Putumayo’s American Blues

Putumayo presents... American Blues
Putumayo presents… American Blues
New York, USA – Putumayo continues its series dedicated to blues music with American Blues. The United States Congress has designated 2003 as the Year of the Blues and both PBS (Public Broadcasting System) and NPR (National Public Radio) are producing series that will bring a much greater profile to the blues this fall.

With American Blues, which will be released on August 26, 2003, Putumayo continues its series of blues and blues-influenced albums that began in 1999 with Mali to Memphis: An African-American Odyssey.

American Blues is a collection of some of our favorite blues tracks by legends and rising stars that are helping to keep the blues alive and thriving.

The artists on this compilation have remained true to the roots of the blues, be those the acoustic guitar sounds of the Mississippi Delta, the urban electric drive of Chicago, or the swamp boogie of Louisiana. While they may have developed their own unique voices and approaches, they have made it their mission to respect the fundamental sound, structure and soul of the blues.


Box of the Blues

Box of the Blues
Box of the Blues
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA – Box of the Blues brings together 60 of the best songs in the Rounder Records blues catalog, offering a highly entertaining and varied listening experience that spans 50 years of blues history.

From Mississippi Delta originators, to well-known blues entertainers, to young blues innovators, to
many of the great names in soul music, here are performances both classic and obscure, all selected to represent the best that blues has to offer. Includes eight tracks never before released on CD. Compiled by Scott Billington.

1 61 Highway ( Mississippi Fred McDowell ) 03:10
2 See See Rider ( Babe Stovall, Herb Quinn ) 02:53
3 I Could Hear My Name Ringin’ ( Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim ) 03:32
4 Cheating and Lying Blues ( Robert Nighthawk ) 04:58
5 Lonesome Whistle ( Robert Jr. Lockwood & Johnny Shines ) 03:40
6 Broken Hearted Blues ( Etta Baker ) 04:50
7 I’m Gonna Make You Happy ( Buster Brown ) 03:33
8 Dooleyville Blues ( Boogie Bill Webb ) 02:06
9 One Kind Favor ( John Cephas & Phil Wiggins ) 02:53
10 Blues For Martin Luther King ( Otis Spann ) 03:40
11 Wind Howlin’ Blues ( David “Honeyboy” Edwards ) 03:15
12 Dying Crapshooter’s Blues ( Blind Willie McTell ) 03:07
13 Screamin’ And Cryin’ ( Big Joe Williams ) 03:15
14 Candy Man Blues ( Mississippi John Hurt ) 02:55
15 The Red Cross Store ( Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee ) 03:24

1 One More Mile ( Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown ) 04:14
2 My Eyes Keep Me In Trouble ( Carey Bell ) 04:49
3 Give Me Flowers While I’m Livin’ ( Champion Jack Dupree ) 05:52
4 Cool Blues Walk ( Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater ) 05:36
5 Port Arthur Blues ( Phillip Walker ) 04:34
6 Nobody But You ( Johnny Copeland ) 03:47
7 Jukin’ ( Willie Cobbs ) 06:22
8 Johnny’s Jump ( Johnny Young ) 02:19
9 Goin’ Out West (Part 1 and Part 2) ( Larry Davis ) 05:56
10 Walking By Myself ( Jimmy Rogers ) 03:05
11 Blues And My Guitar ( Lowell Fulson ) 04:49
12 Eighteen Year Old Girl ( J.B. Hutto & the New Hawks ) 04:17
13 I’m From Mississippi ( Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson ) 04:52
14 This is the Blues ( Lonesome Sundown & Phillip Walker ) 02:39
15 The Man from Mars ( Smokey Wilson ) 05:42

1 Change in My Pocket ( Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets featuring Sam Myers )
2 Blue House ( Marcia Ball ) 03:24
3 Meanest Woman ( Geoff Muldaur ) 03:47
4 Make Some Changes ( Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones ) 03:46
5 Down South Blues ( Tarbox Ramblers ) 04:03
6 How Long ( Chris Duarte Group ) 05:19
7 I’m the Toughest Girl Alive ( Candye Kane ) 03:07
8 Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning ( Corey Harris ) 02:52
9 Frankie And Albert ( Rory Block ) 02:25
10 What That Means to Me ( Duke Robillard & the Pleasure Kings ) 02:48
11 Let Me Live ( Roomful Of Blues ) 03:50
12 Lovin’ Someone Else ( Little Jimmy King & the Memphis Soul Survivors ) 05:53
13 John Hardy ( George Thorogood ) 03:18
14 One Night Affair ( Smokin’ Joe Kubek featuring Bnois King ) 05:37
15 Shifting Sand ( Michelle Willson ) 04:42
1 Good Day For The Blues ( Ruth Brown ) 04:36
2 Outskirts of Town ( Wilson Pickett ) 03:24
3 Live And Let Live ( Bobby King & Terry Evans ) 04:41
4 Roadblock ( Johnny Adams ) 04:51
5 I Can Take You To Heaven Tonight ( Otis Clay ) 04:32
6 Got To Get Myself Some Money ( Solomon Burke ) 04:58
7 Nowhere To Hide ( Paul Kelly ) 03:28
8 What Can I Do (Somebody Tell Me) ( Little Buster & the Soul Brothers ) 03:56
9 Two Wrongs ( Theryl “Houseman” de’Clouet ) 03:51
10 I Stepped In Quicksand ( Charles Brown ) 05:26
11 Ain’t No Business Like Your Business ( Ann Peebles ) 04:00
12 Promised Land ( Holmes Brothers ) 03:33
13 You Don’t Know Nothin’ About Love ( Irma Thomas and Tracy Nelson ) 04:44
14 Bring It Home Daddy ( Ted Hawkins ) 03:08
15 Out Of The Dark ( Walter “Wolfman” Washington ) 05:55

Box of the Blues


North Indian Hawaiian Guitarist Tours Malaysia

Jaywant Naidu, a North Indian music Hawaiian guitarist from Hyderabad, has returned from his visit to Malaysia. He was invited to the country by Penang Ytl Arts Festival. Jaywant performed in the first week of June 2003 in a musical feature, Harmony, a unique musical evening playing on his Hawaiian guitar. The musical event was produced by Actors Studio at The Actors Studio, Greenhall. Jaywant presented several recitals in India and interacted with international groups under the aegis of Alliance Francaise,
etc. and has an expansive musical perspective. His recital in the Hindustani style played on a modified Hawaiian guitar was very much within the
grasp of both the Malaysian and international audience, the city being a popular
tourist attraction.

The Hawaiian guitar is modified minimally to suit the North Indian style,
added with 19 strings to produce a rich resonance and sounds like a Chitra Veena
or Gottu of South Indian origin. Played with the right hand holding the striker
and the left hand holding a narrow steel bar, the artist produces the Hindustani
Raga gliding the bar on the three main strings, striking them with the striker in the right hand.

Jaywant played a fine blend of the pure classical and light classical so as to be within the reach of the audience and was much appreciated for the sheer melody and the characteristic Indian style, which has a fine mix of melody and rhythm. His Jod and Jhala were particularly applauded. Maru Behag, Malkauns and Bagesri were the
melodies which Jaywant played. These were all instantly pleasing Ragas and there was no need for the audience to occupy themselves with any hard to understand but to enjoy tonic based melody and
swaying to the rhythm-based hand work. Jaywant also played at Kuala Lumpur and
received a good response, with more Indian audiences, apart from the Native
Malaysians, Chinese and other foreigners.

Jaywant spoke of his experiences describing the seaside beauty of Penang and
the modern city of Kuala Lumpur. Artist website is at


FFynnon’s Celtic Music From Wales


FFynnon, Celtic Music of Wales (Green Linnet GLCD1221, 2003)

Somewhere in the mid 90s I became a traitor to my Celtic heritage – I got sick and tired of Celtic music.  I know, I know.  Shame on me.  All those over-produced, sappy renditions of traditional folk tunes started to sound the same to me and I quit listening.  So when I got handed a Celtic CD to review, I eyed it with dread. 

Thankfully I can admit that Ffynnon’s Celtic Music From Wales on the Green Linnet label was pleasant surprise.  Ffynnon is comprised of Lynne Denman on vocals and bodhrán; Stacey Blythe on keyboard, accordion and vocals; and David Reed on six-string bass guitar, keyboard and vocals. 

The CD varies from sweet to sultry and doesn’t cover up the group’s sound with over production. The spare instrumentation of this CD allows the vocals to blossom. The sometimes bright keyboard work, coupled with bodhrán and accordion, offers that familiar Celtic mystery without lapsing into the cliché, with the chunky play of the six-string bass guitar lending a moody element to the mix.

Tracks like “Felton Lonnin” and “Ty Crwn” are chock full of Celtic charm. “Beth yw’r Haf” and “Dacw Nghariad” ignite the Celtic influence with some jazzy elements. It’s the six-string bass guitar that charges tracks “Chwaer Mari” and “Le Petit Cordonier” with a funky backdrop. For traditionalists, “Aros Mae” is a breathtaking vocal piece that captures the Celtic soul.

Ffynnon’s Celtic Music from Wales is an enticing work and proof that it’s safe for traitors like me to return to the tribe.



TJ Nelson is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing
Athena’s Shadow
<http://www2.xlibris.com/bookstore/bookdisplay.asp?bookid=34163>. Set in
Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures
of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long
forgotten family mystery.  Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of
little help in her quest.  Along with her best friends, an attractive
Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading
memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot
her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931. Traversing the line between
the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to
uncover Athena’s true crime.


Guide to World Music in British Columbia, Canada

Alpha Yaya Diallo
Alpha Yaya Diallo
The British Columbia Guide for World Music, Part 1

Welcome to the Canada’s West Coast, better known as British Columbia. British Columbia is Canada’s youngest province and it has been described as sporty, radical, iconoclastic with a laid back attitude. This is also a province where Canadians cherish their leisure time, participating in various sporting activities or hanging out at music or arts festivals. The province has also been marketed to tourists as “super natural,” and if you take one look at the province’s beaches, forests and majestic mountains you can witness this super natural beauty. It’s no wonder that artists and musicians from around the world dig in their heels and make British Columbia their home.

This music guide will introduce you to some of the folk roots musical acts that have adopted this province as their home and I will focus on the lower mainland, Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands.I will not bore you with statistics or demographics, but I will remind you that the city of Vancouver and surrounding areas sports a multicultural environment, heavy on Asian music of all kinds. You will also find world fusion, Celtic, African, Latin and First Nation music in British Columbia.

The 26th annual Vancouver Folk Music Festival featured the Bill Hilly Band (Victoria), Daniel Lapp and Lappelectro (Victoria), Lotus Ensemble (Vancouver/Quebec), Celso Machado (Vancouver), Harry Manx (Salt Spring Island), Sara Marreiros (Victoria), Safa (Vancouver), Jabulani (Vancouver) and the Vancouver World Music Collective.

Other groups residing in British Columbia are the Puentes Brothers, Asza, Jou Tou, Tzimmes, Silk Road Music, Orchid Ensemble, Mei Han & Randy Raine Reusch, Fana Soro & Masabo, Khac Chi Ensemble, Elyra Campbell, Sandy Scofield and Alpha Yaya Diallo.

Please note that this is not a comprehensive guide of world music in British Columbia. Due to touring schedules and summer holidays, many musical groups and their managers have not responded to my requests for information. And I would like to publish this guide before summer’s end so those viewers will be able to seek out these musical acts at festivals across Canada or upon visiting British
Columbia. However, I would like to thank Diana Imbert and Ellie O’Day for their kind assistance. Perhaps in the future, this guide will be expanded, for now, think of it as the tip of the iceberg.

I list the groups under country of origins and end with a section called “the best of all worlds” that will include world fusion groups.


Fana Soro & Masabo (Vancouver) hail from the Ivory Coast and features dancers, storytellers and drummers. The group has released one CD, Solognougo. Fana Soro & Masabo. E-mail: masabocc@shaw.ca.

Alpha Yaya Diallo (Vancouver) originates from Guinea and has become a proud fixture in Vancouver’s world music community. The African group has released several recordings with the most recently release in 2001, The Journey. To find out more information about this exciting group visit Alpha Yaya Diallo.

Asian (Korea, Philippines, Japan, China, India & Vietnam):

Mei Han & Randy Raine-Reusch (Vancouver) literally translate to East meets West since this married couple take the Chinese zheng into new territory. When master zheng performer Mei Han (also see Orchid Ensemble, Asza and Vancouver World Music Collective) teams up with experimental musician Randy Raine Reusch
anything can happen leading to innovative compositions found on their debut CD, Distant Wind. Mei is both a virtuoso zheng performer and zheng scholar bringing 30 years of expertise to the ancient Chinese instrument. Raine-Reusch has produced numerous records and owns a collection of 600 instruments from around the world. This intriguing couple makes their home in East Vancouver when they
are not schlepping their wares around the globe.

Khac Chi Ensemble (Vancouver) Although this traditional Vietnamese ensemble is a trio, I can only find biographical information on the two founding members. Award-winning composer and dan bau (1-string zither) virtuoso Ho Khac Chi and award-winning ban dan performer (first woman to win a prize on this instrument), Ngoc Bic makes up 2/3 of the ensemble. Bich also performs on the ko ni (a two-string stick fiddle). The couple moved to Vancouver after appearing at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in the early 1990’s. Since that time they have released several recordings on the Jericho Beach Music label, the most recent CD, Spirit of Vietnam, was released in 1999. Khac Chi Ensemble is a member of the
Vancouver World Music Collective.

Lotus Ensemble (Vancouver/Quebec) was born out of a collaboratory experience and features Liu Fang on pipa and Oliver Schoer on violin along with Ziya Tabassian on tombak and Pham Duc Thanh on at two-string fiddle called dan nhi, dan bau (monochord) and dan tranh (16 string zither). Lotus Ensemble marries Chinese, Persian Vietnamese and Euro-Canadian music. Sadly, I have not heard this music
so I can comment no further.

Harry Manx (Indian/Blues) might be described as a cross between a Mississippi blues man and an Indian sage. Equally adept on the 6-string banjo, lap slide guitar and mohan veena, this Salt Spring musical resident has recorded four CDs including: Dog, My Cat, Wise and Otherwise, Jubilee and Road Ragas. But catch him in a live performance so that he can cast his spell over you.

Orchid Ensemble (Vancouver) will also hold you captive with their delicate and soulful compositions which includes traditional Chinese music, Chinese contemporary compositions, as well as, music from other cultures. Their debut CD, Heartland (produced by Randy Raine-Reusch) features ensemble leader Lan Tung
on the Chinese two-string violin, (Erhu), Mei Han on the Chinese zither (zheng) and Canadian percussionist Jonathan Bernard performing on a marimba and an array of Chinese and Western percussion instruments. The end result proves spectacular and might just bring tears of joy to your eyes. The ensemble is a member of the Vancouver World Music Collective.

Silk Road Music (Vancouver) Although this group is Chinese in origin and a member of the one million Chinese-Canadians, Silk Road marries classical Chinese music with jazz, Brazilian, Celtic and Quebecois fare. And the group performs on a host of instruments spanning 6 continents according to a description featured in Rough Guides Canada CD. Silk Road Music released their CD Endless on Jericho Beach Music and is a member of the Vancouver World Music Collective.

Celtic and fiddle music:

Bill Hilly Band, www.thebillhillyband.com, (Victoria) I must admit that this folky quartet grew on me. My first impression of this group’s Appalachian fare (twang with a capitol T) recalled the “dueling banjos” scene in the film Deliverance, which is not one of my favorite films. However, upon listening to their CD, All Day Every Day (Borealis Records), I acquired a good sense of the musicians’ technique and versatility. It isn’t every day that I hear a musical group bounce from an Italian tarantella to a swampy fiddle tune straight out of the Bayou of America’s sleepy south. Bill Hilly Band might be called Kitchen Party music of the West Coast.

Elyra Campbell (Vancouver) performs (on Celtic harp) and sings ancient Irish airs, laments, “mouth music” and lullabies sung in English and Scots Gaelic. She performs a cappella or with an array of jazz and world music performers, mostly covering traditional arrangements. Her music can be heard on her CD, Girl in a Tree. She is a member of the Vancouver World Music Collective.

Lappelectro (Victoria) led by super duper fiddling talent Daniel Lapp. The group includes Daniel on fiddle, of course, Rick May (bass), Jody Baker (percussion) and Justin Hayms (guitar). Daniel’s latest recording ReUnion features guest musicians that represent the who’s who of folk music, including, Kathryn Tickell (bagpipes), Tony McManus and Simon Thoumire and you can learn more about Daniel
at www.daniellapp.com

First Nation:

Blackstone (British Columbia), are Cree singers from Saskatchewan with several CDs listed on the US label, Canyon Records. However, the Canadian distributor Festival Distribution has listed Blackstone under First Nation artists residing in British Columbia. For more information visit Canyon Records at

Nengayni Drummers (Central BC) is an all woman group of hand drummers.

Art Napoleon (Cree) is a traditional singer that resides in British Columbia. He released his CD, Outta the Woods a few years ago and one of his tracks was featured on James Keelaghan’s radio production, A Sense of Place in 2000 and was broadcast on the CKUA radio network. One of Art Napoleon’s tracks appeared in the radio series (Episode #8).

Sandy Scofield (Metis heritage of Saulteaux and Cree descent) This First Nation musical performer has a drop-dead powerful voice, often taking on social issues that are featured in her genre-blending repertoire. Her 2003 release, Ketwam (Kokum Records) marries traditional chants with folk fiddle and country music. The lineup of guest performers also proves impressive featuring Daniel Lapp (fiddle), Stephen Nikleva (guitar), the Nitsiwakun singers (Lisa Sazama, Shakti Hayes & Sandy) and
Winston Wuttunee (chants). Sandy’s 2001 release, Riel’s Road (Arpeggio) blends jazz, folk, blues and rock territories with the lyrics as biting as ever. Although she has performed traditional Indian music, she for all intent and purposes is a crossover artist. Sandy resides in Vancouver.

Sy Sterritt (Gitsan) I couldn’t find any information on this performer.

Klezmer or Gypsy:

Tzimmes (Vancouver) This klezmer group blends other cultures with traditional klezmer music and is a member of the World Music Collective. Tzimmes released KlezMyriad in 1998 and you can learn more about this musical act at www.tzimmes.net

Latin Music:

Celso Machado (Vancouver) Originally from Brazil, Celso fell in love with Vancouver after performing in the city in 1986. He moved to Vancouver in 1992 and has been experimenting with new instruments and musical styles ever since. I’ve not actually heard Celso’s music, but if you visit www.celsomachado.com you can learn more about his repertoire and available recordings.

Sara Marreiros (Victoria) Now that Mariza has brought Portuguese fados to public awareness, Portuguese-Canadian fado singer Sara Marreiros will be able to perform without the lengthy exposition about fados. Sara has a background in jazz as well and performs jazz, Brazilian music along with fados. You can hear her vocal talents in action on Djole’s 2001 release, Salt Water and Sara’s solo CD, Alma Da Terra (found on Syntonic Arts).

The Puentes Brothers (Victoria) I saw the Puentes Brothers perform at WOMAD USA in 2001. They dished out Cuban Son and ballads while whetting the appetite of a large dancing crowd. They play live quite often in British Columbia, but if you can’t catch the group live, than check out their CD, Morumba Cubano released on Alma Records, 2001.

Persian Music:

Safa (Vancouver) In the Farsi language, Safa translates to inner purity. The group Safa draws inspiration from Sufi poetry and Persian classical music. Yet, this group comprised of master musician (tar and setar) Amir Koushkani, Puerto Rican drummer Sal Ferreras and Francois Houle (clarinet) improvise and bend the formula. Safa released a CD titled Alight.

Best of All Worlds:

Asza (Vancouver) This eclectic ensemble fuses various musical traditions and has toured all over Asia and North America. Asza is a member of the World Music Collective. www.asza.com

Jabulani (Vancouver) I have read that this youth group has inspired adults with their musicianship. Jabulani is a member of the Vancouver World Music Collective. Here’s looking at the future of world music in Vancouver.www.jabulani.net also check out the
group’s first CD, Take it Easy.

Jou Tou (Burnaby) The members of this trio represent Quebecois, Chinese and South American music. Jou Tou released a self-title CD and the group is a member of the Vancouver World Music Collective. No web address listed.

Vancouver World Music Collective One might call this collective a utopian dream made reality or Vancouver’s crown jewel. Basically, the members of this collective hail from every culture imaginable. Filmmakers Georges Payestre and Jean Patenaude heard about the collective and were so impressed that they decided to make a documentary (to be released in 2004). For those fans of world music who love mix and matching instruments from various cultures, this is your dream come true. Members of the collective include Jou Tou, Khac Chi, Masabo Culture Company, Mei Han & Randy Raine-Reusch, Orchid Ensemble, Jabulani, Silk Road and Tzimmes. And the project’s mastermind is Diana Imbert. For more information see the links below.

Other artists:

Alma de Espana (flamenco)
Adel Awad (drums), Lady Bug Productions
Axe Capoeira (Brazilian), Barrao Productions
Dal-Dil-Vog, DDV Enterprises Records


Vancouver Folk Music Festival,

Rough Guides Canada www.worldmusic.net

Part 2 will feature short reviews of CDs by British Columbia world music acts.
In the meantime, check out the artists listed in Part 1.


Ragamorphism DVD

Prasanna - Ragamorphism
Prasanna – Ragamorphism
India – Virtuoso musician Prasanna, the leading exponent of electric guitar in Indian classical music, has released an educational DVD titled Ragamorphism.

This is the first ever educational DVD that really goes into the depths of application of Indian Classical Carnatic music to contemporary Jazz, Rock, Blues improvisation and beyond.

In spite of the complex nature of the material presented here, Prasanna employs a relaxed conversational approach throughout the film, Prasanna unlocks the potent wealth of his microtonal Carnatic vocabulary, that makes it possible for him to improvise in a way no other guitarist has ever done before.Ragamorphism explores numerous ragas and their applications in soloing over chord changes, the blues, chord voicings derived from Ragas, microtonal slurring and sliding guitar techniques, mathematical treatment of rhythms etc., are just some of the material covered in this power packed 90 minute ride, which includes extensive close-up shots of his guitar playing, all supplemented with professionally laid out music notation.

Buy Ragamorphism


Radio Tarifa’s Fever

Radio Tarifa - Fiebre
Radio Tarifa – Fiebre
London, England – Spanish world music outfit Radio Tarifa celebrates its 10th anniversary with the release of  Fiebre(Fever), a live album recorded during a concert at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto, Canada on September 28th 2002.

Fiebre captures the dynamism of the live show and takes the listeners on a musical journey spanning the last ten years of Radio Tarifa. It features ten new interpretations of songs from their last three albums, plus two new songs specifically written for this album.

Radio Tarifa have been playing selected European dates along with the release of Fiebre. These shows give audiences the opportunity to fully experience the electrifying live performances that have been captured on CD. A more extensive UK tour will take place in November and more European dates are being planned for 2004.

Radio Tarifa is the brainchild of Faín Dueñas, a former electric guitarist who realized that playing Anglo-Saxon rock wasn’t leading him anywhere. Instead, he sought new paths and learned about other kinds of music from foreign and southern Spanish musicians. Currently, he has become an specialist in African and Arabic percussion, as well as in string instruments from the lute family such as the Turkish cümbüs, the guimbri, sentir, ud and Flamenco guitar.

The rest of the core group is formed by Flamenco cantaor Benjamín Escoriza, from Granada, and reed/flute player Vincent Molino, from France. The group’s albums feature numerous guests and the live band includes some of Spain’s finest world music players.

Veteran Spanish multi-instrumentalist and producer Juan Alberto Arteche produced the group’s first album, Rumba Argelina, for his eclectic Música Sín Fín label. Arteche later sold the rights to BMG Spain who in turn licensed it to World Circuit in Great Britain.


A Rare Taste of Kenya

Jabali Afrika - Rootsganza
Jabali Afrika – Rootsganza
Jabali Afrika

Rootsganza (Converge Records, 2003)

Only a tiny amount of Kenyan music has made it to the US market, despite a great musical diversity in this country of 31 million people of 47 ethnicities. I won’t attempt to summarize Doug Patterson’s detailed account of Kenyan music , but suffice it to say that this is only the third Kenyan CD I’ve actually laid my hands on, and one of the others is oud music recalling Kenya’s time under Arabic rule.

Jaliba is Kiswahili for “rock” – not the musical genre, but the conglomerated mineral, specifically a large rock upon which band members used to meet. And their music is founded upon the African rock of rhythm blended with vocal harmony.

Opening Rootsganza is “Amatingalo,” a broad tribute Africa. Growly male voices run through the countries singing “viva Kenya…Uganda…Tanzania…Zimbabwe….” You get the idea. The singing isn’t polished, but it fits beautifully with the variety of songs about country, family, and love. Following the funky drumming of “Percussion Discussion” is “Sweetness (Utamu),” a beautifully harmonized a capella choral song. The piano-and-strings ode to motherhood “Letter to Mama,” is sweet nearly to the point of sappiness, with the refrain “Sweet mama, Super woman / I love you forever.”

There’s plenty of variety in the 16 tracks, including lead vocals by sweet-voiced Lois Mutua on “Forever Young” and “Nabhangu.” Making a social comment on joblessness and police brutality is the Caribbean-flavored “Eastlands Yard,” while “Grandma’s Milk Gourd” simmers with Afro-beat energy. Jabali Afrika is now based on the US east coast, so keep an eye out for live shows. Sitting on a festival lawn soaking in these warm, loose sounds would complete a summer’s evening. Or just pop in this CD for a rare glimpse of Kenyan tunes.

(c) 2003 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media


Drop the Debt…and Dance!

Drop the Debt

Drop the Debt (Say It Loud! / World Village 479008, 2003)

The problems following the invasion of Iraq seem to have awakened the Bush administration from a slumber on the need for debt relief (We’re shocked! Shocked!). But the problem of developing-world debt has long been on the mind of others, including the Jubilee organization. Imagine paying 38% of your income just to service your debt. But don’t get me started; we’re here to talk about the music of debt.

Yes, the issue now has an all-star soundtrack, thanks to the efforts of new indie label Say It Loud. Featuring a stellar lineup of musicians (most from Africa and Latin America), Drop the Debt is simply great listening. And even if you’re an amazing polyglot (songs come from 14 different nationalities), you won’t feel like anyone’s hitting you over the head with a guilt skillet. The closest thing to an anti-debt anthem is “The Third World Cries Everyday,” a richly orchestrated, mostly-English song by Africa South, an amazing constellation of musicians including Oliver Mtukudzi, Louis Mhlanga, Suthukazi Arosi, Khululiwe Sithole.

The rest of the CD is even better. It kicks off with the deep reggae mood of “Baba” by the combined forces of Tiken Jah Fakoly (Ivory Coast) and Tribo de Jah (Brazil). Brazilian vocalist Chico Cesar shows just how fast and percussive Portuguese can be sung on the folksy “Il faut payer (devo e não nego),” a collaboration with the Fabulous Trobadors of France. Bringing in Latin sounds is “Cosas pa’ pensar” by Colombia’s Toto La Momposina with a fabulous horn section. Cameroon’s Sally Nyolo combines with Shingo2 of Japan for the drum-and-voice tune “Tilma (remix).” Like turntablism? You’ll dig French group Massilia Sound System’s “Osca Sankara.” If funk is your thing, “Argent trop cher (money’s too expensive)” by Tarace Boulba of France and Ablaye Mbaye of Senegal will definitely help you get a groove on.

Lyrically, the CD stays on topic, though each song highlights a different aspect of the debt burden. The translations give a sense of the widespread problems. Senegal’s El Hadj N’Diaye sings “For 40 years we’ve been repaying / A debt that endlessly grows / … We even say we’ll never be able to pay it back / That it’s planned that way.” Zedess (Burkina Faso) sings “Even a democratic president / Who wants to lead his country out of poverty / Comes up against the policies of the technocrats / Who decide the priorities.”

Massilia Sound System’s “Osca Sankara” includes samples of a speech given on debt relief by Burkina Faso President Thomas Sankara, shortly before his assassination in a coup. Other songs take a more personal look. Tiken Jah Fakoly and Tribo de Jah’s “Baba” laments a farmer who works hard but realizes no profit when the harvest is in. Congolese artists Faya Tess & Lokua Kanza look to the future in “Bana”: “This land belongs to our children / It’s in their name that we demand the debt be canceled / and the accounts revised….”

This is a great CD that just happens to champion a great cause as well. All the tracks are exclusive to this release, and with a variety of styles and consistently high energy it’s bound to have wide musical appeal. Get it as a wide-ranging survey of contemporary world music or as a political statement. But get it.

Okay, just one last word on selective debt relief. Read this statement from the conservative Heritage Foundation, and ask yourself why they and “President” Bush aren’t including Senegal, Burkina Faso, Columbia, Brazil, Zimbabwe, and other poor countries in their push for debt relief. Just substitute one of those countries for “Iraq” and see if it fits as well: “If Iraq’s debts are not forgiven, the Iraqi people will be financially crippled for a generation, or even generations, eliminating any prospect of a growing and prosperous Iraq. If European and Arab leaders truly want to help the people of Iraq, the best way to demonstrate this would be by easing the debt burden.”

For more on debt relief, see:


(c) 2003 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

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US Processing Visas for Cuban Latin Grammy Nominees

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – The US government is processing the visa application for various Cuban musicians nominated for Latin Grammy 2003 awards, to be delivered in Miami this coming September 3. “The US Interests Section in Havana (USIS) accepted to process the documents of the Cuban musicians,” a Cuban Music Institute source told the cultural magazine “La Jiribilla.” “The prestige and seriousness of our artists made it possible that the documents be accepted by the USIS,” said the same source said. The Cuban magazine denied that the Cuban authorities delayed the visa applications and criticized such recent statements by the White House special envoy for the Western Hemisphere Otto Reich.The possible presence of Cuban artists at the Latin Grammy gala has provoked a tense controversy between the exile groups and Cuban artists based in Miami. Cuban Culture Vice-Minister and Cuban Music Institute President Abel Acosta, defended the right of the Cuban artists to attend the Latin Grammy ceremony.” The presence of our artists is a right gained by their talent and work,” he stated.


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