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Spin the Globe's Best World Music of 2002

Oliver Mtukudzi (Zimbabwe): Shanda Soundtrack

Sheer Sound

This CD companion to the new documentary on the life and music of Tuku is icing on an already rich cake. Recorded live, it contains a take on his "Hear Me Lord" (recently covered by Tuku fan Bonnie Raitt) and many others. A joy for the ears.

Tabla Beat Science (USA-India-Ethiopia): Live in San Francisco at Stern Grove


The followup to Tala Matrix, this double CD takes the Tabla Beat Science experience to a live crowd, with electric results. Zakir Hussain's sizzling tabla combines with the exotic voice of Ethiopian star Gigi, the bass of Bill Laswell, and others including turntablism by DJ Disk. Veering from traditional Indian to pumped-up dance beats, this CD will challenge your feet to get up and groove.

Ozzie Kotani (Hawaii): To Honor a Queen

Dancing Cat

Quiet instrumentals aren't a mainstay of Spin the Globe, but this beautiful CD had to find a place on the list. For a longer review, click here.

Zawose & Brook (Tanzania-Canada): Assembly

Real World

Dr. Hukwe Zawose is a weighty singer on his own. Backed with the alchemic mixing talents of Michael Brook, he absolutely soars. The unique Tanzanian scales lie at the heart of this CD, which also features vocals by Zap Mama's Marie Daulne on several tracks. Horn blasts, powerful vocals, and great beats will have you turning this CD up loud.

Various Artists: The Silk Road-a musical caravan

Smithsonian Folkways

One of only two compilation CDs on my list, despite many strong contenders. Silk Road is a beautiful aural journey along old trade routes. Though many of these areas have modernized, the traditional music is still alive, and is captured here on two fine CDs from the trusted Smithsonian Folkways label. Compiled by Silk Road Project Director Yo-Yo Ma, the tracks range along the traditional road through Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia, China, and beyond.

Los De Abajo (Mexico): Cybertronic Chilango Power

Luaka Bop

"Those from below" are delightfully difficult to categorize. This feisty band from Mexico City incorporates all kinds of urban sounds into their nonetheless distinctly Mexican sound, from street noises to hiphop beats. Consider this a preview of the musical future as the Hispanic population in the USA continues to grow.

Grupo Fiesta (New York): Grupo Fiesta

Paraiso Sonico

New-York based Grupo Fiesta only recently wandered into my consciousness, but their infectious dance tunes get my behind moving every time I put in this CD. Powerful vocals by Cindy Padilla and tight horns and rhythms will keep this group spinning in clubs and home stereos.

Les Yeux Noirs (France): Balamouk

World Village/EMI Music France

"Balamouk" translates from Romanian as "insane asylum" or "house of fools." That should give you an idea of the crazy gypsy-klezmer sounds conjured up by this band of talented Frenchmen.

For a longer review, click here.

Houssaine Kili (Morocco): Mountain to Mohamed

Tropical Music

After being disappointed by Hassan Hakmoun's bland, wandering The Gift, I found the Moroccan connection I was seeking in Mountain to Mohamed. Not officially released in the US (though available through Tropical Music's website) this CD features powerful songs of love and faith. It even includes a cover of Neil Young's "Cowgirl in the Sand."

Fula Flute (USA-West Africa): Fula Flute

Fula Flute

Absolutely one of the most stunning releases of the year. I was unfamiliar with the West African style of flute playing when I popped this in the CD player, and was blown away by the the powerful playing and the vocalizations that Guinean Bailo Bah utters as he plays the tambin. The effort of the playing may leave you out of breath just from listening. Other artists include Sylvain Leroux (tambin), Famoro Dioubate (balafon), Keba Cissoko (kora), Yacouba Sissoko (kora), Peter Fand (contrabass), and Kourou Kouyate (bolon). Highly recommended.

Various Artists: 1 Giant Leap

Palm Pictures

An ambitious (and mostly successful) project by Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman, incorporating music and thoughts from many cultures into a high-tech collage of images, sounds, and ideas on a CD and a jam-packed DVD. Get the CD for the music (some of which doesn't appear on the DVD) and the DVD to see it all happen.

For a longer review, click here.

Te Vaka (New Zealand): Nukukehe

Spirit of Play

The Kiwi Polenesians are back with another CD celebrating the island cultures of Down Under...and neighboring islands. From explosions of log-drum energy to soulful ballads, Te Vaka bridges the sometimes-difficult gap between the traditional and the modern. [If you're looking for more great Kiwi music, be sure to ckeck out Moana and the Moa Hunters, also know as Moana and the Tribe. Maori hiphop, ballads, and more.]

Issa Bagayogo (Mali): Sya

Six Degrees

While traditional Malian music thrives with lots of CDs getting international distribution, Issa Bagayogo reminds us that Mali is also a contemporary nation with (among other modern conveniences) musical innovators. Bagayogo adds a delicate spicing of electronic beats and embellishments to Malian music, with fantastic results. His deft touch results in music that still sounds acoustic, yet is fit for latenight club dancing.

Lo*Jo (France): Au Cabaret Sauvage

World Village

The continuing adventures of the wild French musical commune.

For more, click here.

Fanfare Ciocarlia (Romania): Radio Pascani


Brass on Fire. There couldn't be a better description of Fanfare Ciocarlia than that title of a 2002 documentary film on the band. Tight gypsy horn tunes with blistering tempos. And they can keep it up for the many hours that wedding ceremonies can take.

Manu Chao (France): Radio Bemba Sound System


Always a willing experienter, former Manu Negro frontman Manu Chao combines alt-Latin punk sensibilities with a populist anti-globalization message that packs halls from Europe to South America. His message and his recording style (the CD's tracks all run together) may make him unpalatable for mainstream US airplay, but you'll certainly hear him on Spin the Globe.

dj Cheb i Sabbah (Algeria): Krishna Lila

Six Degrees

dj Cheb i Sabbah could be a poster child for the good side of globalization. Born in Muslim Algeria, he worked as a DJ in Paris in the 1960s, and still spins at clubs today from his home in San Francisco. Along his journey, he became a devotee of Krishna, and Krishna Lila is an exploration of the traditional devotional music of both north and south India.

Djelimady Tounkara (Mali): Sigui


A beautiful acoustic CD by a master guitarist whose licks were sometimes overshadowed in the past by loud dance numbers he chuned out with the rest of the of The Super Rail Band. On Sigui (sounds like "figgy") Tounkara takes a step back into tradition, while keeping a firm grip on his guitar, at times sounds like a flamenco player, and at times a kora. In a Spin the Globe interview, he described this CD as a bridge to an even more traditional recording he plans to make using only old, traditional Malian instruments like the n'goni (hunter's harp).

Tinariwen (Taureg): The Radio Tisdas Sessions

World Village

The Taureg rebels of the Saharan desert lay down their guns and picked up guitars. Their songs of desert life, of struggle and love, have all the earmarks of the blues, but blues with an otherworldly feel.


Honorable Mentions (and great albums, all):

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