On September 14, 2018 Soweto Gospel Choir will release its sixth Shanachie Entertainment recording, Freedom, a collection of freedom songs from South Africa and beyond, marking the Centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birth.
Soweto Gospel Choir Music Director Diniloxolo Ndlakuse said, “The significance of Nelson Mandela’s 100th commemoration to South Africans is, firstly and foremost a reminder of the role played by Nelson Mandela in moving South Africa from a position of being an undemocratic, oppressive society to one of a peaceful co-existence for all racial groups. Mandela represents love, peace, forgiveness and strength to the choir. He is a symbol of inspiration to the Choir.”
Soweto Gospel Choir sings in six of South Africa’s eleven official languages on Freedom but mostly in Zulu or Sotho, as well as English. The Choir’s first single is “Umbombela,” which means “train song,” is a composition that speaks of the travails experienced by black South Africans during the apartheid era, when migrant workers were forced to travel long distances away from their families in order to meet the harsh economic and political demands made by the government.
On October 4, 2018 Soweto Gospel Choir will start a US tour.
Loxandra Ensemble, one of the finest world music acts from the eastern Mediterranean, has released a flavorful album titled In Transition. The Greek band delivers a superb mix of traditional Greek music, Turkish influences, Gypsy swing, Sephardic, salsa, Middle Eastern and Balkan sounds.
The band features an outstanding, delightful vocalist Ria Ellinidou and world class musicians who use a wide range of musical instruments from the Mediterranean, Middle East, and beyond.
Loxandra Ensemble includes new members. The album lineup includes Nikos Angousis on clarinet and vocals; Foibos Apostolidis on riqq, cajon, darbuka and davul; Makis Baklatzis on violin, lead and backing vocals; Ria Ellinidou on lead vocals; Thanasis Koulentianos on kanun and backing vocals; Loukas Metaxas on acoustic and electric bass and backing vocals; Dimitris Panagoulias on darbuka and riqq; and Kyriakos Tapakis on oud.
In Transition is a beautifully-crafted album that illustrates the fascinating multiple musical influences that meet and combine in the eastern Mediterranean.
Almas Rebeldes (Rebel Souls) is the new album by Che Sudaka, a band formed by South American expats from Argentina and Colombia living in Spain. Che Sudaka is known for its lively shows and party-like atmosphere, where the band mixes accordion-fueled Colombian cumbia, ska, pop, rock, Andean folk music, Brazilian beats and other musical forms.
Che Sudaka’s band members share the social activism of artists like Manu Chao, and Chao himself appears as guest on one track. Other high profile guests include German reggae and dancehall artist Dr Ring Ding, French reggae singer Gari Greu, Spanish reggae and world music vocalist Amparo Sanchez, Congolese act Jupiter & The Okwess and Brazilian singer B-Negao.
Almas Rebeldes showcases the irresistible grooves and cross-pollination of Che Sudaka.
Kamwa international world music conference is the first three-day conference in Russia, aimed at the development of Russian ethno-music industry, and organized by Kamwa festival. The gathering will take place on July 27 – 29, 2018.
The conference will include a series of round tables and lectures on current topics of the world music industry such as “Features of the ethnic festivals organization in Russia. The best form of legal registration for the festival”, “How to promote your folk group abroad?”, “Music folk industry in Russia” and others.
Main aim of work: professional industry partnership, business contacts, opportunities for Russian ethnic music export, international cooperation. The conference will take place on the territory of the architectural and ethnographic Khokhlovka museum, located 40 km from Perm (Ural region) on the picturesque banks of Kama river, and will bring together the leading directors of ethnic festivals in Russia, managers of clubs working with world music groups, tour agents, representatives of ethnic labels and journalists.
Participants: the organizer of the Tyumen festival “Nebo I Zemya” Tatiana Fokina; director of the French art-agency “Altan-Art” Tatiana Lambolez; host of radio program “Folk Room” in “Svoyo radio” and director of the music label “FireStorm Production” Lev Belyakov from Moscow; musician of the group Meszecsinka and curator of the Hungarian ethno festival Babel Sound Emil Bilyarsky; director of the international festival “Voice of nomads” Natalia Ulanova (Ulan-Ude); director of the Novosibirsk festival “WhatEthno” Yuri Romanov; director of the ethno-festival “Midsummer tale” Marina Gulyaeva; co-director of the Russian World Music Awards Daryana Antipova from Moscow; director of the international Kamwa festival Natalya Shostina (Perm); art directors of the Orenburg promo-group “Wonderland” Iskander Marat and Milakova Alexander; and director of the music label “Myrkr” from Ekaterinburg Denis Davydov.
It is often said of traditional Iranian music, “One man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.” Perhaps too often, but the nation does have a venerable and relatively pure musical history, absorbing less from neighbor states than most countries, because Iranian musicians have, for many centuries, “been caught between Iraq and a hard place.” To summarize the foundational system of Iranian classical music more dryly, it is but a few steps from Pythagorean musical theory through medieval thinkers such as Avicenna and Safi al-Din al-Urmawi al-Baghdadi to the compositions on this release.
An important factor here is that Iranian music reached out to the world and offered scientific, modal patterning to other nations before most modern nations existed. Given today’s headlines, we do ourselves and the world a favor by being receptive to a cultural gift that is neither part of nor party to them. This is music.
Strings predominate. Percussion is obviously expert and mandatory on these seven pieces, but it is placed, muted, in the background as a de-empathized frame to jaw-droppingly skillful and expressive frontline string work.
Press materials extrapolate “Melodic Circles” as “melodic circles of suspense, interest and mystique.” They are accurate. There is something going on in each track, and that something is a story, with beginning, middle and end. Conceptually, the record comprises two “circles;” two distinct sets of related ambient anecdotes.
Album artists (brothers) Mehdi and Adib Rostami are active and renowned players on the live London scene today, continuing in the sharing that is so integral to their chosen form. Their sound is easy to Youtube search. In “Melodic Circles,” they have created a solid, intriguing release, well-named and important.
Various Artists – Strunk Nad Oslavou – Strings over the Oslava River 2016 (Indies Scope, 2017)
In 2016, violinist Jitka Šuranská brought together an ensemble of string instrument maestros from various countries, representing diverse traditions. The concert at Festivalu Folkové prázdniny (Festival Folk Holidays) in Náměšť nad Oslavou by the Oslava River in 2016 was recorded and released under the title Strunk Nad Oslavou – Strings over the Oslava River 2016.
The festival team invited Germán López, one of the leading timple (a small Spanish guitar from the Canary Islands) players in the Canary Islands, Spain; talented guitarist Antonio Forcione from Italy; Senegalese kora virtuoso Seckou Keita; and Czech mandolin maestro Martin Krajíček.
The headliner quartet was enhanced with the addition of Spanish guitarist Antonio Toledo, violinist Juraj Stieranka, bass player Juraj Valencik from Slovakia, mandolinist Wolfgang Meyering and Jitka Šuranská on vocals.
The concert program included a set where each musician took the lead and then various pieces where the full ensemble played together. The result is a wonderful mix of solo work, dazzling interplay and superb ensemble creations. The musical influences include traditional folk music from the Canary Islands, Senegalese music, Czech folk tunes and world fusion, where various genres met and delivered a deeply satisfying mix.
The CD version includes a booklet with photos, liner notes and biographical profiles of the musicians in Czech and English.
Strunk Nad Oslavou – Strings over the Oslava River 2016 is an extraordinarily expressive album featuring superb timple, guitar, kora and mandolin performances.
Kokoko!, Fatoumata Diawara, Songhoy Blues, Bamba Wassoulou Groove, Djanka Diabaté, Nélida Karr and Alex Ikot are the African artists set to perform between July 20 and 28, 2018 in Cartagena, Spain at world music festival La Mar de Músicas.
Music from Africa has always played a leading role in La Mar de Músicas. The festival has dedicated previous editions to Senegal, Mali, Morocco and South Africa. Even though this year is dedicated to the music of Denmark, African artists will be represented as well.
“We have not stopped looking at Africa in any of our editions. We will continue being one of the seminal festivals in terms of music from the African continent in Spain,” said David Martínez Noguera, Culture councilman of the Cartagena City Council.
Representing the alternative music scene of the Congo, Kokoko! will perform on Saturday, July 21. Kokoko! is a hard to define band viewed from the western perspective. Their sounds emerge from the ghetto and the gambling dens of Kinshasa, where they avoided the censorship imposed by the government.
Kokoko! is part of the “do it yourself” concept in terms of the instruments they use. They invented their own instruments with scrap objects, given the impossibility of buying the traditional ones. A typewriter, a bucket of paint, a car’s cassette player … they have become the transmitters of their creations.
The band met French producer and African music fan, Débruit, and together they merged their sound universes, electrifying the raw sound of the Congolese and offering music that merges disco sounds, psychedelia and African traditions.
La Mar de Músicas will welcome Songhoy Blues, all the way from Timbuktu. Formed by three young people who, despite the ban on music in their region, continued their work from their exile in Bamako. They released an album that says it all, Résistence, in which they collaborated with Iggy Pop. Songhoy Blues will be in Cartagena on July 22.
Another of the Malian bands that participate in La Mar de Músicas is Bamba Wassoulou Groove, an act in which three guitarists stand in the wake of the legendary Zani Diabaté, who died in 2011.
Bamba Wassoulou Groove perform new songs and classic pieces from the bambara repertoire that sound like psychedelic guitars and electric and hypnotic blues. On July 25 will play in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento de Cartagena (Cartagena city hall square).
Fatoumata Diawara, originally from Mali, is a singer-songwriter who fuses wassulu music, an original style from the south of the Niger River with jazz and soul, creating a blend of modernity and African traditions with ancestral echoes. Her precious voice, trained as a theater and film performer in France and Mali, unfolds without limits in her latest work, Fenfo, which she will present in the old courtyard of the Military Training Barracks of Cartagena on July 27.
Djanka Diabaté was discovered by reggae star Alpha Blondy, who encouraged her and helped her make her first recordings. Her music combines traditional Guinean sounds and zouk and soukus influences and has made her a celebrity in Ivory Coast. In Cartagena she will perform on Monday, July 23rd along with Totó la Momposina, winner of La Mar de Músicas 2018 award.
Nélida Karr is the contemporary musical revelation of the new rhythms and sounds of Equatorial Guinea. Vocalist, composer, producer, pianist, guitarist and cellist, she has always been surrounded by the wealth of her family’s musical heritage, the landscapes of her country, jazz and gospel music.
Nélida will perform in Cartagena on Thursday, July 26, as she is one of the winners of the Vis a Vis cultural cooperation project of Casa África, in which the Cartagena festival has participated once more. Casa África is a Spanish government agency that supports cultural exchange between Spain and African nations.
On July 28, the last day of the festival, and also thanks to the Vis a Vis project, Equatorial Guinean actor Alex Ikot will perform. He’s a musician who has always excelled in the music scene of his country as a percussionist and drummer, skills that he developed from his childhood.
Álex Ikot’s resume is perhaps the most international of Equatoguinean musicians, having played during his long career with some of the greatest African musicians, such as Manu Dibango and Youssou N’Dour.
Hossam Ramzy is one of the most important currently active percussionists / composers. This CD’s subtitle, “The Heart and Soul of Egyptian Music,” is not the sort of overstated puffery usually associated with the phrase, “heart and soul,” but a sincere expression of the man’s dedication to musical expression.
Like his past several releases, it is also a culmination of his lively, ongoing musing on music in general, and of human life itself. These 14 pieces are compact philosophical and artistic treatises as much as they are tunes.
Life is that which makes a conscious effort to maintain itself and grow. Good is that which abets Life; Evil is that which hinders it. That is Hossam Ramzy’s rhythm and commentary. The songs are microcosms, vignettes upon which he zooms in within the big picture of our shared existence. Each can be interpreted as a day, a crucial event or a demonstrative sample of the life we lead or the life we are offered.
He makes world music accessible to even novice listeners by enriching stark, primordial rhythms and melodies through use of musical sections, exemplary recordings and effects such as doubling that enrich each and every participating instrument.
Versed and expert in many genres and traditions, Mr. Ramzy relaxes on this release with a comfortable bedding in the music of his homeland, Egypt.
Because he is within his own zone of greatest comfort, the result is exquisite and in all ways right, but at the same time free of formality.
The players all sound as if, in one another’s company and support, they are each eager to push themselves to excel, by their own standards. “Habibet Alby,” the sixth cut, is a wonderful demonstration of how musicians can work as a team to build chords, riffs and passages into a song.
“Ana W’Habibi” is an entrée for percussionists, utilizing rests as well and effectively as it utilizes notes. Throughout these and the other dozen cuts on “El Berencesa,” Hossam Ramzy is in the driver’s seat, not only playing, but conducting with his instrument.
Congratulations to the artist and all those who seek this release out for their own collections.
Diali Cissokho and Kaira Ba – Routes (Twelve Eight Records, 2018)
Routes is the new album by North Carolina-based Diali Cissokho and Kaira Ba. Diali Cissokho is a Senegalese kora maestro who moved to Pittsboro a few years ago and formed a band with American musicians.
This new recording has deep Senegalese and North Carolinian roots. Diali Cissokho traveled with his American bandmates to his birthplace, M’bour to record an album together. The band’s bassist and producer Jonathan Henderson and engineer Jason Richmond setup a mobile unit in a hotel near the ocean and invited local musicians.
After the sessions in Senegal, the producer added North Carolina musicians to the tracks. Guests included renowned violinist Jennifer Curtis, North Carolina Heritage Award-winning mandolinist Tony Williamson, jazz and gospel vocalists Shana Tucker and Tamisha Waden, and the excellent pedal steel guitar player Eric Heywood.
The final result was Route, an eclectic and deeply satisfying album that features a mix of traditional jali (griot) kora, Afropop, Senegalese salsa and American gospel, jazz and North Carolina roots music.