Tag Archives: world music

Refugees for Refugees, Pooling Global Musical Talent

Refugees for Refugees – Amina (Muziekpublique, 2019)

It’s become fairly standard to sum up a person’s life in a single moment. We catch a glimpse of the face as some person crosses a border, disembarks from a ship or jockeys for space in a refugee camp and we sum up that life.

There are some who would chalk up the refugee story by making it part and parcel to tragedy, war or desperate circumstances, while the less sympathetic would see an unwanted burden. But that’s never the whole story. We don’t see bread bakers, engineers, nurses or store owners where the family’s store has successfully existed and operated for and by generation after generation of the same family. We certainly don’t see the keepers of traditional craft work like carving or needlework or artists or musicians. We dismiss the back story of the refugee, that life before being uprooted, and perhaps the most precious of that life. It is with some sadness that I think we might be truly missing out.

It’s somewhere in here that Muziekpubique, a non-profit organization in Belgium, has seen this missed opportunity. Running a program promoting folk and world music by way of concerts, music lessons and a record label. This clever organization and label has teamed up musicians from Pakistan, Tibet, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Belgium to create Refugees for Refugees, resulting in a second release of the recording called Amina, in support of Muziekpublique and Cinemaximiliaan, a kind of cross cultural crossroads for refugees in a Brussels park where refugees can get information, find friends and even watch a movie or find a creative project.

Refugees for Refugees – Amina

While the good deeds of Refugees for Refugees might be incentive enough to support this project, the better bet is to support this wonderful music. Amina is full of delightful surprises and lush pleasures. Composing and arranging most of the music on Amina by members of Refugees for Refugees, this collaboration where one musical tradition is seamlessly enfolded in another, sometimes in improbable combinations, comes across as wholly organic.

Pooling the talents of Pakistan’s Asad Qizilbash on sarod, Tibet’s Dolma Renqingi on vocals, Syria’s Fakher Madallal on vocals and percussion, Tibet’s Kelsang Hula on dramyen and vocals, Afghanistan’s Mohammad Aman Yusufi on dambura and vocals, Belgium’s Simon Leleux on oriental percussion, Iraq’s Souhad Najem on qanun, Syria’s Tamman Al Ramadan on ney, Syria’s Tareq Alsayed Yahua on ud and Belgium’s Tristan Driessens on ud Amina flows free in that otherworldly space where musicians, regardless of their country or tradition, meet and commune, that place where all the good things in music happen.

Hooking listeners from the opening strains of “Perahan,” Amina dazzles with a heady mix of vocals, ud and ney. And, the tracks just get better with “Semki Molem” with its rich combination of deep male chorus against the soaring vocals of Aren Dolma. The ud laced “Qad Hijaz” is just as powerfully stunning as “Kesaro Sarko.”

Other goodies include the sarod and quanun rich “Punarjanm,” “Tonshak” with its scratchy throat singing against Tibetan vocals by Ms. Dolma and musical combination of sarod, dramyen, ud, ney and bendir and all the glorious quanum riches of “Shuq.” “Tales of the Mountain” will raise the hairs on the back of your neck it’s that good, just as simple pleasures of sarod and dholla will delight on “After the Dust.” And still the goodies just keep coming with “Rose Gate,” “Wasla Qudud Bayati” “Lhasa” and closing track “Chaman Chaman.”

With Amina, supporting a good cause never sounded so good.

Buy Amina

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Sheila Chandra Out on Her Own

Sheila Chandra – Out on my own

Sheila Chandra – Out on my own (Indipop, 1984, reissued by Narada//EMI in 2000)

This is a slender album by today’s standards, with 10 tracks just stretching over 40 minutes. But it is an important milestone in the musical path of Sheila Chandra, leading UK-based Indian-origin fusion artist from the 1980s.

As the liner notes explain, this was Sheila Chandra’s declaration of independence from pressure from her first label, after scoring a U.K. hit with the group Monsoon and the song, “Ever So Lonely.”


Sheila Chandra – Out on my Own, Narada reissue

Tablas, keyboards, guitar and sitars provide the backing for her strong experimental vocals. Our picks include the title track and the ambient ‘Prema;’ also check out the dreamy ‘From a Whisper.’

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An Excellent Black Atlantic 2019 Festival

The second edition of the Black Atlantic series brought an excellent sampling of African and Afro-rooted music to Durham, North Carolina.

Kinobe, Derek Gripper and Jaja Bashengezi – Photo by Angel Romero

The first concert featured South African musician Derek Gripper, Congolese guitarist Jaja Bashengezi and Ugandan multi-instrumentalist Kinobe. Classically-trained Gripper has adapted the kora technique to the guitar. Kinobe played a fascinating Baganda harp called ndongo. This was a relaxed, virtuosic concert, focusing on the melodic side of African music. Derek Gripper has two albums related to his kora reinterpretations: One Night on Earth (2012) and Libraries on Fire (2016).

Fatoumata Diawara – Photo by Angel Romero

One of the highlights of the festival was Malian artist Fatoumata Diawara. I had seen her a few years ago when she was a rising artist. Years later, she has blossomed into one of the finest acts from West Africa and the world music scene in general. Her sold-out concert featured an explosive mix of modernized Malian traditional music, Afrobeat and Afro-rock. She speaks English very well and engaged the audience easily with her charisma and charm.

What surprised me (and the audience) the most is when she picked up her electric guitar several times and started soloing, ranging from Malian desert blues to Afro-rooted rock. Clearly spectacular. Fatoumata’s recent albums include Fatou and Fenfo.

Noura Mint Seymali – Photo by Angel Romero

The third concert in the series featured the captivating, trance-like Western Saharan sound of Mauritanian singer and ardine player Noura Mint Seymali along with her electric band. Her discography includes Tzenni (2014) and Arbina (2016).

Daymé Arocena – Photo by Angel Romero

Next was another highlight, spectacular Cuban singer Daymé Arocena. She also expressed herself in English very well, encouraged dancing and call and response interaction with the audience, and explained how Cuba is proud of its African and Spanish roots. Daymé bridges traditional Cuban, Afro-Cuban and American jazz. Her dazzling band featured world class Cuban instrumentalists, who obviously love jazz-rock fusion when they get opportunities to jam. Daymé’s highly recommended albums include Nueva Era (2015) and Cubafonía (2017).

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Friday and Saturday concerts, although a colleague reported that the Dafnis Prieto Big Band concert was stunning. The show featured a 17-member big band performing Afro-Cuban jazz and ballads. This format appears in Dafnis Prieto’s album Back to the Sunset.

Kudos to Duke Performances for this highly successful series and special thanks to Eric Oberstein and King Kenney for their support.

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Artist Profiles: Havana Meets Kingston

Back in the closing years of the 20th century, when the Buena Vista Social Club ruled the international roost, Cuban music was all the rage. Now, two decades on, an Australian musician/producer is not only following the footsteps of the great American facilitator Ry Cooder, who guided that collective’s high-selling Havana-recorded album, award-winning documentary and sell-out overseas tour, but he’s also taking an extra bound by blending son, salsa and rumba with reggae, dancehall and dub from Cuba’s Caribbean island neighbour, Jamaica.

In what is a mighty musical and logistical achievement that he’s claiming as a world-first, Melburnian Jake “Mista” Savona has amassed a star-studded cast that includes both lauded Buena Vista players and reggae royalty. His Havana Meets Kingston concept has already yielded an album and several world tours.

Various Artists – Mista Savona Presents Havana Meets Kingston

Surprisingly, Savona says no master plan is involved, and he insists it is all the better for that. “To be honest, the whole project hasn’t been quite as pre-meditated as it may seem from the outside … and I believe this is actually what makes it so special. It evolved step-by-step over many years. The seeds were planted well before I had even envisioned the possibility of bringing together Jamaican and Cuban musicians in Havana.”

The project had its genesis back in 2004 when Savona made his inaugural visit to Jamaica to record Melbourne Meets Kingston, the first album-length collaboration between Australian musicians and Jamaican vocalists. That led to a series of return trips between 2004 and 2013 for further recordings.

He says the turning point came after a friend returned from a 2014 trip to Havana with some persuasive photos, and he realised a visit to Cuba was well overdue. “When I looked at the map I couldn’t believe how close the two islands are — literally only a few hundred miles apart. I was heading to Jamaica in April that year for a quick promotional trip, so I decided to visit Cuba for ten days or so.”

Savona fell in love with the people, music and culture. “Towards the end of the trip, I was sitting in a cafe in Havana, a great place called Chanchurello. They were playing a CD of traditional Cuban rumba, mainly percussion based. I was daydreaming and imagining how the sounds of Nyabinghi drums from Jamaica would sound mixed with the rumba. I realized it would be very special to mix the two styles, and wondered if it had ever been done before.”

Jake Savona with Sly & Robbie

After returning to Kingston a few days later, he bumped into the veteran Jamaican percussionist Bongo Herman, who convinced him to setup a recording session that night at Tuff Gong, Bob Marley’s studio in Kingston. Drummer Sly Dunbar was there, of the world-famous rhythm section, Sly & Robbie. They ended up recording until sunrise. “He loved my piano playing, and I, of course, was amazed by his musicianship.”

Following some research on his return to Australia, Savona realised there had never been a project bringing Jamaican musicians into Cuba or vice versa. “I started to think how it could be done. I called Sly and he loved the idea, and he gave me Robbie’s phone number in Miami.” He also called Bongo Herman and Winston ‘Bopee’ Bowen, one of his favourite Jamaican guitarists. “Everyone was saying ‘yes’ without hesitation, and it just felt like a project that wanted and needed to happen.” So Savona started to look at how it might be organised.

A year later — in June 2015 — the producer flew seven Jamaican musicians into Havana. They had 10 days booked at the famous Egrem Studios, where the Buena Vista Social Club recorded their famous album.

As word spread about the initial sessions, Savona says over 30 Cuban musicians came through the studio, including members of Buena Vista, Los Van Van, the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Irakere and Havana Cultura.

It was an incredible 10 days,” he recalls. “I hoped to record one or two tracks a day to complete a fifteen-track album, but we actually recorded enough material in that time for almost three albums. The energy and inspiration was incredible. I had prepared sketches for all the songs, and these master musicians took the arrangements into hyperspace.”

Havana Meets Kingston has continued to exceed Savona’s expectations. “This project is so much bigger now than just my initial vision. It’s a joyful celebration of Caribbean music and culture that’s opening new doors for everyone involved. With our introductory music video going viral earlier this year, it’s also inspiring a lot of new tourism to the Caribbean.”

Looking back at the logistics of the exercise, Savona says the knowledge he gained from previous trips to survey Kingston’s music scene gave him the confidence to organize the Jamaican side of things. With his Cuban experience limited, he enlisted the help of Melbourne percussionist Javier Fredes, a master conga player, who, having lived in Cuba, had a deep knowledge of the musical landscape there.

I couldn’t have organized the sessions in Havana without his help,” Savona admits. “The biggest unknown for me was Cuban immigration, which is somewhat of a mystery. Did we have the right visas for the Jamaican musicians? Would Cuban customs mind that we were bringing so much musical and studio equipment into Havana? Thankfully, this side of things went smoothly, and once we had everyone safely in Havana, I knew we were good to go.”

The only real issue that Savona encountered in the studio was that the Jamaicans didn’t speak Spanish, and the Cubans had very little English. However, once the musicians were sitting with their instruments, he says the language barrier simply melted away.

Havana Meets Kingston

When the Jamaican musicians returned to Kingston, there were more sessions in both Havana, Santiago de Cuba and later on in Kingston to complete the recording. Savona also later travel led to London to record with one of his favorite reggae artists, singer Randy Valentine.

The project leader spent close to a year on the arrangements and mix downs, utilizing this time to also find the right record labels for his album. “Although at times I realized I was working quite slowly, I didn’t want to rush anything. Now, I have no regrets because we needed this time to actually fit all the right pieces of the puzzle together.”

All up just over 60 musicians were used on Havana Meets Kingston. “Famous older legendary musicians are playing alongside young new talent, some of who had never been in a recording studio before,” he points out.

I had no idea in the beginning that I would be able to work with such legends as [Jamaican guitarist] Ernest Ranglin, or Barbarito Torres of Buena Vista fame. Recording at Egrem Studios, he says, gave his album some of the same unique, “warm woody-room sound” that helped the eponymous Buena Vista Social Club release to become a huge seller around the world in the late 1990s.

Savona strongly refutes any notion that revamping songs such as ‘Chan Chan’, ‘El Cuarto de Tula’ and ‘Candela’from the revered Buena Vista album with beats, raps and manifestations of reggae amounts to any disrespect.

“That album is incredible; it was recorded over twenty years ago but stands the test of time. However, roam the streets of Old Havana today and all you’ll hear are Cuban bands in the bars and hotels mostly rehashing the ‘same old’ classics. Although this is what many tourists want to hear, it’s not great for the evolution of Cuban music. Music will lose its relevance and passion if it’s frozen in time. We made the Havana Meets Kingston album with so much respect for the roots music of both islands, involving many of the same legends that play on these old classic recordings.”

In order to blend together rhythms as diverse as Jamaican reggae/dancehall and Cuban son/rumba, Savona prepared sketches of all the songs, focusing on what he describes as interesting chord changes and strong funky riffs.

“I left them quite open, rather than preparing overly complicated charts. This, in hindsight, is the best thing I could have done, because it meant the musicians could really get inside these songs and breathe, rather then being glued to the written music. It also meant they could easily imbue the music with their own style and touch.” As a result, he says, the songs evolved quickly and came alive in unexpected and exciting ways.

One goal was to bring the sounds of Jamaican soundsystem culture together with the virtuosic Afro-Cuban jazz traditions. “Robbie Shakespeare’s incredible rolling bass lines made this possible,” says Savona. “His playing mixed with the Cuban percussion of Yaroldy Abreu, Oliver Valdés and Changuito to really bring the sounds of the Kingston and Havana streets together in a way never heard before.”

Savona reports that both Sly and Robbie were fantastic to work with: “They’re very relaxed and confident in the studio. They were happy to take my musical direction, and at the same time bring their own style and sound to my arrangements. They’re an integral part of the album for so many reasons — no one plays like them.”

The first Havana Meets Kingston album, which comprises predominantly fresh original compositions, presents a bona fide mix of musical cultures that’s relatively free of studio artifice. As Savona says: “It’s all about the performances, and less about the post-production, which I’ve kept as simple and natural as possible. You could argue that contemporary music is becoming increasingly sterile, with the focus in pretty much all genres now on post-production and auto-tuned, synthesised vocal performances, which I believe actually stifle and repress deeper human expression. For me music should be about uplifting people, not brainwashing them.”

What Aussie festivalgoers saw on stage at WOMADelaide and elsewhere on the 2018 tour was the core band that played on the initial Havana sessions. Besides key vocalists, English-Jamaican Randy Valentine and Cuban Francisco ‘Solis’ Robert and Brenda Navarette, one of Cuba’s rising singers, the 15-piece line-up in Adelaide included Sly & Robbie, Jamaican guitarist Bopee, the legendary Cuban percussionists Yaroldy Abreu and Oliver Valdés and the great trumpeter Julito Padrón. Laud player Barbarito Torres and virtuoso pianist Rolando Luna of Buena Vista fame were other world-renowned Cuban musicians in the line-up.

Savona is justifiably proud of the fact that it was his stewardship that facilitated Jamaican musicians flying into Cuba to record and collaborate with Cuban musicians for the first time. He says a combination of political, social, economic and linguistic reasons conspired to prevent that in the past. “Additionally, both islands have such potent and unique music scenes that they’re really captivated by their own music to a large degree. Until two years ago, there were no exchange programs between the islands. Jamaica’s music industry is its biggest export, and yet the government still doesn’t invest in it properly. There’s not even a museum in Jamaica dedicated to their incredible contributions to the world’s music.”

The financing of such an expensive and ambitious project as Havana Meets Kingston was problematic: “As a full-time musician, with a variable income to say the least, there was no way I could have financed this on my own,” he concedes. “But, I was very fortunate to have so much assistance along the way to bring this dream to life.” Savona managed to submit what turned out to be a successful application for an Australia Council ‘International Pathways’ grant in the nick of time. That, he indicates was pivotal. A Kickstarter campaign raised funds to take a film and photographic crew to document the project in Havana. “A few generous friends of mine were also happy to lend me money to help with the final mixing and mastering stages later on.”

Savona concedes there are still some outstanding debts from Havana Meets Kingston, but he’s confident in time that his project will become fully self-sufficient. He plans to tour the live show elsewhere around the world, including free outdoor concerts in Jamaica and Cuba. The second volume of the album is on the drawing board, along with a documentary, and a third installment of the record is expected to follow at a later date.

What amazes me about this project,” says Savona “are the synchronicities that kept happening, again and again. Looking back, I can see these countless little miracles that happened along the way that made it all possible. It just felt like an idea that wanted to happen, a project that wanted to be born. And all these great musicians loved the idea of the project. That’s what made it all possible.”

While there’s understandable pride in local music circles that an Australian is behind a project as bold as Havana Meets Kingston, Jake Savona stresses that it’s first and foremost an international collaboration. “This is an album by Jamaican and Cuban musicians, and it is an album for the people of Jamaica and Cuba, first and foremost. This is the real strength of the project.

• The above interview first appeared in Rhythms, Australia’s only dedicated roots music magazine.

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Collaboration Between Kronos Quartet and Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat Tops the Transglobal World Music Chart

Placeless, the album featuring renowned American string ensemble Kronos Quartet and acclaimed Iranian singers Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat is the number one album in April 2019 on the Transglobal World Music Chart.

Kronos Quartet, Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat – Placeless

This recording is a milestone for us,” says Mahsa Vahdat. “The wonderful musicians in Kronos Quartet have given our music new dimensions. Our lives are constantly changing in relation to time and place. Our home and where we belong – this is all over the globe. By performing poems from Persia’s classical era, we have been coming closer and closer to finding an organic connection between what we express in our art and the way we live.”

The April 2019 Chart

  1. Kronos Quartet and Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat – Placeless – Kirkelig Kulturverksted
  2. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – Miri – Outhere
  3. Le Trio Joubran – The Long March – Cooking Vinyl
  4. Waed Bouhassoun – Safar: Les Âmes Retrouvées – Buda Musique
  5. Tartit – Amankor / The Exile – Riverboat / World Music Network
  6. Refugees for Refugees – Amina – Muziekpublique
  7. Kel Assouf – Black Tenere – Glitterbeat
  8. Belonoga – Through the Eyes of the Earth – NarRator Records
  9. Leyla McCalla – The Capitalist Blues – Jazz Village / PIAS
  10. Dhafer Youssef – Sounds of Mirrors – Anteprima
  11. Urna Chahar-Tugchi featuring Kroke – Ser – Urna Chahar-Tugchi / UCT
  12. Oratnitza – Alter Ethno – Fusion Embassy
  13. Vardan Hovanissian & Emre Gültekin – Karin – Muziekpublique
  14. Alim Qasimov and Michel Godard – Awakening – Buda Musique
  15. Olcay Bayır – Rüya: Dream for Anatolia – ARC Music
  16. Las Hermanas Caronni – Santa Plástica – Les Grands Fleuves
  17. Salif Keita – Un Autre Blanc – Naïve
  18. Xiomara Fortuna – Son Verdad – Ileakwa Producciones
  19. Alfredo Rodríguez & Pedrito Martínez – Duologue – Mack Avenue
  20. Adir Jan – Layla – Trikont / BGST
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The Timelessly Crafted Cuban Musical Poetry of Eme Alfonso

Eme Alfonso – Voy (independent release, 2018)

Voy is the third album by the multifaceted Eme Alfonso. She is one of the most extraordinary young artists in Cuba. She’s a singer-songwriter and composer that grew up in one of the most influential music families in Cuba. Her parents founded Síntesis, a highly innovative band that started as progressive rock band that brought together classic English progressive rock and Cuban music. Síntesis evolved into a formidable group that mixed Afro-Cuban music and jazz-rock and Eme grew up listening to this band and later joined it as a very young singer and keyboardist.

Eme Alfonso – Voy

Eme has been involved in the celebration of the Cuban melting pot, a cultural diversity project called “Para Mestizar, where she celebrates Cuba’s African and Spanish roots and other influences.

Voy was recorded in Havana (Cuba) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). The recording includes some of the finest musicians in the Cuban music scene and a superb Brazilian percussionist.

Masterfully-crafted and elegant, Voy showcases the talent of a groundbreaking artist that incorporates roots music which is not nostalgic, and looks forward, creating an edgy sound that injects captivating Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian percussion, rock, soul, jazz and European music elements.

Eme Alfonso writes beautiful, charming poetic songs that hook you in. Her exceptionally expressive vocals are primarily in Spanish although she also adds Yoruba chants with choruses provided by her parents, who are regarded are the best chorus singers in Cuba.

Personnel: Eme Alfonso on vocals; Jorge Aragón on piano and keyboard; Harold López-Nussa on piano;  Roberto Luis Gómez on electric and acoustic guitar and banjo;  Alain Ladrón de Guevara on drums; Julio César González on electric bass; Yaroldi Abreu on Cuban percussion; Luizhino Do Jeje on Brazilian percussion; Ruy Adrián López-Nussa on drums; Yandi Martinez on acoustic bass; Carlos Alfonso, Ele Valdés and Carlos Angel Valdés on choruses; Arístides Porto on clarinet; Aylin Pino on violin; Benda Chávez Aguiar on violin; Maria Angélica Pérez on viola; and Claudia Carrillo on cello.

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Andrea Parodi World Music Award Call for Submissions

The “Andrea Parodi Award”, the only Italian world music competition, organized by the Andrea Parodi Foundation, is seeking international submissions for its twelfth edition. Registration is free. Submissions must be sent no later than May 31, 2019, using the format on www.fondazioneandreaparodi.it

Submissions must contain:

  • 2 tracks (2 mp3 files, specimens or live recordings or final realizations; indicate with which of the two tracks you intend to compete);
  • lyrics and any translations into Italian of the two passages;
  • artist biography of the competitor (solo or group)

There are many prizes for the winner, including a series of concerts and participations in some of the most important Italian festivals in 2020, such as “European jazz expo” in Sardinia, Folkest in Friuli, Negro Festival in Pertosa (SA), Mei of Faenza, the Parodi Prize ceremony, and other events that will be announced. In addition to this, the winner will receive a grant of 2,500 euros. The winner of the Critics Award will receive a professional-quality music video of the competing piece, funded the Andrea Parodi Foundation.

The finals will take place in Cagliari October 10-12, 2019.

The Award intends to enhance the new trends in world music, artists who mix the so-called folk or ethnic music with sounds and stylistic models of different origins.

From all the entries, the Artistic Commission established by the Foundation will select, anonymously, eight to twelve finalists. The finalists will perform in Cagliari at the “Premio Andrea Parodi” 2018 festival, before a Technical Jury (experts, authors, musicians, poets, writers and songwriters) and a Critical Jury (journalists). Both juries, as in previous years, will be composed of authoritative exponents of the sector.

The event was born to pay tribute to the late Andrea Parodi, an acclaimed Italian musician in the field of world music.

headline photo: Andrea Parodi

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Boomtown Festival Announces Copper County, a District Dedicated To Folk, Acoustic and World Music

British music festival has announced the lineup at Copper County, the area dedicated to folk, acoustic and world fusion. The festival will take place August 7 – 11, 2019 at Matterley Estate – Winchester, UK.

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, one of the world music stars scheduled to perform at Boomtown – Photo by Thomas Dorn 2017

Copper Town will include a new stage called The Forge, an icon of the industrial revolution where this global fusion of folk and traditional music will take place.  It’s an essential part of the festival’s immersive all-embracing storyline, and Copper County is set in the year 1905 where a new age of industry brings with it soot and grime but also skyscrapers and finery.

Xavier Rudd

Topping the bill is multi-instrumentalist Xavier Rudd from Australia; contemporary folk from Winchester’s own This Is The Kit;  blends of funk, reggae, jazz, folk from Michael Franti & Spearhead; politically charged acoustic roots from Malian virtuoso Bassekou Kouyate; serene folk rock from Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit  as well as the broad ranging sounds of Dreadzone, Breabach, Seth Lakeman, BCUC, San Salvador, Elephant Sessions, Emmanuel Jal & Nyaruach, Skinny Lister, She Drew The Gun, Grace Petrie, Stella Donnelly, Showhawk Duo and Mik Artistik.

This is the Kit

Elsewhere in the district is Foggers Mill the one stop shop for bluegrass, folk and Americana all day long. Featuring Neck, Graveyard Johnnys, Pronghorn, Funke & The Two Tone Baby and more.

Tickets available from www.boomtownfair.co.uk.

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Haitian-Canadian Artist Wesli Wins the 2019 World Music Album of the Year Juno Award

Wesli during the Juno award ceremony

Haitian-Canadian artist Wesli is the winner of the 2019 Juno Award (Canada’s top music award) in the World Music Album of the Year category, for his impressive 21-song album Rapadou Kreyol. The album focal point is keeping the Haitian traditional music and instrumentation alive and well.

“I have two hearts,” said Wesli. “One is in Haiti, and the other is here in Canada, my chosen second homeland. Every time I do a new project, I have to approach it in two ways, one specifically dedicated to Haiti and our roots and culture, and another one dedicated to the welcome society that I am living in and that I’m grateful to.”

Wesli – Rapadou Kreyol

Upon receiving the award, an overjoyed Wesli said, “I really didn’t think I’d win, because everyone in the category [some of whom he’d worked with before over the years like Boogat and Cuban artist Telmary] are all so great, but I’m so thankful and grateful that I can represent Haitian artists in this way.” He’d been nominated once before, in 2007, as album Producer for Senaya, his band at the time, but this is his first win for his own music.

Named for rapadou, the tasty bamboo-wrapped fermented sugarcane often added to coffee, “This album is designed to revive our beautiful rhythms like Petro, Congo, Rada, Nago, Rara, the troubadour and voodoo rhythms, and our music in Yoruba language. These styles have almost no support from the mainstream media to keep them alive in the commercial society that we are living in,” Wesli notes. “Haitian music is the African Bible of the Caribbean. Our traditional percussionists know all the old ways and keep them. We can’t afford to lose them now. I have decided to do this roots revival album to remind us of who we are, where we are coming from, and what unites us.”

Sung entirely in Kreyol, Rapadou Kreyol features his own respectful take on the Haitian rituals of Lakou Dahomé and Lakou Congo, fusing rolling rara beats, bursts of brass, and just the precise electronic elements.

Each of the tracks is a different Haitian genre, like Congo and Daomé to represent joy, Nago and Djouba to represent contemplation and sadness. Each Haitian roots rhythm reflects different situations and requires different drums and instruments. Wesli adds, “One unique thing we do in all these genres is dance! We dance to everything in Haiti.

More information at wesliband.com/en/

headline photo: Wesli by Josué Bertolino

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Artist Profiles: Amir-John Haddad

Amir-John Haddad

German-Spanish musician Amir-John Haddad, better known as El Amir, was born in 1975 in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. He moved to Spain in 1997.

El Amir is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, musical director, and producer. He‘s considered one of the best concert guitarists in today‘s Spanish scene, defined by his personality, maturity, sound and style.

El Amir has been playing flamenco guitar and the Arabic oud since he was seven years old, and has been performing on stage for 30 years. In addition to his extensive career, he has learned how to play traditional Mediterranean instruments including the Greek bouzouki and Turkish saz, being a virtuoso in all of them.

Amir-John Haddad

El Amir has collaborated with a long list of artists including Radio Tarifa, Chambao, Marcus Miller and Juno Reactor.

In 2010, Amir-John presented his show “From East to West,” combining all the instruments he plays, Arabic lute, Turkish saz, Greek bouzouki, flamenco guitar and the triple-necked electric guitar to expose a wide range of traditional music. A trip through several regions of the Mediterranean, through different instruments and original compositions mixed with modern and contemporary sounds, fired through effects processors.

Amir-John Haddad

Amir-John Haddad was part of a Madrid-based world music superband called Zoobazar. Group members included El Amir on oud and saz; La Musgaña’s fiddler, Diego Galaz on fiddle and mandolin; La Shica’s and Eliseo Parra’s drummer and percussionist, Pablo Martin Jones on drums and percussion; and the bassist of rock band GN3, Hector Tellini.

Zoobazar

Zoobazar’s debut album, Uno (2011), was a mesmerizing journey across the musics of the Mediterranean countries, including Iberian folk music, Turkish, Balkan, Greek, Middle Eastern and North African grooves and tunes combined with rock, funk and jazz.

Zoobazar’s second album, Dos, came out in 2014.

In 2017, Amir John Haddad played Vivaldi’s Concerto in C major for Mandolin for the first time on Greek bouzouki. The debut took place on the 6th of November at the National Auditorium of Music in Madrid accompanied by outstanding musicians from the Spanish National Orchestra.

José María Bandera and Amir John Haddad

Another project in 2017 was a collaboration with Paco de Lucia’s nephew, José María Bandera. The two guitarists performed material from Paco’s last album, Canción Andaluza, including María de la O, Señorita, I have to love you while you live, Chiquita Piconera, Romance of Valentía and Ojos Verdes, by Quintero, León and Quiroga and other great composers. The show also featured Josemi Garzón on double bass and Israel Katumba on percussion.

Amir John Haddad

El Amir was one the featured solo artists of the Hans Zimmer’s Tour performing flamenco guitar, electric guitar, Greek buzuki and ukulele. “The World of Hans Zimmer – A Symphonic Celebration” presents the composer’s works arranged for a live symphony orchestra. Zimmer spent months working on transforming his soundtracks into opulent concert suites. interpreting a very special selection of soundtracks from the most famous films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, Mission Impossible, The Holiday or Madagascar.

Discography:

Pasando Por Tabernas ‎(Double Moon Records, 2005)
Uno, with Zoobazar (Santa Fe / Ojo! Records, 2011)
9 Guitarras ‎(Zoomusic, 2013)
Dos, with Zoobazar (Galileo Music, 2014)

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