Tag Archives: world music

WOMEX Announces 2017 Film Program

A story of Sahel Sounds

The World Music Expo (WOMEX) program will be screening a set of world music-related film documentaries from around the globe to the delegates and public alike. Filmmakers will be available to present their new work and strengthen the ties of the global music film scene.

Julian Chalde & Andrés Mayo will present Charco – Songs from the Rio de la Plata, a discovery into the origins of rioplatense song; Maciek Bochniak, Mikolaj Pokromski and Francis Falceto will introduce Ethiopiques – Revolt of the Soul as a market screening before its upcoming world premiere; Vincent Moon & Priscilla Telmon are arranging a series of Hibridos short films, an experimental study of current day spiritual cults in Brazil; and Lisa Nordström & Pether Lindgren are showcasing Sonica Sequence an audio-visual film experience about connecting through the universal language of music rather than speech and are officially closing this year’s Film Program at WOMEX.

Other screenings include A story of Sahel Sounds, Ayny – My Second Eye, Sonido Mestizo – The Nu LatAm Sound Ecuador, and The Little Princes of Rajasthan.

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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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The WOMAD 2017 Experience

 

Everyone who loves music needs to make a pilgrimage to the UK’s phenomenal annual WOMAD – World of Music Arts and Dance Festival – founded in 1980 by Peter Gabriel,  womad.co.uk.  To take in a mammoth feast of the world’s greatest music with kindred souls while one with nature in the English countryside is unimaginable pleasure and fun.  In its 35th year it’s a fantastic festival experience – with superlative marks for organization, production, and programming.

 

 

Charlton Park, the WOMAD site, is situated near Malmesbury in the midst of the lush, fertile farmlands of Wiltshire County where the daytime light moves swiftly from brooding shadows to brilliant sunlight.  (Wiltshire is locus for Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle.) This year’s edition had rain showers and sprinkles with occasional patches of blue skies.  There is no such thing as a raincheck in England.  Wellington boots are de rigeur.  As Simon Broughton, Songlines editor in chief remarked, “WOMAD people are resilient.”  (Songlines Magazine had a huge, cheery tent spanning at least 20 meters across for artists’ cd autographs and magazine sales. It was also the best shelter from rain spells.)

We have nothing like it in the U.S.  WOMAD 2017 took place at the end of` last month from Thursday July 27th to Sunday, the 30th.  100 artists from 50 countries. Huge performance tents  loomed up over the park’s several acres.  35,000 fans including masses of children, all of whom camped out in thousands of tents. (There are also nearby charming cottages if pampering is your style.)  It’s the British spirit of adventure that beckons locals and astounds internationals.  As well as the immersion in fresh-air countryside culture.  Yoga and Tai Chi classes were the mid morning rousers.  Add children’s activities, international cooking classes, music and dance workshops, and scores of food booths with tastings from Goa to Tibet.

Programming, so keenly attuned to what’s out there on the music markets, included several of the great established acts in the world music realm: Orchestra Baobab, Oumou Sangare, Seu Jorge, Bonga, Roy Ayers with Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Toko Telo, and Savina Yannatou.  Rapidly gaining international favor, Cuba’s Dayme Arocena, Estonia’s Trad.Attack, China’s Zhou Family Band, and Sudan’s Alsarah and the Nubatones all won over new fans.

However, my goal was to catch some artists rarely if ever seen in the U.S., whom I’d never seen before, and whose recordings I admire.  Here are the standouts.

 

Vigüela – Photo by Evangeline Kim

 

Based in Castilla-La Mancha (the land of Don Quixote), Vigüela, one of the greatest folk groups from the heart of Spain caught my ear last year with their splendid CD, “Temperamento” (ARC Music).  There are wedding and harvest songs and songs to accompany daily chores – even sheep-shearing music on the recording.  Viguela’s exuberant acoustic WOMAD concert seemed to make the earth sing in joyous, celebratory unison.  The excitement in the crowds was infectious as everyone clapped along to the rhythms with shouts of “Olé!”  I was certain how thrilled the spirit of the late BBC London’s radio presenter, musicologist, and writer, Charlie Gillett, must have been to welcome Vigüela to his dedicated BBC 3 WOMAD stage.

 

For over 3 decades, the group of 5 has managed to preserve their village songs with all the dedicated finesse and detail that could have been lost with time.  The members played the 12-string bandurria mandolin, lute, rebec fiddle, guitar, friction drum, tambourines, and castanets with aplomb, flair, and camaraderie.  They incorporated some of their recorded percussive ranch household utensils: spoon and pan, glass bottle, mortar, stones, cowbells, sieve, and sheep-shearing scissors.  The air rang with Vigüela’s renditions of sprightly dance music – the fandango, malagueña, seguidilla, and jota.  Strong, melismatic voices enraptured with fervent passion.  Towards the end a couple swirled and whirled to a jota dance song.  The group has injected ancient folk songs with rousingly fresh, dynamic, and revitalized new energies.  Vigüela is triumphant assertion of life itself.  They’re a classic.

 

Grupo Canalón de Timbiquí – Photo by Evangeline Kim

 

The dense mangrove rainforest swamps on the Pacific coast of Colombia are home to most of the 5 million Afro-Colombians in the country.  There, in the small Timbiqui village of 20,000, surrounded by river waters, artisanal mining, hand panning for gold flakes, is one of the main local industries.  And the home origins of Nidia Gongora’s Grupo Canalón de Timbiquí.  Canalón refers to the chute through which earth and gold bits are funneled.  Women sift through and rinse the sediment pourings in river waters in search of gold.  Born in that environment, Nidia Gongora and her early high school mates formed Grupo Canalón de Timbiquí in 2003.

Nidia Gongora now has two musical personae:  her current CD “Curao,” is her first solo album. The recording is a dazzling electronically driven collaboration with British DJ and producer Quantic with an urban Latina feel.  She is better known and recognized as the ringleader of the award-winning, folkloric Grupo Canalón de Timbiquí.  Both styles are rooted in Colombia’s Afro-Amerindian currulao music.

Nidia’s onstage vocal accompaniment featured 3 other women dressed in sombreros and bright yellow and blue ruffled dresses.  They led complex harmonies in call and response choral formation with backing polyrhythmic percussive textures by 4 men players on marimba, and hand and stick drums.  Nidia herself carried and shook the women’s emblematic guasa shaker.  The group performed their region’s syncopated, gently rolling Afro-Amerindian music, sung for generations by village women as they panned for gold, cooked, breastfed, washed clothes in the river, and praised patron saints.  Clearly, the women in Timbiqui society carry the day, bringing musical upliftment and determination, lightheartedness and faith, to what is grueling, tedious work.  Given the WOMAD showers this year, the Grupo Canalon’s repertoire, originating in Timbiqui’s environment of abundant rain and river waters, was a concert consonant and a cleansing festival blessing.

 

Ifriqiyya Electrique – Photo by Evangeline Kim

 

Utterly unorthodox musically, yet exceeding expectations of a powerful performance, Ifriqiyya Electrique delivered a thunderous concert based on modalities of Tunisian ritual trance possession.  Their source lies in the Djerid Oasis region, where marginalized Africans worship the 13th century black Sufi saint, Sidi Marzuq.  The saint was born in Timbuktu, displaced as a captive, and eventually freed due to his prodigious miracles.  Every year over a few days in mid-summer, sacred psychic healing ceremonies known as “Banga” take place, dedicated to Sidi Marzuq.  Spirits (ruwahine) are summoned.  Mesmerized by the incessant beating rhythms amidst clouds of burning benzoin incense, Banga devotees become possessed and fall into convulsive trance. Ifriqiyya Electrique’s concert was a stylized musical enactment of the actual ritual.  Their performance strikes a remarkable balance between the rational and irrational.

The group’s central force are 3 adherents of Sidi Marzuq from Tozeur (Tarek Sultan, Yahya Chouchen, Youssef Ghazala).  At maximum volume, they played clattering qaraqab metal castanets and drum, measuring out the group’s sung, declamatory praises to Allah, the Prophet Mohammed, saints, and benevolent spirits.  Serving as interpolated sonic vectors, the guitarist (Francois R. Cambuzat) and bass player (Gianna Greco) with added electronic effects amplified and elevated the Banga grooves with serious rock swagger.

Part of the performance impact lay in the screened footage of the live ritual filmed in Tozeur: the percussionists leading the saint’s followers, nodding and weaving, stumbling and falling in wild, ecstatic trance (although the truncated screen needed to have filled the stage as full backdrop).  “Brilliantly conceived,” as Simon Broughton has noted, the performance in its visual and sound totality can make one feel part of the Banga ritual experience.  Following the concert, the percussionists from Tozeur came offstage and as they continued to play their metal castanets, children surrounded them, stepping to their beats in fascination.

 

Parvathy Baul and Somjit Dasgupta – Photo by Evangeline Kim

 

Rapture, sheer rapture, was my overwhelming reaction as I watched and listened to Parvathy Baul together with Somjit Dasgupta, who played one of India’s rarest string instruments, the sursringar. I remained captivated by them until their very last notes.

A Bengali Baul spiritual singer and a “sadhak” for more than 3 decades, Parvathy Baul has one of the most beautiful voices today on the Indian subcontinent. She’s a foremost female in the Baul male-dominated tradition.  Her WOMAD repertoire was drawn from yogic Baul mysticism, tracing back 15 centuries and more.  Over time, it has absorbed elements from Sufism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Vaishnavism, and Tantra.

With exquisite phrasing and a palette of nuanced melodic tonalities, Parvathy gave soulful cry to her intense emotions. By moments imploring, by others deeply solemn or merrily elated, she reached blissful completion with each song.  She spun around as she sang, her long streaming dreadlocks splaying forth.  High on mystical divine love, she imparted infinite peace, wresting herself free of earthly attachments.  Her sense of coordination was impressive – simultaneously plucking her ektara and tapping her duggi drum strapped to her waist; ankle bells ringing, she’s a one-woman minstrel band.

Yet it was Somjit Dasgupta’s shimmering, meditative, sitar-like glissandos and bass-pitched sarod sonorities on his sursringar that added luminous dimensions to Parvathy’s presence.  They haven’t recorded together, but they must. They are delirious enchantment.

Just as I was leaving to prepare for my flight back to New York, I noticed masses of Afro Celt Sound System fans, including droves of teenagers and young children cramming the Charlie Gillett stage grounds.  Everyone was dancing in the passing rain shower. Steaming heat rose from the wet grass as those Wellington boots stomped away.  Farther along on the festival grounds, thousands covered the field facing the main Open Air Stage.  More dancing to classic reggae tunes by the inimitable Toots and the Maytals.  In the distance, the festival’s illuminated ferris wheel was glowing like a giant silvery moon. The world was happy.

Don’t miss WOMAD next year, July 26-29, 2018.  (You might get hooked.)

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Hamilton de Holanda Quinteto Honors Milton Nascimento

Hamilton de Holanda Quinteto – Casa de Bituca (MPS/Biscoito Fino, 2017)

The Hamilton de Holanda Quinteto plays a tribute to the music of one of Brazil’s greatest musicians, Milton Nascimento. The Brazilian quintet, led by mandolin master Hamilton de Holanda is one of the finest acts in Brazil, known for its remarkable instrumental albums where Brazilian music and jazz come together.

Most of the material on Casa de Bituca are well-known songs by Milton Nascimento that are recreated elegantly by Hamilton de Holanda Quinteto, highlighting the instrumental skills of the ensemble. Although Hamilton de Holanda Quinteto is generally an instrumental band, Hamilton de Holanda sings for the first time on one song and Casa de Bituca features several guest vocalists including the honoree himself.

The lineup on Casa de Bituca includes Hamilton de Holanda on 10-string mandolin; André Vasconcelos on electric bass; Daniel Santiago on guitar and vocals; Gabriel Grossi on harmonica; Márcio Bahia on drums) and (guitar). Guests featured: Milton Nascimento on vocals; Alcione on vocals; and Antonia, Rafaela, Gabriel, Cinara and Joana on backing vocals.

The CD physical version is a 2-disc set with the audio album and a DVD featuring video versions of Hamilton de Holanda Quinteto’s pereformances.

 

 

Casa de Bituca is an outstanding album that showcases the Brazilian melting pot, where Afro-Brazilian rhythms meet the European string tradition, indigenous influences and American jazz.

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Syriana’s Ipiros Remixes for a Great Cause

Syriana – Ipiros Remixes (Realworld Records, 2017)

This 5-track digital-only EP features several variations of Ipiros. This song was originally made for Syriana’s Road To Damascus album that came out in 2007. However, it never made it to the album and was only previously released as a remix on the vinyl A Life in Film.

All the profits from sales from The Ipiros Remixes will be donated to International Rescue: Greece, a charity that provides aid to Syrian refigees who arrived in Greece. All the musicians are giving their work free of charge.

The musicians behind the Syriana project are British musician Nick ‘Dubulah’ Page (Transglobal Underground and Temple of Sound) and Irish bassist Bernard O’Neill.

The cinematic Kithara Remix features Arabic violin, mesmerizing ambient sounds, Middle Eastern percussion and great guitar work.

Somo Arco Iris Remix highlights the Middle Eastern nay and has vocals in Portuguese by the talented Maria Joao Branco.

The Jazz Remix showcases a saxophone performance.

Liverpool live Remix brings together Middle Eastern and Greek influences, featuring superb Greek vocalist and nay player Kalia Lyraki.

On the S40 Remix the qanun gets the attention it deserves.

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Madison World Music Festival Reveals 2017 Line-Up

The 14th annual Madison World Music Festival lineup was announced this week. The festival takes place September 15 and 16 in Madison, Wisconsin (USA). Venues include the Memorial Union Terrace and Fredric March Play Circle as well as the large stage in the Willy Street Fair.

The concerts are all free and open to the public, sponsored by the Wisconsin Union Theater and UW Credit Union.

Friday, September 15:

Memorial Union:

4:00, Opening: Wisconsin Dells Singers, Ho-Chunk, Terrace

4:45, Bang Data, Latin Alternative, Terrace

6:45, Flor De Toloache, women mariachis, Terrace

7:15, Trio Brasileiro (Brazil), Fredric March Play Circle

8:45, Orkesta Mendoza (Tucson/Latin America), Terrace

(And: Wild Rumpus Stilt Walkers)

Saturday, September 16:

Willy Street Fair:

2:15-3:00 Immigré, Madison, Afro-funk

3:45-5:00 Bideew Bou Bess (Senegal)

5:45-7:00 Ladama (Latin America)

7:45-9:00 Vox Sambou (Haiti)

Memorial Union Terrace:

8:30: The Skatalites (Jamaica)

headline photo: Vox Sambou (Haiti)

for more details go to madison-world-music-festival

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Thunderous and Passionate Farafina

Farafina – Bolomakote (Intuition, 1992)

The raw, percussion-driven but still melodic sounds of Farafina burst forth on this 1992 release. Layers of drumming provide a solid foundation for bala (wood and gourd xylophone), flute and lyrics that focus mainly on the subject of man’s place in the world and the fulfillment of destiny. But don’t get the idea that it’s heady-sounding stuff. It’s energetic and passionate, with a thunderously tight ensemble sound that knows when to fuel the fire and when to sit back and let it burn. So grab your drum, join in, and feel the spirit.

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World Music Showcase from Montreal International Jazz Festival 2017!

The Montreal International Jazz Festival, now in its 39th year, is regarded as the world’s largest jazz festival. The music line-up includes ambassadors of jazz and blues – as well as a generous dose of artistes in world music and fusion. See my writeup from the previous editions of MIJF (2016, 2015); fans of jazz and world music can check out my app ‘Oktav’ as well, a collection of witty quotes about music (available on Apple iTunes and Android).

The 2017 edition of MIJF featured artistes from Canada, USA, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Yemen, Morocco, Algeria, Congo, Haiti, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Nigeria, Cameron, Guadeloupe and Switzerland. An estimated two million attendees flocked to the stages, spread over 10 days and two dozen venues. The long summer days of late June and early July made for perfect outdoor performances, along with ticketed indoor events.

Check out some of the highlights in this photo tour of MIJF 2017, and make sure you attend the 2018 edition!

 

Flavia Coelho – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Flavia Coelho from Brazil played for the first time at MIJF, and featured tracks from her third album, Sonho Real. Funk, forro, ragga, ska and dub fused together in a high-energy set at the indoor venue Club Soda.

 

Bixiga70 – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Bixiga70 was another outstanding band from Brazil at MIJF. The Sao Paulo collective featured ten musicians with a combination of Afrobeat, Ethio-jazz and funk.

 

Gypsophilia – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Gypsophilia played a joyous set of gypsy jazz blended with funk and Latin rhythms. Anchored by Adam Fines, the septet from Halifax kicked off a fine evening of music at the outdoor Club Jazz Casino stage.

 

Gypsy Sound System – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Gypsy Sound System featured a broad range of gypsy music anchored by Swiss couple DJ Olga and Dr. Schnaps. The music blended Slavic salsa, electronica, and brass. The group drew loud applause for their energetic set and sheer musicianship.

 

The Django Festival Allstars – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The Django Festival Allstars paid tribute to the legendary gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Featured artistes included Samson Schmitt, Ludovic Beier and Pierre Blanchard. Their indoor set at the Gesu venue transported gypsy swing into the 21st century.

 

Rosalía Refree – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Rosalía Refree is an outstanding vocalist from Barcelona, and was accompanied by Raül Refree on guitar for a soaring set of neo-flamenco. The youthful duo played tracks from their recent album, Los Angeles.

 

The Gipsy Kings – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The Gipsy Kings – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The Gipsy Kings, celebrated masters of flamenco, salsa, and pop fusion, have been on tour for over 25 years and show no signs of stopping. Their booming vocals and guitars had the audience on their feet clamoring for more, as the band played classic hits as well as new tracks from their album Savor Flamenco.

 

A-Wa – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

A-Wa was another astonishing band at MIJF, featuring three sisters from Israel: Tair, Liron and Tagel Haim. Their music featured Yemenite vocals, hip hop and electronica rhythms. Their hits include Habib Galbi (Love of My Heart).

 

Gabacho Maroc – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Gabacho Maroc had an unusual lineup of eight French, Moroccan and Algerian musicians. The stage was filled with bendirs, drums, keyboards, darbukas, and jembes. The creative set fused gnawa, Afro, berber, trance, jazz and electronica, breaking new frontiers in world music and jazz.

 

Djmawi Africa – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Djmawi Africa brought a touch of Algeria to jazz, and the eight-member troupe blended gnawa, rai and reggae in their phenomenal one-hour outdoor set. The music crossed new domains of North African sound, particularly appreciated in an era of growing cross-border hostility.

 

Coyote Bill – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Coyote Bill is a Montreal collective blending Afro-beat, jazz, funk and reggae. Their incendiary set was a perfect closing act in the indoor Metropolis venue, with hybrid beats and energetic horns.

 

Jazzamboka – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Jazzamboka is a Montreal quintet powered by two Congolese percussionists. It brings to urban audiences the spirit of African village music (yamboka means village in Lingala, a Bantu language). Funk, rock, be-bop, soukous, and electronica brought the sounds of Central Africa to new frontiers in this outdoor set.

 

Afrikana Soul Sister – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Afrikana Soul Sister were closing acts on two nights of MIJF 2017, with a high-powered set of electro-house. Artistes include Jean-François Lemieux on bass, Joanie Labelle and Fa Cissokho on percussion, and Djely Tapa on vocals. The quartet blended house with African musical roots, and played tracks from their latest album Mayébo.

 

Bokante – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Bokante played a spirited set of Caribbean and African music blended with jazz, thanks to the influences of Michael League (bassist-composer of Snarky Puppy) and vocalist Malika Tirolien. Malika is from Guadeloupe and is now based in Montreal. The high-energy performance drew loud applause for the percussion and vocal-bass duet with Malika and Michael.

 

Just Wôan – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Just Wôan is a bassist-vocalist from Cameroon, and delivered a set of jazz blended with Afro-groove. He was born in Yaunde and already has three albums to his credit. He sings in French, Bassa, Duala, and Ewondo or Creole.

 

Huu Bac Quintet – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Huu Bac Quintet featured a range of instruments from Vietnam and China such as dan bau (Vietnamese monocord), erhu (Chinese fiddle), and even the quena (Andean bamboo flute). Multi-instrumentalist Huu Bac did a great job of blending Asian sound with North American jazz.

 

Fwonte – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Fwonte is a Haitian-born Montreal artist who blends tropical rhythms with electronica. Caribbean sounds were reinterpreted for the digital age in his one-hour set.

 

Ife – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

Ife is a collective from Puerto Rico playing ‘live electronic music’ without remixes and computers. Their indoor set celebrated Yoruba cult music and explored new frontiers in fusion.

 

The Villalobos Brothers – Photo by Madanmohan Rao

 

The Villalobos Brothers featured three brothers originally from Mexico and currently based in the US. The violinists, singers, songwriters and arrangers were all over the stage in their high-energy set, and reinterpreted original folk compositions with jazz and classical music.

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Bokanté’s Stimulating Global Exchange

Bokanté – Strange Circles (Ground Up Music, 2017)

Strange Circles is the superb debut album of Bokanté, a new supergroup that features a multinational and cast of musicians, including members of the cutting edge jazz fusion band Snarky Puppy, percussion masters Jamey Haddad and Keita Ogawa (Banda Magda, Yo-Yo Ma), Väsen’s André Ferrari, steel guitar master Roosevelt Collier, and talented Montreal-based Guadeloupian vocalist Malika Tirolien.

Strange Circles crosses genres with total ease, incorporating Caribbean and other global beats, fabulous guitar work, blues, progressive jazz, rock and more. This is world fusion at its best.
Bokanté is the project of Snarky Puppy bassist and founder Michael League, who plays baritone guitar in this ensemble.

The lineup includes Malika Tirolien on vocals; Jamey Haddad on percussion; André Ferrari on percussion; Keita Ogawa on percussion; Chris McQueen on guitars; Bob Lanzetti on guitars; Roosevelt Collier lap and pedal steel guitars; and Michael League on guitars and bass.

Strange Circles is world music cool with some stellar individual playing.

Buy Strange Circles

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