All posts by Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several 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 and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

Likembe Meets Afropop

Lulendo – Mwinda

 

Lulendo – Mwinda (Buda Records, 2017)

Mwinda is the fourth studio album by Angolan singer-songwriter and likembe (thumb piano) player Lulendo Mvulu. Most of the album is radio friendly likembe-fueled Afropop although he also treats the listener to rootsier sounds.

Highlights include the engaging title track “Mwinda,” where Nigerian Afrobeat, led by pioneering drummer Tony Allen, meets Angolan vocals and fascinating likembe. Equally good is “Africa Meu Amor,” another Afropop-infused track featuring Tony Allen once more and the prominent sound of the likembe.

 

 

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Psychedelic Trance Blues from Siberia

ХаPа [KhaRa] – “Мерячение” [Meryachenie] (Sketis Music SKMR-125, 2016)

KhaRa ia an exciting genre-defying Siberian trio that combines blues jams, shamanic percussion, Slavic melodies and instruments, and psychedelic electronic effects. The overall result is a satisfying and fascinating trance-like effect.

The ensemble’s name Khara means Smile of God in Old Slavic. The album name Meryachenie describes an unusual mental state associated with shamans and northern magic in the language of the northern peoples. The Eskimos call it the call of the North Star.

Guitarist Alexander Medvedev indicates that even though the three musicians had discussed making this recording for a long time, Meryachenie was recorded in a single day. Everyone contributed what they saw fit. “We just completely disconnected from reality and played.”

KhaRa features the vocals and traditional wind and string instruments of Edward Pogodin, a musician and craftsman that builds his own musical instruments based on traditional Russian instruments. Alexander Medvedev delivers blues improvisations and spellbinding electronic vocals through a talk box (a sort of vocoder for the electric guitar) that transforms the guitar and vocals into a throat singing effect. Artem Aksenov provides the beats using the large Tuvan frame drum called kengirge as well as other percussion instruments.

The lineup on Meryachenie includes Edward Pogodin (Эдуард Погодин) on vocals, kalyuka (overtone flute) and other instruments; Alexander Medvedev (Александр Медведев) on guitar, talk box vocals, MIDI; and Artem Aksenov (Артем Аксенов) on kengirge and percussion.

Buy the digital download version of Мерячение

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Gabriel Fliflet’s Warm and Poetic Norwegian Songs

Gabriel Fliflet – Sevje

Gabriel Fliflet – Sevje (Etnisk Musikklubb, 2017)

Sevje is a calm, laid back album by Norwegian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Fliflet. It’s a melodic recording where Fliflet’s unique vocals are accompanied by accordion, piano and other instruments.

The lyrics include a mix of original compositions by Gabriel Fliflet along with texts by Kjartan Fløgstad, Robert Burns, and Per Olav Kaldestad.

Personnel: Gabriel Fliflet on vocals, accordion, piano and harmonium; Ole Hamre on hamrophone, xylophone, vocals; Arve Henriksen on trumpet and vocals; Anders Røine on langeleik (Norwegian zither), fiddle and vocals; Jørgen Sandvik on vocals; Olav Tveitane on cittern and vocals; Kristoffer Chelsom Vogt on vocals; and Kato Adland on guitar, percussion and bass.

The CD includes lyrics, a biography and other details.

 

 

Buy the digital edition of Sevje or the CD from www.etniskmusikklubb.no

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Global a Cappela Expressions

Asaran Earth Trio – Why Should Your Heart Not Dance

 

Asaran Earth Trio – Why Should Your Heart Not Dance (2017)

Why Should Your Heart Not Dance is an independent release by New York-based, female a cappella world music ensemble Asaran Earth Trio. The trio was assembled by Brazilian vocalist, percussionist and graphic designer Anne Boccato. She recruited Artemisz Polonyi from Hungary and Astrid Kuljanic from Croatia.

 

Asaran Earth Trio – Photo by Aline Muller

 

Initially, the three artists traded songs from their countries’ traditions, but soon they ended up incorporating folk songs from other regions.

During Asaran Earth Trio’s live performances, the artists encourage audience participation by passing handmade musical instruments crocheted from plastic bags and invite the audience to sing along with them.

 

Asaran Earth Trio – Photo by Francesco Moretti

 

Why Should Your Heart Not Dance features jazz-infused traditional songs from the United States, Macedonia, Hungary, Portugal, Brazil, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain and a few originals as well. The songs include vocals and percussion accompaniment, no other instruments. The songs have a rootsy, live feel, with few studio effects like reverb that are commonly used in modern recordings.

The three musicians have solid jazz backgrounds. Polony explains that improvisation is essential to Asaran Earth Trio: “It’s a foundation we can return to in difficult passages, and a way of finding new expressions. We leave a lot of opportunities built into arrangements.”

Anne Boccato indicates that her goal in life is “to write things that groove, even when those things are very complex. It has to feel good.”

 

 

Why Should Your Heart Not Dance features outstandingly expressive vocals by Asaran Earth Trio, an ensemble that soulfully explores folk music traditions from various corners of the world.

 

 

Buy the digital version of Why Should Your Heart Not Dance.

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Artist Profiles: Zein Al-Jundi

Zein Al-Jundi

Zein Al-Jundi was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. She began singing professionally at the early age of five and over the next 12 years became a household name on Syria’s radio and TV channels as well as concert halls.

Upon finishing high school she chose to leave the music world behind and pursue and college education in the US. She attended the University of Texas at Austin where she still resides and received an undergraduate degree in Architecture and completed the coarse work of a masters in Urban Design.

Discovering it was a passion that didn’t die in spite of years of not singing, Zein made the decision to go back to her music which has since taken more of a center stage in her life and what occupies her time.

November of 2004 marked the release of her first CD Traditional Songs from Syria on ARC Music. It was recorded in Cairo, Egypt with Hossam Ramzy producer.

Her CD Sharrafouni was released on her independent label WMD Productions Music. It was recorded mainly in Beirut, Lebanon and in Damascus, Syria as well as Cairo, Egypt with Zein herself as artistic and executive producer. Michel Fadel (of LBC’s Star Academy and world class pianist and composer/arranger) arranged the majority of the songs on the CD.

Ralph El Khoury (of The REG Project) did most of the mixing and sound engineering. Other people Zein was honored to work with on this CD include Tareq Abou Jawdeh, Elia Nasser, Andre Hajj, Tony Ja’ja’, Tony Barrak, Ali Mazbouh, Tony Haddad and more. Sharrafouni is also Zein’s debut as a composer and songwriter.

In addition to her music Zein is also the owner of The Arabic Bazaar & Zein’s Dance Studio that are located in Austin, Texas. The first being an import business and retail store of hand-crafted beautiful treasures from Syria, Egypt and Morocco…..the second is the school where she teaches her bellydance classes.

WMD Productions is the umbrella that covers all of Zein’s projects and the company thru which she produces her events of Arabic music and dance, including her own live music shows, the Arabic Hafleh and Austin’s Arabian Nights.

Discography:

Traditional Songs from Syria
Songs From Syria (ARC Music, 2004)
Sharrafouni

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Artist Profiles: Yungchen Lhamo

Yungchen Lhamo

Yungchen Lhamo was born near Lhasa, Tibet at a time when the isolated ‘forbidden kingdom’ was caught in the ravages of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Her once wealthy family was punished and forced to endure desperate poverty.

In 1989 she escaped from Tibet with a small group of friends to find refuge in India. Despite her perilous journey, she survived encouraged by her profound determination to meet the Dalai Lama considered to be the living Buddha. She made the pilgrimage to Dharamsala, the place of exile of the Tibetan spiritual leader where she succeeded in meeting him and receiving his blessing. It was then that she decided to communicate her ideal ̶to contribute actively to make things better” through her voice.

She emigrated to Australia in 1993 where she had to overcome several obstacles: being a woman singing Tibetan spiritual songs a capella, not speaking English̷. But the public was amazed by the purity of her voice and by the power of her stage presence and in 1995 she received the Australian Record Industry Award (ARIA) for the best world music album with Tibetan Prayer. It was the beginning of international acclaim. In 1996 she released her first international album Tibet Tibet (Real World) and toured the world.

1997 was a breakthrough year for Yungchen Lhamo. Following the release Tibet Tibet, the singer traveled the world garnering accolades for her spellbinding a cappella performances and raising awareness for the struggle of the Tibetan people living under an oppressive Chinese regime.

I am determined to make a path as a solo performer,” she says. “My childhood was one of such despair and poverty. Part of the Chinese rationale for the occupation of Tibet is that the Tibetan people are backward and inferior. By forging a path for Tibetan artists I am showing what we really can do if we have freedom.”

Yungchen Lhamo’s stately appearance in Tibetan robes and mala prayer beads her harrowing tale of childhood deprivation and flight to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s compound in Dharmsala India have made her a de facto ambassador of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism wherever she travels. But she is a woman and an artist not just an emblem for a cause.

Yungchen’s voice is very special. It is no wonder that a Lama named her “Goddess Of Song,” which is the literal meaning of Yungchen Lhamo in the Tibetan language. In its long sustained notes her voice evokes wind and mountain heights in its intricate melismas the language of birds. Preternaturally expressive her a cappella voice is stirring in full band context: richly complemented by guitars, violin, even the Finnish kantele and subtle loops and electronics.

Traveling over the past years I met so many musicians who wanted to work with me,” Lhamo says. “I was reluctant at first because I really love performing a cappella.” But wary of her vocal gifts being sampled onto trance dance tracks she decided to jump in to explore, grow and change. She met noted European producer Hector Zazou (Bjork, John Cale, Suzanne Vega, Huun-Huur-Tu) at Laurie Anderson’s Meltdown Festival and was immediately interested. “He’s a good man,” Lhamo states, “and that makes a big difference to me.” Encouraged by Real World founder Peter Gabriel, Lhamo set to work with Zazou at Real World studios in England.

Singing a cappella is very difficult,” Lhamo explains. “You feel totally responsible for everything the audience feels. Every sound is created by yourself.” Recording with Zazou gave her the opportunity to focus her interpretive energy with other musicians. “It was very enjoyable,” she says. “The years of singing a cappella have made me strong.”

That strength is witnessed in Coming Home’s songs all written by Yungchen and based on Tibetan melodies songs which share the trance qualities of Buddhist prayer and yet take off on graceful flights of their own. Each is steeped in metaphor layered in spiritual political and familial symbols.

In 2013 Lhamo released Tayatha, an album with Russian classical pianist Anton Batagov.

Discography:

Tibetan Prayer (1995)
Tibet, Tibet (Real World Records, 1996)
Coming Home (Real World Records, 1998)
Ama (Real World Records, 2006)
Tayatha, with Anton Batagov (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Yat-Kha

Yat-Kha

Yat-Kha started in 1991 in the hyper-industrial Siberian steel-belt city of Boris Yeltsin’s then home-town of Sverdlovsk. Albert Kuvezin – taking a holiday from the attentions of the KGB and ideology department of the Tuvan Communist Party – found himself in the middle of a perestroika/ glasnost-induced spring-thaw punk rock explosion.

Home-made bands across the Siberian hinterland, with their acerbic lyrics and free-thinking attitudes transformed the grim Soviet music scene. Albert’s contribution was a cassette, “Priznak Gryedushi Byedi,” the only cassette copy of which he has lost.

On return to Tuva, Albert got involved with many other young Tuvans interested in rock, throat-singing and Tuvan music and went on to found Kungurtug (the rockier version of what is now Huun-Huur-Tu) which featured Alexander Bapa and his brother Sayan Bapa plus top khoomei singers Kaiga-ool Khovalyg and Aldyn-ool Sevek. With some help from one experimental Swedish festival in 1992 this group played a few gigs until feeling a bit trapped inside what became a more folkloric style, Albert decided to spend some time in Moscow for a few years and see what might happen.

When he performed at the Alma-Aty festival Voices of Asia, one particular judge, Brian Eno was so astonished that he invented a special prize for Albert’s unique double-bass voice and its mixture of thunderous growling and high harmonics. Albert then made a CD “Antropofagia,” an experimental electro-Tuvan CD with Russian keyboardist Andrei Sokolovsky which came out on General Records (Moscow) which first came out as a cassette “Khan Party”.

But at the same time Albert was getting more and more involved in exploring the borders between Tuvan traditional music instruments and western rock electricity with Tuvans. After a performance at the Berlin BID in 1992, various small festivals were quick to recognize that Yat-Kha was a bit different.

The Potsdammer Abkommen, Sfinks and other progressive festivals brought Albert over to Europe but it was not until WOMAD at Helsinki (line-up: Jah Wobble Transglobal Underground, Natacha Atlas, Shriekback and Wimme) organized by GMC Helsinki that a recording was made. This was the 1995 CD “Yenisei-Punk” which was recorded with 2 microphones and a 1″ tape machine in GMC’s global mobile studio with help from Kari Hakala and Martijn Fernig.

Yenisei-Punk had Alexei SAAIA on morinhuur and (normal) voice. Much to everyone’s surprise this CD went into the world music charts Europe and won various prizes – RFI, Grand Jury for Decouvertes and #1 MIDEM lo-fi video (dir. Gerd Conradt). Yenisei-Punk was re-mastered and re-released by GMC in 1999 with 2 extra tracks featuring Kan-ool Mongush on morinhuur and voice. But tough times meant the band scraped along as their “impure” style of music confused many.

As Albert was being evicted from his Moscow flat, their UK producer, manager, engineer, driver and temporary bassist Lu Edmonds landed the band a surprise record deal.

Yat-Kha signed in 1998 to Wicklow Records – brainchild of The Chieftains pipe-player Paddy Moloney and the CD “Dalai Beldiri” came out. After a long time apart Albert was joined again by Aldyn-ool Sevek on khoomei vocals. Percussionist Zhenya Tkachov also participated.

Alexei Saaia again joined the band for touring and they went to the USA and Europe 3 times in 1999 played at WOMAD Reading. They also got the attention of such bands as Asian Dub Foundation and Transglobal Underground (who remixed a track for a Wicklow compilation). Later in 1999 they played WOMEX in Berlin and toured with British folk-rock legends Oysterband. All this helped to generate more critical press acclaim.

Yat-Kha’s year 2000 started in March with a USA tour as special guests of The Chieftains. A new CD “Aldyn Dashka” (the golden cup) was also finished. That year Yat-Kha added bass player Mahmoud Skripaltschchikov and a young 19-year old female singer named Sailyk Ommun.

In 2001 Yat-Kha released Poets and Lighthouses recorded on the Scottish island of Jura.

Discography:

The Spector of Disaster (1989)

Antropophagia (General Records/Moscow 1993)

Yenisei Punk (Global Music Center 1995)

Dalai Beldiri (Wickow -BMG Classics 1998)

Aldyn Dashka (Yat-Kha Records 2000)

Live in Europe 21 (Yat-Kha Records 2001)

Tuva.Rock (Yat-Kha Records 2003)

Re-Covers (Yat-Kha Records/World Village 46861 2005)

Live in Europe 2005 (Yat-Kha Records 2005)

Live at Meltdown festival in London 2005 (Yat-Kha Records 2010)

Poets and Lighthouses (Yat-Kha Records 2010)

The Ways Of Nomad – The Best of… (Yat-Kha Records/Sketis Music 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Yange Yange Trio

Yange Yange Arts is a Wagogo cultural group from the central Tanzanian region around the city of Dodoma. Tanzania has some 12 ethnic groups none of which accounts for more than a few percent of the overall population so there is no dominant ethnic culture or sound. That said the one Tanzanian musical genre to have achieved worldwide fame is the distinctly Wagogo music of the late Dr. Hukwe Zawose (1938-2003), one of Peter Gabriel’s favorite musicians and patron of Chibite group who have also performed twice already at the festival.

Zawose refined Wagogo instruments particularly the deep-toned hollow ilimba (thumb piano) and the zeze (bowed fiddle) with its beautiful otherworldly overtones.

Yange Yange Arts performed at the very first Sauti za Busara festival in 2004.

Yange Yange Arts Group’s declared mission is to uplift disabled artists in the Dodoma region. They feature both able-bodied and handicapped musicians and dancers. The group has played in arts festivals as far away as Ivory Coast, Holland and Sweden.

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Artist Profiles: Yulduz Usmanova

Yulduz Usmanova

Uzbek singer Yulduz Usmanova was born on December 12, 1963 in Margilan, Uzbekistan. She was a unique phenomenon in the global pop culture of the 1990s. Hailing from a recently established country that for generations was part of the former Soviet Union, she represented a new spirit of freedom, independence and innovation, while also celebrating age-old traditions. To her fans in her homeland of Uzbekistan, Yulduz is the voice of the future. To her European audience she is an icon of authenticity who connects the old to the new the East to the West.

When the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan established its independence in 1991, Yulduz Usmanova suddenly found new opportunities to express her art. Born in the 1960s in a working class family in Namagan, a rural city situated along the ancient silk route which connects Europe to China, Yulduz sang earned her living by working in a silk factory and singing at wedding parties. The Uzbek star, singer Gavhar Rahimova noted her talent and in 1984 provided for Yulduz to study at the music academy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital. Yulduz’s performances soon attracted huge crowds. Her big break came in 1991 when she performed at the first-ever Voice of Asia festival in Alma Ata, capital of Kazakhstan.

Since then, Yulduz has toured Turkey, South East Asia, Australia as well as Europe. She has performed at several major European festivals like WOMAD (UK), Roskilde (Denmark) and Mundial (The Netherlands) while still regularly entertaining crowds in the home country. Her frequent visits to Western Europe resulted in three albums recorded for an independent German label: “Alma Alma” (1993), “Jannona” (1995) and “Binafscha” (1996), cementing her growing reputation as a powerful singer and an imposing stage performer.

A superstar in her native country – she sold a staggering 5 million units in Uzbekistan, a country of 15 million inhabitants – Yulduz Usmanova represents a newfound pride to her fellow countrymen and women. To the younger generation she is an independent woman who breaks away from the traditional female role in society. To the older generation she represents a proud cultural tradition that has been stifled by years of Soviet colonialism. Almost single-handedly Yulduz has updated Uzbekistan’s folk music and made it accessible to Western audiences.

It’s important for me to live in Uzbekistan,” she says. “That’s where my family lives and that’s where my roots are. I don’t work just for myselfI also work for my country which is still a young country. What I learn over here I can bring back home.”

After having toured Europe frequently, Yulduz Usmanova enjoys a healthy reputation among Western audiences and media alike. Her European fanbase is strong enough to warrant a fanclub (Friends of Yulduz Usmanova, based in The Netherlands) and in 1998 she contributed to the annual Liberation Day festivities in Holland performing on national television her signature tune ‘Dunya’ to an audience that included the Dutch queen Beatrix.

Yulduz Usmanova’s album Yulduz one of her most ambitious. Recorded in Amsterdam over a six month period with Yulduz commuting between the studio and gigs in Central Asia, it captured her unique blend of maqam (the traditional court music of Uzbekistan) and pop. Her regular band and drummer Jeffrey Clemens back Yulduz. The album evokes an Eastern pop atmosphere with the mixture of Western electronics and traditional instruments like tanbur (the Uzbek version of the saz, a Turkish string instrument) and doira (percussion) makes for an exotic though contemporary sound that fits Yulduz’s emotive vocals. Guest appearances by the Family Factory who contribute their choral textures to six tracks further enhance the album’s appeal to an international audience. The Family Factory a South African choir of men and women who have recorded with Hugh Masekela. Their contribution affirms the truly globe-spanning character of Yulduz’s latest recordings. A special version of the album was released in Turkey one of Yulduz’s core-markets.

For her 2004 album Simply Yulduz, Yulduz went to Jamaica the country at the opposite side of the globe from Uzbek point of view and also musically the counterpart of Central Asian music. She worked with one of the greatest guitarists of Jamaica, Ernest Ranglin. The album was produced by Jah Wobble (former Public Image Limited)

Yulduz became an opposition member of parliament in Uzbekistan.

Discography:

Alma Alma (Blue Flame, 1993)
Jannona (Blue Flame, 1995)
Binafscha (Blue Flame, 1996)
Oqqan daryo oqaveradi (1999)
Yulduz (Double T Music, 1999)
Buncha go’zal bu hayot (2001)
Oshiqlik (2001)
Yoshligim, beboshligim (2002)
Mendan meni so’rama (2003)
О Любви (2003)
Men o’zimni topmasam (2004)
Yondiraman, yonaman (2005)
Ayol (2005)
Биё, Жонам (2005)
Faqat sabr tiladim (2006)
Kerak bo’lsa jonim fido (2007)
O’zbekiston — qanday bo’lsang shunday sevaman (2007)
Inadim (2008)
Dunya (2009)
Sen ham asra, ko’zmunchog’ingman (2009)
Tilimdan emas dilimdan (2010)
Kible Benim Kalbimde (2010)
Bir Şans Ver (2011)

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Artist Profiles: Yalla

Yalla

Yalla is one of the leading popular music groups in the former Soviet central Asian republic of Uzbekistan. The band is from Tashkent the capital of Uzbekistan one of the independent states that came out of the former Soviet Union. The group whose name is an Uzbek word for a song accompanied by dancing has become a popular icon in Uzbekistan frequently serving as cultural ambassadors to international festivals or meetings abroad.

The members of Yalla are graduates of the Ostrovsky Theatrical Art Institute and the Ashrafi State Conservatory in Tashkent. They are not Russian, but Uzbek, a Turkic nationality from the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road. Their music incorporates traditional ethnic folk tunes and poetry of Uzbekistan and other Central Asian and Middle Eastern cultures along with contemporary pop and dance influences into a unique international blend. They perform songs in more than 1 languages including Arabic Farsi Hindi Nepalese and French as well as Uzbek and Russian.

Formed in the early 197s Yalla has appeared on Soviet national television as well as performing in Moscow and elsewhere in the Soviet Union and on concert tours in Europe Africa Asia and Latin America including featured appearances at the “Voice of Asia” festival.

Members of Yalla:

Farrukh Zakirov, artistic director composer vocals; Rustam Iliasov, arranger, vocals, bass, guitar; Abbos Aliyev, arranger, national instruments (tan-buzuk, rubab ud), vocals, keyboards; Javlon Tokhtayev, vocals, guitar; Alishier Tulyaganov, vocals, percussion, national drum instruments (doira, tabla); Ibraghim Aliyev, percussion, national instruments (darbuka, kairok-tosh); Tulkin Isakov, bass, guitar.

Discography:

Учкудук – Три Колодца – Uchkuduk – Three Wells (1982)
Музыкальная Чайхана – Musical Teahouse (1990)

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