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Spin the Globe CD reviews for November 2002

SOUTH AFRICAN CHORAL: SONGS OF THE ALEXANDRA YOUTH CHOIR
76025-2 Naxos World, 416 Mary Lindsay Polk Drive, Suite 509, Franklin, TN 37067, www.naxosworld.com


Paul Simon's Graceland and the subsequent international success of Ladysmith Black Mambazo brought South Africal choral singing to a global audience. This CD from the Alexandra Youth Choral Choir (its formal name) brings variations on this singing style, and plenty of youthful energy. Singing in Xhosa, English, Zulu, and Sotho--and accompanied on some tracks by a subtle and talented rhythm section--the choir sings about love, fatherhood, Jesus, dancing, and other issues of everyday township life. The CD booklet includes a lengthy essay on the background and context of the music, though the lyric translations could have been more extensive and more useful. The song "Shapa Kwasa Kwasa," for example, is summed up thusly: "Let's have an African renaissaance, let's be one and make one dance." Still, for lovers of South African music, or choir music in general, the CD is essential listening.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

REBBESOUL: CHANGE THE WORLD WITH A SONG
RebbeSoul Music, PO Box 720, Brisbane CA 94005 www.rebbesoul.com

 

Despite the efforts of groups such as the New Orleans Klezmer Allstars and the Klezmatics, the term "Jewish music" still evokes an image that's more Fiddler on the Roof than MTV. Los Angeles-based RebbeSoul (aka Bruce Burger) may be the artist to change that. The first song on this CD (his fifth) is a Lubavich melody attributed to King David, but RebbeSoul's sizzling rock guitar and tight rapping by Prophet X would have the king shaking his thing. Other songs range from the dub feel of "Kaddish" to the folk-rocky "Shalom" and "Rock of Ages." Perhaps my favorite is "Eliyahu," with a stripped-down funk groove, soulful Hebrew vocals by Lyn Rose, and some tasty hand drumming. Does the CD try to cover too much ground? Maybe. Is it engaging, groundbreaking, and fun? Absolutely!

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

 

SIERRA MAESTRA: RUMBERO SOY
TUG CD 1027 Riverboat Records/World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX UK www.worldmusic.net


Legendary Cuban musical group Sierra Maestra celebrates its 25th year with the release of Rumbero Soy. Six original members are joined by three younger musicians, and the CD includes guest appearances by, among others, singing greats Omara Portuondo and Ibrahim Ferrer. The result? From the opening notes of "La Cominadora" your hips will start swaying, and they'll keep moving right to the last notes of "El Cumpleaños De Emilio." The title track is a polyrhythmic anthem to the rumba: "Even if the drum skins rip/ A rumbero I shall be/ Until the day I die." The music is energetic and crisp throughout, the perfect remedy for a cold Northwest winter's day. With full Spanish and English lyrics included, there's no excuse for not singing along.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

 

 

JUANITA ULLOA: MUJERES Y MARIACHI
Ulloa Productions, PO Box 19111, Oakland CA 94619 www.juanitamusic.com

 

Mariachi. One word and you're probably thinking of a group of men with stringed instruments and very large hats. With Mujeres y Mariachi, Juanita Ulloa hopes to expand your vision. The liner notes point out that all-women mariachi bands have existed since the 1940s. To this tradition, Ulloa brings her classical opera training, though the singing is far from operatic and the music more rich and formal than Mexican-restaurant mariachis. The CD opens with the short, scene-setting fanfare "Mujeres, Mariachi y Mexico" then moves to the vocal showpiece "Malagueña Salerosa." With emotion, precision, and a stunning voice, Ulloa covers mariachi oldies, like the 1950s song "Mil Besos," along with her originals. While the 12-track CD weighs in at less than 37 minutes, Mujeres y Mariachi is rich and satisfying. As Ulloa sings on "Cuando Canto": "I know that singing is my life/ I know that singing is divine/ listen to my song!"

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

 



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