Walter Grealis

Walter Grealis, longtime
supporter of the Canadian music industry, founder of the trade publication RPM
and one of the inspirations behind the Juno Awards, died Tuesday, January 21, in
Toronto. He was 74.

A Torontonian from birth,
Grealis had a career as a policeman before he entered the recording industry in
1960. He soon became the Ontario promotion manager for London Records and went
on to establish RPM magazine, a weekly music trade publication promoting
Canadian singers and musicians.In 1970, RPM
initiated the Gold Leaf Awards to honor exceptional Canadian artists and
contributors. The award was renamed the Juno the following year. RPM also
established the Big Country Awards along with the Canadian Academy for Country
Music Advancement in 1975. Grealis received a People’s Award at the 1976 Junos
and had a Juno for industry figures named after him. In 1993 he was made an
Officer of the Order of Canada and he was inducted into the Canadian Country
Music Hall of Fame in 1999.

[Courtesy of the

Folk Alliance
].

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Pamyua Wins Big for Alaska Natives

Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA – The Anchorage-based quartet Pamyua took top honors Saturday night at the
Native American Music Awards in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when a live album they
recorded at the 4th Avenue Theatre in 2002, called Caught in the Act, was
named record of the year.

The win took the musicians by surprise. In fact, they were so sure they’d been
passed over for the honor that brothers Phillip and Stephen Blanchett weren’t
even in their auditorium seats. They were in the lobby, negotiating a future gig,
when they got word.

I opened the door and saw Karina (Moeller) and Ossie (Kairaiuak) on stage,
and everyone was laughing
,” Phillip Blanchett said of his band mates. “I
did our seal call — Woohoo! Woohoo! — and ran up, flapping my arms like a bird
.”

The award is the first Nammy for Pamyua (pronounced BUM-yo-ah) and the first for
an Alaska artist in the six years of the award. More than 140 recordings were
submitted for 2003 Nammy consideration. Finalists were announced in October.

Caught in the Act was nominated for three 2003 Nammys — best duo/group,
best pop/rock recording, and record of the year — but the group didn’t think
they had a chance at winning any of them when they arrived at Saturday’s event.

But before the group could polish the “It’s an honor just to be nominated
routine, Pamyua was called to the stage and the joke was on them.

I saw (NAMA director) Donald Kelly backstage, and he said ‘I gotcha!’ ”
Stephen Blanchett said, laughing. “He said, ‘You didn’t think you’d win, did you?’
I didn’t
.”

Caught in the Act was released in April. Pamyua’s CD debut was Mengluni in 1998. The title is Yup’ik for “the beginning.” Pamyua’s second
album, Verses, was released in late 2000 and earned the group a 2001
Nammy nomination for best world music recording.

Pamyua formed eight years ago as a Blanchett duo but was a foursome within a
year. The group has since grown popular in Alaska and on the world music
festival circuits with its blend of traditional Native song, drum and dance
performance, Yup’ik storytelling and contemporary world music. The group also
has heavy influences in R&B, funk, jazz, doo-wop and gospel.

That musical diversity and Pamyua’s vibrant performance energy are showcased on
the aptly titled Caught in the Act.

We really wanted to show people the evolution of the music we were making,”
Stephen Blanchett said. “And it really captured what we do onstage. I think
people still remember that night
.”

It’s amazing. We went out of there feeling like we won the award,”
Phillip Blanchett said. “We just accomplished something that is at the very
top. We are so honored to have our names in the record book
.

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Klezmer With An Edge

David Krakauer

Live in Krakow (Label Bleu LBLC 6667)

Any CD that kicks off with a mix of Klezmer clarinet aided by samples from a
beatbox then manages to throw in some tearaway electric guitar has got my
attention right off. The opening track has all of this plus snatches of older
Jewish music and it makes for a joyfully arresting start to an inventive and
exciting CD.
Krakauer’s clarinet style owes much to the music he has spent 15 years exploring
and reviving. It sings and cries distinctively, lovingly caressing the melodies
or equally sending out disturbing squalls of angry intensity. But mostly it is a
source of joy and exuberance. For example on ‘Dusky Bulgar’ he spars with
accordionist, Will Holshouser as the pair create a riotous blend of Klezmer and
wild improvisation, each pushing and encouraging the other.

One of the most beautiful tracks however is ‘Offering Nign’ which again
features both men. This time the clarinet explores every nuance of Krakauer’s
melody conveying rare depths of emotion. It is his offering to a city whose past
he clearly feels a strong affinity with. But it is not a sentimental journey,
rather a heartfelt and emotive response to place and culture. Every note counts
as he articulates through his instrument what words may not be able to express.
It really is a life-affirming and uplifting performance and guitarist Sheryl
Bailey and drummer Michael Sarin also deserve fulsome praise.

On other tracks Krakauer pays homage to jazz and the Polish/Jewish clarinet
music of Naftule Brandwine. Mixed in with this are more beats from Socalled and
lovely taut bass from Nicki Parrott who also provides some funky electric bass
elsewhere.

The whole album has a truly live feel and I wish I could have been at the
Indigo Club where it all happened. The place is not far from Auschwitz which
makes it an emotionally charged venue, as Krakauer says. This is especially
evident on ‘Love Song For Lemberg/Lvov which voices a universal sense of
suffering by means of dark turbulent outbursts in what is otherwise a graceful
and elegant song.
I loved this mix of Klezmer, jazz and other genres as it creates music that is
vital and energizing. It is played with evident love and respect and well worth
spending some time with.

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Rune Songs: Vainamoinen Returns

Ove Berg & Sinikka Langeland - Tirun Lirun
Ove Berg & Sinikka Langeland – Tirun Lirun
Ove Berg & Sinikka Langeland – Tirun Lirun (Finnskogen
Kulturverksted
)

Freya Aswynn – Songs of Yggdrasil (Llewellyn)

Why is it that when you become interested in a subject, you find that others have also been magnetically drawn to that topic? A couple of years ago, I became interested in exploring Finland and its pre Christian or more magical side. Since that time, I rediscovered JRR Tolkien’s books and read Finland’s national treasure, Kalevala Legends in which magic, music and poetry play key roles. I had
also heard groups that perform and record rune songs such as Hedningarna and Värttinä. Then I came across Skogfinn vocalist and kantele player Sinikka
Langeland’s 2002 CD, Runoja.

Sinikka’s CD delved into both healing and epic rune songs of the Finnskogen region of Norway. In the late 1990’s, the Swedish-Finnish group Hedningarna headed to a different region in search of rune songs (Karelian region of Russia). Before that time, the two Finnish vocalists would learn rune songs off of old wax cylinder recordings, but were given the chance to learn these ancient songs from Russian elders who still sang them. However, the repertoire that Hedningarna came across focused on Finnish epic poetry and not the healing properties of rune songs. That isn’t say that the songs in themselves aren’t gorgeous with their superb harmonies and quests of heroes and sorrows of maidens because the songs represent all of those things. But that’s just half of the story of rune songs
and the other half involves applied magic and healing performed by shamans and this in itself could be the stuff of legends. Or perhaps Vainamoinen coming to life.

Ove Berg (kantale) and Sinikka Langeland (vocals) join their talents in both interpreting rune songs and by offering field recordings (those wax cylinders recordings in action) on the CD, Tirun Lirun. The CD numbers 38 tracks of both healing and epic runes, many of them recorded between 1905 and 1926 as performed by shamans. The musicians provide us with academic liner notes as well, but unfortunately you would need to be able to read Norwegian or Finnish text to fully appreciate these carefully researched notes. So I visited the label’s web site where I at least found English descriptions of each of the tracks.

Contemporary tracks of Sinikka’s clear soprano vocals and Ove’s enchanting kantele appear along side scratchy and barely audible archival recordings of shamans Kaisa Vilhuinen and Puro-Juhoin Pekka. Yet, I get this feeling that in order to explore rune songs, you need to listen to the archival and modern
recordings. So I think the musicians made a smart choice here by bringing us an ancient practice that seems to be fading with time despite the public’s interests in the Kalevala Legends and groups such as Varttina.

A quote appears on the label’s web site of what shaman Puro-Juhoin Pekka told the last wise woman in Finnskogen, Kaisa Vilhuinen. “You must not place the sword in the hands of a fool; With sorcery both good and evil can be done.” And often is in both legends and reality in places where this sort of magic is practiced. The rune songs featured on this CD were once used to protect people
and their animals, to heal wounds and to cast a spell over bees (I’m not sure why anyone would need to casts spells over bees). And the rune songs find their roots in shamanism. The rune songs arrived in Norway with the Skogfinns in the 1600’s and grew over time as a living tradition.

However, the Skogfinns and the Karelians weren’t the only tribal people singing magical chants. The Sami were also chanting magic for healing purposes and sorcery and they called their chants, yoiks. And no doubt other Nordic tribes in the area had similar practices in which fell under the scrutiny and punishment of the Christian church which arrived in Finland in the 13th century.

The rune songs that appear on Tirun Lirun run the gamut of epic poetry, such as track 4, Vainamoinen (of the Kalevala Legends), to practical purposes, (the shamanic-inspired Rollota used to fire up the oven). Kanteleensoitto is an epic song that focuses on the musical instrument kantale (once created by Vainamoinen). Anfallsrune is an incantation against fits and Turskarune is an incantation against wounds. Jonnrune/Raudan jalgea can stop a wound from bleeding and according to Professor Timo Leisio, “The Skogfinn’s runes to heal open wounds are so remarkable that they should be the subject of comprehensive research.”

If you find you have an interest in the magical properties of rune songs, Freya Aswynn’s Songs of Yggdrasil, released by the metaphysical book publisher, Llewellyn is also worth a listen. This CD delves deeply into the actual chants performed by the Nordic shaman Freya.

According to the CD liner notes, “In shamanism one of the most valued techniques is the use of sound. There are two main techniques: chanting and drumming, which are combined with breath control and synchronized with a heartbeat. The main reason for employing these techniques is to achieve an
altered state of consciousness… There are two different kinds of trance states. One is exhilarating and leads to tremendous amounts of energy; in this state magic acts can be performed usually on the spur of the moment
…”

Freya goes on to describe the second kind of trance which is a journey state and the shaman’s attentions are turned inward. The chants that appear on Songs of Yggdrasil recount the shaman’s journey and in this case the shaman journeys through nine worlds, where various Nordic gods/goddesses and entities such as Odin and Freya are evoked. In the past, I had read a book that described the
journeys of seidr (Nordic seers) in which the seidre would sit on a high chair and drop into a trance where the seidre would journey through the nine worlds bringing back information for those ceremonial attendees seeking answers. I’m not sure how Freya’s recording fits into this practice. However, the chants included on the CD represent particular runes and vibrations associated with those particular runes. Freya cites, “Through chanting the runes, one can express the meaning of that rune.” Her recording demonstrates the galdr technique.

Whipping wind and howling wolves accompany Freya’s chants. This creates a Gothic atmosphere and easily sends its listeners on an inward quest. Freya also explains what and whom she encounters on the journey as well as, performing various invocations and chants. Also note that the chants on this CD are not melodic. While drums appear on at least one of the tracks, this recording represents sound healing through the use of shamanic chants.

However, if you are interested in pursuing the sound healing aspects of rune songs and would like to explore the Northern Mysteries, then picking up Freya Aswynn’s Songs of Yggdrasil along with her book, Northern Mysteries and Magick (Llewellyn), will get you off on the right foot. Working with sound and loving intentions could transform the world we live in for the better. If you’re
strictly seeking a more academic approach, then check out Tirun Lirun.

I am certainly not an expert on rune songs and I can find very little in the way of books on the subject, at least ones written in English. I will say that rune songs are worth exploring as both a musical and a magical practice.

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We Refuse to be Enemies

Under the banner “We Refuse to be Enemies,” several hundred Jews, Arabs, and
community members gathered on a rainy, snowy evening in December to eat, talk,
sing, and dance together. Sponsored by the Eugene Middle East Peace Group, the
event featured several speakers representing the Jewish and Muslim faiths. The
evening fell mid-way between Channukah and Eid el-Fitr, the Jewish and Muslim
holy days, respectively (Eid el-Fitr is the last night of Ramadan).

Music was provided by the Eugene Peace Choir and by
Americanistan, a band which plays
music inspired by cultures of the Middle East. MCs Jonathan Seidel and Maha
Hamide worked with the band to create two new peace songs in three
languages–English, Hebrew, and Arabic–which were sung by the entire gathering.
Israeli dances and Arabic debke (folk dance) to the music of Americanistan
completed the evening’s entertainment.Fabulous traditional Arabic and Jewish food created by the Lane Community
College culinary arts department, in conjunction with restaurateur Ibrahim
Hamide, provided a delicious, satisfying, and symbolic opportunity for Jews,
Arabs, Christians–and anyone who eats food!–to sit together and celebrate our
common humanity.

It was an event that made one proud to be a human being, a peace worker, and
a part of a light of hope, however small, for the world.

This year’s celebration was the fourth annual gathering sponsored by the
Eugene Middle East Peace Group.

-Submitted by Dunyah, Director of Americanistan, an world music band of
musicians based in Eugene, Oregon.

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Armenia The Beautiful

Cascade Folk Trio - Old Street
Cascade Folk Trio – Old Street
Cascade Folk Trio

Old Street (Bandaz Records BZ 2764, 2003)

Before this disc came along, I didn’t have much in the way of music from Armenia. In fact, on giving the matter further thought, I’m inclined to think I didn’t have any. And since it’s a nice piece of work, I’m glad to have it not simply as padding for my world music collection but for the much more important concern of listening pleasure.

Armenia, a small country south of the Caspian and Black Seas near to where Europe and Asia meet, has a history as both a kingdom and a Soviet republic. That history has been troubled at times, particularly the genocidal actions of the Ottoman Turks against the Armenian people during World War One. It’s definitely modern music we’re treated to on Cascade Folk Trio’s Old Street, so the overall feel isn’t as “folk” as you may think. Nonetheless, the use of programmed rhythms and studio polish isn’t overly intrusive, letting the more specifically Armenian elements, including abundant dhol drums and double-reed duduk, provide the real kick. So delight in the way the opening “Gentle Boy, Graceful Girl” alternates bursts of traditional sound with choppy jazz phrases or the bright funk of “Wipe the Tears From My Eyes,” because there’s also songs here that don’t focus so much on fusion. And delight in the vocals too, because the name above the title refers to the three singers whose pipes bring it all together.

The lead singing is divided pretty evenly between a guy named Arman Aghajanyan and a gal called Ohanna Mtghyan. Their versatility, coupled with the varied exotic spark of the arrangements, can make you feel as though you’re listening to rai, Gypsy music or French cabaret, though the lamenting nature of many of the songs (evidenced by some translated lyrics in the liner notes and probably reflective of that troubled history mentioned earlier) will tug on new and different sets of heartstrings. Recorded in both Armenia and the U.S., the line this album walks is a fine one. It’s ultimately quite a good listen and leads me to believe that I must be missing out on a lot by not paying closer attention to the Armenian music scene.

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Putumayo Releases Sahara Lounge

Putumayo presents... Sahara Lounge
Putumayo presents… Sahara Lounge
New York, NY – Putumayo released today Sahara Lounge, an album of
laid-back fusions of traditional Middle Eastern melodies, rhythms and
instrumentation with cutting edge electronica, hip-hop beats and remixes.

Algerian rai, Berber music, Sufi chants, and Egyptian al-jeel meet dub, trip
hop, break beats and funk resulting in a hypnotic and captivating vibe. Sahara Lounge is the latest in a caravan of Putumayo releases focusing on exciting new directions in world music, including Sahara Lounge, Euro Lounge and Arabic Groove. Sahara Lounge includes 6 rare and previously unreleased tracks. The work of the innovative Lebanese electronica duo Soap Kills has been available almost exclusively on their self-produced, unreleased demo recordings. Ramin Sakurai’s collaboration with Iranian artist Shiraz has never before been widely released.

Nabiha Yazbeck’s “Astahel” has never been available outside of the Middle East
until now. The Jasmon and Mohammed Mounir track “Hanina (Jasmon Mix)” is hot off
the presses in Germany. Bahia El Idrissi’s “Arhil” has been heard only by the
lucky few who managed to get a hold of the his rare Dutch release. Sahara Lounge
also features a previously unreleased remix of the Nickodemus and Carol C.
favorite “Cleopatra in New York.”

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Toumani Diabate Recording For World Circuit

London, UK – World Circuit announced recently that it is working with Malian kora virtuoso Toumani Diabate. Widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest kora player, Toumani has been responsible for bringing the instrument to audiences around the globe. Through his work with celebrated African artists such as Salif Keita, Ali Farka Toure and Oumou Sangare; combined with high profile collaborations like the album Kulanjan with blues legend Taj Mahal, Toumani richly deserves his status as a world class artist. Asked on his thoughts of Toumani, World Circuit’s Nick Gold recently said: “Toumani Diabate is the holder of the torch for one of the world’s most breathtakingly beautiful art forms. This is a music that has been nurtured and revered for centuries, and Toumani, a true virtuoso and master of his art, produces a music in which this noble history is both reaffirmed and enabled to connect with a contemporary audience with heart-stopping and uplifting spirituality.”

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Tom Rowe

Thomas J. Rowe, a founding
member of Schooner Fare and Turkey Hollow and a Folk Alliance member died
Saturday, January 17, at Maine Medical Center, from cancer. He was 53.

After receiving a clarinet
at the age of six, he set out on a life-long path of performing that brought him
from the grange halls of rural Maine to major concert halls across the country,
including Lincoln Center, Town Hall, and Wolf Trap. His folk career started with
the gift of a banjo at age thirteen when he formed a high school folk group with
some friends and toured extensively throughout Maine.

After Tom attended the
University of Southern Maine as a Music Education major, he held several
positions in public education, including a year as music director in his former
high school.

In 1975, Tom was invited to
join the popular Maine folk/rock group Devonsquare, in which he met brothers
Chuck and Steve Romanoff. Later that year, the three left Devonsquare to form
the folk trio, Schooner Fare, with which Tom sang, played bass guitar and tin
whistle, and wrote many well-known songs.

He left teaching in 1982 to
devote himself fully to his family and his performing career. In 1992, Tom began
touring and recording with his son Dave as the duo, Rowe by Rowe. In 1998, Rowe
by Rowe added a third member, Denny Breau, and the group was renamed Turkey
Hollow.

Tom was a member and choir director for the First Universalist Church,
Unitarian-Universalist, in Auburn, ME, and was also a bass clarinetist with the
Auburn Community Band. He leaves behind an incredible legacy of music, much of
which was recorded in his own home recording studio.

[Courtesy of the

Folk Alliance
].

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Fred Holstein

Chicago folk music stalwart Fred Holstein, 61, died on January 12.

Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Holstein got hooked on music after attending
a Pete Seeger concert at Orchestra Hall. He taught himself to play on a $15.00
guitar and started playing the folk clubs in the Old Town neighborhood. Fred was
on the bill at the Earl of Old Town when it opened in1966, and became, along
with John Prine, Steve Goodman, Bonnie Koloc, and others, a familiar presence at
the club during the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

While Fred never quite gained the fame of some of his
contemporaries, those performers and thousands of fans would have told you that
no performer symbolized the heart of folk music more soulfully than Fred
Holstein. He regarded himself as “an interpreter. What I do is about the songs,
about the art, about the work.” He developed a reputation for being a serious
folklorist. “He knew the music – the background and the folk roots,” said Frank
Hamilton, one of the founders of the Old Town School.

Holstein and his brother
Ed, also a folk singer, co-owned and performed in two classic Lincoln Avenue
clubs, Somebody Else’s Troubles, in the early 1970s, and, starting in 1981,
Holstein’s. Holsteins had a good long run, closing its doors on New Year’s Day
in 1988, with the crowd accompanying Fred and his brothers in a rousing
rendition of “For All the Good People,” Fred’s signature tune.

At the time of his death,
he was tending bar – and occasionally singing – at yet another Lincoln Avenue
bar, Sterch’s. He was genuinely surprised by the interest and enthusiasm
generated by the 2001 release of a two-CD release, Fred Holstein: A
Collection
. It was his first CD, combining remastered tunes from his only two
LPs, songs from the archives of WFMT-FM, and snippets of interviews.

Of Fred Holstein, “Midnight Special” host Rich Warren said, “Fred Holstein
was Chicago’s troubadour. He never sought fortune or fame, because his great joy
in life was introducing people to the best singer-songwriters of our time along
with traditional music. Fred was the mainstay of the Chicago folk scene for 30
years and his ability to get inside a song and make it real for the audience was
incomparable
.”

[Photo courtesy of Vancouver folk Festival. Obituary courtesy of the

Folk Alliance
].

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