Bonga\’s North American Tour

New York, USA – Angolan musician Bonga will be touring the United States to
promote the domestic release of his latest recording,
Kaxexe. Originally released by Lusafrica in Europe, the US edition will
be out on Times Square Records.

Tour schedule

Sunday, March 28th, 2004 – New York, NY: Africa Mondo Festival/ Satalla,

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004 – Hartford, CT: Real Art WaysWednesday, March 31st, 2004 – Chicago, IL: Chicago Cultural Center

Friday, April 2nd, 2004 – Cleveland, OH: Museum of Art, Gartner Auditorium

Saturday, April 3rd, 2004 – Ottawa, Ontario: Ottawa University, Alumni
Auditorium

Sunday, April 4th, 2004 – Montreal, Quebec: Kola Note

Monday, April 5th, 2004 – New York, NY: Joe’s Pub

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Les Yeux Noirs, Catch ’em if you can

Les Yeux Noirs
Les Yeux Noirs
Les Yeux Noirs
Seattle performance
Century Ballroom
February 24, 2004

The French group, Les
Yeux Noirs
came to my attention during the summer of 2002 around the time when I decided to immerse myself in world music. At the time, the group was touring North America promoting their studio recording, Balamouk (a heavy dose of Gypsy jazz, klezmer & Russian folk songs). While I did pen a review ofBalamouk, I turned down an invite to see the group’s first Seattle appearance. I do regret that decision.Since that time, an in-concert recording, simply entitled Live was produced and the group sans their accordionist embarked on another North American tour, including a date in Seattle. While it might seem a bit odd to market a live album with a tour, Les Yeux Noirs are one of two bands that I know of that did just that this year. Malian guitar sensation Habib Koité also released his live album, Foly on World Village and followed up with a North American tour. Unfortunately, Habib’s tour did not include a Seattle appearance. However, similar to Les Yeux Noirs, I imagine that Habib’s concert appearances put smiles on a lot of people’s faces.

Les Yeux Noirs’ Live features an octet led by violin-virtuoso brothers, Èric and Olivier Slabiak. The other musicians included on this live disc are Francois Perchat (cello), Constantin Bitica (accordion), Pascal Rondeau (guitar, vocals), Aidje Tafial (percussion), Franck Anastasio (bass) and Marian Miu (cimbalom). Each of the musicians in their own right could be considered masters
of their instruments and it is amazing to hear or see the musicians switch gears between a Russian lament to a frenzied klezmer number. Often times, this group seems to be involved in a high-speed chase through a rural village with chickens and feathers fluttering about and then when you least expect it, they participate in an extremely solemn event tinged with weeping strings that would bring tears to anyone’s eyes.

This disc highlights an intimate relationship between the musicians and their audience. Towards the end of the concert, you can hear the audience participating with the group. They sing along on the traditional Russian song, Guene Roma and Tchaye (the song which ends the concert). And enthusiastic
responses pepper this recording adding to the excitement of this group’s repertoire. In fact, I find Live to be a more enjoyable listen than the studio recording, Balamouk because of the way the musicians feed off the energy created by the audience. A beautiful exchange occurs that can only come through in a live recording and a concert.

Live features 9 of the 12 tracks that appear on Balamouk. Other tracks include Sanie Cu Zurgale (one of those high-speed romps), Calusul, Hora Ca La Caval, Cymbalum (featuring cimbalom), Ot Azoi, Djelem, the children’s song, L’Alouette (which sounds nothing like the original) and Danse Du Sabre (recalls Fellini’s 8 1/2 soundtrack). I find all of the tracks pleasurable with the exception of L’Alouette because that track sounds like violins on acid or the type of high-pitch sounds that pleasures cats and cause dogs to howl in pain. Fortunately, the musicians follow up with the playful Danse Du Sabre and the participatory Guene Roma and Tchaye. Live ends with a bonus track of Lluba, delicately weaving cello, violin, guitar and children’s choir.

Les Yeux Noirs’ Seattle appearance almost mirrored the live recording. Although many of the tracks were performed live with two new ones added the Seattle audience didn’t even come close to matching the enthusiasm found on the live disc. This isn’t to say that the French musicians didn’t receive a warm response, it just seemed like some of the audience members had never heard the group before and an intimate connection between the seven musicians and the audience was sorely missing.

However, that didn’t stop the septet from setting musical fire to the stage. Opening with Balamouk, I could see why this group has collected kudos from the press. And it was interesting to hear twin violins bouncing off of Pascal Rondeau’s wah wah guitar. Having warmed up a bit, the musicians set loose with their frenzied, Ot Zoi. Following that a new song called Ai Le Le and then the musicians returned to performing familiar repertoire off of their 2 recordings.

Half way through their set, the band introduced another new song entitled Routhania that resembled American bluegrass music. As the evening wore on, the band ignited one song after another while building on their energy and passion for Gypsy jazz, klezmer, and other genres while switching from Yiddish to Russian to French languages with ease. While I enjoyed the groups faster pace songs, my favorites were the slow numbers such as Lluba with its mournful cello and violins as well as, Yiddishe Mame. Oddly those two songs were not written down on the set list that was handed to me at the end of the concert. Perhaps that’s what I get in return for my bad French. (When I am at home practicing
French, it comes out so eloquent, but when I actually try to speak French to a native, my tongue ties in a knot and I might as well just say, “pardon moi, I’m an idiot.”)

Having said that, one doesn’t need to speak a foreign language to enjoy Les Yeux Noirs’ recordings or concerts because passion and virtuosity translates into any language. For those individuals who did witness this band in concert, think of the Live CD as a souvenir from a pleasant excursion. And for those folks who were not fortunate enough to see this band in concert pick up the disc and introduce your self to Les Yeux Noirs’ rambunctious music.

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Dove songs

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
Make Me a Channel of Your Peace
And if the World (Suoni, 2002)

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (Kirkelig Kulturverksted, 2001)

On March 1st, (2004) after I arrived home from a visit with a friend, I found my mailbox overflowing with CDs of artists spreading peace and compassion so I feel honored in writing this review. The two compilations listed in this review featured musicians from varying countries with one thing in common–stopping the madness and greed that has perpetuated around the globe by a handful of elite, political leaders and multi-national corporations. These musicians are unarmed except for their passionate voices and musical talent. And they must believe in the same way that I believe that each of us makes a difference by sharing our talents and speaking our truths with compassion.And if the World produced as a collaborative effort with the Seattle based non-profit Pressure Point, Arv, Suoni Dell’ Atromondo and Ra Media takes a political stance. Along with the 18 donated tracks by international artists, Annbjørg Lien,
Flook, Laura Love, and 15 other groups, the producers of the compilation provide listeners with revealing statistics and famous quotes such as, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world,” by Gandhi. The tracks on this CD are mostly pre-recorded and compiled by producer Arv/Giovanni Amighetti.

A few of the tracks were recorded and produced specifically for this CD and include, Ivan’s Mazurka (Stefano Valla), Flutopia Parts 3 & 4 (Flook), Dammi La Man Biodina (La Squadra) and Ndosi by Luisa Cottifogli (a vocalist with a range that could shatter glass). Three of the tracks are a cappella, Ndosi and Dammi La Man Biodina and Bella Chao (Paroplapi) sports an a cappella introduction and
then is accompanied by drums thus reminding us that voice is a powerful instrument for change. This CD brings us everything from a spirited Eastern European romp (Crossing Mountains pt 2) to Asian flute (Goodbye Again) to the folky In Seattle (Laura Love). The songs flow well into one another and prove
that diversity can be woven into an exquisite fabric.

According to promotional information that appears on Pressure Point’s web site, “This CD is an example of the positive potential of globalization. Cultural ambassadors from 18 countries are represented. Their diverse cultures are bound together in joyous, creative expression intrinsic to the medium of music. They play for their communities and they sing for the earth.” The CD was created
as a fund raising effort for the activist non-profit, Pressure Point and they offer a special discount for unemployed individuals and students. For further information visit http://www.pressurepoint.org/worldcd.html.

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace is more of a collaborative collage than an actual compilation CD. The title derives from a prayer by Saint Francis of Assisi and the CD was created to honor the Centennial of The Nobel Peace Prize and its recipients. Produced in 2001 and released on the Kirkelig Kulturverksted label out of Norway in collaboration with Worldview Rights, offers an elaborate
collaboration with Susana
Baca
(Peru), Sinead O’Connor (Ireland), Dr. L. Subramaniam and Kavita Krishnamurti (India),
Mari Boine (Norway/Samiland), Chiwoniso (Zimbabwe), Banda Dida (Brazil), Kris Kristofferson (US),
Knut Reiersrud (Norway), Maureen Nehedar (Israel), Brilliant (Azerbaijan) and Saed Sweiti (Palestine). The 17 tracks that appear here were composed for this recording and were recorded in various studios throughout the world and then fused together along with exerts from famous speeches of Nobel Peace Prize winners.

The first half of the CD focuses on injustices that are taking place in various countries and the remainder of the CD offers prayers of peace from the Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Hindu religions, ending with the title track sung by Sinead O’Connor. The production is passionate and the various speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lhama and other peacemakers can easily draw tears. I find this recording incredibly powerful with diverse voices, styles and cultures that flow seamlessly into one another. On, Begging/Anuheapmi, Mari Boine sings, “I don’t know it seems as if we now are guests at the king’s table and it’s time for serving and we reach out our hands bowing gracefully and feel ourselves blushing.” I have a dream fuses Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech with hearty vocals compliments of Brilliant, Boine and Kavita Krishnamurti. Those are just two examples of the thought provoking tracks that appear on this recording.

To sum up these two compilations, here is a quote by Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela (South Africa), “Let it never be said by future generations that indifference, cynicism or selfishness made us fail to live up to the ideals of humanism which the Nobel Peace Prize encapsulates. Let the striving of us all prove Martin Luther King Jr., to have been correct when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to starless midnight of racism and war. Let the efforts of us all prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being
more precious than diamonds or silver or gold. Let a new age dawn!
” (1993). Proceeds from the sale of this CD go to the Nobel Peace Laureates Follow up Fund.

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

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Hitting all the right notes

Various Artists

The Rough Guide to African Rap (World Music Network RGNET1126CD, 2004)

Like all hugely proliferating music forms, rap, in its many guises
all-too-often comes with a silent ‘c’. So it comes as a blessed relief that
Rough Guides, who aren’t always guaranteed to hit the nail on the head, have
come up with an absolute sure-fire cracker. Compiler Graeme Ewens is an
Afrophile since time immemorial (not wishing to be rude about his age) and it’s
as much a testament to his continuing good taste filter and the high, high
quality that can be separated from the drivel in African rap music that a
compilation of this strength can come about. He’s delved, too. Here are some
names that all-too-few on the international scene have heard of to date:
Zanzibar’s X Plastaz, K-Melia from Democratic Republic of Congo and Ghanaian
wordsmith par excellence Reggie Rockstone are all names we’re going to be
hearing more from in the future.
Alongside the movers & shakers we find good historical content too, including
early Positive Black Soul vibes and seminal Nation Records darlings,
Durban-based Prophets Of Da City. This album just blasts along from the first
beat to final blip and, despite it’s good length, seems over and demanding to be
re-started in no time at all. Wondering where to start? Start here. Missed out
on some of the greats? Try here. Looking for the scene stealers? Here Bert, this
is the place.

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Cuban Flamenco Guitar Player Reynier Marino to Spain

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba –  Cuban flamenco guitar player
Reynier Marino, who also fuses other musical genres, announced he would travel
to Madrid to promote his new album Alma Gitana (Gypsy Soul). The tour of Marino
and his group will start in Seville, before continuing on to Extremadura, Madrid
and the Canary Islands through mid March.I’m going to promote the songs of my
new album and some from the still untitled new production we are making with the
Spanish recording company TCI Rapen
," said Marino. The new album includes 12
songs, 6 of them instrumentals. "It’s something in which I have been thinking
for some time and I hope the audience likes it. There’s a little bit of
everything: Arab, Flemish and Cuban music, treated from a modern concept, with
guitar, drums and other percussion instruments
.

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Fusion Band Sintesis Presents Latest Production

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba –  The trilogy Ancestros,
the latest album by
Síntesis
, one of the most famous bands in the current Cuban
music scene is soon to be released. The band´s distinctive style, integrating
ancestral and contemporary sources of Cuban music, has made it popular. The
group merges sounds of Africa with others taken from jazz, rock, pop and
international music. Sintesis director Carlos Alfonso is one of the first Cuban composers of Latin
rock, influenced by rock and Afro-Cuban music, achieving an invention including
contemporary sounds of Yoruba and Lucumí prayers and songs. Sintesis has taken
its music to several US, Canadian, European and Latin American stages, often
participating in international festivals. Their albums include Habana a Flor
de Piel
, a Latin Grammy nominee 2002 in the category of Best Contemporary
Tropical Album.

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The Sounds of Precious Metal

Golden Sounds Band – Swahili Rumba
Golden Sounds Band

Swahili Rumba (Naxos World 76055-2, 2003)

Congolese rumba reigned so long as Africa’s most popular dance music that it’s no surprise how easily certain African nations were able to make the rumba sound their own without undermining the sweet core essence of it. In Kenya, such styles as benga (music defined by regional cultural characteristics) and
Indo-Arabic taarab have long been in favor, along with rumba that holds true to the classic Congolese variety. With lyrics largely in Swahili and songs reflecting a proudly Kenyan point of view, this album is sure to delight legions of rumba lovers. Golden Sounds Band structures most of their songs around the
format in which several minutes of sensual, medium-tempo groove eventually gives way to a faster section (the Congolese call it a sebene) emphasizing high-flying guitar work, celebratory vocals (animations) and drum rhythms that go from a trot to a full gallop. They stop short of appropriating the slick,
fast-starting, fast-staying extension of rumba known as soukous, generating ample energy regardless.

I don’t know how old these recordings are- the sound is clean and clear without a lot of the studio sheen that might suggest something recent, so your guess is as good (or better) than mine. Guitars get much of the attention as chiming rhythms, fuzzy solos and deft interplay fill lengthy tracks also laced
with warmly joyous vocals, subtle metallic percussion, occasionally emerging saxophone and lyrics that wax wise on love, faith, human nature and the finer points of East Africa. It’s bright, vibrant music, full of the stuff to hook you in and make you move.

At the very end of the opening “Kazi Ni Kazi” a spoken voice asks “hey, what’s up man?” Well, what’s up is a band that lives up to it’s name by making sounds that are truly golden, and a disc that glitters brightly from beginning to end.

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Wemilere Festival 2004 in November

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – Dedicated to the bicentennial of the independence of Haiti, Alejo Carpentier and late artist Martha Jean-Claude, the Wemilere Festival will take place again in the municipality of Guanabacoa, proving that the conservation of the most authentic values of any culture also preserves the genesis of its identity. The Wemilere International Festival of African Roots will take place November 21-24, 2004 at the legendary Villa de la Asunción de Guanabacoa. The organizers -Cuban Culture Ministry, Embassy of Haiti in Cuba, UNESCO regional office, the Martha Jean-Claude Cultural Foundation, the House of Africa along with the Municipal Culture Office in Guanabacoa. Spreading the African influence in the culture of Cuba, America and the Caribbean will be its main objective.

[Photo courtesy of Prensa Latina].

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Ruth Finesinger Kellam

Ruth Finesinger Kellam died on Thursday, March 4, at the age of 68. She was
passionately involved with the Hyde Park Art Fair (serving on the board), The
University of Chicago Folk Festival, The Music of the Baroque (serving as
treasurer), and other organizations.  Her interest in folk music began at an
early age. She learned the piano at  age four, played banjo and guitar, and with
her near-perfect pitch, enjoyed many styles of singing. Ruth was loved and
admired alike by family, friends, and co-workers. Ruth’s smile, selfless energy,
frankness, and fortitude were indeed special qualities. She will be sorely
missed. She is survived by her sons, Jonathan, Anthony, and Stephen, and her
companion, archivist and acclaimed folk musician Joe Hickerson. There will be a
memorial service for Ruth on May 15 at Bond Chapel on the University of Chicago
Campus.

[Courtesy of the

Folk Alliance
].

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Hot Percussion Licks

San Francisco, USA – Conga drummer Raymond Simmons has released some of his famous techniques in the Hot Percussion Licks conga drum music lesson booklet & practice CD. It doubles as a rhythm and blues cover tune of “Love And Happiness” originally done by Al Green.

From the Black Light Explosion era in the early 1970’s around the San Francisco Bay Area emerged Raymond Simmons, afro-styled conga drummer extraordinaire. For the past thirty years Raymond has played with dance classes, drum choirs, dance troupes, acting groups and blues and rock bands. He has had played with Jimmy McCracklin, Carla Thomas, Marvin Holmes, Albert King and other greats. Raymond founded Select Records in 1981 with artists Masterpiece, Starlite, the Fabulous Playmates and the Ladies’ Choice where he has been the featured percussionist.

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