Tag Archives: world fusion

Flute Dialogs with Darbuka

Auster Loo – Rhythm And Breath

Auster Loo – Rhythm And Breath (Homerecords.be, 2016)

The Belgian music act Auster Loo includes flute player Lydie Thonnard and percussionist Simon Leleux. The duo was created during a musical trip to Morocco in 2014. Rhythm & Breath is a musical conversation between the flute and the darbuka (North African goblet drum).

On a handful of tracks, the duo is joined by Michel Massot on the trombone, Aurore Leloup on electric guitar, Malabika Brahma on vocals and Sanjay Bhattacherjee on guitar and dotara. Influences include North African, Middle Eastern and Indian music.

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Freedom and Leela’s Mantra Fusion

Freedom and Leela – Ru

Freedom and Leela – Ru (Times Music, 2011)

This is an album for the more spiritually inclined. The 9 tracks are renditions of sacred Hindu mantras, blended with an acoustic fusion of flute, piano and guitar. Not as electric or percussion-heavy as other fusion artists like Prem Joshua, this CD is decidedly more mellow and meditative.

Our pick is the piece Guru. This album is a good listen early in the morning, particularly for foreign listeners not well versed with Indian devotional music. The artistes named Freedom and Leela have presented their fusion works at performances in a number of countries around the world.

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Dawn Avery: Performance as Prayer

Dawn Avery – Photo by Deborah Martin

In Dawn Avery’s recent album “Beloved,” her voice is strong and determined. Her songs are often slow and thoughtful. Her cello traces graceful circles around a guitar and a Persian tar – a stringed instrument similar to a sitar. The daf, a Kurdish frame drum, provides a steady, low, underlying rhythm. Gentle waves wash over the listener.  The music is a synthesis of her many musical experiences.  She has worked with Philip Glass, Sting, and many other stars.  Her music has echoes of Glass’s compositions. It is cyclical – it pulls listeners in and moves them into a meditative space. 

Dawn Avery – Beloved

“Beloved,” is Dawn’s embrace of her Mohawk heritage and her study of Sufism. Her music explores the Sufi theme of longing for the divine. On the track, “Night and Day” we hear Rūmī’s words:

I am dazed at the thought of you,
night and day.
I will place my head at your feet,
night and day.

Dawn is no newcomer to music. Her father, Chris Bukholz, a jazz drummer, played in the Lennie Tristano trio. She often fell asleep on his lap to the sound of Bebop, which she learned to love.  Dawn is a vocalist, cellist – she studied the instrument at the Manhattan School of Music, a composer, and a professor of world music at Montgomery College, Maryland. In conversation, she has not let this strong musical background go to her head. She is warm, down to earth, and brings fresh insights into her music.

DJL: Did your father’s approach to music inspire your own?

DA: My dad’s love of Bebop and old jazz meant it was always playing in the house. There was a reverence when Billie Holiday was played. We were taught to be quiet, listen, stay still. His listening discipline as well as his intelligence in analyzing both the technical elements and musical message of various styles of music affected me greatly. He never missed a day of practicing!  His interest in world cultures, religions, and art sparked my pursuits. His Mohawk heritage allowed me to pursue our culture in ways he was unable.

DJL: Your father played with Lennie Tristano. Tristano was an original composer. Did his music and composing influence yours?

DA: Tristano’s use of counterpoint, advanced chromatic harmonies, some avant-garde melodic passages, along with his attention to great technical and rhythmic detail, influenced my playing and composition. The attention to discipline in practice habits, performance, and listening to music, influenced how I grew up as a musician.

Dawn Avery – Photo by Deborah Martin

DJL: What are some early memories of playing music?

DA:  Piano was my first instrument. I was serious about it. At 16, I played at Carnegie Hall. When I later started playing cello, I got to play Beethoven’s Fifth in the center of a big orchestra, in the middle of all that vibration.  It amazed me. It reminded me of being in the Longhouse.

DJL: Is the drum at the center of the Longhouse?

DA:  In the Longhouse, rattles are the pulse of the music.  But you are right, the rattle has a drumming aspect to it. It has a large vibration about it.

DJL: Why did you choose the cello?  It has a female shape?

DA: Yes, a very sensual instrument. The elementary school cello teacher would not let me play any another instrument, so I played cello, but was more serious about the piano until I was seventeen. I thought the cello would be less of a solo instrument and enable me to play in diverse musical styles.  I like that the cello sounds as a human voice at times.  It has a big range, at the lower range you can play the blues, higher up classical music.  And when you hold it to your body, you get a certain feeling from the instrument.

DJL: Why is it important to you to preserve Native American music?

DA:  I first worked on reissuing some older music: Mike Jock and the Big Bear Singers.  In Mohawk language there is a word Non:wa that means now.  We have a different understanding of now, the past is very much a part of our present. 

Preserving these traditions is a way of keeping our heritage strong and alive and of healing mother earth for all peoples.  I formed the Native Composers Project and we invited people to compose songs in their Native languages as a way of preserving them and bringing them into the present. 

DJL: What are the connections between Native American music and Sufi music?

DA:  Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi master, wrote, “The beauty of music is that it is the source of creation.” As a woman of Kanienkéha, Mohawk heritage, and a student of Sufism, I am aware of the vibrations in the world around me as the source of creation from first breath to the sounds of nature. Whether in the Mohawk Longhouse or in the Sufi Sema traditions, I sing to all of creation and strive to live in the beauty and remembrance of all who we are with the divine.

In Mohawk, the word for song, Karèn:nen is translated as “lay your vibration down.” This word was interpreted as a word for prayer by Western linguists. In Sufism, there is also the idea that the soul itself is song. Ceremonial and social songs in the Longhouse are sung to the people, Creation, and to the Creator for healing, remembrance, and peace, just as “The power of the voice as inspiring, healing, peace-giving, harmonizing, convincing, appealing…” exists in Sufism (Hazrat Inayat Khan). As Sufis may “increase the fire of their devotion while listening to music,” the Mohawks of the Iroquois Confederacy dance and sing around the fire to express their love of Creation.

In addition, there are many values and aspects that are similar, such as concern for the community, circle dances, the importance of ceremony, story-telling and metaphor, healing techniques, all of Creation at the center of daily life, the concept of gratitude.  I have been privileged to study language from both traditions through a cultural and historical translation of each syllable. I use these ancient languages in part of my music to invoke the spiritual depth that these two traditions give to us – with hope for the future.

Dawn Avery – Photo by Deborah Martin

DJL: Speaking of hope for the future, you wrote to me of a “softer kind of activism,” and your performances have been described as “loving.” Can you speak to that?

DA: Yes, I see my role not as pushing a specific agenda, but working in a healing and unifying role to share some thoughts in a less threatening way.  I hope that comes through to the audience. People often tell me they received love and healing in the room. I know as a trained healer that I am giving and receiving! It is probably unusual for someone of Native American heritage to be seen onstage performing Sufi music.

DJL:  Do you think it is important in these times that the broader American society better understands Native American and Sufi philosophies? 

DA: It is so important that Americans understand that the basis of these philosophies is love and respect.  I teach at the college level and I see many Muslim students saying how they are stereotyped as terrorists.  These kind and intelligent students are often treated so ethnocentrically. 

As we know, humanity consists of both good and bad.  However,  it seems that racist tendencies have really been brought out during this current time.  I think that many people knew they existed in the United States, but perhaps some of us did not realize just how strong they were.

My way of participating in a “softer activism,”  is to present and open up discussion to different points of view through less threatening mediums such as music, workshops, conversation, and the bringing of different cultures together. I want to hold onto the core of beauty and love that are not only important in both Native American and Sufi philosophies, but to us all.

Dawn Avery

DJL:  You have recorded many albums in your musical career, why this album now?

DA:  Well, I worked on recording it two years ago, but kept it to myself for a while, meditating on it, before sharing it with the world. Sharing the different voices of humanity. Releasing this music has a vulnerable aspect to it where something that was private becomes very public. 

There is the track “Super Heroes” on the album with the refrain, “Be a Super Hero, renegade for love.” The United States has a strong tradition of super heroes, especially in cartoons. But here the hero could be the listener. The song is ultimately about how we elevate our spirits in the world.

DJL: Your music has a meditative quality to it: it reminds me of Philip Glass’s music.

DA: Yes, it can be meditative. People have described it as, “mystic pop.” Perhaps, it has a chill and spiritual aspect to it that is found in Glass’s music. I love hearing what associations people have when they listen to my music. It is meant to be music that enables people to reflect.

DJL: There are two other main musicians that perform on this album, the guitarist Larry Mitchell and Behfar Behadoran who is a vocalist, tar, and daf musician. Can you speak about them?

DA: Larry and I have worked together for about ten years on several Native American music and meditation projects.  He has been described as a guitar texturalist. He lays down a delicious bed of textures and grooves from which I can soar as a musician. Our different strengths interweave with one another. 

I met Behfar while teaching at Montgomery College. One day, I was surprised to see this student walking around campus with a Sitar.  I really like how he plays because he knows the old Persian Sufi songs, but he can bring a contemporary feel and great technique to them.

It is also important for me to include Sakina Nur, the whirling dervish who performs with us live on stage.  She is also a flamenco dancer and sometimes includes that tradition when she performs. Sakina even got the audience to whirl!  I cannot separate her from us as musicians as Sakina is integral to this new music.  In the Iroquois tradition, we have this idea of being connected to the earth.  And you cannot really whirl as a Sufi dervish, unless you are connected to the earth and reach for the skies.  When I play with her, she makes true magic and her vibration is part of the musical prayer.

DJL: Towards the album’s end, the music also makes true magic.  “Night and Day” is a powerful, mesmerizing piece. The pace slows down. The music breathes.  There is a beautiful interplay between the cello and the tar.  Theirs is a heartfelt conversation. 

DA: “Night and Day,” is contemplative, it is a song about longing for the beloved spiritual teacher.

DJL: Do you move into a different state when you perform?

DA: Once I step on stage, I am in meditative connection with the audience and performers, a channel of the divine. I am truly blessed to be connected to people in this way. The performance is prayer.

For more information about Dawn Avery, you can visit her website: www.dawnavery.com

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Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Live at WOMAD 1985 and Night Song Reissue

Nusrat was one of the greatest singer of our time. When his singing takes off, his voice embodies soulfulness and spirituality like no othe,Peter Gabriel said that about the late legendary Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Revisiting the utter extraordinary voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan has turned into a bit of a celebration as Real World Records celebrates their 30th anniversary in the music business with a July 26th release of the live recording Live at WOMAD 1985 and the vinyl re-issue of Night Song, his final recording for Real World Records.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Live at WOMAD 1985

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Live at WOMAD 1985 (Real World Records, 2019)

Restored from the original analogue tapes, Live at WOMAD 1985 is simply thrilling. From the first notes of “Allah Ho Allah Ho” through “Haq Ali Ali” to “Shahbaaz Qalandar” and ending on the last of the fading notes of “Biba Sada Dil Mor De.”

Live at WOMAD is a panoramic musical landscape of all the wonderfulness that made Mr. Ali Khan’s vocals so breathtaking. Listeners are treated to the brightness of song, the reverent ecstasy of Qawwali devotion and vocalizations that sound as if they grew out of the fires of earth, bubbled up and over rocks and stones within ancient river banks, took flight and came back to earth as a gentle as a breeze. Surrounded by harmoniums, tablas, singers and hand-clapping, Live at WOMAD 1985 is just simply the raw spectacular richness whirling around Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Night Song

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Night Song reissue (Real World Records, 2019)

The re-issue of Night Song is no less astonishing. Originally released in 1996, Night Song came about as a second collaboration with Canadian producer Michael Brook after the release of the 1990 album Mustt Mustt.

Folding in Western and Asian influences, Night Song is smart, sophisticated and strikingly potent even after some 23 years. Listeners get an earful of sweetness edged with kora on opening track “My Heart, My Life” before the delicious open landscape feel of vocals against harmonium, percussion and keyboards of “Intoxicated.” And it just gets better with the eerie mysteries of “Lament,” the electronica mix of “My Comfort Remains” and the precious elegance of title track “Night Song.” My favorite has to be the moody mix conjured up “Sweet Pain.”

Writing together all the songs on Night Song, Mr. Brooks and Mr. Ali Khan (Mr. Ali Khan solely penned “Night Song”) found the perfect balance of east and west for Night Song so it can be no surprise that it was nominated for a Grammy award and is considered a classic world music realm. Re-visiting this recording after more than 20 years was definitely no chore and if you missed snagging it in 1996 or are just hearing it for the first time don’t waste a moment more before falling under Night Song’s spell.

Buy Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Live at WOMAD 1985 and Night Song in the Americas

Buy Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Live at WOMAD 1985 and Night Song in Europe

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Artist Profiles: AKA Trio

AKA Trio

AKA Trio is a music ensemble that brings together three skilled musicians: Italian guitarist Antonio Forcione, kora master Seckou Keita and Brazilian percussion wizard Adriano Adewale.

AKA Trio’s style combines Mediterranean, Senegalese, Brazilian, and jazz influences.

The trio released its debut album titled Joy (Bendigedig, May 2019) on May 24th, 2019 on the bendigedig label.

Discography:

Joy  (Bendigedig, May 2019)

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Playful Guitar, Vocals and Kora

AKA Trio – Joy  (Bendigedig, May 2019)

AKA Trio, an international collaboration featuring Italian guitarist Antonio Forcione, Senegalese kora player and lead vocalist Seckou Keita and Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale has released a spirited album titled Joy.

AKA Trio – Joy

Joy is pure delight, a captivating melodic mix of West African, Mediterranean, blues, jams and global rhythms. Throughout the album, the kora and the guitar dance masterfully around each other, supported by exquisite subtle percussion.

Buy Joy

headline photo: AKA Trio by Anna Kunst

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Santana and Buika Back to the Roots

Santana – Africa Speaks (Concord Records, 2019)

Two iconic artists, guitarist Carlos Santana and vocalist Santana teamed up to record a superb album titled Africa Speaks .

Carlos Santana brought to the table his wide-ranging experience in mixing Afro-Cuban music with rock, jazz and other global music influences. Afro-Spanish singer Buika is deeply influenced by the African music of her parents, flamenco, jazz, soul and Afropop.

Santana – Africa Speaks

Together, Santana and Buika deliver a remarkable album, where two unique sounds meet and intertwine:  Santana’s highly recognizable electric guitar and Buika’s distinctive voice and singing style.

Santana was a pioneer in world fusion, combining Cuban music and rock in his early albums. Now, rock, African, flamenco and Afro-Latin sounds come together in an explosive mix on Africa Speaks.

This is music that I hold so dearly, and it’s not a stranger to me,” says Carlos Santana. “The rhythms, grooves and melodies from Africa have always inspired me. It’s in my DNA. If you take your inspiration from many, it’s called research. I researched this beautiful music from the African continent. They have a frequency that’s all their own. It’s funny, because when I play in Africa, people say, ‘How do you know our music?’ And I say, ‘How can I not know what I love?’”

Personnel: Carlos Santana on lead electric and rhythm guitars, backing vocals and percussion; Buika on lead vocals; Laura Mvula on backing vocals; Cindy Blackman Santana, on drums; Salvador Santana on keyboards; Tommy Anthony on rhythm guitar; Benny Rietveld on bass; Karl Perazzo on timbales, congas and percussion; David K. Mathews on Hammond B3 organ and keyboards; Andy Vargas on backing vocals; and Ray Greene on backing vocals.

Africa Speaks brings out of the best of Santana and Buika: memorable guitars and exceptionally expressive vocals rooted in African traditions. One of Santana’s finest albums in many years.

Buy Africa Speaks in the Americas

Buy Africa Speaks in Europe

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Marvelous Persian Flute Fusion Works

Kaveh Sarvarian – Kereshmeh  – Nueva perspectiva de música persa (La Cupula Music, 2019)

Iranian multi-instrumentalist Kaveh Sarvarian has released a new album titled Kereshmeh, which is a type of ancient melody in classical Iranian music. Kereshmeh is also an exploration on the opportunities of composing and improvising in less known rhythms and a way of using percussion in a simpler form.

Kaveh Sarvarian – Kereshmeh  – Nueva perspectiva de música persa

Madrid-based Kaveh Sarvarian combines traditional Persian music, jazz fusion, Bakuchi and Armenian folk traditions and contemporary experimental music forms. He uses beautiful layers of various types of flutes, including the ney, accompanied by a wide range of percussion, subtle keyboards such as fascinating electric piano and organ and piano.

Adding different tracks and making a musical loop was something unfamiliar to me,” says Kaveh Sarvarian. “It is an idea that I have been experimenting and learning over the past few years. In Kereshmeh, I have tried to use this technique with the traditional and folkloric music of Iran.”

Buy the digital edition of Kereshmeh  – Nueva perspectiva de música persa from amazon or the CD from kavehsarvarian.bandcamp.com/album/kereshmeh

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Genuine American Jazz Meets Deeply Rooted Flamenco

New Bojaira – Zorongo Blu

New Bojaira – Zorongo Blu (New Bojaira, 2019)

New Bojaira is a superb new ensemble featuring Spanish flamenco and flamenco-jazz musicians along with American jazz instrumentalists. Their debut album is Zorongo Blu.

Pianist and composer Jesús Hernández and American bassist Tim Ferguson put the band together by bringing in various New York-based musicians. The result is a powerful mix of modern jazz and flamenco stylings and rhythms along with various other influences.

Although flamenco jazz has been around for a few years now, most of the recordings feature instrumental pieces. On Zorongo Blu, however, many of the tracks feature the vocals of multifaceted flamenco singer, handclap percussionist and flute player Alfonso Cid, originally from Seville and currently based in New York City.

The highlights of the album are the exquisite interactions between the piano, bass, vocals, flugelhorn and percussion.

While on some songs there is exciting jazz and flamenco hybridization, the album also contains conventional jazz pieces dominated by saxophone.

The lineup includes Jesús Hernández on piano; Tim Ferguson on double bass; Mark Holen on drums, frame drum and darbuka; Alfonso Cid on vocals, flute and handclapping.

Guests include Randy Brecker on flugelhorn; Peter Brainin on soprano and tenor saxophone; and Sergio Gómez “El Colorao” on vocals.

Buy Zorongo Blu

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Arabesques Festival Announces 2019 Lineup

French event Arabesques Festival will take place September 10 to 22, 2019.  For this 14th edition, Arabesques will showcase many artists from the Arab world who incorporate their African roots and transform them: Aziz Sahmaoui, Oum, Alchimix, Imed Alibi and Gnawa Diffusion.

New collaborations reflect the creative vitality of the African continent, like the 3MA project bringing together the leading artists of Morocco, Mali and Madagascar: Ballaké Sissoko, Driss el Maloumi and Rajery.

Jordi Savall & Waed Bouhassoun

There will be an opportunity to break boundaries as with the creation of Soundjata (Sundiata Keita), a recovery of the Manding epic by storyteller Jihad Darwiche and Malian kora player Tom Diakite.

Additional shows include: The Whirling Dervishes of Damascus and the Al-Kindi Ensemble; Jordi Savall & Waed Bouhassoun, with the Orpheus XXI project; well-known world music acts: Marcel & Rami Khalife featuring Aymeric Westrich, Takfarinas, DuOud …

The festival will present a circus performance of the Acrobatic Group of Tangier with Halka.

The new Arab scene will be featured: Alchimix, Imed Alibi, Sofiane Saidi & Mazalda, Le Lanceur de dés Walid Ben Selim, and Faraj Suleiman Trio as well as the Count of Bouderbala’s One Man Show.

More at www.festivalarabesques.fr

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