Although reggae remains very popular, a lot of modern reggae has too much pop or R&B. Taj Weekes & Adowa, on the other hand, play roots reggae that is founded in tradition and still sounds fresh and modern.
The latest album by the band, Love Herb & Reggae, features seductive reggae beats combined with funk, blues, rock, jazz and a little dub. Message-wise, Taj Weekes & Adowa focuses on social issues like consumerism, the condemnation of homophobia, poverty, violence, an appeal for love, and the ongoing debate about the legalization of marijuana.
The bandleader, singer-songwriter and guitarist Taj Weekes, from the island of St. Lucia, is a committed Rastafarian seeking a better world: “The Rasta philosophy helped shape me. I’ve always spoken for what’s right, but in my songs I held back a bit. Now I want to shout it out for everyone to hear. No more Taj the person and Taj the musician – after all, they are one.”
Weekes’ social commitment goes beyond music lyrics. He founded a charity organization, They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO), and also serves as UNICEF Champion for Children in St. Lucia.
The lineup on Love Herb & Reggae includes Taj Weekes on lead vocals, rhythm and acoustic guitar; Radss Desiree on bass; Adoni Xavier on lead guitar; Baldwin Brown on drums and vocals; Aya Kato on keyboards and melodica; John Hewitt on keyboards; and Valerie Kelley on vocals.
Two great music traditions come together on ‘Call of the Blues’: American blues and Indian classical music. It’s a combination in the skilled hands of Michael Messer’s Mitra. The trio includes British blues modernizer, vocalist and slide guitarist, Michael Messer; Hindustani mohan veena (slide guitar) master Manish Pingle (Mumbai, India), and London-based tabla player, Gurdain Singh Rayatt.
‘Call of the Blues’ combines traditional form rural blues songs with Indian ragas and opportunities for improvisation, showcasing the talent of the musicians. It’s fascinating combination of slide guitar styles from different parts of the globe that flows very nicely.
Michael Messer met Manish Pingle during a trip to Mumbai in 2013. They ended up jamming on two mohan veena’s at Pingle’s home. The two musicians enjoyed the experience and vowed to work together again. Six months later, Manish traveled to London where he played a concert with Messer. They invited tabla maestro Gurdain Rayatt to join them on stage and the trio was formed.
In 2015, Michael Messer’s Mitra toured the UK and recorded their first album, ‘Call of the Blues’.
Call of the Blues is a remarkable fusion of country blues with Hindustani music showcasing the splendor of the slide guitar and the talent of three extraordinary musicians.
The Malpass Brothers’ self-titled album is one of the finest traditional country music albums released in the past year. The two brothers from Goldsboro in eastern North Carolina sing, play and look like the classic country singers of the golden era of country music. To Chris Malpass, traditional country music is the “real deal.”
At a time where current country music is basically pop, The Malpass Brothers sound authentic, with captivating vocals that remind you of Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings. The arrangements feature classic fiddle, piano and pedal steel guitar. It’s pure classic country, rockabilly and honky-tonk delight.
The song selection includes outstanding renditions of classics by Bill Anderson, Bobby Bare, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, Marty Robbin, Peter Goble, George Strait, and Hank Williams. The Malpass Brothers also write and perform original new songs that sound like timeless classics. Although it’s hard to choose a favorite, “Hello Walls” is one of the most charming with its delightful call and response vocals.
The lineup on the album includes Christopher Malpass on lead and harmony vocals; Taylor Malpass on lead and harmony vocals, electric guitar and mandolin; Jeff Collins on piano, keyboards and background vocals; David Johnson on steel guitar, acoustic guitar and fiddle; Tim Surrett on acoustic bass and background vocals; Tony Creasman on drums and percussion; Chris Allman and background vocals; Mylon Hayes and background vocals; and Valerie Medkiff and background vocals.
The Malpass Brothers is undoubtedly one of the best country music releases of 2015.
World Music Expo (WOMEX) is seeking proposals for the 2016 edition, including the Showcase Festival, the DJ Summit, the Conference and Film programs. WOMEX 2016 will take place in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, October 19-23, 2016. The deadline to submit a proposal is Friday, April 15, 2016.
The final program selection is made by an international and independent jury.
Seems like a clear majority of releases coming my way nowadays are some kind of fusion music. It hasn’t been easy tearing myself away from specific genres I know and love, but this thing we call World Music is getting ever more, well, worldly, and being along for the sonic global ride can result in finding music that excites listeners as much as breathtaking sights thrill literal travelers.
You’d expect an album with a title like Planetary Coalition (Skol Productions, 2015) to be pretty far-reaching, and it is. Under the guidance of guitarist Alex Skolnick, a versatile axe man known mainly for dual identities as a thrash metal and jazz player, this sizable, ArtistShare-sponsored coalition shines on 75 minutes of sounds from many a corner of the world.
Skolnick’s string finesse trades off gracefully with the santoor of Max ZT on several tracks, matches the deft fire of Rodrigo y Gabriela on another, makes the textures of Yacouba Sissoko’s kora that much more heavenly, underpins Kiran Ahluwalia’s ghazal-influenced vocals with the proper mysticism and adds electricity to the tart tones of Adnan Joubran’s oud. And that’s barely marring the surface. There are Argentinian, Eastern European, Far Eastern and Latin Jazz ingredients here as well, and notable guest players aplenty. Yet this mainly instrumental set doesn’t overreach. It’s an ear feast that satisfyingly blends the familiar and the unexpected.
For the time being he’s put aside the Idan Raichel Project name and recording simply as Idan Raichel on At the Edge of the Beginning (Cumbancha, 2016). An Israeli keyboardist, composer, producer and arranger, Raichel has (apart from his acoustic albums with Mali’s Vieux Farka Toure) long blended Jewish, Arabic and African sounds with a worldly dance music sensibility. His new one finds him more introspective, starting off with a pair of chamber-like pieces that primarily showcase Raichel on piano.
Programmed rhythms fuel the tracks that follow but the feel stays rather whispery. The tracks are short and many have a lulling quality to them, reflective of Raichel’s recent identity as the father of two small children. Sparse instrumentation in the form of things like accordion, cello, saxophone and baglama stays on the supportive outer edges of the songs, which are delicate in their construction but have their own quiet strength. While not as groundbreaking as Raichel’s earlier material, his latest nevertheless gets to the heart of its matter by being touchingly low-key.
Karim Nagi has got a thing or two to say about Arabic culture and Detour Guide (Self-released, 2015) says it with percussion, spoken words, rap-like cadences and beat backdrops. Born in Egypt and presently based in Boston, Nagi is out to dispel myths, question stereotypes, recount history, impart truths and make both humorous and serious points about what it is to be of Arabic ethnicity nowadays.
He seamlessly mixes the cheeky with the sincere on titles like “What Arabs Do For Fun,” “Oriental Magic Carpet,” “Heart Full of Cairo” and “If I Were Hummus,” bringing so many observations to the table that you’ll have to listen to this disc multiple times to digest it all. It’s a kind of aural performance art that’s impossible to describe in any significant detail, but a rewarding listening and learning experience just the same.
A mashup of Balkan brass, stomping funk, Gypsy zest, punkish energy and Afrobeat syncopation, I Love You Madly by Washington DC’s Black Masala is a rousing fun burst of energy and true musical chops that’ll get you smiling and busting dance moves you didn’t think you had in you. While the music changes gears quite a bit, it does so rightly and tightly, such that the resulting songs are full of infectious instrumental and vocal passion rather than just one hot mess after another. Great stuff.
The musical connections between Moorish Spain, North Africa and the Middle East have been explored before, but seldom as grandly as the work of David Broza & The Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon on Andalusian Love Song (Magenta, 2015). One of Israel’s most respected singer/songwriters, Broza here has a number of his tunes arranged for a 35-piece ensemble of strings (bowed, plucked and strummed), reeds, brass and percussion.
Improvised interludes set the mood between the songs, which range in feel from aching to celebratory (much like the ups and downs of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that often figures into Broza’s work). The vocals are richly emotive and the music, under the direction of conductor and arranger Tom Cohen, is unfailingly superb.
Avataar, a band led by Toronto-based saxophonist/flautist Sundar Viswanathan, achieves a crackling good mixture of Indian classical music, jazz and ambient frameworks on Petal (InSound Records, 2015).
Viswanathan’s reeds put forth the same sonic sweetness as Felicity Williams’ largely wordless vocals, and the expert support of Michael Occhipinti (guitars), Justin Gray (bass, mandolin), Ravi Naimpally (tabla, percussion) and Giampaolo Scatozza (drums) provides serpentine grooves, nimble melodies and unending pleasure. The music is intricate without being overbearing or showy, and the result is blissful.
The Ragam Tanam Pallavi was in full flow. Nodding my head contentedly, I happened to see the artiste’s parents sitting a little away from me. And it occurred to me that Tiruvalluvar might have been inspired by a similar sight to write his famous couplet about what makes a parent most happy: undisputed evidence of their offspring’s accomplishments. And Archana Murali did just that for her parents on 5th February at the Krishna temple in Muscat. A chance attendee would have found it difficult to believe that this was her first ever solo performance. He or she would have thought yet another star of Carnatic music had come visiting the city.
As the curtains went up, one could see a young, somewhat nervously smiling girl, barely in her teens. But all that was forgotten by the time she finished her opening varnam in Vasantha ragm and launched into Papanasam Sivan’s “ganapathiye” in karaharapriya.
The chittaswarams were crisp and brisk, setting the mood of the concert. “Palimpa” in aarabhi followed, followed by “Muruga” (Periyasami Tooran) in Saveri where she gave ample evidence of her ability to handle a tisranadai talam. She had the attention of the audience fully by now.
When she took up a partimadhyama melakarta Dharmavati for alapana next, I was impressed by her choice. The alapana was elaborate, yet free of any shades of Madhuvanti. Udupi S. Srijith who accompanied on the violin gave a masterful and melodious reply. She went on to sing the popular “bhajana seya rada O Ramuni” of Mysore Vasudevachar.
After a brisk “Maakelara” in Ravichandrika, Archana launched into her main piece of the day, “ Koluvamare” in Todi. In the alapana she revealed her understanding of the wide range offered by Todi. Perhaps because the stage was very warm due to the bright lights, she found her throat going dry when she explored the lower octaves.
The kriti was handled like an expert, and she gave generous opportunities to her senior colleague on the violin, like a seasoned expert! The Tani avartanam that followed, with Muscat’s own Nandagopal on the mridangam and Trivandrum Rajesh on the ghatam, was impeccable, and added glory to the concert, which, by now, had the audience totally engrossed.
Nandagopal, a mentor of sorts for young Archana, produced yet another brilliant exposition on the mridangam, reinforcing this reviewer’s opinion that he belongs in the prime time slots in Chennai’s major sabhas. Rajesh was very impressive with his laya suddham, on his incredibly melodious instrument. This Tani will be remembered for a long time by all those who witnessed it.
For a first timer, wrapping up the concert with a few tukkadas would have been more than acceptable. But Archana had no intensions of being a mere beginner. She went on to prove her mettle by singing a short “bantu reethi” in Hamsanadham which she cleverly chose to start at the anupallavi, and followed it up by a surprisingly elaborate RTP in Kapi.
In both the alapana and tanam, she and Srijith regaled the audience with phrases soaked in bhava. The pallavi itself was not remarkable in its phraseology, but Archana scored again in the ragamalika, exploring charukesi, Misra Sivaranjani and Kalyani to her credit. By now, the concert had gone on for about two and a half hours. Archana has a wonderful voice, and it held steady to the very end, which came after another thirty minutes or so of soulful singing: Papanasam Siva’s “nambi kettavar evarayya” in Hindolam, the popular Maand piece “Muralidhara”, and the Purandara Dasa kriti “ Innu day barade” in Kalyana Vasantham.
She wrapped up her concert with Lalgudi Jayaraman’s lilting thillana in Karnaranajni to a standing ovation by the much impressed, and very discerning Muscat audience.
To have the fortune of being born to parents who are both excellent musicians is one thing, but to have the commitment and application to score so well in her maiden concert, deserved the accolade she got.
Well done Archana! Here is another Middle Eastern Star ready to light up the Chennai sky in the annual seasons to come!
Talented American vocalist Eva Salina is passionate about Balkan music and dedicates her new album to Serbian artist Šaban Bajramović, one of the most influential Gypsy (Roma) singers from Eastern Europe.
In this tribute, Eva Salina combines tradition with modernity. On Lema Lema she incorporates the currently popular Balkan brass sound along with jazz improvisation, rock beats and pop production elements.
Eva Salina’s vivacious and seductive Gypsy party includes well known artists from the New York Balkan, Gypsy and Klezmer scene such as Slavic Soul Party!, Kultur Shock, and The Klezmatics, along with special guests from Europe recorded during a 2015 unforgettable trip Eva Salina and some of her US-based musicians made to Serbia.
The lineup includes Eva’s longtime musical colleague, Romani accordionist Peter Stan; John Carlson on trumpet and flugelhorn; famed Romani trumpeter Ekrem Mamutović; Frank London on trumpet, flugelhorn, alto horn, Farfisa organ; Patrick Fareel on accordion, Farfisa organ, alto horn; Ron Caswell on tuba, trumpet, tenor horn, guitar, bass, Moog synthesizer, chorus, sampling and drum programming; Terry Szor on piccolo trumpet; Valson Mamutović on tenor horn; Brandon Seabrook on guitar; Ćerim Bećirović on tuba and chorus; Danny Blume on bass and chorus; Chris Stromquist on drums; Deep Singh on dhol and dholak; Mathias Kunzli on percussion; Seido Saliforski on tapan (drum); Elis Alimanovski on tapan; Daniel Bećirović on chorus and percussion, Dalibor Bećirović on chorus and percussion; Marjan Zecik on chorus; and Javorka Bećirović on vocals.
Lema Lema is an intensely moving album that brings back the timeless songs of the great Šaban Bajramović.
The artists scheduled to perform in 2016 La Linea Festival, London’s annual Latin music fest, include:
Sunday 24 April at Koko
Criolo, One of Brazil’s most acclaimed songwriter/performers. He draws influence from his love of samba, afrobeat and reggae and takes lyrical inspiration from his beginnings in a favela in Sao Paulo.
Monday 25 April at Barbican
Calexico’s latest project draws fresh influence from Mexico City.
Wednesday 27 April at Electric Ballroom
Chico Trujillo, Chile’s leading cumbia band. Chico Trujillo mixes classic cumbia, Chilean traditional musical forms rock and ska.
Friday 22 April at Rich Mix
From Buenos Aires, La Yegros is a popular digital cumbia act.
Friday 29 January at Rich Mix
Bixiga 70 is a ten-piece band from Sao Paulo. They combine Brazilian percussion sounds with Afrobeat.