Matato’a from Easter Island, European Tour

Belgium – Easter Island group Matato’a will be touring Europe June 3 through September 15.

This unique group will attract special attention because it’s the first time a group from Easter Island will be touring Europe.

The musicians promote and preserve the ancestral traditions, the dances, the costumes, and the body paintings of Easter Island through traditional and modern music. Acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards and bass are mixed with traditional percussion, ukulele, harmonica, and traditional instruments such as stones, horse jaws, big drums, etc. For more information you can contact the tour organization ‘The World Festival of Folklore Schoten – Belgium.’ Patrick Beauquesne. Phone: +32 479 47 24 20.

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Rough Guide To Scottish Music 2nd Edition

Rough Guide To Scottish Music 2nd Edition
Rough Guide To Scottish Music 2nd Edition
San Francisco, USA – Rough Guide To Scottish Music 2nd Edition. This entirely new Rough Guide collection explores Scotland’s vibrant music scene. With a wonderfully rich and diverse heritage, Scottish music is constantly evolving while remaining deeply rooted in the past. Traditional instruments, such as the clàrsach and fiddle, are being embraced by a new generation eager to build on the skills of their forebears.

Focusing on what is clearly a living tradition, The Rough Guide To Scottish Music rounds up some of the key artists and talent in Scotland today.

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Non-traditional Record Label R2 Lets Traditional Artists Profit

Calasaig - Near and Far
Calasaig – Near and Far
Toronto, Canada – R2, a new record label specializing in the promotion of music from the Celtic world, has just made it easier for European Union artists to tap into the North American market. Founded by Patrick Smyth in May 2002, R2 offers its artists a profit-sharing business model and its consumers a timely source of Celtic music at competitive prices.

The label’s roster, dubbed The Celtic Connection, includes previously released Celtic favorites, as well as new recordings by emerging artists.“There’s a wealth of outstanding Celtic music that never gets heard on this side of the ocean,” said Smyth, President of R2. “Typical business agreements in the industry have made it extremely difficult for EU artists to break into the North American market. At R2, our objective is to ensure the artists can thrive here so that we keep this magnificent musical tradition alive.

What sets R2 apart from other record labels is its profit-sharing business model. R2 offers its artists a much greater percentage of the profits with the sale of each disk than is customary in the industry. For the fans, R2 is able to reduce the costs and delays often associated with importing, by manufacturing locally. With a network of contacts across the U.S. and Canada, R2 offers a range of services, including distribution to retail, direct-to-consumer internet sales, marketing and tour management.

The Celtic Connection launched with recordings by Scottish performers Calasaig (Near and Far), The Easy Club (Chance or Design), Maggie MacInnes (Spirit of Life) and Kirsten Easdale (Be Not Afraid). Additional releases, due out in July 2002, include Jimi McRae (Earthdance), Peatbog Faeries (Mellowosity), The Easy Club (Skirlie Beat) and Finn MacCuill (Sink Ye, Swim Ye).

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FloydFest Outta’ this World Music

Floydfest_logoThe 2nd annual FloydFest blasts off August 15-17, 2003 in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Floyd, Virginia. Featuring roots from the bush to the Blue Ridge and beyond.

This year’s line-up includes Donna the Buffalo, Baka Beyond, The David Grisman Quintet, Morgan Heritage, Old and in the Gray w/ Vassar Clements, African Showboyz, Nickel Creek, Mamadou Diabate, Yonder Mountain String Band, Speech(Arrested Development), Peter Rowan, Tony Rice, Acoustic Syndicate, Nii Tettey Tetteh, Kaki King, Man Alive!, Larry Keel Experiance, John Brown’s Body, Mike Marshall, Darol Anger, Rushad, dj Cheb i Sabbah and many more.

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World Music Portal has been renamed World Music Central

 Durham, North Carolina, USA – World Music Portal has been renamed World
Music Central and we have a lot of new and exciting features.

New Sections:

  • User registration. Registering allows users to author articles and news,
    participate in forums and customize their calendar. We value the privacy of
    registered users and we will not use their information for marketing purposes.

  • Submissions allows registered users and anonymous users to submit news
    stories: tour information, CD releases, new book information, conferences,
    events, trade shows, obituaries, etc.
    • Calendar. This
      exciting section lists events that will be taking place in the coming weeks or
      months. Users can submit information about their events. Registered users can
      also customize their own calendar and add personal information such as
      birthdays and anniversaries.
    • Forum
      allows users to participate in discussions and to create new threads.
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      registered and anonymous users to submit links automatically.
    • Comments. Users can comment on the news and other stories featured on our
      site.
    • E-mail forwarding and printing of news.

    Please read the
    Frequently
    Asked Questions
    section (FAQ) for other details about the functionality of
    the Web site.

    We have temporarily disabled the World Music Festivals section. It will
    return as a database.

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Pinecastle Signs the Churchmen

Orlando, USA – Pinecastle Records has announced the signing of its newest addition to the company’s roster, The Churchmen.

The Churchmen are an established bluegrass gospel band, based in Virginia.  Their southern gospel style, four part harmony, along with the sound of the bluegrass instrumentation, give them a unique sound that has garnered them national attention. 

The Churchmen are comprised of Keith Clark (bass, baritone and low tenor vocals), Freddy Rakes
(banjo, tenor vocals), Gerald Harbour (mandolin, fiddle, baritone and bass vocals), Steven Martin (guitar, baritone vocals), and Shannon Wheeler (fiddle).

Having been touring full-time for well over a decade, The Churchmen have made quite a name for themselves. Having shared the stage with several of bluegrass and gospel’s most noted performers, they have developed many friendships. “We have had the pleasure of performing with The Churchmen on several occasions, and it is always enjoyable,” affirms Doyle Lawson. And The Lewis Family state, “The Churchmen are a fine group of entertainers, whose talents are indeed unique, whether in performance in ensemble or solo. It’s always a pleasure to work with them.”

The Churchmen have several recordings to their credit. Look for their newest release later this summer.

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Matahambre Son, Short Stories About Cuba

Hamburg, Germany – Matahambre Son is a recording packaged in a booklet form, full of gorgeous photography of the people and places that make up Matahambre.

The cradle of the traditional Cuban music lies in the Eastern part of Cuba, some ways away from Havana. Santiago de Cuba is considered the center of Cuban Son. Countless musicians and bands come from that region such as Vieja Trova Santiaguera, Compay Segundo and Eliades Ochoa. José Ochoa, who along with the other four musicians in his family became famous with the Buena Vista Social Club, discovered Matahambre Son. One day, while cruising dusty country roads he arrived in a small village, where foreigners rarely turn up: Matahambre.

The place gets its name, meaning “where hunger ends”, from a legend that a group of soldiers arrived craving food and sustained themselves on the local mango.

Today the citizens of Matahambre grow coffee and fruit. There are no “cultural” outlets. These people are peasants. They work the fields singing and inventing their own songs and rhythms.

When José Ochoa made his stopover in Matahambre, he heard some music at dawn – six men gathered on a porch. More and more people crowded around. Their songs told about those they knew in the village: about Gavino, whose wife had walked out on him; about Bigote de Gato, who got his nickname because of his mustache and who now lives in Havana; about the drunkard staggering through the streets at night; about the beautiful women, the fiestas, abandoned husbands and timid girls, about chickens and dogs. Small stories from a little village in the eastern region of Cuba.

When German label Danza y Movimento arrived there in 2000 accompanied by José Ochoa, they encountered an open-minded people. This CD passes on their music and along with the beautiful photography in the book allows the listener to be more than a mere spectator.

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Deadline for Artists who Want to Showcase at Folk Alliance

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA –  Showcase applications for the 16th Annual International Folk Alliance Conference in San Diego are now being accepted by the Folk Alliance office. Applications must be complete upon submission, and postmarked by May 31, 2003. Traditional and contemporary world music artists are encouraged to participate. the event is open to all forms of roots music. To print a copy of
the showcase application, click here.

Program proposals are also welcome, postmarked by May 31, 2003. To print a copy of the program proposal for San Diego, click here.

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What is Flamenco?

by Marie Jost

…an Andalusian loves flamenco because it is beyond any definition, any law–accepting as it does every style, modality, cadence, sound and rhythm…because each individual who dances, plays or sings flamenco can interpret it as he wishes, and no one more so than that individual. Flamenco is Tartesian, Persian, Byzantine, and probably Ancient Greek, too. It is Mozarabic and Latin and, in being all of these, it is something more flamenco is no more than what its most recent interpreter wanted it to be.

Eugenio Noel, Martín el de la Paula en Alcalá de los Panaderos. Madrid: La Novela Mundial, 1926.

Many new to flamenco typically ask, “What is flamenco?” This might seem like a simple question, one that could be answered with a few formulas, a short list of essential features that, taken as a whole, defines flamenco. The reality of flamenco is far from this simple, tidy picture.

In truth, there is not one flamenco, there are many flamencos. Flamenco exists in both space and time, changing from locale to locale and from epoch to epoch. By its very nature, flamenco is a mass of contradictions: it is a traditional art form passed down orally from one generation to the next, often within family dynasties, but it is only about 200 years old and is a constantly changing hybrid. Also, while it is a regional and an oral art form, it is not a folk art.

Flamenco singing and guitar playing are not taught in conservatories, though theatrical flamenco dance has been taught since the nineteenth century in dance academies, and today has attained a breathtaking virtuosity that has nothing to do with the technically subdued but highly expressive pueblo dancing that is still the backbone of so many flamenco fiestas. Flamenco is associated in the popular imagination with the Gypsies of Andalusia, though non-Gypsy artists have been every bit as important in the evolution of the art form, and the entire fandango family developed largely apart from the heavily Gypsy-influenced styles that developed in and around Cádiz, Jerez de la Frontera and Seville.

Flamenco is a way of life for many of Andalusia’s Gypsies and plays a prominent role in all their important celebrations, yet it has been a highly professionalized art since the nineteenth century, presented before enthusiastic paying non-Gypsy audiences since the early years of that century. In the end, rather than trying to define flamenco, the intention here is to describe some of its most characteristic features, always realizing that for every “typical”element enumerated, there exists one or more common exceptions to this or any rule. Flamenco is a moving target, restless, never static for long, lovingly preserving the past, yet looking expectantly toward the future. For every aficionado of flamenco you ask “What is flamenco?”, you will receive a different and often contradictory answer. Just as the Sufi is taught there are as many paths to God as there are souls on the earth, there are as many kinds of flamenco as there are flamencos.

Although flamenco cannot readily be defined, there is much about it that is typical, usual or customary, and this can be described to give a picture of some of the most common features of the art form. Much ink has been spilled on the origins of flamenco, from the date when flamenco can first be said to exist as a distinguishable and recognizable art form (the most common arguments place the date anywhere from the Fifteenth Century (or earlier) to the 1860s), to the role of Gypsies in the formation and popularization of flamenco, to establishing the canon of accepted (and acceptable) song forms. In fact, there is very little that can be said for certain about flamenco. We do know that it originated in Andalusia.

The first documents that feature eye-witness accounts of something that is recognizably flamenco date from the first half of the nineteenth century. The use of the term flamenco to designate the art form and its performers is even later, scholars have dated its first appearance in print to the 1860s. Yet there are theories, especially by those who champion the Gypsy origins and development of flamenco, crediting the Gypsies with the creation of flamenco within their family circles during the eighteenth century (if not before). Unfortunately scholars have been unable to document this theory, though there is some logic to the argument that anything developed within Gypsy family circles and not presented to a non-Gypsy public would have had little chance of showing up in the documentary record since the Gypsies themselves were largely illiterate.

Both Gypsies and non-Gypsies seem to have been involved in the development of flamenco as a performing art. Certainly today over half of professional flamenco performers are non-Gypsy, and in every era there have been major figures who have not been Gypsy. But the Gypsy contribution, especially in terms of interpretation, has been significant in every age. The rise of flamenco itself has been tied by some scholars to a vogue for Gypsy style clothing, language and music championed by certain members of the aristocracy beginning in the second half of the eighteenth century. Certainly there is ample evidence of Gypsies and non-Gypsies alike adopting a flamenco lifestyle, one heavily influenced from its inception by Gypsies and many of their habits and characteristics. Although until the 1970s there were always two different interpretative traditions in flamenco–one Gypsy, the other non-Gypsy—since the 1970s there has been an overwhelming triumph of the Gypsy style of flamenco.

While flamenco cannot be neatly defined, certain basic and typical elements can be identified. The most basic element of flamenco is the voice. Without the voice, or at least the corpus of song forms derived from the singing tradition, there can be no flamenco. A lone singer, accompanied only by hand claps, finger snapping or table rapping, or simply the naked voice, can be the quintessence of flamenco. The guitar has been accompanying flamenco since the nineteenth century and has developed certain techniques and accompaniment styles in concert with the development of the singing style. Contrary to what many foreigners believe, dance is not the motor that drives flamenco. The musical forms that the dances are set to all derive from the singing tradition. The musical structure derives in every case from song: guitar and dance are rooted in flamenco song.

There are several different types of flamenco performances characterized by different venues, and even different audiences. The most basic performance type is the juerga or party. A juerga can simply be a collection of a few musicians–singers, a guitarist or two, and perhaps a few knowledgeable non-performers. Dancing may occur, though it will be impromptu and informal and will bear little resemblance to what would be presented in a flamenco stage production. Often the singers and guitarists will dance a bit as part of a juerga, at other times non-professional dancers will spontaneously get up and dance and occasionally professional dancers will dance, but in the more informal fiesta style. This more informal type of flamenco is also part of Gypsy celebrations such as baptisms and weddings. Some of the more elastic flamenco song types, generally bulerías and tangos, will be sung and danced to for hours on end. Again, the focus is on spontaneous performances by party goers who may or may not be professional performers. The emphasis is on self-expression, wit, playfulness and spontaneity. Prodigious technique, theatrical effects, and highly structured productions are not the focus of a fiesta.

Already by the 1840s, there is written evidence that flamenco was performed for paying spectators. During the course of the nineteenth century, more formal venues, in particular music halls and theaters, became the most usual place for paying audiences to experience flamenco. Performing groups were formed of one or more singers , a couple of guitarists and a group of dancers. There is a mix of singing accompanied by guitar, guitar solos and dance accompanied by voice and guitar, with quite a bit of emphasis given to the dance. Although these dance numbers are more highly structured than those spontaneous dances performed at juergas or fiestas, and there is greater emphasis on technique, still the performers have a certain degree of freedom within the overall agreed upon structure. For example, when a tablao group presents an alegrías, all of the performers know what metrical and harmonic structure is most typical of that song form. Alegrías have particular melodies associated with them and the lyrics have a specific poetic meter. The dance por alegrías traditionally contains certain sections that often come in a particular order, though there is some flexibility. Because the basic elements are common knowledge between all of the performers, and certain signals are commonly used to communicate between them, tablao performers can perform together with minimal rehearsal. This is the type of flamenco most often seen in flamenco night clubs in Spain.

Since the 1920s, highly choreographed theatrical productions have become increasingly common. In such productions the emphasis is on dancing, and often the dancing itself is at the service of a highly developed plot. A complex choreography is created, often set to specially selected or composed music. The performers have less room for spontaneous improvisation (or none at all), for in these productions there is great emphasis on flamenco as a dramatic art form like opera or ballet, in which the plot, choreography, music, costumes and set design all work together to communicate a consciously designed experience to the audience. This is flamenco as a theatrical art, one presented before a large audience that often has little or no understanding of flamenco.

One of the most notable individuals associated with this type of theatrical flamenco has been Antonio Gades, whose works have been superbly documented by director Carlos Saura in a trilogy of dramatic dance films (“Blood Wedding”, “Carmen”, and “El Amor Brujo”). The dance technique of theatrical flamenco is worlds away from pueblo flamenco, though there is a clear connection with tablao flamenco, and the two styles have cross-fertilized to some extent. Yet for all the distance that divides theatrical flamenco dancing from the flamenco of a juerga or a fiesta, they all have in common the desire to communicate emotion directly and through the agency of the same flamenco song forms that are the basis of all flamenco.

These flamenco song forms are sometimes called “palos”. Palo simply means a stick in Spanish and perhaps refers to the wooden sticks that many flamenco singers performed with during the nineteenth century, sticks that they would sometimes rap on the floor as they sang to mark the compás. There are over a dozen flamenco palos. Among the most commonly performed today are alegrías, bulerías, tangos, fandangos, seguiriyas, soleá, soleá por bulerías, tarantos, martinete, saeta, malagueñas. There are other less commonly performed types, many of them derived from Andalusian folk music: bamberas, peteneras, farruca and fandangos de Huelva. There are also the so-called “cantes de ida y vuelta”, song types that went to the New World with the Conquistadors and Spanish settlers and returned at some point during the nineteenth century to be transformed into flamenco song forms, these include, among others, the milonga, rumba and guajiras. This plethora of different sources and song types has been characteristic of flamenco since the nineteenth century.

A palo is characterized by several features:

  • Compás–comprising both its musical meter and a particular pattern of accents within this metric structure.
  • Mode, key or scale. Flamenco is often modal music, though not exactly the accepted modes of Western music. There are also some examples of palos, or sections of palos, in major and minor keys.
  • Melody. Some flamenco palos, for example members of the cantiñas family, are associated with specific melodies. Other palos, like bulerías can and are sung to almost any melody, including popular songs transformed into the compás of bulerías.
  • Some palos are associated with characteristic lyrics, for example the petenera, whose lyrics speak of a woman named Petenera, or the bambera, whose lyrics tell of swinging on the bamba (an Andalusian word for swing). There are also certain lyrics normally sung por seguiriyas or soleá, and saetas have a religious text, sung as they are to the images processed in Holy Week.
  • Finally, each palo has a specific poetic meter to its verses that is, of course, compatible with the compás of the music.

Because of the rigidity of the compás in association with melody, and to a lesser extent lyrics, a performer or knowledgeable aficionado can identify the palo being performed before the end of the first sung line, and often before. The meter and the accent pattern quickly places the song into one of several compás families. The mode or key often further refines the identification. Finally the melody, characteristic guitar accompaniment and lyrics contribute to the positive identification. Seguiriyas will never be confused with malagueñas, nor bulerías with guajiras.

 It is quite frequent in Spanish to say that a singer or guitarist performs “in the style of”(por) a palo. For example, a singer sings por seguiriyas, meaning in a style that employs the characteristics of meter, compás, mode, melody and lyrics that are those of seguiriyas, and hence distinguishable from those of soleá, martinete, granainas, etc. Each flamenco palo is characterized by a number of commonly agreed upon elements. Taken together, these elements distinguish one palo from another. All a singer has to do is let the guitarist know he wants to sing por soleá, and the guitarist knows how to begin his guitar introduction. Once the singer begins singing his first line, the guitarist then identifies the specific melody the singer is singing and, from experience, knows how to accompany the singer. It is up to the guitarist to know the song tradition at least as well as the singer he is accompanying so that within seconds he can recognize what the singer is singing, and therefore accompany him appropriately. It must be remembered that flamenco is still an almost entirely oral tradition. The musicians are not working from any type of written musical notation, but are performing music that has been handed down orally from one generation to the next. This is beginning to change in recent years with the rise of flamenco compositions, especially on record albums. However, many of these songs have now become part of the oral repertory and are sung together with traditional verses and melodies in the same song.

So, we return again to the question: What is flamenco? Perhaps flamenco is not beyond description, though it might be, as Eugenio Noel believed, beyond definition. There is a corpus of commonly agreed upon characteristics that distinguish the flamenco palos from one another and create distinctions within flamenco as a whole. But these characteristics themselves are not flamenco. Flamenco is first and foremost an expression of the human heart. The formal elements of flamenco should ideally always be at the service of this expression: mutable, if necessary, to more fully explore our human experience.

While flamenco was born and grew to maturity in a certain time and place, it has transcended its origins to be recognized as an art form of universal appeal, one expressing the universal concerns of human experience, an art form that speaks to hearts from Tokyo to Topeka, from Sydney to Seville. The power of flamenco derives from its of social and geographical focalization combined with its exploration of general human concerns. Some modes of communication still lie beyond the boundaries of conventional language, communicating in ways that are more direct, more truthful: speaking the language of the heart and soul. To be touched deeply by flamenco, you need not know the difference between bulerías and alegrías all that is required is an open heart, one ready to be moved by the passion for living expressed with such naked conviction in this art.

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Souad Massi

Souad Massi - Deb
Souad Massi – Deb
Souad Massi

Deb

Everything about this CD is aurally pleasing. She sings in a flawlessly charming voice, draws on her Algerian roots as well as Andalusian flamenco and Brasiian percussion. Flutes and lutes abound mellifluously, it is extremely well recorded and does the difficult job of achieving an exemplary second album. So what is the problem?

Well for me it too often strays into blandness. It rarely excites me for all its perfection. Am I being churlish? I hope not.

For example the opening track has a cello setting the mood before her voice swoops and glides effortlessly over some subtle percussion. It is a pleasing combination, there’s no doubt of that. It’s just that it tends to wash over you after a couple of listens. A friend, listening to her, described it as world muzak. I wouldn’t go that far but in places it is dangerously close to sounding like very superior background listening.

That said I do like Yemma with its splashes of violin and oud to colour the hypnotic melody. The dark tracings of cello, coupled with acoustic guitar make Le Bien et Le Mal memorable too.

But at times I felt that this was an attempt to produce a sort of all-purpose world music album. I’m all for variety but this seems to attempt too much and as a result there isn’t a strong sense of personal identity evident. I was left feeling vaguely dissatisfied but I’m sure others will feel entirely differently and it will sell millions. 

Buy Deb, and her other albums, Mesk Elil, and Raoui.

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