All posts by Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. 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.

Ebo Taylor’s Lost Nigeria Sessions Released for the First Time

Ebo Taylor – Palaver

Ebo Taylor – Palaver (Tabansi Records/ BBE Music, 2019)

Palaver contains five tracks recorded in Nigeria in 1980 by famed Ghanaian guitarist and composer Ebo Taylor. The material consists of irresistible songs that mix highlife, Afrobeat, funk and jazz. The EP showcases Taylor’s characteristic electric guitar style, along with a superb set of musicians, comprising George Amissah. Mat Hammond, George Kennedy and George Abunuah.

Ghanaian guitarist Ebo Taylor was one of the leading highlife musicians in the 1950s with ensembles such as Broadway Dance Band and Stargazers and continued during the following decades making remarkable highlife and Afrobeat recordings in Ghana and Nigeria.

This video sums up the historical context of the recordings:

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Artist Profiles: Frontera Bugalú

Frontera Bugalú

Frontera Bugalú is a musical project developed by accordionist, guitarist, vocalist and composer Kiko Rodriguez and pianist Joel Osvaldo in El Paso, Texas in 2011. The group has become well-known for its lively música fronteriza, a combination of borderland folk, mambo and cumbia music.

The band includes members from both sides of the border, including vocalist Anabel Gutierrez and bassist Alex Ravana from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Discography:

Frontera Bugalu (2011)
Alma de Jaguar (Frontera Bugalu, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Les Filles de Illighadad

Les Filles de Illighadad

Tuareg act Les Filles de Illighadad comes from an isolated village in central Niger, in the outback deserts at the edge of the Sahara. The camp is only reachable through a difficult drive through the open desert and there is little infrastructure, no electricity or running water. The surrounding countryside supports hundreds of herders, living with and among their farm animals, as their families have done for centuries.

The music performed by Les Filles de Illighadad known as tende comes from a drum built from a goat skin stretched across a mortar and pestle. Tende music is developed from a few elements: vocals, handclaps, and percussion. Songs talk about the village, of love, and celebrate ancestors. It’s a musical form directed by women. Tende is a tradition for all the young girls, performed during celebrations and to pass the time at nighttime during the rainy season.

Fatou Seidi Ghali, lead vocalist and instrumentalist of Les Filles de Illighadad is one of the few Tuareg female guitarists in Niger. Using her older brother’s guitar, she taught herself to play. While Fatou’s position as the first female Tuareg guitarist is revolutionary, it is just as interesting for her musical direction. In a place where gender norms have generated two different types of music, Fatou and Les Filles de Illighadad are reaffirming the role of tende in Tuareg guitar.

Instead of the jembe or the drum set, Les Filles de Illighadad feature the traditional drum and the pounding calabash, half buried in water.

Discography:

Les Filles de Illighadad, Fatou Seidi Ghali & Alamnou Akrouni (Sahel Sounds, 2016)
Eghass Malan (Sahel Sounds, 2017)

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Elegantly Modern Accordion Rooted in Portuguese Tradition

Danças Ocultas – Dentro desse mar (Galileo Music, 2018)

Portuguese accordion quartet Danças Ocultas recorded Dentro desse mar at Casa do Mato Studios in Rio de Janeiro, produced by celebrated cellist and producer Jaques Morelenbaum. Danças Ocultas is a group of talented accordion players who perform exquisite contemporary musical pieces rooted in tradition and classical music. It is a nuanced sound, creating a mix of laid back ambience and melody rather than flashy virtuosity.

Dentro desse mar is a set of charming, elegant songs and instrumentals featuring various musical guests.  Jaques Morelenbaum brought in Brazilian percussionists, highly expressive cavaquinho, several other instrumentalists and guest vocalists from Brazil and Portugal, who provided finely-crafted chemistry around the accordions. Morelebaum also contributed his own enchanting cello work.

Danças Ocultas – Dentro desse mar

The line-up includes Artur Fernandes on diatonic accordion; Francisco Miguel on diatonic accordion; Filipe Cal on diatonic accordion; and Filipe Ricardo on diatonic accordion; David Feldman on pinao; Marcos Suzano on percussion; Brazilian singer Zelia Duncan; Jaques Morelenbaum on cello; Rogério Caetano on 7-string guitar; Luis Barcelos on mandolin and cavaquinho; Marcelo Costa on percussion; Portuguese fado singer Carminho; Robertinho Silva on percussion; Dora Morelenbaum on vocals; Tiago Abrantes on cvlarinet; and Paulo Braga on percussion.

Dentro desse mar features a captivating amalgam of Portuguese and Brazilian influences under a modern prism.

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More about Danças Ocultas

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Sunujazz, a Delightful Encounter Between West Africa and West


Lamine Cissokho – Sunujazz

Lamine Cissokho – Sunujazz (Sewa Music, 2019)

Senegalese kora player Lamine Cissokho mixes traditional sounds from West Africa with jazz and contemporary influences on Sunujazz.

Standout pieces include “Contre Vent,” an exquisite piece where the kora and electric guitar dance around each other over a layer of calabass; the irresistible rootsy “L’Amour” featuring lead vocals by Lamine Cissokho; the joyous interplay of Ousmane Ba’s guitar and Lamine’s kora on “Kaira;” and the lively “Sosolasso” a superb song highlighting the kora, electric guitar and call and response vocals.

Lamine Cissokho is a Mandinka jali (musician and storyteller, also known as griot) from Casamance in southern Senegal. He is based in Sweden.

The lineup includes Lamine Cissokho on kora and lead vocals; Alain Oyono on saxophone; Tobias Grim on guitar; Per-Olof Rylander on piano; Ousmane Ba on fula flute; Romi Christian Bonaban on bass; Ibou Calebasse on calabash; Diougouna Sissokho and Saga Björkling on backing vocals.

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Artist Profiles: Nella

Nella – Photo by Sanne Gault

Marianella Rojas, better known as Nella, in Isla Margarita, an island in the Caribbean Sea, off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. Nella spent hours as a child singing over recordings by pop stars like Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion, and Mariah Carey. “I took singing lessons and was a bit embarrassed about my singing, so to hide it, I played the music very loud.” The plot worked well until her voice teacher asked Nella’s father to listen “to the student in the next room” and he was surprised to find it was his daughter.

I was 11, and from then on they were really supportive,” reveals Nella. “I was involved in anything that would come up: singing, acting, dancing, you name it. At 13, my voice started to change and without realizing, by singing to the records, imitating these divas, I was studying a lot. They were incredible teachers. I loved it. I was also into the challenges of how high I could go vocally or how well I could do certain vocal turns, and I believe that helped me develop a vocal flexibility that perhaps I wouldn’t have by just listening to Venezuelan music. Now, even when singing Venezuelan songs I don’t sound like a typical traditional singer.”

Nella moved to Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, in 2007, at age 17. And in 2011 she enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston, majoring in performance, composition and production.

She started singing in a trio that played folk music from Latin America with jazz and pop influences. “It was part of the process of rediscovering myself,” says Nella. “Once you leave your country, your roots start knocking at your door”. At that time, Nella also discovered the work of Afro-Spanish singer Buika, rooted in copla and flamenco.

“After all the vocal acrobatics I had learned, I found the importance of interpretation, of how to say a lyric,” says Nella. “I fell in love with flamenco and with that honesty between cantaor and audience. It is something I had not found in any other genre.”

It was also in Boston that an a cappella performance by Nella of a Venezuelan song, “La Negra Atilia” caught Javier Limón´s ear. “I had heard her before and thought she was really good and very versatile, but that night I heard an original way of phrasing,” recalls Limón, who is a well-known Spanish musician and producer. “She has something special, and it’s all hers.”

Nella – Photo by Nina Rodriguez

Limón, who has worked with several top singers including flamenco star Estrella Morente and fado diva Mariza, says “Nella has an Andalusian way of phrasing that is beautiful and very natural. In fact, many people assume she is from Andalusia. When she sang the title track in Everybody Knows, the Asghar Farhadi movie with Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, many people thought she was from Córdoba or Granada.

Her fans now include Latin pop superstars such as Alejandro Sanz and flamenco celebrities such as Miguel Poveda.

In her album Voy, produced by Limón, Nella sings love stories such as “Fin de Fiesta” (Party’s End), an early choice and a song Limón “got from a dusty notebook and sang to me accompanying himself on the guitar,” remembers Nella. “As soon as I heard it, I said ‘This one! This one! That’s a song we must do together’.”

Other favorites include “Los Nacidos” (The Born Ones) and “Me Llaman Nella” (They Call Me Nella), her autobiographical song — written by Limón.

“We were in Colombia and I remember we needed one more track,” recalls Nella. “So we have breakfast, we talk, he goes to his room, I go to mine, and a few minutes later I get a message: ‘I got it’ And he reads me the refrain ‘I am Nella, the one with the broken voice’ And I say ‘Excuse me?!’ We get together and he sings “Above the Margarita Sea, the moon almost full …’ and I tell him ‘Javier you’ve never been to Margarita!’ And he says ‘I know, but you talk so much about Margarita, you even carry it literally under your skin, so you helped me create a story.’”

Meanwhile, the emotional “Volveré A Mi Tierra” (I Will Go Back To My Country) was written by Limón as a response to news from Venezuela. “He sent me a text and I burst into tears and told him we need to put music to it,” she says. “And as soon as I had it, I sent the mockup of the song to friends around the world and that’s how we ended up with the video, with images of Venezuelans all over the world, lip-syncing the lyrics.”

“I try to not get into politics,” articulates Nella. “Because what we are suffering now transcends politics. I don’t care which side you are on, we are all affected by the situation. One of the things that moves me the most is when after a concert people come up to me and say things like ‘Nella, I felt I was in La Guaira, at the beach, with my grandmother, having a coffee while she read me a story.’ There is no better response than that.”

Regarding her songwriter side, Nella says: “Yes, I have a lot of songs in a drawer, but right now I am very comfortable with Javier’s writing and to have someone like him writing for you is a luxury. Most important, I feel them as my own.”

The recording includes guest appearances by Spanish flamenco singer Alba Molina (the daughter of the fabled flamenco duo Lola y Manuel); string player Santiago Prieto, from Latin Grammy-winning Colombian band Monsieur Periné; and two outstanding Venezuelan musicians, cuatro wizard Jorge Glem, and singer and composer Ilan Chester, a Latin Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

“I feel these songs as if I had written them myself,” says Nella about their partnership. “They often reflect exactly what was happening in my life at the time. The music is a mix of many sources and the lyrics tell stories. I want to reach people, I want to give them more than just something to dance to.”

Discography:

Voy (Casalimón America Records, 2019)

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Artist Profiles: KOKOKO!

KOKOKO!

KOKOKO! is a collective of musicians from Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The artists are known for creating a contemporary and distinctive dance style of music. KOKOKO! uses instruments built from up-cycling cans, engine parts, plastic containers, and other trash and scrap found on the city streets.

KOKOKO!
KOKOKO!
KOKOKO!
KOKOKO!

The core of the ensemble are musical instrument makers from the Ngwaka neighborhood, Makara Bianko, electronic producer Débruit and dancers from the Lingwala neighborhood.

In the spring of 2018, KOKOKO! concluded its first sold-out European tour. In 2019, the band embarked on an American tour.

KOKOKO! Have several recordings and have collaborated with other African artists on remixes and music. The EP Liboso EP was released in December 2018 on Transgressive Records.

Discography:

Liboso (Transgressive Records, 2018)
Fongola (Transgressive Records, 2019)

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Artist Profiles: Kardemimmit

Kardemimmit (Finland)
Kardemimmit (Finland)

Kardemimmit is a quartet band of four remarkable women playing the Finnish national instrument, kantele (lap zither). The ensemble was formed in 1999 in the musical institute Juvenalia in Kardemimmit’s home town Espoo, in southern Finland.

The ensemble’s members are Maija Pokela, Jutta Rahmel, Anna Wegelius and Leeni Wegelius. The four musicians were attracted to folk music even though they also liked playing others types of music.

Kardemimmit creates and manages its own music. The artists compose, arrange, write lyrics and produce their recordings.

Kardemimmit

Together with 15 and 38 stringed kanteles, vocals have an essential role in Kardemimmit’s sound. The quartet’s original pieces combine modernity with Finnish, Eastern European and Scandinavian musical traditions. Kardemimmit incorporates Finnish reki-singing style, 19th century dance music, Perhonjokilaakso kantele playing style, Eastern Finnish ancient improvisation and early runo singing.

In 2004, the four musicians attended the influential Kaustinen Folk Music Festival. They got to see two of the finest Nordic bands, Väsen and Värttinä.

In 2005, Kardemimmit won the International Kantele Competition.

The group has released several album, including Viira; Kaisla; Autio huvila (Abandoned Villa), selected Finnish folk album of the year 2012;Onni (Happiness); and Kesäyön valo 2018. Kaisla was reissued in 2012 as The Rough Guide to the Music of Scandinavia compilation’s bonus CD under the title Introducing Kardemimmit.

Discography:

Viira (Musiikkiopisto Juvenalia, 2006)
Kaisla (Frigg, 2009)
Autio huvila (Frigg, 2012)
Onni (Kardemimmit, 2015)
Kesäyön valo (Kardemimmit, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Girma Beyene

Girma Beyene with Akale Wube

Girma Beyene was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He is a renowned pianist, composer, arranger, and bandleader.

Beyene is credited for arranging over 60 songs in the 1960s and 70s during the Golden Era of Ethiopian music. After a long break from music, he was convinced to go back to performing by his musical disciples, French band Akalé Wubé, a group deeply influenced by Ethiopian music.

Discography:

Éthiopiques Volume 8: Swinging Addis (Buda Musique, 2000)
Éthiopiques Volume 22: Alèmayèhu Eshèté, featuring Girma Bèyènè (Buda Musique, 2007)
Éthiopiques Volume 30: “Mistakes On Purpose”, with Akalé Wubé (2017, Buda Musique, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Mames Babegenush

Mames Babegenush

Mames Babegenush was founded in Copenhagen in 2004. It is a six-piece ensemble that combines klezmer music, Scandinavian roots and Eastern European traditions.

Lineup: Andreas Møllerhøj on double bass; Lukas Rande on saxophones; Morten Ærø on drums; Nicolai Kornerup on accordion; Bo Rande on flügelhorn; and Emil Goldschmidt on clarinet.

Discography:

Klezmer Killed The Radiostar (Calibrated Music, 2009)
My Heart Aches When The Angels Dance (Gateway Music, 2011)
Full Moons & Pay Days [Remixes and Originals] (Gateway Music, 2012)
Mames Babegenush (Math Records, 2014)
Mames Babegenush with Strings (Galileo Records, 2017)

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