A World Music Magazine

world music

Cory Seznec is an artist who’s flown well under the radar for a while. The Franco-American musician and singer’s third full-length album comes after a gap of five years. Although he recorded all his tracks in just three days, there’s never a sense of anything being hurried. It’s all performed with touching good grace, and a warm, inviting voice. Seznec is an outstanding fingerpicker on both guitar and banjo, always assured, completely at home in the blues, yet never sounding like any of the earlier generations of performers.

There’s a lightness of touch in his performance that’s immediately appealing, and more than a few touches of West African music in his work, too. Read Chris Nickson's full review and listen to some of the album.


world music Among all the role-playing, power-ballad glitz of the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest there was the still, quiet, sincere voice of Salvador Sobral. No glitz, no dancers, just him in his normal clothes, singing a beautiful song in Portuguese written by his sister Luisa Sobral.

Says Andrew Cronshaw, "I'd watched him win Portugal's own competition for the country's Eurovision entrant, which in itself was an affirmation from his home country. That he went on to win Eurovision with its massive international voting audience was extraordinary and encouraging. In the winner's reprise of the song he duetted with Luisa, and at the following year's final, after a heart transplant, he duetted in it with iconic Brazilian composer and singer Caetano Veloso." Five years later came the opportunity for Andrew talk to him.


world music

world music

The harp-lute known as the kora continues to provide one of the most popular sounds to come from the African continent. It is distinctive and beautiful, with an equally unmistakable visual appearance, and first became widely known through the international touring of Keda Fodéba's African Ballet in the1950s which featured two kora players. Each subsequent decade has seen the emergence of more fine players including Mory Kanté, Toumani Diabaté, Ballaké Sissoko and Sona Jobarteh. Such artists have shown an interest in collaborating with musicians from different lands and different musical backgrounds whilst maintaining a deep respect for the the Mandinka tradition from which their music sprung. Mike Adcock reviews albums from two more kora-players, Dawda Jobarteh and Momi Maiga.


world music There's a popular association between Scotland and bagpipes, but actually there are long bagpipe traditions all over the world, and Scotland is a relative late-comer. But, while there are Swedish bagpipes, there’s no evidence of a bagpipe tradition in Norway. Not to say they were never there, though, and as Tellef Kvifte observes, the ringing sympathetic strings and double-stopping technique of Norway’s Hardanger fiddle (hardingfele), a much younger instrument than bagpipes, create something of a drone effect. “So,” says Kvifte, “in the 1990s, I decided that the bagpipe had to be the solution for a wind instrument that could be used for Hardanger fiddle tunes.” And what he says, and plays, is worth listening to... Andrew Cronshaw reviews. Andrew Cronshaw reviews.


world music Soundtrack composers from Ennio Morricone to Piero Umiliani or Ryuichi Sakamoto to Lalo Schifrin have all used their scoring opportunities to mix genres into undescribable blends, practically creating new musical subgenres during the process. Freaky, acid grooves find themselves nudging up alongside choirs, symphonic percussion, odd drones, field recordings, and noise in these composers' most challenging scores. All of which connects them to the work of Peru's Luis David Aguilar, a prolific musician and composer who wrote music for television shows, advertisements, and film. Aguilar, whose work blends the avant-garde with classical composition and some of Peru's native traditions, was one of a number of Peru's more experimental film composers, such Walter Casas and Seiji Asato, coming to prominence in the 1970s. A review by Bruce Miller.


world music Norway-based Serbian accordionist Jovan Pavlovic has had many projects including his band Bengalo. Now comes his first entirely solo album. He's previously played his a piano-accordion in the standard Stradella-type set-up, which has piano keys for the right hand, and for the left a matrix of buttons each of which links reeds as a chord. But on most of this album he's switched his instrument to free-bass, in which the left-hand buttons play single notes, not chords. This means the notes skip and mingle from the two sides, rather than right-hand melody with left-hand chordal accompaniment. "I decided to start working on it because of lots of free time during the pandemic," he told me. "Since I started playing with free bass, a whole new world has opened up for me. I can form chords as I like, I can play separate lines and rhythmical figures which live their own life and are totally independent from each other. It's like having two keyboards!" Andrew Cronshaw shares works from this solo album, Life On The Accordion.


world music

world music

Islais A Genir is a landmark in Welsh music. And, showing the label recognizes and supports that, the CD comes in a beautifully produced hardback book-type pack with some fifty pages of photos and interesting, discursive writing in Welsh and English about the material. VRÏ (it's an old Welsh word meaning 'up' or 'levitating,' a sense of 'upness') is the trio of fiddler-singers Aneirin Jones, Jordan Price Williams and Patrick Rimes. What they make is music of six interacting voices, three male human and three of bowed instruments: two fiddles and cello or bass. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and hear some of the music.

VRÏ's Islais A Genir is our selection for Music of the Month for November, 2022. Subscribe monthly and get a full download of the album and book.


world music Okra Playground's Itku frequently mentions the Earth turning darker. As a metaphor, this looms large for a world that feels as if it is spinning off its axis, our times clouded by pandemic, conspiracy theories, war, climate crises, and other modern ills. At the same time the Finnish band?s name is of the earth - Okra meaning 'ochre,' the particular color of soil and clay on which the band treads. The group is anchored in Karelian traditions, and the set list mixes several original tracks which draw on beguiling wordplay such as one might find in the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala: lyrics redolent with a coursing, vibrant natural world, set against human foibles both tender and violent. The sextet continues to blend traditional folk instrumentation with electronic soundscapes, balancing experimentation and pop flair. Singer and fiddler/bowed lyre (jouhikko) musician Paivi Hirvonen is again a guiding light, and her voice joins with the two (two!) kantele players in Okra Playground, Maija Kauhanen and Essi Muikku. Okra Playground's sound is rounded out by Sami Kujala on electric bass; Veikko Muikku, accordion and synthesizer; and Oskari Lehtonen, percussion. Additional electronic augmentation was provided by Sami Zimmermann on most of the album tracks. https://www.rootsworld.com/reviews/okra-22.shtml Lee Blackstone leads you into the darkness of the Finnish band's third album.


world music "This group of UK musicians who are creating another pathway for jazz are not leaning toward intellectualism or crowd pleasing but are instead marrying the two concepts by being authentic. Their experiences come from hip-hop, afrobeat, world music and avant garde jazz. They come from the African and Caribbean diaspora and they live in London, which despite Brexit, is a multicultural society with many different languages and cultures being the norm. Edward Wakili-Hick's new album project Nok Cultural Ensemble, is a modern sonic exploration of African and Caribbean rhythms. It introduces the Nok Culture, a civilization that thrived in Nigeria 2,500 years ago which among other things, produced hyper modern sculpture. .." Lisa Sahulka reviews. Listen in.


world music Throisma is hardcore, really hardcore, but please don’t let that get between you and this music, because this may be one of the most interesting recordings you will come across this year.

Regular readers know Antonis Antoniou as a member of Monsieur Doumani, so let's be clear, this has nothing to do with that band. This is a rock record with a 70s vibe, yet with a very 21st Century electronic undertone, and very clear Eastern detailing. For those lucky enough to understand Greek, you’ll find a Cypriot artist, singing in the local dialect with its very characteristic cadences and hard consonants... There is a hint of rage, but also a spirit of celebration, an undercurrent of knowing that your life can be turned upside down or even ended without notice, regardless of your age. Nondas Kitsos reviews.


world music Britain's Phil Tyler has been a quiet fixture on the folk scene for many years, emerging as an additional musician with Cordelia’s Dad when they toured Europe, then marrying and performing with their bassist, Cathy Tyler, in a duo that stripped traditional American and English songs down to their skeletons and presented them as bare, powerful things. This time around he’s working with a different singer, Sarah Hill, on a set of (mostly) traditional English music titled What We Thought Was A Lake Was A Field Of Flax. The layout is much the same as in the past, with Phil Tyler on guitar, banjo, vocals, and Hill singing. Everything is spare, with voices front and center... Chris Nickson shares a review and some music with you.


world music

world music

Yanna Momina is a singer from Djibouti, on the horn of Africa. She became known locally for her extraordinary and powerful delivery. Record producer Ian Brennan recorded Momina on her home turf in the spring of 2018 drawn by what he describes as her “kamikaze vibrato,” also telling in the sleeve notes to Afar Ways how she is rare amongst the Afar people in being a woman who writes her own songs. Read Mike Adcock's review and hear the music.

Then move on to the hows and whys of music like this, in Mike's in-depth interview with producer and recordist Ian Brennan.
"What I'm looking for in music, what I'm trying to convey is intimacy. The intimacy of one voice, one guitar, singing original songs captured in a recording can be something invaluable, a thing of supreme beauty, and that is why I like live recording, why I like field recording, because you're listening to something that actually occurred, for better or worse, versus a simulation."


world music Over the last 15 years, Sam Sweeney has established a reputation as one of the go-to fiddle players in English folk, as his stints with Bellowhead and the Fay Hield Band testify. But with Escape That he’s definitely spreading his wings, with 11 tracks culled from 20 pieces of music he created on synth and guitar (but apparently not violin). As he developed the tracks, anything that seemed like a hook was kept and everything else tossed away, then the hooks were joined together. The result is definitely folk pop, and Sweeney proclaims it loudly. It's an ambitious idea, especially where other instruments tend to be consigned to a supporting role and the fiddle takes the lead, which is generally the case. Read Chris Nickson's review and listen to some of the music.


world music

The music on The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah was highlife getting a much needed makeover. Alhaji Waziri Oshomah and his bands de-emphasized the jazzy swing and large horn sections of highlife’s outdated past, and instead, brought local rhythms to the foreground, allowing electric guitars and keyboards to drive languorous, unhurried melodies for extended grooves. Luaka Bop’s latest in its 'World Spirituality Classics' series demonstrates Waziri’s leisurely approach with a collection of 7 songs anywhere from 8 to 17 minutes long.

Perhaps what makes Waziri's brand of highlife trance so special comes from his home territory in Auchi, located in Northern Edo state in southern central Nigeria. Edo is a place that has found Muslims and Christians intermingling peacefully for decades, a fact that adds complexity to the typical understanding of Nigeria’s Muslim north and Christian south. Read Bruce Miller's take on this wonderful new album and hear some of the music.

The Muslim Highlife of Alhaji Waziri Oshomah is our selection for Music of the Month for October, 2022. Find out how to subscribe and receive a copy of the album, while supporting RootsWorld with your donation.


world music Spanish composer Feliu Gasull, who normally writes for larger forces, offers an album of (mostly) solo guitar music, Pit roig. Coaxing a rich palette from his instrument, Gasull gives voice to an alluring range of textures, technical flourishes, and tunings. The title track sets the mood for his five-part 'La Finestra,' shuffling through scenes as a camera might cut from one apartment window to another: different lives, same building. A lithe yet grounded quality to his writing, rendered with a sensibility that embraces the value of past and present, ensures that quiet reflections hold their own against evocations of pure exuberance. Read Tyran Grillo's full review and listen to some of the tracks.


world music I very much enjoyed the showcase set at the 2015 Womex by Polish trio Sutari, with their quirky music, and vocals accompanied by a mixture of instruments including violin. For a self-contained creative unit, collaboration with another band can result in a dilution of the distinctiveness of both, but Tamoj, with Polish instrumental trio Bastarda, works really well, emerging as a single well-balanced five-piece. Bastarda takes early music as its source and develops it with arrangement and improvisation using clarinet (Pawel Szamburski), cello (Tomasz Pokrzywinski) and contrabass clarinet (Michal Górczynski). The deep woody tones of their three instruments create a rich foundation and environment for the Sutari duo's voices, violin, frame drums and occasional chimes of kankles (Lithuanian Baltic zither, close kin of Finnish kantele, Latvian kokle and Estonian kannel). Their material for the album draws on Polish, Lithuanian and Belarusian musical traditions, exploring the old cultures of these bordering countries, with original lyrics by Songin and Kapela inspired by, and sometimes quoting, tradition. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and hear a few songs.


world music New in our file of short reviews and audio introductions:

There’s folk dance music, and then there’s hardcore Nordic folk dance music. Optur definitely strut their stuff across the floor in the latter camp. The four-piece, which highlights fiddle and sax over a rhythm section, is the brainchild of violinist Søren Korshøj, possibly best known for his time in innovative Danish folk-rockers Instinkt. The idea is to mix Nordic-influenced folk dance with improvisation, and it works like a charm. The first cut, “4 Drops,” sets out the stall in belting style, while “Polska Nu,” with its twisting melody, is full-tilt madness, giving space for sax man Mikael Fleron to show his ability. Even if you’re just listening, you’ll be out of breath by the end.

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world music O Ku Ngwo Di Ochi is the first new record in over 20 years for Oriental Brothers International Band. Since their last efforts, key members have passed away; however, original members Ferdinand Opara- aka Dan Satch- and Livinus Akwila (Aquila) remain. Musically, little has changed. Clave rhythms continue to underpin guitar weavings, as songs truck across the 10-minute mark, forcing the body to react. To hear any of their earliest records is to hear highlife getting an infusion of sounds from Congo, with a de-emphasis on brass while the guitars eschewed chord changes for longer, more hypnotic grooves. It’s this basic concept that fuels Satch, Aquila, and their band to this day... This release, digital only for now, houses five ten-minute tracks with no high points or filler. Listen to some of the studio tracks, as well as a live performance, as you read Bruce Miller's full review.


world music Loudon Wainwright III seems to be enjoying a renaissance with his new album, Lifetime Achievement, which isn't bad for a man who's already spent a little over half a century as a singer and songwriter. Interviews and reviews are plastered everywhere, quite something for an artist who's just turned 76. The thing is, it's actually a very good record. Sharp, often lyrically acute, a little sentimental at times, and he still has one hell of a voice. Read and hear why Chris Nickson thinks he's ready for the award.


world music

world music

The wildlife of Madagascar is special and very distinct from that of Africa, and so are its people and their music, as are the instruments they play, prominent among which is a variety of stringed instruments including the valiha, marovany, jejy voatavo, lokanga and kabosy. Nowadays, there are also very Malagasy approaches to the standard acoustic or electric guitar. Malagasy singer and songwriter Berikely plays the kabosy, which is akin to a small guitar of varying body shape but often rectangular. Usually some of its frets don't go all the way across the fingerboard, an arrangement that helps with making chord shapes, as the player's fretting hand moves up and down the neck while the other creates an intricate, highly syncopated strum.

Berikely is an established, indeed veteran, artist in Madagascar, who now lives in France. There, with the help of the group's guitarist and arranger Erik Doboka, he has assembled an excellent band, Zama, that really grasps and masters the essence of Malagasy music. It comprises three Frenchmen - Doboka on guitar, bassist Thomas Boucherie, drummer Jean-Yves Boucherie - and Malagasy percussionist Bema Ratovondrahery. Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to some of the music.

Elaela is our Music of the Month selection for September 2022. Subscribe now, or make a one time donation and get this recording as my 'thank you' for supporting RootsWorld.


world music Emanuel Vigeland’s mausoleum in the hilly, leafy northern suburbs of Oslo is a big, windowless, barrel-vaulted space, which one stoops to enter through a low doorway... it’s a wonderful place to play or sing, if one keeps the music fairly uncluttered... it suits the ringing strings of solo Hardanger fiddle very well indeed. Notes overlay one another and become chords, double-stopping becomes orchestral.

Erlend Apneseth is a leading player of the instrument who, with his trio and other ensembles crosses the divide between traditional music, Norway’s distinctive form of atmospheric, misty jazz that’s a long, long way from New Orleans, and contemporary classical. For Nova he’s entirely solo, which is the traditional context of Hardanger fiddle playing, and the building provides the ensemble for his minimalist playing... Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen to this unique open sound and space.


world music Lidija Dokuzovic is a versatile gem of Croatian tradition-rooted song, whether as singer with folk band Afion, leader of a vocal ensemble, as fishnet-stockinged rock-chick fronting the splendidly rousing Zykopops (inspired strapline 'Even worse than turbofolk'), or here with her Lidija Dokuzovic Trio.

The majority of the material on their debut album, Cula Jesam - I've Heard, is from Croatia, but some is from, or shared with, other traditions of the South Slavic area – Serbian, Kosovan, North Macedonian and Greek. Despite recent and less recent history, music recognises little in the way of borders. Dokuzovic and her Swedish partner Allan Skrobe met when both were mentors at the international Ethno music camps, and while they now live in the southern Swedish city of Malmö she hasn't lost touch with Croatia and its traditions, and returns often. With her in the trio are Skrobe on guitar and mandola, and double-bassist Jesper Nordberg, and they make a beautifully balanced unit. Right from the start, even before Dokuzovic's voice enters, it's clear that Nordberg is a very fine bassist, making big contributions... Read Andrew Cronshaw's review and listen.


world music The second solo album from Finnish fiddler and singer Päivi Hirvonen builds with fire and intensity as it progresses. Serene as it begins, with fiddle and vocals on “Kulkuat/Travellers” – the only track with guests, two other singers lovingly layered alongside her own voice and some programming to flesh out the sounds – it’s the lull before a storm of passion that takes in subjects close to her heart: shattering glass ceilings, polyamory, societal expectations and more. Ultimately, however, what’s more important than the subject matter on Kallio is how it’s presented. Here’s where things become interesting. Hirvonen is superb at evoking atmosphere, like the darkness that creeps around “Varjot/The Shadows,” where she multi-tracks violin parts to impart a strange, creeping eeriness... Chris Nickson explores the darkness and the light of this new album.


world music Mohamed Abdel Wahab (1902-1991) was one of Egypt’s greatest songwriters. Never afraid to incorporate influences from near and far, he gifted his music to humanity at large, casting through the lens of his native land a light of love that continues to glow in the many musicians he has influenced, from Omar Faruk Tekbilek to Anouar Brahem. Among them, too, is oud and viola virtuoso Simon Shaheen, whose renderings of Wahab’s sound are now the subject of a vinyl reissue. Originally produced by Bill Laswell and released in 1990, The Music of Mohamed Abdel Wahab has given this seminal album new life in a different world. Tyran Grillo explores this rich reissue.


world music Ethiopian popular music makes you stand up and take notice. From the myriad local genres that funnel into the sound, to the brilliance in color and tone of Mulatu Astatke’s Ethio-jazz, to influences from the rest of Africa and the Gulf States, and the inevitable infiltration of Western pop, this amalgam is a national treasure that offers endless discoveries. Minyeshu Kifle Tedla's fifth release presents us with a cornucopia of these intriguing sounds, stamped with her distinctive lyrics and vocals, and her collaboration with Eric van de Lest on composition and arrangements. While the mood of Netsa‘s ten tracks varies from rousing to contemplative to sentimental, one comes away from the album elated. Minyeshu sings in lesser-known trgional languages, yet she has a way of reaching all takers with her varied tones in seductive minor key selections of Ethiopia’s pentatonic scales. Carolina Amoruso takes you inside.


world music As the title gives away, Anon II is the second album that Norwegian fiddle-player Ånon Egeland has put out under his own name. The first was released over twenty years so it's probably about time, and in fact this is his first purely solo album, the previous one having musical support from two other musicians. Egeland is from the Agder region, to the south of Norway, which stretches down to the country's southern coast. Anon II features both the regular four-string fiddle and the Hardanger variety with its underlying sympathetic strings and both types have long been played in Agder, though the Hardanger fiddle tends to be heard more in the areas where Agder borders with Telemark and with whom some of its tunes are shared. Listen to some tunes and read Mike Adcok's review.


world music Langt Ud' I Skoven slipped under the radar, even for many of the band’s fans. Here is Dreamers’ Circus (with a few friends), plus a Danish children’s choir, performing largely traditional songs for children – a interesting subset of Danish folk. It’s not something that’s been slapped together for an album and performance; there’s plenty of time and imagination gone into the arrangements, and everything soars with the trio's usual sense of melody. Chris Nickson reviews.


world music Rose Jimetta is a native of Los Angeles and is part of the independent music scene there. She, like many jazz performers, uses R&B, Hip-Hop and choral jazz to make her distinctive sound. Parts of this album channel Charles Mingus; think “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting.” Raised in church and choir from birth, the soul-jazz singer easily conjures the sound of gospel music and then enhances it with other genres. With her ensemble Voices of Creation, she channels gospel, jazz and praises God and the gods of music like Sun Ra, Coltane and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Have your spirit lifted as you listen to the music and read Lisa Sahulka's review.


world music Wantok Music Vol. 3 opens with a song from Torba Province in Vanuatu, north-east of Australia. It tells of how, in the late nineteenth century, a white man arrived there bearing gifts as a way of enticing the local people to trade with him. Subsequently, having continued to raise his prices to a level they were unable to afford, he persuaded them to grant him some land, where he then set up a trading center to make the local people dependent on him. The fact that the song, by Father Levi Sandy, is delivered unaccompanied helps to give it a timeless quality, but unfortunately that's not the case with the majority of tracks on the album which, through their arrangement and production, have an overtly modern sheen to them, which already makes them sound rather dated, at times. Read the pros and cons of the label's approach in Mike Adcock's review, which includes a few songs and videos.


world music Jagdselskabet is one for those who delight in hardcore instrumental Danish folk music. The trio of violinists Krtistian Bugge and Steen Jagd, and pianist Malene Beck, used to play together regularly, and recently began collaborating for dances again, performing traditional music and for this album, Jagd's compositions. His music is certainly inspired by the tradition, and it's very much music for dancing, even with the delightfully quirky touches that pepper tracks. Listen and maybe even dance a kvadrille or a vals, as you read Chris Nickson's review.


world music Avishai Cohen, the trumpeter from Tel Aviv and now New York based, takes the work of Miles Davis in a parallel but similar direction. Miles Davis wanted crowds and more accessible music but always at the core he was interpreting emotions. Cohen is doing the same thing in reverse, using his trumpet to express emotion in a way less accessible, but more stream of consciousness, dream state. When Davis went into the studio, the space he gave his musicians to improvise was legendary. In a similar way, Cohen has brought musicians together to improvise emotions. The songs are simply "Part 1," "Part 2," and so on. We get more information in the last tune, which is a spoken word composition. In this space, it is interesting to think where Davis might have gone if he did not head towards fusion, and intriguing to think what Cohen is doing in this improvisational, dream-like space. It is haunting and so personal. Lisa Sahulka listens in.


world music Langt Ud' I Skoven slipped under the radar, even for many of the band’s fans. Here is Dreamers’ Circus (with a few friends), plus a Danish children’s choir, performing largely traditional songs for children – a interesting subset of Danish folk. It’s not something that’s been slapped together for an album and performance; there’s plenty of time and imagination gone into the arrangements, and everything soars with the trio's usual sense of melody. Chris Nickson reviews.


Music of the Month

world music The craggy black and white photo on the pack gives a clue about the cragginess of the music within, and indeed of Tomás de Perrate’s singing. This isn’t the flamenco of dazzling guitar and dance. Perrate (Tomás Fernández Soto), who is of an Andalusian gitano flamenco family, has long focused on the emotion of cante jondo, ‘deep song.’ After mostly listening to a variety of rock and other musics, but conditioned by what he heard in his family, he took up flamenco singing relatively late, and has taken an individual, non-mainstream path within it. Tres Golpes, his first album in eleven years, is his most extreme statement to date. Much of the material on it comes from 16th and 17th century sources, while the title track is an Afro-Colombian song accompanied by palmas (clapping), shouts and rough group singing. He recorded this material as demos, but when producer Raül Refree heard them he wanted to work with Perrate on making them an album. Refree comes from a rock and pop background but is currently lauded for his work with Iberian roots musicians such as his collaboration with Portuguese singer Lina. Read Andrew Cronshow's critique and hear a number of the songs.


world music Shriekback's 1000 Books would seem to fall well outside of our usual 'roots.' Perhaps so, but it became the subject of much discussion among a number of our contributors this year, and so here it is. Lee Blackstone writes, "It’s taut, funky, humorous, and politically-charged. There is a lot of musing on where we are all going, personally and collectively, and every inch of it is worth lending an ear... It’s a beautiful Frankenstein’s monster, grasping for sympathy and understanding, eyes cast in wonder at the fish below the ice and the gill-less humans on the streets." The album includes what at least 3 of RW's writers consider to be one of the best songs of the year, but you can listen, read and decide where to pigeonhole it, if you care and dare.


world music "The Nearness of You" is a jazz standard written in 1938 by a vaudeville lyricist and a Tin Pan Alley composer. It has been interpreted so many times but always in a certain genre and in a space where jazz elevates simple tunes. Norah Jones, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald have all taken it into a more complex but very mainstream jazz sound. Along comes Lynn Adib, a singer and composer born and raised in Damascus, Syria, who along with bassist Marc Buronfosse reshapes this song into a haunting painting of sounds. The duo have ushered their jazz to another level, injecting it with music from Syria and translating some of the lyrics to Arabic. Lisa Saulka explores Nearness, an album of traditional songs and pop standards that defies genre.


world music Imagine you’re a Danish quartet with one album under your belt. You’re invited to play only your second-ever gig (!), a prestigious event in Warsaw, Poland. What do you do, perform pieces that people might know, or write something entirely new that will never be repeated after that night? If you’re Penny Pascal, you opt for the latter, with a pair of lengthy pieces. The first, “Danish Tunes” is far more than a perfunctory pastiche of Danish dance styles and familiar melodies. Instead, it takes all that as its inspiration, then aims high with original tunes that to flow with the head-raised-feet-moving lightness that characterizes Danish music. The second nods toward a few different styles as well as classical music with remarkable writing skills. Join Chris Nickson in Warsaw and enjoy the entire concert.


world music Folk and Great Tunes from Siberia and Far East is double album compilation that brings together tracks from artists across the enormous Russian region, including rarely heard material from the far north and east. There is singing, both solo and in groups, as well as instrumental music; music traditionally played and also traditional music re-interpreted for a modern audience. Mike Adcock shares his thoughts on the many and varied artists he finds on the recordings.


world music The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies began in 1979 as a means of documenting the lives of thousands who survived the horrors of World War II. Since 1981, the collection has been housed at Yale University’s Sterling Memorial Library, where it has garnered international renown for its historical importance. Part of that importance, however, was at risk of being lost: namely, the songs recounted by survivors in their video testimonies. These caught the attention of Belarusian musicologist and multi-instrumentalist Zisl Slepovitch, who saw an opportunity to revive all-but-forgotten musical legacies of the Jewish ghettos and concentration camps. Joining forces with his ensemble and Latvian singer Sasha Lurje, he set out to arrange and record these songs to “remind us that the survivor singing them represents all those who did not survive to sing again.” The result was the 2020 album, Where Is Our Homeland? Now, Slepovitch and company have returned with a second installment, entitled Cry, My Heart, Cry. Join Tyran Grillo and explore the archive's music, images and video.


world music Colours In Black, the second EP from Kinaara, the Leeds, England trio of guitar, bass, voice, sees them building on the success of last year’s Across The River EP, with six pieces covering a broad range of styles, all threaded together by the very sinuous, sultry voice of Satnam Galsian. It springs out of the traps on with “Kaalay Rang,” a Punjabi folk song with a decidedly desert blues groove, featuring some excellent guitar work from John Hogg, playing nicely punchy filigree around the vocal. It’s a mix of styles that startles at first, but works in a surprisingly effective fashion, opening up an avenue that could well be ripe for further exploration. Find out where else Kinaara are going in Chris Nickson's review.


world music Gnawa is an ancient music from Moroccan and West African which are near bordering areas. These sounds are familiar to us as they influence jazz, blues and many genres of modern music. What you will hear on Moktar Gania And Gnawa Soul's Masterisé are Islamic and religious songs with rhythms which will sound surprisingly familiar along with ritual poetry, an inspiration to dance and think. Artistic director Jacques Sanjuan has transformed this music into a gorgeous 21st Century ride. The album has 150 years of Moroccan tradition informing it, yet it would sound innovative in any of the Brooklyn clubs. You will hear guitarist Jean-Marie Ecay, a French Basque guitarist, and Israeli singer of Moroccan origin Neta El Kayam in the groove as well. Lisa Sahulka finds an album cast in a mix of modern sounds, mysticism and incantations.


world music Lima-based Buh Records has been feverishly bringing attention to experimental South American artists over the last few years; however, they’ve also dropped recordings of contemporary, roots-based Peruvian sounds not always well known outside the country’s borders. These releases have served to celebrate the massive, geographically complex South American country’s rich cultural diversity. With its latest releases from Los Hermanos Ballumbrosio and Perkutao, the label digs deep into coastal Afro-Peruvian vocal and percussion based ensembles, both of whom demonstrate Peru’s Afro roots run as deep as Colombia’s or Brazil’s. Bruce Miller listens to two albums of the country's unadorned, contemporary, always-innovative Black roots.


Music of the Month

world music Stian Carstensen's Musical Sanatorium is a brilliant piece of work by an extraordinary musician; for me, his greatest yet. It is astonishingly ever-changing in sound and direction, not just from track to track but within each track. While it sparks all kinds of images and resonances, there's not a cliché nor a predictable development to be found. Carstensen is that rare thing, a genuine multi-instrumental virtuoso polymath. He's a master of accordion, banjo, kaval, pedal steel, guitar and more, with wide experience in several musical genres, including the Norwegian accordion and fiddling traditions of generations of his family, and the dazzling, asymmetric rhythms of the accordion and kaval music of Bulgaria and other parts of the Balkans where he's frequently travelled, and adding to them high skills in classical music and jazz. Join Andrew Cronshaw as he dissects the strange brain of this Norwegian artist.


world music You could come to this album simply intrigued as to how a Barcelona born, Paris educated jazz violinist might interpret the classic song “My Favorite Things.” John Coltrane famously took the composition composed in 1959 by Rodgers and Hammerstein to a completely different place just a few years later in 1961 and defined what modern music was, or could be. Coloma Bertran takes “My Favorite Things” apart into nine additional compositions on the album Principis (Principles) with flavors of the original... Bertran lives in Barcelona, where the native language is Catalan, which gives the title track, “Principis” a double meaning. In an email exchange, she says it is “one of the main themes of the album, which I wrote to remind me where I come from and what my principles and values are.” The title tune begins with a lone violin, then drums and then it explodes into a joyous romp. Her take on the jazz violin is also interesting; an instrument that is relatively rare in jazz, she makes it the center of attention. Lisa Sahulka reviews this unique album.


world music

world music

Amélia Muge first appeared on my radar in a 1998 recording of romanciero, a style of narrative poem that was popular on the Iberian peninsula in the 15th and 16th centuries. Novas Vos Trago (Tradisom) featured a group I had already come to love, the energetic percussion, bagpipe and vocal group Gaiteiros de Lisboa, and she appeared on a few tracks with them. While she is often promoted as a fado singer, and sometimes fits well into the category, it is her unyielding interest in the ancient and how it can inform the new that has made her essential listening for me over the last two decades. She has flirted with pop music and some purist fado in that time, but Amélias brings her fully into her own, in an album completely focused on the voice, the lyric, the stories. Hear more from this finely performed and beautifully illustrated recording, reviewed by your editor.

Amélias is our pick for Music of the Month for July, 2022.
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world music Magalí Sare is a pianist, vocalist, flautist, percussionist, composer, arranger, lyricist, and more from Catalonia, with training in Western classical music and jazz; these elements combine to give a sophisticated and lyrical sound to Esponja (Sponge), Sare’s second album released under her own name. Esponja is both alluring and infectious, made ever more captivating by the polished elasticity of Sare’s voice. She adorns her gift with a palette of vocal accents, chirps and sighs for example, to illustrate her stories, confessions, her soul, further enhanced by toothsome lyrics and classy instrumentation. There’s little here that is not immensely pleasing. Carolina Amoruso soaks it all in.


world music Jerry Jeff Walker, the late, great singer-songwriter, wasn’t a Texan. That’s a surprise in itself; his music seems organically entwined with the Lone Star state and it did become his home for many years, but he was born in New York state. Steve Earle, who was born in Texas but now ironically lives in New York, is an unabashed fan who worked with Walker back in the 1970s. Jerry Jeff is Earle's way of paying homage to a man who was a huge influence on him. Read Chris Nickson's review and hear how Steve Earle and The Dukes pay tribute to the great songwriter.


world music Estonian artist Eva Väljaots plays a variety of kannels, zithers with different sounds, strings and using different techniques, and her album Hundinuiaois - Bulrush Bloom taps into the essence of that delight in sound. Conceptually this series of pieces, all her own compositions, relate to aspects, and neighboring plants, of the bulrush (great reed mace), whose stiff brown sausage shaped flower-mass, atop a tall swaying stem, fragments as it matures, into a blizzard of white down that floats off in even the gentlest breath of breeze. Her simple, rather Moomin-like, line drawings of it and other plants in the CD booklet illustrate each track. Andrew Cronshaw takes you deeper into the instrument and the music.


world music There is a depth to the music of Soadan that takes a minute to define. Pieds Nus isn’t a day at the beach barefoot, minimal clothing and a band playing all day on the shore. It is an extended time in a place that is both familiar and exotic, joyful and serene; that experience of waking up from a distant dream to sunshine, waves and new places. Soadan is the trio of Gregory Audrain (vocals, guitar, bass), Armel Goupil (marimba, keyboards) and Jean Marie Lemasson (vocals, drums, percussion), all natives of Brittany in France but steeped in the roots of not only their own culture, but a wide range of music from far flung places in Africa, the Indian Ocean and South America. Lisa Sahulka takes you on a trip inside this unique 'jazz' trio. Lisa Sahulka takes you on a trip inside this unique 'jazz' trio.


world music A classically trained cellist, banjoist, singer, and songwriter, Leyla McCalla, born in New York of Haitian immigrant parents and activists is now based in New Orleans. Her work has drawn upon her Haitian heritage and many other influences. When Duke University acquired the archives of Radio Haiti (1957–2003), McCalla took on the challenge of reviewing and incorporating elements of that material into a multi-disciplinary theater project that became Breaking the Thermometer. She weaves Radio Haiti’s humorous and provocative archival broadcasts, interviews, traditional Haitian tunes, and her original compositions into a varied and engaging reflection upon the cultural, social, and political struggles of latter 20th Century Haiti, and the effort to trace her personal trajectory in that dynamic context. Read Michael Stone's review and hear some of the music.


world music

world music

There are bits of free jazz, sci-fi and a complicated mix of the African Diaspora in the music of Irreversible Entanglements' Open The Gates. The incendiary poetry that accompanies the music is beautiful in this context. Music is more powerful than the sword and this music is a tsunami of thoughts on justice and equity laced with various rhythms.

Shabaka Hutchings' new album Afrikan Culture fits well in this space, a most welcome addition to jazz and its continuing evolution. It melds Japanese wood instruments with the kora and mbira to an effect that isn’t entirely expected. Lisa Sahlka listens to two recent recordings that explore politics, jazz and new ideas.


world music On the second album from Anna Dantchev and her ensemble Dantchev:Domain, The Lions We Are, the Bulgarian singer who lives in Finland finds them exploring the theme of courage, a concept that’s not always easy to define. Perhaps aptly, then, it’s an album of surprising twists and turns in music, brimming over with ideas. That surfeit is evident on the very first track. “Goodbye” shifts quite abruptly from lament to a hyperspeed disco bassline, colored by deep brass that morphs into jazz. It’s quite astonishing, and there’s no doubt the musicians are exceptional, but the track, like the rest of the album, is very much an album of shadowed textures; plenty of darkness without the relief of light, only a few swirls of guitar and xylophone to offer occasional counterpoint. Read Chris Nickson's review and hear some of the new music online.


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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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