A Place to Remember

(Prensa Latina – Cumbancha) Havana, Cuba – Located on the busy Central Havana Galiano Street, Casa de la Música is celebrating its first anniversary in a zone marked by several historical landmarks. In a place where the Jigüe movie theater was located some time ago, Casa de la Musica has a music and music instruments store open 24 hours, besides having a concert room with a stage and state-of-the-art audio and light techniques.

Famous Cuban music bands working on different genres perform there: from the contagious and furiously-paced salsa to the soft mellow bolero, with time for rock or any other contemporary rhythm. With a capacity for 500 people, the facility is also known for its food. The Casa was built over the ruins of what was left of a movie theater battered by the tropical storm Kate in 1985. The site has a beautiful story that dates back to the early 20th century, when the Molino Rojo Theater was opened
there, dedicated to the picaresque genre of men-only shows.

By the end of 1923, it became the Teatro Cubano staging shows by Arquímedes Pous and his famous company. Then a new name for the building turned it into the Regina Theater. There, composers such as Ernesto Lecuona, Eliseo Grenet, Rodrigo Prats and Moisés Simón made their premieres. On its stage performed artists such as Rita Montaner, Mario Martínez Casado, María Ruíz.

It became a movie theater in 1941, and was the place where Charles Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator was first premiered in Cuba.


Txilibrin, Basque Musician Dies at 91

Sopela, Biscay, Spain – A legendary figure in Basque music, Silvestre Elezkano, a.k.a.
“Txilibrin,” died this week in Spain’s Basque Country.

Txilibrin (pronounced chee-lee-breen), born in 1912, was well known as an alboka player and maker. The alboka is a Basque horn that nearly disappeared in the 20th century. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in the instrument and many young folk musicians are now playing it. Txilibrin’s albokas were highly esteemed.


Taj Mahal’s Hanapepe Dream

Taj Mahal

Hanapepe Dream (Tone-Cool/Kan-Du Records, 2003)

For those feeling a little listless and slothful in the grip of summer’s dog days, let me suggest Hanapepe Dream, the latest from Taj Mahal and The Hula Blues found on Tone-Cool/Kan-Du Records.

The follow up to their 1998 Sacred Island, Hanapepe Dream liquefies the Hawaiian, West African, Blues and Caribbean influences and pours them out perfectly blended. Heavy with lilting Hawaiian steel guitar, bright ukuleles, the slick wah wah of slack-key guitar and saxophone, it slides down cool and frosty like some exotic drink on a hot summer’s day.

But it is Taj Mahal’s voice that intoxicates – that voice that is smooth and silky one minute and rough and rich the next. “Black Jack Davy,” the charming duet “Moonlight Lady” and Mississippi John Hurt’s “Creole Belle” are testaments to Mahal’s powerful command over song lyrics. Set to a shuffling beat and playful sax, Taj Mahal entices the listener with a playfully naughty vocal seduction on “Baby, You’re My Destiny” that culminates with some scat vocals. Mahal even gets in a version of “All Along The Watchtower,” proving that Mahal refuses convention.

I do have to mention the liner notes for Hanapepe Dream. I don’t know who was responsible but – shame, shame, shame! There wasn’t a single mention about the musicians or any of the production staff. The musicians behind The Hula Blues include Carlos Andrade on slack-key guitar; Fred Lunt on Hawaiian steel guitar; Kester Smith on drums; Rudy Costa on saxophone, flute, kalimba and clarinet; Pat Cockett on liliu ukulele; Wayne Jacintho on tenor ukulele; Michael Barretto on baritone ukulele and Pancho Graham on acoustic guitar. These guys are just too good to not mention and proof is in the instrumental title track.

All-in-all Hanapepe Dream is a delightful elixir for those summer doldrums



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.


Klezmer Gypsies Take The Stage

Les Yeux Noirs – Live
Les Yeux Noirs

Live (World Village 4680190, 2003)

Led by classically-trained violinists Eric and Olivier Slabiak, Les Yeux Noirs created one of last year’s more memorable albums with Balamouk, a seamlessly brilliant Gypsy/klezmer blend that brought out the best in both styles, individually and collectively. This new live disc shows them to be just as tight onstage (in case you had any doubt), and though many of the tunes were also highlights of Balamouk, most are carried beyond their already substantial studio counterparts. A little extra jamming length here, a bit more tricky soloing there, and the result is a nimble and lively performance that is no mere rehash.

A tartly stomping “Cioara” kicks things off, with the crinkly tones of the cimbalom and dancing percussion bouncing to and fro between the rich violins as guitar, bass, cello and accordion lubricate the Balkan and Yiddish accents with loving grace. Faster pieces like “Calusul” and “L’Alouette” reach delightful frenzy without sloppiness, though the band’s softer side is evident on two versions of the tender “Lluba,” including a new take with a children’s choir adding depth to the traditional lament. In fact, the balance of fast and slow tunes give this disc a good sense of pace that many live albums lack. Then when you factor in solid versions of such originals as Balamouk’s Afro/Euro title track, you have a live set that delivers mightily in terms of innovation and exciting musical border-crossing. Listening to this will make your feet move and your heart ache. You’ll love it.

buy Live


Preaching to the Choir

Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria - Mechemetio
Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria – Mechemetio
Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria

Mechemetio (Intuition, 2000)

Bulgarian choir music and folk dance drew awareness in the West when 4 AD Records released records by the choir phenomenon Le Mystere des Vois Bulgares back in the late 1980’s. While the world music genre was beginning to formulate around that time, it was the alternative music crowd, especially fans of Goth music that embraced Bulgarian choir music. A few years later, Kate Bush invited another Bulgarian vocal group, Trio Bulgarka to lend their talents to a couple of tracks on her release, Sensual World (Bush is one of those artists never mentioned for her contribution to world music).

Seemingly Bulgarian vocal music disappeared from public awareness even though other vocal-centered groups such as the Finnish group Varttina and the Italian a cappella quartet, Fauarella give homage to Bulgarian vocal music on their CDs. The Persian-American vocalist Mamak Khadem of Axiom of Choice studied Bulgarian vocal styles and this adds a unique flavor to her vocal palette. So it comes, as a bit of synchronicity that a CD of Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria, recorded in 2000, would cross my path at a time when I am discovering vocal music.Similar to the Mysterious Voices of Bulgaria (I am using the English translation), Cosmic Voices of Bulgaria features a full-fledged choir, including 21 of Bulgaria’s brightest vocal talent. Those folks who have been following Bulgarian music will recognize a few of the names of the vocalists, including Nadka Karadzhova, who once sang with the Mysterious Voices. She of course, appears as a soloist on the disc, but she shares soloing duties with a long list of vocalists. The album, Mechmetio was recorded at Hall 11 of the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria, reminding us that the Bulgarian government still exudes pride in one of their national treasures.

Vanya Moneva conducted the choir and Emil Minev produced the recording. The project pays tribute to the great Bulgarian choir composers and arrangers of the past and especially Philip Kutev (1903-82), the man responsible for the more innovative compositions. However, some of the tracks were composed more recently and by new composers. The performance although haunting to some extent also possesses playful elements. The harmonies add a unique dissonance and the songs are also peppered with whoops and crescendos. It’s a complex music that I won’t even try to explain nor could I without ever having studied it. Yet, I do find that it lends itself to a pleasurable listen. For anyone who wishes to delve further into Bulgarian music, I recommend picking up Rough Guides World Music, Volume 1 and read the insightful chapter on Bulgaria or peruse the liner notes that come with the CD.


California Singing

Deborah Falconer - Brave like me
Deborah Falconer – Brave like me
Deborah Falconer

Brave like me (Ravish, 2003)

A life of singer-songwriter is a hard one. Any songwriter can come up with interesting chord progressions and insightful melodies, but the true test of a singer-songwriter comes with penning of lyrics. Poetry and universal thinking isn’t everyone’s forte and few songwriters have the talent of a Tom Waits, Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell. Most songwriters, including Deborah Falconer with her CD release, Brave like me, write too personal of lyrics resembling something cribbed from a diary. She’s not alone of course, since I noticed a lot of self-absorbed lyrics coming from the rock and pop genres which is why I began listening to music sung in other languages.I do not know Deborah’s age or background, but I would suggests that she travel to other countries, get a broader view of the world, besides her own personal life. I suggests that she learn other vocal styles besides the heart-aching one that too often recalls Tori Amos or Ricky Lee Jones since this just doesn’t come across as authentic. I think as Deborah grows as an artist her song writing will mature into something more universal. At the moment she is playing it safe by sticking with the usual Western instrumentation and not stretching her vocals or emotions. She could learn a lot from her songwriting predecessors and contemporaries, Patti Smith, Ani DiFranco and Janis Joplin. In the meantime, Brave like me proves pleasant enough with sweet chord progressions embellished by strings, piano, pedal steel and electric organ. It’s the perfect CD for the white middle class college crowd that hasn’t crossed the bridge yet from me to us or from America to the rest of the world.


Rare Gift Goes to Storage

Paris, France – Recently, the Musée de la Musique in Paris received a rare gift – Django Reinhardt’s last Selmer guitar – and promptly relegated it to a storeroom, the academic’s version of a broom closet.

Pity this treasured instrument of jazz icon Django Reinhardt, that put Paris’s Le Hot Club on the world map of European jazz, now gathers dust in some dark corner unseen and unloved. It’s a bit like propping up B.B. King’s lovely Lucille against a stall in a bus station bathroom.

Granted, the guitar isn’t a dab of earwax from Eminem or a ball of belly button lint from Britney Spears, but it deserves better. Django’s musical life shouldn’t be assigned a number and placed in a locker somewhere.

Reinhardt’s gypsy Manouche people want to see a symbol of their contribution to music and culture on display and they are asking for your help. Please contact Frédéric Dassas, the directeur du musée de la musique, at musee@cite-musique.fr and gently request that the Reinhardt guitar be placed on display.


Call for Applications! Asia Pacific Performance Exchange (APPEX)

Los Angeles, USA – The Asia Pacific Performance Exchange (APPEX) is an international artists
residency program that promotes cross-cultural dialogue and interdisciplinary
exploration; develops rigorous strategies for art making that reflect the
nuances of cultural differences; and fosters new ways to create, combine, and
interpret artistic expressions.  

Program Schedule: APPEX 2004: July to August 2004 – Bali, Indonesia
APPEX 2006: July to August 2006 – Los Angeles, CA  

Deadline for submissions: For APPEX 2004: December 10, 2003 For APPEX
2006: December 10, 2005.THE PROGRAM: APPEX is a six-week intensive residency. For five days a
week, artists will engage in all-day master classes, studio workshops,
experimentation, and collaborative projects. On weekends and evenings,
participants will be introduced to the vibrant arts and culture context of the
host city through specially planned field trips and concerts. Each Fellow will
be provided with travel expenses, shared accommodations, and meals for the
duration of the residency.

WHO SHOULD APPLY: Traditional and contemporary performing artists from
Asia and the United States are invited to apply. Special care will be given in
the selection process to ensure a balance across disciplines. Artists who are
active in the community as educators, artistic directors, and cultural workers
are encouraged to apply.

For Application information: please
Phone: 1-310-206-1335 – Fax: 1-310-825-5152 – E-mail:



Disco d’Afrique

Kaleta - Kaleta Jaa
Kaleta – Kaleta Jaa

Kaleta Jaa (Kaleta Music, 2003)

West African rhythms mixed with thumping disco beats and lots of programming, sadly has become the latest trend. This African pop extracts African dialects and styles then distills these elements in a tepid atmosphere of electronic drums and keyboards. Front man and masked musician Kaleta, born in the Republic of Benin and a veteran of the West African music community, has fallen into the trap of marrying modern technology with the musical heart of West Africa. Kaleta who leads the band with the same name sings in a variety of languages including Yoruba (Nigeria), Fon, Goun (Benin), Eur (Toga) as well as, French and English. He has also mastered various genres of music such as reggae, R & B, high-life, African JuJu and rock, while proving his prowess on guitar, percussion and vocals. And yet, despite all Kaleta’s talent, this CD fails to excite me.Kaleta isn’t the first West African musician to don a mask. Nigerian super star Lagbaja of the group with the same name also wears a mask, but for political reasons. And Lagbaja fronts a high octane group that is heavy on polyphonic rhythms played on African percussion, a hot and heavy horn section as well as, delicious call & response vocals. And this is still considered African pop. Kaleta who has performed with and recorded albums for Nigerian’s King Sunny Ade, and the Afro-Beat Fela Kuti, relies too heavily on American influences and he falls under the weight of an alien culture (he resides in New York). While he can master West African styles of music, his songs on Kaleta Jaa are clogged with electronic drumbeats, cheesy synthesizer and rock guitar solos that feel out of place.

On occasion, a hint of African percussion peaks through along with call & response vocals such as on the ending of the song, Magicien and the vocal tracks on Kaleta-Soukous come across as the most authentic music on this CD. I don’t wish to spoil Kaleta’s celebratory mood with my hunger for more ritualistic African music, but if I wanted to hear disco beats I could just turn on any commercial radio station. I want to hear African percussion in its purist form and maybe I am a lone wolf crying in the wilderness, but I will keep howling until my needs are met.


Kaleta Jaa


Sarod player Arnab Chakrabarty – USA 2003

USA- On the heels of the release of his debut Album Another Blue Moon, Indian classical sarod player Arnab Chakrabarty will be touring in the US in September and October 2003. He will tour with tabla virtuoso Mayookh Bhaumik.

Bookings are still open for six available dates. Please contact concerts@hampshiremedia.com for more information. Twenty-three year old Arnab, who describes himself as an “eclectic mix of the old and the new”, is a disciple of Buddhadev Dasgupta, one of the legends of this fretless instrument that instantly reminds one of the banjo. He also says he is “deeply influenced” by the music of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan.


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