Reconfigured Burning Sky Should Still Score with Native American Music Fans

Burning Sky – Spirits in the Wind
Burning Sky

Spirits in the Wind (Canyon Records CR-7047, 2002)

Pared down to the duo of Aaron White and Kelvin Mockingbird (both of whom are proficient on guitar and Native American flute) Burning Sky continue to make great music, though the feel now is one of soulful intimacy rather than exploratory inventiveness.

Their three previous albums for Canyon were trio efforts with percussionist Michael Bannister as a core member, and for 1998’s wonderful Enter The Earth (Ryko), the group added a bassist to become a quartet. By that point they were part neo-traditionalists, part canny global fusionists (including African, Celtic and many other flavors in the mix) and part jam band. I’m not sure what kind of personal or professional shake-ups led to the current version of Burning Sky, but the fact that Spirits In The Wind is a work of considerable beauty indicates they couldn’t have been too very painful.

Acoustic guitar and flute in various solo and duo arrangements carry most of the disc, with a chamber music sensibility occasionally riled by blues riffing, growling didgeridoo or production that seems deliberately not fancy.

Interestingly, White and Mockingbird are joined by former Doors drummer John Densmore (credited with playing the dumbek, but it sounds more like a jembe), who adds some pleasantly primitive pounding on an effective cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” and elsewhere. This is not music that’s going to blow you away, but with pieces like the closing “Shadow Man” taking their sweet time, you may well find yourself drifting away instead.

This album can be seen as something of a musical crossroads for Burning Sky- they’ve blazed trails, and now, likely on their way to blazing more, they’ve paused to make music that’s lovely and unpretentious.

Buy Spirits in the Wind

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Baikouba Badji and Modibo Traore – Babu Casamance!

Baikouba Badji and Modibo Traore

Babu Casamance! (Cafe Tilibo, 2003)

Modibo Traore has a mission. Visit his website and you’ll notice an emphasis on leprosy prevention as much as on his new CD. A dollar from each CD sold returns to Senegal for leprosy and sustainability projects. And the title track “Babu Casamance!” was recorded at a leprosy village in Teubi, Casamance. This CD completes a circle for Traore, who learned traditional songs as a youth by assisting with ceremonies, then pounding out the rhythms on his homemade tin-can drums with plastic heads. Now based in Seattle, Traore returned to Senegal in January 2003 to play and record with the people of Casamance and master bougarabou player Saikouba Badji of Gambia.

Close your eyes and you’ll find yourself under a shade tree in midday, or around a fire late at night, soaking in the rhythm, the clapping, the group singing. The recordings by Rebecca Zimmer are wonderfully clean and crisp, but the liner notes remind that the musicians are not professionals-special thanks are extended to the musicians who gave up valuable time away from their jobs to participate. Except for translations of song titles, no song details are included. But the titles alone convey a variety of real-life themes: “Father gave me a need to dance,” “Man is tired,” “She wants peanut sauce,” and “Shake it!” An authentic aural slice of rural African life, this music will transport you to a village far away, where people make wonderful music about familiar concerns.

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Orishas to Perform at Spanish Festival Dedicated to Latin America

Orishas
Orishas
(Prensa Latina-Cumbancha)Madrid, Spain – Cuban rap band Orishas, a 2003 Latin Grammy nominee, will perform in concert at the International Cultures Festival, Pirineos Sur, to take place in Huesca, northeast of Madrid, in July and August.

The trio, with two albums –A Lo Cubano
and Emigrantewill participate in the festival along with acts from Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, the US, Germany, France and Turkey and other countries, besides national acts.

The Festival will open on July 11 and will be dedicated to Latin American popular music, from the traditional to the modern. A special space will be given to rock in Spanish, which has gained ground in the international market since the early 90’s. For it, a huge delegation including the Mexican group Café Tacuba and singer Vicentico are expected. Techno music will be represented by Los Andes Electronicos and Brazilian DJ Dolores, while legendary Venezuelan singer Oscar D’León will sing the best salsa and son songs included on his repertoire.

Peruvian artist Susana Baca is one of the guests of honor and she will perform in a section dedicated to African and native traditions.

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Flamenco Singer “Chaquetón” Dies of Cancer

Madrid, Spain – José Antonio Díaz Fernández, known as “Chaquetón,” one of Madrid’s best-known flamenco singers, died of cancer in a Madrid hospital. He was 58.

Born in 1945 in the southern town of Algeciras, he was part of a dynasty of flamenco singers called “los chaqueta,” (the jackets). He was the son of El Flecha de Cádiz, nephew of Tomás El Chaqueta, Antonio El Chaqueta, Adela La Chaqueta, El Chaleco and Salvador Pantalón; and brother of El Flecha.Chaquetón began his career as a child, singing in the bar owned by his father, el Flecha de Cadiz. Later in his career, he performed with other famous flamenco singers, including the legendary Camarón de la Isla.

He is survived by his wife, flamenco dancer Lina Fonteboa.

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Putumayo Travels to the French Caribbean

Putumayo Presents... French Caribbean
Putumayo Presents… French Caribbean
New York, USA – Putumayo takes listeners on a musical cruise of the French Caribbean with a selection of zouk, compas, twoubadou, biguine and more. With French Caribbean, released on May 20, 2003, Putumayo revisits the French Creole islands of Haiti, Guadeloupe and Martinique, which have been experiencing a roots revival in recent years.

The French Caribbean is a place where music is imbedded in the landscape: whether it is compas or zouk blaring out of storefront speakers or the variety of sounds that enliven carnival celebrations and street festivals.

Acoustic traditional styles like Haitian twoubadou and Martiniquean biguine have recently earned a place on trendy dance floors alongside flashier zouk and compas.

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CD Review: The Rough Guide to Ska

Various Artists

The Rough Guide to Ska (World Music Network. RGNET 1083, 2003)

There have been many introductions to this energetic music and there are some overlaps. A few of the artists present here show up on other compilations, for example, the 3cd Trojan Ska Box Set. The material though is not duplicated. This set comes solely from work produced by Vincent ‘Randy’ Chin between 1960 – 64 and includes the usual suspects ; The Skatalites, The Maytals, Roland Alphonso, Don Drummond and Rico Rodriguez, among others.

It is always a real pleasure to hear Rico’s warm, melodic trombone and there are three samples from 1961, including Rico’s Farewell, recorded before he left for the UK. It features some fine ensemble playing as well as each soloist offering a personal goodbye. But there is also some fine inspired playing from the man himself on the shuffle, Rico Special, especially when he begins his solo and the drummer’s brushwork springs into life to crisply underline his fluent blowing. There is a lot of magic crammed into 3 minutes worth of playing.

The Skatalites produced their own kind of magic too and it isn’t surprising when you consider that the line-up included players like Tommy McCook amd Roland Alphonso on saxes, Drummond on trombone and Jackie Mittoo on piano. Their fondness for re-working tunes from different genres is evident here on Ska-Racha, adapted from the Mexican song, La Cucharacha, and Baby Elephant Walk, based on the theme from the movie, Hatari. They produced some of the most driven ska from fairly unlikely sources.

There are plenty of vocal tracks too though I’m not sure that Alton & Ellis is really ska, it’s more like doo-wop. Lord Creator’s vocal style was cool and mellow and Don’t Stay Out Late is a suave, urbane piece of advice to his underage date. A little tingue in cheek too ! Bunny & Skitter only produced a couple of tracks for Chin but their steady shuffling A Little Mashin’ is worth hearing as is the lesser known Basil Gabbidon’s Iveree. Both show the influence of blues and r’n’b.

The quality of a few tracks suffers from deteriorating master tapes but overall the selection sounds great, a reminder of the energy and freshness of this music.

Buy The Rough Guide to Ska.

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CD Review: Idrissa Diop – Yakar

Idrissa Diop - Yakar
Idrissa Diop – Yakar
Idrissa Diop

Yakar (Tinder Records, 2003)

Senegalese band leader Idrissa Diop offers us his dance to you drop release, Yakar which marks another
sizzling recording coming out of the African continent and African music releases tend to be endless these days, cranking out one gifted artist after another, almost to the point where these musicians get lost in a sea of names. I know I have trouble remembering names, but like many other world music enthusiasts, I am delighted to keep unveiling these musical treasures. Similar to other contemporary African musicians, Diop records and performs with a large band that includes 5 percussionists, 6 horn players, guitar, bass, keyboards, violin and backup vocals.

The soundscape created is immense with power beats, blaring horns and impassioned vocals that never relent. As you can imagine with this arrangement, Diop explores various musical territories from Cuban salsa sung in the Wolof language (one of the Senegalese languages), jazz that recalls John Coltrane, funk, rock and disco. Diop’s writing and arranging proves strong here and his love for music comes through in his tribute to music, Guenth (Dreams) which appears twice on the CD, once as an instrumental. Most of the tracks feature high octane music including the funky rock titular Yakar, the groovy Life, Cuban Sopante and Diolof Man which recalls the 70’s super funk group, Earth Wind and Fire.

However, Diop knows that a dancing body needs rest now and again, so he tosses in a few ballads that allow listeners to wipe the sweat from their brows and to breathe. Tire Ailleurs slows things down a bit with its Arabic violin and percussion. The love song, Nop features Coltranesque sax laid over jazzy piano and a trap kit. And Africains et Antillais recalls a Caribbean ballad. Diop whose vocals often times recall fellow countryman and superstar Youssou N’Dour comes off as an instinctive and passionate performer. He carefully crafts the type of songs that please audiences live and on recordings. And similar to the too numerous to name talent coming out of Africa, there’s no stopping this musical force and who would want to anyway?
(Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music).

Buy Yakar

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Russian Folklore Expedition

Moscow, Russia – The scholars from the Institute of World Literature (Russian Academy of Sciences) Yelena and Sergey Minyonok have developed the research project www.russianexpedition.net.

One of the aims of this project is to record and to investigate the authentic folklore musical traditions of Southwestern rural Russia.The itineraries will include the picturesque villages, in which the inhabitants
mostly preserve the traditional way of life. The field research is devoted to the complex process of preservation of the rich musical inheritance rooted in pagan times.

Russian folklore music differs by its unique harmonies. Our team members will work with the best folklore singers and choirs enjoying not only their music but also friendly and fruitful interaction.

This project has a large educational and cultural potential. It offers the chance for curious lay people who are interested in folklore music to participate as well as specialists and students of ethnomusicology, anthropology, art, history, sociology and Russian studies.

The Russian Folklore Expedition has a regular free Newsletter, where we publish: the scientific results of our regular expeditions, stories from the field, opinions and impressions of our team members and authentic folklore songs and other texts in English so everyone can experience its unique poetry.

Contact information:
Telephone (095) 952-6583

Fax (095) 200-3216
Postal address: Povarskaya st. 25A, Moscow, 121069, Russia

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Maraca, Czech World Music

Maraca - Longe
Maraca – Longe
Prague, Czech Republic – Maraca (not to be confused with the Cuban band with the same name) is a group from the town of Zlín. It navigates the waters of jazz/world music. The group has composed music to go along with poems by the most famous modern Portuguese author, Fernando Pessoa.

On the band’s third album, Longe (Indies Records MAM206, 2003), one can listen to a wide variety of instruments such as the Arabic lute (ud), the Australian didjeridu, guitar, bass, percussion and violin. The members of the band and the guests have created a world of their own where even samples have their place.

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CD Review: Filippo Gambetta’s Pria Goaea

Filippo Gambetta

Pria Goaea (Dunya Records. FY8052). Distributed by Felmay.

Sometimes you put on a CD by someone you’ve never heard and forty-odd minutes later you find yourself replaying it. It’s that good.This is one of those occurrences.
Gambetta is a young melodeon virtuoso from Genoa who has written most of the material here but manages to make it sound as though it has been around for ages. With his trio and a superb bunch of guests he draws on diverse European music to create a varied selection of moods and atmospheres. The effect is a little like a journey in the hands of a well-informed guide, beginning and ending in Maria’s Genoa trattoria.

Although strongly rooted in his native city I can hear traces of other places too, such as France, Spain, parts of Eastern Europe and Ireland.

His playing is ever inventive, resourceful and melodic and he is ably supported by some fine musicians. For example, Apparenze begins with his own meditative playing which is inspiring and beautiful in itself. Then Alessio Pisani’s bassoon joins and lifts the track to another level. This combination of instruments is perhaps unexpected and that makes it all the more exciting and arresting.

Similarly, Oliver Schroer’s electric violin brings a mixture of Eastern European and North African echoes to Slatner. But it’s Piero Ponzo’s clarinet that consistently proves itself the perfect companion for Gambetta’s rich explorations, especially on the sprightly Corbu which draws its inspiration from a nightclub of the same name.

The final track has its roots in the Ligurian tradition. La Tabachera/Quattro Danse/Incantatrice is from an anonymous 18th century manuscript and moves easily from the solemn and stately opening to a spirited and uplifting climax. I’d swear there was a violin in there too though none is credited.

So having reached the end I find myself going back to the beginning.This is an album that is a joy to hear and one that I can’t recommend highly enough.

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