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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.


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.


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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 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 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.


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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 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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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.


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 Belgian accordionist, arranger and composer Anne Niepold has been flirting with the café musette music of Europe for a few years now. On her newest release,. Musette is Not Dead, she pays tribute to some of the great names like Jo Privat and delves into others who made a name in the clubs of Paris. With her small orchestra of musicians playing flute, oboe, horns, bass and drums, she can channel the old romance of the music with historical reverence, or reinvent the cliches with brash cheekiness. The editor offers an audio review.


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 New York City and the holidays go hand in hand, right? Cheesy lights, live shows and lots of overly familiar music is blared out onto the street, bringing shopping cheers and tears to millions through the years. So how about taking a break from this cacophony and settling into some true holiday spirits? OK, so I don't have any 20 year old scotch for you, but I do have a few quirky bites of music from the holiday apple to share. Throw another analog on the fire and enjoy the holiday beat.


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 A RootsWorld Radio special audio feature:
The quartet Basco offers a new vision of Danish roots music, with cittern, trombone, fiddles, accordion, mandolin and viola as their tools. Recorded live at the The Tønder Festival in Denmark in August of 2014, listen to them bring the audience to their feet with their unique and spirited music. Listen!


world music Anansy Cissé's debut release, Mali Overdrive, offers a fresh take on West African blues, where the young guitarist, vocalist and composer mixes both electric and acoustic in an interesting way. With an ensemble comprised of ngoni, bass, calabash, soku, acoustic guitar and percussion, Cissé sings clearly, floating over his heavily distorted electric guitar. Influenced by traditional Fulani and Songhai music as well as classic and psychedelic rock bands, his playing is simple but effective. Although the guitar often takes center stage, there is no mindless noodling or intense soloing on this album... Alex Brown feels the open throttle of this Malian guitarist.


world music Volga - the band - shares many characteristics with their namesake, the holy national river of Russia. The anchor of the group, Angela Manukian, is a tremendous vocalist adept at singing in Russian dialects; a talent put to good use, as Manukian researches centuries-old Russian texts (some dating back to 1100 A.D.) for Volga's repertoire. Just as the Volga River touches upon many regions of Russia, Volga the band similarly wends its way through the vast tributaries of the country, melding together the ancient and the modern.... On Kumushki Pjut they offer pummeling sonic experience - the beats are relentless. However, we are still hearing the Russian tradition - through a glass, darkly. Lee Blackstone goes down this river of off-kilter, avant-dance music


world music One of the many things I love about Nordic folk music is the way musicians are not afraid to blend traditional hardingfeles, nyckelharpas, and kanteles with "new" instruments. I am thinking in particular about the saxophone, and the way it's been integrated into Nordic folk music, by ensembles like Goodland Trio. Maybe it's the thrill of mixing various reed instruments -- accordions and harmonicas and clarinets -- in a confined musical space. Or maybe it's that saxophones are shiny... Greg Harness stares into the brassy reflection and finds the musical prowess of this trio inspiring.



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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.


world music From coastal Honduras, guitarist-singer-songwriter-dancer Aurelio has been at it for over 20 years, and if one were to revisit his original ensemble, Lita Ariran, the impassioned potential manifest there is fully realized with Lándini, Aurelio's strongest outing yet. All it took was to revive several traditional Garifuna songs, to co-author several more with his mother María ("the sole inspiration for this album"), and to work out the rest with his long-time associates including Belizean producer and multi-instrumentalist Ivan Duran. Michael Stone hears the substance of rooted artistry at its finest.


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.


world music They are ethnic comedians. Wait, one's a tap dancer, too. Well, some kind of dancer, maybe something ethnic. I can't tell. Now the other one's started playing accordion standing on a chair. This is more like it - some rip-roaring stuff. They sing songs, too, in a Värttinä kind of style. That was my first impression of the twin talents of Anne-Mari Kivimäki & Reetta-Kaisa Iles. Together they are Puhti, which translates as vigor, or perhaps, pizzazz. Whatever it is, they bring it all to their modern explorations into traditional music and dance. Waldemar Wallenius reviews the first two recordings of the in-progress trilogy, The Suistamo Suite


Interview archive
  • Andrea Esperti
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  • Wylie Gustafson
  • Mimmo Epifani
  • Monsieur Doumani (audio interview)
  • Sauti Sol (audio interview)
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  • Attwenger
  • Svøbsk
  • Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino
  • Just a Band
  • Geoff Berner
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  • Steve Riley
  • Väsen
  • Makana
  • Ellis
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  • 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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