artists : Putumayo Presents Brazilian Cafe (Putumayo)
been critical of the last couple Putumayo compilations
for veering from their intended destination -- not
so with Brazilian Cafe. This 12-song collection
not only lives up to expectations of gentle acoustic
Brazilian tunes, it also has a wonderful balance
and variety of tunes and introduces us to some new
artists to explore. Only Rosa Passos and Ceumar
were really familiar to me. Others perhaps should
be familiar, such as Djavan, since the liner notes
tell me he's been big in MPB since the mid 1970s.
Someday I'll have to have someone explain how samba
can be both these soothing, intimate songs and the
sound of a hundred marching feet with thunderous
drums. Until then, I'll enjoy Putumayo's engaging
(if short at a mere 41 minutes) soundtrack to the
softer side of Brazil.
Moreno : Miss Balanço (Far
her promo material is replete with dubious claims
-- what could it mean that "Clara Moreno embodies
her image"? -- her new CD is a winning item.
The singer's sixth recording reaches back to classic
samba rhythms and instruments, and forward with
modern production values and sprinklings of jazz.
The quality of the album certainly rests in part
with Moreno's mother/producer Joyce.
"Samba has always been in my heart," Moreno
says. "Having flirted with various styles,
from electronic to Bossa Nova, when Joe Davis asked
me for a new disc I saw the opportunity to explore
samba. We arrived at 'Sambalanço'. I feel
very comfortable with this music. "
Fa : Sarabah-Tales from the Flipside of Paradise
you in-the-know world music fans know, hip-hop is
huge in much of Africa, and particularly in Senegal.
You've probably also noticed that it's pretty exclusively
a male affair. Think Daara J, K'naan, Positive Black
SOul, MC Solaar, Gokh-Bi System, and the like. Sarabah
has plenty of male voices, but heading it all up
is the powerful voice of Sister Fa. Now based in
Germany, the rapper (born Fatou Mandiang Diatta)
says uses her musical soapbox to talk about the
conditions for women in her Senegalese homeland.
"[T]hey work a lot and they suffer, just to
give something to their children to eat. But no
one was really interested in talking about these
things. For me, hip-hop was the music I could use
to complain and bring out all of this energy I had
inside and to talk about all of these injustices
so people can be aware of what's happening in this
country. It was only hip-hop that I could use to
educate and talk about all of these problems."
(quote from article in The Independent)
I'm drawn to this album for its musical variety,
its use of acoustic instruments, and the catchy
melodies that intertwine with rapid-fire rapping.
The best tracks include the kora-laced opener "Milyamba"
and the acoustic-guitar-led "Amy Jotna."
Other tracks on the album are less memorable, particularly
for those of us who don't speak the language. While
Sarabah is groundbreaking in some very positive
ways, I suspect Sister Fa's best is still to come.
Strange Cousin (Evergreene Music)
it's the name and the eclectic ethnic-y collage
on the CD's cover; for whatever reason, I got to
thinking of TriBeCaStan as something of an American
version of 3 Mustaphas 3. And truth be told, that's
not far off. These upstarts -- principally John
Kruth and Jeff Greene, multi-instrumentalists, both
-- don't take their national mythology to such lengths
as their predecessors, but they share the same love
of strange acoustic instruments, exotic rhythms,
and a good dose of humor, as evident in track names
such as "The Flowers (that I Place at my Ancestor's
Grave Spontaneously Burst into Flame with their
like to think of us as avant garde doing something
new. But what are we doing? Just like Art Ensemble
of Chicago, one of my favorite bands, we compose
and play Ancient Future music. Sun Ra would play
music from the roots to the fruits and music from
next Tuesday that you haven’t heard yet,”
muses Kruth. “I like to think we are playing
music you haven’t heard yet.”
their music is best summed up by the benediction
in their liner notes: "May all the gods smile
on you at once without your skull exploding."
It may be too confusing to compel most folks to
the dance floor, but this kind of crisp, intelligent,
curious instrumental music will always have a place
in my ears.
Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media