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Spin the Globe CD reviews for February 2003




Habib Koite: lead vocals, guitar
Souleymane Ann: drums, backing vocals
Abdoul Wahab Berthe: bass, kamel n'goni, backing vocals
Kélétigui Diabate: balafon, violin
Mahammadou Kone: percussion
Boubacar Sidibe: guitar, harmonica, backing vocals


A word of advice to musicians: be careful who you agree to have as an opening act. When Habib Koité last played in Olympia, he was the opening act for the divine Oumou Sangare. But he rocked the house and was the highlight of the evening, according to many I spoke with.

In that tradition, folk-bluesman Eric Bibb was first onto the stage on this Wednesday winter night, arriving with two guitars and his trademark hat. He sat with his guitar slung low on his hip, using it as a shovel to dig into a mountain of emotions that hadn't been there a moment ago. And he just kept going, digging past love and pain to faith ("We Got to Do Better") and grief ("Kokomo"). His riveting 12-song set ended with the humorous "Champaigne Habits on a Beer Salary," and "Circles" -- both of which will appear on his upcoming CD. Then the encore capper, "Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down"--a rousing gospel tune you'd swear you'd known for decades if Bibb hadn't just told you he wrote it in Stockholm at the request of s Swedish gospel singer. I looked forward to seeing how Habib would follow this act!

The members of Bamada took the stage dressed in snazzy mudcloth outfits and they proceeded to lay down a cool groove. A few technical troubles marred the first song before the band found their footing. And then they ran with it. After four songs, Habib brought back Eric Bibb for a demonstration of the intersection between American and West African styles. Backed by Bamada members playing traditional instruments including calabash and kamel n'goni, Bibb belted out "Heard the Angel Singin'."

Kélétigui Diabate' balafon playing was one of the highlights throughout the set, even outshining Habib's guitar. He seamlessly incorporated jazz and other recognizable riffs into his playing, and as if that wasn't enough, he whipped out an electric violin for the song "Tere," which also featured an energetic rap from Habib. After a rousing version of "Cigarette Abana," their anti-smoking PSA, they played a finale bursting with great solos (including a conversation between Habib and Mahammadou Kone's talking drum) and verging on Afrobeat.

Habib came back for the demanded encore, but first talked a little about the universality of human experience, somehow weaving in a Tylenol-copy factory in Mali. "I learn in school we have the same sun, but here in Olympia you have..." Much laughter. "I want to talk to you about dogs, car, shade, sun, headache, tablet." Habib has clearly been practicing his English. "Next time we can talk about all that." With that, they dug into "Wari," a song about money and poverty. "If I could, I'd plant trees across Mali / And the fruit of the trees would be banknotes." At least he enriched gray Olympia for one winter's night.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


Six Degrees Records

Yoruba-Lucumi priestess Bobi Céspedes has appeared on recordings by Mickey Hart, Kodo, Mongo Santamaria, and others. Thus seasoned, and backed by the creative folks at Six Degrees, she has released a wonderful debut solo CD incorporating Yoruba chants and songs with light touches of electronica. Similar to the mix of technology and tradition by Malian Issa Bagayogo (also on Six Degrees), Rezos may help point a new direction for a kind of world music that is at once experimental and true to tradition.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


Green Linnet Records

Alma de Buxo means “Soul of the Boxwood” – the slow-growing tree from which Galacian bagpipes are made. From the cover of this CD, which shows Seivane as half-tree, covered by tendrils of moss, it’s not clear whether she has become one with the boxwood, or vice versa. Their merging is clear in the music, however. With skilled playing and a variety of arrangements, Seivane’s second album is a delight. From the spicy opening “Vai de Polcas” to more somber and traditional pieces, her pipes dance. My current favorite is “Na Terra de Trasancos,” a rumba that features the trikitixa (accordion) of Kepa Junkera. A touching inclusion is “Chao – Curuxeiras,” a pair of songs played live at Seivane’s house by her grandfather, the member of her pipe-making family who taught her to play, followed by her own interpretations of the same songs.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


ARC Records

The latest in a series of CDs presented by Hossam Ramzy, Turquoise presents the voice of singer Dalinda and some groovy music. Dalinda, "originally Bosnian, was born in Libya" say the liner notes. Whatever that means. Like Ramzy, she now makes her home in England, while making music rooted in her homeland. Turquoise is accessible and crisp, while mostly avoiding the synthesized excesses of some North African pop.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


Naxos Records

It’s not surprising that Takillacta—a group based in New York with members from Peru, Columbia, Chile, Argentina, and Japan–is not a traditional Andean ensemble. With bass, drum kit, Spanish guitar, and piano alongside the familiar panpipes, flutes, and charango, Takillacta offers traditional and original instrumental songs that evoke the Andes, yet occasionally veer into moody jazz. Some world music fans may find this CD too subdued, too close to soft jazz or new age. But the music, with its subtle rhythms and distinct panpipe melodies, is skilled and engaging. The combination of instruments works particularly well on “Huajra” and “Camino de Llamas.” The only vocals appear the love songs “Tierra” and “Papel de Plata.” It’s an unusual mix, but as drummer and producer Lionel Sanders writes in the liner notes, in New York “you can’t escape blending with so many people and cultures.”

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


Arhoolie Records

If you were visiting Greek cafés in New York between 1920 and 1940, or Turkish nightclubs in Chicago between 1940 and 1960, you may have seen Amalia perform live. For the rest of us, this CD will have to do. Born Mazaltov Matsa in Janina, Turkey, the girl who would become Amalia came to New York just after her 15th birthday. Within a decade, she was singing professionally. The excellent liner notes include a biography with rare photos, along with full Greek and English lyrics for all songs and a 1950 review from an Istanbul newspaper. And the music? Recorded mostly in the late 1920s, the sound quality isn’t up to modern standards, but Amalia’s powerful, confident voice shines through. This is a great record of one of the pioneers of “world music” (though no one thought to call it that then) in the US.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


ARC Records

From fado queen Amália Rodrigues to newcomer Cristina Branco, along with others less well know internationally, Great Voices of Fado includes just under an hour of the emotional vocal blues of Portugal. The CD begins with the slow folky “Chuva” from Jorge Fernando (who played guitar for Rodrigues for six years), then moves to singer Bévinda, who now lives in France and includes a touch of Paris café sensibility in her bouncy tune “Julia Florista.” Then the master, Amália, with the richly orchestrated “Esquina Do Pecado.” The 17 tracks come from various European CDs released in 2002, and represent a variety of traditional and contemporary sounds. But although the liner notes include artist biographies in three languages, they provide no track notes at all. Still, the message of fado is in emotion as much as in language, so sit back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and let the fado enfold you.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


Alula Records

It’s no surprise that Muguel Angel Cortés became a guitarist. From a Gypsy family full of musicians, he began playing at age eight, and was touring professionally by his teens. “Anyone can achieve technical speed by rehearsing 12 hours a day,” he says. “To me, it is more important to ‘feel the pain’ with sensibility.” His playing is quick and precise, and emotionally rich. And Cortés isn’t averse to experimenting a little: the percussion on several tracks includes tabla and darbuka as well as the traditional cajón. The experiments are subtle but effective, enhancing his flamenco guitar. Slightly at odds with the sound of the other tracks is the rumba “Kuriachi,” led by Agustín Carrillo’s sax and a driving bass line by Carlos Vázquez, which makes a leap toward worldbeat. Also different is “La Puerta Del Sueno,” featuring string orchestration and tabla. An enjoyable effort by a talented young musician.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens



ARC Records

Rooted in tradition, growing with each new cultural contact, klezmer is a musical tradition that makes me yearn for an old country…one from which my people didn’t come! Klezfest is a great survey of the genre, from the traditional to the contemporary. Fiddler Mike Tabor’s “U’zu Azoh” includes middle-eastern percussion. Cartoony sound effects and borrowed musical themes inhabit The Burning Bush’s “Freylekhs.” Tummel’s “Sherele” nearly tumbles into the realm of circus music. The group From Both Ends of the Earth contributes a track that alternates between salsa and Middle-Eastern acid jazz. Unifying the varied tracks is the distinct klezmer take on melancholy joy. The music of this oft-persecuted people can be summed up, says Klezmer Conservatory Band founder Hankus Netsky, in the Jewish sentiment: “Dance, for tomorrow we may be dead.” This compilation may not include some of the more radical new directions for klezmer – such as Wolf Krakowski’s Yiddish blues-rock or the improvisational jazz of The Rabinnical School Dropouts – but it still covers a fair amount of ground. Included musicians hail from the US, Canada, Argentina, Germany, England, Sweden, and Russia. Brief biographies are included for each of the groups on this delightful CD.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens


Aagoo Records

Puerto Rican musician Abraham Delgado-Gomez (why, that appears to be Zemog backwards!) provides a fistful of energetic Latin ska-pop with a rooster theme. Great horns and eclectic styles from experimental jazz to salsa to lounge grace this unusual release, which may appeal to fans of Los De Abajo and Manu Chao, among others.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens



Zamas K Music

After performing and recording on the east coast in the late 1970s, Thom Jayne sold everything, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ghana. Now a professor at Michigan State University, Jayne travels frequently to Africa. His music, which won him a John Lennon Songwriters Award in 1998, is an instrumental blend of world and new age sounds, including flamenco guitar and North African rhythms.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens

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