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 Black Sufis of Gujarat

The Black Sidis of Gujarat are a tribal Sufi community of East African origin which arrived to India eight centuries ago and made Gujarat their home. They carried with them their exceptionally rich musical tradition and kept it alive and flourishing through the generations, unknown to the rest of the world. Their history is rooted in the slave trade of the 13th century and beyond, when Arab and later European slave traders systematically captured thousands of African men, women and children and took them across the seas for sale to the highest bidders. Many Sidi arrived in India as slaves to the Maharajas and Nawabs of the day, whilst others came as merchants, navigators, sailors and slave kings, settling in Gujarat. Their Nubian features attracted the Arab slave traders because of their huge demand in many Indian households as trusted servants and status symbols. That remains true in the Parsi community and several Sidi royal family lineages also continue to thrive to this day in
India.

A traditional occupation of African-Indian Sufis in Gujarat has been to perform sacred music and dance as wandering faqirs, singing songs to their black Sufi saint, Bava Gor. Sidi men and women perform sacred music and dance during rituals in the shrines to Bava Gor, and have lived on accepting alms for touring these devotional genres from villages to shrines for centuries. The Sidis are the most musically inclined, who recognise music as a tool for becoming closer to God. Many Sidis also perform as muezzins as they feel closely related to Hazrat Bilal, a black African man who was the first person chosen by Prophet Mohammed to recite adhan (call to prayer). Over time, the Sidis’ native African music styles, melodic and rhythmic structures, lyrics and musical instruments mingled with local influences in Gujarat to form this unique and symbolic representation of African-Indian ness.

The Sidi speak word perfect Hindi and Gujarati, but have remained an oppressed class in India. Because they are black, from Africa, and Muslim, this has kept them at a lower socio-economic and educational level, but recently their situation is finally beginning to change for the better.

Courtesy of Yusuf Mahmoud, Busara Promotions

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First Annual Africa Mondo Festival at SOBs, New York

New York, USA – New York City’s premiere world music club, Sounds of Brazil (SOBs),in association with Africamondo, will be presenting the 1st Annual Africa Mondo Festival on Sunday, May 25. There will be live performances by Dominic Kanza and The African Rhythm Machine, Diblo Dibala, Kaïssa Doumbè and The Drums ofAfrica. Manning the wheels of steel will be Mister P and the event will be hosted by radio personality Kola Nut fromWLIB.

S.O.B.’s has remained in the forefront of musical diplomacy by presenting the most accomplished African musicians from Ali Farka Touré to Zap Mama, to music lovers worldwide. Now, with increased interest in the sounds of Africa, S.O.B.’s has created the Africa Mondo Festival that will once a year present the world’s greatest African musicians.

To initiate the Festival The Drums of Africa will perform a percussive prayer. Immediately following will be a moment of silence in honor of the world’s loss of one the most significant African musicians of the late twentieth century, Baaba Olatunji, to whom this first Festival is being dedicated with a portion of the proceeds going to the Baaba Olatunji Foundation.

Taking the stage first will be the spicy and joyous music of Dominic Kanza and The African Rhythm machine. Into his stew of Congolese soukous, Kanza throws spices from all of his international musical experiences including collaborations with Papa Wemba, José Feliciano, Paul Simon and Harry Belafonte.

Named best female vocalist in the 2001 African Music Awards, Kaïssa Doumbè has been thrilling audiences with her unique blend of R&B, jazz, makossa, African and Brazilian fusion. She sings in her native Cameroonian language and is accompanied by an international group of musicians with songs against war and injustice. Her electrifying performance is a testament to the power of music that
transcends cultural differences.

As if the evening wasn’t already magical, guitar wizard Diblo Dibala takes the stage next. Dibala is a master of the electric guitar, to such an extent that he can add intriguing new elements to a song without sounding cliché. He can take a song that begins as a romantic ballad, and slowly transform and rework it with his guitar playing into a hot dance track. Within each song, Dibala’s solo work
leads the music to higher and higher heights of listening pleasure.

For more information go to S.O.B.’s

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Womex 2003 Deadlines at the End of May

Berlin, Germany – The deadline for showcase and conference applications for WOMEX 2003 (Sevilla, Spain) is May 30.

Those interested in taking part in a WOMEX showcase, or submitting a conference proposal, can go to:

All proposal forms can be found at WOMEX.

The Worldwide Music Expo WOMEX is a great networking point exclusively dedicated to world, roots, folk, ethnic, traditional and local music of all kinds.

Address: WOMEX c/o Piranha Kultur, Carmerstr.11, 10623 Berlin, Germany. Phone: +49 (30) 318 614 0, Fax +49 (30) 318 614 10. E-mail: womex@womex.com

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Adalberto Alvarez, a Tireless Innovator

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – In the midst of ambitious projects, Adalberto Alvarez Zayas turns 55 year-old. He began his 30 years of artistic life and 25 years of recording with the Son 14 orchestra and Frank Fernandez as producer of “A Bayamo en Coche” (To Bayamo by Carriage), one of the most renovating works of the Cuban musical industry during the last five decades. Putting the finishing touches on his next CD for Bis Music recording company, Adalberto Alvarez noted his efforts to rescue and popularize partner dance. “I have a lot of faith in a program I will launch with television director Victor Torres this summer.”

Adalberto rejoiced being named a Prodigal Son of Camaguey, honoring his 55th birthday and 30-year artistic career. There were over 15,000 people at the gala, including the presence of other musicians from the territory where he began his professional life in 1973.

The Camaguey Hotel dedicated a room to him designed similarly to the atmosphere of his house. Alvarez wanted to be a pilot and ended up studying bassoon at the National Art School. With the Son 14 orchestra in 1978, Adalberto returned to the best contributions of Arsenio Rodriguez to the format known as ensemble and enriched it creatively to preserve the dancing flavor and melodic beauty of the “traditional,” rejuvenated by the contemporaneous sound. His loyalty to this style led to his current nickname el “Caballero del Son” (The Gentleman of Son).

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Handpicked – An Acoustic Celebration of the Plucked String in London

London, England – As part of a national tour, Serious is presenting five of the world’s leading exponents of the plucked string at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Wednesday 4 June. It features a series of dazzling solos and unique collaborations, using minimal amplification to draw out the subtle and beautiful nature of the music.

The varied line-up includes one of the finest finger-style acoustic guitarists, Martin Simpson; Scottish guitarist Tony McManus, who brings the traditional jigs and reels of the Celtic diaspora to life; maestro of the kora, Senegalese Seckou Keita; Welsh harpist Llio Rhydderch; and Minna Raskinen who plays the haunting traditional Finnish kantele.

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An Interview with Fado Sensation Mariza

Mariza
Mariza

Mariza is one of the rising stars of fado. She has one of the finest voices in the fado scene. Mariza brings together tradition and innovation, with her new arrangements of traditional fados and her charismatic image.

This interview was made exclusively for World Music Central at WOMEX, Essen (Germany), in October 2002.

You grew up in a part of Lisbon called Moreria. How did that affect the kind of music that you were introduced to? 

A lot. I suppose that if I hadn’t grown up there today I would not be a fadista. I would be a singer, but not a fadista. 

Is that because of your family background or the area where you grew up? 

Because of the area. We are talking about one of the oldest and traditional neighborhoods in Lisbon where musicologists say that in the 19th century fado was born there. So when you walk the streets of Moreria, every corner, every street, every house, even the way of living of the people, is a fadista life. You can always listen to someone singing when they are cleaning,
singing fado. Even the woman who sells fish is singing. It’s more than a tradition; it’s a way of life. 

Are your parents fado fans? 

Yes, they are fado fans, not performers. They sing very badly. But they had a little restaurant in Moreria and we used to have fado afternoons on Sundays. I was accustomed to listening to fado and listening to the best traditional fadistas. It was a really small place, a very traditional place, but with very nice ambience. In the 1980s you could find  people from the theater, culture, journalists, the traditional fadistas, everybody. And I started singing fado there at the age of 5. At the time I didn’t know how to read so my father started making cartoons. He listened to the poems and started making cartoons for me to learn. And I started learning the poems and singing
fados. In fado we don’t have lyrics, we have poems.

Growing up in Moreria was one of the best things to me because I know since I was a child I wanted to be a singer, but being a fadista is completely different.  And growing up there made me a fadista. Normally, at my parents’ home, we used to have lunch and dinner, listening to fado and Portuguese music. So it’s a kind of traditional thing.

Why do you think there is so much interest in fado, not just in Portugal, but also outside Portugal?

I feel that although I really don’t have an explanation for that.  I suppose it has to do with a kind of curiosity in the world to learn about all kinds of cultures.

Mariza
Mariza

Why do you think most of the best-known fadistas now are women?

I’m not sure if I’m correct telling you this, but it’s a feeling I have. When you look at men singing, sometimes for them it’s hard to have a connection with feelings. Socially speaking, it’s not normal for people to see men trying to show their feelings.  With a woman it’s easier, you feel more connected. You have a connection. You have a relationship. I have seen a
woman crying, talking about the feelings, talking about what she’s feeling inside, why she has that grief, why she has that sorrow, why she lost that love, but for men it’s not normal to talk about those things. 

Considering that you grew up listening to traditional fado, what are you trying to do with fado? Are you trying to create something new? 

I show what I feel and what steps I think fado could give to have an evolution. I think everything has an evolution. And when we talk about a culture that is 240 or 270 years old, to get here that culture had to grow along the centuries so we can’t stop now. Because we talk now about the old generations of fado, every generation makes something new with fado that takes it one step ahead. What I’m trying to do is the same. I’m trying to respect the traditional poems, the basis, but at the same time showing what I feel for the new steps in this culture. 

And because of this are you having any problems with the purists? 

No, actually they respect me a lot in Portugal. The first thing was, “who is this crazy woman?” Because I have a very different kind of look. It’s not traditional. When you are talking about a traditional fadista you are expecting a person completely dressed in black, with black hair and a pony tail and I don’t have anything like that. So at my first appearance people asked “who is this crazy woman?” Then the second time they listened to my voice and my singing, so they understood I’m singing fado and I’m very traditional when I sing it, so now I have the respect of the most purists, the most traditional, the oldest fadistas and, one thing that makes me very
happy, I have the respect of young people too, so I’m very happy with that. 

Is your image something very conscious? Do you look the way you look because you like it or are you trying to shock the public? 

It’s because I like it. Dying the hair blond was something I did for fun. I appeared on TV with it in Portugal and they started associating the hair with me, so it was nothing meant to shock. It’s not something I did to have a certain image or to have a new look. It’s me. And when we talk about my dresses and the colors I use it’s because I like it. I don’t mind when they say
she has too many colors, and the hair”. Sometimes some old people in Portugal, in the street, come and say “I love your voice, but your hair,” and I ask “when you close your eyes do you like it?” “I love it,” they say, so I tell them “close your eyes because I love to be like this.” 

You recorded your first album when you were 26. Why do you think it took so long for people to discover your talent? 

I stopped singing fado when I was 15 or 16 years old. Because I used to sing in social clubs in the neighborhood, but I stopped doing it because my friends at school started telling me “it’s that old thing and for old people”, so I stopped. 

So it was not cool. 

No, it was not cool. “Are you not ashamed of singing fado?” and they started to show me other kinds of music. When I was 15 or 16, if you asked me about some famous rock bands, I had no idea what they were talking about because my universe was only fado, because at my home we listened to fado, and my friends started showing me other kinds of music. Other styles.
And I started doing research about blues, jazz, Gospel. I knew about Frank Sinatra and Barbara Streisand, but fado was really my universe. And I stopped singing fado when I had bands. I used to play in casinos and clubs, but never thought about making records. I just sang because I liked it and loved to do it, but I never thought about making a record. I never thought about having an
international career.

I used to sing fado for my family and friends and, later, at shows in clubs for friends, just for fun. One of those evenings, I was at a club and at the end of the evening there was a man that had a fado house in Lisbon. He enjoyed my show and gave me an invitation to go to his house to sing one day a week. And I said why not, I have nothing to do. OK. But really for fun. And then I started singing there and I felt like I didn’t want to sing any more blues, jazz or soul, I wanted to sing this so I started singing every day and then Jorge Fernando, the producer of this record, asked me “why don’t make a record?” And I was thinking, this man is crazy, he wants to make a record with me? Why? Who’s going to buy this? The family? And I said to him: ““OK, let’s do it. It’s something for us.” And he said, “yes it’s something for us.” We started working on the record. I started doing research about the poems I wanted to sing and then everything got started.  

How did the recording happen? Did you use musicians you knew or did the producer bring his own musicians? 

Jorge is well connected with fado so we brought the musicians.  

Were these professional musicians that had been around for a long time? 

Yes. At that time I was a professional too because I was living from making music. Not from fado, but singing other kinds of music. I knew some of the musicians because I worked with them in some clubs, because some of them are not only fado musicians, they are musicians. And actually I know 50% of the musicians in Lisbon, because music in Lisbon is not a big market if we are talking about clubs. It’s not very big so I know them and they know me very well. So we started working and it was really good to work with those people and to work with Custodio Castelo, the Portuguese guitar player. It was really good because I learned a lot and they are very nice musicians, good people.  

How did it feel recording in Portugal and having a Dutch label release the album? 

It’s very strange because at that time my feeling was very patriotic, like fado is from Portugal. I remember that they told me it’s a very good label. It’s small and it’s going to be good for you. But I was like, it’s not Portuguese. I want a Portuguese company. If I want to release something I want it to be Portuguese, but I was not thinking about having a big label. And they wanted to release the album so for me it was something crazy because the thing I wanted to do was to have an album and to sell it at the fado houses and give copies to some friends. I hadn’t planned to do this and they started talking to me and they said they are small label, with few artists. The problem
was that I didn’t want anything big. I don’t need that, but everything changed.
 

How do you normally connect with audiences that are not fado audiences? For example, a European audience that is not in a cozy, fado house.  Do you think they understand what you are singing to them? Do you explain things or is the music enough? 

I try to explain it of course. I know I’m singing in a different language, but there are some words people know like saudade, like morte, you know. I have some words that can make a connection with them. One thing I really enjoy is to feel you are making a trip with me when I’m singing. It’s like I give you something and you give something to me. It’s like give and receive. And when I do my shows I try to explain the meaning of the poems and I try to give that energy to everybody that is sitting there because when I perform it’s not like I’m in a big theater, or I’m singing for 10,000 people. My audience, they are my friends because they come to see me. It’s like you being in my sitting room and we are in a very intimate place and I’m singing for you. It’s a kind of feeling I have.  

Do you have a regular band that you tour with? 

Yes. I have the musicians who work with me. We have been working together for about 2 years, but they’ve been my friends for a long time.  One of them is a classical guitar player, my friend for 20 years, from the same neighborhood. I used to sing and he was learning how to play the
acoustic guitar. When all this started to happen, he was the person to call so we are more like a family. I like to think like that because I need them, like they need me.  

How’s the song writing process? Do you like to take poems that you are already familiar with and do you also write your own lyrics? 

No, I don’t feel like I could compose. It’s difficult. 

But is it something you might consider?  

Yes, why not? But I need to have experience with life to reveal more true feelings. That’s why I always choose poems that are not talking about deep lost loves. My poems talk about the city. Of course we talk about love, but not in a big way. We talk very softly and that’s how I normally choose. I fall in love with the music and then choose a poem.  

So the music comes first? 

For me, yes.  

How has Amalia Rodrigues affected your music? 

A lot. It’s impossible and irresistible not to sing Amalia when you are a fadista because she had a wonderful voice. She sang the best poems. She had people who wrote poems just for her. She had the best composers making fados for her so it’s irresistible not to sing and of course we have about 230-300 traditional fados. When we talk about Amalia fados we are talking about fados musicados. And it’s the most modern way to sing fado because she brought modernity to fado. So what I like to do is to mix traditional fado with fados musicados, and original fados and that’s why the record is like that.  

When are you planning to record a new album? 

We’re going to record the new album, in January of 2003. I can’t tell you exactly what we are going to do. We have some ideas, but not something fixed yet. 

Are there going to be any big changes from the previous one? 

I think it’s going to be a step forward. Of course with every record we try to take a step forward. We’re going to try to make it. The producer is going to be a different person, Carlos Maria Trindade, from Madredeus, and we have a lot of poems from the biggest poet in Portugal. We have poems and music from the most important composers in Portugal so I think we’re going to have a very good record.

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The Rough Guide To Salsa De Puerto Rico

The Rough Guide To Salsa De Puerto Rico
The Rough Guide To Salsa De Puerto Rico
San Francisco, USA – The new volume of the Rough guide collection, released this month, centers on Puerto Rico. The Caribbean island has become home to some of the most dynamic rhythms in the world.

The Rough Guide To Salsa De Puerto Rico traces the genre’s development both in Puerto Rico and the Nuyorican communities of the United States.

This collection showcases its most innovative musicians, featuring the music of some of the biggest salsa legends, and also follows how the island’s folkloric styles (such as bomba and plena) were instrumental in the development of salsa.

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Bob Brozman Teams up with Debashish Bhattacharya

 Bob Brozman and Debashish Bhattacharya - Mahima
Bob Brozman and Debashish Bhattacharya – Mahima
San Francisco, USA – Following from the critical acclaim of his albums with both Takashi Hirayasu and Renè Lacaille, American acoustic guitarist Bob Brozman has teamed up with Indian slide guitar master Debashish Bhattacharya to produce Mahima, a unique album of improvisatory guitar innovation.

The distinctive sound of the slide guitar is an intrinsic feature in blues, Hawaiian and Indian music, and on Mahima, these traditions meet in the capable hands of two of the world’s greatest slide guitarists. In the process, the two have created a true hybrid, a spectacular union of guitarists which also showcases the vocal talents of Sutapa Bhattacharya and tabla master Subhashis Bhattacharya.

In order to ensure that his collaborative recordings are imbued with a free-flowing exchange between the musicians, without cultural restrictions, Bob believes total immersion in the project at hand to be
essential. For Mahima, the fact that Debashish’s brother Subhashis and sister Supta would also perform further enhanced the spirit of togetherness that permeates throughout the recording.

Rather than one artist simply embellishing the style of another, both Bob and Debashish were keen to draw upon the other’s sphere of influences, and in the process the two have created a true hybrid, a spectacular union of guitarists. Although from opposite sides of the world, it would seem that Bob Brozman and Debashish Bhattacharya were destined to get together.

The Hawaiian guitar was introduced to India by Bob’s Hawaiian guitar guru Tau Moe. Tau’s star pupil
in India was Garney Nyss, whose leading student Sri Brij Bhusan Kabra would go on to teach Debashish Bhattacharya, who has taken the instrument to new levels. This historical connection served to augment their deep friendship and musical partnership.

Mahima is Bob Brozman’s fourth project for Riverboat Records. The previous three (Jin Jin and Nankura Naisa with Takashi Hirayasu from Okinawa, and Digdig with René Lacaille from La Réunion) were all recorded in a similar manner.

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Indians Indians, New Robert Mirabal CD

Robert Mirabal - Indians Indians
Robert Mirabal – Indians Indians
Boulder, Colorado, USA – One the leading Native American performers, Robert Mirabal, a member of the Taos Pueblo tribe (New Mexico), has recorded a new album titledIndians Indians. Mirabal goes back to his tribal roots with heartfelt and humorous stories, songs, and music about the people and cultures that surround him. Musician, writer, singer and storyteller, Robert Mirabal is Native America’s most dynamic and best selling artist.

From the pow-wow auction where he saw that first flute, to Japan, England and all the world, Robert plays with the noble purpose of honoring the land, his family, his ancestors and his tribe who have occupied the same area of Northern New Mexico for over a thousand years. While deeply aware of his heritage, Robert looks at the responsibility universally: “I offer my work as a healing for the human spirit and a remembrance of why we are all here together.”

In addition to the music and flutes he creates, Robert is also a celebrated painter, poet and playwright. He is the author of A Skeleton of a Bridge, a book of poetry, prose and short stories. He has lent his words and insights to several educational and documentary films, including two narrated by Robert Redford, “Silent Witness”and “Sacred Sites.”He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts award and the New York Dance and Performer’s “Bessie”Award for composition.

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Africando’s Martina” Due Out at the End of May

Africando - Martina
Africando – Martina
Paris, France – Africando have been around for some 10 years, on a quest to bring African music and its Diaspora together. They have already released 5 studio albums and one live and have performed a multitude of concerts. Now they present their new album Martina which will be available the 30th of May. The release date covers most countries worldwide but Next Music are currently looking for deals in Australia and South America.

The usual Africando suspects (Sekouba Bambino, Gnonnas Pedro, Amadou Balaké, Medoune Diallo and Ronnie Barro) can be found on the album along with guest artists Ismaël Lo, Shoubou, Sekka, Nyboma and Emenya. They will be playing on the 26th and 27th at the New Morning in Paris.

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