Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Artist Profiles: The Unthanks

The Unthanks

The Unthanks, from Tyneside, are one of the biggest names to come out of the English folk scene in the last years. The group was formed in 2004. Their stunning arrangements, haunting vocals and absolute dedication to sourcing, arranging and telling the stories of these isles is second to none.

The Unthanks is a family act for sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank. Rachel married pianist, producer, arranger and composer, Adrian McNally. Even though McNally has scored symphony scale arrangements for The Unthanks, all three are musically untrained, and put their collective musical vocabulary down to the music they grew up listening to, rather than playing, for which both McNally and the Unthank sisters have parents to thank for.

Using the traditional and folk music of the North East of England as a starting point, the influence of Steve Reich, Miles Davis, Sufjan Stevens, Robert Wyatt, Antony & The Johnsons, King Crimson and Tom Waits can be heard in the band’s albums.

In 2012, The Unthanks released 3 project albums in 12 months, under the banner ‘Diversions’ – a reimagining of the work of Robert Wyatt and Antony Hegarty, an orchestral scale adventure with National Champions Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, and a live soundtrack to a film about the shipbuilding industry.
The Unthnaks released four volumes of the Diverions series during 2011-2017.

In 2018, The Unthanks released a trilogy of albums with a poetic theme titled Lines.

Discography:

Here’s the Tender Coming (Rabble Rouser Music, 2009)
Last (Rabble Rouser Music, 2011)
The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons (Rabble Rouser Music, 2011)
The Unthanks with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band (Rabble Rouser Music, 2012)
Songs from the Shipyards (Rabble Rouser Music, 2012)
Mount the Air ( Rabble Rouser Music, 2015
Archive Treasures 2005–2015 (2015)
The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake and The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake: Extras (Rabble Rouser Music, 2017)
Lines Part One: Lillian Bilocca (Rabble Rouser Music, 2018)
Lines Part Two: World War One (Rabble Rouser Music, 2018)
Lines Part Three: Emily Brontë (Rabble Rouser Music, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Mama Sana

Mama Sana

Singer-songwriter and valiha musician Mama Sana was born in 1900 in Madagascar. She was a charismatic artist, dressed in traditional clothing with coins braided into her hair. Sana earned national and international popularity throughout her career, thanks to her innovative valiha style and her mix of distinguished by her mix of traditional Tandroy and Sakalava musical styles.

Mama Sana recorded various solo albums before her death in 1997. Her music was sampled by French electronic band Deep Forest for their third album, Comparsa. After her death, Sana’s house was turned into a museum and a cultural association was founded in her honor to promote traditional music of the Sakalava and Tandroy people.

Discography:

The legendary Mama Sana (Shanachie, 1992)
Music from Madagascar (Shanachie, 1995)
Madagascar: Anthologie des voix. (MCM/Inedit, 1997)
Madagascar Musique des Sakalava Menabe, Hommage à Mama Sana (MCM/Inedit, 2000)

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Artist Profile: Achu Normad

Achu Normad

Ndifor Achu, better known as Achu Normad, was born on April 10, 1988 in Cameroon. He grew up in the village of Mankon in Bamenda, Cameroon, Achu Normad, always felt his heartbeat synchronizing with the drumbeats played by the village dance groups around him.

The son of a guitarist, Achu soon picked up the guitar and started playing to these African rhythms. Soon after, jazz music caught his attention and the harmonic minor swing feel captivated him. He started experimenting by combining the African rhythm guitar playing style with Latin American influences and a dash of jazz. All these, coupled with his soulful voice, have enabled him to be able to tell his story to the world.

In the fall of 2014, he emigrated to the United States, where he was finally able to put into motion what he had been grooming. He created a band in Lexington, Kentucky where he worked on mixing the West African rhythms of Makossa and Bikutsi with Cuban jazz and soulful vocals. Two years after, he released his debut album Alieh, released under the record label Akumba Music.

Achu Normad currently resides in Kentucky, United States and tours the United States and Europe.

Discography:

Alieh (Akumba Music, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Shahen-Shah-e-Qawwali (The Brightest Star in Qawwali) is a title reserved for the leading voice and spirit of qawwali, the devotional music of Sufi Islam. No other term better describes the late Qawwali master.

Born on October 13, 1948 in Lyallpur in the Punjab province of Pakistan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan made his first recording in 1973, beginning an astonishing recording career spanning over 20 years and 50 albums. As one of the Indian subcontinent’s brightest talents, he incorporated elements of traditional classical khyal repertoire in his performance, producing his own unique style – and broadening the appeal of qawwali to listeners of all faiths.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s father was also one of the great qawwals of his time. With the best of intentions, the father attempted to persuade his son to become a doctor instead of following the family’s 500-year tradition of qawwali performance. But, even his father’s wishes could not keep the young Nusrat from the exquisite art formas a child, he eavesdropped on his father’s music classes to learn the fundamentals. It was only after his father’s death, when Nusrat was 17, that he began to perform in public, joining his uncle’s group and before long becoming one of the most popular qawwali singers in Pakistan.

Mesmerized by one of Nusrat’s live performances, Peter Gabriel invited him to perform at WOMAD during the 1980s, bringing the beauty and hypnotic intensity of the qawwali master’s gift to Western audiences for the first time. The response was overwhelming and resulted in a longstanding alliance between Nusrat and Peter Gabriel’s Real World label.

ShahenN-Shah, his first recording for Real World, marked the beginning of Nusrat’s growing influence and celebrity outside Pakistan. In attempts to make qawwali more accessible to Western ears, he recorded Mustt Mustt in collaboration with Canada’s atmospheric composer/guitarist Michael Brook, replacing traditional songs with classical vocal exercises backed by Western rhythms. A-later remix of Mustt Mustt by Massive Attack led to a surprising club hit through Great Britain and the United States.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Over the next few years, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan became an awe-inspiring and globally powerful world music force. His music has inspired some of this century’s greatest filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone, and has been incorporated into soundtracks for such films as Dead Man Walking and The Last Temptation of Christ. Khan performed with music icons from all genres — including Peter Gabriel and Joan Osborne At the time of his death in 1997, he was due to record with Bjork and Luciano Pavarotti.

From archives in Nusrat’s hometown of Lahore, Pakistan, Real World discovered studio recordings that were released for the very first time. The first of two high-quality archival releases came out with the title Dust to Gold. It presents the great innovator and bearer of tradition at the height of his powers.

The title Dust to Gold reflects Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s philosophy of life, as he considered himself a pinch of dust from a holy place.

In 2002, Real World released Body and Soul, a recording made in Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s hometown of Lahore shortly before his untimely death. The recording was retrieved from his family archive and much work was required to recreate the power of the original performance. Mixing engineer Stuart Bruce worked on the original master tapes for many weeks at Real World Studios. The recorded masters were very inconsistent and it was difficult to assess the strenth of the material due to the random technical nature of the recordings. It was necessary to re-balance the voice and instruments and correct the anomalies and distortion. The whole album was then remixed and remastered. Through this work, Real World was able to restore the energy of the original performance to enable the listener to get as close as possible to the full effect of Nusrat’s singing.

Partial Discography:

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Mujahid Mubarak Ali Khan (EMI Pakistan Ltd., 1978)
Mehfil-E-Qawwali (Polydor, 1980)
Nit Khair Mangan (Star Cassette, 1981)
En Concert À Paris (Ocora, 1986)
Best Of Qawwal And Party Volume One (WOMAD Records, 1986)
The Ecstatic Qawwali (JVC, 1987)
En Concert À Paris Vol. 2 (Ocora, 1985)
Greatest Hits Vol 2 (Serengeti Sirocco, 1988)
Greatest Hits Vol 3 (Serengeti Sirocco, 1988)
En Concert À Paris – 4 (Ocora 558685, 1988)
ShahenN-Sha h (Real World Records, 1989)
Mustt Mustt (Real World Records, 1990)
Qawwali: The Vocal Art Of The Sufis II (JVC, 1990)
Vol 4 Punjabi (Star Records, 1990)
The Day, The Night, The Dawn, The Dusk (Shanachie, 1991)
House Of Shah (Oriental Star Agencies, 1991)
Magic Touch (Star Records, 1991)
Dam Dam Ali Ali Vol 9 (Oriental Star Agencies, 1991)
Live At Islamabad (Rhythms of The East, 1992)
Mae Ni Mae (Oriental Star Agencies, 1992)
Sham Savere (Oriental Star Agencies, 1992)
Naat (Oriental Star Agencies, 1992)
Traditional Sufi Qawwalis Vol I (Navras, 1993)
Traditional Sufi Qawwalis – Live In London Vol II (Navras, 1993)
Sanam – Live In Concert (Star Compact Disc, 1993
Kali Kali Zulfon (Oriental Star Agencies, 1993)
Allah Hoo Live In Concert Vol 25 (Oriental Star Agencies, 1993)
Akhian Udeek Diyan – Live In Concert Vol.75 (Star Cassette, 1993)
Bandit Queen (Milan, 1994)
Traditional Sufi Qawwalis – Live In London Vol IV (Navras, 1994)
Sanson Ki Mala (Jaro Medien, 1994)
Live In London III (Navras, 1994)
Yadan (Star Compact Disc, 1994)
Vol.47 House Of Shah 3 (Oriental Star Agencies, 1994)
Live In Concert – Washington University USA (Star Compact Disc, 1994)
Revelation (Interra Records, 1995)
Dum Mast Mast – The Best Of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (T-Series, 1995)
Sangam Sonic Enterprises, 1996
Night Song (Real World Records, 1996)
Mast Nazron Se (Super Cassettes Industries, 1996)
ISHQ (Star Cassette, 1996)
Unki Gali Mein Aana Jana (T-Series, 1996)
Loay Loay Aaja Mahi Vol-56 (Star Records, 1996)
Ali Ka Girveedah (Magnasound, 1996)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan & Michael Brook: Remixed – Star Rise (Real World Records, 1997)
Allah Hoo Allah Hoo (T-Series, 1997)
…Aur Pyar Ho Gaya His Master’s Voice, 1997
Pakistan – En Concert A Paris – 5CD (Ocora, 1997)
Only One (Anarkali Records, 1997)
Sweet Pain: Pride Of Pakistan Volume 4 (Sonic Enterprises, 1997
Ecstacy (Terrascape TRCD 4110-2, 1997
Novum Gaudium, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Oriente/Occidente (Materiali Sonori, 1997
The Prophet Speaks (M.I.L. Multimedia, 1997)
Jewel (Terrascape, 1997)
Michael Brook & Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Night Songs Remix (Sonic Enterprises, 1997)
Live – Greatest Hits Ever (RPG Music, 1997)
Jani Door Gaye Volume 7 (Sonic Enterprises, 1997)
Live In New York City (M.I.L. Multimedia, 1997)
Salaam (RPG Music, 1998)
Kachche Dhaage (Tips, 1998)
Swan Song (EMI, 1998)
Pride Of Pakistan Volume 26: Ustad Qawwal – Last Recording 1997 (Sonic Enterprises, 1998)
Best Of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Remix (T-Series, 1998)
Imprint (Hi Horse Records, 1998)
Allah And The Prophet (Exworks Records, 1998)
Live At The Royal Albert Hall (EMI Music Arabia, 1998)
Missives from Allah (MPG, 1999)
Visions Of Allah (ExWorks Records, 1999)
Passion (NYC Music, 1999)
Opus (Vanstory, 2000)
The Final Studio Recordings (American Recordings, 2001)
Jaag Uthe Hain Dard Purane Album 33 (Timeline Records 2001)
The Final Moment (Birdman Records, 2001)
Les Plus Grands Concerts (EMI, 2001)
Sufi Qawwalis (ARC Music, 2002)
Tun Khayaal Ton Wi Sohni (Nupur Audio, 2002)
The Master Of Qawwali (Latisphere, 2002)
Poetry Of Bulle Shah In The Voice Of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Nupur, 2002)
Parchaiyan (Saregama, 2003)
Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Qawwali Vol: 43 (Sonic Enterprises, 2003)
A Sufi Supreme (Manteca, 2003)
Qawwal Volume 42 (Sonic Enterprises, 2003)
Mele Ne Vichhar Jana Volume 91 (Oriental Star Agencies, 2004)
Yusaf Zulaikha Vol. 98 (Star Compact Disc, 2004)
Sufi Soul (Saregama, 2005)
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (Deluxe, 2006)
Dub Qawwali (Six Degrees Records, 2007)
Dub Qawwali Remixes (Six Degrees Records, 2008)
Mast Qalandar (Navras, 2010)
Shahen-Shah (Real World Records, 2012)
Best Of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Vol. I (Sony Music, 2012)

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Artist Profiles: Danças Ocultas

Danças Ocultas – Photo by Pedro Claudio

Danças Ocultas is an ensemble comprising four accordionists from Agueda near Porto, in Portugal. The quartet is among the most innovative and most exciting representatives of contemporary Portuguese music. Their concept is based on tranquil, lyrical, almost traditional music, performed with only four diatonic accordions.

The quartet’s name, Hidden Dances, has nothing to do with mysterious domains but instead means that Dancas Ocultas play music for dances that have yet to be invented. Portuguese fado plays a minor role in the ensemble’s sound; the band’s inspiration comes instead from traditional village music, Tango Nuevo and the chamber music exemplified by the Russian Terem Quartet.

Dancas Ocultas neither engage in virtuosity competitions, nor do they play pure folk music. “Impressionist Folk” is perhaps the best definition for this timeless art music: minimalist, thoughtful sound designs full of unanticipated turns and gracious melancholy.

One of the first supporters of Danças Ocultas was Gabriel Gomes, the accordionist of Portugal’s most famous world music band Madredeus. He encouraged them to explore their own sound worlds.

Dancas Ocultas’ collaboration with choreographer Paul Ribeiro and the Gulbenkian Ballet, regular appearances at international festivals and a highly acclaimed showcase at the World Music Expo (WOMEX) in 2010 have resulted in wide international recognition.

The line-up includes Artur Fernandes on diatonic accordion; Francisco Miguel on diatonic accordion; Filipe Cal on diatonic accordion; and Filipe Ricardo on diatonic accordion.

Discography:

Danças Ocultas (EMI VC, 1996)
(EMI VC, 1998)
Travessa da Espera (L’Empreinte Digitale, 2002)
Pulsar (Magic Music, 2004)
Tarab (Numerica, 2009)
Alento (iplay / Galileo MC, 2011)
Arco, EP (Uguru, 2014)
Amplitude (Uguru/Galileo Music, 2016)
Dentro desse mar (Galileo Music, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens was born February 21, 1977 in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is a renowned multi-instrumentalist, composer, singer-songwriter and researcher, best known as one of the founders of the country, blues and old-time music band Carolina Chocolate Drops, where she was the lead singer, violinist, and banjo player.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ album Genuine Negro Jig won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.

One of the essential part of Giddens’ work is her research of folk instruments and traditions of the African-American diaspora.

Rhiannon Giddens – Photo by Dan Winters

A MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient, Rhiannon has performed for the Obama’s at the White House and acted in two seasons of the hit television series Nashville.

In addition to her solo recordings and her albums with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon recorded Out On the Ocean: Music of the British Isles (2004) and Northern Lights (2005) with Gaelwynd; Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes (2014) as The New Basement Tapes; and Songs of Our Native Daughters (Smithsonian Folkways), a collaborative album that tells the stories of historic black womanhood and survival. Rhiannon has European American, African American and Native American background.

In 2016, Rhiannon received the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.

in 2019 she collaborated with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. they released an album titled

Dicography:

With Carolina Chocolate Drops:

Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind (Music Maker, 2006)
The Great Debaters Soundtrack, with Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharon Jones and Teenie Hodges (Atlantic, 2007)
Heritage (Dixiefrog, 2008)
Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson (Music Maker, 2009)
Genuine Negro Jig (Nonesuch, 2010)
Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii EP (Nonesuch, 2011)
Leaving Eden (Nonesuch, 2012)

As Rhiannon Giddens:

We Rise, EP (NC Music Love Army records, 2014)
Tomorrow Is My Turn (Nonesuch, 2015)
Factory Girl, EP (Nonesuch, 2015)
Live at Jazzfest 2016 (MunckMix, 2016)
Freedom Highway (Nonesuch, 2017)
Live at Jazzfest 2017 (MunckMix, 2017)
There Is No Other, with Francesco Turrisi (Nonesuch, 2019)

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Artist Profiles: Juan Habichuela Nieto

Juan Habichuela Nieto

Juan Torres Fajardo, better known as Juan Habichuela Nieto was born in Granada, Spain on May 31, 1989. He is a renowned guitarist and composer who belongs to one of the most important flamenco dynasties. He is the grandson of Juan Carmona ‘Habichuela’, an indisputable maestro guitarist who passed away in 2016.

At the age of 15, Juan was already playing guitar, accompanying the late Enrique Morente, one of the finest singers of his generation, performing on the best stages in the world.

Juan Habichuela Nieto

Since then he has worked with great artists like Pitingo, Estrella Morente, Jose Enrique Morente, his uncle Antonio Carmona, Juan de Juan, Antonio Canales, Carlos Benavent and Jorge Pardo among others.

In 2011, he received the Bordón de Oro award from the Cante de las Minas Festival.

Juan Habichuela Nieto’s first solo album was “Mi alma a solas” (Universal Music Spain). It features well-known guest artists such as Estrella Morente, Marina Heredia, Antonio Carmona, Lolita, Rosario Flores, etc.

His second album “Sentimientos de mi ser” (Universal Music Spain) was released in July of 2017.

Discography:

Mi alma a solas (Universal Music Spain, 2014)
Sentimientos de mi ser (Universal Music Spain, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Justin Vali

Justin Vali

Justin Vali was born in 1964. He is one of the best-known valiha (bamboo tube zither) players in Madagascar. He also plays other traditional instruments such as the marovany box zither.

Vali appeared on various compilations in the late 1980s. In 1995 he released Ny Marina (The Truth) on Real World Records. In 1999 he put out The Sunshine Within, a collaboration with Paddy Bush.

In 2008, Vali recorded with Eric Manana, Fenoamby, Régis Gizavo, and Dama Mahaleo, all leading Malagasy musicians under the name Malagasy All Stars.

Vali lives in Paris and performs regularly on the international world music festival circuit.

Discography:

Rambala (Silex, 1991)
The Truth – Ny Marina (Real World Records, 1995)
Valiha (Cinq Planètes, 2005)
Madagascar All Stars (Cinq Planètes, 2008)

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Artist Profiles: AKA Trio

AKA Trio

AKA Trio is a music ensemble that brings together three skilled musicians: Italian guitarist Antonio Forcione, kora master Seckou Keita and Brazilian percussion wizard Adriano Adewale.

AKA Trio’s style combines Mediterranean, Senegalese, Brazilian, and jazz influences.

The trio released its debut album titled Joy (Bendigedig, May 2019) on May 24th, 2019 on the bendigedig label.

Discography:

Joy  (Bendigedig, May 2019)

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Artist Profiles: Altai Kai

Altai Kai

Founded in 1997, Altai Kai is an ensemble of throat singers from the Republic of Altai. With an eye to preserving the traditional music of the Republic of Altai, the group revels in performing various styles of throat singing known as kai. Their performances often encompass songs of nature, folk heroes, dancing rhythms, and shamanic mysteries.

Altai Kai has performed at WOMEX 2007 and WOMAD. They are members of the Folklore Union of Russia, and the International Organization of Folk Art and the group tours internationally.

Altai Kai’s members are throat singer, producer and artistic director Urmat Yntaev (founder of the original band Karaty-Khan), throat singer and musician Alash Topchin, throat singer Eduard Sogonokov and throat singer, topshuur and ikili player Aidyn Orsulov.

Discography:

Where Altai Is In Rise – Musical Traditions Of Altai People (2002)
XXI (XXI Century)(2005)
Khan Altai (2005)
Made In USA (2006)
XXI Century (Version II)(2006)
Remix (2006)
Altyn-Taiga – Golden Taiga (2011)
Altai Kabai (2014)

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