Category Archives: CD Reviews

Enthralling Tenbur and Zaza Music

Cemîl Qoçgîrî – Zalâl (Ahenk, 2016)

Zalâl is the fifth album by German multi-instrumentalist and composer Cemîl Qoçgîrî. Cemîl is one of the finest performers of the tenbur (tenbûr), a Kurdish long-necked lute that is related to the saz.

On Zalâl, Cemîl Qoçgîrî combines ancient Anatolian musical influences with western chamber musical forms. He also uses rare Zazaki vocals. Zazaki (also known as Zaza, Kirmanjki and Dimli) is used by the Zaza Kurds in eastern Turkey and is one of the oldest languages in Mesopotamia. The Zazaki language has been classified by UNESCO as a “language threatened with extinction“.

When language, music, art and culture are lost, the understanding and communication between peoples are lost as well,” says Cemîl Qoçgîrî.

The lineup on Zalâl includes Cemîl Qoçgîrî on tenbur, guitar, and percussion; Mikaîl Aslan on qirnata; Susanne Hirsch on cello; Manuel Lohnes on bass; Eser Baki on tenbur; Nure Dovlanî on violin; Ben Neubrech on guitar; Andre Nendza on bass; Kadir Doğan on percussion; Elif Gökdemir on flute; and Tolga Keleşm on zirne.

The CD booklet contains lyrics in Zazaki with English-language translations as well as biographical information about Cemîl Qoçgîrî.

Zalâl is a beautifully-crafted album that contains mesmerizing performances on the tenbur and the warm vocals of Cemîl Qoçgîrî.

Share

World Jazz Evolutionists

Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures – Glare of the Tiger (M.O.D. Technologies, 2017)

Glare of the Tiger is a series of remarkable world music jams performed by a superb collective of forward-thinking jazz musicians led by acclaimed composer and percussionist Adam Rudolph.

Throughout the album, the rhythm section lays out a solid foundation of creative percussion and bass over which you get a series of horn, electronic keyboard and guitar melodic evolutions and improvisations that mix jazz, jazz-rock and world music elements. You can hear influences from Ethiopian, Indian and Gnawa music at times, and from many other parts of the world.

Adam Rudolph plays a wide range of percussion instruments, including a drum set composed of hand drums from different traditions: Haitian kongos, West African jembe and Moroccan tarija (small frame drum).

The state of the art recording of Glare of the Tiger was made at Bill Laswell’s Orange Music Studio with James Dellatacoma as head engineer.

The lineup on Moving Pictures includes Adam Rudolph on handrum set, sintir, cajón, itótele, glockenspiel, gongs, additional percussion; Alexis Marcelo on Fender Rhodes, electric keyboards & Hammond B3; Damon Banks on electric bass; Graham Haynes on cornet, flugelhorn, electronics; Hamid Drake on drum set, percussion; James Hurt on sogo and kidi drums, oghene bell, okónkolo, Fender Rhodes, smart phone synthesizer module and sound design; Kenny Wessel on electric guitar, electronics; and Ralph M. Jones on c flute, alto flute, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophones, husli and bamboo flutes.

Buy Glare of the Tiger

Share

The Best of Multi-Instrumentalist Baluji Shrivastav

Baluji Shrivastav featuring The InnerVision Orchestra – Best of Baluji Shrivastav (ARC Music EUCD2695, 2017)

“Awesome” is an awesomely overused word these days, and applied to music with a repugnant frequency that waters down the word’s meaning. It is intended to be easily accessible in the toolboxes of writers and speakers as, more or less, “’superlative,’ but without the cravat.” It is frustrating to a reviewer to have “awesome” watered down when it comes to mind so readily and naturally regarding Baluji Shrivastav. His actual name is Dhanonday Shrivastav (Officer of the Order of the British Empire, OBE).

Multi-instrumentalists who are truly competent with instruments of different general families (string, percussion, vocals, etc.) are rare and awesome enough, multi-instrumentalists who are blind from babyhood are at the tip of the awesomeness iceberg and blind instrumentalists working and recording with a 14-piece jazz ensemble made up entirely of visually impaired musicians from all around the globe are … “awesunique” comes to mind, a sniglet invented to combine “awesome” and “unique” for the specific purpose of lauding Baluji Shrivastav with a term unlikely to be watered down through overuse.

This 14-song anthology spans over three decades of recordings and reflects the artist’s explorations of several genres and bandstand partnerships. Three of the 14, “Discovering London & Friendship,” “Walking Through The Streets” and “Mixing with the Crowd and Spirit of Joy,” comprise a fascinating description of the man’s move to London, taking in the city’s ambiance without the sense of sight. Each of these three cuts is overdue for use in a film soundtrack, as is another piece written by the artist’s daughter, “The Way I Feel.” Of the CD cuts, these four particularly disprove Rudyard Kipling’s truism, “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet,” for East and West intermesh seamlessly here.

From start to finish, from folk-rooted Indian ragas to rich orchestral pieces, this anthology delights and rewards a general listenership. It is, in short, “awesunique.”

Buy Best of Baluji Shrivastav

Share

Feel Good Samoan Reggae

J Boog – Wash House Ting

J Boog – Wash House Ting (Wash House, 2016)

J Boog is part of the American reggae scene where feel good reggae is interweaved with soul/R&B influences and pop.

Wash House Ting features several guests, including two iconic reggae artists, Buju Banton and Gramps Morgan.

J Boog’s given name is Jerry Afemata. His family is of Samoan origin although he grew up in California listening to reggae. He later traveled to Jamaica to immerse himself in the island’s culture.

Wash House Ting is effectively crafted reggae with an instant crossover appeal.

Buy Wash House Ting

Share

Srdjan Beronja’s World Music Gallery

Srdjan Beronja – Sounds of the East Music from the Balkans, India & the Middle East (ARC Music EUCD2696, 2017)

When music listeners and explorers gather formally to further their fascination, there are always two or three performers too intense for most ears. One hears whispers in the listening space as those who recognize the act about to begin caution those around them that this may be a time to visit the lobby or concession stand, to go outside to smoke or check messages. “Oh God, this guy will put you to sleep,” or “They’re saying something, but I don’t know what,” one hears from the row ahead or behind. These are the acts that are overwhelming for many.

The truly musically curious, however, remain in the concert space and pay all the more attention, both to the stage and to the other attendees who have remained in their seats. The acts that elicit this preliminary response in the audience are those who separate the fans from the ethnomusicologists. Meet Serbian composer Srdjan Beronja. His label’s press release explains that he “travel[s] to remote locations and records unusual local sounds from desert townships, coastal villages and the dawn chorus high up in trees.” On this CD, these field recordings “from the geographical triangle between India, the Middle East and the Balkans” are used to introduce and provide audio beds for some of the cuts, thus merging the artist’s fascination with natural sounds and his musicianship.

He works with a number of renowned players of instruments typifying tour stops along the way from the Balkans through the Middle East to India and back, with expressive results. This is not a consistent album to be played as background music at a cocktail party or curry house, but more akin to a visit to a good art gallery where a broad spectrum of visual artists is on display.

“Sounds of the East Music from The Balkans, India & The Middle East” is a beautiful collection for collectors.

Buy Sounds of the East Music from the Balkans, India & the Middle East in the Americas

Buy Sounds of the East Music from the Balkans, India & the Middle East in Europe

Share

Ancient Bubu Rhythms Renewed

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang – Build Music (Luaka Bop, 2017)

Janka Nabay introduces the renovated sounds of a Sierra Leonean genre known as bubu music. It’s characterized by an intense, uptempo, trance-like irresistible beat that mixes acoustic percussion with modern electronics along with repetitive chants and Nabay’s expressive vocals.

Nabay currently lives in the United States, where he introduced his native sierra Leonean music to his bandmates, bassist Boshra AlSaadi and keyboardist Michael Gallope. “It has its own, very specific aesthetic,” says AlSaadi about bubu music. “The rhythms are different. The pocket is more subtle, where you decide to place the rhythmic emphasis is important. There’s a lot of nuance.”

Some tracks on Build Music are recreated versions of old songs Nabay had recorded in the 1990s. There is also a variety of Sierra Leonean “riddims” such as “Sabanoh” and “Bubu Dub” that were developed by collaborators back in Sierra Leone. Nabay normally uses Casio keyboards to emulate the sound of Sierra Leone’s bubu horns.

With Build Music, Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang have introduced an urgently contemporary form of Sierra Leone’s bubu rhythm.

Share

Sizzling Jambú

Jungle Fire – Jambú (Jungle Fire Music/Nacional Records, 2016)

Los Angeles-based Afro-Latin funk band Jungle Fire is an outstanding collective of musicians from various backgrounds who have played with many well-known artists and musical styles. On their album Jambú, Jungle Fire delivers a sizzling genre-defying combination of Afrobeat, funk, cumbia, Latin jazz, West Coast Latin rock, makossa, and more, featuring an irresistible rhythm section and potent brass section.

The line-up includes Joseph “Joey” Reina on bass; Jud McDaniel on guitar and bass; Patrick Bailey on guitars; bass and Korg MS-20; Sam Halterman on drums; Sam Robles on baritone saxophone; Otto Granillo on trombone; Sean Billings on trumpet; Alberto López on congas, timbales, batá drums, cajón, güiro, flor tom, guacho, guagua, llamador, Moroccan bongo, guijada, qraqeb (karkabas); claps and vocals; Michael Duffy on timbales, bongos, bongó cowbell and claps; Steve Haney on congas, bongó, batá, shekere, güiro, trash lid and tambourine. Special guests: Sandino González-Flores on vocals and Natalia González on vocals.

 

 

 

 

Buy Jambú

Share

Visionary Music of Cape Verde

Various Artists – Synthesize The Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From The Cape Verde Island 1973 – 1988 (Ostinato Records, 2017)

This great compilation opens a door into a fascinating set of artists from Cape Verde that mixed traditional dance music with electronics and western pop influences throughout two decades.

The majority of the songs feature three types of Cape Verdean hip-shaking genres: funaná, coladeira and batuqe. As tens of thousands of Cape Verdeans migrated to Europe and North America, they had access to synthesizers and other devices, which they used to renovate the islands’ popular dance rhythms.

A young musician named Paulino Vieira, who was a member of acclaimed singer Cesaria Evora’s band, was one of the masterminds behind the keyboard revolution. He arranged or contributed to half the tracks in this compilation.

Paulino was the most visionary,” said Elisio Gomes, a Paris-based singer who collaborated with Vieira frequently. “He always had this gift to be 10 years ahead of his time. That’s why our music sounds like it was produced today.”

Buy Synthesize The Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From The Cape Verde Island 1973 – 1988

Share

Where World Music Intersects World Jazz

Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita – Transparent Water (Ota Records, 2017)

Music fans should settle in and enjoy the sumptuous ride that is Transparent Water. Co-creator Omar Sosa, the Cuban-born composer, bandleader and pianist, has such recordings as Eggun – The Afri-Lectric Experience, Jog, Ile and Calma under his belt, while Seckou Keita, the Senegalese kora master, has released albums like 22 Strings/Cordes, Afro-Mandinka Soul with his own Seckou Keita Quartet and Clychau Dibon. Joining forces under the Ota Records label, Transparent Water, set for release on February 24th, pairs Mr. Sosa’s Afro-Cuban and jazz sensibilities with the lush African traditions of Mr. Keita’s long musical legacy of his griot family.

Transparent Water is where world music meets world jazz, where tradition meets improvisation and where the lines of spiritual and earthy meet. The result is stunningly evocative.

With Mr. Sosa on piano, Fender Rhodes, sampling, microKorg and vocals and Mr. Keita firmly enticing listeners with his kora mastery, as well as talking drum, djembe, sabar and vocals, listeners are treated to the interplay between these two musicians and composers. But as luck would have it, Mr. Sosa and Mr. Keita turn the music on its ears with the additions of Chinese musician Wu Tong on sheng and bawu; Japanese koto master Mieko Miyazaki; Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles on bata drums, culo’puya, maracas, guataca, calabaza and clave; Korean geojungo player E’Joung-Ju; and Rajasthani nagadi player Mosin Khan Kawa.

Cuban rhythms, African melodies and Asian influences pile up, separate and mesh together in an expansive musical tapestry where it’s impossible to pull at one musical thread and undo the lot.

Like water, Transparent Water flows easy from the jazzy opening track “Dary” into the delicately piano and kora interplay of “In the Forest.” Lush track flows into lush track with goodies like the sheng laced “Black Dream,” the catchy African influenced “Mining-Nah” with Mr. Keita’s vocals warming up the track and mysteriously moody “Another Prayer.”

Listeners can’t help but be charmed by tracks like sassy offering “Fatiliku,” the dreamy musical landscape of “Oni Yalorde” with Mr. Tong on the bawu or the piano lines of “Zululand.” Transparent Water is one of those recordings that requires listeners stop and really listen and it’s best if you just go with its flow.

Mr. Sosa, Mr. Keita and company have conjured up a truly brilliant collaboration on Transparent Water. Mesmerizing, evocative and sophisticated, Transparent Water begs for a listen.

Buy Transparent Water in the Americas

Buy Transparent Water in Europe

Share

Internal Activities

Sattyananda – Internal Activities

Sattyananda – Internal Activities (DadA Music, 2011)

This is a rather interesting psychedelic downbeat album, though it doesn’t quite grab the listener they way it could – except in the last track, Space Fields, featuring Amaan and Ayaan Ali Khan.

The 14-page booklet has excellent photographs of Indian scenery, but the music needs to match it a bit better. There are no percussive beats, but a blend of Indian instruments such as sarangi, santoor, sitar and sarod. Other tracks worth checking out include “Bhairavi Mahadev.”

Though some listeners may not be swayed by this album (especially with its price tag), the artist Nikhel Kumar Mahajan certainly has potential and we await his future releases.

Share