Donkeys, Music and the Rest of the World

Before we were married, before we were even engaged, my husband gave me a wonderful gift.  He bought me a trip to Spain.  The purpose was two-fold; I would be presented to his family for inspection and offered my first  introduction to his country.  I was treated to two glorious weeks in a country with real castles, breath-taking cathedrals and hundreds of years worth of history that seemed to linger on every street and in the tiniest nook and cranny.  I took pictures of Roman ruins in Mérida; Goya paintings, that I’d previously seen crammed into four inch squares in art books, at the Prado museum in Madrid; and the 13th century Moorish palace of La Alhambra with its intricate tile and scroll work in Granada. 

When I came back to the U.S., I showed off my pictures to a co-worker.  She stopped in the middle of my huge stack of glossy prints and asked, “Where are all the pictures of donkeys and stuff?

Donkeys?” I asked, bewildered.

You know, pictures of peasants and those carts pulled by donkeys,” she replied. “I’ve been looking for pictures of peasant scenes. I paint in my spare time and I’d like to have, you know, some village scenes.”

I was stunned. We both sat at the beige, plastic breakroom table and stared at each other. I looked into her pale, watery eyes, wide with curiosity. Then it occurred to me that maybe she thought I said Amish instead of Spanish. I wasn’t sure how to mention that these were pictures of Spain and not pictures of the Amish, the devout religious sect of Pennsylvania who shunned most forms of modern technology. I glanced down at the pictures of stone streets and ancient buildings and decided that there was no mistaking these scenes with that of the pristine farmland of Pennsylvania.

I’m almost certain I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times, trying to think of something to say. I didn’t know what to say. She was a perfectly nice woman and I didn’t want to offend her by suggesting that she didn’t have any clue about Spain.

I considered her request for a moment longer. Had I seen any donkeys in Spain? I’d seen horses hooked up in front of decorated carriages in Sevilla that the tourists took to see the city. I’d seen ancient men sporting berets huddled over a café table playing dominos with sparkling glasses of deep red Rioja wine at their elbows. I’d even seen two nuns arm-in-arm on the streets of Sevilla in long black habits and snow white wimples. But I didn’t remember seeing any donkeys. Suddenly, I was reminded of a farmer I’d seen checking the progress of his olive grove from the back of a small motorcycle. I rejected the thought because I felt it wasn’t what she was looking for from me.

Finally, I decided to just tell her. “I didn’t see any donkeys. In fact, I didn’t see any peasants either.” I suggested there might be some village scenes she could copy from art books at the library. She seemed disappointed with the answer I had given her.

I, too, was disappointed. Cathedrals, Roman ruins and spectacular views of tiny white towns clinging to the scenery of southern Spain seemed to fly in the face of what she imagined Spain to be like.

Surely, there are donkeys in Spain. Somewhere in Spain donkeys work or play or produce baby donkeys, but I didn’t see a single one. Much later my husband did explain to me that there are the burro taxis in a couple of tourist towns. Here reluctant, disobedient donkeys, suffering under the weighty burden of foreigners, ferry tourists up and down the street while the locals take bets on which unfortunate tourist will fall off the ass and land on their own ass. Secretly, I suspect that any self respecting donkeys in Spain spend their days in comfortable barns. They might hang their long faces over stall doors and dream about licking the remnants of café con leche out of tiny cups or the leftovers of garlic-driven feasts from platters abandoned by diners for the cool, shuttered rooms and the afternoon siesta.

My co-worker just had her own vision of Spain and it wasn’t the real one, the one filled with bank machines, high-speed trains, suicidal driving and high-tech modern businesses. More than likely she came by her ideas honestly – from an old movie, where senoritas in frilly dresses pine for doomed matadors and everyone speaks with a hokey, Hollywood Mexican accent. I wondered if my pictures – my vision – of Spain ruined it for her.

See, introducing contradictory information to an American with an already deep seeded belief isn’t easy, especially when it involves a vision of another people or another culture. Unfortunately, most Americans know very little about their own country and know even less about the rest of the world. We tolerate different foods, what we would consider unusual customs and world music, but only in tiny, bite-sized bits. The funny thing is this doesn’t seem to bother too many Americans. Chances are if you go anywhere in the world and ask anyone on the street about the U.S. or Americans, they can usually come up with a list of things they have seen or heard. Their ideas might not always be correct, but they’ll know something. They might mention movies they’ve seen or give you their rendition of a popular song or name some sort of product they’ve seen advertised, and the odds are pretty good they even know who the current president of the U.S. is. Even citizens of the axis-of-evil countries can tell you who the current U.S. president is.

But Americans are different from the rest of the world. Try this. Go up to any person in Anywhere, U.S.A. and ask the first person you meet on the street if they can name a current movie star in India or sing the lyrics of the latest popular song in South Africa or name the presidents of ten foreign countries. We just can’t do it. This might be why Americans have such a difficult time distinguishing the difference between a Sikh and an Arab. This is also the reason why world music stations are far and few between in the U.S., and why most Americans have never heard of Khaled, Malkit Singh, Estrella Morente Cesaria Evora or Natacha Atlas even though they have thousands or millions of fans worldwide.

I realize by that last statement that I’ve just opened myself up to all sorts of emails telling me that you, yes you, know all about these musicians and that you consider yourself a worldly person. All I have to say to that is good for you, Smartypants. But that doesn’t change the fact that most Americans simply don’t care. Americans love to be loved. We love to be admired, copied and especially envied, especially if we didn’t have to do a thing to earn that love, admiration or envy.

You might be wondering what this has to do with you. Well, if you’re an American, this type of thinking says something about you. It tells the rest of the world a great deal about who we are as a people, about our education system and, believe it or not, about our policies toward the rest of the world. Somewhere along the line you will be called to take a child or that ungracious American standing next to you by the hand and educate and point out that a larger world exists and thrives. Because you never know if that American sitting next to you on some foreign tour will be the one to ask, “Yeah, that’s nice but where are all the donkeys?”.


Klezmatics on the Rise

The Klezmatics – Rise Up! Shteyt Oyf!
The Klezmatics

Rise Up! Shteyt Oyf! (Rounder Records 11661-3197-2, 2003)

The venerable Jewish roots music called klezmer has seen peaks and valleys of popularity, and much of its recent visibility can be attributed to a combination of general interest in world music and good old fashioned resiliency. A good klezmer band knows how to strike the right balance of serious tradition, innovation and a bit of meshugge. That said, The Klezmatics remain arguably the best practitioners of klezmer around.

Rise Up! Shteyt Oyf! contains songs of both simple beauty and wild abandon, tossing in touches borrowed from Celtic, Balkan, Latin and other musical realms. The result is very much an album for our times, a post-9/11 longing for unity through celebratory and introspective music in a world very much in need of it. Pieces like “Davenen (Prayer),” achieve maximum impact through wordless instrumental surges, but such others as “Yo Riboyn Olam (God Master of This Universe)” and “Hevl Iz Havolim (Vanity is Vanities)” draw lyrics and music straight from tradition to spell out the way to spiritual wisdom or plain common sense. Though a few moments of pure sonic nuttiness save the proceedings from approaching a tone that’s completely serious, this is mostly a food-for-thought album.

A cover of Holly Near’s “I Ain’t Afraid” asserts that we all have a lot more to fear from religious zealots than from God, while “Barikadn (Barricades)” laments mankind’s need to fight in the streets. Throughout it all, the band’s rich tapestry of brass, reeds, strings, accordion, keyboards and percussion does a superb job of taking it to the max or taking it easy. This is a very fine disc, full of good times, great sounds and hope in the face of uncertainty.


Don’t Pardon My French

Various Artists – French Caribbean
Various Artists

French Caribbean (Putumayo PUT 211-2, 2003)

Musically, some Caribbean islands bear strong marks of having been former colonies of Spain, England or The Netherlands. Haiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe, however, were under French control back in the day. As elsewhere in the Caribbean, enslaved Africans provided the rhythms that today form the basis of popular music in those places.

Putumayo’s French Caribbean is a celebration that is as lively as it is sultry and sensual, oozing forth beguine, compas and other styles with melodic strains cut from the same cloth as French chanson or cabaret music and beats straight from Africa.

Some of the songs, such as the selections from Michel “Sweet Mickey” Martelly and Haiti Twoubadou, groove to a choppy gallop like what you’d hear in cumbia or reggae, resounding with a folkloric feel shared by Kali’s banjo-picking quadrille and Emeline Michel’s graceful ode to motherhood. There’s modern-sounding tracks to keep things balanced, embellishing the roots via electronic and hip-hop touches without drowning them.

The disc ends with a live track from the mighty Kassav’, who combined the various traditional musics with up-to-date studio technology to create the rousing contemporary style known as zouk. It’s a fitting final note to a nicely put together collection that will leave you wanting to explore the region’s music further.

Buy French Caribbean


Mali Lolo! Stars of Mali

Mali Lolo!  Stars of Mali
Mali Lolo! Stars of Mali
Washington, D.C., USA – This year’s Smithsonian Folklife festival will be dedicated to Mali. To celebrate the event, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings has released a compilation of music from Mali.

Mali Lolo! Stars of Mali (Smithsonian Folkways 40508) showcases the preeminent musicians on the forefront of Mali’s modern musical renaissance. It features the Super Rail Band – Mali’s headliner group for 30 years – Grammy winner Ali Farka Toure, kora masters Toumani Diabate and Ballake Sissoko, Wassulu diva Oumou Sangare, guitarist and singer Habib Koite with his Bamada group, and more of Mali’s best talent.

This collection exemplifies each artist’s exploration of the rich ground between revered musical traditions and the innovations of modern Mali that draw upon a myriad of Western influences. Modern Mali, a powerhouse of African musical tradition, reverberates far beyond its geographic boundaries, harnessing its rich culture and history to create unique contemporary sounds.

Track listing:

1. Kasse Mady Diabate “Eh Ya Ye” 4:20
2. Kandia Kouyate “San Barana” 6:19
3. Habib Koite and Bamada “Nimato” 4:05

4. Ko Kan Ko Sata Doumbia “Ko Kan Ko Sata Doumbia On River” 1:03

5. Yoro Sidibe “Noumou Koulouba” 5:55
6. Oumou Sangare “Ya La” 4:07
7. Toumani Diabate and Ballake Sissoko “Cheikhna Demba” 4:26
8. Abdoulaye Diabate and Super Manden “Fakoli” 6:03
9. Tinariwen “Tessalit” 3:56

10. Tartit “Iya Heniya” 3:35
11. Lobi Traore “Duga” 5:23
12. Ali Farka Toure with Afel Bocoum “Hilly Yoro” 3:36
13. Neba Solo “Vaccination” 3:18
14. Rokia Traore “Yere Uolo” 4:12
15. Les Escrocs “Pirates” 4:50
16. Super Rail Band “Mansa” 6:31

Buy Mali Lolo! Stars of Mali


GUCA Dragacevski Sabor Trubaca Brass Bands Music Festival

Guca, Yugoslavia – The annual festival GUCA Dragacevski Sabor Trubaca (Brass Bands Music Festival) will be taking place August 8-10. In its 40th year, it involves three days full of great Gypsy brass music and Serbian national cuisine in a big open-air party with 300 000 visitors, in Guca, central Serbia.

The festival culminates in a competition between 50 of the best gypsy brass bands, mainly from South Serbia. Many of these bands are well known through the films of Emir Kusturica, such as Black Cat-White Cat, The Underground and Time of the Gypsies. In Guca you will have a unique chance to hear Boban Markovic, Sinisa Petrovic, Fead Sejdic and many other amazing musicians.

Many unique musical styles can be found in different parts of the Balkans region. The Roma have preserved many of the Oriental aspects of Balkan music. In recent years, Balkans brass bands have been incredibly creative in changing the former rigid style presented by traditional brass bands.Over the last ten years, the Boban Markovic Orchestra has received much international attention. The music of this twelve-member orchestra was first introduced to Western audiences through Emir Kusturica’ s films Underground and Arizona Dream. The lead trumpet play, Boban Markovic, and the second trumpet player Jovica Ajdarevic were both awarded with the “Trumpet Maestro” title. The band has also received other important awards including “ Golden Trumpet”, “ First Trumpet” and “The Best Orchestra.


Susheela Raman’s Love Trap

Susheela Raman - Love Trap
Susheela Raman – Love Trap
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA – Love Trap (Narada World) is the new album by Anglo-Indian singer Susheela Raman. The recording features Indian music woven with Western cultures as well as European, African and Asian musical stylings. Joining Raman on Love Trap are such familiar musical powerhouses as Sam Mills and Tony Allen among others. Susheela was born in London in 1973, to a Tamil family. From her childhood, she studied traditional Southern Indian music as taught by her parents. She grew up between two musical cultures: western and Indian.

In 1998, Susheela started to work with Joi, pioneers of “Asian breakbeat fusionist” music and featured on their album One and One Is One (RealWorld). The group won the BBC Asia Music Award in 1999.


Alpha Yaya Diallo\’s European Tour

Vancouver, BC, Canada – Award winning Guinean musician Alpha Yaya Diallo will be touring Europe this summer.

Alpha Yaya Diallo is a formidable guitar player. He is known as one of the region’s most flexible musicians, adept in the many styles of Guinea-Conakry’s various ethnic groups, yet possessed of an instantly recognizable sound that is distinctly his own. Alpha’s playing is a fluid current of notes, framed within a timing that is precise and free. From soothing acoustic melodies that inspire deep reflection to swinging polyrhythmic drum and dance arrangements, he plays beautiful and touching music.Diallo was born in Guinea-Conakry and has been playing since the age of 12. While in college he became bandleader for the Sons of Rais, the University of Conakry band. Alpha toured with them extensively throughout West Africa. After graduation he went on to perform with Love Systems, Kaloum Star, rumba band Bembeya Jazz and Sorsornet Rhythm. After moving to Europe, he was quickly invited to join the international African band Fatala. With them he toured the festival and concert circuit in Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Holland, Switzerland and Belgium. Diallo also played various folk and jazz festivals across Canada and fell in love with the country.

He now makes his home in Vancouver. Since 1992, Diallo has a Canada-based multi-cultural band called Baffing formed by Xerxes Gohbai, Thierry Matumona, Aboubarou Cumana, Yamoussa Cumana, Aicha Sylla, and Eliot Polsky.

June 28 Wolfsburg, Germany
June 29 Oldenburg, Germany
June 30 Traenenpalast, Berlin, Germany
July 2 Fabrik, Hamburg, Germany
July 4 Rudolstadt, Germany
July 6 Wroclaw, Poland
July 8 Munchen, Germany
July 9 Vienna Jazz Festival, Austria
July 10 Roxy, Prague, Czech Republic
July 12 Villach, Austria
July 14 Spilimbergo, Italy

Share and team up to offer affordable CD Display Boxes to the music industry.

Hamilton, New Jersey, USA –, creator of “The Galaris Musicians Directory” , has teamed up
with  an will offer Counter CD display boxes to artists
and labels who wish to sell CDs at shows or in stores.

The CD display boxes come made of very strong, display grade, corrugated
material. They are generic white so they can be used for multiple events
and multiple artists. The displays come in one tier or two tier models.The CD Boxes can be found by going to where single
orders and bulk orders are welcomed. will be offering a 1 tiered
CD Box that holds 10 CDs, (7 DVDs), and a 2 tiered CD Box that nicely holds
14 CDs, (10 DVDs). Prices start at just $4.95 per box. Discounts of 5% to
25% are given based order size.

Scott Clark, President of, stated: “Our CD Display Boxes provide
an affordable solution to artists, labels and even stores that sell CDs and
DVDs. Together with our Trophy CD Stand, anyone can sell their CDs at shows,
stores, or events and look extremely professional while doing so
“. is based in Hamilton, New Jersey.


(609) 689-1711



Noche Flamenca in the San Francisco Bay Area

Noche Flamenca
Noche Flamenca

Berkeley, California, USA – One of the world’s foremost flamenco companies and a sensation in its 2000 Bay Area debut, Noche Flamenca takes the stage at Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Playhouse for a two-week run of eleven performances beginning at 8:00 p.m. Tuesday, June 24 and running through Sunday, July 6, 2003. Noche Flamenca’s appearance is part of Celebración de las Culturas de Iberoamérica, Cal Performances’ programming initiative to bring the performing arts of Spanish and Portuguese America, Spain and the Caribbean to San Francisco Bay Area audiences. Noche Flamenca captures the essence, the purity of form and emotional fire that has made the company one of Spain’s most successful ensembles. Founded by Artistic Director Martin Santangelo and leading dancer Soledad Barrio in 1993, the Madrid-based ensemble has quickly become one of the most sought after dance companies in the world.

The uniqueness of Noche Flamenca emanates from the combination of extraordinary guitarists, singers and dancers who perform together with a communal spirit and a profound understanding of flamenco. Their talents are interwoven and given equal weight, in an artistic vision developed by the founders. The performers offer dance works of deep dramatic substance and top-rank virtuosity that reveal the true heart and soul of flamenco. In its international touring, the ensemble has visited Egypt, Australia the United States and Canada, with followers who described the company as “brilliant” and “the real thing.” These performances are part of a summer tour that also includes dates at the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra in Los Angeles, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, the Florida International Festival, An Appalachian Summer Festival, and a two-week debut tour of Argentina.

Performances in Berkeley will feature dancers Soledad Barrio, Isabel Bayón and Antonio Jiménez “El Chupete;” guitarists Jesús Torres and Paco Cruz; and singers Manuel Gago and Antonio Vizarraga. The Berkeley performances are presented by Cal Performances in association with Aaron Concert Artists of New York.

Martin Santangelo, co-founder of Noche Flamenca, is a resident of Madrid. A student of Ciro, Paco Romero, el Guito, Manolete and Alejandro Granados, he has performed throughout Spain and the U.S. with Maria Benítez’s Teatro Flamenco, at the Lincoln Center Festival of the Arts and with Paco Romero’s Ballet Español. He also appeared in and choreographed a solo for Julie Taymor’s Juan Darien at Lincoln Center. Santangelo choreographed Romeo and Juliette at the Denver Theater Center and co-directed and choreographed Bodas de Sangre with Larry Kornfield at SUNY Purchase. Santangelo, who was born and raised in New York’s Greenwich Village, was exposed to dance by his Argentine mother, a dancer with Alwin Nikolais. As a young man, he studied acting at New York University and moved to San Francisco, joining El Teatro Campesino. While with the theater company he happened to fill in for an actor in a flamenco performance and was transfixed. He soon left the U.S. for Madrid, to pursue flamenco studies there.

The co-founder of Noche Flamenca, Soledad Barrio was born in Madrid and trained in flamenco and Clásico Español. Barrio has appeared as soloist with the Ballet Español of Paco Romero, Manuela Vargas, Blanca del Rey, Luisillo, El Guito, Manolete, Cristobal Reyes, and Toleo. In 2001 Barrio was named the winner of a New York Dance & Performance Award (a.k.a. the “BESSIES”) for Outstanding Creative Achievement. She is married to Artistic Director Martin Santangelo, and they have two daughters, Gabriela and Stella.

Tickets for Noche Flamenca June 24 – July 6 in Zellerbach Playhouse are priced at $42.00, with a limited number of $30.00 obstructed view seats available as well. Tickets are available through the Cal Performances Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988 to charge by phone; at; and at the door. Half-price tickets are available for purchase by UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens and other students receive a $2 discount. The Ticket Office will be closed weekends beginning June through August 2003. For more information, call Cal Performances at (510) 642-9988, or visit the Cal Performances web site at


Cartagena Caribe: Major Caribbean Festival in Colombia

Cartagena de Indias, Colombia – Cartagena de Indias, the Colombian city located in the South American country’s Caribbean coast, will host a new festival called Cartagena Caribe.

It’s a large even featuring top Latin, Caribbean and African musicians from Jamaica, Congo, Colombia, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic: Diblo, Shaggy, Champeta All Stars, Latin Fresh, Latin Dreams, Toto La Momposina, Calamari Big Band, Alfredo De La Fe, Eddy Herrera, Diblo Dibala, Jorge Oñate, Tabú Latino.The concerts will take during the day, late evening and throughout the night, June 28-29, at the Plaza de toros de Cartagena de Indias (bullfighting ring).


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