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Spin the Globe reviews, September 2004


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Another wide-ranging compilation from Putumayo, World Groove hops from Lebanon to South Africa, Cuba to Turkey. If you're wondering what's hip or looking for the world's equivalent to Anglo-American R&B/hiphop/pop/electronica, you'll dig Mustafa Sandal's "Aya Benzer (Royal G's R&B Mix)" and Cheb Mami & K-Mel's "Parisien du Nord (Remix)." Issa Bagayogo (see CD review below) contributes a trancey track from his previous CD Timbuktu. The soaring voice of the late Brenda Fassie shines on "Ama-Gents (Club Mix)." And Zap Mama is represented by the song "Miss.Q.In" from the long-anticipated CD Ancestry in Progress. Also included is the Quicktime music video "Nari Nari" by Egyptian star Hisham Abbas & Jayashree. Some Cuban flavor rumbas forth on tracks from Edesio (Cuba) and Major Boys (France), but while this music comes from all over the world, many listeners will find it unadventurously leaning too much toward western pop.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

Mali Music / Six Degrees

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Malian electro-experimenting kamel n'goni player Issa Bagayogo gets a 10 from the American judges on his latest release, a lightly programmed amalgam of rhythms and vocals. Yves Wernert's deft electronic touches never overshadow the organic West African feel of the music, allowing the call-and-response vocals and Bagayogo's hypnotic kamel n'goni to shine. More chill than dancehall, Tassoumakan may help pave the way for a modern African music with one ear on the past, and the other soaking in the sounds of the future.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media


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Continuing this month's world-pop theme, we've got the second release from the shamisen-slinging Yoshida Brothers. Juxtaposing the plucky sound of this traditional three-stringed instrument with richly arranged backing instrumentation, the brothers are all over the map of musical genres on their new CD, starting with with the bluesy/soundtracky "Frontier." They really dig into the blues motif with "Indigo," though it sounds more like a PBS special than a back porch. The most interesting tracks are the Arabic/gypsy tinged "Kagero" and the stripped-down shamisen duet "Kodo" (the album ends with a dance remix of the latter). The music has just enough edge and beat to avoid veering into the foggy realm of adult contemporary instrumentals, and should appeal to listeners who don't mind mixing their rock, blues, electronic, and world music in the same tempura pot.

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

Stinky Records

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Gypsy-cabaret-rock band Gogol Bordello mixes it up on this DJ-project album with drummer Tamir Muskat. These New York musicians achieve a hard-edged, otherworldly sound fronted by the growly vocals of Eugene Hutz. J.U.F. -- which stands for Jewish Ukrainian Freundschaft -- produces a dangerously advancing wall of sound, threatening to push your emotions, bend your preconceptions of musical genre, and shove your feet onto the dance floor. Anchoring the rhythms are Oren Kaplan (programming), Tamir Muscat (beats, keyboards, programming), and Ori Kaplan (saxes, flutes, woodwinds). Sergey Rjabtzev's violin helps keep an organic side to the music. J.U.F. even has a traditional moment on "Roumania," a lumbering vehicle dripping of sex and sax. But this album is for lovers of Eastern European rock (and western bands like Kultur Shock), who will dig the deep grooves on songs like "Balkanization of Amerikanization."

©2004 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media


Other recent arrivals of note:



“The first time you stand next to the sound system trucks at Carnival in Trinidad it is unbelievable,” exclaims Yossi Fine, founder and bassist for Ex-Centric Sound System. “On one truck alone, the amount of low end sound, the number of speakers: it’s huge! That is what we tried to create on the album,” he says. “West Nile is everything west of the Nile. Not just West Africa but the Caribbean and America too,” Fine explains. “When we called our first album Electric Voodooland, it was originally going to be Electric Motherland. But it is everything that is Black. It’s the same with ‘Alice in Voodooland,’ but this time the emphasis is more on the funk elements rather than the dub element. We did the down-tempo dub element on the first album and we did not want to repeat that. I wanted a different album altogether to go completely to the future. We do not want to retro all the African things that have been done. Our logo, the Sankofa, is a Ghanaian bird looking back at its egg, and it means to look backwards in order to move forward. For this album, the forward is extremely important.” (www.rockpaperscissors.biz)

Nomadic Wax


African hip-hop’s politically conscious messages set it apart from the materialism and misogyny so common in mainstream rap. In Senegal, rap lyrics have become highly politicized. In the year 2000, the rappers of Senegal literally changed the political landscape by contributing to the ouster of the Diouf regime in the first successful democratic election in Senegal’s history. Senegalese rap is just the tip of the iceberg. All over Africa, hip-hop is sparking debate about poverty, war, corrupt government and the threats of globalization. The world may be waiting for hip hop’s "next big thing" to emerge from the ghettos of Brooklyn, Detroit or LA. But tomorrow’s hip-hop leaders may come straight out of Dakar, Lagos or Cape Town. (africanunderground.com)

Real World

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Daby Toure had a rural upbringing in Mauritania, but this first solo album betrays his Senegalese family roots. Toure's father tried to push him away from music, but Daby snatched secret guitar time, and in 1989 his brothers invited him to join their Toure Kunda band in Paris. Later, Daby formed Toure Toure with his cousin Omar.
Daby writes his own material, and is a virtual one-man band, layering up all of his own guitar, bass and percussion parts. His voice is wide-ranging. Its bass parts trimmed with a variety of subtle mixing desk effects, the higher tones left free to float with a pure and clear natural sound. Toure's basslines are the beating heart of each song, flanked by detailed percussion, with delicate acoustic guitar taking care of the crucial verse frameworks. A song like "Yaw" will include sampled loops and echo-percussion, but these trimmings don't interfere with the illusion of acoustic space. Toure repeatedly aims for a mesmerising mood, which can sometimes relax into blandness. "Bary" has a Malian feel, particularly with its sawing electric cello lines, whilst "Dendecuba" boasts one of the album's strongest melodies. "Hammadi" and "Fabe" are infused with a great sadness, as Daby's voice takes on a raw aspect for the latter tune, set against a trailing melodica line. This album's only drawback is a cumulative sense of sameness as the songs unfold. (BBC)

World Music Network

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Manu calls this collection a disc of many colours and it does show the full spectrum of his work over more than forty years in the groove. Manu Dibango is one of a handful of musical monoliths from Africa able to stand on an equal footing with superstars from Europe or America. He has lived and worked on all three continents and had hits around the world over four decades, including one of the epoch-defining soul tracks of the 1970s, ‘Soul Makossa’. When the original was released in 1972, it shook up the American soul scene especially vigorously. It was the era of Black Power and the dawning of Afrocentricity, and Manu was a great symbol of both. Manu is a veritable encyclopedia of musical grooves and a high-class purveyor of beats through the ages. His eclectic catalogue of recordings is astonishing, but people who have seen Manu perform will already be familiar with the wide sweep of his artistic embrace, and his positive energy balanced with mellow charm. (World Music Network)


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