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World Music CD Reviews, March 2005

BURLAKAT: MAGIE
self-published

artist site

Lutherans are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony.
It's a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing
alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals
by putting your little head against that person's rib cage.
--Garrison Kiellor

Finland is chock full of Lutherans. Eighty-nine percent of them, if you believe the CIA. Maybe that accounts for the amazing harmonizing groups emerging from the smallish Nordic country. Burlakat comes from Rääkkylä, which just happens to also be the place that Värttinä calls home. Coincidence? Listen and decide for yourself. The music of Burlakat (which means "vagabonds" in the Karelian language) is focused on female vocals, and lyrics about love, courting, courage, nature, and death (the liner notes summarize in English), backed by strong arrangements and talented musicians. I'll never understand Finnish, but I know I enjoy this interplay of music and voices, which speaks to me on some primal level. Highly recommended.

©2005 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

CARLINHOS BROWN: MIL VERÕES-CARLINHOS BROWN GREATEST HITS
Metro Blue / EMI Brasil

buy CD/hear samples

Perhaps better known as a songwriter than a singer, Carlinhos Brown is one of Brazil's musical wonders. He burst onto the Brazilian scene whe Caetano Veloso recorded his song "Meia lua inteira" in 1989, and his songs have also been given voice by Brazilian stars Marisa Monte, Daude, Daniela Mercury, Gal Costa, and others. And while he's worked as part of the groups Timbalada and, more recently, Tribalistas, he's managed to release a handful of solo CDs as well. This compilation of his hits includes the international hit "A namorada" and 14 other upbeat tracks. The upshot is that Brown, while a celebrated songwriter, loves energetic arrangements and avails himself of a full batteria of percussion and rhythm. Some funk here, some R&B there, a sprinkle of reggae...but all with indisputable Brazilian roots. Some world music fans may find too much pop in some tracks, but overall it's a solid, accessible collection, marred mainly by the too-brief liner notes.

©2005 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

MARTA TOPFEROVA: LA MAREA / THE TIDE
World Village

artist site : buy CD/hear samples

Does your list of Latin nations include the Czech Republic? If not, this CD may have you shifting your musical boundaries. The Czech-born New York resident says Chilean frieds of her parents gave the family Inti-Illimani records that she listened to as a kid. Growing up in Seattle after emigrating to the US as a teenager, Topferova learned Spanish and hung out with the Latino kids. The depth of her connection to Latin music is apparent on La Marea, on which her smoky voice blends beautifully with the music on the 10 original songs. Almost stealing the show is the harp of Edmar Casteñeda, elegant, passionate, and precise. Supporting musicians include Yulia Musayelyan (flute), Chris Komer (French horn), Chris Eddleton (drums) and a variety of others. The liner notes include full translations of the Spanish-language lyrics, and even in English translation the quality of her imagery shines through. Topferova is a young talent to keep an ear on.

©2005 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

VARIOUS ARTISTS: THE ROUGH GUIDE TO BOOGALOO
World Music Network

buy CD/hear samples

Boogaloo! The very word is a party in itself. Even more so with 18 great tracks on one convenient CD, so you don't have to track down those LPs from the 1960s and '70s. Sure you could read Sue Steward's helpful history of boogaloo and the artists who created and defined it. But mostly you'll want to crank up this disc and dance, from the slow burn of Pete Rodriguez's "Do the Boogaloo" to the tongue-twisting energy of Celia Cruz's "Tumbaloflesicodelicomicoso." Apparent throughout the CD are the elements of US soul and R&B that fused with Latin roots to create boogaloo. Songs like the English-language "Oh Yeah" by the Joe Cuba Sextet will have you shouting along. And then there's the grand finale: The Gilberto Sextet's cover of "Good Lovin'." So cheesy, so retro, so wonderful! And for those of us who weren't in New York when boogaloo got hot, this album is a time machine in a little plastic box.

©2005 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

VILDDAS: HÁLIIDAN
Wood Productions

artist site

Attentive Spin the Globe fans will be aware of the native yoik singing style of the Sámi people of northern Scandinavian lands. But here's something new. Combine yoik with, from far warmer climes, the ney flute and the oud. And throw in some programming and rock'n'roll drum kit for good measure. The result is the Sámi-language music of Vilddas (which means "untamed" or "frisky" in Sámi). Marko Jouste and Mikko Vanhasalo have studied music in Turkey, so they know that side of the mix. But how well does it blend with the other elements? The title track kicks off the album with a driving beat and a male chorus chant, over which soars the voice of Annukka Hirvasvuopio. Like maybe a group of Sámi Hare-Krishnas performing at a blues festival in Ankara. Far quieter and subtler is "Go Moai Leimme Mánat (When We Were Kids)," a swinging jazz quartet with vocal harmony by Annukka and Marko. With its strong lead oud, prominent cymbals, and forceful vocals, "Vilges Suola (White Thief)" could just as easily be a Palestinian folk song, to those of us who speak neither language. Annukka's voice stands alone on the marriage song "Moarseluohti," and explores speed and unusual tonal territory on "Dánses Lille Sárá (Dance Little Sárá)." It's hard to describe music that is unlike so much of the world fusion on the shelf. But to my ear, the unique blend provides engaging listening. Vilddas, with a new album now in the works, will be a band for the adventurous listener to watch for.

©2005 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

 

Other recent arrivals of note:

NIKITOV: AMULET (Chamsa Records)
info : buy CD

Nikitov is one of the best of the new Yiddish folksong ensembles. This is something seen far more often in Europe than in the US, where one might see Celtic folk band almost any night of the week, but Jewish folk has largely been relegated to a few numbers by a wedding band. On the other hand, neither is this a reworking of Yiddish folk music in new idiom, as say, Golem or Khevre, or for that matter German bands such as Aufwind. Rather, this is a very well-done collection of beautifully sung Yiddish folk songs from Europe, from America, including Yiddish theatre favorites, backed by an excellent group of musicians. And, just as American Jewish wedding bands will throw in the occasional Yiddish tune, here, the band takes on a couple of delightful violin/guitar/bass klezmer improvisations. (Klezmershack)

RIM BANNA: THE MIRRORS OF MY SOUL (KKV)
info : buy CD

The Palestinian singer who gained global recognition as part of the Lullabies from the Axis of Evil project returns with a Norwegian band with a decidely 'pop' recording of Palestinian songs. The ensemble accompanying her is Gjermund Silset (bass), David Wallumrød (piano and keyboards), Rune Arnesen (drums) and Eivind Aarset (guitar). The music they lay down seeks out the ryhtyms and melodies of Arabic music, sometimes getting deep into it, other times getting way outside. Some tracks wil sound like a classic ECM sound, others go for straight ahead rock, and at times it has the feel of a Bill Frissell project. It veers from emotionally charged, sparsely arranged inventions to full-tilt pop-rock, and has the huge advantage of not allowing a drum machine within 4000 miles of the studio. It is NOT for folk-music-only purists, but as Arab pop goes, this is unique and miles ahead of the current crop of Paris studio stuff. Not every song is a stunner, but there are enough bright moments to make it work. (CDRoots)

PARIS COMBO: MOTIFS (Polydor)
info : buy CD

Francophone faves Paris Combo return with the latest installment of their winning formula-if such a wide arrangement of rambunctious styles can really be called a formula. With one foot in Gypsy jazz and French cabaret music and the other wildly tap dancing through big band, cocktail music, Latin styles, and more, Paris Combo reflect their polyglot hometown. Vocalist Belle du Berry contributes a new slate of wry lyrics, commenting on everything from love to television to tourism, while guitarist Potzi brings an acoustic shuffle and frenetic picking that will please fans of Django Reinhardt. The rest is filled in by band members hailing from Australia, Madagascar, and, of course, France. Fans of such retro-pop outfits as Pink Martini will find fast frères in Paris Combo. (Barnes & Noble)

SAVINA YANNATOU & PRIMAVERA EN SALONICO: SUMIGLIA (ECM)
info : buy CD

Greek singer Savina Yannatou’s first studio recording for ECM, after the revelatory live Terra Nostra, is a strikingly original, enjoyable, highly appealing album, both accessible and musically challenging. Sumiglia pools songs from Greece, Corsica, Italy, Sicily, Palestine, Albania, Bulgaria, Armenia, Moldavia, and the Ukraine with charismatic performances from Yannatou and her extraordinary band Primavera en Salonico. (newnote.com)

DEEP FOREST: ESSENCE OF THE FOREST (Epic / Sony)
info : buy CD

Unlike other "high concept" units, Deep Forest has continued to make inventive, surprising, and daring use of the indiginous-electronics formula, turning their attention to Eastern Europe for the second album, Boheme (their second hit "Marta's Song" featured the great Hungarian singer Marta Sebestyen), turning up the heat a bit with Latin and Caribbean rhythms on Comparsa, and an odd hybrid of Japan and the American South (which works on "Dignity," less so on "Yuki Song") for Music Detected.
It never feels rote, and Sanchez/Mouquet, much to their credit, seem to care as much about execution as about concept - the forest remains deep and worth exploring. (Blogcritics)

NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN: THE ULTIMATE FATEH ALI KHAN-THE EARLY YEARS VOL. 1, RARE RECORDINGS 1978-1982 (Narada)
info : buy CD

This two-disc set covers seven extensive compositions, some like “Haq Ali Ali Moula Ali” and “Saanson Kee Mala” covering nearly 30 minutes. Despite the length, Khan’s ability to move through multiple sections consistently maintaining his intensity and energy is stunning. Sometimes Khan maneuvers through intricate passages, other times he executed verses with furious speed. Many times this becomes more vocal elaboration and presentation than singing in the basic sense, because he is just as concerned with stretching his voice, emphasizing a particular phrase or driving a beat than just delivering a lyric or punctuating a line. But there’s no denying the mastery or magical impact of these tracks and Khan’s brilliance at such an early age. This isn’t exactly the kind of thing that you’d listen to every day or even every week, but it is phenomenal material. (Nashville City Paper)

JESSE COOK: MONTREAL (Narada)
info : buy CD

From the sounds of the enthusiastic audience on this live CD, Jesse Cook's music is as dynamic and electrifying in concert as it is on his fine studio releases. Playing with a full band in his native Canada, the guitarist and ethnic fusion pioneer turns in a compelling performance to an endless stream of clapping, whoops, and shouts. Cook's personnel, which includes a violinist, guitarist, bassist, percussionists, a dudek player, and guest vocalists, flesh out the artist's trademark groove-oriented flamenco style, adding dashes of Middle Eastern flavor, Latin forms (namely rhumba and samba), jazz, and dreamy, atmospheric color. Cook is a superior guitarist, and his fleet-fingered guitar leads are in the spotlight throughout. But he is more than just a technician. With his heady swirl of Mediterranean influences and propulsive rhythms, Cook aims to please audiences. Montreal overflows with energy and charged performer/audience interactions. (mymusic.com)

 



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