Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Artist Profiles: Wild Fire Music Troupe

Wild Fire Music Troupe is a group of Taiwanese indigenous musicians from various and diverse music traditions. The musicians create their own unique music based on their intimate knowledge of the traditional music of their elders.

The group is composed of Sangpuy, who both plays and builds the traditional instruments of the Puyuma: bamboo flute, nose flutes and the jaw harp; percussionist and singer Leo Chen, originally from Nanwang Village, in Taitung County who is part of the younger generation of indigenous musicians who moved to Taipei to develop their music; and Hsiao Mei, an Amis singer that has studied nearly all of Taiwan’s indigenous traditional musical styles and whose delicate low-toned singing is often described by her peers as the ‘melodious hum of our tribal elders as they weave and pick plants and herbs.’

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Artist Profiles: UB40

UB40

For several decades, UB40 have been popularizing reggae around the globe. UB40’s fortune changed at the beginning of 1980. They had spent many years performing live and developing a name for themselves when they were asked to joining ‘The Pretenders’ as their support act on a national tour. The group’s first album was released in September 1980. The album cover was a reproduction of the unemployment benefit card with the title Signing Off rubber stamped in red. It referred to ‘signing off’ the dole i.e. getting a job. It was an acknowledgement of the launch of the band as well as a celebration of their new status.

The first single with Graduate, their initial label was a double-A coupling of Food for Thought about third world poverty and ‘King’ an expression of grief for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ‘King’ had seemed to be the favorite with live audiences but it was ‘Food for Thought’ that got the airplay and became the first hit. The single was released during the tour without the benefit of major label marketing or promotion and headed straight for the top five.

The group released their fourth album Labour of Love in 1983. It was their first direct tribute to the musicians who had inspired them. ‘Red Red Wine’ was the first single to be released from Labour of Love and it went straight to number one in the UK charts upon its release. The phenomenally popular single was in the British charts for two years. It gave UB40 their first worldwide hit and first American number one.

Success continues throughout the Nineties with the release of Promises and Lies which becomes the group’s biggest selling album worldwide selling in excess of 9 million copies worldwide and contained the hit single ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love ‘ giving the band their third UK number one.

Fathers of Reggae, a project which took three years to complete featured a series of legendary reggae artists such as Toots Hibbert, Gregory Isaacs and John Holt was released in 2002.

In 2003, UB40 received an Ivor Novello Award for International Achievement and secure a Top Ten album with the ‘Platinum Collection Labour of Love I II & III a triple box set comprising the whole ‘Labour of Love’ series. Their 22nd album, Homegrown includes ‘Swing Low,’ the official anthem for the England rugby team’s triumphant 2003 World Cup campaign in Australia. The song became the group’s 49th UK chart single.

In April 2005, UB40 united with Roger Daltrey Eric Clapton and John Mayer to play their first ever show at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. The band was then invited to perform at the Live8 event in London’s Hyde Park, alongside U2, Pink Floyd, Coldplay, Madonna, Robbie Williams and The Who. A successful sell-out tour in the UK, Ireland and Europe completeds the year.

UB40 continued to tour throughout 2006 visiting Mozambique Australia New Zealand the Pacific Islands (i.e. New Caledonia Tahiti Tonga Fiji) Hawaii and continuing on to the US and Canada.

Discography:

Signing Off (1980)
Present Arms (1981)
UB44 (1982)
Labour of Love (1983)
Geffery Morgan (1984)
Baggariddim (1985)
Rat in the Kitchen (1986)
UB40 (1988)
Labour of Love II (1989)
Promises and Lies (1993)
Guns in the Ghetto (1997)
Labour of Love III (1998)
Cover Up (2001)
Homegrown (2003)
Who You Fighting For? (2005)
TwentyFourSeven (2008)
Labour of Love IV (2010)
Getting Over the Storm (2013)

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Artist Profiles: Waed Bouhassoune

Waed Bouhassoune

Syrian singer and ‘ud player Waed Bouhassoune was born in 1979. She has a voice of such quality that is rarely encountered one of the most famous voices of Arab song of the last thirty years. Her voice immediately brings to mind that of Umm Kalthum or Asmahan but even though she was born in the same town as the latter it can only be Waed’s voice.

Ever since her first audition in Aleppo the specialists (sammaines) immediately recognized her talent: she was symbolically authorized to perform in public in Paris at the Maison des Cultures du Monde and at the Institut du Monde Arabe. Her success was immediate and she was hailed by the press as a revelation.

Returning to Syria, Waed gave a series of concerts notably at the Damascus Opera. In 2006 she was invited to the Festival of Assilah and the Madinah Festival in Tunis before touring France.
In 2010 Waed Bouhassoun moved to Paris.

Discography:

La voix de l’amour (Institut du Monde Arabe, 2009)
L’âme du luth (Buda Musique, 2014)
La Voix de la passion, with Moslem Rahal (Buda Musique, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Tommy Martin

Tommy Martin

Tommy Martin was born in Dublin, Ireland and currently lives in the United States. He took his first uilleann pipes lesson from Dublin piper Mick O’Brien, a cousin, in 1984 at the age of 12. By 1988 with the great help of Mick’s tuition and guidance he won first place at the Annual Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in the 15-18 age group uilleann pipes competition and again in 1991 in the senior competition.

From his late teens Tommy has been very much involved in encouraging traditional Irish music especially uilleann pipes by teaching younger musicians around Ireland at Tionol and Scoil Eigse.
His professional career started in 1996 when he took a job organizing and playing at Irish music nights in Irish pubs in Hong Kong. This led to more work in Asian cities such as Kuala Lumpur Jakarta Singapore and Tokyo over the following years.

A highlight for Tommy was playing support to Shooglenifty at the Hong Kong Folk Festival in 1996.

Back in Europe Tommy’s talent and experience took him to perform in almost every mainland country. Performances have varied from solo uilleann pipes performances to playing with 5 piece folk bands and have been as diverse as being an uilleann pipes tutor in New Zealand to performing with “Riverdance” in New York to performing with the Chicago Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra.

Tommy is also an experienced uilleann pipes teacher. He has tutored students all over Ireland England New Zealand and now the US. Tommy was teacher of the advanced uilleann pipes class in Na Piobairi Uilleann Dublin up until he moved to St Louis, Missouri in 2003. His first solo CD Uilleann Piper was released in 2000 and Tommy can be also heard on 12 other albums as a guest musician.

Tommy’s second album, Shady Woods came out in December 2005. That month he also toured as a guest with traditional band Teada as they celebrated their Irish Christmas in America tour. Other guests were Grainne Hambly on harp and singer Cathie Ryan.

Tommy now lives in St. Louis, where he now teaches fiddle flute and uilleann pipes. He also makes tin whistles and uilleann pipes.

Discography:

Uilleann Piper (2000)

Shady Woods (2005)

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Artist Profiles: War

War – Photo by Jeffrey Mayer

War is an American band that mixes funk, jazz, R&B and rock. The group has sold more than 5 million albums worldwide and been honored with 17 gold platinum and multi-platinum awards.

In 1969 Eric Burdon and War recorded and released their first album entitled “Eric Burdon Declares War” featuring the number one single “Spill The Wine.” Following its release Eric Burdon and War went on an extensive tour of Europe and the UK.

On September 16 1970 Jimi Hendrix joined Eric Burdon and War for a jam session at London’s Famous Ronny Scotts Jazz Club. Regrettably, this would be Jimi’s last jam session as he died later that night. Shocked and overwhelmed by the death of his friend Jimi Hendrix Eric Burdon made the decision to leave the band and return to Los Angeles.

War continued their European tour without their former front man before returning to the states. Following Burdon’s departure War’s career rose dramatically. In the early 1970s the release of Slippin’ into Darkness and Me and Baby Brother represented their thrilling sound and spoke to millions of Americans about the troubled times of Vietnam, Watergate and the ethnic tension that centered around inner cities. Then in 1972 War released The World Is a Ghetto. Its second single, The Cisco Kid, reached gold status and the album made the number one spot as Billboard magazine’s Album of the Year.

Lonnie Jordan, the original lead singer and outstanding keyboardist is the musical director.

War in the 2010s

Discography:

Eric Burdon Declares War (MGM Records, 1970)
The Black-Man’s Burdon (MGM Records, 1970)
All Day Music (United Artists Records, 1971)
War (United Artists Records, 1971)
The World Is A Ghetto (United Artists Records, 1972)
Deliver The Word (United Artists Records, 1973)
War Live (United Artists Records, 1973)
Why Can’t We Be Friends? (United Artists Records, 1975)
Love Is All Around (ABC Records, 19760
Galaxy (MCA Records, 1977)
Platinum Jazz (Island Records, 1976)
Youngblood, soundtrack (United Artists Records, 1978)
The Music Band (MCA Records, 1979)
The Music Band 2 (MCA Records, 1979)
The Music Band Live (MCA Records, 1980 )
Outlaw (RCA, 1982)
Life (Is So Strange) (RCA Victor, 1983)
The Music Band Jazz (MCA Records, 1983)
Where There’s Smoke (Coco Plum, 1985)
Peace Sign (Avenue Records, 1994)
War Is Coming! – The Best Of War ‎(ARG Records, 1996)
Evolutionary ‎(UMe, 2014)

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Artist Profiles: Vas

Vas

Vas the Latin word for vessel was a collaboration between Persian born vocalist Azam Ali and American percussionist Greg Ellis. They met at a Master Musicians of Jajouka concert at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1995 and at an impromptu gathering afterward they heard each other perform for the first time. There was instant recognition of a shared vision and they began creating music together the very next day. Within a year they signed to the Narada label and went on to release five acclaimed albums three as Vas and two solo projects.

The duo spent much of 2001 and 2002 recording and releasing solo projects and doing extensive touring with Mickey Hart’s band Bembe Orisha.

Azam Ali and Greg Ellis can be heard as featured performers along with Laxmi Shankar (vocals) and Deepak Ram (bansuri flute) on the end title track by Juno Reactor’s Ben Watkins on the major motion picture release The Matrix Revolutions.

After Vas, Azam Ali later formed a new group called Niyaz.

Discography:

Sunyata (Narada World, 1997)
Offerings (Narada World, 1998)
In the Garden of Souls (Narada World, 2000)
Feast of Silence (Narada World, 2004)

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Artist Profiles: Toubab Krewe

Toubab Krewe

Toubab Krewe is an instrumental quintet based in Asheville, North Carolina that fuses West African music with American rock. The five members who are childhood friends and long-term musical collaborators who joined up in 25 have spent extended periods studying with musical luminaries in Mali Ivory Coast and Guinea and learning traditional instruments such as the kora (a 21-string harp) and the kamel ngoni (a West African lute).

Their recording ‘Live At The Orange Peel’ (2008) features eight previously unreleased tracks and continue to mix American rock with the West African musical traditions the band fell in love with on their travels. Along the way they explore the worlds of surf and zydeco. Live At The Orange Peel features collaborations with spoken word artist Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets and fiddler Rayna Gellert of Uncle Earl. It was produced by Grammy winning producer Steven Heller who also produced the band’s debut.

With many friends teachers and collaborators living in Mali and affected by the 2012 Malian crisis the band felt called to do something to help. Inspired by the encouragement of Toumani Diabate Toubab Krewe’s Luke Quaranta envisioned and launched Musicians for Mali, an initiative to increase awareness about the current crisis in Mali and raise money for refugees.

Teal Brown – drum set
Drew Heller – electric guitar and soku
Justin Perkins – kora kamelengoni and electric guitar
David Pransky – electric bass guitar
Luke Quaranta – percussion

Discography:

Toubab Krewe ‎(Upstream Records, 2005)
Live At The Orange Peel In Asheville, NC ‎(Upstream Records, 2008)
TK2 (Nat Geo Music, 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Toshi Reagon

Toshi Reagon

Born in Atlanta and raised in Washington DC, Toshi Reagon cites her musical abilities from her family. Both parents belonged to SNCC’s (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) The Freedom Singers a folk group that sprung from the Civil Rights movement and toured the country to teach people about civil rights through song. Bernice Johnson Reagon is not only Toshi’s mom but the founder of the world renowned a capella ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock (she retired in 2004 after 30 years with the group).

Toshi and her mom have collaborated on many projects together including co-producing many of Sweet Honey’s recordings. In 2009 they worked on ‘The Temptation of St. Anthony’, a musical-theater work based on a tale by Gustave Flaubert. The piece is directed by Robert Wilson with music and libretto by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Toshi wrote the instrumental arrangements and serves as the production’s musical director.

Her rich musical heritage led her to become saturated in many traditional styles of music feeding her desire to explore a range of music that was not as accessible from blues to Kiss. Admittedly Toshi says that she attempts to: ‘take whatever I’m really into and try to learn it and put it into music.’

Toshi is a recipient of 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) award for Music Composition.

Discography

Justice (Flying Fish Records, 1990)
The Rejected Stone (1994)
Kindness (Smithsonian Folkways, 1997)
The Righteous Ones (Razor and Tie, 1999)
Africans in America Soundtrack (Ryko, 2001)
Toshi (Razor and Tie, 2002)
I Be Your Water (2004)
Have You Heard (Righteous Babe Records, 2005)
Until We’re Done (2008)
Lava: We Become (2009)
There and Back Again (2010)

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Artist Profiles: Tony Vacca

Tony Vacca is an innovative percussionist composer and producer. Over the course of his career he has made a habit of pushing the already adventurous conventions of World Music into new territory both as a soloist and as the leader of his World Rhythms Ensemble.

He has recorded and/or performed with a wide range of musicians. These include pop icon Sting, Senegalese Afro-pop star Baaba Maal, jazz trumpeter and world music legend Don Cherry, poet Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets, Massamba Diop, Senegalese master of the tama (talking drum) and Senegalese hip-hop stars Gokh-bi System. His solo performances are a nearly non-stop athletic spectacle of percussion music and spoken word incorporating an amazing array of gongs giant African xylophones and various hand drums.

He is a member of world fusion band Impulse Ensemble

Discography:

Rhythm Mission (1998)

Rhythm Griots, with Massamba Diop (1999)

Message From Home …Suma Deuk Waay, with Gokh-bi System (2001)

Zen Rant (2002)

Senegal-America Project, with The Senegal-America Project musicians (2006)

Rhythm and Flow (2008)

Initiation, with Impulse Ensemble (IE Records 2010)

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Artist Profiles: Tony Trischka

Tony Trischka

Tony Trischka is one of the most influential banjo players in the American roots music world. In his 40 plus years as a consummate banjo artist his stylings have inspired generations of bluegrass and acoustic musicians.

A true luminary in the banjo world, his technical and conceptual advances opened the way for such players as Bela Fleck and Alison Brown. His recordings with them and others such as Earl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Pete Seeger, members of REM, William S. Burroughs, Natalie Merchant, Alison Krauss and Steve Martin are part of every banjo-lovers musical reference.

Tony has raised the awareness of both the banjo and his music with numerous articles in the national press, interviews on radio, and television appearances. His solo album for Smithsonian Folkways Records, Territory was named Best Americana Album at the Independent Music Awards. He also produced Steve Martin’s Rare Bird Alert (Rounder) which features performances by Paul McCartney and the Dixie Chicks.

Tony is also the musical director of the documentary The Banjo Project, aired on PBS. In addition Tony is one of the instrument’s top teachers and has created numerous instructional books DVDs and CDs.

The ground-breaking Tony Trischka School of Banjo launched in July of 2009.

Discography:

Bluegrass Light (Rounder Select 1973)
Heartlands (Rounder 1975)
Banjoland (Rounder Select 1976)
Fiddle Tunes for Banjo (Rounder 1981)
Robot Plane Flies Ove Arkansas (Rounder Select 1983)
Hill Country (Rounder Select 1985)
Skyline Drive (FlyingFish 1986)
Dust on the Needle (Rounder 1987)
Fire of Grace (Flying Fish 1989)
World Turning (Rounder Select 1993)
Alone & Together Alcazar 1994)
Glory Shone Around: A Christmas Collection (Rounder 1995)
Live at Birchmere Strictly Music 1995)
Bend (Rounder 1999)
New Deal (Rounder 2003)
Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular (Rounder 2007)
Territory (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2008)
The Mountain Music Project: A Musical Odyssey from Appalachia to Himalaya (Mountain Music Project 2012)
Great Big World (Rounder 2014)

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