Reggae Drummer Steve Nisbett Dies at 69

Steve Nisbett

Steel Pulse founder Steve “Grizzly” Nisbett died on January 18, 2018.

Steve Nisbett was born in Nevis (West Indies) March 15, 1948. His family moved to the UK in 1957.

The Recording Academy released the following statement: “We are deeply saddened by the passing of esteemed reggae artist and GRAMMY winner Steve “Grizzly” Nisbett,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of the Recording Academy. “A founding member of Steel Pulse, Nisbett and the group used their music to speak out against racism and social injustices. Nisbett was nominated for three GRAMMYs during his career and earned the Best Reggae Recording GRAMMY for 1986 with Steel Pulse for Babylon The Bandit. His passion for spreading love and justice through his music will be cherished by our creative community and his devoted fans for years to come. Our thoughts go out to Steve’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

For additional information about Steel Pulse, read Artist Profiles: Steel Pulse

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Soothing Journey

Shambhu – Soothe

Shambhu – Soothe (Acoustic Shine, 2017)

As the title indicates, this is a very relaxing album, targeting the new age music market. Soothe mixes melodic instrumental music with smooth jazz, world music influences (primarily from India) and ethereal sounds.

Two well-known musicians appear on the album: wind instrument maestro Paul McCandless and virtuoso bassist Michael Manring.

The lineup includes Shambhu on acoustic, electric guitars, voice, 6-string ukulele, e-marimba, e-sitar, e-pads; Paul McCandless on English horn, soprano saxophone; Michael Manring on bass; Ravichandra Kulur on bansuri flute; Premik Russell Tubbs on soprano saxophone, wind synthesizer; George Brooks on soprano saxophone; Kristin Hoffmann on voice; Frank Martin on keyboards; Jeff Haynes on percussion; Gurumurthy V on tabla; and Todd Boston on slide guitar.

Album highlights include Ravichandra Kulur’s flute performances and Michael Manring’s bass work and Todd Boston’s slide guitar.

Buy the digital edition of Soothe

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Tal National to Perform in Brooklyn

Tal National

Acclaimed Nigerien band Tal National is set to perform in Brooklyn, New York, on Friday, February 23, 2018 at Littlefield. The band will be presenting its latest album Tantabara on Fat Cat Records.
Tal National reached international praise with Kaani (2013), the group’s first release outside of Niger. The band’s second international album was Zoy Zoy.

This concert is part of the World Music Institute’s Counterpoint series.

8:00 p.m.
Littlefield
635 Sackett Street, Brooklyn

More information at www.worldmusicinstitute.org

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Sri Tyagaraja – Musi-Drama: A Pongal Boananza for Muscat Music Lovers

T V Varadarajan’s Sri Tyagaraja Musi-Drama

 

Saint Tyagaraja strode the field of Carnatic music as a colossus. While there is no way of establishing how many kritis he actually composed (estimates vary from 6000 to 24000, but less than a 1000 are extant), there is no doubt about the extraordinary influence he had on the development of Carnatic music practice.

T V Varadarajan and his devoted team have put together important and interesting events from the saint composer’s life in the form of an eponymous musical play. It is creditable that a play lasting over two hours manages to keep the audience glued to their seats. This was demonstrated by TVV’s team, for the 109th and 110th times, at the Krishna Temple in Muscat on 11th and 12th of January 2018.

Tyagaraja (1767 – 1847) lived in South India in times when the Bhakti movement was in full swing. Kings and commoners alike believed in a Supreme Being and lived their lives in accordance with the tenets of Sanathana Dharma. For Tyagaraja, the Supreme Being was Lord Rama, in the form of a vigraha (statue) in his prayer hall. There was no room for anything else in Tyagaraja’s life.

Ascetic to the core, indifferent to the possibilities of encashing his talent with the local rulers, he lived as if in a trance, truly believing in his Rama, unshakable in his belief that He would provide deliverance from the mundane existence on earth. Naturally, this led to conflicts with his own kith and kin, who were more of a materialistic bent. All this and more from the saint composer’s simple yet event filled life were shown on stage with remarkable clarity by Varadarajan’s team. There was no hint of unnecessary dramatization, no meaningless exaggeration or populist twists.

 

T V Varadarajan’s Sri Tyagaraja Musi-Drama

 

The entire cast demonstrated their total commitment to the play – this was not a performance for earning kudos for them – this was duty fulfilled, time and again, commemorating the great soul whose story they felt honored to depict on stage. Varadarajan lives the part of Tyagaraja in every syllable, every move, every muscle and sinew. His portrayal of Tyagaraja’s anguish when he finds his beloved Rama taken away from him had many in the audience wiping away tears. That he continued in the bard’s garb during the presentations after the play, was ample evidence of his total devotion to the storyline. Indeed, he said in his thanksgiving speech that his team had decided not to dilute their commitment by doing other plays while engaged in this labor of love.

Every single character was portrayed by the artistes with utmost professionalism. The timing and lip sync of the various singers was so accurate, it was difficult to believe they were not actually singing one beautiful composition after another. Every actor on stage was alive and involved, adding value to emotions conveyed by some superlative dialogues. And the genius of Bombay Jayasree Ramnath shines right through the play in the lay out of the music and the choice of kritis.

Everything, from the selection of the songs to the extent of its portrayal was just apt. She along with other singers (OS Arun, Kunnankudi Balamuralikrishna, Vignesh Ishwar, and others), have done a remarkable job of providing the necessary background music.

There have been movies made – very well made indeed – on the saint composer’s life in the past. But to do it more than a hundred times on stage calls for a level of devotion that can only come from a team committed to the cause. This writer came away drained – and extremely contented – from the experience. The organizing team, comprising of Venkatesh, Savithri Raghu, and others deserve whole hearted thanks for their wonderful Pongal gift to the discerning Muscat audience.

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The Joropo of the Colombian and Venezuelan Plains

Colombian group Cimarron – Photo by Noelle Polkington

Joropo is a musical genre and dance form found in the plains of Venezuela. Los Llanos, the broad plains of western Venezuela and eastern Colombia, watered by the Orinoco River and its tributaries, are home to música llanera (literally, “plains music”), the engaging musical traditions created by ranching people with a love for cattle, horses, music and dance. At the heart of this region’s music is joropo, a hard-driving music that brilliantly showcases the percussive capabilities of stringed instruments and the musician’s ability to improvise.

The main instrument of llanera music is perhaps an unexpected one – the harp. Introduced to South America in the 18th century by the Spaniards, in the hands of the llanero, or plains cowboy, the harp became a percussive dynamo that serves as the backbone of música llanera Joropo ensembles are generally comprised of the harp, the bandola llanera (a four-stringed pear-shaped guitar), the small four-stringed cuatro, contrabajo (acoustic bass), rounded out by maracas (gourd rattles) and vocals.

Joropo music features both slower, more lyrical songs called pasajes as well as faster tunes called golpes. The hallmarks of the traditional joropo singer are a powerful voice that can handle the fast, hard-edged vocal style and the ability to improvise the lyrics.
 
As rural llaneros and musicians have migrated to cities for economic opportunities, the music of the plains has gained prominence in Colombia and Venezuela and is now a part of the commercial music industry and festivals Música llanera has become an expression a regional pride.

Joro Subgenres

Joropo oriental – Joropo Oriental is a rare Venezuelan version of the genre that is characterized by an improvisational style of singing, a variety of stringed instruments such as the bandola, mandolin, guitar and cuatro plus a regionally distinct style of maracas that provides the only percussive element.

Sources: Richmond Folk Festival, Old Town School of Folk Music

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The Samba de Roda

The samba de roda is a traditional Afro-Brazilian dance from the state of Bahia (Brazil). It has been associated with capoeira for many years. The instruments used in samba de roda groups includes atabaque, berimbau, chocalho, and pandeiro, accompanied by singing and hand clapping.

UNESCO Proclamation 2005: “The Samba de Roda of Recôncavo of Bahia”

The Samba de Roda, which involves music, dance and poetry, is a popular festive event that developed in the State of Bahia, in the region of Recôncavo during the seventeenth century. It drew heavily on the dances and cultural traditions of the region’s African slaves. The performance also included elements of Portuguese culture, such as language, poetry, and certain musical instruments. At first a major component of regional popular culture among Brazilians of African descent, the Samba de Roda was eventually taken by migrants to Rio de Janeiro, where it influenced the evolution of the urban samba that became a symbol of Brazilian national identity in the twentieth century.

The dance is performed on various occasions, such as popular Catholic festivities or Afro-Brazilian religious ceremonies, but is also executed in more spontaneous settings. All present, including beginners, are invited to join the dance and learn through observation and imitation.

One of the defining characteristics of the Samba of Roda is the gathering of participants in a circle, referred to as roda. It is generally performed only by women, each one taking her turn in the center of the ring surrounded by others dancing in the circle while clapping their hands and singing.

The choreography is often improvised and based on the movements of the feet, legs and hips. One of the most typical movements is the famous belly push, the umbigada, a testimony of Bantu influence, used by the dancer to invite her successor into the center of the circle. The Samba de Roda is also distinguished by specific dance steps like the miudinho, the use of the viola machete – a small lute with plucked strings from Portugal, as well as scraped instruments, and responsorial songs.

The influence of mass media and competition from contemporary popular music have contributed to undervaluing this Samba in the eyes of the young. The aging of practitioners and the dwindling number of artisans capable of making some of the instruments pose a further threat to the transmission of the tradition.

Samba de roda proclamation courtesy of UNESCO. © UNESCO

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The Angklung

Angklung

Angklung is an Indonesian musical instrument consisting of two to four bamboo tubes suspended in a bamboo frame, bound with rattan cords.

The tubes are carefully whittled and cut by a master crafts person to produce certain notes when the bamboo frame is shaken or tapped.

Each Angklung produces a single note or chord, so several players must collaborate in order to play melodies. Traditional Angklungs use the pentatonic scale, but in 1938 musician Daeng Soetigna introduced Angklungs using the diatonic scale; these are known as angklung padaeng.

The Angklung is closely related to traditional customs, arts and cultural identity in Indonesia, played during ceremonies such as rice planting, harvest and circumcision.

The special black bamboo for the Angklung is harvested during the two weeks a year when the cicadas sing, and is cut at least three segments above the ground, to ensure the root continues to propagate.

Angklung education is transmitted orally from generation to generation, and increasingly in educational institutions. Because of the collaborative nature of Angklung music, playing promotes cooperation and mutual respect among the players, along with discipline, responsibility, concentration, development of imagination and memory, as well as artistic and musical feelings.

The Angklung and its music are central to the cultural identity of communities in West Java and Banten, where playing the Angklung promotes the values of teamwork, mutual respect and social harmony.

The Angklung is included in a national inventory maintained by the Centre for Research and Development of Culture of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and in several specialized inventories maintained by universities and Angklung associations.

The Angklung was inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

(sources: UNESCO, World Music Central)

Angklung recordings

Tujang Biru by Mas village gamelan angklung

Gamelan Music of Bali by Various Artists

===== Sources =====

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Artist Profiles: Andrew Tosh

Andrew Tosh

Andrew Tosh, the tall, slender third son and virtual carbon copy of reggae legend Peter Tosh has been predicted to carry on the family’s musical tradition since first gaining recognition with a powerful performance at his father’s funeral in 1987.

He’s been delighting audiences across the world with his brilliant live sets and Grammy-nominated recordings which, although influenced by his father, are very much in his own brilliant style.

Born on June 19, 1967 in Kingston, Jamaica, Andrew and his father Peter would sing songs together – not just Peter’s militant compositions, but also pop classics by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Kenny Rogers. Andrew notes that “Peter always knew I would do something in the music business, so he encouraged me to study piano, ’cause he knew I loved it. From the start it was inside me to sing and play instruments.”

The first song he learned was PeterTosh’ composition “You Can’t Blame the Youth,” and from that point forward, he says, “I knew that my heartbeat was music and one day it would just be music out of my mouth, and writing and singing my own songs.”

Throughout his elementary and high school days in Duhaney Park on the outskirts of Kingston, Andrew was constantly pulled to the forefront of the class and made to sing lead. At 14, in emulation of his father, Andrew began to ride a unicycle too.

Although Peter was often on the road, performing tours that remain to this day reggae’s most lengthy and successful ones, Andrew spent much of his childhood living in Peter’s house, especially between the critical ages of 12 and 15.

Andrew Tosh’s first recording came in 1985, when he recorded a song he wrote called “Vanity Lover” for Neville Lee’s Gorgon label. A keen observer of the vibrant music scene in Kingston, Andrew was checking out some of the new talent at that city’s famous Skateland dancehall on the evening his father was murdered – Friday,
September 11, 1987.

“I felt my father’s spirit come right there at Skateland where I was,” he says, “and the spirit said leave that place right now.” The impact of the elder Tosh’s passing made an immediate and life-changing impression. “I tell myself that Peter Tosh is gone and it’s my need to carry on. Not for want, and not for the lust of fame and the glamor and want to be rich. No, for the love of my art and the love of my people, because love carry no color. Love is love and that’s what Jah say, make a joyful noise unto Me.”

The first glimpse the public got of Andrew’s nascent talent came when he sang at his father’s funeral in the National Arena in Kingston. His version of Peter’s “Jah Guide” stunned the mourners. “I was astonished myself on stage,” he recalls. “The other song I did was ‘Equal Rights,’ because everyone is crying out for peace but none is crying out for justice. When I came down off the stage, I couldn’t stop crying.”

Late the following year, he tested the international waters with a pair of memorable performances in southern California, including a show-stopping turn on the stage of Burbank’s Starlight Amphitheater, the site of the final appearance together of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. “I felt elevension,” he laughs, engaging in some of the crafty wordplay for which his father was notorious. “It was way beyond tension.”

From that point, Andrew began working under the guidance of keyboardist Keith Sterling and his band mates, Fully Fullwood and Santa Davis, the bass and drum team from Peter’s most ferocious backing group, Word Sound and Power. Andrew began to tour, wowing audiences in Europe as well as North and South America. He has been especially successful in Brazil, where he has appeared several times in Sao Paulo, Rio, and Curitiba.

His first album, Original Man, was a mixture of his tracks and those of his father. The follow-up, Make Place for the Youth, indicated a new maturity to his songwriting, and was well received, earning him a Grammy nomination.

He produced a major tribute to his father, (executive-produced by Bunny Wailer), called Andrew Sings Tosh.

Discography

* Original Man (Attack, 1987)
* Make Place For The Youth (Tomato, 1989)
* Message From Jah (Dressed to Kill, 2000)
* Andrew Tosh (Dressed to Kill, 2001)
* Andrew Sings Tosh: He Never Died (Paras, 2004)

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Apache Music

Apache musician Andrew Vasquez

The current Apache (Nde or the people) nations include San Carlos Nation, Yavapai Nde Nation, Mescalero Nation, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Chiricahua Fort Sill, Chiricahua Apache Nde Nation, Jicarilla Apache Nation, Lipan Apache Tribe, Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe, Yavapai Apache Nation, and Tonto Apache Nation.

Apache dances include the rain dance, the sunrise dance for young women, the harvest dance, and a spirit dance. Dancers use ankle wraps to accompany their dances.

Musical instruments include flutes like the agave courting flute and the nose flute; the Mescalero one-stringed fiddle known as tsii edo’a’tl, or “wood singing,” which is made from a hollowed vegetable agave stalk. The fiddle is held together with sinew wrappings and metal spikes.

Other instruments include drums, rattles and bells attached to a strap of leather. The leather straps are placed in the ankles and sometimes on the knees and elbows.

Apache musicians include Tony Duncan, Estun-Bah, and Andrew Vasquez.

Apache Music Albums

Togo (Makoché Music, 2004)

From Where the Sun Rises (Canyon Records, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Kadrievi Orkestar

Macedonian band Orchestar B. Kadrievi has been around for over five generations. The orchestra took part in many Festivals in Macedonia. Orchestar B. Kadrievi also played at the famed brass festival in Guca (Serbia) where it was pronounced one of the bests orchestras.

The leader of the orchestra, Jusin Kadriev, wrote music for the Emir Kusturica film titled “Time of Gypsies”. He also wrote music for a drama in Switzerland, where he spent six months with a Circus.

The orchestra B. Kadrievi plays Gypsy, Serbian, Macedonian, Greek and Turkish music.

Orchestar B. Kadrievi has recorded many singles and albums released in various formats. The Orchestar normally includes saxophone, clarinet, trumpets, horns, drums, and big Horn.

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