London to present Folk with Altitude

Maarja Nuut
Maarja Nuut

The Nest Collective and Southbank Centre will present an acoustic concert as Folk with Altitude returns to the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden for a third year. The concert series will run Wednesday, 20 July 2016 – Sunday, 31 July 2016. Artists featured include Maarja Nuut, Chouk Bwa Libète, Hanoi Masters, Dom La Nena & Moira Smiley.

20th July – Maarja Nuut & Special Guest

28th July – Chouk Bwa Libète & Hanoi Masters

31st July – Dom la Nena & Moira Smiley

Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden
Time: 20:00
Price: £14 in advance / £16 OTD

Ticket Link:


Rising Talent from Bahia

Alê Kali – Alê Kali (independent, 2016)

The self-titled album by Alê Kali reveals a fascinating vocalist and songwriter from Bahia (Brazil). She is now based in France, near Bordeaux, where she recorded the album.

Alê Kali is an exquisite recording where Alê Kali’s expressive vocals are accompanied by a wide range of acoustic percussion, bass and various other instruments. Although the majority of the influences are Brazilian, Alê Kali has absorbed additional influences in her new home, such as North African, Gypsy and Balkan.
Her Brazilian musical influences include samba, Brazilian popular music and Nordestina music (forró, côco, maracatu)

The line on the album includes her band, featuring Anthony Duvalle (France) on percussion and Josias Liashw (Brazil) on bass. Guests include Matthew ‘Teteu’ Gillemant on guitars; Patricia Sireyjol on cavaquinho; Celia Reggiani on Fender Rhodes;, Jorge Solovera on guitar; Hugo Lins on viola 12 strings; Mathis Pollack on saxophone; Paolo Chatet on trumpet; Silvano Michelino on percussion; Karine Huet on accordion; Pierre Carrie on keyboards; and Michelino Matteo on guitar.

Alê Kali showcases the talent of a great new vocalist from Brazil, who tastefully combines Brazilian traditions with global music influences.


Opinionated Piano: Jason Moran, Sullivan Fortner, Aaron Diehl

The piano.  It is unique: the piano is melodic like no other instrument is and plays us heavy loud and even sometimes fast, producing sounds that momentarily darken one’s soul.  Piano history is as fascinating as the sound the instrument makes.

The instrument’s best players have been those who have dared. Mozart, Monk, Jelly Roll Morton: the list goes on of musicians who have mastered the mass of matter that is the piano, all the while moving others with their style, opinions, and all around spirit. Three jazz musicians, Jason Moran, Sullivan Fortner, Aaron Diehl, are amongst today’s great, daring, pianists, but first a short introduction to the instrument.

The piano was invented during Europe’s Middle Ages: a time of adherence (to the Church) for many musicians but also a time of quiet dissent, as all times are in the end.  Given that its coming-together was financed by the Medici who were well known Renaissance patrons, the piano was probably born to some sort of moneyed dissent.

The Padua (now in Italy) that served as a host to the invention more than likely had the lutes, the hammered dulcimer, the clavichord, and the flutes that the Middle Ages were known for, instruments that excel at expressing lightness, and also the Harpsichord whose strings are plucked instead or struck despite its resemblance to the piano. With the piano came new direction; loudness and heaviness to add to instrumental largeness. The instrument that, to me, dethroned the plucking of strings, was first named the Fortepiano, a name that includes the word forte or loud, though it was also meant to play soft music.

The instrument made its way through Europe and especially to Vienna and  to the genial playing of Mozart. It eventually made its way to other societies, and communities that’ve included the Storyville living in New Orleans that bred Jazz. It continues to matter.

Jason Moran, Sullivan Fortner, and Aaron Diehl, three Jazz pianists, all belong to the new lineup of formidable, daring, piano players. All three play us very well formulated modernist or postmodernist opinions and wow us with the subjective. They often play us notes that are not accompanied with words that mirage the piano playing and because of this require us to feel instrumentation as we listen to make sense of their language. If one does listen in, formidable experience ensues.


Jason Moran - Modernistic
Jason Moran – Modernistic


ason Moran’s album Modernistic is a personal favorite but his piano playing is always sits a listener, whether it be long and lyrical or stride-ish.


Jason Moran All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller
Jason Moran All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller


The album of his that is the easiest listen is the soulful, melodic, and comic All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller; the rule is that Moran’s songs require serious contemplating. His playing is sharp and does not intend to either please or be celestial.


Jason Moran - Same Mother
Jason Moran – Same Mother


Moran seems to be always be playing an opinionated deconstruction of the times that we live – his playing is very complex and yet resonates with much odd familiarity. His song “The Field” on the album Same Mother is one of his best.


Sullivan Fortner - Aria
Sullivan Fortner – Aria


Sullivan Fortner is a very young musician. He has released a single solo album so far, Aria. He is a stride pianist who plays us the soft and smooth with incredible elegance. His song “You Know I Care” feels like an epic of well theorized beauty in movements. He plays us quiet very well with “For All We Know.”


Aaron Diehl - Space, Time, Continuum
Aaron Diehl – Space, Time, Continuum

Aaron Diehl seems to want to plays neo-traditional Jazz. The songs on his album Space, Time, Continuum, despite its having a title that we would associate with Free Jazz, tell us this. Sometimes he is an experimental piano player, the song “Le Tombeau De Couperin,” as many traditional Jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington were in their day, but he is never philosophically avant garde.

His piano playing is very controlled and allows to plunge into the sounds of individual notes all the while feeling along to the mood and other instrumentation in the song. His song “Single Petal of Rose” is a piano tragedy that will leave any listener asking about his or her own life.





Splendid Musical Tribute to Mother Earth

Ricky Kej – Shanti Samsara (Zee Music Company, 2015)

Shanti Samsara, the magnificent album by composer, producer and keyboardist Ricky Kej brings environmental awareness to the world. Ricky Kej brought together renowned international musicians from various genres to create an epic album.

The result is Shanti Samsara, an exquisitely-crafted album that combines cinematic Indian and western classical music traditions, world music from various continents, new age, Buddhist monks, a gospel choir and the voice of the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. There is also spoken word featuring Sanskrit verses by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan as well as narrations by Hollywood actresses Frances Fisher and Rosanna Arquette.

In this recording honoring nature, Kej includes the orchestral sounds of the outdoors: a tabla rhythm of rain drops; drums of thunder; sitar undulations of running water; and choirs of blooming flowers.

Shanti Samsara was created for presentation at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change 2015. What’s fabulous about this album is that it’s bringing awareness about the deterioration of our planet to audiences across the globe.

The lineup on the album includes dozens of musicians and singers from across the global. Guests include country music artist Gary Nicholson, Canadian singer Jennifer Gasoi, flute player Wouter Kellerman, the Soweto Gospel Choir, vocalist Ani Choying Drolma, veena virtuoso Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, zheng master Mei Han and lots more.

This production included stunning musical videos that we are sharing here:







The CD booklet contains several pages of credits with beautiful, colorful artwork.



Shanti Samsara is a spectacular production that shows through music and spoken word the best humanity can offer.

Buy Shanti Samsara in the Americas

Buy Shanti Samsara in India


Åkerblomrörelsen by Captain Cougar

Captain Cougar - Åkerblomrörelsen
Captain Cougar – Åkerblomrörelsen

Captain Cougar – Åkerblomrörelsen (Pinetree Records, 2014)

Finnish band Captain Cougar, from Jyväskylä, uses contemporary folk music in the nicely-crafted album Åkerblomrörelsen to recount the story of the 20th century evangelical movement that became a sect in the Swedish speaking area of Ostrobothnia, in Finland. The group was led by the prophecies of Maria Åkerblom, who affirmed she received them directly from God. Maria delivered her sermons in trances and travelled throughout Finland spreading the word.

Even though Captain Cougar is a Finnish band, their style and arrangements are much closer to Americana, especially with the English-language vocals and the way the band uses the piano and electric guitar.

The lineup includes Captain Cougar is a folk rock band, Finland, made up of Laura Lehtola, on vocals; Juha Kujanpää, on piano, synthesizers and reed organ; Jussi Petäjä, on guitars and vocals; Juha-Matti Rautiainen on bass and vocals; and Janne Torvikoski, on drums and percussion.

The CD booklet reveals much more about the controversial life of Maria Åkerblom.


Vancouver Folk Music Festival This Weekend


The Vancouver Folk Music Festival is taking place this weekend, July 15-17, 2016 at Jericho Beach Park in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The festival schedule reflects a diverse and talented line up of 60 folk and world music artists and groups from 18 countries performing on 7 summer beachfront stages. The festival includes artists such as Bruce Cockburn; The Wainwright Sisters; Los Angeles’ Lord Huron; the world tribal sounds of Nahko and Medicine for the People; Estonia’s Trad.Attack!; The New Pornographers, Martin and Eliza Carthy from the UK; Jojo Abot from Ghana; Haiti’s music collective Lakou Mizik; Betsayda Machado y La Parrando El Clavo from Venezuela; Cape Verde’s Elida Almeida; Oysterband; Shane Koyczan and many more.

Included in the schedule are the popular day stage workshops. These “workshops” are essentially programmed gatherings of varied festival artists coming together around a particular theme, shared styles or content, or for a range of other interesting reasons. At these workshops, old musical friends connect again and fall into a familiar rhythm; other artists meet for the first time on stage to learn about each other and seek common ground.

More at


I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face

Cassandra Wilson
Cassandra Wilson

Listening to Spotify shuffle Cassandra Wilson songs, I stumbled upon a song that I believe spoke to me in a political way: “I’ve Grown Accustomed To His Face.” The version that plunged me into dream was the one on her album Blue Skies. It had me think of it as a metaphor for political sentiment.

The song itself is a Broadway tune “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face,”  though made grave this time my Wilson’s voice. This one in particular is from the musical My Fair Lady, a tale of becoming. It can be sung as either his, her, or your face. She takes her time at feeling her sentiments and at the sound of a magnificent voice until our walk through the song we are left amazed at a fantastic expressionist performance.

A Broadway tune that can be felt as a political metaphor? Who would have guessed. The  song’s lyrics can be interpreted in two ways. On the one had, I’ve grown accustomed to a face, sung to slow Jazz can only mean that I do not want this to end. On the other hand, the song can only be a rallying cry for change. We live in a world that most of us would like to change whether on the right or on the left. What is the root of much current political sentiment is inequality and cultural morbidity felt in a society that turns a bit too much to the dollar.

The lyrics added political layer to an already sentimental and poignant musical composition and much can be said about the fact that the instrumentation itself can be felt politically. I’ve grown accustomed to his face sung over and over again can signify that things much change or that things should remain the same with phenomenal elegance only if the instruments are well played.


World Music Showcase from Montreal International Jazz Festival 2016!

The Montreal International Jazz Festival, now in its 37th edition, is regarded as the world’s largest jazz festival. The music lineup includes ambassadors of jazz and blues – as well as a generous dose of artistes in world music and fusion. See my write-up from last year’s edition here; fans of jazz and world music can check out my app ‘Oktav’ as well, a collection of witty quotes about music (available on Apple iTunes and Android).

The 2016 edition of MIJF featured artistes from Canada, USA, Japan, Norway, Turkey, Mexico, Senegal, Mauritania, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and Guadeloupe. The festival organizers estimate that the acts drew two million attendees, spread over 10 days and two dozen venues. The long summer days of late June and early July made for perfect outdoor performances, along with ticketed indoor events as well.

Check out some of the highlights in this photo tour of MIJF 2016, and make sure you attend the 2017 edition!

Daby Toure
Daby Toure – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Paris-based Mauritanian singer-songwriter Daby Toure kicked off Day One of MIJF 2016. He delivered a pleasing set of ‘Afropean’ music, featuring tracks from five of his albums, and occasionally drummed on his guitar as well. He has earlier founded the group Touré Touré, and sings in Fulani, Soninke and Wolof.


Mashrou Leila
Mashrou Leila – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Formed in Beirut, Arabic alt-rock group Mashrou’ Leila played to a packed concert hall with their blend of indie rock, ballads and electronica. Their music has addressed topics such as politics, social taboos and religion in the Middle East.


Ceu – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Ceu – Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças – was born into a distinguished Brazilian musical family, and began her career at the age of 15. Her indoor set at MIJF drew fans from across North America, and she performed a mix of Brazilian popular music, samba, reggae and electronica. Her albums include Vagarosa and Ao Vivo.


Denis Chang
Denis Chang – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Guitarist Denis Chang draws on gypsy jazz influences such as Django Reinhardt, and has studied with Fapy Lafertin, Ritary Gaguenetti and Emmanuel Kassimo. He performs across Europe and the US, and has released a series of educational DVDs. He performed two sets at MIJF 2016 in an intimate indoor café.


Cuban Martinez Band
Cuban Martinez Band – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


The Cuban Martinez Band had the crowd on their feet with an infectious set of salsa, merengue, bachata and more. Anchored by Yordan Martinez, the band performed in an astonishing venue at the back of a church near the jazz district!


Orchestre Tropicana D’Haiti
Orchestre Tropicana D’Haiti – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


A Haitian institution since 1963, the Orchestre Tropicana d’Haïti is a legendary big band on a 50-year mission to showcase and enhance Haitian culture. Their recent release is Bravo Tropic, and the band had the audience on their feet for a set of sensuous hip-swaying dance.


Samito – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Samito is a singer-songwriter from Montreal, whose music blends acoustica and electronica. The lyrics and style are reflective of his upbringing in Maputo. Samito sang in Portuguese, French, English and Xitswa, offering a textured set of commentary on the changing times.


Lila Downs
Lila Downs – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Born in Mexico and raised in California, award-winning singer-songwriter Lila Downs performed a sold-out standing-room only set reflecting her deep studies of musicology as well as stage charisma. Cumbia, jazz, ballads and stunning visual animation set the tone for commentary on women’s rights, immigration and poverty in Mexico. Her albums include Pecados y Milagros and Balas y Chocolate.


Baba Zula
Baba Zula – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


One of the extraordinary bands at MIJF 2016 was Baba Zula, with a mix of Turkish dub and psychedelia. Traditional Turkish instruments, wild costumes and theatrical delivery regaled the audience and provided them with a sense of Istanbul’s underground cult movement.


Mariachi Flor de Toloache
Mariachi Flor de Toloache – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Mariachi Flor de Toloache, named for the legendary Toloache flower of Mexico, is an all-female mariachi band. They were nominated for the Latin Grammy in 2015. Their original costumes and ambience blended with modern takes on classic and contemporary tunes, and had the audience clapping and chanting along loudly during their two outdoor sets.


Malika Tirolien
Malika Tirolien – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Singer-songwriter Malika Tirolien from Guadeloupe performed a superb outdoor set. She had the audience on their feet for a smooth mix of Afro-Caribbean jazz and urban beat.


Ilam – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Young Senegalese singer-composer Ilam has already won a range of awards in Canada, and receives wide radio airplay. His spicy outdoor set of reggae, blues, Afro-folk, pop and rock kept the audience dancing even during a slight shower; concert-goers were rewarded with a beautiful rainbow afterwards.


Makaya – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


Pianist David Bontemps heads Montreal-based Afro-Caribbean jazz band Makaya. Formed in 2006, the quintet includes percussionist Cydric Féréol, guitarist and singer Jude Deslouches, bassist Nicolas Bédard and congas player Emmanuel Delly. Caribbean rhythms blended with jazz and Creole during their MIJF set; the band has also performed at Montréal’s Creole Festival and released their first album in 2009.


AfroDizz - Photo by Madanmohan Rao
AfroDizz – Photo by Madanmohan Rao


AfroDizz was one of the most sensational bands at MIJF 2016. This Montreal group is anchored by jazz guitarist Gabriel Aldama, who is deeply influenced by Nigerian Afrobeat maestro Fela Kuti. The eight musicians delivered a superb set of Afrobeat, jazz and funk. Their albums include Kif Kif, Froots (2006) and Sounds from Outer Space.

More about the festival at


Flamenco Visionary, El Lebrijano, Dies at 75

One of Spain’s legendary flamenco singers and trendsetters, El Lebrijano passed away in Sevilla on July 13, 2016.

Juan Peña Fernández, “El Lebrijano” was born in Lebrija (Sevilla) in 1941, within a well-known family of Gypsy flamenco performers such as Perrata y Perrate, Fernanda y Bernarda de Utrera, Bambino, Turronero, Gaspar de Utrera, Miguel Funi, Diego del Gastor, Pedro Peña, Pedro Bacán and Dorantes, among others.

El Lebrijano started his career at 17, playing guitar in a show by La Paquera de Jerez. However, his guitar career didn’t last very long. When a singer fell ill, El Lebrijano replaced him and became a cantaor (flamenco singer).

He was hired by the tablao (flamenco nightclub) “La Venta de Antequera” and later moved to Madrid to work at the iconic “El Duende” and “Los Canasteros” clubs.

Antonio Gades heard El Lebrijano and recruited him for his flamenco company that toured throughout the world. El Lebrijano later toured with Manuela Vargas. After that, he initiated his solo career.

His first recording was “Juan Peña El Lebrijano” (Columbia, 1963) that was followed by singles. El Lebrijano’s first LP was “De Sevilla a Cadiz” (Columbia, 1969). His popularity grew and with the support of his manager Juan Antonio Pulpón, he toured throughout Spain.

El Lebrijano was an innovator. In 1972 he released “La palabra de Dios a un gitano” ” (The word of God to a Gypsy) on the Philips label. He pioneered the use of symphonic and choral voices in flamenco.

Next came “Persecución” (Philips, 1976), which translates as pursuit. Here, he exposed the discrimination suffered by gypsies in Spain during different time periods.

In 1979, he brought flamenco to one of the most prestigious venues in Europe, the Teatro Real de Madrid (the Royal Theater). The concert was released with the title “Flamenco en el Teatro Real” (Philips, 1979).

In 1982, he released “Ven y Sígueme” (Come and Follow Me) on RCA, using the figure of Christ and the Gospels to demand social justice. The album included two essential Spanish artists, Rocio Jurado and Manolo Sanlúcar.

El Lebrijano - Encuentros
El Lebrijano – Encuentros


El Lebrijano’s next project was a collaboration with an orchestra of North African musicians who kept alive the ancient Arab-Andalusian music. The result was “Encuentros” (Encounters), released in 1985 on Ariola. This proved to be a controversial move, criticized by purists who didn’t like these cross-cultural collaborations. El Lebrijano was not intimidated by these reactions and, in the following years, he released two additional collaborations with Arab musicians, “Casablanca” (EMI, 1998) and “Puertas abiertas” (Senator, 2005).



In “Tierra” (1989), El Lebrijano told the travel stories of the intrepid Spanish adventurers and explorers who traveled to the Americas.
Another significant album in El Lebrijano’s career was “Lágrimas de Cera” (Tears of Wax) on EMI, released in 1999. This was a tribute to the Andalusian Holy Week. El Lebrijano surprised everyone once more by adding a Bulgarian choir.



El Lebrijano won many awards and distinctions, including the Medal of Andalusia (1986), awarded by the Andalusian government; and the Labor Medal (1999), granted by the government of Spain. In April 2010 he received an award in the category of music at the III Premios de la Cultura Gitana (3rd Gypsy Culture Awards).



Lovin’ Haiti

Despite the persisting perception that Haiti is a place most readily associated with brutal dictatorships, impoverished masses and natural disasters, it is more so a land of great music. African and Creole roots have combined with varying levels of outside influence, evolving technology and a growing diaspora, resulting in a music scene that includes such globally renowned artists as Tabou Combo, Boukman Eksperyans, RAM and Emeline Michel.

The underlying African-birthed grooves of Haitian music give it a rhythmic flexibility that’s rife for fusion or simply being left to move you on its own indomitably spirited terms.

Lakou Mizik - Wa Di Yo
Lakou Mizik – Wa Di Yo

A multigenerational band calling itself Lakou Mizik takes a largely traditional approach on Wa Di Yo (Cumbancha, 2016). But despite being heavy on voudou drums, rara horns and melodies steered in no small measure by the Francophone sway of an accordion, the group also makes a few concessions to modern times in the form of electrified guitar and bass and even an occasional hip hop cadence in the vocals. Make no mistake, though. This crew, which formed in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, is mostly about passing along the music of the older generations to the younger ones.

Some tracks are traditional songs but as many are originals, and the fact that both are equally strong in terms of waist-winding infectiousness, joyously evocative singing and rhythmic forward motion is a testament to the mettle of those who created the music and the culture that created them. Highly recommended.

Various Artists - Tanbou Toujou Lou: Meringue, Kompa Kreyol, Vodou Jazz & Electric Folklore From Haiti 1960-1981
Various Artists – Tanbou Toujou Lou: Meringue, Kompa Kreyol, Vodou Jazz & Electric Folklore From Haiti 1960-1981

A title like Tanbou Toujou Lou: Meringue, Kompa Kreyol, Vodou Jazz & Electric Folklore From Haiti 1960-1981 (Ostinato Records, 2016) may be wordy, though it’s barely sufficient in summarizing the variety of richly superb music the compilation of that name includes. Through the course of 19 tracks from a shade over two decades, you’ll want to dance yourself into ecstasy as your ears absorb the ingenious ways in which the rhythmic and vocal cadences of Haiti blended with Afro-Cuban, Colombian, pan-Caribbean, mainland African, soul, jazz, psychedelic and big band influences, resulting in irresistible music that such terms as “melting pot” and “golden age” don’t describe the half of.

From the rumba-like percolating of Les Gypsies de Petionville to the Latin stew of Super Jazz de Jeunes and stirring majesty of Orchestre de la Radio National D’Haiti, the 75 minutes of music on this disc (which was the result of considerable scouring about in both Haiti and New York City by compiler Vik Sohonie) resounds with must-have essentialness from beginning to end. Simply amazing. (

Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra
Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra

The self-titled CD by Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra (Glitter Beat, 2016) benefits from the presence of Afrobeat drummer extraordinaire Tony Allen on the kit and a host of noted Haitian percussionists and singers recruited by vocalist and ethnology standard-bearer Erol Josue. They’re joined by Mark Mulholland (guitar), Jean-Philippe Dary (bass) and Olaf Hund (keyboards, electronics) on a set of crazy-cool jams culled from rehearsal sessions that were done in preparation for a live festival performance in Haiti a few years back. The raw tracks were given cohesive mixes, and the results hit the mark.

Allen’s chugging, serpentine drums blend seamlessly with multiple hand percussion layers above call-and-response vocals sung and chanted as bending, twisting waves of contemporary sound take everything on a wildly controlled ride. Haiti’s African roots are brought into the present and thrust headlong into the future, and though some moments are spliced a little too cacophonously, the album is an invigorating listen with a lot of inspiration behind it. Let’s hope the participants can get together again sometime.

Headline photo: Lakou Mizik


Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music