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World Music CD Reviews, March 2006


Tanya Tagaq Gillis

Tagaq: Sinaa

artist site : buy CD : hear samples

You've probably heard of throat-singing. And if you saw the exquisite movie Atanarjuat: Fast Runner, you may remember a scene where two women do the Inuit version of throat-singing, holding each other's forearms and singing face to face. That's a mild introduction to the wonders of Sinaa, the new album from Tanya Tagaq Gillis. Tagaq builds dramatically on the traditional style. While using her (multi-tracked) voice alone as primary instrument for most of Sinaa (which means "edge" in Inuktitut), she veers into experimental realms with call-and response grunts, buzzes, moans, and gasps, sometimes topped with melodic singing.

The track "Ancestors" is a collaboration with Bjork, and three tracks feature Txalaparta percussion by Basque group Ugarte Anaiak. Curiously, Tagaq didn't grow up hearing this vocal style, and taught herself from old tapes her mother sent her. The world of percussive breathing she creates is dizzying, exhilarating, and a far cry from the melodic Tuvan style of throat-singing. Fans of vocal world music owe it to themselves to check this out.

For more background on this fascinating singing style, see this article on Intuit throat singing or check out some traditional singing samples.

©2006 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

Anga: Echu Mingua

Anga: Echu Mingua
(World Circuit / Nonesuch)

buy CD/hear samples

Though this is his first solo album, seasoned conguero Miguel "Anga" Diaz has played with an amazing array of musicians, including Ry Cooder, Irakere, Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer, Cachaito Lopez, Roy Hargrove, and many more. He reaches further still here, collaborating with Malian griot Baba Sissoko, flautist/sampler Magic Malik, and French hip-hop DJ Dee Nasty to create a genre-bending collection of Afro-Cuban/Jazz/hip-hop songs.

The heady, complex results won't appeal to everyone, but Anga's fresh, original sound is worth a listen, both on the originals and on his covers of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and Monk's "Round Midnight."

©2006 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

THIS JUST IN! ... New World Music CD Releases


Djelimady Tounkara: Solon Kono (Marabi)
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One of the world's best guitarists, Djelimady Tounkara collaborates with some of Bamako's best young musicians on this new album. The former bandleader and soloist of the Super Rail Band shows his composing and arranging skills alongside his awesome guitar playing. Artists include vocalists Mountaga Diabate, Samba Sissoko, Mariam "M'Baou" Tounkara, and Mariam "Djodjo" Diabate; bassist Sekou Kante; guitarist Samba Diabate; and guests on drums and ngoni.

The Yuval Ron Ensemble: Tree of Life (Magda)
artist site : buy CD/hear samples

Including Jewish, Muslim, and Christian artists, the Yuval Ron Emsemble explores the sacred and folkloric music of the Middle East. The symbol of the Tree of Life is the glue of this album: The liner notes include similar images of trees from the three faith traditions, along with brief but rich song notes. A wonderful way to learn a little about the cultures, melodies, and rhythms of the Middle East.

Hossein Alizadeh & Djivan Gasparyan: Endless Vision (World Village)
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Subtitled "Persian and Armenian Songs," this album might better be called "How to Play the Duduk Without Sounding Like a Tortured Waterfowl." We're told that the apricot-wood oboe cousin is notoriously ill-tempered, though here it is played beautifully, accompanied by the shurangiz, a six-stringed Iranian lute. Recorded live at an outdoor concert in Niavaran Palace in Tehran, the intricate beauty of these songs should give pause to anyone convinced that Iran consists solely of beauty-hating clerics who deserve the pointy ends of Western bayonets.

Various Artists: Congotronics 2-Buzz 'n' Rumble from the Urb'n' Jungle (Crammed)
artist site : buy CD/hear samples

The buzz is back! Riding the coattails of Konono No. 1 are five more "electro-traditional" Congolese bands pushing their distinctive music through fuzzy homemade instruments and amplifiers. These bands make fuzztone the old fashioned way. Western ears suckled on studio-perfect sounds may have a hard time adjusting to the raw sound, but there truly are diamonds in this rough. The nine tracks include one new one from Konono No. 1 ("T.P.Couleur Cafe"), and the package includes a DVD of the bands recording.

Layla Angulo: Live at the Triple Door (self-released)
artist site : buy CD/hear samples

Thirty seconds into this album, Layla Angulo sings, and I have a flashback. It's 1991, my CD player is spinning up the new David Byrne compilation Cuba Classics 2: Dancing with the Enemy, and the husky voice of Celeste Mendoza digs into "Mi Rumba Echando Candela." The guest vocalists similarly light up the tight arrangements of Louisiana-born Angulo, a product of Greek and Irish parents, who is also a sharp sax player (check out "Tus Manos," for example). This energetic live recording is crisp and clear, with just a touch of audience noise, letting Angulo and her Latin Jazz Orchestra shine. It's just hard to believe that Angulo isn't signed to a label, and that this is Seattle, not Miami, or Havana....

Madina N'Diaye: Bimogow (Sound of World)
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Mali's Madina N'Diaye would a great story if only she was just the only professional woman kora player. But she lost her sight following an illness in 2003, so now she plays blind. N'Diaye knows where the strings are, and also sings powerfully on her debut album of four traditional songs and eight original compositions. A powerful album of beauty and grace.

Susheela Raman: Music for Crocodiles (Narada)
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Is it world music? UK-based Indian singer Susheela Raman pushes back against that label with an album on which most songs are in English and wouldn't sound out of place on a progressive mainstream radio station. Still, the roots are clearly in South India, and those who prefer non-English lyrics in their "world music" can dig into the "Chordhiya" and its fierce message against illusory treasures, or the apocalyptic "Idi Samayam," the sacred-themed "Sharavana," even the French-language "L'ame Volatile." A beautiful grenre-defying album by a confident and competent musician.

Various Artists: The Rough Guide to Bhangra Dance (World Music Network)
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Who would have thought that a simple harvest rhythm from India's Punjab region would take the world's dancefloors by storm? But it clearly has, and the distinctive dhol drums and shouted chorus have gone global. This strong 15-song compilation includes traditional, ragga, and hip-hop influences, is effectively an update to the earlier Rough Guide to Bhangra (2000). With tracks from Juggy D, Daljit Mattu, Panjabi by Nature, Malkit Singh, and many others, even committed bhangra fans will likely find exciting new sounds here. Andthe excellent liner notes by Dj Ritu set this above other bhangra collections.

Various Artists: Brazilian Lounge (Putumayo)
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Putumayo's latest world lounge compilation includes 12 softly-grooving tracks from the likes of Brazilians well-known (Bossacucanova, Bebel Gilberto, Seu Jorge with BiD) and lesser-known (Paula Morelenbaum, Mundo Livre S/A, Marcos Valle). Standout tracks include "Ha Dias" by Luca Mundaca, "Mariana" by Bia, and "Saudade Fez Um Samba" by Marissa. As usual with Putumayo, there's nothing too edgy, making it a tasty morsel with wide appeal.

©2006 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media



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