A World Music Magazine


world music

world music

Nordic Raga is a cross-cultural project that joins together two musics from radically different climes: southern India, and the Nordic regions. This musical pollination is in accomplished hands. Jyotsna Srikanth, from Bangalore, is at the apex of southern Indian Carnatic violin players. Mats Edén has been a major figure in the Swedish folk revival ever since the 1970s, recognizable from his viola d’amore playing with such important groups like Groupa, Nordan, and on his own solo recordings. Via his musical studies, Dan Svensson (percussion and vocals) moved from pop and rock music, into folk and global music. Pär Moberg provides saxophone, flute, and didjeridoo playing; his work can also be heard with the enjoyable Eastern European-influenced group Tummel. The Nordic Raga project provides an opportunity for these musicians to explore some common ground – the points of meeting become more apparent as the disc unfolds. Lee Blackstone digs into the intricacies in his review.

Nordic Raga is our selection for February's Music of the Month.


world music

Diatonic accordionist Didier Laloy and cellist Kathy Adam, known together as Belem, combine forces with the machinery of Walter Hus for an experience like no other. Hus's creation is, at its core, an automated organ, but in the fullness of its expression a veritable orchestra, the sonic equivalent of a monochromatic film painstakingly hand-tinted. Film is indeed the metaphor du jour, as any of Belem & The Mekanics's 11 pieces could be the ideal soundtrack for, say, a Brothers Quay short (and by saying as much, I give it highest compliment). And while other albums have attempted similar experiments—notably Pat Metheney's "Orchestration" project—there's something organic about this one that sets it apart. Although I can only imagine how wondrous it must be to witness this music in a live setting, I enjoy letting its images project themselves onto the screen of my mind, to roam as they will. Read Tyran Grillo’s full review and listen to the music.


world music Italian singer Luisa Cottifogli came to my attention in 2000 with her remarkable first recording, Aiò Nenè. The recording was subtitled, "I come from the North, but I am from the South," and explored the dichotomy between Italy's colder, richer, more urban north and its warmer, poorer and more rural south. It bridged that divide, and then went on to incorporate music from Arabic and Indian traditions, as well as modern jazz and avant garde ideas. For all its worldliness, it was ultimately firmly rooted in the south that she proclaimed she was from. But she was born in the Alps and that is where she returns on Come Un Albero D'Inverno, as she and her ensemble proclaim in the opening track, "Yodel," where they take what in other parts of the world is considered a cliché of the past and place it in the bold, beautiful now. Read Cliff Furnald's review and listen to some of the music.


world music Sometimes, music falls on my desk that I know will never be fully explainable as a review. Such is the strange world of Little Big Noz, the musical offspring of baritone saxophonist Ronan Le Gouriérec and his vocal antagonist Philippe Chasseloup. Together they have created a satirical show based on the traditional dance music of Brittany.

The CD version of these performances is just Gouriérec and Chasseloup, They play word games with the dances and their sometimes rigid interpretations by the participants, and Le Gouriérec turns the music on its head in a solo saxophone attack that respects the melodies, but more importantly, the freedom those melodies offer a creative musician. Because the chatter is all in local French, and is further complicated by the inside jokes and double entendres they insert, Gouriérec offered to help me interpret a few of them for you. Read more and enjoy some of the music.


world music

world music

From Poland's burgeoning folk roots scene come two new and distinct bands. Both are trios, yet each group earmarks their locale.

WoWaKin are from the Mazovia region, an area that includes Warsaw, in the northeast of Poland. Each group creates thick clouds of trance-inducing sound built on traditional rhythms from the Polish countryside. The trio offers an array of foxtrots, tangos, polkas, oberkas, and more on their debut album. WoWaKin are comprised of Paula Kinaszewska (violin, vocals); Mateusz Wachowiak (accordion); and Bartlomiej Wozniak (drums and sound design). Their repertoire borrows from the Polish areas of Kielce, Radom, and Sanniki.

Kapela Maliszów is a family band from a small village in the Lower Beskids mountain range, located in southeast Poland, bearing towards Slovakia. The ensemble is comprised of Jan Malisz and his two children, Zuzanna (age 14) and Kacper (age 18). Jan Malisz anchors the group with his basolia, a Polish instrument reminiscent of the cello. Zuzanna sings and accompanies on percussion and Kacper plays both violin and nyckelharpa.

Read Lee Blackstone's reviews and listen to some tracks from each album.

Michal Shapiro was at WOMEX 2017, held in Katowice, Poland, and filmed each of these excellent ensembles.


world music Politics and music are rarely far apart, as perhaps nowhere more evident than in the music of exiles wherever they find themselves. At a forcible remove from its cultural foundations, dislocated artistry resides as close as memory and sentiment can bring tradition bearers to a time, place and way of life that, if now denied to the artist, can be only more unfamiliar to the audience. Yet all that changes when the artist, in the company of fellow exiles and rootless cosmopolitans, finding themselves in a strange land, commune in song. Born to a Baluchi father and Afro-Iranian mother descended from Zanzibar exiles enslaved in the Persian Gulf region of southern Iran, Saied Shanbehzadeh himself left for France when his experimental fusions of African-Iranian possession ritual music and other regional folk forms found disfavor with the cultural police (he was convicted in absentia for blasphemy and faces lashing and imprisonment if he were to return). Shanbehzadeh sings, composes, arranges and plays the neyanban (a double-reed bagpipe made of goatskin) and saxophone. On Pour-Afrigha he is joined by Iranian Baluchi singer Rostam Mirlashari, a former political prisoner, and accompanied by French guitarist Manu Codija, Shanbehzadeh's son Naghib on percussion (zarb-timpo, dammam, kesser, darbuka), and several other guests.   Read Michael Stone's full review, hear some excerpts and see a video performance.


world music

world music

The sound and spirit of Zimbabwe and Mozambique runs through the heart of Timbila and Chartwell Dutiro's double album collection Sadza with the Head of a Mouse. Timbila is a New York-based band, led by Nora Balaban, that met in Zimbabwe in 1997. Since then they have delved into the rich heritage of southern Africa's songs and instruments, adding their own East Village multicultural explorations to the music. Here they are joined by vocalist and mbira master Chartwell Dutiro, a former member of Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited who now resides in the U.K.

Strange Circles is the debut offering from Bokanté, an ensemble put together by Snarky Puppy's Michael League. The group's name translates from Creole to “exchange” in English and the eight musicians from four continents have developed a cohesive, layered multicultural sound that serves as a foundation for Malika Tirolien's rich vocals sung in Creole and French. While in Canada, League heard the voice of Tirolien, who hails from Guadeloupe and now lives in Toronto. The meeting inspired the creation of Bokanté, with League and Tirolien collaborating on the music and Tirolien handling the lyrics. They are joined by fellow Snarky Puppy guitarists Chris McQueen and Bob Lanzetti, percussionists Jamey Haddad, André Ferrari, and Keita Ogawa, as well as Roosevelt Collier on pedal and lap steel guitars.

Both reviews include full tracks from the albums.



world music The title of Svalan (Swedish for “swallow”) accurately describes this album's mood before a single note of it graces your ears. As the creation of Maria Kalaniemi (accordion and vocals) and Eero Grundström (harmonium), it thrums with songs of the Northern Karelian forests that inspired it. Recorded in Kalaniemi's childhood home, its program is a mélange of Finnish-Swedish ballads, songs of the sea, and original compositions.

The traditional tunes evoke nature and life within it. “Kom alla mina bröder” (Come all my brothers) is an ideal place to start. With an inspiring sense of community, it invites listeners on a journey far away from the bane of current political unrest. Whether through bellows or throat, Kalaniemi's exhalations are ecstatic, while Pekko Käppi (who also plays bowed lyre on the album) calls out like the voice of the wilderness. Even in the tenderer “Där sitter en fågel” (A bird is sitting there), echoes of that verve linger... Read Tyran Grillo's review and listen to some of the music online.


world music Fifteen years ago, three stars of Brazilian music came together in what seemed like a lark, a one-time knock-off project, but the album surprisingly spawned several hits around the world. Calling themselves Tribalistas, the three - singer Marisa Monte, percussionist Carlinhos Brown and art-rocker Arnaldo Antunes - were old friends, and their easy-going camaraderie imbued every song with a loose-limbed, affable charm. While the album came out of the blue, in retrospect it should have been no surprise that the trio would do so well. After all, the three were abundantly talented and creative in their own ways. In fact, one of the interesting features of the project was the creative push and pull of their three distinct personalities and voices.

This sophomore album, 15 years after their first, has arrived with little of the fanfare that one would assume from such a notable crew. The album is a digital release and there is no promotional tour. Whether this was something they spontaneously decided to do amid busy schedules, the result is still a thoroughly enjoyable balmy ride... Read Marty Lipp's full review and hear some of their music.


world music In the late 1980s, a then older gentleman with a guitar started to make a splash in the global African music scene. In 1990, the London based Stern's Music released an album, the first time most of the world had heard Boubacar Traoré. At the time, I wrote, "Mariama is a solo affair, just voice and guitar, recorded so raw you could hear his fingers on the strings and his breath between vocal lines. It was my introduction to him and I was spellbound."

All these years and 10 albums later, little has changed. Dounia Tabolo, continues his trio effort of a few years ago, with French harmonica player Vincent Bucher and Malian percussionist Alassane Samaké wrapping Traoré's voice and guitar. Recorded in Lafayette, Louisiana, the trio is joined by Cedric Watson on violin and washboard, Leyla McCalla on cello and voice, and Corey Harris on guitar. Read the editor's review, listen to a full track and some excerpts, and watch a video online now.


world music

world music

You have to imagine Puglia, the part of southern Italy that juts into the Mediterranean Sea… The south of Italy has a long history of joy and sadness; riven with poverty, many inhabitants have moved away. As with much of Italy, the influence of the Catholic Church is felt here, hot under the sun; but, there is a persistent pulse of heathenism and rhythm that runs underfoot. Puglia is the land of the taranta, the spider, which bit women (and some men) for thousands of years, causing distressed families to buy the service of musicians so that the afflicted could dance their poisoning away. The Church conflated the spider with Saint Paul, entwining in folk song a sacred/secular eroticism that feels like magic.

Amongst the musicians at the forefront of the first 1970s revivalist wave was the Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (CGS). Co-founder Daniele Durante passed on the group's leadership to his son, Mauro Durante, in 2007, and Canzoniere is the fourth album made under his tenure.

The Albanian cellist Redi Hasa and the Puglian vocalist Maria Mazzotta comprise the project Hasa-Mazzotta. The two musicians seek to explore connections between their musical traditions, and do so in experimental ways. Novilunio is intimate, bridging folk, jazz, and even cabaret in a bewitching program.

Read Lee Blackstone's in-depth article about pizzica tarantata and how these artists are rooted in place, searching in other places for new sounds and new connections, yet always circling back home. We also have full tracks from each album and some audio excerpts of others.


world music Audio Feature
I am pleased to present a live set by the Nordic ensemble, Floating Sofa Quartet, recorded in Denmark at the Tønder Festival in August as part of the FolkSpot 2017 concert series. Their repertoire is a mixture of original compositions and traditional pieces from their respective countries (Denmark, Sweden and Finland), performed with great harmonies, intensity, humor and the warm sound of wooden instruments - wooden flute, Swedish bagpipes, 2 and 5-row melodeons, harmonium, fiddle and double bass. You can hear the concert online.


world music As Ian Brennan continues to reveal music made by the world's more endangered or marginalized people, he travels deep into the hills of Rwanda to record the music of Twa pygmies, who can also be found in Southern Uganda, Northern Zambia, and scattered about the DR Congo. Frustratingly, this ethnic minority group is as voiceless as it gets in Africa, though none of that comes across in the music found here. Featuring such traditional instruments as the umuduri and the massive board zither known as the inanga, which, as played by the Twa, coaxes the vocals out as mourning-filled moans, as the inanga's plucked strings provide pulse as well as occasional heavy riffs. Here and there, short bursts of electronic noise replace the typical instrumentation for jittery warnings about AIDs; sounds like sirens or cicadas plugged into amps briefly appear to form whole, yet fleeting tracks. Read Bruce Miller's review, hear some of the music and watch a video recorded in Rwanda.


world music

world music

The Art of Allegory

Michael Stone brings us the music of Brussels based Tunisian singer Ghalia Benali, in collaboration with her musicians and the Belgian brass ensemble Mâäk. Together they find lyrical inspiration in classical and contemporary love poetry of the Arabic- and Persian-speaking world on the album MwSOUL.

Ghalia Benali appears again on one of the two recordings presented next, both the work of an innovative group of artists. Zefiro Torna is no stranger to treating the old as new, and vice versa. In addition to combining a love of medieval and Renaissance music with jazz and other modern modes of expression, the Flemish vocal-instrumental ensemble has worked extensively with performers, stage directors, and individual artists to widen the scope of their repertoire while also hinting at universal impulses within it.

Two recent CDs highlight the adventurous spirit behind such collaborations. Scattered Rhymes is created with the Frank Vaganée Trio. The Allegory of Desire finds them in centuries-spanning musical settings of the Biblical "Song of Songs" in conversation with traditional and original Arabic songs interpreted by Ghalia Benali and the Vocalconsort Berlin. Tyran Grillo explores the allegorical connections between these two worlds.


world music Musical cross-pollination is complex. Musicians may suddenly be turned on to sounds that divert their music down new paths. For Norwegian piano accordionist Anders Lillebo, the exposure to Irish music at a folk festival in Ireland spawned an obsession. Lillebo had been studying in the hopes of becoming a jazz pianist; the leap to the Irish piano accordion seemed fateful. By moving to Ireland, Lillebo was able to immerse himself in the Irish music scene. On his Departure, Lillebo is joined by Caoimhín O Fearghail (guitar); Tommy Hayes (percussion); Matthew Berrill (clarinet and bass clarinet); and Jack Talty (piano), a master concertina player who also served production duties on the recording. Esbjörn Hazelius guests on fiddle and cittern. All the tunes are traditional except for 'Liam & Diana's Waltz,' and 'Vråka,'the latter named for a place on the western coast of Sweden. Lee Blackstone reviews.


world music The Alehouse Sessions is a piece of history unearthed and mantled for new ears. Indeed, Norwegian violinist Bjarte Eike's fascinating project doesn't so much transport us back to the past as reposition the past in the here and now, when its lessons are more poignant than ever. Backed by his Alehouse Boys, a merry band culled from the Barokksolistene ensemble Eike leads, the project's latest CD is a sonic re-creation of 17th-century English taverns. Tyran Grillo was there live, and shares the music and grog with you.


world music Greg Harness writes, "Years ago, as a new parent, I was looking for songs that would engage my daughter without the insipidness that comes with much children's music. I learned quickly that Raffi was usually a good bet, and a Raffi record became a sure thing when Ken Whiteley was involved. This was my introduction to the Whiteley family, and led me to learn more about Ken and his brother Chris and their Original Sloth Band. More recently I've been drawn to Chris's own daughter Jenny Whiteley, who I just learned sang in the chorus on Raffi's “Baby Beluga.” Her newest recording is The Original Jenny Whiteley. For readers who listen regularly to the roots music of the American south -- Appalachian string bands, bluegrass, jug bands -- many of these songs will be familiar." Read greg's review and listen to some of the songs/


world music

Kries is a legendary Croatian folk-rock band that has thankfully resurfaced with Selo Na Okuke/Village Tracks, eight years after their previous album . Understanding Kries' message of solidarity and unity is essential to their mission. The band formed after the raging of the Balkan War in the 1990s, and the musicians that comprise Kries are drawn from countries caught up in - or touched by - the conflict that engulfed the Balkan region.

The founder of Kries is Mojmir Novaković. Novaković, like many musicians at the forefront of a modern revival of traditional folk music, sought to infuse the songs of Croatia and the Balkans with a progressive twist. Accompanying Novaković in Kries are folk luminaries such as Andor Vegh (a Balkan music expert) on bagpipes and flute, and multi-instrumentalist Ivo Letunic on lijerica (a three-stringed, bowed instrument), and the Serbian gusle (a one-stringed, bowed instrument). There is a roaring percussive section, comprised of Ivan Levačić on drums, and Krešimir Oreški on percussive instruments including the djembe. The group is fleshed out with Erol Zejnilović on guitar, and Konrad Lovrenčić on bass. As a result, Kries combines traditional folk music instrumentation alongside the elements of a rock band... Read Lee Blackstone's full review online, listen to some full tracks, and watch some marvelous videos.

You can also hear a few tracks of the album in an archived edition of RootsWorld Radio #249.

Kries' Selo Na Okuke / Village Tracks is our selection for Music of the Month in November. It was donated by the artists and Riverboat Records, so all proceeds go to support the magazine and radio program. We thank them for their generous support.


world music

world music

These two CDs provide different aspects of West African pop music recorded this year. Valérie Ekoumé's Kwin Na Kingue is the slicker of the two. French born, but with roots in Cameroun, she studied music formally for half a decade; youtube clips reveal a woman who can knock out a pop ballad with nothing but her own piano as accompaniment just as easily as she can slide into a Makossa-influenced vamp and bring an audience to its feet.

Leila Gobi's sophomore LP, 2017, is a different story. The recording - her voice, drenched in confident stealth over guitar, bass, and percussion - is complimented by whatever production constraints Hampathe Bah Studio in Bamako, Mali imposed on it. While no one would mistake this for the work of a Tamesheq griot, it manages to stay a bit closer to Malian pop's musical chassis. In fact, despite the stripped-down accompaniment, this record delves a bit further into dance grooves than her first one... Read Bruce Miller's reviews of both of these recordings, listen to some of the music and see a video.


world music "I want to work in this world... I'm not going to pretend I'm something I'm not"

Marty Lipp sits down with someone who has his own interesting answers to the question "What Is Americana?." Folk artist, modern composer, blues enthusiast and arranger Dick Connette made his first mark in the American music scene in the 1990s with his project, Last Forever, a duo with Sonya Cohen, abetted by a marvelous group of musicians from many areas of interest. Dick is back this year with his latest dive into American roots music waters with a new project, Too Sad For the Public, this time with a number of singers, Ana Egge, Gabriel Kahane, Suzzy Roche and Rachelle Garniez. Read the tales Dick had to tell to Marty, and listen to some of the music in his RootsWorld interview.


world music It's rare when a new disc hits you with such force you just want to absorb it, to savor it, to stay in the moment and just enjoy. Even more so when that disc has a twin, and you discover them both at the same time. In 2016, the veteran Neapolitan group Almamegretta issued Ennenne, followed by Ennenne Dub this year 2017. How to describe a Neapolitan-Jamaican mix of reggae, dub and Mediterranean sounds, a little Nico d'Angelo and a little Lee "Scratch" Perry. There are many Neapolitan artists that mix international sounds and the Neapolitan language, among them 99 Posse, and world music maestro Enzo Avitabile, just to name two. That's a rich vein of music and Almamegretta is at the heart of it… David Cox reviews the recordings, and you can read it all and listen to some tracks from both online now.


world music Afro-Venezuelan singer Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo was founded 30 years ago in the cacao-growing region where the settlement of El Clavo, located some 40 miles southeast of the capital, Caracas. Inspired by her father, a parranda trumpeter, Betsayda Machado began singing at an early age; her manifest talent eventually took her to Caracas, where she has been primarily based in recent years.

The windward Barlovento region is renowned for its African-Venezuelan parranda ensembles, Parranda El Clavo among them. The power of the genre owes at least as much to the energy of the singing as to the drive of the percussion. Indeed, on the majority of the songs, the chorus sings the opening phrase or verse a cappella to set the tune, with the percussion joining subsequently. It's all to be heard on their first album, Loé Loá: Rural Recordings Under The Mango Tree.

Michael Stone takes an in-depth look at the music and mission of the ensemble and their first recording


world music As the US withdraws from UNESCO citing so-called “anti-Israel bias” it seems a good time to reflect on what the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has done and continues to do for roots and world music… Beginning in 1961, UNESCO began collecting local music, mostly through field recordings, as a way to showcase and preserve aural traditions… Many musicians including Gilberto Gil, Manu Dibango, and Kudsi Erguner have been named UNESCO Artists for Peace… Greg Harness shares some thoughts on the importance of UNESCO


world music The musical term Americana has been tossed around in the media for ages, using it to denote authenticity for even the most manufactured musical products. Artists have long sought inspiration in the blues, R&B, spirituals, gospel, old timey, folk, civil rights song, country, rock, pop and the realm of culture, history and politics more broadly, an expansive array of influences. The recordings essayed here suggest that the politics of everyday life have much to do with how what might be called Americana has evolved. Some classic examples from the period in which civil rights, the free speech movement, anti-war activism, an emergent environmental awareness, and allied initiatives seeking a more inclusive definition of citizenship illustrate how music speaks to the social movements of its times.

Explore new works that expand those roots in new directions, with music from Jaimeo Brown Transcendence, René Marie, Ranky Tanky, Indra Rios-Moore, Brian McCarthy Nonet, Sam Bardfeld, Matt Slocum, Omar Sosa and Tim Eriksen. Michael Stone offers a different perspective from the usual in his piece, What Is Americana?


world music Jérémy Courault is the leader and voice of the inimitable trio Djé Baleti. Hailing from Toulouse, France, Baleti incorporate various African and European styles into a whirling array of music. Imagine if Hendrix was raised in Mali and grew up in Italy, and played a long-necked espina instead of an electric guitar. That's close to what Courault -- who grew up just about everywhere -- and his band does on Moko. With Sophia Ramia Medina on bass and Antoine Pedriolle on drums, Djé Baleti reimagines rock by way of highlife, tarantella, chaabi, and numerous other sources. The insistent energy of this record begins with "Manda Lo Batéu" the title track, with its descending espina riff, moments of Doors-like rock, and continues through long and short pieces, 12 in all. Read what David Cox has to say about this "esoteric and frankly eccentric album," listen to some music and watch a wonderful animated music video.


world music Clarinet Factory is a band that absolutely defies categorization. My initial impression of their latest CD, Meadows, was that this was going to be a chamber-jazz project that occasionally riffed on folk themes. I could not have been more wrong. Originally calling themselves the Czech Clarinet Quartet, Clarinet Factory's mission remains the crossing of borders. The group features four clarinet players – Jindřich Pavliš, Luděk Boura, and Vojtěch Nýdl, plus Petr Pepíno Valášek on bass clarinet. Nýdl also provides lead vocals on many of the album's songs. All the members of Clarinet Factory have a classical background, and this is more than evident in Meadows' frequent nods to the minimalist genre… On the band's website, Jindřich Pavliš states that Clarinet Factory seeks to work in 'inter-genre' projects. “We want to be an ensemble which has something to say. Not a museum!”
Read Lee Blackstone's full review, listen to some of the music and see their brand new video.


world music Vasco Ribeiro Casais is a multi-instrumentalist who plays around with traditional music in interesting and creative ways. In this new OMIRI project, the former member of Dazkarieh and Seiva, has here pasted together traditional recordings, studio effects and dance tunes to hypnotic effect. This 13-song second effort is in effect a solo project for Casais, the prolific and versatile bouzouki, violin, nyckelharpa and gaita player. On Baile Electronica he provides a new setting for corridinhos, chotiças, polcas, and other traditional dances. Mixing old recordings with his instrumentals and studio effects, Casais revisits some fine field recording material, dissecting and splicing, prompting a fresh look at what has been there all along. Read David Cox's full review and listen to some music and a video online now.


world music Mokoomba return with Luyando, an album that reveals a group that continues to grow more dynamic with each release. For this record the band wanted to place more emphasis on the area of Zimbabwe they call home. They refer to their falls as “smoke that thunders” in their language. Luyando translates to “mother's love” in Tonga and this effort proudly displays their Tonga and Luvale heritage. Alex Brown takes us to Victoria Falls


world music No doubt Namibian born Elemotho, aka Gaalelewe Richardo Mosimane, meant well with the release of Beautiful World. Alas, sometimes the best of intentions, even when teamed with undeniable talent, are not enough to make an album that shines. Leander Hobbs heads to the Atlantic shore of Nambia to look into the music of a psychologist turned prosaist, songwriter and musician.


world music The latest prog-folk outing of the Occitanian/French collective Artús is titled 'Ors,' named after the great bear of the forests and mountains of the Pyrenees. What the band has fashioned is a thematic song-cycle, equal parts philosophical and spiritual. The essential theme of 'Ors' is humankind's struggle with the brute beast within, and our coming to terms with our species' savage tendencies. Artús delves deep into the rift between nature and civilization. Read Lee Blackstone's review and listen to the music.


world music The self-titled recording by Turkish musician Görkem Saoulis is akin to taking a trip back in time. However, as the author L.P. Hartley famously stated, “The past is a foreign country.” Saoulis' skill as a vocalist and a player of kanun (a zither found in the Middle East and Mediterranean countries) is the main attraction. In addition to Turkish songs, the album features Azeri (Azerbaijani) and Greek selections as well. Crucially, Görkem Saoulis and the Greek musician Yannis Saoulis (who has arranged this repertoire) seek to infuse the music with influences from both sides of the Aegean Sea. The album thus feels familiar, in its evocation of the past, but in a contemporary twist the music conveys the desire to make clear the indebtedness of dialogue between countries and peoples. The result is that Görkem sounds as if Turkish music has been combined with the Greek rebetika tradition.


world music As folk revivals are begun, maintained, and develop, their musical practitioners become mentors and inspiration for a new generation. The new project of Saber Système carries the torch for Occitan music, and the band is a fascinating outgrowth of the investment that members of the stunning Occitanian group Gai Saber have made in their communities. Gai Saber have formed the Associazione Culturale Gai Saber, which has made cultural outreach efforts in the Piedmont territory of Italy. The Piedmont is close to France, and it also borders Switzerland; the ancient Oc language is spoken in the valleys. The language was used by the medieval troubadours, and today the Associazione is part of the effort to keep the language current in poetry, music, and literature.

One program run by the Associazione Culturale Gai Saber took place in the school system, where one class connected the medieval troubadours to modern poetry. When the course was offered in the northern Piedmont town of Cuneo, a group of young students (around 16 years old) began to work on musical compositions under the tutelage of Gai Saber. These experiments led to a group, Saber Système ('Knowledge System'), which has its own distinct identity on its first release, Nuevo Mundo. Listen to the music and read Lee Blackstone's review


world music It is my impression that Portuguese folk music stands apart from the mainstream of Southern European and Iberian musics. While much of the region is linked by proximity to the Mediterannean, Portugal looks out into the Atlantic, and like Britain has developed links overseas rather than to the continent.     Portugal, like Galicia, has encouraged and nurtured many strong female vocalists. Two recent recordings from Portugal showcase the bright and tuneful melodies of Celina da Piedade, the singer from Alentejo, south of Lisbon, and versatile Sara Vidal of Diabo a Sete. Both discs come out of the Sons Vadios cultural cooperative, a leading Portuguese folk producer and distributor…." David Cox shares two very different recordings from Portugal that both find interesting new takes on the tradition.


world music In the hands of skilled interpreters, Sephardic music has a way of transporting not the listener to the past but the past to the listener. Mara Aranda is one such interpreter. Sefarad en el corazón de Marruecos is her latest excursion into romances of the Sephardim, and finds the Valencia-born singer deepening her love of this repertoire, focusing on the Jewish diaspora in northern Africa by way of Spain. Understanding the complex history of these itinerant exchanges and motivic blending is reason enough to own a physical copy of this album, the booklet of which contains an extensive essay by medieval historian José Hinojosa Montalvo, and informative writings by others… Suffice it to say that the mythos of Sephardic song, drawing from multiple sources as it did, is alive and well in the artful arrangements of Aranda and her ensemble. Fans of Greek singer Savina Yannatou will have no trouble in connecting the dots here, as songs of matrimony, determined women, and mortality reveal as many color combinations as there are words to describe them. Read Tyran Grillo's full review, listen to a full track and some extracts, and see a video performance.


world music If you've always hankered to while away an afternoon drinking tej and listening to Azmari music in a real live Ethiopian tej bet, but couldn't afford that flight to Addis Ababa, then have I got the band for you. Fendika is a musical collective based in Addis dedicated to exploring the Azmari repertoire - an acoustic tradition usually centered on a vocalist accompanied by the krar lute or the one-stringed masenko fiddle, and various percussion. They are back with their fourth full-length album, Birabiro, and a deep dive into Azmari tradition… Read Tom Pryor's review, listen to the music, and see a video of a live performance.


Birabiro was our Music of the Month selection for August. Subscribe monthly, or buy just this CD and support RootsWorld while you get some great music..


world music There is something about the kinship between West African and European string traditions, and the blend of kora, Mande lute (jeli n'goni), guitar, cello, string bass and piano has produced some enthralling results. Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder's Talking Timbuktu comes quickly to mind, which in turn informed the “Mali to Memphis” trope framing the transatlantic… Mande Kulu is the third release of the Malian-Swiss combo Kala Jula, teaming Bamako griot Samba Diabaté (guitar, jeli n'goni or Mande lute) and Vincent Zanetti (djembé, guitar, zena lute), backed by Jacky Molard (violin, alto, post-production) and Hélène Labarrière (contrabass). Diabaté and Zanetti have a hand in all the compositions, laid down in a Brittany studio… Deeply rooted in Manding tradition yet entirely contemporary, the work flows effortlessly from start to finish… Read Michael Stone's full review and hear some of the music.


world music Bruce Miller takes us back a few decades to hear Pop Makossa: The Invasive Dance Beat of Cameroon 1976-1984. He writes that this album will bring attention back to a number of lesser known but important figures who first helped put Makossa on the map. The term itself translates from the Cameroonian Ko to “fall” and “dance,” and an immersion in the sounds collected here show just why this term stuck. Makossa is often a slick, disco-related dance form that is no less substantial for those traits. It may suffer from period production here and there, but this collection presents it as relentless club music. Nobody sat still to this stuff. Read the full review and listen to some tracks.


world music The London-based Teyr take their name from the Cornish language for 'three.' The band -- James Gavin (guitar, violin), Dominic Henderson (uilleann pipes, whistles), and Tommie Black-Roff (accordion) have been seasoned through extensive session playing. Teyr make no bones about their influences, which include the Basque traditions, as well as those from Cornwall, England, Ireland, and Scotland. No doubt there are more tributaries flowing in and out amongst the trio, whose symbol is that of a flying (sycamore) seed, represented beautifully on the cover of the CD by Cornwall artist Billy Wynter. Indeed, there is an artistic bent to Teyr's sound, and a solid, earthy, straightforward-getting-the-business-done that elevates the trio's intricate arrangements throughout their self-released album Far From The Tree. Read Lee Blackstone's review and listen to some of their music.


world music The emergence of the kamale n'goni in the 1960s allowed Malians who weren't involved in hunter's ceremonies, where musicians played the more rigid, deeper-toned donson n'goni, a larger degree of freedom. The late Vieux Kante is one such master of the smaller harp. But just to Mali's east, in Western Burkina Faso, that same mid-twentieth century invention- an instrument that, despite being termed an n'goni, resembles the kora- had a similar effect on Jelis, Burkina's griot caste. Massa Dembele makes his debut as another kamala n'goni innovator with the release of Mezana Dounia. Dembele has written every track on this LP, which was recorded in a makeshift Ougadougou studio. On tunes unhurriedly plucked, Dembele sends cascades of notes pouring from his harp as he pontificates on notions of the modern world overtaking the traditional…Read Bruce Miller's review, listen to some of the music and see a short film.


world music There is little awareness in the West of the presence of important Christian communities in the Arab world. If today there is a bit more, this is due to the very embattled position of Christian minorities in Iraq, Syria and, to a lesser degree, Egypt. The horrific violence of the present has given added momentum the notion that Muslims harbor an inherent hostility to Christians, and that what we witness today is simply the latest in a series of acts of hostility and violence of Muslims against Christians that goes back centuries. This story, of course, does not square with the fact that Christianity has persisted in the region of its birth, and that Christians have thrived and co-existed with Muslims here since the rise of Islam in the 7th century.

Erik Hillestad of the Norwegian record label KKV, in an attempt to highlight the diversity of religious faiths in the Arab world, traveled to Lebanon and made a series of recordings of Christian and Muslim vocalists, including Syrian and Iraqi refugees now living in Lebanon, as well as Lebanese nationals. The singers represent a broad range of religious traditions, all with deep roots in this region, known in Arabic as Bilad al-Sham (in English, the Levant, encompassing Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan)...Read Ted Swedenburg's full review of Syrian Prayers: Sacred Music from Bilad Al Sham, listen to some examples from the recording and see a short documentary by Erik Hillestad about the project.


world music Over the past 14 years, it's been fascinating to trace Sublime Frequencies' growth. This was a label that cranked up just prior to YouTube and blog downloads of entire albums, the latter of which, let's face it, played some role in killing CD sales. And it was the CD format, housed in shitty jewel cases and crammed with photos and almost no information, in which this label initially trucked… The label has become less allergic to liner note background, and with the release of The Photographs of Charles Duvelle, has embraced and celebrated the extensive musicological wonders of this photographer, who turns 80 this year. This is likely the most majestic entry in the label's now-exhaustive catalogue, a 296-page book devoted to many of Duvelle's photos from the five regions covered here: West and Central Africa, The South Pacific, South East Asia, and the Indian Ocean, plus track-by-track information detailing the music on the two accompanying CDs… Bruce Miller shares his thoughts on the images, the music, and the evolution of a small record label.


world music Kullakarva - Shimmer Gold is album number two from the Estonian trio Trad.Attack! It finds them in fine form; confident, assured, and playing to their gift for performing great tunes. As before, Estonian bagpiper Sandra Vabarna blows up a storm (she is also featured on whistles, Jew's harp, and vocals); Jalmar Vabarna (12-string guitar, vocals) provides driving rhythms and sensitive accompaniment; and Tõnu Tubli (drums, vocals, glockenspiel, and zither) is loose and funky… The band's formula seems established: the group roots out traditional tunes, and many of the tracks incorporate a field recording. I enjoy this approach; many 'revival' bands obviously draw on older source materials, but literally embedding the singing of an elder folksinger into one's music provides an interesting connection to the past. Trad.Attack! are clearly in thrall to Estonia's folk music. Songs are based on folk melodies; the melodic line is lifted, or otherwise reconstructed and fleshed out to meet the band's aesthetic… Read Lee Blackstone's review, listen to a full song and some excerpts, and see a live acoustic performance.


world music David Cox veers us off in a completely different direction to celebrate the return of the Cagliari, Sardinia-based roots-rap-reggae outfit, Dr. Drer & CRC Posse. Led by Michele Atzori (Dr. Drer) the band has been active at least since 1991; they've collaborated with members of Massilia Sound System and Assalti Frontali (two of their best-known counterparts in Marseille and Rome respectively) and have released five previous discs. Atzori as main vocalist is again backed up by the strong vocals of Giorgia Loi, rappers Mauro Mou and Giuanni Siccardi on Cabudanni. This is a mature recording of a veteran band that knows what direction it is going. In this case it has added electronica to its rich blend of rap, reggae and traditional Sardinian sounds. The eleven tracks are rich and varied and are sung primarily in Sardinian...Read David's full review and listen to a few tracks.


world music The Bow Project is no so much a bridge between worlds as a path through them. Its lifeblood is the legacy of Nofinishi Dywili, whose Xhosa musical bow playing is reimagined through the modern lenses. This South African style of bow playing typically serves as accompaniment to sacred and secular songs - and sometimes both, as in the so-called “beer songs,” in which performers and listeners alike commune with ancestors over communal drink. The composers featured on this two-disc set were asked to redraw the borders of music originally intended for solo performers.... Fans of the Kronos Quartet's Pieces of Africa wanting something in a similar vein will have cause to rejoice in Michael Blake's "String Quartet No. 3 (Nofinishi)." Dedicated to composer Kevin Volans and based on Nofinishi's personal favorite, “Inxembula,” it's an organic introduction to a kaleidoscopic effect of traditions. Yet where the Kronos program feels polished and concert-ready, in the hands of Denmark's Nightingale String Quartet the listener finds an earthier sound... Tyran Grillo takes you on a journey from rural South African to modern classical haunts.


world music

World Music of the Month

Wimme Saari is known as one of the world's foremost joikers, the form of musical expression found amongst the Sami people. Tapani Rinne has been the leader of RinneRadio, Finland's electro-jazz experimentalists who have often placed their musical expressions alongside those of folk music. Together, Saari and Rinne have released several albums of essential contemporary joik music. Wimme Saari joiks about nature and its elements; animals; places; and concepts. Saari's vocalizations have been captured solo, and he has also produced by Tapani Rinne, who has set the joiks into deep ambient textures and thudding techno-tribal workouts. Whenever these two musicians join together, there is mystery and joy to be explored... Human, their latest collaboration is a spare, uncluttered release... a work of calm beauty, affirmation, and a holistic worldview, from the top of the world. Listen to some tracks and read Lee Blackstone's full review.



world music Alternately driving and lilting, the maloya music of the Indian Ocean island of Reunion is likewise deeply traditional while reserving the right to be thoroughly contemporary where topical matters are concerned. Danyèl Waro has been maloya's leading musical ambassador for decades . He came up hardscrabble, tending fields from early childhood, living without much in the way of simple pleasures and feeling the wrath of the authorities because of offenses that included refusing military service. Waro took naturally to maloya's configuration of percussion and vocals only… Homegrown instruments and influences from mainland Africa, Madagascar and India give the percussion its foundation. The voices, led by Waro's often startling wail and shadowed by ghostly response passages, sing of poverty, spiritual syncretism and such blessings as a good mother. Listen to some tracks and read Tom Orr's full review of Monmon.


world music Brooklyn-based, Ghanaian-born Blitz the Ambassador, aka Samuel Bazawule, takes listeners to school with his particular brand of pan-African hip hop, simultaneously directing attention to key political moments and injustices, and throwing a contagious sonic dance party. His latest release, Diasporadical, is a work of prolific collaboration with artists from several metropolitan areas of the African diaspora: Blitz has sought out the younger generation of jazz musicians in New York (Igmar Thomas, Asante Amin, Christian Mendoza), producers (Optiks), and MCs hailing from his native country (M.anifest), South Africa (Tumi), Germany (Patrice), Brazil (Kamau), and even New Haven, Connecticut (Akua Naru). The unique perspectives of each performer at once shine through and contribute to the complex whole, a singular vision of Black energy and excellence. Read Dylan McDonnell's full review, listen to some tracks, and see the short film, "Diasporadical Trilogía."


world music It is not often one gets to hear samples and syntheses of musics of those residing immediately below the North Pole, especially at many different longitudes. Yggdrasil (named for the Norse tree of life) allows us that opportunity, drawing on the soundscapes and mythologies of the “circum-Arctic” region, specifically the Faroe Islands, Siberia, northwestern Canada, and the Aleutian Islands. The cinematic compositions and arrangements of Faroese multi-instrumentalist Kristian Blak and Russian singer Vera Kondrateva temper the older traditional materials with clarity and sublime sensitivity on Lipet Ei (Seven Brothers). Kondrateva sings primarily in Khanty, a language spoken mostly in western Siberia, surrounded by up to five other musicians at once, spanning string, wind, and percussion textures indigenous to these Arctic communities. Staying true to the liner notes, Yggdrasil remains “in a state of cosmic equilibrium, constantly threatened and devoured as it grows and flourishes.” Dylan McDonnell will explain it all in his review of Yggdrasil's latest recording. Listen to some of the music and see a live performance.



world music Kazut De Tyr's second album, Jojuna, takes Breton music on a journey through Central Europe and into the Middle East. The core trio of Kazut De Tyr is comprised of Gaby Kerdoncuff (trumpet, bombardes), Jean Le Floc'h (accordion), and Yves-Marie Berthou (percussion). On Jorjuna, they are joined by Maëlle Vallet (qânûn, a stringed instrument similar to the zither), Kani Kamar (voice; from Kurdistan), Éric Menneteau (Breton singing), and Lionel Mauguen (saz). The resulting mix is fascinating, and the group offers a deep revision to Fest Noz that reimagines Breton dance music with both global sounds and art-music influences. Lee Blackstone finds the effects of the fusion between Breton music and the Middle East are often subtle, and exciting.


world music Jedid, the title of the latest project by Iraqi musician Osama Abdulrasol and his quintet, might refer to an Arabic/Urdu word meaning “modern” or “new,” an apt label for a body of composition that seeks to bridge languages and musical styles with common themes in fairly refreshing ways. Abdulrasol, a master of the 'ud and the qanun (Arabic lap harp), extemporizes on romantic and spiritual love: the vocals, by Dutch singer Helena Schoeters, draw on the work of famous poets and original lyrics. The others in the quintet (Philippe Thuriot, accordion; Lode Vercampt, cello; François Taillefer, percussion) alternately support and embrace the melodies of each track. A key point of interest for this project is that the lineup is international (French/Belgian/Iraqi/Dutch) and the languages of the lyrics reflect that, yet there is almost no Arabic sung on the album despite the project's frame. However, the linguistic and purely musical elements commingle effectively due to common expressive goals. Join Dylan McDonnell in exploring the boundaries and crossing the borders.


world music The plan was to hold a music festival on the three nights leading up to the September 25th, 1974 world heavyweight boxing championship bout between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali in Kinshasa, Zaire, presenting some of the biggest American stars along with some of the biggest African stars in the same stadium as the fight just when reporters, photographers, celebrities and jet-setters from around the world were converging there for the ballyhooed Rumble in the Jungle. It didn't quite work out that way. Foreman was injured in a training spar, necessitating a five-week postponement of the main event, but it was too late to reschedule the festival. So the show went on, but without the desired international audience and news coverage... Zaire 74 The African Artists is the first proper CD release of some of the music heard in those three days, by artists including Miriam Makeba, Abeti Masikini, Orchestre Stukas, Tabu Ley Rochereau and Franco. The two CD set, packaged in a hardcover book, has its hits and its misses... Ken Braun takes us back to the festival in his review.


world music Zivo is Trio Tekke's third outing, The original trio are joined by a drummer to create what they call “Reggetika”: rooted in rebetiko, the urban Greek music that has been the voice of the people and of the underclass and outlaws, and often liked to a Byzantine blues. Trio Tekke uses rebetiko as a foundation, onto which other musical influences are added – American jazz, Latin music, reggae, and psychedelia all find themselves blended into the trio's original sound. Listen to some songs and samples from the recording and read Lee Blackstone's full review.


world music Bruce Miller introduces you to some more music from the road less traveled. Contemporary, but raw and gutsy, both Kukaya and The Tonga Boys are crucial additions to the conversation about the current state of music in Malawi. Kukaya features multi-generations of drummers and singers performing, among other items, the vimbuza, a healing dance ritual from the Tumbuka-Ngoni tribe of Northern Malawi. The Tonga Boys have added homemade instruments such as plastic buckets, ax, gravel-filled cans and wire-strung guitars to their one drum for music intensely raw, but incredibly precise. Lyrically, they mix tradition with rap-like cadences for a kind of urban DIY that shows perfectly what happens as the city environment pushes the new into the same cage as the old. Listen to some tracks and read Bruce's review.


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world music

Two albums of Irish music: one excellent label, and one superb musician in common. These are busy times in contemporary Irish music as, similarly across the globe, a wealth of new music is being created by musicians. Back in October 2010, The Irish Times speculated that we are in the midst of a Golden Age of Irish music, and it is hard to argue with the evidence.

Concertina player Jack Talty's In Flow is an example of straight-ahead, no frills musicianship. Talty hails from County Clare, and his album is full of nods to his locale.

Imbas is Ensemble Ériu's second album. The title is an Old Irish word describing creativity, inspiration, and prophetic knowledge. Talty is part of a larger group here, which features fiddle, clarinets, Pguitar, double bass, flute, marimba, and drums. Each of the tracks on Imbas has a pedigree, collected by musicians and researchers from around Ireland. In Ensemble Ériu's hands, the source material is transformed into works which sound as if they were composed by the minimalist school of John Adams, Terry Riley, and Philip Glass.   Read Lee Blackstone's full reviews and listen to some songs from both albums



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About RootsWorld: RootsWorld is a world music magazine started in 1993, pretty much at the dawn of the term "world music" as well as the pre-dawn of internet publishing (I suspect this was the first music magazine of any sort published on the www). Our focus is the music of the world: Africa, Asia, Europe, Pacifica and The Americas, the roots of the global musical milieu that has come to be known as world music, be it traditional folk music, jazz, rock or some hybrid. How is that defined? I don't know and don't particularly care at this point: it's music from someplace you aren't, music with roots, music of the world and for the world. OK?

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