MerleFest, the popular American roots music festival founded by influential musician Doc Watson will offer music fans a sneak peek of this spring’s festival with MerleFest on the Road. The festival will present various artists on tour throughout the Southeastern United Sytates during March. The tour will present select artists that will perform at MerleFest 2017 or have performed previously at the festival: Mark Bumgarner, Jonathan Byrd & The Pickup Cowboys, and Locust Honey.
MerleFest 2017 will take place from April 27-30 on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
Thursday, February 23 – Floyd Country Store, Floyd, Virginia.
Friday, February 24 – Gaston County Museum, Dallas, North Carolina
Saturday, February 25 – Willingham Theater, Yadkinville, North Carolina
Sunday, February 26 – Hendershot’s Coffee Bar, Athens, Georgia
Thursday, March 2 – Isis Music Hall, Asheville, North Carolina
Friday, March 3 – Down Home, Johnson City, Tennessee.
Saturday, March 4 – Van Dyke Performance Space, Greensboro, North Carolina
Sunday, March 5 – Motorco, Durham, North Carolina
Kate Rusby has been played on mainstream radio and established an ardent following among people who normally dislike folk music. She’s had artists like Bonnie Raitt, Richard Thompson, Andy Kershaw and Timothy White singing her praises.
Kate Rusby has been played on mainstream radio and established an ardent following among people who’d previously sworn blind they hated folk musicShe’s had everyone from Bonnie Raitt and Richard Thompson to Andy Kershaw and Timothy White singing her praisesShe’s topped folk and roots charts and headlined major festivals all over Europe
The inherently dramatic storytelling of folk song has the same allure to her now as it did when she first heard her parents singing those songs to her when she was a toddlerSpending her childhood at folk festivals and listening to Nic Jones on her Walkman when all her mates were listening to Bon Jovi, she inevitably turned to playing fiddle and singing harmonies in her parents ceilidh dance band when she was twelveAnother Barnsley folk star Dave Burland inspired her to take up the guitar
At fifteen, Kate got her first gig at Holmfirth Festival. She hasn’t looked back since, gradually developing her style to include the odd contemporary song (Iris Dement’ Our Town on Sleepless and Richard Thompson’s Withered And Died on Little Lights) and developing her own songwriting to nestle easily alongside the traditional material. In August 2, she toured with a folk superband, with artists such as John McCusker and Andy Cutting, and legendary ex-Pentangle bass player Danny Thompson, ex-Fairground Attraction singer Eddi Reader, and bluegrass favorite Tim O’Brien.
For the Little Lights recording sessions she was joined by Alison Brown, Ian Carr, Andy Cutting, John Doyle, John McCusker, Michael McGoldrick, Tim O’Brien, Danny Thompson and Andy Seward. She named the album Little Lights after a long drive home in the fog, when cat’s eyes were the only salvation“Also you can see for mile from the studio window and because most of the time recording was done through winter when it was dark earlier, all you could see was thousands of little lights twinkling away.”
There was a delicious moment at the 1999 Mercury Music Prize when Kate Rusby finished singing Our Town, put down a guitar almost as big as her and went to receive her award for Sleepless, as one of the 12 Best British Albums of the Year. She briefly surveyed the suited and booted mass of music industry high flyers at one of London’s swankiest hotels and addressed them in that glorious Barnsley accent… “I’m dead proud to be a folk singer…”
In 2008, Rusby released Sweet Bells, an album of traditional Christmas songs. In 2010, Rusby put out the album Make the Light and in 2011 she released another set of Christmas songs titled While Mortals Sleep.
Tabla performer Shankh Lahiri comes from a family with a strong tradition of Indian Classical Music and has fully devoted his life to this music. Son of the sitarist and Guru Shri Rabindranath Lahiri, he grew up in an environment imbued with the fragrance of Hindustani music.
As a child, Shankh Lahiri received intensive training in both vocal and tabla from his father and went on to graduate with a Sangeet Visharad in both subjects. Currently Shankh, as he is known in the fraternity, is the senior disciple of world-renowned tabla maestro Pandit Nayan Ghosh.
He has accompanied and toured with many reputed and leading artists such as Pt. Jasraj, Ustad Shujaat Khan, Ustad Shahid Parvez, Pt. Arati Ankalikar, Nayan Ghosh (sitar), Pt. Mukul Shivputra, Shri Rakesh Chaurasia and many more.
Aside from his own performing career, Shankh teaches students in Florida through his own organization, Shruti School of Music and the non-profit Shruti Foundation in Tampa.
Powwow step pioneers A Tribe Called Red has released a music video for its single “The Virus.” The videoclip features poet Saul Williams and Canadian drum group Chippewa Travellers. The video includes footage of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
The science fiction video is situated in 2047 on “Turtle Island,” a traditional Iroquois earth creation story; where the sky woman fell to a water submerged earth. Animals attempted to rebuild land but the muskrat was the most successful of all; moving dirt from the seabed onto the back of a turtle, re-creating our land.
The video was directed by Tunkasila, produced by DAIS & Mad Ruk, and written by Sol Guy, Ezra Miller and A Tribe Called Red member Bear Witness.
Dec 03 – Winnipeg, MB – The Garrick Centre
Dec 06 – Minneapolis, MN – Skyway Theatre
Dec 07 – Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
Dec 08 – London, ON – London Music Hall
Dec 09 -Toronto, ON – REBEL
Dec 14 – Kingston, ON – Stages Night Club
Dec 15 – Montreal, QC – Corona
Dec 16 – Peterborough, ON – The Red Dog
I will be writing a column on Length & Time in music, in each presenting an album and its strategies that pertain to addressing Length & Time.
Vocal music has surpassed instrumental music in popularity despite the advent of electronica music and its subgenres. It’s a sign of deep cultural change, as the change in importance from the cantanta to that of the sonata with the advent of classical music also was.
Brad Mehldau records instrumental music that could be more popular as vocal music: romantic songs, blues, ballads, and even an album named Ode (as in the genre of poetry.) He seems to feel a particular conviction about instrumental music.
He has just released an album with Joshua Redman, Nearness. Featuring songs with titles such as “The Nearness of You,” but also “Old West,” the album seems to explore a theme beyond the grasp of its listener. Redman’s playing and sharp and sober and so is Mehldau’s for all 6 rhythmic and romantic compositions. Like for classical music, the birth of instrumental music’s hegemony, this sort of music is made to be appreciated and deciphered and even patroned as Jazz often is in present day.
Born and raised in Dakar, Senegal, Meta Dia grew up listening to the likes of Bob Marley and James Brown as well as local African musical traditions.
Impressing audiences in Senegal since the age of 14, he arrived to New York City in 2002 and soon started collaborating with several noted hip hop artists.
With his own band, Meta & the Cornerstones, Meta’s powerful singing and songwriting abilities shine, as he reinvigorates reggae by reconnecting it with its African roots. Weaving between a multilingual palette of French, English, Wolof, and Fulani, his music breaks barriers as it builds bridges across the Atlantic.
Promoting tolerance and unity, Meta’s music is uplifting and positive, while it re-imagines reggae with an African aesthetic.
“Meta and the Cornerstones have taken us back to the foundation of reggae music,’ says Clive Chin, Jamaican producer for The Wailers, Dennis Brown, and Lee Perry. “It’s a band that sounds tight and wicked with infectious lyrics.”
Kassé Mady Diabaté is one of West Africa’s greatest voices and one of the most cherished singers in Mali. He is known for his profound knowledge of Mali’s deepest oral and musical traditions, for his ability to adapt these traditions into a modern context and last, but not least, for the sheer beauty and ethereal quality of his tenor voice.
He was born in 1949 in Kela, a renowned center of the Mande jeli tradition in western Mali, near Kangaba, one of the eats of the great Mali empire (1235-1469).
Kasse Mady’s family, the Diabates of Kela -all of whom are jelis- were the singers for the emperors and their descendants, the royal Keita lineage. And still today they are considered among the most important and authoritative jeli families across seven West African countries where Mande culture predominates.
Kasse Mady is the second person ever to be given the name Kasse Mady, which means ‘Weep Mady’ (Mady is a regional variant of Mohammed). His grandfather, also from Kela, was the first.
Mady, the grandfather, had such a beautiful voice that when he sang, he would move people to tears, hence his nickname, ‘Kasse from Kassi,’ (to weep). Kasse Mady the younger was given this name at birth to honor the grandfather. But no one in the family could imagine that his voice would have the same power and ability to move people to extreme states of emotion.
While still a young boy, Kasse Mady began singing at local weddings and other ceremonies, and around 1970 he was invited to become the lead singer of the dance orchestra of the nearby town of Kangaba. This orchestra was called the Super Mande, a name his brother Lafia Diabate, also a well-known singer, now uses for his own band of Kela musicians who are based in Bamako and who are the principal musicians on the album Kassi Kasse.
The decade of 1970s was an important period in Mali because of the new Cultural Authenticity policies, which were in vogue in the newly independent nation states of West Africa. In Mali, as elsewhere, musicians were encouraged to return to their own folklore instead of imitating rock or Cuban music. As it happened, Kasse Mady’s special blend of traditional Mande folklore with modern instruments was to play an important role in this movement.
Every two years, the Malian government sponsored a major festival call the Biennale, in which all the regional ensembles and dance orchestras competed with each other. In 1973, it was the Super Mande from Kangaba who won, thanks to the remarkable singing of Kasse Mady.
Not long before that, a group of eight musicians who had been studying music in Cuba had returned to Mali and formed the group Las Maravillas de Mali, famous for their charanga interpretations of Cuban classics. But according to the dictates of Cultural Authenticity, they had to begin to take on more of a Malian repertoire. After hearing Kasse Mady perform at the Biennale, they decided that he was the one to do this.
The chef d’orchestre was sent down to Kela, 104 kms west of Bamako down a bumpy dirt road, to find the singer. After various ritual consultations with the family, who were (and still are) very protective of their traditions, Kasse Mady was allowed to go to join the band in Bamako. Soon after, the Maravillas began enjoying a huge success throughout West Africa with songs like ‘Balomina Mwanga’ and ‘Maimouna,’ all sung memorably by the young Kasse Mady in Cuban style, but with a new Mande touch.
Around 1976 the band renamed themselves National Badema du Mali (meaning national family of Mali). Kasse Mady launched this new formation with several deep Mande songs that were to become hits, such as ‘Sindiya (later re-recorded by Ali Farka Toure as ‘Singya’ on his first World Circuit album) and ‘Fode,’ which was also the title of Kasse’s first solo album in 1988. Other hits were ‘Nama,’ a song Kasse Mady composed about a true story of an ong canoe that overturned while crossing the river Niger on September 22 in which many people drowned and ‘Guede,’ which he later re-recorded with Taj Mahal. By the mid 1980s, there was no longer much interest among Malian audiences in the old dance bands of the 1970s. The Rail Band was playing to ever decreasing audiences, and the Ambassadeurs, formerly led by singer Salif Keita, had broken up altogether. The trend was for singers to try their luck in Paris, which was an important center for world music at the time.
So when Kasse Mady was invited to Paris to record his first solo album for Senegalese producer Ibrahima Sylla (of Africando fame), Kasse decided to try his luck. He left the national Badema and moved to Paris, where he spent the next ten years. During this period he recorded two solo albums, Fode, an electric dance album which was meant to be the answer to Salif Keita’s Soro but did not enjoy the same promotion; and Kela Tradition, an acoustic album of Kela jeli songs, both on the Paris label Syllart.
Also in this period, he collaborated on in the album Songhai 2 with Spanish flamenco group Ketama and Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, with some stunning versions of classics such as ‘Mali Sajio,’ as well as, the beautiful ballad ‘Pozo del Deseo’ sung together with Ketama singer Antonio Carmona.
But things did not turn out as planned in Paris. Kasse Mady’s non-confrontational and peaceful character did not help him find his way through the labyrinth of royalty payments and contracts and the hard-nosed music business of Paris.
Exploited and disappointed, he returned to Bamako in 1998 where things began to look up for him. The music scene in Bamako had picked up considerably since he had left ten years before. For a start, there was now a new democratic government and a renewed interest among the youth in traditional music.
The kora player Toumani Diabate immediately snapped up Kasse Mady for more collaboration after the successful work they had done together on Songhai 2. Kasse Mady was invited to take part in the acclaimed Kulanjan project with Taj Mahal. Taj was so moved by Kasse’s singing that he presented him with a beautiful steel-body guitar and now, having heard the new album Kassi Kasse, is so entranced by it that he takes it with him everywhere he goes on his extensive concert tours.
Lalah Hathaway has released a new video for her neo-soul song “Mirror.” The video burns slowly as the song does also. Its lyrics are straight to the point and ask us, with incredible clarity, to love the image that we see in the mirror.
There is something remarkably proverbial about Lalah Hathaway’s singing, again, and again, poignantly each time, to “stop hiding yourself” in “Mirror.” It reminds of advice given in the form of sayings that can be heard in homes being told by a person to someone in need of help. Are proverbs still a thing in this American culture of advanced capitalism?
Hasn’t public education and public libraries and the necessity to educate one’s self “by the book” in order to get a job replaced proverbs with texts by known writers, revered for their knowledge? One would think so. While listening to Hathaway’s neo-soul song, rooted in the infamous soul aesthetic that came about at a much different stage of American capitalism, the listener is transported out of the world in which he or she lives and into one where proverbial knowledge seems to be what matters. It’s beautiful and reveals the possibilities of music.
Hathaway’s song might just be opening a door to temporarily feeling an alternative to mass culture not only through the song’s message and the song’s non-pop rhythm, but also through the fact that the message feels powerfully proverbial.
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