Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Carole Demesmin

She’s now occasionally an old lady singer and a powerful Vodou priestess, or a manbo. She now mostly sits and only sometimes comments instead of being the cultural doer that she once was. She tells her memories. Before it, she was a socially and politically conscious young woman in bright colors on a vinyl cover. She sang Vodou culture songs that some in Haiti, who preferred to mimic European culture, shunned. She also sang songs about the tribulations of the country’s poor. She was a singer seen on television and heard on the radio who time and time again fed Haitian life with her a love of selfhood. As a token of their gratitude, Haitians have declared her a legend.

Carole Demesmin was at first a middle class Haitian girl from Leogane who had moved to the United States who knew very little if nothing at all about Vodou. Leogane is a city known for its Rara bands; pre-columbian culture marching bands heavily steeped in Vodou that still exist today. Regardless, she was not aware of it. She learned of Vodou in the United States, as many Haitians do. Inspired, she went on to release the majestic album Carole Maroule in 1979.

Carole Demesmin - Carole Maroule
Carole Demesmin – Carole Maroule

She moved back to Haiti in the early 1980’s and became one of the great singers of her people’s struggle, a people who would overthrow a dictator in 1986, a people who would be massacred by its own army in the early 1990’s and who would know a bittersweet version of democracy that would send it into a disastrous tailspin that still affects Haiti today. As things turned sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst, she became a priestess of Vodou religion and released the albums Min Rara, Lawouze, and Kongayiti-Afrika, all to signify that we Haitians are Africans in the New World who want respect.

Her commitment to Vodou was as correct as it is beautifully expressed. No human being should be obliged to believe in a specific God or in one God. We human beings have not been successful at upholding that as a human right. Christian institutions, descendants of Roman Christianity and always close to political and social power, has done a lot of damage to one’s ability to practice another religion with dignity. It forced the polytheist slaves of the Western Hemisphere into an odd form of secrecy; they could not practice their faith in public and so their descendants have taken on similar postures. Her commitment did wonders for Haitian culture and for Haitian song. It imposed itself in public, gladly, without remorse.

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Artist Profiles: Aashish Khan Debsharma

Aashish Khan
Aashish Khan

Aashish Khan Debsharma was born on December 5, 1939 in Maihar, India. He gave his first public performance at the age of 13, with his grandfather, the legendary Acharya Allauddin Khan on the All India Radio National Program”, New Delhi. That same year, he performed with his father Swara Samrat Ali Akbar Khan and grandfather at the “Tansen Music Conference”, Calcutta. Since then, he has performed throughout India and the world not only with his father, but as a soloist in his own right.

Besides his virtuosity as a traditional sarodist, Aashish pioneered in the establishment of the “world music” genre. He was a founder of the Indo-American musical group “Shanti” in 1969/70 and the fusion group The Third Eye for which he was the first to write a sarod concerto in the “raga” form.

Aashish has collaborated with such diverse Western musicians as John Barham, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Charles Lloyd, John Handy, Alice Coltrane, Emil Richards, Dallas Smith, John Pope, Jorge Strunz, Ardeshir Farah, and the Philadelphia String Quartet.

Discography:

Sarod: Sound of Mughal Court (1996)
Jugalbandi: Sarod & Sarangi Duet, with Ustad Sultan Khan (Chhanda Dhara, 2000)
Golden String of the Sarode, with Ustad Zakir Hussain (Moment Records, 2005)
Live in Los Angeles, with Ustad Alla Rakha (2007)
Inner Voyage, with Alan Scott Bachman and George Grant (Desert Wind Music, 2010)
Jugalbandi II, with Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia (Times Music)

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Artist Profiles: A. R. Rahman

A. R. Rahman
A. R. Rahman

Allah Rakha Rahman, popularly known to music lovers as A. R. Rahman, is India’s greatest contemporary film composer. Known for incorporating western production styles to Indian traditional music, Rahman has created music that is universal yet distinctly Indian.

Born A.S Dilip Kumar, in 1967, he changed his name to A.R. Rahman due to his strong faith in Islam. AR Rahman, grew up in a prosperous family that was very involved with music. His father, K.A. Sekar, was a well-known music director based in the Southern India. Surrounded by music, Rahman began playing music in early childhood. After his father died when he was only 9, Rahman began performing on the keyboards. When he was only 11, he was accompanying various music directors in the South Indian film industry, including Ramesh Naidu, M S Viswanathan and Illalyaraja.

Rahman was given a scholarship that allowed him to study music at the Trinity College of Music (London). After he finished his studies in Europe, Rahman returned to Madras with the vision of bringing an international and contemporary world music perspective to Indian music. He built a state-of-the-art sound and recording studio and began experimenting in sound engineering, design and production. He also began a collection of sound samples, creating one of the most comprehensive sound libraries in Asia.

Rahman’s early studio work was centered in composing jingles for ad campaigns. A chance encounter at a party with one of the best directors in India, Mani Ratnam, gave him the opportunity to score his first movie soundtrack. That first score, Roja, was given the National Film Award of India (similar to an Oscar) in 1992), and thrust him into the limelight.

In the years since he composed Roja, he has created music for blockbuster Indian films including Pudhiya Mugam, Gentleman, Kizhaku Seemalyilae, Duet, Kadalan, Bombay, May, Madbam, Indian, Mutbu Kadbal Dasam, Love Birds and others. His 1995 soundtrack for Bombay sold more than 5 million units signaling Rahman’s arrival as the “King of Indian Pop” with sales of more than 40 million albums over a period of three years. Rahman has composed hit soundtracks for over 50 Indian films and plays including Oscar-nominated Lagaan, Fiza, Taal, Earth, Dil Se, Fire and Bombay. Rahman is now India’s top film composer and one of the world’s most popular musicians

In 2004, and fresh from his first Western theatrical success with the musical Bombay Dreams, A.R. Rahman created his first full work for symphony orchestra in Sony Classical’s Between Heaven and Earth, a richly evocative concept album that captures the cultural drama, grandeur and mystery that exists along the historic link between East and West known as The Silk Road. Between Heaven and Earth was released on May 4, 2004.

 A. R. Rahman - Between Heaven and Earth

A. R. Rahman – Between Heaven and Earth

Between Heaven and Earth is drawn from Rahman’s score for the Chinese film Warriors of Heaven and Earth, which depicted an epic clash of deeply spiritual Asian cultures. Creating this music was a new challenge for Rahman, whose remarkable gifts, prolific output and phenomenal success in composing songs for Indian films have earned him the title “the Asian Mozart.” No less an authority than Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has hailed him as “a melodic genius,” and it was Lloyd Webber who conceived the idea of the musical Bombay Dreams, to introduce Rahman’s music to Western audiences.

Bombay Dreams opened on Broadway in the spring of 2004, after a successful run on London’s West End. For Between Heaven and Earth, Rahman employed a full Western classical orchestra and draws on the sounds of ethnic music found all along The Silk Road. which extends from Turkey to China. Top ethnic instrumentalists – including Wong On Yuen (erhu), Choo Boon Chong (dizi) and Martin Robertson (duduk), with percussionists S. Sivamani. Raja Tirupathi and Kumar Vuuri – joined the Czech Film Orchestra and Chorus, led by Matt Dunkley, on the recording. Also included is a Hindi version of the song “Warriors in Peace,” which Rahman wrote for the Warriors of Heaven and Earth soundtrack.

Rahman is one of the most sought-after composers and music directors in the international film industry today.

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Artist Profiles: A Moving Sound

A Moving Sound
A Moving Sound

In the music of A Moving Sound traditional Taiwanese, Chinese and neighboring Asian music forms are fused in new original song compositions. Instruments such as the Chinese erhu (a vertically held, bowed instrument), the zhong ruan (Chinese guitar), an assortment of western instruments, and the transcendent vocals and dance of lead singer Mia Hsieh, transport listeners on a journey across various musical cultures.

A Moving Sound has attracted international attention for opening doors to the under explored territory that is Pan-Asian music. The group is intensely passionate about how it presents the use of traditional instruments in its contemporary sound. Their approach is to be holistic – combining art, spirituality, social awareness, and a universal love of humanity play key roles in the creative process.

A Moving Sound</a A Moving SoundA Moving Sound (Motema, 2012)

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Artist Profiles: A Filetta

A Filetta - Photo by Mara Bottoli
A Filetta – Photo by Mara Bottoli

Award-winning ensemble A Filetta was formed in 1978 in the northwestern city of Balagne in Corsica by adolescents united by their passion for Corsican polyphony. The group’s name means fern. The repertoire ranges from traditional to sacred and profane songs.

For a number of years, A Filetta has exported its polyphonies abroad.

Discography:

Machja n’avemu un altra (1981)
O’Vita (1982)
Cun tè (1984)
Sonnii Zitillini and In l’abbriu di e stagioni (1987)
A U Visu Di Tanti (1989)
Ab’eternu (1992)
Una Tarra Ci He (1994)
Passione (1997)
Intantu (2002)
Si Di Mè (2003)
Bracana (Harmonia Mundi, 2008)
Mistico Mediterraneo, with Paolo Fresu and Daniele di Bonaventura (ECM, 2011)
Di Corsica Riposu, Requiem pour deux regards, with Daniele di Bonaventura (2011)
Castelli (Harmonia Mundi/World Village, 2015)

DVDs:
A Filetta, voix corses” by Don Kent (Éditions Montparnasse, 2002)
“Trent’anni Pocu, Trent’anni Assai”, a documentary by Cathy Rocchi and a concert at the Oratoire de Calvi (Harmonia Mundi, 2009)

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Artist Profile: Mokoomba

Mokoomba
Mokoomba

World music act Mokoomba is based in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The band’s six members, Mathias Muzaza (lead vocals), Ndaba Coster Moyo (drums, backing vocals), Trustworth Samende (lead guitar, backing vocals), Donald Moyo, (keyboards, backing vocals), Miti Mugande, (percussion & backing vocals) and Abundance Mutori (bass, backing vocals) grew up as friends in the Chinotimba township.

While the majority of Zimbabweans are part of the dominant Shona ethnic group or the large Ndebele minority, the members of Mokoomba hail from a variety of different ethnic groups represented in this border town, including the Luvale, Nyanja, and Tonga peoples; and it was the Tonga who gave mighty Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall, its original name: “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (the smoke that thunders).

Living in a border city that attracts tourists from all over the world gave Mokoomba’s music an international perspective from the beginning, incorporating everything from soukous to ska and salsa along with local musical traditions.

The members of Mokoomba started playing music as teenagers, with the help of a local bandleader, the late Alfred Mijimba, who gave the young musicians the experience they needed by hiring them to play local concerts with his band. Even though he was never an international star, Mijimba was a respected local musician, and the members of Mokoomba gained substantial experience under his direction.

The group’s members began playing together in 2001, and Mokoomba was officially formed in 2008. Their first major success came that same year, when they won the Music Crossroads Inter-Regional Festival Competition in Malawi.

In 2009 Mokoomba recorded its first album, Kweseka — Drifting Ahead, produced by Dutch DJ Gregor Salto, as part of the Stand UP anti- poverty campaign funded by AfricaUnsigned. The album generated a local hit “Messe Messe”, and the group’s first European tour. Mokoomba recorded a second EP, Umvundla, with Salto in 2011. But their big break came in 2012, when the band released Rising Tide, produced by pioneering Ivoirian bassist Manou Gallo (Zap Mama, Kiyi M’Bock) for the Belgian label ZigZag World.

Mokoomba - Rising Tide
Mokoomba – Rising Tide

The success of Rising Tide led Mokoomba to tour over 40 countries worldwide in 2012, 2013 and 2014, including performances at Denmark’s Roskilde festival, the UK’s WOMAD festival, Belgium’s Couleur Cafe´ festival, and Morocco’s Gnawa festival.

Mokoomba has become one of Zimbabwe’s most popular bands, playing with such icons as Hugh Masekela and Baba Maal at Zimbabwe’s annual Harare International Festival of the Arts.

Mokoomba was the subject of a documentary called Mokoomba: From One River Bank to Another, by Frank Dalmat and Francis Ducat. The film tells the group’s story in the context of the relationship between culture and economic development in the global south.

In 2015 Mokoomba recorded its self-produced third album Luyando, a stripped down, mostly acoustic album that balances the group’s love of pan-African and international sounds with the local and traditional sounds they also grew up listening to.

Luyando translates as “Mother’s Love” and takes its inspiration from the Makishi masquerade ritual practiced in parts of Zimbabwe and nearby Zambia, which the members of Mokoomba participated in as boys.

The Makishi masquerade is performed at the end of the Mukanda, an initiation ritual for boys between the ages of eight and twelve, when young boys leave their homes and live for one to three months at a bush camp away from their villages. It’s a fundamental and often lonely time in a boy’s life, when they learn the self-assurance required of young men in their community, while still often yearning for the tenderness of their mother’s love. The end of the Mukanda is marked by a joyous graduation ceremony called Chilende, full of colorful masks, music and dancing.


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Artist Profiles: Acho Estol

Acho Estol
Acho Estol

Argentine musician Acho Estol started playing the guitar at eight and the electric guitar at ten, then he took up various instruments during the teenage years – he also plays flute, charango, bass, piano and percussion – but never losing focus on his main one.

He combines his work in film (assistant director and director of shorts, clips and CD-ROMs) with music and has been part of many rock and pop bands being a prolific composer in these styles, with always a touch of tango in his lyrics and melodies. He is one of the founders of tango group La Chicana.

Acho has traveled extensively around the world (United States of America, Canada, Brazil, Chile, England, France, Spain, South Africa, Senegal) playing his music and searching for different styles. In 1996 he studied tango arrangements with Ismael Spitalnik.

Acho has produced his own independent recordings, as well as music for TV, short films, choreography and commercials. He has also produced La Chicana’s releases: Ayer Hoy Era Mañana, Un Giro Extraño and Tango agazapado.

Discography

 

Ayer Hoy Era Mañana, with La Chicana
Ayer Hoy Era Mañana, with La Chicana

 

Un Giro Extraño, with La Chicana
Un Giro Extraño, with La Chicana

 

Tango agazapado, with La Chicana
Tango agazapado, with La Chicana

 

Acho Estol - Mi Pelicula (2007)
Acho Estol – Mi Pelicula (2007)

 

Acho Estol - Buenosaurios (Galileo Music GMC034, 2010)
Acho Estol – Buenosaurios (Galileo Music GMC034, 2010)

 

Lejos, with La Chicana
Lejos, with La Chicana

 

Canción llorada (2008)
Canción llorada (2008)

 

 Revolución o picnic (2011), double album with La Chicana
Revolución o picnic (2011), double album with La Chicana

 

Antihéroes y tumbas (2015), with La Chicana
Antihéroes y tumbas (2015), with La Chicana
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Artist Profiles: Ustad Mohammad Omar

Ustad Mohammad Omar
Ustad Mohammad Omar

Ustad Mohammad Omar, one of Afghanistan’s finest rabab players, became the first Afghan musician to teach in the United States of America when he arrived at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1974.

In 1979, Ustad Mohammad Omar appeared as a guest on the album Embryo’s Reise by German jazz-rock and world music band Embryo.

In 2002, Smithsonian Folkways released an album titled Ustad Mohammad Omar, Virtuoso from Afghanistan. This CD documents his only public performance in the United States of America.

Playing his rabab, a short-necked lute that is plucked with a plectrum called a shahbaz, and accompanied on the tabla by a young Zakir Hussain, Mohammad Omar shared Afghan traditional music with the West in this memorable and important concert. Hussain and Omar had never met before that day, nor did they speak a common language, but their musical voices intertwine magically on this classic recording. The music is steeped in the traditions of Afghanistan and that country’s own relationship to Indian and Pakistani musical influences, but this virtuoso performance stands alone as a triumph of Eastern music.

Ustad Mohammad Omar passed away in 1980.

Discography:

Music of Afghanistan (Smithsonian Folkways)

Embryo’s Reise (Schneeball 20, 1979)

Ustad Mohammad Omar, Virtuoso From Afghanistan (Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD 40439, 2002)

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