Iranian Frame Drums, Bissauan Beats and Malaysian Fusion, High Spots of Day 2 at Penang World Music Festival 2013

Children playing the taiko drums of Japan in Dagaya's worksop
Children playing the taiko drums of Japan in Dagaya’s workshop – Photo by Angel Romero
The final day of the Penang World Music Festival concluded on Sunday, March 31st, 2013. The daily press conference featured representatives from the remaining six acts. Topics included the connection between music and dance in the bands’ repertory, the connection with spirituality, how to get young people interested in traditional music in an era of global pop and how international travel affects traditional musical instruments, especially when they are taken to location with different climates.

The first workshop in the afternoon brought back the impressive taiko drums of Dagaya. The Japanese musicians provided an interactive experience for the audience that included a large group of children. Tetsuro Suzuki, Shinichi Tsuzuki, Noriko Nanahara, Hideyuki Saito, Yoichi Honda, Naomi Shibata, Jun Fukuto, and Naomi Yoshiie made demonstrations on various taiko drums as well as shakuhachi and shinobue flutes and the banjo-like shamisen. Participants were given the opportunity to play the large taiko drums.

Percussion workshop at Penang World Music Festival
Percussion workshop at Penang World Music Festival – Photo by Angel Romero
The drums of Japan were followed by percussion from various parts of the world, including jembe, tambourines, darbuka, cajón and the rare Portuguese square frame drum called adufe which is normally played by women. The adufe has its roots in the Beira and Trás-os-Montes regions. This frame drum is of Arabic origin and uncommon in the rest of Europe. In addition to Portugal, this type of square frame drum is also found in Peñaparda (Salamanca, Spain) and the León region of Spain, both of which border Portugal. Mu’s Hugo Osga demonstrated the Galician, Portuguese and Eastern European style of playing the tambourine. Mu’s Helena Madeira joined the percussionists on vocals and adufe.

The drums were followed by Plucked Those Strings with demonstrations of various guitars, sitar, Irish-style bouzouki, and Japanese shamisen.

The vocal traditions workshop was titled Beautiful Vocals and featured the traditions of the Philippines, Portugal, Bulgaria, Bali, Saba, and Iran. Participants included Kalayo’s Maria Carolina Bello, MU’s Helena Madeira, Rimba’s Asfah Jumrin, Saharadja’s Marina Sulistyowati, Oratnitza/Kipri’s’ Iliyana Naydenova and Sanka Grozdanova, Nasout’s Maryam Hatefolhosseini and Mona Kaveh Ahangari. The passion and intensity of some of the songs brought some members of the audience to tears.

Nasout's Mohsen Taherzadeh at Penang World Music Festival - Photo by Pek Min Han, courtesy of Penang World Music Festival
Nasout’s Mohsen Taherzadeh at Penang World Music Festival – Photo by Pek Min Han, courtesy of Penang World Music Festival
The workshops ended with a lively performance by a local brass, recorder and drums marching band composed of young children.

The first concert in the evening featured Nasout from Iran. They had a mesmerizing performance that highlighted the sound of several large frame drums called daf. Nasout was founded in 1999 by daf and tambur player Mohsen Taherzadeh under the name of “Sheida music group” in Esfahan in central Iran, about 340 km south of Tehran. The group changed its name to Nasout in 2000. Nasout means “dusty universe” (the nature of human existence) and the name was chosen because it has a connection with the group’s artistic style and sufi inspiration. Nasout brought extra dafs for sale and they sold pretty quickly. I would have bought one, but I had a really long return trip ahead of me and regretfully passed the opportunity.

The strumming charango and melodic pan flute sounds of the Andes were represented by Inka Marka, a group formed by South American expatriates from Chile, Argentina and Bolivia living in Melbourne (Australia) and an Australian fiddler. Most of the material performed was Andean music from Bolivia.

Kimi Djabate at Penang World Music Festival - Photo by Angel Romero
Kimi Djabate at Penang World Music Festival – Photo by Angel Romero
Next was headliner Kimi Djabate of Guinea-Bissau. As I indicated in my Day 1 article, three members of his band were routed separately and never made it to Penang. Musicians from other bands came to the rescue and provided instrumental support. Kimi’s band in Penang featured a Filipino guitarist, a Malaysian bass player, a Portuguese percussionist and his regular drummer from Guinea Bissau. Kimi showcased his talent as a singer, balaphone player, guitarist and calabash percussionist with his powerful mix of Guinea Bissauan gumbé, West African Manding music and western influences. Kimi has a widely distributed album titled Karam on the Cumbancha label.

Another audience favorite performed after Kimi Djabate’s set. This time it was multi-ethnic Malaysian act AkashA, who represent the country’s melting pot with an engaging hybrid fusion sound that combines Indian classical, Malay, Chinese and western sounds such as blues, flamenco and jazz. The band uses instruments like sitar, Indian drums, Malay drums, electric piano and bluesy guitar. They have two great albums, Into… AkashA (2009) and Karakoram Highway (2011).

Dende and Band brought the sounds of Bahia (Brazil) to the Penang rainforest. A former member of Timbalada, Dendê is a New York-based multi-instrumentalist, percussionist, singer, and composer. He performed his sizzling blend of Afro-Brazilian roots and American funk. He has a new album titled Back to Bahia, released in 2013.

Akasha's Sivabalan S.Shanmuga Sundram
Akasha’s Sivabalan S.Shanmuga Sundram – Photo by Pek Min Han, courtesy of Penang World Music Festival
I’m not sure why Balinese band Saharadja was placed last. Although they had been described as an Indonesian world fusion band, their performance was disappointing. It was a bizarre mix of disjointed jazz trumpet, light tango, stereotypical Gypsy music, opera, a Latin American pop standard and who knows what.

The festival ended with a huge jam featuring members from all bands playing instruments, singing and dancing. These grand finales are fun to watch although the musical result is pretty anarchic.

The best food choices during the festival could be found right outside the venue’s gate. I found the char koay teow (flat noodles stir fry) and the satay (chicken kebabs with peanut sauce) delicious and reasonable priced. Other options included curried meats, corndogs, sugar cane juice, shredded ice and ice cream. Even further down the road you could get other local delicacies at various hawker stands.

The 2014 edition of the Penang World Music Festival was announced during the festival. Local media reported that State Tourism Development and Culture Committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang stated that next year’s Penang World Music Festival is scheduled to be held on April 12 and 13, 2014.

Related articles:

Penang World Music Festival 2013 Opens at the Khoo Kongsi

Balkan Sounds, Taiko Drumming and Portuguese Musical Explorers Highlights of Day 1 at Penang World Music Festival

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Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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