Monoswezi – A Je (Riverboat Records TUG1103, 2017)
Transnational band Monoswezi, led by Hallvard Godal has released another fine example of African and world fusion. A Je showcases Pan-African influences that include West African ngoni, Zimbabwean mbira, trans-African percussion; African American banjo; along with Indian harmonium.
Monoswezi is at its best when the explosive mix of global percussion, traditional strings and western musical instruments interact with each other.
Personnel: Hallvard Godal (Norway) on vocals, harmonium and clarinet; Sidiki Camara (Mali) on ngoni; Kim Johannesen (Norway) on banjo; Hope Masike (Zimbabwe) on mbira, percussion and vocals; Calu Tsemane (Mozambique) on vocals and percussion; Putte Johander (Norway) on vocals and bass; and Erik Nylander (Sweden) on drums and percussion.
101 Brass Band is set to perform Friday, November 10, 2017 at WOMAD Gran Canaria. The concert will take place at 7:00 pm on stage 2 at Parque de Santa Catalina in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
101 Brass Band was formed in La Orotava in northern Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain) in early 2014. The musicians were inspired by Balkan, South American and U.S. brass bands.
The band, known among its numerous followers as “La 101”, owes its name to a well-known and busy bus line in northern Tenerife that connects the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife with Puerto de la Cruz, stopping in all towns.
Acclaimed world music festival WOMAD Gran Canaria has announced its 2017 programming. WOMAD Gran Canaria will take place November 10-12 at Parque de Santa Catalina in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain).
The lineup this year includes:
101 Brass Band (Canary Islands, Spain), Beating Heart (UK), Bombino (Niger), Hindi Zahra (Morocco), Horace Andy (Jamaica), Kuarembó (Canary Islands, Spain), La Dame Blanche (Cuba), Miroca Paris (Cape Verde), Niño de Elche (mainland Spain), Orkesta Mendoza (USA), Papaya (Canary Islands, Spain), Profecía Crew (Canary Islands, Spain), Tu Otra Bonita (Spain), and The Brand New Heavies (UK).
WOMAD Gran Canaria also includes adult workshops led by Ripton Lindsay (Jamaica) and Ras Happa (Jamaica) as well as children’s workshops by Purple Moon (Canary Islands, Spain) and Urban Outdoors (UK).
The WOMAD Gran Canaria is supported by the City of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the Gran Canaria island government (Cabildo).
Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival Presentation
Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival treated New York to a spectacular performance of the 7th century classic Arabic Bedouin tale of impossible love, “Layla and Majnun,” October 26-28. There are numerous secular and mystical versions of the legend all over the world, once described by Lord Byron as “the Romeo and Juliet of the East.” Over centuries, two key poets in world literature popularized the story throughout Central Asia, the Middle East, and beyond. The story has become renowned and celebrated in the history of literature, visual arts, cinema, and music in many diverse cultures.
The 12th century Persian poet, Nizami Ganjavi, whose epic poem of close to 5000 distichs rends the heart with the immense agony and longing suffered by Layla and Majnun, the two hapless protagonist lovers in the story 1. Their union is forbidden by their parents due to the all-consuming love madness of Majnun (meaning “possessed”). Nizami’s version eventually influenced the 16th century Azerbaijani poet Muhammad Fuzuli’s version. In turn, the Azerbaijani composer, Uzeyir Hajibeyov, borrowed Fuzuli’s work to create the Middle East’s first opera that premiered in Baku in 1908. Considered a national treasure in Azerbaijan, the 3½ hour long opera is still performed at the Azerbaijan State Opera and Ballet Theater every year as the season-opener.
Through collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group, the Silk Road Ensemble, the late British artist, Howard Hodgkin, and Azerbaijan’s famed singers Alim Qasimov in the role of Majnun, and his protege daughter, Fargana Qasimova as Layla, Lincoln Center’s presentation was a finely wrought synthesis of the theme story in music, dance, and visual art.
Intense and fast-paced, the performance is based on Hajibeyli’s opera score and the libretto on Fuzuli’s poem, Leyli and Majnun. Lasting just over 65 minutes, the original opera has been transformed into a chamber piece as a suite arrangement in 6 parts. It opens with a prelude medley of traditional Azerbaijani love songs, sung by Kamila Nabiyeva and Miralam Miralamov who play frame drums, while accompanied by players of kamancheh spike fiddle and tar lute. As an overture, the introduction foretells the passion, despair, and unbearable pain to come. They set the tone for the complexity of the drama to unfold, the desperate yearning by two separated souls in quest of love and union with each other.
The actual performance condenses the story’s many episodes into 5 acts: Love and Separation, The Parents’ Disapproval, Sorrow and Despair, Layla’s Unwanted Wedding, and The Lovers’ Demise. 16 dancers stylistically fuse ballet, Azerbaijani folk dance, and Sufi dervish whirling over tiered stage levels. They enact the sequence of dramatic episodes against a screened abstract painting of vibrant green and red giant expressionist brush strokes created by the artist Howard Hodgkin.
The music is glorious and the dramatic binding force. Flashes and passages of western classical modalities enhance the foundation of Azerbaijani classical music, the mugham genre. In Lincoln Center’s program notes, Azerbaijani ethnomusicologist Aida Huseynova, notes,
Mugham is a branch of the large maqam tradition cultivated in the Middle East and Central Asia. An improvised modal music, mugham historically has been performed by a mugham trio that consists of a singer playing gaval (frame drum) and two instrumentalists playing tar (lute) and kamancheh (spike fiddle). Mugham remains a precious part of the traditional music heritage of Azerbaijan. Since the early 20th century, mugham also has become the main source of creative inspiration and experimentation for Azerbaijani composers…. In 2003, UNESCO recognized Azerbaijani mugham as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity 2.
In concert with the featured star vocalists, Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, seated on a low dais center stage,10 musicians expand the traditional mugham trio formation. On a diverse instrumental mix of kamancheh, tar, shakuhachi, pipa, hand percussion, two violins, viola, cello, and bass – they are true to the Silk Road Ensemble vision of global cultural cross-pollination and musical dialogue. Theirs is a grand symphonic expression of the story, illuminated by rapidly changing passages of pathos, glints of joy in hope, sorrow. Theirs too is delicacy and elegant refinement.
To hear the opening strains by the string musicians is to be transported to a realm of contemplation of the soul. They tug at your heart, gently. With a shift in tempo, all musicians join in, allegretto, and with urgency. The symphony swells, bearing the powerful melismatic wails of Majnun. Layla begins to lament, sob, and weep. The dancers whirl, swoop, and leap in rhythmic counterpoint movement with the orchestration. So begins the impassioned, doomed dialogue between Majnun and Layla, musically alternating with instrumental passages.
Although on one level this is a tragic secular story of unrequited love, the entire performance narrative carries mystical overtones of Sufism. Sufis have long interpreted the love story as a reflection of love for God. In allegory, Majnun symbolizes the Human Spirit longing for the Beloved or Layla as Divine Beauty.
Majnun strives to realize “perfect love” in Layla, a love that transcends sensual contact with the beloved, a love that is free from selfish intentions, lust, and earthly desires. Precisely for this reason, many commentators have interpreted Nezami’s Laili and Majnun as a Sufi (Islamic mystical) allegorical narrative, where the lover seeks ultimate union with, as well as annihilation in, the Beloved (i.e. the Divine or the Truth). Majnun’s harsh life in the desert, then, has been compared to the ascetic life of Muslim mystics who rejected earthly pleasures and renounced worldly affinities 3.
There is also deeper meaning in the Azerbaijani mugham itself. The musical experience is meant to bring about a transformation of consciousness. Aida Huseynova has commented: “Mugham is about a catharsis. You go through suffering and you purify your soul. You come to some new phase of your development as a human being. And this is the main meaning, spiritual and philosophical, of mugham. Mugham is just not music, it’s a philosophy 4.”
A universal epiphany occurs in the ending death of Layla and Majnun – their ultimate union with the Beloved Divine. Like a jewel, the facets of the performance still shine bright in memory. I still haven’t decided if I felt that the performance as a suite composition could have been longer or whether I wished to be caught in its spell for just a few more minutes.
Steven Chesne – Sapient: A Cantata of Peace (Brahmasong Records, 2017)
American musician and composer presents a beautiful and masterfully-crafted project titled Sapient. He spent a year researching peace chants and prayers from various parts of the globe and brought them together here in this remarkable album.
Sapient includes performances representing the major religions of the world as well as lesser known ethnic groups: the words of Buddha, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Mohammed, the Sikhs, the Hindu, the Jews, the Cheyenne, the Kikuyu, and the Baha’i.
Chesne brought in talented vocalists from various parts of the world and added his magic as a composer and arranger, creating beautiful symphonic soundscapes and rhythms that accompany the exquisite vocals.
Each tradition is represented separately except for the final piece, “Nyansapo – the Wisdom Knot,” where Chesne weaves in all traditions with ease.
Steven Chesne plays the majority of the instruments. The vocalists featured are: William ‘Kymo’ Kamore; Mariani Shuilan May; Uyanga Bold; Florence Kinyua; Thomas Segen; Sudakshina Alagia; Taraneh Sakurai; Ven. Agga Mahapandita Dr. Walpola Piyananda; Ven. Bambarawane Kalyanawansa; Ven. Attidiye Pugngnarathana; Natalie Shtangrud; Steven Rushingwind; and Bhai Jaswant Singh Zira.
Guest musicians: Kourosh Zolani on santur and Amadou Fall on kora.
Astrid Kuljanic – Transatlantic Exploration Company – Riva (One Trick Dog Records, 2017)
On Riva, Croatian vocalist and composer Astrid Kuljanic combines jazz with Croatian elements. Throughout the album she switches from Croatian to English-language vocals.
The album’s sound focuses around the jazz-style vocals and the accordion, supported by creative bass lines and fascinating percussion work. The Transatlantic Exploration Company plays conventional jazz as well as Brazilian beats.
The line-up on Riva includes Astrid Kuljanic on vocals; Ben Rosenblum on accordion; Mat Muntz on bass; and Rogerio Boccato on percussion.
Ramón Montoya Salazar is considered a genius by most Flamenco guitarists. He was born November 2, 1879. Some biographies mention he was born near Toledo (Spain), while others indicate his birthplace as Madrid, Spain.
As a child he visited Madrid’s influential Cafe de la Marina, watching guitarists play. The key moment came when he met the most important classical guitarist of that time Miguel Llobet.
Ramón Montoya recorded his first solo piece as a soloist in 1936 in Paris, at the age of 56. Until then Montoya had only recorded as accompanist.
Ramón Montoya died July 20, 1949 in Madrid, Spain.
Dumisani “Ramadu” Moyo was born on the 26th of June in 1975. He started his career as a professional musician in 199 in Bulawayo, in the South of Zimbabwe.
Ramadu´s original name ´Dumisani´ means ´to praise´ and the family name ´Moyo´ means ´heart´. When he started his solo career he chose Ramadu as his artistic name the name however does not have a special meaning to Ndebele language speakers it simply comes out of the nickname for Dumisani, known as D-u-m-a-r-a when spelled backwards.
At an early age, when he attended the Mzlikazi Primary School he discovered his bond to the traditional music and dance of his country. Ramadu’s first teacher was the well-known Kalanga singer and dancer Mr. Malaba who used to visit schools to teach and revive traditional music and dance. At the same time the world famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo were a model for Ramadu and had great influence on his music.
After working unsuccessfully as a handyman in different companies, Ramadu decided to make music his career this had always been one great ambition. In 1990 he joined the cappella group Insingizi Emnyama where he sang bass and lead vocals.
Ramadu recorded his first solo album “Izambulelo” (which means Revelations) in the summer of 2001 which was released by ARC Music Int. in January 2002. It presents a mixture self-composed and traditional songs from home town combining modern sounds. Lyrics are written mostly in Ndebele language – Ramadu’s mother tongue. His focus is to develop and popularise the traditional music of his culture and make it more accessible to other cultures.
In the fall of 2010 Ramadu formed The Afro-Vibes who support him live on stage. The combination consists of excellent musicians from different cultural origin who manage to blend characteristics of Western popular music West African Makosa and South African Isicathamiya.
Ndebele has some similarities with the South African Zulu language such as the “clicks” which can be heard in Miriam Makeba´s songs. As well as the language, the music of the hometown of Ramadu is very much influenced by South African music.