Category Archives: CD Reviews

Matahambre Son, Short Stories About Cuba CD Review

Matahambre Son, Short Stories About Cuba
Matahambre Son, Short Stories About Cuba (Danza y Movimento, 2002)

I want to tell you a story about a small village, a village in the Santiago de Cuba region of Cuba. Long ago, according to legend, soldiers came to this village looking for food. As luck would have it, beautiful mango trees lined the main street of this village. The soldiers plucked the ripe fruit and filled their bellies. It is said that from then on the village became known as Matahambre – the place where hunger ends.

Life went on in the little village. Most of the people worked growing fruit or coffee. They worked in the fields and celebrated with fiestas and dances. Following them everywhere were the sounds of the musical tradition known as Son. Because the village was poor and had no cultural centers, the people made up their own songs and their own rhythms.

Now in this village lived a radio and television engineer named Angel Faez, who could write and arrange music and play the guitar. Then, there was Alexis Vásquez who could play the double bass and Oscar Vásquez who could play the tres. There was also a welder named Raudel Garzón, who played bongos and a carpenter named Pedro Correoso, who was a fine percussionist. Lastly, there was a topographer named Gilberto Carbonell, who just so happened could sing quite nicely and compose songs. These fellows got together and started to play, often making up their own songs about people in the tiny village. They sang songs about people they knew and village life around them. These fellows became Matahambre Son.

The story might have ended there in the little village without you or I even knowing about this remarkable group, but there’s always a fairy godmother in these stories. Actually, it was a fairy godfather of sorts. José Ochoa, famed member of the Buena Vista Social Club, turned up one day in Matahambre heard music coming from the front porch of the house. José Ochoa knew a good thing when he heard it and convinced the German label Danza y Movimiento to go to Cuba to record this wonderful group.

Matahambre Son is a collection of songs written by the group’s members and produced by Mattias Möbius and José Ochoa Bustamante. The songs are delightful and vibrant.

Tracks like “Los Pollitos,” “Pensando” and “La Mulata y su movimiento” are sure to charm even the fearful out onto the dance floor. As a bonus the CD comes in a booklet with the story of Matahambre Son with stunning photographs of the musicians and the people of Matahambre by Susanna Rescio. Matahambre Son is proof that sometimes big things happen in small towns. And that makes a good story.


Automaton by Murat Ses

Murat Ses

Automaton (Clou Records, Clou-001, KALAN Music, Peacework Music)

Automaton is the first part of Turkish-Austrian synthetist/electronic musician Murat Ses’ trilogy that began in early 90s.
I listened to the second album Binfen first and then came to other two. Automaton is more Anatolian roots and wild compared to Binfen and Culduz.

Murat is telling wonderful musical stories from a part of the world with rich traditions (see booklets). His musical approach is neither “orientalistic’ nor ‘occidentalistic’… and difficult to categorize.His trilogy’s main theme “The Timeless and Boundariless Context of Culture and Civilization” possibly is something all we need these days be it west or east.
A fusion of ethnic self-programmed timbres (such as a synthetic zurna, mey, kaval, ney, kanun or sounds of mehter ensembles you might hear at the Topkapi Palace) in microtonal settings.
His sound possibly is a dialectic quantum leap from his earlier sound of the 70’s called Anadolu Pop. That style revolutionized Turkey’s music then.

As an enthusiastic student of this kind of music I liked: Dry Sun, Argus babe, Mehter and some kind of symphonic New Age Belt of Orion.

Murat’s official website:


Mariza Fado Curvo

Mariza - Fado Curvo
Mariza – Fado Curvo

Fado Curvo (Time Square Records, 2003). Release May 6, 2003.

Dressed in haute couture gowns and flaunting distinguishable coiffered hair, Portugal’s newest fadista, Mariza
is dressed up with a place to go — upwards. Mariza’s ascension into stardom began in 2001, shortly after the release of her debut, Fado em Mim. She became a musical darling to British as well as, world wide audiences, garnering a BBC Award of World Music for 2002. She has also made various on air appearances on BBC radio host Charlie Gillette’s “Ping Pong” show.

Her latest release, Fado Curvo, referring to the curvy path of a fado (Portuguese laments often compared to flamenco or American blues), securely anchors Mariza’s musical career along side the most revered fadistas including the late and esteemed Amelia Rodrigues, who also happens to be Mariza’s de facto muse. The glamorous Mariza (think Grace Kelly) might seem like an overnight success to most onlookers, yet, the vocalist began singing fados at the ripe age of 5 and she was fully immersed in the fado tradition, often joining in improvised fados sung at her parents’ restaurant in Mouraria,
one of Lisbon’s traditional neighborhoods. Practice makes perfect and this becomes evident with the musical gems that sparkle on Fado Curvo. One listen to the crowning jewel, The Desert would ignite passion with the most detached listener. Written by pianist and producer Carlos Maria Trindade who also contributes his musical talent and augmented by Miguel Goncalves’ soothing trumpet, The Desert (O Deserto) proves achingly beautiful. That’s not to say that the other 11 tracks, also treasures, fall short of their mark because those tracks also demand to be heard. It’s hard to believe that these tracks were laid down in three takes, yet, this reflects the virtuoso musicianship presented on Fado Curvo.

The opener The Silence of the Guitar (O Silencio da guitarra) features Mario Pacheo on Portuguese guitar (an instrument that traditionally appears in fados) and Antonio Neto on Portuguese viola and guitar as a backdrop for Mariza’s vocal expressions. Monk Rider which sweats loneliness is given similar musical treatment. The CD creates a balance between flow laments and lively up tempo fados, including The Fair at Castro (Feira de Castro), Fado Curvo, (which also includes percussionist Quine) and Between the River and Reason (Entre o rio e a razao). The songs on the CD were created around Mariza’s favorite contemporary and classic Portuguese poems while pianist-producer Carlos Maria Trindade composed the music for Fado Curvo and The Desert . And pianist Tiago Machado composed Portrait (Retrato), Caravels (Caravelas) and Curls of My Hair (Aneis Do Meu Cabela). Spring (Primavera) originally composed for Amelia Rodrigues shines forth here under Mariza’s impassioned treatment.

As Mariza ascends into musical stardom, we can expect that fado will also regain its popularity while
complimenting other melancholy musical styles such as tango, flamenco (duende) and the blues. Yet, fados exist in a paradox that balances joy with pain which is evident on these Portuguese poems. For instance, the words to Fado Curvo speak of happiness and furies, “In the temple that only belongs to the fado the soul is like a garden where the flowers dance sideways in the endless wind. Will they stand poor little things the furies of nature? The passion is neither a straight line nor the fado is certitude.” And much like the song’s lyrics, Mariza’s second CD release follow a curvy road that heads straight for the heart.

Buy Fado Curvo and her other CDs: Transparente and
Fado em Mim


Abdelli – Among Brothers


Among Brothers (Real World Records, 2003)

Algerian musician Abderrahmane Abdelli (known simply as Abdelli), presents songs of an artist in exile. Every note he sings quavers with longing for his homeland and those he left behind and the sound of Abdelli’s heart cracking can be heard in every beat. Do not be fooled by the poetic song titles, Amazine (Moonlight), Itij (The Sun) or Asiram (Hope) since moonlight often betrays, the sun often destroys and hope can disappear in the turn of a moment. And yet, it was the healing of Abdelli’s broken heart that gave birth to the magical CD, Among Brothers, in this case, the brothers refer to musicians Abdelli met on his travels and in turn created a musical passport to the world.

Among Brothers creates an out of the box mentality because it defies conventions. The album took three
years to record, most of the songs were recorded outdoors or in unusual settings and none of the musicians were aware of tracks that had been previously recorded. Abdelli and his producer Thierry Van Roy took many risks that would have driven most musicians insane and yet, the end result is miraculous. Abdelli and Belgian producer and companion Thierry traveled to Cape Verde where they befriended musicians who in turn recorded their tracks in caves on the island of Santiago. The tapes were put away and the entire recording process using just Abdelli’s recorded vocals and drum tracks began again in Baku, then Burkina Faso and at a castle in Belgium where Argentine guitarist Carlos Diaz, Chilean, Moroccan and Tunisian musicians contributed their musical talents. They also recorded in a forest in Canada and in a Baku desert. And when they couldn’t find a proper outdoor setting, they recorded in studios. The glue that held the songs together consisted of rhythm tracks, melodies and a tonal guide.

The songs are collages with a backdrop of exotic instruments including tar, bendir, mandola, cavaquino,
nagara, Iranian nay and other lesser known instruments from such diverse countries as Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Azerbaijan (Central Asia), Chile, Europe and Tunisia.

In some ways this is the quintessential world music CD since it includes flavors of various cultures and traditions. Coupled with Abdelli’s lyrics sung in the language of the Kabyl people of Algeria, Among Brothers encompasses a world without borders. For instance, Amazine sounds like it hails from Central Asia, Itij sounds Portuguese with the Portuguese guitar and cavaquino taking center stage and Tharguith (The Dream) could be mistaken for Israeli music.

Abdelli writes melodies that can be translated into any musical style or culture and his vocals sail through a tapestry of strings, wind and percussion instruments. And his emotions which betray his broken heart shatter any preexisting ideals of finding hope in exile. Abdelli sings on Ayema-yema (O My Mother), “My spirit has flown away from her. He is in her arms. He flies like a bird spellbound, naive and innocent.” And on The Sun, Adbelli laments, “Happy is my father who knew you by your art you have blessed him. When his heart was ill, your sweet voice healed him.”

Abdelli’s Among Brothers creates a beautiful landscape for the soul. It speaks of the Kabyl people who have suffered under a fundamental Islamic government that currently rules Algeria. Many Kabyl people, including Kabyl musicians living in Belgium, France and other countries. Kabyl musicians often sing about social injustice, sometimes landing in jail and similar to Rai musicians who sing of heady pleasures, these musical exiles populate the music of Morocco and Algeria. However, Among Brothers acts as a tribute to
musicianship and is best seen in that light. It’s a celebration of poetry, nature and music among friends.

Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music.

For more information about Abdelli and Among Brothers visit Abdelli and


Val Ramos Flamenco Ensemble

Val Ramos - Por Mi Camino
Val Ramos – Por Mi Camino
Val Ramos Flamenco Ensemble

Por Mi Camino (Piram)

The sounds of nuevo flamenco in Europe and Latin America have created roots in the American Latin community. The Connecticut-based Val Ramos Flamenco Ensemble has played hot flamenco guitar in cold New York and New England for many years, developing a dedicated following.

After a trip to Spain in 2001, his popularity soared with big sales in Spain where American Flamenco artists are encouraged and followed closely. The ten original songs plus a bonus cut of the title track on this third album of his are full of life. They skirt the flamenco borders of jazz, Latin and American music with precision and wit.

The guitars of brothers Val and Jose Ramon Ramos support a closely knit ensemble of a percussion section including Carlos Hernández Chávez (bass), Jose Berrios (bongos), David Calderon (congas), Carlos Revollar (cajon), and the thrilling flamenco singer Jose de Santos. Highly recommended on either side of the ocean.

– Brian Grosjean


Bill Frisell – The Intercontinentals

Bill Frisell – The Intercontinentals
Bill Frisell

The Intercontinentals (Nonesuch 79661, 2003)

Bill Frisell certainly took the road less traveled with his latest offering, The Intercontinentals on Nonesuch Records. He didn’t take the road alone either. Traveling down the road with him are Greg Leisz, Sidiki Camara, Vinicius Cantuária, Christos Govetas and Jenny Scheinman. And Bill knows how to pick them all right, because each of them possesses extraordinary talent and inspires the listener to take a global path. The group debuted in the fall of 2001 in Seattle at the Earshot Jazz Festival. With the new CD, they are sure to lure in many more fans.

The musical landscape of The Intercontinentals is hauntingly familiar and strangely unexpected at the same time. Incorporating American folk, African rhythms, blues, jazz and a dash of electronic gives the road some surprising twists and turns. Greek-Macedonian, oud player Christos Govetas, along with percussionist Sidiki Camara from Mali, Greg Leisz on Asher lap steel and Frisell on electric guitar turn the listener inside out with the very first track “Boubacar.” Camara’s vocals and percussion on the track “Baba Drame” combined with Jenny Scheinman on violin, Govetas on oud, Leisz on pedal steel guitar, Frisell on electric guitar and Cantuária on snare drum and bass drum make for a fabulous trip.

Brazilian composer/ singer/percussionist/singer Vinicius Cantuária balances out the quieter pieces with the energizing “Procissão” on electric guitar and vocals. Close your eyes and let the mind’s eye gaze out the window on “We Are Everywhere” and let it take you on an international road trip and you won’t be disappointed.

Thanks to fine musicianship and an international meeting of the minds, The Intercontinentals is worth the ride and will take the listener down lesser traveled roads.


Eight Seasons by Marie Boine

Marie Boine – Eight Seasons
Marie Boine

Eight Seasons (Northside Records, 2003)

Similar to Wimme, Norwegian born Sami vocalist Mari Boine also joiks over a backdrop of modern technology. She, however, provides an English translation of the Sami poetry she sings, allowing listeners to get a feel for Sami life. Boine’s vocal performance comes off as cooler than Wimme’s but as emotional.

When she sings of the Sami way, you can hear her heart shattering underneath her unwavering vocals. Her songs range from the fun loving celebratory Sarahka’s Wine (a song celebrating the birth of a child) to love songs, (I Come From the Other Side and In a Blanket of Warmth) to songs about psychic protection (Soul Medicine). However, the bulk of songs on this CD proudly honor the Sami path. The lyrics to Sarahka’s Wine is an example of this, “My child now, when it’s your turn to wander the old Sami
paths. Now that you hurry hurry do keep on moving

Let Silver Protect, You Never Know, Butterfly and By the Source of Aurora B also draw pictures of Sami life, that is if you read the lyrics included with the CD since most of the songs are sung in a Sami dialect.

Eight Seasons (CD) proves to be an enjoyable and accessible listen with immaculate vocals and vocal textures set to sax, drum, guitar and synth. Although the music appears moody and ambient, it could never be mistaken for New Age. Although it is deeply spiritual, it is also extremely imaginative and innovative with a powerful Nordic sensibility.

In the past, Boine only hinted at Sami traditions in her music, performing a joik along other musical styles such as jazz so Eight Seasons comes as a unique musical journey for the Sami performer, entirely devoted to a way of life, including artwork that appears on the CD cover and Sami poetry. A riveting live performer, Boine released her CD’s Eallin (1996 live album) and Gula Gula which was remixed and released on Real World. She was also featured on an international TV music presentation around the same time of her Real World release. No, doubt this talented performer will reach a wider audience in the not too distant future.

Eight Seasons only solidifies Boine’s much needed presence as a premiere Sami joiker. And if the chance to see her perform in concert arises, jump at the opportunity.

Buy Eight Seasons


A Rough Guide To The Music Of France

Various Artists

A Rough Guide to the Music of France(World music Network RGNET 1111, 2003)

Back in the mid-70s I heard a lot of the French band Malicorne featuring, among others, Gabriel Yacoub. They sang and played music from various parts of France, utilised instruments which were sometimes unfamiliar and were a totally mesmerising experience.

Now Yacoub has a presence on this wide-ranging compilation. One of his two pieces is Le Garcon Jardinier a song from his Malicorne days. And I have to say his voice has grown even better with the passage of time. His other track, La Mariole, doesn’t actually feature him. He wrote it and invited various bagpipers and hurdy-gurdy player, Gilles Chabenet to perform it. It is a fascinating sound both solemn and uplifting at the same time and it’s prompted me to go back to investigate Yacoub’s more recent work.So what else is there ? The quintessential voice of Edith Piaf, supported by orchestra, chorus, accordions, the whole works. It may sound a little dated but it is still attractive. At the other extreme, Massilia Sound System combine turntables/electronics with oud and rap on a reggae-ish workoput, Mefi. They mix influences comfortably and their sound is undeniably contemporary, reflecting something of this multi-cultural nation. Striving to sound contemporary, according to the cd notes, Les Ogres De Barback are a young band whose impassioned singing and spirited accordion are very listenable but not what I would have called very contemporary.
There is a great deal of variety elsewhere: an adapted Latin liturgical text sung acapella by Corsican band A Filetta, a lively example of a bourree from 1935, some gypsy guitar and violin from Romane and Angelo Debarre that swings like crazy and acknowledges Django Reinhardt’s influence. Of course no French compilation would be complete without a Breton presence. Here it is provided by pipe band Bagad Men Ha Tan who let loose the inimitably thrilling skirl of the bombard and pipes. They are joined by Senegalese drummer, Doudou N’Diaye Rose who lends it an extra force. Another Breton staple is the call and response singing, kan ha diskan, here represented by mother and daughter Eugenie Goadec and Louise Ebrel. It is a fine example of the genre – the Goadecs have been doing this for years! It is good to hear the tradition being kept alive.

For anyone wanting a sample of French music this is an interesting and diverse set covering both native traditions and the other cultural influences that colour France’s musical output.


Celso Fonseca – Natural

Celso Fonseca - Natural
Celso Fonseca

Natural (Six Degrees Records, 2003)

Since its creation by Antonio Jobim in 1957, bossa nova has conjured up images of waves caressing the shores of Rio de Janeiro’s chic beaches. When American jazz musicians Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd caught on to the new Brazilian music wave, bossa nova became an international sensation, especially after shy housewife Astrud Gilberto sung the 1959 hit, The Girl from Ipanema.

Bossa nova with its flat low key vocals, syncopated guitar strums and shimmering piano has become associated with Brazil, often ending up on soundtracks of Brazilian films. This seductive and poetic music composed by honey voice singer-songwriters has been revamped through a new generation of Brazilian composers including Celso Fonseca. And evidence of this new wave of bossa nova melodies can be found on Fonseca’s fifth album, Natural (debut CD in the US).

Fonseca might be a new name in the States, but the singer-songwriter-guitarist is an established artist in Brazil who has produced, performed and arranged music for American Carlos Santana as well as, some of Brazil’s hottest talent including Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, Marisa Monte, Virginia Rodriguez and Bebel Gilberto. Fonseca along with Ronaldo Bastos’ CD Juventude: Slow Motion Bossa Nova received a Latin Grammy nomination in 2002.

Perhaps, Natural with its slick production performed by a small ensemble including pianist Daniel Jobim (Antonio’s grandson), master percussionist Robertinho Silva (from Milton Nascimento’s band), acoustic bassist Jorge Helder (Chico Buarque’s group) and guest vocalist Cibelle (She’s a Carioca) will garner a Latin Grammy in 2003.

Natural includes original bossa novas along with a 1950’s cool jazz standard, The Night We Called It A Day and bossa nova classics such as the seductive duet, She’s a Carioca in which Fonseca’s velvety smooth voice slide into Cibelle’s (Suba) stylishly flat vocals. She’s a Carioca recalls Astrud Gilberto’s days in the limelight with its soft and breezy approach. The original composition, Slow Motion Bossa Nova nods to the Grandfather of bossa nova, Antonio Jobim and at times, Natural sounds like one of those bossa nova classics compilations. Fonseca never wavers in his loyalty to the bossa nova’s origins, although at times, you can’t help but wish he would take it up a notch or two.

As it is, Fonseca’s Natural fits in well with a collection of samba and bossa nova favorites. It’s jazzy, smooth, seductive and eloquent while pointing to a new generation of Brazilian jazz and pop musicians as well as, preserving a significant moment in Brazil’s musical history. (As it appears on Cranky Crow World Music).


Wimme Barru

Wimme – Barru

Barru (Northside, 2003)

One listen to Wimme’s fourth release Barru (wave) and we can only wonder if Sami yoiker Wimme Saari has been listening to Bauhaus, Joy Division and Skinny Puppy recordings since elements of all those groups appear on Barru.

This followup to Cugu, features heavier programming, and sadly the usual woodwinds as well as, musician Tapani Rinne are absent on this release. However, ukulele, mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo and baglamas performed by the multi-instumentalist Matti Wallenius still embellish the mix.

Guest vocalists Liisa Matveinen and Tellu Turkka also contribute talent on njavvi, inka and durban.

Barru seems like the darker cousin of Cuga and it works as a backdrop for Wimme’s immense vocal range. One minute he’s chanting like a Navajo singer while the next he’s growling like a wolf guarding it’s kin or hooting like an owl on a chilly night.

The opener, njavvi (torrent) acts as the most playful song on the CD, light in tone and bouncy similar to Texas on the Cuga CD. Inka falls on the murkier side in which Wimme yoiks with raspy growls. On gorzi (waterfall), Wimme’s tenorial yoiks cascade over lush music and programmed beats.

Fadnu feels dark and industrial recalling the early days of 4 AD records and Bauhaus. The yoik with its heavy electronic programming reflects on its arctic roots. Goalki (calm) Wimme switches back and forth between guttural bass and falsetto as he yoiks over an ethereal synthesizer wash. The dissonant cearret (arctic tern) again recalls early 4 AD recordings. Boares rieban (old fox) features low growls over frenzied drum beats. Durban marries Navajo chants to electronica.

While yoiking is a traditional style of singing of the Sami people, Wimme’s composes contemporary yoiks
backed by modern technology. Traditional yoiks were sung by shamans and usually with no instrumentation or an animal skin drum accompanying the yoiker. Yoiking along with the Sami’s spiritual practices were banned by Christians, but have resurfaced in parts of Scandinavia, but apart from liberal minded musicians, the world music community and the Sami people, yoiks are still frowned upon and prohibited in some regions.

Buy Barru

Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music