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Review Archive 2018 2017 | 2016

world music Darshan is a project whose intention is to bring Jewish mysticism to the people. At the core of the Darshan project is Basya Schechter, a terrific vocalist and oud player, who has been a part of the downtown New York City 'Jewish Radical Culture' musical scene. She is joined by MC ePRHYME (Eden Pearlstein), who has been invested in hip-hop for over a decade. In his rap lyrics, ePRHYME explores Jewish identity and mysticism.

For Raza ('secret' in Aramaic), Darshan is rounded out by several musical guests, such as Tamer Pinarbasi (kanun), Shanir Blumenkranz (bass, oud), and Aaron Johnston (from the Brazilian Girls, on drums and programming). There are other musical additions, such as cello, electric guitar, and human beatboxing – and even the Fire Island Synagogue Choir, where Schechter serves as a cantor... Together, Schechter and ePRHYME revisited and reconceived the Kabbalistic lyrics that comprise the Kabbalat Shabbat: the opening portion of prayerful texts for the Friday night service, or "Welcoming the Sabbath."     Read Lee Blackstone's full review and hear the music.

Raza is our April selection for Music of the Month. Learn more, and listen to some of the music, and subscribe today.


world music

world music

Formed in 1981, the Latvian band Iļģi have been busy for over thirty-five years, releasing consistently interesting and diverse albums. Ilga Reizniece, a classically trained violinist, initiated the collective; joined by Māris Muktupāvels, a bagpipe and kokle (a Baltic stringed instrument of the zither family) player, excursions began across Latvia to immerse themselves in folk songs and their traditions.

In 1993, the band wrote, "We do not know if what we play today can be classified as folklore, because we work with folk music much more freely than tradition allows. We tend to call it 'post-folklore.' When we play, the truthfulness and sensation of the moment is more important than the sound created and enjoyed long ago…We have always felt closely tied with the ancient stratas of folklore – mythology, the rhythm and order of traditional life, and its coexistence with the rhythm and order of nature."

The band has been steadily producing recordings ever since then, and Lee Blackstone looks into their latest releases, that feature two very different approaches to the tradition, Tur Kur Mīti (Where Myths Dwell) and Spēlēju. Dancoju. Dejoju. (Played. Dance. Danced.). Hear some songs from the albums, watch a 360 video of a concert and learn about the band's music and history in Lee Blackstone's review.


world music Tyran Grillo attended a recent concert of The Fourth Light Project at Schimmel Center in New York City and writes, "At the core of Niyaz are vocalist Azam Ali and multi-instrumentalist Loga Ramin Torkian on oud and kamaan (a custom viol-like instrument). They were joined by Sinan Cem Eroglu on kaval and komuz (Turkish flute and three-stringed lute), Gabriel Ethier on keyboards and programming, Ravi Naimpally on tabla, and whirling dervish Tanya Evanson, whom Ali credits as the genesis of this project. Live motion tracking was provided by Jérôme Delapierre, whose projections graced a series of vertical panels with ghostly echoes of the performers in real time.

To be sure, Ali was the focal point of the evening. Despite having heard her on record for nearly two decades since her days as one half of Vas, I became aware of terrains in her voice that only a live setting could map."     Read his full review, along with beautiful photos from that night, and a video of an earlier performance.


world music For listeners, unfortunately, music industry economics long ago curtailed the touring prospects of big bands like Chopteeth Afrofunk Big Band, the horn-heavy Washington, DC-based 12-piece Afrofunk orchestra founded in 2007. Yet live appearances by spirited transnational ensembles like this, singing in seven languages, are precisely the point of socially provocative music in these, our times. Hence, Chopteeth has won a fierce regional following from Baltimore to DC and suburban Virginia. Bone Reader testifies to what DC metro music aficionados have long known: from start to finish, Chopteeth holds its own with the best of Afrobeat groups inspired by James Brown disciples Fela Kuti, Tony Allen and their West and West Central African confreres. Channeling the classic vocal-guitar-brass-percussion sounds of Congolese, Ghanaian, Guinean, Nigerian, Senegalese and South African popular music, Chopteeth's sonic signature is a conscious, uninhibited, funkadelic dance mélange of crackling soul, R&B, jazz and hip-hop.     Read Michael Stone's full review, listen to a song and some excerpts, and see a live video by the band.


world music On his 4th international release, Live in Bamako, guitarist Oumar Konaté decided to capture a club performance in his home country of Mali. And among other things, this record is a reminder that this massive, land-locked nation is awash in hot guitarists. But while the occasional Takamba groove gives his origins away, Konaté can often come off as less allegiant to his roots than contemporaries such as Vieux Farka Toure or Sidi Toure. YouTube video clips show him, often as not, in power trio format, stomping on pedals and shredding in a way that's likely to be narcotic to heads out looking for a good groove to dance to. Moreover, two tracks here, "La Plus Belle" and "Ya Foutama," go straight for the reggae pulse, the stuttered rhythm, as well as some synth-concocted horn lines, held down by a keyboard player. Over such repetition, Konaté can crank out one flanged-out solo after another between verses, which he sings with an urgency that cuts through his playing.     Read Bruce Miller's review and hear some music from the CD and see the band in a live video.


world music

The mostly instrumental, acoustic Anarouz does much more than show off talent; it draws together musicians from Mali (kora master Ballake Sissoko), Morocco (oud specialist Driss El Maloumi) and Madagascar (valiha player Rajery) - known collectively as 3MA - to show how naturally music dispenses with boundaries when left to roam, as so many of these tracks seem to do. In fact, their instrumental voices blend effortlessly, and it often becomes difficult to discern who is playing what. Perhaps this is due, at least in part, to the fact that all three players wrote and arranged everything here. Perhaps it's the web-like patterns, unfurled like quilts that come from giving stringed instruments so much room to dance.     Read Bruce Miller's full review and listen to some of the music


world music Italian singer Luisa Cottifogli came to my attention in 2000 with her remarkable first recording, Aiò Nenè. The recording was subtitled, "I come from the North, but I am from the South," and explored the dichotomy between Italy's colder, richer, more urban north and its warmer, poorer and more rural south. It bridged that divide, and then went on to incorporate music from Arabic and Indian traditions, as well as modern jazz and avant garde ideas. For all its worldliness, it was ultimately firmly rooted in the south that she proclaimed she was from. But she was born in the Alps and that is where she returns on Come Un Albero D'Inverno, as she and her ensemble proclaim in the opening track, "Yodel," where they take what in other parts of the world is considered a cliché of the past and place it in the bold, beautiful now. Read Cliff Furnald's review and listen to some of the music.



world music

world music

"It was as if his eye were an ear and a crackle went through it each time he shot a look at the accordion. ... The notes fell, biting and sharp; it seemed the tooth that bit was hollowed with pain." - Annie Proulx, Accordion Crimes

The accordion has a distinctive sound, dry but capable of beautiful melody, it is an instrument that a lot of European cultures share; its origin seems to be Lombardia, Italy. At one occasion I was very excited to open a book called "Accordion Crimes" but the accordion seemed to be just an excuse for endless mayhem against the characters. Not so this project called Accordion Samurai, by contrast a beautiful project, full of life, hope and even mystery. Masters such as Kepa Junkera and Riccardo Tesi have taught me to love the instrument, and so I was curious to hear this project with the involvement of both.

On Te, five of Europe's most creative veteran practitioners/composers, come together for a disc that features the diatonic accordion: Tesi (Tuscany/Italy), Markku Lepisto (Finland), David Munnelly (Ireland); Junkera (Basque Country/Spain) and Simone Bottasso. Full of variety, this disc gives a nice overview of how the instrument is used by its most successful exponents, across Europe.   Listen to some of the music and read David Cox review.

Te is RootsWorld's pick for Music of the Month


world music Syrian Dreams was inspired by Maya Youssef's reactions to seeing her homeland ravaged by war in 2011. Having never written music before yet unable to ignore the compositional impulses welling up inside her, she let her melodic reactions flow into the present album. Since growing up in Damascus, where she was told that the qanun was a "man's instrument," she has cultivated a masterful relationship with the plucked zither, and from it has unraveled this honest portrait of conflict: at once privileged to have life yet knowing that the very place which gave it to her has suffered unimaginable turmoil.   Hear some excerpts from the album, watch a full length video, and read Tyran Grillo's full review


world music Rather than exploring the sounds of a full band this time around, most of Ilmamõtsan, the new recording by Estonian artist Mari Kalkun, is performed by just herself. The sonic exploration comes through the multiple instruments she uses to accompany her vocals: 12- and 36-string kanteles, accordion, harmonium, chimes and bells, and various percussive effects, often overdubbed but never overdone. There is wonderful musicality and beauty in each of these backdrops, but it is Kalkun's vocals that propel these songs. The singing is often soft yet always intense, emotive without lapsing into sappiness, somehow bridging a chasm between soothing touch and a visceral rawness. Even for those of us who speak nary a word of Estonian, these songs are compelling and engrossing. Read Greg Harness' full review and listen to some of the music


world music

On Fertile Paradoxes, Tunisian brothers Amine M'raihi (oud) and Hamza M'raihi (kanun) combine their artistry with violinist Baiju Bhatt, saxophonist Valentin Conus, percussionists Prabhu Edouard and Fredrik Gille, and special guests besides. It's an aptly named album, as these musicians mix seemingly disparate genres, spirits, and geographic moods into an integrated whole. The commonality that binds them is an implicit understanding of not only where they've come from, but also where they're going. The ability of this ensemble, known collectively as The Band Beyond Borders, to craft splendid sonic dishes from minimal ingredients finds synchronicity in Amine & Hamza's composing.

Read Tyran Grillo's review and hear some of the music.


world music

world music

Nordic Raga is a cross-cultural project that joins together two musics from radically different climes: southern India, and the Nordic regions. This musical pollination is in accomplished hands. Jyotsna Srikanth, from Bangalore, is at the apex of southern Indian Carnatic violin players. Mats Edén has been a major figure in the Swedish folk revival ever since the 1970s, recognizable from his viola d'amore playing with such important groups like Groupa, Nordan, and on his own solo recordings. Via his musical studies, Dan Svensson (percussion and vocals) moved from pop and rock music, into folk and global music. Pär Moberg provides saxophone, flute, and didjeridoo playing; his work can also be heard with the enjoyable Eastern European-influenced group Tummel. The Nordic Raga project provides an opportunity for these musicians to explore some common ground – the points of meeting become more apparent as the disc unfolds. Lee Blackstone digs into the intricacies in his review.

Nordic Raga is our selection for February's Music of the Month.


world music

Diatonic accordionist Didier Laloy and cellist Kathy Adam, known together as Belem, combine forces with the machinery of Walter Hus for an experience like no other. Hus's creation is, at its core, an automated organ, but in the fullness of its expression a veritable orchestra, the sonic equivalent of a monochromatic film painstakingly hand-tinted. Film is indeed the metaphor du jour, as any of Belem & The Mekanics's 11 pieces could be the ideal soundtrack for, say, a Brothers Quay short (and by saying as much, I give it highest compliment). And while other albums have attempted similar experiments—notably Pat Metheney's "Orchestration" project—there's something organic about this one that sets it apart. Although I can only imagine how wondrous it must be to witness this music in a live setting, I enjoy letting its images project themselves onto the screen of my mind, to roam as they will. Read Tyran Grillo's full review and listen to the music.


world music Sometimes, music falls on my desk that I know will never be fully explainable as a review. Such is the strange world of Little Big Noz, the musical offspring of baritone saxophonist Ronan Le Gouriérec and his vocal antagonist Philippe Chasseloup. Together they have created a satirical show based on the traditional dance music of Brittany.

The CD version of these performances is just Gouriérec and Chasseloup, They play word games with the dances and their sometimes rigid interpretations by the participants, and Le Gouriérec turns the music on its head in a solo saxophone attack that respects the melodies, but more importantly, the freedom those melodies offer a creative musician. Because the chatter is all in local French, and is further complicated by the inside jokes and double entendres they insert, Gouriérec offered to help me interpret a few of them for you. Read more and enjoy some of the music.


world music

world music

From Poland's burgeoning folk roots scene come two new and distinct bands. Both are trios, yet each group earmarks their locale.

WoWaKin are from the Mazovia region, an area that includes Warsaw, in the northeast of Poland. Each group creates thick clouds of trance-inducing sound built on traditional rhythms from the Polish countryside. The trio offers an array of foxtrots, tangos, polkas, oberkas, and more on their debut album. WoWaKin are comprised of Paula Kinaszewska (violin, vocals); Mateusz Wachowiak (accordion); and Bartlomiej Wozniak (drums and sound design). Their repertoire borrows from the Polish areas of Kielce, Radom, and Sanniki.

Kapela Maliszów is a family band from a small village in the Lower Beskids mountain range, located in southeast Poland, bearing towards Slovakia. The ensemble is comprised of Jan Malisz and his two children, Zuzanna (age 14) and Kacper (age 18). Jan Malisz anchors the group with his basolia, a Polish instrument reminiscent of the cello. Zuzanna sings and accompanies on percussion and Kacper plays both violin and nyckelharpa.

Read Lee Blackstone's reviews and listen to some tracks from each album.

Michal Shapiro was at WOMEX 2017, held in Katowice, Poland, and filmed each of these excellent ensembles.


world music Politics and music are rarely far apart, as perhaps nowhere more evident than in the music of exiles wherever they find themselves. At a forcible remove from its cultural foundations, dislocated artistry resides as close as memory and sentiment can bring tradition bearers to a time, place and way of life that, if now denied to the artist, can be only more unfamiliar to the audience. Yet all that changes when the artist, in the company of fellow exiles and rootless cosmopolitans, finding themselves in a strange land, commune in song. Born to a Baluchi father and Afro-Iranian mother descended from Zanzibar exiles enslaved in the Persian Gulf region of southern Iran, Saied Shanbehzadeh himself left for France when his experimental fusions of African-Iranian possession ritual music and other regional folk forms found disfavor with the cultural police (he was convicted in absentia for blasphemy and faces lashing and imprisonment if he were to return). Shanbehzadeh sings, composes, arranges and plays the neyanban (a double-reed bagpipe made of goatskin) and saxophone. On Pour-Afrigha he is joined by Iranian Baluchi singer Rostam Mirlashari, a former political prisoner, and accompanied by French guitarist Manu Codija, Shanbehzadeh's son Naghib on percussion (zarb-timpo, dammam, kesser, darbuka), and several other guests.   Read Michael Stone's full review, hear some excerpts and see a video performance.


world music

world music

The sound and spirit of Zimbabwe and Mozambique runs through the heart of Timbila and Chartwell Dutiro's double album collection Sadza with the Head of a Mouse. Timbila is a New York-based band, led by Nora Balaban, that met in Zimbabwe in 1997. Since then they have delved into the rich heritage of southern Africa's songs and instruments, adding their own East Village multicultural explorations to the music. Here they are joined by vocalist and mbira master Chartwell Dutiro, a former member of Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited who now resides in the U.K.

Strange Circles is the debut offering from Bokanté, an ensemble put together by Snarky Puppy's Michael League. The group's name translates from Creole to "exchange" in English and the eight musicians from four continents have developed a cohesive, layered multicultural sound that serves as a foundation for Malika Tirolien's rich vocals sung in Creole and French. While in Canada, League heard the voice of Tirolien, who hails from Guadeloupe and now lives in Toronto. The meeting inspired the creation of Bokanté, with League and Tirolien collaborating on the music and Tirolien handling the lyrics. They are joined by fellow Snarky Puppy guitarists Chris McQueen and Bob Lanzetti, percussionists Jamey Haddad, André Ferrari, and Keita Ogawa, as well as Roosevelt Collier on pedal and lap steel guitars.

Both reviews include full tracks from the albums.



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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