Global Beat Of The Boroughs: Dominican Republic

New York City, USA – A festival of Dominican music will take place on
Saturday, May 22, in New York City. The event is presented by The Center for
Traditional Music and Dance in association with Alianza Dominicana. The event
will also celebrate  release of

Quisqueya en el Hudson: Dominican Music in New York
, the new CD on
Smithsonian Folkways

The general concert: takes place at 8p.m. at the  Peter Norton Symphony
Space, Broadway at 95th Street, New York City. Tickets: (212) 864-5400 or visit

Featured artists:Luis Dias is a major innovator of bachata music and a pioneer in the fusion of
Dominican folk traditions. A composer, guitarist, singer and bandleader, Dias
has brought Dominican music to worldwide audiences.

Coco Merensón is a popular merengue/son orchestra based in the Bronx. They 
specialize in a fusion of Dominican music from the Villa Mella region where
Cuban son inspired its own fast paced Dominican variant.

Conjunto Folklórico of Alianza Dominicana is the youth music and dance ensemble
of the cultural program of Alianza Dominicana, the largest Dominican social
service organization in New York. Under the direction of Leonardo Iván Dominguez, this Conjunto performs and teaches folk and social dance, carnival
dance and music, ring games and other expressive traditions of the Dominican

The Conjunto will also present a participatory Kids Program at 1p.m. with
workshops in palos drumming and merengue dance and a performance of highlights
from the Dominican carnival traditions such as the diablos cahuellos masquerade
and processional gagá music and dance.

Doña Chicha: one of the most accomplished singers of the “salves” folk Catholic
tradition. For generations, her family has been performing the rites and music
associated with San Miguel (St. Michael), the celebration of the Virgen de la
Altagracia, Patronales del Espiritu Santo (the celebrations of the Holy Spirit),
and Velaciones, which are community gatherings for funerals.

Nero Olivares: singer and guitarist from San Francisco de Macoris in the
northern part of the Dominican Republic. In New York, he makes his home in
Inwood, where he has formed his own son quartet that appears on the Quisqueya
en el Hudson

Global Beat of the Boroughs is a series of concerts, CDs and family programs
celebrating world music and dance traditions emanating from the diverse
immigrant communities of New York’s five boroughs. Both the concerts and the
CDs, on
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, feature highly regarded cultural ambassadors of
music and dance from West Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean.

[Photos: 1 – Luis Dias. 2 – Coco Merensón. 3 – Doña Chicha].


Musicians Diego el Cigala and Victor Victor to Perform at Cubadisco 2004 Festival

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana.- The Sociedad General de Autores (General
Society of Authors), which has famous artists signed such as Joan Manuel Serrat
and Fito Paez, will bring Spanish celebrities Martirio and Punto F., El Cigala
and Dominican Victor Victor to the Cubadisco 2004 Fair. Despite the European
Union cultural blockade on Cuba, the SGAE will bring 25 outstanding musicians,
experts and businesspeople to Cuba´s most important music event from May 23-30
at the Pabexpo Exhibition Center in Havana. The Festival dedicates its eighth
edition to the Caribbean, which will have musicians from 13 countries and 92
independents. The main attractions are the World´s Longest “Son” Song, to
feature many orchestras and soloists in a music marathon to set a new Guinness
record. Exhibitions, discussions, concerts and tributes to the late Cuban
percussionist Guillermo Barreto, the man who along with Walfredo de los Reyes
introduced the drums into a Cuban orchestra, is part of the program. The
recitals will feature acts such as Victor Victor, Martirio, El Cigala,
and Cesar López.

Another tribute will be paid to guitarist and composer
Leo Brouwer, pianist Frank Fernandez, composer Jose Maria Vitier and tres player
Pancho Amat. Precisely the tres, emblematic instrument of Cuban popular music,
will be the object of study during these days, paying homage to artists
including Arsenio Rodriguez, Isaac Oviedo and Chito Latamblet. Seventy-two
albums compete at the Eight Cubadisco Fair for prizes in 20 categories. The
nominees include Chucho Valdes, Sergio Vitier, Amaury Perez, Teresa Garcia
Caturla, Gerardo Alfonso, Sara Gonzalez, Paulo FG, Ars Longa, Top Secret, Carlos
Varela, Polito Ibañez, Aceituna sin Hueso and Wena Onda.


Watch This!: A Zoe/Rounder Video Compilation

Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA – Watch This!
is Rounder Records’
first-ever music video compilation. Featuring eight concept videos from such
popular Zoe and Rounder artists as the Cowboy Junkies, Sarah Harmer, Bruce
Cockburn, Kathleen Edwards, Great Big Sea, The Cash Brothers, Grant-Lee
Phillips, and Blue Rodeo, Watch This!
is a low-cost introduction to the
music of some of the most talented artists in the Rounder family.Videos:

1 I’m So Open – Cowboy Junkies 04:10
2 Basement Apt. – Sarah Harmer 04:06
3 Open – Bruce Cockburn 03:57
4 Six O’clock News – Kathleen Edwards 04:34
5 Sea of No Cares – Great Big Sea 03:40
6 Shadow of Doubt – Cash Brothers 04:11
7 We All Get a Taste – Grant-Lee Phillips 03:53
8 Bulletproof – Blue Rodeo 04:42

Buy Watch This!.


Folk Music Radio Host Mike Fleischer, Dies at 67

Mike Fleischer, 67, of Downers Grove, Illinois, passed away Saturday, May 15. Mike
was host of the weekly WDCB, Glen Elllyn, IL, radio show, Treasures from the
, which had been on the air since 1990.

Mike had been interested in folk music since a 1948 Woody Guthrie concert. His
interests carried him to the founding of the University of Chicago Folk Festival
(1961) and a lifelong love affair with all forms of traditional music. He
worked as a journalist and as an executive in folk music record companies
including Flying Fish and Folk Era records. His interest in Celtic music was
inspired by his wife, Mary Ellen Heelan, who is proud of her Irish and Scottish

A memorial service was held at the DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in
Naperville, IL, where he had organized and hosted the Roads End West Coffee
House some years ago.

[This obituary is reproduced by courtesy of the

Folk Alliance


Sandra Luna’s Evolving Tango

Bloomington, Indiana, USA – Times Square Records will be releasing in the
United States the new album by Argentine singer Sandra Luna. “Cinders that
burn again and again… tango is like life, and has to evolv
e,” says singer
Sandra Luna, paraphrasing famous tango lyricist Horacio Ferrer. On her first
international release, Tango Varón, Luna turns her ear to the future
while keeping one foot firmly in the tango’s colorful past. On her new album she
expands tango music, normally associated with dancing in non-Spanish speaking
countries, to a broader more expansive song form. Tango Varón features
reenergized versions of tango classics from legends like Homero Manzi and Astor
Piazzolla, to newly created tango compositions that tell the tale of
contemporary life in Buenos Aires.In 1966, long after the peak of tango’s popularity, Sandra Luna was born in
Buenos Aires’ slaughterhouse district of Mataderos. By age eleven she was
performing in local tango bars like the Boliche de Rotundo. Sandra’s exposure to
the progressive forms of Piazzolla, and a voice that recalls the timeless grace
of her forbears and her birth in the barrio, is the perfect formula to take
tango to a new generation.

Tango Varón balances a strong repertoire of traditional tango standards,
with newly written compositions that speak from modern life in Buenos Aires.
From the highly percussive approach of “Me Llaman Luna” to the more traditional
and ornate bandoneón and strings on “Que Nadie Sepa Mu Sufrir,” Luna displays
her talent and ability to work above a wide variety of textures. On “Carritos
Cartoneros,” she tells the modern tale of a homeless vagabond who came to Buenos
Aires with the promise of a first world life, only to scour the streets for
bottles and cans to earn what little money they can. The proud, machismo male is
at the core of tango’s image, but Sandra is not afraid to challenge this
assumption head on. The title track “Tango Varón” recalls the origin of ‘male
tango’ in Buenos Aires, but her insistent performance injects the track with the
unique passion of a confident woman.

Buy Tango Varón.


Life in the Vas Lane

Vas – Feast of SilenceFeast of Silence (Narada 70876-18497-2-1, 2004)

Vocalist Azam Ali and percussionist Greg Ellis began making music as Vas in 1995, both bringing to the table a desire to go beyond expectations and the bounds of tradition.

Among their many strengths were Ali’s earthy but out-there singing, mostly in conjured-up languages all her own, and Ellis’ knack for creating percussion backdrops that were not merely rhythmic but had something to offer in the way of melody as well.

Feast of Silence is their fourth album on Narada (though they’ve each done a solo disc for the label since last teaming up as Vas), and the way their sound has expanded defies description as much as the sound itself. From their first release (1997’s Sunyata) they’ve melded the feel and ambiance of Persia, Arabia, North Africa, the Balkans and India into a seamless whole, as though they’d taken numerous musical journeys between the Straits of Gibraltar and the far end of the Silk Road and absorbed something new each time. The sonic adventure they’re on remains fresh, having added on this latest excursion some vocals in English and percussion from locales ever further flung.

Guest players on additional stringed and keyboard instruments (and some well-placed Indian bansuri flute) enhance the tunes, all Vas originals apart from one traditional Bulgarian song. The opening “Amitra” is classic Vas, with a majestic, sweeping arrangement that’s solid and shimmering. Things stay heavenly after that as Ali’s singing enchants and soothes in ways that could lure even the most attentive sailor onto the rocks and Ellis sends forth unlooped, unsequenced percussion cascades where everything from Peruvian box drums to metallic Indonesian textures fill expanses of bliss. Above all, the album illustrates that though the duo’s respective talents are considerable, it’s their unbeatable teamwork that continues to make Vas such an engaging listen.

Buy Feast of Silence


Plena Libre Salutes the Puerto Rican Plena Masters with New CD and Tour

Plena Libre - Estamos Gozando!
Plena Libre – Estamos Gozando!
New York, USA – Puerto Rican group
Plena Libre will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a 10th record, Estamos Gozando!, slated for June 8th on Times Square Records.

Even after five centuries of colonial rule, the Puerto Rican personality is clearly defined regardless of our relationship to the US,” says Plena Libre bassist-bandleader Gary Núñez. “It is impossible to dilute the character of Puerto Rican people, because we have strong roots. And plena is an important part of it.”

Estamos Gozando! brings the story of plena full circle, paying homage to the greatest plena and bomba (another Afro-Rican genre) composers.

Represented here is music by Ángel Torruellas, one of the most prolific plena composers; Los Pleneros de Quinto Olivo, an important plena band of the ’70’s who first popularized the folkloric song Canario Blanco; César Concepción, a trumpeter who adapted plena to big band “salon” scores in the ’60’s; Rafael Cortijo, master percussionist who with singer Ismael Rivera popularized many Afro-Rican genres in the ’60’s and ’70’s; Mon Rivera, creator of a humorous delivery style and introducer of four trombones to Afro-Rican music; Rafael Cepeda, known as the ‘Patriarch of Bomba and Plena’; Toñin Romero, who wrote many hits in the ’50’s and ’60’s; and Manuel Jimenez “Canario”, the first plenero to be commercially recorded (RCA) and one of the greatest plena innovators of the ’20’s and ’30’s.

Plena emerged in the late 19th century when the repertoire of Barbados immigrants mixed with local genres, and along with the bomba, has been the mainstay of Afro-rooted music of Puerto Rico. But paradoxically, today many Puerto Rican artists are known for salsa and merengue, genres that originated in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. “By the early ’70s, the Puerto Rican music
industry came down
,” explains Nuñez. “Our rhythms took a back seat to other nations’.” Playing plena takes on a complex form of pride, affirming Puerto Rican identity within the dominance of genres that originate elsewhere.”

Núñez asserted Puerto Rican identity in the ’70s with his band Moliendo Vidrio, in line with the Nuevo Canción movements of Latin America, which rallied folk music against colonialism. After 18 years of putting the cuatro (Puerto Rican guitar) on the map, he was ready for a new challenge. “Three things kept the plena alive from the ’60s to the ’90s,” says Nuñez. “First, when people gather for parties, the plena rhythm is always there. Second, plena took center stage during labor strikes. And third, folklore groups kept the roots of plena alive.” When Núñez picked up the torch by forming Plena Libre in 1994, he sought to reinvent the genre, taking it from folkloric status—which relegated its performance to holidays and folk revivals—and turning it into a living and breathing, popular, evolving form.

Traditionally, plena uses three different-sized hand drums of Spanish origin called panderos that are pitched low-to-high and play interlocking rhythms. The seguidor is the bass drum, laying the rhythmic foundation; the mid-pitched punteador plays a complementary pattern to the seguidor. The higher pitched requinto alternates between playing yet another complementary pattern and improvising solos that respond to the sung lyrics. The güiro (scraper) and the vocalists – with leader and chorus in call-and-response style – complete the basic ensemble. Over time, the plena took on different forms – from the simple addition of the accordion or cuatro to full orchestral variations. For migrant workers who followed the harvest of different crops, the plena was their orally transmitted newspaper, informing people of the latest news, and accompanying every celebration.

To the pandero ensemble, Núñez added bass, keyboards, timbales, congas, four trombones, and some of the best plena singers (soneros) found in Puerto Rico. With a style that draws on both the traditional and the modern, and arrangements that mix in other Caribbean rhythms and sizzling dance-floor charts, Plena Libre topped the charts with one hit after another on commercial radio stations in Puerto Rico, returning plena to the center stage.

In support ofEstamos Gozando!, Plena Libre will be touring North America in July and August. Confirmed dates so far include:

Wednesday, June 30th, Kimmell Center, Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, July 7th, Montreal Jazz festival, Montreal, Quebec,
Thursday, July 8th, Sun Fest Festival, London, Ontario
Friday, July 9th, Sun Fest Festival, London, Ontario
Saturday, July 10th, Winnipeg, Canada
Thursday, July 15th, Chicago World Music Festival, IL
Friday, July 16th, Halifax Jazz Festival, Nova Scotia
Saturday, July 17th, Ritmo Y Color Festival, Toronto, Ontario
Sunday, July 18th, Puerto Rican Festival of Holyoke, MA
Friday, July 23rd, Stockton Performing Arts Center, Atlantic City, NJ
Saturday, July 31st, Celebrate Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, Aug. 7th, Puerto Rican Festival at Franklin Park, Boston, MA
Tuesday, Aug. 10th, Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA
Friday, Aug. 13th, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, New York, NY
Saturday, Aug.14th, Musikfest – Plaza Tropical, Bethlehem, PA
Sunday, Aug. 15th, Schenectady (Albany), NY

Buy Estamos Gozando!


Musicians from Cuban Province of Granma to Play in World´s Longest Son

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Bayamo, Cuba.- More than 200 musicians from the eastern Cuban province of Granma will perform in this city for 24 hours, on May 17, as part of the Longest Son Song in the World, an event of Cuban artists to take place May 15-30. The goal is to set a new Guinness record -more than 300 hours non-stop- to include nearly 3,000 acts of the genre, one of the basic rhythms of Cuban music. The event will begin in Santiago de Cuba, and end at La Tropical Ball Room in Havana, to break the previous record of more than 100 hours, set in 1997 by 1,200 artists.
The Plaza de la Patria will be the scene for the musicians in Granma, to open with the famous orchestra Original de Manzanillo and close with Cándido Fabré and his band. The 24 groups chosen for the feat also include Tempestad Latina, Yakare, Fiverson, Compacto and Estrellas del Caribe. The world´s longest Son is part of the program for the 8th International Cubadisco Fair, an event to promote Cuban music.


Havana Pays Tribute to Guitar

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana.- Every other year, Havana pays tribute to
the guitar, that wonderful and generous instrument which combines harmony and
melody. On Saturday, the latest edition of an event that began in 1982 with a
series of Festival-Contests rooted in Cuban music life, opened in the Cuban
capital. Founded and directed by Leo Brouwer, one of the world’s most important
living guitar composers, the Festival enlists renowned professors and national
and foreign guitarists. Havana guitar lovers take part in the lectures,
colloquiums, exhibits and concerts, which satisfy the most demanding audiences
and musicians. The contestants in the 12th International Leo Brouwer Guitar
Festival-Contest face hard tests, some obligatory and some optional, but all of
great technical complexity. The list of distinguished past participants includes
John Williams, Costas Cotsiolis,
de Lucía
, Jesus Ortega,
Robert Aussel, Alirio Diaz,

Vicente Amigo
, Ichiro Suzuki, Pepe Romero, Eliot
Fisk, Timo Korhonen, Pavel Steidl, Garreth Walter, Clerch, Alvaro Pierri, Eli
Kassner, Shin-Ichi Fukuda, Victor Pellegrini, Paolo Paolini, Eduardo Fernandez
and Guitar Quartet. Talented guitarist Robert Vidal commented: “Leo’s influence
has been like a lighthouse, a center of attention to concentrate in Havana
guitarists from so many countries
.” For his part, virtuoso Costas Cotsiolis
said, “I think the contest and festival, if not the best of the world, is, at
least, one of the most important. Celebrities of famous prestige and artistic
authorities in the guitar are here, Leo Brouwer is here
.” In that same line of
thinking, specialist Juan Helguera stated: “It is a biennial festival that
awakens our support, admiration and sympathy, and shows the moral strength of
the country organizing it
.” The draw took place Saturday, followed by the first
test Sunday. The second and third rounds are set for Tuesday and Wednesday. The
awards ceremony is scheduled for Friday May 14. Many of the past edition’s 36
winners are now world guitar greats.

[Photo: Paco de Lucia].


Artists from 11 countries to 18th Golden Boleros Festival in Cuba

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – More than 20 artists from 11
countries will participate in the 18th Golden Boleros Festival, to be held June
10-26 in Cuba, dedicated this time to Brazil. Organizing Committee President,
musicologist Jose Loyola announced Tuesday in a press conference that bolero
followers and researchers from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela,
Ecuador, Italia, Peru, Japan, Spain and Argentina will join the Cubans in the
Festival. The guests confirmed so far, Loyola stated, include Venezuelan Elena
Gil, Mexicans Raul Neri, Nayra Luna and Mari Carmen Pérez, and José Luis Monero,
one of the most popular bolero singers of Puerto Rico. Italian Paola Lorenze,
Ecuadorian Maria Esther Bowen, Spanish Angel Cuenca, and Peruvian Felix Silva
Fernández (Betico),  will also attend the Festival. Monserrat Perdomo, Kener Garcia and Jair Rodriguez will represent Brazil. In
previous editions of the Festival, bolero figures such as Puerto Ricans Danny
Rivera and Andy Montañez performed. This year’s festival will open June 10 in
the province of Villa Clara, 287 east of Havana, and then extends to Camagüey
and Santiago de Cuba, before coming to Havana on June 23. Meanwhile, an
international colloquium with 24 speakers from six countries will take place,
including lectures on bolero and the identity of our America, and Brazilian
popular song. Two special dissertations, one by Colombian Pablo del Valle, and
another by Brazilian Ilza Nogueira, on the evolution of the music genre in
Brazil, will be main attractions. Book presentations, concerts, discussions and
the premiere of two documentaries, one of them dedicated to late Cuban singer
Compay Segundo, are included in the Festival program.

The closing ceremony will pay tribute to nine Cuban musicians, including
Marta Valdes and Roberto Sanchez, on their 70th birthday. The Cuban Union of
Writers and Artists (UNEAC), the Ministry of Culture, and the Cuban Music
Institute sponsor the Boleros de Oro Festival, created "to promote one of the
eldest Cuban music genres


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