Category Archives: CD Reviews

A Thrilling Night of Modern Cajun Music

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys – 30 Years Live (Valcour Records, 2019)

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys celebrated its 30th anniversary with an outstanding live performance in Lafayette, Louisiana. 30 Years Live demonstrates why Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys has become one of the finest acts in the Cajun music scene.

On 30 Years Live, the band treats the listener to a set of originals and Cajun classics. What makes Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys such a fascinating and enjoyable live act is its ability to absorb and intertwine various musical influences from the American south: traditional music from southern Louisiana, blues, rootsy country music, rock, and more. Lyrics are in English and Cajun French.

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys – 30 Years Live

The band is led by Cajun award-winning accordion maestro Steve Riley of Mamou in Evangeline Parish, Louisiana. The Mamou Playboys includes fiddler Kevin Wimme, guitarist Sam Broussard, bassist Brazos Huval and drummer Kevin Dugas.

For this celebration, the band was joined by former member David Greely on fiddle and vocals and various guests, including Chris Stafford on organ and piano, Melete Terry on vocals, Alena Savoy on vocals and Paul “Bird” Edwards on rubboard.

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Moving Songs of Peace and Justice

Various Artists – World Peac

Various Artists – World Peace (Putumayo, 2019)

Putumayo World Music releases today its compilation World Peace. The set contains stimulating songs by well-known artists in the world music, rock, jazz, blues, pop and other genres who advocate for a better world, respectful of all human kind. Two percent of the earnings from this album will benefit the National Peace Corps Association.

Dan Storper

Dan Storper, founder of Putumayo, selected the songs, inspired by President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and other 1960s leaders who believed in peace and justice.

The artists featured include Jackson Browne  (USA), Nina Simone (USA), Keb’ Mo’ (USA), India.Arie (USA), Richard Bona (Cameroon), David Broza (Israel), Wyclef Jean (Haiti), Playing for Change (international collective), Michael Brecker (USA), Bongeziwe Mabandla (South Africa), Bholoja (Swaziland), Mira Awad (Palestine/Israel).

The extensive CD booklet includes an introduction by Dan Storper and details about each song and artists included in the album.

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The Remarkable Nigerian Guitar and Beats of Toby Foyeh and his Orchestra

Toby Foyeh and his Orchestra – Pirates of Africa

Toby Foyeh and his Orchestra – Pirates of Africa (Kameleon Afrika Music, 2019)

Nigerian world traveler Toby Foyeh is an excellent guitarist, charismatic vocalist and band leader. After living in Nigeria and the UK, he is currently based in the United States where he put together a formidable band that performs irresistible Nigerian-rooted music.

Pirates of Africa is the new album from Toby Foyeh and his orchestra. It is a superb set of Nigerian styles such as Afrobeat, traditional Yoruba rhythms and call and response vocals, highlife, and palm wine combined with funk, jazz, rock, pop and Latin American music. Additionally, he treats the listener to memorable electric guitar work.

The lineup on Pirates of Africa includes Tony Foyeh on male lead vocals, backing vocals, lead guitars, flute and percussion; Frank Martins on rhythm guitars; Samuel Ebidighi on bass and backing vocals; Koby Adopoku Maxwell on bass; Femi Sanya on bass and percussion; Oscar Debe on drums and percussion; Tosin Aribisala on drums; Jojo Kuo on drums and percussion; Jerrol Pennerman on keyboards; JB Gnonlonfoun on keyboards; Dennis Ayandiran on talking drums and percussiin; Samuel Salawu on talking drums; Michael Baiyewu on percussion, batá drums, sakara, wood block; and Tari Nosika, Tolumide Yeboah, Gloria Osaghae, Lola Okusanmi, Feyi Okusanmi, Ronke Coker, Shafi Bello, Dele Odunaiya and Amaka Igbonezim on vocals.

Get previews and buy the album from kameleonafricamusic.com

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Absorbing Experimental Joiks from Torgeir Vassvik

Vassvik – Gákti

Vassvik – Gákti (Heilo, 2019)

Torgeir Vassvik has transformed traditional joik music from Samiland in Norway. His new album Gákti focuses on animism, which is a fundamental part of Sami culture.

The core of the Sámi culture is the animism: everything is connected, everything is alive,” says Torgeir Vassvik.

The ancient meets modernity in “Gákti.” Vassvik’s joik’s are fittingly interlaced with improvised instrumental music, electronic sound design, guitars two types of fiddles. The music crosses the boundaries of traditional world music and avant-garde experimentation.

The album includes personal joiks (a joik dedicated to somebody); celebrations of nature; companionship; love and female power; songs about climate change; songs for those who have left, but still live on; and joiks of the world from the viewpoint of indigenous people.

Personnel: Torgeir Vassvik on joik, guitar, frame drum, igil, birbyné, munnharpe, electronics; Hans P. Kjorstad on violin; Rasmus Kjorstad on octave violin; and Audun Strype on sound design.

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Riad Abdel-Gawad – Words of Peace (Medan Elmusica, 2019)

Riad Abdel-Gawad – Words of Peace

Riad Abdel-Gawad – Words of Peace (Medan Elmusica, 2019)

U.S.-based Egyptian composer, violinist and educator Dr. Riad Abdel-Gawad creates music that acknowledges the oneness of humanity. His new album Words of Peace comes out at a very difficult time for Riad Abdel-Gawad and his family. Their home was destroyed during the catastrophic Woolsey fire in 2018. Luckily, the CDs manufactured for this release were stored in a warehouse.

Riad Abdel-Gawad traveled to Cairo to record this album. There, he worked with 17 vocalists, chanters and instrumentalists. Words of Peace is a world music album that contains new musical compositions with elements of western oratorio and eastern wasla and nuba musical suite traditions.

Words of Peace proposes healing, spiritual and practical implements to our current-day existential predicament, delivering a social critique of the human species’ racism, corruption, and materialism, as well as its climate change disaster that directly affected Riad’s life.

The CD tells the story of humanity through Adam and Eve; speaks about the wisdom from religions actions againust racism; tells the little heard story in the West about Prophet Mohamed’s striving towards peace through the activism of politics, as well as speaks about the plight of our planet and its inhabitants through contemporary Arabic ands Nibian (African) poetry,” says Riad Abdel-Gawad . “This time there are also some incredibly improvised solos from singers, chanters and instrumentalists.”

Words of Peace is a beautifully-crafted, gracefully elegant album, highlighting Riad Abdel-Gawad’s mastery as a musician and composer. He’s joined by a outstanding ensemble of top talent from Egypt’s Arabic and Nubian traditions.

The CD booklet includes a striking cover, booklet and inside-tray art from two female contemporary Arab artists: Carelle Hosmsy and Behia Shehab. The liner notes contain fascinating details in Arabic and English.

Personnel: Riad Abdel-Gawad on violin; Ahmed Asteeka on electronic keyboard; Yaser Ontar on vocals; Mohamed Atef on kawala (flute); Mohamed Foda on nay; amal Ibrahim on vocals; Moustafa Abdel-Khalek on qanun; Taha essayad on cello; Islam El Qasabgy on oud; Ashraf Issam on riqq and duff; Hussein Darweesh on bass; and Khaloud Adel (soprano), Rahma Adel (alto) and Mohamed Khaked (tenor) on chorus.

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Tuscan Sea Tales of Pirates and Witches

Collettivo Decanter – Emilia d’Hercole (Visage Music, 2018)

Emilia d’Hercole is the second album by Italian ensemble Collettivo Decanter. Emilia d’Hercole is dedicated to stories about the sea, tales of navigation, love, pirates, devils and witches that come from the folk tradition of the Tuscan archipelago.

Collettivo Decanter – Emilia d’Hercole

Collettivo Decanter plays captivating music with a Mediterranean flavor, incorporating Italian folk elements, Spanish flamenco, jazz vocal stylings, Brazilian music and African kalimba.

The title of the album makes reference to a Christian woman from Elba (Italy) that was captured by Ottomans as a slave during a Barbary pirate raid.  She was later rescued after a Spanish and Italian city state fleet attacked Tunisia and freed thousands of Christian slaves.

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Catchy Songs and Tributes from Youssou N’Dour

Youssou N’Dour – History

Youssou N’Dour – History (Naïve Records, 2019)

African music star Youssou N’Dour returns with an ear friendly Afropop album titled History.  N’Dour combines pop hooks, easy listening smooth saxophone, English-language R&B, soulful vocal harmonies and West African beats.

History includes tributes to Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji and Senegalese bassist Habib Faye. “Habib Faye was my friend, bassist, and music director for almost twenty years.” N’Dour recollects. “Together we created many songs.”

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Genuine American Jazz Meets Deeply Rooted Flamenco

New Bojaira – Zorongo Blu

New Bojaira – Zorongo Blu (New Bojaira, 2019)

New Bojaira is a superb new ensemble featuring Spanish flamenco and flamenco-jazz musicians along with American jazz instrumentalists. Their debut album is Zorongo Blu.

Pianist and composer Jesús Hernández and American bassist Tim Ferguson put the band together by bringing in various New York-based musicians. The result is a powerful mix of modern jazz and flamenco stylings and rhythms along with various other influences.

Although flamenco jazz has been around for a few years now, most of the recordings feature instrumental pieces. On Zorongo Blu, however, many of the tracks feature the vocals of multifaceted flamenco singer, handclap percussionist and flute player Alfonso Cid, originally from Seville and currently based in New York City.

The highlights of the album are the exquisite interactions between the piano, bass, vocals, flugelhorn and percussion.

While on some songs there is exciting jazz and flamenco hybridization, the album also contains conventional jazz pieces dominated by saxophone.

The lineup includes Jesús Hernández on piano; Tim Ferguson on double bass; Mark Holen on drums, frame drum and darbuka; Alfonso Cid on vocals, flute and handclapping.

Guests include Randy Brecker on flugelhorn; Peter Brainin on soprano and tenor saxophone; and Sergio Gómez “El Colorao” on vocals.

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Beautifully-Sculpted Mongolian and Middle Eastern Fusion

Equus – Tailwind Home (Equus, 2019)

Equus is a multi-ethnic ensemble from the Sydney melting pot in Australia. On Tailwind Home, Equus treats the listener to a fascinating fusion of Mongolian music, Middle Eastern influences, jazz, blues and global percussion.

The Mongolian side appears in the form of the morin khuur, the Mongolian horse head fiddle, and throat singing. The album liner notes clarify that what you hear was actually produced by the human voice, there is no studio trickery.

Equus – Tailwind Home

The Middle Eastern component includes Turkish saz (lute) and ud (Arabic lute).

Equus showcases the versatility of the morin khuur, delivering exquisite melodies and rhythmic performances. Throughout the album, the throat singing vocals, the horse head fiddle, the saz and blues guitar provide alluring interplay.

Personnel: Bukhu Ganburged on morin khuur and vocals/throat singing; John Robinson on saz, ud, guitar and slide guitar; Peter Kennard on percussion, drums, nylon string guitar and dan moi (Vietnamese jaw harp); and Bertie McMahon on double bass, acoustic guitar and vocals.

Equus combine the best of Mongolia, the Middle East and the West with exquisite performances and staying power.

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A Guitar Tribute to Women and Equity

Pablo Romero Luis – Desnudas de palabras (Pablo Romero Luis, 2019)

Desnudas de palabras (bare of words) is a wonderful tribute to women. Madrid guitarist Pablo Romero Luis admires the courage of women in their struggle to change society in favor of equality. It is also an instrumental ode to song. The album recovers a 19th century concept of songs without words.

Pablo Romero Luis – Desnudas de palabras

Although many Spanish guitarists reviewed at World Music Central come straight from the flamenco world, Pablo Romero Luis has classical musical training and uses the venerable Spanish classical guitar.

Desnudas de palabras was successfully crowdfunded and incorporates classical music, flamenco, traditional music, Brazilian bossa nova influences and jazz. It is a masterful display of the versatility of the guitar, interacting with musicians from various musical traditions.

This project has been possible after the conviction that the best way to find oneself and connect with others is sincerity,” says Pablo.  “This has involved a difficult personal evolution and I have to recognize that the tenacity and perseverance of these women has been an abundant source of motivation, which is why I think that making their struggle a recurring theme is a necessary contribution so that fewer and fewer women feel naked, bare of words.”

Buy the album from Amazon Spain.

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