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world music The sounds of Mali are captured and celebrated on Vieux Farka Touré's latest release, Samba. Touré returns with a balanced collection of ten original compositions recorded in front of a small audience in Woodstock, NY. This setting draws the best out of the ensemble, giving the musicians a natural confidence that is transferred directly to the record. A variety of Malian blues, funk, gospel, and a slice of reggae fill the disc with enthusiasm and purpose. Alex Brown shares the music with you.


world music On Saturday, April 22nd at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, a fascinating aspect of contemporary Celtic music was on display for an extremely appreciative crowd. Boston is a central hub for all manner of Celtic music from Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Brittany, and Spain. But The Gloaming provided a very unique 'take' on this well loved music form. The show offered quite a bit more than the usual jigs and reels we all know so well. The Gloaming is a contemporary Irish music supergroup formed in Ireland in 2011, consisting of some of Ireland's finest musicians. With fiddlers Martin Hayes and Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh, guitarist Dennis Cahill, Irish singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, and pianist Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), The Gloaming has burst onto the music scene with a distinctive new sound.   Read David Smith's full concert review.


world music Zabad, l'écume des nuits (Zabad, Twilight Tide) is the third studio outing from the duo known as Sabîl. Oudist Ahmad Al Kathib (the project's composer and conceptual heart) and percussionist Youssef Hbeisch evoke unlimited landscapes by limited means, and here welcome the fresh continents of Elie Khoury on buzuq (a long-necked lute akin to the Greek bouzouki) and Hubert Dupont on double-bass. Although Ahmad plays in a distinctly Baghdadian style, fans of Tunisian oudist Anouar Brahem will be in good hands, as the music coaxes modern flora from traditional seeds… Read Tyran Grillo's full review, and listen to a full song and some excerpts from the album.

world music Zabad, l'écume des nuits (Zabad, Twilight Tide) is RootsWorld's Music of the Month selection for June, 2017. Find out how you can join MOTM and support RootsWorld's radio programs and magazine.
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world music Many people in sub-Saharan countries, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania among them, believe those suffering from a lack of skin pigmentation - or albinism - have magical properties. As a result, albinos are sold for tremendous sums and murdered for body parts… Those who manage to survive live in constant fear and deal with bullying and other misunderstandings from their neighbors… In Tanzania, the problems are so constant that many albinos have been abandoned on Ukerewe, Africa's largest inland island. And it's here that Ian Brennan - who has documented music made by survivors of the Khmer Rouge and the American war in Vietnam - made the boat journey in order to encourage these residents to write and sing their own stories, resulting in this new release by the Tanzania Albinism Collective, ironically titled White African Power... Read Bruce Miller's full review and listen to some of the recordings.


world music The hurdy-gurdy is already known for its unusual timbres, sometimes sounding something like a hybrid between a bagpipe and a fiddle. When it is turned into an electro-acoustic instrument in the hands of Valentin Clastrier, it flies into rather distant territory. Chorusing and other electronic manipulations bring the sound from a glorious psychedelic explosion one moment to a delicate obbligato for Steven Kamperman's superb reed work the next… Fabuloiseries is divided into five Fabulae, ranging between two and five tracks each, plus an introduction track. Although the tracks have suggestive titles, and definitely create strong moods, no program is offered, allowing the listener to create his own narrative while each of the fabulae unfolds… Listen to some examples of the series and read Erik Keilholtz' full review.


world music Songs in the Mist convenes eight Iranian vocalists and five instrumentalists (kamancheh, qanun, and upright bass, among other instruments) for a multifaceted celebration of song. It is an opportunity to experience the power of voices which, in their homeland, are forbidden to be heard solo. This makes the efforts of producers Erik Hillestad and Mahsa Vahdat even more significant for providing a stage on which these women might undo cultural shackles to let their individuality be known… The greatest value of Songs in the Mist, which by its variety of location and vocal delivery communicates an undeniable truth, is that these women are more than what they express, but are also what they impress... Read Tyran Grillo's complete review, and listen to some of the music from this new set of ancient songs.


world music Sounds From The Archipelago: An Introduction To The Lush Indonesian Tradition, Vols. 1 & 2 is a vinyl-only-with-accompanying-CD collection that certainly could be considered an "introduction," that is unless one has already heard these exact recordings, in the exact order on a double LP set titled Music of Indonesia, recorded by Phil and Florence Walker, edited by Henry Cowell, and released on the Folkways label in 1961, something whoever is behind the Shiok! label doesn't bother mentioning. Even the photos on the back of each album are from the Folkways LP's liner booklet. What is known here is that the tracks come from Sumatra, the Moluccas Islands, Bali, Sulawesi, and Central Java. Of course, a single listen reveals how wonderful it is to have this music back in print, though it's frustrating that Shiok! couldn't have at least mentioned from where it had procured such copious musical bounty... Read Bruce Miller's review and find out about the original sources.


world music After making a name for herself on the Norwegian jazz circuit, singer Solveig Slettahjell returns with her most intimate project to date. For Poetisk Tale, she is joined by the Vertavo String Quartet, guitarist Eivind Aarset, percussionist Helge Norbakken, and keyboardist-arranger Kjetil Bjerkestrand, singing Øivind Varkøy's settings of contemporary poetry by Gunvor Hofmo, Jon Fosse, Arnfinn Haram, and Arnold Eidslott. Varkøy's binding agent is his addition of a tenth spiritual gift of "poetic speech" (poetisk tale) to the nine listed by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. The combination of these multiple facets yields something that feels like a memory even as it explores fresh connections between spiritual and creative living. Slettahjell sings from the heart, as if writing each melody spontaneously… Listen to a track and some samples, and read Tyran Grillo's review.


world music Depending on how massive a fan one is of ballad-leaning, western-influenced Cambodian pop, the story of this record's existence is likely to outshine the music. And it's a fascinating story. In the late 1970s, after Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge had emptied out Phnom Penh, divvied up property, consigned folks to labor camps, imprisoned others in former school buildings, and ultimately wiped out some 1 to 3 million members of the country's population, an anti-communist rebel force, known as the Khmer People's National Liberation Front, appeared in resistance to Vietnamese forces now controlling parts of the country. They called a camp near the Thai border, known as Ampil, home base. And when they weren't fighting, they formed the Banteay Ampil Band and recorded propaganda songs that circulated without label support on cassette and vinyl… These have been reissued as Cambodian Liberation Songs...


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New sounds from Iberia

Valencian music has gained popularity in recent years and the Valencian folk band El Diluvi is making a name throughout the Catalan-speaking areas. El Diluvi fuses Mediterranean, Celtic, Balkan and Latin sounds on Ànima, the group's fourth release. Musically they cover the same territory made popular in the Basque Country by Gozategi, and sometimes reminiscent of Italy's La Lionetta. The seven-piece band featuring vocalist Flora Semprere, and vocalist/ violinist David Payà, began as a tribute to 80s singer Ovidi Montllor, also of Alcoi. On Motius, in 2014, the group began to develop its own signature style. And this advanced further in Alegria, with the social activism of songs such as the feminist anthem "I tu Sols tu." Here on Ànima we have eleven new tracks that explore the territory of love... Join David Cox in Valencia.

Europe has a whole host of bands oriented around pipe and wind instruments. A whole subset of this revivalist folk genre has morphed into the predictable mash-up of loud pipe mash-ups with heavy metal, as with Germany's In Extremo. Some pipe collectives play it more 'straight,' as with Germany's Corvus Corax, or Italy's Barbarian Pipe Band. Portugal has also seen modern band experimenting with pipes and ancient instruments the progressive folk bands Dazkarieh, and Mandrágora, come to mind. Albaluna are a rising band that one might be tempted to fit in with the neo-pagan ritualist music of Europe, but like the other Portuguese bands, more is going on in the band's music than one might expect. Nau Dos Corvos is full of head-on rollicking tunes with influences that range beyond the Celtic to Ottoman and Jewish music, as well. Read Lee Blackstone's review and listen to some of the music.


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A Trio of Nordic Trios

Lee Blackstone presents three different Nordic bands that practice different approaches to traditional and composed acoustic music. Väsen and Zephyr hail from Sweden and they are made up of veteran folk musicians, while Vrang is Norwegian and represents a younger generation. All are unique and wonderful artistic trios.

Väsen surely needs no introduction after twenty-eight years together; Brewed is the band's seventeenth album under the name. Olov Johansson is the virtuosic nyckelharpa player; Roger Tallroth anchors the group on guitar; and Mikael Marin sets dreams adrift on his viola. This time out, Väsen treat listeners to a collection of original tunes…

Zephyr is configured not of string instruments, but of flutes. Görån Mansson, Jonas Simonson (from Groupa), and Richard Ekre Suzzi utilize a variety of wind instruments from Sweden and afar, such as the bamboo Bansuri flute. An all-flute trio can certainly have an ethereal sound, as the band demonstrates, but Zephyr go well beyond such stereotyping and construct compositions that indulge in global influences in their October Ocean...

The Norwegian trio Vrang features Jon Hjellum Brodal, Tuva Faerden, and Maja Gravermoen Toresen on hardanger fiddles, fiddles, lyres, and the occasional mandolin. Their full-length debut, SæterSoul, is beautifully produced, with plenty of space and depth that let the low mellow tones of the hardanger fiddle grow and the sprightly lyres shine. Vrang are notable in that they combine a minimalist approach and a sly pop sensibility…

Read about these trios in Lee's reviews, and listen to a song from each.

Vrang's SæterSoul is RootsWorld's Music of the Month selection for May.


world music Well, I never thought I'd be writing a review that begins, "Kurt Cobain and his band, Nirvana," but there you go. These things happen. - CF

Kurt Cobain and his band, Nirvana were never known for complex songs or rich dynamics - their formula of quiet 4 and 5 note melodies rotating with loud passages of distortion and shouting created a comforting pattern that made them famous. Cobain once said that he really wanted to play in a Pixies cover band and Nirvana did pose as the crossover point for Seattle's grunge scene onto the Billboard charts of radio pop. So it will come as a bit of a surprise to hear that hidden beneath those simple, pop-rocks tunes lie some complicated musical relationships. It took artists completely removed from Seattle, completely devoid of guitars and totally devoted to dynamics to pick out the gem-like qualities of their songs.     Enter Aranis, a quintet from Belgium; players of strings, piano, accordion, flute and double bass. Smells Like Aranis tears those songs apart and reconstructs them as little works of art; sometimes pretty, sometimes weird, always intriguing… Listen to a few tracks from the album while you read the editor's review.


world music As titled, Reflejos Migrantes (Migrant Reflections) can be read literally as referencing the tango quartet makeup led by Buenos Aires-born, Paris-based pianist-composer Gerardo Jerez Le Cam. But this is music infiltrated by a more profound figurative connotation, the transformation of Western European culture and demography following the Soviet Union's demise, and errant U.S. adventure in the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa since the 1990s. In any case, behold a thoroughly displaced tango 'orquesta típica,' pairing Jerez Le Cam's piano with Romanian violinist Iacob Maciuca and Belgian Manu Comté on bandoneon, and replacing the traditional double bass with the Moldavian cimbalom of Mihai Trestian. Tango's own stoic purview is drawn to social dislocation wherever it manifests. Here listeners find its existential misgivings freely associated with baroque, operatic, Eastern European gypsy and jazz inventions.     Read Michael Stone's full review, and see two videos the ensemble made to accompany the music.


world music While this disc is touted as the fourth by Ialma, the Galician pandeireta quartet of female voices and percussion, Camiño is a close collaboration between Ialma, the well-travelled and versatile diatonic accordionist Didier Laloy, and Quentin Dujardin, a sort of Belgian Pat Metheny. Both Dujardin and Laloy are prolific, and have performed in a number of formats and genres. This appears to be a new direction for both of these exceptionally seasoned, sensitive and gifted performers, and a nice addition to the sound Ialma has previously explored. On the thirteen tracks of Camiño, the two Belgians back the quartet, highlighting Galician vocal music with some beautiful four-part harmonies, in a joyful take on Galician tradition.     Listen to a full track and some excerpts from the album while you read David Cox' review.


world music The cool aesthetic of Bandakadabra is immediately evident by their matching black suits with white shirts and skinny black ties. Their music twists and turns from playful and suave to serious and methodical in an instant. Dubbed an "Urban Brass Band," this ensemble from Torino, Italy sets their sights on all sorts of brass music, from ragtime and jazz to Balkan, rocksteady, and Latin on their rousing live recording, Entomology. A call to attention preludes "Skaravan," which cranks ups the tempo with a delightful ska version of "Caravan" that jumps off the stage and gets the audience skanking. From there they head on to Goran Bregovic and more Duke Ellington, and dip into blues, jazz and classics from Brazil, Mexico and Cuba along the way.     Listen to a few tracks and read Alex Brown's review.


world music The Jerry Cans are a phenomenon in Iqaluit, capital of the Inuit territory of Nunavut, and across Inuit territory which stretches across the North of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, and Siberia… Musically the format of Inuusiq/Life is an upbeat Alt-Canuck blend of folk, pop and country, reminiscent of Willie P Bennett or Kashtin. The most interesting aspect of the five-piece group is their homage to Inuktitut, the traditional language of the Nunavut territory. Nine of 10 tracks are in Inuktitut, the last in English.     Read David Cox review and hear some of the music.


world music 27 years after her debut, Moussolou - an album straddling tradition and modernity that featured daring lyrics denouncing polygamy and instead calling for female empowerment, made her an instant star in Mali and elsewhere - Oumou Sangaré's sixth LP, Mogoya, continues that conversation. In some ways she hasn't changed at all. With grooves infectious enough to rattle a pop music skeptic, she sails over rhythms and melodies that, no matter how dressed up in European production sheen, never truly betray her Wassoulou-region roots. In the eight years since her last release, she's continued touring, running a hotel in Bamako, branding her name on rice as well as automobiles, and all the while demonstrating the power women have in place where female circumcision is still performed and education isn't necessarily a priority. She's working with a new label, and they produced her in way that certainly felt new to her. Sure, there are synths, distorted electric piano lines, and electric guitars that often snake in and out of the mix. There's also Tony Allen, whose unmistakable drums provide a foundation no sample could every equal. But she still hangs tightly to the kamele n'goni, the karignan, and the calabash, and it's these instruments that typically drive the tunes...     Bruce Miller delves into the complex crossing of boundaries in the music of Oumou Sangaré. Read and listen.


world music One of the most attractive elements of any recording is the expression of joy. Seydu's third disc, Sadaka (The Gift), has this quality in full measure. Seydu, born Anthony Zachariah Jalloh, emigrated 'illegally' from Sierra Leone to Spain, and records songs in Krio, English and Spanish. His world music rhythms have elements of maringa, but the sensibility is a general West African one rather than one limited to a particular country. The involvement of Joe Dworniak, an experienced bassist integrated into the Spanish/Latin music scene, and producer Hugo Westerdahl, who knows the music of the Saharan regions, means the music nicely blends a lot of these influences...    Read David Cox review and listen to some of the music.


world music Finland is no stranger to cultural fusions. Russia, Sweden and Germany have all made their political incursions over the centuries, just about everyone has dropped by for a visit at one time or another. So it stands to reason that this linguistically isolated country would absorb a lot of music as it passes by… Band leader and vocalist Jaakko Laitinen, from the northern city of Rovaniemi in Lapland, and his band of horns, bouzouki, accordion, bass and percussion called Väärä Raha, let influences fly fast and loose on a series of original songs that bounce from wistful romance to dire insanity. You'll hear classic Balkan brass, the hyper-foxtrot of the Finnish huumpa, Russian balladry, and the rigid tango that has made summer nights in Finland famous.     Your editor chimes in on this one, and I've included a full track and some short excerpts.


world music "Danmarkar'n, The Man from Denmark, refers specifically to the village of Danmark in Uppland, Sweden. This waltz kicks off the debut record from Bragr, and trio of two Danes and a Swede. Many of the tunes on Danmarkar'n are traditional, but I'm enthralled by the non-traditional yet firmly rooted approach this trio takes," writes Greg Harness in his review of their new recording.


world music Les Amazones d'Afrique is an impressive collective of female musicians from West Africa who are working towards ending gender inequality. The group includes Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo, and Rokia Koné…. République Amazone will split listeners. On one hand, the adventurous contemporary approach utilizing samples and effects in a psychedelic, funky dub that is heavily influenced by the producer will appeal to those who are looking for something different. On the other hand, the production takes over the mix, which in turn often marginalizes the vocalists who are the stars of the project…" Alex Brown looks into the pros and cons.



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New roots and welcome old routes

Seydou Diabaté, aka Kanazoé, unleashes his technique on the balafon with a talented ensemble on Kanazoé Orkestra's debut full-length release, Miriya. Born in Burkina Faso and now based in France, he and his band offer an impressive, mature record that maintains urgency throughout… Kanazoé provides some of the vocals and plays a variety of balafons. His group includes Zaky Diarra on lead vocals, Mamadou Dembélé on ngoni, flute, and vocals, Martin Etienne on saxophones, Stéphane Perruchet on percussion, Elvin Bironien on bass, and Laurent Planells on drums. Alex Brown's review finds a band that sets the bar high and delivers, with confidence and joy.


The late Tabu Ley Rochereau had a talent for picking great musicians. Just before Rochereau died in 2013, he asked his long-time sax player Modero Mekanisi to keep L'Orchestre Afrisa International going. The eventual result was Melanie, the band's first release in many years. While the unhurried but compelling grooves nostalgically echo west Africa's older, pre-soukous Congolese rumba dance styles, the uniformly meticulous playing is a treat for long-time fans. Marty Lipp shares the music of a band that carries on.


world music Charanga's Tributo'ó Ti Tobias is a peculiar kind of tribute album. Styled as a musical homage paid to an Uncle Tobias, a sort of older everyman, the album pays tribute to the long history of Portuguese folk music that has come before it. However, this isn't the pristine folk of ethnomusicologists or world music connoisseurs but the lively tradition of summer village parties with cheesy up-tempo beats and corny lyrics played by stocky mustachioed men and scantily-clad ladies. Charanga's use of such pimba music (essentially a Portuguese version of schlager) is as jarring as it is tender: their message is not political as such, but it does evoke a particularly inclusive concept of Portuguese folk music that encompasses a vast terrain of instruments and traditions, from bagpipes to synthesizers... Rosa Vieira de Almeida takes us into the strange world of Charanga.


world music Michael Stone had a chance to chat with Spanish pianist-composer-bandleader Chano Domínguez about his latest recording, Over the Rainbow. Domínguez's new solo recording, draws from a live performance in Barcelona, combining Latin American canciones with his original compositions and pieces by Thelonious Monk, Harold Arlen, and John Lewis. Domínguez observes, "Latin American popular music has been part of my life for a long time. These are profoundly expressive songs that I developed a deep feeling for from my youth." Read their conversation, and Michael's review, while you listen to some of the music from the album.


world music The titles say it all: Bitori: Legend Of Funana: The Forbidden Music Of The Cape Verde Islands

Space Echo: The Mystery Behind The Cosmic Sound Of Cabo Verde Finally Revealed

Synthesize The Soul: Astro-Atlantic Hypnotica From The Cape Verde Islands 1973-1988

Bruce Miller investigates three recordings that explore the 20th Century sounds of the these Atlantic Ocean islands off the North African coast, from accordion driven dance music to synthesizer centered pop.


world music Aurelio Martínez is arguably Central America's most gifted and vibrant musical talents, a key tradition bearer of one the most threatened cultures of the isthmus, the African-Amerindian Garifuna people. Apprenticed from an early age to his cultural elders, later a collaborator of Garifuna masters Paul "Nabi" Nabor (19282014) and Andy Palacio (19602008), Aurelio is the foremost champion of the music, dance and language traditions… With its emphasis on vocal artistry, polyrhythmic complexity and dense percussive base, Garifuna music speaks across the African diaspora to its Central American, Caribbean and Latin America counterparts, rooted in the sacred ancestor spirit-possession drumming, song and dance genres of the ritual dügü, consonant with analogues in Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and elsewhere... A mature expression of Aurelio's decades-long sojourn, Darandi is a definitive rendering of some of his most compelling original and traditional Garifuna material, in a new recording made live at Real World Studios in England. Read Michael Stone's full review of Darandi, and listen to a full song from the album, a song made famous by his mentor Paul Nabor.

Darandi is RootsWorld's Music of the Month selection for March, 2017. Find out more.



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The treasure of language

Here are a few recordings that explore the power of language; in this case, some lesser know tongues of Europe and the Atlantic. Languages all have their own unique rhythms and meter that are reflected in both the poetry and in the music itself. These three artists offer us a glimpse into their very local worlds, singing (and, in effect, playing) in Karelian, Älvdalska and Faroese. - CF

First is a very special recording of music from Sweden, by one of its most interesting and important artists, Lena Willemark. As Lee Blackstone writes, "Blåferdį (Blue Journey) is a mesmerizing album from an always adventurous Swedish singer and violin player. To realize this work, Willemark wrote a series of poems, in Swedish and in Älvdalska (also called Elfdalian, an ancient Swedish language) which she set to the sounds of a quintet - Willemark on vocals and violin; Emma Reid on violin; Mia Marin on 5-string violin; Mikael Marin on 5-string viola; and Leo Sander on cello; plus percussionist Tina Quartey on numerous drums and bells… The music and singing is quite simply, astonishing. The strings act like roots, anchoring these songs, the cello another dark timbre. Quartey's percussion never overwhelms the delicacy and force with which the quintet maneuvers through Willemark's compositions."
In addition to Lee's full review, we have a full song and some excerpts from the album. Ms Willemark also contributed a few words explaining how she came to perform the entire work in Älvdalska (Elfdalian), an ancient dialect from her home region of Älvdalens, in Sweden. And we have a short video of her telling the nativity story in the language. Read the full article.

The next recording comes from a quintet of vocalists from the Faroe Islands. Kata is an all-female vocal quintet hailing from, and arranging folk tunes of their islands. Kata's precise, rooted singing will appeal to fans of Trio Mediaeval, but they are also influenced by Bulgarian choirs like Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. The album's tone tends toward cautionary tales of injurious traditions and social mores, as codified in folk stories handed down for generations. Occasionally accompanied by electronics and percussion, the listener is offered a dip into forgotten waters, an experience of vivid melodic and lyrical shapes on Tívils Døtur. Listen to the music and read Tyran Grillo's full review.

Finally, we offer you an audio feature of the music and songs of Karelia, as reinterpreted by Lekkujad, a quartet of musicians based in Helsinki that are exploring new ways to hear music from Karelia, a region that spans the Finnish-Russian border. These four musicians have diverse backgrounds that come together to create something unusual for Karelian music. Listen to a few tracks from their new recording, Tulinbo Ruadieh.


world music Singer, guitarist and song writer Lula Pena is one of the most iconoclastic artists of Portugal. She is often referred to as a fado singer, but that's sheer laziness on the part of those looking for simple pigeonholes to place their expectations in. There is certainly the independent spirit of fado in her music; the old school variety punctuated by cigarettes and late nights; the cousin of the blues, the rembetiko, the morna, and the Appalachian ballad. But Pena stands apart, and shows how far on her latest recording, Archivo Pittoresco.    See a video of one song and a live performance, and read Cliff Furnald's review.


world music French trio Bey.Ler.Bey are mistranslaters of sorts. Composed of accordionist Florian Demonsant, percussionist Wassim Halal, and clarinetist Laurent Clouet, the group showcases a collective knowledge of what they call the "colors and codes of Balkan music" while embracing certain conventions of free jazz and minimalism. On Mauvaise langue, they conspicuously eschew traditional elements through a kind of upside-down and backwards jigsaw puzzle, fitting sounds together that seem like they've always coexisted. However, the mercurial qualities of each voice betray a newness of vision.    Listen to the songs and read Dylan McDonnell's review.


world music Like countless projects before it, Au bout du petit matin ("In the wee hours") lines out the possibilities of joy and sorrow through a collage of instrumental and vocal means. However, Malgache artist Tao Ravao and French musician Thomas Laurent fulfill their vision by offering a window into primarily Francophone and Francophone-associated tunes… The choice of instrumentation for this project, as well as the song material, is highly associated with either French postcolonial or stereotypically "French" sounds: Ravao plays both guitar and kabosy, a box-shaped wooden guitar common in musics of Madagascar, while Laurent sports a twelve-hole chromatic harmonica not dissimilar to the voice-like emotionality popularized by musicians like Toots Thielemans and Gregoire Maret. The duo dissolves and rebuilds its sound piece by piece as it creates allusions to disparate musical contexts.   Read Dylan McDonnell 's review and listen to some songs from the album


world music "I'm going to tell you a long story about Shirley Collins and English folk music. To do so, follow me back to before Shirley Collins was born to around the turn of the twentieth century…" Shirley Collins' Lodestar, her first recording in 38 years, was published late last year, and both Lee Blackstone and your editor picked it as one of our favorite releases of 2016. Join Lee as he walks you through the story of this most interesting and enduring folk music legend, in his article about English folk music, Ms. Collins and her highly anticipated return to singing. There are also three beautiful video pieces to accompany his story.


world music The folk world has its projects whereby musical connections are made which heighten awareness concerning the indebtedness different cultures have to one another: in that spirit, parallels and future avenues are explored… The trio Serendou, are in this excellent tradition of cultural exchange, when two musicians from Niger meet with a Breton flautist in Zinder. Serendou are comprised of Yacouba Moumouni (flute, vocals), Boubacar Souleymane (singer, percussionist, guitar and kountigui a one-stringed lute), and Jean-Luc Thomas (ebony flute, electronics, vocals)… Zinder's substance is thrilling on several counts. The musicians go deep into Nigerien music.. tunes shimmer, and the flute playing brings to mind the circularity that one hears in Breton music a round, call-and-response rhythmic sway that characterizes a lot of the album… Lee Blackstones explores the invisible borders.
world music Finnish folk music can sound other-worldly. The country's folk-epic, "The Kalevala," compiled by Elias Lönnrot in the early 1800s era of nationalism, features ancient and stunning poetry that sounds as if it were forged by mountains and rivers. "The Kalevala" is laced with charms and spells, and its impact on Finnish folk culture has been immense. One can hear its echoes in this new recording.

Okra Playground formed in Finland in 2010, and Turmio is the group's debut recording. Three female vocalists are up-front in Okra Playground's sound, which lends thrilling dynamics to their chosen material. Both play the kantele, strung over their shoulders for a twin-stringed attack that any heavy metal band would envy. The men in the band round out the contemporary sound with bass, synth, accordion and percussion. Comparisons to both Värttinä and Hedningarna are inevitable. Okra Playground has an organic, acoustic base, but they frequently add electronic enhancements so that their overall approach appeals to both traditionalists and experimentalists.    Read Lee Blackstone's full review and listen to the music.


world music For a number of reasons, Niger strikes many as a difficult place to penetrate. It's brutally hot, largely desert, landlocked, and dauntingly vast. Over the last 13 or so years, it's also experienced it's share of coups, drought, and threats from within and without. This is the information that often gets expressed through various media outlets, and while these concerns are real, the country is also experiencing a musical flux. Alongside centuries old traditions are cell phones and the internet, which are forcing shifts. Niger has had some aural anomalies for quite some time, with releases of Mamman Sani Abdoulaye's late 1970's synthesizer experiments, as well as early 70's recordings by Azna de L'ader. Tuareg guitar rock, found in the Agadez region, and recorded over the last decade or so, has also seen plenty of attention…

Which all brings us to Studio Shap Shap. This six-piece ensemble, based in the nation's capital Niamey, does what so many young bands from more cosmopolitan areas of the world are doing; they're synthesizing tradition with a more experimental approach. On Chateau 1, the komsa lute, balafon, and the Hausa talking drum known as the Kalangou, blend with electric keyboards, electronics, snippets of field recordings and musical patterns not normally associated with the country's roots, for something that captures the country's musical flux perfectly… Listen to the music and read Bruce Miller's full review.


world music Based in Prague, Czech band ba.fnu meet with legendary Breton singer Yann-Fañch Kemener on a remarkable project called YFK 2016. ba.fnu are a young band playing cittern, hurdy-gurdy and other stringed instruments, percussion and some computer programming. They have an affinity for both Czech and other European styles, but especially Breton fest-noz tunes. Yann-Fañch Kemener is famous for helping to revive Kan ha diskan, the Breton vocal style that accompanies dancing. The Czechs bring a contemporary modern aesthetic to their arrangements, which can described as traditional music incorporating urban street sounds. Kemener's vocals circle through the mix and add a trance-like quality to the tracks.

What the musicians aim to achieve here are not merely danceable songs, but experimental sound-art. YFK 2016 is meant to be experienced as a sonic calendar, with a distinct political message. They combine this all with spoken word samples continually throughout the music and these provide a running commentary on international affairs… Read Lee Blackstone's review and listen to a few of the songs from this Czech/Breton 'calendar.'


world music As unlikely as they are talented, the members of Doolin' are French musicians playing Irish music, recording on a Nashville-based record label. Formed in 2005 in Toulouse by six musicians from widely different backgrounds but united in their love of Irish music, the group's newest album shows little trace of their native land, with lyrics principally in English. The group mostly plays instrumentals, propelled by bodhran playing and percussive guitar work. They also add heartfelt vocals in songs like Bob Dylan's "Ballad of Hollis Brown" and Steve Earle's "Galway Girl." The group has produced an album that should be welcome to fans of high-energy modern traditionalists such as Solas, Lunasa and Flook… Read Marty Lip's complete review and listen to some of the music.


world music "You can lose the battle, you can even lose the war; but what counts is having fought."

The Occitan speaking lands of Italy have brought forth their fair share of contemporary and folk musicians, and of these Lou Dalfin is probably the longest-lived and best-known band. On Musica Endemica, their thirteenth album in 35 years, Sergio Berardo's band continues on its folk-rock course - especially if you consider the hurdy-gurdy a rock instrument. It's been five years since their last effort, and it's certainly worth the wait… Hear some of the music and read David Cox' full review.


world music I thought my knowledge of global music instruments was fairly comprehensive. Then I took a look at the thing balanced on the shoulder of Malawi's Gasper Nali in the cover photo of his album Abale Ndikuwuzeni. I'm sure I'm not the only one who, at first glance, wondered why this fellow didn't take up the harmonica. But I'm open-minded and open-eared, so I had to find out what this bizarrely beautiful axe could sound like. Turns out it's called a babatoni and is Nali's own creation. With its cow skin drum resonator, single string and very, very long neck, it may look like a surrealistic representation of a giraffe but sonically comes across rather like a Brazilian berimbau. The babatoni's sole string is struck with a stick held in Nali's right hand while his left moves an empty glass bottle along the string in order to vary the tone. The effect is melodic in a rudimentary sort of way, producing a shimmering, rise-and-fall metallic buzz that you might assume to be electronically created if you hadn't already gotten the visual. Read Tom's full review and listen to a few songs from the album.


world music Transparent Water occupies space within several different spectra: between plucked and hammered strings, spontaneous and preconceived composition, wandering and purposeful trajectories. Its fluidity reflects a continuity of Cuban pianist Omar Sosa's vision of transcontinental blurring of styles and idioms in an ultimately Afro-diasporic framework. This time around Sosa has partnered with Senegalese kora player and singer Seckou Keita to engage a project of exploratory proportions: the album features elements of multiple African regional musics (Mandinka and Yoruba), Chinese reed timbres, Japanese koto playing, and the Afro-Latin piano and percussion canons. Read Dylan McDonnell's review, and listen to a full song and some excerpts from the album.


world music Describing themselves as "a sort of truncated nautical B-movie featuring a cast of characters raided from Hollywood's worst costume department," Seas of Mirth are a band of merry pranksters sailing the 'pirate folk' subgenre. Pirates are perhaps themselves the ultimate subgenre, and pirate-related themes crawl from the seaweed in many metal and folk-rock oriented bands. Seas of Mirth do the developing scene credit on their second full-length album Hark! The Headland ApproachethRead Lee Blackstone's review and sing along.


world music Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Planet Drum has been remastered in a special edition with three previously unpublished tracks. In 1990, Mickey Hart assembled a cast of musicians from around the world to make a percussion album unlike anything ever produced. Hart was joined by Zakir Hussain and T.H. "Vikku" Vinayakram from India, Babatunde Olatunji and Sikiru Adepoju from Nigeria, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim from Brazil, and Giovanni Hidalgo from Puerto Rico. Planet Drum was released in 1991 and spent twenty-six weeks at the top of the Billboard charts, winning the first World Music Grammy. Instead of writing compositions in a particular style, Hart wanted the musicians to bring their traditions to the studio with the goal of creating new rhythms and ideas in an open-minded environment. The results speak for themselves…Join Alex Brown in revisiting a classic percussion album.


world music On The Magical Forest, Norwegian kantele virtuoso Sinikka Langeland reconvenes her "Starflowers" quintet (with saxophonist Trygve Seim, trumpeter Arve Henriksen, bassist Anders Jormin, and drummer-percussionist Markku Ounaskari), adding to that quilt the patchwork of voices known as Trio Mediæval. Any of these names will be familiar across the spectrum of ECM followers, but their shared love for Scandinavian folk music has never been so clear as in this latest project. In contrast to previous albums, the kantele is a largely supportive presence, almost airy in its backgrounded-ness. This gives Langeland's unaffected singing - and, more importantly, the imagery laced into it - room to roam.   Read Tyran Grillo's review and listen.


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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



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


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


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


world music

world music

New Nordic Roots

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

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


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


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


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

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



world music

world music

world music

Three Audio Features

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

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

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

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


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


Read reviews from 2016



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About RootsWorld: RootsWorld is a world music magazine started in 1993, pretty much at the dawn of the term "world music" as well as the pre-dawn of internet publishing (I suspect this was the first music magazine of any sort published on the www). Our focus is the music of the world: Africa, Asia, Europe, Pacifica and The Americas, the roots of the global musical milieu that has come to be known as world music, be it traditional folk music, jazz, rock or some hybrid. How is that defined? I don't know and don't particularly care at this point: it's music from someplace you aren't, music with roots, music of the world and for the world. OK?

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