Tag Archives: featured

Carmen Souza’s Transatlantic Vocal Brilliance

Carmen Souza – Creology (Galileo Music, 2017)

On Creology, Carmen Souza continues to explore Cape Verdean, Brazilian and other lusophone influences interweaving jazz elements. Carmen’s vocal range continues to marvel, changing her pitch easily, from childlike voices to deep bass tones. She adds great vocal overdubs, plus male choruses and call and response sections.

Carmen Souza’s band is spectacular as always, with composer and bass maestro on electric bass, backing vocals and percussion. The equally talented Elias Kacomanolis utilizes a wide-range of global percussion and also contributes backing vocals. Zoe Pascal is a guest percussionist.

Although Carmen Souza is widely-known as a vocalist, she showcases her talent as an instrumentalist as well, playing superb piano on her tribute to classic American jazz, “Pretty Eyes.”

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The Pan-American Musical Travels of Ladama

Ladama – Ladama (Six Degrees, 2017)

Ladama is a talented female ensemble featuring musicians from Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and the United States. The band’s self-titled debut album includes a captivating mix of soul and pop with rhythms and melodies from throughout South America and the Caribbean, sometimes mixing Colombian beats and Brazilian forms. Vocals are in Spanish, Portuguese and English, where the voices of Sara Lucas and Lara Klaus stand out. Ladama uses traditional musical instruments like the bandola llanera from the plains of Venezuela, tambor alegre from Colombia and a wide range of percussion instruments.

Personnel: Mafer Bandola [María Fernanda González] (Venezuela) on bandola llanera; Lara Klaus (Brazil) on vocals and percussion; Daniela Serna (Colombia) on vocals and tambor alegre; and Sara Lucas (United States of America) on vocals, classical guitar and electric guitar.

Guests: Nathan Koci on accordion; Pat Swoboda on acoustic and electric bass; Kyla-Rose Smith on violin; Alex Asher on trombone; cole Kamen-Green on trumpet; and Mohamed Araki on keyboards.

 

 

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Refreshing Bab El West

Bab El West – Douar (Big Banana Music, 2017)

Bab El West is a new French band that combines North African music influences with rock, jazz, blues, pop, soul, Gnawa and African and Latin American rhythms. Douar, Bab El West’s debut, features a great set of songs with pop hooks and outstanding qanun work. The mixture of western rock instruments and traditional Arabic qanun is truly fascinating.

The band was founded by vocalist and guitarist Habib Farroukh (who sings in Arabic), drummer Marc Dupont and bassist Clément Vallin. The trio later added guitarist Hamza Bencherif and qanun master Nidhal Jaoua.

The lineup on Douar includes Habib Farroukh on lead vocals, guitar and percussion; Clément Vallin on acoustic and electric bass, guitar and backing vocals; Marc Dupont on drums and percussion; Nidhal Jaoua on qanun and backing vocals; Hamza Bencherif on electric guitar and backing vocals; and Anthony Honnet on keyboards.

Guests: Yannick Jory on saxophone; Léo Fourastié on percussion; Jalil Belbekri on guimbri, karkabas and backing vocals; a string ensemble featuring Boris Lamerand, Olive Perrusson and Liam Morrissey; Kicca on backing vocals; and Guyzo on lead vocals.

Douar reveals a new world music act with great potential; it’s a likeable mix of western popular music and traditions from the Maghreb.

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‘Music can definitely pave the way to a peaceful, happy world’ – Sitar Artist Nikhil Patwardhan

 Nikhil Patwardhan has released six albums of Indian classical music – and is also an electrical engineer. He shares his unusual story in this interview, covering his musical journey, inner spiritual calling, and message to the audience.

Nikhil has played across India and overseas, in the US, UK, Dubai, Japan, Kenya and Zambia. Born to Shri Kumar Shrimangalmurti Patwardhan and Srimathi Madhura Kumar Patwardhan, Nikhil started his musical journey at the tender age of four. His grandmother, Srimathi Sarojinidevi Patwardhan and his grandfather, Shri Shrimangalmurti Patwardhan were also deeply into Hindustani classical music.

Nikhil’s projects include the musical trio, ‘When Wood Sings,’ based on instruments such as sitar, flute and tabla. I caught two recent performances in Bangalore by Nikhil, along with tabla players Partho Banerjee (at Lahe Lahe) and Shailesh Shenoy (at Jus’ Trufs).

Tell us about your musical background, and how your family influenced your choice of music as a career.

Although sitar and Indian classical music have been in my family for three generations, I really took to the sitar after hearing a concert recording of Pandit Nikhil Banerjee. To this day, my grandmother Mrs. Sarojinidevi Patwardhan, my parents and Pandit Nikhil Banerjee remain as the leading influences in my musical career. Inspiration is everywhere: even a bird singing in the morning can provide great music fuel to the soul.

I have a master’s in electrical engineering from Clemson University in the US and have worked for 12 years in semiconductors. I have been playing sitar and Indian classical music for over 30 years now.

At the age of eight, I gave my first public performance at Balgandharva, Pune. I became a Balodyaan AIR artiste at the age of nine. At the age of twelve, I won the prestigious Centre for Cultural Resources and Training scholarship from the government of India.

At the age of fifteen, I started receiving training from Pandit Parthapratim Chatterjee, who is an exponent of the Maihar Gharana from Kolkata and a disciple of Pandit Nikhil Banerjee and Ustad Ali Akbar Khansahib.

I am balancing both worlds, the world of a techie and the world of a musician!

 

Nikhil Patwardhan and Shailesh Shenoy – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

How does your composition process work – individually, or along with other musicians? Do you also compose while on the road?

It works through both ways – primarily through individual creation and then a lot of continuous listening and collaboration with other great musicians.

I very much compose on the road as well. In my day job, I have to drive for a couple of hours every day – so my car always turns into a music studio where I listen to and also record some compositions I think of.

Currently I am not into music full-time and doing both a day job and music. I feel that the day job and music complement each other extremely well.

What are the challenges you face as a musician and composer?

Like yoga, our music is intense, complete and with a lot of depth, as it has evolved through so many thousands of years. So it becomes difficult for the general public to understand and extract the goodness that this music has to offer. Hence, the challenge I face is to get more people interested in our oldest form of Indian classical music. However, over the years I am seeing a very positive comeback of people, especially the younger generation, wanting more of this pure and divine music.

What have been some audience reactions you get at your performances?

I feel I am really blessed to have some amazing and appreciative audiences across India and all over the globe. My biggest highlights have been when people from the audience have come up to me after the concert in tears, and told me that the music really went to their hearts and they did not want me to stop playing.

Do you also teach workshops for students/musicians?

Yes, I have several students. I have taught workshops both overseas and in India. I make it a point to give a short lecture demonstration before every concert so people can understand what they should listen to in this music.

How has the music industry changed over the years in terms of tech trends, and how has it affected you?

The virtual and real worlds have been swapped. We all live in the virtual world and the real world is only to meet our physical needs. I think this is an incredible evolution as this allows someone sitting with an online connection in the remotest corner of the world to listen to Indian classical music. Sound technology has also helped immensely in bringing out the finest and subtlest of the sounds of the sitar.

 


Nikhil Patwardhan and Partho Banerjee – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

How would you describe your musical journey so far?

It has been a fantastic journey so far and every second of it has taught me to respect my music and reap the joy out of it. Juggling between two lives (techie and musician) definitely is very difficult to manage but music to me is the very oasis that powers my life. I think a music-centric life is very rich, and it not only gives happiness to you but also brings so many people together.

I think my albums show the degree of growth and maturity in my music over the years. I have slowly learned how to explore the depth of a raaga and the rhythm and not only the breadth. I think learning is a continuous process and all you have to see is if you as a whole are growing with respect to your own past.

Where do you see yourself 10 or 15 years from today? What are some ‘dream projects’ or visions you are working towards?

I see myself as a performer and a teacher in the next 15 years or so. In today’s life where everything is supposed to happen in the blink of an eye, Indian classical music can always bring peace and harmony to our mind and bodies and slow us down. One of my dream projects is to work on a music therapy album which I would consider my ‘magnum opus.’

 

 

What are your thoughts on the rise of ‘fusion’ music, and how to bring about ‘fusion without confusion?’

I think it is a great idea to blend different genres so that people who like both genres can enjoy both aspects of the music. Fusion is an excellent way to bring the musically uninitiated to start liking music.

However, it should not sound like ‘con’-fusion. A good musician always knows when and where to put the right notes in the listener’s ear, just like a good cook knows how to put the right ingredients in the right dish. However, I think if one stays true to oneself, only then will the real colour of his or her music come out, so trying to imitate without understanding the depth of the music will lead to a dilution of both genres of music.

What is your vision of what music can bring to our troubled world?

My vision is to use this music to bring peace all over the globe just as the yoga movement is trying to bring good health to all. All this turmoil for power is totally unnecessary and music can definitely pave the way to a peaceful, happy world.

What advice do you have for aspiring musicians out there?

Stay true to yourself. If you like rock, play and perform rock, if you like jazz, play and perform jazz. Feel each note, feel each vibration. Each one of us has a beautiful and unique way of expressing ourselves, if it comes straight from the heart. I also advise aspiring musicians to get a good education that will give a means of livelihood and also do music. This will prevent them from compromising with their music and stay true to their music.

As a Chinese proverb goes, ‘If you have two coins, with one coin buy food to eat and with the other coin buy a rose.’ The food will give you life and the rose will give you a purpose to live that life.

 

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Timelessly Crafted Welsh Songs

Gwyneth Glyn – Tro (bendigedig BENDI1, 2017)

Tro is the first release on a new label called bendigedig which is dedicated to Welsh music talent. The first album is by rising talent Gwyneth Glyn. On Tro, songwriter, poet and musician Gwyneth Glyn delivers a set of original, intimate acoustic songs sung in Welsh and English. It’s a fascinating mix of Welsh traditions with world music elements from India and Africa. Acclaimed kora player Seckou Keita makes a guest appearance on the album.

The lineup on Tro includes Gwyneth Glyn on vocals and guitar; Rowan Rheingans on banjo, bansitar, violin, vocals; Seckou Keita on kora; Patrick Rimes on violins; Gillian Stevens on viol, crwth; Jordan Price Williams on double bass; Mark O’Connor on drums, percussion; Dylan Fowler on guitar, mandocello, dobro, kantele, tabwrdd, mbira, electric bass; and Dan Lawrence on shruti.

Tro is an impeccable example of open minded folk music craftsmanship.

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Rubén Blades’ Tribute to Legendary Latin Music Big Bands

Rubén Blades – Salsa Big Band (Rubén Blades Producciones, 2017)

Rubén Blades, one of the undisputed masters of salsa music, has released his second album recorded with the formidable Roberto Delgado & Orquesta. As the album title indicates, this recording is a tribute to the 1950s jazz and Latin jazz big bands, many of which were influenced by Cuban music big bands.

There is plenty of well-deserved Panamanian pride in this album. Rubén Blades hails from Panama and Roberto Delgado & Orquesta are Panamanian as well and the album was recorded in Panama. The partnership between Rubén Blades and superb arranger and big band leader Roberto Delgado delivers a set of outstanding songs where you’ll find the best of salsa and Latin jazz, highlighting Rubén’s unique vocals and masterful songwriting along with a large combo of talented instrumentalists.

 

 

The lineup on Salsa Big Band includes Rubén Blades on lead and backing vocals; Roberto Delgado on baby bass, electric bass, acoustic bass and backing vocals; Juan Berna on piano; Marcos Barraza on congas; Carlos Pérez-Bidó on timbales; Raúl “Toto” Rivera on bongo, bell, güiros and maracas; Ademir Berrocal on congas, timbales, bongo and bell; Juan Carlos “Wichy” López on trumpets; Alejandro “Chichisín” Castillo on trumpets and trombones; Francisco Delvecchio on trombone; Avenicio “Pin” Núñez on trombone; Carlos Ubarte on soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophone; Luis Enrique Becerra on keyboards.

Guests: Ricky Rodriguez on piano; Juan Carlos De León on piano; Robinson Fereira on piano; and Pablo Governatori on drums.

Salsa Big Band demonstrates that Rubén Blades is still at the top of the salsa world; a candidate for one of the best albums of the year.

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World Culture Open, World Music Shanghai & Cambodian Living Arts to Bring World Music to Asia in Flourishing Project

World Culture Open and World Music Shanghai have joined forces with Cambodian Living Arts to bring world music performances to the public in China, South Korea, and for the very first time, Cambodia. From September 23 to November 11, a music carnival will unite all three countries in a series of world music festivals that are free and open to the public: World Music Shanghai in China, REPfest in Cambodia, and Better Together Concert in South Korea.

 

Gao Bowen

 

World Music Shanghai celebrates its 10th edition this year from September 23 to Oct 7, presenting world music experiences to audiences in Shanghai, Wuhan, Chongqing and Foshan cities through music sharing, creation, and beyond in public urban spaces.

With 24 acts and musicians from over 25 regions around the world, audiences will be able to enjoy a series of performances by eclectic artists such as Chinese pingtan singer and storyteller Gao Bowen, acoustic quartet DakhaBrakha from Ukraine, Somalian vocalist Sahra Halgan, Arabic music ensemble Tarabband from Sweden, and more. In addition to performances, the festival also offers experiential activities, where educational and family-oriented workshop that promise a fully immersive world music experience.

 

 

Tarabband

 

Sahra Halgan

 

The festivities continue from October 27-29 in Siem Reap, home of Angkor Wat and center for living heritage in Cambodia, in the form of REPfest; an international festival dedicated to World Music, drawing artists from around Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Japan for three days of performances, workshops and forums.

Developed and presented by local arts organization Cambodian Living Arts (CLA), with support from World Culture Open (WCO) and Mekong Cultural Hub (MCH), REPfest will focus on the Greater Mekong region’s “living heritage”; the art, culture, and everyday practices that shape people’s lives.

Artists of diverse styles and backgrounds from will gather to share their experiences and skills, and sow the seeds for future collaboration in the region. In addition to showcases and performances, there will also be workshops where artists can learn from each other and engage with the audience on a more personal level. The full lineup will be announced on September 27 and made available on Cambodian Living Arts’ website.

Song Seng, CLA’s Heritage Hub Manager, said “REPfest is a great chance to bring together artists and audiences from the Mekong region, so people can get to know each other, explore our shared heritage, and continue our stories together. Siem Reap’s temples, its status as the birthplace of Cambodian culture remind us of the thread between generations – our music, arts and culture came from generations past, and now it’s the role of artists today to build on this, create new work, and keep our culture alive and relevant for future generations.”

 

Gulaza

 

Besides China and Cambodia, audiences in Korea too will enjoy access to world music performances this fall. Inspired by the success of the Jeju World Music Oreum Festival in Jeju last October, World Culture Open is bringing another world music delight to Korea this year: Better Together Concert.

As part of World Culture Open 2017, a creative gathering of global changemakers, the Better Together Concert will be held on November 10-12 at the revitalized Old Tobacco Factory in the historic city of Cheongju.

Dedicated at large to the theme of empathy, Better Together Concert will present music and artistic performances that celebrate cultural diversity and togetherness. Artists that will be taking audiences into a creative wonderland together include prominent Rwandan singer-songwriter Jean Paul Samputu, Israeli acoustic band Gulaza specializing in Yemenite Women Songs, and the world-renowned U.S. vertical ballet troupe Bandaloop.

 

Bandaloop

 

Jean Paul Samputu

 

It truly is an exciting collaboration. We have grown from two countries last year to three Asian nations today, and we look forward to having more countries and regions join in, and inspiring more international collaborations in the years to come,” says Kseniya Tsoy, from Connect&Collaborate at World Culture Open. “We hope the festivals will allow more and more people to connect with themselves and with one another, as music truly is humanity’s common language, connecting us beyond borders and spoken languages. Aesthetically beautiful and socially interactive, music is one of the most engaging and accessible ways to connect to our shared humanity, and such an amazing way to learn about new cultures.”

All three events are non-profit initiatives free and open to the public, and are committed to providing space for cultural exchange through music. The partners endeavor to grow this joint initiative into one of monumental influence in Asia, where the public can enjoy free and open access to world music performances and workshops, and audiences and musicians alike can discover new cultures in an engaging and enriching journey together.

More information at:

www.worldcultureopen.org
www.bettertogether.world
www.worldmusicshanghai.com/en
www.cambodianlivingarts.org

headline photo: DakhaBrakha

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Rainforest World Music Festival 2017: 20 years of celebrating music heritage!

The annual Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) in Kuching, Sarawak (Malaysia) featured a special lineup of performances, workshops and cultural activities on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. The scenic Sarawak Cultural Village, located between Mount Santubong and the South China Sea, hosted the performances on two outdoor stages and one indoor theatre.

 

Rainforest World Music Festival 2017 poster

 

The 2017 lineup of 22 international and 5 local groups included Abavuki (South Africa), Achanak (UK/India), Ba Cissoko (Guinea), Belem (Belgium), Bitori (Cape Verde), Calan (Wales), Cimarron (Colombia), Dom Flemons (US), Hanggai (China), Huw Williams (Wales), Kelele (South Africa), O Tahiti E (Tahiti), Okra Playground (Finland), Pareaso (Korea), Radio Cos (Spain), Romengo (Hungary), Saing Waing Orchestra (Myanmar), Spiro (UK), Svara Samsara (Indonesia), Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe (Taiwan), The Chipolatas (UK/Australia), and The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band (Thailand).

The Malaysian lineup featured Ilu Leto, At Adau, Lan E Tuyang and Sekolah Seni Malaysia Sarawak from Sarawak, as well as Maliao Maliao Dance Troupe from Malacca.

See also my coverage of earlier editions of RWMF from 2016 (25 bands covering 5 continents), 2015 (Global Sound, Diversity and Celebration) and 2013 (Collaboration, Creativity and Community), as well as interviews with some of the performers (eg. Rafly wa Saja, Drew Gonsalves, ShoogleNifty).

 

Rainforest World Music Festival entrance – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Festival previews

Before the festival, some of the bands held preview concerts in local pubs and cafes, such as the Culture Club in downtown Kuching. Two bands – Romengo (Hungarian gypsy group) and O Tahiti E (percussion-dance troupe from Haiti) – gave the audience a tantalising taste of what was to come during their workshops and performances in the coming days.

In keeping with its usual tradition, the Sarawak Tourism Board also had a tree-planting ceremony the day before the festival. Members of the media and some performers together planted about 200 mangrove saplings at the Kuching Wetland National Park.

 

Rainforest World Music Festival opening ceremony – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The stage was also being set for the festival workshops to follow, on yoga, meditation, tai-chi and martial arts. The festival had a crafts bazaar and food court as other highlights, along with stalls on aromatherapy and environmental recycling.

Each morning of the festival began with a media meet between journalists and musicians; see my earlier articles on artiste insights: World music bands help urban audiences connect with nature (2017), Fusion without confusion – how world music bands blend multiple influences (2016), How world music bands build collective vision, promote indigenous culture and yet adapt to changing times (2015), World music bands address the importance of heritage, messages and innovation (2014) and World music bands address their role in social change, cultural preservation and creativity (2013).

Day One

The morning media meet each day was followed by an afternoon of indoor performances and jam sessions. The indoor theatre performances on Day One kicked off with Pareaso (South Korea), followed by Huw Williams (Wales) and Lan E Tuyang (Malaysia).

 

Lan E Tuyang

 

The four youthful musicians of Pareaso featured traditional music from Ulsan, Korea, with instruments such as daegeum, geomongo, saenghwang,  janggu, and gayageum. Huw Williams showcased clog dancing along with trademark Welsh wit and humour while playing along on guitar. Lan E Tuyang featured three sape masters of Sarawak from the Kayan and Kenyah communities: Mathew Ngau Jau, Salomon Gau and Jimpau Balan. They also showcased the nose flute, along with traditional dance moves.

 

Pareaso

 

Each afternoon ended with an outdoor drum circle facilitated by Malaysia’s 1Drum, followed by night-time performances on two adjacent stages set in the picturesque rainforest. Traditional ceremonies to bless the festival were conducted by local cultural groups and musicians.

The six-member all-women band Ilu Leto from Sarawak, Malaysia kicked off the outdoor performances on Day One. The group, anchored by Alena Murang, keeps alive the traditional music of the Iban, Kelabit and Kenyah tribes while also challenging other customs (the sape is usually not played by women).

 

Alena Murang – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Okra Playground from Finland then delivered a hypnotic set of electro-folk. They featured ancient instruments like the kantele and bowed lyre (jouhikko), along with solid grooves by bassist Sami Kujala – a perfect foundation for the three female vocalists (Päivi Hirvonen, Maija Kauhanen, Essi Muikku). Their debut album, Turmio was released in 2015.

 

Okra Playground – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The adrenaline picked up with gypsy music by Romengo from Hungary, who played a rousing set of danceable numbers along with ballads (I also caught their performance last year at the Forde Festival 2016 in Norway). Vocalist Mónika Lakatos has won a range of awards including the Parallel Cultures award; she was joined on stage by singer Veronika Harcsa for soaring duets. The group’s first album is titled Kétháné, and the talented lineup includes Mihály “Mazsi” Rostás (guitars), Misi Kovács (violin), János “Guszti” Lakatos (oral bass, tin can), and Tibor Tibi Balogh (percussion).

 

Romengo – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The next group was pure percussive explosion: Svara Samsara from Indonesia. The quintet is inspired by the work of legendary Indonesian drummer Innisisri, and showcased a range of traditional instruments in contemporary styles. The high-energy poly-rhythms and call-and-response segments drew loud applause from the audience. The group is based in the Rumah Kahanan art space, and features instruments such as talempong, sarunai, taganing, hadrah, kancil, and kendang drums. Their first album was released last year.

Bhangra with a touch of bass and drums was featured by the UK-based band Achanak, whose members are of Punjabi origin. The group has released seven albums and has toured extensively.

An absolutely outstanding band on Day One was Abavuki from Capetown, South Africa. The group’s name means ‘Wake up, early birds!’ in the Xhosa language. South African rhythms blended with kwaito, samba and jazz, and the multi-instrumentalists wowed the audience with their prowess on a wide range of percussion (especially Mkhokheli Masala, Thulani Mtyi and Thando Sishuba).

 

Abavuki – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Founded in 2001, the band showed their years of experience and expertise with a superb set of high-energy afro-beat music and dance, blending everything from marimba to a brass section. Their albums include Decade and African Rhythms.

Day Two

The indoor performances on Day Two were kicked off by the Sang Waing Orchestra from Myanmar, playing a set of Burmese folk music. The musicians from Yangon and Mandalay performed on a range of traditional instruments, including saung (Burmese harp), clappers, cymbals, gongs, short drums and oboe.

 

Sang Waing Orchestra – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Grammy Award-winner Dom Flemons featured a set of American roots, ragtime, blues, folk, and spirituals. The singer-songwriter and slam poet’s most recent album is Prospect Hill; Dom is also the co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an African-American string band.

 

Dom Flemons

 

English folk band Spiro wrapped up the indoor performances. Violin, mandolin and electronic sounds mixed together with the lineup of Jane Harbour, Alex Vann (drums), Jon Hunt (guitar), and Jason Sparkes (accordion). Their albums include Pole Star, Lightbox and Kaleidophonica.

The talented young band At Adau from Kuching kicked off the outdoor performances, with an experimental blend of Sarawak sound with world music. They featured Borneo sounds of the sape and the perutong, along with congas and djembe. Their first album is titled Journey, with the lineup of Ezra Tekola (sape), Jackson Lian Ngau (zither, drums), Meldrick Bob Udos (cajon), Ju Hyun Lee (conga), Alfonso McKenzie (bass), Cerdic Riseng (guitar) and Luke Wrender David (sape, guitar).

 

At Adau – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The most beloved band of the festival took the stage next: O Tahiti E, a sizzling percussion and dance troupe from Tahiti, who had already wowed the audience through three afternoon workshop sessions. Founded in 1986 by choreographer Marguerite Lai, they showcased spectacular costumes and sensual dance moves. The youthful dancers roused up so much energy that the heavens opened up with thundershowers at the end of their set!

 

O Tahiti E dancers – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

O Tahiti E percussionists – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The rain would continue through the next performances, reducing the lawns to a mudbath, but the hardy festival-goers were well prepared. Spain’s Radio Cos entertained them with an energetic set of Galician music. The driving rhythms on pandeiro and tambourine kept the crowd on their feet, ably anchored by Xurxo Fernandes and Quique Peon. The musicians have been researching traditional music for over three decades, and the five-member band brought the pride alive for an audience half-way round the world.

 

Radio Cos – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The energy picked up several notches with the Inner Mongolia band Hanggai from China, with an unbelievable mix of traditional instruments and rock music. The folk-rock blend, anchored by throat singer Batubagen and vocalist Ilchi dressed in a full-length traditional coat, kept the audience engaged right through gusts of wind and rain. The band has also performed at Rosklide, Lowlands, Fuji Rock, Chicago World Music Festival, Sziget, and WOMAD.

 

Hanggai – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

An absolutely stellar set followed next, by Ba Cissoko and his band from Guinea. The son of the famous kora maestro M’Bady Kouyaté performed on guitar and kora, and sang in Malinke, Wolof, Pulaar and French. West African sound fused with salsa, funk and jazz, in a superb set by the five-member group. Their albums include Electric Griot Land, Djeli, Sabolan, Nimissa, and Séno.

 

Ba Cissoko – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Another amazing folk-rock band rounded up the performances of Day Two: the Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band. They played instruments and rural tunes from northeast Thailand, blended with high-energy drums and power bass. Chris Menist, Kammao Perdtanon, Maft Sai, Phusana Treeburut, Piyanart Jotikasthira and Sawai Kaewsombat played a hypnotic set showcasing the khaen (multi-reed mouth organ) and phin (string instrument).

 

Paradise Bangkok Molam Band – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

In terms of musical highlights, most festival attendees would later agree that this was one of the best nights at any world music festival ever. The crowd stayed on their feet through the rain and thunder – and there would be more come on Day Three!

 

Audience at Rainforest World Music Festival 2017 – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Day Three

The indoor performances on Day Three kicked off with the Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe from Taiwan. They played the music of the Paiwan tribe from southern Taiwan. Anchored by Camake Valaule, they explained their culture and dances, and showcased instruments such as the twin-pipe nose flute.

 

Taiwu Ballad Troupe – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Folk music from Belgium followed next, performed by Belem (Didier Laloy on accordion, Kathy Adam on classical cello). The indoor performances finished in fine style with the vocal harmonies of Africa, performed by Kelele from South Africa. Their members also form the band Abavuki, thus constituting an unusually creative combination and presentation of musical talent.

 

Kelele – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Their range of melodies and harmonies kept the audience spell-bound in a session of oral storytelling. Traditional instruments were also showcased, such as the mbira (finger piano), uhadi (bow instrument) and talking drum.

 

Abavuki – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The outdoor performances were kicked off by the Maliao Maliao Dance Troupe from Malacca, Malaysia. They presented a blend of Portuguese and Malaysian dance.

 

Maliao Maliao Dance Workshop – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Thunderous rains picked up again as the youthful performers of Sekolah Seni Malaysia next took to the stage. They have performed the folk dances of Sarawak at festivals across Asia and Europe, and won awards in Bulgaria, Romania and Spain.

 

Sekolah Seni Malaysia Sarawak – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Welsh band Calan showcased foot tapping tunes and step dancing, with the five member band reinterpreting lively as well as haunting songs. Their debut album is titled Bling, and the band has played at the Cambridge Festival, Celtic Connections, Shrewsbury Folk Festival and Whitby Folk Festival.

The most sensational band of the evening was Cimarrón from Colombia. They performed the festive dance music of joropo, with soaring melodies and catchy rhythms of the Orinoco river region combining Andalusian, indigenous South American, and African roots.

Anchored by harpist Carlos Rojas Hernandez and vocalist-dancer Ana Veydó Ordóñez, the set blended bandola, cuatro, bass, and high-energy percussion. The ‘competitive jams’ between the youthful percussionists were hilarious and drew loud applause. The group has released a number of award-winning albums, including one aptly titled Orinoco.

 

Cimarrón – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Indonesian percussion band Svara Samsara took to the stage again for another set, followed by the closing act: Bitori from Cape Verde, playing funana music. This raw yet infectious dance music form was banned during the Portuguese rule, but is alive and thriving now. Anchored by lead accordionist Bitori (Victor Tavares) who is now almost 80 years old, the group performed an upbeat set with Creole vocals and unique instruments such as the ferrinho (iron scraper).

 

Svara Samsara – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Bitori – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The five-hour performances, accompanied by five hours of rain, culminated in an unforgettable grand finale with most of the bands from the three days of the festival coming together on stage to take their final bow. The festivities carried on with a jam at the musicians’ hotel bar, and I departed the next morning with a stack of the bands’ CDs gathered over the three days of the festival.

 

Grand Finale- Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

CDs released by artists who performed at the 2017 Rainforest World Music Festival

 

Rainforest World Music Festival anniversary book “20 Years of Song and Rhythm in Sarawak”

 

We already look forward to the next Rainforest World Music Festival in 2018, with its unbeatable combination of legendary bands, emerging artistes, jam sessions, interactive workshops, media meets – and a bit of occasional rain! After all, what’s a festival in the rainforest without some rain?

 

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Tasty San Francisco Choro

Grupo Falso Baiano – Depois (Massaroca Records, 2017)

Depois is the third album by Grupo Falso Baiano, an American ensemble specialized in choro, an early form of instrumental music in Brazil that brought together European melodies and African rhythms.

On Depois, Grupo Falso Baiano delivers a set of choro classics as well as original pieces composed by the band’s multi-instrumentalist Brian Moran. However, there is more than choro on Depois. You’ll also find sambas, frevo and baião, American jazz and they even sneak in a little flamenco.

The musical pieces feature various solo instruments such as clarinet, harmonica, mandolin, flute, saxophone and cavaquinho that interact with each other, sometimes in a call and response way. It’s mostly lively music accompanied by Afro-Brazilian percussion, although there are also slow tempo melancholic moments.

Even though most of the music is instrumental, Grupo Falso Baiano invited two Brazilian vocalists who perform on various tracks, adding a Rio flavor to this San Francisco-based band.

The lineup on Depois includes Ami Molinelli on pandeiro, percussion and vocals; Jesse Appelman on mandolin and vocals; Brian Moran on guitars, cavaquinho and vocals; and Zack Pitt-Smith on reeds and vocals.

Guests: Moyseis Marques on vocals; Ana Carbatti on vocals; Ilya Portnov on harmonica; Jeff Cressman on trombone; Henry Hung on trumpet; and Kasey Knudsen on alto saxophone.

Buy the Depois CD from store.cdbaby.com or the digital download version.

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