CD Review: Idrissa Diop – Yakar

Idrissa Diop - Yakar
Idrissa Diop – Yakar
Idrissa Diop

Yakar (Tinder Records, 2003)

Senegalese band leader Idrissa Diop offers us his dance to you drop release, Yakar which marks another
sizzling recording coming out of the African continent and African music releases tend to be endless these days, cranking out one gifted artist after another, almost to the point where these musicians get lost in a sea of names. I know I have trouble remembering names, but like many other world music enthusiasts, I am delighted to keep unveiling these musical treasures. Similar to other contemporary African musicians, Diop records and performs with a large band that includes 5 percussionists, 6 horn players, guitar, bass, keyboards, violin and backup vocals.

The soundscape created is immense with power beats, blaring horns and impassioned vocals that never relent. As you can imagine with this arrangement, Diop explores various musical territories from Cuban salsa sung in the Wolof language (one of the Senegalese languages), jazz that recalls John Coltrane, funk, rock and disco. Diop’s writing and arranging proves strong here and his love for music comes through in his tribute to music, Guenth (Dreams) which appears twice on the CD, once as an instrumental. Most of the tracks feature high octane music including the funky rock titular Yakar, the groovy Life, Cuban Sopante and Diolof Man which recalls the 70’s super funk group, Earth Wind and Fire.

However, Diop knows that a dancing body needs rest now and again, so he tosses in a few ballads that allow listeners to wipe the sweat from their brows and to breathe. Tire Ailleurs slows things down a bit with its Arabic violin and percussion. The love song, Nop features Coltranesque sax laid over jazzy piano and a trap kit. And Africains et Antillais recalls a Caribbean ballad. Diop whose vocals often times recall fellow countryman and superstar Youssou N’Dour comes off as an instinctive and passionate performer. He carefully crafts the type of songs that please audiences live and on recordings. And similar to the too numerous to name talent coming out of Africa, there’s no stopping this musical force and who would want to anyway?
(Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music).

Buy Yakar

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Russian Folklore Expedition

Moscow, Russia – The scholars from the Institute of World Literature (Russian Academy of Sciences) Yelena and Sergey Minyonok have developed the research project www.russianexpedition.net.

One of the aims of this project is to record and to investigate the authentic folklore musical traditions of Southwestern rural Russia.The itineraries will include the picturesque villages, in which the inhabitants
mostly preserve the traditional way of life. The field research is devoted to the complex process of preservation of the rich musical inheritance rooted in pagan times.

Russian folklore music differs by its unique harmonies. Our team members will work with the best folklore singers and choirs enjoying not only their music but also friendly and fruitful interaction.

This project has a large educational and cultural potential. It offers the chance for curious lay people who are interested in folklore music to participate as well as specialists and students of ethnomusicology, anthropology, art, history, sociology and Russian studies.

The Russian Folklore Expedition has a regular free Newsletter, where we publish: the scientific results of our regular expeditions, stories from the field, opinions and impressions of our team members and authentic folklore songs and other texts in English so everyone can experience its unique poetry.

Contact information:
Telephone (095) 952-6583

Fax (095) 200-3216
Postal address: Povarskaya st. 25A, Moscow, 121069, Russia

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Maraca, Czech World Music

Maraca - Longe
Maraca – Longe
Prague, Czech Republic – Maraca (not to be confused with the Cuban band with the same name) is a group from the town of Zlín. It navigates the waters of jazz/world music. The group has composed music to go along with poems by the most famous modern Portuguese author, Fernando Pessoa.

On the band’s third album, Longe (Indies Records MAM206, 2003), one can listen to a wide variety of instruments such as the Arabic lute (ud), the Australian didjeridu, guitar, bass, percussion and violin. The members of the band and the guests have created a world of their own where even samples have their place.

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CD Review: Filippo Gambetta’s Pria Goaea

Filippo Gambetta

Pria Goaea (Dunya Records. FY8052). Distributed by Felmay.

Sometimes you put on a CD by someone you’ve never heard and forty-odd minutes later you find yourself replaying it. It’s that good.This is one of those occurrences.
Gambetta is a young melodeon virtuoso from Genoa who has written most of the material here but manages to make it sound as though it has been around for ages. With his trio and a superb bunch of guests he draws on diverse European music to create a varied selection of moods and atmospheres. The effect is a little like a journey in the hands of a well-informed guide, beginning and ending in Maria’s Genoa trattoria.

Although strongly rooted in his native city I can hear traces of other places too, such as France, Spain, parts of Eastern Europe and Ireland.

His playing is ever inventive, resourceful and melodic and he is ably supported by some fine musicians. For example, Apparenze begins with his own meditative playing which is inspiring and beautiful in itself. Then Alessio Pisani’s bassoon joins and lifts the track to another level. This combination of instruments is perhaps unexpected and that makes it all the more exciting and arresting.

Similarly, Oliver Schroer’s electric violin brings a mixture of Eastern European and North African echoes to Slatner. But it’s Piero Ponzo’s clarinet that consistently proves itself the perfect companion for Gambetta’s rich explorations, especially on the sprightly Corbu which draws its inspiration from a nightclub of the same name.

The final track has its roots in the Ligurian tradition. La Tabachera/Quattro Danse/Incantatrice is from an anonymous 18th century manuscript and moves easily from the solemn and stately opening to a spirited and uplifting climax. I’d swear there was a violin in there too though none is credited.

So having reached the end I find myself going back to the beginning.This is an album that is a joy to hear and one that I can’t recommend highly enough.

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Contest: The Putumayo Global Soul Special

Putumayo_LogoNew York, NY – Happy Sunday everyone. Want the easiest way to win CDs from the great world music label, Putumayo? Make sure you watch BET TV today, Sunday, May 25th @ 1pm for “The Putumayo Global Soul Special.

Hosted by Speech from Arrested Development – Global Soul explores the new
trends in R&B, hip-hop and world music that are spanning the globe.

Click here for
a preview of the world-premiere special.

Win 25 CDs from Putumayo!!!,
contests@putumayo.com
To celebrate both Global Soul and Putumayo World Music’s 10-year anniversary, Putumayo is giving away a grand prize of 25 of their best CDs, and many runner-up prizes of 10 CDs from the fantastic catalog of world music. To Win: watch the special at the above times and answer the following trivia
question about the show:

During “The Global Soul Special” artist Angelique Kidjo performs a cover
song by a famous soul artist. What is the name of the song, and what is the name
of the artist that originally made the song famous? E-mail your answer to
contests@putumayo.com no later than
June 1st and be automatically entered to win 25 of the latest and greatest CDs
from Putumayo!

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CD Review: Robert Mirabal’s Indians Indians

Robert Mirabal – Indians Indians
Robert Mirabal

Indians Indians (Silver Wave Records, 2003)

The poignant storytelling and thorny lyrics of Indians Indians, Robert Mirabal’s latest offering on Silver Wave Records, will capture and ensnare the listener before he even realizes it. Mr. Mirabal doesn’t ply the listener with overused, romantic visions of life as a Native American in his home of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Instead Mr. Mirabal coaxes the listener to a new understanding with humor and graceful imagery. Mr. Mirabal’s credits include Mirabal, Taos Tales and the multi-media project Music from a Painted Cave. He was also the 1998 and 2000 Songwriter of Year for the Native American Music Awards, so it’s no wonder Indians Indians is utterly captivating. Those familiar with Robert Mirabal know that he isn’t a slave to any category and this CD is no exception with songs ranging from rock to dreamy ballads.

The title track “Indians Indians” is a gem with witty lyrics, funky guitar licks and Mr. Mirabal’s electric delivery. The silky voice of Laura Satterfield joins Mr. Mirabal in duets “Dream of You” and “Ruler of My Heart,” while Mirabal’s long-time fans will recognize Mirabal’s flute work as it weaves its magic spell. Cellist Michael Kott is the perfect partner to Mirabal’s vocals in “Black Jack Daisy.” But it is Mr. Mirabal’s storytelling that shimmers with tracks like “Theo’s Dream,” “Days Before Christmas” and “Grandpa,” while the tribal vocals of Reynaldo Lujan and Evan Trujillo lace the story of “Blue Lake.” Listeners are sure to be delighted with guitarist Estevan Castillo’s, drummer Joel Fadness’s and bassist Robin Abeles’s performances on the track “Morrison.”

While Indians Indians possesses traditional Native American musical elements of flute, drum and tribal chant, it refuses quaint stereotypes and instead embraces both soulful passion and painful truths of Robert Mirabal and his people.

Buy Indians Indians

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Cuban Label EGREM Introduces New Web Site

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – The Cuban Recording Company (EGREM) announced its new Web site address, from which it promotes the work of Cuban musical creators from different trends, besides being a powerful tool for research. The website www.egrem.com.cu shows the company’s catalog, sales statistics, information on the last productions, presentations of new titles and a database allowing people to learn other details. The website will have a daily update, and people will be able to see information on the history of EGREM, and how to contact distributors for information on the services offered by the recording company.

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Taj Mahal Signs with Tone Cool, Revisits Hawaiian Music

Taj Mahal - Hanapepe Dream
Taj Mahal – Hanapepe Dream
Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, USA – Based in Hawaii from 1981 until 1996, Taj Mahal returns to the island sounds of Kaua`i for the American release of Hanapepe Dream, his second CD with the Hula Blues. Hanapepe Dream, the Grammy® Award-winning artist’s debut joint venture between Tone-Cool Records and his own Kan-Du Records, will be released on June 10, 2003.

The follow up to 1998’s acclaimed Sacred Island, Hanapepe Dream’s 11 tracks feature Taj’s all-acoustic string band sound along with his signature slack-key blend of the blues and Pacific-Caribbean-island music.

Album highlights include an extended Hula Blues version of “Blackjack Davey,” a song from Taj’s 1974 reggae-infused Mo Roots album, and the signature Taj Mahal sound of “Stagger Lee,” “All Along the Watchtower,” and Mississippi John Hurt’s “My Creole Belle.”

The American release of Hanapepe Dream will offer bonus video footage including live performances of “The Calypsonians” and “The New Hula Blues.” Following Dream’s release, the very first Taj Mahal and the Hula Blues U.S. tour will follow with three weeks of shows during summer, kicking off June 20 in Chicago.

Commenting on his custom blend of styles, Taj has said, “My perspective is cultural and world-based. It’s always been a global perspective. Even in the early days when nobody knew me, they’d go, ‘Well, that album is perfect, but what was that calypso song doing on there? What does that got to do with it?’ I think that the way music is played [in America], it’s terribly narrow cast. I relate to these various traditions that I feel are connected through family, extended family, and influenced by influence.”

As part of “The Year of the Blues,” Taj Mahal will be seen in Martin Scorsese’s film From Mali to Mississippi, which will launch the seven-film series entitled The Blues. This project carries the viewer to the root of the blues in African music, and its journey across the Atlantic to the Mississippi Delta. Performers will include African greats Ali Farka Toure and Salif Keita, and American legends Taj Mahal and Othar Turner.

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Abdala Productions Celebrates 5th Anniversary

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – Producciones Abdala will celebrate on May 25 its five years of work promoting the wide spectrum of Cuban sounds. Producciones Abdala’s Unicornio label director Eduardo Ramos stated that they have distributed over a hundred productions from folklore to son, bolero, jazz, children’s, traditional and chamber music, as well as other contemporary trends. In the recently concluded Cubadisco 2003, they obtained 115 nominations and 33 awards including the Grand Prize for the CD “Canciones del buen amor” (Songs of Good Love) by Jose Maria Vitier. Among its latest CDs are “I wish you have good luck,” by Paulo F.G., “Troubadour” by Amaury Pérez, “Virtuoso Flute” by Niurka Gonzalez, “It Will Always be Love,” by the Evocacion duet and “Si de Tanto Soñarte,” by Lázaro Garcia.

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Bruce Molsky – a Show Review from Madison, Wisconsin

Bruce Molsky
Bruce Molsky
Running late on this mild spring evening, I angle into the nearest parking spot and run up the steps of an old, gutted, church, transformed into community center. Before even opening the door, I hear a well rosined bow gripping the strings of a fiddle. Chagrinned to have missed the first notes of his opening tune, I push on the wooden door to see Bruce Molsky sitting twenty feet away, on the stage. Molsky’s warm, smiling eyes meet mine and with a friendly nod of his head, he welcomes me into the hall. Everyone, I think, should be so lucky as to receive a personal greeting from this magnificent fiddling genius. I scan the room filled with roughly 60 people and slip into a folding chair next to the sound controls. Besides the two lamps shining on stage, the audio-system’s green desk light provides the only other lamp in the room. I’m at the back of the hall which was once the church’s sanctuary, yet Walking In The Parlor pierces the darkness and rings true in my ears. Molsky couples this tune with Rebel’s Raid. Though not a common technique among old time musicians, Molsky likes to build energy and add interest by pairing tunes together. One number ends and the next begins without any break or interruption.

Continuing with his fiddle, Molsky sings Peg and Awl. His voice grips the air, sounding as rosined as his bow strings. I’m suddenly aware of the many similarities between Molsky’s voice and his fiddle. They resonate amazingly at the same pitch. If his fiddle had lips, it would sing in a voice exactly like Bruce Molsky’s. I close my eyes and let the sonorous duet wash over me.

Molsky then strums his guitar and shakes his head. “It was in tune when I put it on the plane” he jokes. He fingerpicks Knoxville Blues. A tiny baby squirms and babbles among the show attendees, making it easy for me to complete the picture in my mind that I’m not really in the year 2003, in a building on the campus of the University of Madison, Wisconsin. But rather, I’m back in 1902, sitting on a tuft of grass in a Tennessee farm yard with the rest of my family, listening to Uncle Bruce entertain us. It’s not all that far fetched an idea. Old time music has it’s roots in the Appalachian mountains, dating back much father than the early 1900s.

Molsky pulls me back to the present with some banter before playing the tune, Fare The Well. “I’m not from the South. I did grow up in the South Bronx though…you gotta problem with that?” he rasps, smiling broadly. “No, Sir!” calls out a voice from the audience. We all chuckle. I’m not overly impressed with the acoustics tonight. Molsky sounds fine on his instruments and singing, but a touch too soft when talking. I determine to move up to the front during intermission.

The guitar is swapped for the banjo and we are treated to Rove Riley Rove, paired up with Uncle Norm’s. After another banjo number, we learn some finer points about Canada. Before playing a couple of fiddle tunes from John Arcan, The Grey Owl and Victor’s #39, Molsky tells us about a marvelous fiddle festival, Fiddles of the World, held up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was there, four years ago, that Molsky heard about First Nations people. This is the term that Canadians use to refer to the people who lived on that land before the Europeans crossed over the Atlantic. During these two tunes we see Molsky’s animated face. His expressions are so varied, it’s as if he’s deep in conversation with his fiddle.

Lady Hamilton is played and then we are enjoined to sing along with Sail Away Ladies. “If I’m singing and you feel like singing, please join in” he says. While I love to sing, and I do sing along when thusly asked, in general, I’d rather listen. Molsky’s voice takes on such a personal tone, it feels like he is singing just for me. And I’d think everyone in the audience could say the same thing. Again the rich sound of both voice box and fiddle box fill our ears and every crevice of the room. I drink in the sound of the soprano fiddle and the baritone singer, their voices full and luxurious, made for one another. We hear Jeff Sturgeon and Sally’s Little Favorite. Molsky looks out at the audience and smiles an impish grin. As he fiddles these last few songs, his fingers are moving so fast, they fly like a typist on the keyboard typing eighty words per minute.

Cotton Eyed Joe holds several agreeable fiddle tricks. The tune is a lively one and includes Molsky sliding his finger down the peg board as he draws his bow across the string. We also discover that even fiddlers can rap. Old time fiddle master, Tommy Jarrell, taught Molsky the technique of rapping the wooden part of the bow against the fiddle. This tune moves so much, I notice the heel of Molsky’s foot banging from side to side rather than a more sedate toe tapping as he keeps the beat.

After a short intermission, during which we are brought up to-date about local folk music activities by the show’s presenters, Madfolk, we settle back down for Mike in the Wilderness which includes lots of colorful left handed plucking and Black Jack Grove where the bow whips around on the strings so much I am reminded of a flag being pummeled by the wind. I note that Molsky holds his bow with the first three fingers of his right hand. “You could cut off these two (ring finger and pinkie) and it wouldn’t make any difference” he says.

Of Molsky’s many varied musical talents, one of them is not as a choir director. He attempts to get us to sing along in this call and response song, Let’s Go to Hunting. The audience does not respond as hoped. Imagine Dutch painter, Jan Vermeer, handing out paint brushes to his patrons and entreating them to “add another pearl.” It’s just not going to happen. Likewise, Bruce, most of us want to hear you sing, not the off-key fellow sitting next to us. Conversely, the next song, Poor Cowboy, works tonight as a sing-a-long. Maybe because Molsky teaches us how to sing it and it’s a simpler song to sing for those of us who are musically challenged.

Molsky calls himself an African music freak. The next number was influenced by the Zimbabwe National Choir. Molsky heard a recording from the 1967 LP Africa in Revolutionary Music (LSM Records) and wrote this song. It’s still untitled, but Molsky is compelled to share it with us. I’m glad he does. It’s unlike most of his other music and resultantly adds another dimension to his repertoire. “Music evokes a different response every time you play it” he states as an excuse for not being able to find the right name for the song. Indeed, if the song’s emotional message keeps changing with every rendition, naming it would, in a sense, nail it down. That might not be a good thing.

During Roustabout, played on the banjo, Molsky, true to his word, spends time tuning the instrument while simultaneously playing the song. “Banjo players spend half their time tuning their banjo and the other half playing out of tune” he says.

We hear Give The Fiddler A Dram and Three Forks of Cheat, both fiddle tunes. When Molsky sings I Truly Understand and Field Holler, I find I need to look carefully at his feet. His voice sounds so rooted and plangent that I wouldn’t be surprised to see that his feet have become cemented to the floor, he is that solid sounding. His pitch is remarkable. He then warns us that he has only one more song before the evening is over.

Pickin’ The Devil’s Eye is one of my absolute favorites. The way that Bruce plays this makes me think there is more than one fiddler on stage. After this tune and leaving no doubt as to his virtuosity, Molsky exits. We respond in kind with a rousing round of clapping, not stopping until Molsky re-appears. The encore is of the same caliber. We all go home with joy in our hearts.

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