Strut Records announced a new collection of Raw dancefloor rhythms from Africa, the Caribbean and South America titled selections, International Soundclash. The album, scheduled for release on July 24th, will feature a set of rare music mixed with new and exclusive material. International Soundclash is packaged with a specially designed cut-out globe on a pull-out poster to accompany the CD and Double LP.
Sofrito is led by DJs Hugo Mendez and Frankie Francis, who uncover new music and explore sounds from across the ages. Sofrito has built a unique reputation since it began life in the warehouses of East London in the mid 2000s. Now, following the success and critical acclaim of their debut compilation in association with Strut (Sofrito: Tropical Discotheque) Hugo and Frankie bring the long-awaited follow-up, Sofrito: International Soundclash.
The new selection combines the old with the new, plucking dusty gems from Trinidad, Colombia, Dominica, Congo, Cameroon and beyond. Exclusives include the deep Pacifico sound of Grupo Canalon’s “La Zorra y El Perol” – a new project from Nidia Góngora, singer with Quantic’s Combo Barbaro – a previously unreleased track by UK/Kenyan sensations Owiny Sigoma Band, and a Tropical Treats edit of Haiti’s dynamite Les Difficiles de Petion-Ville. Other highlights include an incendiary lesson in Soca groove from Lord Shorty, stunning up-to-the-minute carnival sounds from Guadeloupe’s Mas Ka Klé, all backed up by deep bassline Cadence, synthed-out Soukous and other Afro Latin encounters.
Over the last year Sofrito have brought their inimitable vibes to clubs across the world – sharing the stage with Haitian Ra Ra collectives in Paris, running all-night sessions in Bogota alongside Quantic, warehouse parties with the Owiny Sigoma Band in London and sweaty parties in illicit lofts in Brooklyn.
Their “Sofrito Super Singles” vinyl series continues to make waves on the underground, unleashing raw dancefloor edits and attracting the likes of Daphni (aka Dan Snaith), DrumTalk and Sweden’s Tropical Treats to contribute guest re-works.
For this release, visual maestro Lewis Heriz interprets Sofrito’s fresh perspective on the world with a specially designed cut-out globe on a pull-out poster to accompany the CD and Double LP.
The 19th annual Sierra Nevada World Music Festival will take place on June 22, 23 & 24, 2012 at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds located in the heart of the Anderson Valley in Boonville, California.
The reggae festival announced the list of initial artists confirmed to appear in Boonville this June. Artist scheduled include Luciano, Third World, The Twinkle Brothers, Lutan Fyah, Johnny Osbourne, Romain Virgo, David Rodigan, Perfect, Locos Por Juana, Zion Train, and Dub Nation
Xoan singing of Vietnam was inscribed this month on the UN List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. Xoan singing is practiced in Phú Thọ Province, Viet Nam, in the first two months of the lunar year. Traditionally, singers from Xoan guilds performed songs in sacred spaces such as temples, shrines and communal houses for the spring festivals.
There are three forms of Xoan singing: worship singing for the Hùng kings and village guardian spirits; ritual singing for good crops, health and luck; and festival singing where villagers alternate male and female voices in a form of courtship.
Each Xoan music guild is headed by a leader, referred to as the trùm; male instrumentalists are called kép and female singers, đào. Although only four traditional guilds remain, in recent years the singing has been taken up by clubs and other performing groups.
Xoan singing is accompanied by dancing and musical instruments such as clappers and a variety of drums. The music has a spare structure with few ornamental notes and simple rhythms, and Xoan is characterized by a modulation between singers and instrumentalists at the perfect fourth interval.
Knowledge, customs and techniques for singing, dancing and playing drum and clappers are traditionally transmitted orally by the guild leader. However, the majority of bearers are now over sixty years in age, and the numbers of people who appreciate Xoan singing have decreased, particularly among the younger generations.
Influential music industry developer Jean-François Michel passed away Saturday, July 23rd. Jean-François Michel was active in the music industry for many years. He namely founded The French Music Export Office in 1993. This organization was created at the initiative of the record industry, with the support of public authorities as well as other music trade organizations in France.
Jean-François Michel was also the Director of the Association Diversités, a non-profit organization created in 2007, which gathers several creative industry organizations and aims at promoting cultural diversity. Diversités members’ main goal is to share their expertise and know-how in the field of cultural industries.
“He contributed so much for so many years it would be hard to summarize and fairly communicate his impact,” said world music industry consultant and former WOMEX director, Gerald Seligman. “He created the model for Music Export Offices, creating the first one in France. In recent years he headed the European Music Office, the umbrella organization of the export offices. And so much else besides. A great friend of the music.”
This is a terrific compilation of music from North Africa. The 11 tracks make for over an hour of fine listening pleasure, with samples of music from Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. The accompanying booklet has copious notes (a dying art in this day and age!) and has text in English, Spanish, French and German. The tracks are generally upbeat with funky grooves thrown in as well.
The album begins with Moroccan percussionist Chalf Hassan’s Amul Koutchi. Our picks include Egyptian duo Rafat Misso and Hossam Ramzy’s percussive El Shouma: The Saaidi Dancing Stick, as well as the instrumental piece Taarida Hawzi by Chalf Hassan. The rai track by Algeria’s Chaba Noria — Dima Sabra – also stands out, and the compilation ends in fine style with another rai track by Cheb Nacim, Khabi Serak Ya Ghafel Wa Aqra Hadrek.
If you like this compilation you should also check out the first Sahara Groove compilation by Arc Music, which features gnawa, rai and modern fusion Arabic music. Artistes included in this original compilation range from Hossam Ramzy and Ali Hassan Kuban to Sahraoui and Cheikha Rimitti.
The festival program also includes musical workshops, children’s programs, artisans and international food.
Complete line-up of performers includes:
India.Arie and Idan Raichel David Grisman Bluegrass Experience
Doc Severinsen & San Miguel 5
Delhi 2 Dublin
Rosie Burgess Trio
Steve Riley & Mamou Playboys
Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem
Handful of Luvin´
Khaira Arby & her Band
Banana Slug String Band
Professor Merloch Silvermaine
Sid Lewis’ Jammin’ 101
Troika Folk Dance Band
Village Folk Orkestra
Very little Cuban timba has made it to the United states in recent years. The Ahi Nama label now brings us one of the beswt performers in the genre. Trumpet player has played with some of the leading salsa and timba musicians in Cuba.
Haciendo Historia marks the first major U.S. release by a new cuban dance band in 10 years and the revival of TIMBA. Led by the multi-taleneted Alexander Abreu, Habana d Primera is an ensemble of the most sought out studio musicians in Cuba who played with the top bands during the dance music explosion of the 1990’s. They are undisputedly the most popular dance band in Cuba today with the highest audience draws in the island. The musical elements in this CD range from straight-up salsa and timba to son, pilon, funk and jazz. Haciendo Historia will definitely have you dancing with its fresh and infectious sound.
Alexander Abreu & Havana D’Primera: Crusaders for Cuban Music
For more than two decades, Alexander Abreu has nurtured a behind-the-scenes reputation as one of the most sought-after studio musicians in Cuba. Today, he has finally stepped into the spotlight as a bandleader on a mission: To rescue Cuban dance music and recapture the thrilling energy from its modern heyday during the 1990s. Three years ago, Abreu pulled together an ensemble of seasoned musicians who had played with some of the best bands of that exciting era, a golden age of contemporary Cuban salsa and timba. Concerned about the decline of Afro-Cuban dance music on its own home turf, Abreu decided to pick up the standard once carried around the globe by the very bands he had played with, such as Paulito FG y Su Elite and Isaac Delgado.
“I feel like one of the great crusaders of Cuban music,” said the husky-voiced bandleader in a recent interview (*) published on Timba.com, a Cuban music website. “Because what is happening with Havana D’Primera is basically the recovery of music from the 1990s, a great period for music here in Cuba that had been lost to some degree.”
Abreu formed Havana D’Primera as a collective of musicians who shared his top-tier experience and his sense of urgency for music that they consider an art form and a cultural legacy. They had all matured during the decade of dominance of the great Cuban dance bands that had been their training grounds. Since 2000, however, many of the leading figures in the genre had left the island, including Manolin, Isaac Delgado and Carlos Manuel, all of whom were Abreu’s colleagues and collaborators. Meanwhile, young fans on the island flocked to foreign pop music styles such as rock, rap and reggaeton, leaving the legacy of Cuba’s rich native dance music to languish.
For Abreu and his new band, the challenge of sparking a revival was daunting. No new dance band had managed to break into the top ranks of popular music acts since the turn of the century, when Cesar Pedroso broke away form Los Van Van and formed his own band, Pupy y Los Que Son, Son. Record labels, radio stations and nightclubs all catered to the latest craze, especially reggaeton which had swept salsa off the charts. Incredibly, so many deejays had turned to reggaeton that there was no place to dance salsa in the capital of the country where the music was invented.
However, the crisis gave Abreu the chance to build a grass-roots fan base just like the timba pioneers had done at the start of the dance music movement in the late 1980s and early 1990s. That was known as “the special period” in Cuban history, a time of extreme economic hardship when bands were forced to practice in the dark due to frequent blackouts and try out their material on stage due to a lapse in record production. For a while, Cuban dance music was all about the live performance, a necessity that helped spark creativity. Taking a page from his predecessors, Havana D’Primera began working live shows, building a following the old-fashioned way, one fan at a time.
Before long, fans were packing the band’s regular Tuesday matinees at Casa de la Musica, a club and cultural center in the residential Miramar section of Havana. Even though they had not yet released a record, loyal fans memorized song lyrics from the live shows, another throwback to the trial-by-fire of the early timba years.
The weekly gigs were pivotal to the band’s development. But the early going was rough. “Yes, the matinee was very important,” Abreu told Timba.com. “It has really helped to build the character of the orchestra. We started there with just a couple of tables of people. Nobody went to those first gigs – nobody knew about the band. Many people would leave the concerts saying, “How is it possible that this is happening, and that people don’t know about it?”
That was soon to change. Before long, Havana D’Primera was generating the biggest buzz of any new band since Pupy y Los Que Son Son. “To put it simply,” writes Timba.com blogger Kevin Moore, “if I were arriving at Havana Airport tonight, (Havana D’Primera) would be the first band I’d be searching for.”
ALEXANDER ABREU MANRESA hails from Cienfuegos, a province that has produced musical luminaries (revered singer Beny More) and musical institutions (the legendary Orquesta Aragon). He comes from a family of amateur musicians, including his grandfather who taught him to play the tres, a special Cuban guitar. As a boy, he wanted to be an athlete, but his mother took him to a school that tested aptitudes and he got the highest scores in music. He started studying trumpet at age 11 and credits his mother for encouraging him to practice and pursue his career.
Originally, Abreu wanted to drop the trumpet and take up the flute, but his teachers understood his talent and insisted, prophetically, that he stick to the wind instrument. At 18, the young musician moved to Havana to continue his studies at the prestigious ENA, a breeding ground for Cuba’s best musicians. He graduated in 1994 and later would return as a professor, teaching trumpet.
In Havana, Abreu found himself at ground zero of the timba music explosion that rocked Cuba in the early 90s, marking an exciting evolution in the way Afro-Cuban dance music, or salsa, was performed. He played for six years with the ground-breaking band of singer Paulito FG, one of the leading stars of the timba revolution. His skills were forged in this powerful ensemble, working alongside two musicians he considers his greatest influences – Carmelo Andres, his trumpet teacher, and producer/arranger Juan Manuel Ceruto. Several band-mates from this seminal ensemble would go on to form part of Havana D’Primera, including Ceruto who produced the band’s new CD.
Abreu has also played and/or recorded with virtually every major act during one of the most exciting and creative eras in Cuban music. He was a member of the popular and respected band led by singer Isaac Delgado, who now lives in Miami. As a highly sought-after studio musician, he has recorded with top bands in disparate styles, including famed dance band Los Van Van and powerful fusion group Irakere. He has also worked with poetic singer/songwriters such as Pablo Milanes and Amaury Perez, who plays trombone on the new Havana D’Primera disc. In addition, Abreu was recruited for previous all-star projects, such as the touring timba band dubbed Team Cuba and the Grammy-winning Cuban roots recording “La Rumba Soy Yo.”
After the Cuban dance music scene started receding in 2000, Abreu travelled to Europe and spent time in Denmark, where he was invited to give master classes in trumpet and Cuban music at the jazz conservatory of Copenhagen. During an extended stay there, he joined Grupo Danson, a band composed of Cuban and Danish musicians, serving as arranger and composer. (Some of the songs from that era are included in the new album, expanded and improved for Havana D’Primera.) Abreu has appeared in Europe’s top music festivals and in 2002 he performed on the same stage with Sting, Lou Reed and James Brown as part of the benefit concert “Pavarotti & Friends.”
The time he spent performing overseas helped Abreu avoid the pitfalls of other Cuban timba bands, often considered too tailored to a home crowd and too hard for outsiders to dance to.
“I believe that to live outside of Cuba for a time has been one of the keys to the hallmark of this group,” says Abreu of his band. “Because I learned how to interact with people that don’t speak the language. I learned how to spread that same happiness and energy….You have to be precise with the rhythms and arrangements. You have to make sure that they are understandable, that they are solid, that they are clear, so that people understand.”
But there’s a flip side to that dynamic. Musicians who spend too much time outside their home base also risk losing that special creative energy and inspiration that only Cuba can provide. While in Europe, Abreu was reminded of the common wisdom: “Cuban music has to be made in Cuba; if not it doesn’t taste the same.” So by 2007, he was back in Havana putting together his own band.
The aspiring bandleader came home with only an embryonic concept, inspired by a New York salsa band he had caught in Copenhagen. There he had seen the Grammywinning Spanish Harlem Orchestra, a group of veteran salsa musicians who came together with a common purpose – to re-capture some of the original sound and excitement of the great salsa bands of the 70s. The group — led by pianist Oscar Hernandez who had played with salsa greats such as Ray Barretto and Ruben Blades – managed to stir up enough nostalgia to spark a one-band salsa revival, touring the world and recording three popular albums featuring star vocalists such as Blades.
“That served as an inspiration to do something similar with session musicians in Havana,” says Abreu. “It gave me the strength to come to Cuba and say, ‘I can do it here.’ From that idea, basically, Habana D’Primera is born.” Abreu composed and arranged all 11 songs on the new album. The musical elements range from straight-up salsa and timba to son, pilon, funk and jazz. He even incorporates some lines from popular reggaeton tracks, offering a bridge to the music which, he acknowledges, reflects the realities of today’s youth. The carefully crafted lyrics range from romantic to realistic, all based on his reallife experiences. (“Las cosas de un amigo” refers to a friend who says one thing to his face and another behind his back.) Abreu says he tries to make the verses “as sweet as possible” on paper. On stage, they take on the power and propulsion of the percussion, merging rhythms with lyricism.
“That’s why I say, in summary, that I come with the dance kick of the conga and a book of poetry.” Recently, Abreu has started using his Facebook page to post snippets of new lyrics and test his fans’ reactions. Whether in person or on social media, he’s proud of the enthusiastic public response to Havana D’Primera. And he even dares to think that he may have started a new trend. “Young people are playing Cuban music and I think that the movement is beginning to grow,” he says. “With the creation of Havana D’Primera, I think many people have recharged their batteries and are starting to make music again.”
Singer Khaira Arby Won Mali’s highly respected Tamani D’Or Award, distinguishing her as among Mali’s greatest artists of the last 50 years. Given by the Malian music industry, the award states that: “The General Directors of the Tamani d’Or have the real pleasure to announce that you are distinguished as the best Malian musical artist of the past 50 years.”
Arby is one of only a few women who have received this honor and also one of only a few artists from Mali ‘s north to win recognition for her achievements and contribution to Mali’s culture and arts. Arby was thrilled to receive the award’s statuette, a golden “talking drum,” at a recent gala in Bamako.
“It has been wonderful to have my music so well received around the world,” Arby noted, reflecting on the award. “It is also very moving to have my work recognized in Mali.”
Arby’s breakthrough album, Timbuktu Tarab (Clermont Music),and two recent U.S. concert tours have won her critical and audience acclaim from Brooklyn to San Francisco. Now, Khaira has been honored for her creative work at home with the Tamani d’Or, as she prepares to conquer Europe with her music.
While influenced by the desert blues of Tinariwen, Arby adds an intensity and vocal flexibility that can soothe and rouse, move and motivate.
The Indie Acoustic Project (IAP) announced the finalists for the IAP’s "Best CDs
of 2010" Awards. The 3 finalists in each of 12 categories were selected from the
multitudes of CDs that were considered for the awards. "The quality of the
CDs submitted was terrific, and this has lead to the only major problem we
faced: because there were far more than 36 excellent CDs (and only 36 finalist
slots), many deserving recordings could not be included," said the IAP in a
Altan – 25th Anniversary (Compass)
Chapin Sisters – Two (Lake Bottom)
Red Horse – Red Horse (Red House)
Indian tabla comes center stage in the hands of the young, highly trained musicians of Talavya, a quartet that revels in the tabla’s hidden potency as a rhythmic and melodic musical instrument capable of expressing just about anything. Touring North America in spring 2011, the ensemble, formerly known as Tabla Ecstasy, distills the age-old spirit and practice of tabla into a high-energy, highly accessible evening that reveals the instrument’s true joys. Dates include concerts in Atlanta, Albuquerque, San Jose, Portland and New York.
The ensemble will be joined by accomplished Kathak (North Indian classical) dancer Jin (JoungJin) Won, who is also a tabla player, storyteller, and teacher, for several performances, reflecting the deep unity of music and movement in Indian tradition.
“Our only goal is to present Indian classical arts in a contemporary language that can be enjoyed by more people,” explains Rushi Vakil, performer and group leader. “The language of tabla is really graceful, full of different tempos, energies, and emotions. All the shades of music can be found in it.”
Talavya is the brainchild of Pandit Divyang Vakil, a tabla maestro and master teacher who gave up a successful performance career to dedicate himself to guiding students and composing music. The son of a philosopher and a Montessori-influenced teacher, Vakil, affectionately and respectfully known as “Guruji,” began playing tabla at age three and takes an unorthodox approach to his tradition and his teaching. In an unusual move, he studied with masters from gharana, or lineages, drawing on each in shaping his own direction.
This direction focuses on the demanding technical aspects of Indian classical performance-the precision required to evoke nuanced moods and ideas. To get to the requisite level, the group rehearses constantly, learning to feel each other’s phrasing within the precise rhythmic cycle of the classical tradition. In the world of Indian classical music, there’s no such thing as practicing too much.
As Guruji’s compositions blossomed, he and his students realized they needed to bring their tabla performance approaches under one name, Talavya. The ancient Sanskrit word embraces both the rhythmic cycle ( taal) and pulse or tempo (laya) vital to Indian classical music and dance.
Though tabla ensembles are a relatively new development, Talavya applies the same rigor to their performance as they would to a classical piece, insisting on split-second perfection and pitch-perfect tuning of their drums. Though they can play with the spark and passion of a rock drum solo, the accompanying harmonium and their honed rhythmic sense keeps their playing grounded in the cycle of beats their forbearers played in for millennia.
Yet within this technical excellence, Guruji also encourages each student to find a distinctive voice. This touch means the performers of Talavya let their personalities shine in concert. Mop-topped Sahil Patel rarely stops smiling and looks for the lighter side of the music, while the young Rahul Shrimali takes things more seriously. Rushi Vakil, Guruji’s son as well as his student, loves jazz, is a keyboardist and world music composer, while Kaumil Shah teaches djembe (and loves transferring Indian classical rhythms to the African drum). These broader horizons and varied influences keep the group’s perspective fresh and open to other musical possibilities.
Dancer Jin exemplifies this diversity. Korean-born, she came to India 15 years ago from a career in the theater, intrigued by the rigor of the Indian approach to expressive movement. After studying English for several months, she traveled the country. Jin fell in love with Kathak, the highly percussive classical form that emerged as dance-based storytelling which moved from Hindu temples to the Persian-influenced Muslim courts of the Moghuls.
Kathak is not only based on storytelling, but also rhythm as the dancer complements and competes with the rhythm created by the accompanying tabla player. Not content with the basic understanding of rhythm and tabla imparted to dancers, Jin instead devoted herself to intensive engagement with the instrument, under Guruji’s guidance, making her a rare performer (few women play tabla, and few tabla players dance Kathak). Her dedication and skill have won her the admiration of classical choreographers and Indian audiences. (Jin eventually wrote a textbook on tabla).
The intensity and generosity of Talavya and Jin keep to the spirit of Indian classical art, which is about devotion and not entertainment, while expanding its palette and its audience. Each performance moves between rousing peaks and slower, smooth meditative passages not usually associated with percussion. It engages the pure sonic energy of Indian traditions, the narrative possibilities of drums and dance, and the wide-open spaces for improvisation, creativity, and personal expression Indian arts offer.
It’s not uncommon to catch audience members-from teenage hipsters to cosmopolitan professionals-bopping along to the pulse, or in tears or in awe after the hour-and-a-half-long journey through different tempos and timbres.
“People don’t expect the feelings involved, perhaps because they don’t think rhythm can do the same things emotionally as melody,” explains accompanying artist Heena Patel. “As Guruji tells us, you smooth out the edges and perfect the contours, otherwise it’s just drumming. You have to make music out of the instruments.”
Full Tour Schedule
India Cultural Society
714 Preakness Society
Tickets: $10-$100, Doors Open: 6:00 pm, Show: 6:30 pm
Neva Langley Fickling Hall, McCorkle Music Building, Mercer University
Doors Open: 11:45 am, Show: 12:00 pm
Umiya Mataji Mandir
4770 Raley Road
Doors Open: 4:30 pm, Show: 5:00 pm
The Historic El Rey Theater
620 Central Avenue Southwest
Tickets: $12-$27, Doors Open: 7:30 pm, Show: 8:00 pm
Buena Park, CA
Jain Center of Southern California
8032 Commonwealth Avenue
Tickets: $20 and up,
San Jose, CA
Menara Moroccan Restaurant
41 E. Gish Road
Doors Open: 5:00 pm, Show: 5:30 pm