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Spin the Globe reviews, August 2004

ANTIBALAS: WHO IS THIS AMERICA?
Ropeadope

band info : buy CD


Brooklyn-based Afrobeat collective Antibalas asks the big question on their new CD. As politicians and media toss around platitudes and stereotypes, Antibalas cuts to the core. The title track, "Who Is This America Dem Speak of Today?" wonders amid Afrobeat polyrhythms if America is the consumer, the indigenous American, the immigrant, the slave, the soldier, the teacher. The steamy 12-minute song concludes "One flag is not big enough for this many peope / ... No Pluribus Unum, No Pluribus Unum."

Antibalas continues the hard work of carrying the Afrobeat torch in the true spirit of Fela, speaking truth to power, raising unsettling questions, and making you want to dance even as civilization crumbles around you. A living wall of horns comes at you in "Indictment" as a list of criminals is read: Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, George W. Bush, Noam Chomsky, our mothers, our brothers, Texaco, and the children left behind...." More melodic, if no less unsettling, is "Big Man," a wonderfully constructed call-and-response song firmly in the Fela tradition, telling the story of the rich, successful Big Man and the Small Man who does his work, buys his products, shoulders his burdens ("nothing is too heavy"). Is Small Man a victim, or a willing co-conspirator?

An interlude from the heavy Afrobeat is "Obanla'e," a traditionally arranged Yoruba chant to Obatala, the Orisha of creativity. This leads into "Elephant," another Yoruba-language piece whose lumbering, elephantine introduction gives way to a smouldering groove. The CD ends with "Sister," an apology, a plea for forgiveness from women. "Sister, oh sister / I come to apologize / for the time I disrespect you / ... Sister, oh sister / I come ask for forgiveness / for the time I patronize you." A sentiment you might not have heard from Fela (who had 27 wives). But what a refreshing message from a powerful group of male musicians, in a society still largely patriarchal - one guaranteed not to be run by a woman for at least another four years. When will we have justice? When equality? When peace? Antibalas doesn't have answers, but their questions will make you think as you dance to "Who Is This America?"

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

VARIOUS ARTISTS: LULLABIES FROM THE AXIS OF EVIL
KKV

info : buy CD


It's a beautiful thing when a great album concept is backed up by great music. I love this concept. I love this music. But let's be clear. These are not evil in the sense of some lullabies sung to Mini Me by Dr. Evil. No, the title refers to the 29 January 2002 speech by US President George W Bush, declaring Iran, Iraq, North Korea "and their allies" to be part of an "axis of evil" and a threat to the free world. KKV exec Erik Hillestad responded in a beautifully positive way, by traveling to these "outlaw" nations (Palestine, Iraq, Cuba, Afghanistan, Syria, North Korea) and recording traditional lullabies by women. Between journeys, he added music, edited the songs, and paired each "evil" singer with a western partner, who sang an interpretation of the original lyrics.

The result is a CD of 14 beautiful, accessible songs, mostly soft and sweet, but not without poignancy borne of the political and economic challenges of these countries. My favorites? Impossible to choose! Standout tracks include the funky "Lalolalo / Don't You Worry My Child" by Kulsoom Syed Ghulam (Afghanistan) with Lila Downs (USA/Mexico). Also the sparse oud-led "Peace Song" by Halla Bassam (Iraq) with Sevara Nazarkhan (Uzbekistan) and "Nami / Angel" by Viva Killisly Chachati (Syria) with Katia Cardenal (Nicaragua) with its deliciously catchy hook. The CD includes rich artist and song notes along with the story of the project. The humanizing power of lullabies, of the fundamental connection of a mother and child, is given voice on this CD, and will add shades of gray to even the most black-and-white, good-verses-evil worldview. Highly recommended.

This CD is slated for a US release in October 2004 by Valley Entertainment, and is also available from CDroots.com.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

RENE LACAILLE: MAPOU
Riverboat

info : buy CD


I think Rene Lacaille is secretly the father of Manu Chao. That would explain some of the musical eclecticism, the short catchy songs, the world of influences. Or maybe it's just that Lacaille's music comes from the Creole culture of La Reunion, a crossroads for African, European, Indian, and Malagasy instruments and styles. "When I compose music," Lacaille writes," I have many elements in my head and at my fingertips. Every morning I question myself.... For this album I have explored the musical horizon -- with its traditional themes and compositions -- from all angles." Mopou is a type of sugarcane, the generous liner notes explain, and the variety of wonderful music on this CD is sure to sweeten your day.

The bongos, ukulele, and light vocal style give the opening track "Madina" a French Caribbean feel. Then comes the instrumental "Ogardanou" with Malagasy-sounding flute and accordion. As you venture further into the album (as you undoubtedly will), you'll discover the Lo'Jo-like "La Bou Dan Fon," the Brazilian-tinged "La Mandoz," and a musical interpretation of a children's knife-throwing(!) game, "Game Zeboc." As a talented multi-instrumentalist, Lacaille takes turns on ukelele, accordions, guitars, vocals, charango, Madagascan flute, and dayereh (a Persian frame drum). The signature tune may be be "Zamalgamer." The song's name, Lacaille writes, "is a play on words and impossible to translate, as it is a pun: zamalgame is a blend of French amalgame (mixture) and zamal (marijuana). For me, a zamalgamer is someone who mixes things..." Which makes Lacaille a zamalgamer par excellence, and this CD highly recommended for the adventurous listener.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

ZDOB SHI ZDUB: 45O SHEEP (450 de Oi)
Warner Austria

info


Don't be fooled by the school-choir intro to 450 Sheep; 38 seconds later a heavy-fuzz guitar riff begins, and you begin to get the true sense of Zdob Shi Zdub - which the promoters claim is Eastern Europe's "No. 1 Rockband." Hailing from Moldova, the band (who's name translates as "Beat the Drum") rocks - and they'll certainly rock too hard for many world music fans. Yet beneath their rock sensibilities lie the traditional rhythms and melodies of the Balkans. On "Ciobanas (The Shepherd)" guitar power chords and growly vocals trade licks with sharp brass. Included are two versions of "Everybody in the Casa Mare" -- a strange, croony song that defies classification, though the low quality recording of the live version leaves the energy flat. Overall, an enjoyable CD, if you're in a rocking mood and you can get your foot to tap to Eastern Eurpoean polyrhythms.

Not unlike: Boiled in Lead, Kultur Shock

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

VARIOUS ARTISTS: WHERE'S THE PARTY YAAR?
Saregama India

info


Catchy, danceable bhangra permeates the soundtrack to this immigrant-comes-to-America movie. Bikram Singh opens the album with "Aa Gaye Re," Shakti & Bikram Singh's contribute the maddeningly catchy "Thang Thang Bhangra," and "Taakre" and "Heer Ranjha: X" will have you dancing over the thin line dividing bhangra from hiphop. The one ballad on the album, "Sanja Tere Bina" sounds lonely amid all this boisterous energy, despite the soulful, almost Hawaiian-sounding singing of Vani B. Less interesting is "Akhiyan," which has delightfully light, soaring vocals by Bunita unfortunately paired with an unrelenting disco beat. The movie's website mentions music by Panjabi MC and dj Cheb i Sabbah, but they don't appear on the CD and the paltry liner notes don't help with information about the movie or the music. Still, for some great party music, this soundtrack has a lot to recommend it.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

LHASA: THE LIVING ROAD
Nettwerk

info : buy CD


The world is blessed with a number of wonderful Latina divas: Susana Baca, Lila Downs, Virginia Rodrigues. Unlike them, Mexican-American singer Lhasa doesn't explore her roots so much as she reaches out with her branches. Singing in Spanish, French, and English, she achieves a musical mood that would be at home as a Cirque du Soleil soundtrack. Maybe that's no coincidence; after her debut CD La Llorena in 1998, Lhasa moved to France to work in the circus with her sisters. The unusual percussion, instrumentation, and foreign lyrics might qualify this as a "world music" album, but it would fit just as snugly in the ears of fans of Bjork, Tom Waits, Edith Piaf, or P.J. Harvey.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

 

Other recent arrivals of note:

KEKELE: CONGO LIFE
Stern's Africa

info : buy CD

Rigo and Syran's guitar lines are a revelation, with an almost Hawaiian lilt, sometimes doubled with Caçau de Queiroz clarinet to give a similar effect to electric soukous guitar where occasion calls. Arranger Bréant uses strings and flute in three distinct ways: first, in the basic Cuban charanga style for the cha cha cha tracks; second, in the style of the great Martinican string-beguine orchestras like Malavoi, Matébis and La Mestiza; and finally, in European baroque mode - a style peculiarly suited to these delicate Congolese melodies, which in any event have a significant part of their roots in eighteenth and nineteenth-century European salon music. There really isn't a weak track on the whole set, but special favourites? Loko Massengo's two songs "Lolita" and "Bebe Yaourt"; Bumba Massas contributions "Nakobala Te" and "Silence" (so good to see this giant of Congolese songwriting back in the limelight after too long); and of course, the Franco-homage medley "Souvenirs-OK-jazz". Delicious melodies, inspired and original arrangements, faultless and non-indulgent playing, scalp-tingling voices are more than enough to reaffirm the long-held suspicion that the best African music and the best Congolese music are one and the same thing. (excerpt of BBC review)

VARIOUS ARTISTS COMPILED BY M.O.C. PAOLI: APHRODISSIMO
Black Flame

info : buy CD

M.O.C. Paoli, creative musician, producer, DJ and "Master of Ceremonies" was living for many years in India, Goa, and he is one of the pioneers of Goa Trance music, which is known all over the world. He is also co-founder of the cult project Cosmic Tramp & Plasma Pleasure, never standing still, moving and exploring modern electronic music. Since 6 years he is resident DJ at Bambuddha Grove in Ibiza and the mastermind and compiler of the famous 4 Bambuddha Grove Double CD Compilations and also many other international productions. "Aphrodissimo" is the result of long researches and stylistic sound choices. This compilation is a musical elixir, stimmulant for the seduction of the sences. M.O.C. takes us on a journey, that has its roots in the rhythm of African music, taking us further to the shores of the Arabian Sea all the way to India. Afro-Oriental grooves´n vibes embodied in modern electronic music make up a melange for harmonising the body, mind & soul. A musical Aphrodissiac for cosmopolitan people. (Black Flame)

VARIOUS ARTISTS COMPILED BY M.O.C. PAOLI & DJ ALIK, IBIZA: NAMASTE CELEBRATION
Blue Flame

info : buy CD

Namaste Experience takes place every Wednesday in San Carlos at Las Dalias, Ibiza since 1999. International artists, such as dancers from India, from the Far East and the Orient, musicians from Brazil, Mexico, India or Europe get together and perform under the skies in the beautiful and exotic decorated garden of Las Dalias. Asian and Oriental food is served and World Music is played either live or mixed by local and international DJ´s in the so-called "Trance Temple". The Namaste Party has developed into an overall popular trend event and has grown to include the most authentic and creative artists and forms of expression on this magic island.
Namaste is created by an international team of island-individualists, creatives, musicians, painters, fotografers and DJ´s, who live in Ibiza during the summer season and tour during the winter season, between Mexico and Marocco, India and many other countries. "Namaste Celebration", the second release on CD, reflects also the musical variety of the party flair. World Music and world beats, Ambient and groovy tracks from artists around the world compiled by M.O.C. Paoli and DJ Alok. (Blue Flame)

 



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