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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."


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 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 Supernatural Love is indeed a sizable sidestep for Sidestepper. For 20 years they've been rightly singled out as the pioneers of electro-cumbia, combining Afro-Colombian rhythms with electronica and filling many dance floors the world over in the process. It now seems quite fitting that the band should return to the deeper, distinctly African roots of the music. It's the acoustic instruments that lead the way, with hand drums and percussion out front, flutes, kalimba and guitar providing melodic color that's seldom more than subtle, call-and-response vocals echoing joyously and an earthy vibe sure to heal any ailments that too much techno can cause. Tom Orr reviews, and you can listen to a song.


world music Gossip is the fifth album from Khaira Arby, known as 'The Nightingale of the North.' Since bursting onto the music scene in the late 1970's, Arby has established herself as one of Mali's greatest treasures. Her resounding voice and infectious band have spread the musical traditions of Arby's hometown, Timbuktu, to audiences worldwide, as she continues to blur the boundary between traditional and contemporary Malian music. While this set of songs is drawn from the rhythms and melodies of Arby's youth, the group has injected these tunes with a timeless mix of scintillating funk and blues Alex Brown listens to this heartfelt and energetic album.


world music A few songs on Lura's latest album Herança (Heritage) come across a shade harder and faster than her previous work, though the longing, slightly melancholic feel that characterizes a good deal of Cape Verde's music is always present. Lura clearly views her country's musical heritage as something to celebrate. Tom Orr reviews, and you can listen to some of the music.


world music Three Cane Whale is the acoustic trio of Alex Vann, Pete Judge, and Paul Bradley. Based in Bristol, UK, these multi-instrumentalists are the living heart of what folk music should be, creating leafless melodies that burrow into their homeland as much as emigrate from it. While the reviewer might in any other case be at a disadvantage to describe such a sound, Three Cane Whale lends itself to effortless comparison with the legendary San Francisco Bay Area duo known as Mandible Chatter. Although the latter project has explored farther and more widely, a kindred spirit of purity guides the former's hands to evoke an almost microscopic panorama of peripheries. Like the wan skin of a birch tree, striated by gashes of dark, Palimpsest redraws its identity with each new season...   Tyran Grillo explores the many layers of this unusual English trio.


world music WÖR are a young Flemish quintet playing music from late 18th-century European manuscripts from around the area of Brussels, Antwerp, Diest, and Gent. What is particularly fabulous about Back to the 1780s is that WÖR shine an inventive spotlight on a catalog of tunes that has received very little modern exposure. There is a sheer exuberance to the selection of dance tunes and marches that WÖR have compiled for this wonderful set. Lee Blackstone takes us back to the future in Belgium.

world music Finnish accordionist and composer Anne-Mari Kivimäki understands that history must be told to be alive. To demonstrate this, she has developed an idiosyncratic musical language drawn from the geographies of her interest. The albums reviewed here comprise parts three and four of her doctoral thesis, "Suistamo - The Laboratory of Tradition." This multi-faceted (and multimedia) portrait looks at the past, present, and future of Suistamo, a former municipality of Finland and now a federal republic of Russia. Lakkautettu Kylä (A Closed-Down Village) is at once the denser and more spacious of the two albums, while Suistamon Sähkö's Suistamo Electricity) is an ingenious, self-styled "folktronica" experiment. While it might seem like a gimmick in theory, in practice the presence of electronics gives apt traction to an album themed around hydroelectric power plants and cartographic resonances. Tyran Grillo explores the abandoned shacks and power stations of Karelia, musicially speaking.


world music Zemog El Gallo Bueno is both multi-instrumentalist/singer/composer/producer Abraham Gomez-Delgado and the band he leads, but it's a bit of a mystery as to what parts of YoYouMeTu Trilogy Vol. 1 and 2 are solo efforts, the work of an ensemble or combinations of both. Gomez-Delgado is reportedly the inventor and master of an instrument called an eje that enables him to be a one man Afro-Latin band. So as far as I'm concerned, the source of the horns, percussion, acoustic guitars, keyboards, vocals, effects and everything else heard on these two discs is too far after the fact. Tom Orr encourages you to cut a rug with your demons.


world music It's the right time for Ola Belle Reed And Southern Mountain Music On The Mason Dixon Line to appear. Aside from the fact that some of Ola Belle Reed's tunes, specifically "I've Endured" and "High on a Mountain," have become such standards at bluegrass and old time festivals that one might forget they were actually penned by someone in particular, instead of existing in that hazy realm known as the public domain, in 2011, actress Margo Martindale's brilliant Justified character Mags Bennett belted out "Mountain," from her home in that show's fictitious version of Kentucky's Harlan County.... It's likely that all but the most hardcore devotees of Ola Belle Reed and her extended family's career are unaware that her earliest recordings - her earliest professional experiences in fact - were as banjo player and singer in her brother Alex Campbell's band, The New River Boys, who specialized in high powered bluegrass and recorded two early 60s LPs for Starday records. Yet, somewhere along the way, Ola Belle moved away from this music and back toward the tunes she recalled from her childhood in rural Western North Carolina... Bruce Miller reviews this important book and the accompanying 2 CDs.


world music Pop music and genocide make uneasy bedfellows, to say the least. And it's hardly fair to ask such a breezy medium to bear witness of one of the darker corners of 20th century history. But that's exactly what Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll, a superb collection of '60s and early '70s Cambodian pop and rock-and-roll, does as it admirably documents a vibrant music scene and a moment in time before the rise of the murderous Khmer Rouge. The album - a soundtrack to a film of the same name - features 20 songs selected by director John Pirozzi and Cambodian anthropologist Dr. LinDa Saphan, as well as an impressive 36-page booklet to put it all in context. Tom Pryor takes you back to a time before "year zero" and shows you how they rocked in Phnom Penh.




world music Oh, taken to knead the bread of war,
Oh to make the loaves of malice.
The cart of war is covered in tar,
The standard of war is covered in sand.

Mari Kalkun and her ensemble Runorun present a complex vision of early Estonian folk music on her new album, Tii ilo. Waldemar Wallenius explores these songs of war and beauty from Estonia and beyond


world music Totó la Momposina was among the first to bring Afro-Colombian roots music to the wider world. Totó subsequently took up residence in Paris, studied music at the Sorbonne, and performed her traditional repertoire for appreciative European audiences before returning to Colombia. Then she accepted an invitation to England to tour and to record La Candela Viva, her inaugural European release. Exhumed from the Real World archives nearly a quarter century later, studio outtakes from those sessions, now digitized, are the foundation of Tambolero. The result spans the spectrum of Afro-Colombian music, augmented with newly recorded bass tracks and choral backing by two of Totó's granddaughters. The recording's title track, an extended Afro composition, is in tribute to now-deceased master drummer (tambolero) Paulino Salgado "Batata," whose driving rhythmic signature pervades the production... Micheal Stone reviews, and you can listen to a full song.


world music Malian vocalist Kandia Kouyaté's new album definitely lives up to its title. Renascence, her first recording since Kouyaté suffered a stroke in 2004, represents a rebirth of her career, and of her sound, one of the most distinctive in West African music. During her seven-year recovery, she hardly spoke, let alone sang. Even after she had recovered, she had no interest in recording again. But one of her greatest admirers, the Senegalese producer Ibrahima Sylla, doggedly pursued her, and, in 2011, convinced her to return to the studio. George de Stefano explores the revival of one of the great voices of Mali.


world music Posthumously released recordings can be rueful treasures. But Amadou Balaké was more fortunate than many in that his posterity was not only well documented during his various heydays, but he remained at the peak of his powers and in strong demand almost until the end of his life. There could not have been a more touching and apt finale to one of African music's most prolific and celebrated careers than the recordings preserved on In Conclusion. Christina Roden shares his final, joyous sounds, and you can listen to a full song from the CD.


world music Through modern and ancient history, the Mediterranean Sea has been and remains one great maritime highway uniting continents and cultures. Today the Med serves as a fence and too often, tragically, a graveyard separating the prosperous peoples of the North and West from the oft-troubled South and East. Historians for their part recall that the Med was once politically united under the Roman Empire, that its borderlands have been constantly in flux, and that many languages, notably Greek, Latin and Arabic and their descendants, have vied for dominance. Lamia Bèdioui is a Tunisian-born Greek resident who, along with her Desert Fish present a stunning sequence of storytelling in music that circles the Great Sea and back again, examining in particular the Greek, Romance and Arabic cultures of the countries known today as Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Algeria, Greece, Tunisia and Morocco. She has a voice that can handle these challenges, and she takes on each of these traditions in Athamra. David Cox explores these 14 stories of the sea.


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More reviews:

Karavan Sarai is singer Narayan Sijan and producer/musician Carmen Rizzo. Sijan grew up in the American Midwest but spent the bulk of his adult life traveling, learning and residing in Asia and the middle east and those points that were once stops along the Silk Road. Woven Landscapes is inspired by that route and Tom Orr finds it a most pleasing and evocative listen.

On Long Ago, Fabio Mittino and Bert Lams have taken Gurdjieff and De Hartmann's piano arrangements of near eastern melodies and transcribed them for guitars. The results are charming and make for pleasant listening, which is about as far as they go. Erik Keilholtz shares his thoughts.

Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba's global audience has grown exponentially since they released their first album in 2007. The driving sound of Kouyaté's electrified ngoni has captivated ears at concerts and festivals around the world. During his travels, Kouyaté has noticed the way rock and roll influences musical styles from around the world. Their latest offering is Ba Power. Alex Brown finds tradition and substance underneath the wailing ngoni.

The music of Galicia, the rocky, Celtic-influenced coastal area of North Western Iberia, is one of the better-known musical exports within the Spanish state. Xabier Diaz and Adufeiras de Salitre, a group consisting of a dozen female vocalists/percussionists who sing close harmony in the Galician tradition, explore present twelve pieces that expand on tradition Galician song repertoire on The Tambourine Man. The emphasis is on percussion and specifically the tambourine, as Diaz guides the listener through this strong recording with his smooth effortless vocals and a rhythm section based on the traditional pandeiras. David Cox shares his thoughts, and a full song from the album.

Mariem Hassan left behind a remarkable legacy of cultural identity for the Sahrawi people when she passed away in August 2015. She died near the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria where she spent over twenty-five years of her life living in exile with her fellow refugees, refusing to accept Morocco's fractured rule of Western Sahara. During her time in the camps, she worked as a nurse and developed her outstanding voice. Her dedication to exposing the plight of Sahrawis beyond the borders of Africa combined with her exceptional vocal capabilities earned her the nickname, 'The Voice of the Sahara.' Her dancer, backing vocalist and percussionist Vadiya Mint El Hanevi, joined Hassan when her group was touring and her original dancer lacked proper documents to travel abroad. Their work together culminates on this final release, Baila Sahara Baila. In addition to their vocals, Hassan and Hanevi tap into the rhythmic pulse of the recording by playing a range of percussive instruments. Alex Brown taskes you to the heart of the Sahara. For their eighth album, the minstrels of Salento known as Officina Zoè have written a message in a bottle to the sea. Here the Mediterranean serves as an ever-shifting crossroad of symbolic and musical treasures, each element pieced into a narrative of sirens, fishermen, and explorers, whose need for salt outweighs the iron evoked on the 1997 debut album, Terra. Like the waters that inspired them, these songs are massive. Averaging over seven minutes a piece, together they move to the rhythms of an epic tide indeed. Most of the tunes on Mamma sirena are elaborations of traditional songs, collectively a showcase for vocalist Cinzia Marzo, guitarist Luigi Panico, accordionist Donatello Pisanello, violinist Giorgio Doveri (who, along with Pisanello, also plays mandolin), and percussionists Silvia Gallone and Lamerto Probo.

Soul Sok Sega: Sega Sounds From Mauritius 1973-1979 is further proof that not only did colonization's incessant need for control, worker exploitation, and outright slavery force the planet into a crazy quilt of languages, ethnic hybrids, distinctive cuisines, and rhythms, it also culminated in dancefloor, electric ensemble, and DJ explosions in so much of the world. Bruce Miller shares this remarkable mixture of experimental hybrids, analogue production, and sheer rhythmic joy.

Jason Hamacher's aural documents of a vanishing culture and music, just prior to the civil war that has shredded Syria, have worked to reveal ethnic pockets never considered by many westerners. Forty Martyrs: Armenian Chanting From Aleppo focuses on an Armenian singer, V. Rev. Yeznig Zegchanian, and his solo chanting at Forty Martyrs Church in Aleppo. Recorded during two trips in 2006 and 2010, Hamacher managed to preserve part of an ancient musical ritual in what had been a thriving Armenian neighborhood, brought about by an influx of refugees from the Turk-sanctioned and delivered Armenian genocide of nearly 100 years ago. Bruce Miller finds this spiritual music's appeal spills well beyond any single divinity

Karim Nagi, the Egypt-born, Swarthmore-educated, Boston-based orator, songwriter, DJ, drummer, dancer and college educator, has released the latest of his now dozen albums, Detour Guide. It is a magical mystery tour into, around, and beyond the modern Arab world, which of course includes many lands not predominantly populated by Arabs, or Muslims.It is an adventure worth taking. Nagi's lyrics are intriguing, barbed and catchy; profoundly serious but slyly humorous. Bill Nevins takes you on a trip through the Arab mind with Karim Nagi. Sprung from the seminal Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna under the leadership of Armando Romeu, pianist-composer-director Chucho Valdés founded Irakere in 1973... Some four decades on, Valdés has assembled a younger generation of Cuban players and this ten-piece touring ensemble reimagines six of the band's originals in a Tribute to Irakere: Live in Marciac. Michael Stones finds the Cuban band leader swinging harder than ever in his 75th year.


world music Musical field recordings done in places that have recently recovered from or are embroiled in civil war, or perhaps in places that are exceedingly poor, can and do often result in music made out of necessity, perhaps in spite of the atrocious conditions that manifests such sounds to begin with. Native Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka's recent documentary "Beats of the Antonov," explores this very determination among the "Blue Nile" people of war torn South Sudan. In fact, four recent releases on musician, producer, and traveler Ian Brennan's IRL label connect naturally with Kuka's film's observances about the importance of raw art not only in General Paolino's South Sudan, but also in Acholi Machon's Northern Uganda, a section of the country only recently restored from civil conflict, child soldier recruitment and death, as well as the intensely rural, resource-deprived southern African country of Malawi, where a group of young men who spend their days selling roasted mice on sticks- a street food borne out of nutritional necessity- play music in their off hours as Malawi Mouse Boys. These recent releases also show off some fantastic music, without the often deadening "world music" production values that sucks the life out of sounds that would otherwise have had so much to offer. Bruce Miller looks at three pieces of raw African acoustics.


world music Naples has long enjoyed a reputation as Italy's most musical city. But the Puglia region, and particularly the southernmost part, Salento, now challenges the Campanian capital's dominance. Puglia boasts a rich and diverse musical culture that encompasses everything from folk forms like the now world-famous pizzica to alternative rock to hip-hop. Three new albums display the creative vitality of the contemporary scene. Two are by native Puglia artists – the singer and percussionist Antonio Castrignanò and the band Kalàscima – one by a northern Italian convert, the pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi. The Torino-based Einaudi, in fact, is the connective tissue among the three recordings. He has twice conducted the orchestra at the annual La Notte della Taranta festival in Salento, whose players have included Castrignanò and Kalàscima's founder and lead percussionist Riccardo Laganà. Einaudi is a guest on Kalàscima's Psychedelic Trance Tarantella and Castrignanò appears on Einaudi's Taranta Project. George de Stefano explores 3 Pizzica 3.


world music One writer referred to them as "a band whose name does not give us the highest of hopes," but The Henrys might be the best band you have never heard of. Achieving regular critical acclaim since their first release in the early 1990s, they nonetheless remain steadfastly iconoclastic, quirky and uncompromising. But there's more than a name to this acoustic ensemble, and you should raise your hopes and give a listen to their latest project, Quiet Industry. The editor lets you in to the factory to see what this little Canadian industry is creating these days.


world music An electronic Intifada is the logical—one might argue inevitable—cultural and political product of a zone of effective incarceration and deprivation... The assault on Palestinian livelihood, dignity, identity, and human rights has not obliterated the creative spirit of a people that continues to engender artistic ensembles such as Checkpoint 303. The Iqrit Files concerns the 1948 evacuation and 1951 reduction to rubble of the Palestinian village by that name near the Lebanon border, and more recent efforts of its descendants to return. The CD combines field recordings, radio broadcast clips, ambient everyday sounds, the ritual Upper Galilee singing of Jawaher Shofani and Wardeh Sbeit, and the poetry of Jihad Sbeit, alogn with historic voice samples including Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela and Bob Marley... Michael Stone urges you to turn off the smartphone and step into the frame of those for whom life is anything but a video game.


world music Cristina Pato, Davide Salvado, Anxo Pintos and Roberto Comesaña have come together to create Rústica, a project that one could best describe as a homecoming. The project highlights the inner workings of this small ensemble, and the result is decidedly not the over-produced product of a world music superstar. Cristina Pato's incredible gaita playing does not overwhelm the musicians, and the performances are so pure that Pato does not emerge as a leader as much as an integral part of a quartet speaking with one mind... Lee Blackstone finds Rústica a fertile collaboration in Galician tradition. Read more and listen to a full track from the new CD.


world music Video Feature: "Rebetiko"

A film written, produced, and directed by Thomas Künstler
Watch the film and read the artist's words about this atmospheric video inspired by love, and a love for rembetiko music.


world music Ale Carr, Rune Tonsgaard Sørensen, and Nikolaj Busk, known collectively as Dreamers' Circus, create a folk music all their own. And yet, to call them unique is to do them a strange disservice because, in their self-fashioned world, the sounds of Dreamers' Circus are everywhere. The trio started when its musicians connected during a jam session in Copenhagen, by the end of which their future was sealed. "We had to follow this sound," says Carr. "From there on, we were the servants of our music. This was a context were anything could happen..." Tyran Grillo says their Second Movement is a must have. Read his review and listen to some of the music.


world music Sally Nyolo invokes the power and mysticism of the tiger on her latest release, Tiger Run. Her family name, "mó ngone metame mezeï," translates in English to "daughter of the tiger's whiskers." She takes that name to heart and delicately balances the essence it's strength with a graceful agility. Her eighth album is also influenced by the sound of the outside world. Nyolo makes a conscious effort to draw attention to the mutual relationship between music and nature as she sings with distinction in Eton, English and French. Alex Brown reviews her uneven but adventurous new songs.


world music It is no secret that The Demon Barbers have been interested in the dance element of English folk music. In the past, they have launched programs which have set traditional English clog and rapper dancing aside hip hop dance and break dancing. The results have been surprising, highlighting similarities between disparate styles which are grounded in expression and passion. And how often has dance been captured on an English folk release, apart from the classic Morris On and other Albion Band experiments with morris dancing? Apart from the festival stage, dancing is usually implied on a band's release – a secondary focus, even though music and dance are a crucial combination as productions of the body. So it is that on Disco at the Tavern, Damien Barber and his compatriots go 'all in' with a new show that fearlessly combines mostly English folk with influences from a myriad of dance music styles... Lee Blackstone is mesmerized by the glitter ball.


world music In world-music there is sometimes an "eat your vegetables" undercurrent: you should listen to this because it is good for you and, even more importantly, these earnest musicians have been unjustly ignored by the world around them. As well-meaning as these proselytizers are, they sometimes lose sight that many turn to music for comfortable, easy fun. The band Nation Beat, in its mission to unite the rural music of Brazil and the United States, creates genre-busting songs that could keep a lecture hall full of ethnomusicologists busy documenting for a week, but I think they'd rather keep a club full of partiers dancing for a night. On Carnival Caravan, Nation Beat teams with the New Orleans band Cha Wa for an EP that intermingles two musical genres that themselves are crossbreeds of various cultures. Marty Lipp takes you to the party, and shares a full song from the new recordings.


world music Scottish supergroup? Take two pipers, two fiddle players, one banjo player, a master of the bodhran, a bass/synth player, an accordionist , a flautist, an electric guitar player, and a drummer, all with serious folk and rock pedigrees, and put them in a studio and see what happens. They are Treacherous Orchestra and their new album is Grind. An exhausted Lee Blackstone takes you inside.


world music Born in Mexico City, Rana Santacruz now resides in that hot-bed of all things global, Brooklyn, NY. His latest release, Por Ahi ("Somewhere") is a complex compound of Mariachi memories, Balkan brass, and American roots with a rock and roll heart and accordion lungs. With lyrics that run from poetic to humorous, he traces an immigrant's urban landscape that is completely at odds with all the stereotypes we are deluged with in the media. Rana Santacruz is one of a kind... Listen!


world music The Ilkka Heinonen Trio succeeds in broadening our vision of the strange contraption called jouhikko - the Finnish proto-fiddle - taking a studied and varied approach. At times Heinonen makes it sound almost like proper violin and and some numbers might not fit a "folk/ethnic" label at all, being very reminiscent of modern modal jazz. Joined by bass and percussion (with a touch of electronics), Heinonen's Savu is a complex and unusual foray into the Fuinnish new-roots biosphere. Waldemar Wallenius muses over a typical, modern day Finnish musical puzzle.


world music Monsieur Doumani is a trio from the island of Cyprus, and Sikoses is the group's second album. Together, Antonis Antonious (who plays the tzouras, a relative of the bouzouki), Angelos Ionas (guitar), and Demetris Yiasemides (flute and trombone) are credited with not only paying tribute to traditional Cypriot music, but also updating and experimenting with the island's folk music. While Monsieur Doumani's first full-length album in 2013 concentrated on traditional Cypriot songs and tunes, Sikoses ranges further afield, with original compositions and some occasional electronic manipulation... Utilizing Greek influences, Turkish influences, and plenty of inspiration from beyond the shores of Cyprus, Monsieur Doumani provides deep and profound commentary about present-day Cypriots and their current conditions.
  • Read Lee Blackstone's review and listen to a full song from our Music of the Month selection for June.

    world music Xáos is the project of Ahetas, a Greek painter and musician, and Dubulah, best known for his work in Transglobal Underground and Natacha Atlas. The album Chaos is a deeply ambient work - tone poems of the Greek landscape and subconscious. Ahetas, Dubulah, and Giorgos Kalaitzoglou (on double bass) challenge listeners with immersive soundscapes that juxtapose ancient Greek instruments with electronics.... Lee Blackstone listens to a Greek ambient music that is ritualistic and primal.


    world music Fiddle. Mandolin. Accordion. Guitar. That sounds like a folk music lineup. And it is, except when it isn't. Spiro is an English quartet that uses this instrumentation as they ride that artsy edge between folk and classical music on Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow. The listener who chooses to ride along this edge will be deeply rewarded. The title comes presumably from the poem by John Keats which sets forth a number of contrasts:
  •   Infant playing with a skull;
  •   Morning fair, and shipwreck'd hull;
  •   Nightshade with the woodbine kissing;
  •   Serpents in red roses hissing;
    As Spiro is a purely instrumental ensemble, they play around with aural contrasts, beyond simply the aforementioned folk and classical settings. Greg Harness shares his thoughts on this unique English ensemble.

    world music Leaping from surf to Sufi with stops in Asha Bosle and Yma Sumac territory, Bombay Rickey offer a bouyant east-west pop music that's a long way from Bollywood. on Cinefonia. Tom Orr takes you to where wild west meets mystic east. -


    world music If you've liked Pekko Käppi's unrestrained bursts of jouhikko on his previous recordings, you're forgiven for expecting more of the same on Sanguis Meu, Mama! His ancient and primitive string instrument (a Finnish variation of a bowed lyre) is just right for shamanic, hypnotic ritual music and the like. And he does look like a witch doctor, with long hair and flailing hands obscuring the mysterious play thing in his lap. He does rip some hard riffs on a couple of tracks toward the end of his newest work, but are you ready for a mellow string warrior? Sweet love songs, even? No, sweet love songs don't have blood and mayhem all over them. Even if most of the songs are newly written, they definitely draw their inspiration (and bloodlust) from murder ballads of yore, known in every land that man has ever trampled someone under foot. Waldemar Wallenius takes you to the sweet, dark places of Pekko Käppi & K:H:H:L.


    world music

    In his book "Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology," philosopher David Abram describes our understanding of landscape in almost musical terms. Sensory cues such as smells and sounds invite specific associations with the places we inhabit in a symphony of life experience. The music of fiddler-composer Aidan O'Rourke likewise treats landscape as an interpretable score, which one need only light with attention to see it burn. Music for Exhibition & Film is the first in a projected series of EPs dedicated to O'Rourke's soundtracks and incidental music, and its final pieces take direct inspiration from Abram's book. Tyran Grillo finds multilayered work of art that survives on emotional insight.


    world music Ron Fricke's 1992 classic Baraka endures as one of the most consummate examples of non-narrative cinema. Its montage of images from around the world was even more eclectic than the soundtrack that went along with it. But despite the many ceremonies, creative arts, and labors that Fricke documentedincluding death pyres and ritual baths in the river Gangeshe never captured the Hindu religious festival known as Holi. Had he done so, it might have looked something like Radhe Radhe, filmmaker Prashant Bhargava's ode to this so-called "festival of colors." Given the film's subtitle, "Rites of Holi," and the fact that Holi is practiced in the spring may put one in mind of Igor Stravinsky. This is no coincidence. Although not a direct homage to Stravinsky, Radhe Radhe was the result of a commission for the 100th anniversary of the Russian composer's 'Rite of Spring,' and one of a dozen projects freshly created in its honor. It is still a ballet of sorts, not least of all for the dialogic contributions of Indian-American pianist and composer Vijay Iyer.
    Tyran Grillo takes you inside this wonderous film.


    world music In 1998, an album of musique concrète released on an Italian label was misattributed to painter Brion Gysin, who had in fact received the tape from its creator: Paul Bowles. Bowles would die at age 88 one year later in his beloved Tangier, unaware of the release and leaving behind a legacy of fiction and essays. Yet the famed author of "The Sheltering Sky" was also a composer for stage and screen, studying with his dear friend Aaron Copland and writing copious amounts of music criticism from the 1930s through the end of World War II. He realized what came to be known as The Pool K III in 1958 toward a new direction in his own sound production.
  • Tyran Grillo finds it to be a document of indelible importance.

    world music I have more books on my shelves about the world's traditional music than any reasonable person should. Now I have another that is among the handful of the best: Lisa Urkevich's Music and Traditions of the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. It comes at a time when many have forgotten the rich tribal variations of the region. Urkevich discusses the music, to be sure, but keep an eye on the "tradition" that is part of her book's title; for in them she adds context and texture to the songs, melodies and rhythms of this story. 
  • Dick Dorsett shares a book that opens doors to understanding the region.

    world music Ale Carr is a composer and cittern player from Sweden. He works as a soloist and in many emsembles including Dreamers Circus and Basco. His latest project is as a member of The Secret North, which brings together 6 world-class musicians from Scotland, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland. Ale Carr talks about his composition "Fragments of Solbyn," that was composed specifically for this project, in this RootsWorld audio feature.


    world music Rye Groove. It's dynamic, powerful and fiddly. It's a happy marriage of new and old, of seventies prog rock and traditional village music. Esko Järvelä Epic Male Band is an inspiring bunch of young Finns who have no fear. Says the band's leader, "Our music has been drawing comparisons to really strange bands. I know all of these four groups [Jethro Tull, Piirpauke, Slobo Horo, Taraf De Haïdouks] and recognize the connections even though I must admit that none of them belong to my everyday playlist. It seems to be an interesting fact that people find a great bunch of influences and connections to completely different kinds of bands from opposite edges of the world when listening to Epic Male Band. I haven't run into anything like this with any other project of mine. I guess it's just the result of five crazy and open minded musicians with very different musical backgrounds getting together to see what they can do together." Waldemar Wallenius talks to an epic male about an epic band.


    world music A deep relationship with the far north has found its way into many of Canadian composer Derek Charke's new millennial works, but nowhere so organically or with such intensity as in Tundra Songs. In addition to being one of the most fascinating interdisciplinary recordings to come out in a long time, it documents a return to genuine indigenism for its star performers: the Kronos Quartet. The recording features the throat singing of Inuit artist Tanya Tagaq and narration by Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory. Tyran Grillo shares his insight into the music and art of the north.


    world music Robin Williamson, perhaps the last true bard on earth, returns with Trusting In The Rising Light. Following a string of intimate programs setting the words of famous poets to music (among them Dylan Thomas, Walt Whitman, and William Blake), he now dips a long overdue quill into his own inkwell and scrawls a masterful new ream of originals. Ten years separate this recording from its predecessor on ECM, The Iron Stone, but the wait has been well worth it, not least of all for the contributions of his fellow session musicians. From that last album he retains violist Mat Maneri and to this nexus adds drummer-percussionist Ches Smith. Tyran Grillo finds it to be an attuned, free jazz-folk session that feels at once long overdue and just right for its time.


    world music Savina Yannatou and Primavera en Salonico return to the city that first put them on the map. Located in the North of Greece, Thessaloniki is the second largest city in the country. Established in the Late Antiquity years, it has had a tumultuous history, even though it's quite modern by Greek standards, at only around 2,600 years old. It is a city where the Christian Saint Paul sent his epistles and a city that is Byzantine in spirit, a fact that Yannatou references by opening and closing Songs of Thessaloniki with the hymn of the patron saint of the city, Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki. It is a city unlike any other in Greece when it comes to cosmopolitanism, a fact that still holds true today. It is into this melting pot that Savina Yannatou has decided to jump. Nondas Kitsos gives us a bit of history and shares a whole lot of music from his beloved city.


    world music Here's a celebratory album that shows America at its multi-cultural best: a band that originated as a one-time project to recreate an Indian wedding tradition stretching to include New Orleans-flavored brass as well as hip-hop. On Gaadi of Truth, Red Baraat founder Sunny Jain leads the swinging sound with the double-headed dhol drum, buoyed by a small but hard-hitting set of brass players. On this album, the members step more boldly into hip-hop attitude and sounds, the title song covering, among other things, being singled out for security pat-downs because the protagonist seems to "look ethnic." The group's brass sound is by turns thumpingly rhythmic and sweetly melodic. As "exotic" as the mix of styles may seem, it is likely to sound familiar to listeners. Marty Lipp finds it all to be serious fun.


    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 Like the image gracing the cover of this self-titled debut, Ensemble Ériu describes shapes carved into the earth over eons. And yet, there is undeniable freshness to its erosions. Such dynamic balance is embodied in cofounders Jack Talty and Neil O'Loghlen, who together arrange all of the material here and bake its stylistic mélange to a crisp. Where Talty's concertina epitomizes the sounds of old, O'Loghlen's bass thrives on jazz, though his traditional heart beats audibly when he picks up a flute or whistle. New interpretations of standard fare may often be said to stand out from the rest. Not so with Ensemble Ériu. Theirs stand in the rest, showing breadth of deference and influence in every song. Tyran Grillo thinks you will be challenged and delighted by this unique Irish ensemble.


    world music Producer Ian Brennan is on a mission: "How can it be just, that tens of thousands of 'artists' from cities like Los Angeles and London are given platforms, but entire countries are left voiceless globally? This mathematical absurdity of superiorness only mirrors society's greater inequities." This view took Brennan and his photographer-filmmaker spouse Marilena Delli to Malawi to document the expressive culture of Zomba Central Prison inmates and create the Zomba Prison Project. Overcrowding and filth, lice and scabies, malnutrition, TB, HIV-AIDS, mental illness, endemic violence, trumped-up charges, Kafkaesque court proceedings wherein prisoners have scant legal defense—this is the wretched existence of both female and male inmates. This CD presents music as one of few creative outlets for Malawi's incarcerated unfortunates. Michael Stone explores the pitfalls of field recording for charity.


    world music

    Oum el Ghait Benessahraoui, better known simply as Oum, delivers an inspired album blending Moroccan influences with jazz and soul. While she has two previous releases under her name, this is the first to gain international distribution. The multifaceted singer, composer and lyricist brings plenty of talent to the table on this CD alongside her accomplished band mates. Her core ensemble includes flute, saxophones, acoustic guitar, double bass, drums and percussion. Electric guitar, electric bass, oud, oboe and English horn make occasional appearances throughout, often accompanied by Oum's steady qarqab and castanola playing. The overall tone of Soul of Morocco is a jazz mixture wrapped in gnawa rhythms that draw on the Hassani dialect she grew up with. Alex Brown finds an often elegant, if sometimes inconsistent celebration of life, love, happiness, Morocco and Allah.


    world music At Home, an intriguing collaboration between rising Malian singer/songwriter Fatoumata Diawara and hotshot Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Fonseca, was recorded live last year at the 'Jazz in Marciac' festival in France. The set starts off strong with "Sowa," a sweaty funk workout complete with a monster Stevie Wonder inspired clavinet groove, but things slow down considerably as the show progresses. Tom Pryor describes the ups and downs of this live recording.


    world music Singer/instrumentalist Céline Ricard and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Loddo form the heart of La Talvera, one of the emblematic folk/world/roots entities of Occitania, a community stretching from Northern Spain to Northwestern Italy. While perhaps 15 million people across this swath of Europe primarily in Southern France --- speak or understand a form of Occitan, it remains officially unrecognized in much of this region, especially its heart in the French republic. With such official neglect, it is left to the poets and musicians to maintain the status and vibrancy of Occitan. In this effort -- through its more than a dozen recordings over 20 years -- this group originating in the Languedoc has built a musical home base, through its many recordings and collaborations. The theme this time is Solhelh Solelhaire - roughly "O bright sun" which is of course the bright sun of Occitania, as opposed to the cold and cloud of the economically dominant north of France. "O bright sun that warms the skin/and the heart of the poet with no blanket or coat." David Cox warms himself in the music of Occitania.


    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 Although French accordionist Jean-Louis Matinier and Marco Ambrosini, Italian virtuoso of the nyckelharpa (a Swedish traditional instrument that is something of a cross between hurdy-gurdy and vielle), have existed as a duo since 2008, it took a period of refinement before their music at last saw the digital light of day. Anyone who has followed the career of Anouar Brahem in the 21st century will have encountered Matinier alongside the Tunisian oudist on 2002's Le Pas Du Chat Noir and 2006's Le Voyage De Sahar. Ambrosini is recognized as a leading proponent of the nyckelharpa and has carried that instrument in fresh directions across a varied terrain of recordings. Matinier has elsewhere characterized his musical relationship with Ambrosini as "a total dialogue," and the description could hardly be more appropriate. In Inventio, they complete each other's sentences. Tyran Grillo finds depth of interpretation that leads them across all borders.


    world music Cuban pianist-composer-bandleader Omar Sosa has resided outside his homeland for over 20 years, and while he has engaged and recorded with an extraordinary array of artists from four continents, his ceaseless musical inspiration remains deeply rooted in Cuba and the African Diaspora, in the island's Lucumí spiritual tradition that gives this recording its name, ilé, home, earth.... Of Sosa's many ensembles over time, he is literally at home with fellow homeboy Camagüey conservatory mates Leandro Saint-Hill and Ernesto Simpson, buoyed by more than a decade's rhythmic partnership with Mozambican Childo Tomas. Omar Sosa Quarteto AfroCubano is one tight and versatile quartet, interweaving musical idioms from across the globe without ever a hint of the derivative. Michael Stone listens in.


    world music

    Following a six-year silence, master oudist Anouar Brahem returns with his most personal, yet somehow selfless, project yet. During the revolution that gripped his native Tunisia at the turn of 2011, Brahem experienced a creative drought and spent the following years gathering enough water to nourish the seeds that would become Souvenance. The title means "remembrance," but the music looks resolutely forward, drinking in uncertainty as if it were the only sustenance visible from atop the rubble of uprising. Though Brahem claims no direct correlation to these events, their echoes remain, needing to be heard. Souvenance brings together a new assemblage for Brahem, who situates his rosette within a quartet of piano, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, and electric bass. One further layer finds realization in the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana. Tyran Grillo shares a recording shows the artist at the height of maturity.


    world music Three recordings feature Markus Tullberg, Swedish flute wunderkind, in a number of different projects that draw out the dynamics of his instrument. Specifically, Tullberg utilizes the wooden transverse flute, which was an important part of the southern Swedish folk tradition from the 19th to the 20th centuries. The tone of the flute is never piercing; generally, Tullberg brings a rich, mellow sound to each band concept. For +1, Tullberg is paired with Andreas Ralsgård. Dan "Gisen" Malmquist (clarinet), Jens Ulvsand (bouzouki and vocals), and Tullberg make up the trio on Diphtong. And Nos Honks brings in saxophonist Jonas Knutsson and French flautist Anna Roussel on Prisma. Lee Blackstone send out the call: "Wooden flute aficionados, unite!"


    world music I'm listening to a great mix of American roots music. There's some bluegrass, some Cajun, some old-time front porch music, and a couple of traditional cowboy songs. And it comes from Finland. Yes. Finland. Tuomas Logrén is the guitarist for the fiddle-heavy Finnish ensemble Frigg. I think of Frigg as a Nordic ensemble; they draw from Finnish folk music supplemented by the traditions of Sweden and Norway. That's what I was expecting to hear on Yövesi, which is also the name of a lake in eastern Finland, home to a number of threatened species like the Saimaa ringed seal, the Arctic Char. Sounds Finnish so far, right? Greg Harness discovers the cowboy intersect between Finland and America.


    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 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 FatDog is an amalgam of two bands: the jazz trio Fattigfolket, and the folk trio Doggerland. Posterity will know that the groups joined forces one summer night in 2011, at a festival held on the Swedish Koster Islands. The result is has been nothing less than remarkable: a group that has found a comfortable niche in combining Nordic and English folk, with plenty of room for improvisation. This allows FatDog's wind section plenty of 'breathing room.' The group also features the vocals, concertina, guitar, and cittern, hurdy-gurdy and upright bass. The results can be heard on New Found Land. Lee Blackstone finds it all has a seamless, timeless quality.


    world music The lucky among us grow up in a musical tradition. That's how many learn gospel, blues, or bluegrass, even rock and roll. Music like that needs no explanation; it's just part of who we are. For the rest of us, we must discover, learn about, and then adopt the music that becomes the soundtrack for our lives. Recordings are there for us, sure, but sometimes we can use a guide to show us the way. Paul-Emile Comeau is such a guide and his new book, "Acadian Driftwood: The Roots of Acadian and Cajun Music," will take you into one of North America's most appealing vernacular genres and introduce you to its musicians and their discographies. Richard Dorsett reads up on this unique North American history.


    world music Born in the city of Antep in Turkey's western Anatolia region, Olcay Bayir was immersed in music early on, thanks in no small part to her father's status as an ashik (a mystic troubadour of sorts) and the fact that her homeland is sandwiched between the Balkans and the Middle East. Hearing and picking up on the traditional music of Turkey and the surrounding areas was only part of the equation, though. While still in her teens, Bayir went to London to study classical opera, accounting for the dramatic subtleties in a vocal style that also retains a healthy measure of Anatolian folkloric tones. That duality makes Bayir's debut album Neva / Harmony a real treat for the ears. Tom Orr finds it all penetrating, and beautiful.


    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 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 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 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 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.



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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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