Category Archives: CD Reviews

Chandrika Tandon’s Inspiring Journey

Chandrika Tandon – Shivoham – The Quest (Soul Chants Music, 2017)

Shivoham – The Quest is an impressive production by vocalist, composer and businesswoman Chandrika Tandon. The album is beautifully packaged and designed in a hard cover box that contains three discs and a booklet with song descriptions, photos and credits. Shivoham – The Quest is divided into three movements: Yearning, Searching and Connecting that reflects Chandrika Tandon’s musical and life journey.

 

 

Chandrika Tandon brings together two of the greatest musical traditions in the world: Indian classical music (Hindustani and Carnatic) and western classical music. The Indian influences dominate in some of the tracks, with Indian musical forms, Hindi lead vocals, percussion, bansuri flute, string instruments, mantras and other elements. Western classical appears in the form of classical and early music choirs and orchestras and lead vocals in English.

 

 

There is fusion as well, where Indian and western traditions are elegantly intertwined. Additionally, Chandrika Tandon incorporates other world traditions such as the Soweto Gospel Choir, flamenco and global percussion.

 

 

The list of musicians is extraordinary. In addition to Chandrika Tandon’s impeccable and mesmerizing vocals, Shivoham – The Quest includes the London Voices choir directed by Terry Edwards; Soul Chants Ensemble of New York; Soweto Gospel Choir; The King’s Singers; and soloists from Ajoy Chakrabarty School of Music of Kolkata.

Also featured is the London Metropolitan Orchestra, directed by Andy Brown and percussion ensembles from Kolkata and Mumbai in India.

The lists of solo instrumentalists includes a striking international cast of acclaimed musicians: Kenny Werner on piano; Martin Bejarano on piano; Sally Heath on piano; Romero Lubambo on guitar; Peter Calo on guitar; Pedro da Silva on Portuguese guitar; Jamey Haddad on percussion; Cyro Baptista on percussion; Thomas Kemp on violin; Gil Goldstein on accordion; Anthony Pike on clarinet; Pandit Ronu Majumdar on flute; Sandeep Mishra on sarangi; Pratik Shrivastava on sarod; Shubhayu Sen Majumdar on esraj.

Shivoham – The Quest is a masterfully-crafted production that seamlessly crosses various secular and sacred music traditions.

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Alluring Songs of Cossacks and Old Believers

Chitinskaya Sloboda – Songs of Russian People. Cossacks’ songs / Song of old-believers and Transbaikalien Cossacks (Sketis Music SKMR-129, 2016)

Songs of Russian people. Cossacks’ songs / Song of old-believers and Transbaikalien Cossacks is a two-CD set by Russian folk music ensemble Chitinskaya Sloboda. The group is part of a movement in Russian folk music that is researching and recovering ancient musical traditions.

Disc 1 focuses on Cossack songs. It features a mix of polyphonic choral a cappella pieces along with songs featuring accordion and percussion accompaniment. The ensemble provides fascinating vocal interplay with a wide-range of vocal ranges featuring female and male singers.

Disc 2 includes songs a cappella old believers songs (an ancient Russian orthodox sect) and traditional cossack songs from the Transbaikal mountainous territory east of Lake Baikal in Russia.

Chitinskaya Sloboda includes Alexander Avdeyev, Vyacheslav Egorov, Vladimir Kravtsov, Arina Nekrasova, Larisa Pakhomova, Alexei Ryumkin, Natalia Ryumkina, Leonid Subotni, and Lyubov Tkachenko.

The CD booklet includes liner notes in Russian and English and song lyrics in Russian.

Buy the digital download version of Songs of Russian People. Cossacks’ songs / Song of old-believers and Transbaikalien Cossacks. The CD is available from shop.sketismusic.ru

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Magda’s Tiger

Banda Magda – Tigre

Banda Magda – Tigre (Verve Label Group/GroundUP Music, 2017)

Banda Magda’s sound has changed on Tigre. The global music influences are less visible. Instead, Tigre is deeply influenced by retro French pop and chanson as well as Brazilian popular music. While the album features lush arrangements with strings, superb percussion and brass, pop music dominates at least half of this recording.

The highlights of the album are the songs where the band introduces a greater dose of roots music such as the Brazilian-flavored “Coração,” “Vem Morena” and “Ase Me Na Bo,” and the laid back “Muchacha.” Throughout the album, the polyglot band leader, Magda Giannikou, sings in French, Portuguese, Greek and Spanish.

The lineup on Tigre includes Magda Giannikou: piano, accordion and lead vocals; Engin Gunaydin on drums; Marcelo Woloski on percussion and vocals; James Shipp on percussion and vocals; Andres Rotmistrovsky on electric bass and vocals; Ignacio Hernandez on electric and nylon-string guitar; Bob Lanzetti on electric guitar; Justin Stanton on keyboards, trumpet and vocals; Mike Maher on flugelhorn, trumpet and vocals; Chris Bullock: tenor sax, alto flute, clarinet and bass clarinet; Michael League on hammertone, baritone guitar and bass; Mika Mimura: vibraphone and marimba; Maeve Gilchrist on lever harp; Max ZT on hammered dulcimer; Richard Vogt on guitar; Or Bareket on double bass; Ayum Ueda on vocals; Giorgia Renosto on vocals; Anette Phillip on vocals; Debo Ray on vocals; Lei Stern on ngoni; and Juan Andrés Ospina on vocals.

Also featured is the Banda Magda String Orchestra with Maria Im, Curtis Stewart, Brooke Quiggins Saulnier, Sami Merdinian, Lev Ljova Zhurbin, Irena Momchilova, Maria Jeffers, Sam Quiggins and Colin Stokes.

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Extraordinarily Expressive Contemporary Maqams

Anouar Brahem – Blue Maqams (ECM Records, 2017)

Blue Maqams brings together Anouar Brahem, one of the great masters of the oud, and three of the finest jazz musicians. The music on Blue Maqams is an exquisite mix of Arabic modal music known as maqam, and jazz, classical, flamenco and Brazilian influences. Although there is jazz improvisation, all the pieces, composed by Brahem, have a clearly defined structure.

Anouar Brahem’s oud delights with impeccable performances and interplay with the bass, drums and piano. Dave Holland is one of the most open minded jazz bassists, who has collaborated with flamenco, Latin American and American roots music artists.

The lineup includes Anouar Brahem on oud; Dave Holland on double bass; Jack DeJohnette on drums; and Django Bates on piano.

Blue Maqams is an exceptionally expressive album by oud maestro Anouar Brahem and three dazzling improvisers.

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Moravian Folk Music Transformations

Dálava – The Book of Transfigurations

 

Dálava – The Book of Transfigurations (Songlines Recordings, 2017)

The Book of Transfigurations is a collaboration between two American artists, vocalist Julia Ulehla and guitarist Aram Bajakian. It’s a fascinating project that brings together traditional Moravian songs rearranged with a mix of post-rock, jazz and exploratory musical influences.

Julia Ulehla has been researching Moravian folk songs of the 19th and early 20th century. The songs were gathered in his home village by Julia’s great grandfather Vladimir Úlehla.

The lineup on The Book of Transfigurations includes Julia Ulehla on vocals; Aram Bajakian on guitars and percussion; Peggy Lee on cello; Tyson Naylor on piano, accordion, and keyboards; Colin Cowan on doubla bass and electric bass; and Dylan van der Schyff on drums and percussion.

The Book of Transfigurations CD features a 36-page booklet with translations of the songs and archival photos from the early 20th Century.

The Book of Transfigurations is an introspective, avant-garde folk production that takes Moravian traditional music to a totally different realm of musical awareness.

 

 

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Leila Gobi’s Malian Trance Music

Leila Gobi – 2017

Leila Gobi – 2017 (Clermont Music CLE 019CD, 2017)

Eastern Malian vocalist Leila Gobi has recorded her second album titled 2017, scheduled for release October 6, 2017. On 2017, Gobi presents an exciting mix of her magnetic high-pitched vocals, hypnotic electronic beats and the fabulous guitar lines of Khalil M. Touré.

The lineup includes Leila Walet Gobi on vocals; Khalil M. Touré on guitars; Amadou Dembélé on bass; and Abdourhamane Salaha on calabash, conga, and other percussion instruments.

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Baraka Moon’s Magic Carpet Ride across the Globe

Baraka Moon – Wind Horse (Baraka Moon Music, 2017)

Following up on their 2016 release of Eternal, the San Francisco based Baraka Moon is back to inundate listeners with their particular brand of savage coolness on Wind Horse, available on October 6th on the Baraka Moon Music label. Immersing listeners into a deep sound pool fashioned out mystical Sufi trance, textured Indian ragas, meaty African rhythms and the tangy flavors of Australia’s Aboriginal centuries-old musical traditions, Wind Horse is a deluge of sound that is potent and highly satisfying. With copacetic grooves and delicious dance tracks, listeners just have to ride the easy waves of Wind Horse for an excellent ride.

Baraka Moon has pooled its talents with its members, vocalist and harmonium player Sukhawat Ali Khan (who just happens to be related to musical masters Ustad Salamat Ali Khan and Nazakat Ali Khan); percussionist and didgeridoo master Stephen Kent; drummer and percussionist Peter Warren; and guitarist, ukulele player and backing vocalist Anastasi Mavrides. Wind Horse also shows off the talents of guest musicians like Gurdeep Hira on tabla, Eda Maxym, Stella Karuna Kent and Sam Becker on backing vocals, Ben Issacs on jembe and percussion and Madusara Liyange and Swapan Gandhi on bansuri flute.

Wind Horse opens on the winds of the fabulous groove “Bismillah,” before moving onto the guitar slick and meaty rhythmic “Rasa Divine,” replete with some dishy backing vocals. Listeners shouldn’t miss out on the rich and rewarding “Narayane” with Mr. Khan’s vocals surrounded by guitar flourishes and mesmerizing rhythms. “Allah Hoo” is simply kickass good with didgeridoo against harmonium and Mr. Khan’s vocals.

“Sabir” is full of reggae flair, while “Mankuntu” is all quick paced richness. Equally delicious are the didgeridoo and speaking tongues flash of “Julay Julay” the raucous wild ride of title track “Wind Horse” and the lovely serene addition of bansuri flute on closing track “Alap.”

Baraka Moon’s Wind Horse is a magic carpet ride across Indian grasslands, Pakistani’s lazy river banks, African savannas and the rich, red earth packed landscapes of down under. And what a ride it is.

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The Rich Sounds of Afro-Cuban Percussion

Michael Spiro & Joe Galvin – Bákini: En el Nuevo Mundo

Michael Spiro & Joe Galvin – Bákini: En el Nuevo Mundo (Iu Music, 2017)

Bakini: En el Nuevo Mundo is a celebration of Afro-Latin percussion performed by the acclaimed Afro-Cuban Folkloric Ensemble that came out of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

Produced by percussionists Michael Spiro and Joe Galvin, Bákini: En el Nuevo Mundo is a fabulous introduction to the marvelous world of Afro-Cuban folkloric percussion. However, the ensemble goes beyond Cuba by incorporating Brazilian musical forms, Caribbean calypso, strings, brass and percussion instruments from other regions of the world.

Bákini: En el Nuevo Mundo is divided into three suites. The first one, Aganyú suite, combines Afro-Cuban religious music and secular sounds. The lead singer (akpuón) is Jesús Diaz.

Macarambique Suite mixes Brazilian maracatú with a relatively modern Cuban rhythm called Mozambique and celebrates carnaval (carnival) festivities throughout the Americas.

The final set is “Oyá Suite,” another Afro-Cuban inspired piece with some unexpected innovations like a Brazilian samba battery. The akpuón here is Michael Mixtatacki.

The CD booklet includes extensive information about the artists, musical forms, instruments used and the development of the suites. It also contains a glossary.

The personnel that participated in Bákini includes Michael Spiro on iyá (batá drum), caja, quinto and other percussion instrument; Joe Galvin on okónkolo (batá drum), vocals, steelpan, chequeré (shaker) and vocals; Kristin Olson on itótele (batá drum), vocals and keyboard percussion; Jesús Diaz on quinto and lead vocals; Michael Mixtacki on chequeré; Scott Ketner on percussion; Eli Edelman on yonofó drum, caja and various other percussion instruments; Andy Miller on timbal; Ben Christensen on vocals; Jen Bollero on vocals, Fabiana Masili on vocals; Liliana Araujo on vocals; Brenna Johns on trombone; Alex Dura on saxophone; Mitchell Shiner on vibraphone; Jeremy Allen on double bass; Marco Núñez on flute; Daniel Stein on violin; Clara Scholtes on violin; Rose Wollman on viola; Leonardo Vásquez on viola and Chris Cho on cello.

Buy the digital download version of Bakini: En el Nuevo Mundo.The CD is available from cdbaby.com

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Impeccable and Spellbinding Performances by Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Omar Faruk Tekbilek – Love Is My Religion (Alif Records, 2017)

Love Is My Religion out on the Alif Records label, the latest offering by Turkish composer and multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek is stylishly dramatic and sleekly passionate and a worthy addition to Mr. Tekbilek’s impressive discography that includes the recordings The Sultans Middle Eastern Band Vol 1 and 2, Suleyman the Magnificent, Beyond the Sky, Whirling, Mystical Gardens, Alif, and Kelebek. Pulling at threads from the past and present, from the traditional and contemporary, Love Is My Religion cleverly weaves a spell that is both beguiling and deliciously exotic.

Opening with “Araf,” listeners delve deep into the warm riches of Mr. Tekbilek’s mastery of ney, oud, davul, bendir and darbuka, as well as the flavors offered up by accompanying artists Alex Alessandroni Jr. on piano, Bahadir Sener on kanun, Yossi Fine on acoustic bss and Chris Wabich on drums. If that weren’t enough to tempt listeners “Vivir” is utterly spectacular with the song’s composer and vocalist Yasmin Levy taking center stage with her heartbreaking vocals. Joined by Mr. Tekbilek on vocals and various instruments, keyboardist and guitarist Amotz Plessner and Hamid Saeidi on santour, “Vivir” shimmers.

Love Is My Religion adds icing to the cake with Ismet Siral’s “Barefoot Dervish” in all its piano, synthesizer, brass and woodwind goodness, as well as A. Ekber Cicek’s “Haydar” and the delicately delightful “Mara” composed by Amotz Plessner, Alex Alessandroni Jr. and Idan Raiche who also his own piano work to the recording, but the real outstanding performance on this track has to be Lili Haydn’s spectacular violin lines. Standout tracks like deeply exotic “Memories,” the jazzy slant found on “Steepe” and closing track “Adam, Love Is My Religion & Tende Canim,” composed by Mr. Tekbilek and using a traditional Sufi melody are sure to please any music fan.

 

 

The performances on Love Is My Religion aren’t just impeccable there’s hypnotic, graceful and fiercely good, so my only advice is to listen up, load up and disappearing into some delicious music.

 

 

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Carmen Souza’s Transatlantic Vocal Brilliance

Carmen Souza – Creology (Galileo Music, 2017)

On Creology, Carmen Souza continues to explore Cape Verdean, Brazilian and other lusophone influences interweaving jazz elements. Carmen’s vocal range continues to marvel, changing her pitch easily, from childlike voices to deep bass tones. She adds great vocal overdubs, plus male choruses and call and response sections.

Carmen Souza’s band is spectacular as always, with composer and bass maestro on electric bass, backing vocals and percussion. The equally talented Elias Kacomanolis utilizes a wide-range of global percussion and also contributes backing vocals. Zoe Pascal is a guest percussionist.

Although Carmen Souza is widely-known as a vocalist, she showcases her talent as an instrumentalist as well, playing superb piano on her tribute to classic American jazz, “Pretty Eyes.”

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