As Far As

dj Cheb i Sabbah - As Far As
dj Cheb i Sabbah – As Far As
dj Cheb i Sabbah

As Far As (Six Degrees Records)

dj Cheb i Sabbah has returned with a recording that blends organic instrumentation along with dance club consciousness. Sabbah’s latest release, As Far As, features stellar international talent including Natacha Atlas, jazz trumpeter Don Cherry and the Asian Dub Foundation. However, it is the lesser known artists that shine forth on this recording. Trilok Gurtu’s Have We Lost Our Dream possesses soaring vocals and a tapestry of African instrumentation.

Malian Sekouba Bambino offers the uplifting Sinikan and Sangoma, Suzan Hendrick & the Traditional Healers give us feisty call and response vocals along with juicy polyphonic drums, Ngihawukele Thonga Lami. Don Cherry plays a muted melody along with ritual style drums resulting in a jazzy samba, Audio
Letter. And the crowning jewels here are Solace’ Saptak, floating through Arabesque ambience and Sabbah’s Hari Om Narayan with its devotional Indian vocals hovering over sitar and drone instruments.

As Far As is another travelogue album that spans three continents, featuring gorgeous instruments and nine languages while immersing its listeners in exotic sounds from North Africa, India and Africa. This fits nicely with Six Degrees Record’s mission statement, “dedicated to bringing you the best in traditional and contemporary musical excursions from around the world.” It’s always a good sign of the times, when a company is dedicated to a mission and delivers what it promises. And if you are unable to travel this summer, this CD is the next best thing. For more information on dj Cheb i Sabbah

(Formerly published on Cranky Crow
World Music


World Musician

Hamza El Din

By Louis Werner

The teeming, neon-lit streets of Tokyo are a long way from the mud-walled village he once called home along the Nubian reach of the Nile. Bur for virtuoso ‘ud player, composer and ethnomusicologist Hamza El Din, the rhythms and melodies he first heard as a child have remained with him on the many stops in his life’s musical journey.

Perhaps it isn’t unusual that, after living in Egypt, Italy and the United States, Hamza would choose Japan as his home for the pat ten years. There he has found a receptive and knowledgeable audience, recording contracts, lectureships and, most important, an opportunity to play with the masters of the Japanese lute, drum and bamboo flute. “The traditional music of Japan,” he says, “has taught me to compose and play my own work with more precision and concentration.”

Hamza is not a strict traditionalist. For San Francisco’s avant-garde Kronos Quartet, he recently rescored for Western string instruments his epic piece Escalay – the world means “water wheel” in Nubian – which he originally composed for voice, frame drum and solo ‘ud, or Arab lute. His long association with rock percussionist Mickey Hart of The Grateful Dead resulted in a recording collaboration called Planet Drum.

Hamza’s itinerary through the world’s musical traditions can make the head spin. In Cairo he studied music theory and ‘ud performance at the Arab Institute of Music; in Rome he learned classical guitar and western harmonics at the Academia di Santa Cecilia; and in Greenwich village he played for coffeehouse audiences at the height of the 1960’s folk music revival.

But my best lesson ever,” Hamza notes, “was to see Umm Kalthoum sing in concert.”

Wherever Hamza performed, he also listened and learned. “When I played at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964, and at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, I was sure that very few people understood me. But because I saw they tried to hard to listen, I realized I too must try hard to understand their music. I opened my mind to whatever was good.”

His music nonetheless remains unmistakably Nubian. Even on his new compact disc, Nubiana Suite, recorded live in Tokyo with Japanese wadaiko and shakuhachi accompanists, Hamza’s soaring lyrics, sung in the ancient Nubian language, and his droning ‘ud hauntingly evoke the spirit of his homeland.

Hamza’s first memories are of his culture’s indigenous rhythms: drum-beating, hand-clapping and chanting. Every event in Nubia, mundane or exceptional, is remembered by its musical signature. “Once a fire broke out,” he recalls, “and we all formed a human chain from the river to the village. Even in such a moment of crisis, we sang and clapped in order to keep the water buckets passing quickly back and forth.”

The fact that a Nubian musician can prosper in Japan should be considered in light of the popularity of the “world music” sound all over the globe. Hamza is quite satisfied to be part of this movement. “I don’t think I play ‘ethnic’ music from Nubia any more than a symphony orchestra plays ‘ethnic’ music from Europe. What I pay is the music of the world.”

From Saudi Aramco magazine, July/August 1991. Reproduced courtesy of Saudi Aramco magazine.


Global Grooves

Global Soul
Global Soul
Global Soul (Putumayo, 2002)

Euro Lounge (Putumayo, 2002)

Putumayo’s Global Soul features an array of interesting personalities including France’s controversial R & B artist, Doc Gyneco (or Doctor Gynecologist). The name should be a deterrent in itself. Of course, the humor derives from the fact that an artist that brags about his sexual prowess still lives with his mother. Other acts of interests include, South Korean soul artists, Tasha and Bobby Kim, Brazilian funkers Fernanda Abreu and Aricia Mess, England’s multi-media artists 1 Giant Leap. The artists on the CD hail from Germany, France, Brazil, South Korea, Senegal, Tanzania, Cameroon, Italy, the US and Quebecois-Canada. Both the emerging talent and seasoned veterans (Aricia Mess, Neneh Cherry, Kaissa and Fernanda Abreu) were inspired by neo-soul musicians from the US who
in turn found their inspiration by listening to old Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes and James Brown recordings. Similar to Kate Bush, China (France) signed her first album deal in her mid teens. Singing in both French and English, China offers her funky number, Time.

The multi-media duo Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman (1 Giant Leap) produce a multi-cultural piece that marries Native American chants (Ulali) with rap (Speech) and soulful singing (Neneh Cherry) on Braided Hair. Joy Denalane combines her mother’s Germanic language with her father’s musical heritage (the South African marimba) on her song about spiritual awakening, It’s About Time.

This compilation features soul music with a foreign accent, meaningful lyrics and soulful sensibility as many of the artists find inspiration from their familial roots. Although the recordings are a bit slick, unique instrumentation such as the marimba on the track, It’s About Time give the songs a cutting edge above the usual fare you hear coming over commercial airwaves. If anything, Global Soul offers a unique perspective and a window to what’s happening elsewhere in the world. Globalization after all, might have flaws, but the exchange of musical culture isn’t one of them.

Euro Lounge
Euro Lounge
Euro Lounge features a collection of “chill-out classics” from Europe
while occasionally combining DJ talent from the Americas. As you would expect, the songs on this compilation fall into the cocktail lounge or light electronica categories. You will find bossa nova, salsa and shimmering Euro pop, perfect for a dinner party or get a casual get together. The DJs hail from France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil, Chile, USA, Germany, Turkey, Belgium and

S-Tone Inc. (Italy) track Limbe fuses groovy 60’s bass with sitar twang. Mambotur (Germany/Chile), combines fuzzy bass with salsa rhythms on Salpica. Gabin (Italy) with Sweet Sadness and Gare Du Norde (Belgium) How Was it For You? recall elements of bossa nova. Bossa Notra (Italy/Brazil) offers, Jackie, a shimmering pop song while the Spanish DJ, Mastretta’s El Ultimo Habitante Del Planeta, featuring sexy female vocals, would easily be at home on an Almodovar film soundtrack. Arling and Cameron from the Netherlands contribute Voulez-vous?, a mostly instrumental laced with sexual innuendoes.

(Originally published on Cranky Crow World Music).


The Nightingale Sings

Emil Zrihan
Emil Zrihan
Emil Zrihan

UW World Series
University of Washington
Seattle, WA
October 11, 2003

Many vocalists have been compared to songbirds and singing like a songbird is the best compliment we can give vocalists. We only need to listen to songbirds sing their morning songs to attest to this observation. Tibetan vocalist Yungchen Lhamo has been called a songbird, Edith Piaf was once called a sparrow and various male tenors (usually from North Africa or South Asia) draw comparisons with nightingales. Moroccan born Israeli cantor Emil Zrihan is one of those fortunate musicians to earn the title of nightingale.

Similar to the late Qawwali performer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Emil’s vocal range, labeled counter tenor on earthly terms, actually soars reaching stellar heights as I witnessed at his Seattle performance. And while Emil was billed as the main attraction that evening, the ensemble including Suissa Meyer (ud), Zaid El Bachir (nay), Semlali Bouibcha (violin), Samuel Sebbag (darbuka) and Milouvi Shahiba (frame drum tar) were also worthy of the standing ovation they received.

Emil has proven himself worthy of applause on more than one account. Not only has the performer been granted a superb vocal gift, but he has also acts as a human bridge between the Arab and Jewish cultures.

He’s not the first Israeli performer to embrace Arab musical traditions and other groups and performers include Bustan Abraham and Trio Ziryah (Turkish classical and Arab) have married Arabic and Jewish music while employing oud, violin and Arabic percussion. And other Moroccan born cantors Haim Louk and Jo Amar have sung in synagogues and on recordings. Emil backed by oud, violin, nay and Arabic percussion has successfully brought his ensemble to concert halls where he performs a variety of music, both new and old, both sacred (Biblical liturgies sung a cappella) and secular (love songs dating back to Jewish occupation in the Andalusian region of Spain). He sings his repertoire of
Andalusian, Sephardic, Arabic and religious text in Hebrew and Arabic while drawing on similarities instead of differences between cultures.

Emil’s Seattle performance proved no exception to the rule. The concert began with an instrumental which felt like an overture for an opera or musical. The violin and nay (flute) sang in tandem embellished by ud (lute) and Arabic beats played out on a frame drum and goblet drum, otherwise called a darbuka. After this gorgeous instrumental played itself out, Emil, a short, but slightly stout
man dressed in black made his entrance onto the stage while igniting a burst of applause. Without much fanfare he launched into an Arabic song while delivering pitch perfect vocals that sent shivers up spines. His second song followed a similar formula then Emil stepped away from the microphone and delivered Biblical liturgy at the edge of the stage, again with unwavering vocals. Throughout the first set, I allowed the waves of nay, ud, violin and vocals to wash over me in the same way I might take in a majestic mountain.

After the intermission, Emil and his ensemble performed a couple of Andalusian songs with the ud substituting for flamenco guitar and Emil performing flamenco cante. Emil’s vocals took on a new timbre and the ensemble musicians also let loose. As the set wore on, the musicians and Emil mutated into playful children and drew on their solemn qualities when needed. They pulled audience members
into a musical vortex which led to a standing ovation. The first song of the encore, a Jewish composition, Yiddishe Mame enraptured some audience members and then the ensemble topped off their performance with Andalusian fare. As the concert ended, I felt grateful to have witnessed one of the world’s human nightingales and hopefully the nightingale will herald a new dawn in which world
peace isn’t just an option, but reality.


WOMEX 2003 Inaugural Concert

Seville, Spain – Flamenco pianist David Peña Dorantes, from Lebrija (Seville), has a new show, with new pieces, which will be presented at WOMEX 2003. He will share the stage with Indian group Musafir on October 22nd to mark the opening of WOMEX 2003 and 3rd Flamenco World Fair.

On October 22nd, the Palace of Exhibitions and Congresses of Seville will become the international capital of world music with the inauguration of WOMEX 2003 and the 3rd Flamenco World Fair. Hundreds of artists and proposals will be exposed commercially for agents and presenters from many countries. One of the highlights is expected to be the inaugural event for both trade shows.

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 separately at the beginning and will later play together.


European Sounds Head East, West, Every Which Way

Orkestina – Transilvania Express
Orkestina – Transilvania Express (World Village 498002, 2003)

Harmonious Wail – Gypsy Swing (Naxos World 76056-2, 2003)

Nadya Giga and Their 101 Candles Orchestra (no label or number information)

Thus far, there hasn’t really been a lumped-together subgenre dubbed “European music” in the same sense that there’s been, for example, “African music” or “Latin music.” These three European-rooted releases, furthermore, lean heavily toward sounds associated with the Gypsy realm, but I would hesitate to proclaim them “Gypsy music” because of what else they’ve got going on.Beginning with a melodic forefront of double bass, accordion, violin, and gadulka (Bulgarian 13-string fiddle), Spain-based Orkestina draws on the ethnic backgrounds of its members (English, Irish, Bulgarian, Spanish) and their diverse tastes and talents.

The music on Transilvania Express is a richly arranged and exquisitely played selection of Bulgarian folk rubbing elbows with klezmer, Balkan melodies jigging and reeling to Arabic percussion and deep-seated traditions boosted by modern spirits. There are eight instrumentals and one love song here, and each contributes fully to making this disc a seriously spunky winner.

Harmonious Wail – Gypsy Swing
The back cover of Harmonious Wail’s Gypsy Swing contends that the term “Gypsy swing” is the only jazz style coined outside the U.S. I have not the expertise to confirm or deny that, but I can say that their sound, inspired by the jazz experimentation of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli in the first half of the 20th century, has a lot going for it. Gypsy passion and romanticism are very much in evidence, along with a sizable French cabaret vibe and the adventurousness of recasting familiar American songs (“Chasing Rainbows,” “Sheik of Araby,” etc.) in Gypsy jazz style.

The presence of a mandolin as the frequent lead instrument and some very tart violin playing bring a degree of bluegrass as well (this is an American band, after all). It’s mostly snappy instrumentals,
but a few smoky vocal selections add variety and color to the mix of covers and originals. A generous running time of 76 minutes allows this charmingly infectious music to work its way into you cool and slow.

Nadya Giga and Their 101 Candles Orchestra
Lastly, and somehow least likely, there’s Nadya Giga and Their 101 Candles Orchestra. Their home base is in Sydney, Australia but their sound is classic eastern European. There’s lots of galloping rhythms, brimming brass, swirling reeds and strings and yes, that Gypsy thing again. Singer Nadya Golski (originally from Poland) and Bosnian guitarist/musical director Giga Mirsad Jeleskovic are the guiding forces here, having their act together on all fronts. They even slip in an Irish folk song without turning down or radically changing the heat of their Bosnian/Croatian/Spanish/klezmer ingredients. Sizzling songs, sad songs, expert playing and lots of heart carry the album, and it’s a gem.


Better Check Your Pulse

Pulse – A Stomp Odyssey – Soundtrack from the Imax Film
Pulse – A Stomp Odyssey – Soundtrack from the Imax Film (Six Degrees Records, 2002)

There’s a lot of passion behind this global drum extravaganza, but it feels too much like the off-Broadway celebration of drums, Stomp in which it derived. Pulse fails to go off the beaten track, despite it’s large theme of spreading cultural diversity through world beats. It’s missing a few key ingredients such as Taiko drums of Japan, shamanic drums from Korea, music from the Caribbean and
Gamelan of Indonesia. In fact, with the exception of India, Asian music isn’t included. It’s the mistake that lot of world beat producers make. They call something global and then focus on obvious places such as countries in Africa, Brazil and Latin America (which ironically, is missing here).

I think we can stretch our boundaries further. Let’s focus on the positive because there are many positive vibes on Pulse and some insightful moments. First of all, we know that everything from a baby’s cry to an eagle circling in the sky contains rhythm and the most famous beat is the one that comes from our hearts or the pulse of the earth mother. I think that idea is captured on Pulse, in that rhythm is found in hand clapping (flamenco), a Native American pow wow, a Brazilian carnival, in rap music vocalizations and women chanting while they work. In that respect, Pulse becomes the musical equivalent of the film, Baraka which takes us on a visual journey around the world backed by world music. < Pulse includes drum tracks by well known drummers Steward Copeland, Mr. Bill and Mr. Ben and a Six Degrees Record favorite, Karsh Kale. NYC favorites, The Jackie Robinson Steppers team up with the Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps, bringing us a mix of Hispanic and African American beats. American Indian Dance Theatre gives us an all too brief taste of pow wow drums and chants and Eva Yerbabuena emphasizes the syncopated hand claps found in Andalusian flamenco. Also found on this CD, is Brazilian carnival music compliments of Carlinhos Brown, an elephant procession from East Indian drummers of Pallavur Sreedharan. These big moments fuse with smaller moments, snatches of women chanting while they work pounding millet. Pulse most likely will please crowds, especially after the IMAX cinematic release, but I would like to see a more cutting edge approach that includes music from little known cultures around the globe. Include more indigenous musicians. Buy Pulse – A Stomp Odyssey – Soundtrack from the Imax Film

(Formerly published on Cranky Crow World Music).


2004 Annual Conference of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology

London, England – The Elphinstone Institute and the Music Research Group at the University of Aberdeen will host the 2004 Annual Conference of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, taking place from Thursday 15 April (afternoon start) to Sunday 18 April (finishing early afternoon).

Call for Papers

Theme 1: Ethnomusicology at Home
As in social anthropology and other ethnographically-based disciplines, the researcher in ethnomusicology is increasingly turning towards the home context as a relevant base for fieldwork. This approach merits close examination and discussion.
Papers should address such issues as:
… What are the methodological implications?
… Are there implicit ideological or political considerations?… What are the advantages and disadvantages of the approach?
… How does it affect fieldwork style?
… How does status as insider or outsider affect the role of the
… Is a reflexive stance more or less relevant when at home?
… In the case of a native fieldworker is s/he blinkered or more capable of significant insights?
… Where is home?

Theme 2: Transformed States
In many different cultures and contexts the music people make is dependent for its inspiration on a transformed state of mind. This may be induced by administering substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, or narcotics.

Alternatively the transformed state may come from within, through emotions or feelings, such as joy, love, grief, fear, or from religious devotion or spiritual experience. Similarly body movements, especially dance or rhythmic percussion, may be the source.

Submissions should address such issues as:
… What is the nature of the relationship between the transformed state, its stimulus, and the music?
… How does the transformed state affect musical creativity and/or meaning?
… How does music contribute to the process of altering states of mind?
… What part does social and cultural context play in shaping the transformed state / music making?

Research in Progress
There will be the opportunity for students to submit proposals for short papers of 10 minutes based on their ongoing study (whether or not pertinent to the main themes).

Pre-formed panels of 90 or 120 minutes may also be proposed.

Submission of Proposals
Abstracts of up to 300 words (extended pro rata for panels) should be submitted, preferably by e-mail to Ian Russell by 30 November 2003. In the case of postal submissions, authors should include two copies but with their identity and institutional affiliation included on one copy only, plus a copy of the text on disk to facilitate eventual reproduction in the book of abstracts.  Please also indicate (a) what audio-visual equipment the presentation will require, and (b) whether you expect to be in attendance for the full duration of the conference.  Abstracts will be evaluated anonymously by an expert panel and authors may expect to be advised of their acceptance or otherwise in the New Year.  Those in need of an earlier decision should contact Ian Russell. Papers on the conference themes should last for no more than 20 minutes and there will be up to 10 minutes allowed for questions and discussion.

With its sparkling granite buildings, Aberdeen is Scotland’s third largest city – a combination of historic charm, thriving economy, and cosmopolitan community. A seaport and centre for Europe’s North Sea oil and gas industries, it is home to 212,000 people. From the mile-long beach and the historic 15th century university campus in Old Aberdeen, it is less than half-an-hour to the tranquility of the nearby hills and countryside in one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. Aberdeen caters for all tastes in arts, culture, leisure, and entertainment with His Majesty’s Theatre, Music Hall, and
Lemon Tree regularly attracting national and international artists. The Aberdeen Art Gallery, Maritime Museum, and Marischal Museum are all highly recommended. There are also many good restaurants and bars.

Accommodation in single or twin en-suite rooms is in King’s Hall less than 5 minutes walk from the Regent Lecture Theatre, New Kings, and the Linklater Rooms, where the formal conference activities will take place.  (Parking is available at New Kings and on the campus.) We can also offer a list of
reasonably priced local accommodation.

Evening events will include a performance of traditional Scottish ballads and music, a participatory workshop, and the traditional BFE party.  There will also be time to explore the local area with an excursion to nearby castles and glens.

Dr Ian Russell, Director
The Elphinstone Institute
University of Aberdeen
24 High Street
AB24 3EB
Tel: +44 (0)1224 272386
Fax: +44 (0)1224 272728


Pianist Hernán López-Nussa Prepares Album in Dominican Republic

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – Cuban pianist Hernán López-Nussa disclosed here that he is currently working in Dominican Republic, in the preparation of an album of songs with local author José Antonio Rodríguez. López Nussa, famous jazz musician, stated he will go into the popular song genre for the first time, along with various Dominican musicians, including the possible participation of merengue musician Juan Luis Guerra.

The Cuban musician stated he is currently working with Rodríguez in the compilation of the forthcoming album’s repertoire, planned to be recorded and sold in Dominican Republic.Asked about this proposal, atypical on his jazz career, López Nussa highlighted that the idea came during one of his presentations some time ago at the Santo Domingo’s Casa de Teatro, where along with other Cuban musicians he recorded some song written by José Antonio Rodríguez.


Brazil Up to the Minute

Various Artists – Brazilian Groove
Various Artists – Brazilian Groove (Putumayo PUT 216-2, 2003)

Various Artists – The Rough Guide to Brazilian Electronica (World Music
Network RGNET 1123 CD, 2003)

Like many global music listeners, I embrace the electronica/techno scene with caution. When the electronica treatment is applied to sounds of Africa, the Arabic world, Latin America, Native America or what have you, all too often the intent seems to be contemporizing the music at all costs, regardless of whether or not any reasonable degree of roots tradition is maintained. Thankfully, more and more releases in the ethno/techno category (if that is indeed what they’re calling it currently) are finding a more equitable balance. It can depend, of course, on how well the electronica approach fits the music
at hand, and in that respect the music of Brazil has fared well.

Two of the more productive labels around– World Music Network and Putumayo–have modern Brazilian compilations out now, and both pack an appealing punch.

Putumayo’s Brazilian Groove takes a more laid-back path, abounding with acoustic textures getting tastefully techno-tweaked and generally minimal toying with vocals. thus notables like Zuco 103, Carlinhos Brown and Aleh have their nuances carried along rather than swept away by the electronica currents.

The familiar classic “Mas Que Nada” gets a respectful updating, a good illustration of the way this collection does the job with restraint and emphasis on the rhythmic and melodic shades that make Brazilian music great no matter how it’s buttered.

Rough Guide to Brazilian ElectronicaRough Guide to Brazilian Electronica gets off to an awkward start with Suba’s rather stiff “Sereia” (the late Suba was a great talent but this particular track isn’t one of his best).

Things improve from there, as the techno touches are splashed about with abandon but local color is given room to breathe. Ramiro Musotto’s “Caminho” benefits from the murky emphasis on surdo drums, Cila Do Coco scores with the echoey “Juntando Coco,” Suba is redeemed via a lively “Samba Do Gringo Paulista” and the chillier side of things shows up in tracks by Superagua, Rica Amabis and Macumbalada. There are moments when things get more clunky than funky, but most of the 68 minutes here range from worthwhile to cracklingly good.


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