Entre Mer et Ciel: Island Blues
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Entre Mer et Ciel: Island Blues
2002, Network Medien (www.networkmedien.de)

cd cover The sentiment behind this double-CD set, expressed in the extensive liner notes, is the idealistic appeal of island life - the sun, the sea, the palm-lined beaches, the relaxed pace of life. What relationship this bears to islands such as Ireland or the Outer Hebrides remains a mystery, and no doubt anyone who grew up on those Atlantic-battered landscapes will wonder the same thing. Still, it is as good an excuse as any to compile great sounds from all over the world, which might, otherwise, bear little correspondence to one another. The songs range from Cape Verde to Sumatra, from Fiji to Crete, and many of the tracks are indispensable to your world music collection.

The journey begins on the Comoros Islands. Baco's "Bwana" is a gorgeous song, plaintively urging the Rastafarian protagonist to let go of his past and move forward. With gentle guitar and harmonica accompaniment, and intermittent vocal harmonies of great depth, both emotional and aural, this track is a fantastic start to any album. Hot on his heels comes Nawal, also from the Comoros, but with a far more distinctly African sound, despite the strongly Arabic influences and inflections. This sound is absolutely indicative of the melting pot that is the musical style of these islands, representative of the countless cultural convergences that have taken place throughout their history. Maloya singer Danyel Waro is in fine voice on "Sanm Ou." Singing a cappella gives the listener a chance to appreciate the soulful nuances of his voice, ranging from deep and gritty to heartfelt pleading - a joy indeed. The Caribbean contingency well represents that part of the world, with names such as Septeto Nacional and Ti-Coca included. A particular treat, however, is the Lititz Mento Band's rendition of "Day Oh," originally a Jamaican working song. This song always manages to sound vaguely comical because of its use in the past by advertising agencies and so forth, but, of course, the lyrics are far from amusing as they relate the pleas of the laborers on the banana boats to be allowed go home at the end of a long night's toil.

The atonal chanting of the Dhikiro Men's Chorus from Indonesia bodes well for disc two. Sambasunda, of Java, certainly do not disappoint either, with their mystical, ghostly, xylophone-based version of the gamelan. There is some serious roots-rocking bamboo playing from Papua New Guinea, followed by feverish guitar and ukulele playing from Tahiti. The capable hands of the Altan collective represent the Emerald Isle, while Declan Masterson's pipes proudly usher us towards the end of the trip. Catherine-Ann MacPhee has the final say, with a decidedly bluesy rendition of "O Hi Ri Lean."

There is a lifetime of discovery inherent on these two discs alone. Take yourself off on a whirlwind excursion around the music of the world. It will leave you hungering for more. - Jennifer Byrne

Available at cdRoots

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