Tag Archives: rock

Artist profiles: Hoven Droven

Hoven Droven in 2001 – Photo by Peder Majiet

Hoven Droven’s music is a unique and powerful blend of traditional folk and fierce hard rock where violin and electric guitar duel for the audience’s attention. This combination is complemented by a diverse background created by sax, Hammond organ, drums, percussion and bass.

The band’s name is a slang phrase which means uh “whatever” (at least in the province of Jämtland in northern Sweden). In their case it could just as well mean “things will take care of themselves.” Despite sometimes chaotic organizational methods none of them are able to explain how they have managed to perform on almost every major Swedish television and radio program and in North America. Looking at their individual schedules it’s a wonder that the band can get together to play at all.

Their first Swedish album “Hia Hia” was released in 1995 recorded at Peak Studios with engineer/producer Erik Benholm. Early in 1996 they got together again to record “Grov.” Selections from both of these releases are included on NorthSide’s 70+ minute compilation titled Groove — their first North American record release and one of NorthSide’s first releases.

Summer 1999 saw the band at the Winnipeg Folk Festival where they had 8 people on their feet hands raised high above their heads doing an ancient Swedish mosquito-killing dance. On their return home to Östersund they began recording their newest album.

More Happy Moments with Hoven Droven marks a number of departures for the band. Trumpet player Gustav Hylén left the band to spend more time with his family and set up Home Studios in Revsund where the disc was made. (You can see a “home movie” from the recording sessions on the NorthSide enhanced CD). New member Janne Strömstedt’s organ work now underpins the band’s sound making it heavier and more elegant all at the same time. For this release also the band decided to work with vocalists. On three tracks they are joined by the lovely female voices of Ulrika Bodén and Sofia Sandén (from Ranarim and Rosenberg 7.) Swedish music legend Stefan Sundström can be heard with the band on two of the five extra MP3 tracks which are included on the enhanced CD.
The English translation of the band’s name -helter skelter or, whatever – also happens to describe the band’s relationship to their Swedish roots.

Hoven Droven are:

Björn Höglund (drums and percussion) has toured with Swedish funk-rocker Paulo Mendonca and worships Peter Criss.

Guitarist Bo Lindberg claims he is a star in Japan with his former avant-rock band Myrbein. If the truth be known he’s a music teacher who’s been in almost every band to come out of Östersund in the past 1 years.

Saxophonist Jens Comén is often seen in rock-pop-jazz-big band-punk bands around town displaying his natural gifts (with his instrument).

Pedro Blom is the band’s bassist and plays in other roots music groups. Otherwise he’s a big fan of AC/DC and Mötorhead.

Hoven Droven’s violin-playing front man is Kjell-Erik Eriksson. His original interest in Swedish folk music has taken on a stronger bite and higher volume with Hoven Droven. He also plays traditional acoustic music in the band Triakel.

Janne Strömstedt (Hammond Organ) likes to play everything from salsa to country. In April 2000 Janne made the difficult decision to leave the band: “For a long time I’ve found it difficult to find a good way of combining the particular conditions under which HD is touring with the rest of my life. Unlike most of the others in the band I have a busy everyday life with another job apart from the music. I´m also touring quite a lot with Triakel.”

Discography

Hia-Hia (Xource/MNW XOUCD 110, 1994)
Grov (Xource/MNW XOUCD 114, 1996)
Groove, compilation (NorthSide NSD 6002, 1997)
More Happy Moments with Hoven Droven (Home 013 / NorthSide NSD 6043, 1999)
Hippa (Home 020 / NorthSide NSD 6062, 2001)
Turbo (Home 032, 2004)
Jumping at the Cedar, 2-CD live compilation (Home 044 / NorthSide NSD 6090, 2006)
Rost (Westpark PGM-87217, 2011)

www.hovendroven.com

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Southern Rock Icon Gregg Allman Dies at 69

Gregg Allman – Photo by Danny Clinch

Legendary Southern rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Gregg Allman passed away on May 27, 2017.

Gregory LeNoir Allman was one of the founding members of the Allman Brothers Band. Based in Macon, Georgia, the Allman Brothers Band was a pioneer of Southern rock, a remarkable mix of rock, blues, jazz and soul.

Some of the best known songs he performed include “Midnight Rider” and “Whipping Post.” The Allman Brothers Band won a GRAMMY Award in 1995 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for “Jessica.”

We have lost a pioneering force in American music, and our condolences go out to Gregg’s family, friends, colleagues, and music fans everywhere,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy.

The family recommends that tributes to Gregg can be made to the Gregg Allman Scholarship Fund at The University of Georgia or the Allman/Lehman Endowed Scholarship at Syracuse University.

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Tedeschi Trucks Band Live, a Special Experience

Tedeschi Trucks Band – Tedeschi Trucks Band Live From the Fox Oakland (Fantasy Records, 2017)

With summer just around the corner many of you are planning to head off to the beach, to the mountains or to grandma’s house while others are planning backyard barbecues, family reunions or pool parties so you are in desperate need of some tunes. As luck would have it I have your smoking raging down the highway, sizzling grilling chicken and hey someone needs to get that Frisbee off the roof tunes for your summer fun. The double-CD set Tedeschi Trucks Band Live from the Fox Oakland is your ticket to some kickass, razor sharp tunes.

Fans know the Jacksonville, Florida blues/rock Tedeschi Trucks Band from past offerings like Let Me Get, Midnight in Harlem, Revelator, Made Up and Everybody’s Talkin. Their latest offering is the fruits of their labors from a 2016 live performance at Oakland, California’s Fox Theater.

Guitarist Derek Trucks explains the springboard for the recording, “We’ve been wanting to properly document the progress of this ban for a while and it really felt like we were hitting our stride and firing on all cylinders last fall.”

Guitarist and vocalist Susan Tedeschi adds, “It was special capturing the live performance from Oakland. The audience was great and the band played with passion. I am thankful we captured the band at this moment in time.”

Headed up by Ms. Tedeschi and Mr. Trucks, The Tedeschi Trucks Band is full of the usual suspects with Kofi Burbridge on keyboards and flute, Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell on drums and percussion, J.J. Johnson on drums and percussion, Tim Lefebvre on bass guitar, Mike Mattison on vocals and acoustic guitar, Mark Rivers on vocals, Alecia Chakour on vocals, Kebbi Williams on saxophone, Elizabeth Lea on trombone and Ephraim Owens on trumpet. Fans get a treat with guest musician Alam Khan on sarode on “These Walls.”

Live at the Fox Oakland is savagely good and kickass cool. Chocked full of the goodness of “Don’t Know What It Means,” “Keep on Growing,” “Bird on the Wire” and “Anyhow,” and that’s just CD 1, the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s sound is tight and razor sharp. With rocking guitar licks, sizzling rhythms, soulful vocals, sassy backing vocals and brass lines so sweet they’ll probably keep the mosquitos away, Live at the Fox Oakland is all you need to get your mojo working again. CD 2 is just as fabulous with offerings like “Leavin’ Trunk,” “Don’t Drift Away,” “I Want More (Soul Sacrifice Outro)” and the rich and rewarding “Ali.”

For fans wanting to get a little live action of the Tedeschi Trucks band should check their local concert venues because the band is currently on a U.S. tour and will have upcoming concerts in places like Philadelphia, Saratoga, Rochester, Virginia Beach, Raleigh, Charlotte, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Albuquerque this June and July.

It’s doubtful that Live at the Fox Oakland will make your teeth whiter, your kids smarter, help you find the love of a good woman or improve your posture – but you never know because I think I’m sitting a little straighter right now.

Buy Tedeschi Trucks Band Live From the Fox Oakland

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Artist Profiles: Billy Preston

Billy Preston

Billy Preston’s career spanned five decades, starting as a child prodigy playing the movie role of young W.C. Handy and then playing organ for Ray Charles and Little Richard. His accomplishments are highlighted by a seriesg of hits, including collaborating with some of the most celebrated names in the music industry, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, The Jackson Five, Sly and the Family Stone, Barbara Streisand, Sammy Davis Jr., Quincy Jones and perhaps the most famous of all, The Beatles.

Billy’s relationship with The Beatles led to his signing with Apple Records in the 1960s. Billy is widely acknowledged as the “Fifth Beatle” having been the only party to ever hand his name included in the label credits of the Let It Be and the Abbey Road albums as well as the landmark The White Album. Billy also appeared with them in the films “The Complete Beatles” and Let It Be as well as performing as part of them during their historic rooftop final concert.

In the late 1960s Billy worked with John Lennon and Yoko Ono on their solo Plastic Ono Band album as well as Ringo Starr’s solo single “Oh My My” and he participated in George Harrison’s American Tour. In addition Billy Preston was a leading character in the movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band also featuring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, performing a stunning version of “Get Back”.

Preston’s name and fame were solidified as a solo artist when he scored a series of Number 1 hit singles including the Grammy winning “Outta Space”, “Will It Go Round In Circles”, “Nothing From Nothing” and “Space Race”.

 

 

 

A prolific writer, Billy Preston composed the multi-platinum standard “You Are So Beautiful” that was performed by his friend Joe Cocker. He also wrote the title songs for a series of box office hits  including “Never Gonna Say Goodbye” “Fast Break” and “O’Hara’s Wide”. The title song from “Fast Break” became a Preston classic hit when performed as a duet with the late Syreeta Wright. Billy also co-wrote the score for the Sidney Poitier movie “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs” with Quincy Jones.

 

 

Billy Preston was the first black musical director of a late night television show “Nightlife” starring David Brenner, was a regular on the UPN series “Good News” and made a cameo appearance in “Blues Brothers 2” as part of the super group that included Eric Clapton and Stevie Winwood and B.B. King among others.

Billy’s participation in the tribute concert “Concert for George Harrison” at Royal Albert Hall and his performance of “My Sweet Lord” received critical acclaim. Billy recorded on the last album his mentor Ray Charles was to record, toured with The Funk Brothers and Stevie Winwood in Europe in early 2004 and then hit the road, touring extensively and garnering rave reviews for his performances with his dear friend Eric Clapton through Europe and North America. Billy’s keyboard dominance was highlighted with the release of the “Let It Be–Naked” album issue.

With his extensive touring and studio involvement Billy Preston found the time to create special project tribute to his dear friends The Beatles. He even wrote two new songs, one in tribute to George Harrison and another to all four of the fab fellows, “John, Paul, George and Ringo”.

Billy Preston died June 6, 2006.

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Artist Profiles: Toubab Krewe

Toubab Krewe

Toubab Krewe is an instrumental quintet based in Asheville, North Carolina, that fuses West African music with American rock. The five members, who are childhood friends and long-term musical collaborators who joined up in 2005, have spent extended periods studying with musical masters in Mali, Ivory Coast, and Guinea and learning traditional instruments such as the kora (a 21-string harp) and the kamel ngoni (a lute).

Their recording ‘Live At The Orange Peel’ (2008) features eight previously unreleased tracks and continue to mix American rock with the West African musical traditions the band fell in love with on their travels. Along the way, they explore the worlds of surf and zydeco. Live At The Orange Peel features collaborations with legendary spoken word artist Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets and fiddler Rayna Gellert of Uncle Earl. It was produced by Grammy winning producer Steven Heller, who also produced the band’s debut.

With many friends, teachers, and collaborators living in Mali and affected by the 2012 Malian crisis, the band felt called to do something to help. Inspired by the encouragement of Toumani Diabate, Toubab Krewe’s Luke Quaranta envisioned and launched “Musicians for Mali,” an initiative to increase awareness about the current crisis in Mali, and raise money for refugees.

Teal Brown – drum set
Drew Heller – electric guitar and soku
Justin Perkins – kora, kamelengoni, and electric guitar
David Pransky – electric bass guitar
Luke Quaranta – percussion

Discography

* Toubab Krewe (Upstream Records, 2005)
* Live At The Orange Peel (Upstream Records, 2009)
* TK2 (Nat Geo Music, 2011)

Web sites: www.toubabkrewe.com

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Artist Profiles: elbicho

elbicho

Elbicho was one of Spain’s leading jam bands. The group was forged on the streets in the heart of Madrid. Their rapidly growing and loyal fan base raved about their live performances and eagerly spread the word (along with their first demo recording), to such an extent that it wasn’t long before they received offers from industry giants.

Their live acts, both energetic and addictive, hardly gave a moment’s rest conjugating and fusing flamenco bulerias and tanguillos with an array of diverse styles such as progressive rock, rap, blues, African rhythms and a touch of jazz Based in Madrid. Well known in Spain, but with little exposure outside the country, El Bicho put together a captivating show, appealing to musicians and non-musicians alike, and always bringing the house to its feet.

elbicho live

The band traced its origin to a music workshop directed by Guillermo McGill at the Escuela Popular de Musica, where lead singer Miguel Campello from Elche (eastern Spain) met Victor Iniesta (guitar) and in turn Carlos Tato (bass), Toni Mangas (drums) and David Amores (percussion) join the group forming El Combo Flamenco.

After a year of gigs and composing they recorded their demo Bichos which became a major sell out at their concerts. In 2002 Juan Carlos Aracil (flute) and Pepe Aracil (trumpet) joined the group, elevating the music yet another step, and contributing to establish their definitive sound.

Elbicho’s debut album includes major names in Spain’s Flamenco scene, such as Jorge Pardo, Carles Benavent, Tino di Geraldo, Tomasito, Eva Duran and Javier Alvarez. The record was produced by Tino di Geraldo and Guillermo Quero.

The most recent line-up included Miguel Campello Garzón on vocals, Victor Iniesta Iglesias on guitar, Carlos Tato Moreno on bass, Antonio Mangas Ovide on drums, David Cobo Amores on percussion, Juan Carlos Aracil Sala on flute, Mario Díaz Bermejo on keyboards, and José Andreu Garzón on trumpet.

Several of El Bicho’s members had side projects such as world music and jazz fusion band Candelaria.

On May 16th of 2008, elbicho recorded a live album in Madrid that includes two music CDs and a DVD with live concert footage. De Imaginar contains passionate flamenco rooted songs that are popular with the public as well as extensive instrumental jams where elbicho blends high energy Andalusian rock with Afro-Latin beats, jazz fusion and much more. 

In June of 2010 the band announced that it was going to take a break and scheduled as farewell tour. As a farewell gift to the group’s fans, the DRO label released a boxed set To Junto that includes elbicho’s entire discography plus a bonus CD with demos and other unreleased material.

Discography

* Elbicho (Dro-East West, 2003)
* Elbicho II (Dro-East West, 2005)
* Elbicho VII (Dro-East West, 2007)
* Elbich8 De Imaginar (Dro-East West, 2009)
* To Junto (Dro-East West, 2010)

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Artist profiles: David Byrne

David Byrne – Photo by Danny Clinch

Born May 14, 1952 in Dumbarton, Scotland and raised in Baltimore (Maryland, USA), David Byrne has come a long way from playing guitar in high school bands and solo performances on the ukulele in Providence, Rhode Island. Perhaps best known as the energetic front man for the new wave group Talking Heads, Byrne has cast a much larger net over art world as a photographer, film editor, author and solo artist.

Byrne teamed with Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison, formed the Talking Heads and released their first album, Talking Heads 77 in 1977. The group was to release 18 more albums with such critically acclaimed recordings as Speaking in Tongues, Stop Making Sense and Remain in Light. The band’s popularity has long outlived the group’s dissolution in 1988 with the latest release being a 2005 boxed set, Talking Heads Brick, of the group’s studio recordings.

The success of the group afforded Byrne the opportunity to cast his creative eye in other, maybe not so profitable, directions by scoring the Twyla Tharp ballet, The Catherine Wheel, directing music videos and recording My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with collaborator and Talking Heads’ producer Brian Eno. There was Byrne’s solo work in The Knee Plays, a theater piece of New Orleans based brass band and spoken word score directed by Robert Wilson. Jonathan Demme directed the film Stop Making Sense using the Talking Head’s 1983 tour.

In 1986 Byrne wrote, starred and directed the movie True Stories, and collaborated on the score for the movie The Last Emperor in 1987 with Bernardo Bertolucci. Byrne along with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Cong Su shared the Academy Award for The Last Emperor.

The Forest’s (1989) theatrical score and directing Ilé Aiyé: The House of Life 1989 documentary were two more projects bearing David Byrne’s creative mark.

In 1988, David Byrne founded the Luaka Bop record label devoted to Byrne’s love of world music. In 1989, Byrne worked with such greats as Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Wilfredo Vargas and Brazil’s Os Paralamas do Sucesso and released Rei Momo. The recording sampled the rumba, the samba, the cumbia and the plena. The Luaka Bop label had produced such artists as Susana Baca, Tom Ze, Nouvelle Vague and Los Amigos Invisibles.

Byrne has continued to work, writing the music for the film Young Adam (2003) and recording in 2004 Grown Backwards, appearing on Nonesuch Records.

Discography

* Talking Heads ’77, with Talking Heads (1977)
* More Songs About Buildings and Food, with Talking Heads (1978)
* Fear of Music, with Talking Heads (1979)
* Remain in Light, with Talking Heads (1980)
* My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, with Brian Eno (1981)
* The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, with Talking Heads (1982)
* Speaking in Tongues, with Talking Heads (1983)
* Stop Making Sense, with Talking Heads (1984)
* Little Creatures, with Talking Heads (1985)
* True Stories, with Talking Heads (1986)
* Naked, with Talking Heads (1988)
* Rei Momo (1989)
* The Forest (1991)
* Popular Favorites: Sand In The Vaseline, with Talking Heads (1992)
* Uh-Oh (1992)
* David Byrne (1994)
* Feelings (1997)
* The Visible Man (1997)
* Stop Making Sense: Special New Edition, with Talking Heads (1999)
* Look Into The Eyeball (2001)
* Once in a Lifetime Boxed Set, with Talking Heads (2003)
* Grown Backwards (2004)
* Talking Heads Brick, with Talking Heads (Boxed Set, Dual Disc) (2005)
* Knee Plays (Nonesuch, 2007)
* Everything That Happens Will Happen Today (2008)
* Love This Giant, with St. Vincent (4AD, 2012)

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Artist Profiles: Canteca de Macao

Canteca de Macao

Madrid-based band Canteca de Macao was founded in 2003 and has caused a stir in international music circles in recent years with its wild blend of flamenco, Gypsy rumba, rock, reggae, ska, salsa and jazz. One of Spain’s most popular live acts, the group makes each performance into an exciting and joyful party. Canteca de Macao’s concerts include music, dance and sometimes jugglers.

Canteca de Macao was started around 2003 when several musicians from Spain, Venezuela and Chile got together to perform at Madrid’s popular flea market, El Rastro. The nine-piece band recorded a self-produced first album titled Cachai, which sold 4,000 exclusively at concerts. To promote the album, Canteca de Macao toured throughout Spain and the rest of Europe.

The band’s line-up in 2009 included Ana Saboya “Anita Kuruba”, Álvaro Melgar (‘Azelga’), Isidoro Lora-Tamayo (‘Chiki’), Danilo Montoya, Guillermo Martínez Yusta, Juan Tomás Martínez París (‘Juancho’), Pablo Carretero, Javier Rodríguez de Zuloaga (‘Zulo’) and Rodrigo ‘El Niño’ Díaz.

 

In 2013, to celebrate its 10th anniversary, Canteca de Macao released a music video each month featuring its greatest hit s and new songs. A tour followed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The band released a CD + DVD titled Una Década that features its greatest hits accompanied by some of the leading mestizo and flamenco crossver acts in Spain: Chico Ocaña, Amparo Sánchez, El Canijo de Jerez, Alamedadosoulna, Juan Manuel Montilla (Langi), and Dremen.

In 2015, Canteca de Maca released “Lugares Comunes.” The band featured new songs composed by Chiki and Anita. The lineup in 2016 features Ana Saboya, “Anita”; Isidoro Lora-Tamayo, “Chiki“; Javier Rodríguez de Zuloaga “Zulo“; Rodrigo Ulises Díaz, “El Niño“; Carlos Leal Valladares; bassist Yago Salorio; and keyboardist Rubén García Motos.

 

Discography

* Cachai (2005, reissued by DRO / Warner Music Spain)
* Camino de la vida entera (Warner Music Spain, 2007)
* Agua pa’ la tierra (Warner Music Spain, 2009)
* Nunca es Tarde (Kasba Music, 2012)
* Una Década (2014)
* Lugares Comunes (2015)

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Tradition and Getting Around it

Being a self-styled traditionalist doesn’t mean my musical tastes are so staunch that I shun any sonic adventurousness that steps over traditional boundaries. Cross the line into an over-reliance on gimmickry (which can take the form of too much technology or pop pandering for commercial purposes), and you’ve lost me. Taking chances by mixing traditions or styles in ways that leave musical integrity unscathed? You’ve got my attention.

 

Aziza Brahim - Abbar el Hamada
Aziza Brahim – Abbar el Hamada

 

Aziza Brahim, a Sahrawi woman who was born in an Algerian refugee camp as the war over the Western Sahara region was raging, doesn’t exactly go in for traditional Sahrawi music on Abbar el Hamada (Glitter Beat, 2016). Having lived and studied in Cuba and currently a citizen of Spain, some of her songs have an expected, and very welcome, Iberian and Latin edge. She even sings in Spanish for much of the album, the title of which refers to rocky desert landscapes and subject-wise deals with activist concerns like the ongoing plight of the Sahrawi.

The disc also digs into a measure of the “desert blues” sound that many Saharan musicians have become known for, as well as a few galloping rhythms that suggest a more laid back version of Senegalese m’balax (which has always had its own Latin flavors).

 

 

Brahim isn’t as frequent in her use of wailing, undulating tones as a lot singers with Arabic roots tend to be. Her approach is more pensive, but she sharpens her tone when needed, and partly because she also plays the bowl-shaped tbal drum while she sings, her voice fits the grooves as naturally as the grooves themselves, be they acoustic or electric. A stunning release all around.

 

Ana Alcaide - Leyenda
Ana Alcaide – Leyenda

 

She’s already a groundbreaker for use of the Swedish nyckelharpa (keyed viola) in the music of her native Spain, and now Ana Alcaide takes things a few steps further with Leyenda- World Music Inspired by Feminine Legends (ARC Music, 2016). Female folkloric characters from various cultures (including Spain, Mexico, China, Scotland and Alcaide’s own imagination) are celebrated in songs that range from lullaby-like softness to ritualistic and pulsating.

Nyckelharpa, baroque guitars and bouzouki are sweetened with other strings, reeds, percussion and celestial production values that surround Alcaide’s gracefully penetrating vocals and construct a pair of instrumentals that seem to tell otherworldly tales without any words at all. This is music that could serve as a soundtrack for any ancient or modern fantasy worth conjuring, or bring about just enough of a dream state to take you blissfully away from reality for a while. Either way, it’s stunning.

 

Money Chicha - Echo En Mexico
Money Chicha – Echo En Mexico

 

Chicha, the Peruvian-originated, organ-tweaked, fuzz guitar-laden psychedelic style of music with similarities to Colombian cumbia and Jamaican dub, continues on its revival path courtesy of Austin-based band Money Chicha. Their debut album Echo En Mexico (Vampisoul, 2016) is an irresistibly throbbing beat fest where unyielding layers of Latin percussion support keyboards, guitars and bass that are as trippy in their wall of sound as they are intertwined in their tightness. And tightness is indeed the key.

The chicha sound is one that must not lag in its skipping rhythms or spot-on melodic mesh that weighs in somewhere between surf rock, alternative Latin, Andean tradition, the ghost of Arsenio Rodriguez and music that simply wouldn’t appeal to polite society in Lima, Bogota or, well, Austin. Money Chicha go their own way by eliminating vocals entirely and giving the tracks a subtle funk push with a little extra breathing room among the instruments, resulting in a disc that satisfies to the frenzied max.

 

Nii Okai Tagoe - West to West
Nii Okai Tagoe – West to West

 

Lovers of African drumming and African music in general will happily tune in to West to West (ARC Music, 2016) by Nii Okai Tagoe. He’s a master of many a drum and percussion instrument affiliated with the Motherland and treads a beaten (beating?) path away from tradition by lacing his danceable pieces with horns, keyboards, violin, harp, bass and guitar.

Some unexpected turns are taken with arrangements as well, such as the blues sway of “3 Monkeys.” Not surprising for a gent who’s played with outfits as diverse as Baka Beyond and African Head Charge. This sort of thing has been done before, but Tagoe certainly does it spot-on.

 

Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus - Chiaroscuro
Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus – Chiaroscuro

 

A very different take on percussion and its relationship to the human voice can be heard on Chiaroscuro (Bent Records, 2016) a collaboration involving Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus. Nexus is a virtuosic percussion ensemble; Prana is a group of singers who all specialize in singing two pitches simultaneously. That dual pitch knack helped inspire Garry Kvistad of Nexus to invent the vistaphone, four octaves worth of chimes gathered into one instrument and the perfect companion to the harmonic series scale of notes that the singers use to achieve their second level of vocal prowess.

The grandiosely-titled tracks on the album (“The Rituals of Dusk,” A Crown of Radiant Fire,” etc.) combine orchestral drums, gongs, glockenspiel, marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, voices and the debuting vistaphone to create music that I can only describe as equal parts refined and primal, rhythmic and atmospheric, structured and seemingly spontaneous, eerie and comforting, earthy and not of this earth. Repeating patterns of percussion and wordless voices ascend to mesmerizing heights and hover there, exploring in sonic terms the disc’s titular concept of light and dark contrasting yet harmonizing.

The three concluding compositions (including a mind-and-ear-altering Balinese monkey chant) are voices unaccompanied and lose nothing in the absence of their percussive counterparts. So is this disc the pinnacle of traditional music, the complete lack of it or something else altogether? Get it and decide for yourself. And prepare to be spellbound.

 

9Bach Anian
9Bach – Anian

 

I don’t know a great deal about traditional Welsh music and thus can’t say how closely 9Bach adheres to it with their latest release, Anian (Real World, 2016). But I am quite taken with the shimmery emotiveness of singer/pianist/composer/lyricist Lisa Jen’s lead vocals, as well as the sparse yet very sturdy support her bandmates offer on guitar, bass, percussion, harp, hammer dulcimer and harmonies.

 

 

While some of the instruments used reportedly stray from tradition, the end result is a perfect fit, with modern production adding a kind of cool mist to softly enveloping music that often has a melancholy, longing feel offset by pure beauty. Anian is one to savor repeatedly.

There’s also a bonus disc, Yn Dy Lais (In Your Voice), that features Welsh-influenced poetry and storytelling rendered in English by the likes of Peter Gabriel and Rhys Ifans. It’s meant to make the nuances of the Welsh language more accessibly artsy and is worth a listen, but the lovely sounds on the first disc are the true reason to get this album.

 

Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars - Gulfstream
Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars – Gulfstream

 

A world away but still bringing tradition to a different level, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars take music with roots as old as the Louisiana bayou itself and jolt it full of rock, soul, blues, zydeco and funk energy. Gulfstream (Octavia Records, 2016) is a swampy, sultry, swaggering, sizzling slab of deep-south musical gumbo that will delight anyone who loves the celebratory sounds of New Orleans and Lafayette and appreciates the need to cool down for a ballad like the Aaron Neville-ish title track. It’s a party, albeit from the heart.

 

Richard Bona - Heritage
Richard Bona – Heritage

 

Richard Bona, the “African Sting,” melds his smooth Cameroonian roots music with the sounds of Afro-Cuban band Mandekan Cubano on Heritage (Qwest Records, 2016). African and Latin musical traditions have been best friends for a long, long time thanks to their shared origins, and Mandekan Cubano’s piano, dual percussion, trumpet and trombone lineup expertly underpins Bona’s joyous salsa-infused numbers and his softer side. Primarily a bassist but adept on numerous instruments, Bona adds unexpected touches like electric sitar to the range of Afro-Latin delights that comprise a very fine release.

 

Luisa Maita - Fio da Memoria
Luisa Maita – Fio da Memoria

 

Brazilian music, a familiar world staple for decades, has more recently been fused with electronica to degrees that some traditionalists have accepted and others rejected. Put me in the former category. It’s telling that Luisa Maita waited six years since her first album to put out a followup; perhaps she wanted to see how the Brazilian/electronica scene would play out in the interim. Her sophomore release Fio da Memoria (Cumbancha, 2016) has the breathy, sensual feel that’s nearly a given when it comes to female Brazilian singers, and the tunes roll out on a foundation of grooves rooted in samba, even if they’re not always rendered on organic instruments.

Maita’s steamy sentiments translate well, as the sung-in-English “Around You” demonstrates, and she’s got some stories of substance to tell, like “Na Asa,” a musical tale of dreams realized. Fio da Memoria is a keeper for sure, but Maita’s vocal mix of subtle and searing would benefit even more from backing that likewise balances real and electronic sounds equally.

 

Various Artists - The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz
Various Artists – The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz

 

If you need a reminder of how well traditional Ethiopian music meshes with jazz, The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz (World Music Network, 2016) will handily serve. Trailblazer Mulatu Astatke kicks off with the horn-heavy proclaiming of “Gamo” and things jump ever further back into the Swinging Addis feel of the 60s and 70s from there.

While at only 9 tracks the collection can’t cover the whole spectrum, what you get is choice. Serpentine instrumentals are the bulk of it, including NYC’s Budos Band providing impressive overseas translation of the sound, but the soulful vocal thrills of Tlahoun Gessesse and Gabriella Ghermandi show just how large a role male and female voices also played (and play) on the scene. A superb sampler.

headline photo: Richard Bona

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Wake Up You! Vol. 1

Wake Up You! Vol. 1
Wake Up You! Vol. 1

In 1967, newly independent Nigeria descendant into a Civil War to stop a secession of Biafra known as at the Biafran War. Families were asked to choose sides. Friends were separated by ideological cleavages. The war lasted three years. A million Nigerians were killed. Right after this war a phenomenal music scene was created in search of a new society.

A newly released album and an accompanying book Wake Up You! Vol. 1  tells the story of this after Biafran War Nigerian music that sought to heal social ills and unite a very young Republic through explorations in Funk, Psychedelia, and Rock, that led all the way to Fela Kuti, by compiling songs of several bands that participated in the before-mentioned scene.Wake Up You! Vol. 1 is released by Now Again Records.

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