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Sanata: Stillness
New modes in Indian music
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world music So much of the time in reviewing a recording, we look for the new, the surprising, the twist or the turn. Once in a while a recording like Mbalimaou comes along offering none of these, and is still fresh and exciting. Boubacar Traoré is now in his 70s and well into his second time around as a career musician. This is his 9th album since 1990's Mariama, 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. Since then he has presented his music with ensembles large and small, sometimes decidedly local, other times globally enriched. His latest, Mbalimaou rides the middle ground with a core group of African musicians on n'goni, percussion, kora and voices. Primarily recorded in Bamako (with some added dubs and mixing done in France), it is simple and clean - truly folk music in spite of all but one song being Traoré originals. Cliff Furnald listens in on one of the legends of Mali, again.


world music The Teranga Beat label has demonstrated, over a small but potent number of releases in the last half decade, the importance of cultural obsession... With Live a l'Etoile with the great Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star De Dakar taped in 1969, the label has unfurled another reel of a potent artist in a transitional phase. Saxophonist Johnson, known for influencing the relaxed lyricism of every single regional tenor player in the years to come, had played with the Star Band, perhaps the most well-known of Senegal's hardcore Cuban-influenced bands. By the time of this recording, le Super Star's vocalist, Laba Sosseh, had already split for Cote d'Ivoire, and while many might argue that his departure changed the band irrevocably, this '69 recording, supposedly Johnson's last before he too left Senegal, shows him in command of a band anyone else would kill to be involved with. Bruce Miller gives you the details.


world music Mette Kathrine Jensen & Kristian Bugge play beautiful traditional music from Denmark on fiddle and accordion. They learned their craft from the old masters, and their tightly sympathetic duo play energises both dances and concerts.

Listen to a live performance by Jensen & Bugge from The Tønder Festival in Denmark


world music The week of February 21st, 2015, On RootsWorld Radio, we'll be introducing you to new works from two of my favorite artists. Fiddler and accordionist Mats Edén steps out as composer on his newest recording, Apple Blossom. We'll hear three works - for solo viola d'amore, a duet for guitar and accordion, and a solo for electric cello. I'll finish off the program with the world radio premiere of "Sikoses," a dark carnival story from the Cypriot trio Monsieur Doumani. The track is from their upcoming album of the same name. And along the way we'll hear from the Irish/Scots/English quartet Kan. There will be a little bit of the blues from steppes of Tuva (Sainkho), the swamps of Louisiana (Slim Harpo) and the flood plains of Mali (Boubacar Traoré). Equatorial Guinea is represented by the duo Hijas del Sol; Portuguese singer Amalia Muge will joined by the Gaiteiros de Lisboa to present a 16th century tale of love and betrayal; and we'll hear from the Cape Verdean/Galician singers of Batuko Tabanka. Get more info on days and times for the broadcasts.


world music At times like these, when we are reminded that even comedy (“The Interview”) is an at risk art form, recordings such as this are welcome. It is welcome because war and the Taliban took a heavy toll on Afghanistan's artistic traditions, so any evidence of the regions musical resurgence seems like a stand against recent repression. The Afghan-American artist Quraishi is self-taught on the rubab (Afghanistan's national instrument, a short-necked plucked lute), and familiar with regional ethnic styles of his home country; including Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, and Hindustani traditions. Nine tracks comprise Mountain Melodies, Quraishi's second release, and he includes Afghan folk songs, a classical raga, and composed tunes. Richard Dorsett struggles with the successes and failings of an important release,


world music A shaman, a magical weaver of ancient healing spells? No, not all Finnish accordion players of recent times can be called that, but I just had to try and see what that kind of opening line would look like, because I'm somewhat at a loss for words. Antti Paalanen is all of these and none, a musician who wants to delve deep, but also just wants to make some noise on his new release, Meluta.
Waldemar Wallenius explains the unexplainability of the accordion man from South Ostrobothnia.


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Xarnège represents the "Western Door" of Occitania; the group envisages the musical re-uniting of the two traditions, Basque and Gascon, separated by language and the Pyrenees. The group's name refers to the 'border' areas where the two cultures come into 'collision' with each other. The five members of the band hail from a variety of veteran Basque and Gascon bands. In this, their third disc, the group further explores this territory in-between where cultures mix. Talka Tum shows the influence of Gascon rock pioneers Familha Artùs, evidenced by the involvement of Romain Baudoin, but also reminiscent of iconic Basque folk acts such as Oskorri, Tapia eta Leturia and others. David Cox explores the Occitan border music of Xarnège.


world music Kiran Ahluwalia's sixth release further explores the intersection of Indian and Pakistani grooves, jazz and Saharan blues. 2011's Aam Zameen: Common Ground saw Ahluwalia join forces with Tuareg groups Tinariwen and Terakaft as she grew fascinated with the sounds of the desert. Instead of working strictly within the confines of ghazal poetry, she began writing her own words to accompany Tuareg rhythms. Sanata: Stillness draws on the foundation of her previous album and continues incorporating guitar-driven cyclical patterns into her compositions. Alex Brown finds it a rewarding journey.


world music Riccardo Tesi always escapes easy pigeon-holing. He is idiosyncratic without being abrasive, cutting edge without the hard edge. He is a gentle fusionist, bringing together new and old worlds so that's it's hard to know where one starts and the other ends. On Maggio, his latest with Bandtaliana, the sound is vintage Tesi: a refinement of traditional music that has the well-aged, heartfelt soul of folk music, but is as assuredly lovely as a classical wind quartet. Underneath the overall gentle spell that Tesi casts are shades and layers of sophistication. Marty Lipp find amiable soulfulness in this new release.


world music Few groups have had a larger impact on Afro-Colombian music than Son Palenque, the vibrant ensemble that helped develop palenquera music and ushered in the popular champeta musical genre and dance. Throughout the late 70s and 80s, Son Palenque masterfully mixed African styles played at sound systems and combined them with the traditions of San Basilio de Palenque, the home of Palenquero, the only Spanish-based creole language in Latin America. Considering how timeless their sound has become, it's hard to believe they first recorded for Fonobosa Records in 1980. What followed was a golden decade of danceable, driving music that explored the connection between Colombian and African cultures. Afro-Colombian Sound Modernizers collects the best of Son Palenque's legendary years in a detailed, yet accessible package. Alex Brown reviews a set of 20 essential tracks.


world music Deep in depression-era Arkansas, a woman named Mancy Massengill observed the Saturday action at a photo booth in Batesville. She also noted the camera brand as well as the business opportunity making photos for weekend revelers might provide for a mother of three in a place in time where work and money were scarce. She sold hens and sent the cash away for a lens, and from that point on, she and her husband, and later their extended family, pulled a trailer-turned-photo-studio around rural Arkansas on weekends and made pictures for anyone who was interested. Three for a dime. A nickel extra for tinting. This story is told twice - by photographer Philip March Jones, and again by Mancy's son Lance - in the book Making Pictures: Three for a Dime and the companion CD Arkansas At 78 Rpm: Corn Dodgers & Hoss Hair Pullers, that together give a sense of the playfulness, the sorrow, the ragged isolation and the importance of community found in rural Arkansas in the years leading up to the depression... Bruce Miller explores a wonderful visual and musical history.


world music They start with Danish folk music and in their words turn it into “new music across styles, cultures and frontiers.” Those words won't come as a surprise to anyone who has seen photos of the band, a quintet with member of different ages, genders, and races, which is refreshing in every way. Three members come from Denmark, one comes from Ghana, and another was born in Poland. They bring to Himmerland their various musical ideas, styles.. Greg Harness goes looking for The Spider in the Fiddle

And hear Himmerland live from a set they played in Tønder, Denmark this summer.


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world music
The region of Salento, located in the heel of Italy's boot, has since 1998, when it established its renowned Notte della Taranta festival, become a folk revival headquarters. In the hands of younger talents like pianist Admir Shkurtaj, Salentine traditions have not only been revamped but also reconstructed in a color wheel of genres. Of those, Desuonatori represents the most jazz-oriented strand of the neo-folk crowd. Under the creative direction of Valerio Daniele, this collective of Salento natives operates in various groupings under an umbrella of artistic integrity and freedom of expression, both of which nourish the music's improvisational grammar... Tyran Grillo shares four recordings by this unique Italian collective.


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world music

I am not one for "Best Of..." and all the click bait lists that proliferate on the Internet these days, but I do know that as the year rolls to a close, it's a good thing to look back and listen again to some of the notable recordings that have come our way during the last 12 months or so. So this week's RootsWorld Radio will feature some of your editor's favorite sounds from the past year. And here on the web site, I have offered not only a few of my favorites, but have asked some of our writers to share the recordings they loved the most, or felt were overlooked, during 2014. - Cliff Furnald

Join us for a retrospective of some of our favorite global sounds of 2014.

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world music There was a time when the best place to discover otherworldly musical sound avenues was a well-stocked public or University Library. Filed away by number, musty with disuse, were records that promised an antidote to the radio and whatever indie band was being hyped from magazine racks and record store new arrivals bins. The great ethnic labels- Folkways, Lyrichord, Nonesuch, Ocora- occupied these shelves, their covers often depicting rural peoples from West Africa to SE Asia plucking what appeared to be string and gourd instruments heretofore unknown, their titles promising ritual, guaranteeing inclusion. For those of us who dug deep and used our library cards as a means of rescuing these sounds, if only temporarily, from neglect, the world got larger... Bruce Miller digs into the archives to find the African Gems recorded by Charles Duvelle, Jos Gansemans, Benoit Quersin, David Fanshawe.


world music La Mal Coiffée, five women from the Aude and Hérault regions of France, enhance their legacy of Occitan polyphonies and syncopated percussion on L'Embelinaire. The group (whose name means The Bad Hair or The Badly Coiffed) has had success across France, and in particular, Occitania. Their particular Languedocien variety lives on, not only in every day speech but in the Calandreta schools, in music, and in literature. L'Embelinaire is a very special project based on nine poems by Joan-Maria Petit (Jean-Marie Petit) and three by Léon Cordas (Cordes), venerable Occitan poets, both from the Hérault region, a viticulture-based department with urban centres such as Beziers and Montpellier... David Cox introduces us to 5 Occitan singer/persussionists who bring the ancient language to life.


world music The music of Feksìn, pianist Admir Shkurtaj's follow-up to Mesimér, emboldens the message written across that 2012 solo debut. With more self-reflection than ever, Shkurtaj transplants his Albanian roots to the soil of Salento, the peninsular region of Italy's heel he has called home since 1991. Those traditions provide him with a way of looking beyond the Strait of Otranto toward his homeland. The album's poetic title, in fact, refers to the sun's glint off Salento's windows, which speckles the distant mountains and acts as a visual conduit between the land he once knew and the one in which he currently bases his activities. Tyran Grillo listens to the light.


world music Lua ya "is the remembrance of childhood,” Yeahwon Shin said in a recent conversation with RootsWorld's Tyran Grillo. “I would like the listeners to have the freedom to imagine the story themselves.” Read more about - and listen to - Yeahwon Shin's interpretations of Korean lullabies.


world music From elsewhere:
An interview with legendary drummer and some say, co-founder of the musical genre Afrobeat, Tony Allen. He talks with Radio France Internationale's Alison Hird about looking back - and looking forward - on his latest album Film of Life.

Also, see a concert performance by the English trio Faustus, performing "Humpback Whale" and "8th of July" at the 2014 English Folk Expo. Filmed by Michal Shapiro.


world music Multi-instrumentalist and composer Edmondo Romano has the listener's imagination in mind. His sound world is a curious and rewarding mixture... Romano's magnum opus is a projected trilogy, of which the first and second parts are subjects of this review. Sonno Eliso concerns itself with the interrelationship of masculine and feminine principles... Missive Archetipe realizes the heart of Romano's trilogy. Here the theme is language as a means of storytelling and communication, a thread of breath through history. Tyran Grillo listens to an ethereal artist who composes out of place and out of time.


world music I first became aware of Guinean guitarist Djessou Mory Kanté in a series of spare recordings on the wonderful Popular African Music label. He played with his older brother Kanté Manfila on the legendary Kankan Blues. He also did his first recording as a front man for the label, Guitar Séche. Living in Paris, he has gone on to greater fame as an in-demand guitarist for super stars like Salif Keita, and most recently did guitar work and arranging for Sékouba Bambino Diabaté. So it's not like he just came out of nowhere this year with this remarkable album of instrumental works for his chosen instrument. Nonetheless, the album is hitting many listeners, including me, like a gentle bolt of lightening. River Strings: Maninka Guitar brings the artist into a sonic space that is near perfect. A clean, clear recording technique buoys the performances, and a spare ensemble of guitars, ngoni, bass, keyboards and percussion carry it all simply and beautifully... Cliff Furnald listens to sublime music from the Niger River.


world music "What concert?" I finally asked. "Massilia, of course. Do you live in this city, or under a rock?"- - Jean-Claude Izzo, Total Khéops, 1996

Within the city of Marseilles and the surrounding region, Massilia Sound System has a status somewhere between cult and institution. Novelist Jean-Claude Izzo immortalized them in the Marseilles trilogy, the second of which is called "Chourmo". --a chourmo being a kind of fan club for this band. As far as "world music" goes, MSS is in an elite group of artists, not only for its cultural connections locally, but in its global reach. Massilia arrives in 2014 as the first studio recording for the group in seven years and as a reunion of sorts. David Cox takes us deep into the Occitan world of the ancient city of Marseilles and its leading musical innovators.




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world music Hailing from New York, the band Dálava are edging out into music with a particularly rich backstory. Vocalist Julia Úlehla and guitarist Aram Bajakian, childhood friends, found themselves reunited in a musical project probing the texts and tunes transcribed by Vladimir Úlehla, Ms. Úlehla's great-grandfather and a biologist and an ethnomusicologist. Mr. Úlehla was taken by the folk music of the Moravian village of Stráznice, and he painstakingly transcribed the songs and tunes of this community. Armed with Úlehla's transcriptions, but coming from a different time and place in cosmopolitan New York, Ms. Úlehla and Mr. Bajakian wondered how they could make these folkloric tunes breathe again... Lee Blackstone finds out how it's done.


Interview archive
  • Andrea Esperti
  • Don Edwards
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  • 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
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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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