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Artist Profiles: Sachal Ensemble

Sachal Ensemble

The Sachal Ensemble was formed by Izzat Majeed, a Pakistani investor and hedge fund manager who became a philanthropist and music producer. Born in Lahore in 1950, Majeed’s dream was to recreate the soundtrack of his childhood. His hometown, the second largest city in Pakistan, was once a cultural and artistic center in the region.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Lahore was at a peak as the home of “Lollywood,” the Pakistani equivalent of India’s Bollywood. Movies featured between 10 to 15 songs and the industry employed a considerable number of musicians, composers and arrangers. Music was fundamental to the life of the city.

Izzat’s father, Abdul Majeed, was the chairman of the film producers association of Pakistan and a music lover who would take his son to hear all the touring American jazz musicians passing through Lahore. That’s how an 8-year-old Majeed got to hear pianist Dave Brubeck at a venue near his family home. Brubeck was still a year away from recording “Take Five,” which would become the biggest selling jazz single ever. For the young Izzat, the concert had a profound effect. “That’s where I got hooked on jazz,” says Majeed.

But following a military coup in July 1977, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq became president and his dictatorship set out to “cleanse” Pakistan’s cultural landscape. Most non-religious music was declared sinful and the film industry, severely limited by religious bans, fell to pieces. In Lahore, even virtuoso musicians had to become taxi drivers or shopkeepers just to make a living.

Despite his success in finance, Majeed’s true passions “have always been and will always be about art and music,” he affirms. And so, he decided to do something about it.

These great musicians – from both folk and classical schools – were left hungry and jobless,” said Majeed in a recent interview. “We were losing our instruments, losing our musicians, losing our culture; something had to be done about it.”

Long a patron of the arts and a lover of poetry (he is a published poet himself), Majeed founded Sachal Studios, named after the Sufi poet Saeein Sachal Sarmast, in 2003, on Waris Road, once the center of Lahore’s film studios. He then looked for the city’s great musicians, many of whom had put away their instruments. What’s more, Majeed had to buy instruments for several players.

Initially, Majeed and the Sachal Ensemble focused on the region’s classical and folk music. But then, he started to dream about the possibility of jazz being played on local instruments, and once he introduced the sounds and concepts of jazz, the musicians “took to it very naturally.” As they searched for a broader audience and looked outside Pakistan, they began to explore cross-cultural versions of Western jazz standards, pop and film classics.

Unexpectedly, Sachal Ensemble had a breakthrough when a video of their version of Brubeck’s Paul Desmond classic “Take Five” went viral. Brubeck, who died in December, 2012, in reality got a chance to listen to it, calling it “the most interesting recording of it I have ever heard.”

Discography:

Song of Lahore (Universal Music Classics, 2016)

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Azymuth Announce European Tour 2017

Brazilian jazz-funk band Azymuth will be touring Europe in October. Ivan, Alex and Kiko will be presenting material from their latest album Fênix, along with many of their classics.

Tour Dates:

Oct 13 – Fasching (Stockholm Jazz Festival), Stockholm
Oct 14 – The Hideaway, London
Oct 15 – The Hideaway, London
Oct 17 – Gretchen, Berlin
Oct 18 – Bravo Caffè, Bologna
Oct 19 – Auditorium Fausto Melotti, Rovereto tbc
Oct 20 – Santeria Social Club, Milan
Oct 21 – La Bellevilloise, Paris tbc
Oct 23 – Band On The Wall, Manchester
Oct 24 – Hoochie Coochie, Newcastle tbc
Oct 25 – Neimënster, Luxembourg tbc
Oct 26 – Jazz & The City (Festival), Salzburg
Oct 27 – Jazz & The City (Festival), Salzburg
Oct 28 – Jazz & The City (Festival), Salzburg

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The Black Seeds Cross Over

The Black Seeds – Fabric

Black Seeds – Fabric (Easy Star, 2017)

Black Seeds, one of the most successful international reggae bands, changes course on Fabric. While there is still some great reggae in Fabric, the band ventures deeply into a crossover sound of funk, soul and pop.

Some of the highlights of the album are the first two tracks, “Better Days” and “Everybody Knows.”

 

 

Personnel: Barnaby Weir on vocals and guitars; Daniel Weetman on vocals and percussion; Jarney Murphy on drums; drums; Nigel Patterson on keyboards; Ned Ngatae on guitars, vocals and keyboards; and Francis Harawira on bass and bass synth.

Buy Fabric in Europe

Buy Fabric in the rest of the world

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Thunderous and Passionate Farafina

Farafina – Bolomakote (Intuition, 1992)

The raw, percussion-driven but still melodic sounds of Farafina burst forth on this 1992 release. Layers of drumming provide a solid foundation for bala (wood and gourd xylophone), flute and lyrics that focus mainly on the subject of man’s place in the world and the fulfillment of destiny. But don’t get the idea that it’s heady-sounding stuff. It’s energetic and passionate, with a thunderously tight ensemble sound that knows when to fuel the fire and when to sit back and let it burn. So grab your drum, join in, and feel the spirit.

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Artist Profiles: Mary Youngblood

Mary Youngblood

Native American flute player Mary Youngblood was born on June 24, 1958 in Kirkland, Washington. Mary has Aleut and Seminole ancestry. She is one of the first Native women to record this sacred instrument, a role that has traditionally limited to men. Classically trained on several instruments Mary Youngblood has been playing the flute for over two decades.

Youngblood has a lifetime of musicianship behind her, starting with piano lessons at age six and guitar at ten; she is also a renowned classically trained flutist.

As an adult, when Youngblood received her first wooden Native flute she was compelled to pursue this ancient instrument traditionally played only by men. She has been honored with numerous awards and furthers her craft and knowledge of music and her Native traditions through teaching.

Her 5th album Dance with the Wind came out on May 23 2006 on Silver Wave Records. Inspired by the wisdom of nature Mary writes: “The trees have given a voice to me the voice that sings to you now.” Her eclectic musical style evokes feelings of freedom and gratitude for the blessings of life.

I am simply a vessel between Creator and this sacred instrument the Native American Flute. Listen with an open heart and you will hear the whispers of the Ancient Ones. May their timeless voices soothe your soul.”

Discography:

The Offering (Silver Wave Records, 1998)
Heart of the World (Silver Wave Records, 1999)
Beneath the Raven Moon (Silver Wave Records, 2002)
Feed the Fire (Silver Wave Records, 2004)
Dance with the Wind (Silver Wave Records, 2006)
Sacred Place: A Mary Youngblood Collection (Silver Wave Records, 2008)

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Hurdy Gurdy Wizardry

Rao Trio – Sin Titulo (Producciones Efímeras, 2004)

Rao Trio – Sin Titulo (Producciones Efímeras, 2004)

Although the zanfona (Spanish hurdy gurdy) is best known as an instrument used in Spanish regional folk and Celtic music, Rao Trio take the zanfona to the world of progressive jazz and improvised music as well as tango and flamenco buleria.

Rao Trio is led by zanfona master Germán Diaz from Valladolid (Spain), who is known as one of the best hurdy gurdy players in Europe. The other two members are César Diaz on bass and fretless bass; and Diego Martín on drums and percussion. Accordionist Gorka Hermosa is the guest artist on the album.

Sin Titulo is an excellent album that shows the tremendous potential of the ancient zanfona in the hands of a talented and pioneering musician.

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Dr. John and Henry Butler to Perform at The Town Hall in NYC Tomorrow

Dr. John

Two of the finest performers of New Orleans Music are set to perform together at The Town Hall in New York City tomorrow, June 15, 2017. The concert is part of Blue Note Jazz Festival 2017.
Dr. John and Henry Butler will be accompanied by Dr. John’s acclaimed backing band, The Nitetrippers.

The latest work by multifaceted pianist and vocalist Dr. John is a 2-CD live set titled album, The Musical Mojo of Dr. John: A Celebration of Mac and his Music, featuring well-known guests such as Bruce Springsteen, John Fogarty, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.

 

Henry Butler

 

Butler is one of the greatest blues pianists in the United States. His most recent album is Vipers Drag (2014), with trumpeter and arranger Steven Bernstein and The Hot 9. It includes recreations of classics by Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton.

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Ibibio Sound Machine to Perform at Skirball Cultural Center

Ibibio Sound Machine

Ibibio Sound Machine is set to perform on Thursday, August 3, 2017 in Los Angeles. This concert is part of the Skirball Cultural Center’s Sunset Concerts. Admission is free.

Led by London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ibibio Sound Machine combines African and electronic elements with ease, inspired by the golden era of West African funk, disco, and electronica.

On March 3, 2017 Ibibio Sound Machine released Uyai (Merge Records).

Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepúlveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Phone: (310) 440-4500.

More information at: skirball.org

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Entrancing Modern Celtic Sounds of Scotland and Brittany

Alain Genty and Joanne McIver – Eternal Tides (Buda Records, 2017)

Eternal Tides is a beautiful and mesmerizing album by two masters in the Celtic music field. Frenchman Alain Genty is a bass virtuoso, multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer who has been involved in Breton music for many years. Joanne McIver is a Scottish singer-songwriter from Arran Island who also plays the Scottish smallpipes.

Together, Alain Genty and Joanne McIver celebrate Scotland’s traditions through songs in Gaelic and English plus short instrumentals. It’s contemporary Celtic music, mixing tradition with tasteful modern electric bass, North African rhythms, jazz trumpet, and soundscape electronics. Some of us would call some the pieces progressive Celtic music.

Along with the remarkable vocals of Joanne Mciver and the outstanding bass lines of Alain Genty, you’ll also find an impressive list of well-known guest instrumentalists from the Breton Celtic music scene who add Breton and world music instruments into the mix.

Some of themes of the songs include the uncertainty of distant fishing; a longing of childhood summers on the beach; dockworker songs; and references to Scottish history.

 

 

The lineup includes Alain Genty on bass, guitars, keyboards, drums and electronics; Joanne McIver on vocals and Scottish smallpipes; Patrick Molard on biniou; Jean-Michel Veillon on bombard; Nicolas Giraud on trumpet and berimbau; Christophe Saunière on harp; Thierry Garcia on guitar; Kouider Berkane on violin; and Bachir Mokari on darbuka, bendir and karkabas.

Eternal Tides is an exquisitely-crafted, enchanting album by two giants in the contemporary Celtic music field who masterfully bring together Scottish and Breton traditions.

Buy the Eternal Tides CD or the digital download version.

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Jenny & The Mexicats’ Fresh Mestizo Sound

Jenny & The Mexicats – Mar Abierto (Mexicat Records, 2017)

Globetrotting mestizo music band Jenny & The Mexicats has a new album titled Mar Abierto (Open Sea). The multinational group is led by British vocalist and trumpet player Jenny Ball. Originally based in Madrid, the band later moved to Mexico.

Mar Abierto includes catchy Spanish and English-language songs featuring flamenco rumba, pop, cumbia, reggae, merengue, swing, son veracruzano and pop influences. The English-language set includes Jeny’s neo-soul vocals.

The lineup includes Jenny Ball (UK) on vocals, trumpet and guitar; David González Bernandos (Spain) on percussion and vocals; Alfonso Acosta “Pantera” (Mexico) on guitar and vocals; and Luis Díaz “Icho” (Mexico) on bass.

With Mar Abierto, Jenny & The Mexicats demonstrate that it’s one of the most exciting roots music acts currently based in Mexico.

Buy Mar Abierto

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