Electronic Griots

Frederic Galliano & The African Divas

Sacré Live (F Communications F199, 2004)

French electronic music wiz and the African divas return with infectious dance
grooves recorded live. Galliano has been working with several West African
singers for several years. Sacré Live includes pieces recorded during the
worldwide African Divas tour throughout 2002. Galliano’s approach is to create dance music, reproducing the feel of a live
concert, mixing each track and interaction with the audience. The scorching
singers that appear on Sacré Live are Hadja Kouyate and Fanta Diabate
from Guinea on vocals and Kaba Kouyate, also from Guinea, on bala and guitar

Sacre Live
and Galliano’s previous CD,

Frederic Galliano & The African Divas


Cross Cultural Latin Rock

Los Lonely Boys
Los Lonely Boys
Los Lonely Boys

Los Lonely Boys (Or Music OR803052, 2003)

The self-titled debut CD, Los Lonely Boys, has garnered this trio from a tiny town in West Texas some good reviews and plenty of media attention. Brothers Henry Garza on guitar and vocals, JoJo Garza on bass and vocals and Ringo Garza on drums and vocals make up Los Lonely Boys.

The CD opens with a track entitled “Señorita.” Slick guitar licks, a driving rhythm and catchy lyrics in English and Spanish speak to the possibilities of this group and the cross cultural rock influence made famous by Carlos Santana. So thick is the influence, the group paid homage to Santana in the liner notes.

There’s plenty to like about this CD, tracks like “Heaven,” “ Real Emotions,” “Crazy Dream” and “Nobody Else” with their easy harmonies and guitar work reminiscent of Stevie Ray Vaughn (he got a mention in the liner notes as well). But there’s a kind of playing-it-safe quality to some of the tracks that masks
some of the musicianship, where sweet harmonies juxtaposed against some of the harder guitar licks veer off too far in the pop direction for my taste.

Fortunately there enough of that borrowed feel-good funk sound from the 70s with Reese Wynans on organ to make up for it.

The best Los Lonely Boys offers up has to be the track “Onda.” Steeped in the influences of Carlos Santana and Stevie Ray Vaughn, “Onda” is a kick-ass rock piece that pays its respects without being too much of a copycat. “Onda” has to be next on the list for air guitarists everywhere and it actually has a drum solo and when was the last time you heard a drum solo?

There’s no doubt Los Lonely Boys are good, but I think with some age (the brothers are still in their twenties) and some experience they’ll get better, better than they already are

Buy Los Lonely Boys and the DVD Los Lonely Boys – Texican Style (Live from Austin)


Cuba Pays Tribute to Compay Segundo\’s 97th anniversary

(Prensa Latina) Santiago de Cuba, Cuba – The birth of famous Cuban musician Francisco Repilado, 97
years ago here, is recalled this month with different tributes, having the
performance of the group named after him as main attraction.

Compay Segundo died on July 14, 2002, arguably in the peak of a career that
saved him the sweetest glory for last, when, older than 80, he captivated
half a world with his charm and artistic authenticity.One of the key places for the tribute is the grave where, as he wished, his
remains lay at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, the last stop of the mass march
of the people in his funeral.

Led by one of his sons, Salvador Repilado, the band Los muchachos de Compay
Segundo has performed in different parts of the city lately and accompanies
Santiago inhabitants on behalf of all the Cubans in this tribute.
Author of Cuban popular music classics such as “Chan chan” and “Macusa,”
including other popular Son and Guaracha songs, Compay Segundo was one of
the Los Compadres duet, a landmark in mid-20th century.

Pasion y realidad de Compay Segundo” is the second volume of a biography of
the artists by musicologist Lino Betancourt, who based the research in 20
interviews to one of the most charismatic Cuban singers and composers.


Fado and beyond

Cristina Branco – Sensus
Cristina Branco

Sensus (US: Decca/Universal Classics France, 2004)

Cristina Branco is one of the young fado singers charting new directions for this traditionally conservative musical style. Her most recent release is case in point. Sensus is an exploration of the senses, especially as related to love and eroticism, seen through the lens of Portuguese-language poetry. A wide range of poets was selected for this project, from the Renaissance era to the present-day (William Shakespeare–in Portuguese translation–is the only non-Lusophone writer featured).

Custódio Castelo, Portuguese guitarist, habitual accompanist and husband of Cristina Branco, is responsible for most of the melodies and arrangements.

Every musical element, from melodies to instrumentation to arrangements is perfectly tailored to Branco’s delicate, but expressive, singing style. Some pieces are interpreted as fado, but an equal number are not. There are elements of jazz, classical and even folk music in many of the pieces. The singing is not dark, tragic, heavy or emotionally overwrought; rather, it is light, clear, luminous and exquisitely controlled. If you like your fado to be drenched in tragic saudade, this bright offering may not be your cup of tea. But if you come to “Sensus” with an open mind, not expecting to find traditional fado, you will be amply rewarded with beguiling poetry and bewitching melodies brought to perfection in the diaphanous voice and nuanced delivery of Cristina Branco.

Sensus, as the name implies, is a delight to the senses and something to be savored again and again.

Buy Sensus and her other CDs: Corpo Iluminado, Murmurios, and Post Scriptum.


Jazz and Folk Music Broadcaster David Grierson Dies in Canada

Host of CBC’s “On the Island,” David Grierson died on Saturday, November 20.

A journalist who cared deeply about music, literature, and the arts, Grierson
had worked for 20 years for CBC in radio, television, and print. Most recently
he hosted Victoria’s morning show, On the Island, sharing his energy, insights
and passion for arts and culture with listeners across Vancouver Island. Grierson sat on the board of directors of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. He
served on the local coordinating committee for the 2001 Folk Alliance conference
in Vancouver and participated in a panel on the history of folk music in Canada.

[Obituary courtesy of the Folk Alliance].


Senegal’s Daara J Hip Hop Sensation Debuts in the US

Bloomington, Indiana, USA – Senegalese rap crew,
Daara J
, is
finally available in the United States as a domestic release. “Born in
Africa, brought up in America, hip hop has come full circle
,” proclaims
Daara J on the title track of the group’s American debut album Boomerang (Wrasse Records, October 19, 2004).

Daara J’s Faada Freddy explains that tasso is the original form of rap, ancient
rhythmic poetry passed down from father to son. “Historically, people in
Senegal would use tasso to talk about their environment, their living
conditions, the situation of the country and their hopes for the futur
e.”“Daara J means ‘school of life.’ With every production, we want to give an
education to our listeners
,” says group member Aladji Man. In the vein of De
La Soul, Public Enemy, and Blackstar, Boomerang strays from the typically
machismo and materialistic subject matter permeating America’s mainstream rap
scene. Joining the likes of Positive Black Soul and MC Solaar as one of
Senegal’s elite hip hop crews, Daara J uses their words as a positive force.
Proudly earning their name, the trio focuses on the ills of globalism, the
perils of a traditional society, the threatened environment, and on
spirituality. “To the end of our pains we will always build. My generation wants
to come up for air,” say the lyrics of “Esperanza.”

During Senegal’s 2000 presidential election, Daara J was hired to edit speeches
and promote the anti-corruption political campaigns. Successfully bringing new
voters to the polls, they were able to share in the defeat of a corrupt regime.
The same power can be found within the rhymes and rhythms of their first album
to hit American shores. Stirring the senses with raga, jazz, and Cuban and
Caribbean sounds, Boomerang is how hip hop was meant to sound, a canvas
upon which styles of artistic expression create something which has never been

Winners of the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award for ‘Best African Act,’ Daara J has
spent months atop the European world music charts. Daara J’s Boomerang proves to
be as universally relevant and appreciated as it is unique to its creators. The
album melts borders with touches of English and Spanish peppered among the
courses of French and Wolof, a prominent native Senegalese tongue, uniting the
international hip hop community.

[Buy Boomerang,

, and

Daara J


Puerto Rican Singer Danny Rivera Visits Cubania Cultural Center

(Prensa Latina)
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – Puerto Rican singer Danny Rivera, on his way to Havana,
visited the Cubania Cultural Center, a place in Santo Domingo where
new dreams for Latin American integration are being fostered.

Cuban ambassador to Dominican Republic Omar Cordoba briefed the singer on
the Cubania project, a big colonial house where a magical connection between
the visitors and Cuban music is established every night.A space for craftworks and exhibitions of new artists of fine arts, the
center also concentrates emblematic products such as coffee and tobacco
which, beyond commercial items, are symbols of the Cuban traditions.
A figure cherished by Dominicans, Rivera participated in a recital where
singers from the two nations performed some guaracha, son and bolero.
The Puerto Rican singer, a champion of Latin American integration,
considered very positive to have consolidated a stage where artists form
these nations permanently perform.

Rivera has played in important spots around the world and is currently
working in the consolidation of the International Department of Fine Arts
and Music project, in Havana.

Along with Pablo Marcano Garcia, the popular singer sponsors this
department, attached to the National Art Schools Center, where Latin
American students will have access to higher studies of art, he commented
for Prensa Latina.

The department currently counts on 19 students, 11 will study music and
eight fine arts in Havana´s San Alejandro Fine Arts Academy, where they have
a syllabus especially designed for them
,” Rivera stated.
For those who, as Danny Rivera, are Havanabound -and emotionally bound to
Havana- a visit to Cubania is like turning music into a sensorial kingdom to
taste the pleasure of new challenges.


Expert Testimony

Samputu – Testimony From Rwanda


Testimony From Rwanda (Multicultural Media MCM 4003, 2004)

It’s been a decade since the genocide in Rwanda, a massive tragedy that the United States and other world superpowers did absolutely nothing to stop. Jean Paul Samputu’s parents and four siblings perished in that horror, yet his music looks back not in anger but with a sense of healing.

Songs like “Ten Years Remembering” and “Mana Wari Uri He?” (“God, Where Were You?”) directly address the genocide and its aftermath, others speak of spiritual steadfastness, the beauty of simple things and everyday concerns. What makes the album a winner is the way Samputu casts the delicate wail of his vocal style into a melting pot that doesn’t adhere too closely to any signature African style and as a result contains hints of many. The balladeer vibe of artists like Oliver Mtukudzi and Ismael Lo is a constant, while individual tracks may carry the feel of palm wine, rumba or marrabenta in their vocal or instrumental structuring.

The perfectly attuned backing is provided by only two musicians- Aron Niyitunga on guitars, keyboards and bass and Jordan Mensah on an array of percussion. This, then, is a small-scale affair that allows Samputu’s songwriting and singing skills (his high register warble is strong throughout) to shine.

Though recorded in Vermont (!), this is African to the core. It embraces you with undaunted grace and subtle power, succeeding admirably in its only readily apparent goal of presenting, beautiful, heartfelt music.

Buy Testimony From Rwanda


Havana Hip-Hop: Alive and Kicking By Mike Fuller

(Prensa Latina)Havana, Cuba -Dusk at Havana’s 100 thousand-strong bedroom community of Alamar
brought together November 5 rappers and fans as part of the 10th Habana Hip
Hop Festival. A city-wide event, it also included sites in Vedado and Nuevo
Vedado, with everything from concerts to audiovisual presentations,
exhibitions and conferences.

Called by some a “new kind of Cuban social song,” it could be said to have
roots in a musical tradition that goes back to folk singers like Silvio
Rodríguez or Pablo Milanés. But with an edge.And that edge sometimes slashes. Tonight’s show included a write-in on the
schedule, and improvisation can invite polemics. People were still talking
about how the night before Escuadrón Patriota had issues from the sponsoring
Hermanos Saiz association for singing outside of the program.

But Sátira y Mestizo’s Jose Miguel Gonzalez and Lewis Cabrales, who met in
the Army two years ago, made it in tonight, dressed in their usual military
fatigues. They fired into the darkened bleachers discourse about African
rebels like Patricio Lumumba and Agostino Neto who fought for their people
and must be remembered.

Definitely not dance music, the lyrics were punctuated by a strumming
syncopated beat, but even the most controversial was intended to have a
positive message.

Wary of journalists twisting his intentions, Lewis is very clear about
lyrics like “Hay que tener un socio lleno de pesos,” or “One needs a partner
with a lot of money.” He told me that “to be able to change things, not only
us Cubans, we need to count on collaboration, because alone it’s not easy.
Those of us with little need to unite with others who have more resources.
Ours is a practical message we give to the poor of the world, but not
necessarily ourselves. We consider ourselves underground and we like it
He said that as a matter of fact what they want is to “put in our grain of
sand to improve things
.” Other groups may be less politically charged, and
Malcolm Junco, director of Justicia for the last eight years, said about the
recent US elections “The US people should not have voted for Bush, but I’m
not into politics
.” Although he claims his music was rejected at a festival
five years ago, he feels rap is pretty much accepted in Cuba now.

The group Desafio’s leader, Mendoza , says their music is “a means of
expression to make favorable criticism to improve the world
.” He said the US
election was “a total fraud and truly sad for humanity. I write against war
and social problems, and am pro-women and love
.” Luis Eligio was also on the
scene, garbed in a construction helmet with painted face.

Member of the collective OMNI, which also does performance art and graffiti
since 1999, they have a headquarters at the Alamar Casa de la Cultura.
Pioneers in stage poetry, he said they’d like to see more interaction with
the public, and opposed the fences put up between stage and crowd. His team
fused with Zona Franca, a local rap group in 2001, and they try to stick to
what he calls the “essence of rap, a spiritual street movement.”
He said the US election was a “game to entertain the world. Anyone they
elect is a façade, and the real government is invisible. Power in the USA is
an amalgam of Coca Cola, toothpaste, hamburgers and the best clothes, and is
converted into virtual images. There are dissenters but they don’t organize.
But some real good Americans have come here

Eligio said it’s important for performers of this genre to be faithful to
their beginnings, as groups like Krudas Cubensi, Anonimo Consejo and
especially Explosion Suprema. This reflexive performer, who wakes every day
at 5am to meditate, said it is fundamental to discover oneself, be aware of
religious traditions, spirituality, music, politics, struggle and the search
for God.

An almighty presence in the Alamar amphitheater may be debatable, but the
spray painted images on the walls, the clarity of the sung messages and aura
of the people was evidence that some power higher was alive.
And kicking.

[Photo: Mendoza of the band Desafío].


Danzón Festival Habana 2005 Announced in Cuba

(Prensa Latina)
Havana.- Dedicated to Mexico, the 2nd Danzón Festival Habana 2005 will take
place in Havana City March 23 through 27, also hosted by Havana
municipalities of San Antonio de los Baños, Madruga and Santa Cruz del Sur,
it was reported in a press conference that took place at the UNEAC (Cuban
Artists Guild).The meeting will confirm the rhythm Danzon, "the king of the ballrooms in
19th century has not frozen in the stillness of a time, but has flourished
with new strength
," la UNEAC´s Musicology Association President Alicia
Valdes explained.


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