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Spin the Globe CD reviews for May 2002


OZ001 Onzou Records, PO Box 53030, 1222 Douglas Street, Victoria BC, Canada V8W 3Y8




On Nangapè’s first track, "Lobi a la Yaya," a flute line by Sylvain Leroux, climbs atop Yaya Diallo's subtle djembe rhythm. And finally enters the balafon, and the tune—an ode to originality—gets down to it. Nangapè, originally issued in 1980 and reissued this year, is a gem of West African music highlighting Diallo's skill at dounouba, tama, and conga as well as djembe and balafon. "My purpose is to bring a different point of view of African drumming to America," says Mali-born Diallo, who is also a healer and author. Though the five Diallo compositions on Nangapè total just 35 minutes, Diallo delivers a solid celebration of acoustic rhythm. Onzou also plans to re-release Diallo’s 1995 CD Dounoukan. And if you’re digging Leroux’s flute here, be sure to check out his Fula Flute project (www.fulaflute.net), which may change your mind about what flutes can do.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens


76-012-2 Naxos of America, 416 Mary Lindsay Polk Drive, Suite 509, Franklin, TN 37067

Along with recent waves of Cuban and Middle-Eastern music has come another rhythm that may be new to the ears of Western listeners: bhangra. Its roots lie in the harvest celebrations of Punjab--a fertile region with the dubious distinction of lying on both sides of the India-Pakistan border. Indeed, the term comes from bhang, the local word for hemp. But today, bhangra has grown up and now lives in a nice apartment in the city, frequenting dance clubs at night. Some listeners may be familiar with bhangra from Johnny Kalsi's dhol drumming with the Afro-Celt Sound System. This CD tends more toward folk-fusion bhangra rather than the techno variety. While it lacks the rich background notes of other compilations such as The Rough Guide to Bhangra, Bhangra Beatz brings a completely different lineup of artists with more than enough energy and beat to get you dancing.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens


468008 World Village www.lesyeuxnoirs.net

Dubbed by one wag "the boyband of a lost era," the French octet Les Yeux Noirs might be described as the Gipsy Kings meet the Klezmatics in Eastern Europe. Exploring Gipsy-Jewish musical connections, Balamouk is just the second release by the decade-old band, led by fiddling brothers Erik and Oliver Slabiak. The fun, varied CD opens with the funky, rhythm-driven title track, then moves into Gipsy-flavored traditional tune "Tchaye." Additional songs, sung in Yiddish, Roma, and Russian, range from a late-night-bluesy "Yiddishe Mame" to a cathedral-choir sound on "Lluba" to the languorous instrumental "Lodz." The CD contains a nice bio of the band (whose name means "The Black Eyes") but lacks any lyrics or track notes beyond Erik Slabiak’s comment that "The songs are about love ... and horses. But not love with horses!" Les Yeux Noirs will tour parts of the USA this summer.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens


176 160 516-2 Pimienta Records, PO Box 164833, Miami, FL, 33116-4833

With the flood of Cuban music arriving in the USA in the last few years, one might think the embargo was already a thing of the past. Don Pío Leiva is another living legend of Cuban music, one of the older generation rediscovered in recent years and composer of such classics as "Francisco Guayabal" and "Cuando ya no me quieras," which he covers on this CD. Leiva’s smoky vocals adorn six songs and the voices of younger soneros Luis Frank, Virginia, and Eugenio take the lead on five other tracks. The different vocal styles complement each other, the experience of Leiva's 84 years giving weight to his words and the nimble voices of the others showing the music's future. Backed by the extended musical family known as Soneros de Verdad, it's a solid combination for Cuban music fans.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

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