Waywordwonderwill (Word Life)
one is a bit off the beaten Spin The Globe track,
but Jewish rapper Eprhyme ("e-prime")
has a message, and he's not shy about sharing it.
I caught him recently at Temple Beth Hatfiloh, where
he and klezmer group The
Erev Ravs performed separately and in collaboration.
of my favorite pieces were when they shared the
stage, but Eprhyme's cutting vocals are captivating
even when he's performing with pre-recorded beats,
as on his CD. His cleverly worded message on "Beggin
for Change" brings a fresh perspective to the
urban class clash, and "It's All G_D"
finds universal values that transcend religious
EP with some songs from this album apparently was
released on K Records, though the full album isn't
listed on their site. So go get it directly from
Eprhyme, and watch for him to make some inroads
into the fanbase of folks like Matisyahu and even
Ali, Keyavash Nourai, & Shahrokh Yadegari: Green
Ali is undoubtedly the big-name musician on this
album. But if you approach it expecting something
like her work with Vas or Niyaz, you'll be wrong.
Sort of. Green Memories is billed as a
"structured improvisation work by Shahrokh
Yadegari," who plays the Lila, "a computer
music instrument which allows the performer to process
and manipulate live acoustic material in real-time.
And in content, Yadegari describes the work as "a
sad yet hopeful meditation on our natural and mental
“I wanted the
piece to be the voice of the earth,” Yadegari
explains. “And this is why the piece sometimes
sounds ambient. Recent ecological changes are messages
to us from the earth. We may be a little too late
but… I think right now we really better listen.”
The whole project was
inspired by the poetry of Forough
Farrokhzad. You may not have heard of her, and
even a knowledge of Persian won't help you understand
the vocals, since Ali sings in sounds, not words
(with one exception) -- as she does in her work
with Vas. If you, like I, find it a but puzzling
that musicians would pay tribute to a poet without
actually giving voice to her poems, one listen will
convince you that this is poetic music -- emotional,
transcendental, and open to interpretation. It demands
even more patience and focus than another recently
released Persian album,
I Am Eve by Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat.
The rewards for your attention are rich. Layers
of sound drift like seeds on the wind, patterns
form and dissipate, and only on the final track
is this sublime album's message finally given words,
taken from a translation of the Farrokhzad poem
"I Pity the Garden":
No one thinks of
No one thinks of the fish,
No one wants to believe
that the garden is dying...
Makumba: Boteco (self-released)
I’m told, is the Brazilian equivalent of a
French cafe or Irish pub, where people gather not
only to imbibe the local liquids, but also to meet,
ruminate, create, and pontificate. Bat Makumba might
have been conceived in such a place, but their funk-rock-samba
sound is too big for such a small setting. These
guys rock, as is evident when pop in their second
album, groove through the bouncy, party-inspiring
opener “Vai Explodir,” and then come
face to face with the fierce guitars and heavy drumming
of “Nacao Francisco,” the love child
of Chico Cesar and Kid Rock. The group creates a
truly global sound, based upon but by no means limited
to Brazilian motifs. The English lyrics and Dead-esque
slow jam of “Sliding” and the flute-meets-percussion
“Cade Minha Muie?” further demonstrate
the band’s refusal to be pigeonholed. Lyrics
or song notes would have improved the package for
those of us who don’t grok Portuguese, but
that omission shouldn’t stop listeners from
digging this fantasticly energetic collection of
21st Century Brazilian fusion.
Carried to Dust (Quarterstick)
An eager publicist
insisted that I have a listen to Calexico’s
latest offering. The group has been on the periphery
of my musical knowledge in recent years, though
I admit to never developing a hunger for their sound.
Apparently this album is a shift more toward the
global music I’m inclined to write about.
Or is it? From the git-go you’ll notice the
Spanish portion of the opening track “Victor
Jara’s Hands” backed by some mariachi-esque
horns. Not exactly “world music,” but
approaching Los Lobos territory.
Then a couple brooding
tunes and an odd 40-second guitar-snare interlude.
A few more songs zip past in the blur of telephone
poles half-seen between road and desert through
the headlights’ sideways-leaking light --
intriguing, but dark and out of focus. Then... what’s
this? “Inspiracion” sounds like something
tasty out of the Ry Cooder-on-the-border songbook
and features vocals by Amparanoia’s
Amparo Sanchez. Now we’re talking! Then, more
telephone poles. Another town, called “El
Gatillo (Trigger Revisited)," this one with
nobody around to sing but boasting a compelling
cowboy-whistle refrain worthy of a decent spaghetti
Western. Then a few more telephone poles before
the car runs out of gas and comes to a creaking
stop in “Contention City.”
I’ll give this
another listen without my “world music”
hat on, but for those seeking a global landscape,
be advised that Carried to Dust’s
charms are widely dispersed amid broad swaths of
Reprezent (Indies Scope)
Gypsy, unabashedly modern, Radoslav “Gipsy”
Banga raises his hands and eyes on the cover of
his new album. Shocked at his musical success? Praying
for his culture’s survival? Or perhaps (note
the bed-head) awakened suddenly to the duty to continue
spreading a socially conscious message along with
his infectious, feel-good Roma fusion? Whatever
it “reprezents,” the cover opens to
reveal an album that I’m told is full of social
content but appeals to this non-Roma as a damn fine
party album and a fantastic fusion of traditional
and modern sounds. From ballads like “Vecernice”
to scratch-laced rap tunes like “Dobry
Den” to full-tilt dance numbers like the
Beating (video here),”
Gipsy.cz’s varied compositions are unceasingly
engaging, and flat-out fun, with a rare, energizing
in-your-face cultural pride (the kind also seen
in the Maori-fusion of Moana
and the Moahunters). Highly recommended!
Radio Romanista (Asphalt Tango)
KAL makes Gypsy music;
KAL makes modern urban music. And there's no separation
between the two. The musical equivalent of nuclear
fusion, the Serbian band seems to create ever more
energetic tunes, upping the ante from their self-titled
debut with the 13 songs on Radio Romanista
(the title track tells of a radio station in the
imaginary nation of Romanistan, homeland of the
Gypsies). Traditional touches pervade the album,
comingling with urban beats and outstanding (and
often very speedy - check out the fiddling on "Romozom"
and "I'm Gypsy"!) instrumental prowess
KAL bandleader Dragan
Ristic has a fantastic ear for modernizing his rich
musical roots without losing the essential elements.
With KAL's success," says Ristic, "we're
proving the music of your ancestors is still valid,
still lives." And it's not merely alive, it's
dancing down the street and pulling you along it
Ignore the narrow-minded
reviewer who said of this album (and I'm not
making this up!): "It's a sad commentary on
the state of the world when you can no longer count
on ethnic groups to behave the way you want them
to." Tradition isn't static, music is constantly
evolving. KAL's sound is as authentically "Gypsy"
as anything from Vera
Bila, or anything from Gypsy.cz,
for that matter.
Sure it's early in
the year, but go ahead and mark Radio Romanista
as one of the best albums of 2009.
Kuti : Day By Day (Mercer Street)
Even as more Afrobeat
bands emerge seemingly from every city and nation,
the family that started it all continues to contribute
to the living history of the genre. Femi Kuti's
new Day By Day is his first studio album
in seven years, following closely on his brother's
Kuti & Fela's Egypt 80. Kuti continues
to slip jazz and soul into his vernacular, sometimes
to the extent that you couldn't reasonably call
it Afrobeat. Other tracks are more clearly in the
Kuti tradition, such as "You Better Ask Yourself,"
with it pointed questioning about religion and the
exploitation of Africa's resources and the similar
message of "One Two." Femi leads the album
not only with his compelling, poweful vocals but
also playing sax, organ, and trumpet. Overall the
album isn't as edgy as his father's or brother's
work, but its smoother vibe and radio-length songs
make it likely to be well exposed, and it's a solid,
if not groundbreaking, addition to the Afrobeat
Vista Social Club: At Carnegie Hall (World
What can I possibly
tell you about the BVSC that you haven't already
learned from Wim Wenders? This new double album
from the old Cubans is chock full of classic Cubans
doing classing songs ("Chan Chan," "Candela,"
"Quizas, Quizas," "Veinte Anos").
And while you know that it's a big-hall, big-band
production that may not bring the best glimpse of
each artists' subtleties, the music still tugs at
hearts nostalgic for a Cuba that once was and a
handful of its amazing musicians rescued from obscurity.
Mahal : Maestro (Heads Up)
don't know how Taj Mahal still sings the blues.
Forty years of success in the music business have
given him the juice to attract some big names to
record on this celebratory album, including Angelique
Kidjo and Toumani Diabate on "Zanzibar"
(that they hail from the other coast of African
is mere trivia; stop your whining), Los Lobos on
"Never Let You Go" and "TV Mama,"
Ziggy Marley on "Black Man, Brown Man,"
and Ben Harper on "Dust Me Down." As you
might expect from all that, Maestro shows
Taj Mahal's tremendous range, from blues to folk
to electric blues-rock, from reggae and calypso
to African and Latin. "The one thing I've always
demanded of the records I've made is that they be
danceable," Taj says. "This record is
danceable, it's listenable, it has lots of different
rhythms, it's accessible, it's all right in front
of you. It's a lot of fun and it represents where
I am at this particular moment in my life."
And Taj fans will jubilantly join in when he gets
to the part of "Strong Man Holler" where
he sings "Baby you so fine / you make me wanna
smack myself." Maestro is fine music
from a master who has never stopped exploring.
Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media