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world music The folk world has its projects whereby musical connections are made which heighten awareness concerning the indebtedness different cultures have to one another: in that spirit, parallels and future avenues are explored… The trio Serendou, are in this excellent tradition of cultural exchange, when two musicians from Niger meet with a Breton flautist in Zinder. Serendou are comprised of Yacouba Moumouni (flute, vocals), Boubacar Souleymane (singer, percussionist, guitar and kountigui a one-stringed lute), and Jean-Luc Thomas (ebony flute, electronics, vocals)… Zinder's substance is thrilling on several counts. The musicians go deep into Nigerien music.. tunes shimmer, and the flute playing brings to mind the circularity that one hears in Breton music a round, call-and-response rhythmic sway that characterizes a lot of the album… Lee Blackstones explores the invisible borders.

 

world music Constantinople, formed in Montreal in 1998, comprises Kiya Tabassian (voice, setar), Pierre-Yves Martel (viola da gamba) and Ziya Tabassian (tombak, percussion). Over the years the ensemble has collaborated with the likes of Frank London, Loren Sklamberg, Savina Yannatou, and many other artists from Mexico, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, India, China, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. Joining Constantinople on Jardins Migrateurs is Senegalese kora player, singer and composer Ablaye Cissoko, who hails from a line of Mandinka griots. The project's conceptual "itinerant garden” cultivates a spiritual communion wherein Persian strains (the Tabassians were born in Teheran) engage West African and Western classical elements on mutual aural terrain. Viola and percussion underpin the kora, setar and voice, fostering a deferential exchange that conjures sonic beauty through graceful simplicity. Michael Stone reviews and shares some of their music with you.

 

world music Los Lichis's story isn't particularly unique, in that it involves a few friends meeting at college, picking up whatever instruments that might be lying about and forging their way toward something that, as far as they're concerned, is unique. Yet because core members Manuel Mathar and Geraldo Monsivais met in the 1990s, far after the innovations of kindred experimentalists in early 70s Germany or Japan, not to mention the LAFMS, and perhaps also because they attended the University of Monterrey, in Mexico, and not an art school in LA or NYC, their story becomes a bit more intriguing… Mathar and Monsivais, along with another friend, Jose Luis Rojas, found themselves with a shared interest in getting way out there, with - amazing for the end of the 20th century - not much in the way of record collecting geekdom as reference points for what they wanted to do. Fortunately for us, the record button was on and this collection, spanning the decade between 1997 and 2007 and culled from CDRs and cassettes, is a fantastic trip into the nether regions beyond pop music's limitations… Go on a sonic adventure with Bruce Miller and discover music that lacks any boundaries.

 

world music The music of Washington Phillips and his unique instrument remains singular, easily separated from the multitudes of blues and gospel records recorded in the rural, black, early 20th Century deep south. The ghostly twinkles of Phillips' double zither, the manzarene, caressing a voice seemingly devoid of hurry, carried by the clouds, have only grown more unusual, seductive, and softly brazen with time. Steeped in gospel's oral tradition, but floating on his own instrumental innovations, Phillips created some early genre-defying folk minimalism. Bruce Miller introduces you to Washington Phillips And His Manzarene Dreams, the latest book and CD set from the ever-interesting Dust To Digital label.

 

world music On A Thousand Cranes, the Turkish born Kurdish singer Çigdem Aslan draws from Turkish and Greek songs recorded from the 1930s to the 1970s, most of which are well known in both countries and have histories that cross national boundaries, whether fluidly or forcibly. The themes of exile and longing are intermixed with the more hopeful ideas that people and communities can and do reinvent themselves after the worst circumstances. Greg Harness shares his thoughts on music that is challenging and hopeful, and shows us the power we have to reinvent ourselves, regardless of circumstance.

 

world music Bruce Molsky is a veteran of American string bands and transatlantic sessions. Arto Järvelä is on more recordings than one can keep track of, and it was Norway's Ånon Egeland has opened many ears to how musical a munnharpe can be. Rauland Rambles, recorded at the 2016 Rauland International Winter Festival in Norway, contains a great mix of Norwegian, Finnish, and American traditional tunes in various combinations of fiddle, hardingfele, ukulele, kantele, banjo, munnharpe, and seljefløyte… Greg Harness finds this cross-cultural collaboration to be a treasure.

 



I asked a number of our writers to tell you about some of their favorite recordings and overlooked gems from 2016. Marty Lipp wrote, "It was tough, dispiriting year, but there were some bright spots among the new releases of 2016. Artists - some from very troubled nations - showed us that hope and joy are available with a willful turn of our proverbial internal dial."

In the first installment, we'll hear from Marty (ML), Michael Stone (MS), Alex Brown (AB), Tyran Grillo (TG), Greg Harness (GH) and your editor, Cliff Furnald. Volume 2 has picks from Lee Blackstone, David Cox and a bit more from the editor. They are not ordered by "greatest" in any fashion, but are simply the picks of a number of our writers, randomly presented to allow you to wander through the world of music they represent.
Volume 1
Volume 2

 

world music Uh-oh. Thrace. The gateway between East and West, Europe and Asia. Western trained musicians playing with near-Eastern traditions. Peace. All that crap. By now we know the drill: bloody cellist plays plaintive melodies ripped off from some exotic locale. Rimsky-bloody-Korsakov lives! Chinoiserie Uber Alles and all that. The cultural theorists can scream "appropriation!" The purists can sniff and snort... But then there is the music. Oh, there is the music... Crisp rhythms, expertly phrased, intelligently composed. Intriguing harmonics (especially on "Zarbi & Shustari", which uses a very Thracian-style violin on an Iranian melody, to great effect), gently pulsing drums, subtle melodic variations. Jean-Guihen Queyras leads his quartet, with Sokratis Sinopoulos on lyra and Bijan & Keyvan Chemirani on percussion on Thrace: Sunday Morning Sessions. Erik Keilholtz shares a few asides, and even his thoughts on the music.

 

world music "The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral supermansinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury loving…. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way… The paranoid's interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events are not taken as part of the stream of history, but as the consequences of someone's will." - Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”

Real Enemies - the big-band production of Vancouver-born, Brooklyn based composer and bandleader Darcy James Argue - is a prescient title for these, our times. It draws inspiration from the work of historians Kathryn Olmsted - who explores U.S. popular fascination with conspiracy theories in her book "Real Enemies" - and Richard Hofstadter, excerpts from whose essay quoted above percolate through this new work… Peppered with audio cameos by Cold War and “intelligence community” household names, under his direction, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society conveys the ambiguity, obsession, psychosis, nagging dread, and Twilight Zone menace-with-a-moral… Michael Stone takes you inside a powerful new North American work.

 

world music What is the artistic response to uncertainty? Musicians from across the United Kingdom have been asking this question since the Brexit vote, as have those from the United States since the 2016 Presidential election. To find answers, one strategy is to look at the creative community's response from places that have suffered greatly. In many of those spaces local artists have come forward with expressions of sorrow and loss yet also offered a path toward resilience and revival. Often that path looks both backward and forward… With the release of Amira Medunjanin's Damar, Greg Harness explores the path of Bosnian resilience as expressed by the sevdah musical tradition

 

 

world music With its distorted electric guitar, wailing vocals, and a drummer that keeps it all in sync, the album Arbina sounds free, explorative, even trippy, like a young artist who has found her groove through the mostly harmless mischief of a road-bound rebellion, but could one day bloom into an M.I.A.-style revolutionary. It's not all quite what it seems. This is Noura Mint Seymali's second international release after a lifetime of performing at public ceremonies and on record in her home country of Mauritania. She's a seasoned descendant of more than twenty generations of Moorish griot, a social caste of Saharan musicians and performers. Like the griots before, she dresses in a head-to-toe mulafa, singing lyrics that sit on the shoulders of God, country, culture and tradition, along with the hope and blessings they bring forth… Nokware Knight shares the work of an artist who sings without compromise.

 

world music The River is a collaboration of forces between the ETHEL string quartet and Native American flute player/maker Robert Mirabal. The recording sessions took place under the open skies of Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, the surroundings of which are referenced by a dusting of field recordings. Wind and water, for instance, harmonize in the ambience of opening track “An Kha Na.” Its blend of indeterminate and composed sounds makes the introduction of strings and the singing of those playing them seem like something from another plane of existence. An overwhelming impression of distance prevails when the song transitions into “Tuvan Ride” through sounds of horses. While this jump from an American heritage site to the Mongolian outback might seem arbitrary in theory, in practice I can hardly imagine a clearer manifestation of the album's title. Here the river is no metaphor, but the very interconnectedness of life on Earth. Read Tyran Grillo's review and listen to a full track and some audio excerpts.

 

world music A Polish folk group institution, Trebunie-Tutki have been releasing recordings since the early 1990s. Based around family (lead Kryzysztof Trebunia-Tutka, on violin, flutes, bagpipes, and wooden horns, and Anna Trebunia-Wryrostek, on cello, are brother and sister), Trebunie-Tutki practice the 'góral' music of the Polish highlanders. Over the years, Trebunie-Tutki have not only performed traditional material, but they have also experimented with musicians from other cultures… Trebunie-Tutki's latest exploration on Duch Gór: The Spirit of the Mountains is with the Quintet Urmuli, a group that has been performing for twenty-five years, and who hail from Tbilisi, Georgia. Listen to the music and read Lee Blackstone's review

 

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New Nordic Roots

Groupa holds traditional Nordic folk music in high regard, but they are not afraid of breaking down boundaries and re-creating well established songs in their own way. The trio has been combining the traditional with a curiosity for the experimental for over 30 years. This often means using instruments that are out of the ordinary, including wood, stone and bells. Maria Ezzitouni talked with violinist Mats Edén about the history of the band, what makes them successful, and about the criticism they have faced by striving forward on their own path.

Groupa mixes Nordic folk music with new thinking and innovation on their tenth album, Kind of folk - vol. 1 Sweden. Most of the tracks are their own interpretation of long-established folk traditions from Sweden, with a few pieces composed by the trio of Terje Isungset (percussion), Jonas Simonson (flutes) and Mats Edén (violins). Read Maria's review of the recording and listen to some songs and samples.

 

world music Issa Murad, a Bethlehem native, developed his chops (oud and voice) at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Palestine, furthering his career in Cairo for a couple of years before moving on Paris in 2007, where he wrote an ethnomusicology thesis at the Sorbonne and dove into the city's cosmopolitan musical milieu. In Paris, Murad formed the ensemble Joussour in 2012 as an experimental sextet whose Arabic meaning is “bridges,” an apt metaphor for his compositions, which explore connections between the improvisatory bent of Arabic, Syrian, Turkish, Balkan, Indian, Latin and world jazz sonorities. On the album Joussour, Michael Stone finds a world of illuminating improvisation, awaiting those who seek a different kind of different.

 

world music Greg Harness writes, "I love a good anti-Nashville anthem. And I especially love "Z," from a self-described "half-gringa, half-Chicana, fiddle-playing Carrie Rodriguez." It's a rollicking honky-tonk song, underscored by a message of perseverance ("Doors are gonna open if you want them to / But you might have to knock 'em down"), and it fits my mood these days." Her new CD Lola shows off the "the ranchera side" of Rodriguez musical personality with "hard hitting original songs and striking takes on classics wrapped up in a message of perseverance and hope," making this one of Greg's "Best of 2016" recordings.

 

 

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Three Audio Features

First, we take you to Viljandi Folk Music Festival in Tallinn for a concert with Estonian artist and singer Mari Kalkun and her ensemble of Finnish players, Runorun. The quartet plays variants of the stringed zither common to northern Europe, called kannel, or kantele, along with double bass and percussion. The concert was performed on April 1st of 2016, at Tallinn Music Week, part of the Viljandi Folk Music Festival Showcase. Listen!

Next, a group of musicians from Bristol, England who call themselves Three Cane Whale. These recordings were made in the Old Barn in Kelston, Roundhill, in the south of England, between Bristol and Bath. They play what the ensemble calls folkish minimalist miniatures. The musicians are Alex Vann (mandolin, bowed psaltery, bouzouki, zither, music box, etc), Pete Judge (trumpet, harmonium, dulcitone, glockenspiel, lyre, etc), and Paul Bradley (acoustic guitar, harp, etc). We begin with a set of three pieces that all feature the words and voice of their guest, Jon Hamp and then carry on from there. Listen!

Finally, we hear Albaluna, a folk music ensemble that uses medieval and early folk music from Portugal, and merges it with Turkish and Balkan sounds. We're going to listen to a suite in three parts called "Sefarad," that brings in the Ladino Sephardic traditions of Jews in Andalusia and the Balkans. The three works are:
La Galana and the Sea
My daughter
The Roads of Sirkeci
Listen!

All of these performances are available online with the help and cooperation of the performers, who have generously allowed us to present the music to you. There are links to find out more about each ensemble.

 

world music Here's a two-disc collection of East African infectiousness that defies words: Urgent Jumping: East African Musiki Wa Dansi Classics. Tracks spanning the decade between 1972-82 fill these discs, and since curator, liner-note writer, and London DJ John Armstrong has already been spinning stuff like this for decades, his choices are, well, choice. The story apparently goes that Sterns scored a valuable and extensive collection of master tapes, housing tremendous amounts of music that hasn't seen the light of day since its original release. Armstrong went through it, landed on some 1,000 tracks, shortlisted 60, whittled that down to the current 27, and voila. Kenyan Benga and Zilipendwa are the thrust here, as they were also the most popular styles at the time, and Swahili tends to be the language in which much of this stuff is sung, though that is certainly not always the case. While tracks from Uganda, as well as Taraab from coast don't factor in here, the sheer amount of grooves percolating in Tanzanian and Kenyan cities were so vast that it doesn't matter. Listen to a full track and some excerpts from the 2 CDs and read Bruce Miller's review of a collection that "never once lets up."

 

world music Gambian multi-instrumentalist Dawda Jobarteh and his top-notch band of Danish, Cameroonian, Ghanaian, Cuban, and Gambian musicians embrace an accessible fluidity of styles, and thus emotions, on Transitional Times. The album centers on Jobarteh's masterful playing on the kora, the Mandinka West African harp that has became a staple piece of transnational “world music” projects. His group's particular matrix of plucked strings, electric rock instrumentation, spiritual jazz, and a loosely unifying theme allows them to toy with labels and stereotypes while opening into less-trodden ground.

Despite belonging to a lineage of lauded jaliya or griots who helped spread recognition of the kora beyond West Africa (including his grandfather, Alhaji Bai Konte), Jobarteh only began to focus on the kora after relocating to Denmark, having initially studied the calabash in the Gambia. However, he exhibits all of these skills on Transitional Times, which embraces both songs from the jaliya tradition, as well as original and adapted compositions that incorporate other idioms. Read Dylan McDonnell's full review online now, along with many musical examples.

 

world music With MM3, the Sao Paolo-based trio Metá Metá, active since 2008, are joined once again by a bassist and drummer for spastic, genre-defying blasts that place them in the center of a vibrant Brazilian music scene. The record skitters between post-punk, gruff, avant sax flutters, raw guitar pulsations, and an ability to shift tempo that's military precise. The Ex's more global excursions come briefly to mind, the back alley sonic-chases of Last Exit share some sort of distant genes, and UT's urgency at least flirts with some of this record's chugging intensity. But for those who hear Brazil and think samba, candomble, or Tropicalia's freakier moments, this record might come as a surprise. Bruce Miller reviews a recording he finds "just this side of stunning."

 

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world music The Peruvian style of chicha improbably mixed cumbia rhythms with ’60s surf guitars, and even more improbably, went from being derided by the country’s gentry as “low class” to acceptance to developing a worldwide following. The group Bareto, which began as part of the resurgence twelve years ago, continues to move past the boundaries of chicha and Peru with its latest album, Impredecible. Marty Lipp shares the music of a talented bunch of pranksters.

 

world music Adama Dramé celebrates his fifty year career with his latest release, Dakan. The Burkinabe griot and djembefola (djembe player) mixes traditional and contemporary mandingo percussion to create a modern yet timeless record with his impressive ensemble. Growing up, Dramé learned important musical and life lessons from his father and his grandfather, which he's carried with him his entire career. He draws from these teachings as well as the enthusiastic students he educates worldwide. While he has questioned his musical path during difficult times, his inspiration has remained steadfast on Dakan. and his passion for music is undeniable on this solid release. Alex Brown introduces you to a passionate artist's solid new recording.

 

world music It's rather stunning to realize that Swedish band Garmarna's last original full-length album was released in 2001. The 1990s were a period of remarkable invention in Nordic music, and there seemed to be no end to the unusual, innovative sounds pouring from the northern lands. Garmarna were at the leading edge of all of it: evolving from a dense sound of acoustic fiddle, guitar, and hurdy-gurdy, the rock dynamics became increasingly edgier, and the dance beats crept around the edges of the band's music like the proverbial wolf at the door. By 1999 their electronica and dark ambiance had commingled with the traditional Swedish elements in what felt like an effortless fusion of different musical worlds. Garmarna's albums were cult-like, influential classics of modern Swedish folk music.

Which brings us to the release of 6. The reunited group sound rejuvenated, and pick up where they left off in their experimentation. This is an album utterly in thrall with electronica and dance beats; the sound is crisply modern with an undeniable rock and pop sheen. Two of the tunes are out of the tradition; on the remainder, Stefan Brisland Ferner contributes to the writing, along with various combinations of the rest of the band.
Lee Blackstone finds a band that is cohesive, driven, and optimistic.

 

world music The gothic is distinguished by certain features: abandoned, crumbling architecture; a sense of the sinister; an erotic titillation of the senses arising from the repressed mind. The monstrous lurks in wait. And while we think of the gothic as being an aesthetic of Victorian England, the band Bush Gothic point towards a kind of gothic to be found in England's far-off penal colony, Australia.

Bush Gothic are a trio, comprised of Jenny M. Thomas on fiddles, vocals and piano; Dan Witton, on double bass and backing vocals; and Chris Lewis, on drums, banjo, and vocals. For The Natural Selection Australian Songbook, the trio's sound is fleshed out by The Lonely String Quartet. Bush Gothic's project is to take popular Australian songs - particularly traditional songs of transportation, separation, the meting out of justice (criminal, and otherwise), murder, and wandering - and bring to them fresh arrangements. Lee Blackstone finds a band best when possessed by their darker instincts.

 

world music 2016 saw the release of two fine discs that explore the Arabic and Islamic presence (past or present) in the southern portion of their respective states: France's Occitania and Spain's Andalucia. Both discs feature sounds and instruments associated with two cultures and with both sides of the Mediterranean, emphasizing the historically close ties and similar musical origins.

La Banda Morisca is a descendant of the legendary Spanish band Radio Tarifa. Algarbya is the name the Christians gave to the Arabic language in the days of the so-called reconquest. If the music sounds like of fusion of Arab, Andalucian, Flamenco and other styles it is because these are related musics that share a common origin. Du Bartas, from the Occitan region of France, isn't as musically adventurous, but perhaps it is more fun. Named after a 16th century Occitan bard, they are a rollicking quintet. The 14 songs on Cinc are primarily in Occitan, and they create a new sound with its nearly unstoppable energy. David Cox reviews two cross-Mediterranean gems.

 

world music To a listener not familiar with Chichewa, a language found in the southern African sliver-sized nation of Malawi- which is probably everyone who might buy this album - there's nothing to suggest that this is music made by prisoners subjected to wretched living conditions and unquestionably unjust sentences. Yet, one look at the song titles, with somber names such as "All is Loss, "Ambush of the Slaves," "AIDS has no Cure," and "Protect Me," and it becomes clear that a particular set of circumstances guides this collection. Anyone familiar with Michael Stone's Rootsworld review of the previous volume can assume that much of the same can be applied to I Will Not Stop Singing: there are few notes or explanations. This is music without guidelines, meant to be heard as part of a specific, raw injustice but able to be transportive without a backstory... Bruce Miller takes us back to revisit the Zomba Prison Project.

 

world music KUKU, the American born and Nigerian raised singer-songwriter, has released an album of his observations after questioning his faith in organized religion, politics and authoritarian regimes. He used to be a practicing Muslim who kept his doubts and questions to himself until he let ethics decide his fate. After realizing religion often caused endless wars, he adopted an agnostic view and believes morality and religion aren't necessarily connected. Aware that many may disagree with his ideas, he decided to entitle his sixth release, Ballads & Blasphemy: The Areligious Gospel of Adebola KUKU. Alex Brown finds a a cohesive production that strikes an honest tone.

 

world music Two recent releases from Sweden feature the incomparable Mats Edén playing the violin and accordion, each with a different troupe of musicians who come together to realize his broad musical vision with all its disparate elements. Apple Blossom gives us the fiddler as composer, with a host of musicians performing his work. With long time collaborator Jonas Simonson on flute, and Mattias Perez on 12 string guitar, the Crane Dance Trio explore Swedish folk in a contemporary setting. Hear some songs from both albums and read David Smith's full review.

 

world music Moussu T e lei Jovents serves up an unsentimental and bittersweet mélange, blues-cabaret-chanson rooted in a fiercely local sense of place, profoundly altered by the history of French colonialism, immigration from the colonies via the Mediterranean port of Marseille dating to the ancient Greeks, Festus Claudius "Claude" McKay's 1929 novel "Banjo" (the Harlem Renaissance classic about Caribbean immigrants set in Marseille), labor organizing, the Socialist International, World War II and the contemporary European conundrum… With Navega!, Moussu T e lei Jovents offer keen commentary on the vexed, now-global human encounter first played out in the port cities of colonialism's Atlantic World, from West Africa to the Americas to the Mediterranean. Read Michael Stone's review and hear two full songs and a few excerpts from the album.

 

world music Dawda Jobarteh was born in Gambia, part of a family of hereditary musicians, well respected griots. But Jobarteh was an adult and far from home and family, living in Copenhagen when he first picked up the instrument, teaching himself the music of his youth, and composing new sounds in modern modes. Transitional Times is a blend of tradition remembered and an immigrant's vision of new worlds. The music swerves from pure solo strings to jarring, modern motifs. He plays with pop and jazz idioms, but it always feels very rooted in the old world. I chose "Our Time in Tanjeh" as our featured song because it gently dances between tradition and today. It's about a fishing village in Gambia, but it is dreamlike, evoking his home in Denmark as much as his memories of childhood. Listen to this full song, and some other exceprts of new music for kora.

 

world music In his recent review of The Young Man's Harp, the final recordings by Vieux Kanté, Bruce Miller wrote, "Frustratingly, this debut from blind kamalé n'goni master 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, languished for another 11 years."

Well, I was recently informed by one of our readers that, in fact, there is another set of recordings by this master of the instrument, made in Bamako in 2001, recorded informally by Vincent Dorléans. Presented here are six solo performances with voice and kamalé n'goni by Vieux Kanté, to complete the limited picture we have of a wonderful artist, too soon gone.

 

world music Valfart is the Danish word for pilgrimage, and the ensemble Valfart was begun as a theatre project for a pilgrimage on the Danish island of Mors. They draw from traditional Danish music, but they also draw from Balkan, Middle Eastern, and American old-time music. Far too often bands describe themselves with a mishmash of hyphenations like Nordic-Balkan-Klezmer-Punk-Bluegrass-Cumbia-Polka, and those bands often sound mishmashy. Valfart takes a better path by exploring the music of each tradition for what it is, not as a conglomeration, but as individual expressions...

Valfart's accordionist is Mette Kathrine Jensen, who is also half of the duo Jensen & Bugge. They have released a pair of Live in Denmark recordings of Danish folk tunes performed with the Danish-American accordionist from Iowa, Dwight Lamb. Lamb brings a number of Danish tunes remembered from his American childhood played by Danish friends and relatives. Jensen and fiddler Kristian Bugge have been steeped in the traditional music of Denmark and beyond. As a trio, with doubled accordions, they put out an impressive set of deeply rooted Danish traditional tunes. Greg Harness explores Denmark, unhyphenated. Listen in!

 

world music It's been almost twenty years since the release of the first volume of the Éthiopiques series introduced the rest of the world to the vintage sounds of Ethiopia's so-called “Golden Age," and what was once a lonely mission of cultural retrieval and historical memory has become the inspiration for a whole new generation of living, breathing artists.   uKanDanZ describe their sound as “Ethio-Crunch” and it's clear from their sound and lineup — guitar, bass, drums and sax — that they're heavily inspired by Getatchew Mekuria's skronky improvisational work. Awo is the group's second recording.   Qwanqwa is another trans-national, intergenerational project, initiated by American violinist Kaethe Hostetter, who moved to Addis Ababa in 2012 to immerse herself in authentic Ethiopian sounds at their source. There she teamed up with Mesele Asmamaw (electric krar), Dawit Seyoum (electric bass krar), and Samson Sendekou (percussion). Their latest release, Volume Two, features six gorgeously atmospheric compositions built around the interplay between the krar — Ethiopia's iconic five-stringed lyre — and the violin.   Debo Band came together in 2006, led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist and ethnomusicologist Danny Makonnen, and heavily inspired by Getatchew Mekuria. The group put in the work and mastered a small repertoire of Ethiopian classics. But don't confuse Debo Band with a revival act. What made them exciting from the beginning was their refusal to be fit with a four decade-old musical straitjacket; going beyond mere covers to write original songs grounded in the music of Ethiopia, and Ere Gobez shows them in full form. Tom Pryor shares the music of three bands who keep the Éthiopiques spirit alive.

 

world music Harp & A Monkey trade in a kind of idiosyncratic, independent folk music long on vignettes from real-life, which are then refracted through the group's readily identifiable sound. Simon Jones plays guitar, viola, and harp; Andy Smith offers banjo, guitar, melodica, and electronic programming; while Martin Purdy sings and plays accordion, keyboards, and glockenspiel. War Stories focuses the band's storytelling powers on the First World War, with the aim of the group shedding light on the WWI experience in their own style. Purdy is a World War I scholar, and he has written two books on the subject. As a result, Purdy, Jones, and Smith have risen to the challenge and created a thematically rich album that is profoundly moving. Read Lee Blackstone's review and listen to their music.

 

world music Reeds, the second volume in Dust-to-Digital's "Excavated Shellac" series of rare and previously unreleased recordings, is a trip back in time and across continents. The 17 tracks all feature reed instruments, those that make sound when a player's breath causes a reed to vibrate (various single- and double-reed instruments), and those that employ a wind chamber or bellows to generate sound waves (accordion, concertina, harmonium). The selections originally were released as 78 RPM recordings issued from the 1920s to the early 1950s, with one outlier, from the early 1960s. Read George de Stefano's full review and listen to some of the tracks from the set.

 

See previous reviews and features from 2016

 

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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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