Tag Archives: world music

Artist Profiles: Jamshied Sharifi

Jamshied Sharifi in Lanzarote (Canary Islands, Spain) – Photo by Angel Romero

Jamshied Sharifi was born in Topeka, Kansas to an Iranian father and an American mother. At an early age Sharifi was exposed to jazz and Middle Eastern music by his father and to European classical and church music by his mother. He began to study classical piano at age five and quickly developed a thirst for musical instruction and a desire to improvise. At age nine he began studying guitar and drums and at age ten added flute.

After graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in humanities Sharifi wenton to further his musical education at Berklee College of Music in Boston. At Berklee he studied Jazz Piano and Composition as well as Film Scoring and in 1983 he received of the Outstanding Jazz Pianist award at the Collegiate Jazz Festival held at the University of Notre Dame. He studied with noted trumpeter and Charlie Parker sideman Herb Pomeroy and after graduation from Berklee Pomeroy asked Sharifi to lead the MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble a post Pomeroy had held for twenty-two years.

From 1985-1992 under Sharifi’s direction and leadership the group recorded two CDs performed twenty of his compositions and won the prestigious Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival in 1991. During this time Sharifi also taught in the Music Synthesis and Ensemble Departments at Berklee.

In 1992 he left his teaching positions in Boston and moved to New York City in search of new musical endeavors and opportunities.

Sharifi began to focus his attention on film soundtracks. His foray into the world of film and television began as a keyboardist and orchestrator for Michael Gibbs. Together they scored three feature films and fifteen one-hour television shows. Sharifi went on to compose the soundtracks to many major studio and independent films including Muppets From Space Down To Earth Harriet the Spy and Clockstoppers and contributed to the scores of The Thomas Crown Affair and The Rugrats Movie.

Jamshied Sharifi

While Sharifi’s initial focus in music can be credited to American jazz it is his infusions of elements from the Middle East and Africa that make his music distinctive. He is an accomplished pianist and synthesizer player. Notably Sharifi holds the synthesizer to an ‘acoustic’ standard and aims to play it with the detail and richness of articulation that comes naturally to an acoustic instrumentalist. To achieve this sound he uses a controller which allows him to manipulate the synthesizer with his breath. He combines this technique with a ribbon controller that allows him to bend the pitch smoothly and continuously with his finger. According to Jamshied using both these techniques makes the instrument a “wind-driven fretless synthesizer”.

His Alula Records debut in 1998 A Prayer for the Soul of Layla (named in honor of his daughter) was voted Best Contemporary World Music Album in the first annual New Age Voice Music Awards. The widespread critical acclaim “Layla” received sent him and his group to São Paulo Brazil to perform at the Musica Mundial festival with artists such as Baaba Maal and Baka Beyond. “The album is a distillation of all these directions,” says Sharifi. “Because I’ve always had a lot of contact with acoustic instruments and players I have tried to hold the synthesizer up to an ‘acoustic’ standard in other words to try and play it with the depth detail and richness of articulation that come naturally to an acoustic instrumentalist.”

Sharifi’s second solo album One was released April 8th 2008.Drenched in world rhythms and instrumentation accented by contemporary Western influences. One invites the listener to journey to places off the map through its blending of cultures performers and sounds.

Sharifi invited internationally influential names to lend their voices to this momentous album. “I wanted to put together singers and musicians who wouldn’t normally perform together and see where that led” said Sharifi. “I was intentionally disrespectful of world music ‘boundaries’ hoping that the spirit of cooperation and mutual respect would prevail.”

On the opening track, “One” Sharifi orchestrates a stage of layered instrumentation for Tibetan songstress Yungchen Lhamo to weave intricate vocal melodies.”My thought was that this track would set the tone of the whole project” explains Sharifi. “By combining performances of Yungchen Lhamo and a West African singer it would define the space in which mi project would live.”

Yungchen who was encouraged directly by the Dalai Lama to share her inimitable voice to the world is joined by Malian vocalist
Abdoulaye Diabate. On the passionate “Darfur Is Burning, a response to our and the world’s inaction in the face of whatcan only be called genocide Diabate’s soulful vocals plead over the delicate kora playing of Mamadou Diabate.

Grammy Award winner Paula Cole lends her well-known voice to “My Grandfather The Tree” and “A Charlotte Sky” which Sharifi wrote for Cole’s daughter with Hassan Hakmoun who joins Cole on the track.

Hakmoun performs on two other songs including the album’s closing track “Requiem” which was written at the request of John Diliberto at Echoes soon after 9/11. Sharifi invited Irish whistle player Seamus Egan of the band Solas to play the melody and Hakmoun to sing the brief lament in the middle of the song. “It’s worth remembering that 9/11 has been for most Muslims a tragedy as well.”

Also appearing on the album are critically acclaimed vocalist Sussan Deyhim of Tehran and North Indian vocalist Vishal Vaid. Remarkably Vaid infuses his performances with the ancient technique of Ghazal singing creating the perfect counterpart to Sharifi’s compositions.

In addition to creating his own albums and scoring films Sharifi has produced and arranged albums formany artists including Tibetan vocalist Yungchen Lhamo and Persian vocalist Mamak Khadem. He has also recorded four albums with world fusion band Mo Boma.

Discography

A Prayer for the Soul of Layla (Alula Records, 1998)
One (Ceres, 2000)

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Artist Profiles: Jai Uttal

Jai Uttal

Jai Uttal is a pioneer in the United States’ world music community. His eclectic east meets-west sound has put his music at the forefront of the world fusion movement. Jai Uttal’s musical roots embrace a rich variety of cultures and traditions that span the globe and the centuries. From the traditional music of the Appalachian Mountains to the passionate strains of Bengali street singers from the haunting rhythms and melodies of ancient India to contemporary electric rock sounds Jai’s music distills the essence of diverse musical forms.

As a child in New York City, Jai’s home was filled with music. He began studying classical piano at the age of seven and later learned to play old time banjo harmonica and guitar. His musical interests encompassed a wide variety of styles and over the years he experimented with many forms of musical expression.

Eventually this led him to the work of India’s National Living Treasure Ali Akbar Khan. At the age of 19 Jai moved to California to become a student of Khansahib for traditional voice training and to learn the sarod a 25-stringed Indian instrument. Later he traveled to India where he was deeply inspired by the Bauls the wandering street musicians of Bengal. Jai settled among them communicating only through music which ultimately helped establish his unique style.

During these early visits to India Jai also met his Guru Neem Karoli Baba and spent time with many great beings of both the Hindu and Buddhist traditions. He became deeply absorbed in the practice of kirtan the ancient yoga of chanting or singing to God. This form of prayer became the core of his musical and spiritual life.

When Jai returned to the United States his music had been transformed. He continued to study Indian music diligently while also performing in reggae, R&B, punk and blues bands. He also began leading kirtan groups all over the country. The combination of Jai’s exceptional vocals and exotic instrumentation produced a new and captivating sound.

In 1991 Triloka Records released his debut album Footprints featuring world music innovator Don Cherry and Indian vocalist Lakshmi Shankar. The album received critical acclaim and led Jai and his band the Pagan Love Orchestra to international prominence. By the time his second album Monkey was released in 1993 Jai and the Pagan Love Orchestra had an enormous fan base with a top ten record on the world music charts.

In 1994 Beggars and Saints was released a tribute to the Bauls of Bengal and again the album received international recognition solidifying Jai Uttal’s position as a world music visionary. During this time Jai also produced two CD’s for his teacher Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. Combining the brilliance of Khansahib’s playing and composing with Western orchestration Journey and Garden of Dreams became extremely popular in the Indian community.

Jai’s fourth release Shiva Station was another leap forward. Capturing the raw urgency of his live performances with the Pagan Love Orchestra and adding the mixing wizardry of veteran producer Bill Laswell Shiva Station presented traditional chants in a totally new way. The concerts at that time united the temple and the nightclub the sacred and the worldly; emphasizing the underlying theme that spirituality and devotion can pervade all aspects of life.

Meanwhile, with the rise of interest in Yoga, Jai was receiving more and more requests to lead kirtan workshops and concerts all over the world. In the last few years chanting has brought him to Israel Fiji Brazil Germany Switzerland and India. Jai released a live kirtan CD titled Nectar to begin to chronicle these powerful events.

Finally in February of 2002 Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra released Mondo Rama on Narada Records. The product of several years of deep musical and self-exploration Mondo Rama combined Brazilian influences, Hebrew prayers, Appalachian Blues, Beatles psychedelia and of course Indian music and chants, Mondo Rama explodes from the speakers in celebration and rebirth. “I went through many difficult heart-wrenching transformations in the last year” says Jai, “and I decided to put it all into this CD. The anguish the pain the joy and the redemption. Mondo Rama means the World is Rama or Everything is God. This CD is an attempt to express that feeling and the sense of surrender and gratitude that I try to remember everyday“. Mondo Rama went on to be nominated for a Grammy as Best New Age Album of 2002.

Jai adds, “world music is music from everywhere. Music that creates bridges. Music that unites hearts and cultures. Music that brings peace.”

In recent years Uttal has drifted away from world music, focusing on music for the new age market.


Discography:

Footprints (Triloka Records” 1991)

Monkey (Triloka Records 1993)

Beggars and Saints (Triloka Records 1994)

Shiva Station (Triloka Records 1997)

Nectar (Etherean 2000)

Mondo Rama (Narada Records 2002)

Kirtan (Sounds True 2004)

Music for Yoga and Other Joys with Ben Leinbach (Gemini Sun Records 2004)

Pranayama (2005)

Loveland – Music for Dreaming and Awakening with Ben Leinbach (Gemini Sun Records 2006)

Dial M for Mantra (Sounds True 2007)

Thunder Love (Nettwerk 2009)

Bhakti Bazaar (Sounds True 2010)

Queen of Hearts (Nutone 2011)

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Artist profiles: Ian Carr

Ian Carr

Ian Carr is a Welsh guitarist known for his work with Kathryn Tickell, The Old Rope String Band, Simon Thoumire, Syncopace and has guested on recordings by John McCusker, Kate Rusby, Gordon Duncan and several others. He is a member of Anglo-Swedish band Swap and Alan Kelly Gang.

Discography:

Swap (Amigo/NorthSide NSD612, 1998)
(Sic) (Amigo/NorthSide NSD642, 2000)
Fyace, with Karen Tweed (Compass Records, 2000)

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Artist profiles: Howard Levy

Howard Levy

Multi-instrumentalist Howard Levy has appeared throughout the Americas, Europe and Japan in a variety of jazz, Latin, folk, blues, pop and world music settings. A superb pianist and composer, Howard’s most remarkable music is made on the harmonica.

He has revolutionized the technique of playing the instrument by devising a method of playing all twelve tones of the chromatic scale on the diatonic harmonica (which is only designed to produce eight tones).

In addition Howard is revered for performing with intense musicality a beautiful tone and a commanding stage presence. Howard was an original member of the outstanding Bela Fleck &the Flecktones. Howard is also credited for performances and recordings with the late Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, David Grisman, Kenny Loggins, Paquito D’Rivera, Glen Vele,z John Prine, Bonnie Koloc, Styx, Chuck Mangione and Dolly Parton.

Howard Levy’s discography is really extensive. His Web site has a long list of titles where he appears as a member of various ensembles and as a guest.

Discography

The Old Country (1999)
Stranger’s Hand (1999)
Cappuccino (2004)
Howard Levy & Paul Sprawl (2005)
Tonight and Tomorrow (2009)
Time Capsules (2009)
Concerto for Diatonic Harmonica and Orchestra (2010)
Alone and Together

DVD

New Directions For Harmonica-Expanding Your Technique

www.levyland.com

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Artist profiles: Hejira

Hejira features original compositions by Don Baragiano representing an eclectic musical blend which bridges diverse cultures from; Middle Eastern, Russian, African, Eastern European and other ethnic styles to classical and jazz … mix in a bit of blues, rock, and flamenco … all on top of a strong multinational earthy beat.

Instrumentation includes guitar, violin, balalaika, African Talking Drum, dumbek, jembe, zils, calabash (gourd), bass, keyboards, digital guitar synthesizer & more.

Don Baragiano’s musical influences include The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Leo Kottke, the Who, Ravi Shankar, etc. After many guitar lessons and high school music theory classes Don studied Classical/Jazz guitar at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music & at Northern Kentucky University’s Music Department. While working for the US Treasury Department in Saudi Arabia on a 2 year assignment he was granted a private audience with their top musician Hamzah Mohammed Al Bashir. Don’s musical training and life-love of ethnic cultures have resulted in this enticing World Music fusion project Hejira, founded in seattle in 2001. He later moved to the Ithaca, New York area.

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Thrilling Oumou Sangaré with a Modern Twist

Oumou Sangaré – Mogoya (No Format!, 2017)

After nearly 10 years since she recorded her last album, the great world music star Oumou Sangaré has a new album titled Mogoya. Oumou is Mali’s finest female and a leading figure in African and world music. She’s also a songwriter who writes most of her material.

Mogoya is a fabulous recording that combines Malian tradition with western trip hop modernity along with some good humor.

Oumou invited trailblazing Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, one of the pioneers of Afrobeat, who adds his memorable signature drum style on “Yere Faga,” a song that provides support to individuals suffering from depression.

 

 

The lineup includes Oumou Sangaré on vocals; Toni Allen on drums; Kandy Guira on backing vocals; Guimba Kouyaté on guitar; Benogo Diakité on kamele ngoni; and French production collective A.L.B.E.R.T. (Vincent Taurelle, Ludovic Bruni and Vincent Taeger), who added cutting edge electronic keyboards and other instruments tastefully.

 

 

Mogoya is an excellent, beautifully-crafted album by Oumou Sangaré, one of the greatest vocalists in Africa. It was well worth the wait.

Buy Mogoya

Buy Mogoya in Europe

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Spellbinding Indian Trance Sounds from Moscow

Zaindiveli – Sagar (SKMR-134, 2016)

Zaindiveli is a remarkable project from Russia. The ensemble combines mesmerizing ambient electronics and trip hop with electric and acoustic musical instruments. The musicians are deeply influenced by Indian music and jazz as well.

Highlights include the opening track, “Sagar” that features rich electronic textures. Track 3, “Wheel Prayer (Prayer Wheels Remake”) features Indian tabla, bansuri and Indian-style violin accompanied by electronic textures and beats. The violin performance is spectacular and leaves you wanting more.

Other goodies include the rhythmic “Ouimix” featuring a combination of electronic and acoustic rhythms.

The Indian influences return on “Haldi” with more masterful violin work.

The final track is also a high point. It’s a meditative piece with electroacoustic ambience and Indian-style vocals.

Zaindiveli was developed by two Moscow-based multi-instrumentalists, Gennady Lavrentiev and Kirill Parenchuk in the 1990s. Additional musicians were later added, including Oleg Mariakhin on saxophones, Sergey “Grebstel” Kalachov on bass, Andrey Demidenko on dhrupad vocals and bansuri, Dmitry Losev on keyboardss and electroacoustics and Vladislava Yakupova on bila (Russian flat bells).

Despite the smooth jazz saxophone on a couple of tracks, the overall result is very satisfactory. The electronics and Indian music influences are beautifully composed and masterfully performed.

Buy the digital download version of or the CD from sketismusic.bandcamp.com

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Artist Profiles: Glen Velez

Glen Velez

Glen Velez is a master drummer, composer and educator. He won three Grammy awards and is considered one of the most influential percussionists of our time, as well as being responsible for a world-wide resurgence in the popularity of the frame drum.

He was born in Texas, of Mexican American ancestry. He moved to New York City in the late 196s. Although he began as a jazz drummer, he felt a strong attraction towards hand drums, especially frame drums.

Glen has also gained international recognition as a solo artist and is also known for his 15 year recording and performing collaborations with composer Steve Reich, as well as the Paul Winter Consort.

His teaching and performances inspired the Remo Drum Co. in 1983 to develop a line of frame drums called the Glen Velez signature Series. The Cooperman Drum Co. introduced a hand made Signature Series Glen Velez Tambourine and Frame Drum line in 1999.

In 1989, twentieth century composer, John Cage acknowledged Velez’ mastery when he wrote a piece especially for him, entitled “Composed Improvisation for One-sided Drum with or without Jingles.”

Other collaborations include: Tan Dun, Israel Philharmonia, Brooklyn Philharmonia, Opera Orchestra of New York, Suzanne Vega Pat Metheny Zakir Hussain, New York City Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Orpheus Chamber Ensemble.

Glen Velez

His own compositions have been featured on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and John Schaefer’s New Sounds and have been commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation, Jerome Foundation, and Reader’s Digest. He has written music for theater and dance and recorded hundreds of albums on ECM, CBS, RCA, GRP, Warner Brothers, Deutsche Gramophone, Geffen, Nonesuch, Capital, and Sony.

Glen has several instructional videos, 5 instructional books and over a dozen recordings of his own music on CMP, Music of the World, Sounds True, Interworld, Ellipsis Arts and DafTof Records. Glen is a master teacher who conducts workshops worldwide and has published numerous books and articles on the subject.

Velez developed his own teaching approach called The Handance Method. It incorporates voice and body movement into the process of learning to play the frame drum and has been presented in hundreds of universities worldwide. He currently teaches frame drums at the Mannes School of Music, as well as series of master classes at The Julliard School and Manhattan School of Music.

While Glen draws upon the great drumming traditions of the Middle East, South India and the Mediterranean world (ancient and modern), he plays in a style all his own. Utilizing a vast culmination of complex hand and finger techniques, a symphony of sounds and textures remarkably stream forth from just a single hand held drum. Glen’s solos seem supernatural, a technical rarity that is beyond comprehension. However, beyond all the jaw-dropping spectacle of Glen’s super-human techniques, is a music that is so deeply emotional, a raw beauty, that perhaps, within it’s core, resides the most universal rhythm of all – the heart beat.

Glen is also an expert in Central Asian Overtone Singing (split-tone/harmonic singing). During concerts, he often gives his audiences a spontaneous crash course in this style, thus resulting into a spirited interactive overtone choir.

Glen Velez regularly performs and records with Trio Globo – featuring Eugene Friesen and Howard Levy; Coleman Barkes, world renown scholar/translator of the poetry of Rumi; Glen Velez Ensemble; Duo performances with vocalist/rhythm singer Lori Cotler – songs from their new recording are available on iTunes.

Discography:

Handdance (Music of the World, 1983)

Musica Esporadica (Nocd Records, 1985)

Internal Combustion (Schematic, 1985)

Seven Heaven (CMP, 1987)

Assyrian Rose (CMP, 1989)

Doctrine of Signatures (CMP, 1991)

Ramana (Nomad Records/Music of the World, 1991)

Mokave 2 (Audioquest, 1993)

Border States (1993)

Pan Eros (CMP, 1993)

Trio Globo, with Trio Globo (Silver Wave, 1994)

Carnival of Souls, with Trio Globo (Silver Wave, 1995)

Rhythmcolor Exotica (Ellipsis Arts, 1996)

Rhythms of the Chakras (Sounds True, 1998)

Ettna (Nomad Records/Music of the World, 1999)

Breathing Rhythms (Sounds True, 2000)

Rhythms of Awakening (Sounds True, 2005)

Rhythms of the Chakras 2 (Sounds True, 2008)

Steering by the Stars, with Trio Globo (Stonecutter Records, 2010)

www.glenvelez.com

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Artist Profiles: Gingger

Gingger

Gingger, an extraordinary gifted virtuoso violinist, singer and songwriter, toured since 1996 as a member of the pop duo, “Shankar & Gingger”, and as a solo and guest performer in many shows, winning over fans and critics alike. She has also lent her voice, violin and compositions to several album projects.

Born in Los Angeles, Gingger spent her beginnings studying within one of India’s most acclaimed musical families. Her initial training began with her mother, an accomplished singer, who toured the world and won many awards as a classical star. She began teaching Gingger from the time she was a baby.

Between the coaching from her mother and grandfather (violin), and her extensive training in classical Indian violin, opera, western classical music, piano, pop and world music, Gingger has developed a musical style all her own, yet one that encompasses all of these genres and creative experiences.

Discography:

Enlightenment, with L. Shankar, Zakir Hussain, Vikku Vinayakram (2003)
Anywhere But Here (2010)

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Artist Profiles: Fourth World

Fourth World

Fourth World, formed in 1990, featured the legendary Brazilian jazz percussionist Airto Moreira, the six-octave voice of Flora Purim, guitarist Jose Neto, keyboardist/flutist Jovino Santos Neto and Gary Brown on bass and back-up vocals.

Airto worked with Miles Davis during the Bitches Brew era. His leadership in the fusion genre (Weather Report, Return to Forever) placed Airto in the forefront of percussionists worldwide. Airto’s effect was so powerful that in 1972 Downbeat Magazine added a “percussion” category to its readers’ and critics’ polls, and Airto has been voted ‘best’ in that category almost ever since. Winner of the 1996 Drum Magazine Award for best percussion and Jazz Central Station’s 1996 Best Percussionist Award, Airto keeps on winning fans worldwide. His formidable expertise in Brazilian cultures and percussion instruments make Airto’s performances both educational and electrifying.

Flora Purim’s contributions to the jazz world have been equally as important as Airto’s, and their partnership and marriage have created a bond that is recognizable in their music. They have been making music together since their collaboration with Return To Forever in the early 197s. Flora’s extraordinary six-octave voice has set a musical role model for many singers, but few have been able to reach the simple beauty, ethereal quality and sensuality that Flora brings to her music.

Guitarist Jose Neto worked double-duty with Fourth World on his Paradis guitar, which enabled him to be the band’s guitarist and co-bassist at the same time. Jose played chords, octaves and runs that almost defy belief, resulting in a unique barrage of bass runs, cascades of semi-acoustic tones and spine-chilling lead lines. The powerful guitarist from Sao Paulo is one of the most exciting prospects to have emerged in recent years.

Keyboardist/flutist Jovino Santos Neto moved freely from Brazilian rhythms to jazz to dense orchestral textures. His goal is to use his art to abolish the barriers that still exist between the so-called “styles” of music. He blended all of his influences into an exciting amalgam.

Bassist/vocalist Gary Brown began his music career at the early age of 11, already performing in Bay Area clubs with his two brothers and father, a jazz trumpeter. Gary went on to form his own bands and develop his talent as a bassist. Powerful and emotive, he has recorded, performed and toured with an impressive list of performers and worked on numerous film soundtracks.

Fourth World toured consistently in the U.S., Europe, South America, Russia and the Far East, gaining a reputation as one of the most exciting contemporary bands in the 1990s.

Discography:

Fourth World Recorded live at Ronnie Scott’s (1992)
Fourth World (1994)
Fourth World live (1995)
Encounters of the Fourth World (1995)
Last Journey (1999)

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