Category Archives: CD Reviews

Playful Guitar, Vocals and Kora

AKA Trio – Joy  (Bendigedig, May 2019)

AKA Trio, an international collaboration featuring Italian guitarist Antonio Forcione, Senegalese kora player and lead vocalist Seckou Keita and Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale has released a spirited album titled Joy.

AKA Trio – Joy

Joy is pure delight, a captivating melodic mix of West African, Mediterranean, blues, jams and global rhythms. Throughout the album, the kora and the guitar dance masterfully around each other, supported by exquisite subtle percussion.

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headline photo: AKA Trio by Anna Kunst

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Santana and Buika Back to the Roots

Santana – Africa Speaks (Concord Records, 2019)

Two iconic artists, guitarist Carlos Santana and vocalist Santana teamed up to record a superb album titled Africa Speaks .

Carlos Santana brought to the table his wide-ranging experience in mixing Afro-Cuban music with rock, jazz and other global music influences. Afro-Spanish singer Buika is deeply influenced by the African music of her parents, flamenco, jazz, soul and Afropop.

Santana – Africa Speaks

Together, Santana and Buika deliver a remarkable album, where two unique sounds meet and intertwine:  Santana’s highly recognizable electric guitar and Buika’s distinctive voice and singing style.

Santana was a pioneer in world fusion, combining Cuban music and rock in his early albums. Now, rock, African, flamenco and Afro-Latin sounds come together in an explosive mix on Africa Speaks.

This is music that I hold so dearly, and it’s not a stranger to me,” says Carlos Santana. “The rhythms, grooves and melodies from Africa have always inspired me. It’s in my DNA. If you take your inspiration from many, it’s called research. I researched this beautiful music from the African continent. They have a frequency that’s all their own. It’s funny, because when I play in Africa, people say, ‘How do you know our music?’ And I say, ‘How can I not know what I love?’”

Personnel: Carlos Santana on lead electric and rhythm guitars, backing vocals and percussion; Buika on lead vocals; Laura Mvula on backing vocals; Cindy Blackman Santana, on drums; Salvador Santana on keyboards; Tommy Anthony on rhythm guitar; Benny Rietveld on bass; Karl Perazzo on timbales, congas and percussion; David K. Mathews on Hammond B3 organ and keyboards; Andy Vargas on backing vocals; and Ray Greene on backing vocals.

Africa Speaks brings out of the best of Santana and Buika: memorable guitars and exceptionally expressive vocals rooted in African traditions. One of Santana’s finest albums in many years.

Buy Africa Speaks in the Americas

Buy Africa Speaks in Europe

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A Brilliant Set of Modern Malian Music


Oumar Konate – I Love You Inna

Oumar Konate – I Love You Inna (Clermont Music, 2019)

Oumar Konate, one of the most talented Malian musicians of his generation, has released his fifth album, I Love You Inn. Oumar has appeared on numerous albums in recent years, showcasing his talent as a formidable guitarist. You’ll still find plenty of admirable guitar on I Love You Inna, but there is also his vocalist and songwriter aspect, which is equally gifted.

I Love You Inna contains a mix of delightful love songs and dazzling, finely-crafted contemporray Malian music rooted in tradition.

The lineup includes Oumar Konate on guitars and lead vocals; Dramane Touré on bass; Makan Camara on drums and percussion; Fallou Mbaye on Wolof sabar; Assabe Dramé on kamele ngoni; Adama Sidibé on violin; Alhouseini Yattara on calabass; Moussa Yatara on calabass; Hama Sankaré on calabass; and Yoro Cissé on monochord.

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Marvelous Persian Flute Fusion Works

Kaveh Sarvarian – Kereshmeh  – Nueva perspectiva de música persa (La Cupula Music, 2019)

Iranian multi-instrumentalist Kaveh Sarvarian has released a new album titled Kereshmeh, which is a type of ancient melody in classical Iranian music. Kereshmeh is also an exploration on the opportunities of composing and improvising in less known rhythms and a way of using percussion in a simpler form.

Kaveh Sarvarian – Kereshmeh  – Nueva perspectiva de música persa

Madrid-based Kaveh Sarvarian combines traditional Persian music, jazz fusion, Bakuchi and Armenian folk traditions and contemporary experimental music forms. He uses beautiful layers of various types of flutes, including the ney, accompanied by a wide range of percussion, subtle keyboards such as fascinating electric piano and organ and piano.

Adding different tracks and making a musical loop was something unfamiliar to me,” says Kaveh Sarvarian. “It is an idea that I have been experimenting and learning over the past few years. In Kereshmeh, I have tried to use this technique with the traditional and folkloric music of Iran.”

Buy the digital edition of Kereshmeh  – Nueva perspectiva de música persa from amazon or the CD from kavehsarvarian.bandcamp.com/album/kereshmeh

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Zimbabwe Artist Hope Masike Releases The Exorcism Of A Spinster

Hope Masike – The Exorcism of a Spinster

Hope Masike, a vocalist from Zimbabwe who plays the historically male-dominated mbira (thumb piano) has a new album titled The Exorcism of a Spinster. This is her debut solo international release.

Hope sings heartfelt songs about the country that she loves and the changing roles of women.

Preorder The Exorcism of a Spinster

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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.

Buy 30 Years Live in North America

Buy 30 Years Live! in Europe

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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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