Julia Roberts Tells Musicians She Wants to Make a Film in Cuba

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – US actress Julia Roberts is interested in making a film in Cuba, as she told a group of musicians from the Caribbean Island who were touring the United States. We met by chance, said Lázaro Rivera, director and lead singer of the group Valle Son. We met in a New York market and when we asked her for a photo, she told us that she would give it to us if we give her tickets for our performance, because they had been sold out. At the end of the concert, she went to the dressing rooms and invited us to have lunch with her the following day, he added. We were playing music in her home and talking about Cuban music and its repercussion in the world. Roberts’ interest in Cuba seems to come from US moviemaker Steven Soderberg’s visit to Havana in 2001, when he was accompanied by Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro. Son de Cuba, a show by seven musicians from western Pinar del Río province, was taken to the United States to promote the group’s first CD, produced by Caribou Records Inc. The group blends traditional music with a “Son” variant known as “timba”, which makes emphasis on choruses and dialogue between percussion and metals.


An Original Night for Manzanillo

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Manzanillo, Cuba – An unforgettable night was that when Original de Manzanillo, one of Cuba’s best orchestras, celebrated its 40th anniversary along with friends such as Frank Fernández, Omara Portuondo and Cándido Fabré. The gala-tribute took place by the sea. The celebration began on December 15, with the presentation of the 40th Anniversary cocktail, made with Pinilla rum (which has been produced in Manzanillo for 100 years), special raisin wine, mineral water, lemon juice and sugar. Parties were held in the neighborhoods where the musicians live, and a documentary on the orchestra was presented. Festivities will continue until January in several Cuban provinces, including the City of Havana.


Desandann Vocal Group Tours Haiti

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Camagüey, Cuba – The vocal group Desandann, made up of musicians of Haitian origin from Camagüey, visited Haiti for the fourth time to perform during the festivities on the 200th anniversary of that country’s independence. Directed by Professor Emilia Díaz Chávez, the group sings in Creole, Spanish and English languages, and will sing 16 songs by Haitian, Cuban and US composers during the tour.In 1996, 2000 and 2001, Desandann visited Haiti, from where large groups of immigrants settled in Cuba, leaving their imprint in such sectors as arts, cuisine, and sugar agriculture. Founded in 1994, the group combines vocal virtuosity with charismatic movements. They have also performed in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Martinique.


Music Is Essential in Sports, Cuban Coach Says

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Guantánamo, Cuba – The renowned Cuban boxing trainer
Alcides Sagarra, who coached many Cuban teams in Olympic, Pan-American and
Central American games, said that music is fundamental for sport. Sagarra, who
trained the three-time Olympic champions Teófilo Stevenson and Félix Savón,
pointed out during a sideline of the Changüí Festival being held here that "boxers
must have rhythm and coordination
". "That is why, we use music with them,"
he added.Sagarra told a personal anecdote: Teófilo Stevenson had to fight a strong
adversary shortly after his father’s death, so "I used a song about a father,
and that transformed him
". According to the master of Cuban sport, "human
feelings are expressed through music


Tunes From the Dunes

Various Artists – Oxfam Arabia
Various Artists – Oxfam Arabia (World Music Network RGNET 1121 CD, 2003)

Various Artists – The Rough Guide to the Music of Egypt (World Music Network RGNET 1114 CD, 2003)

World Music Network’s sprawling Rough Guides series has included two previous collections in support of the humanitarian organization Oxfam. They centered on African and Latin music, and were as solid an overview of those genres as any in the mid-priced Rough Guides lineup.

Oxfam provides what’s needed most where it’s needed most (health care, finances, protection from natural and man-made disasters, preservation of human rights, etc.), and since most folks who listen
to world music are also attuned to world problems, the Oxfam discs are a great way to get your global fix and have a hand in making things better as well.

Oxfam Arabia is 67 minutes of top notch sounds from across North Africa and the Middle East. It’s got the diversity you’d expect from such a region, be it classical and traditional pieces, rai, folkloric or fusion. So there’s diversity here, from the contemporary sass of Algeria’s Abdou to different approaches toward masterful oud playing courtesy of Rabih Abou-Khalil and Naseer Shama, Transglobal Underground’s controlled techno frenzy, reggae-like grooves by Sudan’s Abdel Gadir Salim and the in-concert zest of Warda Jazairia.

If you hold to the opinion that the Arab world is your enemy, you don’t deserve a disc like this. But if you refuse to believe the vile spewing of fanatics on both sides, this music will enrich and delight you in addition to bolstering a worthy cause.

Some of the same artists from the Oxfam disc are also in good form on the The Rough Guide to the Music of Egypt. Modern Egyptian music can’t exactly be traced as far back as the pharaohs and pyramids and all that, but it has deep roots anyway, particularly links to pre-Islamic musical poetry. It’s only in much more recent times, however, that the Egyptian capital of Cairo has become the center of the Arabic music industry. Influences from all over the Arabic realm and beyond have
found their way into Egypt’s music, which as a result can be supremely fanciful or funky. So feel free to be just as seduced by the jabbing rhythms that punctuate the voice of Nugat El Saghira as you are by Ali Hassan Kuban’s Nubian tartness, Amr Diab’s Iberian leanings or the lush simmering of pieces both grand and simple from such key artists as Hamza El Din and Mahmoud Fadl.

I could go into loads more detail here, but all you really need to know is that this is a deliciously good sampling of essential music from a fascinating place.


Jazz Yatra

Jazz is arguably the most argumentative form of music (even has diminished
and argumented chords!). So at the outset let me present my side of the argument.
Jazz is musical improvisation, right? Indian classical music is improvisation,
still right? Granted, Indian music does not have the harmonies of the west. But
the keyword here is improvisation and not harmony, absolutely right? Indian
classical music has been around for more than two thousand years. The Americans
discovered Jazz less than a hundred years ago. Right then, now that we have
established India as the birthplace of Jazz let’s head for the Jazz Yatra.Surfacing on day one are the cats (Kangaroos?) from down under. Jamie Oehlers
Quintet and the Perth Jazz Orchestra. Jamie opens. Good band. Great Jazz. Jamie
and the boys are jammin’ alright. On to act two which is… ahem, an extended
remix of act one. Jamie and the boys brought their buddies along to form the
Perth Jazz Orchestra! It’s always a thrill hearing the powerful and dynamic
sounds of a big band. Reminds me about what teamwork is all about. Each and
every member looked really happy to be a small part of the big picture. Standing
out and upfront with the big band was vocalist Mark Underwood with a rich and
velvety voice that reached out and caressed the audience. Very enjoyable evening.
Good start for Jazz Yatra.

Met up with lots of old and new friends all sharing a common love for music
being created live. Day one was the Aussies night out. Pity we didn’t get to
hear their musical instrument called didgeridoo or didgerididnt or something.

Day two features Jazz Yatra’s trump card. Trumpet player Dave Douglas from the
U.S. of A. Voted as world’s best trumpet player by readers of Downbeat magazine
and Archie comics. Satya led by Dave settles down on stage, I mean sits down on
stage. Just then heaven walks past me in her tiniest black number. Tosses her
tresses and glances in my direction. Music begins. Band hasn’t begun. Chaos.
Band begins. Wrench myself back to earth. Satya’s seated in a neat semi circle.
Myra cross legged on harmonium. Dave cross eyed on trumpet. Samir and
Sanghamitra cross country on tabla and tanpura respectively. Dave looks like a
snake charmer about to charm a snake right out of Samir’s tabla. Band’s playing.
Music flows. Sounds charming indeed. I notice a lot of snakes in the audience
slowly rise and slither towards the canteen hip flasks in hand. Crowd’s getting
restless, collective murmurs, customary grunts and some oinks of disapproval
about the raags being given to us by Satya…nass! Rang Bhavan is under threat
of being converted into a huge open air Just not Jazz by the bay! Mr. Compere
comes up and requests the crowds to stop disturbing the performers. I’m tempted
to yell back, ‘the performers are disturbing us’. The trumpet player may be hot
but it’s the batatawadas that are smokin’ right now. So I get up and head for
the snakes, I mean snacks, at the canteen located next to the loo! And I’m not
talking about the loo as in the Louie’s wife.

Okay I’m back. I don’t quit so easily. And guess what? Half the band is joined
by three other musicians to form Myra Melfords ‘Same River Twice’! I’m slowly
beginning to understand the mathematics of music. Things are getting interesting
at Jazz Yatra. The river flows. This band is wild. Making avant garde efforts to
push back the boundaries of Jazz. Pianist Myra’s brilliant and definitely an
inspiring band leader. Dave is beginning to sound like he has earned his votes.
The Jap chap playing bass seems to be getting more out of his headless and
fretless bass.

Day three opens with Harsha Makalande on solo ‘Hamburg Steinway piano tuned by
Mr. Mistry’ as Mr. Compere kept announcing a little more often than the
necessary sponsor plug. Anyway, Harsha sounds like he is rehearsing for his next
big solo performance. He probably feels that way too since there’s just a
handful of Jazz enthusiasts present in their respective seats at 7.00 PM sharp.
Then came the Vijay Iyer Quartet. Now here is a brilliant group of musicians,
each a virtuoso in his own right, with strings of academical achievement behind
their music. I could almost smell the textbooks from where it all came. This is
great Jazz. The musicians on stage are incredibly tuned into each other. They
have obviously been playing together for a long time or may be they can read
each others minds or perhaps they read each others textbooks. Then again, it
could just be the simple fact that they share each others T-Shirts.

Great performance. Good show. Brilliant musicianship. But for some reason the
quartet doesn’t really make me want to stand on my chair and yell ‘yebdiyow’. At
one point though, in the middle of the bass solo I did feel like getting up and
waltzing into heaven seated just two rows ahead. Unfortunately the tune was in
five and a half time. This would certainly complicate things in the ballroom
department of dance. What’s next ? Oh yes. Its Malcolm Mc’Neil, from New Zealand
and you better believe this, he is being backed by Jamie and the Jammers from
day one. Now Mally looked a little bewildered on stage. He was probably
wondering what the heck is he doing on stage at an international Jazz festival
when he should have been safely tucked into a cozy nightclub at some swanky five
star hotel in New Zealand. He did put up a spirited performance however, and
considering he found out who his back up band was only the night before showtime,
he did exceptionally well. In fact I even overheard a couple of women expressing
their intense desire to hug him as he sang, ‘have I told you lately’.

Time for the grand finale featuring petite Louisa Cottifogli backed by the Louis
Banks trio and act two featuring the big surprise, world renowned clarinet
player Eddie Daniels and wife Mirabai who seems to be on her way to nirvana via
the Indian Yatra. You’ve guessed right, the couple’s going to be backed by the
Louis Banks trio. I guess India has yet to produce another rhythm section as
awesome as Louis Banks, Karl Peters and Ranjit Barot. Little Louisa kicks off
the grand finale with ‘Vande Mataram’. Great. This little Italian has really got
us Indians by the balls. Then she proceeds to twist them around miming vocalists
from different parts of the world. I almost forgot what an Italian singer sounds
like. Now comes the sucker punch, she goes and does a Dave Douglas on us (she
starts miming a trumpet). And finally virtuoso clarinet player Eddie Daniels
takes the stage with the tireless trio. Scorching solos. Dazzling display of
musicianship and improvisational skills. Wifey joins the party. And promptly
starts cookin’. Reminds me of our own version of an American Jazz singer, the
ageless Pam Crain. A few exciting tunes down the show, differences seemed to
creep in onstage. Differences probably musical, financial, political or some
other ill seemed to crop up in broad spotlight. Differences at Jazz by the bay
is war. Differences at an international platform like the Jazz Yatra is world
war. And so finally the curtains came down on the world war, sorry, Jazz Yatra.
The bottom line is, the boys at Jazz India did make it happen against all odds.
Even if the batatawadas and babes were far more happening than the bands.

Colin D’Cruz


Singing the blues for Mother Earth

Where We Live, Benefit CD for Earthjustice
Where We Live, Benefit CD for Earthjustice
Where We Live, Benefit CD for Earthjustice (Higher Octave Music, 2003)

Musicians have proven time and time again their compassion by recording benefit albums or performing at benefit concerts. We have seen several compilation releases aimed at humanitarian causes in 2003, including Drop the Debt, Planet SOS and now a benefit CD for the non-profit organization Earthjustice, Where We Live which orchestrates a campaign for the universal right to clean air and clean water. The compilation boasts an array of well-known artists performing mostly blues and gospel tunes including, Norah Jones, Pops Staples with Ry Cooder, Maria Muldaur with Bonnie Raitt, Mose Allison, Tina Turner with Robert Cray, Bob Dylan and John Hammond with Tom Waits. However, this doesn’t surprises me since 2003 was both the year of the blues and a time of planetary awareness.

According to the press release, “In the United States alone, more than 70,000 people die of air pollution, and 40% of the nation’s waterways do not meet basic water quality standards.” It’s much worse in other regions in the world because in other parts of the world, you would be fortunate to find drinkable water. And in Cairo or Mexico City, clean air would be a high price commodity. However, as we all know, we can only tackle one problem at a time. Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to preserving wildlife and defending the rights of all people so that we can live on an ecologically sound planet.

I find this compilation enjoyable and I believe that protecting the planet is the best cause of all. Norah Jones delivers the soulful Peace. Pop Staples along with Ry Cooder (on slide guitar) contribute the rousing gospel blues tune, I Shall Not Be Moved. Los Lobos honor the earth and the late Marvin Gaye with their rendition of What’s Going On? (a song that never fails to bring tears to my eyes) and Bob Dylan proves he’s still in top form, performing a honky-tonk tune, Watch the River Flow.

While many of the songs fall into the blues and gospel genres,Rubén Blades croons the sexy Latino Estampa, Willie Nelson a country western song, Living in the Promised Land. Sweet Honey in the Rock delivers a traditional a
cappella song, More Than a Paycheck and Captain Beefheart performs his zany Happy Earthday. Most of the songs that appear on the CD are familiar covers and songs that provoke an emotional response. And certainly it is well worth your time to pick up this CD and support a good cause.

But for those of you who realize that every individual effort makes a difference in promoting sustainability, you can go many steps further in achieving this goal by doing one or more of the following suggestions:

Consume less meat or go vegetarian
Stop supporting the tobacco industry (do not smoke)
Use natural cleaners in your home and business
Eat organic foods & support organic farms
Drive your car less & seek alternative forms of transportation
Don’t buy or wear clothing manufactured from petroleum products
And elect progressive leaders that will protect the environment
Give your support to green businesses and corporations
Use your power as a consumer
Use your power as a compassionate human being
Invest your money with green companies

And for now consider the Native American adage of protecting the environment for the next seven generations (including animal and plant life). In the meantime, support good causes and join the musicians on Where We Live in preserving Mother Earth and celebrating the musical treasures presented on this CD.

CD Tracks:

1. Norah Jones, Peace
2. Pops Staples with Ry Cooder, I Shall Not Be Moved
3. Los Lobos, What’s Going On?
4. Bob Dylan, Watching The River Flow
5. Maria Muldaur with Bonnie Raitt, It’s A Blessing
6. Rubèn Blades, Estampa
7. What A Wonderful World, Dan Zanes with Lou Reed and The Rubi Theater Company
8. Michael Franti & Spearhead, Yes I Will
9. Willie Nelson, Living In The Promised Land
10. The Neville Brothers, Sister Rosa
11. Sweet Honey In The Rock, More Than Just A Paycheck
12. Karen Savoca, Two Little Feet
13. Mose Allison, Getting There
14. Tina Turner with Robert Cray, A Change Is Gonna Come
15. John Hammond with Tom Waits, I Know I’ve Been Changed
16. Happy Earthday, Captain Beefheart


Recording Academy® Announces 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award And Trustees Award Recipients

Santa Mónica, USA – Recipients of the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award and
Trustees Award were announced today by the Recording Academy®. Recording artists
Van Cliburn, The Funk Brothers, Ella Jenkins, Sonny Rollins, Artie Shaw and Doc
Watson will receive Lifetime Achievement Awards. Jazz producer Orrin Keepnews,
songwriting team Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and pianist/radio host Marian
McPartland will be honored with Trustees Awards. Formal acknowledgment of the
awards will be made in conjunction with the 46th Annual GRAMMY® Awards ceremony,
which will be held at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 8, 2004.
The show will be a prime-time television special on the CBS Television Network.”The Lifetime Achievement and Trustees Awards recognize music people who have
made the greatest impact on our culture
,” said Neil Portnow, President of
the Academy. “These recipients are being honored as legendary performers,
cultural ambassadors, archetypal musicians and profoundly inspiring figures.
Their outstanding accomplishments and passion for their craft have created a
timeless legacy that has positively affected multiple generations, and will
continue to influence generations to come

The Lifetime Achievement Award honors lifelong artistic contributions to the
recording medium while the Trustees Award recognizes outstanding contributions
to the industry in a non-performing capacity. Both special merit awards are
decided by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees. The recipients
will be officially acknowledged in a ceremony during GRAMMY Week in Los Angeles,
which culminates with the GRAMMY Awards.


A two-time GRAMMY® Award winner, Van Cliburn has arguably become the best-known
classical musician in history since he won the First International Tchaikovsky
Competition in Moscow in 1958 at the height of the Cold War. In his illustrious
career, Cliburn has performed with every major orchestra and conductor, and has
performed for every U.S. president since Harry Truman (and for royalty and heads
of state in Europe, Asia and South America). Cliburn’s recording of
Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto was the first classical recording ever to
sell enough copies to be certified platinum. In 2001 he was inducted into the
American Classical Hall of Fame. In 2002 he was presented with the Recording
Academy President’s Merit Award, and received honors from the Kennedy Center for
the unique and invaluable contribution he has made to the cultural life of our

As the only studio musicians on all of Motown’s hits in its golden years, The
Funk Brothers created the instrumental sound for, and played on, more hit
records than the Beatles, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones combined. Their
creativity and unique approach to soul and funk shaped the sound of music
throughout the world, from the time they released their first recording 40 years
ago to today. Recently their story was depicted in the documentary Standing In
The Shadows Of Motown, the soundtrack of which won them their first GRAMMY for
Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other
Visual Media at the 45th Annual GRAMMY Awards. The Funk Brothers won their
second GRAMMY that same year.

From the beginning of her career in 1956, GRAMMY-nominated folk singer Ella
Jenkins has been a cornerstone of children’s music. Over the course of the past
five decades, she has established herself as a musician whose reach extends
beyond her target audience into the realm of adults and educators. Jenkins was
the first performer to take her music into schools and teach music while
incorporating respect for diversity. She has educated children about everything
from reading and geography to multiculturalism and the environment, and through
her famous Adventures in Rhythm workshops, she has taught music teachers as well.
Literally thousands of musicians who now make their living performing in schools
and family concerts are indebted to Jenkins for paving the way.

Sonny Rollins stands as one of the all-time great tenor saxophonists. After
making his recording debut in 1949, Rollins recorded with many acclaimed jazz
musicians including J.J. Johnson, Bud Powell, Fats Navarro, Miles Davis and
Thelonious Monk. His series of brilliant recordings for labels Prestige, Blue
Note, Contemporary and Riverside in the 1950s made him one of the most acclaimed
tenor saxophonists of his generation. A Milestone recording artist since 1972,
Rollins’ skill at turning unlikely material into jazz and his rhythmic freedom
and tonal distortions has not diminished over the years. Rollins recently won a
GRAMMY for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual Or Group at the 44th Annual
GRAMMY Awards for This Is What I Do.

Perhaps the most renowned jazz clarinetist, Artie Shaw led five orchestras
during the swing era, all of them unique and memorable. Of his recordings,
“Begin The Beguine” in 1938 made him a star and his orchestra one of the most
popular in the world. Other greats include “Any Old Time” with Billie Holiday, “Frenesi,”
“Stardust,” “Concerto For Clarinet” and “Summit Ridge Drive.” In 1955, Artie
Shaw permanently gave up the clarinet to pursue his dreams of being a writer,
but did return to music as the frontman for a reorganized Artie Shaw Orchestra
in 1983.

Arthel “Doc” Watson is one of the most influential folk/country guitar players
of our time, and his beautiful voice, great instrumental talent, and mastery of
traditional material and have made him an American treasure. Watson sings and
picks with an emotional authenticity that is unsurpassed, and many of today’s
great artists — including Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris —
acknowledge his influence. Additionally, Watson’s encyclopedic knowledge of
American traditional songs has provided a cultural service by preserving the
legacy of music in our country. He has been performing and recording for five
decades, and during this time has won six GRAMMY Awards, including Best
Traditional Folk Album at the 45th Annual GRAMMY Awards in New York.


One of the most respected of all jazz producers, Orrin Keepnews began his
long, productive and still-ongoing recording career in 1953 as co-founder of the
legendary Riverside label. While at Riverside, his creative guidance helped
launch or advance the careers of many jazz greats, including Thelonious Monk,
Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery, and Cannonball Adderley. In the late ’60s he
initiated another remarkable body of work at Milestone Records, involving
significant artists including Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Lee Konitz and Joe
Henderson. Keepnews’ occasional ventures outside jazz have ranged from the
Staple Singers to the Kronos Quartet. He has served in executive roles, has
written award-winning liner notes, and remains active as a free-lance producer.
Throughout his career, Keepnews has continued to develop classic reissue
packages for several major labels, including such classic figures as Louis
Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker.

Together, the songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King has written a
string of hits including “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Take Good Care Of My
Baby,” “The Loco-Motion,” “Go Away Little Girl,” and “(You Make Me Feel Like A)
Natural Woman.” They were among the most inventive and successful of the Brill
Building songwriting teams. In addition to an extremely successful songwriting
career as a team, both Goffin and King have earned accolades as
singer/songwriters in their own rights. In 1990, Goffin was inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. King has earned four GRAMMY Awards, three as an
artist and one for writing James Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend.”

Marian McPartland’s program Piano Jazz, which has aired on National Public Radio
since 1978, presents McPartland and her guests as they reminisce, improvise, and
swap stories, songs, and techniques about jazz. In addition, McPartland formed
her own Halycon label and recorded several acclaimed albums, and has composed
material that has been recorded by Tony Bennett and Peggy Lee, among others.
McPartland maintains a busy schedule recording, touring, lecturing and teaching
year-round. She is deeply committed to music education in the country’s public
schools and was inducted in the International Association for Jazz Education
Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1983, Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz received a George
Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting. In 2001, McPartland and her
program were honored with a “Gracie” – the Gracie Allen Award given by American
Women in Radio and Television – and the National Music Council’s American Eagle

Established in 1957, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, Inc.,
also known as the Recording Academy, is dedicated to improving the quality of
life and cultural conditions for music and its makers. An organization of
musicians, producers and other recording professionals, the Recording Academy is
internationally known for the GRAMMY Awards, and is responsible for numerous
ground-breaking outreach, professional development, cultural enrichment,
education and human services programs.

[Photo of Doc Watson].


Cubans Get Most Grammy Nominations in Tropical Traditional Music Category

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha)

Beverly Hills.- At a ceremony held at the Beverly Hills Hotel, in California, a group of pop stars, including Dido, Moby and Sarah McLachlan, made public the list of nominees for the golden gramophones to be granted by the US Academy of Musical Arts and Sciences. Category 60 includes Ibrahím Ferrer (Buenos Hermanos), Septeto Nacional Ignacio Piñeiro (Poetas Del Son), Soneros de verdad presented
Rubalcaba (Past y Present), and Barbarito Torres (Pimienta Records/Havana Caliente). The list also includes Bajando Gervasio by Amadito Valdes (Pimienta Records). Experts noted that for the first time, Cuban artists living in Cuba obtained all nominations in a single category. The Grammy ceremony will be held on February 8, 2004, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.


Sweet, sweet showers of Blues

Knut Reiersrud - Tramp
Knut Reiersrud – Tramp
Knut Reiersrud

Tramp (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 1993) & Sweet Showers of Rain (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2001)

Norwegian blues man Knut
discovered Miles Davis when he was 10 then at age 12 Knut and his brother bought guitars after seeing Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters on TV. By the ripe age of 18, Buddy Guy and Otis Rush heard Knut perform and invited him to Chicago. Since that time Knut has played over 5,000 concerts and recorded over 100 albums, but only released a handful under his own name. He has mastered 10
different string instruments and tours with 8 guitars with different tunings. And I bet few readers of this site, outside of Norway and the Chicago blues community have heard of this phenomenal musician.

Knut is also an imaginative musician and it’s easy to see his curiosity of diverse cultures in a childhood photograph that appears on the Sweet Showers of Rain CD. A much younger version of Knut is dressed in a Polynesian grass skirt and an adult size sombrero; and he’s holding Mexican maracas in his hands. Well, not much has changed since that photograph was taken since Knut’s music
carries a childlike inquisitive nature and he’s still exploring other cultures such as West Africa, American blues, Indian (India) and traditional Norwegian music.

The 1993 release, Tramp features cora, soaring West African vocals, African percussion, cora along with blues gospel singers, Five Blind Boys from Alabama who accompany Knut on two songs by Blind Willie Johnson, Everybody Oughto Treat a Stranger Right and Let Your Light Shine.

The title track, an instrumental, features organ and guitar bouncing along a jagged path. No Problem and Fareslatten are instrumental tracks featuring guitar and African musician Alagi M’Bye on Cora. Jarabe takes the treatment a bit further by adding soaring West African vocals, talking drum, jembe and organ among other instruments. And the cover of Big Joe William’s Baby Please Don’t Go
and the African Tobakobe blends Gambian vocals (Juldeh Camara) with the blues classic.

Fast forward to 2001 and the release of Sweet Showers of Rain an album that points to Jimi Hendrix guitar, 1970’s funk, roadhouse blues and recall such performers as T-Rex, Sly and the Family Stone and legendary blues musicians. The cora has been replaced by sitar and the acoustic guitar has gone electric, but you’ll also find organ, harmonium, drums, ambient treatment, loops and samples played on turntables. Blues Power (Part 3) recalls Jimi Hendrix and American funk along side samples of Otis Jones, Lightening Slim, Howling Wolf and the Parchman Farm Inmates. The titular track features wah wah guitar, funky bass and unusual vocal syncopation that recalls T-Rex. And A Lovely Disaster also recalls T-Rex, but a sitar and a rap vocalist are added giving the song exotic and a gritty appeal.

Roadhouse blues Giving Up (by Van McCoy), the funky Jumpin’ Judy, the ambient Down on Me and The Old Man Still Sings (sounds like the Beatle’s Abbey Road album) also are worth a mention. However, the traditional songs, Motherless Children and Reap What you Sow and the original Epitaph (about a falsely
convicted felon awaiting his untimely death) send chills up the spine. Knut might be of Scandinavian descent, but blues courses through his veins and he’s able to deliver the musical goods as well as, America’s infamous blues men.

Technically, these albums do not fall under Norwegian folk-roots, but they do fall into international traditional music and are far reaching. I encourage viewers of this site to check out these recordings.  and you can find them at Kirkelig Kulturverksted.

Compliments of and happy holidays from
Cranky Crow World Music.


Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion