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.

The Timelessly Crafted Cuban Musical Poetry of Eme Alfonso

Eme Alfonso – Voy (independent release, 2018)

Voy is the third album by the multifaceted Eme Alfonso. She is one of the most extraordinary young artists in Cuba. She’s a singer-songwriter and composer that grew up in one of the most influential music families in Cuba. Her parents founded Síntesis, a highly innovative band that started as progressive rock band that brought together classic English progressive rock and Cuban music. Síntesis evolved into a formidable group that mixed Afro-Cuban music and jazz-rock and Eme grew up listening to this band and later joined it as a very young singer and keyboardist.

Eme Alfonso – Voy

Eme has been involved in the celebration of the Cuban melting pot, a cultural diversity project called “Para Mestizar, where she celebrates Cuba’s African and Spanish roots and other influences.

Voy was recorded in Havana (Cuba) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). The recording includes some of the finest musicians in the Cuban music scene and a superb Brazilian percussionist.

Masterfully-crafted and elegant, Voy showcases the talent of a groundbreaking artist that incorporates roots music which is not nostalgic, and looks forward, creating an edgy sound that injects captivating Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian percussion, rock, soul, jazz and European music elements.

Eme Alfonso writes beautiful, charming poetic songs that hook you in. Her exceptionally expressive vocals are primarily in Spanish although she also adds Yoruba chants with choruses provided by her parents, who are regarded are the best chorus singers in Cuba.

Personnel: Eme Alfonso on vocals; Jorge Aragón on piano and keyboard; Harold López-Nussa on piano;  Roberto Luis Gómez on electric and acoustic guitar and banjo;  Alain Ladrón de Guevara on drums; Julio César González on electric bass; Yaroldi Abreu on Cuban percussion; Luizhino Do Jeje on Brazilian percussion; Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums; Yandi Martinez on acoustic bass; Carlos Alfonso, Ele Valdés and Carlos Angel Valdés on choruses; Arístides Porto on clarinet; Aylin Pino on violin; Benda Chávez Aguiar on violin; Maria Angélica Pérez on viola; and Claudia Carrillo on cello.

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The Exquisite Guzheng of Wu Mengmeng

Wu Mengmeng – The Art of the Chinese Guzheng v

Wu Mengmeng – The Art of the Chinese Guzheng (ARC Music, 2019)

The Art of the Chinese Guzheng is a set of solo performances by award-winning Chinese instrumentalist Wu Mengmeng. The ghuzeng is also known as zheng or qin zheng. It’s a harp or zither that has been used for over 2500 and is one of the most recognizable Chinese musical instruments.

Wu Mengmeng is a master guzheng player and she delivers a beautiful, exquisite set of instrumental tracks rooted in Chinese folk, theater and Buddhist traditions.

The CD booklet includes liner notes in English, simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese.

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RAM, an Effervescent Laboratory for Traditional Music Investigation

RAM – August 179

RAM – August 1791 (Willibelle, 2018)

RAM, one of the leading Haitian roots music bands celebrates the slave revolt in Haiti on August 1791. The title of the album indicates the year that Haitians started their rebellion against brutal French colonial oppression.

The group is led by vocalist Richard Auguste Morse (RAM) and features family members as well as some of the best players in the Haitian capital. The overall sound is a mix of irresistible Afro-Haitian voodoo percussion, call and response vocals, captivating choruses, rock guitar and keyboards, and African-American funk influences.

RAM

The lineup includes Lunise Morse on lead and backing vocals; Richard Morse on lead and backing vocals; Chenel Belizaire on kone (horn) and percussion; Emmanuel Jules on kone and percussion; Wichemon Thelus on tanbu (barrel drum); William Morse on rhythm guitar and backing vocals; Max Blanc on drum kit and backing vocals; Yonel Vendredi on lead guitar and backing vocals; Willy Calixte on bass and backing vocals.

Additional musicians include Dieveut Thelus on tanbu; Medard on kone and percussion; Romane Boniface on kone and percussion; Mackenson Jules on kone and percussion; anis St. Fleur on backing vocals; Wilson Emmanuel on bass; Esaus Augustin on keyboards and backing vocals; and Andrew Weiss on bass and keyboards.

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Heartfelt and Sorrowful Castilian Bluegrass

Los Hermanos Cubero – Quique dibuja la tristeza

Los Hermanos Cubero – Quique dibuja la tristeza (El Segell del Primavera, 2018)

Quique dibuja la tristeza (Quique draws sadness) is the winner of this year’s Best World Music and Fusion Album at Spain’s prestigious Premios MIN (the influential indie awards). Los Hermanos Cubero are brothers Enrique (Quique) Ruiz Cubero and Roberto Ruiz Cubero. For several years, they have been mixing Castilian folk music with American bluegrass.

Los Hermanos Cubero

This is a bittersweet album, a tribute to Quique’s wife, Olga, who died of cancer. The lyrics reflect the pain, memories, and grief that so deeply affected Quique. Musically, the bluegrass influences are clearly visible in the form of intimate acoustic arrangements with mandolin and guitar. Meanwhile, the guest fiddler adds a country and western element.

Quique dibuja la tristeza was recorded live at the end of 2017 with a mobile unit at LaVeguilla Winery in Olivares de Duero (Valladolid province). The lineup featured Enrique (Quique) Ruiz Cubero on guitar and vocals; Roberto Ruiz Cubero on mandolin and vocals; Jaime del Blanco on violin, baritone violin and viola; and Oriol Aguilar on acoustic bass.

Los Hermanos Cubero have released an intensely personal album with remarkably expressive vocals and a fascinating, stripped down bluegrass meets Spanish trad crossover sound.

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Big Statements and African Diaspora Roots Sounds from Leyla McCalla

Leyla McCalla – Capitalist Blues

Leyla McCalla – Capitalist Blues (PIAS, 2019)

Capitalist Blues is the third album by former Carolina Chocolate Drops cellist and singer-songwriter, Leyla McCalla. On Capitalist Blues, Leyla incorporates a wide range of influences that reflect her Haitian heritage, the music of the Afro-diaspora and her current home in New Orleans, which is one the essential musical melting pots of the United States.

Leyla sings in English and in Haitian Kreyol and collaborated with local artists and acclaimed Haitian ensemble Lakou Mizik, who participated in the album while they were staying in New Orleans to perform at the Jazz and Heritage Festival. In addition to African-American and Haitian music, Leyla also added Brazilian rhythms and Cajun music to Capitalist Blues.

Capitalist Blues illustrates Leyla’s ideas and sentiments about the current world events, including violence in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war; capitalism; lead poisoning in water that has affected many minority communities, especially in Flint, Michigan; the divisiveness of Donald Trump; and the protests in New Orleans over the dismantling of Confederate monuments.

For this album, Leyla McCalla decided to use the guitar and banjo instead of her familiar cello.

Capitalist Blues s is a finely-crafted example of the essence of New Orleans roots music and songwriting with a social conscience.

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Anoushka Shankar Live, a Dazzling Experience

Anoushka Shankar

Last night, March 21, sitar phenomenon, composer and world music star Anoushka Shankar performed at Fletcher Hall in the Carolina Theater of Durham, North Carolina. Anoushka charmed the audience with a remarkable mix of Indian classical music ragas, contemporary world fusion material rooted in Indian traditions and cinematic music.

The concert started with two spectacular ragas that showcased Anoushka Shankar’s talent as a sitarist and her equally impressive ensemble. Later, she performed material from Traces of You, her remarkable collaboration with Nitin Sawhney. The concert ended with excerpts from her first film score, the soundtrack to a silent epic film called Shiraz from 1928. The music for Shiraz reflected the intrigue and passion that occurs during the film.

Throughout the concert there were abundant examples of virtuosity with enthralling call and response interactions between the sitar, tabla, mrindangam and bamboo flute.

The ensemble included Ojas Adhiya (India) on tabla, Pirashanna Thevarajah (UK) on mridangam, Ravichandra Kulur on flute (India), Danny Keane (UK) on cello and piano, and Kenji Ota (Japan) on tanpura. For this concert, Anoushka invited a young Durham woman to join the ensemble on bass tanpura.

Anoushka Shankar will be performing in Washington DC tomorrow, March 23 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue. She will later cross the Atlantic to perform in Dublin on Saturday, April 6 at The National Concert Hall; the Royal Festival Hall in London, United Kingdom on April 9; and she’ll fly back to the USA to perform at Campbell Hall in Santa Bárbara, California on April 17.

Special thanks to Eric Oberstein and King Kenney at Duke Performances for their support.

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Artist Profiles: Amir-John Haddad

Amir-John Haddad

German-Spanish musician Amir-John Haddad, better known as El Amir, was born in 1975 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. He moved to Spain in 1997.

El Amir is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, musical director, and producer. He‘s considered one of the best concert guitarists in today‘s Spanish scene, defined by his personality, maturity, sound and style.

El Amir has been playing flamenco guitar and the Arabic oud since he was seven years old, and has been performing on stage for 30 years. In addition to his extensive career, he has learned how to play traditional Mediterranean instruments including the Greek bouzouki and Turkish saz, being a virtuoso in all of them.

Amir-John Haddad

El Amir has collaborated with a long list of artists including Radio Tarifa, Chambao, Marcus Miller and Juno Reactor.

In 2010, Amir-John presented his show “From East to West,” combining all the instruments he plays, Arabic lute, Turkish saz, Greek bouzouki, flamenco guitar and the triple-necked electric guitar to expose a wide range of traditional music. A trip through several regions of the Mediterranean, through different instruments and original compositions mixed with modern and contemporary sounds, fired through effects processors.

Amir-John Haddad

Amir-John Haddad was part of a Madrid-based world music superband called Zoobazar. Group members included El Amir on oud and saz; La Musgaña’s fiddler, Diego Galaz on fiddle and mandolin; La Shica’s and Eliseo Parra’s drummer and percussionist, Pablo Martin Jones on drums and percussion; and the bassist of rock band GN3, Hector Tellini.

Zoobazar

Zoobazar’s debut album, Uno (2011), was a mesmerizing journey across the musics of the Mediterranean countries, including Iberian folk music, Turkish, Balkan, Greek, Middle Eastern and North African grooves and tunes combined with rock, funk and jazz.

Zoobazar’s second album, Dos, came out in 2014.

In 2017, Amir John Haddad played Vivaldi’s Concerto in C major for Mandolin for the first time on Greek bouzouki. The debut took place on the 6th of November at the National Auditorium of Music in Madrid accompanied by outstanding musicians from the Spanish National Orchestra.

José María Bandera and Amir John Haddad

Another project in 2017 was a collaboration with Paco de Lucia’s nephew, José María Bandera. The two guitarists performed material from Paco’s last album, Canción Andaluza, including María de la O, Señorita, I have to love you while you live, Chiquita Piconera, Romance of Valentía and Ojos Verdes, by Quintero, León and Quiroga and other great composers. The show also featured Josemi Garzón on double bass and Israel Katumba on percussion.

Amir John Haddad

El Amir was one the featured solo artists of the Hans Zimmer’s Tour performing flamenco guitar, electric guitar, Greek buzuki and ukulele. “The World of Hans Zimmer – A Symphonic Celebration” presents the composer’s works arranged for a live symphony orchestra. Zimmer spent months working on transforming his soundtracks into opulent concert suites. interpreting a very special selection of soundtracks from the most famous films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, Mission Impossible, The Holiday or Madagascar.

Discography:

Pasando Por Tabernas ‎(Double Moon Records, 2005)
Uno, with Zoobazar (Santa Fe / Ojo! Records, 2011)
9 Guitarras ‎(Zoomusic, 2013)
Dos, with Zoobazar (Galileo Music, 2014)

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Artist Profiles: Jorge Drexler

Jorge Drexler

Jorge Abner Drexler Prada, better known as Jorge Drexler, was born on September 21, 1964. He came to the world’s attention with his unprecedented 2005 Academy Award for Best Song From a Film. His song “Al Otro Lado del Rio,” from the acclaimed movie The Motorcycle Diaries, was the first Spanish-language song ever to be nominated and the first foreign-language song in the Academy’s long history to actually win.

Jorge Drexler’s career path initially followed in the family tradition: his parents and siblings are all doctors. He received a medical education, specializing in Otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat). Although medicine was the family profession, music and literature were an integral part of his upbringing.

In 1992, while still practicing medicine, Drexler released his first album La Luz Que Sabe Robar and two years later followed that with Radar. Although the albums were well received in Uruguay, success in Latin America’s smallest country of 3 million inhabitants was not enough to sustain a career.

Renowned Spanish singer-songwriter Joaquin Sabina discovered Drexler at a performance at the Teatro de Verano in Montevideo in 1994. He urged the Uruguayan musician to go to Spain, where he was sure there would be a keen interest in Drexler’s well-crafted songs.

Drexler arrived in Madrid in 1995. In Spain’s multicultural capital, he was soon placing songs with a host of well-known artists including the Cuban legend Pablo Milanés, Ana Belen, Victor Manuel, Rosario Flores, Neneh Cherry, Lorenzo Jovanotti, Paulinho Moska and Miguel Rios and sharing the stage with many of them as well. In Spain, Drexler released several albums. Vaiven (1996) was produced by Gonzalo Lasheras, songs written with Luis Eduardo Aute, Joaquin Sabina and Javier Alvarez.

Jorge Drexler

Llueve (1998) had an experimental flavor, as the singer-songwriter mixed South American milongas, zambas and candombes with a pop rhythm and sampled nature’s sounds of rain, waves and wind.

Frontera (1999), considered by many to be Drexler’s artistic breakthrough, was recorded in Uruguay with two members of the funk, rock and hip-hop group Peyote Asesino, Carlos Casacuberta and Juan Campodonico (of the Bajofondo Tango Club), as co-producers. Drexler played the traditional Uruguayan styles of candombe and murga against house and drum ‘n’ bass rhythms, creating a musical base from which to express his nostalgia and longing for his distant homeland.

The resulting album opened new doors in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America. Sea (2001) was nominated for a Latin Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Album in 2002. In 2003, Drexler co-authored the international hit song “Perfume”; it appeared on the album Bajofondo Tango Club which was awarded both a Latin Grammy and Argentina’s Premio Gardel.

Drexler’s first American release was his seventh album, Eco. In addition to receiving an unprecedented 2005 Academy Award for Best Song From a Film (The Motorcycle Diaries), “Al Otro Lado del Rio” was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2005 Latin Grammys and Eco received a Best Latin Pop Album nomination at the 2005 Grammy Awards.

The album 12 Segundos de Oscuridad came out in 2006; featuring 10 original songs and two covers: “High and Dry” from British band Radiohead and “Disneylandia” from Brazilian Titãs. Even though Drexler lives most of the year in Spain, his albums were partially recorded in Uruguay with Uruguayan musicians.

In 2008, Drexler released a double live album, recorded al various locations in Spain, followed by Cara B (2008), a set of previously unreleasedsongs.

Drexler worked with Colombian singer Shakira in 2009, on the Spanish-language versions of her singles “She Wolf”, “Did it Again” and “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa).

The album Amar la Trama was released in 2010. It was a studio recording in front of a live audience.

Drexler released “Bailar en la cueva” in 2014, moving towards beats and dance.

Discography:

La Luz Que Sabe Robar (Ayui Records, 1992)
Radar (Ayui Records, 1994)
Vaivén (Virgin Records, 1996)
Llueve (Virgin Records, 1997)
Frontera (Virgin Records, 1999)
Sea (Virgin Records, 2001)
Eco (Warner Bros. Records, 2004)
12 Segundos de Oscuridad (Warner Bros. Records, 2006)
La Edad del Cielo (Warner Bros. Records, 2007)
Cara B (Warner Bros. Records, 2008)
Amar la Trama (Warner Bros. Records, 2010)
Bailar en la Cueva (Warner Bros. Records, 2014)
Salvavidas de Hielo (Warner Bros. Records, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Deolinda

Deolinda

Deolinda formed in 2006, inspired by Mariza, the Portuguese fado star who is renowned the world over. With a theatrical bent to much of their work Deolinda’s Ana Bachalau (meaning salted cod) recalls bringing her feminine character to life ‘She stands for days listening to records her grandmother left her and watching through the lace curtains at neighbors.’

The songs they write are often vehicles for comments on Portuguese culture and lifestyle and in recent years they have had their track ‘Movimento perpetuo Associativo’ used for political gain at party conferences (a fact the band smile wryly at considering the track took aim at national identity).

Deolinda’s debut album ‘Canção ao Lado’ (2009) achieved Platinum status in Portugal and their unique blend of delicate fado and Cape Verdean blues saw them scoop newcomer of the year at the 2010 Songlines Music Awards.

Discography:

Canção ao Lado (2009)
Dois Selos e um Carimbo (World Connection, 2010)
Mundo Pequenino (2013)
Outras Histórias (2016)

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Artist Profiles: Divanhana

Divanhana

Divanhana is based in Sarajevo, a city historically described as a crossroads between the East and the West. Divanhana present new arrangements of urban traditional music from Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a particular emphasis on the soulful sounds of Sevdalinka, the musical vehicle for the expression of amorous longing and melancholy, passion and joy, with its roots in the days of the Ottoman Empire.

The band was formed in 2009 by a group of young students from the Sarajevo Music Academy who, with their contemporary instrumentation of brass, piano, bass and drums complimenting the traditional accordion and vocals, open up the Sephardic and Oriental elements of Sevdalinka to a new jazz sensibility, while the clear tones of singer Leila Catic deftly span the emotions between heartache and playfulness.

Personnel: Azur Imamovic – bass; Danijel Condric – guitar; Irfan Tahirovic – percussion; Ismar Poric – clarinet, saxophone; Leila Catic – vocals; Nedžad Mušovic – accordion; Neven Tunjic – piano; Rifet Camdžic – drums.

Discography:

Dert (Yaman, 2011)
Biljeske Iz Sestice (Multimedia Music, 2013)
Zukva (Multimedia Music, 2015)
Live in Mostar (Multimedia Music, 2017)
Kardes (Multimedia Music, 2018)

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