Balfron Promise is an album by 47Soul, a shamstep band that has been getting a lot of attention in the British press. Although currently based in London, the four musicians have Palestinian and Jordanian roots.
Shamstep is a genre created by 47Soul in which Palestinian traditional music such as dabke is combined with cutting edge electronic music and vocals in Arabic.
The synthesizer player produces some of most fascinating elements in the band, injecting high energy Middle Eastern melodies using distorted synthesizer sounds. The rhythm section is formidable, mixing electronic beats and acoustic percussion such as darbuka.
The lyrics focus on social injustice in London (Balfron Promise refers to residents of Balfron Tower being evicted due to gentrification) and sociopolitical problems in the Middle East.
The lineup includes Z the People on vocals and synthesizers; El Far3i (Tareq Abu Kwaik) on darbuka and vocals; Walaa Sbeit on percussion and vocals; and El Jehaz on guitar and vocals.
Pianist and composer Chano Dominguez, one of the essential innovators of flamenco jazz, and will be touring the West Coast of the United States in May and June. Chano discusses his music and the upcoming tour with World Music Central.
How did you come into contact with flamenco, rock and jazz?
Flamenco was played at my house in a pickup my dad had, rock came through my older brother who listened to groups like Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Yes and others, then the Beatles, and jazz came through the radio station at the US naval base in Rota.
What repertoire will you be performing during your upcoming American tour?
We will mainly play the repertoire of the album Flamenco Sketches, which are all Miles Davis songs adapted to flamenco rhythms, but with all the freedom that Miles was looking for in his music
What’s your current band lineup and how did you come into contact with the band members?
On this occasion I have the pleasure of having Alexis Cuadrado on the double bass, a Catalan musician who has lived in New York for more than 20 years, and on drums, the prodigious Henry Cole, a percussionist from Puerto Rico who has also been living in New York for more than a decade.
From Spain there is flamenco cantaor (singer) Blas Cordoba on vocals and palmas. He’s been my cantaor for more than 20 years in all my albums; and dancer Daniel Navarro, a virtuoso of foot percussion and a fantastic elegant dancer.
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
Who can you quote as your main musical influences?
There are many but Paco de Lucía is my biggest influence along with Bill Evans.
Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.
This year I book my 40 career as a music professional. It all started in 1978 with my first project the Andalusian rock group Cai.
I think since then I have been mixing flamenco rhythms with everything that has influenced me, rock, classical, jazz, etc.
You grew up and lived in Spain for many years. How did you end up in Seattle and now in New York City?
Especially to give my children an opportunity to get to know other cultures and to develop in another country since in my own it seems that the economic situation is not going to change and also to develop my work where the cradle of this music is located, I think it is important to spread this way of understanding jazz and flamenco together and here I have the opportunity to do it in schools and universities.
Are you still connected to the Spanish flamenco jazz scene?
Yes, in fact on June 10, I’ll play with my flamenco quartet at the flamenco festival in Madrid.
Although your main instrument is the piano, you started playing electronic keyboards. Do you still have electronic keyboards and do you plan to use them in the future?
Yes, I still have my keyboards and play them. A few years ago I recorded a project for Verve that was called NFS, new flamenco Sound. In that work I played keyboards too.
I still have interest in playing other instruments such as the guitar, the vibraphone or the drums.
If you could gather musicians or musical groups to collaborate with whom would that be?
I would love to have a good concert tour with my original trio with which we have worked for more than 15 years. To me they are part of this language that we have invented between these two cultures. Javier Colina and Guillermo MCgill are the musicians that I would put together for some good concerts.
Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?
I just recorded a project for brass quintet, percussion and piano. It’s my compositions arranged by me for this project. I am lucky to have the best brass quintet from my country, Spanish Brass and we hope to tour the United States next year with this project.
There are not so many ethnic [folk or world music] festivals in Russia. Most of those I wrote about a year ago do not exist or will be held every two years, like the Taibola Festival and White Noise, skipping 2018. Also, many have not yet published their promo with the line-up announcement 2018, but it doesn’t prevent people from planning their trips and buying tickets in advance.
27 – 29 of July, Perm region
Kamwa festival celebrates 13 years old this year, and this was the first ethno festival I attended in my life 13 years ago. I always compare other festivals I go to with Kamwa. The festival is held in an unrealistically picturesque place – in the museum of wooden architecture of Khokhlovka, a few kilometers from Perm. All Russian ethno-musicians and many foreign ones performed here, for example, Trad.Attack!, Oratnitza, Vedan Kolod, Merema, Sattuma, Namgar, Volga, Kila, Authentic Light Orchestra and many-many others.
9 – 11 of June, Tula region
The biggest multi-genre festival of Russia. This year more than 70 bands from around the world will perform within 3 days on Wild Mint: Mgzavrebi, Mujuice, OLIGARKH, Aveva, but not so many folk bands as before.
Folk Summer Fest
20 – 22 of July, Kaluga region
Saltatio Mortis, The Rumjacks, Russkaja, Heidevolk, Kalevala, Spire, Teufelstans, Nytt Land, Gilead, Midvinterblot, and more than 50 other bands from all over the world mostly playing pagan metal or Viking folk.
Nebo I Zemlya
8 – 12 of June, Tyumen
There you’ll be able to participate at 700 master classes, to listen to over 200 invited speakers with lectures on health, relationships, needlework, business, cultures from all over the world, 400 events for children, 50 concerts Russian and foreign artists; Holi holiday, fire shows and many other things.
1 – 5 of August, Nizhni Novgorod
WAFEst – this is Water-Air-Fire-Earth-festival! This is not a purely musical festival – there are fire shows, master classes, the quality and quantity (more than 400!) are unprecedented, so you can call it educational too.
13 – 15 of July, Shushenskoe
Since 2003, Shushenskoye has become a place of unprecedented musical, ethnic, cultural leisure for thousands and thousands of guests, whose number and geography increases every year. The first name of this festival was Sayan Ring, later changed into Mir Sibiri, now the biggest ethno festival in Russia.
19 – 22 of July, Altai
International EcoCultural festival WhatEtno it is three-day event, consisting educational and cognitive meetings dedicated to world music, festival also organizes tours for musicians in Siberia.
18 – 22 of July, Republic Tuva
XIX International Festival of Live Music and Faith “Ustuu-Huree -2018” will be held in Chadan of the Republic of Tuva from 18 to 22 July. Festival was established in 1999, during the realization of the idea of restoring the ruins of the once magnificent Buddhist temple Ustuu-Huree.
24 – 26 of August, Bashkortostan
This is the chance also to visit one of the biggest (and almost endless) lakes in Bashkortostan, the lake Aslykul. There is no entrance fee, the festival made by volunteers and enthusiasts. Tribal mood and a lot of beautiful fire shows with live folk and electronic music.
Solar Systo Togathering 2018
17 – 21 of May, Saint-Petersburg
Quite small and private festival that annually changes its location. This year, the “ecological meeting” Solar Systo Togathering took place on the picturesque shore of the Finnish Gulf, 120 kilometers from St. Petersburg towards Primorsk. This year’s headline includes Ikarushka, Testo, Noid and many other folk-electronic projects.
Voice of nomads
20 – 21 of July, Buryatia Republic
International Music Festival near Baikal lake. Invites local stars like Namgar as well as International world music stars like Casuarina from Brazil, the bands from Mongolia, China, Ukraine, Hungary, Norway, USA, Japan, Belgium, Brazil, Zimbabwe, France come there regularly.
Sinan Cem Eroğlu and Muhlis Berberoğlu – Hemdem (Ahenk Müzik, 2018)
Hemdem is a remarkable album by two extraordinary Turkish multi-instrumentalists. The two virtuoso artists play a wide range of string instruments from Turkey and the West. Musically, Hemdem combines Turkish and Middle Eastern modes with western influences.
Throughout the album, Sinan Cem Eroğlu and Muhlis Berberoğlu tastefully interweave acoustic instruments and modern devices like the electric guitar and the mesmerizing electric baglama.
The lineup on the album includes Sinan Cem Eroğlu on fretless guitar, electric guitar, kaval, e-bow, and vocals and Muhlis Berberoğlu on electric baglama, tambura, and vocals.
Hemdem is an exquisite, masterfully-crafted album by two talented Turkish music innovators.
Uruguayan jazz vocalist and songwriter Valeria Matzner has a new album recorded in Canada titled Anima. She incorporates exciting Brazilian and electronic music elements. Valeria discusses her work with World Music Central.
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
I always start my compositions with a melodic line. In my opinion, a good melodic line makes or breaks a song and if it is strong, it should be able to stand alone. Then comes the rhythmic idea and the harmony. Because of my background, I like rhythms that are syncopated. I also like harmonies that create tension and release and are somehow unpredictable.
Who can you cite as your main musical influences?
Too many artists have inspired me but I would say that my way of singing is definitely inspired by Brazilian singers like Elis Regina, Maria Rita and Joyce, among others. My compositions, however, are inspired by every inspiring musician and music I have ever heard from the Beatles to Piazzolla, from Gotan Project to Ruben Rada from Jorge Drexler to Radiohead from Jazzanova to Mercedes Sosa, Charly Garcia and from Fito Paez to Nirvana. I am a musical sponge, I absorb many styles and then come up with my own thing.
Uruguay has a great tango and candombe tradition, but you seem to be more influenced by Brazilian music. How did you come in contact with Brazilian music?
My mom loves Brazilian music so she would often play it at home. I love the way of singing: effortless, rhythmically challenging and so deceivingly simple. I also love the incredible composer from Brazil like Milton Nascimento, Chico Buarque, Joao Gilberto, Jobim, Lenine, etc, etc.
You sing in various languages but when you sing in Spanish, it feels more natural. Will you continue singing in Spanish?
Absolutely, Spanish is my first language and I will always sing in it. But I also think that singing in different languages allows me the opportunity to communicate with a larger audience.
Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.
I made my first recording when I was 19. I was the singer and composer of a grunge rock band fused with the native sounds of Ecuador and Peru. In 1994 my band was invited to play at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, followed by a tour in the US.
Before all that, however, I studied classical guitar and was part of the Uruguayan national choir. Then I moved to Buenos Aires in the mid 1980s where I found myself in the middle of a musical movement that was sweeping the nation and taking over radio stations and venues. When I went back to Uruguay I started my own band and that was it until I moved to Canada.
In Vancouver I studied jazz and electronic music composition and it was there, at music school, that I started realizing the incredibly rich musical background of my native South America. I decided to fully embrace my musical background and a fusion of all my different influences was born.
How are you adapting to life in Canada?
It was very difficult at first. I felt like a “frog from a different pond” (como sapo de otro pozo) but I was slowly able to find my place and to learn to appreciate the Canadian ways of thinking and behaving. Canada is a country of immigrants and Canadians, for the most part, are very open to embracing different cultures. Toronto, specially, is a very multicultural city with people of all religious, cultural and musical backgrounds. I love that.
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with whom would that be?
Wow, too many to name but off the top of my head I would say Jorge Drexler and Bono for their lyrics and poetic way of looking at life, Milton Nascimento and Peter Gabriel for their musicality, Elis Regina for her phrasing, David Bowie for his edge, Radiohead for their creative force and any new and up and coming musician who I find interesting.
Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?
At the moment I am concentrating on promoting my album, Anima, putting a tour together and writing music for my next album.
Senegal is in mourning. Not only have they lost a beloved man, but a hero who changed forever their musical landscape. Habib Faye was a virtuoso bassist. He was a gifted composer, arranger, and a Grammy nominated producer. Think African traditional drumming meets Jaco Pastorius’s funk and you begin to capture the sound. He was a multi-instrumentalist who played the piano and owned it, while other musicians might claim it as a secondary instrument. He was a highly creative mind who could transform a piece of music from failure to success in moments.
Habib was born in 1965, in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. It’s a bustling and crowded city on the west coast of Africa, and its citizens have a strong tradition of hospitality. It’s also a deeply musical city, rooted in tradition, yet open to modern music. Habib grew up in a musical family: his father and his five brothers were all outstanding musicians. He didn’t attend music school, but listened to jazz, rock, and salsa, absorbing it and teaching himself to play it all. He worked hard at music, perhaps in part because he was a Mouride – a follower of the Sufi tradition in Senegal and devotee of Sheikh Ahmadou Bamba, who installed both non-violence and hard work into his followers.
He was only a teenager when he was plucked up to join a young band, Super Étoile de Dakar, whose lead singer was the fiercely ambitious Youssou N’Dour. Youssou with his soaring, heartfelt vocals and good looks was the obvious leader for the group, and he captivated many female fans. His father had forbidden him to play music, but his mother’s people were griots, and music was in his birthright. In the short film, Youssou N’Dour: Eyes Open, he says: “I sing about things which are important to me, I sing about real life in Dakar as it is today.” But his singing could go only so far. He needed a great band to make the music fly, and that’s why he chose Habib as his bassist.
At this time, a new musical genre was created in Dakar: Mbalax. The word means rhythm. Three drums lay down a polyrhythmic mosaic whose origin is in the music of the Serer people. The percussion section has a lead drum (the nder), a rhythm drum (the sabar), and a talking drum (the tama). In Super Étoile de Dakar, Mamadou Jimi M’Baye on electric guitar and Habib Faye were among the first Senegalese musicians to incorporate this highly rhythmic pulse and give it a new spin. Habib also brought elements of percussion into his bass playing.
Part of his power was in the variety of rhythms in his playing. His outstanding technique allowed him to make rapid interchanges between funk and indigenous rhythms. He was also one of the first to introduce marimba keyboard playing into Senegalese popular music. This was a participatory music, Super Étoile knew how to start with slow numbers, and then to accelerate the tempo, and to increase the intensity of their rhythm and energy as the night progressed. The rapid fire percussion caused sparks to fly. The group redefined Senegal’s music. Never before had the traditional and the modern been played alongside one another. Dakar was electrified.
In the 1980s, Super Étoile de Dakar, Youssou N’Dour, and Habib, caught the attention of Peter Gabriel, the famed British pop musician and producer. And he introduced them to international audiences and to critical acclaim.
After Habib had played for twenty-eight years with Youssou N’Dour, he at last formed his own quartet. And, in 2012, he released a significant solo work in the album entitled H20. It is a thoughtful, meditative work, and when the music slows down in a lament, listeners can hear the full expressiveness of his bass line.
Ashley Maher, an American musician, speaks of the more recent years, “If I am to speculate, his international travels expanded Habib’s appreciation for jazz and funk. He became a master of bass ‘slapping’ in his solos. And he also collaborated with a wide range of star jazz masters such as Stanley Clarke and Lionel Loueke. There was also a period of time that he toured with Angelique Kidjo. In my view, the world was never as aware of his incredible talent as they should have been.”
His final project was with Ablaye Cissokho, the kora player. For one more time, he brought traditional Senegalese instruments and rhythms to work together with the modern music that so inspired him.
Habib Faye died of a lung infection on Wednesday, April 25th, 2018. He was only fifty-two years old. He is survived by his wife and their children. The name Habib means beloved in Arabic, it is a fitting name for a man not only beloved to his family, but to his friends, fellow musicians and fans around the world who have been irrevocably touched by his music.
To give readers a feel for how his Senegalese contemporaries thought about him, I interviewed several of them, and here’s what two of the most important of them had to say.
Etu Dieng, musical director and bassist with the vocalist Kiné Lam, said, “His bass playing caught my attention. I lived not far from him. There was a stadium nearby and once Super Étoile played there. I was too young to go to the concert, I was about five years younger than him, but I sat outside to listen and I cried because of that bass. He was one of the first African musicians to be successful in incorporating advanced electric bass playing into our native music.
He inspired people. And I realized that the bass can be fun: we can do a lot with the instrument. He was already naturally percussive, but when he started to listen to Jaco Pastorius, his sound developed as you can hear in the progression of his work with Youssou N’Dour. He incorporated more funk into our music, as in the song ‘Hey You’ recorded by Youssou in the 1990’s. It was a new way of playing.”
Cheikh Ndoye, a younger bassist who plays for Baaba Maal, said, “Habib’s bass lines were so original, melodic, and harmonically rich. They were very rhythmic. He was the only bass player to come up with that style of playing, Mbalax. He changed the way we young Senegalese musicians created music. We’ve lost one of the most respected African musicians, multi-instrumentalists and composers. He’s no longer here, but his music lives on. And younger musicians will continue to play his music to keep it alive.
He had an incredible vision and an original sound — the hardest thing to find in musicianship. He was unique, and anything he touched in music became stronger. You can recognize him both in his bass playing and in his compositions. We loved him as a musician and as a person. He inspired all of us.”
Midnight Sun is the fifth album by highly talented Finnish female ensemble Kardemimmit. The quartet delivers an exquisite set of recreated traditional and original songs inspired by Finnish folk music.
Kardemimmit’s sound is characterized by masterfully-crafted vocal harmonies and the spellbinding sounds of the kantele.
The current lineup of Kardemimmit includes Maija Pokela, Jutta Rahmel, Anna Wegelius and Leeni Wegelius on vocals and 15 and 38 stringed kanteles.
The CD booklet includes the original Finnish lyrics and the English-language translations along with song descriptions.
The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices featuring Lisa Gerrard – BooCheeMish (Prophecy Productions, 2018)
The women in the publicity photo for the album BooCheeMish smile, lovely in their traditional dresses and headdresses festooned with flowers. They are of varying ages; they are mothers, daughters, sisters and perhaps a few grandmothers in the lot. They seem pleasant, perhaps even a little unassuming, but that would be deceptive. To dismiss this group of songstresses as quaint or simply charming would be a dreadful mistake because these are the women of The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.
Steeped in vocals traditions that have floated over fields, wound their way through mountain passes and sunk down deep into the very ground, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices are captivating, haunting and call to our all shared nomadic musical past.
The female vocal choir, known as The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices (formerly Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares) started out as The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir in the early 1950s to preserve and promote Bulgaria’s folk traditions by way of radio and television. It just happened that Swiss music producer Marcel Cellier stumbled upon and was captivated by vocal mastery of the choir and recorded and released the first volume “Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares” in 1975.
Volume II would go on to win a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Recording, with additional recordings like Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares (1989), Volume III, Melody Rhythm & Harmony (1993), Ritual (1994), Bulgarian Custom Songs (2001) and Pora Sotunda (2017) with Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance fame. The choir would go on to wow audiences in some 1250 concerts across the globe under the current conductor Prof. Dora Hristova.
So it is my sincerest pleasure to announce, with perhaps a small amount of gleeful hand clapping and girlish giggling thrown in for good measure, that the glorious voices of The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices is back with a new recording called BooCheeMish, set for release on May 25th on the Prophecy Productions label. Joined again by Lisa Gerrard, as well as musicians like Hristna Beleva, Petar Milanov, Rano Ranila, Kostadin Genchev, Deimitar Karamfilov and a string quartet, BooCheeMish shimmers with the familiar goodness that is The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.
Opening with the soaring vocals of “Mome Malenko,” BooCheeMish packs a punch that’s exotic and evocative. Fans get welcomed doses of Ms. Gerrard’s shimmering vocals on tracks like “Pora Sotunda,” “Mani Yanni,” “Unison” and “Shandai Ya” that simply enhance the lushness of BooCheeMish.
Threaded throughout are added rhythms of jembe, riq, udu, tonbak and frame drums that add to the pleasure of the extraordinary, tight, neat intricate vocals of the choir. Listeners will wallow in the upbeat pleasures of Rano Ranila,” the haunting loveliness of “Mani Yanni” and the sheer lushness of “Sluntse” conjured up with help of Ms. Beleva and Mr. Milanov. BooCheeMish stacks stunning track upon stunning track so that “Unison” proves as powerful as tracks “Zableyalo Agne,” “Ganka” and closing track “Stanka” replete with string quartet members Yordan Dimitrov, Evgeni Nikolov, Ognyan Kostantinov and Dimitar Tenchev.
Kudos certainly go to Ms. Gerrard, the musicians and the utter impeccable recording and engineering of this CD, but the real superstars of this recording belong to Prof. Hristova and singers Elena Bozkova, Olga Borisova, Gergana Dimitrova, Gergana Popova, Snezhana Kastelova, Violeta Eftimova, Violeta Marinova, Binka Dobreva, Dafinka Damyanova, Daniela Kostova, Rulana Asparuhova, Marina Boiadjieva, Elichka Krastanova, Mariya Leshkova, Rada Nankova, Evelina Hristova, Evguenia Milousheva, Daniela Dimitrova, Tsvetelina Velyovska, Silvia Vladmirova, Sofiya Yaneva, Nevyana Ganeva, Elizabet Georgieva, Mirrela Asenova, Polina Paunova, Lyubomira Pavlova, Tsonka Dimtrova-Manolova and Diyana Visileva – the women of The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices.
The Premios Alcobendas Flamenca Nuevos Talentos 2018 (Alcobendas Flamenco New Talents) Gala will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 25th at the Paco de Lucía Auditorium at the Alcobendas Art Center in Alcobendas, Madrid.
The event will feature the winners of the 2018 edition: Paco Soto (guitar), Ángeles Toledano (cante/vocals) and Ángel Reyes (dance). Macarena Ramírez, the winning dancer of the previous edition in 2017, will be the guest performer.
Vocalist María de los Ángeles Martínez Toledano, better known as Ángeles Toledano, was born in the town of Villanueva de la Reina in Jaen. At 22 years old, she exhibits sensitivity and technique with the makings of a young talent.
The desire to excel and perseverance have rewarded dancer Angel Reyes and guitarist Paco Soto, who have previously tried their luck in previous editions.
Paco Soto, born in Águilas, Murcia in 1991, shows originality and a good sense of rhythm.
Angel Reyes, from Cordoba, was selected because of his footwork, clarity, spotlessness and good dynamics.
The three winners will also receive a video of their performance as a prize awarded by AIE, Society of Performing Artists. The Audience Award with votes through Facebook goes to young Huelva-born cantaora Beatriz Romero.
The gala will be presented by Teo Sánchez, director of the radio program Duendeando on Radio 3.
Alcobendas Flamenca Nuevos Talentos is part of the program of the Alcobendas Flamenca week, May 21 to 26 that brings together different activities around the world of flamenco and closes with the performance of Carmen Linares.