All posts by William Bain

William Bain wrote these reviews while he was host of 'Chimes of Freedom' on CFFF/ Trent Radio (Peterborough, Ontario, Canada)

Pepe Habichuela and Jorge Pardo to celebrate the universality of flamenco at UNESCO Head Office in Paris

Jorge Pardo and Pepe Habichuela
Jorge Pardo and Pepe Habichuela


Flamenco will be honored on November 3 in Paris with a concert by Pepe Habichuela and Jorge Pardo to be held at UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) headquarters. The initiative, organized by the SGAE Foundation celebrates the universality of flamenco. Four years ago UNESCO declared flamenco an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The unprecedented show, titled Flamenco Universal, brings together Pepe Habichuela (guitar) and Jorge Pardo (saxophones and flutes) along with Josemi Carmona (Pepe’s son) on guitar; Bandolero on percussion; and Pablo Baez on bass. The presentation will also feature dancer Paloma Fantova, which gives the show an interdisciplinary visual incentive.

The repertoire will consist of pieces by the Habichuelas, both Pepe and Josemi Carmona, adapted to this new format, along with pieces by Pardo, resulting in unusual combinations of harmonic textures.

It was in November 2010 when the UNESCO recognized flamenco as Intangible Cultural Heritage because “flamenco is strongly rooted in its community, strengthening its cultural identity and continuing to be passed down from one generation to the next.” As stated UNESCO, this decision “demonstrates the concerted efforts of regional governments, institutions, NGOs, the communities and private persons to ensure Flamenco’s safeguarding.”

Antonio Onetti, president of the SGAE Foundation explains that “the promotion of flamenco is essential within our cultural policy, which we show by programming music series and trainings or participating in meetings, festivals, tributes and documentaries, among other activities.”

Produced by the SGAE, Habichuelas Music, Jorge Pardo and FlamencoWorldMusic Foundation, the concert has the support of the Permanent Delegation of Spain to UNESCO and the Cervantes Institute in Paris.

Preview in Madrid

Before traveling to the UNESCO head office in Paris, the Flamenco Universal show will be previewed on November 1 at the Fernando de Rojas Theatre in Madrid.

About Pepe Habichuela and Jorge Pardo

Holland_Habichuela_HandsPepe Habichuela (Granada, 1944) has been a groundbreaking artist since the seventies with innovative albums like Tribute a D. Antonio Chacón or Despegando, his collaboration with the late Enrique Morente. From the same generation as Camarón, Paco de Lucia, Sanlúcar and Morente, he was one of the principal architects of the renewal of flamenco. Throughout his career, he’s worked with Indian music (Indica Brasilica collaboration with Nitin Sawhney) and jazz (Hands with Dave Holland), among many other contributions.

Jorge Pardo (Madrid, 1956), played the first flute used in a flamenco recording, with Camarón on La Leyenda del tiempo (1979). He joined the Paco de Lucía Sextet in 1981. Since that year, the flute has been linked to Flamenco. Although his initial training was in the world of jazz, he has worked with flamenco artists for many years. His album Footprints (2013) earned him the award for Best European Musician presented by the French Academy of Jazz, establishing him as an international benchmark of flamenco and improvised music.


The Distinctive Beat of Contemporary Compas, Enriched With Zouk

Miami Live - Ochan Pou Yo
Miami Live – Ochan Pou Yo
Miami Live

Ochan Pou Yo (Mini Records MRSD-1999, 1999)

Miami Live is apparently a relatively large local studio orchestra assembled by Fred Paul, keen to show that Miami is now the heart of Haitian music, especially for compas, Haiti’s irresistible merengue-like dance form. The results are once again excellent, with great vocals, clear and smooth, and a rich full sound, both languid and sensual, embodying the distinctive beat of contemporary compas, enriched with zouk – the other great musical innovation of the French Caribbean.

The title track is a choice party piece – the lead vocal, echoed by a chorus, alternates with the instruments in amicable competition. The tracks are quite long – from 8 to 18 minutes, allowing the soloists ample scope to show off their skills. Particularly impressive is the use of the synthesizer, which swings and sways like a palm tree in a tropical storm!

The liner notes unfortunately tell us nothing about either the musicians or the tracks, which suggests that the CD is chiefly aimed at the knowledgeable Haitian diaspora.

Buy Ochan Pou Yo


Real World Records to Release Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party’s Love & Devotion

 Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party - Love & Devotion
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party – Love & Devotion
Real World Records announced the release of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party’s album ‘Love & Devotion‘ (CDRWG196) under the Real World Gold series. The album will be on sale at WOMAD Charlton Park (25th – 28th July) and on general release on 29th July.

The qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has always be something of an iconic figure both to Real World Records and its sister organization WOMAD, gracing their respective recording studios and stages on many occasions.

Until his premature death in 1997, Nusrat was an exceptionally prolific performer, an artist saluted by the Guinness Book of Records for the staggering number of albums he recorded, an amount well into three figures.

Love & Devotion brings together two of the beyond doubt finest recordings from that staggering pile – the two 1992 records for Real World, Love Songs and Devotional Songs. They are perfect companion pieces, glimpses of a musical giant at the very height of his considerable powers.

The artistry of his accompanying Party is faultless, a perfect balance of tabla drums, harmonium melodies, handclaps and ensemble singing. But this is simply the frame for the masterpiece itself – the great man’s outstanding voice.

Buy Love & Devotion


Distinctive Performance by Eritrea’s Faytinga

Faytinga - Numey
Faytinga – Numey

Numey (Cobalt 09294-2, 2000)

This CD is particularly interesting and attractive, since music from Eritrea is rare. The artist is a lady described by a French observer as ‘somewhat the equivalent of a comrade-in-arms of Charles de Gaulle, with the talent of Edith Piaf and the beauty of Brigitte Bardot (at her peak!), Eritrean

The first track is ‘Numey’, meaning ‘do not interrupt the story teller’, and refers to the telling of an epic poem celebrating the heroism of combatants in an ancient battle – where the teller knows more than
listeners! Not a bad start for the daughter of a revered figure among one of the country’s 9 ethnic groups – affectionately known to the 1950s’ British colonial administrators as ‘Fighting Gun’!

The daughter of course joined the liberation struggle in 1977 at the age of 14, and remained a combatant until victory was achieved in 1991. Superb credentials – but what about the music? Well, Faytinga sings with vigour, her rather shrill voice soaring above the accompanying Sbrit band – an Eritrean group supplying percussion, as well as playing krars (traditional lyres), wata and bengala (whatever they are!).

The lyrics in Kunama, helpfully summarised in the liner notes, focus on various historical, political and social themes. All in all, a fine and quite distinctive performance – pity it is so brief!

Buy Numey



Haitiando - CubAyiti, Volume 1
Haitiando – CubAyiti, Volume 1

CubAyiti, Volume 1 (Mini Records MRSD-2001, 1999)

Wow! What a great album! Inspired perhaps by the success of Africando in fusing West African and Latin music, Fred Paul has come up with a similar high quality mélange – Afro-Cuban music à l’haïtienne, or vice versa! The musical links between Cuba and Haiti date back to the 1790s when some French and creole landowners fled the chaos in Haiti (at least today’s mess is faithful to historical traditions!), settling in eastern Cuba with their slaves and music.

The latter evolved into the danzón genre played by the charanga orchestra (notably violins and flute) – the most eminent example being Cuba’s world famous Orquesta Aragón. Haitiando’s seductive appeal is
due to the masterful arrangements of a commendable range of musical selections, and the obvious pleasure in executing them displayed by the excellent musicians on piano, violin, flute, tres, guitar, trumpet, bass, and percussion. Above all, the vocals are superb, especially those of the lead vocalist, whose slightly hoarse voice suggests a lifetime fruitfully spent in bars filled with smoke, flowing with rum, and reverberating with rhythm!

All the names involved – except M. Paul – are new to me. I also never expected to appreciate another version of ‘El manisero’ (peanut vendor). Well, I have really learned something both useful and enjoyable,
and invite TWAS readers to check it out for themselves – while I impatiently await the arrival of Volume 2!.

buy CubAyiti, Volume 1



Nahawa Doumbia – Yaala
Nahawa Doumbia

Yaala (Cobalt 09296-2, 2000)

The title track – ‘Yaala’ meaning ‘work’- sets the tone: ‘you don’t earn a thing, if you don’t work; you’ve got to get down to it‘. Nahawa Doumbia ‘s existence seems miraculous proof! Her mother died giving birth to her. Her father, so upset by grief, wanted to bury the cursed infant with her dead mother.

She was saved by her grandmother, whose cow, however, was too old to produce milk. Another cow, found in extremis, was struck dead by lightning. The grandmother had to beg milk from other village new mothers.

Nahawa Doumbia ‘s musical career took off in 1981 when she won Radio France International’s New Talents competition. Nahawa Doumbia ‘s artistry is faithful to Wassoulou (south of Bamako) musical tradition – forceful vocals backed with traditional and modern instruments and rhythms – guitars, balafon, djembes, choruses, etc.

The songs, mostly composed by Nahawa Doumbia herself, even though illiterate, tend to praise socially positive behavior, and excoriate negative habits – e.g. the first track on ‘Yaala’ praises ‘those who refuse to slumber in laziness, be they peasants, traders, teachers or even djembe players...’

North American listeners, unlikely to grasp the significance of the lyrics, will focus on the musical prowess – constantly in evidence!

Buy Yaala



El Hadj N’Diaye – Thiaroye
El Hadj N’Diaye

Thiaroye (Siggi Musique, 2002)

This is a wonderful CD! It features a Senegalese troubadour, singing his own compositions, accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar, backed by another guitarist and light percussion.

If I had not read the Spring/Summer number of ‘Songlines’ (a most impressive British ‘world’ music magazine), I would probably never have heard of this gentleman, which would be a most regrettable oversight. The very favorable review I read is entirely justified! N’Diaye has a powerful, moving and definitely memorable voice, and the music is delightful.

Thiaroye is apparently a slum of Dakar, where N’Diaye grew up and still lives. He works for a highly regarded local NGO, ENDA (ENvironment, Development, Action), a leader in the campaign against desertification and other related socio-economic problems.

The themes of the songs will delight developmental activists: excessive urbanization, abusive international financial institutions, AIDS, identity crisis – concerns that plague not just Senegal, but also most of the African continent.

The liner notes are excellent, with the lyrics in Wolof, French and English, allowing listeners to grasp fully both the intensity and the poetry of N’Diaye’s appealing activism.

El Hadj N’Diaye sets a fine example, adding yet another admirable and worthy element to the incredible cornucopia of Senegalese music!

Buy Thiaroye


Maloya Rebel

Danyel Waro – Foutan Fonnkér
Danyel Waro

Foutan Fonnkér (Cobalt 09293-2, 2000)

Danyel Waro is a real character from Réunion – still part of France, even though lost in the Indian ocean – where he is probably the island’s most famous singer of maloya (a local blues of the once enslaved plantation workers, with a rolling beat similar to the better known sega, a traditional regional dance rhythm), accompanied by traditional and mainly percussive instruments made in his own workshop.

Danyel Waro is a staunch island nationalist, jailed in France as a young man for 2 years for refusing to do his compulsory military service. Judging from the lyrics of the songs summarised in the notes, he remains very much ‘insoumis’, a rebel protesting against metropolitan French control and arrogance in Réunion.

The title track, cautiously translated as ‘caustic poem’ (any word with ‘fout’ in it is much more vulgar!), is a particularly elegant and sarcastic diatribe. Overall, the results are very appealing – a clear tenor voice, solidly supported by chorus and a wide range of intriguing percussion.

How I wish I understood creole, to appreciate fully the subtleties and wit of DW’s mockeries! I have to be content just with enjoying the seductive package DW and his collaborators have skillfully created.

To my great surprise, the photos of DW show a slim white with a great mop of fair hair! If you are a fan of genuine roots music, this CD, recorded at a live 1996 concert in Germany, during one of DW’s rare excursion from Réunion, is a must!

Buy Foutan Fonnkér in North America

Buy Foutan Fonnkér in Europe



Téofilo Chantre – Rodatempo
Téofilo Chantre

Rodatempo (Lusafrica, 2000): 12 tracks, 61 minutes

Téofilo Chantre is an accomplished composer, lyricist, guitar player and singer who emigrated with his family from Cape Verde in his early teens to settle in Paris, where he soon developed a reputation in the Cape Verdean diaspora as a songwriter and singer of traditional mornas and coladeiras – the local version of bittersweet sodade, or ‘inconsolable nostalgia of homeland’ (liner notes).

He wrote 3 of the songs included by Cesaria Evora in her hit album ‘Miss Perfumado’. Rodatempo, his third album, is a gracious and attractive selection of his presumably recent work, often in collaboration with his father, a poet, and revealing his appealing fusion of musical influences – such as Brazilian bossa nova, and jazz – with Cape Verdean rhythms. His voice is described quite aptly as ‘velvety’, and weaves masterfully with the backing music (acoustic guitar, accordion, strings and percussion).

The overall impression is of lyrical gentility with wafts of ‘elegant melancholy’ and latent sensuality. The liner notes contain the lyrics, with helpful summaries in both French and English.

Listen to samples and buy the album in North America

Buy the album in Europe