Tag Archives: world music

Artist Profiles: Shao Rong

Shao Rong

Born and raised in Shanghai, China, Shao Rong first broke with tradition when she moved to Japan (she is currently living in Tokyo), although she maintains an allegiance to the Chinese lute which differs from the Japanese version. Although similarly shaped, the Japanese lute is more rhythm-oriented and played with a fan-shaped pick while the Chinese instrument stresses the melody and is plucked with the fingertips which are covered with special artificial nails.

Shao’s second move away from tradition is that she plays mostly modern compositions on her recordings. In addition, she utilizes a combination of ancient instruments – guzheng (a Chinese zither invented thousands of years ago, now normally with 21 strings), erhu (a very old two-string Chinese lute played with a bow, originally constructed to imitate the human voice, and known in Japan as the niko), dizi (a small Chinese flute from the Tang Age two-thousand-years-ago) and shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute) – mixed with modern Western instrumentation like piano, guitar and bass.

In 1998, Shao was chosen by the Japanese Agency of Culture to join Tempyo-Gafu, an Asian ancient-music ensemble, which performed special concerts at the United Nations and in major U.S. cities including New York, Washington and Los Angeles (the show was televised in Japan).

Rong was allowed the high honor of playing an extremely valuable thousand-year-old five-string pipa, the oldest one in the world which makes it a national treasure. Rong usually plays the pipa in the “Rinshi” style using all five fingers to create a tremolo effect which makes the instrument sound to Western ears like a mandolin one moment or a banjo the next.

Shao always excelled at music and by the time she entered college, she was considered one of the top musical prodigies in all of China. She began taking piano lessons when she was five-years old and started lute lessons at age ten. When she was in her second year of junior high school, a new music school was established under the wing of the Beijing National Central Music Institute. Shao, along with 20,000 other students, took the entrance exams which only 12 passed. Of those, five were selected to attend this special university. Shao Rong was one of those chosen. At the Central Conservatory of Music in Bejing, she studied under the legendary pipa player Professor Liu Dehai, whose mastery was regarded as a national asset of the country.

After graduating from college, Rong returned to Shanghai in 1987 and joined the National Folk Music Band as a featured soloist, and she won a top award (“The Artistic Excellence Prize”) as one of the outstanding artists at the Shanghai Arts Festival. “In order to experience a fresh environment for my music,” says Rong, “I decided to move to Japan.” In 1989, she enrolled at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music which led to her appearance in the Shiki Company production of “Madame Butterfly” in 1990 as both a pipa player and an actress. After graduation, her performance schedule increased.

In July 1998, she performed as a soloist with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra in the Japanese premiere of “Marco Polo,” an opera by one of China’s leading composers, Tan Dun. This led to an invitation from the Sapporo Symphony for her to appear as a soloist in a performance of “The Great Wall” by Japanese composer Ikuma Dan in April 1999. In July of that year, Rong had the honor of performing the world premiere of Tan Dun’s “Concerto for Pipa and String Orchestra” at the Pan Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo which won Shao worldwide attention as a musician and led to performance requests from all over Asia, America and Europe. She also played at the Asian Composers Conference in Yokohama, and gave another Japanese premiere of Tan Dun’s work at the Suntory Hall Summer Festival. In addition, Shao is a part of the unique Li-Hua Ensemble.

On Shao Rong’s Orchid album, she is joined by various musicians including Jia Peng Fang on erhu and Naoyuki Onda on acoustic piano. The album was produced by Pacific Moon’s acclaimed recording team of Kazurnasa Yoshioka and Seiichi Kyoda. Kyoda wrote all of the tunes for the album with the exception of “Precious Moon” (which was based on the famous old Chinese classic song “Yue Er Gao”). Orchid begins and ends with two different versions of the tune “Wild Rose,” the first featuring the lute with piano and erhu, and the second placing the pipa sounds alongside acoustic guitar.

I tried many new musical techniques on this album,” says Shao. “There are different styles in the playing of the lute. One is ‘bukyoku’ which is a very fierce, aggressive way of playingand the other one, ‘bunkyoku’ is a gentler type of playing….for the first time during these recording sessions, I played the lute with other instruments which are all of western origin like guitar, piano, bass and drums.”


Orchid (Pacific Moon Records, 2001)
Orchid, Vol. 2 (Pacific Moon Records, 2004)


Humanity at the Heart of Eleanor Dubinsky’s Songs

Eleanor Dubinsky – Soft Spot of My Heart (Eleanor Dubinsky, 2018)

American composer, songwriter and vocalist Eleanor Dubinsky uses various musical genres to express her finely-crafted songs. She has a delightful, engaging vocal style and her lyrics transmit her concern for the marginalized, longing and understanding of human beings from diverse cultures.

On Soft Spot of My Heart you’ll find a captivating collection of songs that incorporate jazz, gospel, soul, Americana, pop and world music elements.

The album was recorded in Portugal and New York City, which allowed Dubinsky to collaborate with a group of artists representing different musical genres and nationalities, including musicians from New York, Brazil, Cape Verde, and Portugal.

Eleanor Dubinsky spent several years abroad in Europe, Argentina and Mexico, where she learned French and Spanish. She writes her songs in English, French and Spanish. Meanwhile, she was exposed to Cape Verdean and Angolan music. Portuguese-Cape Verdean singer Sara Tavares became a major influence. Eleanor Dubinsky met of the musicians Tavares works with frequently. Three of these talented musicians, bassist Rolando Semedo, percussionist Miroca Paris, and drummer Ivo Costa appear on Soft Spot.

Dubinsky sings in Spanish on two songs. “El sabor de la vida,” includes a fascinating mix of world percussion, soulful vocals and gospel. “Cuando voy a mi trabajo” features vocals in three languages and is the most world music-oriented track featuring global rhythms, great bass lines and acoustic guitars.

There’s a great blues-infused climactic song titled “I Let Go,” in which Dubinsky adds cello, which is one of the instruments close to her heart.

Buy Soft Spot of My Heart


Planet Buzz

Various Artists – Planet Buzz

Various Artists – Planet Buzz (Narada/EMI, 2004)

This is an excellent compilation of world music, put together by Global Rhythm Magazine. Handpicked by Alecia Cohen, founder and publisher of Globalrhythm.net, each of the 11 tracks is superb.

Latin sound is well represented with tracks like Juana Molina’s Quien and Estrella Morente’s At the top of Cerro de Palomares. DJ Cheb I Sabbah has an unbelievable remix of a Tamil track called Raja Vedalu. And of course the album includes the superhit Home Cooking, featuring veteran drummer Tony Allen who was part of the legendary Afrobeat band headed by Nigeria’s Fela Kuti.

In sum, a must for world music fans, and a terrific introduction to this genre.


Artist Profiles: Les Batinses

Les Batinses

“Batinses” is a Quebec vernacular expression that derives from the word baptism and is a mild and irreverent profanity. It seemed the perfect name for this lively, tongue-in-cheek group from Quebec City, when it was formed in 1994. The group came into existence when six university students were studying Quebec folklore and happened to pick up some acoustic instruments and started experimenting with traditional sounds. Soon, they were performing for live audiences and finding themselves more and more in demand on the touring circuit.

Today, with instruments that range from the acoustic guitar and soprano sax all the way to the bouzouki, whistles and “angelic vocals,” the six-member group specializes in what they call “Made in Quebec” world music. They note with pride that their work has been variously described as “funklore” or “trashditional,” underlining what they see as their success in revitalizing Quebec’s traditional music for the 21st century.

The music of Les Batinses draws its strength from traditional ballads and its energy from old-fashioned reels and polkas, but it is also capable of erupting into salsa and rumba, and it even adds Balkan rhythms into the musical net. The musicians themselves cite influences as varied as Nina Hagen and Hedningarna and, in performance, are proud to claim “the energy of The Pogues in their glory days.”

Francois Morrissette – Acoustic Guitar, Bouzouki, Mandolin, Harmonica, Jaw Harp, Charango, Step, Voice

Mathieu Girard – Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Charango, Voice

Todd Picard – Bass, Mandolin, Voice

Andre Bilodeau – Fiddle, Viola, Voice,

Fred Lebrasseur – Drums, Percussion, Didgeridoo

Jocelyn Guilmette – Alto and Soprano Saxophone, Fiddle, Flute, Voice


Minuit Trois (Les Batinses, 1996)
Charivari (Les Batinses-Seppuku, 1997)
Tripotage (Mille-pattes, 2000)
L’autre monde (Mille-pattes, 2002)
Eaux-de-vie (Seppuku, 2006)


Artist Profiles: Debashis Sinha

Debashis Sinha is a Toronto based percussionist who specializes in the drums of the Arab world, Greece, and Turkey. His ability to uncover the rhythmic threads in a wide variety of musical styles has earned him a place in the forefront of Canada’s new generation of traditional musicians.

His explorations and studies in technique and rhythm have enabled him to forge a distinct percussive style that makes him in demand with ensembles playing everything from Arabic to Jazz to Yiddish new music, appearing with a veritable who’s who of Canadian world music experimenters.

A founding member of noted world music ensemble Maza Meze, Debashis is praised for his musicality and melodic sense, particularly in his accompaniment of Mowashahat, Sufi devotional songs that date back to 12th century Andalucia.


Artist Profiles: Ed Hanley

Ed Hanley

Ed Hanley began his tabla (north Indian classical percussion) training in Toronto, Canada with Ritesh Das, and has studied with master drummers Swapan Chaudhuri in California and Anindo Chatterjee in Calutta, India. His interest in all aspects of Indian classical rhythm have led him to study outside of the Hindustani tabla tradition as well, focusing on Karnatic (south Indian) vocal percussion and drumming traditions.

He has studied nattuvangam (Bharatanatyam conducting) with Hari Krishnan, mrdangam repertoire and Karnatic rhythm theory with Karaikudi Mani in Chennai, India, and solkattu (vocal percussion), kanjira (a south Indian frame drum), mrdangam repertoire and improvisation with Dr. Trichy Sankaran in Chennai and Toronto. His studies have been supported by a number of funding bodies including The Canada Council, The Ontario Arts Council and The Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute.


Autorickshaw (Tala-Wallah, 2003)
Four Higher (Tala-Wallah, 2004)
So The Journey Goes (Tala-Wallah, 2006)
City of Lakes (2009)
The Humours of Autorickshaw (Tala-Wallah, 2013)
Meter (Tala-Wallah, 2017)


Scottish and Global Flavors at Rudolstadt 2017

Various Artists – Rudolstadt Festival 6 – 9 Juli 2017 (Galileo, 2017)

Rudolstadt Festival 6 – 9 Juli 2017 is a beautifully-packaged triple disc set featuring two audio CDs, a DVD and a hard cover book with photos and liner notes in German and English. This album features the artists that appeared in the 2017 edition of Rudolstadt Festival, one of the largest world music festivals in Europe.

Even though the focus in 2017 was the music of Scotland, the festival also brought in a wide range of artists from many other parts of the globe.

The highlights on disc 1 include Argentine composer Gerardo Jerez Le Cam, who combines Argentine folk with Eastern European infleunces; American folk diva Ani DiFranco; the dazzling virtuosity of Kurdish ensemble Nishtiman; mesmerizing choir Riho from the nation of Georgia; young Polish female ensemble Sutari; the spellbinding work of Tuultenpesä featuring two wind ensembles from Finland and Sweden; reggae stars Toots & The Maytals; a trio of virtuoso musicians: Efrén López (Spain), Stelios Petrakis (Greece) and Bijan Petrakis Chemirani (France/Iran); and the electric krar-fueled modern Ethiopian sound of Krar Collective.

The center of attention on disc 2 is Scotland. The highpoints includes Scottish roots band Fred Freeman Group; the cutting edge sounds of Niteworks, who mix Gaelic vocals, Celtic roots and electronica; acclaimed contemporary folk ensemble Breabach; the wonderful western-Indian fusion of Yorkston Thorne Khan featuring hypnotic sarangi; the lovely vocals of Margaret Stewart accompanied by Patsy Seddon on harp; the talented multi-instrumentalists Mairearad & Anna; fiddle master Paul Anderson; and the irresistible electric Ceilidh sound of Sketch.

Overall, Rudolstadt Festival 2017 is a fine sampling of some of the great world music out there and a good way to discover new artists.

Buy the album from shop.rudolstadt-festival.de


Omar Faruk Tekbilek and his Ensemble to Perform at Carnegie Hall

Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Omar Faruk Tekbilek, one of the greatest artists in the world music scene is set to perform on Saturday, April 14, 2018, at 8.30pm at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Omar Faruk Tekbilek will perform his remarkable combination of traditional Sufi, traditional folk and contemporary music from Turkey and the Middle East.

The lineup includes Omar Faruk Tekbilek on ney, vocals, baglama, zurna and percussion; Hasan Isakkut on kanun; Itamar Erez on guitar and piano; River Guerguerian on drums and percussion; and Murat Tekbilek on percussion. Special Guests: Brian Keane on guitar and Ara Dinkjian on ud.

Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s most recent CD is “Love Is My Religion.”

Omar Faruk Tekbilek – Love Is My Religion

Carnegie Hall
57th Street & 7Th Ave,
New York City, New York

More information at www.carnegiehall.org


Black Atlantic Music Festival at Duke University

Duke Performances will present a Black Atlantic, a captivating six-day world music festival, celebrating the music of Africa and the African diaspora. The festival takes place the last week of March 2018 at several venues in Durham, North Carolina .

The extraordinary program includes some of the finest artists from Africa and the Caribbean. The festival opens with acclaimed traditional Dominican bachata musician Joan Soriano. Next is one of Haiti’s top female performers, singer-songwriter Emeline Michel.

Afro-Venezuelan vocalist Betsayda Machado and her backing band La Parranda El Clavo are one of the sensations in the world music scene.

Mali produces an impressive amount of high quality talent. Trio da Kali is one of the new stars of the Malian scene. It’s a collaboration between some of Mali’s leading jeli (griot) musical families, Hawa Kassé Mady, daughter of Kassé Mady Diabaté; bala player Lassana Diabaté; and ngoni master Mamadou Kouyaté.

Honduran composer, singer-songwriter and activist Aurelio (Aurelio Martínez) is currently the most influential Garifuna artist. Aurelio will be presenting his new album Darandi released on Peter Gabriel’s Real world Records.

Aurelio – Darandi


The last concert of Black Atlantic will present flamenco star Diego El Cigala with top salsa musicians. His most recent album Indestructible is a tribute to salsa music.


Diego El Cigala – Indestructible


Black Atlantic Schedule

Joan Soriano (Dominican Republic)
Monday, March 26, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall


Joan Soriano



Emeline Michel (Haiti)
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall

Emeline Michel



Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo (Venezuela)
Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall


Betsayda Machado y La Parranda El Clavo



Trio da Kali (Mali)
Thursday, March 29, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall

Trio da Kali



Aurelio (Honduras)
Friday, March 30, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Motorco Music Hall

Aurelio Martinez in 2010 at Forde Festival in Norway – Photo by Angel Romero


Diego El Cigala (Spain/Dominican Republic)
Saturday, March 31, 2018 at 20:00 (8:00 p.m.)
Carolina Theatre of Durham

Diego El Cigala



For more information or tickets go to: dukeperformances.duke.edu


Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita to Present “Transparent Water” in Carrboro

Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, one of the leading jazz pianists and Senegalese kora maestro Seckou Keita, along with Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles, are set to perform on Tuesday, March 20th at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, North Carolina at 8:00 p.m.

The trio will present the US debut tour of their Transparent Water album. Transparent Water was the number 1 world music album in March 2017 at the Transglobal World Music Chart.


Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita – Transparent Water



For tickets and more information go to artscenterlive.org.

The ArtsCenter is located at 300-G E. Main Street in Carrboro.