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World Music CD Reviews, July 2009

Album of the Month

Ba Cissoko - Sena - on Spin The Globe

Ba Cissoko: Seno
Sterns Africa

buy CD/hear samples

Guinea's Cissoko family has provided generation upon generation of musicians across west Africa. But that legacy alone doesn't explain the sound of Ba Cissoko (which is, by the way, both a person and a band). In their decade together, the core quartet of Kimintan "Ba" Cissoko (kora), Sekou Kouyate (electric kora), Ibrahima Kourou Kouyate (bass), and Ibrahim "Kounkoure" Bah (percussion) have incorporated influences both old and new and in doing so they've created something of a new genre. Call it kora-rock, or Afro-rock, or electric griot.

The band's third release after Sabolan (2003) and Electric Griot Land (2006), Seno will bridge any gap there may be in listeners' minds between traditional and modern music. Truth be told, my first listen was actually off-putting, as I struggled to accept Kouyate's effects-laden kora sound as authentically African. But abandon that preconception -- as one also must do to love, say, the clangy electric guitars of Tinariwen -- and you'll discover extraordinary music on Seno -- music that shows how Ba Cissoko has been listening to the world while preserving their own rich heritage.

"Nina" is perfect example of Ba Cissoko's sound -- with Cissoko's vocals backed by djembe, acoustic kora, and a kora so processed it sounds like seriously funky guitar. The story of the band's formation that's told in the liner notes is great background, but you can hear it all in this single song: one future sound of Africa.

©2009 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

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


various artists : Global Lingo (Project Ahimsa)
Project Ahimsa website
Project Ahimsa on Facebook

Being a radio show, Spin The Globe doesn't often warm to DJ mix CDs -- we prefer to create our own musical blends. We'll make an exception for the album Global Lingo, a mix by DK Bollygirl vs. dimmSummer. There's a nice flow from track to track, and a great blend of musical styles from artists we know (Michael Franti & Spearhead, Rocky Dawuni, Sila & the Afrofunk Experience, Funkadesi) and promising newcomers.

Billed as "a mix of youth and hope featuring children and artists from around the world," the album is the work of Project Ahimsa, which creates and supports music education programs for kids worldwide. So the youthful, hip-hop heavy vibe of the album should come as no surprise, though you'll also hear significant sprinklings of reggae, dub, and electronica.

"Out of all the things kids need, why music?" asks Robin Sukhadia, Project Ahimsa's international grants program director. "It instills discipline, builds confidence, and increases communication between kids, family, and the greater world, all tools for success no matter where you're from. ... [Music] is one of the few ways they have to express themselves in a nonviolent way."

Sukhadia (aka Tablapusher) even used samples of children's voices on the album's opening track, "Speak It." It's a satisfying way of having the project come full circle, from grants to teaching to having the kids contribute to this album. The album's executive producer, Vijay Chattha, explains that the album is "a progress report on what [Project Ahimsa has] been doing these past seven years. So we got artists who had performed at our events together with the children in the programs we fund. The kids want to learn and get involved, and they wanted to record." It should be noted, however, that many of the tracks are pulled straight from previously released albums and do not include such collaborations.

Global Lingo is a satisfying mix, suitable for dancing, partying, or beatful lounging. You'll definitely want to tell the kids in your life about this one, as it's mostly conscious music and it's all for a good cause. The album will be released on August 11 as both a 17-track album and the DJ mix I've been digging.

Lura: Eclipse (Four Quarters)
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If Lura sang in English instead of Portuguese, the diminutive Cape Verde singer might simply be considered a fine soul-jazz singer. The flawless arrangements, vocal precision, and emotional commitment all bear witness to a singer in her prime. From the bittersweet title track to the upbeat morality tale of "Mascadjon / Freeloader" Lura simply nails every note. The songs on Eclipse may be specifically about Cape Verde -- neighbors, poverty, parties, love, dancing -- but these are also universal themes, and this gorgeous album should have appeal far beyond a typical "world music" audience.

various artists : Putumayo Presents Italia (Putumayo)
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The folks at Putumayo have been making some curious choices of late. A couple months ago there was the new India compilation (reviewed here). Now this collection that begins with the distinctive sound of ... the berimbau? Huh?

Okay, a look at the back of the CD reveals that this is the music of "today's Italian singer-songwriters [who] combine the spirit of la dolce vita with a contemporary flair." A global contemporary flair that may explain the Brazilian influence on Simone Lo Porto's "Il Girasole" and the tango taste of "Alessandro Pitoni's "Colpo di Coda." Also
the gypsy swing feel of "Gina" by Lu Colombo & Maurizio Geri Swingtet and the retro jazz of Canada-based Marco Calliari's "L'Americano."

The album definitely has the usual accessible, friendly Putumayo vibe and I'm intrigued by some of the artists it has introduced me to. It's just that calling this collection Italia is like putting together an album with Jonathan Coulton, Tom Waites, Laura Love, and Jonathan Richman, and calling it Americana. Weak glue to hold together some even this strong music.

[dunkelbunt]: Raindrops and Elephants (Piranha)
label website (with audio samples)

Some compare Vienna-based [dunkelbunt], aka Ulf Lindemann, to groups like Jazzanova. In truth, though, his music is more akin to Balkan beatmaster Shantel and Jewish DJ Socalled. But how do you find an appropriate comparison for someone whose album includes a piano solo that segues from classical to Balkan dance and back again; a remix of Watcha Clan's already boisterous "Balkan Qoulou"; and a blending of rap by Raf MC with horns by Fanfare Ciocarlia on "The Chocolate Butterfly (Tüwi Edit)"?

The latter is a tasty tabla-laden extended version of a track that appeared on [dunkelbunt]'s previous album, Morgenlandfahrt. Raindrops and Elephants continues the unusual collaborations seen on that earlier album, which included artists as diverse as Deobrat Mishra and the Amsterdam Klezmer Band. You can certainly appreciate the raucous sounds without all this background info, and it makes a great summer soundtrack.

©2009 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media



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