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.

Artist Profiles: Alex Caton

Alex Caton

grew up in England, Scotland and the East Coast of the United States. She first put a bow in her hands at the age of four and played violin through her college years at Binghamton University. As her interest in Irish and Old Time music grew, she changed her tunes (and her instrument name) and began playing and teaching fiddle on the side. But it wasn’t until she moved to the Charlottesville, Virginia area to work on a PhD in Anthropology that she found her true calling.

Alex fell in love with the music scene in Charlottesville and soon cast aside her career as a professional archaeologist (she worked up and down the East Coast of the United States, as well as in West Africa) to focus on fiddle music full-time.

Since 2001, Alex has lived in Gordonsville, Virginia, teaching Irish, Old Time and Gypsy music out of her home and playing with a wide variety of local groups including the Irish band, The Ryegrass Rollers.

Alex Caton

In 2003, Alex founded the all-girl gypsy group Las Gitanas, a precursor to Verbunk, the “groovy gypsy” band she started in 2007. But gypsy music didn’t replace Alex’s love for Old Time and Irish music—it just enhanced what she brought to the other Charlottesville groups she played in: Odd Legged Jenny (Irish-Americana), The Two Dollar Bills (Old Time) and an acoustic roots duo with Chris Leva, lead singer and guitarist for the Guano Boys.

In 2005, Alex started a fiddle camp held one weekend in August at the Brazenhead Inn in Mingo, West Virginia. What started as a small group of interested students has grown into a popular gathering for adults and children, beginners and pros, where Alex teaches different fiddle styles and other instructors come to share their expertise in guitar, bass, banjo Irish drum, voice and dance.

Alex’s self-titled CD was released June 7th, 2007 at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville. Chris Leva plus aclaimed vocalist and guitarist Pat Egan were just a couple of talented musicians who joined Alex on stage.

Alex Caton

From her base in Central Virginia, Alex Caton has a custom-built barn/music studio for classes and concerts, a coop full of chickens and huge garden.

Discography:

Alex Caton (2007)
The Sinners and the Saved (2009)
Swimming to Lindsey (2013)
Never Take a Daisy Down the Mine (2015)

Share

Nightwalker Stephan Micus Dedicates White Night to the Moonlight

Stephan Micus – White Night (ECM Records, 2019)

Composer, multi-instrumentalist, global traveler, and musical instrument collector Stephan Micus is an extraordinary musician who creates mesmerizing musical pieces. White Night is dedicated to the experiences that take place at night, under the moonlight.

I’ve always been inspired by moonlight,” says Stephan Micus about White Night. “Often I go walking, swimming in the sea or, best of all, cross-country skiing when the moon turns the snow into millions of diamonds. Moonlight for me has a special magic.”

Stephan Micus – White Night

Micus plays a wide-range of musical instruments although on this occasion he focuses on the evocative, oboe-like Armenian duduk and the captivating, trance-like kalimba (a lamelophone or thumb piano used across Africa that is known as sanza and mbira in other places) along with his familiar 14-string guitar.

Throughout his travels, Micus collects musical instruments. On White night he plays kalimbas he collected in Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia and Ethiopia. “These are old and unique instruments,” he reveals. “Most of them I found in remote villages and so each one has its own story connected with the people I met, with the landscapes and these memories help me create the music for them, something an instrument bought in a shop could never do. In most cases I change the tunings according to the music which evolves when I start improvising on them. My first kalimba I bought in Tanzania some 26 years ago.”

Stephan indicates that when he travels, he takes a kalimba with him on his journey. It is a versatile instrument to carry. It is small and doesn’t bother anyone. This allows Micus to keep composing melodiess and rhythms even if he is on the road.

White Night is hard to classify musically. It is a marvelous one-man chamber ensemble that performs melodic, atmospheric world music and inspiring chanting with influences from Armenia, Botswana and many other parts of the world. There is a masterful intertwining of moods, bringing together the melancholy of the duduk with the cheer of the kalimba.

Buy White Night

Share

Artist Profiles: Solju

Solju

Solju is a Finnish group led by Ulla Pirttijärvi-Länsman and her daughter Hilda Länsman. They are Sámi musicians from Utsjoki, Lapland, which is the northernmost municipality in Finland.

Ulla and Hilda bring together their heritage of northern Sámi language and traditional chant, known as yoik, with a desire for new and innovative music, providing a dialogue of traditional and modern Sámi culture.

Solju

Solju’s debut album “Odda Áigodat” (New Times) was released in April 2018. In May 2019, Ođđa Áigodat won an award in Canada, The Indigenous Music Awards (IMA) – Best International Indigenous Release 2019.

Hildá Länsman is also a member of Finnish duo VILDÁ, featuring accordionist Viivi Maria Saarenkylä.

Discography:

Odda Áigodat (Bafe’s Factory, 2018)

Share

Artist Profiles: VILDÁ

VILDÁ

VILDÁ is a Finnish duo that performs a unique mix of mystical joiks and sounds of the Sami people together with vibrant accordion. VILDÁ includes Hildá Länsman on vocals, joik, frame drum; and
Viivi Maria Saarenkylä on accordion and backing vocals.

When Hildá and Viivi listened to each other’s music for the first time, they came up with the idea of combining traditional yoik and accordion.

Hildá Länsman is a rising yoik singer from Utsjoki who has performed at the New Music Competition and at the Helsinki Music House’s great concert arena. She won the Risteys (Crossroads) award for her vocals at Finland’s first Ethno Gala in 2017.

VILDÁ

Viivi Maria Saarenkylä is an internationally acclaimed accordion player. She was declared accordionist of the Year in Finland in 2018.

Arctic fells, frosty winds, wide waters and deep forests. That is our home – the North. For us it is the birthplace of our attitude as well as many memories, a source of inspiration, stories and tradition, a vast play ground full of endless trails to travel. “

Discography:

Vildaluodda / Wildprint (Bafe’s Factory, 2019)

Share

Chamber Music Meets Brazil


Benji & Rita – Benji & Rita

Benji & Rita – Benji & Rita (Big Apple Batucada, 2019)

Benji & Rita is a Brazilian music duo based in New York featuring American guitarist, vocalist and composer Benji Kaplan and Brazilian vocalist and lyricist Rita Figueiredo.

The self-titled album Benji & Rita introduces listeners to a fascinating form of Brazilian music that incorporates Brazilian rhythms, contemporary chamber music, jazz and European classical music influences.

The album features two guest ensembles, Vent Nouveau and Suono Quartet plus Rogerio Boccato on drums and percussion and various other guests on percussion, brass, guitars and bass.

The wind ensemble Vent Nouveau includes Katrina Owens on alto flute; Torin Olsen on C flute; Kristen Mather de Andrade on clarinet, bass clarinet; Bill Owens on flugel horn; and Keith Kile on tuba.

The string ensemble Suono Quartet includes Delaney Stöckli on violin I; Francesca Dardani on violin II; Elise Frawley on viola; and Renat Pinchon on cello.

Purchase Benji & Rita

Share

Artist Profiles: The Heptones

The Heptones

The Heptones are one of reggae’s legendary groups, led by the charismatic Leroy Sibbles along with Earl Morgan and Barry Llewellyn. They became huge hitmakers while at the top Jamaican label, Studio One. After recording numerous rock steady anthems, they were also one of the few groups to make a successful transition from rock steady to reggae.

Deep in the Roots, released in 2004 was recorded at Kingston’s famed Channel One Studio by top roots producer Niney the Observer, with backing by the Soul Syndicate band. Features previously-unreleased extended mixes, plus rare tracks.

Co-founder Barry Llewellyn died on November 23, 2011, in Kingston, Jamaica.

Discography:

The Heptones (Studio One, 1967)
On Top (Studio One, 1968)
Black is Black (Studio One, 1970)
Freedom Line (Studio One, 1971)
Book of Rules (Jaywax, 1973)
Cool Rasta (Trojan Records, 1976)
Night Food (Island Records, 1976)
Party Time (Island Records, 977)
Better Days (Third World, 1978)
Good Life ( Greensleeves Records, 1979)
King Of My Town (Jackal Records, 1979)
Mr. Skabeana (Cha Cha Music, 1980)
One Step Ahead (Sonic Sounds, 1981)
On The Run (Shanachie, 1982)
Back on Top (Vista Sounds, 1983)
In A Dancehall Style (Vista Sounds, 1983)
Swing Low (Burning Sounds, 1985)
Changing Times (Moving Target, 1986)
A Place Called Love (Moving Target, 1987)
Sing Good Vibes (1988)
Mr. “T” (1991)
Observer’s Style (1994)
Pressure! (Real Authentic Sound, 1995)
Rebel Love (2016)

Share

Artist Profiles: Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo

Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo

Producer, composer and guitarist Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo Julio studied the Cuban tres as well as the guitar at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory in Havana. He graduated in 1991.

While at school, he performed in jazz festivals playing with various bands. In 1993 he joined the group of singer Mireya Escalante on keyboard and guitar and also as musical director.

In 1996 he joined the group Kemell y la Barriada as pianist, recording several albums and participated in various international tours. He toured Europe with several Cuban ensembles, including Reve, Charanga Habanera, and later joined Felix Baloy of Afro-Cuban All Stars.

Since 2013 he has worked with Edesio Alejando and his son Cristian performing in Cuba and producing music television and film scores.

In 2014, Julio Antonio became the musical director and arranger of the band Tomezclao. They toured the UK, performed at Glastonbury festival and produced 3 CDs for Tumi Music.

He has worked as the guitarist with vocalist Laritza Bacallao, performing at the “Cuba Mucho Gusto” festival in Brasilia, Brazil. While in Brazil, he also worked with the famous Brazilian pianist Joao Donato at Club Do Choro.

In 2014 Julio Antonio released his debut album Alma Latina with Tumi Music. This was quickly followed by the CD Guajira Mas Guajira with Eliades Ochoa. In 2017 he set up his Alma Latina Studio, where he recorded albums for Candido Fabre, Reina y Real, Arturo Jorge among others.

In 2017, he participated as the guitarist and tres player in the CD “Tronco Viejo” with Johnny Ventura and also worked with Silvio Rodriguez.

In 2018 he recorded the “Black Roots” album.

He currently lives in Havana with his daughter “Sady” and his wife. His daughter, 4 years old at the time, contributed towards the Black Roots CD.

Discography:

Alma Latina (Tumi Music, 2014)
Guajira Mas Guajira (Tumi, 2015)
Black Roots (Tumi, 2018)

Share

Saxophone and Ud Intersections

Atlas Maior – Riptide

Atlas Maior – Riptide (Atlas Maior, 2019)

American world jazz ensemble Atlas Maior presents a set of saxophone-dominated musical pieces inspired by Middle Eastern modes, American jazz and Latin American rhythms. The band’s overall style revolves around the sounds of Joshua Thomson’s alto saxophone and the ud (Arabic lute), supported by bass and drums.

 “Our 5th studio release Riptide is the culmination of many creative ideas that have come to fruition,” says saxophonist Joshua Thomson. “This is the band’s most polished album and it’s informed by our experiences working together, and the struggles and achievements we’ve experienced as people. There’s a lot of depth, emotion, and expression within the songs on Riptide. Themes of loss, gain, resilience, and perseverance are all in there.”

Atlas Maior’s members include Joshua Thomson on alto saxophone; Charlie Lockwood on ud;  Josh Peters on oud; and Ted Camat on drums, percussion. The album includes various guests: Robert Riggio on violin; Gary Calhoun James on double bass; Tarik Hassan on double bass; and Palestinian ud player Sari Andoni.

Share

Artist Profiles: Gasper Nali

Gasper Nali

Malawian one-man-act Gasper Nali is a Kwela roots musician from the small town of Nkhata Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi. He plays a one-string, home-made, 3-meter long Babatoni bass guitar with a stick and an empty beer bottle, along with a cow skin kick drum. With this arrangement, he creates amazing, dance-inducing Afro Beats.

Gasper Nali’s unique style of music has received an extraordinary amount of online attention after a video of him playing by the lake shore went viral with more than 18 million views. He has been featured by CNN, jammed with Joss Stone, appeared on Wired for Sound – Malawi, and has also been featured on BBC 6 Music.

Discography:

Abale Ndikuwuzeni ‎(Spare Dog Records, 2015)
Zoona Malawi ‎(Spare Dog Records, 2017)

Share

Artist Profiles: Wesli

Wesli

Wesley Louissaint, better known as Wesli, was born on September 6, 1980 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Canada-based award-winning Haitian guitarist and singer aims to give a new mainstream life to rhythms and instruments that he says have been neglected as Haiti faces an increasing amount of global commercial music and culture.

He weaves contemporary messages into traditional forms and keeps a wide range of roots percussion at the heart of his songs. “Each Haitian roots rhythm reflects different situations and requires different drums and instruments” Wesli explains. “One unique thing we do in all these genres is dance! We dance to everything in Haiti.

Wesli

Wesli also supports aspiring young Haitian musicians from at-risk backgrounds via a school he opened in Port-au-Prince in 2014.

Discography:

Kouraj (WUP, 2009)
Liberté dans le noir (WUP, 2011)
ImmiGrand (WUP, 2015)
Ayiti Étoile Nouvelle (WUP Wes Urban Productions, 2015)
ImmiGrand Deluxe (2017)
Rapadou Kreyol (2018)

Share