85-year-old Bebo Valdés Prepares Four New Albums

Bebo Valdés
Bebo Valdés
(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) – Córdoba, Spain – Pianist Bebo Valdés, 85, one of the legends of Cuban music rescued by recording companies, is preparing four new albums. The first CD will be released soon and features the Uruguayan violinist Federico Britos. “I will never be able to retire, I think I’ll die playing the piano,” the Cuban musician said in an interview.

Considered one of the forerunners of Latin jazz, he performed this week at the Gran Teatro of Córdoba, in southern Spain, along with Diego “El Cigala.”Valdés’ piano accompanied the flamenco voice of “El Cigala” in Cuban boleros such as “Veinte años”, “Vete de mí”, a song that another Cuban pianist, Bola de Nieve, made popular in the 1950’s included in the album Lágrimas Negras, recently produced by Spanish moviemaker Fernando Trueba. However, Trueba had already “rescued” Bebo on his film Calle 54 in 2001, after 30 years out of recording studios. Since then, rumors started that the pianist joined a long list of Cuban musicians who return to stage and became famous when they were older than 80, as it happened to Compay Segundo, who rolled cigars for decades at the prestigious Havana cigar factory H. Upmann, until Ry Cooder called him to take part in Buena Vista Social Club.

The list also includes Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, the Vieja Trova Santiaguera, Israel “Cachao” López and now Bebo Valdés, “a peasant,” as he defined himself, who directed the famous
Tropicana cabaret during the 1940’s.


Navajo-Dine punk

Blackfire - One Nation Under
Blackfire – One Nation Under

One Nation Under (Tacoho Records/Canyon Records, 2002)

What is the true definition of world music? For instance, the Navajo Dine trio Blackfire, born in the Black Mesa/Navajo Nation perform octane driven punk. It’s the sort of music that is more at home in an alternative rock venue rather than world music festivals, yet the Native American group of two brothers Clayson (drums/voice) and Klee Benally (voice/guitar) with their sister Jeneda on bass/voice attempt to bridge the gap between alternative rock and folk roots.

Both punk veteran Joey Ramone and their more traditional father, Jones Benally appear as guests on One Nation Under. And last January, Blackfire shared the stage with Malian musicians Tinariwen, Ensemble Tartit, Oumou Sangare, Ali Farka Toure and the French group Lo’Jo as well as, fellow rocker Robert Plant at the Festival in the Desert (Mali Sahara Desert). According to an article on the Afro-Pop site, the Tuaregs, gave a rare enthusiastic response to Blackfire’s performance.However, 90% of the music that appears on Blackfire’s first full-length CD, One Nation Under falls into the punk category. The songs recall punk classics such as the Dead Kennedy’s, DOA, Sex Pistols and Nirvana, not only with its heavy driven guitar and angst ridden vocals, but also in its socio-political messages shouted out by disenfranchised youth.

Blackfire isn’t just influenced by punk, they have cause to express themselves through abrasive music. After all, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, indigenous people worldwide are under attack and have been for centuries. That’s not the sort of thing that bodes well with anyone and its in everyone’s best interests that their pain and frustration are communicated through music rather than bullets even if the lyrics here could never lead to world peace.

Blackfire joins other Native American alternative rock acts such as Without Rezervation, Clan/destine and Medicine Dream in reaching a new audience. While these groups explore and express themselves through alternative musical genres, they also feature traditional Native American chants and instruments in their repertoire. Traditional Navajo chant performed by Jones Benally appears on the tracks Exile and What Do You See. And Blackfire performs the Dine Gourd Dance as well as, adding Navajo chant style vocals on Downfall. The trio offers an outlet for a younger audience while speaking out against human injustice. I admire this group’s passion and dedication yet, their music would be more intriguing if they added more traditional instrumentation to their songs and evolved past their heavily charged lyrics. After all, there are many compassionate people in the world such as myself that also believe in human rights and do not wished to be barraged by angry words. Gentle spirits can evoke change too. The Dalai Lhama is just one example.

(Originally published on Cranky Crow World Music).


The Largest WOMEX Ever

womex-250Sevilla, Spain – WOMEX 2003 opens its doors in Sevilla October 22 through 26 October. With
over 2000 registrations and more than 300 exhibitors at more than 200 stands, it will be the biggest world music networking session ever.

For a first impression on the WOMEX Showcase Selection click here.

For more information on WOMEX in Spanish you should surf to Portalatino.

WOMEX for the first time officially starts on Wednesday afternoon. From 17:00 – 20:30 all early birds can pick up their registration badge.After the welcoming speech by the mayor of Seville, Alfredo Sánchez Monteseirín, on October 22nd, there will be a concert at 8 p.m. at the Auditorium Al-Andalus in the Palace with pianist Dorantes and the Indian group Musafir. Both artists will perform separataly at the beginning and will later play together.

The Worldwide Music Expo WOMEX is the largest international gathering for world music professionals. It is a great networking point exclusively dedicatedto world, roots, folk, ethnic, traditional and local music of all kinds.


The Putumayo World Music 10th Anniversary Collection

The Putumayo World Music 10th Anniversary Collection
The Putumayo World Music 10th Anniversary Collection
New York, USA – In celebration of 10 years as a pioneer in world music, Putumayo is releasing a numbered, limited-edition 2 CD set on October 21, featuring highlights from its 100 compilations and artist albums. Filled with extraordinary music, extensive liner notes and enhanced features, The Putumayo World Music 10th Anniversary Collection takes listeners on a global journey and demonstrates the universal appeal of Putumayo’s CDs.

The Putumayo World Music 10th Anniversary Collection features a vertical digi-pak, 52 pages of liner notes and 24 of Putumayo’s favorite tracks from the past 10 years. The enhanced CD features music videos by Kotoja and Ricardo Lemvo and a 7-minute video retrospective about Putumayo World Music.

You can listen to two music samples from the set: La Vem A Baiana – Jussara Silveira

and Wassiye -Habib Koité & Bamada.The liner notes are translated into Spanish, French and German and include previously unpublished photographs from the history of the company. Also included is Putumayo’s guide to the best world music festivals, magazines, and
websites, as well as a complete historical discography of every album Putumayo has released.

A portion of the proceeds of the Putumayo World Music 10th Anniversary Collection will be donated to the Putumayo Cross-Cultural Initiative, a non-profit 501(c)(3) project of the Tides Center that uses world music, experiential learning, and the arts to inspire children and families to explore and connect with diverse cultures.


Merlefest Announces 2004 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest

merlefest_large-250Wilkesboro, NC, USA – MerleFest 2004 organizers have announced that composer and recording artist Jim Lauderdale will again serve as Honorary Chairperson of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Entries on audiotape or compact disc for the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest must be received by
March 18, 2004. Lauderdale will empanel a group of Nashville music industry figures that will evaluate all the entries. This panel will choose three finalists in each of four categories: bluegrass, country, gospel, and general. The finals will take place at MerleFest 2004 on April 30 on the Chris Austin Stage, sponsored by ASCAP and No Depression.

Songwriters performing at the festival will judge the finals. At MerleFest finalists will receive 4-day tickets and lodging within thirty miles of the event and compete for prizes include cash prizes, sponsored by Thomas Fisher, First Vice-President, Morgan Keegan, Durham, NC, and Epiphone Guitars from Gibson. Additional prizes and support come from Acoustic Guitar Magazine; Performing Songwriter, and D’Addario strings. The first place contestants will perform for the main stage audience. For entry information, please call 800-799-3838 or visit the web
site (www.merlefest.org).

All entries must be submitted on tape or CD with entry fee and an official entry form to The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest; PO Box 121855; Nashville, TN 37212. Entries without completed entry form and fee will not be judged.A then unknown Gillian Welch was one of the winners of the initial Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 1993. Word quickly spread about her talents from there. Darrell Scott, Sally Jones, Carla Gover, and contest chair Jim Lauderdale judged the finals of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, which attracted 794 entries. First round judging from recordings produced twelve finalists who competed with the following results. General Category Finalists: First Place: “River” by Scott Carter, Nashville, TN; Second: “The Lone Cypress”
by Ron Poythress, Carolina Beach, NC; Third: “I Can See Love” by Lisa Richards, Austin, TX. Country Category: First: “Rock Me Like A Lullaby” by Connie Townsend & Dave Parker, Elkins, WV; Second: “Almost True” by Molly Sloan, Nashville, TN; Third: “Wine & Beer When You Are Here” by Rowland Stebbins, Nashville, TN. Gospel Category Finalists: First: “By The River” by Ruth Bloomquist, Muskegon, MI; Second: “There Is A Place” by Lizza Connor, Nashville, TN; Third: “When Heavenly Hills Come Calling For Me” by Mark Brinkman, Pickerington, OH. Bluegrass Category Finalists: “First: “Sadie’s Song” by Adrienne Young, Nashville, TN; Second: “The Ghost of Silas Jordan” by Mark Brinkman, Pickerington, OH; Third: “I’m Getting Pretty Good At Being Lonesome”
by Robert Wright, Staten Island, NY.

Pete Fisher, then of WarnerSongs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole Opry, and Kari Estrin, then Associate Coordinator of MerleFest, initiated the contest to honor the memory of Chris Austin, a northwestern North Carolina native. A Warner-Refuge writer, Austin spent several years in the band of Ricky Skaggs, who scored a Top 5 hit with Chris’ “Same Ol’ Love.” On March 16, 1991,
only a few hours after Skaggs recorded the song, Austin, 27, was killed in a tragic plane accident near San Diego along with other members of Reba McEntire’s band. A solo record, Firm Believer appeared posthumously on Warner Brothers.

Net Proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest have created an endowed scholarship in memory of Chris, the Chris Austin Scholarship Fund. This scholarship is presented annually to a deserving student at Wilkes Community College, the site of MerleFest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Additional
proceeds support the Chris Austin Stage at the festival, where each year the finalists perform. Thomas Fisher, First Vice-President, Morgan Keegan, Durham, NC; Gibson Epiphone; Acoustic Guitar Magazine; Performing Songwriter, and D’Addario strings sponsor the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.

Lauderdale, also a western NC native, recording artist, and BMI writer for Bluewater Music, enjoyed one of his favorite musical moments at MerleFest ’98, when he got the opportunity to sub for Ralph Stanley II as guitarist and vocalist for Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys, with whom he has recorded two successful albums. The alt.country favorite has penned hits for such mainstream artists as George Strait, Patty Loveless, and the Dixie Chicks. Lauderdale’s co-writing partners have ranged from Harlan Howard to the Grateful Dead’s Robert Hunter. Recently, Lauderdale has appeared on stage as George Jones in “The Tammy Wynette Story.” Lauderdale records both bluegrass and country
material. His most recent release is a collaboration with Donna the Buffalo.

The popular Songwriters’ Coffeehouse, sponsored by AccuCopy, again happens on Friday evening, April 30, at MerleFest 2004. Songwriters selected by lot from on site registrants on site will share the stage with singer-songwriters performing at MerleFest.

Festival coordinators previously announced an extraordinary talent roster for MerleFest 2004, the 17th annual festival in celebration of the music of the late Merle Watson and his father Doc Watson
presented by Wilkes Community College on April 30  May 2, 2004 on its campus in Wilkesboro, NC. Those joining Doc Watson and Merle’s son Richard Watson for MerleFest 2004 will include the Sam Bush Band, Roseanne Cash, John Cowan Band, the Derailers, Donna the Buffalo, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Béla Fleck & Edgar Meyer, Vince Gill, the Gourds, David Grisman Quintet, Hot Tuna, Jeannie Kendall, the Kruger Brothers, Patty Loveless, Natalie MacMaster Band, Nickel Creek, Tim O’Brien, Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing Trio, Old Crow Medicine Show, Reeltime Travelers, Tony Rice Unit, Savoy Doucet Cajun Band, the legendary Earl Scruggs with Family & Friends, the Waifs, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, and Kelly
Willis & Bruce Robison.

Ticket sales will begin at 2 PM Eastern on Tuesday, November 11, 2003. Those with Internet access may acquire their tickets easily by visiting www.merlefest.org. Those without Internet access may purchase tickets by calling 1-800-343-7857 (US only) or 336-838-6267 (non-US) from 10 AM through 4 PM, EST, weekdays. Tickets may also be ordered by fax (336-838-6277) and mail (MerleFest; P.O. Box 1299; Wilkesboro, NC 28697). Those interested in volunteering for MerleFest should call 336-838-6292. Vendor info: 336-838-6291. Sponsor info: 919-542-3997.


Folk Alliance Late-Night World Music Showcases

Silver Spring, MD , USDA – The Folk Alliance has announced three late-night showcases at the 16th Annual International Folk Alliance Conference in San Diego.

Thursday February 26, 2004, 10:45pm
Cascada De Flores www.cascadadeflores.com
Conjunto Jardín www.conjuntojardin.com
Ramón Romero and Cuerdas de Fuego www.ramonromero.com

Friday February 27, 2004, 10:45pm
Details to be announced soonSaturday February 28, 2004, 10:45pm
George Kahumoku (12 string slack key guitar, vocals and story telling)
Keoki Kahumoku (6 string slack key guitar, ukulele, vocals)
Dennis Kamakahi (6 string slack key guitar, vocals)
David (Kawika) Kamakahi (ukulele, vocals)
Patrick Landeza (6 string slack key guitar, vocals)
Herb Ohta Jr. (ukulele, vocals) http://www.herbohtajr.com.
And hula dancers to be announced.

The San Diego conference will also feature workshops on classical Cambodian dance, Iranian santuri, Hawaiian Music and Corridos, The Mexican Narrative Ballad.

The conference brochure is going out this week via bulk mail but it is already on our website as a pdf file at www.folk.org.


Everything Ready for Cuban Culture Week in Argentina

Chucho Valdes
Chucho Valdes
(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Buenos Aires, Argentina – An exquisite and varied program including performances by the famous pianist Chucho Valdés at the legendary Colón Theater in Buenos Aires will form part of the Cuban Culture Week in Argentina this year. The traditional celebration, which lasts almost two months, will open Saturday with a performance by the group Clave Cubana, as in previous years, at the prestigious cultural center La Recoleta.

Chucho Valdés, founder and director of Irakere and one of the best jazz musicians in the world, will give the first of three performances scheduled for Buenos Aires (two at the Colón Theater and one at the Opera) on October 20, Cuba’s Culture Day. According to Valdes’s statement recently in the Dominican Republic, where he was taking part in the 5th Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, he will play with a symphony orchestra and will repeat the solo concert, which already earned him praise in Los Angeles, United States. At the Colón Theater, one of the most important theaters in Latin America, Valdés will perform with the orchestra led by Milen Nachev, in a program mixing Cuban percussionists and symphonic musicians. He will play works by the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona and the French musician Héctor Berlioz, to commemorate the latter’s 200th birthday.


Shamanic chants & murder ballads

Wimme - Gierran
Wimme – Gierran
Wimme – Gierran (NorthSide)

Garmarna – Vengeance (NorthSide)

Wimme’s second CD, Gierran features both a cappella chants (Snow Grouse, Draft Reindeer and Whirlwind which were recorded live by Smoju at club Subsirkus, Tromso, Norway) as well as, trance-inducing electronic-yoiks. I have heard three of the four CDs by Wimme, including Barru and Cuga; Gierran is the one I like best. It’s not just other worldly, it’s from another universe and if you’re
lucky, it might take you to that universe. The electronic effects provides by Jari Kokkonen, Tapani Rinne (who also performs on woodwinds and percussion), Pauli and Kajasto act as a light and spaced out frame work for Wimme’s vocal range, stretching from baritone to tenor and diving into throat-singing
territory. Matti Wallenius further enhances this exotic tapestry with ukulele and mandolinI have read a few times that the Sami people believe that their real home exists behind the sun/stars. This idea manifests with the track, Vision (Oainnahus) and this concept goes further with Angelica Archangelica, a song that recalls Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon meeting an Inuit throat singer. This is
followed by the cooky The Importance of Moss which features birds chirping and cartoon type vocals. I guess the humor brings listeners back to earth. And by the end of the recording, it is a bit of a struggle to remove your head from the Milky Way. In any case, you don’t need to be shamanic to enjoy this disc–you just need to have a mind that likes wandering and a heart that hears the call of
indigenous people.

Garmarna - Vengeance
Garmarna – Vengeance
The Swedish group, Garmarna would be no stranger to fans of global pop (folk-roots meets rock-pop). The CD-ROM video that comes with Vengeance focuses on a frenzied youthful audience as band members sweat it out on stage and vocalist Emma Hardelin stands frozen on the stage, delivering chilling lyrics. Dressed in a white gown, she resembles the doomed maidens she sings about or a Swedish Venus rising out of the sea as the waves crash around her. It is a startling image that can best describe Garmarna’s marriage of traditional Swedish roots with rock music sensibility. Yet, despite the use of electric guitar, bass,
drums and programming, we couldn’t call this Swedish rock. The songs feel more like bedtime stories for dancing and these bedtime stories feature murder ballads, tales of parted lovers and spirituality.

Musically, this quintet falls somewhere between the Swedish-Finnish groups, Hedningarna who also marries rock instrumentation with traditional music and the acoustic Gjallarhorn. And in fact, Emma and Gjallarhorn’s Jenny Wilhelm share the same honey soprano vocals, clear, crisp and haunting. No one would mistake these vocalists for sweet, although angelic does come to mind on occasion. I was
captivated by Emma’s vocals the first time I heard her singing a song entitled, Halling Jaron (which appears on this CD). I have since read the lyrics to the song which is about a tiny old mad woman that has sex with lots of lads. However the song with its primal electronic sounds, acoustic guitar that resembles David Bowie’s Space Oddity and high pitch vocals still manages to captivate my ears every time I listen to it.

Gamen (Vulture), the song featured in the music video, is the rocker and the opening track on the CD. However, I can’t say that Vulture sets the pace for the remainder of the recording, since the following track, Eucharia veers off in the opposite direction. Listeners might feel that they left a rock arena and then entered a church since Eucharia possesses a ceremonial atmosphere in which
Emma’s voice rising heavenward.

Other tracks meander in traditional territory. The murder ballad Vengeance falls into Goth-rock territory and Nine Years features a more ambient arrangement. The traditional songs, Stomped Bread features a healthy marriage between programming and acoustic instruments as does The Robber. Ink again focuses on Emma’s immaculate vocals backed by light instrumentation and Stefan Brisland-Ferner’s
hurdy-gurdy which appears throughout the CD.

Normally, I shy away from folk-roots music with pop sensibility. But groups such as Wimme and Garmarna use programming to create a backdrop for the acoustic instruments and vocals. I feel that a lot of other groups embarking into this territory could learn a few lessons from these Scandinavian groups.

(Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music. Visit the CCWM Scandinavian music page).


Lovin’ Makina Loca

Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca – Ay Valeria!
Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca

Ay Valeria! (Mopiato Music MOPI-1991, 2003)

Congolese vocalist Ricardo Lemvo and his band Makina Loca are based in Los Angeles, but they do their share of getting around. Good thing, because in concert they’re hotter than a three-alarm fire. But if you’ve not yet had the opportunity to catch them live, you’re still in luck because their albums keep
getting better and better. Lemvo continues his association with right-hand man Jesus Perez on Makina Loca’s fourth release, Ay Valeria!!, turning the heat ever higher as always. Perez’s range as an arranger, composer, producer and instrumentalist perfectly compliments the power and emotion of Lemvo’s
multilingual voice as well as his far-reaching outlook. So while the key component in the sound remains African salsa, rich undercurrents of soukous, Lusafrican music and the Caribbean bring increased
splendor. There’s not a moment on Ay Valeria! that’s less than totally savory.

Listen to how the two versions of the title track both swing with their respective cultural dynamics, how romanticism is never sacrificed in favor of inventive rhythm (or vice versa) regardless of the songs’ subject matter, how well the originals stand alongside covers of tunes by Sam Mangwana and Bopol
Mansiamina and how a peak level of energetic fun is maintained throughout. Or better yet, just get this cd and listen. Along with Africando’s new release, it’s one of the best Afro-Latin offerings currently out there.


Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion