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Spin the Globe CD reviews for January 2003


Saturday October 26, 2002 at the Experimental Theater, The Evergreen State College, Olympia

photo: Bamba learns a few samba moves from KAOS's Juli Kelen at an after-show party




Djelimady Tounkara has magic in his fingers. A large, quiet man, he spent years as the lead guitarist for the Super Rail Band of Mali. Now moving from electric to acoustic, he's rediscovering his roots. This tour, supporting his album Sigui (Label Bleu) includes Samba Diabaté on guitar, Fode Sacko on n'goni (hunter's harp), daughter Mariam Tounkara and Samba Diabate on vocals, and the charismatic Bamba Dembele handling percussion.

Djelimady performed two concerts and held a workshop for students, providing plenty of opportunity to hear his music. His quiet wisdom makes you want to sit at his feet for hours, just absorbing. It's no wonder that Banning Eyre (a musician and journalist who served as tour manager) arranged to stay with Djelimady's family to learn from him.

In a Spin the Globe interview, Tounkara explained his move to older, more traditional instruments, and said his next album would be even more rootsy, with instruments even older than the n'goni.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens

Soberman Music, www.sobermanmusic.com

For someone searching for his voice, Allan Soberman has a wealth of harmony. With a "Beach Boys in Jerusalem" sound, this CD takes traditional Jewish prayers from Soberman's childhood (his father was a cantor) and puts them in new arrangements, with soaring harmonies. A virtual one-man band, he sang all the vocal parts himself, and played all the instruments. The vocals blend beautifully, and the music works more often than not, though the formulaic drum loops detract from the vocals on several tracks, including "Nigunisht." Pushing the Jewish tradition in a new direction, this CD will appeal to fans of RebbeSoul and world music fans in general. Even folk and pop fans may be drawn in by its accessibility.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


March Hare Music

They're baka. The band that helped bring Cameroon's rainforest pygmy vocals to the world music consciousness returns with their fifth album in East to West. Baka Beyond might be considered the acoustic alternative to the powerhouse dance grooves of Afro-Celt Sound System, and East to West delivers a delightful array of tunes. Blending field recordings with a raft of performers on everything from uilleann pipes to kora, the group blends African and Celtic traditions gracefully, sounding not like the meeting of two tribes, but like musical proof that at their heart the tribes are one.

This enhanced CD (apparently PC only) includes video of Martin Cradick playing with Baka musicians at Lupe in the rainforest.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


Real World Records

When a new group bursts onto the world music scene with fanfare, it's often difficult to distinguish marketing from meat. With Senegalese duo Papa Amadou Fall and Cheikhou Coulibaly, one listen reveals their authentic sound, rooted in Senegalese traditions and echoing great musicians like Youssou N'Dour. Drawing from Wolof, Sérère, Manding rhythms, Pape & Cheikh propel this folk tradition further. Friends since the age of eight, their compositions are tight, from the guitar-led "Ma Ansou" to the percussion-heavy "Kamalemba.

This international debut follows their Senegaese hit album, Yaakaar, which called for the union of hearts in a country that was undergoing deep political and social changes. Echoing that sentiment on this CD is the song "Yatal Gueew (Widen the Circle)," which exposes the power-hungry:

"The country is being divided by men/ Who are hungry for power/ Each one says that he can solve/ The country's problems/ Each one says that without him/ Nothing will work out/ Each one says that without him/ The boat will sink."

The limited liner notes include some lyrics (more complete lyrics are listed on the Real World website) but no real context for the songs. Fortunately the music speaks for itself.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


Rounder Records

To listen to the Klezmer Conservatory Band is to become educated, at least in some small way, about the world of Jewish music. The band’s members are all ethnomusicologists, yet the music is far from a dry academic dissection of some dusty historic relics. At their recent Benaroya Hall performance, KCB had the audience literally dancing in the aisles. This CD, which includes brief but helpful liner notes explaining the music and the Yiddish lyrics, may find you dancing and singing along at home. The title track is a song by Leonard Cohen, delightfully reinterpreted by Hankus Netsky. The musicianship is first-rate throughout, topped by the soulful singing of Judy Bressler, whose voice ranges from somber on “Zol Nkh Sayn Shabes,” to the cartoony voices in “Freylekh Zayn.” This CD is reason to be happy indeed.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


Smithsonian Folkways

The jaliya are the keepers of history, storytellers, and advisors. Originally from West Africa, they have now reached many corners of the globe. Since 1990, the number of jaliya (sometimes called griots) in New York has increased considerably, and this CD is a snapshot of the music they’re creating. All of the tracks are built on traditional instruments, including kora, n’goni, and bala (balafon), with djembe, guitar, and bass sprinkled in.

A surprise is “Nanfulen,” on which Abdoulaye Diabate’s throaty voice and phrasing evokes the spirit of flamenco. And one of the special delights is “Keme Bourema” (also found on the CD Fula Flute) featuring Bailo Bah’s empassioned tambin (flute) playing/singing. Also featured are Keba Bobo Cissoko on kora, Famoro Dioubate on bala, and many others. These jaliya have one eye on history, and the other wide open to the present. It can’t be coincidence that the final track, “Djiu de Galinha,” is an anti-colonial protest song. Songs of praise, memory, and council have never been more needed, and the jaliya of New York may have a message for you.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens

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