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World Music CD Reviews, December 2006

Album of the Month

tartit - abacabok

Tartit: Abacabok
Crammed Discs

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Desert trance music from the masters. I first saw Tartit at the now-defunct Womad USA (so many things I saw there...how I miss it!). A group of veiled men and bare-faced women playing somber songs borne of their history in refugee camps, and their life in the desert before and since. This album was recorded in Bamako, Mali, and in the northern desert by Congotronics producer Vincent Kenis. Compared to Konono No. 1 and their ilk, this music is downright serious. But the five-woman, four-man group makes great dance music as well as telling the stories of their people, stories about death, wealth, unity, history, peace, and education. You'd do well to educate yourself about Tartit and their cyclic, acoustic, smoldering hypnotic tunes.

©2006 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

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


Menwar: Ay Ay Lolo (Marabi)
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Ah, Mauritius, island of my dreams. I may never visit you, but you linger always on the edge of my joy. I imagine your colors, your aromas, your fruits, your people. Your sounds I no longer have to imagine, because Menwar has arrived in my ears. From far away in the Indian Ocean, he sings to me of island life. He sings to me of the 2,000 people expelled from the Chagos archipelago so that the USA might create Diego Garcia military base, a heavy topic paired with driving Afropop rhythms just a little like the sounds of nearby Madagascar. He sings to me of unemployment and the abolition of slavery. He pairs mbira with a funky bass line on "Sannizale" and gets me dancing. And he sings of the true Mauritius on the title track, with its driving beat and vocal refrain. He has bottled your sounds and floated them across the miles to me. And provided the soundtrack to my dreams of you.

Clotaire K: Lebanese (self-released)

Lebanese oud player and rapper Clotaire K is no stranger to controversy. He's outspoken about politics, in his music as well as in interviews ("...hypocrisy has become so hard to hide that most of the people living on this planet now see the lies...Bush has opened a Pandora's box by attacking Iraq and such an unthinking deed will unfortunately but certainly lead to unexpected chain reactions in the future."). His music, like his words, is hard-hitting and is probably not for the casual world music fan. But like Rachid Taha, he channels an angry energy, that of a people misconstrued in the mainstream media and widely misunderstood. Lebanon, he says in an globalvillageidiot interview, is "paradise on earth." It's a paradise with a no-holds-barred musical prophet, who just happens to be adept at combining oud, phat beats, and raps in Arabic and English (including Natacha Atlas on the meaty opener "Maqam").

Watch an interview with Clotaire K recorded in Beirut during the Freemuse conference on freedom of musical expression in October 2005.

Lenka Lichtenberg & Brian Katz: Pashtes/Simplicity (Sunflower)
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Canadian singer Lenka Lichtenberg became acquainted with Sam "Simcha" Simchovitch after singing at a book fair in 2003. Now singer and poet come together on this album, a song cycle in which Simcha's words are paired with music and arrangements by Lichtenberg and musical partner Brian Katz. Irrepressibly Jewish, the music (and words, if you understand them or read the tri-lingual album notes) speaks through an eloquent dynamic. It swings through emotional highs and lows -- often in the same song (as on the title track). There's a sparse jazz sensibility to the album, and Brazilian rhythms here and there, perhaps bending the listener's idea of what constitutes "Jewish music." Lichtenberg's powerful voice takes us on a tour of a mystical land of joys and sorrows. The journey ends with a recognition of the power and durability of music and voices on "A Song Will Remain":

"A song will remain, a chant of woe out of fire and sword; from generation to generation carried like a holy watchword."

Knut Reiersrud & Iver Klieve: Nåde Over Nåde (KKV)
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"It's so crazy it might just work." I can't help it -- that cliche phrase pops into my head whenever I pop this into the CD player. Who would have thought you could create coherent music by combining guitar and organ (and we're talking full pipe organ here, not a diminutive B-3)? Somehow, guitarist Reiersrud and organist Klieve have found a winning combination, and their third collaboration goes from gothic on the title track to sweet on their version of "It's a Wonderful World." Recorded in Odense Cathedral, this album blurs the sounds of sacred and secular in crazy, wonderful way.

Source with Abdoulaye Diabate: Tonight's African Jazz Band (Completely Nuts)
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The Fulani flute is one of those instruments that has both power and a soft beauty. It's not often heard in the US, but nobody is working harder to change that than Quebecois musical ambassador Sylvain Leroux. Also the driving force behind the wonderful Fula Flute project, Leroux teams up with Malian singer Abdoulaye "Djoss" Diabate on this album, also bringing in flutist Bailo Bah, guitarist Mory Kante, and others. Think Heavy Flute meets Super Rail Band. Or don't think, and just enjoy the fresh tunes, from the sparse "Caravane" to the highly danceable "Bara." Definitely recommended for any Afropop / Afrojazz fan.

Ayelet Rose Gottlieb: Mayim Rabin (Tzadik)
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You can hear show tunes, pop harmonies, even experimental jazz in the music on this album. So you might be forgiven for not realizing the words are from the sacred Biblical text "Song of Songs." That work of erotic poetry, much like Sufi poetry, lends itself well to musical interpretation. Gottlieb's approach is not only musically diverse, it's also decidedly global, with Japanese drummer Take Toriyama (also a member of Slavic Soul Party), cellist Rufus Cappadocia (Italian roots), vocalist Galeet Dardashti (Iranian roots), and others. Though perhaps not rhythmic enough to engage your average Afropop-type world music fan, Mayim Rabin's innovative approach to scripture is thoroughly compelling.

©2006 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media



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