Burkina Electric was the first electronica band from Burkina Faso, in the deep interior of West Africa. With its main base in the music scene of Wagadugu, Burkina Faso’s capital, it was, at the same time, an international band, with members living in New York, U.S.A. and Dusseldorf, Germany, as well as in Waga. In Burkina Electric’s music, the traditions and rhythms of Burkina Faso met and mingle with contemporary electronic dance culture, making it a trailblazer in electronic world music.
Before starting Burkina Electric in 2004, band members Mai Lingani, Wende K. Blass, Pyrolator, and Lukas Ligeti had become close friends as members of Beta Foly, a group that emerged from a workshop led by Lukas and Pyrolator in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, which, among other experiments, created some of the earliest fusions of techno/trip-hop with African traditional music.
The core band consisted of four musicians and two dancers, often augmented by guests. Rupert Huber, of the well-known Austrian electronica duo Tosca, collaborated and performed with the group on selected occasions. All songs were composed and choreographed collaboratively by all group members, and the music was directed toward an audience appreciative of electronica/club culture.
Much electronic dance music, even in Africa, still seems to employ the same rock and funk rhythms that have been used in Western pop for the past 50 years. Burkina Electric challenged this convention, enriching the fabric of this music by using different rhythms, equally danceable but rarely heard. Many of the songs were built upon ancient rhythms of the Sahel such as the Mossi peoples’ Waraba and Wennenga, little-known even in Africa outside of Burkina. The dancers, whose choreographies combined elements of the traditional and the modern, invited listeners to discover that these exotic rhythms groove at least as powerfully as disco, house or drum & bass!
The group also created new rhythms influenced by traditional grooves, and used sounds of traditional instruments and found sounds and soundscapes recorded in Burkina in unusual ways. It is truly African electronica, both experimental and entertaining. The performance is further enhanced by the use of live-manipulated video.
Award-winning singer Mai Lingani, a star in Burkina Faso because of her unique voice and charismatic stage presence, sings in Mossi, Diula, Bissa, and French. Wende K. Blass, one of Burkina’s premier guitarists, contributed soulful guitar melodies. Electronicist/VJ Pyrolator was of Germany’s most inventive pop musicians and a top producer ever since the days of the “Neue Deutsche Welle” some 25 years as a founding member of bands D.A.F. and Der Plan, while New York-based drummer/electronicist Lukas Ligeti received commissions from groups such as the Kronos Quartet and the Bang on a Can All Stars.
Burkina Electric was formed for a tour in Austria in 2004. In May 2006, the group performed at the Festival Jazz Ouaga in Burkina Faso and released its debut album, “Paspanga”, in Burkina Faso. Two video clips, produced for Burkinabe TV, received heavy play in Burkina Faso and surrounding countries.
Reem Tekre EP (Atatak, 2007) Paspanga (Cantaloupe, 2010)
Ivo Papasov (clarinet) is a living legend in his own country, Bulgaria, and a phenomenon in the West. Born in 1952 in Kurdzhali, of Turkish Romani ancestry, he founded the band Trakiya in 1975 and became the leading model of wedding music.
Although his music is based on tradition, it is squarely set in the present, with eclectic melodies and dazzling technique. Admired both for his technical and his creative talents, Ivo is known for his masterful, wide-ranging improvisations, his stamina, his daringly fast tempi, his forays into jazz, and his charisma.
In 1987 a Bulgarian journalist commented that “the concert hall literally exploded when Ivo Papasov, the uncontested king, got on stage. It was the apotheosis.” When jazz pianist Milcho Leviev played a tape of Ivo to his musician friends, they said it must be a synthesizer.
Leviev says he never heard such integration of musical styles in his whole life: “my temperature rose when I heard him.”
Papazov is the subject of a number of documentary films, and collaborated with other Romani musicians on joint projects in Budapest. In 2001 he was featured in the Bang On a Can Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and won the BBC Audience Award for best European artist of the year.
Zezo Ribeiro is a Brazilian guitarist born in Sao Paulo, with an impressive artistic career. Since 1992 he has participated in many recording projects, but it was at the end of the 1990s when he decided to release his own work.
If as instrumentalist he is a virtuoso guitar player, aware of what is happening in jazz and flamenco world, as composer he explores all the rhythms of his fertile homeland. With the same natural way that he flies vertiginously over an intricate samba, he plays slowly with the intimacy of a calm bossa.
In a permanent searching of his roots, Zezo studies deeply the traditional music to adopt other rhythms and influences.
“Gandaia” features John Patitucci on bass, Brazilian drummer Cristiano Rocha, Spanish flamenco guitarist José Luis Montón, and Spanish singer Uxía.
Samba star Neguinho da Beija-Flor is set to perform on February 24th, 2018 at Cafe Club Fais Do-Do in Los Angeles. Considered one of the most celebrated Carnaval performers of Brazil, Neguinho has been affiliated with parade winner, Beija-Flor de Nilópoles, one of the largest samba schools of Rio de Janeiro. This will be his first time touring in the United States.
Cafe Club Fais Do-Do
5257 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016
Why Should Your Heart Not Dance is an independent release by New York-based, female a cappella world music ensemble Asaran Earth Trio. The trio was assembled by Brazilian vocalist, percussionist and graphic designer Anne Boccato. She recruited Artemisz Polonyi from Hungary and Astrid Kuljanic from Croatia.
Initially, the three artists traded songs from their countries’ traditions, but soon they ended up incorporating folk songs from other regions.
During Asaran Earth Trio’s live performances, the artists encourage audience participation by passing handmade musical instruments crocheted from plastic bags and invite the audience to sing along with them.
Why Should Your Heart Not Dance features jazz-infused traditional songs from the United States, Macedonia, Hungary, Portugal, Brazil, Italy, Bulgaria, Spain and a few originals as well. The songs include vocals and percussion accompaniment, no other instruments. The songs have a rootsy, live feel, with few studio effects like reverb that are commonly used in modern recordings.
The three musicians have solid jazz backgrounds. Polony explains that improvisation is essential to Asaran Earth Trio: “It’s a foundation we can return to in difficult passages, and a way of finding new expressions. We leave a lot of opportunities built into arrangements.”
Anne Boccato indicates that her goal in life is “to write things that groove, even when those things are very complex. It has to feel good.”
Why Should Your Heart Not Dance features outstandingly expressive vocals by Asaran Earth Trio, an ensemble that soulfully explores folk music traditions from various corners of the world.
Vassar Clements was one the United States’ most versatile fiddle players. His career began at a very early age. His phenomenal ability to virtually play any kind of music (bluegrass, country, pop, rock, jazz and swing) garnered him various awards including five Grammy nominations and a track record that involves multitudes of recording performances.
Vassar was a prolific composer of instrumentals and played seven instruments: violin, viola, cello, bass, mandolin, guitar and tenor banjo.
Vassar’s career spanned over fifty years. His association with Bill Monroe began when he was only 14 years old and still in school. He started with Bill as a regular Bluegrass Boy in 1949 and was with him through 1956. From 1957 to 1961 he performed with bluegrass artists Jim & Jesse McReynolds. In 1962 he took leave from his music to pursue other interests but returned to full time music when he decided to make Nashville his home in January 1967.
Vassar did recording sessions and played tenor banjo in Nashville’s Dixieland Landing club until October 1969. He then started touring with Faron Young and doing occasional solo dates when time permitted. In February 1971 he joined John Hartford and his Dobrolic Plectral Society, initiating a professional association and personal friendship that has grew stronger through the years. After ten months and earning an enormous amount of recognition and popularity, the group decided to disband. Vassar then found himself with the legendary Earl Scruggs and the Earl Scruggs Revue.
During that time, one of the most important milestones in his career was his participation on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1972 Landmark album Will The Circle Be Unbroken. This historical event was produced by William McEuen and featured an extravaganza of bluegrass, country and folk’s greatest artists. It was the turning point that re-kindled Vassar’s career and at the same time introduced him to a much younger non-country audience.
Within a few short months Vassar was recording and/or performing with Dicky Betts, Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, David Grisman, Paul McCartney, etc. In May 1973, The classic Old & In The Way album was recorded in San Francisco during a live performance. The Sales from this project have exceeded other albums of like kind and has formed staunch cults that still exist after twenty three years.
Since 1973 when Vassar signed his first major label deal with Mercury/Polygram records his personal discography ranged from country, waltzes, swing to jazz. Ironically, in 1992 he recorded his only straight bluegrass recording for Rounder Records titled Grass Routes.
His early experience growing with jazz and swing music left an indelible mark on his style. Vassar said: “bands like Glen Miller, Les Brown, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Artie Shaw were very popular when I was a kid. I always loved rhythm so I guess in the back of my mind the swing and jazz subconsciously comes out when I play because when I was learning I was always trying to emulate the big band sounds I heard on my fiddle.” Understandably the form of jazz music created by Clements was a mix of the diverse influences that touched him throughout his career but particularly his affinity for the jazz and swing music of his youth.
Therefore it is no surprise that even though early in his career, as he learned and developed bluegrass and country styles, he also gained respect as a jazz player. Hence classic number two: Once In A While which resulted from a jam session with Miles Davis’s ex-band members Dave Holland, John Abercrombie and Jimmy Cobb. Classic number three: Together At Last. with Stephane Grappelli was produced by Tim Yaquinto and recorded in Vassar’s former studio.
Back Porch Swing was Vassar’s first album to feature the Little Big Band. Recorded between September 1997 and September 1998 at the Historic RCA Studio B in Nashville Back Porch Swing was performed almost entirely live with the exception of vocal and string overdubs.
Vassar Clements participated in Dead Grass (2000) a bluegrass twist on some Grateful Dead favorites.
Full Circle (OMS Records) released in 2001 had Vassar returning to his bluegrass roots with an all star cast that included Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Bryan Sutton, Peter Rowan, John Cowan, Josh Graves, Jeff Hanna, Jimmie Fadden, J. D. Crowe, Billy Troy, Alan O’Bryant, Ricky Skaggs, Jim & Jesse and Jake Landers.
In May of 2004 Runaway Fiddle (OMS Records) came out. This project was a labor of love of two of the greatest American fiddle players of modern times Vassar Clements and Buddy Spicher. Buddy Spicher is one of Nashville’s most recorded session artists and arrangers. On Runaway Fiddle these two legends teamed up to record tunes they grew up loving playing and internalizing but for the most part never recording. Selections include 192’s show tunes Western Swing Dixieland. Several songs are interpretations of songs popularized by country music icon Bob Wills who created the new art form called Western Swing.
His CD Livin’ With The Blues (Acoustic Disc) was released in August of 2004. It was his first blues album. While Vassar Clements has often been considered the ?bluesiest? of the bluegrass fiddlers it wasn?t until producer Grisman asked him what kind of record he wanted to make that the soft spoken septuagenarian replied “I’ve always wanted to make a blues record.”
Livin? With The Blues includes Skip James? swampy “Cypress Grove ” with Vassar’s lonesome fiddle accompanied by Bob Brozman’s slide guitar. Elvin Bishop cleans house with his own “Dirty Drawers” and “That?s My Thing ” while Maria Muldaursings with Vassar on “Honey Babe Blues” and Bessie Smith?s “I Ain?t Gonna Play No Second Fiddle.” Other tracks include Roy Rogers desolate take on Robert Johnson?s “Phonograph Blues ” “Mambo Boogie” featuring Dave Mathews and the Booker T. Jones classic “Green Onions ” given a new twist by Charlie Musselwhite and Vassar. “Rube’s Blues” featured blues guitar whiz David Jacob-Strain (who was 19 at the time) helping Vassar reinvent a bluegrass standard and Norton Buffalo with his unique soul treatment of his own “Don’t Stand Behind A Mule.”
In November of 2004 Vassar Clements joined bluegrass quartet The Biscuit Burners onstage at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Vassar played on two of the band’s original songs “Come On Darlin'” and “Red Mountain Wine”. The surprise appearance was part of the historic Ryman Auditorium’s $1 on the 1th Mystery Artist Series celebrating the 1 year anniversary of the legendary theater’s renovation.
On March 11, 2005 Vassar was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died at his home August 16th, 2005 at 8:25 am. He was 77.
[Biography adapted from Vassar Clement’s official biography].
Vassar (Mercury Records)
Superbow (Mercury Records)
Southern Waltzes (Rhythm Records)
Vassar Clements John Hartford & Dave Holland (Rounder Records)
Crossing The Catskills (Rounder Records 1972)
Vassar Clements (MCA Records)
The Bluegrass Session (Flying Records 1977) Grass Routes (Rounder Records)
Saturday Night Shuffle – A Celebration of Merle Travis (Shanachie Records)
Hillbilly Jazz (Flying Records 1978)
Hillbilly Jazz Rides Again (Flying Records)
New Hillbilly Jazz (Shikata Records)
Together At Last with Stephane Grappelli (Flying Records 1987)
Nashville Jam (Flying Records)
Westport Drive (Mind Dust Records)
The Man The Legend (Vassillie Productions)
Country Classics (Vassillie Productions)
Vassar Clements Reunion With Dixie Gentlemen (Old Homestead) Once In A While, Jam with Miles Davis’ ex-band members (Flying Fish Records 1992)
Live in Telluride 1979 (Vassillie Productions 1979)
Music City USA (Vassillie Productions)
Old And In The Way – Volume 1 (BMG Music)
Old and In The Way – That High Lonesome Sound – Volume 2 (Acoustic Disc)
Old and In The Way – Breakdown – Volume 3 (Acoustic Disc)
An Americana Christmas with Norman Blake (Winter Harvest)
The Bottom Line Encore Collection (Bottom line 1999)
Vassar’s Jazz – Golden Anniversary (Winter Harvest)
Back Porch Swing (Chrome Records 2000)
Dead Grass (Cedar Glen Music Group)
20 Fiddle Tunes & Waltz Favorites
Full Circle (OMS Records 2001)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken – Volume II – 3th Anniversary Edition (Capitol Records)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken (United Artists)
Will The Circle Be Unbroken – Volume III (Capitol Records)
Old & In The Gray (Acoustic Disc)
Runaway Fiddle with Buddy Spicher (OMS Records) Livin’ With The Blues (Acoustic Disc 2004)
The Fiddle According to Vassar (Homespun Tapes). Taught By Vassar Clements. 9-minute DVD or VHS Includes music book
Vassar Clements In Concert – Vassar Swings (Shikata Records)
Vassar Clements In Concert – Ramblin’ 81 (Shanachie Records)
Mali continues to produce some of the most fascinating acts in West Africa. One if the finest in recent years is BKO. The groundbreaking ensemble is back with Mali Foli Coura, a remarkable album where Malian tradition, the blues, spectacular jembe drumming and trance-like electric distortion permeate the music.
The lineup includes Fassara Sacko on lead and backing vocals and Khassonke dunun; Ibrahima Sarr on jembe and backing vocals; Adama Coulibaly on donso-ngoni, lead and backing vocals; Abdoulaye Kone on jeli-ngoni; and Aymeric Krol on drums and backing vocals.
Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie. Dizzy as he was affectionately known was one of the greatest jazz innovators of the twentieth century. His music, Bebop – “Bop” for short, was improvised, with complex and often dissonant chords, and sometimes very rapid tempos. It began in jam sessions in Harlem, and made a dramatic entrance into the music scene in the mid-1940s. Listeners were startled by it, and some traditional jazz musicians even described it as noise. But, it took over the world of jazz rapidly, and as a genre would influence generations of musicians to come.
Nothing so amazing and so influential has been heard in jazz since. Looking back, many writers have focused on Dizzy’s musical genius and technical mastery, but I am going to talk about Dizzy’s love of Cuban music and his connection to Cuban musicians.
Dizzy was born on October 21st, 1917 in Cheraw, South Carolina, and his father was a bandleader. Dizzy was surrounded by instruments as a young child. He learned to play piano starting at age four and later taught himself trumpet and trombone. He soon became a professional musician. It was while he was playing in Cab Calloway’s orchestra in the 1940’s that Calloway introduced him to Mario Bauzá. Bauzá was one of the first musicians to introduce Latin music to the United States. He would later connect Dizzy to Luciano Pozo Gonzáles, who was known as Chano Pozo.
Chano Pozo cut a strong and charismatic figure on stage. He could dance and sing as hard as he played conga. Even though it was difficult for them to understand each other. But, Dizzy said in the documentary film, A Night in Havana: Dizzy Gillespie in Cuba, that they both “spoke Africa.” Dizzy saw him as a brother. Before they met, Cuban music had only an occasional influence on jazz, and vice versa. That would soon change. Dizzy quickly welcomed Chano Pozo as a conguero into his band. And, on September 29th 1947, Pozo and the bongo player Chiquitico performed with Dizzy at a Carnegie Hall concert. As Alyn Shipton wrote in “Groovin’ High: A Life of Dizzy Gillespie”:
“Few collaborations capture the heady excitement, virtuosity … that can be found in “Manteca”, “Cubana-be Cubana-bop” (also known as the Afro-Cuban jazz suite) and “Guarachi Guaro” from the first fruits of Pozo’s tenure with Dizzy’s band.”
Dizzy incorporated much of Chano Pozo’s Santeria chanting into Bop – something that was new, and at times perplexed his fellow musicians, but later caught on. Likewise, bands in Bop had hitherto only a single drummer, but suddenly congas and sometimes a group of Cuban percussionists became a regular component of the music, adding additional excitement and rhythmic spice. Chano Pozo was tragically murdered at the age of only 33, but he left behind a powerful mark on modern jazz that reverberates to this day. Dizzy also recorded several beautiful pieces with the masterful Cuban composer and arranger, Chico O’Farrill, including the album Afro-Cuban jazz moods, on which the well-known Cuban maraca player, Machito, also performed.
Dizzy fell quickly in love with Cuban music. It was a firm embrace. He said several times in different interviews that slaveholders forbade drumming in the United States, yet drumming was kept alive in the South Americas and Caribbean, a drumming that has as its roots Africa. Cuban music is a music with rhythm at its center. The clave rhythm, broken up into a first measure of two notes and a second measure of three or vice versa, finds its origins in Sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed the word clave means key. And it is used to help organize many Cuban rhythms, including rumba, son, salsa and mambo. Dizzy was no stranger to rhythm. He wrote in his autobiography, “To Be or Not … to Bop” of six prerequisites that all successful musicians must have: mastery of instrument, style, taste, communication, chord progressions and rhythm. “Rhythm,” he wrote, “includes all of the other attributes because you may have all of these others and don’t have the rhythmic sense to put them together, then it would negate all of your other accomplishments.”
The Cuban music that Dizzy fell in love with in the 1940’s would stay with him for the rest of his life. Forty years later, he was invited to headline the fifth international jazz festival in Havana. He described going to Cuba as “coming home.” There, like a loving father, he embraced and nurtured the emerging jazz talents of several younger Cuban musicians, including Arturo Sandoval and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Arturo who is a trumpeter later recounted that he thought Dizzy was expecting to find only a group of great percussionists when he arrived in Cuba, but was a bit surprised to find a trumpeter with some technical prowess.
Dizzy’s love of world music did not stop and rest in Cuba. He travelled the world as part of the Jazz Ambassador program with a band of musicians from all of the Americas on behalf of the United States State Department. They toured South America, the Middle East, and still other countries. He went with a sense of curiosity and openness. But he also felt a deep need for the world to know and to appreciate jazz. He felt the same need in the United States, where racism impeded its acceptance. For Dizzy, music was a delight, he emanated joy from the stage.
In 2002, Gillespie was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame for his contributions to Afro-Cuban music. Dizzy had long embraced the Ba’hai faith. It is no accident that a man who wanted to be remembered not only for his music, but also for his humanitarianism, was so moved by a religion that speaks about the worth of all religions, and the equality and unity of all people.
Noam Pikelny was born February 27, 1981, in Chicago, Illinois. He is one of the finest banjo musicians in the United States. In 2004 he released his first solo album titled In the Maze. In 2010 he was awarded the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass earning him an appearance on the popular American TV program The Late Show with David Letterman.
In 2011 Pikelny released his second album Beat The Devil and Carry A Rail. The album hit both the Billboard Top Heatseekers and Bluegrass album charts and was the focus of a Funny or Die parody video starring Pikelny with appearances from Steve Martin, Ed Helms, Earl Scruggs, Chris Thile, Gillian Welch and others.
Noam Pikelny works regularly with well-known artists beyond the bluegrass world including Punch Brothers Wilco Fiona Apple Norah Jones and Jon Brion for the soundtrack to This is 4 a feature song on The Hunger Games soundtrack and a collaboration with Marcus Mumford for the Coen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis.
In 2013 Noam Pikelny released Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe, an interpretation of traditional Bluegrass through a bold complete adaptation of one of the most influential instrumental bluegrass records of all-time. Joining Pikelny on this album are some the best instrumentalists in bluegrass: Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), and Mike Bub (bass).
The original album Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe was recorded in 1976 five years before Pikelny was even born. It contains twelve classic tunes written by the father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe (1911-1996) and performed by his longtime fiddler Kenny Baker (1926-2012). While many outstanding musicians worked for Bill Monroe, Monroe would introduce Kenny Baker to audiences as “the best in bluegrass.”
Baker’s fiddle provided an elegant and refined voice to Monroe’s music and Pikelny accurately transposes Baker’s versions to the banjo note-for-note track-by-track. It is the first bluegrass record that remakes an entire album in sequence though never turning into an exercise in musical impersonation; instead Pikelny uses the Monroe instrumentals as blueprints and catalysts for his own improvisations and those of his band.