RootsWorld: a magazine and radio program of the world's music

A World Music Magazine

                      

world music Dobrek Bistro's latest recording, Featuring David Krakauer, marks the fifth excursion by Polish-Austrian accordionist Kzysztof Dobrek's ever-fluctuating music collective. On previous projects, Dobrek has highlighted musics of Brazil, Mandinka West Africa, western China, and North Africa, among others. Here, however, Dobrek Bistro has focused primarily on styles of the Jewish diaspora, most prominently out of Central and Eastern Europe, with distinct Sephardic and Brazilian musical influences. The core band is Vienna-based but, like previous Bistro offerings, is an international affair, featuring Russian-Austrian Aliosha Biz on violin and viola, Alexander Lackner on double bass, São Paulo-born Luis Ribeiro on percussion. Completing the ensemble is American David Krakauer on E-flat and bass clarinets, a stalwart of the New York klezmer and avant-garde scenes. On every track, Krakauer leaves his sonic stamp: an expert mixture of the European classical canon, Arabic maqam-based musics, Yiddish musics, and jazz. Read Dylan McDonnell's full review and listen to some of the songs from the album.

 

world music Cambodian folk music survives 40 years after Pol Pot's genocide, which wiped out almost 1/4th of the country's population. In fact, YouTube is covered with videos from Cambodian television featuring Chapey Dong Veng players sitting cross legged, unspooling stories over furious single-chord runs on this incredibly long-necked, two-string lute… The musicians recorded for Khmer Rouge Survivors: They Will Kill You, If You Cry, as young as 50 but mostly older, have shrapnel scars and stories of being child soldiers fighting against the Vietnamese… Oh, but the music is fantastic! Chapey master Soun San wails away with the heaviosity of a North Mississippi blues man or woman, or well, a rural Cambodian Chapey master. Blind singer Keut Ran delivers vocal dynamics on par with the twistiest of Appalachian singers… Read Bruce Miller's full review, and listen to a few tracks.

 

world music In Dedication to Sylvia Rexach, Richmond, Virginia's Miramar presents a work devoted to faithfully reviving and honoring the music of the titular Puerto Rican composer, multi-instrumentalist, poet, and journalist (1922-1961). Rexach was an autonomous musical professional (as a woman this was an anomaly in Puerto Rico at the time). As Yannis Ruel mentions in the dual Spanish-English liner notes, she “defined the feminine bolero” from a very young age. Rexach's songs were recorded by many of Puerto Rico's most famous vocalists, and have made their way, in brilliant fashion, into the interpretive hands of Miramar. Carried primarily by the lush parallel harmonies of Rei Álvarez and Laura Ann Singh and the keyboard work of Marlysse Simmons Argandoña, Rexach's songs feature vividly sensual lyrics and complex metaphors that, according to Ruel, were unprecedented for the bolero, and popular romantic music in Puerto Rico more broadly... Read Dylan McDonnell's full review and listen to some of the songs from the album.

 

world music In a piece I wrote a few years ago for RootsWorld, I referred to Annbjørg Lien as “an all-around musical treasure.” Drifting Like A Bird (Heilo) makes me believe those words even more. This Norwegian hardingfele and nyckelharpa player has put out a number of recordings performing traditional Nordic tunes, writing for string quartets, and combining electronic and ambient sounds with jazzy and bluesy musical ideas, often working with world musicians from multiple countries.   Read Greg Harness's full review and listen to some of the music.

 

world music With NYN, Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis have created an absolutely wonderful reprise to their earlier Greekadelia. Here they are, addressing the meltdown of Greece by offering music of incomparable beauty and inventiveness. No one I know has combined psychedelica and traditional music like this duo. But still, I unwrapped this CD expecting a letdown. After all, almost every other contemporary Greek artist has been drawn in to the maelstrom of the financial crisis that has been ravaging the country since 2011, forcing them to either write some kind of agitprop blandness or to withdraw completely. Artists have been twitter-bullied because of their positions regarding the crisis. Others have stopped getting music out for financial reasons or because, frankly, who cares about art when people are going hungry all around us? It's very difficult to produce music when as an artist you seem irrelevant and when your audience cannot buy it. According to a recent survey, each record is expected to sell around 1,000 copies. Yet, this music comes pouring out of the speakers. Listen to their music and read all of Nondas Kitsos review.

 

world music On Swan Song, producer and composer Daniel Diaz plays acoustic and electric basses, guitars and pianos, vibes, hang, harmonium, percussion, accordina, charango, ukulele, and synths, along with 15 guest musicians from four continents, to depict a world uniquely his own. It is a culmination of his many talents, showcasing his meticulous attention to detail in every respect. That Diaz has spent much of his career as a composer writing for film and television will come as no surprise as the strains of “Otoño y Martes (Love Theme No. 1)” fill the air with their song. There's something sweet yet also dark about it that would feel right at home in a Pedro Almodóvar film. On its own terms, however, the music combines soft atmospherics with sharply defined melody. Read Tyran Grillo's full review and listen to some of the music.

 

world music Narrante is a new recording by two talented Iranian musicians, guitarist Golfam Khayam and clarinetist Mona Matbou Riahi, who also call themselves the Naqsh Duo. It combines improvisational ideas from Persian music with structural ideas from contemporary Western art music. While this sort of hybridization often yields dull, even disastrous results, this recording successfully brings the best of both worlds to the table to create something entirely new and engaging… Read Erik Keilholtz' full review and listen to some excerpts from the recording.

 

world music Frustratingly, The Young Man's Harp, the debut from blind kamalé n'goni master Vieux Kanté, will likely be the only record to come out under his name, as he died suddenly in 2005, and these recordings, made that year, have languished for another 11 years. His instrument, a direct descendent of the donson n'goni, which is not only larger, but relegated to hunter's ceremonies, was first introduced in the 1960s as a way to free players from formalities associated with the larger harp. Bruce shares his frustration in his full review, along with a full song, a video and some shorter song extracts.

 

world music Tanga is an ensemble led by a musician of the same name from the southern Madagascar Highlands. Le Trésor des Ancêtres presents music centered on the kabasy, a tenor ukelele-sized lute, which they play with an intense drive. Tanga has used their music to reach out to local populations throughout the Isandra Valley; they encourage smart cultivation, nutrition, and community protection from thieves. The members straddle life between the rural traditions and the future. Listen to the music and read Bruce Miller's full review online.

 

world music Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, an Acadian bilingual folk trio from Prince Edward Island, has a clever name, the band's moniker referring to a fiddle, a guitar, and a bodhràn. The latest album, Auprès du Poêle (Around the Woodstove), shows that the group has arrived. Half the tracks are traditional but the approach is modern, albeit still acoustic. Some of the original tunes could also pass for traditional. The two Gallant brothers have now added banjo to their fiddle and bodhràn skills and Jesse Périard is an adept guitarist. They're still young and they don't fit strictly in an Acadian niche but they're already on the way to garnering a lot of respect at home and abroad. Read Paul-Emile Comeau's full review, hear a song and some extracts, and see a short film set to the song "Coal Not Dole" by Kay Sutcliffe and Paul Abrahams, performed by the band.

 

world music The ensemble documented here—consisting of kamancheh (Iranian spiked fiddle) master Kayhan Kalhor, Kurdish singer Aynur, Azerbaijani pianist Salman Gambarov, and tenbûr (fretted string instrument of Central Asian heritage) virtuoso Cemîl Qoçgirî, who hails from Germany but is of Kurdish descent—has its roots in 2012, when the musicians met and played at the Morgenland Festival in Osnabrück, Germany. A year later they recorded the present disc, reviving the magic that must surely have transpired during that fateful meeting. Together they create a land of their own into which all are welcome to press their feet. To that metaphorical end, Hawniyaz, the album's Kurdish title, means "everybody needs everybody else, each of us is there for the other," and this sentiment is felt in each of the program's five expansive territories. Read Tyran Grillo's review and listen to some of the music.

 

world music Those of us who know and love London-based Palestinian singer Reem Kelani's brilliant first album, Sprinting Gazelle (2006), are delighted that after nine long years, she has finally released album number two…. For Live at the Tabernacle, Kelani has found and collaborated with a new set of backing musicians. Based in England, she has usually found it necessary to perform with non-Arab musicians to present her repertoire and this album demonstrates that she has trained her band very well. They're a tight, supremely well-rehearsed machine whose members are also able to improvise brilliantly.

Kelani offers listeners an introduction to the deep tradition of Palestinian music, and especially the lively rural women's repertoire, not well documented or otherwise performed on stage. She does them both in what is very close to the original style, as well as offering up contemporary interpretations that enhance rather than detract from the original roots. Read Ted Swedenburg's full review and listen to a track from the album as well as some excerpts.

 

world music Chico Trujillo's 2016 release, La Reina De Todas Las Fiestas, charges through numerous sonic worlds and apparently, performance settings, bent on an atmosphere of play and healing. The album's concept is driven by the eponymous Reina, an allegorical feminine figure of latinidad or “Latinness” that symbolizes Latin American celebration and community across “race, age, and class,” according to the album's liner notes. Begun in 1999 in Villa Alemana, Chile by lead singer Aldo Enrique Asenjo Cobillos aka “Macha,” the group draws on a propulsive synthesis of styles including cumbia, rock, rap, and Mexican ranchera. Consequently, La Reina positions the band at the center of an imagined street-based festival, constantly progressing and picking up different musical elements along the way. Read the review by Dylan McDonnell and listen.

 

world music There is something special about the anxious, lengthy anticipation of a new record from a band with tremendous promise, especially when the finished product surpasses rather high expectations. This is how special albums are made and M.A.K.U. SoundSystem has produced a bit of magic on their fourth release, Mezcla. The New York City based ensemble, primarily composed of Colombian immigrants, has gained plenty of recognition since they kicked things off six years ago and their debut recording is a doozy… A variety of Afro-Colombian rhythms power this effort, with touches of West Africa alongside funk and jazz channeled through vintage synthesizers, and a mighty brass/woodwind section. Lead vocals are handled by Liliana Conde, who also adds percussion, and Juan Ospina, who plays electric bass. Most of the members contribute backing vocals adding depth to an already full sound." Alex Brown reviews, and you can listen while you read.

 

world music Singer-songwriters Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso have been close friends, fellow political firebrands, and musical co-conspirators since the 1960s. They were at the forefront of Brazil's Bahia-forged Tropicália movement, which incorporated rock n'roll and rambunctious electric guitars into African-based folkways, while moving away from the more polite, subtle, jazz-inflected Carioca bossa nova, aka “the whisper heard around the world... Now septuagenarians, both men have been gently touched by time, achieving a mature patina while losing none of their ability to charm, inform, and enthrall. The 28 live tracks on this double CD set, largely culled from their own extensive back-catalogs, showcase the pair alone with two acoustic guitars, engrossed an intimately nostalgic give-and-take... Christina Roden shares her take on 'Dois Amigos, Um Século de Música.'

 

world music "Artisanal" has become a marketing cliché used to sell everything from mason jars to $10 chocolate bars to fancy mayonnaise made in cute Brooklyn shops. But in Italy, artiginale connotes high-quality, handcrafted goods made in small quantities, rather than mass produced. By that definition, the debut album by Terra Sangue Mare, a trio led by the Sicilian-American vocalist Michela Musolino with multi-instrumentalist Michael Delia and guitarist, organetto player, and composer Fabio Turchetti. qualifies as artisanal, from its production to its distinctive take on Sicilian music to the CD package design, with an origami paper cutout that holds the disk. George de Stefano finds it an atmospheric, often haunting work, ethereal and earthy.

 

world music Audio Feature

Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis rocked the Greek music world a few years ago with their recording Greekadelia, described by RootsWorld's Nondas Kitsos as "highly recommended, a definitive recording for the Greek music scene, one that ought to become a standard. "

Three years on and we now get to hear where they will go next, on their new recording, NYN. I asked Kristi if we could preview a track for our readers, and here is what she and Stathis sent for you to listen to.

 

world music Music and other art forms have already proven to be conciliatory forces in the long-festering conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, so it seems a little disingenuous when, at the beginning of the documentary East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem, Israeli singer/musician David Broza and Palestinian cinematographer Issa Freij ponder if the differences separating their cultures can truly be put aside. But even if the answer to that still-begged question remains unclear, this wonderful and heartfelt film shows just how unassumingly powerful musical collaborations are and must remain as the cultural, religious, ideological and territorial battles rage on. Tom Orr reviews the film by Henrique Cymerman and Erez Miller.

 

world music "We want to show the Algerian youth that we all have a voice and that no one can take that away from us. It is not a weakness to express feelings, and even the deepest issues can be dealt with in a humorous way. Humor gives us distance and the possibility to laugh at problems in everyday life." - Sadek Bouzinou

There is a definite reggae beat, repetitive refrains and strong vocals mixed with the mystique of North African instruments. It's easy to listen to, difficult to put into a category. This is the eight-man band, Democratoz; part of a new generation of Algerian musicians, pushing boundaries, blending Algeria's rich music traditions with modern influences from around the world. Sadek Bouzinou talks with Maria Ezzitouni.

 

world music Elisabeth Vatn may be best known within her native Norway, but the music she has created for The Color Beneath taps into something beyond cultural association. Vatn is, among other things, of a breed of Scandinavian bagpipe players both preserving that tradition and pushing it into new directions. With a degree in ethnomusicology, she understands the inner nature of her instruments both in and out of context, and on this album is joined by musical partner Anders Røine, which whom she has shared a love for dying instruments over a decade of professional collaboration. The Color Beneath features original pieces, recorded live in Oslo, where light installations by American artist James Turrell inspired Vatn to record inside those very spaces, describing and responding to their visual associations through the language of music...   Read Tyran Grillo's full review, listen to some of the music and see a video from a live performance.

 

world music Pierre Akendengue has had so many highs in his career, from some of his earliest hits like "Afrika Obota" in 1976, his remarkable interpretation of western classical and African roots in his collaboration with Hughes de Courson, Lambarena: Bach To Africa, and my personal favorite, his gorgeous song "Silence" (1990).

Listen to a brand new song, "Libérée, la Liberté" - the first work to be released from a recording projected for completion in 2017. It's a tantalizing promise of things to come.

And on RootsWorld Radio #201, we'll feature a number of tracks from Pierre Akendengue's long career. Tune in the week of July 18th.

 

world music Ombu was created as, and remains, an outlet for pianist Lalo Zanelli's musical compositions. Inmigrantes, Ombu's latest release, is pitched in the image of Zanelli's French-Argentine heritage as a merger of tango and jazz. More accurately, it's a five piece ensemble (give or take one or two depending on the song) anchored by the piano and bandoneon that uses the idea of jazz (mostly) and tango (less so) as a queue to push beyond the boundaries of either genre. Nokware Knight finds artists who take great pride in their experimentation, but with mixed results.

 

world music We might be able to thank failure to document this band's 2014 one-off live gig in Port-au-Prince for a stunning record by the Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra. When director of the French Institute of Haiti Corinne Micaeli had the idea to get drummer and Afro-Beat inventor Tony Allen to come play La Fete de la Musique with some local Haitians, an LP wasn't necessarily what anyone initially had in mind. Percussionists from all over Haiti were brought in, as were a number of the country's top vocalists, such as Marc-Harold Pierre and Erol Josue. Mark Mulholland, a globe-trotting multi-instrumentalist hailing from Glasgow but then living in Port-au-Prince, ended up on guitar, and Olaf Hund was drafted in on keyboards and electronics. The stew of West African roots, local Haitian rhythms and voodoo chants, as well as bits of electronica, and other western elements were free to steep during a five-day rehearsal period for the gig. And it's the basic tracks from those sessions that make up the bulk of this record, which manages to spill over with grooves that, thanks as much to the players' ability as the tight reigns on production, will likely age quite well. Read Bruce Miller's review and listen to some of the music.

 

world music Michael Stone listens to three recordings that compose, improvise and incorporate strains of Indian music into unique contemporary jazz and blues, in works by Los Angeles' Arohi Ensemble, Toronto's Avataar, and the England-based trio Michael Messer's Mitra. Read the reviews and listen to some music from each.

 

 

world music Our Music of the Month selection for July, 2016
Born in Argentina but living in France since 1998, Las Hermanas Caronni - sisters Gianna (clarinet, bass clarinet, vocals) and Laura (lead vocals, cello, violin) - grew up in a multicultural family, absorbing a gamut of musical influences as they developed into the present duo. Sitting somewhere on the border of classical music and freer territories, they craft a form of chamber folk that is as lovely as it is intimate on Navega Mundos. Their original compositions are at once reflective of the past, and of a future in which fusions serve as expressions of genuine unity. Tyran Grillo takes you along as these sisters sail around their musical world.

 

world music Tanbou Toujou Lou: Meringue, Kompa Kreyol, Vodou Jazz & Electric Folklore from Haiti 1960- 1981 is the first compilation from Ostinato Records, and can be seen as a companion piece to the Strut label's Haiti Direct (2014). Curator Vik Sohonie, the man behind Ostinato, has cast a slightly more focused net, as he includes the travelogue of his visits to one of NYC's Haitian neighborhoods, Crown Heights, and Haiti itself in a his fantastically descriptive and enlightening booklet notes. Those stories, plus a brief history of Haitian music's development in the 20th century, and interviews with band members, record label owners and engineers, go quite far indeed in giving as good a compact understanding of how this little sliver of a nation managed to have such a vibrant scene over the 20 year period chronicled here.
Bruce Miller goes into the music, and you can read his review and listen to a few examples.

 

world music

Listen to the world.
In the light of the recent vote in Great Britain to leave the European Union, and the current nationalist and isolationist climate developing in many aspects of American politics of late, I decided choose some songs relevant to current events, and dedicated to a sense of international cooperation and collaboration. RootsWorld Radio #199 includes music from artists who have always reached across borders to find common ground. Artists will include Maggie Holland and June Tabor, who will open and close the program, along with the collaboration of SANS - Ian Blake (England/Australia), Tigran Aleksanyan (Armenia), Sanna Kurki-Suonio (Finland) and Andrew Cronshaw (England), More songs from Dobrek Bistro (Poland, Russia, Brazil, Austria, Mali and Burkina Faso), Yarinistan & The Oyster Band (Germany/Turkey/England), Eva Quartet & Hector Zazou (Bulgaria/France), Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road ensemble with Toumani Diabate and Balla Kouyate (Mali); Trio Ifriqiya (Algeria/France/Congo), The Amilal Ensemble (Mongolia/Iran/Hungary); and Kamilya Jubran & Werner Hasler (Palestine/Switzerland)

Get more info on days and times for the broadcasts.
Listen to some previous programs on demand.

 

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world music Since its inception in 1998, the Silk Road Ensemble has closely contended with musical universals. The Harvard-affiliated group led by world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma is a sprawling cast of master musicians and composers from around the world that, according to its website, seeks to “connect the world through the arts.” Sing Me Home makes a strong case for the ensemble's mission, as the featured artists and the pieces they bring to the table originate from geographical sources on and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade route, including Macedonia, China, Galician Spain, Mali, Punjabi India, Syria, and the US. The album's liner notes, written by performers or composers of the songs, seek to personalize the creation and reception of the music, filling in gaps left by anticipated language and cultural barriers.
Read Dylan McDonnell's full review of the ensemble's latest recording and listen to some of the songs from the album.

 

world music Anian is the third release from Welsh artists 9Bach, and the most interesting to date from the ensemble. While Wales has been producing musical innovators for some time now, the image of miners' choirs hasn't faded. (I had to mention them again!) Welsh-language folk and pop rock also suffers from an image problem, compared to say Ireland, that of not being known -- and when known, thought to be somewhat derivative of either Irish 'Celtic' music or UK pop. The innovators haven't often made their voice heard outside of Wales. With 9Bach, and Anian in particular, it becomes more and more difficult for the listening public to write off Welsh language music as parochial and predictable. On the contrary, this record manages to stay rooted in Bethesda, North Wales, while breaking into new global territory. Read David Cox' full review, and listen to some songs from the album.

 

world music "I've heard that Miles Davis would only be upset with his musicians when they played it safe and didn't try something new—something you don't often hear while working within traditional Japanese music! For this album, I wanted the sound of the music to be Japanese, but the rhythms and compositional structures and heavy use of improvisation to come from a very non-Japanese place." Kaoru Watanabe talks with RootsWorld's Tyran Grillo about his latest work, Néo.

 

world music It may be true that traditional Malian music, or at the very least, music played by Malians on traditional instruments, is alive and well. However, ask Paul Chandler, an American record producer now living in Bamako, about the state of traditional music in Mali and he'll argue that traditional context is being lost. And it's this state of endangerment that helped him make the decision to start recording rural musicians in their environments, ideally capturing the ritual of their performances as much as he could… So like many folklorists, musicians, and musicologists, from Hugh Tracey to Samuel Charters in the mid-20th century, to Michael Baird and Chandler in the 21st, documenting tradition music in its element is and has been an act of preservation… Whatever might be happening to threaten this music in its environment, the recordings on Every Song Has its End: Sonic Dispatches from Traditional Mali are astounding. Bruce Miller delves into a CD and DVD set that hopes to preserve the tradition and perhaps help it continue.

 

world music From the opening notes of Already Home, the second CD by the Rheingans Sisters, it is quite apparent that we are listening to highly skilled, sensitive and worldly musical talents… During their teen years, both Anna and Rowan spent years in Sweden, studying traditional fiddle music. This Scandinavian influence is clearly reflected in their music today. Anna now lives full time in France, where she studied traditional music at the Conservatoire in Toulouse, and now plays for dances and teaches fiddle. This strong French musical influence accompanies the Scandinavian and English strains in their music. Our newest contributor, David Smith from Massachusetts, shares the history and music of these rising twin-stars of English folk music.

 

world music Traditional and yet unprecedented, Hazmat Modine blows its harmonica and brass in the face of today's music-industrial complex. A multi-generational, diverse collective of artists from across genres, they come together to celebrate their uncategorizable music. Here's a band that features harmonica, tuba and the occasional forgotten instrument; whose leader has a career outside of music as a painter and college professor, but has kept the band viable since 1998. With Extra-Deluxe-Supreme, the band synthesizes different strains of American roots music, particularly blues and gospel. Marty Lipp talks with band leader Wade Schuman about the band's new recording.

 

world music Daby Touré's fifth album tells his own story of Africa's history. Amonafi, which means “once upon a time” in Wolof, offers a contemporary sound that mixes a wide range of folk and pop music to create a cohesive set that echoes his upbringing in West Africa as well as his current life in Paris. Born in Mauritania and raised in Senegal, Touré respects his heritage, but considers himself a citizen of the world and isn't afraid to break from tradition. While Amonafi centers on Africa's past, with vocals sung in Fulani, Soninke, Wolof and Pular, it leans heavily on a global perspective that reveals countless musical influences… Read Alex Brown's full review and listen to the music.

 

world music Sampo Lassila Narinkka are a Finnish trio that makes music for the cinema of your mind. On In Strange Lands, each tune is grounded not just in Finnish folk music, but in compositional strategies that have absorbed European (particularly Eastern European) sensibilities. This is café culture as filmed by Jim Jarmusch, the open road as scored by Ennio Morricone colliding head-on with the French band L'Attirail. Every track is accompanied by liner notes that provide background to the unfolding scenes, but you're better off creating your own story: put this album on, go for a long walk, and get lost in a strange land of your own. Lee Blackstone explores the naiveté and wonder of their music.

 

world music Abbar el Hamada (Across the Hamada) is the fourth solo recording from celebrated Sahrawi singer Aziza Brahim. She is joined by percussionists Aleix Tobias (Spain), who studied drumming in Senegal, Gambia and Morocco, and Sengane Ngom, from Senegal. Malian guitarist Kalilou Sangare and Barcelona musicians Ignasi Cussó on guitar and Guillem Aguilar on bass, who all worked with her on her previous album Soutak, round out the recording crew. The result is a pleasingly diverse and varied mix… Ted Swedenburg shares the voice of an occupation.

 

world music Born in the Russian republic of Tatarstan and now based in Australia, Zulya Kamalova teams up with her band The Children of the Underground for an interdisciplinary concept album that reflects the singer's interlocking interests in art, theater, and song. Equally comfortable in folk and popular idioms, here she fashions an otherworldly cabaret in the context of a self-styled “science fiction fairytale.” On Love and Science is sung in six languages and packaged in a hardcover book, complete with lyrics, the fairytale in English, and full-color illustrations by Kazakh artist Dilka Bear. Tyran Grillo takes us inside the story book.

 

world music Leyla McCalla's latest release, A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey refers to a Haitian proverb that suggests the unavoidable balance that we all must embrace in all parts of experience. This concept is reflected in the very creation of the album: it was recorded in New Orleans (McCalla's adopted home since 2011) and Maurice, Louisiana with a corps of musicians on guitar, banjos, vocals, ti fer (triangle), and sousaphone. Of these, many are artists local to Louisiana and others hail from across the great American musical beyond... McCalla explores ideas familiar to her past work as well as a number of other channels branching off from what we might think of as "roots music." The pieces here emphasize original songs, Louisiana Creole and Cajun fiddle-based tunes, and Haitian songs with both known and unknown composers, all of which encompass aspects of McCalla's musical and family heritage… Dylan McDonnell presents the music of the Haitian-American cellist, banjo player, singer and folklorist.

 

world music Recorded inside ancient landmarks in Norway, France, Spain, Turkey, Alhambra, and Poland, The sun will rise is the eighth album from Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat on the KKV imprint. The recording is a rarity for being sung without accompaniment. While such a premise might turn off some in this age of multi-instrumentalists and genre fusions, its messages promise to open listeners to the primal art of song in ways they will rarely experience. The album features poetry from the 11th century to the current one and Vahdat's delivery of them will give you more than enough context to take in the scent of their emotional incense. And while a few are based on folk songs, most float on vessels of her own crafting... Tyran Grillo finds Vahdat's exploration of communication is a lesson in universality by way of that most organic of instruments.

 

world music On my radio show, I will broadcast pretty much any version of "Cluck Old Hen" that I can find. It's a simple little song that I have known forever. I like how every recording of this folk tune takes a slightly different direction… A study of the many renditions of "Cluck Old Hen" could be in and of itself a study of the folk music tradition. So the other day, when into my lap fell new EP Slacker Ridge from the Real Vocal String Quartet, I was very pleased to see that track 1 was "Cluck Old Hen." I also saw that the RVSQ looks like a traditional string quartet -- two violins, viola, and cello. I wondered what a classically trained string quartet would sound playing this Appalachian folk tune, a question which often is formed in my mind as "What Would Yo-Yo Ma Do?" With my vivid imagination intact, I dove right in. The instrumental introduction sounded kind of like I thought it would. Then in came the voices, and my entire experience shifted… Greg Harness tells you why "Cluck Old Hen" might be the perfect example for a history of American folk song. And more about RVSQ, too.

 

world music "This one snuck up on me. Natalia Lafourcade, with her sweet and sometimes girlish voice, didn't initially grab me, but her sophisticated sound and the thoughtful emotional territory she roams has made this her fourth album - an instant classic for me…. Hasta La Raiz doesn't use traditional Mexican sounds, but has a contemporary sound that pulls in from everywhere electronica, folk guitar, reggae, bossa…" Marty Lipp had to give it a little time, but he ultimately fell for the music of Mexican singer-songwriter.

 

world music Malian singer Rokia Traoré has pushed the boundaries of Malian pop music outward more consistently than any other artist of her generation. Her career broke boundaries from the beginning: Traoré chose to ignore Mali's rigid caste system and her noble birthright that forbade music making. As a musician she's never been content to stay in one lane, and hasn't been afraid to raise the big questions about what it means to be an African pop artist in a global music marketplace. That restlessness and those questions are at the heart of Né So, which translates into “Home.” Home is very obviously at the heart of Né So, with songs that dig deep into the meaning of homeland, rootedness and the loss of both. Tom Pryor finds out what it sounds like when global pop actually grows up.

 

world music The self-titled début from Sociedade Recreativa brings to mind an environment of carefully-considered play, specifically with the questions of authenticity and cultural distinctions. The bedrock of this release is Forró de Rebeca, a Franco-Brazilian trio formed in 2008 in Lyon, France, highly influenced by the soundways of northeastern Brazil. Having released their most recent album in 2013, they come out of the gate on Sociedade Recreativa with something to prove, advancing their conglomeration of Afro-Brazilian rhythmic structures and percussion, syncopated accordion work, and the characteristic emotive delivery of the rabeca, a Brazilian fiddle instrument that descends from the medieval Arab-Andalusian rebec. On this project, the trio worked closely with Maga Bo, a Seattle-born electronic producer based primarily in Rio de Janeiro since 1999. Dylan McDonnell finds it an unadulterated sonic expression of the artists' joy in collaboration."

 

world music Sainkho Namtchylak grew up in the former USSR near the border with Mongolia, has studied in the Tuvan state capital, delving into regional shamanic traditions, and then in Moscow, rubbing shoulders with a Western-oriented musical avant-garde. Like a Bird or Spirit, Not a Face brings her together with members of the Malian Tuareg ensemble Tinariwen on guitars, bass, vocals percussion. Michael Stones finds it bracing, sudden, and oddly compelling.

 

world music Between July and December of 1959, Paul Bowles (best known as the author of "The Sheltering Sky") managed to document a trance-inducing volume of field recordings from his adopted home in North Africa. Concerned at the time that traditional, rural Moroccan music was rapidly disappearing due to a combination of local apathy and the advances of modern, urban technology, Bowles made his case to the Library Of Congress upon receiving a Rockefeller Foundation grant. Even for those who have heard a wide variety of music from the region and can easily identify much of what's in Music Of Morocco From The Library Of Congress, there is something otherworldly about Bowles' recordings, especially housed as they now are in a handsome, rectangular, cloth-wrapped jewelry box, and with Bowles' own hand drawn map of his travels... Bruce Miller follows Bowles' path to the heart of Moroccan music

 

world music Cuban pianist-composer Omar Sosa is an artist abundant with musical ideas, working with an ever-surprising cross-section of immensely talented international compatriots, pursuing multiple projects that never repeat themselves, in the live outing JOG, allied with German trumpeter, flugelhornist and vocalist Joo Kraus, and Venezuelan percussionist Gustavo Ovalles. Michael Stone finds intense compassion and a profound sense of humanity in JOG.

 

world music Since 1996, Norwegian Hardanger fiddler Nils Økland has charted a range of melodic waters, always docking at the intersection of traditional and contemporary music. For Kjølvatn he has assembled a full band under his own name, with harmonium, saxophone, bass and percussionist, exploring that gray area between folk, jazz, and classical. Having worked with these musicians for years in some configuration or another, Økland revisits a trove of older material with special familiarity on this latest work. Tyran Grillo reviews a CD that explores the gray area between folk, jazz, and classical.

 

world music To those who may know the accordion only as the bane of childhood cool, Kimmo Pohjonen reminds us of the instrument's rich folk history and, more importantly, potential for innovation. To that end, he has outfitted his accordion as a musical generator par excellence, one that speaks electric and acoustic languages with equal fluency. Also fluent is the original art he has composed through and around his chosen medium. Recorded in his home studio, Sensitive Skin is the culmination of the many strands running through his previous albums. From classical to pop, jazz to film score, there's a little bit of something for every listener to bite into. Fueled by a slew of guest talents, including the Kronos Quartet, the album blasts off into an imaginative sound-world. Tyran Grillo shows us how “accordion” and “uninhibited” belong in the same sentence.

 

world music Folknery describe themselves as 'Ukrainian free folk,' which sounds as if the band from Kiev, Ukraine, are about to blow your head off Albert Ayler-style. On their album Useful Things, the band does expand the palette of Ukrainian folk music: there's plenty of structure to their music, but a gleeful kitchen-sink abandon so that experimentation and genre-clash unite in soulful grooves. The story of Folknery mirrors the music's off-kilter approach: this is a band whose name emerged as a mash-up between William Faulkner and folk music, the idea for which came straight out of a dream. Lee Blackstone shares Ukrainian music that cannot be ignored.

 

world music Fifty years ago, 'Bella Ciao' was a profoundly important show mounted by the Nuovo Canzoniere Italiano. The program highlighted the burgeoning research into folk song over the period 1954-1964, and as such, it was poised to help further the Italian folk revival. 'Bella Ciao' proved to be uneasy listening for some in the audience… The new album version of Bella Ciao, supervised by accordionist extraordinaire Riccardo Tesi, an ensemble that includes Lucilla Galeazzi, Elena Ledda, Ginevra di Marco and others, celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of that seminal show. Tesi gathered together major Italian folk and political artists for this event, and the musical component of the songs has been updated to include guitar, accordion, clarinet, bass, and percussion. The show has thus been fleshed out, but just enough to keep the songs in a fond caress. Lee Blackstone takes you inside to find what works, and what doesn't, in this new edition.

 

world music Drops is meant to represent the waters connecting all of humanity. Yet the biggest drop in its musical ocean is the kantele, that most enigmatic of dulcimers and a core timbre of the traditional Scandinavian soundscape. In the hands of Vilma Timonen, who wields it like a bodily extension among her talented quartet, the kantele is a painterly tool that is every bit as illustrative as the brush. With Tuomas Timonen (percussion), Topi Korhonen (guitar, trumpet, mandolin), and Jaako Kämäräinen (bass), she cohabitates a dwelling of shadows, starlight, and eventually daybreak. With the exception of two instrumental tracks, the album is fully song-based, with Vilma singing lead and her band backup, and takes the listener across a terrain of fairytale lyrics (available on the band's website), nuanced arrangements, and fusions of various genres. Tyran Grillo introduces you to the Vilma Timonen Quartet from Finland.



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world music
The Genoese diatonic accordion player Filippo Gambetta brings together two dozen musicians in his recent 12-track studio effort, Otto Baffi. Gambetta introduces us to a variety of folk dances which incorporate such diverse dances as tarantellas, mazurkas, and even forro, the genre originating in northeastern Brazil featuring the accordion and triangle...

Another wide-ranging accordion album of recent vintage is Egurre, the most recent effort by Imuntzo eta Beloki, the Basque accordion-tambourine duo. Like the Gambetta record, it canvasses a variety of genres such as Mexican and cumbia. But while the Gambetta disc is an accordion teacher's record, this has a completely different feel. With at least half-a-dozen recordings, most of which I seem to have accidentally accumulated, this veteran duo seems to personify just about everything about country music - Basque Country that is!
Read David Cox's review and listen online.

 

world music For Romani brass band Fanfare Fanfare Ciocarlia, Onwards to Mars seems appropriate, considering the group from Romania is celebrating its 20h anniversary and seemingly stopping at nothing to perform work beyond the earthily expected. The fourteen tracks continue the group's trend of making connections between numerous rhythmic and melodic elements from seemingly disparate cultural contexts, as well collaborating with artists from different regional and linguistic backgrounds. Dylan McDonnell takes you for the ride.

 

world music Ferhat Tunç is the kind of singer, rare in today's popular data stream, who must bear witness to the politics of his art in everyday life. Despite having been persecuted, sentenced, and jailed for his sonic activism, if not also because of the infractions inflicted upon him by his own government, Tunç has persevered in focusing his attention on those who have, less fortunately, paid with their lives. Recorded in Istanbul and Oslo, Kobani is Tunç's deepest mission statement yet. As the booklet explains, "he shows his solidarity with Kurds, Alevis, Yazidies and Armenians, by writing and performing songs about their stories, their suffering and pain, their hopes and the richness they bring to Anatolia and Mesopotamia." And by sheer scope of his outreach, which in this album extends farther than ever before, one can only hope that his revelations ring true, especially for those too disconnected to even imagine such horrors occurring right outside their windows... Tyran Grillo explores a voice and sound of protest from Turkey.

 

world music A lot of interesting and unusual artists find their way to RootsWorld every month, and it is always wonderful to sit down with one of their recordings, one that just stops me dead in my tracks, and listen from beginning to end. Mateja Gorjup's Ijekaru is one of those recordings. Gorup comes from Slovenia and she has a deep interest in the traditional music of her country and other cultures nearby. She can sing with the purity you find in an old field recording - a pure, guileless delivery that is captivating, whether she is singing from an old book of traditional tunes or performing one of her own compositions based on the tradition. But she is also a vocal explorer, someone who lives in the 21st century and revels in all the myriad influences and tools that modern communications can bring. Listen to a few songs and learn more about this unusual artist.

 

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world music
"Komitas is always in the heart of Armenian musicians and Armenians in general."

Levon Eskenian is an Armenian composer and pianist who was born in Lebanon. With The Gurdjieff Ensemble he explores the deep well of Armenian music as imagined by the priest, musicologist and composer Komitas. Erik Keilholtz reviews Eskenian's latest recording and Tyran Grillo talks with him about his music.

Read both articles and listen to some of the new music.

 

world music Musicians and scholars throughout the world have often drawn aesthetic, historical, or mythological connections between the blues as it is known throughout the US and different styles of music stemming from regions of Africa. With Ligerian Blues, the Franco-Malian trio Deltas adds yet another strand to this conversation, highlighting imagined and/or real connections in name and sound alike. Deltas began as a duo based in Angers, France, formed by guitarist Vincent Erdeven of dub group Zenzile and violinist/kora player Richard Bourreau of WOMAD-circuit veterans Lo'Jo. The two-piece expanded to a trio following their eponymous début in 2013 after collaborating with ngoni player/singer Andra Kouyaté, originally of Bamako and sideman with Ivorian singer Tiken Jah Fakoly. Thus, the imagery of the word “Ligerian” (a seeming portmanteau of the Loire and Niger rivers) evokes a symbolic merging of the geographic and musical origins of the musicians themselves, while the group's name recalls the Mississippi delta, the hallowed “source” of the blues... Dylan McDonnell takes you down to the Ligerian Delta.

 

world music Music of the Month Saba Anglana, born in Somalia to an Ethiopian mother and an Italian father, has articulated and refined a self-described “italoafricana” cultural identity that is something new and, as her fourth and latest release attests, powerful and compelling. Ye Katama Hod (The Belly of the City), recorded in Turin and Addis Ababa, with Italian and African musicians, comprises nine tracks written by Anglana and her producer, arranger, and band member Fabio Barovero... Born in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, she went into exile with her parents when she was a child... Raised in Italy, she received a degree in art history, and, in the early 90s, embarked on an acting career in television. But she retained a connection to her African roots, visiting her mother's relatives in Ethiopia and studying the Somali language. Her new CD explores urban life, the place that “contains the visceral aspect of its existence, such as in its ghettoes, its suburbs, its most vulnerable groups." George de Stefano takes you to the places she writes of, and shares the music.

 

world music Audio-Video Special Feature

Cypriot trio Monsieur Doumani sing their new song, "Akamas' dragons," a powerful plea to save the unspoiled peninsula of Akamas in Cyprus from commercial development. Listen, watch, download and learn.

 

 

world music

The Music of Haïti

There's a lot of new music coming out of Haiti this year, not least of which are two exceptional releases of Haitian roots music (mizik rasin): a dazzling debut from a young group of all-stars, and a stunning return to form from a group of seasoned veterans. Those veterans are RAM, the legendary Haitian roots ensemble and their newest release, RAM 6: Manman m se Ginen. The debut comes in a strong new recording by Lakou Mizik titled Wa Di Yo. Tom Pryor digs deep into the music of both bands in his review, along with presenting full songs from each album.

 

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world music

Audio Feature: a Haitian folk song

Leyla McCalla is an American musician of Haitian descent, probably best known for her work with The Carolina Chocolate Drops. But for a number of years, she has been working on her own, developing a personal approach to music that encompasses her Haitian roots, American folk, Louisiana traditions, as well as gospel, jazz and classical music. We're pleased to present a song from her new album, A Day For The Hunter, A Day For The Prey. Since we're focused on the music of Haiti this month, you can listen to her rendition of a traditional song from the island, "Peze Café".

 

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world music Michael Stone checks in with some quick takes on a number of new jazz recordings from around the world, including music by Stefano Bollani and Hamilton de Holanda, Cristina Braga, David Buchbinder, Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica Quartet, Joe Fielder's Big Sackbut and Uri Sharlin and The DogCat Ensemble. Listen to some tracks and find out more.

 

world music Värttinä formed over 30 years ago, and this is their 13th studio record. They've moved all over the folk-roots-world music map, roaming from kanteles and accordions to electro dancematic this-and-that, with various journeys into Broadwayism and Eurovisionesqueness. Much of this was well-crafted, enjoyable music. Sometimes it was spectacular, too often it was not. Their latest recording, Viena puts the voices front and center where they belong. It's less about atmosphere and more about singing. No matter what you know about the band, Greg Harness thinks this may be the Värttinä record you've been waiting for.

 




 

world music When American singer and guitarist Jon Humboldt Gates traveled to Moscow in the early 1990s, the most expansive vision of his “Timezone” project came to light. The result was more than a transcontinental collaboration; it was a division of two cellular cultures into one organism. The studio tapes that would become Lost Nations were a coming together of 20 artists whose integration grew only as the gargantuan trunk of the Soviet Union fell into disintegration. Bill Laswell has taken these original recordings as (re)construction materials for a self-styled mix translation, which finds the prolific bassist and producer building on a series of full-length remix projects around such towering figures as Bob Marley, Miles Davis, and Carlos Santana. Regardless of the source, at the heart of it all thrives a fundamental sound, one in which the fatigue of social living gives way to harmony in kind. If we can find commonality in sound, this music seems to ask, then why not also in soul? Tyran Grillo takes you from TimeZone east to TimeZone west, and back.

 

world music The third studio effort of Ludovic Navarre under the name St Germain is his first in 15 years. This self-titled recording is something of a reinvention for the French electronic musician, and his farthest sonic reach to date. St Germain dives headfirst into the very roots of the music that characterized its predecessor, pulling in guest musicians from Mali and Senegal- including kora players Mamadou Cherif Soumano and Cheikh Lo Ouza Diallo, guitarist and n'goni master Guimba Kouyate, and bass player Alioune Wade—for a rewarding fusion of African beats and dancehall aesthetics. Regardless of what this project might sound like on paper, Navarre strays from the expected conventions enough to breed a genuinely self-sustaining hybrid... Tryan Grillo reviews, and you can listen while you read.

 

world music When applying the epithet ethnic to a singer's style, one should be careful, because one doesn't always know what it meant back when it was coined. But then again, sometimes you are so sure of its meaning that you don't care. This is it. This is really ethnic. Sanna Kurki-Suonio sounds like the earth mother, the voice of the people. And now we have her newest collaboration, as a band, called Sanna Kurki-Suonion Kuolematon Erikoissysteemi, The Immortal Special System of Sanna Kurki-Suonio. It's tradition, it's prog-rock, it's blues and rock and jazz and folk. Waldemar Wallenius tries to curb his enthusiasm for the new and unique recording. Listen to some songs and read his thoughts.

 

world music Hurdy-gurdy master Matthias Loibner is no stranger to pushing the envelope of what his instrument can do. On previous albums he has worked with extended techniques, electronic processing, and musical ideas from well outside the European hurdy-gurdy tradition. Lichtungen continues this exploration. Although the recording opens with a lovely cantabile melody, and uses the counter-rhythms and drones that are associated with the hurdy-gurdy, it is the wide timbral spectrum that grabs and holds the listener's attention. Loibner's delightful timbral play never comes across as gratuitous, nor does it overshadow his virtuosity on the hurdy-gurdy. Erik Keilholtz explores the artist's honest quest for new sounds on an ancient instrument.

 

world music Audio-Video Special Feature

Film maker Michal Shapiro takes us to Brussells, to a performance by diatonic accordionist Didier Laloy and cellist Kathy Adam, in their duo collaboration, “Belem.” Listen and watch.

 

world music The heyday of modern Senegalese orchestras, at least on record, like that of so many West African countries, was the 1970s. And it was an oft repeated confluence of factors that led to it. Like its immediate neighbors Guinea and Mali, the influence of not only big band jazz from the US, but Cuban sons brought over from sailors from the island, had a strong pull on Senegalese bands during the 20th century's first half... Senegal 70 concentrates on the 1970s, as this western African nation had no shortage of amazing, innovative dance bands making records and packing the country's clubs at the time... Dieuf-Dieul de Thies' 1980s output, collected on Aw Sa Yone proves that this band was as good as any to come from Senegal. Bruce Miller hits the wayback machine and finds the groove of Senegal's golden years.

 

world music Ale Carr is the cittern player with Dreamers Circus, the Denmark-based, classical-inspired trio with two wonderful records to their credit. The fiddler Esko Järvelä is a veteran of many beloved Nordic ensembles including Frigg, Baltic Crossing, Karuna, and Tsuumi Sound System. Together, they have created Holmgång, a recording of traditional and original tunes, from a Swede and a Finn played on a five-string fiddle and a Nordic cittern. Greg Harness reviews, and you can hear a full track from the album.

 

world music Iranian singer Mamak Khadem joins forces with guitarists Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah, bassist and keyboardist-producer Jamshied Sharifi, and percussionist Mino Cinelu, along with a 27-piece ensemble, for this collection of traditional melodies from Iran, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece. Much like Greek singer Savina Yannatou, Khadem has a way of making songs her own, passing each through her interpretive filter many times before committing it to CD, all while erasing as many borders as she defines. The Road she travels is spacious, sparse, vibrant and exciting. Tyran Grillo reviews, and you can listen to a full track from the album.

 

world music Hailing from Moravia, in the heart of central Europe and the Czech Republic, Ponk are an innovative trio that has revitalized the traditional folk repertoire found in the Czech/Slovak border regions... The key to the sound of Postfolklor is the Hungarian cimbalom played by Eduard Tomaštík. Tomaštík lays down a pulse that serves as the foundation for the rest of the group, which features Michal Krystýnek on violin, and Jakub Nožička on double bass. Tomaštík's cimbalom is a percussive, often driving force for this drummer-less trio. The cimbalom often sounds like a piano being played in Steve Reich-ian bursts; at other times, Tomaštík utilizes the pedals on the instrument to make it sound like a guitar. Lee Blackstone finds it all a wild trip by a trio with enormous promise.

 

world music "Esperanto is a dream, a wish, a utopia in which all humanity can communicate in a single language, without linguistic dominance that inevitably involves the subjection, and not only cultural, of people who are forced to express themselves in a language that is not their own."

George de Stefano talks with Calabrian singer Massimo Ferrante.

 

world music Milagro Acustico is a southern Italian band that has released many programs of thematically-linked music. Their latest, Sicilia Araba, Arabic Poets of Sicily 827-1091 (2013), and Rosa del Sud (2015), are very different in focus. Southern Italy has an ancient heritage of being a crossroads in the Mediterranean, with the Italian population being exposed to Greek, Middle Eastern, and African influences. On Sicilia Araba, the ensemble explores the Islamic influence upon Sicily. Rosa del Sud revisits the music of Sicilian singer Rosa Balistreri in an extraordinary fashion, by using recordings of Balistreri's voice in their own new musical settings. What both albums have in common are chords of memory and history that resonate today. Lee Blackstone shares his thoughts, and some of the songs, from this remarkable pair of recordings.

 

Interview archive
  • Massimo Ferrante
  • Andrea Esperti
  • Don Edwards
  • Kim Carson
  • Wylie Gustafson
  • Mimmo Epifani
  • Monsieur Doumani (audio interview)
  • Sauti Sol (audio interview)
  • Mauro Durante
  • Attwenger
  • Svøbsk
  • Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino
  • Just a Band
  • Geoff Berner
  • Juan de Marcos González
  • Steve Riley
  • Väsen
  • Makana
  • Ellis
  • Deolinda
  • Frode Haltli and Trygve Seim
  • Tab Benoit
  • Caroline Herring, Claire Holley and Kate Campbell
  • Annbjørg Lien
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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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