Category Archives: Concert reviews

World Music Showcase from Montreal International Jazz Festival 2016!

The Montreal International Jazz Festival, now in its 37th edition, is regarded as the world’s largest jazz festival. The music lineup includes ambassadors of jazz and blues – as well as a generous dose of artistes in world music and fusion. See my write-up from last year’s edition here; fans of jazz and world music can check out my app ‘Oktav’ as well, a collection of witty quotes about music (available on Apple iTunes and Android).

The 2016 edition of MIJF featured artistes from Canada, USA, Japan, Norway, Turkey, Mexico, Senegal, Mauritania, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and Guadeloupe. The festival organizers estimate that the acts drew two million attendees, spread over 10 days and two dozen venues. The long summer days of late June and early July made for perfect outdoor performances, along with ticketed indoor events as well.

Check out some of the highlights in this photo tour of MIJF 2016, and make sure you attend the 2017 edition!

Daby Toure
Daby Toure – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Paris-based Mauritanian singer-songwriter Daby Toure kicked off Day One of MIJF 2016. He delivered a pleasing set of ‘Afropean’ music, featuring tracks from five of his albums, and occasionally drummed on his guitar as well. He has earlier founded the group Touré Touré, and sings in Fulani, Soninke and Wolof.

 

Mashrou Leila
Mashrou Leila – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Formed in Beirut, Arabic alt-rock group Mashrou’ Leila played to a packed concert hall with their blend of indie rock, ballads and electronica. Their music has addressed topics such as politics, social taboos and religion in the Middle East.

 

Ceu
Ceu – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Ceu – Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças – was born into a distinguished Brazilian musical family, and began her career at the age of 15. Her indoor set at MIJF drew fans from across North America, and she performed a mix of Brazilian popular music, samba, reggae and electronica. Her albums include Vagarosa and Ao Vivo.

 

Denis Chang
Denis Chang – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Guitarist Denis Chang draws on gypsy jazz influences such as Django Reinhardt, and has studied with Fapy Lafertin, Ritary Gaguenetti and Emmanuel Kassimo. He performs across Europe and the US, and has released a series of educational DVDs. He performed two sets at MIJF 2016 in an intimate indoor café.

 

Cuban Martinez Band
Cuban Martinez Band – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The Cuban Martinez Band had the crowd on their feet with an infectious set of salsa, merengue, bachata and more. Anchored by Yordan Martinez, the band performed in an astonishing venue at the back of a church near the jazz district!

 

Orchestre Tropicana D’Haiti
Orchestre Tropicana D’Haiti – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

A Haitian institution since 1963, the Orchestre Tropicana d’Haïti is a legendary big band on a 50-year mission to showcase and enhance Haitian culture. Their recent release is Bravo Tropic, and the band had the audience on their feet for a set of sensuous hip-swaying dance.

 

Samito
Samito – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Samito is a singer-songwriter from Montreal, whose music blends acoustica and electronica. The lyrics and style are reflective of his upbringing in Maputo. Samito sang in Portuguese, French, English and Xitswa, offering a textured set of commentary on the changing times.

 

Lila Downs
Lila Downs – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Born in Mexico and raised in California, award-winning singer-songwriter Lila Downs performed a sold-out standing-room only set reflecting her deep studies of musicology as well as stage charisma. Cumbia, jazz, ballads and stunning visual animation set the tone for commentary on women’s rights, immigration and poverty in Mexico. Her albums include Pecados y Milagros and Balas y Chocolate.

 

Baba Zula
Baba Zula – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

One of the extraordinary bands at MIJF 2016 was Baba Zula, with a mix of Turkish dub and psychedelia. Traditional Turkish instruments, wild costumes and theatrical delivery regaled the audience and provided them with a sense of Istanbul’s underground cult movement.

 

Mariachi Flor de Toloache
Mariachi Flor de Toloache – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Mariachi Flor de Toloache, named for the legendary Toloache flower of Mexico, is an all-female mariachi band. They were nominated for the Latin Grammy in 2015. Their original costumes and ambience blended with modern takes on classic and contemporary tunes, and had the audience clapping and chanting along loudly during their two outdoor sets.

 

Malika Tirolien
Malika Tirolien – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Singer-songwriter Malika Tirolien from Guadeloupe performed a superb outdoor set. She had the audience on their feet for a smooth mix of Afro-Caribbean jazz and urban beat.

 

Ilam
Ilam – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Young Senegalese singer-composer Ilam has already won a range of awards in Canada, and receives wide radio airplay. His spicy outdoor set of reggae, blues, Afro-folk, pop and rock kept the audience dancing even during a slight shower; concert-goers were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow afterwards.

 

Makaya
Makaya – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Pianist David Bontemps heads Montreal-based Afro-Caribbean jazz band Makaya. Formed in 2006, the quintet includes percussionist Cydric Féréol, guitarist and singer Jude Deslouches, bassist Nicolas Bédard and congas player Emmanuel Delly. Caribbean rhythms blended with jazz and Creole during their MIJF set; the band has also performed at Montréal’s Creole Festival and released their first album in 2009.

 

AfroDizz - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
AfroDizz – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

AfroDizz was one of the most sensational bands at MIJF 2016. This Montreal group is anchored by jazz guitarist Gabriel Aldama, who is deeply influenced by Nigerian Afrobeat maestro Fela Kuti. The eight musicians delivered a superb set of Afrobeat, jazz and funk. Their albums include Kif Kif, Froots (2006) and Sounds from Outer Space.

More about the festival at www.montrealjazzfest.com

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Cuatro Mastery and Hip Shaking Cumbia at EXIB 2016 Day 3 Showcases

Inberoamerican Music Expo (EXIB) organizers were forced to move the outdoor showcase venues to the historic Teatro Garcia de Resende. The beautiful renovated theater turned out to be an excellent space to experience the live performances.

The first act on stage was La Colectiva Corazón, a multinational group of graduates from the Berklee College of Music – Valencia, Spain Campus. The collective plays what they describe as cumbia fusion. Bear in mind that it’s Chilean cumbia along with guajiras, boleros, funk, Andean music, and pop. Think of Chico Trujillo mixed with Manu Chao.

The slow dance beat immediately got members of the audience dancing (primarily women). The band brought a dance party atmosphere to Teatro Garcia de Resende and the performance was very well received.

La Colectiva Corazon was created by Chilean composer, vocalist and percussionist Gonzalo Eyzaguirre. The ensemble includes musicians from Puerto Rico, Slovenia, Ecuador, Colombia, Italy and the United States. La Colectiva just released its debut album titled “Viajero.”

The band included Gonzalo Eyzaguirre on vocals, charango and percussion; Travis Smilen on electric guitar; Sebastián Laverde on congas; Carlos Llido on drums and timbales; Eric Benavent on saxophone; Alfonso Benavent on trumpet; and Javier Giner Garrido on bass.

Luiz Caracol - Courtesy of EXIB Música
Luiz Caracol – Photo courtesy of EXIB Música

The second act was Portuguese singer-songwriter and guitarist Luiz Caracol. He’s a talented artist who combines the rhythms of Portugal with jazz and the music of African countries, Brazil and the sounds of Jorge Drexler.

Luiz Caracol has a captivating laid back song style supported by his rhythmic electric guitar and a fabulous rhythm section that includes a percussionist from Brazil and a West African drummer.

Caracol was born in Elvas right after his parents arrived from newly independent Angola, where they had lived before the African nation became independent. Luiz Caracol released his first album, Devagar, in 2013. Devagar includes special guest performances by Fernanda Abreu, Sara Tavares and Valete. He’s currently recording his new album titled Metade, scheduled for release later this year, in 2016.

Concert lineup: Luiz Caracol on guitar and vocals; Chico Santos on bass; Miroca Paris on drums; and Ruca Rebordão on percussion.

Zaira Franco - Photo courtesy of EXIB Música
Zaira Franco – Photo courtesy of EXIB Música

Mexico was represented by vocalist Zaira Franco. Zaira’s show crossed numerous musical boundaries. She was accompanied by a rock band and delivered a mix of Mexican music, boleros, funk, Afro Cuban sounds and rock. The band’s electric guitar player was impressive, releasing fiery solos using various types of techniques. At one time, Zaira’s band went into full blown progressive rock. Zaira Franco presented her latest album, Tumbalá.

Showcase lineup: Zaira Franco on vocals; Mario Patrón on piano; Federico Erik Negrete on bass; Alfredo Martínez on guitar; Fausto Aguilar on drums; and Luis Manuel García on percussion.

C4 Trio - Photo courtesy of EXIB Música
C4 Trio – Photo courtesy of EXIB Música

The fourth act was truly spectacular. Undoubtedly, the highlight of the entire event. C4 Trio is an award-winning ensemble of three Venezuelan cuatro players along with a bassist.

C4 Trio are highly skilled musicians who demonstrated virtuosity, creativity and delivered a captivating and fun show featuring ensemble pieces, solos and interplay. The repertoire included Venezuelan folk songs as well as pop standards played at dazzling speeds. The group received repeated standing ovations and was the only act that came back for an encore.

The C4 Trío lineup included Jorge Glem on cuatro; Héctor Molina on cuatro; Edward Ramírez on cuatro; and Gustavo Márquez on bass.

Dona Jandira - Photo courtesy of EXIB Música
Dona Jandira – Photo courtesy of EXIB Música

The closing act was 78 year old Brazilian vocalist and guitarist Dona Jandira. The charismatic performer started her career in 2004 after she met producer José Dias.

Lineup: Dona Jandira on vocals and guitar; José Dias Guimaraes de Almeida on bass and Eugenio de Castro Ribeiro on violin.

Headline photo: La Colectiva Corazón, courtesy of EXIB Música

Related articles:

The Passionate Music of Alentejo, the Focus of EXIB 2016 Opening Concert

Three Continents Represented at EXIB 2016 Day 1 Showcases

The Diverse Sounds of Iberia, Mexico and Cuba at EXIB 2016 Day 2 Showcases

Related links:
La Colectiva Corazón
Luiz Caracol
Zaira Franco
C4 Trio
Dona Jandira
EXIB Música

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The Diverse Sounds of Iberia and Cuba at EXIB 2016 Day 2 Showcases

The EXIB 2016 opening act on May 6th was captivating Spanish vocalist and composer Lara Bello. Although she’s originally from Granada, Lara Bello is currently based in New York City. Lara’s concert at Praça do Giraldo in the Evora town center was one of the highlights of the day, delivering an entrancing mix of sounds of the Mediterranean: flamenco, North African, jazz and Latin America.

 

Lara Bello at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Lara Bello at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Lara Bello uses flamenco and jazz vocal stylings and was accompanied by two superb Spanish instrumentalists, guitarist David Minguillón and percussionist David Gadea.
Lara Bello’s discography includes Niña Pez (2009) and Primero Amarillo Después Malva (2012).

 

Jaqueline at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Jaqueline at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The second act, award-winning fado singer Jaqueline was one of the most popular acts that night. Her charismatic presence on stage and her passionate, powerful voice drew in a large crowd. Although we’ve been given an image of the melancholic fado singer, there was no melancholy there. Jaqueline delivered well-known songs that Portuguese members of the audience were very familiar with, and they sang along.

 

Praça do Giraldo audience at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Praça do Giraldo audience at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Jaqueline was accompanied by three virtuoso musicians, who got an opportunity to showcase their talent with an instrumental piece. The lineup included Paulo Ferreira on guitarra portuguesa (Portuguese guitar), Jerónimo Mendes on Viola de Fado (fado guitar) and Miguel Silva on bass guitar.

 

Paulo Ferreira on Portuguese guitar at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Paulo Ferreira on Portuguese guitar at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Jerónimo Mendes on fado guitar at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Jerónimo Mendes on fado guitar at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Jaqueline Carvalho was born in Lisbon in a family of musicians and singers from Madeira and Lisbon. She was a member of “As Miudas Mem Martins”, a group of Portuguese fado artists who performed throughout Portugal and abroad. In 2009 Jaqueline released her first album, titled “Fado”.

 

Mel Semé at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Mel Semé at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Cuban multi-instrumentalist Mel Semé was the third act on stage. He was joined by guest vocalist and guitarist Iraqis del Valle. The concert showcased Mel Semé’s acoustic side featuring Cuban-rooted jazz and pop songs.

Born in Camagüey, Cuba, Mel Semé began his music career playing with the older musicians who performed a type of Latin gospel music. After graduating from Havana University of music and forming part of the Havana Symphony Orchestra and the Camagüey Symphony Orchestra he lived for a while in Switzerland where he taught courses in percussion and performance. He is currently based in Spain and is the leader of the reggae and funk group, Black Gandhi. Mel Semé latest album is “Naturaleza”.

 

Projeto Alma - Photo courtesy of EXIB 2016
Projeto Alma – Photo courtesy of EXIB 2016

 

The fourth official showcase act was Portuguese world music band Projeto Alma. The ensemble crosses various musical and geographical boundaries, featuring genres from the Iberian Peninsula such as fado from Portugal and flamenco tango from Spain as well as Afro-Brazilian bossa nova, Latin American boleros, Cape Verdean morna and Argentine tango.

“O Outro lado da Rua” (the other side of the street) is the band’s first album.

Projeto Alma’s members include Teresa Macedo on vocals; Júlio Vilela on guitar; Zeca Neves on bass; Vitor Apolo on accordion; and João Abreu on percussion.

 

La Corrala at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
La Corrala at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The last act on stage was La Corrala from Granada, Spain. The group features musicians from various parts of Spain who are based in Granada and come from the reggae and mestizo music scene. Granada has become a really attractive and affordable location for musicians from Spain and abroad (sort of like Asheville in the USA). La Corrala plays flamenco combined with Latin music and reggae beats, jazz, Argentine tango, blues, bossa nova and pop featuring original lyrics by the band’s vocalist. They were one of the highlights of the night.

La Corrala has released an EP with studio and live tracks. Band members include Manuel Jesús Afanador Herrera on vocals; Juan María García Navia on piano, flute and background vocals; Eduardo Tomás del Ciotto on electric bass; Jesús Santiago Rubia on percussion; Juan Peralta Torrecilla on trumpet, flugelhorn and background vocals; and Rubens García Real on guitar.

Related articles:

The Passionate Music of Alentejo, the Focus of EXIB 2016 Opening Concert

Three Continents Represented at EXIB 2016 Day 1 Showcases

Related links:

Lara Bello
Mel Semé
Projeto Alma
La Corrala

Headline photo: Lara Bello, David Minguillón and David Gadea at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

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Three Continents Represented at EXIB 2016 Day 1 Showcases

The threat of rain forced organizers to move the EXIB 2016 showcase stage from the Roman Temple of Évora (Templo de Diana) to Praça do Giraldo in downtown Evora. The first artist to appear on stage was Chilean singer-songwriter Nano Stern. Armed with just a guitar and his vocals, he put on a lively show. Nano is deeply influenced by the Nueva Canción Chilena, especially artists like Victor Jara and Inti Illimani.

As I am gradually able to create powerful vibrations, other people can feel the effect that this has; if it is intense, then everything vibrates around it,” says Nano about his work. His discography includes Live in Concert; Las Torres de Sal; Los Espejos; Nano Stern; Mil 500 Vueltas; and Voy y Vuelvo.

Nano’s lyrics are charged with political and anti-establishment messages. Unlike other singer-songwriters in the past, he strums and plays some solos on his acoustic guitar wildly, looking more like a rocker than a folk singer. His one-man show was highly entertaining.

 

Mariola Membrives at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Mariola Membrives at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The next artist scheduled to perform was Ecuadorian singer Mariela Condo. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to make it due to the devastating earthquake in Ecuador. Mariela was replaced by Spanish vocalist, dancer and educator Mariola Membrives.

 

 Mariola Membrives and Masa Kamaguchi at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero

Mariola Membrives and Masa Kamaguchi at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Membrives performed part of her “La Llorona” show. It’s a mix of flamenco, Latin American influences and jazz. She appeared before the live audience accompanied by bassist Masa Kamaguchi. While Membrives sang with a mixture of flamenco and jazz vocal techniques, Masa Kamaguchi performed serpentine jazz bass lines. It was an unexpected mix that felt like two simultaneous performances on stage, but it worked.

 

Duarte at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Duarte at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

The third act, Duarte, brought the passion and charisma of fado to downtown Evora. Duarte started the show saying “Welcome to my square, welcome to our square. It’s good to be back home after so many travels.” Duarte is a native of Evora and has a fado and pop and rock background. He researched traditional Fado lyrics and music and has composed his own songs that form part of his repertoire. In 2006 the Amalia Rodrigues Foundation awarded him the Emerging Male Fado Singer prize.

The audience loved Duarte’s captivating performance. He was accompanied by two outstanding instrumentalists, Pedro Amendoeira on guitarra portuguesa (Portuguese guitar) and Rogério Ferreira on viola de fado (fado guitar).

 

Pedro Amendoeira at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero
Pedro Amendoeira at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

 Rogério Ferreira at EXIB 2016 - Photo by Angel Romero

Rogério Ferreira at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Duarte has released three albums “Fados Meus” (2004), “Aquelas Coisas da Gente” (2009) and “Sem dor nem piedade” (2015).

 

Karyna Gomes with Ivan Gomes - Photo by Angel Romero
Karyna Gomes with Ivan Gomes – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Vocalist and percussionist Karyna Gomes brought the sounds of Guinea Bissau to EXIB 2016. Karyna grew up in Guinea Bissau and was a member of the iconic Super Mama Djombo. She currently lives in Portugal.

During her show, Karyna introduced the gourd water drum played only by women and despite having a drummer, Karyna delivered a set of laid back songs.

 

gourd water drum - Photo by Angel Romero
gourd water drum – Photo by Angel Romero

 

Karyna Gomes recently recorded her first solo album, titled “Mindjer“, produced by Paulo Borges. “Mindjer” is a tribute to the strength, determination and courage of the women of Guinea Bissau.

Karyna Gomes’ band included Jose Afonso on keyboards; Hugo Aly on bass; Nir Paris on drums; Ivan Gomes on guitar; and Ibrahima Galissa on kora.

 

Kalakan at EXIB 2016 - Photo courtesy of EXIB Música
Kalakan at EXIB 2016 – Photo courtesy of EXIB Música

 

Northern Basque band Kalakan put on a popular show, using drums, the alboka animal horn (hornpipe), the chalaparta percussion instrument and Basque traditional vocals. The trio sings in Basque and their dynamic show was well-liked by the audience.

Kalakan has a new album titled Elementuak that features instrumental and a cappella pieces, combining traditional sounds with newly composed material.

Band members include Thierry Biscary on vocals and percussion; Jamixel Bereau on vocals and percussion; and Xan Errotabehere on vocals, alboka, flute and percussion.

related articles:

The Passionate Music of Alentejo, the Focus of EXIB 2016 Opening Concert

related links:

Nano Stern
Mariola Membrives
Duarte
Kalakan

Headline photo: Nano Stern at EXIB 2016 – Photo by Angel Romero

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Artist Profile: João Afonso

João Afonso at EXIB 2016 in Evora - Photo by Angel Romero
João Afonso at EXIB 2016 in Evora – Photo by Angel Romero

João Afonso was born in Maputo (Mozambique) on July 8, 1965, where he picked grew up listening to African urban music as well as traditional Portuguese music through his uncle, Portuguese singer Zeca Afonso.

In 1978, João moved to Portugal. In December 1994 he participated in the Maio maduro maio project along with José Mário Branco and Amélia Muge, presented in Lisbon and other cities abroad. The Maio Maduro Maio double CD was released in 1995.

João Afonso also participated in the “Janelas Verdes” and “Acoustic” albums by world music multi-instrumentalist and composer Júlio Pereira.

In 1996 João Afonso performed several concerts in Spain with singer-songwriter Luis Pastor, in which they sang each others’ songs as well as material by Zeca Afonso. They were occasionally joined by Pedro Guerra.

Missangas was João Afonso’s first solo album, released in May 1997 in Portugal; subsequently released in France through Verve / Polygram and Spain (Resistencia, 1998). In December 1997 he participated in the Voz e guitarra (voice and guitar) album and show produced by Expo 1998 in Lisbon.

 

João Afonso - Missangas
João Afonso – Missangas

 

In 1998 João Afonso participated in the collective production Novas vos trago with two songs from the historical songbook. That same year, he composed the music for the poem Paz de Santiago recorded by Spanish Singer-songwriter Luis Pastor in his album Por el mar de mi mano. And João also recorded the song Na machamba (from his album Missangas) with Canary Islander group Mestisay.

In 1999 he was a guest vocalist in the song Aquí em baixo (Azul) that appeared in the album by Spanish singer Uxía. Also, in 1999, João released his second solo album, Barco voador, that reflected his experiences traveling throughout different continents. Universal Music released the album in Spain. Zanzibar, his third solo recording, came in 2002.

 

 

The 2006 solo album Outra vida confirmed that João Afonso is one of the finest performers and songwriters of his generation in Portugal. In November 2006 João Afonso participated as a guest in the book/CD by Luis Pastor titled Nesta esquina do tempo (In this corner of time) with Jose Saramago poems set to music.

 

João Afonso - Outra vida
João Afonso – Outra vida

 

In 2014 he released “Sangue Bom” where he composed music for poems by Mia Couto and José Eduardo Agualusa.

Discography:

Maio Maduro Maio, with José Mário Branco and Amélia Muge (Sony Portugal, 1995).
Missangas (Universal Music Portugal, 1997)
Barco Voador (Universal Music Portugal, 1999)
Zanzibar (Universal Music Portugal, 2002)
A arte e a música (Universal Music Portugal, 2004), compilation
Outra vida (Universal Music Portugal, 2006)
Um redondo vocábulo (2010)
Sangue Bom (2014).

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The Cultural Richness of Diversity Showcased at Babel Med Music 2016 – Day 3

On Saturday night, most of the bands were French to please the general public. The crowd around was younger on average than in the previous nights. Some just wanted to be there to get a buzz and jumped up and down on the faster songs, while talking throughout the quieter ones.

Trio Keynoad appeared on stage representing the Provence Alpes – Côte d’Azur region. The members of Trio Keynoad are Ameylia Saad Wu (voice and harp), Christian Kiane Fromentin (violin, saz) and Nicola Marinoni (percussion).

Ameylia is the daughter of Lebanese writer Michel Saad and a Chinese mother. The group’s lyrics are poems by Ameylia’s father set to music. She grew up on Reunion Island and quickly became interested in learning the Celtic harp and classical singing.

The song “Follow your star” featured a steady darbuka beat. We easily recognized the Eastern structure of the song containing intervals of three-quarter tones.

The remaining songs ‘Okinanoss “Sega islands” and “Night Wings” invited us to a journey in space and time. A mixture of neo-classical and world music.

 

 

The next performance I attended at the Chapiteau stage was Compagnie Lyakam ((India – France). Jessie Veeratherapillay performed Bharata Natyam, the dance of her Tamil ancestors. It’s a form of Indian classical dance expressing grace, purity, and sculptural poses.

 

Compagnie Lyakam
Compagnie Lyakam – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

The musicians on electric sitar, saxophone and percussion, together with vocal harmonies, delivered jazz and flamenco flavors.

 

 

Soadaj, from Reunion Island (France) brought a breath of fresh air at the Salle des Sucres. The musicians specialize in Maloya that is, along with the Sega, one of two major genres of Reunion.

 

Soadaj - Photo by Charles Eloy
Soadaj – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

Pan-African and European influences are mixed into their music reflecting the melting pot of the band.

On “Out ‘Po” the crystalline voice of the blonde singer Marie invaded the space, supported by the sound of the didgeridoo, plunging us into a shamanic trance. The voice of Laurence, the second singer in counterpoint, harmony or response fitted completely into the music of the band.

The musicians of Saodaj were full of beauty, talent and youth, with a solid background and life experience. They brought us authenticity and the enthusiastic reception of the public was fully justified.

 

 

Belgium-based duo Vardan Hovanissian (Armenia) & Emre Gültekin (Turkey) played at the Cabaret stage. Vardan Hovanissian plays duduk, an Armenian music instrument like a double reed oboe, while Emre Gültekin plays the saz, a long-necked lute.

 

Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin - Photo by Charles Eloy
Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

Both musicians brought into life the coexistence of two cultures that existed under the Ottoman Empire until the tragic events of the early 20th century with the physical elimination of about 1.5 million Armenians.

Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültekin produced a duo album “Adana“, one hundred years after the beginning of the Armenian genocide.

 

Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültekin - Adana
Vardan Hovanissian and Emre Gültekin – Adana

 

The title song “Adana” is dedicated to Adana, a city which housed a large Armenian community in the late 19th century and was exterminated during the genocide. Emre’s voice expressed suffering.

“Daglar” (mountain in English) is a poem written by Emre’s father. Emre sang softly. The accompaniment by the darbuka and the saz created a sense of emptiness on mountain tops. Vardan and Emre were supported by two experienced musicians mastering the Turkish and Armenian music structures based on Eastern and Western scales.

The concert by Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin ended with a standing ovation of more than 1,500 persons.

 

 

The band 7SON@TO that performed at Salle des Sucres is the flagship of gwoKa, the musical style Guadeloupe of island. It is mainly played with drums of different sizes called ‘ka’, a family of percussion instruments.

 

7SON@TO - Photo by Charles Eloy
7SON@TO – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

On stage, a lead singer in the center, 3 singers (two women and one man) and four percussionists.

Durg the song “Péyi Dewo” a singer took over the lead vocals. Then other musicians, and part of the audience responded. “Ah Ta Mama Yayo” had growing harmonies. I recognized Central African words in the Creole songs. Indeed, gwoka was born during the period of slavery and was a means of escape and communication. The audience accompanied the songs and danced to the vibes of the Caribbean Isles.

I found that the representation was a bit too pedagogic, but 7SON@TO brought into light their traditions rooted in our time. Their concert enriched me with their culture.

 

 

I hope that the coverage of more than one third of the acts gives you an idea of the new discoveries and highlights. Babel Med Music is, without question, one of the important international events in world music. We were very lucky with music and Mediterranean sunshine.

Read parts 1 and 2:

The Cultural Richness of Diversity Showcased at Babel Med Music 2016 – Day 1

The Cultural Richness of Diversity Showcased at Babel Med Music 2016 – Day 2

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The Cultural Richness of Diversity Showcased at Babel Med Music 2016 – Day 2

On Friday night, March 18, the public showed up early to BabelMed and rushed in at the opening of the gates, eager to have a good time.
Born into a noble family and descendant of Mogho Naba Konkis Konkistenga the village of north-eastern Burkina Faso, Alif Naaba delivered us folk music at the Tent stage. The lyrics were in French and his native language Mooré, one of the two official regional languages of Burkina Faso. He revisited the musical traditions evoking the West African regions of today.

With the song “Manita” Alif Naaba explained that musicians do not have easy love relationships under pressure from the families. Who wants a man who cannot afford to buy a pair of shoes?

Alif Naaba is a singer with a clear griot (storyteller, poet, musician) voice like Baaba Maal orSalif Keita.

 

 

Autostrad, a self-produced band stating its independence showcased at the Salle des Sucres. The musicians from Jordan compose on western scales, but the lyrics are in Arabic dialect.

 

Autostrad - Photo by Charles Eloy
Autostrad – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

“Estann Schwai” was a nice pop song on a slow reggae beat that made me think of Chris Rea or 10CC. The super Zen melody ended with a saxophone solo.

“Habeetak Bel Turki” featured beautiful guitar solos with jazzy guitar riffs throughout the entire song.

The term “Arabic Mediterranean Street indie” suits the band.

 

 

Breabach emerged in 2005 from the Scottish folk scene to undertake an international career. The musicians entered the Tent stage in total darkness. We listened to a flute, then a voice…The lights turned on, the crowd went on shouting and whistling.

 

Breabach - Photo by Charles Eloy
Breabach – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

Spectators could not keep their feet on the ground and jumped on the tent floor. We were not in the Wild West, but the atmosphere propelled by the rhythm generated an infectious energy.

The band played “Proud to play a pipe”, a composition dating back to the 17th century claiming their Scottish identity. Megan showcased her vocal capacities during the last verses and choruses.

I discovered the best of Scottish musicians with an academic background and the passion to create. They were pleased to be in Marseilles, smiling and joking during the concert.

 

 

Ricardo Ribeiro is advertised as being the rising star of the Portuguese Fado. Most of the time, Ricardo Ribeiro kept his hands in his pockets at the Tent stage.

 

Ricardo Ribeiro - Photo by Charles Eloy
Ricardo Ribeiro – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

His mournful tunes expressing melancholy, resignation, frustration and fatefulness made me feel down. Some people in the crowd overwhelmed by the Portuguese saudade applied handkerchiefs to their eyes to wipe off the tears. It was a bit unrealistic watching people coming to a concert to cry.

 

 

French band Temenik Electric, including five musicians, appeared on the Salle des Sucres stage to (re) discover their Arabian Rock. The group mixes Western music, reggae, funk and North African roots. They sang in the Arabic dialect northwest of Oran, but sometimes make incursions into French or English.

 

Temenik Electric - Photo by Charles Eloy
Temenik Electric – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

On the song “Denia” the vocals were backed by an energetic rhythm section and a powerful bass line. The keyboardist added oscillating synthesizer sounds in clever arrangements. Meanwhile, the singer said “Salam aleikoum, we salute you“. ACDC is singing “For those about to rock (we salute you).

Indeed, Temenik Electric can easily appear on a rock, alternative or world music stage.

During the last song “Ouesh Hada” (what happens? In Arabic), the atmosphere was Middle Eastern trance, whipping the crowd into euphoria.

Temenik Electric is a band aware of the events in the world, but not engaged, without political or philosophical claims. Their language is the universal one.

There is no wonder that Justin Adams (Tinawiren, Robert Plant guitarist) became interested producing their latest album “Inch’ Allah Baby” given the outstanding qualities of the band.

 

 

Read The Cultural Richness of Diversity Showcased at Babel Med Music 2016 – Day 1

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The Cultural Richness of Diversity Showcased at Babel Med Music 2016 – Day 1

Three nights of music (17 March – 19 March 2016) at Babel Med Music, located in the Docks des Suds of Marseille with outdoor spring-like temperatures. What more could you expect? Would we discover a lot of new bands and creations?

I think that for budgetary reasons and cost effectiveness, the organizers try to get a fair balance between emerging talents for the professional participants and established ones for the general public. My review will feature fourteen acts out of more than thirty artists spread over three nights.

On Thursday night, I noticed a lot of professionals wearing a badge, who were attending the gigs. Canadian vocalist Alejandra Ribera started the concert series at the Tent stage. She was eye catching, wearing a long sleeveless black dress. Alejandra began the song “La Boca” in English, with a deep voice in a foggy universe, then switched over into another register, singing in Spanish with sometimes a piercing voice. Her Scottish roots took us into a melancholic mood as deep as a winter depression. Fortunately, the South American rhythms that followed made us jump with joy.

 

 

Also at the Tent stage, the project La Nuit d’Antigone (France – Germany – Turkey) presented the meeting of Mediterranean female musicians: Sylvie Paz on vocals, Perrine Mansuy on piano, Naïssam Jalal on flute, Diler Özer on percussion and DJ Ipek for sound design.

 

La Nuit d'Antigone - Photo by Charles Eloy
La Nuit d’Antigone – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

The lyrics were contemporary women’s poetry set to music. It was advertised that the performance was a history of women’s resistance. The singer read the lyrics in different languages on a page in front of her. It did not make it easy to get the message of feminine resistance through.

 

 

Baba Zula is a Turkish band from Istanbul, a metropolis located at the crossroads of the East and the West. The musicians grew up in the underground music scene and forged their own identity with traditional folklore, rock and heavy metal.

 

Baba Zula - Photo by Charles Eloy
Baba Zula – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

At the Salle des Sucres, Baba Zula plunged us into a psychedelic experience. We listened to the musical legacy of the Ottoman Empire that lasted from 1299 to 1923, and that ruled North Africa and the Middle East.

Baba Zula’s Murat Ertel on the electric saz wandered into the public. When she returned, singer Melike invited the audience to follow her during the song “Acis, Hopçe”. She swung, dressed in a green dress with veils floating between her arms and body.

Fuelled by the energy of the band, the young ladies in the audience started to shake their bodies. They were probably members of a fitness club teaching belly dance or Turkish tsifteteli.

David Bowie used to sing “We Could Be Heroes just for one day”. We were the queens and kings of the night with Baba Zula.

 

 

Djmawi Africa is an Algerian band formed in 2004. They practice a fusion of chaabi, reggae and Gnawa rituals with essentially a rock rhythm section. We felt the band has an international stage experience.

 

Djmawi Africa - Photo by Charles Eloy
Djmawi Africa – Photo by Charles Eloy

 

Djmawi Africa kicked off their performance at the Salle des Sucres with the song “Lala Aicha”. First, we could hear the violinist playing Middle Eastern accents. Then followed the guembri (a Gnawa bass lute) and the guitarist who played blistering solos and deep-rooted riffs.

African bands have a tendency to produce a festive atmosphere throughout the concert time, Djmawi Africa had a different approach. At times, slower compositions allowed us to enjoy the subtlety and diversity of their musicality, and then the band offered an energy-packed set.

Djmawi Africa love to explore the sounds and added the kora, djembe, the ngoni to their list of instruments.

Djmawi Africa, a progressive and eclectic Algerian band that pleasantly surprised us with its respect of Africanness and musical colors played on modern and ethnic instruments.

 

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Songhoy Blues, They Will Have to Kill Us First

Auditorium at University of Sheffield Student Union
26 February 2016

Where were the blues born? Were its rough-hewn riffs formed from the mud of the Mississippi delta, or do its origins lie in Africa, along the river Niger? Musicological conundrums aside, it is the people of the Niger basin who have a greater need for the blues’ cathartic lament today. In the West African state of Mali In 2012, a separatist movement snowballed into a radical Islamist campaign that conquered two-thirds of the country. Music – which provides the heartbeat of Malian culture – was banned under an extreme interpretation of Sharia law.

The response of Mali’s musicians is documented in the film They Will Have to Kill Us First, which provides the evening’s first act, playing to a teeming auditorium within Sheffield University’s Student Union. The film sets up Malian band Songhoy Blues to tell the story live, inspiring the audience to a studious engagement with Malian musical culture that gives way to dancing in the aisles.

They Will Have to Kill Us First opens with Songhoy Blues on scooters, cruising through the capital Bamako like Malian Mods. They carry their guitars with them, as if ready to unleash drive-by grooves on the occupants of the red dirt pavements. The film offers a music-as-unifying-force narrative amidst an exploration of the country’s near total fracture. As a young band drawn from different parts of Mali, Songhoy Blues seem to offer the best hope of a modern Mali that transcends the disunity. By the end of the film the young quartet have been picked up by the Damon Albarn driven Africa Express project and wowed the European festival scene. They have shown no signs of stopping since, releasing their debut album Music in Exile last year to considerable acclaim.

Songhoy Blues in Sheffield
Songhoy Blues in Sheffield – Photo by Danielle Mustarde

Songhoy Blues’ meteoric rise and youthful swagger bears comparison to a band that has graced many of the Steel City’s stages, the Arctic Monkeys. Where Alex Turner took inspiration from police riot vans, Songhoy Blues had machine-gun toting Toyota pickups to contend with. The band’s matinee idol impression is reinforced by the boy-band bar stools they occupy for their acoustic set. Since this is a Talking Gig – which offers reflection as well as rock – the initial atmosphere suits the lecture theatre-like venue and student dominated audience. Journalist Andy Morgan takes on the role of professor, skilfully spinning tales of Mali’s spirit world and medieval empire, which enrich the audience’s understanding of the music.

Songhoy Blues in conversation with Andy Morgan
Songhoy Blues in conversation with Andy Morgan – Photo by Danielle Mustarde

If you have heard of one Malian musician it will surely be guitar giant Ali Farka Touré, who emerged like a Hendrix of the Sahara in the 1970s, his music both urgent and antique. The African continent is commonly represented as the body of a guitar, and the iconic instrument remains the king of Malian music.

There is a certain guitar timbre that unmistakably evokes West Africa, its bright sound still characteristic of the DIY twang of the proto-guitars assembled from petrol drums and brake cables on the streets of Timbuktu and Gao. Songhoy’s guitarist Garba Touré – whose father was a percussionist in Ali Farka Touré’s band – summons the timeless tone from his acoustic guitar. Garba’s rippling riffs enter into dialogue with charismatic vocalist Aliou Touré, punctuating his vocal lines with short solos delivered in stuttering style.

Unexpected breaks and tempo changes enliven a blues template that can feel formulaic in its strictest western form. The band perform album track ‘Al Hassidi Terei’, which begins with a ‘Stairway to Heaven’ like arpeggio before igniting, like one of those well-worn moped engines, into a raucous gallop of a groove.

Aliou Touré and Oumar Touré
Aliou Touré and Oumar Touré – Photo by Danielle Mustarde

For the last three numbers Songhoy Blues rock out, kicking away their stools and summoning the audience to their feet. Nat Dembélé’s percussion playing and Oumar Touré’s bass then come into their own, their grooves bouncing across bar-lines to conduct the crowd’s convulsions. Amidst the celebratory atmosphere we recall Mali’s trauma, summed up by Aliou’s vocals on ‘Desert Melodie’; “Once upon a time Mali was a land of unity, now they want to divide us”. If there is a force that will help bring the country back together, it is up there on stage, as Songhoy Blues rock Sheffield.

Songhoy Blues discography available:

In North America: Music In Exile, Re-Covered and Al Hassidi Terei

In Europe: Music In Exile

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Mehmet Polat Trio play Music of the Heart

Some fusions between musical genres do not work, because they sound too forced. Other fusions fail because modern electronics drown out ancient instruments. But, the Mehmet Polat trio form a true union between Africa, Turkey and the Middle East. Nothing about their music sounds too pre-planned. It moves in cycles and is as hypnotic as Philip Glass’s minimalist works. The trio is of three virtuosos: Mehmet Polat from Turkey plays the oud, Sinan Arat also from Turkey plays the ney, an end-blown flute and a very ancient instrument, and Bao Sissoko from Senegal plays the kora, a 21 stringed instrument from West Africa that has as its base a carved out calabash. The trio performed in New York during the annual APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) conference in January, which is where I heard them.

It was an intimate evening of instrumental music at the Chhandayan Center for Indian classical music in Manhattan, where both the Mehmet Polat trio and Sahba Motallebi (an Iranian-American musician) shared the stage. The room held an audience of about forty, sitting barefoot and some on meditation cushions. The trio sat alongside each other in a half circle. They performed without overt showmanship; no one musician sought to stand out above the others. Their simple, yet powerful unity was refreshing and provocative.

Their music was slow, gentle, simple. The elongated notes of the ney breathed into the air while the oud and kora danced together alongside the melody. This music rewards patience in a listener. It is not for fast paced and restless individuals. It tells you to slow down, take deep breaths as you listen, and it will calm you down. Yet, the languorous feel of the music demands your attention. And then you were introduced to a traditional West African song that was playful and light. The whole evening the three instruments spoke to each other gracefully. The sound was enchanting: the music was meditative.

Mehmet and Sinan both come from families who are Alevi, a Sufi Community in Turkey. Mehmet grew up in the city of Urfa, in South Eastern Turkey. Before the concert, he told me: “Urfa has a big musical tradition with roots in ancient times.” There, he says, he was surrounded by the voices of his parents singing Sufi songs. The music moved him as he was growing up. And he says, “I knew at the age of ten that I wanted to become a musician. When I was about 13, I began exploring Anatolian folk music. There is a huge diversity of music in Turkey.”

DJL: So how did you learn about all of this music?

MP: By listening. At 17, I started with the oud lessons from oud masters in Istanbul.

DJL: But why oud, did you see or hear it being played?

MP: I was visiting a poet in Istanbul with my brother. And I was curious about an instrument on the wall. What’s this instrument? It looked so interesting. I grabbed it and I lost myself for a few minutes in it. And the deepness of the sound, it touched me so much that I decided to learn. But it is not only the instrument, it is the culture of the instrument that drew me to it. It has roots in the Ottoman Empire, in Iran, in all the Arabic countries, among others, so I got a chance to learn something of those influences. Afterwards, I became interested in Balkan, Flamenco and Indian music.

DJL: Indian classical music has a strong spiritual component, for example, we know that the great Pandit Ravi Shankar saw playing his instrument as a way of connecting to God. Do you relate to what he said?

MP: Yes, I do connect with that. Music for me is a kind of language. When I play music, my intention is to bring sincere feelings from my heart and share them with the universe.

DJL: But in the Indian classical tradition, musicians spend years learning, it is a real apprenticeship. So did you spend a long time learning?

MP: Yes, I studied Indian classical music officially for two years at school, but my study is still ongoing. I also like Western genres, also jazz, Latin, grooves. The musician has to be both a revolutionary and a master of his instrument to have enough ability to convey his emotions. And a musician has to have a broad vision and good taste. Without good taste there is no music.

DJL: This music has a very meditative quality, so are you approaching it from a meditative place as a musician?

MP: Yes, that’s why it sounds peaceful. Sometimes before the concert if I see that it is needed, I will say to the audience, ‘close your eyes, open your heart, let the music come to you and let us be one.’

DJL: How did you first hear the kora?

MP: I heard the kora live when I first came to Holland in 2007. In Turkey, there were African musicians, but on hearing the kora live I was moved, and thought about making something beautiful with it in the future. In 2013, after some musical ideas became clearer in my mind, I contacted my friend, the kora player Zoumana Diarra. (Diarra was the group’s first kora player and continues to play with them from time to time). I was interested in how Balkan rhythms in 7 or 15 beats to the bar would work with some African rhythms. It’s like teaching an Italian cook Chinese cooking. Bao Sissoko joined us from Senegal, and he has played with the band for the past three months. He’s risen to the challenge, and he’s dedicated to the music.

DJL: Bao comes from a very strong Griot musical tradition in Senegal, West Africa. So, you went to the kora second, and then to the ney as the third instrument, right? The ney is one of the oldest instruments still played today. It is a flute dating back four to five thousand years. It has a unique and ethereal sound.

MP: Yes, the time difference from the kora to the ney was one hour. (He laughs.) In Turkish, we say, ‘breathing out through the ney’. It has the sound of soul, the sound of spirit. The ney is almost like a human voice sometimes. Sinan is a very good musician, a great improviser, and a master of his instrument. He is a poet with a big vocabulary, and so he has an opportunity to speak out.

DJL: All three of you are gifted musicians, and you work together so strongly.

MP: For me, it is not only the meeting of three unique instruments, but also the making of deep connections, keeping the ancient and authentic traditions, and combining them in a contemporary way. This music is eighty percent improvised, and that makes it very exciting for me.

DJL: Something else I noticed is that the tone of the three instruments is aligned.

MP: When I compose the music, I try to use the full capacity of the instruments, and to keep them in harmony with each other. I ask the ney musician, for example, to play a lot of low notes.

DJL: These instruments are not combined with any modern instrument such as drums or electronic guitar. Is that deliberate?

MP: Yes, sometimes when I have played with other larger groups with drums and bass, or as a guest musician with orchestras, I didn’t like it. Because they do not hear or listen what I played or perhaps don’t care. They may have me there as a picture or as an image. I do not want that.

DJL: You added two extra bass strings to the oud, so you provide your own bass?

MP: Yes, I do that.

DJL: Would you like to come back here to the US for another tour?

MP: Yes, we are planning it for the mid-August and the mid-September. Our hope is to reach more people and to learn more about traditional American music.

DJL: And you are now working on a second album. Do you see a development from the first?

MP: The second album will be more about developing the music. I would like it to include a more spontaneous feeling, more of a sense of oneness as musicians, uniting our energies. In the end, music is not just for entertainment, it can connect us to a more sincere spiritual world.

Recordings available: Next Spring

For more about the Mehmet Polat trio, you can visit: www.mehmetpolat.net

For US & Canadian Booking Inquiries, please contact Craig S. Hyman – Numinous Music at craigshyman@gmail.com or at (917)-854-6315

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