Tag Archives: world fusion

Interview with Cuban Keyboardist and Composer Roberto Fonseca

Innovative Cuban musician and composer Roberto Fonseca has a new album titled Yesun. It is a project where he brings together a wide range of musical influences, such as Cuban traditions, jazz, classical music, funk, reggaeton and electronic music. Fonseca also used various keyboards aside from piano, including synthesizers. Roberto Fonseca talked to World Music Central about Yesun and his career.

Roberto Fonseca – Photo by Alejandro Azcuy

How and when did you start working professionally in the music world?

I started at age 15 at jazz festivals and jazz clubs in Havana.

What do you think are the fundamental elements of your musical style?

Spirituality, melody, rhythm and feeling.

How has your musical expression evolved over the years?

Thanks to the diverse influences, I have followed the philosophy of “Express more with less notes” and this has made me enter into very special sound dimensions.

Roberto Fonseca – Yesun

Tell us a little about Yesun.

Yesun is an album that reflects my influences, my way of thinking. There are many real stories inside and it has a great emotional charge. They have a great strength of hope and sensitivity and is the result of a hard work of several years that has been simmering and I have surrounded myself with great professionals, both musicians, singers, technical team and production.

It is a very broad project that not only stays in music since we have also worked in the visual parts, and I do not only refer to video clips (shortly we will release the second single / video clip of the song Cadenas (featuring Danay Suarez) but also the production of live videos. Each song has a visual that expresses the feeling of the song, this can be seen in my concerts; similarly, we have created a poster designed exclusively for each venue (something totally unique) and the Tour apparel has been designed for us by a great designer from Barcelona called Josep Abril.

Returning to the album, it is a work in which I combine different genres and incorporate more types of keyboards. I try to show that most modern Cuba through jazz.

Roberto Fonseca – Photo by Alejandro Azcuy

Yesun’s songs have been recorded in several different countries: France, Spain, Brazil, the United States. Why did you use several recording studios and is there a difference between the material according to the studio and country?

Most of the album was recorded in Paris, in Meudon’s studio (with Julien Besséres) the material they have is magnificent and there is a very familiar atmosphere that allows creativity to have incredible freedom and spontaneity.

The guests have recorded in their countries of residence. Today, thanks to technology, it is easier to make this type of collaboration without having to make a complicated trip and I also consider it very important that each person who brings their color and sound feel comfortable where they are, I think you can give a very positive sense to the contribution of your culture on the disc.

In your album Yesun you play several types of keyboards. How do you decide which instrument you will use in each theme? Which one do you like the most?

Indeed, it is just what I said earlier about the incorporation of new keyboards, it really depends on the sound of each instrument and according to the spirit of the track I choose one or the other. For example I love the sound diversity of the Moogs.

Roberto Fonseca – Photo by Alejandro Azcuy

In addition to playing keyboards, you also sing without lyrics, a style similar to what Pedro Aznar did with Pat Metheny. What are your influences on the vocal side and do you plan to record your voice more?

Actually, my biggest influence in this vocal aspect is my mother Meredes Cortes, although I also have a lot of influence from Abbey Lincon and to name other great ones that I admire would say Camarón de la Isla, Freddy Mercury, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo…

Do you give classes or workshops?

There was a time that I taught jazz and traditional Cuban music, but for a few years now I am 100% dedicated to my career.

Where do you live now?

In Havana, Cuba.

If you could bring together the musicians or groups that fascinate you most to record a record or collaborate live, who would you call?

Ibrahim Ferrer, Miles Davis, Cachaíto Lopez, Dexter Gordon, Regina Carter, Jimi Hendrix, Jack Jack DeJohnette, etc. The list can be endless.

What other projects are working on?

One with symphony orchestra, soundsystem, with Joe Claussell.

More about Roberto Fonseca

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Constructing a New Form of Malian Music

Invisible System – Dance to the Full Moon (Arc Music, 2019)

Invisible System is the psychedelic world fusion project of British multi-instrumentalist and producer Dan Harper. On Dance to the Full Moon, Harper continues his enthralling explorations of Malian music. He invited a talented cast of musicians and griot vocalists and recorded them in Bamako, Mali.

Dance to the Full Moon features an effectively balanced mix of traditional acoustic instruments, electric guitars and electronics.  

The lineup includes Dan Harper on bass, guitar, synthesizer, drums, programming and cigar box guitar; Astou Niamé Diabaté on vocals; Sambou Koyaté on vocals; Banjougou Koyaté on guitar, jun-jun and jembe; Sidi Touré on vocals, guitar and calabash; Penzy on rap; Kalifa Koné on guitar; Ousmane Dagon on ngoni and tama (talking drum); Dou on guitar; Kalifa Koné on guitar; Morissamda Diabaté on drums; Djémory Kouyaté on balafon; Cherif Soumano on kora; Seyba Kouyaté on kora; and Oumou on backing vocals.

Invisible System – Dance to the Full Moon

Dance to the Full Moon reveals a deeply satisfying, futuristic vision of Malian music.

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A Path of Light

Hevreh Ensemble – A Path of Light

Hevreh Ensemble – A Path of Light (Ansonica Records, 2019)

A Path of Light showcases the work of talented American world fusion quartet Hevreh Ensemble. The album features a lively instrumental mix of global melodies and rhythms, jazz and classical influences. One of the characteristic elements of the ensemble is the use of Native American Cherokee flutes, clarinets and oboe.

The lineup on A Path of Light includes Jeff Adler on bass clarinet, Native American flutes; Judith Dansker on oboe, Native American flute; Laurie Friedman on clarinet, Native American flute; and Adam Morrison on piano, keyboards.

Guests include string quartet Ethel: Ralph Farris on viola, voice and minimoog; Kip Jones on violin; Dorothy Lawson on cello; and Corin Lee on violin. Other guests include percussionist Shane Shanahan; George Rush on double bass, and Naren Budhkar on tabla.

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Interview with Alexey Belkin of Russian Folk Band Otava Yo

Otava Yo is one of the rising acts in contemporary Russian folk music. The Saint Petersburg Russian-based band has an excellent new album available internationally titled “Do You Love

The lineup includes Alexey Belkin on vocals, bagpipes, gusli, zhaleika; Alexey Skosyrev on vocals, acoustic guitar; Dmitry Shikhardin on vocals, fiddle; Yulia Usova on vocals, violin; Petr Sergeev on bass drum and darbuka; and Timur Sigidin on bass.

Otava Yo’s leader Alexey Belkin talked to World Music Central about the band’s background and the new recording.

Q: How and when was Otava Yo formed?

On the streets of St. Petersburg in 2003, where we decided to busk for fun. The feedback from audience was so great, so we started to busk in St. Pete on regular basis. That time we were playing instrumental Celtic music. Only after 3 years of occasional street performing we made a first record and perceived our selves as a band.

Q: What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

We try to keep music live, in terms that we do not like to copy somebody’s ideas, we prefer to invent our own bicycle. If we see some great idea created by somebody else – it inspires us to make something too. Also we try to keep the main idea of folk songs and do not complicate them. If it is funny cheerful dance song we would not make from it jazzy lounge R&B.

Otava Yo – Photo by Daniil Moroz

Q: Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

I can talk only for myself. I used to listen to lots of Celtic artists – Chieftains, Carlos Nuñez, Silly Wizard, etc. and also Scandinavian bands like Hedningarna, Garmarna. I love Latvian band Iļģi. Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Michael Nyman. All of them could make influence on my musical taste.

Q: Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.

The first recording with Otava Yo we made in 2006. After all those sessions on the streets we decide to make live album with everything we played for that time. So, it was instrumental album with just 1 song. Raw and live. No bass guitar and no even bass drum. Exactly how we played on the streets.

Three years later we made a new album full of Russian traditional songs, the most popular ones. And it was recorded with using all studio possibilities. We made nice arrangements and used more instruments then we can play live, invited some friends. So, it was fun to make that record and to see how good this music could be recorded.

The new album “Do you love” in 2018 took us a 6 months of work in studio. And I believe it is our most matured work for now.

Otava Yo – Do you Love

Q: Even though you live in a city, your music contains elements of Russian village music. How do you find traditional rural folk songs?

Well, we live in cities, but some of us used to stay in country side. I myself till 15 years old stayed in very small town in private house in suburb of St. Petersburg. I was able to go for a walk without seeing a single car, if I wanted I could make a campfire with my friends in my yard, so it was a happy childhood of small town boy. But there was no folklore in my life. It was USSR and communists did everything they could to steal folklore from Russian population and to replace it with fake academic folklore. But in spite of this the folk songs are all over, all you need just to wish to listen to them. The most of the song we sing we just know. Some of them we found in ethnographic recordings or books. But we never went to ethnographic expeditions.

Q: Otava Yo uses various traditional Russian instruments. Tell us about them and how common are they now?

The most common – electric guitar and bass, the rest are quite rare. Well, to be serious, it is a problem now with getting Russian traditional instruments. You are not able to buy them in store, the only way to get such instrument is only to order it directly from the maker and then wait for a few months. I ordered my new Russian village bagpipe in May and it is ready only now. But it is worth to wait. How common?… Well, not really.

Otava Yo – Photo by Timur Sigidin

Q: Who makes your traditional musical instruments?

Different makers. Some of them are from St. Petersburg, some from other cities. My zhaleikas mostly made by Anton Platonov and Dmitry Dyomin. Gusli by Alexander Teplov. The new Russian bagpipe by Vasiliy Ivanov. Also I am waiting for the new gaita chanter with keys from Moscow’s maker Alexander Anistratov. All of them you may find in Facebook.

Q: Otava Yo is also known for making captivating music videos. Tell us about the process of making videos and who is involved.

We make them in picaresque way. I have directed all the videos we made. As far as I didn’t study how to shoot video so I was not afraid to start to make them and just started to do it without understanding the details of the whole video production process. First two videos we even shot by ourselves, only starting from “Street cleaner” we have invited professional camera man.

The process – usually I start to think about the song for which I would like to shoot video. I listen to it more than hundred times. Then I come up with the main idea and start to work on script. Then with my partner Vsevolod together we write final script and plan all the shootings details including what kind of equipment we will use and where will rent it. Then we shoot 🙂

After shooting we edit it and make post-production.

Nothing special or unusual. The only important thing – I suppose if we would invite the professional director from the side the result would not be like what we have now, just because it is impossible to find so folklore involved and oriented director in Russia or outside of it. So, I had to invent everything especially for Otava Yo. I suppose it is a unique product we made in a single copy, it is very difficult to duplicate. So that’s the whole secret.

Q: How’s the current traditional and contemporary folk and world music scene in Saint Petersburg and other parts of Russia?

To be honest quite bad. The amount of folk groups which on regular basis can play the concerts is very little. The ones which could attract more than 100 listeners even less. We do not have infrastructure for world music. The quantity of world music festivals also is quite low. But I think it is changing a little bit and also with our help too.

Q: If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with whom would that be?

Well, I like Hedningarna and Penguin cafe, I think we could make something interesting together. And Rammstein of course 🙂

Q: Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

We are getting ready for Christmas tour, which will happen in January 2020. Now we are in the middle of “Once upon a time” tour which is dedicated to 10 year anniversary of our second album “Once upon a time”. Ten more concerts to go.

We need to finish the new video clip, which we shot in August. I wanted to create an adventurous comedy video and I hope it will work out as I planned. We have some ideas for our youtube show “Zelyonka”, where we invite other musicians and play together. The last month we had a great guests from Sweden – Garmarna. We plan several other interesting acts within this show. And of course we are planning to work on new songs, and this is the most important thing for us now. The recent live video with new song “Zalivochka” which we just uploaded gathered more than 100K views just for 2 days; that means people look forward for new songs from us.

headline photo: Otava Yo by Maxim Drozdov

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The Captivating Thaitronics of Apichat Pakwan

Apichat Pakwan – Esantronics

Apichat Pakwan – Esantronics (Animist Records, 2019)

Esantronics introduces a wonderful world of hybrid music where traditional Thai music meets European electronic music. Apichat Pakwan includes Thai musicians who perform music from the Northeast region of Thailand, also known as Esan, and Dutch composer and producer Olivier Schreuder.

The project got started when Olivier Schreuder became passionately interested in the music of Laos and Esan. While studying this music in the city of Khon Kaen in the region of Esan in Northeast Thailand he encountered a group of young and very fine musicians with whom he started playing and recording a mix of the traditional music with local instruments like the kaen (mouth organ), phin (stringed instrument), pi phu thai (flute), sor (fiddle), a wide range of percussion and analog and digital electronics.

Apichat Pakwan live at Amsterdam Roots Festival in July 2019

Apichat Pakwan is not a studio only project. The group has performed live throughout Asia and Europe. The lineup varies and there is always room for improvisation. Although the ensemble originally played instrumentals, vocalist and composer Anusara ‘Bee’ Deechaichana joined the project. She wrote the lyrics for the songs.

Apichat Pakwan live at Cinetol Amsterdam in 2019

Although Apichat Pakwan had released some recordings before, Esantronics is the debut full album. It was recorded at various locations in Thailand, as well as in Singapore, Amsterdam and Berlin.

Apichat Pakwan at Houtfestival in The Netherlands, 2019

The lineup includes Olivier Schreuder on percussion, drum programming, Fender Rhodes, kaen, electronics; Pumisakseri ‘Kwang’ Sasida on phin, kaen and sor esan; Angkanang ‘Num’ Pimwankum on percusssion; Anusara ‘Bee’ Deechaichana on vocals; Wimonmat ‘Wiw’ Kangjantha on vocals; Arthit Krajangsree on phin; Pongsapon Upani on kaen; and Chanawat ‘Smurf’ Jonhjoho on sor esan.

Esantronics is a superb album where fascinating, innovative Thai roots music meets masterfully-crafted electronica.

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Interview with World Fusion Band Solana And Video Premiere

Solana is a world music fusion band originally founded in Valencia, Spain in 2012. Solana combines rhythmically complex and harmonically rich music inspired by folk traditions from around the world.

Solana’s sound is guided by flutes, violin, accordion and Spanish guitar, and takes influence from diverse celebrated artists like Tigran Hamasyan, Kíla, Paco de Lucía and Dhafer Youssef.

Band members include Tamsin Elliott on flute, whistles, accordion; Rowen Elliott on violin, effects; Elio Arauz de Marcos on drums, percussion, vocals; Henry Edmonds on electric and acoustic bass; and JP Wolfgang on Spanish guitar.

Solana’s Tamsin Elliott

Solana has a new video titled “Odd Elegy / Allegedly Odd.” Flute player Tamsin Elliott provides details about the video: “It includes a cover of Dhafer Youssef’s Odd Elegy and a string of my own tunes collectively called “Allegedly Odd”, which I composed in response to Youssef’s piece. The arrangement is by the collective brain of Solana. It feels like quite an achievement to finish this video after a year of quite serious health issues which turned my world upside down.”

Q – The band is currently based in the UK but it was started in Valencia, Spain. How did you guys come into contact with each other?

Siblings Tamsin and Rowan Elliott have played music together from a young age. In 2012 they both coincidentally moved to Valencia and reconnected musically, playing in small bars and social centers. They were joined by original guitarist Alex Dickinson and Valencian percussionist Elio Arauz de Marcos.

Solana rapidly gained a following in the city due to the appetite for Celtic and Eastern European folk music there. In the intervening years the band’s sound and line-up have evolved to the present five-piece.

Solana

Q – What’s the background of the musicians in Solana?

Tamsin (flutes/accordion) and Rowan (violin) Elliott were brought up on a diet of world, folk and reggae and spent family holidays at festivals such as WOMAD. This exposure to a large variety of music from around the world, as well as the Celtic sessions in the local pub, has influenced their music-making to this day.

Elio Arauz de Marcos learned percussion from the age of eleven and played various styles from reggae and ska to Latin and traditional Valencian bands. After a few years of mainly playing guitar he rediscovered his passion for drums through the music of Solana. He also fronts rumba, Latin, afrobeat project The Globo Collective on guitar and vocals.

Solana’s Elio Arauz de Marcos

After years of playing guitar, JP Wolfgang discovered and fell in love with the Flamenco tradition and moved to Madrid to study with El Entri in the famous Caño Roto Madrid.

Solana’s Rowen Elliott and JP Wolfgang

Henry Edmonds’ background in jazz and post rock has brought a gnarly edge to Solana’s sound. He enjoys the challenge of fusing different world grooves with more progressive arrangements, and the opportunity to play both upright and electric bass.

Solana

Q – You released an album in 2017. How was that experience and what exposure did you get?

Camino (2017) was recorded over four days -and four sleepless nights- at Henwood studios near London. This is our first album of wholly original compositions and it was with this recording that we began to find our own unique sound. We were lucky to count on the expertise and patience of our childhood friend and all-round musical genius Tom Excell who engineered and co-produced the album.

We received great reviews, with the album being described as “thoroughly invigorating” by Songlines, “A fervent and fertile form of world fusion” by Shire Folk, and our favorite from Folk Radio UK saying that “They make my spice shelf look boring… an accomplished and colorful album”.

Solana – Camino

Q – Are you working on a new album?

Yes, we have lots of new material and are really exited to get it on record. Tamsin is currently waiting for a major operation to sort out ongoing health problems, so touring is on hold until we have a date, but in the mean time lots of work is happening on new compositions and arrangements! Expect the next album to demonstrate a rich sonic tapestry, sometimes playful and often poignant, anchored by a deep respect for traditions. We’re looking forward to sharing something new and bold that goes beyond classic folk conventions.

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Alluring Afro-Roots and Funk from Dawn Drake and ZapOte

Dawn Drake and ZapOte – Nightshade (Dawn Drake, 2019)

Nightshade is the new album from American bassist, percussionist, vocalist and composer Dawn Drake and her band called Zapote. This masterfully-crafted recording combines funk, edgy and futuristic trip hop, Afro-Cuban rhythms, high energy Afrobeat, and jazz with lyrics in English, Spanish and French.

Dawn Drake and ZapOte – Photo by Albie Mitchell

Dawn Drake describes Nightshade as more ambient and moody than previous works. “Some of the themes that appear on this new album are looking at darkness or depression and the symbology of coming out of it. For this album, I wanted to write more instrumental songs and focus more on the compositional aspects of the music to represent that process, rather than lyrical themes with chordal accompaniment.”

Nightshade is a splendid album by a talented artist bursting into in the international world music scene.

Dawn Drake and ZapOte are set to perform on December 21, 2019 at Shrine World Music Venue in New York City, New York, USA.

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The Middle Eastern Aspect of Gordon Grdina

Gordon Grdina’s The Marrow – Ejdeha

Gordon Grdina’s The Marrow – Ejdeha (Songlines Recordings, 2018)

Ejdeha presents the Middle Eastern music side of Canadian guitarist and ud player Gordon Grdina. Here, Grdina focuses on the ud in a set of ud solos and improvisations supported by mesmerizing daf frame drum and acoustic bass, along with cello. The album combines remarkable improvisation with tight ensemble interplay.

The lineup on Ejdeha includes Gordon Grdina on ud; Mark Helias on bass; Hank Roberts on cello; and Hamin Honari on tombak and daf.

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Artist Profiles: Baraka Moon

Baraka Moon

Baraka Moon is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. The group mixes mystical Sufi trance songs, Indian ragas, African rhythms and the Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo.

Baraka Moon Members:

Sukhawat Ali Khan – Baraka Moon’s passionate vocalist draws from his celebrated family’s 600 year-old Pakistani singing tradition. He also plays ragas and blues riffs with his harmonium.

Stephen Kent – A one-man band didgeridoo/percussion virtuoso, Kent is a pioneer in bringing the ancient Aboriginal Australian instrument to the contemporary world.

Peter Warren – drummer and percussionist, Warren is responsible for Baraka Moon’s dance rhythms. He has performed many years with African musicians and dancers in the U.S. and his native Canada.

Anastasi Mavrides plays seasoned guitar with chordal voicings and soaring anthemic melodies. He also provides supporting vocals to Sukhawat’s singing.

Discography:

Eternal (Baraka Moon Music, 2014)
Wind Horse (Baraka Moon Music/Six Degrees, 2017)

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Garden Quartet‘s Contemporary Iranian-Australian Fusion

Garden Quartet – Garden Quarrtet

Garden Quartet – Garden Quartet (Bleemo Music, 2019)

Australian audiences were reported to be “spellbound throughout” recent performances by Garden Quartet’s performance of music from their debut self-titled album. Ancient Persian language and melodies are embroidered with threads of trans-global influence – old and new. While the result is born of improvisation, it delivers a complete soundscape, Earthy yet ethereal. Delicate and vibrant.

Since relocating from Iran to Melbourne, front woman Gelareh Pour has ventured beyond her classical training. Collaborating with experimental musicians, her adventurous spirit found a platform to soar. Pour has dabbled in genres from theatrical to Persian post-Rock and metal.

Formed in 2016, Garden Quartet comprises two Iranian-born artists with two from Melbourne. On kamancheh (4-stringed Persian spiked fiddle) and qeychak (bowed lute), Pour plays in musical conversation with partner Bryan O’Dwyer (drums), Mike Gallichio (electric guitar, bass and piano) and Arman Habibi (santur and vocals). The engine room of guitar and percussion provide solid ground for the rhythm of the santur (hammer dulcimer) and the melodic drone of Kamancheh.

Original compositions accompany emotive poetry. In Iran, women singers cannot perform publically as soloists. In a modern diasporic setting, Pour’s Farsi vocal interpretations scale unexpected heights. On ‘I Am An Ocean’, she sings the words of Nozar Parang: Why stay in dirt with no hope?  On ‘Anxiety Wars’ (lyrics by Houshang Ebtehaj: The small cage door is open but it’s a shame, The wings of my voice are broken.

As an ethnomusicologist, Pour’s instrumental practice preserves a classical tradition. As an interpreter of words, she expresses her own need to be heard on a welcoming platform.

The conversations between instruments and voice follow the improvisational tradition of her musical roots. The interplay of learned structuring and innovation captivates. Joining Pour and O’Dwyer on production, Myles Mumford shares their passion and experience over an array of musical styles.

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