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Spin the Globe reviews, October 2004

IZALINE CALISTER: KRIOYO
Network

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Creole:
n.1. One born of European parents in the American colonies of France or Spain or in the States which were once such colonies, esp. a person of French or Spanish descent, who is a native inhabitant of Louisiana, or one of the States adjoining, bordering on the Gulf of of Mexico.
a.1. Of or pertaining to a Creole or the Creoles.
-- webster-dictionary.org

Many cultures have influcenced the music of Curacao in the southern Caribbean. "Krioyo" is the local Papiamento term for creole, and an apt title for Calister's unique blend of island music with jazz and classical strings. A star at home and the Netherlands where she now resides, Calister creates music that sounds natural and organic, a far cry from some forced world/jazz fusion projects. Her musical range is wide without feeling scattered. "Mi Sopi / My Soup" is an upbeat carnival dance song. The pop-ish melody of the opening ballad "Awaseru / Rain" is grounded by bass thumb-piano and string quartet. "Ki Bo Ke / Whatever You Want" begins with Calister's younger brother Roel on the benta, the African mouth bow, followed by tambu grande bass drum, triangle, and call and response vocals for a near-capoeira feel. Other songs range around the creole musical landscape, all varied, all delightful. This CD has already stood up to repeated listenings, and I expect I'm just beginning to appreciate it. Highly recommended!

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

GOLEM: HOMESICK SONGS
Aeronaut Records

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If you've lamented the dearth of klezmer rock bands, Golem is out to win your heart. Pushing the tempo - not to mention the envelope - the New York-based band puts a unique spin on contemporary Jewish music. "I tried to imagine how Tom Waits would record a klezmer album," says band founder Annette Ezelkiel. Nowhere is this wild Waitsian sensibility more apparent than on the driving "Bialystok." Golem, named after the legendary Jewish Frankenstein of Prague, has named their songs after old-world places, the longed-after locales of the unsettled diaspora. Golem's reinterpretation of the classic "Rumenye" is a crazy blend of "Metamorphosis," the Violent Femmes, and homesickness. Not all of the songs are so wild; the plaintive tombone of "Belz" wouldn't shock your alte bobe. But Golem is a new kind of Jewish band, combining a respect for tradition with a proclivity toward the sensual and melodramatic. A highly enjoyable album from a band to watch.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

N'FALY KOUYATE & DUNYAKAN: KORA GROOVES FROM WEST AFRICA
ARC

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After the djembe, the kora is probably the best-know African instrument. Essential in traditional griot music, the 21-stringed calabash harp is today carving its own niche in electronic and dance music in the hands of Issa Bagayogo and the Afrocelts. N'Faly Kouyate is the Afrocelts' kora player and has collaborated with other musicians ranging from Wes Welenga to Jesse Cook and Robert Plant. On Kora Grooves, Kouyate hews a middle ground between tradition and the dancehall, in an ensemble that includes bass and drum kit, along with backing vocals and other African instruments. Kouyate who arranged all and wrote most of the music on the album, also displays his skill on balafon on "Wawa." With songs of varied pace and mood, Kora Grooves is a great chance to hear a musician whose light is too often hidden under the Afrocelts' bushel of electronics.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

RADIO TARIFA: FIEBRE
World Circuit / Nonesuch

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Ten years after the release of their first album, Radio Tarifa returns with a live CD that captures their crosscultural sound and live energy (the title translates as "fever."). The group's sound is broad, incorporating the musics of Europe and North Africa, along with influences from the Middle East and even the Americas. Darbuka player Fain Duenas sums it up as "a meeting point between all the cultures that have passed through and continue to come through" Tarifa, the southernmost point in Spain. Rooted in the rhythms, guitars, and passionate singing of flamenco, 10 of the 12 songs are live versions of songs from the band's three previous CDs. The two new songs appear at the beginning of this album. "Jota Bereber" is a Castilian folk melody telling of the pain of love, matched with Berber rhythms from Morocco. The lyrics of "Elli Yeddi Haq Ennas," based on Algerian Chaabi music, tell of the woes of an alcoholic. The recording quality is excellent throughout - warm, clear, and balanced. Audience noise and clapping (as on "Elli Yeddi Hag Ennas") are apparent but not disruptive. These guys are burning with passion and energy, and and smouldering as this CD is, their live shows must come dangerously close to combusting.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

TINARIWEN: AMASSAKOUL
World Village

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The sand may blow in your eyes and get in unspeakable parts of your anatomy, but it just doesn't matter if you're fighting a war of liberation or grooving to the rebel guitars of Tinariwen. The history of the band and their Taureg people is as compelling as the music; their suffering and displacement during years of war feeds the emotion their pour into their music. Going beyond the simple rhythmic guitar loops common to North African desert music, Tinariwen flat-out rocks on tunes like "Oualahia Ar Tesninam (Oh My God, You're Unhappy)," sounding like a sun-drenched cross between call-and-response church music and gutsy 1960s blues-rock. The Tamashek rap on the musically sparse "Arawan" relates how "nobody cares about the people of the desert / who are suffering from thirst..." The insert includes English song translations along with some evocative photos. If you can't get to the Festival in the Desert, this CD is a great way to bring the desert to you. Highly recommended.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

PALM WINE BOYS: UP & DOWN
Wildplum

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Palm wine is the music of a lazy West African afternoon, sitting under a tree playing acoustic guitars and sipping the fermented-sap brew that gave the music its name. California's Palm Wine Boys use this musical tradition as a base for their sweet songs of people learning, loving, and struggling though life. I'm so used to hearing foreign languages it took me a couple listenings to accept how well the English lyrics fit with the lilting music. The arrangements are simple but rich, with subtle bass, flute, and percussion supporting the up-front guitars and vocals. Palm wine is a style that demands heart more than virtuosity, and the group's heart makes Up & Down sweet, soft, energetic, accessible, and full of sublime delights.

For more about palm wine music, see the band's page of info and links: palmwineboys.com/palmwine.html

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

WAGNER PA & BRAZUCA MATRACA: EL IMPARABLE TRANSEUNTE
Circular Moves

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The music of Brazil never goes out of style, and reinventions of classic Brazilian styles are particularly hot right now. New CDs abound: Bossacucanova (Uma Batida Diferente), Morena Veloso's reconfigured trio Domenico+2 (Sincerely Hot), and The Rough Guide to Brazilian Hiphop (see below) all take new musical roads. On El Imparable Transuente (The Perpetual Passerby), bassist/DJ Wagner Pa and Brazuca Matraca are rhythmic, funky, and fun. The album borrows from rock, electronica, and reggae, but maintains a clear Brazilian heart. Comparisons to Manu Chao and Chico Cesar are inevitable, though Pa's arrangements are richer and less punky than Chao's, and more global than Cesar's. Engaging and promising on first listen, this CD gives the impression it will also age well.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

RAY SPIEGEL ENSEMBLE: RAGA JAZZ
Simla House

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The link between West African music and American blues has been hammered home by numerous collaborations. But the link between Indian music and jazz? While not claiming that one sprang from the other, the ensemble led by Ray Spiegel blends the two styles convincingly. Led by Barun Kumar Pal's Indian slide guitar and Spiegel's tabla, with guest appearances on sarangi, tampura, and harmonium, the overall feel is more Indian. But the drums and bass give the music a distinct if subtle western groove, particularly on the more upbeat pieces ("Barun's Boogie," "El Camino Algo"). While similar to recent "world chillout" albums, Raga Jazz has more meat and holds the listener's attention. A great soundtrack for dancing or meditating or just attentively listening.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

 

Other recent arrivals of note:

ZAP MAMA: ANCESTRY IN PROGRESS
Luaka Bop / V2

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What happens when a globally respected a cappella, pygmy chanting West African ensemble discovers Philly style hip hop – exquisite global soul. Welcome to Zap Mama's fourth endeavor, a unique culture clash of Euro-Afro pop that swivels to slow hip hop beats. Zap Mama, who describe their sound as "Afropean," creates a cohesive underground feel fusing funk, hip hop, and R&B. Marie Daulne, the Zaire born visionary behind Zap Mama, moves their sound forward with her soft, breathy vocals that sound as if they’ve been dipped in West African sensibilities. Their mix seems most palatable when Daulne is joined by neosoul hipster Erykah Badu on "Bandy Bandy." An ode to moving one's body in a bandy snake like motion, the track is rooted with sullen chants while Badu's unmistakable wailings float over the Afro-punk melodies. If Ancestry in Progress is any indication of what music can become due to globalization, then we can only hope that Zap Mama will be purveyor of continuing that exploration.
(Vibe)

MORY KANTE: SABOU
Riverboat Records

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Mory Kante assured his place in African music history in 1988 when he became the first African artrist to sell a million singles, with that rousing dance hit, "Yeke Yeke." A hereditary musician from Guinea, he had first moved to Mali to join the legendary Rail Band, and then moved on to Paris to top the European charts with his fusion of old griot melodies, new funk dance beats and rousing vocals. This time he has recorded an acoustic album dominated by traditional West African instruments like the kora and balafon, most of which he plays himself. But he has retained his mass-market appeal, and the best songs match his soaring vocals and impressive multi-instrumental work with the rhythm section at times galloping away with the songs. (Guardian)

VARIOUS: THE ROUGH GUIDE TO BRAZILIAN HIP-HOP
World Music Network

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With its favelas, gangsters, multiracial cities and love of all things funky, what is surprising is not how big hip hop (pronounced hippy-hoppy in Brazil) is in South America's largest nation, but how long it has taken to get the attention it deserves within the country and, latterly, outside its national borders. On this album you can expect Brazilian percussion, samba and shout outs to Rio courtesy of Stereo Macaranã on the street funky Ondo É Que Tu Tá and the surprisingly dark fruits of a song created by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil and sung by the ever-youthful Elza Soares, Haiti. The CD kicks off with a genius opus from conscious rappers Somos Nós A Justiça. A repetitive, DJ Shadowesque piano riff forms the basis of relentless, funky and at times funny free-for-all on Se Tu Lutas Tu Conquistas. In a similarly chilled vain is Sou Negrão — a freestyle rap based on a funky loop and performed with the wit and style of a Brazilian Pharcyde as they give props to Jorge Ben and Gilberto Gil. Another interesting tune with very Brazilian music behind Instituto & Sabotage’s Eminem-like delivery. Sadly, Sabotage was shot and killed last year after a short life that came straight out of City of God. (fly.co.uk)

MARLENE DORCENA: MESY
Contre Jour

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The musical career of Marlene Dorcena seemed to take off in 1991. She had a tour of Europe and performed with a theater troupe in Belgium. Almost as soon as Dorcena got home to Haiti, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown in a coup d'etat. Marlene Dorcena decided to leave, and returned to Belgium. This is how Marlene Dorcena remembers Haiti. She writes songs about her country. In the song "Wangol," she speaks to someone just like herself. The person has left Haiti, and the singer is imploring them to come home. In creole, Dorcena sings "the country is suffering and we're being eaten by worry. Come back," she sings, "and bring the house to life." Dorcena continues to live in Belgium. She feels for the moment that she can contribute more to Haiti by making her music and helping non-governmental organizations raise interest and money in the poorest country in the Americas. (The World)

AZZDDINE WITH BILL LASWELL: MASSAFAT
Barbarity

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Maghrebini from Basel, where the team of the label Barraka El Farnatshi drew back to its definite mastering realm. The Barraka people made themselves in the past particularly with the rich Arab Dub catalog of the project Aisha Kandisha's Jarring Effects and its folder volume a name with fans of untergruendiger Orient sounds. Read-wave more frequent gladly his low clay/tone support had there already made available. Now the Basler fished itself the Moroccan Oudmeister and composer Azzddine Ouhnine from Rabat. Over it and partly also around its 15koepfiges orchestra new Dub Universen became to create, read-waves contributed again the foundation. The result is a intoxicationful Trip by the traditions of Morocco of the Suedsahara in the Berberland: If resounded Oud and violin and flute lines circulate like betoerende smells from the Souk, mantrahaft repeated vowel goes directly into Mark verfremdete. A RWS insert of the young exile Algerian Boualem brings aggressive spice inside and into the solid bass department creeps already times a Groove out of the Punjab. The Remixer Bombax finally channels also or other Goa insert for the dance leg in the happening. Here one can leave the water whistle confident in the cabinet - the Trip for the ears works already spacig enough. (bluerhythm.de [translation by babelfish])

ROKIA TRAORE: BOWMBOI
Nonesuch

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On paper Rokia Traore is a bit of a radical. She's one of Mali's leading new singers, although she's not a traditional griot musician. She tries new ideas, combining traditional instruments that aren't usually brought together, and on this album works with the classical musicians, the Kronos Quartet. The daughter of a Malian' diplomat she built her career in France before returning to Mali and is only now becoming a star there. On this, her third album, she sounds right at the heart of the traditions of West African music. This is an album full of contemplative and meditative pleasures. If you love Malian music you will probably already have heard of Rokia. If you haven't Bowmboi is certainly worth adding to your collection. (BBC)

GOTAN PROJECT: Inspiración-Espiración
XL Recording

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Following the release of their debut album 'La Revancha Del Tango', Gotan Project continue to quietly amass a worldwide army of supporters. They were awarded 'best newcomers' at 2003's Radio 3 World Music Awards. The three principle members of Gotan Project - Philippe Cohen Solal, Christophe Mueller and Eduardo Makaroff - came together in the late 1990's through a mutual passion for the combination of sound with image, but were equally driven by the desire to successfully marry electronic and acoustic music. They then built on this foundation of house, dub and hip hop influenced production, by adding some of the finest Argentinean tango musicians. The result is spectucular - a unique blend of Parisian production with Buenos Aires tradition, guaranteed to sound as thrilling on the dancefloor as it does at a dinner party. Gotan Project are gaining a solid reputation for their live shows, which are a thrilling mix of live musicianship, turntable wizadry and seductive visuals. "They...would look and sound stunning in any stadium, club or concert hall in the world." -The Guardian, May 2002 (XL Recordings)

DOMENICO+2: SINCERELY HOT
Luaka Bop

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This is the second part of a musical trilogy that began in 2001 with the release of Music Typewriter by Moreno + 2. Now it's drummer Domenico Lancellotti's turn to step out front. The original idea of making it a bossa nova trio obviously became sidetracked, as the album veers into idiosyncratic experimentalism right from the start. But there are infectious rhythms throughout, even as the tracks bleed into one another, and a low-key Brazilian funkiness pervades the whole album. As planned, the rhythms are vital to the whole record, even more than the melodies (which show their face subtly rather than traditionally), whether made by man or machine. It's a record of exploration, both in ideas and arrangements (at one point electric piano and cello combine on a line that manages to be funky and achingly beautiful at the same time). But it's a disc that demands several listens to bring out its delights, and here the devil really is in the details, which need to be examined. It's far from easy listening, but well worth the effort. Just don't expect anything like Moreno Veloso's album. (allmusic.com)

MUSICIANS OF STSI SURAKARTA: GAMELAN OF CENTRAL JAVA IV. SPIRITUAL MUSIC
Felmay (Italy)

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In this fourth instalment of the series, our journey in search of the myriad facets of Central Javanese gamelan music focuses on the close ties that exist between that music and the religion of the area. This CD in fact completes and extends the selection of music presented on Ceremonial Music II, with five pieces of rare beauty and intensity which modern studio recording has rendered yet sharper and more richly nuanced. Evident from the first track Turun Sih, on which we hear two singers immersed in a muezzin-like invocation of the deity, is the atmosphere of sublime quietude the gamelan instils combined with a sense of mystical quest." The other CDs in this series are:
* Gamelan of Central Java - I. Classical Gendings
* Gamelan of Central Java - II. Ceremonial Music
* Gamelan of Central Java - III. Modes and Timbres (Felmay)

VARIOUS ARTISTS: THE SPIRIT OF FES (2004 FEZ FESTIVAL)
Le Chant Du Monde

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Each spring the ancient city of Fez, Morocco, plays host to one of the world's great musical events, a one-of-a-kind festival that brings together performers from all over the globe in a unique musical celebration of the divine. On this 2 CD set, some of the festival's finest artists perform a wide-ranging program includes Islamic devotionals, Sufi ritual songs, Berber trance music, Arab-Andalusian rhythms, Bulgarian orthodox choir, Hindustani chants, Celtic sacred music, Christian Gospel, Swedish chamber choir, and more. Artists include Gilberto Gil (Brazil), Yungchen Lhamo (Tibet), Master Musicians of Armenia (Armenia), Madhavi Mudghal (India), The Roudaniyates (Morocco), The Anointed Jackson Sisters (USA), Illyas Mallev Ensemble (Uzbekistan), Sheikh Habboush & Al Kindi (Syria), Doudou N'Diaye Rose (Senegal), Ulali (USA), Farida & the Maqam Ensemble (Iraq).

 



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