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.

Inti illimani Presents New Studio CD

Inti-Illimani - Lugares Comunes
Inti-Illimani – Lugares Comunes
Danbury, USA – The first studio album by Inti-Illimani in over five years with be out Coming out April 22. With Lugares Comunes, on Xenophile Records, the legendary Chilean ensemble celebrates its 35th year. The last year has seen the addition of three young new members, bringing renewed vigor and creativity to the band which is still going strong.

Inti-Illimani has been touring the United States in April and will be in Canada in May:

May 2 in Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada at the Centennial Theatre

May 3 & 4 in Montreal, at the Salle Pierre Mercure

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The Emperor’s New Pipa

Pipa: From a Distance
Pipa: From a Distance
Franklin, USA – Naxos World released this week Pipa: From a Distance, presenting the wide musical range of the Chinese stringed instrument. The CD features traditional pieces as well as new melodies by pipa virtuoso Wu Man, well-known for her previous work with world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project.

On this new release, Wu Man gives listeners an extensive introduction to the pipa and its versatility. Wu Man has earned respect and acclaim for her performances and recordings since the early 1990s. She has worked with many well-known artists in several genres, including composers Philip Glass, Bright Sheng, and Tan Dun (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), along with avant-garde musician and producer Brian Eno. She credits these collaborations as having given her the versatility needed to record this new improvisational album, about which she explains, “I wanted to see how far the pipa could go, and how diverse my musical style could be. That is why I made this album.”

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Sara González with Intimate Songs CD

(Prensa Latina) Havana, Cuba – Cuban singer and composer Sara González is working on a new CD and plans to start recording in May and includes a selection of the best moments of outstanding authors and singers of the 20th Century in Cuba. Entitled Canciones Intimas, the album will offer songs by Maria Teresa Vera, Ernestina Lecuona, Isolina Carrillo, Rita del Prado, Miriam Ramos, Teresita Fernandez and Liuba Maria Hevia and others. The album will be produced by the Bis Music label. Gonzalez told Cumbancha she is very excited about the project, and working intensely on the preliminary phase. Among her immediate plans is a tour in the Dominican Republic, on the occasion of the International Book Fair dedicated to Cuba in May.

Sara González has shared the stage with Silvio Rodriguez, Pablo Milanes, Augusto Blanca, Joan Manuel Serrat, Chico Buarque, Mercedes Sosa, Soledad Bravo, Daniel Viglietti, Pete Seeger, Roy Brown, Pedro Guerra, Beth Carvalho, Liuba María Hevia, Anabell Lopez, Marta Campos and Heidi Igualada. She was a founder of the Nueva Trova Movement and one of its main exponents.

She also was a member of the Grupo de Experimentacion Sonora (GES) del ICAIC, led by Leo Brouwer, where she studied Composition, Harmony and Orchestration. She has produced music for films, television and radio, besides taking part in several collective albums with other figures of the Nueva Trova Movement and the GES.

Her discography includes titles such as: Versos sencillos de Jose Marti (1975); Cuatro Cosas (1982); Con un Poco de Amor (1987); Con Apuros y Paciencia (1991); Si Yo Fuera Mayo (1996) and Mirame (1999).

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Habano Cigar in Honor of Compay Segundo

(Prensa Latina) Havana, Cuba – Montecristo Compay 95 is the brand name of the new cigars in honor of Cuban musician Compay Segundo. The cigars have a label with the smiling face of the 95-year-old “King of Chan Chan”, who is still active in the music scene and has become one of the most famous Cuban musicians internationally. Compay Segundo, once member of “Matamoros” and the duet Los Compadres, was a cigar-maker by trade, self-taught musician and he is considered a living myth of Cuban traditional music.

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The Rough Guide to Ska

 The Rough Guide to Ska
The Rough Guide to Ska
San Francisco, USA – A source and inspiration for the future reggae explosion, ska developed in Jamaica in the early 1960s, helped by one of the pioneering producers of the time, Vincent ‘Randy’ Chin. The Rough Guide to Ska collects twenty cuts from those early days, a dozen of which are reissued for the first time in over thirty-five years.

Included are some of the great names associated with Jamaican music, such as the Skatalites and the Maytals.

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Mestre Ambrosio’s European Tour

Mestre Ambrosio
Mestre Ambrosio

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Mestre Ambrosio, founders of Pernambuco’s new music groove will begin a spring European tour in April.

Mestre Ambrósio masters a breathtaking show mixing the finest musical performance with irresistible rhythms and outstanding dance steps.Mestre Ambrósio’s six members graduated in modern and classical music. They are: Siba (fiddle, guitar and voice), Helder Vasconcelos (fole, percussion and voice) Mazinho Lima (bass, triangle and voice) Sergio Cassiano (percussion and voice) Mauricio Alves and Eder Rocha (percussion).

Tour dates:

19.04 The Moods-Zurich (CH)
21.04 Alien Bar – Orleans (F)
23.04 Botanique-Brussels (B)
24.04 Melkweg-Amsterdam (NL)
26,27.04 Bordeaux (F) show + Masterclasses Maracatu & Cavalo Marinho
29.04 “Roda de Coco”; Favela Chic (Paris-F)
30.04 New Morning; Paris (F)
01.05 Orleans (F) Masterclasses Maracatu & Cavalo Marinho
02.05 Astrolabe; Toulouse (F)
04.05 Serpa (P)

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Instrumental Tangos Reissued and Remastered

Que Bonboncito
Que Bonboncito
Hamburg, Germany – Que Bonboncito is a recording of beautifully-restored tracks from 1929 to 1932. The album, released by Germany’s Danza y Movimento label, is a valuable asset to those who love the tango.

By the mid-1920s Buenos Aires was divided into two camps concerning the tango – traditionalists and the evolutionists.

Julio De Caro and Pedro Maffia defined the evolutionary style. In fact, the great classical composer Manual de Falla wrote at the time, “From what I have heard in Argentina, De Caro’s music is the most precious and points the way ahead.” These men enriched the tango, as it then existed, with exaggerated melodic phrasing, romantic treatment of the violins and the orchestrally-arranged individual parts.

De Caro’s group was formed in 1924 and lasting, through personnel changes, all the way up to 1952. Pedro Maffia was the bandoneon player in De Caro’s group until 1927 then founded his own orchestra around 1929. Today, the Orquesta Tipica Brunswick is relatively unknown. Like many other labels (RCA Victor, for example) Brunswick employed an in-house tango band. But Brunswick was done by 1932, so these recordings are rare indeed.

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Barahúnda – Al Sol de la Hierba

Barahúnda

Al Sol de la Hierba (Nufolk, 2002)

Barahúnda is part of a growing number of Madrid contemporary folk bands. The group draws most of its inspiration from various Spanish folk music traditions and the Sephardic diaspora. Barahúnda was initially led by singer Helena de Alfonso and stringed-instrument specialist Miguel Casado (he left the group after the recording). The all acoustic band features Helena de Alfonso’s outstanding Medieval, Sephardic and Spanish folk vocal stylings combined with various Spanish and Middle Eastern string instruments, along with superb zanfona (Spanish hurdy gurdy) work, all accompanied by Spanish, Middle Eastern and Indian percussion. The pieces included in this recording include original compositions as well as Medieval Galician-Portuguese cantigas, Arab Andalusian music, jotas from Zamora and Burgos, a Breton tune, and Sephardic lullabies and love songs.

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XIII World Music Festival in León, Spain

Berroguetto
Berrogüetto
León, Spain – The XIII Muestra de Nuevas Músicas will be held in the city of León. This world music festival, held in April, features concerts and street performances by Celtic, folk and world music artists. The musicians come from Africa, Spain, the Celtic world and some European countries. The concerts take place at Teatro Emperador. Programming: April 22 (Africa Day)

Seydu

Lokua Danza

Hijas del Sol

Bonga

Magic Mali

Kora (street performance)

April 30

Mastreta

Zuco 103

Kad Achouri

La Accoustel Gang (street performance)

May 9

The Phamie Gow Band (Scotland)

Juan Mari Beltrán

Berrogüetto

Parr

Ursarii Fanfare (street performance)

3 day ticket: 30 €, day tickets: 15€

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Zouk: Rhythm of the Lesser Antilles

This article first appeared in the Spanish magazine Nueva Música, which was published in Seville. It reappears exclusively on www.worldmusiccentral.org with permission from the editors. The text has been edited to update it. Author: Carlos Galilea. Translated by: Angel Romero.

They are two small islands of that Caribbean sea reminiscent of lost paradises. Dreams of rum, of white sand beaches and transparent waters, of available bodies and sensual dances. There, where music is always presentin the buses, in the stores and, indeed, in the Saturday night dances. In the neighboring islands, Spanish and English are the dominating languages, but in these isles people speak French and Creol, a mix of French with some English words and African syntax that the slaves, arrived from different parts of Africa, invented in order to communicate. The names of these islands: Martinique and Guadalupe. Barely 2,800 square Km and little more than 650 thousand inhabitants between both islands (although there are just as many living in continental France). And, they, however, have been able to generate music whose trail can be followed through most of the planet.Of the natives that populated the islands before Columbus arrived to their coasts, there are hardly any remains. Guadalupe and Martinique are now daughters of Africa and Europe. In 1946 they ceased to be French colonies in order to be converted to a French department. A paradoxical situation, since geographically it belongs to the American continent and, on the other hand, its economy is integrated in the European Union. In spite of a rate of unemployment four times superior to which there is in the French mainland, and aside from problems of political identity, they possess a standard of life superior to that of the immense majority of the Caribbean islands. Nothing to do with the insulting poverty of other places that are supposedly a holiday paradise.

Talking about music in Martinique and Guadalupe means talking about the ‘biguine’
that was born from the promiscuity of European and African forms. It was performed
in its early stages by an orchestra that featured clarinet, trombone, banjo
and a drum, that showed clear similarities with the small jazz bands in New
Orleans. It is the same ‘biguine’ that was danced in the 1930s in Parisian clubs
like the Ba Negre or the Boule Blanche. But at the end of the 1950s, with the
first microgrooves and the first record players, the musical expressions characteristic
of the French Antilles were going to be literally demolished. Just like those
hurricanes that sweep the region with certain frequency, leaving a desolate
panorama in its aftermath. The orchestras from Haiti imposed their cadence and
compás relentlessly. Without forgetting the boleros
and sones arrived from the Spanish-speaking islands. It was that way until 1984.
It was during that period when a group called Kassav (the kassav is a mandioca
cake with coconut and sugar) was going to release a strange manifest in ‘Creol’:
Zouk-lase sel medikaman nou ni (zouk is the only medicine that we have).
The zouk were, at the beginning of the 20th century, some fiestas, popular dances
that were very ‘hot,’ to which, it seems, many gentlemen of the bourgeoisie
were accustomed to go without their wives. That is, a synonym for black music
and licentiousness. The local culture was seen then by the dominant class as
something worthless as long as it was associated with a culture that was supposedly
inferior. On the other hand, there were no aesthetic concerns in the zouk. Its
only purpose: that everybody danced until exhaustion.

What Kassav proposed, in the decade of the 1980s, with the name of zouk is an explosive rhythmic mixture: a magic cocktail with the ideal proportions of Haitian compás, calypso, funk, rock and traditional rhythms of the French West Indies. It is shaken conveniently with the help of technology in any sophisticated recording studio, and it is served in any dance hall. All those whose ears are tuned only to music from the English speaking countries should abstain. Although, as a curiosity, one could mention that Miles Davis admitted the pleasure that kassav gave him, in his autobiography, and that the New York Times has praised the music.

Kassav was the first Antillean group to receive a gold album, in 1986, gathering more than forty thousand people in a concert celebrated in the L’Anse-Bertrand stadium, in Guadalupe. In Paris, on June 21, of that same year, it would be three hundred thousand. The members of Kassav have performed in the main capitals of the globe. And, as penitence for French racists and as form of sarcasm, it is the French group that sells more CDs.

Jacob Desvarieux (1.80 meters tall, weighing 100 kg) says that “when the people went to the disco, they could not listen to Antillean music because the records didn’t sound well.”That, in fact, was one of the tricks of the group created by the siblings Pierre Edouard and George Decimus, and Jacob Desvarieux: achieving that their albums sounded in a way that they could compete in the radio stations and the discos with the most sophisticated products of the international record industry. And, also, as Desvarieux explained during that time, “we were able to find a type of music that has the rhythm of black music and the harmony of white musicthe base of the Antillean culture: the spirit of hybridization.”

After the trail of Kassav there are artists like Ralph Tamar, Tanya Saint-Val, Joelle Ursull, MariJose Alie or the women of Zouk Machine. Zouk seems to have taken over the pop charts in the French Antilles. Even, often, with recordings that repeat the same outlines, without much inspiration. But, surprisingly, its success has allowed the recovery of musical expressions that were considered unacceptable earlier, because of its ties with the times of slavery. So, syncopated rhythms like the chouval bwa, or the bele, and drums like the qwo ka or the ti bwa, are being heard again. One of the artists that has become interested in the music roots is Kali, recovering a tradition with a brilliant band named Malavoi: Creolized European dances (polka, mazurca.) served by sugary voices, charming violins and elegant arrangements.

This record, wrote Jacob Desvarieux and George Decimus on the back cover of Zouk-la-se…, is dedicated those of us that have grown on the other side of the sea, so that they don’t forget their roots. And it is to the merit of Kassav to have returned the pride of being Antillean. For that reason, if you ask a young woman from Pointe-a-Pitre or Fort-de-France which is her favorite group, she will easily respond, without hiding her pride, that it is Kassav. That is, without forgetting to give you with a beautiful smile.

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