By the time her first album came out in 1984, Carmen González Kelz was busy touring throughout South America with extended stays in France. In 1989, she returned to Ecuador and began her study of the Afro-Ecuadorian traditions of Esmeraldas.
In 1992, her group Koral y Esmeralda had its first performance. She formed the group to promote these African rooted traditions from Ecuador’s Pacific coast. The group recorded Andarele in 1994 with the help of Cuban pianist and producer, Omar Sosa and recording engineer, Alcino ‘Kiko’ Donadel.
Rather than using an anonymous air-conditioned studio, Carmen and her colleagues decided to go to the source of the music which inspired them.
The idea behind Andarele was to integrate the traditions, the sound, the feel and the spirit of Esmeraldas with that of contemporary Afro-Latin music. And in so doing, to expose Esmeraldas to the world. Local musicians, local singers, local dancers, worked alongside top professionals specially brought to the “storehouse by the sea.” All were wined, dined and generally inspired to lay down some of the best tracks of their lives.
By 1995, Carmen González was back in France, working, singing, researching, followed by trips to Cuba and Quito, Ecuador.
American composer and multi-instrumentalist Dawn Drake and her band ZapOte have a new album titled Nightshade. She discusses her background and the new recording with World Music Central.
What are your fondest musical memories?
My fondest musical memories are of playing for crowds of dancers whether they are school children, sambistas, late night dance party-goers at Bembe in Brooklyn, for salsa dancers at Brooklyn Academy of Music Cafe or the Kimmel Center’s “La Noche” Latin Music Series.
What was the first tune you learned?
I learned the “Boogie Woogie” also known as “In the Mood” by Glen Miller on piano when I was five.
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
Essential elements are polyrhythmic percussion and heavy bass.
How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years from your debut album to your latest recordings?
My musical ideas have become more composition and arrangement-oriented and less “singer-songwriter” based, though I still intend to put out more music with electronic production that may return to even simpler formats.
Your band ZapOte is named after a fruit found in Mexico and the Caribbean. I know this fruit as mamey. What led you to name your band ZapOte?
I see ZapOte as a very feminine fruit. It’s also delicious. The first song I ever wrote as an adult is the chorus of my song “Zapote” which was recorded on my previous album “Everythinglessness”. The song came to me after my first or second visit to Santiago de Cuba, a place that has inspired me greatly with its music, dance and culture over the years. Santiago de Cuba is the first place that I encountered the zapote fruit and I liked it instantly as well as the word itself.
Tell us about your new album, Nightshade.
The album is a culmination of various sessions played by a lot of New York’s finest musicians and audio wizards. Please refer to this description for more… It goes into detail about the overall darker mood of the album, the use of the iconography of the Yoruba orisha Oya as it coincides with the seasons and this particular season of darkness and the Day of the Dead, the homage to the ancestors who came before us and the hardships they went through, and how through making art and music come alive; when we make something out of nothing, we can heal the pains of the past and in the process bring people together and create community that may not have existed otherwise.
Who plays on Nightshade? Who are the musicians you are currently working with?
I am currently working with Mara Rosenbloom on keys, Eliane Amherd on guitar and vocals, Alicyn Yaffee on guitar, Jackie Coleman on trumpet (for over a decade now), Paula Winter (also for a decade!), Lynn Ligammari on tenor sax, and Beza Gebre on drums. For the album release, Patrick Hall has joined us on trombone and Karen Joseph on flute as well as my long time colleagues Buffy Drysdale and Elizabeth Sayre on batá drums.
Although I liked Nightshade overall, the electronics on the futuristic “Oya de Zarija” track really caught my attention. Will you be making more music in this direction?
Yes, that is my intention, to produce more tracks in that style in the future. Glad you like it!
In the press release you mentioned the bass chose you. What do you mean by that?
I meant that one day I went to a guitar store intending to buy a guitar and impulsively bought a bass instead which the store owner kindly told me came with a “gig bag”. I had never played the bass before and I certainly didn’t intend to get any “gigs” with it but after playing in my living room for a year, I ended up in the bass chair with Geoff Mann (Herbie Mann’s son) on drums, Viva Deconcini and Matt Moon (all from the New School of Jazz) in a band called Buttershack. From there, I have played hundreds of gigs on the bass.
Mainstream media does not provide an outlet for world music. In what ways are you promoting your music?
I promote through Youtube, Spotify, Apple, my email list and my live shows. It is not easy and I am looking for new avenues to promote my music. I would love to land a licensing deal and/or find other ways to get more listenership.
What advice would you give to beginners, especially young women, who want to make music out of the pop and hip hop mainstream?
I would say, study and practice very hard to be the best you can be at your craft whether that is playing your instrument, singing and/or writing. It seems also that it pays off to get very good at learning how to promote yourself on Instagram. This is something I am really trying to improve at. I would also say that tenacity and risk taking are key. I personally have gained a lot from reading and doing the exercises in The Artist Way by Julia Cameron.
If you could gather any additional musicians, or bands, to collaborate with, whom would that be?
I would love to collaborate with Captain Planet, Antibalas and/or perhaps a producer who I don’t know yet who is interested in my work! One of my dream is to record a tune with musicians from Alexander Abreu and Havana d’ Primera in Cuba and possibly another upcoming artist in Cuba “Cimafunk”.
I recently went to Senegal this year to further my understanding of sabar drumming and mbalax music and I would love to collaborate with Thiat Seck and other Senegalese mbalax singers and musicians. I want to continue collaborating with international artists and it remains one of my main goals to continue to expand outward and do more projects with musicians abroad.
Aside from the release of Nightshade, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?
We have several shows coming up in New York City, namely Bembe in Brooklyn (81 South 6th st.) November 17th at 11 pm and Shrine World Music (Adam Clayton Powell jr. Blvd between 133rd and 134th streets) in Harlem on December 21st at 10 pm.
I have also been selected to participate and present my music in a seminar sponsored by the US State Department called “Art, Culture and Transforming Conflict” in Santa Fe, New Mexico December 10-14. We hope to do more State Department sponsored tours abroad in the coming years.
In the meantime we also have a regular Tuesday night show called “Mardi Gras Fat Tuesdays” at Club 33 Lafayette in Brooklyn on 33 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217, every Tuesday 8-11 pm starting November 12.
Alexander Abreu Manresa was born September 6, 1976 in Cienfuegos, Cuba. He comes from a family of nonprofessional musicians, including his grandfather who taught him to play the tres guitar.
As a boy, he
wanted to be an athlete, but his mother took him to a school that tested abilities
and he got the highest scores in music. Alexander started studying trumpet at
age 11 and credits his mother for inspiring him to practice and pursue his
Abreu wanted to give up the trumpet and take up the flute, but his teachers
understood his talent and insisted, predictively, that he stick to the brass
instrument. At 18, the young musician moved to Havana to continue his studies
at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA), a breeding ground for Cuba’s
best musicians. He graduated in 1994 and later would return as a professor,
Abreu found himself at the focal point of the timba music upsurge that rocked
Cuba in the early 1990s, marking an exciting evolution in the way Afro-Cuban
dance music, or salsa, was performed. He played for six years with the innovative
band of singer Paulito FG, one of the leading stars of the timba wave. Abreu’s skills
were forged in this powerful ensemble, working together with two musicians he
considers his greatest influences – Carmelo Andrés, his trumpet teacher; and
producer/arranger Juan Manuel Ceruto. Several band-mates from this influential ensemble
would go on to form part of Havana D’Primera, including Ceruto.
Abreu has also played and/or recorded with virtually every major act during one of the most exciting and creative eras in Cuban music. He was a member of the popular and esteemed band led by singer Isaac Delgado, who now lives in Miami.
As a highly
sought-after studio musician, Abreu has recorded with top acts in different styles,
including famed dance band Los Van Van and powerful fusion group Irakere. He
has also worked with poetic singer-songwriters such as Pablo Milanés and Amaury
Pérez, who played trombone in Havana D’Primera. In addition, Abreu was
recruited for previous all-star projects, such as the touring timba band named Team
Cuba and the Grammy-winning Cuban roots recording “La Rumba Soy Yo.”
After the Cuban dance music scene started declining in 2000, Abreu traveled to Europe and spent time in Denmark, where he was invited to give master classes in trumpet and Cuban music at the jazz conservatory of Copenhagen. During an extended stay there, he joined Grupo Dansón, a band composed of Cuban and Danish musicians, serving as arranger and composer. Abreu appeared in Europe’s top music festivals and in 2002 he performed on the same stage with Sting, Lou Reed and James Brown as part of the benefit concert “Pavarotti & Friends.”
The time he
spent performing abroad helped Abreu avoid the consequences of other Cuban
timba bands, often considered too tailored to a home crowd and too hard for
outsiders to dance to.
“I believe that to live outside of Cuba for a time has been one of the keys to the hallmark of this group,” said Abreu of his band. “Because I learned how to interact with people that don’t speak the language. I learned how to spread that same happiness and energy….You have to be precise with the rhythms and arrangements. You have to make sure that they are understandable, that they are solid, that they are clear, so that people understand.”
By 2007, Abreu
was back in Havana putting together his own band. The aspiring bandleader returned
home with only an developing concept, inspired by a New York salsa band he had seen
in Copenhagen. There, he had watched the Grammy-winning Spanish Harlem
Orchestra, a group of veteran salsa musicians who came together with a common determination
– to recapture some of the original sound and excitement of the great salsa
bands of the 1970s. The group, led by pianist Oscar Hernandez who had played
with salsa greats such as Ray Barretto and Ruben Blades, managed to generate
enough nostalgia to initiate a one-band salsa revival, touring the world and
recording various popular albums featuring star vocalists such as Blades.
“That served as an inspiration to do something similar with session musicians in Havana,” said Abreu. “It gave me the strength to come to Cuba and say, ‘I can do it here.’ From that idea, basically, Habana D’Primera is born.”
together an ensemble of experienced musicians who had played with some of the
best bands of that exhilarating era, a golden age of contemporary Cuban salsa
and timba. Concerned about the decline of Afro-Cuban dance music, Abreu decided
to continue the great tradition started by the very bands he had played with,
such as Paulito FG y Su Elite and Isaac Delgado.
Since 2000, many of the leading timba stars had left Cuba, including Manolin, Isaac Delgado and Carlos Manuel, all of whom were Abreu’s colleagues and collaborators. In the meantime, young fans in Cuba flocked to foreign pop music styles such as rock, rap and reggaeton, leaving the legacy of Cuba’s rich native dance music to decay.
and his new band, the challenge of generating a revival was overwhelming. No
new Cuban dance band had managed to break into the top tiers of popular music
acts since the turn of the century, when Cesar Pedroso broke away from Los Van
Van and formed his own band, Pupy y Los Que Son, Son. Record companies, radio
stations and nightclubs all focused on the latest fads, especially reggaeton
which had removed salsa off the music charts. Amazingly, so many deejays had
turned to reggaeton that there was no place to dance salsa in the capital of
the country where the music was invented.
gave Abreu the opportunity to build a grass-roots fan base just like the timba
pioneers had done at the start of the dance music movement in the late 1980s
and early 1990s. That was known as “the special period” in Cuban history, a
time of extreme economic difficulty when bands were forced to practice in the
dark due to frequent blackouts and try out their material on stage due to a
lapse in record production. For a while, Cuban dance music was all about the
live performance, a need that helped stimulate creativity. Following his predecessors,
Havana D’Primera began working live shows, building a following the
old-fashioned way, one fan at a time.
fans were packing Havana d’Primera’s regular Tuesday shows at Casa de la
Musica, a club and cultural center in the residential Miramar section of Havana.
Even though they had not yet released a record, loyal fans memorized song
lyrics from the live shows.
The weekly concerts
were essential to the band’s development. Soon, the unknown band started to
develop an underground buzz.
Robert Zollitsch is a noted composer, producer, director, ethnomusicologist, and musical painter. His compositions weave a delicate balance of his influences, fusing together elements of dramatically different cultures into a style that is uniquely Robert Zollitsch.
Zollitsch was born in Munich in 1966. He chose the Bavarian zither (a 42 string instrument with a five octave range) as his instrument early in his childhood. His studies in music theory, both in Munich and Berlin, strengthened his abilities to create. He made a quick decision to abandon the traditional ways of playing his zither, deciding instead to develop a new style of performance on an instrument steeped in the tradition of his cultural heritage. Zollitsch has adapted this new style to a wide variety of music.
His compositions and improvisations have been performed on classical stages, as well as folk and world music festivals and jazz clubs. In 1993, after receiving a German Academic Exchange scholarship, Zollitsch began to focus on Asian music. He studied Guqin (Chinese zither) at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. From that time forth, he has continued to work on numerous projects with Asian artists. For example, in 1997, Zollitsch received a grant from the Berlin Senate to lay the foundation for the Eurasian Art Ensemble. He was bandleader for Mongolian songstress, Uma Chahar-Tugchi. His sophisticated compositions and arrangements for Uma’s charismatic voice are well known to international audiences.
Zollitsch’s experiments with vocals range from the Bavarian yodeling of his cultural heritage to the throat singing he has mastered following many trips through Mongolia and Tibet. In the summer of 1999, Robert was the recipient of the German Folk Forderpreis award for the best new Folk artist. The three pieces he contributed to the 1999 German ProFolk Forderpreis sampler CD showcase the diversity of influences that Robert infuses into his compositions.
Ever the ethnomusicologist, Zollitsch produced a landmark CD of Tibetan folk music field recordings in 1999. He continues to seek out new and innovative projects, and looks at each as an opportunity to expand on his own musical creativity as well.
Zollitsch’s first solo CD, Zwiefach (Oriente RIEN CD 31), is a musical tour of his influences and travels. The compositions paint a variety of moods, ranging from the melancholic instrumental works of Traurige Gschicht (Sad Story) to the wild, Jodler Nr. 7 (a musical collage of Bavarian yodeling, and Asian throat singing). Zollitsch has used his worldly experiences as paint, the zither and his voice as a palette, and each composition as a canvas, making Zwiefach a musical museum of his creativity.
Since 2003 Robert Zollitsch has lived in Beijing, China.
Zwiefach (Oriente Musik, 2000) Zanskar (Klangräume, 2002) Jing Ye Si (2006) Ye Xue (a.k.a. Night Snows, 2010)
The three principle members of Gotan Project – Parisian Philippe Cohen Solal, Swiss-born Christophe Mueller and Argentine musician Eduardo Makaroff – came together in the late 1990s through a mutual passion for the combination of sound with image, but were equally driven by the desire to successfully mix electronic and acoustic music.
They then built on a foundation of house and dub production by adding some of the finest Argentine tango musicians. The result was a blend of Parisian production with Buenos Aires tradition.
Their debut album was La Revancha Del Tango. In early 2004, Philippe Cohen Solal compiled a mix album of new tracks and remixes on behalf of the band, Inspiracion Espiracion (XL Recordings). Philippe Cohen Solal explained some of the factors that led them to make this album, which was not exactly a new GoTan Project record, but a collection of new tracks, plus GoTan Project remixing tracks and people mixing GoTan Project tracks:
“We set ourselves the challenge of bringing together past influences and present aspirations for just one hour – the Ancients and the Moderns. Indeed, what difference is there between a 40s groove, a 70s groove, and a groove for tomorrow? There is a difference in the sound quality of the recordings, naturally, but that aside, Anibal Troilo grooves, Astor Piazzolla grooves, and Pepe Bradock grooves. One is an amazing arranger, one a songwriting genius, and the other an inspired producer. Calexico, Domingo Cura, Peter Kruder, Anibal Troilo, Anti Pop Consortium, GoTan Project, Pepe Bradock, Al Shid and the voices of those Argentinean women, legendary figures, stars or unknowns, with names like Evita, Cecilia and Rita.”
GoTan Project also had a visual component. The second disc that accompanied the album included a video by their longtime visual collaborator, Prisca Lobjoy. She is a video artist and was part of the GoTan Project world since the very beginning, from the design of their first single sleeves, to the album cover and, above all, the creation of the videos, which were projected during the live shows.
The group’s third recording, Lunatico, had a decidedly stronger emphasis on the more organic roots of tango. “We really wanted to explore both tango and folkloric music from Argentina a lot further than we had before,” said Philippe. “That’s why many of the tracks are classically tango-oriented, very traditional patterns that people like (Anibal) Troilo would use.”
Gao Hong was born in 1964 in Luoyang, Henan province, China. She is a renowned composer and Chinese pipa (lute) player. Gao Hong has resided in the United States since 1994.
In 2005 Gao Hong became the first traditional musician to be awarded the prestigious Bush Artist Fellowship, and in 2012 she became the only musician in any genre to win four McKnight Artist Fellowships for Performing Musicians.
Gao’s composition for solo pipa, ‘Flying Dragon’ won the 2012 Global Music Award – Award of Excellence Solo Instrumental (Gold Medal).
Her 2015 album Pipa Potluck includes collaborations with musicians from
various parts ofthe world, including banjo player Alison Brown, fiddler
Matt Combs, bassist Garry West, slack key guitar viertuoso George
Kahumoku, Jr., ud player Yair Dalal, and Bassam Saba.
In 2016, Gao Hong completed the first ever pipa method book written in English published by Hal Leonard, the world’s largest sheet music publisher.
Bao Jian is a master of the guanzi (a double-reed folk wind instrument of ancient Chinese origin) and has performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician worldwide. Praised by The Berlin Daily Post for his “pure hallowed music from the East,” Mr. Bao has captivated audiences with his virtuosity.
Bao has received an impressive list of awards including the 1998 Pro Musicis International Award in New York and the First Prize in the 1995 International Chinese Ethnic Instrumental Competition in Beijing.
Portuguese singer Misia is known for her superb vocals and unconventional approach to fado, exerting artistic freedom. This is evident as soon as she listen to the first track, “Rosa Negra no Meu Peito II” on her new album Pura Vida (Banda Sonora). Misia delivers a fado exclusively with voice and bass clarinet, a rare combination in the genre.
Throughout the album, the focus is on the vocals intertwined
with virtuosic instrumental performances. On track 2, “Ouso Dizer,” Misia continues
with her rebel approach by using Portuguese guitar and an electric guitar solo.
Although the first two songs are in Portuguese, she switches over to Spanish on track 3, “Corazón y Hueso.” This is a deeply passionate tango piece, with a mix of vocals, bandoneon, piano and guitar. She is joined by famed Argentine singer Melingo, a former rocker turned tango singer.
Misia returns to Portuguese language and exquisite fado on track
4, “Os Homens Que Eu Amei,” utilizing piano, guitar and violin.
Track 5, “Lágrima” includes reverberating ambient electric guitar
On “Ausência” she combines fado vocals with soaring electric guitar, clarinet and violin.
Track 7, “Fado dos 2 Pardais,” is a lovely classic fado with
voice, Portuguese guitar and piano.
On “Escrevo na Pele,” Misia’s ensemble includes impassioned violin,
piano and guitar.
Ghostly drone-like electric guitar, piano and bassoon give
way to Misia’s vocals on track 9,” Destino.”
On “Pasión”, Misia returns to Spanish language with another tango,
although this time she adds electric guitar to the familiar tango sounds. Portuguese
fado singer Ricardo Ribeiro joins Misia, singing in Spanish as well.
Track 11, “Fadinho do Anúncio,” mixes fado with a Gypsy Jazz
Back to fado on Track 12, “Santo e Senha” featuring piano,
violin and Portuguese guitar with dreamlike sounds underneath it all.
A third tango song in Spanish is included in Pura Vida. “Prelúdio
para el Año 3001” is a recreation of a song by Astor Piazzolla, a contemporary tango
with piano, bandoneon and clarinet.
The album ends with an outstanding classic fado titled that winds up with a final drone.
The year 2020 will mark 100 years since the birth of groundbreaking Indian musician, composer, educator and sitar master Ravi Shankar. Shankar’s association with Southbank Centre in London (UK) started with his first performance in Royal Festival Hall in 1958. Shankar formed a lifelong relationship with the venue, including a number of performances and important premieres over the years. To celebrate his remarkable life and legacy, Southbank Centre will present Shankar 100, a special program of concerts and projects throughout his centenary year, developed in consultation with his wife Sukanya and daughter Anoushka Shankar.
Gala concert on April 7, 2020, the actual centenary of Ravi Shankar’s birth, with a star-studded line-up of family and friends including his daughters Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones, Nitin Sawhney and Olivia Harrison;
Akram Khan Company presents Kaash, originally premiered at
Southbank Centre in 2002 and revived in tribute to Ravi Shankar;
London Philharmonic Orchestra performs Ravi Shankar’s final
work, the opera Sukanya in January 2020, and his only Symphony in April 2020;
Sitarist and composer Anoushka Shankar features as a Southbank Centre Associate Artist throughout the 2019/20 season;
BFI Southbank screens a selection of films scored by Ravi
Shankar, curated by Anoushka Shankar;
An exhibition featuring significant archive objects
belonging to Ravi Shankar on display from April 2020 in the Royal Festival Hall
A specially-commissioned film to be displayed in Royal
Festival Hall’s public spaces and online, featuring archive footage and
interviews with contemporary artists who have been influenced by Ravi Shankar’s
Interactive music workshops and performances for primary
Plus more programming to be announced.
Sukanya Shankar commented: “The centenary celebrations for my husband by the Southbank Centre will bring back some of the magic I have experienced at all the concerts of this amazing musician!”
Anoushka Shankar stated: “I feel deeply grateful to be able to begin celebrations of my late father’s centenary year with a series of special events at London’s Southbank Centre, before we continue the celebrations in various cities worldwide. It feels ambitious to the point of being unrealistic, to somehow put together anything that can fully showcase all the varied aspects of his incredible career, creativity, musicianship and humanity. However with the multiplicity of events that Southbank Centre is putting on, we may stand a chance!”
Akram Khan noted: “Pandit-Ji is one of the most iconic artists to have come out of India, and one that has truly inspired many generations of music and dance lovers all around the world.”
Kristin Scott Benson grew up in South Carolina, surrounded by a musical family. After receiving a much-anticipated banjo for Christmas when she was thirteen, Kristin became enthralled with the instrument and spent her teen years studying the playing of all the banjo greats from Earl Scruggs to Bela Fleck.
After high school, she attended Nashville’s esteemed Belmont University, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BBA in Marketing and a minor in Music Business.
She was a member of the Larry Stephenson Band for seven years. In 2008 she joined Nashville bluegrass band the Grascals, replacing Aaron McDaris.
After 13 years in Nashville, she relocated back to the Carolinas with her husband and young son. Her solo release, Second Season, features eight instrumentals (half of them originals) and four vocal performances. The album showcases her powerful banjo playing, while still appealing to fans that aren’t motivated solely by instrumental prowess.
is the four-time International Bluegrass Music Association’s Banjo Player of the Year (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).
Kristin Scott Benson is the 2018 winner of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. “My family and I are overwhelmed with gratefulness!” said Benson. “Getting to know my banjo heroes, many of whom are on the board, is prize enough, but Steve Martin’s graciousness is a huge blessing. We don’t know how to adequately say thank you for something like this!”