. At the end of the 19th century, decades after its invention, the accordion arrived to Colombia through the port of Riohacha, in the Peninsula of the Guajira, in the hands of the sailors and European pirates and so it stayed forever, as a companion to those cowboys and peasants that figured out its melodic secrets and added it to their musical expressions. Gradually, it replaced the flute until it became the main instrument in vallenato music.Within the vallenato musical genre, there are four recognized rhythms which are: Merengue, Paseo, Puya and Son.

Paseo

Unlike all the other airs of this folk style, the paseo (walk or walking dance)
has a beat of 4/4. The rhythm of the first bass is 1/ 3 and, sometimes, according
to the piece, of 2/1. For the performers it is the easiest air to play.
It literally collects, in a spontaneous manner, the histories and tales
of a group of people in a sung form known as paseo.

The historical-cultural
origin of the paseo is exciting and paradoxical, first because as a song genre,
conceived especially to perpetuate the history of a people through song, it
has deep roots in pre-Columbine times, when the Chimilas, as well as the Guajiros,
Tupes and other inhabitants of the Valley of Upar, created this oral form because
they did have a written language, and the second reason is because in spite
of this antiquity, that places this air in a situation of privilege versus the
other styles arisen from hybridization, the word “paseo”(walk) used to designate
this rhythm, within the vallenato context, is the newest of the four, to the
point of not being more than 80 years old in popularity.

Upon the arrival of
the accordion, beats were defined, melodies were perfected, and there was no
choice but to decide that among the three folk music airs that preceded it: Puya, Merengue and Son, there existed another form, a little confused among
them, that, upon its liberation, would turn out to be the spirit of all: the
paseo vallenato.

Puya

In Valledupar and its surroundings, the oldest rhythm was called “Puya,”that
was never sung and consisted of an imitation of the songs of the carricero (a
small insectivore bird), with a quick rhythmit was danced in lines, with each
person moving their closed hands chest high, with the fingers aiming forward
and simulating that you poked the person that danced ahead. The name of puya
comes from the verb puyar (to goad).

Through time, various elements of the regional
folk music were fused, so that the black puya which was sung, was added to the
indigenous puya which didn’t have any singing, to generate the “;puya vallenata,”with
a perfect balance between the song, the melody and the rhythm. The puya
has a typical beat of 6/8, with a melody similar to the song of the birds and
with satire.

The puya and the merengue are the same in their rhythmic and harmonic
patterns. The difference is in their melodic conceptionand naturally in the
performance that is made, characteristic of each piece. Thus, the puya has a
bass rhythm of 2/2 and sometimes, of 2/1 in certain passages of the performance,
although not in all the pieces. The speed given to the music does not make any
difference.

Merengue

The word merengue goes back to colonial times and comes from the word muserengue, the name of one of the African cultures that was taken from the coast of Guinea to Colombia’s Atlantic coast. The traditional merengue vallenato, has a beat of 6/8, a derived rhythm, since the original beats were 4/4, 3/3 and 2/2from this point of view the merengue vallenato is the most complex air and at the same time the most original of the four traditions.

The merengue differs from the other airs in the performance and the first bass rhythm, which is usually 3/1 and sometimes of 1/ 3, according to the characteristic structure of the melody, although the performer can play it faster if he pleases. Melodically, it is the richer of the vallenato rhythms and its performance allows the player to show all his abilities and make a true display of cadence and harmony.

Son

The word son comes from the Latin sonus, which means “pleasant sound produced with art.” Because of its own meaning this term has been always bound to music. The son vallenato has a structure with a beat of 2/4it is a form of song with mulatto ancestry, although it is not free of indigenous influence. An essential characteristic in the performance of this air is the prominent use of the bass sounds of the accordion, so much that the bass sounds can be more prominent than the same melody coming from the other keyboards in the accordion. This is very common with new generation players. It is believed that whoever doesn’t master the bass sounds, will never become a good son vallenato player.

The son has a very distinct 1/1 bass rhythm, specially when played by performers from the savannas and those influenced by bass sounds, versus the accordion players from the province (Valledupar, Villanueva, Fonseca, etc.), who play a more fluid, more subtle style, with a bass rhythm of 1/ 2 and sometimes 2/1. Just like the paseo, sones are a kind of chronicles, where the singular narrative of the singer captures the events of their existence. In this genre it is common to have nostalgic dramas that have constituted an important part in the life of the composer.

Vallenato Web sites:

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Qawwali

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Qawwali, an Arabic word eaning “utterance,” is the devotional music of the Islamic mystics, or, as they are known in their regions, Sufis. The term includes both medium and style in its performance, and has been a dominant feature of Islamic culture since the 12th century. The Qawwali form was introduced by Hazrat Amir Khusrou in Delhi. He was a disciple of the Sufi saint, Ali, whose shrine is also in Delhi. Like a Classical Indian Raga, Qawwalis are devotional songs, but like the romantic Ghazals (a slower and more secular Indian song-form also developed by Khusrou), they express their sentiments with poetry set to music, a lyrical and rhythmic form that stirs up the audience to sing and dance. Qawwalis typically have a lead singer or two, a harmonium, a dhol and/or a tabla player and can feature clapping and chorus singing.

It was the energetic recordings and concerts of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997), the late, great Pakistani artist, that first introduced Qawwali music to Western audiences. His singing effortlessly transcended language and cultural barriers, and his spirit reached and moved people all over the world.

Two mainstream artists, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (deceased August 1997) and the Sabri Brothers, first introduced fusion into Qawwali.

Today, Qawwali is seen as one of the world’s most passionate and vibrant forms of music.

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Kawina

A type of Creole folk music from Surinam, related to winti. Kawina arose at the end of the 19th century after the abolition of slavery in 1863. At the beginning of this century kawina developed into a major form of popular music for people from the city and the coastal areas of Surinam. Its texts are about all sorts of subjects from everyday life, but mainly about the relations between men and women and about public scandals. They are primarily entertaining songs to dance to, with long instrumental interludes of improvisation by the percussion ensemble. Aside from the texts, the main difference to winti music is in the instruments and times used and the greater freedom to improvise which the drummers and lead singer enjoy.

Excerpted from liner notes by Rein Spoorman. Courtesy of World Connection.

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