Barahúnda – Al Sol de la Hierba


Al Sol de la Hierba (Nufolk, 2002)

Barahúnda is part of a growing number of Madrid contemporary folk bands. The group draws most of its inspiration from various Spanish folk music traditions and the Sephardic diaspora. Barahúnda was initially led by singer Helena de Alfonso and stringed-instrument specialist Miguel Casado (he left the group after the recording). The all acoustic band features Helena de Alfonso’s outstanding Medieval, Sephardic and Spanish folk vocal stylings combined with various Spanish and Middle Eastern string instruments, along with superb zanfona (Spanish hurdy gurdy) work, all accompanied by Spanish, Middle Eastern and Indian percussion. The pieces included in this recording include original compositions as well as Medieval Galician-Portuguese cantigas, Arab Andalusian music, jotas from Zamora and Burgos, a Breton tune, and Sephardic lullabies and love songs.


XIII World Music Festival in León, Spain

León, Spain – The XIII Muestra de Nuevas Músicas will be held in the city of León. This world music festival, held in April, features concerts and street performances by Celtic, folk and world music artists. The musicians come from Africa, Spain, the Celtic world and some European countries. The concerts take place at Teatro Emperador. Programming: April 22 (Africa Day)


Lokua Danza

Hijas del Sol


Magic Mali

Kora (street performance)

April 30


Zuco 103

Kad Achouri

La Accoustel Gang (street performance)

May 9

The Phamie Gow Band (Scotland)

Juan Mari Beltrán



Ursarii Fanfare (street performance)

3 day ticket: 30 €, day tickets: 15€


The Maytones: Their Greatest Hits

The Maytones

Their Greatest Hits (Heartbeat 11661-7575-2, 2002)

For whatever reason–maybe because they didn’t sport dreadlocks or have a militant name–the Maytones tend to be overlooked when one speaks of the initial surge of Jamaican roots reggae in the 1970s. Also, in a time when the vast majority of reggae groups that emphasized harmony singing were trios, the Maytones were a duo. Leave it to Heartbeat Records, who excel at releasing contemporary reggae as well as crucial reissues, to remind us all of how much more a prominent place in reggae history the Maytones ought to have. Lead voice Vern Buckley and harmony singer Gladstone Grant blend flawlessly over rhythms laid down by an epic cast of Jamaica’s finest players. The songs–“Holy Ground,” “Judgement a Come,” “Money Worries,” “One Way,” etc., are mostly of the roots and culture variety, though the angelic quality of Buckley’s and Grant’s voices wrap superbly around a few love songs as well. The disc features some extended dub mixes with guest toasters including the late great I Roy, and the production work of Alvin Ranglin crisply accentuates both singers and players. Fans of such groups as the Mighty Diamonds, the Heptones and Justin Hinds and the Dominoes will love this, but roots reggae adherents in general won’t want to be without it. (


South African Choral – Songs of the Alexandra Youth Choir

South African Choral – Songs of the Alexandra Youth Choir
South African Choral

Songs of the Alexandra Youth Choir (Naxos World 76025-2, 2002)

Even in the darkest days of apartheid, some of the most defiantly beautiful music came from South Africa. Today, the nation remains troubled and the music remains beautiful. Alexandra Township, just outside Johannesburg, is a place where music has long flourished despite poverty, oppression, limited resources and nothing like the same level of dubious fame affiliated with places like Soweto (though Nelson Mandela once went into hiding there).

Listening to the Alexandra Youth Choir (first established in 1988), the feeling of gospel-fervor faith in the face of adversity is evident, along with the enduring power of traditional Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa songs.

The 20 selections here showcase considerable range, from glorious call-and-response to sweet surrender spirituals and foot-stomping testimonials. There’s some perfectly suited instrumental accompaniment here and there, but the majority is just harmonious voices singing as one mighty force. A perfectly wonderful CD, full of passion and power that gets to the very core of you.

The Naxos World label hasn’t been in existence for very long, but quality releases such as this show that their future is likely to be very bright.


Zouk: Rhythm of the Lesser Antilles

This article first appeared in the Spanish magazine Nueva Música, which was published in Seville. It reappears exclusively on with permission from the editors. The text has been edited to update it. Author: Carlos Galilea. Translated by: Angel Romero.

They are two small islands of that Caribbean sea reminiscent of lost paradises. Dreams of rum, of white sand beaches and transparent waters, of available bodies and sensual dances. There, where music is always presentin the buses, in the stores and, indeed, in the Saturday night dances. In the neighboring islands, Spanish and English are the dominating languages, but in these isles people speak French and Creol, a mix of French with some English words and African syntax that the slaves, arrived from different parts of Africa, invented in order to communicate. The names of these islands: Martinique and Guadalupe. Barely 2,800 square Km and little more than 650 thousand inhabitants between both islands (although there are just as many living in continental France). And, they, however, have been able to generate music whose trail can be followed through most of the planet.Of the natives that populated the islands before Columbus arrived to their coasts, there are hardly any remains. Guadalupe and Martinique are now daughters of Africa and Europe. In 1946 they ceased to be French colonies in order to be converted to a French department. A paradoxical situation, since geographically it belongs to the American continent and, on the other hand, its economy is integrated in the European Union. In spite of a rate of unemployment four times superior to which there is in the French mainland, and aside from problems of political identity, they possess a standard of life superior to that of the immense majority of the Caribbean islands. Nothing to do with the insulting poverty of other places that are supposedly a holiday paradise.

Talking about music in Martinique and Guadalupe means talking about the ‘biguine’
that was born from the promiscuity of European and African forms. It was performed
in its early stages by an orchestra that featured clarinet, trombone, banjo
and a drum, that showed clear similarities with the small jazz bands in New
Orleans. It is the same ‘biguine’ that was danced in the 1930s in Parisian clubs
like the Ba Negre or the Boule Blanche. But at the end of the 1950s, with the
first microgrooves and the first record players, the musical expressions characteristic
of the French Antilles were going to be literally demolished. Just like those
hurricanes that sweep the region with certain frequency, leaving a desolate
panorama in its aftermath. The orchestras from Haiti imposed their cadence and
compás relentlessly. Without forgetting the boleros
and sones arrived from the Spanish-speaking islands. It was that way until 1984.
It was during that period when a group called Kassav (the kassav is a mandioca
cake with coconut and sugar) was going to release a strange manifest in ‘Creol’:
Zouk-lase sel medikaman nou ni (zouk is the only medicine that we have).
The zouk were, at the beginning of the 20th century, some fiestas, popular dances
that were very ‘hot,’ to which, it seems, many gentlemen of the bourgeoisie
were accustomed to go without their wives. That is, a synonym for black music
and licentiousness. The local culture was seen then by the dominant class as
something worthless as long as it was associated with a culture that was supposedly
inferior. On the other hand, there were no aesthetic concerns in the zouk. Its
only purpose: that everybody danced until exhaustion.

What Kassav proposed, in the decade of the 1980s, with the name of zouk is an explosive rhythmic mixture: a magic cocktail with the ideal proportions of Haitian compás, calypso, funk, rock and traditional rhythms of the French West Indies. It is shaken conveniently with the help of technology in any sophisticated recording studio, and it is served in any dance hall. All those whose ears are tuned only to music from the English speaking countries should abstain. Although, as a curiosity, one could mention that Miles Davis admitted the pleasure that kassav gave him, in his autobiography, and that the New York Times has praised the music.

Kassav was the first Antillean group to receive a gold album, in 1986, gathering more than forty thousand people in a concert celebrated in the L’Anse-Bertrand stadium, in Guadalupe. In Paris, on June 21, of that same year, it would be three hundred thousand. The members of Kassav have performed in the main capitals of the globe. And, as penitence for French racists and as form of sarcasm, it is the French group that sells more CDs.

Jacob Desvarieux (1.80 meters tall, weighing 100 kg) says that “when the people went to the disco, they could not listen to Antillean music because the records didn’t sound well.”That, in fact, was one of the tricks of the group created by the siblings Pierre Edouard and George Decimus, and Jacob Desvarieux: achieving that their albums sounded in a way that they could compete in the radio stations and the discos with the most sophisticated products of the international record industry. And, also, as Desvarieux explained during that time, “we were able to find a type of music that has the rhythm of black music and the harmony of white musicthe base of the Antillean culture: the spirit of hybridization.”

After the trail of Kassav there are artists like Ralph Tamar, Tanya Saint-Val, Joelle Ursull, MariJose Alie or the women of Zouk Machine. Zouk seems to have taken over the pop charts in the French Antilles. Even, often, with recordings that repeat the same outlines, without much inspiration. But, surprisingly, its success has allowed the recovery of musical expressions that were considered unacceptable earlier, because of its ties with the times of slavery. So, syncopated rhythms like the chouval bwa, or the bele, and drums like the qwo ka or the ti bwa, are being heard again. One of the artists that has become interested in the music roots is Kali, recovering a tradition with a brilliant band named Malavoi: Creolized European dances (polka, mazurca.) served by sugary voices, charming violins and elegant arrangements.

This record, wrote Jacob Desvarieux and George Decimus on the back cover of Zouk-la-se…, is dedicated those of us that have grown on the other side of the sea, so that they don’t forget their roots. And it is to the merit of Kassav to have returned the pride of being Antillean. For that reason, if you ask a young woman from Pointe-a-Pitre or Fort-de-France which is her favorite group, she will easily respond, without hiding her pride, that it is Kassav. That is, without forgetting to give you with a beautiful smile.



This article appears courtesy of the Fundación Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata. Edited and translated by Angel Romero.

Vallenato is the name of those born in the Valle (Valley) of Valledupar. It is also a music style that is composed of four airs or typical rhythms of the region. The songs talk about the personal experiences of the writers and the feelings of the mestizo (mixed race) culture that represents most Colombians.

The melodies of these vallenato songs were first performed with the carrizo (millo cane flute) to which the caja was added, a small drum hand crafted from the hollow trunk of dry trees, and covered on one head with a piece of temperate leather; and the guacharaca, an indigenous instrument that is manufactured using a cut piece of cane, forming small successive grooves, creating a scraper rubbed with a bone.

The cantos de vaquería (Colombian cowboy songs) that were sung by the ranch hands of the large haciendas during early morning as they picked up and contained the livestock, were the base of what would later become sung histories, or musical narrations, that today are known as vallenatos. At the end of the 19th century, decades after its invention, the accordion arrived to Colombia through the port of Riohacha, in the Peninsula of the Guajira, in the hands of the sailors and European pirates and so it stayed forever, as a companion to those cowboys and peasants that figured out its melodic secrets and added it to their musical expressions. Gradually, it replaced the flute until it became the main instrument in vallenato music.Within the vallenato musical genre, there are four recognized rhythms which are: Merengue, Paseo, Puya and Son.


Unlike all the other airs of this folk style, the paseo (walk or walking dance)
has a beat of 4/4. The rhythm of the first bass is 1/ 3 and, sometimes, according
to the piece, of 2/1. For the performers it is the easiest air to play.
It literally collects, in a spontaneous manner, the histories and tales
of a group of people in a sung form known as paseo.

The historical-cultural
origin of the paseo is exciting and paradoxical, first because as a song genre,
conceived especially to perpetuate the history of a people through song, it
has deep roots in pre-Columbine times, when the Chimilas, as well as the Guajiros,
Tupes and other inhabitants of the Valley of Upar, created this oral form because
they did have a written language, and the second reason is because in spite
of this antiquity, that places this air in a situation of privilege versus the
other styles arisen from hybridization, the word “paseo”(walk) used to designate
this rhythm, within the vallenato context, is the newest of the four, to the
point of not being more than 80 years old in popularity.

Upon the arrival of
the accordion, beats were defined, melodies were perfected, and there was no
choice but to decide that among the three folk music airs that preceded it: Puya, Merengue and Son, there existed another form, a little confused among
them, that, upon its liberation, would turn out to be the spirit of all: the
paseo vallenato.


In Valledupar and its surroundings, the oldest rhythm was called “Puya,”that
was never sung and consisted of an imitation of the songs of the carricero (a
small insectivore bird), with a quick rhythmit was danced in lines, with each
person moving their closed hands chest high, with the fingers aiming forward
and simulating that you poked the person that danced ahead. The name of puya
comes from the verb puyar (to goad).

Through time, various elements of the regional
folk music were fused, so that the black puya which was sung, was added to the
indigenous puya which didn’t have any singing, to generate the “;puya vallenata,”with
a perfect balance between the song, the melody and the rhythm. The puya
has a typical beat of 6/8, with a melody similar to the song of the birds and
with satire.

The puya and the merengue are the same in their rhythmic and harmonic
patterns. The difference is in their melodic conceptionand naturally in the
performance that is made, characteristic of each piece. Thus, the puya has a
bass rhythm of 2/2 and sometimes, of 2/1 in certain passages of the performance,
although not in all the pieces. The speed given to the music does not make any


The word merengue goes back to colonial times and comes from the word muserengue, the name of one of the African cultures that was taken from the coast of Guinea to Colombia’s Atlantic coast. The traditional merengue vallenato, has a beat of 6/8, a derived rhythm, since the original beats were 4/4, 3/3 and 2/2from this point of view the merengue vallenato is the most complex air and at the same time the most original of the four traditions.

The merengue differs from the other airs in the performance and the first bass rhythm, which is usually 3/1 and sometimes of 1/ 3, according to the characteristic structure of the melody, although the performer can play it faster if he pleases. Melodically, it is the richer of the vallenato rhythms and its performance allows the player to show all his abilities and make a true display of cadence and harmony.


The word son comes from the Latin sonus, which means “pleasant sound produced with art.” Because of its own meaning this term has been always bound to music. The son vallenato has a structure with a beat of 2/4it is a form of song with mulatto ancestry, although it is not free of indigenous influence. An essential characteristic in the performance of this air is the prominent use of the bass sounds of the accordion, so much that the bass sounds can be more prominent than the same melody coming from the other keyboards in the accordion. This is very common with new generation players. It is believed that whoever doesn’t master the bass sounds, will never become a good son vallenato player.

The son has a very distinct 1/1 bass rhythm, specially when played by performers from the savannas and those influenced by bass sounds, versus the accordion players from the province (Valledupar, Villanueva, Fonseca, etc.), who play a more fluid, more subtle style, with a bass rhythm of 1/ 2 and sometimes 2/1. Just like the paseo, sones are a kind of chronicles, where the singular narrative of the singer captures the events of their existence. In this genre it is common to have nostalgic dramas that have constituted an important part in the life of the composer.

Vallenato Web sites:



Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Qawwali, an Arabic word eaning “utterance,” is the devotional music of the Islamic mystics, or, as they are known in their regions, Sufis. The term includes both medium and style in its performance, and has been a dominant feature of Islamic culture since the 12th century. The Qawwali form was introduced by Hazrat Amir Khusrou in Delhi. He was a disciple of the Sufi saint, Ali, whose shrine is also in Delhi. Like a Classical Indian Raga, Qawwalis are devotional songs, but like the romantic Ghazals (a slower and more secular Indian song-form also developed by Khusrou), they express their sentiments with poetry set to music, a lyrical and rhythmic form that stirs up the audience to sing and dance. Qawwalis typically have a lead singer or two, a harmonium, a dhol and/or a tabla player and can feature clapping and chorus singing.

It was the energetic recordings and concerts of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997), the late, great Pakistani artist, that first introduced Qawwali music to Western audiences. His singing effortlessly transcended language and cultural barriers, and his spirit reached and moved people all over the world.

Two mainstream artists, Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (deceased August 1997) and the Sabri Brothers, first introduced fusion into Qawwali.

Today, Qawwali is seen as one of the world’s most passionate and vibrant forms of music.



A type of Creole folk music from Surinam, related to winti. Kawina arose at the end of the 19th century after the abolition of slavery in 1863. At the beginning of this century kawina developed into a major form of popular music for people from the city and the coastal areas of Surinam. Its texts are about all sorts of subjects from everyday life, but mainly about the relations between men and women and about public scandals. They are primarily entertaining songs to dance to, with long instrumental interludes of improvisation by the percussion ensemble. Aside from the texts, the main difference to winti music is in the instruments and times used and the greater freedom to improvise which the drummers and lead singer enjoy.

Excerpted from liner notes by Rein Spoorman. Courtesy of World Connection.



While kaseko music often used to be heard on the radio and at parties in the Netherlands, it seems to have been forgotten in recent years. It never really made an international breakthrough, even though all the elements of Caribbean dance music are well represented in it.Strangely enough, relatively little has been written about this unique music from Surinam. Although the US musicologist Herkovits did write on the strong African influences in Surinamese music, so far ‘Surinaamse muziek in Nederland en Suriname’ (Surinamese Music in the Netherlands and Surinam) edited by Marcel Weltak is one of the few books on the history of Surinamese music. The Surinamese-Dutch musicologist Ronald Snijders states in his postgraduate thesis that the word kaseko is probably derived from Surinam’s eastern neighbor French Guyana. It is believed to be a corruption of the expression ‘casser le corps’ (break the body) which was used in the slavery period to denote a fast ‘devil’ dance from rural areas in which dancers shook their bodies.

Kaseko is the dance and entertainment music of the Surinamese Creoles, the descendants of the African slaves. It is created from a fusion of western march music, chorales, jazz, calypso and other popular music from the countries surrounding Surinam with Afro-Surinamese folk traditions.

Interacting rhythmic patterns on the big drum (skratji) and rolls on the separate snare drum, solo and choir singing and riffs from the wind section (consisting of saxophone, trumpet and sometimes trombone) play a central role. The music-making improvises on the basis of an originally African interplay of question and response. This is a musical practice which also characterizes the traditional Creole folk music, the winti and kawina, from which kaseko largely derives its texts, melodies and rhythms.

What winti and kawina have in common is the call of a lead singer, alternating with a chorus which responds with a harmonized refrain, and the interacting rhythmical patterns. These elements also form the building blocks of popular kaseko music.

Kaseko’s immediate forerunner is the music which used to be played at open-air festivities using instruments from the military and police bands and the brass bands. An individual Surinamese playing style developed during the 1930s, based on the African winti and kawina rhythms. This street music was known as Bigi Pokoe, big drum music. It was a sort of Dixieland in which part of the band of five to ten players laid down the beat while the other part supplied playful improvisation. The rhythms of the skratji, a big drum with a cymbal on top, and the low tones of the bastuba provided the power behind the dance. The main genres of the undiluted instrumental kaseko in its old-fashioned acoustic instrumentation (of trombone, trumpet, saxophone, bastuba, banjo, big drum and separate snare drum) are devotional basso profondo chorales, bigi-pokoe and winti-pokoe.

After the Second World War the original sound of kaseko music was strongly influenced by jazz, calypso and popular music styles from Brazil, Venezuela and the Caribbean. However its Surinamese character remained fundamental. In the course of time, the influence of rock music resulted in amplified instruments replacing the acoustic originalsthe banjo was replaced by the electric guitar and the tuba or double bass by the bass guitar, and a drum set was also added. The music was further developed by urban Creoles and became a typically Afro-Surinamese form of rock music under the name of kaseko.

Various stylistic directions have arisen within kaseko over the years. The music is performed in quite different ways by Javanese, Hindustanis and Maroons from the interior of Surinam. With the growth of emigration from Surinam to the Netherlands in the sixties, there has also been a great increase in the influence of the huge range of western music forms.

Excerpted from liner notes by Rein Spoorman. Courtesy of World Connection.


Gnawa Music

Gnawa Sidi Mimoun
Gnawa Sidi Mimoun
Gnawa is a term used to define both a Moroccan music style and a Muslim religious brotherhood that invokes God and many prophets. The patron saint of the Gnawa is Bilal al Habashi, an Ethiopian who was the first African to convert to Islam and Prophet Mohammed’s first muezzin (caller to prayer). The Gnawa also recognize and respect all Muslim saints.

The origin of Gnawa music originally comes from West Africa, south of the Sahara. Over 500 years ago, slavery, conscription and trade brought people from West Africa to North Africa, which was then Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Mauritania. When they got to the north, they brought their music with them which was called Gnawa. Since these different groups all played the same type of music, they call themselves the Gnawa people. Gnawa song texts contain many references to the privations of exile and slavery.Gnawa music is based on pentatonic melodies and the syncopated rhythms led by the propulsive drive of a bass lute called sintir, metal castanets known as karkabas (also known as k’rkbs and qaraqeb) and chanting.

The Gnawa are most visible as entertainers. Each afternoon on Jamaa el-Fna, the large entertainment town square in Marrakech, groups of Gnawa perform acrobatic dances to the accompaniment of large side drums (tbel or ganga) and the karkabas. The sound of the drums also rousts any spirits (jnun) that may have settled in the neighborhood.

p>Gnawa music is very powerful spiritual music and it is primarily used for healing. The Gnawa carry out trance ceremonies (derdeba) in order to heal people who are very sick. The goal may be to purge an evil spirit that has brought the illness, infertility, stress or some other affliction or the purpose may be to prolong a positive relationship with a spirit that has brought prosperity, good fortune, or some other baraka (blessing).

The derdeba is performed all night long in order to carry out the healing and purification. The musicians and devotees warm up for the derdeba with entertainment music played on the sintir. When they are ready to begin the ceremony, all the participants gather outside, in front of the house where the derdeba is to take place. The drums and karkabas announce to neighbors and spirits alike that the derdeba is about to begin. The crowd then walks back inside the house in a candlelight procession. The m’allem (lead musician or maestro) again plays the sintir, and the group sings and plays a series of songs to dedicate the robes to be worn during the ceremony, while the other participants share dates and milk.

The complete ceremony includes seven sections, each controlled by a different saint or family of spirits. Each section is associated with clothing of a particular color. The ritual sends some of the participants into a trance or a spirit may first possess a devotee, and then express through the dancer’s mouth its desire for the appropriate tune. The trance state is accelerated by the proper combination of spices and incense that must be burned, and the dancer must be dressed in the spirit’s preferred color.

A complete derdeba may last all night, well past dawn on the following day. As the trance ceremony ends, the musicians return to lighter music to relax the spectators.

Gnawa Artists

Click here to find out about Gnawa artists that you can find on our Web site. For Moroccan artists in general, click on Morocco.

Gnawa Web sites


Essaouira, festival gnaoua (Créon Music, 2003)

Héritage musical des gnaoua d’Essaouira (Sono Disc, 2002)

Hadra des gnaoua d’Essaouira (Ocora, 2003)

Trance: Balinese Barong, Gnawa Music of Morocco, Zkir from Chinese Turkestan – The Musical Expeditions Series/Audio CD and Book (Ellipsis Arts). Compiled by David Lewiston.


Hell, Bertrand. Le tourbillon des génies, au Maroc avec les gnaoua. Published by Flammarion, France, 2002. Pages : 371.
ISBN : 208211581X.

Chlyeh, Abdelhafid. Les gnaouas au Maroc. Published by le Fennec- la Pensée Sauvage, 1998. ISBN : 9981-838-85-3.


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