Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Artist Profiles: Alex Caton

Alex Caton

Alex Caton grew up in England, Scotland and the East Coast of the United States. She first put a bow in her hands at the age of four and played violin through her college years at Binghamton University. As her interest in Irish and Old Time music grew, she changed her tunes (and her instrument name) and began playing and teaching fiddle on the side. But it wasn’t until she moved to the Charlottesville, Virginia area to work on a PhD in Anthropology that she found her true calling.

Alex fell in love with the music scene in Charlottesville and soon cast aside her career as a professional archaeologist (she worked up and down the East Coast of the United States, as well as in West Africa) to focus on fiddle music full-time.

Since 2001, Alex has lived in Gordonsville, Virginia, teaching Irish, Old Time and Gypsy music out of her home and playing with a wide variety of local groups including the Irish band, The Ryegrass Rollers.

Alex Caton

In 2003, Alex founded the all-girl gypsy group Las Gitanas, a precursor to Verbunk, the “groovy gypsy” band she started in 2007. But gypsy music didn’t replace Alex’s love for Old Time and Irish music—it just enhanced what she brought to the other Charlottesville groups she played in: Odd Legged Jenny (Irish-Americana), The Two Dollar Bills (Old Time) and an acoustic roots duo with Chris Leva, lead singer and guitarist for the Guano Boys.

In 2005, Alex started a fiddle camp held one weekend in August at the Brazenhead Inn in Mingo, West Virginia. What started as a small group of interested students has grown into a popular gathering for adults and children, beginners and pros, where Alex teaches different fiddle styles and other instructors come to share their expertise in guitar, bass, banjo Irish drum, voice and dance.

Alex’s self-titled CD was released June 7th, 2007 at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville. Chris Leva plus aclaimed vocalist and guitarist Pat Egan were just a couple of talented musicians who joined Alex on stage.

Alex Caton

From her base in Central Virginia, Alex Caton has a custom-built barn/music studio for classes and concerts, a coop full of chickens and huge garden.

Discography:

Alex Caton (2007)
The Sinners and the Saved (2009)
Swimming to Lindsey (2013)
Never Take a Daisy Down the Mine (2015)

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Artist Profiles: Solju

Solju

Solju is a Finnish group led by Ulla Pirttijärvi-Länsman and her daughter Hilda Länsman. They are Sámi musicians from Utsjoki, Lapland, which is the northernmost municipality in Finland.

Ulla and Hilda bring together their heritage of northern Sámi language and traditional chant, known as yoik, with a desire for new and innovative music, providing a dialogue of traditional and modern Sámi culture.

Solju

Solju’s debut album “Odda Áigodat” (New Times) was released in April 2018. In May 2019, Ođđa Áigodat won an award in Canada, The Indigenous Music Awards (IMA) – Best International Indigenous Release 2019.

Hildá Länsman is also a member of Finnish duo VILDÁ, featuring accordionist Viivi Maria Saarenkylä.

Discography:

Odda Áigodat (Bafe’s Factory, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: VILDÁ

VILDÁ

VILDÁ is a Finnish duo that performs a unique mix of mystical joiks and sounds of the Sami people together with vibrant accordion. VILDÁ includes Hildá Länsman on vocals, joik, frame drum; and
Viivi Maria Saarenkylä on accordion and backing vocals.

When Hildá and Viivi listened to each other’s music for the first time, they came up with the idea of combining traditional yoik and accordion.

Hildá Länsman is a rising yoik singer from Utsjoki who has performed at the New Music Competition and at the Helsinki Music House’s great concert arena. She won the Risteys (Crossroads) award for her vocals at Finland’s first Ethno Gala in 2017.

VILDÁ

Viivi Maria Saarenkylä is an internationally acclaimed accordion player. She was declared accordionist of the Year in Finland in 2018.

Arctic fells, frosty winds, wide waters and deep forests. That is our home – the North. For us it is the birthplace of our attitude as well as many memories, a source of inspiration, stories and tradition, a vast play ground full of endless trails to travel. “

Discography:

Vildaluodda / Wildprint (Bafe’s Factory, 2019)

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Artist Profiles: The Heptones

The Heptones

The Heptones are one of reggae’s legendary groups, led by the charismatic Leroy Sibbles along with Earl Morgan and Barry Llewellyn. They became huge hitmakers while at the top Jamaican label, Studio One. After recording numerous rock steady anthems, they were also one of the few groups to make a successful transition from rock steady to reggae.

Deep in the Roots, released in 2004 was recorded at Kingston’s famed Channel One Studio by top roots producer Niney the Observer, with backing by the Soul Syndicate band. Features previously-unreleased extended mixes, plus rare tracks.

Co-founder Barry Llewellyn died on November 23, 2011, in Kingston, Jamaica.

Discography:

The Heptones (Studio One, 1967)
On Top (Studio One, 1968)
Black is Black (Studio One, 1970)
Freedom Line (Studio One, 1971)
Book of Rules (Jaywax, 1973)
Cool Rasta (Trojan Records, 1976)
Night Food (Island Records, 1976)
Party Time (Island Records, 977)
Better Days (Third World, 1978)
Good Life ( Greensleeves Records, 1979)
King Of My Town (Jackal Records, 1979)
Mr. Skabeana (Cha Cha Music, 1980)
One Step Ahead (Sonic Sounds, 1981)
On The Run (Shanachie, 1982)
Back on Top (Vista Sounds, 1983)
In A Dancehall Style (Vista Sounds, 1983)
Swing Low (Burning Sounds, 1985)
Changing Times (Moving Target, 1986)
A Place Called Love (Moving Target, 1987)
Sing Good Vibes (1988)
Mr. “T” (1991)
Observer’s Style (1994)
Pressure! (Real Authentic Sound, 1995)
Rebel Love (2016)

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Artist Profiles: Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo

Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo

Producer, composer and guitarist Julio Antonio Montoro Curbelo Julio studied the Cuban tres as well as the guitar at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory in Havana. He graduated in 1991.

While at school, he performed in jazz festivals playing with various bands. In 1993 he joined the group of singer Mireya Escalante on keyboard and guitar and also as musical director.

In 1996 he joined the group Kemell y la Barriada as pianist, recording several albums and participated in various international tours. He toured Europe with several Cuban ensembles, including Reve, Charanga Habanera, and later joined Felix Baloy of Afro-Cuban All Stars.

Since 2013 he has worked with Edesio Alejando and his son Cristian performing in Cuba and producing music television and film scores.

In 2014, Julio Antonio became the musical director and arranger of the band Tomezclao. They toured the UK, performed at Glastonbury festival and produced 3 CDs for Tumi Music.

He has worked as the guitarist with vocalist Laritza Bacallao, performing at the “Cuba Mucho Gusto” festival in Brasilia, Brazil. While in Brazil, he also worked with the famous Brazilian pianist Joao Donato at Club Do Choro.

In 2014 Julio Antonio released his debut album Alma Latina with Tumi Music. This was quickly followed by the CD Guajira Mas Guajira with Eliades Ochoa. In 2017 he set up his Alma Latina Studio, where he recorded albums for Candido Fabre, Reina y Real, Arturo Jorge among others.

In 2017, he participated as the guitarist and tres player in the CD “Tronco Viejo” with Johnny Ventura and also worked with Silvio Rodriguez.

In 2018 he recorded the “Black Roots” album.

He currently lives in Havana with his daughter “Sady” and his wife. His daughter, 4 years old at the time, contributed towards the Black Roots CD.

Discography:

Alma Latina (Tumi Music, 2014)
Guajira Mas Guajira (Tumi, 2015)
Black Roots (Tumi, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Gasper Nali

Gasper Nali

Malawian one-man-act Gasper Nali is a Kwela roots musician from the small town of Nkhata Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi. He plays a one-string, home-made, 3-meter long Babatoni bass guitar with a stick and an empty beer bottle, along with a cow skin kick drum. With this arrangement, he creates amazing, dance-inducing Afro Beats.

Gasper Nali’s unique style of music has received an extraordinary amount of online attention after a video of him playing by the lake shore went viral with more than 18 million views. He has been featured by CNN, jammed with Joss Stone, appeared on Wired for Sound – Malawi, and has also been featured on BBC 6 Music.

Discography:

Abale Ndikuwuzeni ‎(Spare Dog Records, 2015)
Zoona Malawi ‎(Spare Dog Records, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Wesli

Wesli

Wesley Louissaint, better known as Wesli, was born on September 6, 1980 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The Canada-based award-winning Haitian guitarist and singer aims to give a new mainstream life to rhythms and instruments that he says have been neglected as Haiti faces an increasing amount of global commercial music and culture.

He weaves contemporary messages into traditional forms and keeps a wide range of roots percussion at the heart of his songs. “Each Haitian roots rhythm reflects different situations and requires different drums and instruments” Wesli explains. “One unique thing we do in all these genres is dance! We dance to everything in Haiti.

Wesli

Wesli also supports aspiring young Haitian musicians from at-risk backgrounds via a school he opened in Port-au-Prince in 2014.

Discography:

Kouraj (WUP, 2009)
Liberté dans le noir (WUP, 2011)
ImmiGrand (WUP, 2015)
Ayiti Étoile Nouvelle (WUP Wes Urban Productions, 2015)
ImmiGrand Deluxe (2017)
Rapadou Kreyol (2018)

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Artist Profiles: Jah9

Jah9

Janine Elizabeth Cunningham, better known as Jah9, was born in Montego Bay on May 23, 1983. She is a Jamaican singer with a captivating vocal style that has been likened to Ella Fitzgerald, and a contemporary freshness similar to Erykah Badu. Jah9 has become an icon for the Jamaican movement known as ‘The Reggae Revival’. Her philosophy, spirituality and unique ‘jazz on dub’ style has traveled across Europe and beyond since her debut album New Name launched in 2013 to wide acclaim.

A certified yoga instructor, Jah9 compels her audiences during her live sets to pause, breathe deeply and feel empowered. Her shows, which she describes as “dark magic”, promise to raise the audience’s awareness and call everyone in attendance to a spiritual awakening.

Jah9

Discography:

New Name (Rorystonelove, 2013)
9 (VP Records, 2016)
In The Midst Of The Storm, with Mad Professor (VP Records, 2017)
Feelings ‎(VP Records, 2018)

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Artist profiles: Taj Weekes

Taj Weekes

Taj Weekes is a singer-songwriter who tells tales of poverty, oppression hopelessness and rejection, counterweighing them each with a message of Rastafari faith and spirituality. On his debut CD Hope and Doubt Taj sings about life’s struggles.

Born the youngest of ten children, Taj Weekes grew up on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. He became aware of the disparity between the affluent tourists and the striving locals early on. Religion and music were the two main salvations for the Weekes family, St. Lucians of Ethiopian descent and the songs they learned at church often followed them home. “It was like a Caribbean Von Trapp family. Someone was always singing in some corner of the house or entertaining the rest of us,” explains Weekes. While church music played a big role in Taj’s life so did the sounds that emanated from his stereo: everything from The Mighty Sparrow to Paul Simon to Nat King Cole. Taj himself began singing by age five and started composing his own calypso music by the time he was eleven years old.

When his role model and older brother Desmond nicknamed MPLA discovered Rastafarianism Taj quickly had his own spiritual awakening. Yet by his late teens Taj found the island’s 238 square miles too stifling and grew weary of its rigid dichotomies. He headed for the vast opportunity-filled North American mainland to pursue a music career: first to Toronto and then to New York where he found a home.

Taj formed a band and named it Adowa in tribute to his Ethiopian grandfather and to an 1896 battle in which Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II thwarted off Italian invaders, a milestone in Rastafarian history. He has been cultivating a following in New York City ever since singing his stories at venues such as S.O.B.’s, Lion’s Den, the Apollo and Irving Plaza.

Taj Weekes – Photo by TryTing

In 2019, Weekes released 1.5 Is Still Alive featuring Kendel Hippolyte, Linda Chocolate Berthier, Zara McFarlane, Razia Said, Aaron Silk, Bushman, Kenyatta Hill, Jafe Paulino, Sidney Mills

Discography:

Hope & Doubt (AlphaPocket Records/Jatta Records, 2005)
Deidem (Jatta Records, 2008)
A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen (Jatta Records, 2010)
Pariah In Transit live (Jatta Records 2013)
Love Herb & Reggae (Jatta Records, 2016)
1.5 Is Still Alive (Jatta Records, 2019)

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Artist Profiles: Sivan Perwer

Sivan Perwer

Sivan Perwer was born December 23, 1955 in Siverek, Turkey. One of his childhood memories is that the whole neighborhood used to demand from him to sing for them in frequent occasions: “Sivan please sing for us, we’ll give you candies and sweets…” The people around him really loved his singing and he grew up with this encouraging atmosphere. By the time he was in high school people were asking him to make records. At that time this was not in his mind; he was involved with furthering his studies to help his Kurdish people. Besides, recordings could only be done in Turkish, not in his native language Kurdish.

Yet he kept singing. Songs were about friendship, humanity, freedom and peace. Every new song brought a new message. From 1975 on he became a protest singer. When asked why he did not choose fame and fortune he answered: “I want my songs to bring a message about my people, about their reality, their situation, their suffering, social misery, about occupation. I must give Kurdish Music a face, a personality. I want to serve my people with my music.”

Still Sivan did not get a real musical education from the start. He was studying mathematics. Yet gradually he taught himself music by studying other peoples’ music and developing his musicianship. He has become the best known Kurdish musician in the world, accompanying himself on the tanbur, Kurdish 3-course lute. Sivan Perwer is also a highly accomplished composer.

At this time he has recorded over 30 cassettes, records, numerous CDs, film and video music. He has become a teacher and inspiration for many Kurdish singers; but especially for his son. His wife Gulistan is also a well-known Kurdish singer.

He is surely banned in the radio and television of the region. As a passionate defender of his people and their music, Sivan travels the world tirelessly, against all efforts to stifle his music. Political songs are a major part of his repertoire but it is in traditional epic and love songs that Sivan excels unlike any other. With 24 albums and more than 20 million cassettes sold, Sivan Perwer is the voice of his people. Many Kurds used to hide their cassettes: after listening to them they were wrapped up in plastic and buried again. In Iraq the possession of a Sivan Perwer cassette was a capital offense.

His voice, cries of love travel many lands, singing on behalf of the silent, he has become the mythical minstrel of an entire people and one of its symbols of cultural resistance.

In 2003 a video came out with concert footage from Perwer’s performances in Duhok, Akre, Zaxo, Dereluk, Lales (Hanke) and other many cities.

By now Sivan Perwer has become a living legend, giving performances all over the world, participating in solidarity concerts, crossing continents with multi-cultural events. Each one of his recordings is different and unique. Spanning the range from traditional to folk, from classical to protest songs to songs of freedom and friendship, in various Kurdish dialects.

Discography:

Govenda Azadîxwazan (1974)
Hevalê Bargiran im (1974)
Herne Pêş (1975)
Ey Ferat (1976)
Kî ne Em (1977)
Le Dilbere (1978)
Hay Dil (1979)
Gelê Min Rabe (1982)
Agirî (1983)
Bilbilo / Ferzê (1984)
Dotmam (1985)
Naze (1986)
Helebçe (1987)
Xewna Min / Qasimlo (Ses, 1988)
Zembîlfiroş (1989)
Ya Star (Ses, 1995)
Hêviya Te (1999)
Roj û Heyv (2000)
Sare (2004)
Cane Cane (2009)

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