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 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.

Homage to Adalberto Alvarez for his 30-year Career

Adalberto y Su Son - Para Bailar Casino
Adalberto y Su Son – Para Bailar Casino
(Prensa Latina) Camagüey, Cuba – Adalberto Alvarez Zayas received the title of Illustrious Son of Camagüey Province, where he started the career that has turned him into a symbol of popular Cuban dance music. The distinction was granted by the People’s Power Provincial Assembly, on the 30th anniversary of his professional career as a composer, author, arranger, singer and pianist.

Creator of the orchestras Son 14, in 1978, and Adalberto y su Son, in 1983, he has performed in dozens of countries and has authored more than 200 songs including, “A Bayamo en Coche,” “Dale Como Es,” “¿Y Qué Tu Quieres que te Den?”, “Si No Fuera Por las Mujeres,” and “A Bailar el Toca Toca.”

The current director of Adalberto y Su Son, Alvarez has participated in the recording of more than 50 discs and the latest, Para Bailar Casino, (To Dance Casino) will be released in 2003.


LoJo and DuOud on tour together in the UK

Lo Jo (France)
Lo’Jo (France)
Paris, France – If you’re in the UK this month you can feast your ears on two leading French world music groups. Lo’Jo and DuOud will be touring together, supported by the French Music Export Office.

Tour info:Friday April 4th, Queens Theatre, Edinburgh.

Saturday April 5th, Lakeside, Nottingham – Lo’Jo only.

Sunday April 6th, Roadmender, Northampton.

Wednesday April 9th, Fiddlers, Bristol.

Thursday April 10th, Ocean, London – with guest Talvin Singh.

Friday April 11th, Southport Arts Centre.

Saturday April 12th, Tolbooth, Stirling.

Sunday April 13th, The Arches, Glasgow.

Monday April 14th, The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen.

Both groups have recently released albums…

Lo’Jo released “L’une des siens” in March 2002 with international releases following according to tour dates. The album is distributed in the UK by Discovery Records. The album was released last summer in the United States under the title “Au cabaret sauvage” (World Village/Harmonia Mundi).

DuOud released their debut album “Wild Serenade” in November, the acoustic/electronic mix of classic Arab tracks and new compositions features guest artists Pierre Fruchard, Nedim and the members of Bum Cello.


Concert for Peace with Yair Dalal

Yair Dalal
Yair Dalal
San Francisco, USA – The most acclaimed musician, composer and peace activist from Israel will perform in Berkeley with his Group Al Ol as part of the Spring Concert Series of the San Francisco World Music Festival, presented in association with the Jewish Music Festival.

Yair Dalal, composer, violinist and oud player is probably the most prolific Israeli ethnic musician today.Over the last decade he has put nine albums, covering wide and varied cultural territory. Much of Dalal’s output reflects the strong affinity he has for the desert and its inhabitants. Dalal’s family emigrated to Israel from Baghdad and he has included much Iraqi material in his work to date.

Yair Dalal is a peace activist in all means; besides his musical endeavors, he devotes much time and energy to helping to remove ideological barriers between people and musicians from different cultures and, in particular between Jews and Arabs. He is collaborating with Palestinian musicians from the Middle East and has initiated and formed many peace projects such as: Shalom Salaam concert in 1994, Key
Note Circle for Peace and performance and CD recordings Music Channel and performing at the Nobel Peace Prize gala concert in Oslo 1994.



Bhangra was born sometime between the 14th and 15th centuries and is now regarded to be the one of the oldest folk dances in the world. Originating from the state of Punjab, split between India and Pakistan, Bhangra is the culmination of the hard season of harvest when farmers celebrate by singing and dancing to Bhangra songs and beats and thanking the heavens for what rich grain they have reaped.

The music and dance was also performed during sewing celebrations.In the early 1980s, Punjabi expatriates living in Great Britain developed it into a British musical genre. In this era, the dhol – the double barreled drum banged with two sticks – is the foundation of Bhangra events world-wide, whether it be a live stage performance or the recording of the latest Bhangra song. no Bhangra event can do without it!

Bhangra and its modernized sound still retains its classic and raw elements but also utilizes the modern instrumentation of music and language, producing Bhangra songs that can appease any type of audience.

This hybrid of traditional Indian music fused with a range of reggae, R&B, and pop beats gives it a more universal sound and appeal – drawing in a wider array of fans. With the constant hard-hitting dhol beats and tumbi strings leading the way for the vocals, Bhangra songs portray a whole plethora of emotions tempting the listener to throw their arms in the air and make tracks towards the dance floor.

The hi-energy beats and the contagious rhythms of Punjabi melody continue to spread themselves to a global audience as the music keeps traveling to shores further and further afield. The up-tempo vibes of the music and the panache of the artists continue to popularize this music genre which is rapidly making Bhangra an essential and integral part of global musical culture.

Bhangra recordings

The Rough Guide to Bhangra (Second Edition)
The Rough Guide to Bhangra Dance
The Rough Guide to Bhangra (1st edition)
Bhangra: Original Punjabi Pop
Bar Bhangra


A Brief History of Slack Key Guitar

Keola Beamer
Keola Beamer

Hawaiian slack key guitar (ki ho’alu) is truly one of the great acoustic guitar traditions in the world. Ki ho’alu, which literally means “loosen the key,” is the Hawaiian language name for the solo fingerpicked style unique to Hawaii. In this tradition, the strings (or “keys”) are “slacked”to produce many different tunings, which usually contain a major chord, or a chord with a major 7th note, or sometimes one with a 6th note in it. Each tuning produces a lingering sound behind the melody and has a characteristic resonance and fingering. When the hired cowboys returned to the Mainland a few years later, some of them gave their guitars to the Hawaiians.

The Hawaiians incorporated what they had learned of the Mexican and Spanish music into their traditional chants, songs and rhythms, and thus created a new form of guitar music. Hawaii’s own unique musical traditions tended to dominate, as they did with the other musical influences that came their way from the rest of the world, and over time, it blended into a sound that became completely the Hawaiians’ own. To hear the sound of the Hawaiian slack key guitar click here. To learn how to play the song you just heard click here.

At first, there possibly weren’t a lot of guitars, or people who knew how to play, so the Hawaiians developed a way to get a full sound on one guitar by picking the bass and rhythm chords on the lower three or four pitched strings with the thumb, while playing the melody or improvised melodic fills on the upper two or three pitched strings.

The gut string guitar (the precursor to the modern nylon string guitar) brought by the cowboys had a very different sound than the steel string guitar, which came to the Islands later, probably brought in by the Portuguese around the 1860s. The steel string sound caught on with the Hawaiians, and became very popular by the late 1880s, by which time slack key had spread to all of the Hawaiian Islands.

The slack key tradition was given an important boost during the reign of King David Kalakaua, who was responsible for the Hawaiian cultural resurgence of the 1880s and 1890s. He supported the preservation of ancient music, while encouraging the addition of imported instruments like the ‘ukulele and guitar. His coronation in 1883 featured the guitar in combination with the ipu (gourd drum) and pahu (skin drum) in a new form called hula ku’i, and at his Jubilee (celebration) in 1886, there were performances of ancient chants and hula. This mixing of the old and new contributed to the popularity of both the guitar and ‘ukulele.

Kalakaua’s conviction that the revitalization of traditional culture was at the root of the survival of the Hawaiian kingdom became a major factor in the continuity of traditional music and dance, and his influence still shows. This was a great period of Hawaiian music and compositions, actively supported, and many of the monarchy composed superb songs that are still well-known today. After Kalakaua passed away, he was succeeded by his sister, Queen Lili’uokalani, Hawai’i’s last monarch. She was the greatest composer of this period, writing classic pieces such as Aloha ‘Oe, Sanoe, Kuu Pua I Paoakalani, Pau’ahi O Kalani, Lei Ka’ahumanu and many other beautiful songs still played today.

Until the mid-20th Century, vocals were usually the most important element of Hawaiian music. The guitar was mainly relegated to a back-up role, often grouped with other instruments, and was played in a natural, finger picked style, with a steady rhythm, to accompany hula and singing. The guitar usually did not play the exact melody of the song, but played a repeated fragment with improvised variations using ornaments such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, harmonics and others.

A wide variety of tunings in several different keys were created to back up the singers effectively. When the strings were tuned too low, they lost their tone, and when they were tuned too high, they were likely to break, thus tunings in six keys were developed. (Most Hawaiians did not have a guitar capo, a strap or clamp which fits on the guitar neck and raises pitch, allowing the same guitar fingerings in a higher key.) The Hawaiians often retuned the guitar from the standard Spanish tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E, from lowest- to highest-pitched string), resulting in sweet sounding tunings with “slacked”open (unfretted) strings. The guitar was often tuned to a major chord, like the popular G Major “Taro Patch”tuning (D-G-D-G-B-D), or tunings containing a major 7th note (called “Wahine”tuning), or tunings with the top two pitches tuned a wide fifth interval apart (called “Mauna Loa”), and other combinations. The many ingenious tunings the Hawaiians invented fall into five basic categories: Major, Wahine, Mauna Loa, Ni’ihau/Old Mauna Loa, and miscellaneous.

When two or more guitarists play together, they often use different tunings in the same key. For example, one guitarist might use G Major tuning, and the other might use G Wahine tuning. Guitars can also be played together with different tunings in different keys, capoed up to various frets to sound in the same key. This is one way to appreciate the slack key sound.

Due to the distance between the islands, styles particular to each developed, sometimes specific to regions of an island. The Big Island, probably because of its size, has engendered the greatest variety of regional styles. Some O’ahu players, especially from Honolulu, have sometimes had more modern and varied styles because of their greater exposure to different musical traditions from the Mainland and other parts of the world. To this day, each slack key artist draws from the traditions of the area where they grew up and from the music of their ‘ohana (family), adding to it their own individual way of playing.

Slack key guitar became part of the music that the paniolo would play after work or with families and friends at gatherings, and this paniolo tradition continues to this day on the Big Island and Maui. Since the 1960s, and especially now in the 1990s, Hawaiian slack key guitar has also evolved into a highly developed instrumental art form, in both solo and group formats. It is when played solo that the beautiful and unique intricacies of the slack key guitar can be fully appreciated, as the music of the masters has great depth and individuality.

The most influential slack key guitarist in history was Gabby Pahinui [1921-1980]. The modern slack key era began in 1947 when Gabby (often referred to as “the father of modern slack key guitar”) made his first recording of Hi’ilawe on an Aloha Records 78 rpm (#AR-810). Gabby was the prime influence for keeping slack key guitar from dying out in the Islands, and his prolific guitar techniques led to the guitar becoming more recognized as a solo instrument. He expanded the boundaries of slack key guitar, making it into a fully evolved solo guitar style capable of creatively interpreting a wide variety of Hawaiian traditional and popular standards, original guitar pieces, and even pieces from other countries. Many have also been inspired by Gabby’s beautiful, expressive vocals and his virtuoso falsetto voice.

The Gabby Pahinui Band of the 1970s is a good example of the complexity of sound slack key can achieve. Along with Gabby, this band featured late great slack key guitarists Leland “Atta” Isaacs, Sr. and Sonny Chillingworth, and Gabby’s sons Cyril and Bla Pahinui. Usually on the band’s recordings, each of the guitarists would play in a different C tuning, providing a thick, textured sound.

Besides Gabby, two other highly influential slack key artists have been Leonard Kwan and Sonny Chillingworth. These three are notable not only because of their artistic virtuosity, but also because of the availability of their recordings, Gabby’s in the late 1940s, and Leonard’s and Sonny’s in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Four of Gabby’s earliest recordings from the late 1940s or early 1950s (on Bell Records 78 rpms) are especially impressive: Hi’ilawe (#505)Key Khoalu (#509)Hula Medley (#506)and Wai O Keaniani (#510). Other slack key guitarists were astounded and inspired by these four recordings, because of the level of Gabby’s playing, and because each was in a different tuning. He also made many recordings in the 1950s for the Waikiki label, issued on three different albums: Hawaiian Slack Key, Volume 1 (#319), Hawaiian Slack Key, Volume 2 (#320), The Best of Hawaiian Slack Key (#340).

Awareness and popularity of slack key guitar were further increased by the release of several great slack key albums in the 1960s by Leonard Kwan, Ray Kane, Atta Isaacs and Gabby Pahinui on Margaret Williams’ Tradewinds label.

These four, along with Sonny Chillingworth, recorded in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s (Gabby Pahinui started recording in the 1940s) and influenced all the younger slack key guitarists. Sonny Chillingworth, Leonard Kwan and Ray Kane have also continued to record and influence many others in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1970s, albums were issued by the new generation of influential players such as Keola Beamer, Ledward Kaapana (with his trio Hui Ohana), and Peter Moon (with his trio The Sunday Manoa).

There are four basic types of slack key guitar. The first is the simple but profound style, most evident in the older playing styles, such as that of the late Auntie Alice Namakalua. The second is a sort of “slack key jazz,”with lots of improvisation, used prominently in the music of Atta Isaacs, Cyril Pahinui, Ledward Kaapana, Moses Kahumoku, George Kuo and Ozzie Kotani. The third kind creates a unique sound using ornaments like hammer-ons and pull-offs. These techniques are featured on Sonny Chillingworth’s Ho’omalu Slack Key, Ray Kane’s Punahele, and George Kuo’s Kohala Charmarita.

The fourth, performance-oriented slack key style, features entertaining visual as well as sound techniques. These include playing with the forearm, playing with a bag over the fretting hand (performed by the late Fred Punahoa and by Ledward Kaapana), and the intriguing needle and thread technique, where the player dangles a needle, hanging from a thread held between the teeth, across the strings while otherwise playing normally, which creates a sound a bit like a mandolin or a hammered dulcimer. This can be heard, performed by Sonny Chillingworth, on the fourth verse of the song Wai Ulu, on his recording Sonny Solo (Dancing Cat 08022 38005). The technique can be seen on the song Kaula’ili in Susan Friedman’s film Ki ho’alu, That’s Slack Key Guitar and in Eddie Kamae’s great slack key film “The Hawaiian Way.”

In the old days, there was an almost mystical reverence for those who understood ki ho’alu, and the ability to play it was regarded as a special gift. To retain and protect the slack key mystique, tunings were often closely guarded family secrets. This practice has changed with the times, as respect has increased for the preservation of older Hawaiian traditions, and now slack key guitarists are more willing to share their knowledge outside the family circle with those who sincerely wish to learn. Because many of the beautiful old traditions in Hawai’i have been changed by outside influences, this greatly increased respect for the older slack key traditions and the sharing of tunings is helping to ensure that traditional slack key guitar will endure and be shared.

Since the early 1970s (often called the era of the Hawaiian Renaissance), Hawaiians have increasingly looked to their cultural roots, and because of this, slack key guitar has steadily grown in popularity. The Hawaiian Music Foundation, founded by Dr. George Kanahele, did much to increase awareness through their publications, music classes and the sponsoring of concerts, including the landmark 1972 slack key concert.

Currently, there are several major slack key festivals. The Gabby Pahinui/Atta isaacs Slack Key Festival is held annually in or near Honolulu on the Island of O’ahu, every third Sunday in August, and the annual Big Island Slack Key Guitar Festival is held on the next to last Sunday in July at the Hilo Civic Auditorium on the island of Hawaii. Other festivals also take place on Maui and Kauai, on the Mainland, and occasionally internationally.

Because Hawaii is one of the crossroads of the world, its music has always had many influences: Latin music from Mexico, Spain and Portugal-Polynesian music, especially from Samoa and Tahiti-European music and music from the Mainland, including jazz, country &western, folk and pop. All have been absorbed by Hawaiians, and they have enriched it with their mana (soul).

Hawaiian music has always enjoyed a reciprocal relationship with music from the American Mainland. Hawaiians began touring the U.S. during the early 1890s with acts such as the Royal Hawaiian Band, small string bands, steel guitarists and vocal ensembles.

The 1912 Broadway show Bird of Paradise helped introduce Hawaiian music (although not slack key guitar) to the Mainland, as did Hawaiian shows at the big Panama Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco in 1915. By the late teens, Hawaiian recordings were the biggest selling records in the U.S., especially acoustic steel guitar and vocal recordings.

Starting around 1912, blues slide guitarists and country &western steel guitar players became more and more influenced by the Hawaiian slack key guitar sound, due to increased recordings and tours by Hawaiian performers. The pedal steel guitar was developed from the Hawaiian steel guitar, which was invented in the 1880s. Some Hawaiian steel guitar tunings (and thus, some of the Mainland steel guitar tunings) evolved from slack key tunings, especially the G Major tuning for the dobro and lap steel guitar, and the C Major 6th tuning (similar to the C Mauna Loa tuning) for the pedal steel guitar. (Steel guitar means any guitar played with a metal bar, regardless of what material the guitar is made.)


Gabby Pahinui - Pure Gabby
Gabby Pahinui – Pure Gabby


In return, the hot jazz of the 1920s and 1930s, especially the great trumpeters Louis Armstrong and Bix Biderbocke, influenced the Hawaiian steel guitar players, most notably Sol Ho’opi’i (1902-1953). In the modern era, the late Dave Guard of the Kingston Trio grew up in Hawaii, where he was inspired by Gabby Pahinui. In 1961, he produced and recorded the Pure Gabby album, which was eventually released in 1978.

Although Hawaii’s guitar tradition is the richest in the Pacific, many other Polynesian countries also have guitar traditions closely related to slack key. For example, in the Cook Islands, especially on the island of Aitutaki, it is called Ki Mamaiata (or sometimes Ki Amoa), which translates as “early in the morning,”a favorite time to play guitar there.

More slack key guitar recordings are now available in Hawaii and on the Mainland and other countries, and several guitarists are touring more often outside of Hawaii. With these factors and the increase of techniques and influences of today’s players expanding the range of slack key guitar, the future looks good for ki ho’alu.

Dancing Cat Records is currently producing albums, mainly solo, by some of the best players. The entire repertoire of each of the players are being recorded, as well as experiments beyond. The guitarists include Sonny Chillingworth, Ray Kane, Keola Beamer, Ledward Kaapana, Cyril Pahinui, Leonard Kwan, Ozzie Kotani, George Kuo, Moses Kahumoku and others. Also, an album of duets is planned featuring Barney Isaacs on acoustic steel guitar (dobro), accompanied by George Kuo on slack key guitar, a combination curiously never found in a century of Hawaiian recording history. Ultimately, seventy or more albums are planned in this ongoing series.

(Courtesy of Dancing Cat Records and Keola Beamer)


Starry Nights in Western Sahara

Starry Nights in Western Sahara
Starry Nights in Western Sahara
Boston, USA – Rounder Records released today a compilation featuring music by the Saharawi people of the Western Sahara. This comes just a few days after Nubenegra’s release of Saharawi guitarist Nayim Alal.

The extraordinary voices heard in Starry Nights in Western Sahara all tell the sad story of the Saharawis. Straddling tradition and innovation, the songs embody the sentiments and experiences of an entire people, a dispossessed nation, longing to return to a free and independent Western Sahara. Produced by Randy Barnwell.


Drumming Legend Babatunde Olatunji Died Sunday

Babatunde Olatunji
Babatunde Olatunji
Los Angeles, California – Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji passed away Sunday, April 6th, at a hospital in Salinas, California, with his family by his side.

Born and raised in Nigeria, Olatunji was educated at Morehouse College in Atlanta and the New York University Graduate School. In 1959, Columbia Records released Olatunji’s first album, Drums of Passion, which became an unprecedented, across-the-board smash hit. Drums of Passion was the first album to bring African music to Western ears.

Olatunji’s dedication to the preservation and communication of African culture led him to establish the Olatunji Center of African Culture in the heart of Harlem.

In the 1990s, Olatunji was a founding member of Planet Drum, a drums and percussion ensemble that included world renowned musicians from India, South America, the Caribbean and the United States.


Gnawa Njoum Experience

Gnawa Njoum - Boum Ba Clash
Gnawa Njoum – Boum Ba Clash
Paris, France – The “Gnawa Njoum Experience” is a project born from a Boum Ba Clash party at the famous Paris club Batofar where Gnawa Njoum played with DJs and musicians in an improvised live set.

Ten musicians and DJ producers from Paris joined forces with Gnawa Njoum from Morocco to mix traditional and electronic music. The collective of artists has created an album “Gnawa Njoum Experience” comprising 11 original studio tracks.

The styles include dub, breakbeat, drum ‘n’ bass and traditional rhythmic trance with performances from drummers Cyril Atef (Bumcello) and Thomas Calegari (Lab°). The album was out in France on the 24th of February, export dates are being arranged and French label Night and Day is seeking distributors and licenses abroad.


Sheila Chandra, The Indipop Retrospective

Sheila Chandra - The Indipop Retrospective
Sheila Chandra – The Indipop Retrospective

Milwaukee, USA – The latest installment in the collection of reissues of Sheila Chandra’s recordings is The Indipop Retrospective. It features Chandra’s work on Indipop spanning 1983-2003.

The enhanced CD retrospective includes a video of ‘Lament of McCrimmon/Song of the Banshee’ and 1 previously unreleased track, ‘Crescent Silver Scythe.’

During the early 1980s, Chandra and Indipop released 5 groundbreaking albums which allowed her to explore — with no commercial or media pressures — her deepening creativity as a vocalist, composer, and artist in the truest sense.


Manzanero to Lecture in Spain about Bolero

El Bolero: Miel de la Vida
El Bolero: Miel de la Vida
(Prensa Latina) Mexico – Mexican popular composer and singer Armando Manzanero will lecture on Bolero, a genre born in Cuba and strengthened here in Mexico, at the opening of a radio station in Spain this coming April 7, reported the local “Milenio” newspaper.

Radio Pop will open with a program on the genre that gave birth to the Cuban Trova, when a musician played Tristezas, composed by Pepe Sanchez in 1885, the first bolero ever recorded. He will also talk about the early days of the genre in Cuba, and its assimilation and enrichment in Mexico. Singer Carlos Cuevas and the band Los Juglares de Yucatan will accompany him to Spain. Cuban bolero, born in Santiago de Cuba in the late 19th century, is completely different from what is known with the same name in Spain. The Prensa Latina Publishing House is currently editing the book El Bolero: Miel de la Vida, by Dr. Oscar Oramas Oliva, touring the history of the genre since its appearance to its subsequent spreading around the world.