Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Artist Profiles: Niti Ranjan Biswas

Niti Ranjan Biswas

Niti Ranjan Biswas is an exciting tabla player and percussionist who has managed to incorporate an appealing blend of tradition and creativity into his music. Based in Amsterdam he is now one of the most sought after tabla players in Europe and has played with some of the great names of Indian classical music including Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia (flute), Kala Ramnath (violin), Pt. Dhruba Ghosh (sarangi), Pt. Budhaditya Mukherjee (sitar), and Purbayan Chatterjee (sitar).

Niti is a prominent member of two of Europe’s most innovative music projects. Drums United is a unique percussion group based in the Netherlands which brings together rhythms and percussionists from four continents. Later this year Niti will be joining them for his second major European tour with the project.

Since 2004 Niti has been working with Jungle Warriors a collaborative music project that brings together some of the best musicians from around the world. He will be performing with a band that includes outstanding and respected musicians from China India Netherlands and Senegal in the World of Strings tour.

Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh Niti started his musical journey at the tender age of just five and by his early teens was a favorite accompanist of Dhaka’s premier musicians. In 1993 he received a scholarship from the Government of India to study with one of the great exponents of the Ajrara tabla gharana Professor Sudhir Kumar Saxena in Baroda, Gujarat. While there he was also fortunate to study with the eminent tabla teacher Shri P.K. Shridhar. Niti has been fortunate to receive guidance from celebrated artists Pt. Anindo Chatterjee, Yogesh Samsi and Dhruba Ghosh. All of these musicians have had a profound influence on Niti’s musical development.

He successfully completed his Bachelor of Performing Arts (tabla) in 1996 and Masters of Performing Arts in 1998 with First Class Distinction. In 2003 he attained his Masters Degree in Jazz Percussion from the Conservatorium of Amsterdam. He is one of the few tabla artists suitably qualified to absorb Jazz influences into his tabla playing in a meaningful and innovative way.

website: www.nitiranjan.com

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Artist Profiles: Nightnoise

Nightnoise

Nightnoise began as a collaboration between American fiddler Billy Oskay and Irish singer and guitarist Micheal O Domhnaill. Together they released the album Nightnoise in 1984. The traditional Celtic music scene was become smaller in Europe and just beginning to take hold in the United States so attracted by the environment of Portland, Oregon O Domhnaill settled there in 1982. “I was tired of playing only traditional Irish music with is fairly well set,” said Micheal, “especially in the accompanist’s role playing guitar and I was ready to write my own music.”

Three years later Micheal’s sister, Irish pianist and vocalist Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, who had previously collaborated with her brother in Skara Brae, Relativity and The Bothy Band; and Irish-American flutist Brian Dunning, joined the original duo. Nightnoise the band was born.”When it came time to do the second record Something of Time in 1985,” O Domhnaill remembered, “we knew we needed additional players so I invited Triona from North Carolina and Brian from New York. They liked Portland so much they decided to stay as well.”

Something of Time, the quartet’s first album was released by Windham Hill in 1987. It would be followed by At the End of the Evening (1988), The Parting Tide (1990) and the compilation A Windham Hill Retrospective (1992). This would be the last album to feature Oskay’s playing and writing as he chose to leave the band to run his own recording studio, Big Red Studio.

Shadow of Time (1994), the fifth album of new Nightnoise music for Windham Hill Records marked the emergence of the band in a new alignment. With famed Celtic fiddler Johnny Cunningham joining, longtime members O Domhnaill Dunning and keyboardist and vocalist Triona Ni Domhnaill (pronounced Trina Nee Donnell) the direction for the group followed an unexpected and scenic detour. The band took on a much more Irish-centric sound while still retaining their own signature style.

Born in Scotland, Cunningham was known for his role as a founder of the legendary Celtic folk band Silly Wizard and for playing in numerous folk and rock settings with Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, Don Henley, the Waterboys, Bill Morrissey and others. His membership brought a new sense of common heritage and musical unity to Nightnoise. “We’ve been playing with Johnny for years and years and years,” noted O Domhnaill, referring especially to a double sibling collaboration in the revered and wryly named Celtic “supergroup” Relativity featuring Micheal and his sister Triona and Johnny and his brother Phil Cunningham. “Relativity was almost exclusively a band that played jigs, reels, traditional folksongs, and ballads,” he continued “and Nightnoise is a band that composes its own material. That’s the biggest difference. But since Johnny’s a Celt himself, our sort of musical alliance allows a lot of things to go unsaid and makes us a more fluid cohesive unit.”

A Different Shore (1995) and the fan-favorite White Horse Sessions (1997), an album featuring live concert performances mixed in with in-studio live performances with their Windham Hill colleagues as their audience. The album also featured original material only available in this live format (the songs “Heartwood”, “Do We” and “Murdo of the Moon”) as well as a cover of Van Morrison’s classic “Moondance”. “The white Horse Sessions” marked the end of the band’s contractual obligations to Windham Hill and they decided to relocate to Ireland going on hiatus while the yeach focused on their own projects.

1997’s Sessions remains the last Nightnoise album. Cunningham left the band following its release and was replaced by Irish fiddler John Fitzpatrick. In a 1999 interview Micheal O Domhnaill stated that Nightnoise had not broken up and that the band would be getting together again shortly. The band has recorded new material since then
(both original compositions and covers of classic songs) but they’ve all been made for albums others than their own.

Johnny Cunningham died on December 15, 2003 from a heart attack. He was 46 years old. Micheal O Domhnaill died in July 2006 at his home in Dublin, Ireland at the age of 54.

Discography

Nightnoise (Windham Hill Records, 1984)
Something of Time (Windham Hill Records, 1987)
At the End of the Evening (Windham Hill Records, 1988)
The Parting Tide (Windham Hill Records, 1990)
Shadow of Time (Windham Hill Records, 1993)
A Different Shore (Windham Hill Records, 1995)
The White Horse Sessions (Windham Hill Records, 1997)

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Artist Profiles: Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek

Nickel Creek was one of the hottest acts on the acoustic circuit in the early 2000s. They toured with Lyle Lovett, backed Dolly Parton and had two hit videos on CMT.

Their traditionally flavored pop-folk lyrics and acoustic licks performed by guitarist Sean Watkins, his violinist sister Sara and mandolinist Chris Thile reflected an eclectic mix of influences that included bluegrass, classical, jazz and rock. The trio made acoustic roots music relevant for a new generation.

The band members met through music when their parents took them to hear the Southern California band Bluegrass Etc. at their regular weekly show at the local pizza place.

Nickel Creek formed with Chris’s father bassist Scott Thile when a bluegrass promoter thought it would be cute to have a kid’s band which resulted in the group touring festivals for a decade. Scott Thile left the group and sent the young adults on their way when the debut album hit the streets.

As individual musicians they were always discovering new ways to hone their craft. “Musically this band never stays the same ” said Thile. “We love to grow. There are moments on stage where I look over and think ‘This is why I’ve been in this band since I was eight’… It’s so comfortable and yet we’re all focused on bettering ourselves on a solo level. Sean and I are writing and pushing each other to come up with better stuff.” Sean and Chris were the primary composers and writers for the group.

Nickel Creek disbanded in 2007, but returned in 2014 with a new album and 25th anniversary tour.

Discography

Little Cowpoke (Choo Choo Records, 1993)
Here to There (1997)
Nickel Creek (Sugar Hill Records, 2000)
This Side (Sugar Hill Records, 2002)
Why Should the Fire Die? (Sugar Hill Records, 2005)
A Dotted Line (Nonesuch Records, 2014)

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Artist Profiles: Newpoli

Newpoli

Newpoli is a group of skilled musicians who specialize in southern Italian folk music, primarily from the regions of Campania and Puglia. Their music crosses through time culture and musical styles. The South of Italy has a multicolored past with influences from northern Africa, the Middle East and ancient Greece. These influences can still be heard in the traditional melodies and rhythms of the pizzica, tarantella and other musical genres of the South.

The group was founded in 2003 by directors Carmen Marsico, Angela Rossi and Björn Wennås. Newpoli is an eight-piece ensemble that has performed throughout the United States. In 2008 Newpoli made its European debut at Diacetum Festival in Tuscany, Italy.

Newpoli released its self-titled debut album Newpoli in 2008. In 2012 the band issued Musica di Natale, a recording of traditional Italian Christmas music. Its third album Tempo Antico came out in 2013. Nun te vutà came out in 2015.

Members Include:

Carmen Marsico – lead vocals
Angela Rossi – lead vocals
Björn Wennås – chitarra battente, mandola & classical guitar
Fabio Pirozzolo – tamburello & vocals
Jussi Reijonen – oud, mandola & classical guitar
Daniel Meyers – zampogna, ciaramella & recorders
Karen Burciaga – violin
Jeff McAuliffe – bass

Discography:

Newpoli (Beartones Records 2008)
Musica di Natale (2012)
Tempo Antico (2013)
Nun te vutà (2015)

website: http://www.newpolimusic.com

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Artist Profiles: Pepe Habichuela

Pepe Habichuela

José Antonio Carmona Carmona, better known as Pepe Habichuela, was born in Granada (Spain) in 1944. The guitar has always been present in the Habichuela dynasty. Pepe Habichuela’s grandfather, Tio José Habichuela and father Juan Carmona Habichuela played the guitar and all his brothers are professional players. His son is Josemi Carmona, who along with Pepe’s nephews, founded innovative flamenco fusion group Ketama.

As many other guitarists Pepe Habichuela’s professional career started as accompanist to well-known cantaores (singers) like Camarón de la Isla. His collaboration with the great cantaor Enrique Morente meant a giant step for modern Flamenco. Pepe Habichuela participated in several of Morente’s superb albums: Se hace camino al andar, Homenaje a Don Antonio Chacon and Despegando.

Since 1980 Pepe Habichuela has been giving concerts as a soloist. Pepe Habichuela’s first solo album was a tribute to his grandfather.

Pepe has gone beyond traditional Flamenco guitar by adding bass, percussion and Jazz elements to his compositions. His interest in Jazz has led him to collaborations with jazzmen Don Cherry and David Holland. He has also explored the connections between flamenco and Indian music collaborating with Nithin Sawhney, Anoushka Shankar and The Bollywood Strings.

Discography:

Homenaje a D. Antonio Chacón, with Enrique Morente ((Hispavox, 1976)
Despegando (CBS, 1977)
A Mandeli (Nuevos Medios, 1983)
Habichuela en Rama (Nuevos Medios, 1997)
Yerbagüena, with The Bollywood Strings (Nuevos Medios NM15788, 2001)
Hands, with Dave Holland (Dare2 Records, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Trad.Attack!

Trad.Attack!

Trad.Attack! members, Sandra Vabarna, Jalmar Vabarna and Tõnu Tubli have been good friends for a long time, and have been involved in the Estonian music scene since the early 2000s.

Sandra started playing the Estonian bagpipe when she was thirteen. She has been disseminating folk music by being role model as a female bagpiper and band leader.

Jalmar is a Seto: a member of a small ethnic community in southeastern Estonia. Setos have their own kingdom and king and a unique culture, which is predominantly known for its traditional singing called leelo. Jalmar’s great grandmother, Anne Vabarna, was one of the most famous folk singers in Estonia. Jalmar’s mother and sister preserved the family singing tradition, so he has grown up in this tradition as well.

Tõnu’s father was the conductor of a brass orchestra so Tõnu played brass at a early age. He learned classical trombone and drums, and is now one of the most in-demand drummers in Estonia.

In 2014, Sandra, Jalmar and Tõnu decided to play together just for fun and to do something different with folk music. When they applied to play at Tallinn Music Week 2014 they didn’t even have a band name; they only had five musical pieces, but it was just enough for the short showcase.

 

Trad.Attack!

After a great reaction from audience and critics, the trio decided to take things more seriously. They named their act Trad.Attack!

 

 

Discography:

Trad.Attack!, EP (2014)
Ah! (Nordic Notes, 2015)
Kullakarva Shimmer Gold (2017)

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Artist Profiles: Neva Ozgen

Neva Ozgen

Kemenche player Neva Ozgen made history with the first solo instrumental recording by a female artist in the Turkish classical music world. On her debut CD Legacy, Neva Ozgen played the kemenche accompanied by her father Ihsan Ozgen on the tanbur and rebab. Though all three instruments are traditional to Turkish classical music this album once more breaks ground as there exist only a very few previous recordings of the Turkish rebab.

On Legacy, Neva and Ihsan Ozgen performed the taksim, the traditional Turkish art of improvisation with the classical works of composers such as Nai Osman Dede, Neyzen Salih Dede and Ismail Dede Efendi among others.

As the daughter of the highly-respected Turkish classical musician Ihsan Ozgen, Neva Ozgen grew up surrounded by music. Though she began her musical studies in the Western classical traditions Neva Ozgen soon became drawn towards the Turkish classical world of her famous father and began the study of the kemenche, immersing herself in the traditional compositions of Tanburi Cemil Bey.

Discography:

Legacy (Golden Horn Records, 2001)

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Artist Profiles: Neil Sparkes

Neil Sparkes – Photo by Phil Houghton

Neil Sparkes is a visual artist, musician and poet whose work resonates through both artistic and popular cultural worlds.

Sparkes is widely known as vocalist and percussionist with indie world beat dance group TransGlobal Underground with whom he toured the World from 1992 to 1996 and world fusion pioneers Temple of Sound.

Sparkes has performed on international stages across the globe for many years on the frontline of world music dance and dub. His passion for Jazz has been at the core of his many collaborations notably with UK saxophone legend Dick Heckstall-Smith.

As a musician and producer Neil Sparkes has worked with Peter Gabriel, Los De Abajo, Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali (nephews ofNusrat Fateh Ali Khan), Jah Wobble, Natacha Atlas, Adrian Sherwood, Hossam Ramzy and Linton Kwesi Johnson among many others.

Sparkes’ poetry is published by Billy Childish’s Hangman Books with a new collection Drums In The Rain (2006).

“The Rhythms Inside My Head” includes visionary watercolors created in Mexico City; Afro-Cuban inspired imagery and Studies for a series of artworks commissioned by Jah Wobble. Masks faces of friends, musicians and musical motifs populate his visual world alongside pictures inspired by life on the coast in South East Kent. His pictures are personal and iconic rhythmic and infused with a love of color and texture.

Sparkes’ work draws from world cultures he has lived and worked with researched and experienced.

His visual art practice interacts and influences his music and text and show a complete vision for his energy and combine new images ideas and visual invention continuously in his work.

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Artist Profiles: Nawang Khechog

Nawang Khechog

Born in Tibet, Nawang Khechog spent his earliest years as the child of nomads. In his boyhood he first learned to play the bamboo flute, an ancient instrument popular in rural villages throughout Tibet. After the subjugation of Tibet by Chinese Communists in 1949 Nawang and his family escaped to India. There he studied meditation and Buddhist philosophy a path he followed as a monk for eleven years – four of them as a hermit.

In 1986 he emigrated to Australia where he first performed and his recordings achieved bestseller status. Nawang is best known for his collaborations with Japanese composer and multi-instrumentalist Kitaro, including a world tour and performances on Kitaro’s acclaimed Enchanted Evening and Mandala albums. His live performances with Philip Glass Paul Winter, Laurie Anderson, Paul Simon, Natalie Merchant, and Baba Olatunji have received international acclaim.

In 2003 he released Universal Love, his first major recording project in five years. The album features Tibetan flute on all songs; Tibetan long horn (doongchen) and overtone chanting; universal horn (invented by Nawang Khechog); Aboriginal didjeridu; African drums and kalimba; Mayan ocarinas; Native American drum; and chants of universal love by the Dalai Lama and others.

Nawang Khechog

In February of 2007 Nawang Khechog was seriously injured in a car accident while in India. He recovered and currently lives in Colorado, USA.

Discography:

Sounds Of Peace (Sounds True, 1988)
Rhythms Of Peace (Music Tibet, 1989)
Quiet Mind (Sounds True, 1991)
Karuna (Domo, 1995)
Winds Of Devotion, with R. Carlos Nakai (EarthSea Records, 1998)
The Dance Of Innocents, with Peter Kater (EarthSea Records, 1998)
Universal Love ‎(Sounds True, 2003)
Music As Medicine, with R. Carlos Nakai ‎(Sounds True, 2004)
Tibetan Meditation Music – For Quiet Mind And Peaceful Heart ‎(Sounds True, 2007)
Tibetan Dream Journey ‎(Sounds True, 2011)

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Artist Profiles: National Taarab

Kikundi cha Taifa
All Stars Kikundi cha Taifa (National Taarab Orchestra) of Zanzibar was founded many years ago having a flexible set up but always featuring the finest of taarab musicians from the Islands.

The group is presently under the artistic direction of two of Zanzibar’s taarab maestros Mr Iddi Suwedi of Culture Musical Club and Mr Mohamed Ilyas of Nadi Ikhwan Safaa (Malindi Taarab). Including lead singers and selected artists from the aforementioned orchestras, Kikundi cha Taifa also features musicians from East African Melody, KIKI Taarab Baladna and other groups from around Zanzibar and Pemba islands.

Numbering 42 artists in total the orchestra plays traditional taarab music using ud, violin, qanun, cello, bass, accordion and percussion.

Under government sponsorship the National Taarab Orchestra comes together specifically to perform for special events for example to mark Zanzibar’s Revolution Day every year on January 12th. Athough they have not yet recorded CDs, famous songs in their repertoire include Vya Kale Dhahabu (Old is Gold); Kanijia Kwenye Ndoto; Ombi Mahususi and Chozi la Huba.

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