Veteran and Newcomer Big Up the Roots on New Reggae Releases, Marley Progeny Branches Out

Everton Blender – King Man
Everton Blender – King Man
(Heartbeat 11661-7758-2, 2003)

Iba – Jah Lion (Mt. Nebo Records NEBO03003, 2003)

Julian Marley – A Time & Place
(Tuff Gong International 54610-2, 2003)

Jamaica’s Everton Blender has long been regarded as a link between roots reggae and the contemporary dancehall sound, but to me he’s always come across as predominantly roots. Perhaps that perception is a shared one rife for affirmation, because no one will mistake King Man for anything but a roots album.

To say it’s Blender’s best to date is not to dismiss his previous work, which has ranged from good to great. But given this new disc’s combination of full-band arrangements, conscious themes and humble, unpretentious vocals, Blender sounds right at home like never before.

With basic tracks recorded in Los Angeles and Boston and sweetened in Jamaica, the sound is at once classic and modern. The tempos pulsate righteously in tandem with lyrics inspired by spiritual
steadfastness, defiance in the face of evil and love on both a universal and personal level. There’s 72 minute’s of reggae here, with no lapses in quality or musical substance. Highlights include a whimsical cover of “Little Green Apples” and faith-affirming songs like “Tabernacle Tree” (particularly good in its extended mix featuring the smoky chatting of deejay Trinity), “Abbabajani” (which cops the drum accents from Burning Spear’s “Slavery Days”) and the scene-setting opener “Hail the King.”

The up-and-coming Mt Nebo Records label has thus far been noteworthy for releasing quality reggae from outside of Jamaica, and let’s hope they earn in respect what they may not get in monetary riches. One of Mt. Nebo’s key artists is Iba, a Rasta from the island of St. Croix with an urgent, assertive vocal
style that serves him well on his Jah Lion album. He cuts sharply through songs of love, unity, history, prophecy and the accountability of wrongdoers, all expertly backed by Mt. Nebo’s house band Bambu Station. This is reggae that strikes hard and deep, beating around no bushes and coming up a strong winner.

22 years after his death, Bob Marley remains reggae’s most recognized and revered name in every corner of the world. Many of his offspring followed his footsteps into the music business, with results often good but sometimes mixed at best. You can put the latest by Julian Marley near the top of the “good”
column, since it’s a disc of considerable variety, integrity and creativity.

Even when it veers away from the reggae beat, it retains the best aspects of reggae in spirit. The leadoff track, “Father’s Place,” is a folksy acoustic number that stresses faith in the Almighty, getting under your skin with an instantly singable chorus and subtle Jamaican drum beats. From there, Marley eases his way through straight-ahead reggae (“Build Together,” “Systems”), sassy funk (“Summer Daisies”), meditations on romance (“Where She Lay,” “I’ll Never”) and songs with understated but distinct jazz inflections (“One Way Train,” “Time”).

Even though a few other Marley siblings contribute to these tracks, A Time & Place is clearly the work of a single (and singular) artist blessed with inherent talent, range and rebel spirit. Highly recommended.

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MerleFest 2004 Announces Stellar Line-Up

merlefest_large-250Wilkesboro, North Carolina, USA – Ticket sales for MerleFest 2004 will begin on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 at 2:00 PM EST. Wilkes Community College will present MerleFest 2004, the 17th
annual festival in celebration of the music of the late Merle Watson and his father Doc Watson, on its campus in Wilkesboro, NC on April 29 May 2, 2004.

Those joining Doc Watson and Merle’s son Richard Watson for MerleFest 2004 will include the Sam Bush Band, Roseanne Cash, John Cowan Band, the Derailers, Donna the Buffalo, Dry Branch Fire Squad, Béla Fleck & Edgar Meyer, Vince Gill, the Gourds, David Grisman Quintet, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Hot Tuna, Jeannie Kendall, the Kruger Brothers, Patty Loveless, Natalie MacMaster, Nickel Creek, Tim O’Brien, Mark O’Connor’s Hot Swing Trio, Old Crow Medicine Show, Reeltime Travelers, Tony Rice Unit, Savoy Doucet Cajun Band, Earl Scruggs with Family & Friends, the Waifs, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, and Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison. Starting on November 11th, those with Internet access may acquire their tickets easily by visiting www.merlefest.org and, if purchasing assigned seats at the Watson Stage, actually pick their seat location on line. Those without Internet access may purchase tickets by calling 1-800-343-7857 (US only) or 336-838-6267 (non-US) from 10 AM through 4 PM, EST, weekdays. Tickets may also be ordered by fax (336-838-6263) and mail (MerleFest;
P.O. Box 120; Wilkesboro, NC 28697). Those interested in volunteering for MerleFest should call 336-838-6292. Vendor info: 336-838-6291. Sponsorship inquiries: 919-542-3997.

MerleFest 2004 has also confirmed appearances by R.G. Absher & Extra Measure, Alberti Flea Circus, Darol Anger, Lloyd Arneach, the Avett Brothers, Etta Baker, Russ Barenberg, Barenburg, Douglas & Meyer, Bering Straight, Big Country Bluegrass, Roy Book Binder, Laura Boosinger & Timmy Abell, the Alison Brown Quartet, T. Michael Coleman, the Deer Clan Singers, Dixie Dawn, the Jerry Douglas Band, the Gospel Jubilators, Mark Graham, Mitch Greenhill, Ernie Hawkins, Violet Hensley, Bob Hill, Clint, Clarence, & Garet Howard, Billy Jonas, Carol Elizabeth Jones & Laurel Bliss, Catfish Keith, Spider John Koerner, Kim & Jim Lansford, Jim Lauderdale, Jack Lawrence, the Lazybirds, Brad Leftwich, Brack
Llewellyn, the Local Boys, Mike Marshall, Bill Mathis, Andy May, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Pine Mountain Railroad, Ann Rabson, Reckless Kelly, Peter Rowan & Crucial Reggae, Shana Banana, Bob Sinclair, Mindy Smith, Joe Smothers, Tut Taylor, Joe Thompson, Tom, Brad & Alice, Two High String Band, Charles Welch, Pete Wernick, Wise Child, Adrienne Young & Little Sadie, and Zoe Speaks. All
bookings are subject to change without notice due to circumstances beyond our control.

Finals of the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest for 2004 will take place at MerleFest on April 30th. Entries must be received by March 18, 2004. For more entry information, please call 800-799-3838 or visit the MerleFest web site (www.merlefest.org). MerleFest also hosts instrument contests for Mandolin (4/29), Guitar (4/30), and Banjo (4/30). Registration for 20 entrants these will take place on site at the festival approximately 90 minutes before the start of each contest. The popular Songwriters’ Coffeehouse again happens on Friday evening. Songwriters selected from registrants on site will share the stage with singer-songwriters performing at MerleFest.

MerleFest 2003 almost established new records for participation. Overall festival participation, including ticketed participants, artists, volunteers, children admitted free and community outreach, totaled 77,359 for MerleFest 2003, less than 1000 short of the record. Some fifty non-profit civic and college organizations earned $308,513 in net revenue on gross receipts of $489,458 through their participation in MerleFest 2003. Proceeds from MerleFest, meanwhile, have permitted the college to make numerous capital improvements, including the Eddy Merle Watson Memorial Garden for the Senses, the Doc & Merle Watson Theatre, fiber-optic wiring for the campus, and the endowment of scholarships for its students. These funds supplement the college’s state and local budget. This year, funds generated by the festival will enable Wilkes Community College to contribute $654,988 toward scholarships, salaries, program enhancements and capital improvements.

Over its 16-year history, MerleFest has contributed more than $4.4 million to the college. At MerleFest 2003 3,113 volunteers contributed some 37,429 hours. Total MerleFest 2003 gross revenue exceeded $2.26 million. Using guidelines recommended by the College of Business at Appalachian State University, the total regional economic impact of MerleFest 2003 is estimated at $12,286,799. The direct economic impact on Wilkes County alone from the festival is estimated at $6.5 million, according to the MerleFest 2003 Economic Impact Report and Financial Statement, released on June 27. MerleFest 2004 will take place on April 29 May 2 on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

MerleFest has continued to evolve, grow, and improve since 1988, becoming one of the most important annual events in the Southeast. In so doing MerleFest has defined and led the way for the emerging field called Americana music. MerleFest offers a generation and genre crossing mix of traditional and contemporary roots music, bringing together the very best of bluegrass, contemporary acoustic,
Celtic, blues, folk, old-time, Cajun, jazz, and singer-songwriter musics, along with traditional dance and crafts.

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The Gerard Edery Sephardic Song Book

The Gerard Edery Sephardic Song Book
New York, USA – The Gerard Edery Sephardic Song Book is now available. The highly anticipated song book by Sephardic singer/composer/guitarist, Gerard Edery, contains 40 musical gems from the Sephardic oral tradition. It includes ballads, songs of courtship, love and marriage, as well as liturgical pieces honoring Elijah the Prophet, Abraham and Moses, among others.

The song book also includes a 17 track accompanying CD, Ladino pronunciation guide, lyrics and translations, and a forward by renowned author/storyteller, Peninnah Schram. The songs are arranged in an easily readable format that highlights melody and guitar chords with suggested accompaniments. The collection includes both familiar and lesser known pieces such as Montañas Altas, Shalom Alechem Señores, La Roza Linda, Cuando El Rey Nimrod, La Comida La Mañana, Eli Eliyahu, Tus Cavellos Seda Son, Dúrmite Mi Alma and many more.

To order, go to: The Gerard Edery Sephardic Songbook: for Voice and Guitar

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Invoking Yoruba Gods

Virginia Rodrigues
Earshot Jazz Festival
On the Boards S
Seattle, WA October 29, 2003

As the temperature dropped on a starlit Seattle night, Brazilian diva Virginia Rodrigues performed her seductive musical repertoire to a packed house. After a brief introduction by a local public radio hostess, Virginia and her band (guitarist Sergio Chiavazzoli, saxophone/flautist Glaucio Martins, percussionist Ronaldo Silva and cellist Iura Ranevsky), ignited a luminescent set of songs with Lapinha from Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell’s Afro-samba Suite and other sources. The temperature in the room began to heat up as Virginia and her stripped down band delivered one gorgeous gem after another, doling them out like candy to hungry children. And Virginia’s honeyed soprano
vocals sailed over saxophone/flute, cello, acoustic guitar and a slow samba groove.

Although numerous musicians appear on Virginia’s most recent recording, Mares Profundos, the quintet proved versatile and resourceful delivering a minimalist performance that lightly framed Virginia’s vocal talents. On “Bocoche”, the flute was brought out and the instrument engaged in a melancholic dialogue with Virginia’s clear vocals and Iura Ranevsky’s cello. “Canto de Xango”
followed suit and featured a backdrop of cello, guitar and percussion for Virginia’s lament in which she delivered in an operatic diva fashion, wringing a scarf in her hands while she sang. And the scarf took on a versatile role of its own. At one point the scarf became an Arabic headdress (“Lamento de Exu”), a duet with Ranevsky’s virtuosic cello and at other times the Virginia twirled the
scarf as her voluptuous body engaged in fluid dance movements.

Although much of the repertoire revolved around tearful laments, the quintet wheeled out a few upbeat sambas and capoeira numbers including “Berimbau,” featuring the titular instrument; “Consolacao,” featuring a duet with Sergio on guitar and Canto de Pedra Preta in which the cellist and sax player joined Ronaldo Silva on percussion and Virginia captivated audience members with her
seductive dance. The song reappeared during the encore. Although the entire concert proves a memorable event for me, the most moving moment involved the duet with Virginia and the cellist as she stood in profile, her silk scarf covering her head, delivering the heart shattering “Lamento de Exu” in a true
operatic diva fashion. And through the course of the evening concert, Virginia moved easily between soulful alto to operatic soprano vocals in her easy going manner.

Born into poverty in the Bahia region of Brazil in 1964, similar to many of the finest African American soul singers in the US, Virginia’s vocal training came from singing in church. Later, she found inspiration from America’s jazz, blues and soul performers including, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and African American opera singers, Marian Anderson and Jessye Norman. With very little formal vocal schooling and upon embracing Candomblé (an Afro-Brazilian religion based on the polytheistic Yoruba spirituality of Nigeria), Virginia was discovered by the infamous Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso while he saw her singing with a street theatre. Virginia has gone on
appearing at prestigious events and has attracted kudos from major papers and magazines.

Perhaps it is her spiritual connection and her love of life that ignited her delightful Seattle performance. The Virginia Rodrigues concert proved more than a memorable event, but one that transformed my view about inner and outer beauty. And the sambas softly play on in my thoughts reminding me of the joy and sadness we call life. Viriginia also reminds me of the African American opera singer in French filmmaker Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva. After all, Virginia Rodrigues and Wilhelmenia Wiggens Fernandez’s (of Beineix’s film) heavenly voices transcend the mundane world. And what could be better than that on a cold and starry night?

The Virginia Rodrigues concert was presented by Earshot Jazz as part of the 15th Annual Earshot Jazz Festival which commenced on October 24th and runs until November 15, 2003. For more information on concerts and performers, visitwww.earshot.org.

Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music.

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Allan Ngumuya’s new CD “I’ve got hope” released on Blue Orbit Records

Indiana, USA – Blue Orbit Records has released I’ve Got Hope, Allan Ngumuya’s new CD.
The title of Allan’s album embodies the resilience, confidence and conviction
the gospel singer derives from his faith, and hopes to impart with his music.

Born and raised, in Malawi, Ngumuya comes from the poorest country in the
world. The average life span is 40 years old and expected to drop due to the
Aids epidemic. Allan started a relief organization, Migress Orphanage Care (of
which a portion of every CD sale goes to) to feed the young children who
literally live on the streets, most are victims of the aids epidemic – having
lost their parents to it. Currently this small African nation is also in the
midst of the worst food shortage in over 60 years. Allan believes that his music
also brings some emotional relief to the people of his country. He says “
Because I come from a country with so much death, most of the songs are love
songs, songs of hope, songs of appreciation and songs that say there is one
spirit, one God in the world that really cares about everyone
.”The songs on this album vary in style from smooth R and B, to a traditional Zulu
ingoma dance song, from funky upbeat jazz pieces to songs sung in his native
language. It includes musical guests such as guitarist Tim Tatum. For Allan
Ngumuya, it’s more than just “about the music”, it’s about the mission,
his mission.

For more information, visit
www.blueorbitmusic.com
(catalog page) or listen directly to the music at
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/ngumuya.

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Exploring Flamenco’s Arab Roots

By Greg Noakes

Flamenco music was born, and still lives, among the scenic green hills of Andalusia in southern Spain.

In recent years, however, some performers have moved beyond both the geographical and the stylistic boundaries of traditional flamenco to incorporate
a variety of new styles into their work. Paco de Lucía and Madrid’s Ketama have garnered critical praise – and the wrath of purists – with their jazz-influenced
recordings, while the Gipsy Kings have wedded pop to flamenco to win fans worldwide. Other performers have turned inward, searching for the obscure origins of flamenco, in hope of inspiration. What they have found are pervasive Arab influences, touching everything from the style of performance to the very
rhythms and scales of the songs themselves. And what they have produced as a result is a fusion of Spanish and Arab traditions that is both interesting and
inspirational.

The Arab roots of flamenco run deep. Though some scholars believe the word flamenco means “Flemish,” others think it is a corruption of the colloquial
Arabic felag mangu, meaning “fugitive peasant” and derived from a root meaning “to flee.” The term came into use in the 14th century, and was first applied to
the Andalusian Gypsies themselves, who were called either gitanos or flamencos.

Flamenco music dates back to the Middle Ages, a time of turmoil in the Iberian peninsula. The once-mighty Muslim kingdoms of al-Andalus were in a state
of slow but steady decline, while the Catholic powers of central and northern Spain steadily pushed south. The borderlands between the Muslim and Christian
realms were the scene of vibrant cultural exchange and artistic cross-pollination. Flamenco was born in these marches where Arabs, Jews, Christians and gitanos mixed freely.

The cante flamenco, or “flamenco song,” is characterized by lyric vocals, improvised dance and strongly rhythmic accompaniment. Although lighter forms
later developed, classic cantes jondos (“profound songs”) explore themes of sadness, pain and death. The cantes originally featured purely rhythmic
instruments or were sung a cappella, but the guitar came to be the principal flamenco instrument during the 19th century, when gitanos began to sing and
dance professionally in cafés and bodegas.

It was during this period that the term flamenco came to be applied to the gitanos’ music, and the rules and forms of the classical flamenco were established. Some 60 standard cantes from this period survive today, encompassing a variety of moods and themes.

Over time, however, a split developed between “classical” flamenco and the folk gitano style. Master musicians like Sabicas and Carlos Montoya raised
classical flamenco to a true art from with their expressive virtuosity, but less gifted singers and guitarists often sacrificed emotion for technical precision.
Carefully choreographed flamenco “spectacles” also narrowed the opportunity for improvised musical solos and dancing, leading some aficionados to charge that
flamenco, as an art form, was stagnant.

In reaction, many turned to the gitano tradition. Looser, less polished and more open to change than their classical flamenco counterparts, gitano artists
expressed the passion that is central to flamenco. Their style included fiery guitar improvisation, jaleo – complex rhythms hand-clapping, guitar-slapping,
finger-snapping and vocal outbursts – and the tradition of duende, the deep emotional participation of the performer.

As flamenco artists and critics began to explore the elements of gitano performance, they rediscovered the rich Arab influence in flamenco. The artform’s basic building blocs – sung poetry and music – were borrowed from the Arabs and Berbers who ruled al-Andalus from 711 to 4192, when the Moors were
expelled from Spain. T.B. Irving notes in his book The World of Islam, “Gypsy music and cante jondo go back to the zajal [sung Arabic lyric poetry] and
the five-tone scale.” The percussive elements of jaleo are still found in the folk music of North Africa and its reliance on drums, tambourines and
hand-clapping. The vocal conventions of flamenco can also be traced back to Arab precursors. For example, the vocalizations “Ay-ay-ay!” and “Ay-li-li!” are found
throughout gitano performance, usually in introductory or transitional passages, and come from the traditional refrains of blind Arab mendicants, “Ya ‘ain!” (O
eye!) and “Ya lail!” (“O night!”) respectively.

Indeed, cultural historian Lois Lamya’ al-Faruqi found few elements of flamenco untouched by Arab music. “The ornamental melodic style, the improvisatory rhythmic freedom, the sometimes ‘strange’ (to Western ears) intervals, the segmental structure, and the repeated excursions from and returns to a tonal center are some of the features that indicate Arab influence on cante flamenco,” according to al-Faruqi.

Exploration of flamenco’s Arab ancestry was reinforced by the rise over the last six decades of andalucismo, or Andalusian cultural nationalism. The 1930’s
saw the beginning of a re-evaluation of al-Andalus and the place of Arabs and Muslims in Spanish history and culture, as well as of Spanish ties to the Maghrib. “Previously, southern Spain had turned its back on North Africa,” according to Khalid Duran of the Free University of Berlin. “Those few [Spaniards] who had an idea of the greatness of Islamic Spain liked to believe that it was due to some very special kind of noble Arab from somewhere in the East, perhaps Damascus. Moroccans [they believed ] were nothing but uncouth tribals revolting against Spanish civilization.” Andalucismo grew steadily during the long dictatorship of Francisco Franco and truly blossomed after his death in 1975. Since that time, Spaniards have come to a new appreciation of al-Andalus and of Arab and Islamic culture.

The search for the sources of flamenco, and the rise of Andalucismo, bore fruit in the 1980’s and 1990’s with a series of stunning musical collaborations
between Spanish and Moroccan artists. Most of the Spanish participants are individual performers, including some of the most prominent singers and
guitarists working in the gitano style.

The Moroccans are mostly musical groups, principally the orquestas andalusi of northern Morocco. Like flamenco, Andalusi music had both classical and folk
traditions. Classical Andalusi music, whose forms were set down in 11th-century Cordoba, came to North Africa with the exiles of al-Andalus, and is
characterized by the nawba, a suite of music in a single melodic mode which grows progressively faster and includes sung poems. While Andalusi orchestras
are grounded in the classical nawbat, they also have been influenced heavily by Arab and Berber folk music, and often move easily between these “great” and
“little” musical traditions.

Musicians from both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar find in these joint performances a way to discover their musical roots, remember their cultures’ past triumphs and tragedies and explore their common heritage. The resulting Hispano-Arab music is extraordinary. Sinewy flamenco guitars lines weave between
the plaintive tones of the kamanjeh, a kind of Moroccan violin, underpinned by the frenetic clatter of castanets and a bedrock of darabukkahas, or Arab hand
drums. Lyrics are sung in both Spanish and Arabic, occasionally overlaid in a melding of languages and styles. For their selections, the artists have drawn on
both the flamenco and Andalusi repertoires, and play cantes flamencos and traditional Maghribi folk songs with equal dexterity. Attempts at musical
“fusion” often result in mere cacophony, but the roots common to flamenco and Andalusi music – and the abilities of the musicians involved – have allowed
these Hispano-Arab crossover efforts to attain majestic heights.

While much of this cross-cultural exploration has been done in informal sessions or live performances, several flamenco-Andalusi recordings have been
produced. Among the best are the collaborations of José Heredia Maya and Enrique Morente with the Orquesta Andalusi de Tetuan and Juan Peña El Lebrijano’s
powerful work with the Orquesta Andalusi de Tanger. All three recording exhibit the beauty and passion that can flower when top artists meet to exchange musical ideas and inspiration.

While much ground remains to be covered within the Arabo-flamenco tradition, some folk musicians are striking out on a different tack. The Valencian folk
group Al Tall has teamed up with the ensemble Muluk El-Hwa from Marrakech to explore the music of al-Andalus itself. The two groups have set Arabic and
Catalonian poetry from the 11th to 13th centuries to the rhythms, melodies and instruments of the western Mediterranean to produce appealing and inventive
music.

Hispano-Arab musical collaborations are both an attempt to revivify existing art forms and a reassertion of Andalusian-Arab Mediterranean traditions. Vincent
Torrent of Al Tall declares, “There is a special kind of Mediterranean sensibility and aesthetics. We believe…that a place must be found for this mode
of expression, particularly since we’re subjected to a veritable invasion by other aesthetics and sensibilities.”

Though flamenco performers and Andalusi musicians began their collaboration as a way to explore their own artistic pasts, they also have charted a path to
an exciting musical future. Along the way they have produced some outstanding music, broken down long-standing cultural and historical barriers and
demonstrated – in an era where some see only a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West – that there is room for cooperation and creativity.

[From Saudi Aramco magazine, November/December 1994 issue. Reproduced courtesy of Saudi Aramco Magazine.

Read more about flamenco:

What is Flamenco?
,

An Introduction to Flamenco Cante
]

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Nuevo Lorca

Javier Ruibal - Sahara
Javier Ruibal – Sahara
Javier Ruibal

Sahara (Riverboat Records, 2003)

The Sahara Desert has been coming up a lot lately with world music recordings and now, Sahara comes up as the title of flamenco artist Javier Ruibal’s first international release. Javier is one of Spain’s best kept secrets and he has been enticing his fellow Spaniards with his poetry and musicianship since 1978.

Influenced by poets Federico Garcia Lorca and Alberti as well as, various popular styles of music, Javier composes songs that blend Caribbean, Arabic and flamenco rhythms and vocals. The songs are heavy on vocals and guitar, light on percussion (African, Latin, flamenco and Arabic) and embellished by string arrangements, horns and other exotic instruments that act as a backdrop for Javier’s sensual vocals. There is an old fashion element to his music that favors verse-chorus-verse and recalls the days when women would swoon to the tunes of Latin crooners and judging from the liner notes that were provided by David Flowers, a younger generation of women are learning to swoon to Javier’s poetry and vocals.

Javier’s songs are inspired by beautiful women and his poetry is mentioned often on the CD cover and press release, but unfortunately the bard’s words are not included with the CD. The songs on Sahara derive from two Spanish releases, Las Damas Primeras (released in 2001 on 18 Chulos Records) and Contrabando (released on PDI in 1997). The track, La Flor De Estambul features Javier’s poetry set to a famous piano work by Erik Satie. The highly recognizable piano piece has appeared on several European film soundtracks, but now the instrumental composition has been embellished with poetry.

The opening track, Isla Mujeres appeared on BBC Radio host Charlie Gillette’s World 2002 CD.
The tracks, Toito Cai Lo Traigo Andao and Vino y Beso mix salsa horns with flamenco vocals. Dame Tu Boca and Bella En Lisboa portray Spanish and flamenco guitar with flamenco vocals. Aurora meanders into Arabic territory that continues on other tracks.

Numerous Spanish musicians have been marrying Caribbean and Arabic music with flamenco. And a variety of stellar talent exist within this style of music. Javier stands out because he creates an intimate relationship with each of his listeners and he delivers his songs with integrity and passion. You can tell that he respects the characters of his songs even if you don’t speak a word of Spanish. And like his mentor Lorca, Javier sings about the landscape and people of his homeland and sometimes beyond. And as quoted by Charlie Gillette, “I like Javier very much….It’s from the heart, down here and places you don’t want to know about. His voice. I don’t understand the words, but I feel the
emotions
.” And well, that about sums it up.

buy Sahara.

Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music

Buy Sahara

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Whitby Musicport. World Music festival on England’s beautiful north-east coast.

A sold-out annual world music festival with 40+ bands and artists appearing over one weekend, in its fourth year of operation, but few outside of north-east England seem to have heard of Whitby Musicport. Why?

On England’s North Sea coast, nestled in a dramatic cleft between two high cliffs, Whitby’s long natural harbour is watched over from the south by the gaunt ruins of the town’s 7th century Abbey. Across in the park above West Cliff, Captain Cook’s statue gazes seaward and grows white-haired with seagull guano.

Just below squats Whitby Spa Theatre & Pavilion, the principle venue for this weekend’s activities. The unprepossessing red-brick and glass structure is thoughtfully hidden away from the view of all but returning trawlermen and day-trippers.Whitby is a warm, welcoming town, jammed to the gills with tourists in high
Summer.

When I last visited, to see Cuban singer Yusa, in April this year, this quintessential fishing port was host to a different kind of festival. Every shop, pub & restaurant carried the sign ‘Whitby welcomes goths’. Must be a Dracula thing. Now it’s late October and the return of the dread British Winter Time, the town draws in another group of specialist music enthusiasts, all flapping cotton and pink extremities in the bracing onshore breeze. It’s interesting to
note that there is a coterie of festival-goers who camp for the weekend, although with facilities away on the edge of town, and an arse-biting north-easterly, it feels good to be ensconced in a nearby hotel.

Within the blank interior of the municipal entertainment complex, softened by Cloudbase’s many-hued fabric surroundings and moving-image focal points, Friday evening kicks into gear when Bombay Baja strike up with their boisterous, swaggering, Bollywood brass band sound. All set for the weekend, then.

There’s food on sale here, too. Not your hatch-served microwave burgers, but three fine stalls dispensing a rich variety of ethnic & veggie foods. Even the Pavilion café, after representations from festival-goers last year, is serving Fair Trade coffee. Supper over, and a fine & moving performance by ex-pat Russian Gypsy outfit Talisman leads to the evening’s main course. “Hallo Weeeetby!”. The Spanish/Argentinian band with close links to Manu Chao have just
released their debut CD ‘Viaje’. On this one-off visit from Barcelona (for the band’s first-ever UK gig), GoLem System squeeze out a tight, springy, bouncy sound with a dub/latin/reggae base which is just irresistible. Yummy.

Whilst The Pavilion is the main focus of Musicport, The Resolution (a fine pub down in the old town) draws a large audience to its upstairs room with acoustic stage. It’s one of the regular year-round venues which the Musicport team use, and will soon become the base of their operations, thanks to a generous £26,000 Arts Council Yorkshire grant, which is to be spent on installing a state-of-the-art
sound & lighting rig. For Musicport weekend, entry to this venue is free-to-all.

Many of the visiting artists appear on the Resolution stage and also get involved in the workshops which run throughout the day on Saturday & Sunday.

Children’s workshops abound, and a variety of activities take place in the Pavilion as well as the neighbouring Intermission Café and Royal Hotel.

Back at The Pavilion, Saturday is in full swing. For an inveterate festival butterfly like me the fact that Musicport has the one main stage is a godsend, I’m not constantly flitting from one stage to another, desperately trying to miss nothing, thereby missing much. Aside from one trip to the comfortable little theatre stage, to see Julie Murphy perform her outstanding updated Welsh
traditional music with the help of ace acoustic guitarist Dylan Fowler & the inimitable Danny Thompson on double bass, I’m firmly fixed in the main hall.

This year’s innovation of a smaller stage alongside the main stage, featuring acoustic performers whilst the main stage changes sets, works exceedingly well.

Throughout the afternoon, from the Bosnian Gypsy group led by sisters Téa & Mirela (formerly Szapora), to a moving & riveting acoustic performance from American slide specialist Spencer Bohren & English blues guitar maestro Martin Simpson, there is a sense of growing anticipation.

An atmosphere of respect and awe heralds the arrival of Ustad Mahwash and her accompanying Ensemble Kaboul. The gentle, all-enveloping sound of their Afghan classical music begins to build, bringing in bowed, plucked & struck strings, harmonium, woodwind and percussion. As she sits, swathed in a heavy rug wrap, the musicians at her feet, Mahwash looks small and unremarkable, a friendly-looking middle-aged lady. It’s when she sings that the audience’s attention is drawn and held by this singer’s stately and magical performance. An hour in the company of this award-winning troupe goes by in an instant and we’re left, slack-jawed and
fancying supper.

A brief but violent evening thunderstorm rushes past, to leave the setting sun raking over the cliff-top, creating a warm red haze on the horizon, as a high tide rages spectacularly against the sea wall below. In the main hall the ever-effervescent Ali Slimani, easily the best raï singer/dj this side of the Channel, is mashing up the dancefloor. Folk Devils record stall is doing brisk business with his latest album, ‘Espoir’. Tonight happens to be the first time I’ve seen Transglobal Underground, despite having been a fan for eons. Sadly, they’re here
without Natacha Atlas on vocal. But Transglobal’s stage show is legendary, with a mélange of world music genres hurled into the band’s boiling melting pot, bubbling over with infectious dance beats. We trip on into the early morning with a dreamy late night session from Cloudbase. Not to worry, the clocks go back tonight, there’s an extra hour in bed.

Sunday morning, and a wickedly persistent north-easterly sends churchgoers scuttling. Not the sort of weather for hanging around on the streets of a Yorkshire coastal resort. The festival shuffle stirs into life, delivering huddled masses to the various venues for a daytime schedule of folk & traditional music.

With a multiplicity of workshops there’s plenty to see & do and by five’o’clock it’s already dark outside. Thank goodness for Kékélé, here to brighten one of the gloomiest days on the calendar with their effortless Congolese acoustic sounds. This is the band’s second trip to Musicport in two years and they’re fast becoming local favourites. The children’s Lantern Parade, heralding long nights ahead, is an atmospheric and fitting close to the audience-participatory activities and leads us nicely into the final session with talented new British singer/songwriter Virginia McNaughton. Penultimate on the 2003 bill is one of Congolese music’s brightest new stars, Robert Maseko. His Congobeat play the best kind of classic rumba/soukous. The band know exactly how to pace their
music and they’ve immediately got a willing crowd in their collective palm. The weekend climaxes with a memorable gig from the rip-roaring Dhol Foundation, tonight with the added delight of dancers showing those with energy reserves how it should be done.

Driving back across the moonless moorland it’s time to reflect on the weekend. Although different from its summertime counterparts, Musicport has a wonderful atmosphere and is building a great reputation which lacks media coverage mainly because the event always coincides with the annual world music business seminar
& showcase WOMEX, which inevitably draws media & artists away. The solution? How about a mid-late September scheduling for Musicport? It’s just that I can’t help thinking about those poor campers.

Dave Atkin, November 3rd 2003

Whitby Musicport annual world music festival is a not-for-profit volunteer-run organisation. Thanks to the sheer hard work of a dedicated team led by Jim McLoughlin the near impossible is pulled off with considerable aplomb. With six stages & workshop venues, 40+ artists, a host of stewards and helpers, the margin for error is broad. Congratulations to Jim & crew. To quote the Governor
of California: “I’ll be back….”.

Artists appearing at Whitby Musicport 2003 were as follows:

Transglobal Underground, Ustad Mahwash & Ensemble Kaboul, Kékélé, Ali Slimani Band, Julie Murphy with Dylan Fowler & Danny Thompson, Charanga del Norte, Talisman (formerly Loyko), SALT the band, The Dhol Foundation featuring Johnny Kalsi, Lion Train, GoLem System, Spencer Bohren & Martin Simpson, Téa & Mirela (formerly Szapora), Modeste Hugues, Robert Maseko & Congobeat, Davide Sanna, Bombay Baja, Mas Y Mas, Josephine Oniyama, Eduardo Niebla, Saaz, Tuup, Martin Fletcher, Samba do Porto, Nick Burman & Dordiseal, Encuentra Latino Salsa Workshop, Nkosana,
Mighty Zulu Nation, Mambo Jambo, Seize The Day, Shiva Nova, Ben Melo Band, Hot Ashes, Banoffi, Virginia McNaughton, Kwame D, Streetworthy, Cal Williams, Piffko, Nick Hall, Dark Horse, Paul Marshall, Seikou Susso, Elaine Palmer, Tuesday Sometimes, Dan Webster Band.

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Chucho: "When I Play Solo I Feel Totally Free"

Chucho Valdes
Chucho Valdes
(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) His hits with Irakere are a little in the background today while his presentations with his Latin Jazz quartet are fresher. The recent recordings along with his father, the great Bebo Valdes, still ring in our ears, but watching and listening to maestro Jesus Chucho Valdes in a piano recital is a chance to experience his talent in its full dimension.

On the first of the six performances at Hollywood’s Catalina’s Bar & Grill, the Cuban pianist brought an LA audience a small part of what he did at New York’s Lincoln Center some years ago. “When I play alone I feel totally free,” Valdes said once, while talking about his recitals. It is the same feeling he transmits to the audience.

The precision of each of his movements, his ability to play a melody with his left hand and freely improvise with the right, makes him a giant on his solo piano. His inspiration emerges after an introduction like “Bésame Mucho,” which opened the presentation.

Alternating the soft movements with the strong and grave sound Valdes improvises with his own style, not exactly the classic jazz approach starting with melody, then improvisation and later returning to melody.

The illustrious Cuban pianist does not abuse the length of each song. An exquisite jazz version of Somewhere over the Rainbow demonstrates the particular music personality of the Cuban pianist, a beautiful mix of sounds perfectly matching with the song that sometimes leads one to feel that there are pieces of other well-known songs in it.

The excellent technique of going over the keys from the high to the low notes, with an unusual speed or suddenly with a soft calm, is the style of the founder of Irakere; many specialized critics still can not define.

Although Valdes himself admits his influences from Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. The truth is that while playing jazz Chucho Valdes is himself and nobody else. He has been able to make the piano the polyphonic instrument he thinks it is and on which he makes the notes and tones he wants for his compositions and improvisations.

Much acclaimed, the great figure of piano returned to the intimate Catalina’s to play his always welcomed version of Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona’s “La Comparsa.”

It is said that for solo piano concerts the artist has to have a very special fame and a very strong personality to keep an audience interested during an entire set. Chucho Valdes is not a stranger to the world’s most famous stages and he is considered one of the best jazz and Latin jazz pianists.

Buy chucho Valdes’ CDs
New Conceptions
,
Solo Piano
,
Briyumba Palo Congo
,
Fantasia Cubana: Variations on Classical Themes
, Yemayá, Afrocubanismo Live!, Bele Bele en La HabanaLive at the Village Vanguard, Babalu Ayé, and Desafios (with Omara Portuondo,
Solo: Live in New York
,Lucumí,
Pianissimo
,
Unforgettable Boleros

Live in Cuba
,
Cuban Jazz Pianissimo
, Indestructible (Irakere), En Vivo (with Irakere and Ivan Lins), Invitacion, and Canciones Inéditas

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