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Spin the Globe CD reviews for May 2002

RAJERY: FANAMBY

LBLC 2572 Label Bleu/Indigo BP 0631 - 80006 AMIENS, Cedex 1 - France


My first exposure to the music of Madagascar came with Rossy’s 1991 CD Island of Ghosts. Like Rossy, Rajery plays the valiha, a tubular bamboo harp with roots in Indonesia, but in constrast to Rossy’s (mostly successful) experimentation with drums and synthesizers, Rajery stays closer to his roots. Fanamby (meaning a bet or challenge) is full of acoustic wonders, particularly remarkable in light of the mysterious childhood accident that left Rajery without the fingers on his right hand. Today he’s considered the “prince of the valiha,” a position that has allowed him to champion disabled artists in Madagascar. Rajery’s backing quartet supports him well with guitar, bass, and subtle percussion. The sole acapella track, "Vonjeo," is a sweet harmonic delight sung in Malagasy. One minor complaint: The CD notes would be greatly improved by including English lyrics along with the Malagasy and French.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

GINO SITSON: SONG ZIN'...

CD-PIR1682 Piranha Musik Produktion und Verlag AG, Carmerstr. 11, 10623 Berlin

 

 


Cameroon may be the African nation with the most un-African music. Maybe it is the French influence, but from Henri Dikongue to Les Têtes Brulées to Sally Nyolo, the musicians from Cameroon seem unique on the continent, and are certainly distinct from the griot tradition dominating West African music. So I wasn't surprised to pop in this CD and hear a sound more like Bobby McFerrin than Baaba Maal. On his North American debut CD Song Zin'... (meaning "I'm gonna tell you" in Medumba), ethnomusicologist and vocalist Gino Sitson presents compositions ranging from sophisticated jazz to the Latin-tinged "Lensin'." Seven of the tracks are vocal-only pieces, highlighting Sitson's nimble vocal and body-percussion abilities. Sitson, who now lives in New York, provides such interesting listening that one doesn't mind not understanding the lyrics, which are merely summarized in the notes.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

LEW JONES: NOCTURNE CAFE

Terwilliger Music, 2012 SE 87th, Portland OR 97216


I wish I could see the faces of the people at the Wine Bottle in Portland the night this music was recorded. But you don't even hear them. Not that the sublime solo guitar of former Bend schoolteacher Lew Jones needs the enthusiasm of a crowd to validate it. In fact, Nocturne Café's moody feeling is enhanced by the feeling that you are the only one listening. Jones is a self-described musical dabbler: Four of the nine tracks are originals; the others include adaptations of Irish and Jewish songs and of Bach, Beethoven, and Satie. Throughout, the CD lives up to its name, evoking a dreamy tranquility the color of dusk.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

VARIOUS ARTISTS: HEROES & HORSES - CORRIDOS FROM THE ARIZONA-SONORA BORDERLANDS

SFW CD 404475 Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 750 9th Street NW, Suite 4100, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC 20560-0953


Exploding trains. Infidelities. Horse races. Bad jobs. Fights. Corridos capture the stories and drama of this transnational region, a living history no mere book could contain. With voice, guitar, and accordion, the 15 artists included (all seasoned musicians, none full-time professionals) sing and play what they know. English and Spanish lyrics for the 16 songs are included in a computer-enhanced file. And even the low-tech will benefit from the CD’s 30-page booklet, which provides good general background and detailed track notes. One of the more dramatic songs is the heroic story of Jesús Garcia, who in November 1907 saved countless lives by driving a train of burning dynamite away from a populated area. He died in the ensuing blast, but his story lives on in song. This CD is a companion to the traveling exhibit Corridos sin Fronteras: A New World Ballad Tradition, currently on display at the Mexican Heritage Plaza in San Jose.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens



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