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Spin the Globe reviews, November 2004

Tala-Wallah Records

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Canada. Think about it for a minute. Are you thinking of snow? Lumberjacks? Hockey? Red Green? US residents often have narrow views of other nations, even our closest neighbors. They may have a grain of truth, but they are far from the whole story. Canada is actually a remarkably multicultural nation, and its music constantly reminds one of this. Take autorickshaw. Fronted by Suba Sankaran (vocals, piano, percussion), the group pushes "Indian fusion" in a new direction, blending North and South Indian classical music, funk, and jazz. The song selection is diverse, ranging from the standards "A Night in Tunesia" and "Caravan" to the four-part "Hemavati Suite." "Caravan" shows off Sankaran's remarkable vocal range and abilities, though even more fresh and engaging is the cover of "A Night in Tunesia" with unexpected rhythmic changes, scatting, and a cool desert vibe. Rounding out the track list are originals and reinterpretations of traditional Indian songs. The band is tight, but what really makes this fusion work is Sankaran's voice. Though classically trained, she has a richer, smokier tone than classical Indian singers, one perfectly suited to autorickshaw's hybrid sound. Along with Sankaran are Rich Brown (bass), Ed Hanley (tabla)and Debashis Sinha (percussion).

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media


info/CD: contact robintoye@hotmail.com

Bubbling, hypnotic, circular grooves that lead nowhere...and everywhere. Olympia artist Robin Toye's music is like a rhythmic Rorschach test for your soul. From "Happy Panda" to "Mother People" Toye uses beats out a variety of interlaced rhythms evoking a general ethnic feel more than any particular cultural tradition. As such, it makes great background or dance music, but the attentive listener may be frustrated, particularly as the CD lacks notes on the songs' inspiration and instrumentation. The only track with vocals, "Gygmm," is just as enigmatic as the instrumentals, with a voice that could be Golem's mother whispering softly about female roles: "goddess...yemanja...gaia..mother." Crisply recorded, Nothing's Perfect wants you to get carried away by the rhythm. Don't think, just sway....

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media


Other recent arrivals of note:

Quannum Projects

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Many of Fela Kuti's albums have been reissued since his death from AIDS in 1997, but the Underground Spiritual Game is different kind of effort. The 12 tracks on this compilation are reassembled by Blackalicious's Chief Xcel, who seamlessly fuses them all together into one unstoppable Afro-funk groove. Xcel adds a few bits of spoken word and samples to help the in-between song flow, but he thankfully leaves the meat of the songs alone. Featuring material from throughout Kuti's career -- from his Koola Lobitos 1960s stuff to Africa 70 to Egypt 80--The cumulative effect of having Kuti seamlessly blended only heightens the music's hypnotic impact, while also offering a broader array of material than his typically long songs would otherwise get.


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"Boomrang" toys with the musical formulae of hip hop, ragga, R&B, and Cuban music, respecting the rules of all the genres, while escaping the boundaries of them. The opening title track celebrates hip-hop's homecoming to the African motherland (born in Africa, brought up in America, rap has come full circle) in rapid Wolof rhymes and airy Malian melodies by Rokia Traoré. Overall, "Boomrang" is a successful sonic adventure which thrives on its defiance of the margins of established sales categories. Is it hip hop? Almost everything passes under the label these days and this most certainly does, even though it doesn't carry a parental advisory sticker. It's a confident new voice of Senegal's generation of cool and is a must-buy for lovers of world music and hip hop alike. (BBC)


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Rock on with this band's boisterous blend of World Music, created by a unique mix of traditional and modern instruments playing Middle Eastern, African, Spanish and American sounds. There's no rockin' like MO'ROCKIN! (disneyworld.disney.go.com)

Multicultural Media

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It's Rwandan soul music. Jean Paul Samputu proves to be an excellent singer and writer, with a facility for many African forms, plus American soul. He has a remarkable voice, whether singing normally or in falsetto, and he's especially powerful on the 5/8 native dance rhythms. Wonderfully accompanied, this is a small pearl of an album that deserves much wider exposure. A record about healing, not confrontation, and far more powerful for it. (Global Village Idiot)

Rebisi Hut Records

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Calabash is the first volume of Afrobeat Poems. The presentation of the poetry with the background of Afrobeat music gives this genre an authentic and fresh appeal. Consistent with the music of Fela Kuti, the legendary originator of Afrobeat, this collection stands true to Afrobeat philosophy: raise pan-African consciousness while entertaining the audience. In Calabash, Ikwunga has produced a unique fusion of Spoken Word, African style call- and- answer recital, with a new contemporary Afrobeat. (Amazon)


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This release includes music from the tropical countries that grow cocoa beans as well as collaborations with musicians from the European regions where chocolate-makers produce some of the world’s most appetizing chocolate products. Africa, the world’s leading producer of cocoa beans, is represented by Dobet Gnahoré from the Ivory Coast and Toto Bona Lokua, a trio featuring artists from Congo, Cameroon and the French Caribbean island of Martinique. The collection also features songs by Ozomatli (USA/Mexico), Susana Baca (Peru), Marcantonio (Brazil), Susheela Raman (India) and Teresa Bright (Hawaii). Taffetas provides another truly unique collaboration, bringing together musicians from the West African country of Guinea Bissau and Switzerland, the land where milk chocolate was invented. (Putumayo)

World Village

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Monica Salmaso is one of Brazil's best off-the-radar artists, with several critcially acclaimed albums under her belt, and a tranquil but devoted following here in the USA. Fans of her previous records, "Trampolim" and "Voadeira," should love this one as well, although the tone and tempo are notably different this time around. Actually, this album reached me and drew me in in a way that her previous albums did not... It's simpler, more relaxed, more direct, and more lively. (fultonweb)

Family Recordings

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Breathtaking journey into the outer reaches of Afrobeat, compiled by Dele Sosimi. Afrobeat is the energetic, funk-fuelled, drum-led sound that exploded in the 70's, created by Fela Kuti and his Africa 70 band, and refuses to go away. It is currently enjoying a renaissance in clubs around the UK with new nights and festivals appearing all the time. Dele Sosimi, who has compiled this album, worked with Fela Kuti as his musical director for a period of time. Dele has included classic tracks from all the main Afrobeat players (Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti, Tony Allen, Orlando Julius, Youssou N'Dour, Hugh Masekela, Salif Keita) plus more modern takes on it from Fatboy Slim, DJ Food and Knuf (the spanish Daft Punk and Funk spelt backwards to boot). (BBC)


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