A World Music Magazine

world music

Thanks to the scholarship and massive reissue campaigns of labels such as Yazoo. Mamlish, Biograph, Wolf, Document, and Herwin... who recognized there was a younger generation of vinyl hipsters who hadn’t already discovered the joys of the 78 RPM era, the hydra-headed beast known as “the blues” has been well-catalogued, reissued, re-discovered, re-contextualized, and re-curated... So what on earth is the Rough Guide doing spitting these recordings out once again in the early decades of the 21st century, nearly 100 years after many of the tracks here were recorded? Surely, hardcore blues nerds already have these songs, either thanks to reissues on the above-mentioned labels, or perhaps hidden in the worn grooves of original shellac 78s coveted like treasure. One can only suspect that the Rough Guide has its own crowd.. and for interested folks, The Rough Guide To The Best Country Blues You've Never Heard does not disappoint. It also does a fine job of allowing us to recognize that the term “blues” is a catch-all for music with deep roots into the changes occurring in music and society going at least into the last decades of the 19th century. Bruce Miller shares some thoughts and tunes.


world music An album called Silence purporting to have well over an hour's worth of music certainly had me wondering what to expect. Any initial silence is broken by pressing play, after which instead you'll hear a low-level synth drone over which Norwegian jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen adds some tentative introductory piano notes with his right hand. He is then joined by kemenche player Derya Turkan, percussionist Omer Arslan and finally Coskun Karademir, who plays two Turkish long-necked lutes on the album, the kopuz and the bagluma. After three minutes of slow tempo improvisation with each musician setting out his stall, Gustavsen introduces the melody "Gondol," a 19th century piece composed by an Ottoman sultan, which then forms the basis of some rich collective playing. Mike Adcock explores the spaces in between the notes.


world music It might be easiest to view Evocazione E Invocazioni by Linguamadre member Davide Ambrogio as an audio play with music. That might not be his intention (he says it's centered "on the idea of Sound, in its aesthetic and ecstatic dimension. In traditional oral music, songs and sounds appear in the context of a ritual"), but it gives a continuity to these pieces sung in the Calabrian dialect of southern Italy. The music might be his, but the lyrics come, in one form or another, from the oral tradition. The magic is in how he's put them all together. Read Chris Nickson's review and hear some of the music.


world music Netherlands-based Makkum Records has been busy these last few years releasing compilations of Ghanaian masters of the Northern region’s two-stringed lute, the kologo. Ayuune Sule’s sole track featured on Makkum's This is Kologo Power compilation shows the relentlessness of his approach. His vocals, often shouted with response, are underpinned by a constant buzzing flurry of repetition, demanding surrender from listeners. And while his new release, Putoo Katare Yire, the second international release devoted to him, has examples of his solo playing, most of this is slathered in modern pop trappings, such as auto tune, synthesized rhythms and other production methods that will frustratingly date this record even as they may also help Sule expand his much-deserved global audience.

From the same country but arguably at the opposite end of the musical production spectrum from Sule’s latest sits Witch Camp: I've Forgotten Now Who I Used to Be, a collection of musical snippets recorded by women confined to places where they find community and safety after they have been accused of witchcraft due to physical or mental issues beyond their control... the tracks here, often quite short, are instant compositions using whatever sound-making devices are available, played by people who may not have otherwise been musicians. The results, once again, are astounding. Corn husks, tea pots, tins cans, and tree limbs all play roles as sound sources here, as do a capella vocals and more traditional instruments. Bruce Miller reviews these two contrasting works from modern Ghana.


world music Originating from South Sudan and now resident in Australia, Let Me Grow My Wings is Ajak Kwai's fifth album to date, a highly personal set of twelve songs, sung in English, Arabic and Dinka. The multi-award-winning composer Jan Skubiszewski lends his production and playing talents, as do Melbourne Ska Orchestra frontman Nicky Bomba, Simon Lewis (Amanaska, Pravana), guitarist Chris Basile and a host of other notables. This record has been a long time in the making for Kwai, who also works as a community promoter assisting fellow migrants as well as hosting her own weekly radio show. “My experiences in Australia inform my songs and my music,” she states. “This album is a collection of those hopes and dreams for an integrated future where we are one and can share and be accepted for what my community has to offer.” Read more and listen to the music in Chris Wheatley's review.


world music

Rod Stradling and his melodeon have spent decades being everywhere. He was integral to the formation of a host of important English dance bands, including Oak, The Old Swan Band, Phoenix, and later The English Country Blues Band, Edward II & The Red Hot Polkas, and Tiger Moth. Treacle & Bread presents a nice look at the Stradling history, potted nicely by fellow musician and editor of the late fRoots Magazine, Ian Anderson. It's a bountiful helping of straight ahead dance music and innovative, more electric musings. It's twenty one tracks of English dancing pleasure. Cliff Furnald reviews.


world music The mass extermination of Armenians a century ago was one test of their seemingly indomitable spirit; another is the fact that contested areas of Armenia were under attack by Azerbaijan while Hokin Janapar was being recorded, and the work was completed in the face of that potential danger. The musical instrument through which Arsen Petrosyan articulates his feelings is the duduk. The double reed woodwind, in addition to being Armenia’s signature wind instrument, has snaked its way into the mainstream through its use on various movie and television soundtracks. Djivan Gasparyan remains the name most closely associated with the duduk, but keep an ear out for comparative newcomers like Petrosyan. Tom Orr shares his thoughts and the music.


world music The Nordic countries, particularly Norway and Finland, are quite the place for innovative accordion playing, the sort that, chances are, even an accordion-hater would find remarkably attractive. Frode Haltli is one of Norway’s prime examples. Since the early 2000s his projects, both solo and collaborative, have spanned new-classical, avant-garde, traditional, and Norway’s own special approach to what might be described as jazz but is a misty, atmospheric thing that has little or no connection to the USA. Avant Folk II pulls it all together with his ten-member ensemble... Haltli describes how such a large ensemble manages to maintain improvisational freedom. “In Avant Folk we use processes from folk music: I present a simple material to start with, that all musicians learn by ear. This way, without any scores at all, we all get a common feel of the phrasing and the rhythms, with flexibility and freedom in further elaboration of the musical material.” Listen to tracks from the album and read Andrew Cronshaw's full review.


world music

Canzionere Grecanico Salentino have 46 years as a band behind them, now well into the second generation of the Durante family’s leadership. Formed to preserve and explore the music from their native region in the heel of Italy, they have helped take the pizzica and tarantella to a global audience... Their latest album is the proverbial 'all killer, no filler.' There is not a wasted moment. The sound is richer and fuller, yet it also manages to be more focused, sleeker and stripped back. They have taken everything they have done in the past and turbocharged it. This is urgent music, knocking on your door and demanding to be heard... All the songs are new, but so deeply rooted in the dirt of home that they feel unearthed. Merdiana is not a reinvention of the tradition, but a new layer of it. Chris Nickson takes you on a global adventure in Salento.


world music

"We have lights even at midnight. We can see everything but we can't see the sky. So we basically are estranged from contact with natural time."

While Meridiana is not a “pandemic album,” its creation was affected by the quarantining, and its central theme - our relationship with time - certainly resonates with the introspective time with which we all have been confronted. Months before the Covid-19 virus hit Italy, the group members had decided their next album would explore time from different perspectives. Then they decided the Italian word for a sundial should be the title and organizing principal of the album with 12 songs­one for each hour on the clock’s face. “The sundial uses light and shadow to measure time. So for us meridiana is a symbol for a reflection about time, about our relationship with time.” Read Mauro Durante's RootsWorld interview with Mart Lipp:


world music Natacha Atlas' The Inner & The Outer is a bold and unusual piece of work right from the beginning with “The Outer,” where the glitching chopping-up of Alcyona Mick’s piano line had me convinced there was something wrong with the audio file playback, and anyone buying the limited-edition physical CD will be checking their CD player. But when the rhythm track kicks in and Atlas’s vocal floats over it, in a mix of English and Arabic in her distinctive Arabic vocal style, it becomes clear that it’s supposed to be like that, and appropriately very unsettling it is, expressing the ‘manifestations of fear, mistrust, anger, confusion at the discomfort experienced in a world where we no longer know how to trust our own realities.' Andrew Cronshaw finds it is like no other Atlas release ever.


world music Let’s start by saying it’s fruitless trying to classify Samm Bennett. Don’t even think about it. He’s a genre of one, crazily prolific – both albums - I Need To Talk To You and Songs About Time And Your Uncle appeared in May and he’s released more music since then – and with a decidedly, gloriously skewed vision of the world. Originally from Alabama, he migrated to the North East, and now makes his home in Tokyo. Some of the 22 songs here have previously come out as singles, but there’s still plenty of new material. While none of it is especially complex, there’s a level of intensity to the work that often borders on the manic; it’s definitely not easy listening. Chris Nickson tries to keep up, and we've added a new video song published just this week,


world music There are a lot of albums of entirely solo fiddle from Norway and Sweden. That’s because the essence of traditional fiddling, particularly in Norway, is a solo thing, accompanied only by the player’s foot-tap... Norwegian and Swedish solo fiddling has become a high art, with an often complex-sounding repertoire that is nevertheless mostly music for dancing, with a wide range of rhythms and forms. Mats Edén, from Värmland, in Sweden but close to the Norwegian border, is in both countries a very well-known, admired and respected player and prolific composer. Among much else he’s a founder and continuing member of the very long-established and influential band Groupa. This solo work, Alvaleken was simply self-recorded at home and focuses on those of his many compositions that show his strong affinity with Norwegian music, played on four different fiddles. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to some of the music.


world music Linguamadre are Duo Bottasso (Nicolň on violin and Simone on organetto), the Friulan singer Elsa Martin, and the singer and multi-instrumentalist Davide Ambrogio, who wrote "Sa Limba" with Simone Bottasso. he lyrics of were found in Chiaramonte, a village in the northern part of Sardinia. It's a simple and authentic lullaby to a baby in the mother's womb written in Sardinian language. See a performance of the song, including an English translation of the lyrics.

"One must always protect the dialects because they contain the essence of the history and culture of our country." - Roy Paci

Paci's words could serve as a statement of purpose for Linguamadre. This new Italian group has released its first album, Il Canzoniere di Pasolini. All but one of the nine tracks have been adapted from among the 800 poems and traditional songs collected by the poet, novelist, and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini and published in his 1955 collection, "Canzoniere Italiano" (Italian Songbook)... Linguamadre eschews the folkloric, instead drawing on Italian folk music, jazz, and electronics to create contemporary arrangements that are as mysterious, unpredictable, and often as strange as the poems and lyrics themselves. George de Stefano explores Linguamadre's new, vibrant interpretations of the poems and lyrics collected by Pasolini sixty-six years ago.


world music

I have been a serious fan of African guitarists, particularly from the north and west of the continent, for a very long time, and save for Boubacar Traoré, I cannot think of an artist who so immediately grabbed my attention and amazed me as Boubacar 'Badian' Diabaté. There is a fluid quality to his playing, a sense of casual grace that seems so simple on the surface. You hear the song, you feel the rhythm, and it is only as you are pulled in deeper that you begin to see the expertise of a master craftsman... This is a primarily solo guitar recording, with some occasional light double tracking, his brother Manfa contributing some guitar on just a few tracks, and some percussion by Baye Kouyaté on one other. There's no pyrotechnics, no flash, just a series of perfect songs on Mande Guitar.   Read your editor's review and listen to some of the music.

Mande Guitar is our Music of the Month selection for July. Find out more and subscribe to Music of the Month, or get just this one CD and help support RootsWorld.


world music Amparo Sanchez, a Spanish diva with traction throughout the Latin world, has spent decades making merry with words set to a kaleidoscope of musical influences. In this same vein, and after a lapse in recording of over six years, we find in Mi Génetica, a reconfiguration of Sanchez’ flagship group, Amparanoia (An amparo is a refuge or shelter; the suffix needs no translation), and a generous serving of invited players, adding oomph with a tuba on two tracks, punched up percussion and a more pronounced electric guitar sound. In good cheer, the musicians, known together as the Himnopsis Colectiva, take us on a romp through selected rhythms from the Hispanic world and beyond: from cumbia to chicha, to flamenco, to sounds from the Maghreb, Jamaican reggae and more.

Sanchez is a one-of-a-kind artist, inescapably kindled by flamenco; she is a self-proclaimed cantaora with the soul of flamenco infusing her identity. At the same time she’s been schooled in the sway of the Caribbean, taken extended stays in Mexico, picked up the brassy sounds of the Balkans, and is beholden to the US for the blues and Billie Holiday. With a voice that’s sensual and imperious, bold and gravelly, she lets you know immediately she’s a woman to reckon with, a #MeToo champion long before the movement coalesced. Read Carolina Amoruso's review of Mi Génetica and listen to some songs.


world music George De Stefano takes you on a cross-Atlantic journey through the music of Anna Cinzia Villani, in an encounter between her native territory, the Salento subregion of Puglia and its now world-famous pizzica, and the music associated with the Afro-Brazilian martial art, capoeira... On Ulěa -the title means both "olive" in Salentino dialect and "I would" or "I would like" - Villani is backed by Alessandro Lorusso on guitar, berimbau, and several Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments; Massimiliano Peró, accordion, tamburello, and vocals; Francesco De Donatis, tamburello, bendir and duff, two Middle Eastern hand drums, and vocals; and Brazilian guest artist Mestre Canhăo on berimbau, vocals, and two of the main percussion instruments used in capoeira, pandeiro and atabaque. Take the journey into this unique collaboration of styles and artists.


world music Nong Voru is a collaboration between Ghanaian gyil (xylophone) wizard Alfred Kpebesanne and Brittany Anjou, the Brooklyn based pianist, vibraphonist and improviser , perhaps best known for her jazz performances on acoustic piano. However, because Anjou has also worked way outside of jazz with the likes of former members of naďve-avant geniuses The Shaggs or the pop-noir of Elysian Fields, it should be no surprise that she has found yet another collaborator in Kpebesaane... And while her presence appears subtle at first, with minimal electric keyboards underpinning Kpebesaane’s grooves, by the time the track “The Women are Taking Over the Men” appears, Anjou, as well as a bassist and kit drummer are the driving force... Read Bruce Miller's full review and listen to tracks from the recording.


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world music Saucējas is the female traditional polyphonic vocal group of the Latvian Academy of Culture... but their live performance is far from dull or academic, and their songs, while learned from archive recordings and their own fieldwork, and using traditional techniques and harmonies, emerge their own expression.

It might appear just a conceptual decision to record in natural environments, but apart from undoubtedly being a lot more inspiring and fun than standing in a studio, as Saucejas leader Iveta Tale describes in the CD booklet, singing outdoors in resonant places, particularly on a hill or in the forest, was a strong aspect of the tradition and often referred to in people's reminiscences and in the lyrics of the songs themselves.

Daba, a double CD with sixty traditional songs recorded in various outdoor locations, is a remarkable piece of work. Read how they recorded, and listen to what they recorded in Andrew Cronshaw's review.


world music Archives is an album made by ghosts. Their voices, their instruments, the tapping of their feet…field recordings of French-Canadian people from the 1940s and ‘50s who live on here, lovingly brought back to life by multi-instrumentalist and composer Cédric Dind-Lavoie. Taking archive material and using it as the framework for new music could be an academic exercise, but that’s never the case here. The humanity of the original artists shines through... Read Chris Nickson's review and listen to some tracks from this unique sound collaboration.


world music It's not a recognized genre as far as I know, so you'd likely get a variety of responses if you asked a sampling of people to weigh in on what they consider to be "ghetto" music. Trumpeter Frank London, who has played with a dizzying and diverse array of artists ranging from Itzhak Perlman to Iggy Pop, certainly has his own ideas about it. His starting point happens to be the 1516 establishment of Venice's Jewish quarter, which had been the site of a copper foundry, or geto, thus the word "ghetto" in the lexicon.

While London's roots in klezmer and jazz are hinted at throughout Ghetto Songs, more important is its indomitable spirit, with music that reflects what life in a ghetto - any ghetto - can inspire. And because many of the tracks are based on sources that are centuries old, something of a musical history lesson is at work as well. Tom Orr takes you on a trip through time.


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world music A decade and half ago, the Kasai Allstars were one of a handful of bands featured on Congotronics, and as a result, got swept up in the sudden burst of praise and hype surrounding label mates Konono #1, who seemed to benefit in particular from the attention. Suddenly, raw, relentless DIY sounds from the war-ravaged central African nation were to be found in hip vinyl shops in the west.

Their 2008 debut capitalizes on the Western popularity surrounding Konono #1. And the record showed the group, featuring musicians across multiple ethnic groups from as many other bands, engulfed in a wondrously monotonous thud; likembes, xylophones, hand drums, and empty gin bottles battled it out for space underneath hypnotic guitar curlicues as singers kicked up dust. Their newest recordings, Black Ants Always Fly Together, One Bangle Makes No Sound, come as something of a surprise departure. The thick, distorted likembes are still present, as are the pugnacious guitar patterns. Yet this is an altogether sweeter, less unyielding affair. Bruce Miller reviews this new release, and you can listen to some songs and watch a video.


world music Singer and button-accordionist Celina da Piedade’s singing, playing and joyful charm is one of my absolute favourite things about Portuguese music. There’s no other singer/accordionist in Portugal like her, and in her very distinctive sunny way she captures the melodious richness of Alentejo song. Ao Vivo na Casinha is a recording of a live-streamed concert. It well captures her warmth and the beguiling, very Portuguese delicate grace-noting and slight vibrato of her singing. She’s deeply involved with the traditional singing of the Alentejo region where she lives, south of Lisbon and the river Tejo (Tagus). The material on this album is predominantly cante alentejano (Alentejo song), the vibrant songs in two-part unaccompanied polyphony still sung by village and town groups. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review, listen to some of the music, and see a few videos made by other artists as part of a pandemic challenge thrown down by Celina da Piedade.


world music The Comoro Islands lie in the Indian Ocean to the north-west of Madagascar and are the location for renowned producer Ian Brennan's latest recording. The key to his approach is straightforward in principle, though not necessarily in practice. The aim is to document local music in situ with a minimum of interference, allowing the power of the music and song to be carried on its own terms, but of course things don't always go according to plan. Brennan and his wife and working partner Marilena Delli Umuhoza took six flights to get to Grand Comora, the largest of the islands, hoping to record a seldom heard double-reed pipe called the ndzumara, only to be told on arrival that the last living player of the instrument had recently died. Through word of mouth they made contact with another fine musician and singer called Soubi plus his friend and mentor Mmadi, both of whom they proceeded to record, and We are an island, but we're not alone is the result... Soubi and Mmadi present five songs each, on aspects of their everyday life, mainly accompanying themselves on the ndzendze, a box-zither related to the Malagasy valiha, and in Soubi's case also on the gambussi, a type of lute. The vocal styles of the two men are quite different. Mmadi is usually hotly impassioned while Soubi's voice is lilting and melodious. Hear some of their original songs and read Mike Adcock's musings.


world music Zawierucha is a fine new band springing and evolving from Poland's village dance music revival. Its name means "turmoil" or "storm." Piotr Zgorzelski, player of basy (cello-sized folk bass), teacher of village dance and ex-member of the revival-pioneering Janusz Prusinowski Kompania, is joined, on violins and octave violins, by one of the revival's new young stars, fiddler Kacper Malisz from the Kapela Maliszów family trio, and Marcin Drabik, a leading fiddler in traditional, jazz and rock fields, plus Kamil Siciak on traditional and non-traditional drums and percussion. There's a great variety of approaches here, as the group takes interesting contemporary steps away from the typical traditional sound. Listen to some songs and read all of Andrew Cronshaw's review.


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world music

If weird came in sizes from XS to XXXL, then The Best Japanese Music You’ve Never Heard would clock in somewhere around an XL on the scale. Not so alien it sounds as if it’s from another planet, but heading towards the edge of this one. It certainly goes for it from the start as singer Utsumi Eika teams with a cocktail full jazz band on a traditional minyo (folk) song, “Don-Don Bushi.” To Western ears it makes for a strange, unlikely pairing, a clash, really. but it sets the tone for tracks from different artists where Japanese rap meets folk, shamisen meets surf, and other artists carry the traditions into some deep and dusty musical territory, upping the strangeness quotient.

Read about and listen to the diverse music of Japan's folk-pop scene, collected by noted Asian music collector and provocateur, Paul Fisher. Chris Nickson reviews the set.

The Best Japanese Music You've Never Heard is out latest selection for Music of the Month. Find out how to subscribe and get a copy of this new release.


world music Tindia are a five-piece all-female band based in Budapest and with their strong debut album they are following in the footsteps of others from their country. In Hungary there's a history of composers and performing musicians actively collecting folk songs and tunes by visiting rural areas, sometimes beyond the borders of Hungary itself, to capture musical treasures before they disappear. Bartók and Janácek took music they found on such trips as a starting point for many of their compositions and since then bands such as Muzsikás and Vujiicsics have collected and recorded material from different parts of Hungary and beyond. Now Tindia, who themselves have studied and collected folk music, have chosen to present traditional music of the Csángó people who live in Moldavia but originally travelled there from Hungary. Listen to the music and read what Mike Adcock has to say.


world music Tuvan band Yat-Kha is basically singer/guitarist Albert Kuvezin and an assortment of other people. The thread that’s wound through the music is the man’s kargyraa overtone singing style, the sound mostly associated with Tuva. In his case though, it’s more of an undertone, so deep it’s in the sub-sub-basement and still falling towards the center of the earth. We Will Never Die, partly made before the pandemic and completed in isolation, is just Kuvezin and Sholban Mongush on igil (two-strong horsehair cello). It offers plenty of space for the voice, and also Kuvezin’s effective guitar work, while the cello fills out the music in a very satisfying way. There are traditional pieces, and plenty of surprises, including a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Solitude.” Chris Nickson takes you to Tuva.


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world music Stefano Valla and Daniele Scurati have been leading names in the piffero and accordion music of Quattro Province, the ‘four provinces’ of the Apennines – Genoa, Piacenza, Alessandria and Pavia, for decades. On a new self titled album, they are in company with two classical musicians - violinist Marcello Fera and cellist Nicola Segatta as the quartet Bellanöva. Composer Fera describes his first encounter with Valla and Scurati as "an epiphany." The result of their meeting is a set of traditional tunes and songs from Valla and Scurati’s repertoire given splendid arrangements by Fera. It’s a transformation that works beautifully; the quartet, on the face of it a sort of chamber-music group, makes something much bigger in sound, rich and magnificent; the accordion and cello working together like a whole orchestra, topped off by the eloquent violin and the thrilling graininess of the piffero. Read all of Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to this new music.


world music Pat Conte spent a decade and half on New York airwaves, spinning records from his own vast collection on a show titled "The Secret Museum of the Air." He presented US immigrants, Burmese harpists, Ugandan endingidi masters, or Andean charango experts. Yazoo Records released collections of his treasure trove in the 90s. Now, Brooklyn-based performance space and label Jalopy have helped keep Conte's work available. Aside from releasing an album of Conte's own music in 2010, they have brought us the first Secret Museum of Mankind collection in 23 years. Not surprisingly, it is well worth the wait. Here, we get exquisite flamenco, Greek solo bouzouki, Ghanaian highlife, Hindustani steel guitar and much more. Like many of the original volumes in the series, the music hops the globe; yet, because of the focus on guitar and guitar-adjacent instruments, the sounds here feel more homogenous than some of his other collections. Read more about The Secret Museum of Mankind: Guitars Vol 1: Prologue to Modern Styles in Bruce Miller's review, listen to some of the music, and meet Pat Conte in an interview from 2000.


world music Piers Faccini creates with a quiet restlessness. His songs, painstakingly crafted, seem nonetheless to want to take him further on. He has collaborated with artists as far-flung as Vincent Segal, Ibrahim Malouf, Blick Bassy, and Mayra Andrade, as well as Ben Harper and Abdelkebir Merchane who are featured on his new album, Shapes of the Fall. He, and they all, are thinking, engaged artists with soul, helping to make the world smaller and bigger at the same time. Faccini has put together a bewitching mix of shapes. There are topical and poetic musings, songs of love, even a couple of foot stompers. A number of the tracks celebrates the irrepressible Maghrebbi roots of his Southern Italian patrimony, showcased in the magical mystery music (and musicians) of the Gnawa and other tribal keepers of North African traditions. Carolina Amoruso take you to the Fall.


world music While so many of us look to lyrics when we observe how songs can tell stories, often as not the real stories are in the music itself. If it’s a collective improvisation, there might be a narrative arc. Songs based on drone often add layers, subtly suggesting a change only noticed when the listener is immersed. These additions build to climax, finally letting the listener loose as the sounds subside. The music on Meril Wubslin’s Alors Quoi has stories to tell. This is due to a sense of slow, brooding tension in these tracks, as if they give off a warning. There’s an undercurrent of panic in these gorgeously repeated, often guitar-driven riffs. The vocals, sometimes in chorus, float over the minimal chords like ghosts slithering in and out of cracks in long-abandoned buildings. Bruce Miller takes you on a sonic adventure.


world music There is something classic about the start of Samba Touré's new album Binga: a solitary electric guitar plays a repeated riff, then things begin to build as in turn an acoustic guitar, hand-drums, the lead vocal and finally backing vocals join the proceedings. It's an old device but in the right hands it can still draw you in and make you just want to stick around. It certainly works here... The title Binga refers to the region just south of the Sahara where Samba Touré grew up before moving to Bamako to find work. The songs - traditional and original - reaffirm his continuing connection with these roots and as he has said himself, “Even if it’s complicated or dangerous to travel to the north now, it’s still my homeland and always will be. I have a house there. It’s my culture and my heritage. This is my region and it felt right to name this album after it. It’s pure Songhai music.” Whilst the album begins and ends with traditional songs, the rest are originals, mostly songs commenting on social issues including education and migration. Read Mike Adcock's review and listen to some of the music.


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Antonis Antoniou is an old friend to many of our readers. His work is deeply rooted in the complicated musical and social traditions of Cyprus, where streets were literally divided by steel barrels to separate Turks from Greeks during some of the country's most difficult times. Kkisméttin (fate, destiny, kismet) was made during the pandemic lockdown we have all been living with, and Antoniou took this as an opportunity to create new songs that could speak in various ways about that loss of freedom, and its parallels in the rest of our lives. The songs on the album are not blunt political instruments, but poetic references that cut slowly, but cut deep. He writes not in political screed, but in prose poetry that elicits the beauty of the island and the wonder of its diverse population. Read Cliff Furnald's review and listen to some of the music.

The album is our Music of the Month selection for April, 2021


world music I hope by now the impression abroad that the only Portuguese roots music is fado has is known to be as false a stereotype as all Spanish music being flamenco, or all Americans cowboys. Portugal has a rich variety of regional rural traditional musics, and indeed the melodies of some, particularly those of Alentejo, have shaped the urban Lisbon fado. A unifying aspect of all these musics, though, and of the people in Portugal who perform and listen to them, is a great appreciation of melody, and warm, expressive singing. Sara Vidal is a Portuguese singer and harpist, and for all of her well-known work with many other ensembles, Matriz is her first solo album. It’s a collection of traditional songs from the Portuguese regions of Beira Alta, Beira Baixa, Alentejo, Algarve, Ribatejo, Trás-os-Montes, Minho and the archipelago of Madeira. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to some of the music.


world music Langeleik is a form of table-top zither which, like the more widely known Hardanger fiddle, is a uniquely Norwegian instrument. The recordings in Høyre du, mann! - Langeleikopptak 1955-1983 are drawn from the archive of the Norwegian Collection of Folk Music at the National Library in Oslo, and celebrates the langeleik in 42 relatively short tracks. The langeleik goes back in time considerably further than the Hardanger fiddle and the instrument played on the track "Vals etter Arne Hasvoldseter," which is inscribed with the year 1524.

The CD contains a descriptive booklet, partly in English, which includes photographs of instruments and players. It seems that most of these archive recordings were made specifically for documentation, principally to capture traditional ways of playing before they disappeared altogether. The fact that most of the players heard in the earlier recordings on the album were in middle or old age at the time (the oldest, Ingeborg Lunde having been born in 1875) is perhaps an indication that the langeleik playing tradition was not being taken up by many from the younger generation. Come explore the archive with Mike Adcock.


world music Start up the opening track of Himla’s self-titled debut, and for a moment the voice and guitar transport you right back to those days of the ‘70s singer-songwriters – the haunted female voice and resonant guitar arpeggios. Listen just a little longer, though, and it’s apparent this isn’t merely nostalgia. A clarinet creeps into the song, nosing around the tune, then cello joins in, using a high register, more like viola or violin. The melody is quite bewitching – the equal of anything from five decades ago – with an edge of familiarity, but very quickly there are plenty of touches of the unusual in the arrangement. And with that’s it’s immediately clear that Adine Fliid and her two band mates - Oda Dyrnes and Siri Iversen, have something rather special here. While the instrumental choice might appear to be limited, the trio conjure up a broad range of moods. It’s helped by Fliid’s songs, which sometimes swoop in from oblique angles... Join Chris Nickson and listen to something unique and new.


world music Hot on the heels of his collaboration with singer and guitarist David Walters (reviewed a few weeks back) comes a new release under his own name from kora-player Ballaké Sissoko, though the album has been in the making since 2018. Djouro is also a collaboration, with eight different artists, each making a single track appearance. They include Salif Keita, Vincent Segal, Arthur Tebou, Sona Jobarteh, Oxmo Puccino, Patrick Messina, Camille, and Piers Faccini.

On the title track Sissoko is joined by kora-player Sona Jobarteh from The Gambia, the first woman from her griot tradition to play the instrument professionally. Djouro is a Bambara word meaning string, an apt title for a duo sharing forty-two strings between them. As an album title it has a more metaphorical meaning for Sissoko, suggesting the musical thread running between the diverse artists involved. Read Mike Adcock's review and listen to some of the music.


world music In the slow opener of Anástasis, "Rise," Stefanos Dorbarakis’s kanun plays a long, thoughtful solo intro. A voice enters, floating over it, and then bowed bass, lyra and laud join in to develop and enrich. Katerina Papadopoulou is the singer, and a very fine one indeed, but this is very much a group album, showcasing equally the work of the six top-class instrumentalists: Kiriakos Tapakis (oud, laud), Giorgos Kontogiannis (Cretan and Aegean lyres), Chariton Charitonidis (bagpipe, tsambouna, floghera), Theodoros Kouelis (bass), Manousos Klapakis (percussion) and Dorbarakis (kanun).

Excellently, spaciously live-recorded, they make a perfectly balanced ensemble in an unusual and varied set of traditional music from the area of present-day Greece and the Greek-rooted traditions of the wider Mediterranean, including from Thrace, Macedonia, Ikaria, Smyrna, Pontus, and a tarantella from southern Italy. Join Andrew Cronshaw on a journey through old Greek music.


world music In Fading Light is a jazz inspired album with the unusual combination of piano, oud and trumpet. The Greek pianist, composer, improviser and band leader Tania Giannouli plays the main role here, with Andreas Polyzogopoulos’ trumpet and Kyriakos Tapakis’ oud adding important nuances to the instrumental experience as a whole. The album was recorded in 2020, which of course has been a unusual year worldwide. Giannouli says, “Despite what’s happening to our world at present, people need music. They need art. It is not a luxury. It’s essential for our psychology, for maintaining health and balance – mentality, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and even politically.” The all instrumental album successfully gives the listener freedom to explore and choose their own path. Maria Ezzitouni takes you along on their different route to Greece.


world music #MeToo and Black Lives Matter are bringing consciousness if not yet change to many societies of the so-called developed world, where entrenched systems of oppression towards women and people of African decent, if not all people of color, prevail. Afro-Brazilian and female, Luedji Luna is in the crosshairs of this oppression. Bom Mesmo É Estar Debaixo D'Água, of which she is singer-songwriter, co-arranger, and co-producer, is her second album. The album is a personal, intimate statement that decries the objectification of Black Brazilian women like herself as the most sexually desirable and the easiest to exploit.

There are no throw-away tunes on the album; each one has its message and its own signature, bolstered by bright accompanists with jazz and fusion chops inevitably, but lightly lilted by the Brazilian breeze. Luna enlists other women's words of poetry and song to amplify her own, which she delivers in alluring, tempered vocals that at times graze the coquettishness of Brazil's pantheon of MPB female vocalists.   Read Carolina Amoruso's review and listen to some of the songs.


world music Cypriot composer, percussionist and singer Vassilis Philippou - on bendir, riq and tombak, is joined by illustrious colleagues on Sol Aurorae, an elegant album of his compositions that fit very naturally into the eastern Mediterranean modal music tradition. His group here consists of Michalis Kouloumis (violin, viola), Giannis Koutis (oud, guitar), Meir Gassenbauer (ney) and Michalis Messios (double bass). Guesting, on lyra is Zacharias Spyridakis, and on kopuz the multi-talented Efrén López Sanz. It’s an ensemble work, interpreting and exploring Philippou’s songs and instrumental compositions. In the rich instrumentation, fiddle and lyra edge into yearning, duskily fluting harmonics, with gutty oud, breathy ney and double bass, underpinned by his deeply resonant hand drums that blend melodically rather than driving or showing off.   Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and hear some of Philippou's compositions.


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Like most of the major islands in the Mediterranean, Corsica has had its share of invaders, conquerors, visitors and immigrants... All this turmoil makes for a unique culture with its own unique institutions, language and music. Most familiar of the musical part of that is the vocal music of the island, pulifunie, the polyphonic choral tradition that has had a resurgence since the 1960s and some of those choral groups have achieved some small international fame, as well as attention from contemporary composers.

On their fifth recording, Ŕ principiu, L'Alba straddle the old and the new, with strong vocal references to the traditional polyphonic singing and nods to contemporary folk and jazz. They embrace the many influences that have flowed through the island, from Arabic, North African, Italian and French inhabitants and visitors, as well as reaching out further to places like Greece, Portugal, Senegal and Zimbabwe... L'Alba are not here to recreate the past, but to remind us that past and present are separated by a very thin line and crossing it is both a challenge and a blessing.   Read the editor's full review and listen to some samples of the music.

Ŕ principiu is RootsWorld's Music of the Month selection for March. Subscribe monthly, or buy this one CD, and support the magazine and radio program.


world music Nocturne finds Marseilles-based singer and guitarist David Walters taking a change of direction from his last release Soleil Kreyole, with its urban dance rhythms and expansive sound. This is a purely acoustic affair featuring just three other musicians (Ballaké Sissoko, kora; Vincent Ségal, cello; and Roger Raspail, guitar) but this paring down has not been at the cost of a rich musical texture. On the contrary, it has allowed each musician space to explore the distinctive qualities of his chosen instrument as well as finding the common ground shared with the other two. A limited palette can bring a greater cohesion to ensemble playing and this is a case in point. Walters moves between three different languages in his songs - French, English and Martinican Creole, reflecting his own background growing up in France with Caribbean parents... Read Mike Adcock's review and listen to some songs.


world music No one can say The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc are profligate with their releases; in 12 years together, this is just their third, and their first since 2016. But they make every track, every single note count on Bonfrost, and those years of playing and touring together have given them a majestic kind of empathy that illuminates the music. The three fiddlers - Olav Luksengĺrd Mjelva from Norway, Andres Hall from Sweden, and Kevin Henderson from the Shetland Isles ( with one cultural foot in Scandinavia and the other in Scotland, play instruments that complement each other to perfection: fiddles, viola, octave fiddles and Hardanger fiddle. Chris Nickson reviews. Listen to a few tracks, plus a pandemic video bonus.


world music Leyla McCalla's Vari-Colored Songs, was her first solo album, issued as a limited run in 2013. McCalla’s intention to acquaint listeners with Hughes’ poetry by putting his words to her compositions is laudable. Hughes is a giant among writers, intellectuals and activists, a keystone of the Harlem Renaissance of last century’s 20s and 30s that produced a starburst of intense Black brilliance in music, the fine arts and literature, as well as thought; the Harlem Renaissance also served as a forum to define and legitimize pride in one’s blackness. McCalla, who is of Haitian descent, sets eight of Hughes’ poems to her string band, country, and New Orleans style music, interspersing these curiously with traditional Haitian fare. Two compositions of her own are included, music and lyrics both. All told, it is an idiosyncratic and intriguing collection that yields mixed results.

The reissue of Vari-Colored Songs is timely for its devotion to Hughes and his deceptively simple, yet profound and beautifully cadenced Afro-centric writing, as a harbinger of Black Lives Matter, and his poems, indeed all of his writings, both personal and emblematic, are a reminder that we are still awaiting a national reckoning on race. Carolina Amoruso delves into this complex endeavor. Read and listen.


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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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