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World Music CD Reviews, May 2007

Albums of the Month

Frank London: A Night in the Old Marketplace (Soundbrush)

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There's an angel who lies at the bottom of the well.
Can you still hear her sighs from the bottom of the well?
She fled from a man who she never could love.
Now her bed's in the sand at the bottom of the well.

That morbid lyric, accompanied by mournful accordion, sets the stage for this Frank London production, created for a theatrical adaptation of the 1907 Yiddish play by I. L. Peretz. The music is dark and brooding, and eminently enjoyable as it tells the tale of Sheyndele's death, how a group of Klezmorim were similarly lured to their deaths in the well, and how all these dead folk haunt the village. Oh, and there's a battle with a weathervane rooster. Musicians on this entrancingly goulish album include They Might Be Giants, Susan McKeown, the Klezmatics' Lorin Sklamberg, and Manu Narayah, lead of Broadway's Bombay Dreams. Now if they'll just take this show on the road, so we can all enjoy the visuals as well as this engaging musical updating of Yiddish theater.

©2007 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

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


Various Artists: Si, Para Usted-The Funky Beats of Revolutionary Cuba, Volume 1 (Waxing Deep)
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Funky indeed! The liner notes this self-described "unprecedented combination of socialism and artistic freedom" detail just how this crazy music emerged within revolutionary Cuba. While the story of nationalization, censorship, and creativity is fascinating, one can be blissfully ignorant of the politics and still enjoy the Afro-Cuban-Soul-Funk sounds of bands both well known (Irakere, Los Van Van) and obscure (Grupo Los Yoyi). Fuzz guitar meets conga and clave as the tracks bend the popular sounds of the 1970s into a distinctly Latin vibe. Anyone who enjoys unexpected cultural collisions (think Ethiopiques) in their music will find Si, Para Usted an entertaining blast from the past.

Balkan Beat Box: Nu Med (JDub)
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Multicultural collective BBB continues the party with this sophomore album full of sweaty energy and manic beats, drawing elements from Balkan, dub, Latin, Gypsy, and North African music. Don't take my word for it; the label has kindly posted two complete tracks from the album for your listening pleasure: Digital Monkey and Habibi min zaman.

Various Artists: Animal Playground (Putumayo)
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Kids and animals...what could be cuter? Of course, cute doesn't always mean great music (just look at Jpop...). This is the kind of album that will drive some adults batty. But the songs aren't smarmy, and capture a sense of innocence and fun, from Quartetto Cetra's Italian version of "Old MacDonald" to Samba Salad's cautionary song "Bigi Kaiman" about the dangers of crocodiles in Suriname's swimming holes. Thankfully, the only kids actually singing on the album are the French group Les P'tits Loups du Jazz, who sing and giggle about rhinos. Trinidad's Asheba, whose "No More Monkeys" is featured on the disc as both an audio track and a bonus video, is touring the USA in May and June 2007 in support of the album (see tour schedule).

Benjamin Escoriza: Alevanta! (Riverboat Records)
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The long-time voice of Radio Tarifa finally releases a solo album. It's the same kind of mix that you get with the larger group: flamenco guitar, North African percussion, gravelly vocals. While it may not have the cutting-edge sensibilities of groups like Ojos de Brujo, Alevanta! satisfies as further exploration of Spain's Moorish roots and the continuing connections across the Mediterranean.

©2007 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media



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