All posts by Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel is also co-founder of the Transglobal World Music Chart. Angel has also produced and remastered world music studio albums and compilations for labels such as Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, and Music of the World.


While kaseko music often used to be heard on the radio and at parties in the Netherlands, it seems to have been forgotten in recent years. It never really made an international breakthrough, even though all the elements of Caribbean dance music are well represented in it.Strangely enough, relatively little has been written about this unique music from Surinam. Although the US musicologist Herkovits did write on the strong African influences in Surinamese music, so far ‘Surinaamse muziek in Nederland en Suriname’ (Surinamese Music in the Netherlands and Surinam) edited by Marcel Weltak is one of the few books on the history of Surinamese music. The Surinamese-Dutch musicologist Ronald Snijders states in his postgraduate thesis that the word kaseko is probably derived from Surinam’s eastern neighbor French Guyana. It is believed to be a corruption of the expression ‘casser le corps’ (break the body) which was used in the slavery period to denote a fast ‘devil’ dance from rural areas in which dancers shook their bodies.

Kaseko is the dance and entertainment music of the Surinamese Creoles, the descendants of the African slaves. It is created from a fusion of western march music, chorales, jazz, calypso and other popular music from the countries surrounding Surinam with Afro-Surinamese folk traditions.

Interacting rhythmic patterns on the big drum (skratji) and rolls on the separate snare drum, solo and choir singing and riffs from the wind section (consisting of saxophone, trumpet and sometimes trombone) play a central role. The music-making improvises on the basis of an originally African interplay of question and response. This is a musical practice which also characterizes the traditional Creole folk music, the winti and kawina, from which kaseko largely derives its texts, melodies and rhythms.

What winti and kawina have in common is the call of a lead singer, alternating with a chorus which responds with a harmonized refrain, and the interacting rhythmical patterns. These elements also form the building blocks of popular kaseko music.

Kaseko’s immediate forerunner is the music which used to be played at open-air festivities using instruments from the military and police bands and the brass bands. An individual Surinamese playing style developed during the 1930s, based on the African winti and kawina rhythms. This street music was known as Bigi Pokoe, big drum music. It was a sort of Dixieland in which part of the band of five to ten players laid down the beat while the other part supplied playful improvisation. The rhythms of the skratji, a big drum with a cymbal on top, and the low tones of the bastuba provided the power behind the dance. The main genres of the undiluted instrumental kaseko in its old-fashioned acoustic instrumentation (of trombone, trumpet, saxophone, bastuba, banjo, big drum and separate snare drum) are devotional basso profondo chorales, bigi-pokoe and winti-pokoe.

After the Second World War the original sound of kaseko music was strongly influenced by jazz, calypso and popular music styles from Brazil, Venezuela and the Caribbean. However its Surinamese character remained fundamental. In the course of time, the influence of rock music resulted in amplified instruments replacing the acoustic originalsthe banjo was replaced by the electric guitar and the tuba or double bass by the bass guitar, and a drum set was also added. The music was further developed by urban Creoles and became a typically Afro-Surinamese form of rock music under the name of kaseko.

Various stylistic directions have arisen within kaseko over the years. The music is performed in quite different ways by Javanese, Hindustanis and Maroons from the interior of Surinam. With the growth of emigration from Surinam to the Netherlands in the sixties, there has also been a great increase in the influence of the huge range of western music forms.

Excerpted from liner notes by Rein Spoorman. Courtesy of World Connection.


Gnawa Music

Gnawa Sidi Mimoun

Gnawa is a term used to define both a Moroccan music style and a Muslim religious brotherhood that invokes God and many prophets. The patron saint of the Gnawa is Bilal al Habashi, an Ethiopian who was the first African to convert to Islam and Prophet Mohamed’s first muezzin (caller to prayer). The Gnawa also recognize and respect all Muslim saints.

The origin of Gnawa music originally comes from West Africa, south of the Sahara. Over 500 years ago, slavery, conscription and trade brought people from West Africa to the Magreb in North Africa, which is current Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Mauritania. When they arrived to the north, the sub-Saharan Africans brought their music with them which was called Gnawa. Since these different groups all played the same type of music, they call themselves the Gnawa people.

Gnawa song texts contain many references to the privations of exile and slavery. Gnawa music is based on pentatonic melodies and the syncopated rhythms led by the propulsive drive of a bass lute called guimbri or sintir, metal castanets known as karkabas (also known as k’rkbs and qaraqeb) and chanting.

Mehdi Nassouli – Photo by Angel Romero, 2019

The Gnawa as entertainers

The Gnawa are most visible as entertainers. Each afternoon on Jamaa el-Fna, the large entertainment town square in Marrakesh, groups of Gnawa perform acrobatic dances to the accompaniment of large side drums (tbel or ganga) and the karkabas. The sound of the drums also rousts any spirits (jnun) that may have settled in the neighborhood.

Gnawa musicians – Photo courtesy of Direction du patrimoine culturel, Morocco, 2015

The Derdeba

Gnawa music is very powerful spiritual music and it is primarily used for healing. The Gnawa carry out trance ceremonies (derdeba) in order to heal people who are very sick. The goal may be to purge an evil spirit that has brought the illness, infertility, stress or some other affliction or the purpose may be to prolong a positive relationship with a spirit that has brought prosperity, good fortune, or some other baraka (blessing).

The derdeba is performed all night long in order to carry out the healing and purification. The musicians and devotees warm up for the derdeba with entertainment music played on the sintir. When they are ready to begin the ceremony, all the participants gather outside, in front of the house where the derdeba is to take place. The drums and karkabas announce to neighbors and spirits alike that the derdeba is about to begin. The crowd then walks back inside the house in a candlelight procession. The maallem (lead musician or maestro) again plays the sintir, and the group sings and plays a series of songs to dedicate the robes to be worn during the ceremony, while the other participants share dates and milk.

The complete ceremony includes seven sections, each controlled by a different saint or family of spirits. Each section is associated with clothing of a particular color. The ritual sends some of the participants into a trance or a spirit may first possess a devotee, and then express through the dancer’s mouth its desire for the appropriate tune. The trance state is accelerated by the proper combination of spices and incense that must be burned, and the dancer must be dressed in the spirit’s preferred color.

A complete derdeba may last all night, well past dawn on the following day. As the trance ceremony ends, the musicians return to lighter music to relax the spectators.

The Gnawa Lute

Gnawa musician playing guimbri – Photo courtesy of Direction du patrimoine culturel, Morocco

The Gnawa lute goes by a variety of names, including guembri or guimbri, sentir (a term related to the Persian word santur), hejhuj (an onomatopoeic Arabic word) and gog (probably derived from a West African word for fiddle).

Rising Gnawa artist Asmaa Hamzaoui

Gnawa Artists

Asmaa Hamzaoui
El Houssaine Kili
Gnawa Halwa
Gnawa Sidi Mimoun
Hamid El Gnawi
Hassan Hakmoun
M’alem Abdellah Boulkhair El Gourd
Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa
Mehdi Nassouli
Nass Marrakech

Gnawa Web sites


Gnawa Music of Marrakesh: Night Spirit Masters. (Axiom/Island Records, 1990).
Gift of the Gnawa with Hassan Hakmoun, Adam Rudolph, Don Cherry, and Richard Horowitz (Flying Fish/Rounder 571, 1991).
The Splendid Gnawa Masters Featuring Randy Weston (Verve, 1992).
Trance – Hassan Hakmoun and Zahar (Real World 62334, 1993).
The Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco Featuring Randy Weston. (Antilles/Verve 314 521 587, 1995).
Le Gnawa du Maroc. Ouled El ‘Abdi (Auvidis/Ethnic, 1995).
Trance: Balinese Barong, Gnawa Music of Morocco, Zkir from Chinese Turkistan – The Musical Expeditions Series/Audio CD and Book (Ellipsis Arts, 1995). Compiled by David Lewiston.
Ancestral Healing – Pops Mohamed, Hassan Hakmoun, and Ephat Mujuru (B&W Music 069, 1995)
The Fire Within: Gnawa Music of Morocco – Hassan Hakmoun (Music of the World, 1995).
Gnawa from Marrakech: Song for Sidi Mimoun (Robi Droli rdc 5035, 1996) .
Volume I. Gnawa Songs and Music from Morocco (Al Sur AL 101, 1996).
Al-Maghrib, Gnawa Music. Vol. 6 of The Music of Islam. 15 vols. Prod. David Parsons. (Celestial Harmonies, 1997).
Gnawa Essaouira – Maaleem Mahmoud Ghania (Sounds of the World, 1999).
Life Around the World – Hassan Hakmoun (Alula Records, 1999)
Volume II. The Masters of guimbri: The White Suite. (Al Sur AL 145, 2000).
Volume III. The Masters of guimbri: The Blue Suites. (Al Sur AL 146, 2000).
Volume IV. The Masters of guimbri: The Red and Green Suites. (Al Sur AL 147, 2000).
Volume V. The Masters of guimbri: The Dark and Yellow Suites. (Al Sur AL 148, 2000).
Sabil a Salaam – Nass Marrakech (Alula Records, Alu-1021, 2000)
Bouderbala – Nass Marrakech (World Village 498001, 2002)
The Gift – Hassan Hakmoun (Triloka 7930185228-2, 2002)
Essaouira, festival gnaoua (Creon Music, 2003)
Heritage musical des gnaoua d’Essaouira (Sono Disc, 2002)
Hadra des gnaoua d’Essaouira (Ocora, 2003)
Ouled Bambara-Portraits of Gnawa
Fangnawa, a collaboration with Moroccan master musician Maâlem Abdallah Guinéa (Strut Records STRUT096, 2012)


Traveling Spirit Masters: Moroccan Gnawa Trance and Music in the Global Marketplace by Deborah Kapchan, Wesleyan University Press, 2007.
The Gnawa Lions: Authenticity and Opportunity in Moroccan Ritual Music (Public Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa) by Christopher Witulski, Indiana University Press, 2018. ISBN-10: 0253036755, ISBN-13: 978-0253036759.


Introduction to Ghazal

Westerners have become increasingly familiar with the classical music of India since it first became fashionable in the 1960s. But the Persian tradition, without a Beatles/Ravi Shankar collaboration to promote it, has remained a mystery, although it is becoming more recognized.Several centuries of Mogul rule in northern India left a strong imprint on Hindustani music: a result of the mysticism, poetry, and musical subtleties of the Persian language and culture.

The name Ghazal reflects that link: in the Persian tradition, a ghazal is a specific genre of poetry, characterized by an unusual blend of ecstatic spirituality and very earthy desires.

Ghazal in India

In India, ghazal has evolved into a form of semi-classical music that remains popular to this day, and usually takes the form of a love ballad. In both cases, the imagery of the texts often obscures the difference between spiritual and physical love.

Desire for a lover can be described in such exalted terms that it transcends the purely physical aspects of love. While these poems and ballads can be serious artistic and spiritual endeavors, they also reflect a sense of play – almost daring the audience to determine whether it’s really what it appears on the surface, and suggesting that spiritual and romantic love are two sides of the same coin.

(Excerpted from the liner notes by John Schaefer from “Moon Rise on the Silk Road” by the ensemble Ghazal. Courtesy of the World Music Institute)


Welsh Music


A revival of traditional folk music and a renewed interest in the use of its native Welsh (Cymreag) language took place in Wales in the 1970s. With the help of local media and record companies like Sain, artists who represent the Welsh tradition and language can now get exposure.

One of the most influential musicians in Wales is Robin Huw Bowen, a virtuoso of the triple harp. He researched the music and techniques of the old Welsh harpists by studying their old manuscripts. Huw Bowen has performed extensively around the globe, as a soloist and also as a member of the Welsh folk groups Crasdant and Cusan Tán.

The most famous Welsh language singer is Siân James. In addition to her solo career, James also performs with dub reggae and rock groups.

On the traditional folk side, Calennig’s dance music stands out. The group is led by Pat Smith and Mick Tems. Their repertoire includes Welsh, Galician and Breton tunes. Other Welsh folk acts that stand out are Julie Murphy, Heather Jones and Hin Deg.

One of the most exciting new groups in the modern folk style is Carreg Lafar. Welsh-Breton band Bob Delyb a’r Ebillion leans closer to rock. An interesting release was Hen Wlad Fy Mamau (“Land of My Mothers”). It is a world beat collection of re-mixed Welsh folk music, samples and electronic sounds featuring Welsh singers Siân James, Lowri Ann Richards, June Campbell Davies and Elinor Bennett, Punjabi rapper Harvinder Sangha and African dub collective Zion Train.


Classical Persian Music

Classical Persian music is an ancient art form and one of the earliest musical traditions known today. Because of the geographic location and sociopolitical role of the ancient Persian empire, Persian music and culture has contributed enormously to the foundation of many other musical traditions in Central Asia, Asia Minor, China and North India. Since becoming associated with Islamic culture after the Arab invasion (7th century AD), it has traveled throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean.

The classical music of Iran is in some ways similar and analogous to the classical musics of the Arabic world, Turkey and even India, but it is also a self-contained system more or less independent of its neighbors. In the twelfth century, a second system, that of Western classical music, has grown up parallel to that of the Persian art , and today the two coexist, largely leaving each other alone but in various ways cross-fertilizing each other.

The term "maqam," as a modal entity, for the first time appeared in a Persian musical treatise, i.e. the music section of Durrat al-Taj by Qutb al-Din Shirazi, in the 13th century. This concept with its nominal variants (maqam, makam, maqom, mugham, etc.) has dominated many musical cultures in the Islamic world, from Chinese Turkistan and Kashmir to Turkey and the Arab world. Although it has been the main modal concept (along with other modal entities such as avaza/avaze and shu’ba/sho’be and later gushe) in Persian music for a long time, seemingly around the late Safavid period (ruled 1502-1736) and afterwards gradually a new concept, the dastgah, was introduced to Iranian music.

The history of Persian music in the twentieth century has seen the development of strategies for survival in the face of Western music, and these strategies often involved borrowing from those elements in which Western music is strong. For example, Western notation has been adapted to Persian music and while it has done its share to change the character of Persian music, it has also increased the degree to which Iranian music students are willing to learn their tradition.

Persian music is mainly melodic. It makes almost no use of harmony, and its performance is most typically solo, although sometimes a soloist is accompanied by an instrument which echoes and recapitulates each phrase as the artist performs it, a technique also widely used in Arabic, Turkish and Indian music. Its essence is neither the dramatic nor is it the intellectual or cerebral, but rather its quality is mystical and contemplative. Persian musicians recognize this, for in speaking of their music they never fail to relate it to the great lyrical tradition of Persian literature and to Sufism, the mystical movement of Islam whose special home is Iran.

Much of the music has no meter, no beat, but proceeds with a rhythm akin to that of speech. Its rhythmic structure is surely related to the rhythms of Persian poetry. Nevertheless, there is also a great deal of metric music, and this, normally accompanied by a drum.

Improvisation is the most important tenet of classical music of Iran. The musician creates in the moment and simultaneously performs for the audience. The presence and spirit of the audience plays an important role in the feeling and the creative process of the improvisation. The improviser combines creativity and technique with the internalized melodies and rhythms to express his or her individual feelings. To become an improviser is to reach the ultimate stage in the musician’s creative development. To reach such a level of mastery the musician must be rich in technique, emotions, innovation, experience and knowledge. The musician becomes a master once he or she has achieved such a level of virtuosity and has cultivated the art of performance and teaching.

The collection of melodies in Persian classical music called Radif is organized into twelve modes. Seven larger ones called dastgahs (Mahour, Shour, Nava, Rast Panj-gah, Homayoun, Segah, Chahargah) and five smaller sub-sets to these called avaz or maqam (Abu-Ata, Bayat-E-Zand or Bayat-E-Tork, Dashti, Afshari, Bayat-E-Isfahan). Each of these modes are divided into smaller melodic forms called gushehs, which vary in terms of meter, length, expression and importance.

Each dastgah is thought to have a specific character and mood. The material of the dastagh is, then, the basis for actual performance. During the early part of the twentieth century, a model for what might be called a complete performance evolved. It consists of five parts, all cast in one dastgah, but, in fact, not all of them need appear and it is quite common to hear one or two of them used alone. These five pieces are: pishdaramad, chahar mezrab, avaz, tasnif, and reng.

The Radif is memorized by musicians and students, which is how the repertoire has been preserved throughout the ages. The Radif also serves as a musical vehicle to teach, and as a reference point for improvisation.

[This article is partially based on texts by the World Music Institute in New York and Hooman Asadi, Lecturer in Ethnomusicology, Director of the Ethnomusicology Program, Music Department, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Tehran].

Recommended recordings:


Classical Persian Music (Radif) (Paperback) by Freydoon Arbabi. Publisher: Freydoon Arbabi (December 12, 2000).
ISBN: 0971840806.

Traditional Persian Art Music: The Radif of Mirza Abdullah (Bibliotheca Iranica – Performing Arts Series , No 3) (Hardcover) by Dariush Tala’I. Bibliotheca Persica; Bk&CD edition (August 1, 1999). ISBN: 1568590393.

Classical Persian Music: An Introduction (Hardcover) by Ella Zonis. Harvard University Press (January 1, 1973).
ISBN: 0674134354.

Music and Song in Persia: The Art of Avaz (Persian Art and Culture) (Hardcover) by Lloyd Miller. University of Utah Press (October 1999). ISBN: 0874806143.

Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Annemarie Schimmel. University of North Carolina Press (June 1975). ISBN: 0807812714.


History of the Celts

Who Were the Celts?

Ancient Greek historians, like Herodotus (400 BC) and Hecataeus of Miletus (500 BC), wrote about the Keltoi, a group of Iron Age “barbarian”tribes with a common language and culture that inhabited vast territories of Europe. The Keltoi’s dominion stretched from Ireland and the western Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) in the west to Bohemia (Czech Republic), Bavaria (Germany) and Austria in the east. The Celts were a mixture of western Indo-European peoples who created vivid ornamental art and spoke a language described by the Romans as Celtic. Their social power structure included warlords and priests known as druids. They lived in hill towns made to defend populated areas from other warring Celtic tribes. With the arrival of the Roman Empire, Celtic civilization nearly disappeared. Most of western Europe, except Ireland, was Romanized.

The Celts in Ireland

In Ireland, the Celts prospered. Ireland was linguistically untouched for many centuries, protected by the sea which made it inconvenient and inaccessible to Roman invaders. It was also unique in being the only western European country, with the exception of the Viking north, to which Christianity came without the Roman conquest. Old pagan festivals like Bealtaine, Samhan and Lughnasa, became saints’ days. From the 8th through 10th century, Vikings raided and set up colonies in eastern Ireland. Later came the Norman invaders and the English, who subdued Ireland and suppressed its Gaelic language until the early 20th century.

The Celts in the British Isles

With the arrival of the Romans, the Celts in the British Isles were pushed to inaccessible regions. Celtic traditions and language were maintained in the remoter parts of Great Britain: Cornwall, western Wales and the Highlands of Scotland. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Great Britain was conquered by northern Germanic tribes: Angles, Saxons and Jutes, in the 5th and 6th centuries AD.

The Celts in the Iberian Peninsula

Most Celts settled in the northwestern Iberian peninsula (Galicia, Asturias, Tras-os-Montes). In other parts of western Iberia they became known as Celtiberians. Far from home, they mixed with the local population. It took two centuries for the Romans to subdue Iberian Celts because of widespread guerrilla fighting. In the end, most of Spain and Portugal were Romanized and Latin replaced all pre-Roman languages except Basque. When the Roman Empire fell, most of Spain and Portugal were conquered by the Visigoths, except Galicia where a Germanic tribe known as the Sueves formed an independent kingdom. Galicia and Asturias in Spain and Tras-os-Montes in Portugal are currently the Iberian regions with deeper Celtic roots.

The Celts in France

The “barbarians”who inhabited France during the Roman invasion were known as Gauls, a Celtic culture. The Celts, who were already a mixture of peoples, mingled with the conquered population. With Romanization, the Celtic language disappeared from France. After the Romans, Franks and Burgundians took over most of France, including Brittany. The Breton language was re-imported from the British Isles in the 6th and 7th century when Celts from Wales colonized the region. It was a re-Celtization of Brittany, ethnically and culturally.


Merlefest 2003

merlefest_large-250Wilkesboro, USA – Wilkes Community College will present MerleFest 2003, the largest bluegrass music festival in the United States. This is the 16th annual festival in celebration of the music of the late Merle Watson and his father Doc Watson. The festival takes place on the Wilkes Community College campus in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, on April 24 – 27, 2003.

Artists joining Doc Watson and Merle’s son Richard Watson for MerleFest 2003 will include Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, Emmylou Harris, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Laura Love Band, Asleep at the Wheel, Leahy, Donna the Buffalo, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Sam Bush Band, Vassar Clements, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Guy Clark, Hot Rize, Don Edwards, Paul Geremia, Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Patrick Sweany, Tony Rice, Tim O’Brien, Del McCoury Band, Etta Baker, the Whites, Norman & Nancy Blake, Eustace Conway, Lightnin’ Wells & Algia Mae Hinton, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Waybacks, and many others. Special performances will include Vassar’s 75th birthday jam, the Acoustic Blues Showcase, the Midnight Jam, and “Follow Me Back to the Fold: A Tribute to Women in Bluegrass.”

Those with Internet access may acquire their tickets easily by visiting and, if purchasing assigned seats at the Watson Stage, actually pick their seat location on line. Those without Internet access may purchase tickets by calling 1-800-343-7857 (US only) or 336-838-6267 (non-US) from 10 AM through 4 PM, EST, weekdays. Tickets may also be ordered by fax (336-838-6277) and mail (MerleFest; P.O. Box 120; Wilkesboro, NC 28697).


24th International Percussion Festival Percuba 2003

(Prensa Latina) Havana, Cuba – Well-known musicians from the United States, Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela and their Cuban colleagues will take part in the 24th International Percussion Festival Percuba 2003, April 15-19, announced Festival director Lino Neira. The official stated that instrumentalist Sammy Figueroa (Puerto Rico) -producer of musicians such as Quincy Jones and Phil Ramone (US)- as well as Autonomous University of Tamaulipas Professor Evaristo Aguilar (Mexico) who will perform in the show Ritmos de la Huasteca.

The Monterrey Percussion Ensemble (Mexico) -founded 10 years ago by Guillermo Villarreal, Alberto Murillo (Argentina), one of the most acclaimed instrumentalists in his country, and Fred Wickinson (United States), among others, will also attend. The Tuopali Duet (Spain) will arrive with its hit “Mestizaje,” a successful blend of native popular notes and its professional sound, with instruments ranging from the Jembe to the marimba. Another important participant will be the Venezuelan project “La Patria es el Hombre.”


Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival

Silk Hope, USA – Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival is four days of performances in NorthCarolina, by over forty bands from a stunning variety of styles and cultures. Native American, Cajun, Reggae, Bluegrass, African, Latin, Zydeco, Roots Rock, Country, Old Time and more. There will be a series of workshops, seminars, and speakers with themes ranging from sustainability and the healing arts, to human rights and indigenous traditions and cosmology.

For more information, contact: Shakori Hills GrassRoots (919) 542-8142. E-mail:

The World Music bands that are playing: –Thomas Mapfumo- African, chimurenga
–Carnavalito- Latin Jazz
–Alejandro Escovedo- Latin
–Los Pochos- Conjunto
–Moontee Sinquah- Native American
–The Overtakers- Reggae
–Mickey Mills and the Steel- Steel Drum, Calypso- Soca
–Amy Glicklich- Tradional Chants
–Keith Secola and the Wildband of Indians- Native American
–Freeman Owle- Native American
–Willie Lowery- Native American