Amr Abd El-Basset Abd El-Azeez Diab, better known as Amr Diab, was born in Port Said, Egypt on October 11, 1961. He grew up in an artistic family headed by his father who possessed a fine singing voice. Amr was encouraged to sing and showed remarkable promise at an early age. One evening, when Amr was just 6 years old, his father took him to the July 23rd Festival at Port Said where he made his first singing appearance on Egyptian Radio performing the National Anthem Biladi, Biladi. The governor took note, and awarded him with a guitar as a prize.
Amr continued to pursue his dream and began his musical studies at the music faculty of the Cairo Academy of Art, from which he graduated in 1986. His first album Ya Tareeq followed shortly after graduation and was an instant success. He followed this early success with 16 other hit albums, making him the most famous Arabic singing star of his generation.
He was the first Arab artist to make a video clip and in a parallel career, has acted in several films including Dhahk We Laiab (Laughter & Fun), in which he plays opposite the world famous Egyptian actor Omar Sharif and Ice Cream, in which he played the lead.
Due to his unprecedented style and aplomb that quickly singled him out from his contemporaries, Amr Diab was given the nickname Rebellious. But this uniqueness was not just limited to his clothes but translated into his developing an entirely new genre of music called Mediterranean Music referring to its blend of Western and Arabic rhythms. His success and individuality led to his being named, by most satellite and TV stations, as the Best Singer in the Arab World throughout the nineties.
1996 was a breakthrough year for Amr Diab with the release of Nour El Ain. This album became a best selling album by an Arabic artist, selling well not only in the Middle East but throughout the entire world. The title track, and its English version Habibe, was an international phenomenon, becoming a massive crossover hit in countries as far a field as India, Argentina, Chile, France and South Africa. The song was remixed by several top European deejays, becoming a big hit on the dance floors of Europe. The video clip set a new standard with its lavish production values.
In 1997 Amr Diab won three Awards at the Annual Arabic Festival (for Best Video, Best Song and Artist of the Year). In the following year, he received a Triple Platinum Award for the sales of Nour El Ain, and received the Worldwide Music Award in Monaco on 6 May 1998. This award was the first of its kind for an Arabic artist, illustrating the international nature of his appeal, unlike the majority of his contemporaries.
He continues to follow up this meteoric rise to stardom with even bigger hit albums, including Awedony, Amarain, Tamaly Maek and Aktar Wahed Biyahibak, with each album surpassing the next in terms of both sales and artistic achievement. He continues to enjoy mixing styles and performing with other artists.
On Amarain he performed two duets with with the France based international Rai superstar, Khaled of Didi fame, and with the Greek diva, Angela Dimitrou, whose crossover smash Marguerites was a huge hit across the Middle East in 1998.
As a young boy, Joaquín played every night at the biggest hotels in Santo Domingo. He began his musical career as a street musician in the streets of San Domingo, Dominican Republic. “I was playing my music in the streets of Santo Domingo when I was nine years old. I was the oldest of seven children and we were very poor,” Joaquín offers with a knowing smile. “Music was more than just a love for me. It was survival.”
At the age of 12, this Dominican “king of accordion” was playing for guests at a local hotel, and by the time he was 17, he was performing at the Olympic Games, played for the president of the Dominican Republic at his presidential home, won first prize at the highly competitive Merengue Competition of Santo Domingo and appeared each week on the Sabro Show, a favorite variety program on Dominican TV. He also toured with the Folk Ballet of the Dominican Republic.
Díaz has performed at numerous venues and festivals around the world “This music is in my blood. It is everything to me. It is my destiny,” says Joaquín Díaz.
Now residing in Montreal, Canada, he continues to delight audiences wherever he goes. Since his arrival in Canada, Díaz has put together a band that has demonstrated the musical heritage of the Dominican Republic. In 1998, he and his group of extremely talented musicians received a grant to produce their first full-length CD Merengue Más Merengue, which showcases Díaz’s stellar accordion playing.
Merengue Mas Merengue (Magra Multi Média, 1998) Merengue Alegre (Arhoolie, 2002) Ola (Cinq Planètes, 2006)
Zar was an innovative young act in the booming Danish folk scene and they earned the Danish Music Award (The equivalent to the Grammy). Their tight, powerful and dynamic sound was compared to such great bands as Solas and Union Station. Zar’s material was recreated traditional Danish music .
Zar played traditional songs and tunes that have survived through several generations. Zar didn’t only find its inspiration from the international folk-scene, but also in exploring other music styles such as jazz and pop music. “We want to give people a chance to hear that Danish folk-music can cause some fantastic experiences, as long as you keep an open mind.”
The band featured musicians educated from the Danish music academies. The spark that first brought Zar’s instruments and Sine Sine Lahm Lauritsen’s voice together was a music initiative by the Danish government in Serbia in 2001. Jamming at a Tonder Festival celebration sealed the deal. The band’s first album, Strengeleg, won an award for best debut recording in 2002, and Sine won best vocalist in 2004 for their second album, Tusind tanker. Recognition led to travel to Scotland, Scandinavia, Italy, Germany, the United States and Canada.
Members of Zar during the years:
Sine Lahm Lauritsen: Vocal
Steffan Søgaard Sørensen: Double-bass
Rasmus Zeeberg: Guitars
Andreas Tophøj Rasmussen: Fiddle
Michael Graubaek: Fiddle
Christopher Davis Maack: Fiddle
Rune Sørensen: fiddle
Der brænder en ild (2008)
Konono Nº1 was founded at the beginning of the 1980s ago by Mingiedi, a virtuoso of the likembe (the traditional instrument sometimes called “sanza” or “thumb piano”, consisting of metal rods attached to a resonator). The band’s line-up includes three electric likembes (bass, medium and treble), equipped with hand-made microphones built from magnets salvaged from old car parts, and plugged into amplifiers. There’s also a rhythm section which uses traditional as well as makeshift percussion (pans, pots and car parts), singers, dancers and a peculiar sound system including megaphones dating from the colonial period, which they call “lance-voix” (‘voice-throwers’).
The members of Konono Nº1 come from an area which sits right across the border between Congo and Angola. Their repertoire draws largely on Bazombo trance music, to which they’ve had to incorporate the originally-unwanted distortions of their sound system.
Just like most of the other bands that appear in the Congotronics series, these are musicians who left the bush to settle in the capital and who, in order to go on keep fulfilling their social role and make themselves heard by the ancestors (and, more specifically, by their fellow citizens) despite the high level of urban noise, have had to resort to a makeshift electrification of their instruments. This has provoked a radical mutation of their sound, and has accidentally connected them with the aesthetics of experimental rock and electronic music, as much through the sounds they use than through the sheer volume of their performances (they play in front of a wall of speakers) and their merciless grooves.
These bands are likely to be warmly adopted by the electronica and avant-rock communities (as well as, naturally, by the world music aficionados), as attested by the immediate reactions of artists such as Matthew Herbert and Tortoise’s John McEntire, who have enthusiastically volunteered to remix tracks for a future volume of Congotronics.
The Konono Nº1 album, Congotronics, is the first volume of Crammed Record’s series Congotronics, which is devoted to electrified traditional music from Kinshasa. It was recorded and produced by Vincent Kenis, who produced albums by Zap Mama, Taraf de Haidouks & Kocani Orkestar. At the same time, he has played a key part in the sonic design of many Crammed releases, right from Aksak Maboul’s seminal Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine to many albums of electronic music released on the SSR imprint.
Konono Nº1 won the BBC Award for world Music 2006 (‘Newcomers’ category).
Born in Bayamo, 1943, self-taught Pablo Milanés started his career evidencing the influence of blues and gospel music. He joined the Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Art and Cinematography) in the late 1960s.
Together with Leo Brouwer, Silvio Rodriguez, Noel Nicola, Sara Gonzalez and Eduardo Ramos, inspired by Traditional Trova or Feeling, he founded the Nueva Trova Cubana (New Cuban Song) movement, a new style to bring universal elements together with native forms. Pablo Milanés became very popular throughout Cuba, the rest of Latin America and Spain.
Widely covered by many international artists, Milanés has also composed scores for films, documentaries and television series.
Versos José Martí Cantados por Pablo Milanés (1974)
Canta a Nicolás Guillén (1975)
Pablo Milanés (1976)
No me pidas (1978)
Años with Luis Peña (1979)
Canta a la resistencia popular chilena (1980)
El pregón de las flores with Lilia Vera (1981)
Yo me quedo (1982)
El guerrero (1983)
Comienzo y final de una verde mañana (1984)
Ao vivo no Brasil (1984)
Querido Pablo (1986)
Buenos días América (1987)
Trovadores, with Armando Garzón (1987)
Filin 2 (1989)
Filin 3 (1989)
Canto de la abuela (1991)
Filin 4 (1991)
Filin 5 (1991)
Canta boleros en Tropicana (1994)
Igual que ayer, with Caco Senante (1994)
Si yo volviera a nacer (1995) Blanco y negro, with Víctor Manuel (1995)
Vengo naciendo (1998)
Días de gloria (2000)
Live from New York City (2000)
Pablo querido (2002)
Como un campo de maíz (2005)
Líneas paralelas, with Andy Montañez (2005)
Pablo Milanés en vivo: Amor y desamor (2007)
Raúl y Pablo, with Raúl Torres (2008)
Más allá de todo, with Chucho Valdés (2008)
Feeling 6 (2008)
Pablo y Lynn Milanés en concierto (2011) Renacimiento (2013)
Canción de otoño (2014)
50 de 22 (2015) Flores del futuro, with Miguel Núñez (2016)
Amor, with Haydée Milanés (2017)
Sonia Bazanta Vides, better known as Totó La Momposina, is a remarkable singer and dancer. She has earned respect and admiration in many parts of the world for the power and spontaneity of her performance. Drawing on the music and dance of the Colombian Caribbean, her work is rooted and inspired by a rich cultural mix that combines elements from African, indigenous and Spanish traditions.
On stage, Totó’s dynamic set of songs and dances is accompanied by a range of traditional instruments, but she also performs with three generations of her own family, her daughter Eurídice, and her granddaughter, María del Marpero, both of whom also since and dance. Totó presents rhythms from Colombia’s Caribbean coast alongside Cuban son, guaracha, rumba and bolero.
Totó La Momposina was born in the small village of Talaigua, on the island of Mompos, in Colombia’s Atlantic coast, off the Great Magdalene River. This island was at one time a sanctuary to fugitive African slaves from Cuba. As a result, Totó La Momposina’s music, like most of the music from the Caribbean, is heavily influenced by African music in addition to its European and indigenous roots. Born into a family of musicians spanning 5 generations, Totó learned to sing and dance as a child. She used to sing a cappella at parties and festivities in Colombia.
As a young woman, Totó traveled from village to village researching the lore of her people. She became a cantadora. A cantadora (singer) is more than someone who sings songs. It means she has a certain social position of responsibility. Traditionally cantadoras grow yucca, plantain and pumpkins on their land. They supply marital advice and herbal medicine, prepare authentic foods and drinks and participate and sing traditional music in its original form at public functions.
Totó has been performing cumbia music professionally for over thirty years. The music is the result of the fused influences of her culture. It is music to be appreciated, but also, as she is quick to remind her audiences, it is music which should be danced.
Her performances are a living catalog of the traditional music and dances found in the Caribbean. Totó La Momposina and her ensemble Sus Tambores, (her drummers) perform more than 10 styles of Caribbean music. During the course of their show, elements of cumbia, gaita, porro, bullerenge, garabato, mapale and chalupa are performed.
On stage she performs the songs the villagers sing to accompany them while they perform their chores. Her song Pilandera for example is a song with a rhythm that is used to pace the pounding of corn. Another song contains lyrics which are meant to break the monotony of scrubbing cloths in the river.
Rapidly gaining a reputation for her impressive voice and presence she began to appear outside Colombia in the 1970s touring everywhere with her 12-piece band in a conscious effort to preserve her people’s music. “I feel a brotherhood with the drums from Senegal and Cuba,” she says. “They play a universal language with which Colombians are well acquainted.” In 1991 WOMAD took her to Europe and she performed at their festival. Since that period, she is still performing all other the world.
In 2011 she received the National Life and Work Award from the Ministry of Culture of Colombia. In 2013, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Grammy.
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.