The 2016 Annual Havana World Music Festival, produced by the National Center of Popular Music and the Cuban Institute of Music kicks-off today, March 26 in Havana, Cuba. The concerts will take place March 26 and 27 at Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC), a multi-purpose venue from the Ministry of Culture created by Cuban rock and media artist, X Alfonso.
Featured international acts include underground flamenco act Juanito Makandé, mestizo music star Sergent García, calypso innovators Kobo Town, Centavrvs (electronica), and top Cuban artists Yoruba Andabo and Yelsy Heredia.
In addition to the main music festival, Havana World Music Festival and Copperbridge Foundation extended program began March 21 at Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) hosting creative workshops, lectures, planned and spontaneous jam sessions, and exclusive performances.
Copperbridge Foundation, an American non-profit organization with the mission to promote cultural and educational exchange through the medium of artistic expression, supports Havana World by publicizing this cultural event that represents the creative, open-minded side of modern Cuba.
World music act Mokoomba is based in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The band’s six members, Mathias Muzaza (lead vocals), Ndaba Coster Moyo (drums, backing vocals), Trustworth Samende (lead guitar, backing vocals), Donald Moyo, (keyboards, backing vocals), Miti Mugande, (percussion & backing vocals) and Abundance Mutori (bass, backing vocals) grew up as friends in the Chinotimba township.
While the majority of Zimbabweans are part of the dominant Shona ethnic group or the large Ndebele minority, the members of Mokoomba hail from a variety of different ethnic groups represented in this border town, including the Luvale, Nyanja, and Tonga peoples; and it was the Tonga who gave mighty Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall, its original name: “Mosi-oa-Tunya” (the smoke that thunders).
Living in a border city that attracts tourists from all over the world gave Mokoomba’s music an international perspective from the beginning, incorporating everything from soukous to ska and salsa along with local musical traditions.
The members of Mokoomba started playing music as teenagers, with the help of a local bandleader, the late Alfred Mijimba, who gave the young musicians the experience they needed by hiring them to play local concerts with his band. Even though he was never an international star, Mijimba was a respected local musician, and the members of Mokoomba gained substantial experience under his direction.
The group’s members began playing together in 2001, and Mokoomba was officially formed in 2008. Their first major success came that same year, when they won the Music Crossroads Inter-Regional Festival Competition in Malawi.
In 2009 Mokoomba recorded its first album, Kweseka — Drifting Ahead, produced by Dutch DJ Gregor Salto, as part of the Stand UP anti- poverty campaign funded by AfricaUnsigned. The album generated a local hit “Messe Messe”, and the group’s first European tour. Mokoomba recorded a second EP, Umvundla, with Salto in 2011. But their big break came in 2012, when the band released Rising Tide, produced by pioneering Ivoirian bassist Manou Gallo (Zap Mama, Kiyi M’Bock) for the Belgian label ZigZag World.
The success of Rising Tide led Mokoomba to tour over 40 countries worldwide in 2012, 2013 and 2014, including performances at Denmark’s Roskilde festival, the UK’s WOMAD festival, Belgium’s Couleur Cafe´ festival, and Morocco’s Gnawa festival.
Mokoomba has become one of Zimbabwe’s most popular bands, playing with such icons as Hugh Masekela and Baba Maal at Zimbabwe’s annual Harare International Festival of the Arts.
Mokoomba was the subject of a documentary called Mokoomba: From One River Bank to Another, by Frank Dalmat and Francis Ducat. The film tells the group’s story in the context of the relationship between culture and economic development in the global south.
In 2015 Mokoomba recorded its self-produced third album Luyando, a stripped down, mostly acoustic album that balances the group’s love of pan-African and international sounds with the local and traditional sounds they also grew up listening to.
Luyando translates as “Mother’s Love” and takes its inspiration from the Makishi masquerade ritual practiced in parts of Zimbabwe and nearby Zambia, which the members of Mokoomba participated in as boys.
The Makishi masquerade is performed at the end of the Mukanda, an initiation ritual for boys between the ages of eight and twelve, when young boys leave their homes and live for one to three months at a bush camp away from their villages. It’s a fundamental and often lonely time in a boy’s life, when they learn the self-assurance required of young men in their community, while still often yearning for the tenderness of their mother’s love. The end of the Mukanda is marked by a joyous graduation ceremony called Chilende, full of colorful masks, music and dancing.
Scottish contemporary folk music band Breabach has a new album titled Astar (Breabach Records, 2016). After five years traveling the world, Breabach presents a recording inspired by the people and places they have encountered and collaborations they have been involved in.
Astar is a multiethnic celebration, embracing the music of four nations in partnership with their own. The band invited friends from Norway, Quebec, Australia and New Zealand to be part of this recording, all of which has been brought to life under the guidance and production of Greg Lawson.
The guests include Aboriginal artist Yirrmal Marika (Australia), Maori tradition keeper Scott Morrison (New Zealand), Hardanger fiddle master Olav Luksengård Mjelva (Norway), Quebecois fiddler Olivier Demers (Quebec) and Le Vent Du Nord (Quebec) with guest vocals.
Small World Music has announced the lineup for the 14th Annual Asian Music Series, a set of concerts that celebrates Asian and South Asian Heritage Month. The series will take place from April 2nd to May 29th, 2016 at several of the finest venues in Toronto.
Highpoints this year include a strong female presence, with two of the most significant artists in South Asian music, Anoushka Shankar and Abida Parveen. Other performers include Indo-Canadian star Kiran Ahluwalia, pipa maestra Wu Man and singer Ramneek Singh, among many others.
Also scheduled is the new Small World Music Explorers Program, a cross-promotional initiative for purchasing tickets in the city.
Asian Music Series Program:
Wednesday, April 6
Anoushka Shankar (India)
Thursday, April 7
Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre
Saturday, April 9
Wu Man & Shanghai Quartet (China)
Thursday, April 28
Kiran Ahluwalia (India / Canada)
Friday, April 29
Shuujat Khan / Ramneek Singh (India / Canada)
Aga Khan Museum
Saturday, May 7
Globtrotter – Adham Shaikh (Canada)
Friday, May 13
Tabla Workshop TBA (India)
Small World Music Centre
Sunday, May 15
Abida Parveen (Pakistan)
Roy Thomson Hall
Friday, May 20
Avatar (Canada /India)
Small World Music Centre
Saturday, May 28
Telematic Asia (Canada / China)
Small World Music Centre
Ere Gobez is the title of the new album by Debo Band, a large multi-ethnic American world music band that brings together an irresistible mix of danceable Ethiopian roots music, rock, Ethiojazz, and jam band sections featuring masterful solos. On this occasion, Debo Band goes beyond Ethiopian influences, featuring their vision of popular songs from Somalia and Okinawa.
“In Ethiopia, in the early 70s, you had a lot of different styles and artists and arrangers. You had such wealth,” says Ethiopian-American band leader and saxophone player Danny Mekonnen. “You can never stop digging; there will always be new material to introduce people to. That’s something significant. We’re digging much, much deeper. We’re still unearthing new sounds after a decade.”
Although the core members of Debo Band are based in the United States, the band’s violinist, Kaethe Hostetter, lives in Addis Ababa and recorded her tracks there, together with guests Endris Hassen, who plays the mesenqo (one-stringed bowed fiddle), and singer Nardos Tesfaw, who appears on one song.
The lineup on Ere Gobez includes Bruck Tesfaye vocals, Danny Mekonnen on saxophones, Gabriel Birnbaum on tenor saxophone, Danilo Henriquez on trumpet and percussion, Jonah Rapino on electric violin, Kaethe Hostetter on 5-string violin, Marié Abe on accordion, Stephanie Baird on trombone, Brendon Wood on guitar, Arik Grier on sousaphone, PJ Goodwin bass, and Adam Clark drums. Guests: Endris Hassen on mesenqo and Nardos Tesfaw on vocals.
On Ere Gobez, Debo skillfully intertwines different strains of Ethiopian musical tradition delivering a ferociously powerful album.
The British Red Cross has released The Long Road, a concept world music album featuring Robert Plant, Scroobius Pip, the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars, Tinariwen and Kindness. The album is based on the real-life experiences of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK.
The Long Road album sees features the stories of individuals who have been forced to flee their homes and seek safety in the UK.
“This is a very special opportunity to create an album with a narrative that helps more people understand the realities of being a refugee and the journeys people go through,” said producer Ethan Johns. “Music is one of the oldest forms of storytelling, and these are important stories to be told.”
All earnings will go to funding the British Red Cross’s refugee work in the UK.
The album Né So by Malian singer-songwriter Rokia Traore is the number one album of the Transglobal World Music Chart in March 2016.
March 2016 Chart
1. Rokia Traoré – Né So (Nonesuch Records)
2. Baaba Maal – The Traveller (Marathon Artists / Palm Recordings)
3. Sidestepper – Supenatural Love (Real World Records)
4. Aziza Brahim – Abbar el Hamada (Glitterbeat Records)
5. Las Hermanas Caronni – Navega Mundos (Les Grands Fleuves)
6. Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood & The Rajasthan Express – Junun (Nonesuch Records)
7. Bixiga 70 – III (Glitterbeat Records)
8. Divanhana – Zukva (ARC Music)
9. Vieux Farka Touré & Julia Easterlin – Touristes (Six Degrees Records)
10. Zulya and the Children of the Underground – On Love and Science (Zulya and the Children of the Underground)
11. Tęgie Chłopy – Dansing (Muzyka Odnaleziona)
12. Lura – Herança (Lusafrica)
13, Michael Messer’s Mitra – Call of the Blues (Knife Edge Records)
14. The Gloaming – 2 (Real World Records)
15. Dizu Plaatjies and Friends – Ubuntu-The Common String (Mountain Records)
16. Sam Lee & Friends – The Fade in Time (The Nest Collective)
17. Élage Diouf – Melokáane (Pump Up the World)
18. Bareto – Impredecible (World Village)
19. Čači Vorba – Šatrika (Oriente Musik)
20. Konono Nº1 meets Batida – Konono Nº1 meets Batida (Crammed Discs)
World Music Expo (WOMEX) is seeking proposals for the 2016 edition, including the Showcase Festival, the DJ Summit, the Conference and Film programs. WOMEX 2016 will take place in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, October 19-23, 2016. The deadline to submit a proposal is Friday, April 15, 2016.
The final program selection is made by an international and independent jury.
Seems like a clear majority of releases coming my way nowadays are some kind of fusion music. It hasn’t been easy tearing myself away from specific genres I know and love, but this thing we call World Music is getting ever more, well, worldly, and being along for the sonic global ride can result in finding music that excites listeners as much as breathtaking sights thrill literal travelers.
You’d expect an album with a title like Planetary Coalition (Skol Productions, 2015) to be pretty far-reaching, and it is. Under the guidance of guitarist Alex Skolnick, a versatile axe man known mainly for dual identities as a thrash metal and jazz player, this sizable, ArtistShare-sponsored coalition shines on 75 minutes of sounds from many a corner of the world.
Skolnick’s string finesse trades off gracefully with the santoor of Max ZT on several tracks, matches the deft fire of Rodrigo y Gabriela on another, makes the textures of Yacouba Sissoko’s kora that much more heavenly, underpins Kiran Ahluwalia’s ghazal-influenced vocals with the proper mysticism and adds electricity to the tart tones of Adnan Joubran’s oud. And that’s barely marring the surface. There are Argentinian, Eastern European, Far Eastern and Latin Jazz ingredients here as well, and notable guest players aplenty. Yet this mainly instrumental set doesn’t overreach. It’s an ear feast that satisfyingly blends the familiar and the unexpected.
For the time being he’s put aside the Idan Raichel Project name and recording simply as Idan Raichel on At the Edge of the Beginning (Cumbancha, 2016). An Israeli keyboardist, composer, producer and arranger, Raichel has (apart from his acoustic albums with Mali’s Vieux Farka Toure) long blended Jewish, Arabic and African sounds with a worldly dance music sensibility. His new one finds him more introspective, starting off with a pair of chamber-like pieces that primarily showcase Raichel on piano.
Programmed rhythms fuel the tracks that follow but the feel stays rather whispery. The tracks are short and many have a lulling quality to them, reflective of Raichel’s recent identity as the father of two small children. Sparse instrumentation in the form of things like accordion, cello, saxophone and baglama stays on the supportive outer edges of the songs, which are delicate in their construction but have their own quiet strength. While not as groundbreaking as Raichel’s earlier material, his latest nevertheless gets to the heart of its matter by being touchingly low-key.
Karim Nagi has got a thing or two to say about Arabic culture and Detour Guide (Self-released, 2015) says it with percussion, spoken words, rap-like cadences and beat backdrops. Born in Egypt and presently based in Boston, Nagi is out to dispel myths, question stereotypes, recount history, impart truths and make both humorous and serious points about what it is to be of Arabic ethnicity nowadays.
He seamlessly mixes the cheeky with the sincere on titles like “What Arabs Do For Fun,” “Oriental Magic Carpet,” “Heart Full of Cairo” and “If I Were Hummus,” bringing so many observations to the table that you’ll have to listen to this disc multiple times to digest it all. It’s a kind of aural performance art that’s impossible to describe in any significant detail, but a rewarding listening and learning experience just the same.
A mashup of Balkan brass, stomping funk, Gypsy zest, punkish energy and Afrobeat syncopation, I Love You Madly by Washington DC’s Black Masala is a rousing fun burst of energy and true musical chops that’ll get you smiling and busting dance moves you didn’t think you had in you. While the music changes gears quite a bit, it does so rightly and tightly, such that the resulting songs are full of infectious instrumental and vocal passion rather than just one hot mess after another. Great stuff.
The musical connections between Moorish Spain, North Africa and the Middle East have been explored before, but seldom as grandly as the work of David Broza & The Andalusian Orchestra Ashkelon on Andalusian Love Song (Magenta, 2015). One of Israel’s most respected singer/songwriters, Broza here has a number of his tunes arranged for a 35-piece ensemble of strings (bowed, plucked and strummed), reeds, brass and percussion.
Improvised interludes set the mood between the songs, which range in feel from aching to celebratory (much like the ups and downs of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that often figures into Broza’s work). The vocals are richly emotive and the music, under the direction of conductor and arranger Tom Cohen, is unfailingly superb.
Avataar, a band led by Toronto-based saxophonist/flautist Sundar Viswanathan, achieves a crackling good mixture of Indian classical music, jazz and ambient frameworks on Petal (InSound Records, 2015).
Viswanathan’s reeds put forth the same sonic sweetness as Felicity Williams’ largely wordless vocals, and the expert support of Michael Occhipinti (guitars), Justin Gray (bass, mandolin), Ravi Naimpally (tabla, percussion) and Giampaolo Scatozza (drums) provides serpentine grooves, nimble melodies and unending pleasure. The music is intricate without being overbearing or showy, and the result is blissful.
Your Connection to traditional and contemporary World Music including folk, roots and various types of global fusion