All posts by TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena's Shadow. Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena's Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931. Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.

Altogether Satisfying and Exotic Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir

Gaye Su Akyol – Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir (Glitterbeat, 2018)

For the most part we humans like knowing what to expect. We prefer the predictable. We like the safe. We want what we want when we want it. That’s an impossible order when faced with the veritable avalanche of world music out there. I have to admit that I occasionally feel like the well-meaning parent standing with hands on hips over the obstinate child facing an unknown vegetable asking, “How do you know you won’t like it? Have you tried it?”

To brag a bit, I think that the standard World Music Central follower is smarter than the average bear. We have followers who want to know when their favorite Cuban is coming to town, or what’s the latest in music from Mali, or perhaps visit to learn a bit about the heavy hitters in Indian classical music. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop my incessant need to get you readers to try something new and exciting. It’s a good thing I don’t know where you live because I’m fairly certain I would be sitting on your bed in the middle of the night shoving a set of headphones at you and forcing you to listen to track 4 because it’s amazing.

Well, here we are again. So, be good, open wide and take a sip of Turkey’s singer, songwriter, producer and audio/visual conceptionalist Gaye Su Akyol’s Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir. You’ll like it.

Translated the title Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir means Consistent Fantasy is Reality. Ms. Su Akyol says of the recording, “In terms of its philosophy, lyrics, music and motto, this album is the dream of pure freedom, of showing the courage to be yourself, of looking at the culture I was born into without alienation, a ‘dreaming practice’ propounded into a country and world that is increasingly turning inward and becoming a concervatized prison.”

Following up on previous recordings Hologram Imparatorlugu and Develerle Yasiyorum, Ms. Su Akyol’s latest hits the streets November 1st on the Glitterbeat label. Beyond her own vocals, playing percussion and adding electronics, Ms. Su Akyol is joined by co-producer, electric and acoustic guitarist Ali Guclu Simsek; bassist, acoustic guitarist and keyboardist Gorkem Karabudak; drummer Ediz Hafizoglu, saxophonist Ihan Ersahin, classical guitarist Barlas Tan Ozemek; violinist, oud, electro saz and cumbush player Ahmet Ayzit, percussionist Ismail Darici and trumpeter Oguz Bilgin.

Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir is edgy, moody and wholly satisfying. It’s deliciously exotic, stunningly kickass and delectably dense. Melding the sinuous lines of Turkish classical musical traditions with the sharp edges of Anatolian rock and Western rock turns Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir into something fresh and extraordinary.

Ms. Su Akyol explains, “Musically the album combines influences from the Anatolian pop/Anatolian rock genre that emerged in Turkey during the ‘60s and the ‘70s with Turkish classical music scales and vocal aesthetics, and various subgenres of rock (psychedelic, post-punk, surf) bringing together strong ballads, Turkish folk tunes, the conventional guitar-bass-drums trio with percussion, joined by violin, oud, cumbush, and – as new additions that the previous albums did not have – baglama (Turkish native instrument), all together making up a very rich instrumental palette.”

Opening with some electronica “İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir” takes on weight with Ms. Su Akyol’s vocals, throaty guitar lines and satisfying bass and percussion. It comes across as a fresh take on the Turkish brand of rock, replete with male vocals to round out the sound.

If you don’t simply fall for Ms. Su Akyol’s right out on the sultry “Bağrımızda Taş,” there’s plenty to wrap your musical soul around like ramped up surf feel of “Laziko” or the subterranean goodness of “Gölgenle Bir Başıma” or the brass, electronica and guitar laced gritty powerhouse “Meftunum Sana.”

There’s also goodies like “Şahmeran,” “Bir Yaralı Kuştum” and the intensely lush closing track “Halimiz İtten.”

Try Istikrarli Hayal Hakikattir, you’ll like it. Don’t make me come to your house.

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Elegant and Fascinating Kulku

SANS – Kulku (Cloud Valley Music, 2018)

If I had to guess you didn’t wake up this morning thinking about how your life was lacking some lovely Finnish singing. Likewise, you probably didn’t wonder why there wasn’t more kantele, the traditional Finnish and Karelian zither, in your daily routine, or how to incorporate a Scottish Gaelic song or Spanish dulzaina into the mix or how an Armenian duduk would mesh into the whole lot. I’ll bet that none of those things crossed your mind. But that’s where music, that fantastical audio magic carpet ride, wraps up all those needs into a neat, tidy package and in this case the first studio recording from SANS entitled Kulku set for release on September 1st on the Cloud Valley Music label.

First appearing together on the CD The Unbroken Surface of Snow, and later live as a quartet at the 2011 Kaustinen festival in Finland, vocalist and kantele player Sanna Kurki-Suonio, multi-instrumentalist and zither player Andrew Cronshaw, multi-instrumentalist reed player Ian Blake and Armenian duduk master Tigran Aleksanyan released their first live recording in 2014 entitled SANS Live.

For Kulku, the group holed up in a converted oak barn along with Ms. Kurki-Suonio’s vocalist and kantele player daughter Erika Hammarberg and Scottish musician, composer and leader of La Banda Europa Jim Sutherland to serve as the Kulku’s producer, and to provide the occasional handclaps, play the barn floor and provide the needed ting (not making this up, it’s in the liner notes).

Kulku is treasure trove of delights. Interspersing tight, neat vocals of the group into expanses of more crystalline vocals wrapped in zither and clarinet, opening track “Pursi – The Rowing Song” transports listeners to a musical landscape that’s exotically thrilling.

Equally delicious is “Tuudittele Tuuli – Cradle, O Wind,” a duduk and clarinet laced lullaby. “Rauta – Iron” utilizes melody from a Spanish dulzaina with Finnish lyrics to conjure up a masterful track that comes across as fresh while tugging at ancient traditions.

Instrumental “The Edge of Autumn/Hayreniki Karot” is the epitome of elegance with the shimmer of zither and the lazy swirl of duduk. Fans get a dose of quirky with the catchy romp “Kulkija – The Walking Song.”

Additionally there is the vocally extravagant “Astele Oro – Step Careful, Stallion,” the delicate grace of the traditional Scots Gaelic tune of “The Recollection of That Day: O Chiadain An Lo/Lusabatz Ararati Vra” framed by lines of Mr. Aleksanyan’s duduk and the achingly lovely “Kazvatti – Four Sorrows” with traditional Karelian lyrics.

Kulku closes with the lush and fascinating “Kaik Mia Ilot Unohin – I Forgot All Joy, Stopped Singing the Songs” composed by trio Mr. Aleksanyan, Mr. Blake and Mr. Cronshaw with song melody by Ms. Kurki-Suonio.

While you might have gotten up not have known you needed a little Finnish singing in your life or that the kantele has the ability to float you in the air or firmly root you to the music of the earth or that duduk lines could float above a music composition like a soaring bird, there’s Kulku to take to a place you didn’t even know you wanted to go.

The album is available from andrewcronshaw.bandcamp.com

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Artist Profiles: Kalakan

Kalakan – Photo by Bernard

Kalakan is a band from the northern Basque country (France) featuring Thierry Biscary, Jamixel Bereau and Xan Errotabehere. Its style consists of minimalist arrangements (vocals, percussion) of Basque traditional songs. After touring Europe with pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque, the trio became known to a larger audience when they collaborated with Madonna during The MDNA Tour.

Kalakan was formed in 2009 by Paxkal Indo and Thierry Biscary, a chalaparta duo. They invited percussionist Frédéric Chambon to join them to form a trio. Before initiating their first artist in residence program to prepare their first album, Chambon was replaced by vocalist and percussionist Jamixel Bereau.

The Kalakan album was recorded at Laguna Records in Biarritz and mixed in Paris in 2010.

Paxkal Indo was later replaced by vocalist and percussionist Xan Errotabehere. Kalakan won the song contest 2011 at the Transhumances musicales festival in Laàs.

During the summer of 2011, Kalakan were introduced to Madonna by Katia and Marielle Labèque during her vacation at their house on the coast of the northern Basque country. On Madonna’s 53rd birthday, August 16, 2011, Kalakan performed their version of Ravel’s Bolero and some of their songs. Madonna liked Kalakan and asked the trio to accompany her on tour in 2012. After a workshop in New York City in February 2012, participation of Kalakan in The MDNA Tour was confirmed.

In Basque, Kalakan means “chatting”. The band members arrange Basque traditional songs to give them a contemporary sound, incorporating pop and rock structures. The percussion techniques used by the trio are inspired by world music bands as Dakha Brakha (Ukraine), Barbatuques (Brazil) and Berrogüetto (Spain).

Kalakan plays percussion instruments (pandereta, chalaparta, tobera, ttun-ttun, atabal), body percussion and handcrafted large drums.

Discography:

Kalakan (2010)
Elementuak (2015)

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Captivating and Stylish Opium Moon

Opium Moon – Opium Moon (Be Why, 2018)

Descriptors like enchanting, elegant and hypnotic just don’t seem to do justice to Be Why Music’s recent self-titled release of Opium Moon. It is indeed enchanting, elegant and hypnotic, but it’s more. Surely, this is the music drunk bees must hear lolling inside a flower, captives to the warm summer sun and soothing breeze surrounded and infused by drugging fragrance. Finding your inner drunk bee is no further than a listen to this extraordinary CD.

The musician masterminds of Opium Moon are Iranian santoor master Hamid Saeidi, Israeli bassist Itai Disraeli, American percussionist MB Gordy and the Canadian-American violinist Lili Haydn. Delving deep into a sound that draws on trance and sacred musical traditions of both East and West, Opium Moon is sultry and meditative. Produced by Ms. Haydn and Opium Moon, this is musician’s recording in the best of all possible ways where composing and execution is collaborative, where each thread of music is more than its parts or participants.

Ms. Haydn remarks, “In this era of ‘fake news,’ I began to feel that words no longer seemed to matter. I lost my faith in my protest songs and threw myself into creating an album without words, one which was imply an embodiment of the peace and inclusiveness I wanted to see in the the world. In these polarized and frightening times, simply making beauty – and loving across boundaries – is a revolutionary act.”

Mr. Disraeli insists that the music, “is not about opium! It’s about mindfulness, clarity of vision and heart. This world is so filled with hate and division; this is peace music, about connection and deep humanity. For each of us, there is some of our best work on this record – because it was born out of love, humility and respect for each other’s rich cultural legacies.”

I feel it prudent to mention to listeners to settle in because where you are going on this musical landscape isn’t a wild ride but a slow, sensual surrender. The opening notes of the lush “Gravity = Love” sets up another worldly space where the music seems to have traveled through space and time by way of steady drum beat, thrumming bass and the exoticism of santoor with violin lines rising like threads of smoke.

Each track of Opium Moon is as good as the last on this recording with tracks like the elegantly airy dip and soar on “Drunk With the Great Starry Void,” it title borrowed from Pablo Neruda, the deeply hypnotic “How Can I Pray When the Beloved Is All I See?” and the moving play of violin over santoor, frame drum and bass on “When I see You Naked I Smell the Earth.”

Closing out with the equally delicious “Caravan,” marked by some truly plumy bass lines, Opium Moon proves potent in its languid grace in gently propelling listeners to a place that is as old as time and still right around the corner.

 

 

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Masterful and Electrifying Ne La Thiass

Cheikh Lo – Ne La Thiass (World Circuit, 2018), reissue

In 1995, while Coolio’s “Gansta Paradise,” TLC’s “Waterfalls,” Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” and Madonna’s “Take a Bow” were floating on the airwaves of Western pop stations, a wonderful collection of songs was cutting a swath through the musical streets of Africa’s Senegal. It just so happened that musician, singer, songwriter, composer and studio owner Youssou N’ Dour came across a demo by fellow Senegalese musician and composer Cheikh Lo.

Setting up Mr. Lo, along with percussionists Assane Thiam and Mbaye Dieye Faye and guitarist and arranger Oumar Sow, into Mr. N’Dour’s Xippi Studio in Dakar, the recording Ne La Thiass was born. Mr. N’Dour went so far as to lend his own vocals to that of Mr. Lo’s on the tracks “Set” and “Guiss Guiss.”

So, while we were being browbeaten by overplayed songs like Hootie &the Blowfish’s “Only Wanna Be With You” and Nicki French’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” the good people of Senegal were dancing to Ne La Thiass’s “Boul De Tagle” and “Cheikh Ibra Fall.”

In 1996, World Circuit Records corrected this injustice by releasing an enhanced version of Ne La Thiass and the world was set to rights again as world music fans around the globe were treated to the Latin-flavored Senegalese goodness of Cheikh Lo.

Mr. N’Dour would go on to record scores of albums such as 7 Seconds: The Best of Youssou N’Dour, Joko: The Link and Africa Rekk, win a Grammy Award for 2004 album Egypt, appear as Olaudah Equiano in the movie Amazing Grace and earn an honorary doctoral degree in music from Yale University. Mr. Lo would go to record such albums as Bambay Guieej, Lamp Fall, Jamm and Balbalou, as well as collaborate with Cuban pianist Ruben Gonzalez’s on his recording Chanchullo singing alongside the esteemed Ibrahim Ferrer and work with Les Nubians and Manu Dibango for the Fela Kuti tribute recording of Red Hot and Riot.

So, now it could be that the planets have aligned just so or that we’ve been very good (this might be a bit of a stretch) that fate has once again smiled down upon us. Of course, it could just be the person at World Circuit sent to rummage through shelves and boxes that we owe our good fortune. This sweet luck would be the re-issue of Ne La Thiass from its original 1995 cassette tapes. Available on vinyl, CD and digital down load, with color booklet, Ne La Thiass has been lovingly remastered and has hit the streets.

Even after more than 20 years, Ne La Thiass hasn’t lost a bit of its keenly addictive appeal. It takes only the barest listen to opening track “Boul Di Tagale,” to fall under Cheikh Lo’s spell.
Weaving a magic spell out of vocals that will raise the hairs on the back of your neck, acoustic guitar, double bass, flute, electric bass, keyboards, some truly spectacular mbalax rhythms and talking drum (and those who don’t like a good talking drum are out of the club), Ne La Thiass is masterful and electrifying as it makes its way through treats like title track “Ne La Thiass,” the feel-good feel conjured on “Ndogal,” the plummy rhythms of “Set” and the sweet swing of “Cheikh Ibra Fall.”

The intricate rhythms of “Bamba Sunu Goorgui” and the Youssou N’Dour vocals laced “Guiss Guiss” are additional icing on the cake that is Ne La Thiass.

There’s always that moment before listening to a re-issue where you wonder if it will be as good as you remembered. With Ne La Thiass it’s not as good as you remembered – it’s better. So intensely addictive, this is the music that if you listened to it all the time you’d never get anything done. And, I doubt you’d care.

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The Varied Cutting Edge Musical Landscapes of Cachaito

Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López – Cachaito (World Circuit, 2018), reissue

Do you have a copy of World Circuit Record’s 2001 release of Cachaito in your music collection right now? No? Well, you need to get one immediately. Seriously, get it. I’ll wait. (Cue: elevator music.)

Okay, released in 2001 and recorded at the Egrem Studios in Havana, Cuba, Cachaito is the master work of Cuban bassist and composer Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López. Son of bassist and composer of Orestes López and nephew of bassist and mambo innovator Israel “Cachao’ López, Orlando ‘Cachaito’ López was the undisputed bassist backbone of The Buena Vista Social Club. So intrinsic to the very fabric of Cuban music, one would have to twist inside out in discussing the breadth and influence of Cuban music without mentioning Cachaito or the López family of musicians.

So, it goes without saying that the Cachaito recording is a must-have for the Cuban music devotee. It just so happens World Circuit has just made things a little more interesting with their upcoming June 22nd first ever vinyl release of Cachaito, complete with a 12-page color booklet and a post card. Leaving aside whether to choose digital, CD or vinyl debate up to personal tastes, revisiting the Cachaito release reveals that this release is one of the essentials. Whether you are a seasoned collector or a newbie who just Googled a geographical map of Cuba, Cachaito hasn’t lost a bit of its luster in the some seventeen years since it was released, nor has its importance dimmed as a cutting edge Cuban music experience.

Putting it all together is Buena Vista Social Club and Ry Cooder producer Nick Gold with recording by Jerry Boys. In addition, Cachaito is brimming over with Cuban percussion masters like conguero Miguel ‘Anga’ Diaz, timbales player Amadito Valdés and bongo player Carlos González, but listeners get goodies like Jamaica’s Bigga Morrison on Hammond organ, Cuban guitarist Manuel Galbán, the famed vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer, flutist ‘Polo’ Tamoyo, violinist Pedro ‘Depestre’ Gonzalez and trombonist Jesus ‘Aguaje’ Ramos. If that were enough, there’s also Hugh Masekela on flugelhorn, Pee Wee Ellis on tenor sax and French DJ Dee Nasty on electronics.

What makes Cachaito so wonderful is its willingness to utterly defy convention, to fly in the in the face of Cuban music and remake it. Plucking influences from dub, reggae, jazz, surf guitar music and hip hop, Mr. López tucks those varied traditions neatly into a sound that comes across as fresh, even years after the recording first release. Mr. López steps out onto the thinnest of branches and takes flight, where listeners are mere passengers to varied musical landscapes Mr. López wishes to reveal.

Opening with a phone call on “Siempre Con Swing,” Cachaito slides into the sleekly jazzy “Redencion.” Mr. López lulls listeners with the equally smooth ride of “Mis Dos Pequeñas” before dipping a wing to show off the hypnotic percussive and guitar rich landscape of “A Gozar El Tumbao.” Diving in another direction, “Cachaito In Laboratory” is hip hop coolness before veering off onto the highly polished jazzy “Tumbao No. 5 (Para Charlie Mingus).” Mr. López offers flirty flashes on the flute-laced “Conversación,” delves deep into meaty bass goodness of “Tumbanga” and shows off all the colors of plumage on “Wahira.”

When we finally land in the midst of the party on “La Negra,” it’s impossible to deny that Cachaito has provided an impossibly rich ride.

Buy the Cachaito CD or digital or the vinyl edition.

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Essential Reissue of Ali Farka Toure‘s The Source

Ali Farka Toure – The Source (World Circuit, 2018, reissue)

With our eyes firmly fixed on the far horizon we want the new. We want what’s next. We not only want the new, we demand it. We’ve boiled our lives down to frantically seeking out what’s the latest, what’s right around the next corner that we can grasp onto before discarding it by the wayside for the next thing, the latest stuff, the hottest new trend just beyond our reach. I bet there are more than a few out there who can barely tolerate leftovers from last night’s dinner.

I’m here to remind you that there are some things worth revisiting. I’m not talking about some somber commemorations of old disasters or old political scandals or the hairstyles of your youth. I am, of course, referring to a collection of songs, and not just any collection, but a powerhouse recording by the father of desert blues Ali Farka Toure and the recording The Source.

Originally put out in 1992 and the first recording for the Malian guitarist with his band Group Asco, The Source wasn’t Mr. Toure’s merry-go-round or his first recording. Recordings on Sonafric like Ali Toure Farka and Biennale and the Sonodisc/Esperance recordings Ali Farka Toure (Red) and Ali Farka Toure (Green) appeared before The Source. It was following the release of The River on the label World Circuit, where The Source bubbles up from the earth and Mr. Toure takes listeners on musical landscapes like Talking Timbuktu with Ry Cooder, Niafunke, Mississippi to Mali with Corey Harris, In the Heart of the Moon with Toumani Diabate and Ry Cooder, Savane and Ali and Toumani. Mr. Toure showed us The Source and we all listened.

As luck would have it, World Circuit has just announced the release of a special edition of The Source. Re-mixed, remastered from the original tapes, The Source is now out for the first time on vinyl with a 28-page color booklet. This is the kind of re-issue you all want. This is where going back is all just so very fine.

The Source is good. Not just the shove into your shoulder good. It isn’t even the smack up side the head good. This goes beyond even the roundhouse to the kisser good. No, this is the Jackie Chan kick to the head, lay you out on the floor, leaving you incapable of movement other than just to listen kind of good. And, trust me, you’ll want to just lay still as the opening strains “Goye Kur” worm their way into your brain. It’s all there on The Source – Mr. Toure on guitar and njarka violin, Afel Bocoum on vocals and Hamma Sankare on calabash and Oumar Toure on congas. Rolling rhythms, call-and-response vocals and some of the sweetest desert blues guitar licks make The Source savagely good.

Desert blues fans get the whole revisit tour with “Inchana Massina,” the low down magical bluesy “Roucky,” the sassy “Dofana” and tantalizing “Karaw.” “Hawa Dolo” makes everything all right with guest artist Taj Mahal, as do tracks like the sweetly worked “Cinquante Six,” the upbeat “I Go Ka” and the swinging “Mahini Me.” Closing is just as powerful with “Takamba.”

So, while you may have your gaze fixed on the horizon, going back to listen to The Source proves just as sweet.

Buy The Source on vinyl, CD or digital.

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The Captivating Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices and Lisa Gerrard

The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices featuring Lisa Gerrard – BooCheeMish (Prophecy Productions, 2018)

The women in the publicity photo for the album BooCheeMish smile, lovely in their traditional dresses and headdresses festooned with flowers. They are of varying ages; they are mothers, daughters, sisters and perhaps a few grandmothers in the lot. They seem pleasant, perhaps even a little unassuming, but that would be deceptive. To dismiss this group of songstresses as quaint or simply charming would be a dreadful mistake because these are the women of The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.

Steeped in vocals traditions that have floated over fields, wound their way through mountain passes and sunk down deep into the very ground, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices are captivating, haunting and call to our all shared nomadic musical past.

The female vocal choir, known as The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices (formerly Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares) started out as The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir in the early 1950s to preserve and promote Bulgaria’s folk traditions by way of radio and television. It just happened that Swiss music producer Marcel Cellier stumbled upon and was captivated by vocal mastery of the choir and recorded and released the first volume “Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares” in 1975.

Volume II would go on to win a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Recording, with additional recordings like Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares (1989), Volume III, Melody Rhythm & Harmony (1993), Ritual (1994), Bulgarian Custom Songs (2001) and Pora Sotunda (2017) with Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance fame. The choir would go on to wow audiences in some 1250 concerts across the globe under the current conductor Prof. Dora Hristova.

So it is my sincerest pleasure to announce, with perhaps a small amount of gleeful hand clapping and girlish giggling thrown in for good measure, that the glorious voices of The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices is back with a new recording called BooCheeMish, set for release on May 25th on the Prophecy Productions label. Joined again by Lisa Gerrard, as well as musicians like Hristna Beleva, Petar Milanov, Rano Ranila, Kostadin Genchev, Deimitar Karamfilov and a string quartet, BooCheeMish shimmers with the familiar goodness that is The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.

Opening with the soaring vocals of “Mome Malenko,” BooCheeMish packs a punch that’s exotic and evocative. Fans get welcomed doses of Ms. Gerrard’s shimmering vocals on tracks like “Pora Sotunda,” “Mani Yanni,” “Unison” and “Shandai Ya” that simply enhance the lushness of BooCheeMish.

Threaded throughout are added rhythms of jembe, riq, udu, tonbak and frame drums that add to the pleasure of the extraordinary, tight, neat intricate vocals of the choir. Listeners will wallow in the upbeat pleasures of Rano Ranila,” the haunting loveliness of “Mani Yanni” and the sheer lushness of “Sluntse” conjured up with help of Ms. Beleva and Mr. Milanov. BooCheeMish stacks stunning track upon stunning track so that “Unison” proves as powerful as tracks “Zableyalo Agne,” “Ganka” and closing track “Stanka” replete with string quartet members Yordan Dimitrov, Evgeni Nikolov, Ognyan Kostantinov and Dimitar Tenchev.

Kudos certainly go to Ms. Gerrard, the musicians and the utter impeccable recording and engineering of this CD, but the real superstars of this recording belong to Prof. Hristova and singers Elena Bozkova, Olga Borisova, Gergana Dimitrova, Gergana Popova, Snezhana Kastelova, Violeta Eftimova, Violeta Marinova, Binka Dobreva, Dafinka Damyanova, Daniela Kostova, Rulana Asparuhova, Marina Boiadjieva, Elichka Krastanova, Mariya Leshkova, Rada Nankova, Evelina Hristova, Evguenia Milousheva, Daniela Dimitrova, Tsvetelina Velyovska, Silvia Vladmirova, Sofiya Yaneva, Nevyana Ganeva, Elizabet Georgieva, Mirrela Asenova, Polina Paunova, Lyubomira Pavlova, Tsonka Dimtrova-Manolova and Diyana Visileva – the women of The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.

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Powerhouse Tejana Rocker

Patricia Vonne – Top of the Mountain (Bandolera Records, 2018)

Patricia Vonne is an actress, filmmaker, activist, bandleader, musician, singer and songwriter. So, it comes as no surprise she’s conjured up a rocking powerhouse recording, easily apparent by the snarly guitar licks and fierce vocals found on tracks like “City is Alive” and “Lil Lobo” on her seventh full-length album Top of the Mountain, set for release on May 25th on the Bandolera Records label. With recordings like Viva Bandolera, Worth It, Rattle My Cage and Firebird to credit, Ms. Vonne continues sharpen her vocals and song writing skill to claw deep and captures listeners with her own brand of tejano folk/rock sound on Top of the Mountain.

Ripe with sultry vocals, jangling guitar riffs and pounding rhythms, Top of the Mountain opens with the edgy “Citadel” before giving way to the speeding down the open road sound of “City Is Alive” with the aid of Robert LaRoche on electric guitar, Scott Garber on bass and Héctor Muñoz on drums.

Top of the Mountain proves versatile as listeners get the goods with Spanish lyric laced “Iluminaria,” the growly guitar of “Lil Lobo” and the catchy Latin flavored “Madre De Perla.” The Southwest sound prevails on title track “Top of the Mountain” edged with Ms. Vonne’s vocals and acoustic guitar, Mr. LaRoche on acoustic and electric guitar, Mr. Garber on bass, Dony Wynn on drums and David Perales on violin.

 

 

Equally delicious are tracks like sultry “Tidal Wave,” the lonely landscape sound of instrumental “Western Blood” and sweetly worked “Cancion de la Boda.” Ms. Vonne and company wrap things with the kicking rocking “Lekker Ding” with the help of guitarist Joe Reyes, upright bassist Harmen De Bresser and drummer Jan Pohl and the vocal and piano duet “God’s Hands” with Ms. Vonne’s soaring vocals against piano by Carl Thiel.

I am very proud of this new work,” Ms Vonne says of this recording. “Top of the Mountain celebrates the defiant human spirit in the midst of adversity and the Higher Power that lights our path.

 

 

Top of the Mountain is a rocking, wind-in-the-hair, open road in a speeding convertible ride of a recording. Enjoy the ride.

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Passionate Turbans

The Turbans – The Turbans (Six Degrees, 2018)

I can’t help from getting a little thrill from a band that sounds like they trekked off into the wilderness or down to the crossroads for a bit of inspiration and returned with something wholly different. That seems to be what U.K.-based band The Turbans did, except they actually retreated to a farmhouse in Northumberland. Dipping into fingers into gypsy, Balkan, flamenco, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean musical traditions, The Turbans have conjured up a sound that their Kurdish percussionist Cabbar Baba has rightly called “music from manywhere,” with band members rooted in the music of Turkey, Bulgaria, Israel, Iran, Greece, Spain and England. Their self-titled debut recording The Turbans will be available today, April 6th on the Six Degrees Records label.

The band’s Oshan Mahony recalls, “For this album we all went together to the farmhouse where I grew up in Northumberland. We all contributed about thirty songs. Some were traditional sounding, others were poppy. When ou have a classical violinist playing an Indian raga you create something really weird and new.”

And, nothing could be further than the truth on The Turbans. Possessed by a kind of feral grace and a sleek savageness, The Turbans weave a sound that is intricately explosive and hypnotically delicious so that dervishes or a raucous gypsy band might approach with more than a little trepidation. The sound is wholly global where strange and familiar coexist.

Comprised of violinist Darius Luke Thompson; percussionist and vocalist Cabbar Baba; oud player Maxim Shchedrovitzki; davul player and vocalist Pavlos Mavromantakis; electric guitarist and vocalist Miroslav Morski; bass guitarist, trombonist and backing vocalist Fred Stitz; electric guitarist Moshe Zehavi; cajon player and classical guitarist Pablo Dominguez; ney, kaval and clarinet player Kansia Pritchard; saxophone and bansuri player Madhav Haridas and Oshan Mahony, The Turbans packs a punch with additional musicians and backing vocals so the sound is rich and full. It doesn’t hurt that the group snagged master mixer Jerry Boys who has worked with the likes of Buena Vista Social Club, Ali Farka Toure, Shakira, Toumani Diabate and the Kronos Quartet, as well as World Circuit’s Tom Leader to master The Turbans.

The real cleverness of The Turbans is that the group allows one genre flows easily against another creating an kind of improvisational feel where tracks flow without sounding over polished. Opening track “Riders” is ripe with Middle Eastern influences and a joyful exuberance, while tracks like “Sinko Moy” delve into a subterranean mysteriousness. “Zawi” is all whirlwind goodness with some kickass guitar lines thrown in for good measure as is the lanky lines of “Samia.” “Kansianitsa” is rich with woodwinds and percussion, while “Aman” is all flamenco lushness. There are also goodies like “Hamouda” with its call-and-response vocals and guembri in this nod to the Gnawan and the lushly worked “Chubby” with its Chaabi influences. There’s also the raucously infectious brass laced “Madhavski Horo,” the sultry ney of “Ruuah” and carnival feel goodness of closing track “Hackney.”

 

 

Mr. Mahony says of the group’s dynamic, “Every single person in this band has such a strong fire inside them. I know so many good musician in this city, and even around the world, who play perfectly, but when they play they don’t release the passion of the music. Everyone in this band has so much fire.”

Thankfully we can hear and feel the fire of “manywhere” from here.

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