John McDowell (composer, keyboardist, percussionist) has recorded the soundtrack for the film Born Into Brothels. This documentary is a story about children of prostitutes in Calcutta, India and the kids’ experiences using cameras to express themselves in an attempt to create another type of life. For Born Into Brothels he joined forces with music producer Daniel
Baruch and sound editor Tom Paul, conjuring up an aural landscape created out
the predominantly acoustic playing of musicians from many cultures, often
working with them in a collaborative process. Bass whisperings of Krishna Das
and soaring melodic ragas of Steve Gorn’s bamboo flute were skillfully combined
with Indian strings, Renaissance serpent, an Armenian duduk as well as a full
range of world percussion instruments.
On January 24. 2004, the film was honored with the Audience Award for
Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
San Francisco, California, USA – In their Six Degrees Records debut, Steve Tibbetts and Chöying Drolma have released a new recording, called Selwa, which expands on the work they began in their first groundbreaking album, Chö.
Selwa (which can mean “luminous,” “clear,” or “awake”) is an album with 11 tracks, but it unfolds as a single, unified expression. Chöying Drolma practices a form of Vajrayana Buddhism that involves cutting through the various physical and spiritual obstacles to enlightenment (the title Chö means “cutting”), and that practice can take the form of a fairly vigorous meditation, often undertaken in provocative settings like graveyards.
Tibbetts approaches this sort of source material with an uncommon humility and a healthy amount of respect.On Selwa, Tibbetts establishes his panorama of sound early on, with the moody, nocturnal instrumentation of “Palden Rangjung.” Its flowing ambient acoustic guitar, drones, effects, and slow, almost tribal hand drumming echo the dark vision of Drolma’s supplication:
Powerful blood drinker, glorious vitality
In the land of Yama, you are Ekajati
Fire eater, blood wearer, wearing the naga emblems
Kali, the Blood Dripper, I praise you.
Chöying Drolma’s singing on the track “Vakritunda” reflects both the sounds of devotional Hindu bhajans and contemporary Hindi pop music. “Vakritunda” is a piece with slightly more Western-sounding percussion and an example of the guitar solos that sneak into much of Steve Tibbetts’ work.
Perhaps the centerpiece of the album is “Song of Realization,” a blend of multiple voices, hand drums, acoustic and electric guitars, and other less easily identified sounds. It is at once a transcendent and grounded work – again, because it follows the text of the aspiration prayer:
I do not recognize this earth as earth
It is an assembly hall adorned by flowers.
I do not recognize me to be me
I am the supreme victor, the wish-fulfilling jewel.
The new album was built around recordings made by Tibbetts and his longtime percussionist Marc Anderson in Boudhanath, a Tibetan enclave in the Himalayan country of Nepal. There, not far from a school for nuns that Chöying Drolma has founded, they recorded her chants, often feeding a drone into her headphones to set the pitch before letting the tape roll. “It seemed like she was singing with four lungs,” Tibbetts recalls. “Some of her takes left Marc and I somewhat stunned. She’d finish the song. I’d quickly save the recording file on the laptop. Chöying would say ‘Tik chha?’ – meaning, ‘it’s okay?’ and Marc and I would slowly nod.”
Back in Minnesota, Tibbetts and Anderson wove together tapestries of acoustic and electric guitars, shifting drones, and subtle hand percussion. They enlisted the support of Lee Townsend, who has produced most of Bill Frisell’s recordings, and created an organic blend of ancient and modern, Eastern and Western.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Selwa is that the musicians know “why they are doing it.” On the surface, it seems a bizarre collaboration: Why would a pair of American musicians want to spend the time and effort to learn these chants and create a sonic environment that brings them to the West? Again, the answer lies in the text of one of the aspiration prayers. The concluding lines of “Song of Realization” read:
If you understand this song, it will be molasses for
If you cannot understand it, you have no connection with
Selwa is about understanding – not a literal understanding of the Tibetan meditations themselves, but an understanding of the practice of undermining the machinery of conceptualization; creating a space of non-thought, clarity, compassion, and bliss. Selwa offers an unexpected connection to a tradition that’s over a thousand years old.
The new album by Dominican producer, arranger and
multi-instrumentalist Ricky González is a perfect example of the finest in
contemporary salsa. González has played for many years with some of the biggest
names in the Latin scene based in the United States and that has allowed him to
venture successfully into its varied music styles. Even though most music fans associate the Dominican
Republic with merengue, Ricky González is an outstanding salsero. On Oasis,
González presents a wide spectrum of songs, singing lead vocals on various
tracks and playing piano, vibraphone, keyboards and percussion. He delivers top
of the line present-day salsa on “Ya Era tiempo”, “Es mi Nueva York” (a tribute
to New York City), “Quisqueya tiene salsa,” “Timbalero” and “Mi rumba es
candela.” González gets help from renowned guests, who are some of the finest in
the genre: Ray Barretto, José
Alberto “El Canario”, Johnny Pacheco, Jimy Sabater, Orestes Vilato, Frankie
Vázquez, Hermán Oliveras and Ray Viera.
González embarks upon the romantic salsa field with the
soulful “Quisiera ser,” putting to shame most of the major label Latin artists
that are marketed as Romantic salsa, where the salsa component is nowhere to be
seen. On “La Paga,” González combines contemporary tropical sounds with cutting
edge hip hop.
There is dazzling Latin jazz on “Pair of Aces,”
featuring vibraphone and [iano solos by González and a flute solo by Dave
Valentín. “What You Won’t Do for love” is an explosive mix of R&B, hip hop and
salsa with González singing in English and Spanish, with guest rapping by
Fr3$co. “La Puerta”
is a passionate bolero, sung in both Spanish and English, with a nostalgic big
Stockholm, Sweden – The royal capital of Sweden will be hosting the Kista World Music Festival October 19-23 of 2004. Kista is a celebration of art, dance, culture and tradition.
The artists scheduled for 2004 include: Persian modern dance troupe Namah Ensemble & Zarbang (USA/Iran/Norway); Turkish folklore singer, Sabahat Akkiraz (Turkey); Greek folk music act Taximi (Sweden); Kurdish singer,Jalal Naghshbandi (Sweden); Nordic folk music by Gjallarhorn (Finland); Balkan band Süperstar Orkestar (Sweden); hip-hop by Ávalon (Sweden); Bengali pop/folk music by Rebel on Rhythm (Sweden); reggae band The Ridgetown Massive (Sweden); Persian trio: Trio Chehre (Sweden); and Ali Baba Shejk’n’Belly Club (Sweden). There will be workshops of traditional Turkish art and folk music: Song with Sabahat Akkiraz. Baglama with Tuncay Balcyi. Ney with Zafer Tastan. Zurna with Zafer Tastan. Fluidity and strength: Flamenco and Persian dance workshop with Banafsheh Sayyad from Namah Ensemble.
New York City, USA – Valley Entertainment has released a US
version of the celebrated album Lullabies from the Axil of Evil, created
by Norwegian producer Erk Hillestead.
Norwegian producer Erik Hillestad was struck by President George W. Bush’s January 29, 2002 speech wherein he launched the now famous term “The Axis of Evil”. He declared that Iran, Iraq, North Korea “and their allies” were enemies of the United States and the free democratic world. These countries were labeled enemies. Hillestad felt the stigma that was attached to the countries pointed out as members of “The Axis of Evil” was just one side of it. As a result, decided to unite “East” and “West” through song…through lullabies. “Lullabies lead us to the deepest and most fundamental way of communication between human beings. It is where all sharing
of ideas and feelings starts. Between mother and child, between father and
child. It is a universal culture. “- Erik Hillestad.
London, England – British instrumentalist Andrew Cronshaw has a new recording, Ochre, on the Cloud Valley label. For this new album, Cronshaw has returned to his English roots. On Ochre, the world view is reversed, with musicians from the traditions of the Middle East, Greece and Wales who react to and build on music exotic to them – that of England. The result, with each of the seven tracks using as its starting point a song melody from English tradition, is inventive, image-rich and voluptuous.
The team that gathered in January 2004, not in England but at a studio in the green rolling countryside of the south-west tip of Wales, comprises Syrian qanun and ud virtuoso
Abdullah Chhadeh; the great Welsh triple-harpist Llio Rhydderch; Arabic
Natacha Atlas; Pontic lyra virtuoso Matthaios Tsahourides from northern Greece; multi-talented Australia-resident Brit Ian Blake on bass clarinet, clarinet, soprano sax and prepared piano; Irish double bassist Bernard O’Neill; and Cronshaw himself on electric zither, the 6 foot long Slovakian flute fujara, Chinese brass-reeded ba-wu and other instruments not usually associated with English music.
San Francisco, California, USA – Omar Sosa
has a new recording, Mulatos ((OTA1014), on the Ota label. Omar Sosa
searches out new sounds for a music that is simultaneously his own, and part of
an Afro-Cuban culture. Mulatos is a fitting description for the kind of
approach Omar is adopting – a mix of Cuban music that dances with the Arabic
lute (the ud) and clarinet, with rhythmic inspirations of Indian tabla, jazz
drums, and studio mixing.The album Mulatos features the highly individual talents
of Dhafer Youssef (ud), Steve Argüelles (drums, electronics), Dieter Ilg (double
bass), Philippe Foch (tabla), and Renaud Pion (clarinets). With the exception
of Omar Sosa, the relation to Cuban music for these musicians is somewhat
removed, though respectful and engaging. Omar’s extraordinary abilities as a
composer, pianist, marimba percussionist (new here to many of his followers) and
his authoritative leadership threads this together beautifully to create a major
development for a Cuban jazz artist.
Joining the project as special guest on clarinet for three compositions, someone whose artistry Omar has admired for many, many years – Paquito D’Rivera (tracks 1, 2, 6).
Producer Steve Arguelles remarks, “It’s an album that is tightly constructed, like movie editing in the sense that the clarity of musical ideas are presented to maximum effect, be it a simple melody, a curious rhythm, or an electronic touch here and there. It remains rich, too, in
the way that a favorite record is what you keep returning to, an important objective of ours. It tells a story about Omar’s relation to jazz, Afro-Cuban rhythms and spirituality, the piano, and a freely
The premise of this CD is to introduce the Geek world to
non-Geeks and inject the technical matter with some levity that it deserves.
Technology is so much a part of everyday life and man-machine interface is so
ubiquitous that it is hard to imagine that, on the scale of human evolution,
technology has very young roots. Lyrics are written to introduce and explain
technology terms to laymen and the developers hope aspiring technologists and
engineers will enjoy the music and lyrics.
Above all the main idea is to have some fun. The song “Enjoy The Ride” is set
to techno music and written with computer science in mind and speaks of how
transistor works, then goes onto introduce concepts in networking and wireless
areas. The song “Free Energy” is set to hip hop music and lyrics are written
from the perspective of chemical engineers and introduces terms like entropy,
free energy, distillation, control loop etc. Geek Dreams is a favorite for all those aspiring to be engineers and
speaks in rap like language to brain muscles vs body muscles while talking about
scalars, vectors and EMF, Newtons’ third law of motion, very interesting.
Metamorphosis is set to fast paced music and explores the world of mechanical
engineers with concepts like Bernoulli’s energy equation, gear ratio, robots and
Core of the band is GK, who wrote the lyrics, Rikki, who conceived the musical
interpretation of lyrics along with Jasz, composed and arranged the music and
also did the mastering. Jasz is the lead vocalist for all songs and dug into his
singing experience as well as his engineering knowledge to enhance the lyrics.
Annette Philip and Brennon provided support vocals and bass guitar respectively.
Miami based world music band Infuso will be
performing 4 exclusive dates in the city on New York and New Jersey where
they’ll be playing songs from their upcoming album which will be released in
January 2005. For more information about the shows, visit:www.infuso.net.
For an artist looking back over twenty-five years worth of composing and performance, choosing your favorite pieces for a compilation must be like looking into the faces of your children and picking one over the other. Well, Thierry “Titi” Robin has done just that with Alezane on French label Naïve, and he’s chosen some gems.
The two CD set is overflowing with compositions spanning twelve years of Robin’s recordings, pieced together from Gitans, Kali Gadji, Rakhi, Un Ciel de Cuivre and Le Regard Nu. To classify Robin’s music is to stray too far off the path and the intent of his music. To put it simply, there is no classification of genre that could do his work justice. French and Spanish Gypsy influences are woven around and together with musical traditions of the Middle Eastern and Indian.
Tapestry is such an overused analogy in musical fusion but in Robin’s compositions it’s an apt analogy. It’s as if a shiny piece of sound caught Robin’s ear and he simply picked it up and put it in his repertoire. To incorporate all that’s wild and wonderful in other traditions, you have to come up with a remarkable group of musicians and singers. Robin has done just that with the likes of Gabriel Levasseur, Abdelkrim Sami, Paco el Lobo, Amar Saadna, Joseph Saadna, Farid Saadna, Gulabi Sapera and a whole host of other talented musicians and singers.
The compilation is divided into two CDs, Le Jour and La Nuit. Le Jour is charged with such pieces as La Petite Mer, Rumba Do Vesou II, Swing Wassoulou, Ma Gavali and Chirmi Mala. Rumba Do Vesou II features Abdelkrim Sami “Diabolo” on the darbuka; Titi Robin, Bruno el Gitano and Mambo Saadna on guitars but it is Paco el Lobo’s, Mambo Saadna’s and Bruno el Gitanos’s passion soaked vocals that set the piece on fire.
Swing Wassoulou really does swing in the combination of driving percussion with accordion, brass and Titi Robin on the oud. Gulabi Sapera’s vocals on Chirmi Mala from Rakhi soar against the chunky percussion, Gabriel Levasseur on organ and Robin on guitar.
La Nuit as the name suggests takes a darker, more reflective, tone. Patchiv from Gitans infuses the French Gypsy sound of François Castiello on accordion with Indian-sounding guitar work by Françis-Alfred Moerman and Robin. Haçer Toruk’s enchanting prelude vocals in Petite-Mere Sultane, from Un Ciel de Cuivre open the way for the intricate musical patterns of bendir, accordion, clarinet, ud and bouzouki. Django a Bagdad and Marraine are two more gems on this CD. Kali Gadji is a solo piece featuring Robin on the ud, its spare loveliness is rich beyond words.
Alezaneis a first-class compilation and as an added bonus the artwork on the CD cover is stunning