Category Archives: Artist Profiles

Artist Profiles: Aicha Mint Chighaly

Aicha Mint Chighaly
Aicha Mint Chighaly

Aicha Mint Chighaly was born in 1963 in Kaedi, Mauritania. Her father, Yuba Al-Mokhtar ould Chighaly, was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

In 1982, the family Chighaly moved from the Senegal border area to the Mauritanian capital, Nuakchott.

Aicha became a singer and ardin (Mauritanian harp-lute) player. In 1996, she started her international career. She released her first CD for the Inedit collection of the Maison Des Cultures du Monde in Paris.


Griote de Mauritanie (Inedit)
Azawan, the art of the griots


Artist Profiles: Ahmed Omar

Born in Egypt to an Eritrean father, Ahmed took his first steps in music at a Nubian music institute in downtown Cairo. He started with singing, playing the guitar, and eventually moving on to his current instrument, the bass guitar, which he plays for leading Egyptian bands such as Senet, El Dor El Awal, Beshir, and Wust El Balad.

Ahmed has also organized the Afri-Cairo Music Festival and is a partner and manager at the Wust El Balad recording studio.


The Nile Project – Aswan (2013)


Artist Profiles: Agricantus


Agricantus is a band from Sicily. Its early releases Gnanzù and Viaggiari were fine examples of its ability to mix ethnic music, mainly from the Mediterranean, with ambient and trance rhythms, and were followed by Tuareg, with which they achieved success in Italy and Europe. This album was recorded in the desert of Mali with nomad instruments and musicians and won the prestigious Tenco award in 1996.

In 1997 the band went on to win the important Italian “PIM” award, and had a key role in the soundtrack to the film hamam- The Turkish Bath, which won the Globo d’Oro 1997 (Italian Golden Globe).

The mini-CD Hale Bopp Souvenir, featuring Fadimata Wallet Oumar – spokesperson for the true Tuareg culture – was Agricantus’ next release and this was then followed in 1998 by Kaleidos, an album that immediately attracted attention worldwide. In Kaleidos, Agricantus undertook an extraordinary journey to the heart and origins of classical music, letting themselves be inspired by great composers such as Grieg, Paganini, Brahms and Luciano Berio. They included samples of their music amidst original Agricantus compositions, and, in the case of Berio, took score of his work and let their music be enriched by it. Classical music and technology were united with an incredible flair.

In 1998 they co-wrote the soundtrack to the film I Giardini dell’Eden (Gardens of Eden). A year later, in 1999, the album Best of Agricantus was released in the United States with the label “World Class”, that distributed it not only in the United States but also in Canada, South America, Australia and Japan. In just a few weeks it rose to the top of American and Australian radio charts. September 1999 saw the release date of Faiddi, a compilation of their most beautiful songs re-arranged and played live.

Habibi (2006) explores Sicilian and Sardinian music combined with electronic beats and acoustic instruments from various parts of the globe.


Gnanzu (CNI, 1993)

Viaggiari (Ludos/CNI, 1995)

Tuareg (Ludos/CNI, 1996)

Hale Bopp Souvenir (CNI, 1997)

Kaleidos (Ludos/CNI, 1998)

Best of Agricantus (CNI/World Class, 1999)

Ethnosphere (CNI, 2001)

Calura (CNI, 2002)

Habibi (CNI, 2006)

Luna Khina (Edel, 2007)

Placido Rizzotto (2010)

Turnari (2014)


Artist Profiles: Agnes Buen Garnas

Agnes Buen Garnås
Agnes Buen Garnås

Agnes Buen Garnås, born in 1946, is one of Norway’s leading traditional singers. She is a member of the famous Buen family (of Jondalen in Telemark), and has been a pioneer in the efforts to revitalize Norwegian vocal traditions. Her achievements in this area have had a great influence on young traditional vocalists throughout the country.

Garnås has inspired them to seek out their own local traditions, and has brought many young singers onto the stage. Her collaboration with Jan Garbarek on Rosensfole has become a classic in its genre. Her warm, lovely voice finds its mate in Garbarek’s soundscape.


Det spelar og syng i familien Buen (1975)
Når klokkune gjeve dur (1976)
Folk Music of Norway (1977)
Nordafjølls (1983)
På gamle tufter, with Sondre Bratland (Kåre Nordstoga, Guttorm *Guttormsen, Knut Buen, Halvor Håkanes, Warren Carlstrøm and Finn *Kvalem (1985)
Jul med Rupesekken (1985)
Stem våre understrenger, with Knut Buens (1988)
Draumkvedet, with Inger Lise Ulsrud and Knut Buen (1989)
Tusseliten og Trippeliti, with Finn Kvalem, Guttorm Guttormsen, Knut Buen and Olav Snortheim (1989)
Rosensfole, with Jan Garbarek (ECM, 1989)
Twelve Moons, with Jan Garbarek (ECM, 1992)
Høgdepunkt frå Landskappleiken (1994)
Med blanke ark (19940
Attersyn, with Knut Buen (1995)
Stev og slått, with Knut Buen (1996)
Det syng, with Anne Marit Jacobsen, Halvor Håkanes, Eli Storbekken and *Sinikka Langeland (1997)
Langt inn i hugheimen, with Knut Buen (1997)
Ljos og skugge, with Knut Buen (1998)
Soltreet (2002)
Han rider den mørke natt (2002)


Artist Profiles: Agatsuma


The 14-year-old winner of the 1988 All-Japan Tsugaru-Shamisen Competition, held at the Kanagicho in the Aomori Prefecture, began his studies of the instrument at the age of six.

For several more years, the young artist continued to develop his talents and for two consecutive years in 1995 and 1996 was awarded the prestigious top prize in the Tsuguru-Shamisen National Competition held in Hirosaki, Japan.

Receiving high acclaim in Hogaku (traditional Japanese music) inspired Agatsuma to continue exploring the unique qualities of the Tsugaru-Shamisen, and in turn, his own musical specialty.

In 2001, on his critically acclaimed debut (self-titled Agatsuma), he received the award for ‘Album of the Year’ at the Japan Gold Disc Awards.

On his second release, Beams, Agatsuma blended his many musical influences of jazz, rock fusion and Latin based grooves with traditional Japanese folk music. As he noted, “I appreciate the foundation made by my ancestors. It has given me the opportunities to appreciate and perform many different types of music.”

About Beyond, his third release, Hiromitsu Agatsuma said: “I tried so many different things on this album, such as song motives, scales, play styles and so on. I even discovered new things during the recording, so I could have comfortable feelings of tension in the studio.

Several experiences gave me great influences on composing music for this album. The U.S. east coast tour on February 2003, the U.S. west coast live performances in August 2003, and the collaborations with Marcus Miller and Larry Coryell. I had lots of opportunities to perform in front of people saying’ what is Shamisen?’ and ‘how is it played?’, who never heard Shamisen before. Those were the great experiences for me.

I was able to feel the wide potentials of the world of Shamisen by those experiences, and I believe that I could express more of the fusion with the contemporary music scene, in other words Agatsuma-ish Shamisen World. Further more, this album contains the collaborations with guest artists. Playing together with each artist made this album very provocative and innovative.

I would like to keep creating Agatsuma World with learning by trial and error.


Agatsuma (EMI Music, 2001)
Beams, Agatsuma 2 (Domo Records, 2002)
New Asia (2002)
Classics, Agatsuma III (2003)
New Asia II (2003)
Beyond (2004)
Eien no Uta – Eternal Songs (Toshiba EMI, 2005)
En (EMI Music, 2006)
Soufuu (2007)
Agatsuma Plays Standards (2008)
The Best of (2010)
Jukki (2010)
Kusabi (2012)
Gen (2014)



Artist Profiles: Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra

The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra in 2007 - Photo by John Abbott
The Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra in 2007 – Photo by John Abbott

In the 2002-2003 season, Jazz at Lincoln Center inaugurated a new ensemble, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO). Led by pianist Arturo O’Farrill – son of the pioneering composer and bandleader Chico O’Farrill – the ALJO is comprised of 18 prominent soloists from the Latin jazz scene. This large ensemble plays classics of the Afro-Latin jazz tradition, commissions new works and leads educational events.

With the founding of this new ensemble, Jazz at Lincoln Center helps to continue the long tradition of artistic collaboration between jazz and Latin musicians. O’Farrill, who learned a great deal from his father and also played and recorded in the Latin-infused bands of Dizzy Gillespie, connects the goals of the ALJO with that of his predecessors, stating “The idea behind the ALJO is to perform the very best of the compositions in the canon of the Afro-Latin genre. This genre will die if we do not support a new generation of composers, arrangers and instrumentalists, and there is no other orchestra in the world that has this kind of mission. A large part of our mandate is to provide an instrument for this new generation of composers, arrangers and instrumentalists to further progress this craft.”

Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, who approached O’Farrill about creating the ALJO, expressed the viewpoint that the ALJO will help continue the innovations of musicians like Bauza and Machito, stating: “The ALJO is going to fill a great void on the New York cultural scene by playing the classics of the Afro-Latin Jazz tradition, commissioning new works and playing dances. This band is firmly connected to the essence of Latin jazz. They have great soloists and first-class ensemble playing.”

In September of 2005 , the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra was composed of 18 soloists who played classics of the Afro-Latin tradition. The members are: Arturo O’Farrill, Music Director and piano; Michael Philip Mossman, trumpet; John Walsh, trumpet; Jim Seeley, trumpet; Mike Rodriguez, trumpet; Luis Bonilla, trombone; Gary Valente, trombone; Reynaldo Jorge, trombone; Earl McIntyre, bass trombone; Erica vonKleist, alto saxophone; Bobby Porcelli, alto saxophone; Mario Rivera, tenor saxophone; Ivan Renta, tenor saxophone; Pablo Calogero, baritone saxophone; Ruben Rodriguez, bass; Vince Cherico, drums; Jimmy Delgado, percussion; and Tony Rosa, percussion.


Una Noche Inolvidable (Palmetto, 2005)
Song for Chico (Zoho Music, 2008)
40 Acres and a Burro (Zoho Music, 2011)
Final Night at Birdland (Zoho Music, 2013)
The Offense of the Drum (Motema Music, 2014)
Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motema Music, 2015)


Artist Profiles: Afro Cuban All Stars

Afro-Cuban All Stars
Afro-Cuban All Stars

The Afro-Cuban All Stars were brought together by musical director Juan de Marcos González (leader of the son group Sierra Maestra and mastermind behind the Buena Vista Social Club), as a multi-generational big band to explore a broader scope than the Buena Vista projects, ambitiously paying tribute to the diversity of Cuban music, marrying the past with the present. It is a band for dancing – combining a variety of contrasting styles including classic son montuno, contemporary timba, swinging big band guajira, Afro-Cuban jazz, danzón, the pure tribal rhythms of abakua, bolero and more.

The original list of lead vocalists that have performed with the group is a virtual “who’s who” of the greatest Cuban sonerosthe octogenarian Pío Leyva (Estrellas de Areito) and the septuagenarians Raúl Planas (Rumbavana, Celia Cruz), and Manuel “Puntillita” Licea (Sonora Matancera) were joined by rising stars from a younger generation, Antonio “Maceo” Rodríguez (Sierra Maestra), Félix Valoy (Alberto Alvarez), and Teresita García Caturla (Las D’Aida).

To back these individual talents through a diverse selection of songs González brought together a very special group of musicians. On piano is one of the founding fathers of modern Cuban music, the legendary Rubén González (Arsenio Rodríguez, Enrique Jorrín, Estrellas de Areito). On acoustic bass is Cuba’s finest, Orlando “Cachaíto” López, who learned his trade as part of the extraordinary bass playing López dynasty which includes his father Orestes López and uncle Israel “Cachao” López.

The six piece horn section (three trumpets, two trombones, sax, flute) is made up from the best players of Havana’s celebrated Tropicana Orchestra. Soloists include the great Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal on trumpet (Orchestra Riverside, Estrellas de Areito) and Afrokan (Irakere) on trombone.

In a country renowned for its percussionists, the All Stars’ six-piece section is matchless and includes the young phenomenon Julienne Oviedo on timbales, and the great Miguel “Angá”on congas.

In December of 2000, Pedro Calvo, the lead singer of Cuba’s top dance band, Los Van Van, was recruited as a vocalist for the Afro-Cuban All Stars. The line-up in 2001 also included Caridad Hierrezuelo.


A Toda Cuba le Gusta (1997)
Distinto, Diferente (1999)
Baila mi Son (2000)
Bajando Gervasio (2002)
Live in Japan (2005)
Step Forward (2005)
Absolutely Live (2009)
Absolutely Live II (2017)


Artist Profiles: Afro Celt Sound System

Early lineup of Afro Celt Sound System
Early lineup of Afro Celt Sound System

Afro Celt Sound System are widely acknowledged as one of the most innovative and pioneering groups to emerge from the increasingly eclectic cross-cultural experimentations at the cutting edge of “world music” in the 1990s.

After much soul-searching and reorganization following the sudden tragic death of keyboardist Joe Bruce, the group re-emerged with a dynamic and emotionally charged album that wed the delicacy of their acoustic instruments – harp, kora, bodhran, jembe, uilleann pipes, talking drum – with the multidimensional, layered production of Simon Emmerson and Martin Russell.

The band’s characteristic Celtic-West African fusion, inherently joyful and high-energy, was offset by a discernible bittersweet quality, darker and more melancholic than the first album’s effusive spirit expressively underscored by the performances of guest musicians Nigel Eaton on hurdy gurdy, Michael McGoldrick and Ronan Browne on uilleann pipes, Youth on bass, Dhol Foundation’s Johnny Kaisi on dhol drums & tabla, and Sinead O’Connor on vocals.

The album represents the transformation of a project – conceived at Real World’s 1996 Recording Week – into a cohesive band with a distinctive sound and style. It is the record they all wanted to make, reflecting the unique playing skills and personalities of the diverse core members – Simon Emmerson (guitars, programming, keyboards), N’Faly Kouyate (vocals, kora, bala), Iarla O Lionáird (vocals), James McNally (keyboard, whistle, bodhran, accordion), Myrdhin (Celtic harp), Martin Russell (keyboard, programming, engineering), and Moussa Sissokho (talking drum, jembe).



James McNally said “Our style of writing and playing music does not pretend to adhere to any particular traditional style except our own. Together we write Afro Celt music: music rooted in the past that’s reaching into the future – that’s it. The collaboration of the various musicians within the band was effortless, heartfelt, and very harmonious. My faith in the others was constantly rewarded with stunning contributions and performances. It’s like we can almost read each others’ mindset’s uncanny, transporting, and deeply magical.”

Afro Celts are firmly rooted in some of the oldest musical traditions on earth, yet colliding head on with cutting-edge electronica. Iarla is among the foremost performers of West Ireland’s ancient unaccompanied sean nos vocal style. Myrdhin plays an ancestral Breton harp, and both N’Faly and Moussa are venerated jalis from West Africa’s esteemed bardic schools of master musicianship. Conversely, Simon comes from the context of experimental dance music, and James’ background was with the Pogues and the Irish hardcore hip-hop group Marxman. From these far ends of the musical spectrum comes the entity that stormed the stage at the Cambridge Folk Festival, played to a full-on dance crowd at Tribal Gathering, and played to a widely enthusiastic crowd of 20.000+ MTV rockers at Holland’s Lowlands Festival.

Simon Emmerson said “It’s very difficult to get across… that what we’re doing is rooted in my neighborhood in East London. Our studio is based in the same building as Fat Man Sound System – one of London’s oldest Club Dog are also there my neighbor runs Jah Youth Sounds. Zion Train live up the road, as does Adrian Sherwood’s On U Sound System. Within a two-mile radius of my house there’s been Talvin Singh’s club, the first drum &bass sessions, the Whirl-Y-Gig, and countless other similar clubs. This is my musical environment.”

Afro Celt Sound System returned in 2010 with Capture, a career-spanning double CD, released by Real World. Selected from the collective’s five acclaimed studio albums, the 25 tracks are divided into songs (Verse) and instrumentals (Chorus). The songs were re-mastered to lend the sound a new warmth and allow the dynamics to emerge as originally intended.

Capture includes Afro Celt Sound System’s collaborations with Sinead O’Connor, Peter Gabriel, Robert Plant, Dorothee Munyaneza and others. It also includes pieces featured on soundtracks including Gangs of New York and Hotel Rwanda.

In 2016, a version of Afro Celt Sound System led by Simon Emmerson released an album titled The Source. This was a controversial move since the remaining founders of Afro Celt Sound System, James McNally and Martin Russell, expressed in a press release that this was not the real Afro Celt Sound System.

The Source included Simon Emmerson on guitars, cittern, bass programming, electronica; Griogair on vocals, rap, highland pipes, whistles, electric guitar; Johnny Kalsi on dhol drums, percussion, beats and programming; N’Faly Kouyaté on kora, balafon, percussion, calabash and kirin; Mass on keyboards, beats and
electronica; Moussa Sissokho on talking drum, jembe and calabash. Jamie Reid handled artwork and visuals. Guests included members of Scottish band Shooglenifty.


Volume 1: Sound Magic (Real World Records, 1996)
Volume 2: Release (Real World Records, 1999)
Volume 3: Further in Time (Real World Records, 2001)
Seed (Real World Records, 2003)
Pod (Remix album) (Real World Records, 2004)
Volume 5: Anatomic (Real World Records, 2005)
Capture: 1995-2010 (Real World Records, 2010)
The Source (2016)


Artist Profiles: Acetre

Acetre is one of the most experienced groups in the Extremadura (western Spain) contemporary folk music scene. Acetre was formed in 1976 and has gone through different stages. In recent years the ensemble has developed a creative musical work focused on two fronts: the reworking of traditional music and composing new songs and pieces in which there is always an ethnic element.

Group members carry out careful research and selection of old songs and tunes that they collect from the rich ‘extremeña’ oral tradition, enriching them with new arrangements.

Acetre is based in the Spanish border city of Olivenza in Badajoz, which links band members historically and geographically to Portugal. That’s why their concerts feature traditional styles from Extremadura such as perantones, rondas, tonadas festivas, pindongos or alboradas extremeñas along with Portuguese verdegaios, fado, corridillos, etc., which provide a virtual bridge between Extremadura and the Portuguese tradition.

In 2000 Acetre composed the music for the soundtrack of the animated film Marina, la princesa del fondo del mar (Marina, Princess of the Seabed). Other soundtracks followed after that.

In 2016, Acetre celebrated its 40th anniversary with a series of special concerts.


Extremadura en la frontera (1999)
Ramapalla (1987)
Acetre (1989)
De malteseria (1994)
Canto de gamusinos (1999)
Barrunto (2003)
Dehesario (2007)
Arquitecturas Rayanas (Nuba Records/Karonte 2011)
Edipo Rey, soundtrack (2015)


Artist Profiles: Afrikali Band

The Afrikali Band was formed in Tanzania at the end of 2004, comprising eight members aged between 16 and 26. Their music was a fusion of traditional and electric instruments. These eight members, who come from different parts of the country, were initially in different bands and decided to establish a new band so as to expand their skills. In their songs they use different languages from various Tanzanian tribes such as Makonde, Nyakyusa, Nyasa, Nyamwezi and not forgetting Swahili.

The word Afrikali is a mix of Africa and Kali, Swahili slang meaning extremely good or wonderful. This was to remind those who listen to their music about the positive work done in Africa. They also wanted to show the youth of Africa that they have the power to be heard through music. They called their style the Afrikali style.

Afrikali band won the first prize in the Music Crossroads Southern Africa 5th Interregional Festival in 2005 in Blantyre, Malawi after being in a very stiff challenge from other four countries, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe and thus demonstrating how Afrikali wishes to show young people in Africa and abroad that music has the power to make their voices be heard. By winning the above mentioned prize enabled the band to go on a European tour presenting its Afro fusion music in The Netherlands, Belgium, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain and Austria in different music festivals.

In 2010 Afrikali Band chanhged its name to Afrikwetu Productions.