Artist Profiles: Martin Simpson

Martin Simpson

Martin Simpson is considered one of the finest finger pickers and slide players of Great Britain. His live performances alternate between great subtlety and ‘feel’ and driving bottleneck blues, keeping alive the original country bluesmen like Blind Willie Johnson and McTell. He takes a basic song and augments it so skillfully with astonishing fretboard harmonics and other devices that make it an epic.

Simpson was born May 5, 1953, in Scunthorpe, South Humberside, England. He started playing the guitar at the age of 12. The young guitarist began playing professionally at the age of 14. One of his first breaks came when Bill Leader, who owned the Trailer label, discovered him. Leader recorded Simpson’s first album Golden Vanity. A few months later, Simpson was asked to join June Tabor’s band. In 1979 he joined the Albion Band and played with them on two subsequent tours.

In 1987, Simpson moved to the USA where he formed a duo with his American wife, Jessica Radcliffe Simpson. The duo released several albums. Simpson also played with the American band Metamora, and worked with Henry Gray, the Louisiana blues pianist.

Martin continued to extend his diverse talents in new directions including projects like Kambara Music in Native Tongues, with David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, and sets recorded at the “Masters of Slide Guitar Tour” with Bob Brozman and Indian slide guitar master Debashish Battacharya.

Martin Simpson

In 2015, Simpson recorded Murmurs with Andy Cutting and Nancy Kerr. This was followed by Trails and Tribulations on Topic Records (2017). Trails and Tribulations guests included Andy Cutting, Kathryn Tickell, Nancy Kerr and John Smith.

Also a renowned teacher, Martin gives workshops and master classes around the world, is a regular artist-in-residence at the prestigious National Guitar Summer Workshops, and has several teaching videos to his credit, produced by Homespun Tapes and Alfred Publishing. In addition, he is an honorary guitarist for the Association of Stringed Instrument Artisans (ASIA), a prominent instrument builders guild. Martin also frequently tours with his longtime bass player and all-around musical cohort, Doug Robinson, who has appeared on most of Martin and Jessica’s recent albums.

Discography:

Golden Vanity (Trailer, 1976)
Special Agent ( Waterfront Records, 1981)
Grinning in Your Face (Topic Records, 1983)
Sad or High Kicking (Topic Records, 1985)
Nobody’s Fault But Mine (Dambuster Records, 1986)
Leaves of Life (Shanachie, 1989)
When I Was on Horseback (Shanachie, 1991)
A Closer Walk with Thee (Fledg’ling Records, 1994)
Smoke and Mirrors (Thunderbird Records, 1995)
Cool and Unusual (Red House Records, 1997)
Live ( Red House Records, 1997)
61 Highway (1999)
Bootleg USA (High Bohemia Records, 1999)
The Bramble Briar (Topic Records, 2001)
Righteousness and Humidity (Red House Records, 2003)
Kind Letters (Topic Records, 2005)
Music of Ireland: Airs, Jigs, Reels, Hornpipes and Marches (2005)
Prodigal Son (Topic Records, 2007)
True Stories (Topic Records, 2009)
Purpose + Grace (Topic Records, 2011)
Vagrant Stanzas (Topic Records, 2013)
Trails & Tribulations (Topic Records, 2017)

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Kamele n’goni Virtuoso Massa Dembele Releases Alumaye

Massa Dembele – Alumaye

Alumaye (meaning “have you heard?), is the second international album release from kamele n’goni maestro and singer-songwriter Massa Dembele (Burkina Faso). Alumaye combines modern afropop and the traditional sounds of western Burkina Faso.

Alumaye was recorded between Wagadugu, Burkina Faso and Tamale, Ghana. In addition to the kamele n’goni harp, Massa included Burkinabe indigenous percussion, balaphone, flute, bass and guitar.

Massa Dembele’s first international release was Mezana Dounia .

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Artist Profiles: Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson was born April 3, 1949 in Notting Hill Gate, London. He has consistently set songwriting and performance standards others aspire to. He has long been acknowledged both as a sensitive writer and a brilliant and innovative guitarist.

His career began with Fairport Convention with whom he recorded five essential albums including 1969’s Liege and Lief, long regarded as a milestone recording in defining British Folk/Rock and his final album with the group, Full House, released in 1970.

During the 1970s, Richard recorded six albums with his wife Linda, including 1974’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight which met with universal critical acclaim, and its title track provided Richard with a hit single in the UK.

The 1980s and 1990s saw a series of highly successful solo albums which superbly demonstrate not only his song-writing talent and guitar wizardry, but also his ability to play a whole range of musical styles – from the mellow and melodic to hard-driven guitar rock.

Released in 2005, Front Parlour Ballads marks Thompson’s first acoustic solo album since 1981 and his first acoustic album of all-original material. Encompassing everything from rollicking tales of quickie marriages in “Let it Blow”, a lilting love song dedicated to “Miss Patsy”, and the devastatingly beautiful lament of “Precious One”, Front Parlour Ballads is a treasure box of stories and characters, all delivered with Thompson’s masterful guitar work, sonorous voice and bittersweet lyrics.

Also released in 2005 were a CD and DVD of a 2001 Richard Thompson performance at Austin City Limits, Richard Thompson – Live From Austin Texas; a DVD of Richard Thompson Band Live in Providence recorded in 2003, Richard Thompson – And Band – Live In Providence ; a 5 CD boxed set, RT – The Life and Music of Richard Thompson, of classic and unreleased songs; and 1000 Years of Popular Music, a live CD and DVD of two performances spanning everything from 13th Century Italian ballads to Hank Williams and Britney Spears.

In early 2010 Thompson formed a band with Pete Zorn on acoustic guitar, flute, saxophone, mandolin, vocals; Michael Jerome on drums, vocals; Taras Prodaniuk on bass and vocals; and Joel Zifkin on electric violin, mandolin, and vocals. They released Dream Attic.

Thompson was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2011 for services to music.On July 5th, 2011, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Aberdeen.

In early 2013 Thompson released the album Electric, recorded in Nashville (USA).

In 2014, Thompson released Acoustic Classics, an album with acoustic versions of 14 songs from his back catalogue, on his Beeswing label.

In 2017, Thompson released a second acoustic album titled Acoustic Classics II and Acoustic Rarities, an album of new recordings of rare songs in the Thompson catalogue.

Thompson’s eighteenth studio album, 13 Rivers was released on September 14, 2018.

Discography:

Henry The Human Fly (Island Records, 1972)
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, with Linda Thompson (1974)
Hokey Pokey, with Linda Thompson (1974)
Pour Down Like Silver, with Linda Thompson (1975)
First Light, with Linda Thompson (1978)
Sunnyvista, with Linda Thompson (1979)
Shoot Out the Lights, with Linda Thompson (1982)
Hand Of Kindness (Hannibal Records, 1983)
Small Town Romance -Live / Solo In New York (Hannibal Records, 1984)
Across A Crowded Room (Polydor, 1985)
Daring Adventures (Polydor, 1986)
Amnesia (Capitol Records, 1988)
Rumor And Sigh (Capitol Records, 1991)
Mirror Blue Capitol Records, 1993)
You? Me? Us? (Capitol Records, 1996)
Industry, with Danny Thompson (Hannibal Records, 1997)
Mock Tudor (Capitol Records, 1999)
The Old Kit Bag (Cooking Vinyl, 2003)
Grizzly Man (Cooking Vinyl, 2005)
Front Parlour Ballads (Cooking Vinyl, 2005)
Live From Austin TX (New West Records, 2005)
Sweet Warrior (Proper Records, 2007)
Dream Attic Proper Records 2010
Live At The BBC ‎(Universal Music/BBC Music, 2011)
Electric (New West Records, 2013)
Acoustic Classics (Beeswing Records, 2014)
Still (Proper Records, 2015)
Acoustic Classics II (Beeswing Records, 2017)
Acoustic Rarities (Beeswing Records, 2017)
Acoustic Classics II + Rarities (Beeswing Records, 2017)
13 Rivers (New West Records, 2018)

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Artist Profiles: Simon Thoumire

Simon Thoumire

Simon Thoumire was born July 11, 1970 in Edinburgh, Scotland. An acknowledged concertina virtuoso, Thoumire has dazzled audiences all over the world with his playing.

A winner of the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Tradition Award in 1989, Simon has always been interested in exploring different genres of music, releasing many records over the years delving into folk, jazz, improvisation and composition.

Simon has also pursued interests in the industry side of traditional music forming Foot Stompin’ Records in 1997, Scottish Traditional Music Trust (2000) and Hands Up for Trad (2003). United Kingdom Europe

Discography:

Exhibit A, with Fergus MacKenzie ‎(Iona, 1995)
The Big Day In, with David Milligan ‎(Foot Stompin’ Records, 2001)
Brothers In Music ‎(DUNS, 2004)
Third Flight Home, with David Milligan ‎(Foot Stompin’ Records, 2007)

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Artist Profiles: Tony McManus

Tony McManus

Guitarist Tony McManus was born in 1965 in Paisley, Scotland. He is a leading figure in contemporary Celtic music. His style is influenced by the entire Celtic diaspora – Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Galicia, Asturias, Cape Breton, Quebec – along with still further-ranging flavors, such as jazz and east European music.

His skills are also in constant demand by fellow musicians and he has featured on over 50 albums by other artists, including Kate Rusby, Alison Brown, William Jackson, Brian McNeill, Liz Doherty, Colin Reid and Catriona Macdonald, in addition to innumerable live guest appearances.

Other collaborations include his celebrated partnership with master Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser. In 2005, McManus released a CD with Breton fretless bass player, Alain Genty titled Singing Sands.

Discography:

Tony McManus (Greentrax, 1996)
Pourquoi Quebec (Greentrax, 1998)
Return to Kintail, with Alasdair Fraser (Culburnie, 1999)
Ceol More (Compass, 2002)
Singing Sands with Alain Genty (Compass, 2005)
The Maker’s Mark (Compass, 2008)
Mysterious Boundaries (Compass, 2013)
Round Trip, with Beppe Gambetta (Borealis, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Mengmeng Wu

Mengmeng Wu

Mengmeng Wu was born in Huaxi village, Jiangsu, southeast China. She learned the guzheng from the age of six and her talent was noticed during her first stage performance at the age of ten.

In 2002, she enrolled in the Affiliated High School of the China Conservatory of Music, where she studied the guzheng for 6 years with distinguished experts Professor Ji Wei. In 2008, she trained for another 4 years at the Central Conservatory of Music, China under Professor Ji Wei and celebrated guzheng Master Professor Li Meng, where she graduated with a BMMus in guzheng performance. In the University, Miss WU participated in premieres of Guzheng quatet “One Thousand Kilometers Way to Go”, written by Professor LI Meng and Guzheng trio “Spirit of Zheng”, written by Malaysian composer Zhao Junyi. Moreover, she was frequently invited to perform for Music Channel of CCTV. She won the Gold Prize for Guzheng Solo in the 4th Zhong Sin International Music Competition in 2010 and a Gold Award for guzheng solo in the 1st Huain Cup International Chinese Music Competition in 2012.

Since relocating to London in 2014, Mengmeng has performed at a wide range of venues including SOAS, University of London, Blackheath Hall with the Trinity Laban Orchestra, the Manchester International Festival (2015) with Damon Albarn, the Lake District Summer Music International Festival.

Mengmeng is an open-minded artist who enjoys experimenting with new music and fusion music, such as collaborative works of electronic music and Guzheng, trying to adapt LiberTango, using Chinese and Western musical instruments (guzheng, pipa and accordion) to interpret the work.

At the beginning of 2017, Mengmeng set up a music studio CCIS Chinese Classical Instruments Studio in the UK.

Discography:

The Art of the Chinese Guzheng (ARC Music, 2019)

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Artist Profiles: Dany Noel

Dany Noel

Dany Noel was born in Havana, Cuba. He began his performing career at only 8 years old singing and playing guitar. After taking up acoustic and electric bass, he began to play with the top son, salsa and timba groups from Cuba. Ultimately, he left his native country to settle in Torino, Italy.

Dany is a renowned bassist, musical director, arranger, composer, producer, singer and graduate of classical guitar at the Conservatorio Ignacio Cervantes de la Habana. He has collaborated and recorded with prestigious musicians such as Celia Cruz, Omara Portuondo, Chucho Valdés, Pio Leyva, Xiomara Laugart, Iovanny Hidalgo, Richie Flores, Jose Alberto El Canario, Richie Rey, Rey Sepulveda, Mayito Rivera, Roberto Van Van, Changuito, Alexander Abreu and Jerry Gonzalez among others.

He moved to Europe in 1997, first to Italy. Along with Cuban drummer Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, he formed Italuba as bassist, musical director, arranger and composer.

Dany is currently living in Madrid and has worked with Spanish, Argentine and Greek artists Luz Casal, Victoria Abril, Lolita Flores, Ainhoa ​​Arteta, Mariza, Arvanitaki Elefteria, Fito Páez, Ojos de Brujo, José Luis Perales and film director Fernando Trueba in his movie Chico y Rita.

He has also entered the pop and flamenco scene, which has led him to record with artists such as Niño Josele; Concha Buika on her album Niña de Fuego, winner of a Grammy Award, produced by Javier Limón; and Limón’s project Son de Limón, as bassist, voices and arranger.

In his 2017 album, Por La Habana , Danny focuses on the roots of Cuban music, his ancestors and his own words: “It’s an album so that my parents and my people won’t stop dancing”.

Discography:

Mi Sentir (2006)
Dime Si Tú Sabes (2006)
Proposicion (2011)
Confidence, with Dario Chiazzolino (2014)
Tinta Unida (2014)
Por La Habana ‎(Abanico Records, 2017)

With Italuba:

Italuba (Timba Records, 2002)
Italuba II (Cacao Musica, 2006)

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Les Amazones d’Afrique Release New Single and Video: ‘Amazones Power’

Les Amazones d’Afrique have released a new single titled ‘Amazones Power‘ (Real World Records). The current lineup includes some new faces, including female musicians from West Africa, joined by additional artists from Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Guyana, Spain and Algeria. Also featured are the male voices of Douranne and Magué from the Parisian band Nyoko Bokbae.

The group’s message is still loud and clear: Violence against women must stop. Women must be able to realize their potential and not be held back by the dominant patriarchy. ‘Amazones Power’ tackles these issues head on. “Never again, silence, violence. I want to live and to be free.”

Les Amazones d’Afrique’s debut album République Amazone came out in 2017 on Real World Records . The ensemble features three generations of women, who sing out in unison, calling for a future without the threat of female genital mutilation (FGM), sexual violence, lack of education and forced marriage.

The group will return for a series of concerts throughout Europe this summer.

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Rudolstadt Festival Announces 2019 Program

Germany’s largest world music event, Rudolstadt Festival, will take place July 4-7, 2019. The opening concert on 4 July will be a tribute concert dedicated to splendid female artists from the worlds of jazz, folk and blues. Sing The Truth is a project by three women who are themselves acclaimed for their extraordinary voices – Lizz Wright, Angelique Kidjo and Cecile McLoren Salvant – with drummer and producer Terri Lyne Carrington acting as musical director.

Three days later, the closing concert will feature alternative country pioneers, the Cowboy Junkies from Canada, who have raised the bar with their slow motion blues and folk sounds.

Cowboy Junkies

The massive line-up at this year’s festival includes 300 concerts, workshops and discussions. One of the standout acts is the Herbert Pixner Projekt from South Tyrol. This quartet from the Alps transcends all sorts of musical borders with their mastery of flamenco, tango, gypsy jazz and rock riffs, and is in high demand in the German-speaking world.

Presently, one of the most sought-after Icelandic musicians is Ólafur Arnalds with his sound collages made up of art, music and technology.

Luedji Luna

A new figurehead of Afro-Brazilian women is Luedji Luna, who frequently serves up her songs addressing social problems with laidback tunes enhanced with elements of both jazz and R&B.

South African singer-songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou, who launched her career by busking in Berlin, will perform poetry with a touch of jazz, summing up the music of South Africa.

Small Island Big Song

Die Höchste Eisenbahn, who will be releasing their third album this summer, also began their successful journey in Berlin by pairing catchy melodies with zeitgeisty humor. Then there’s the unique project Small Island Big Song, whose members come from island nations in the Pacific and Indian Oceans which are literally threatened with extinction by climate change.

Musical contrasts from Iran

To represent Iran, this year’s special guest country, the Rudolstadt Festival has selected nine ensembles and devised a richly contrasting program. It ranges from performances based on centuries-old traditions to music driven by current political protests. “The festival intends to convey that there’s a vibrant cultural scene in Iran striving to find its own way and make itself known internationally,” declared program director Bernhard Hanneken. In Rudolstadt, Iranian artists will also be given a forum to talk about their lives, their circumstances, and their opportunities for artistic expression.

Hamid Motebassem Ensemble

On the opening night, the band Damahi will be performing a pop-oriented fusion of Iranian and world music genres. One of Iran’s most prominent musicians is tar and setar player Hamid Motebassem, who is also a noted composer. At Rudolstadt, he will be presenting compositions such as his orchestral work Pardis accompanied by the Thuringian Symphony Orchestra from Saalfeld-Rudolstadt. What’s more, they’ll be joined by one of Iran’s best-known women‘s voices, Mahdieh Mohammadkhani.

Hamnava Ensemble

There is another expressive female singer in the Hamnava Ensemble, which hails from Bushehr in southwest Iran on the Persian Gulf. Baran Mozafari is one of the few women endeavoring to take the female vocal styles from the region into the 21st century.

Ali Ghamsari – Photo by Ashkan Azadbakht

Tar virtuoso Ali Ghamsari from Tehran represents a subtle, innovative variety of classical Persian music. By contrast, Shahin Najafi’s current program is a powerful contemporary blend of jazz, blues, rock and Persian folk songs.

Apart from the performances by the nine Iranian ensembles, there will be discussions with the artists during the festival and a wide-ranging symposium with topics including the status of women in Iran, the social aspect of Iranian music, Persian poetry, record production and marketing.

New partnership: The EBU Folk Festival in Rudolstadt

With the Rudolstadt Festival being held for the 29th time in 2019, this year marks the start of a new partnership with  the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). The EBU will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of its own Euroradio Folk Festival by presenting selected musicians in Rudolstadt.

Husistein-Musik

This partnership has been initially set to run for three years, meaning the Euroradio Folk Festival will also provide a forum for various facets of the European scene at the Rudolstadt Festival in 2020 and 2021. Both sides hope for lasting collaboration with Graham Dixon, the EBU’s Head of Radio, even talking of a new chapter in the European Broadcasting Union’s history: “Despite the wide participation and high quality of performance, until now, the EBU Folk Festival has never enjoyed a long-term home. From now, working together with the well-established festival in Rudolstadt provides an opportunity to pool our resources.”

SibA Folk Big Band

This summer, editorial teams from 16 EBU member states will be taking part together with artists from their respective countries. They represent a wide variety in every respect, ranging from the 23-strong Finnish SibA Folk Big Band to solo accordion performances by Yegor Zabelov from Belarus and Otto Lechner from Austria, both of whom perform in their own distinctive manner. Nineteenth-century dance music will be fronted by Husistein-Musik from Switzerland while at the opposite end of the spectrum, avant-garde Polish group Polmuz will be taking the concept of folk music in an experimental direction.

More at www.rudolstadt-festival.de

headline photo: Colombia’s La 33

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Artist Profiles: Kiki Morente

Kiki Morente

José Enrique Morente Carbonell, better known as “Kiki Morente” was born in 1989 in Granada, Spain. He is the son of famed flamenco singer Enrique Morente.

Kiki is a singer, guitarist and composer. As a young boy, he used to sing next to his father and his sister, Estrella in respected venues worldwide. He follows on his fathers’ footsteps, understanding the roots of flamenco but recreating them through a modern perspective.

Kiki Morente – Albayzín

His debut album is titled Albayzín. It is dedicated to Albayzín, one of the most iconic neighborhoods of his hometown, Granada.

In 2019, Kiki Morente toured with David Carmona on guitar, Pedro Gabarre “Popo” on percussion and dancer Irene Rueda.

Discography:

Albayzín (Universal Music Spain, 2017)

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