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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
The Finnish fiddle wizards are back with another remarkable album. Frost on Fiddles takes you into a wild sled ride inspired by the folk music of Finland and Norway, modern bluegrass, Celtic music and fabulous Transylvanian-style rapid fire fiddling.
The four fiddlers and string musicians display their talent with flavorful intertwined layers of fiddles, guitar, mandolin and bass.
The line on Frost on Fiddles includes Tommi Asplund on fiddle; Tero Hyväluoma on fiddle; Alina Järvelä on fiddle; Esko Järvelä on fiddle; Juho Kivivuori on bass; Tuomas Logrén on guitar; and Petri Prauda on cittern and mandolin.
Frost on Fiddles is yet another exceptionally good contemporary folk music album with an array of top Finnish talent.
World Music Expo WOMEX has revealed the first batch of offWOMEX showcase artists. These acts will be performing October 25-29, 2017 in Katowice, Poland. Additional artists will be announced in the next days.
Line – Up:
Havana D’Primera (Cuba)
Juan Mari Beltrán (Spain)
La Banda Morisca (Spain)
Mawwal is a collective based in the northeastern United States. The musician behind the project is composer and instrumentalist Jim Matus who plays various types of lutes.
Mawwal performs mostly original material by Matus inspired by various global traditions such as the music of India, North America and Eastern Europe and the rhythms of the Middle East and Africa. Matus is involved in numerous other projects.
The World Music institute will present top African world music artists in New York City as part of its Masters of African Music series.
Acclaimed Ethiopian acts Mahmoud Ahmed and Hailu Mergia are scheduled to perform on September 15, 2017 at The Town Hall. Both artists appeared in the influential Éthiopiques compilation series that highlighted the finest Ethiopian artists over the past 20 years. Recording available: Ethiopiques, Vol. 7: Ere Mela Mela.
Ask Your Heart is the second album by the Mehmet Polat Trio (released in 2017 on homerecords.be). Its music transports the listener from a world of agitation to a place of calm. Imagine you are by the sea, relaxing by the waves, and you begin to get an image of this trio’s sound. Much contemporary music is too overproduced with electronics in place of real instruments, but not this album. Its spareness is elegant and moving.
The trio has nothing fancy to hide behind. They have only each other for back up. Folk in feel, the music has within it modal jazz and traditional African sounds. The album starts out slowly with “Untouched Stories,” as the two-stringed instruments, kora and oud, take baby steps and gradually move together with the flute-like ney. There is a lullaby feeling as the ney moves out expansively, playing longer notes while the oud and kora provide a steady accompaniment.
Mehmet Polat is the trio’s founder. He started his life’s journey in Turkey, raised in a family of Alevi Sufi musicians. They play a spiritual folk music, whose songs are often revelatory or in praise of Sufi saints. Yet Mehmet was not content to remain within one musical genre. He seeks to voyage, exploring the musical connections between the middle East, traditional African music, and jazz. He has written that he is “constantly searching for new musical paths and inspiration.” He has found two master musicians to accompany him on his quest: Sinan Arat on ney and Dymphi Peeters on kora. The ney is an ancient reed flute, and the kora is 21 stringed instrument from West Africa with a calabash base as a resonator. But, neither instrument dominates the other; and none of the musicians overpowers the others or remains the center of attention.
There is equilibrium among the players, a sense of give-and-take as they improvise, as if each has come to share a delicious communal plate of food. The trio’s first album Next Spring started their collective adventure, but on this album, the different musical genres coalesce. The sound takes flight.
The trio’s musical creativity is heard best on the fifth track, “Whispering to the Waves,” as the oud shapeshifts to sound like an upright bass. The music breathes and the listener breathes with it. It has spaciousness. Sinan plays a long solo on the ney. It is haunting, seeming to flow like a mysterious mist into the night air.
On “Evening Prayer,” the three instruments together announce a simple melody. The ney improvises next. And then a surprise: Mehmet sings a vocal of longing, and the ney shadows it. The piece is a ghazal from the Middle East. Mehmet explains, “there is a melody or groove underneath, and the vocal improvisation is on top of it.” He learned how to sing ghazals from listening to recordings of an old local master from Urfa, Turkey, Kazancı Bedih. His listening paid off. He’s a talented, expressive singer. The deep vocal works well with the low tones of the instruments. The vocal is full of yearning for the divine. The song is from a poem by Leyla Hamm, who was an Ottoman woman poet, and reads in part:
Dear Divine: please help this powerless being in despair May you help me heal my heartache I am your disobedient creation, please forgive me…
The final track, “Mardin,” is also a ghazal. Here again the instruments start by playing the melody together and then the vocal is introduced. The song’s lyrics are translated in part as, “I have sacrificed myself for no other than your love.” The listener is drawn into this powerful, meditative moment as the vocalist moves into a place of longing. Mehmet Polat writes in the album’s liner notes: “Music for me is a connection from heart to heart. I invite you to open your heart to the music and let it come to you.” And if you allow yourself to stop and to listen, this music will open your heart.
For more about the Mehmet Polat Trio or to purchase “Ask Your Heart” you can visit their website: mehmetpolat.net
The World Music Institute (WMI) has announced the 2017-18 series of concerts. The world music programming includes over 40 performances by musicians from 28 countries.
Some of the highlights include acclaimed Ethiopian stars Mahmoud Ahmed and Hailu Mergia; the New York debut of Tuareg rising star, guitarist Mdou Moctar and his band; Portuguese Fado star Mariza; Lebanese singer-songwriter Yasmine Hamdan; Hindustani bansuri master Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia; Afrobeat/techno duo Tony Allen & Jeff Mills; Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man; Malian kora masters Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté; South African jazz legends Abdulla Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela; Ibibio Sound Machine; Canadian Inuk artist Tanya Tagaq; and a special collaboration between Kronos Quartet and Soo Yeon Lyuh, master of the haegeum (Korean two-string fiddle).
Venues include intimate spaces such as Littlefield and The David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center as well as large-scale stages like BAM Opera House, Apollo Theater and The Town Hall.