Acquaragia Drom - Zingari (1995)

«Un po’ di sangue zingaro nelle vene e tanti matrimoni e feste in giro per l’Italia, i balli e i canti dei Carpazi e delle comunità arrivate dall’est europeo, le tammurriate dei Sinti del Vesuvio e le canzoni dei parenti Rom molisani, le tarantelle dei Musicanti Calabresi e del Salento e le serenate dei Camminanti Siciliani, lo swing dei Manouche di Reinhardt e delle famiglie di musicisti dell’arco alpino… canzoni e balli di tradizioni musicali diverse, con ritmi, melodie, lingue dagli Urali agli Appennini, dal Vesuvio alle isole del Mediterraneo, proposti nell’originalissimo stile zingaro italiano forgiato dagli Acquaragia Drom. L’atmosfera è quella di un matrimonio, di una animata festa gitana intorno a un grande fuoco da campo: ritmi incalzanti e passionali, melodie struggenti e racconti di storie inverosimili con protagonisti tragicomici di cui si può ridere o piangere. Il viaggio musicale di Acquaragia Drom è sempre condito da un tocco ironico e dolcemente corrosivo che, quando si canta e si balla negli spettacoli, serve a far funzionare un po’ la testa e aiuta anche a sciogliere il cuore. Questa è la mappa musicale sulla quale è tracciato il repertorio degli Acquaragia Drom: un viaggio nella penisola sulla strada (drom) delle musiche delle comunità storiche Sinti e Rom e dei gruppi di più recente passaggio e insediamento...» (Acquaragia Drom)

«A little of Gypsy blood and lots of traditional weddings and feasts all around in Italy: this is Acquaragia Drom. Its original music and dance project will allow you to discover an amazing Italian/Mediterranean-Gypsy style swirling among Rom saltarellos, tarantellas and tammurriatas (folk dances) from the Sinti tribes. Acquaragia Drom is trying to rebuild the musical journey of the Italian Gypsies of the past, singing melodies that are part of the historical communities living in the country a long time ago, playing, at the same time, rhythms of the new Gypsy caravans nowadays. A very special musical travel, even in Italy few people knew about it, developed through the Sinti and Manouche swing of the Alpes, the saltarello of the Molise and Abruzzo, the frenetic tarantella from Sicily, the ritual pizzica of Salento. Acquaragia Drom plays using an "ironic and corrosive" way to present this repertoire in order to make the audience laugh and dance, but also to open their mind about Gypsy problems.» (Acquaragia Drom)

Link in comments

You can also find a very good live recording of Acquaragia Drom at Italian Folk Music.


The Rough Guide to the Music of Haiti (2002)

«Haiti might be one of the poorest countries in the world, having barely survived the brutal regimes of Papa Doc Duvalier and his son, Baby Doc, but it still produces some remarkable music, as this compilation, intelligently put together by BBC DJ Andy Kershaw, shows. While there are plenty of the native compas grooves (a kind of slowed-down Dominican merengue that remains eminently danceable), ranging from the Mini All Stars to the smoother sound of Mizik Mizik and Tabou Combo, plenty of varying Haitian styles are represented, whether it's the swinging big band of Orchestre Tropicana; the punk/traditional fusion of Ram; the Fugees-influenced rap of Masters of Haiti, who sound superb on "Ti Chans"; the Cuban connection of Haitando; or the zouk-soukous freedom of DP Express, which links Haiti directly with the recent music of West Africa, and has the added bonus of fabulous guitar and sax solos, and some very sophisticated arranging on the tune. Those links run deep, though, and Boukman Eksperyans explore them on "Baron," in their racine style, with its strong voudou elements. Issa El Saieh et Son Orchestre and Super Jazz des Jeunes help represent the older contingent, while the wonderfully raw Ti Coca & Wanga Negess give a version of the unofficial Haitian anthem, "Ayiti Cherie." A fascinating look at some of the best music in the Caribbean.» (AMG)

Link in comments


Postcards from Italy (31) - Cavour, Piedmont

Kristi Stassinopoulou & Stathis Kalyviotis - Taxidoscopio (2006)

For this album, one of my favourites in the last months, I have to thank a Greek reader who passed me the link to a fantastic Greek mp3 blog, Anel’s Media (where you can also find a Greek review and higher bitrate mp3 files of this cd), which I warmly invite you to have a look at, since is a real goldmine of Hellenic music. Or, if you understand Greek language, you can follow its author to his new forum (http://www.odos-oneirwn.com), where he and his friends will continue to discuss and present past and contemporary music from their beautiful country (Anel’s media won’t be updated anymore, but many links are still there). Many thanx, Gus for this discovery!

«The songs of this album are "diaries" from journeys we made together with our band these last years, invited by music festivals and clubs in various random places in the world. They were written in vans and airplanes, in airport lounges, in dressing rooms, hotel rooms and bamboo huts. They were recorded and mixed in Athens, from October 2005 to May 2006.» (From the liner notes)

«Taxidoscopio, the new album by Greek singer, lyricist and fiction writer Kristi Stassinopoulou has already been high in the European World Music Chart for several weeks – it has also been a fRoots Playlist Choice and has received a glowing review from them. Her 1999 album Echotropia also enjoyed especially great success across Europe, as did her Secret of the Rocks CD in 2003. Kristi’s music is a unique blend of her own Greek traditions with Arab, Spanish, Italian, and Balkan influences which are all then reworked with elements from ethno trance, electronica & psychedelic rock. Her debut album, “Ifantokosmos” was released in 1997. As on this new CD, she normally collaborates with her long-time musical partner & husband: composer and multi-instrumentalist Stathis Kalyviotis, with whom she formed the band Selana in the late 80’s – an underground, cult group that combined garage rock with Greek traditional dance rhythms and melodies. Their current approach is still internationalist, neo-hippie, paganistic, experimental and described by some as ‘ethnopunk’. They have a particularly strong following as a live band with a vivid, visual stage act. Normally a 5-piece, the band on this album play a wide variety of instruments including: saz, laouto, lyre, gaida (greek bagpipe), saxophones, guitars, keyboards, percussion & djembe – and is expanded by guest musicians on individual tracks playing harp, tablas, trumpet & trombone.» (Discovery Records)

«Al parecer, Kristi es una artista de gran prestigio en el panorama alternativo griego. Se inició en los 80 en proyectos relacionados con el punk, pero su evolución ha sido importante y sorprendente. Stathis es su pareja musical y sentimental y se entienden bien. Es seguidora y ha compartido escenario con otra transgresora como Patti Smith. Aquí la descubrimos y se decanta más por una moderna electrónica sin fronteras que mira a diferentes ciudades del mundo como se indica en el mapa de portada. Vienen los nombres de artistas como Björk (hasta en la voz), M.I.A., Natacha Atlas o Diamanda Galas (rompe barreras estilísticas como ella). "Barcelona-Cantabria" tiene aire medieval y violín a lo Dead Can Dance. "S.E.S.C. tour" es jazz étnico con gran saxo y "Autovía del Mediterráneo" tiene ecos andaluces. El trabajo entra poco a poco y descubres matices, notas, instrumentos y sonidos ocultos. ¡Toda una sorpresa y lo mejor de Grecia en años!» (Paisajes eléctricos)

For more info, check also Kristi Stassinopoulou’s personal website

Link in comments (always appreciated)


Yair Dalal & Tarab Ensemble - Azazme (2000)

Yair Dalal as a soloist and with his ensemble AI OI, is a leading figure in Israeli music, playing also an important role within contemporary world music. Dalal is a fine composer, oud and violin player. Yair Dalal was born in Israel in 1955 to parents who immigrated from Iraq. His musical skills vary from classical European music to jazz, rock, blues and Arabic Classical music, and his background as one of the latest representatives of Arab Jewish music from Iraq, has allowed him to develop this rare mix of traditional and modern .

Yair Dalal is also a strong advocate for peace in Israel and devotes his talent to abolishing the ideological barriers between people and in particular between Jews and Arabs.
In addition to innumerable concert performances around the world, Dalal has made impressively many recordings in a very short time period with excellent reviews in music magazines worldwide.

The Tarab Ensemble is a gathering of 5 men from the age of 20 til 70, all living in traditional tents in Negev. Except from Mohammad Abu Agag who is a music teacher these are not musicians by profession (in Western terms) but they decided to form this ensemble in order to preserve the Bedouin music tradition. The Bedouin music is performed in ceremonies and for practical use, such as calling for a meeting or delivering news by rhythms on the coffee grinder. The Bedouin music has an accentuated melodic line, reserved but extremely emotional expression. In this production there are no electronics used to design atmosphere.

Dalal has preferred to remain as authentic as possible. Therefore also the choice of recording the CD in the tent. Bedouin music and culture is slowly eliminated and this is an attempt to preserve at least a small repertoire of Bedouin music from the Negev. Dalai's intimate reserved personality goes well with the Bedouins modest behavior. Their friendship goes years back. In the Seventies Yair traveled the Sinai and Negev deserts with his camel and violin. It was back then, that the strong bond with Bedouins was founded. (Mondomix, click here for the full article)

Link in comments




Kolinda - Kolinda I (1976)

Link in comments

Vinicius Cantuaria - Horse and Fish (2004)

«Horse and Fish is Brazilian guitarist and composer Vinicius Cantuaria's fifth [American] studio outing and his sixth overall. It is in some ways a radical departure and in others a full maturation of the hints and promises he's made since his [American] debut offering, Sol Na Cara, in 1997. Cantuaria – playing electric and acoustic guitars – and his sextet (which includes the wonderful Paul Socolow on bass and the lyrical impressionistic trumpeter Michael Leonhart) execute a program of samba classics and originals read through a cooking meld of Latin and Brazilian jazz and pop atmospherics. It takes guts to open an album with a radically new read of Gilberto Gil's trademark "Procissão," much less rework it entirely. But Cantuaria's restless musical personality dictates nothing less. Moving this progressive samba into rock and jazz terrains with subtle funky keyboards, modal trumpet lines, and guitar fills that dreamily (à la Hendrix) play counterpoint to layered, sensual polyrhythms not only offers Gil a tribute for his compositional prowess, but sets Cantauria's own watermark high for the rest of the set. Rather than try to follow it in kind, Cantuaria and band shift gears with a moody and sweet little tune of his own (stretched by subtle electronics and textures) called "Quase Choro," and it is a "quasi-choro" rhythmically and melodically. And so it goes. The constant shift between beautiful samba tunes tastefully and subtly reworked in the (post)modern idiom, like Roberto Menescal's "O Barquinho," with its lilting guitars and staggered light keyboard touches, is stretched further out of time and space by the sheer tenderness in Cantuaria's folk tunes like "Perritos," where his acoustic guitar's single notes and chords ring through his vocals and buoy them into the transcendent heart of his melody. But there are fireworks, too, such as in the sexed-up Latin jazz of his "Cubanos Postizos," where Cuban son, merengue, and funky samba entwine and soul-kiss one another. Cantuaria is a startlingly diverse songwriter, and Horse and Fish displays his array to dazzling effect. From the shimmering bossa of "Look the Sky" to the nocturnal guitar pop of "Tokyo" to the elegant yet edgy avant Brazilian pop of "O Nome Dela," Cantuaria is nearly boundless in his ability to approach, stretch, and reinvent song forms with great taste and tenderness. Add to this covers of two Jobim tunes – "Ligia" and "Este Seu Olhar" –that create aural portraits of love, lust, brokenness, and devotion, and one has an album that stands apart. Horse and Fish is a very special recording, one that listeners can encounter on many different levels. It will enchant, challenge, seduce, surprise, and delight anyone who approaches it without prejudice. Simply brilliant.» (Thom Yurek, AMG)

Link in comments

Postcards from Italy (30) - Pavarotti's Double!


Kal - Kal (2006)

Thanx to Goran (eXy) from Serbia, another very interesting reality in contemporary Serbian avant-folk scene.

«Kal are the hottest Gypsy band from the suburbs of Belgrad, rock`n`roll in attitude, fuelled on urban beats and rooted in the Balkan blues. In their wit, imagination and ability to throw disparate sounds together they mark themselves as both part of Balkan Gypsy tradition and 21st Century lifestyle. Kal - the word is Romani for `black` - were formed by the Ristic brothers, Dushan and Dragan, to confront the prejudices and clichés the Roma face. Ristic`s vision of how Kal embrace 21st Century Roma music is a generous one: bhangra rhythms underpin one song, a violin dances around a two-step rhythm played on double bass, weeping Hawaiian steel guitar drifts over a lovely waltz tempo, an accordion feeds tango flavours, Montenegran rock satirist Rambo Amadeus delivers an acerbic, hiccupping rap whilst the striking voices of Zumrita Jakupovic, Adil Maksutovic and Dragana Berakovic lend earthy, sensual qualities to the songs. Recorded on a bare bones budget at Dragan`s ramshackle home studio this brilliant, intuitive album shifts Gypsy soul into cyberspace. To help achieve this mix Kal employed Mike Nielsen to mix, arrange, find beats and produce the album. Nielsen`s experience involves everything from mixing Dizzy Gillespie`s live sound through working with Maori and Turkish musicians to producing/ engineering Underworld, Jamiroquai and Natasha Atlas.» (More on CDRoots)

Link in comments


U Srinivas - Mandolin Duo (2000)

Another significant contribution from Madhu (many thanx! Thanx also to AOR for the cover), this time introducing us to the fascinating world of Carnatic music from Southern India and to the work of mandolin master U Srinivas. Enjoy!

«Indian Classical Music», writes Madhu, «is divided into two parts, Hindustani Music that has its origins in the North of India and Carnatic Music from Southern India. U Srinivas is one of Carnatic Music's most renowned and popular artists. His fame and recognition come not only from his extraordinary talent but almost as importantly for introducing a Western Instrument, the Mandolin to Classical Carnatic Music.

U Srinivas picked up the Mandolin at the age of six and showed enormous natural proficiency with it and was hailed as a child prodigy. Coming from a musically inclined family, he was encouraged to use the instrument and was entirely self-taught; despite this he made a huge splash in the very traditional and difficult Carnatic Music Scene, making his “arangetram” (public debut) at the age of 10. He was instantly hailed as a special talent, and the boy and his strange instrument were eagerly welcome into the fold.
Since then Srinivas has gone from strength to strength performing not just with the best names in Carnatic Music but also performing frequently with hindustani Musicians and several world musicians including John McLaughlin, Michael Nyman, Zakir Hussain, L Subramaniam, Michael Brook, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia and many more.
Srinivas is great to watch live as his total abandon and love for music comes through in his performances. This particular album features some of the best loved compositions of great classical composers like Muthuswamy Dikshithat, Thyagaraja, Arunachala Kavi, Vyasaraya Tirtha and two compositions of Modern master GN Balasubramanian.
This album features U Srinivas on the Mandolin, accompanied by KV Prasad on the Mridangam, V Nagarajan on the Kanjeera and EM Subramaniam on the Ghatam.»

NOTE: 1. All files are in m4a format.

Link in comments


Tri Yann - La Découverte ou l'Ignorance (1976)

My favourite Tri Yann album, an excellent mix of electric and acoustic Breton folk.

«L'équilibre entre tradition et modernité. C'est à la fois l'album charnière et le meilleur album de Tri Yann. Il réalise la synthèse entre le folklore traditionnel et l'époque contemporaine. On y trouve le classique "La Jument de Michao", typique du folklore populaire; mais aussi "La Découverte ou l'Ignorance", morceau parlé qui s'interroge sur l'identité bretonne. Les chansons sont variées et efficaces, on accroche dès la première écoute. La complémentarité des voix est impeccable; l'harmonie entre instruments modernes et traditionnels l'est aussi. Si vous cherchez un album de Tri Yann qui sonne traditionnel, piochez dans un de leurs précédents; si vous cherchez un album qui sonne plutôt moderne, choisissez un album postérieur. Cet album est le mélange idéal des deux tendances.» (Amazon.fr, reader review)

Site officiel: http://edoll.free.fr/ ( and )

Short biography of the band in English, Deutsch, Italian, Polski, Français, Gàidhlig and Русский: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tri_Yann

La découverte ou l'ignorance

Le breton est-il ma langue maternelle?
Non! Je suis né à Nantes où on n'le parle pas.
Suis-je même breton???... Vraiment, je le crois...
Mais de pur race!!!... Qu'en sais-je et qu'importe?
Séparatiste? Autonomiste? Régionaliste?
Oui et non... Différent...
Mais alors, vous n'comprenez plus:
Qu'app'lons-nous être breton,
Et d'abord, pourquoi l'être?
Français d'état civil, je suis nommé français,

J'assume à chaque instant ma situation de français.
Mon appartenance à la Bretagne
N'est en revanche qu'une qualité facultative
Que je peux parfaitement renier ou méconnaître...
Je l'ai d'ailleurs fait...
J'ai longtemps ignoré que j'étais breton...
Français sans problème,

Il me faut donc vivre la Bretagne en surplus
Et pour mieux dire en conscience...

Si je perds cette conscience,
La Bretagne cesse d'être en moi.
Si tous les bretons la perdent,
Elle cesse absolument d'être...
La Bretagne n'a pas de papiers,
Elle n'existe que si à chaque génération
Des hommes se reconnaissent bretons...
A cette heure, des enfants naissent en Bretagne...

Seront-ils bretons ? Nul ne le sait...
A chacun, l'âge venu, la découverte... ou l'ignorance !

Cette célèbre chanson des Tri Yann provient d'un texte écrit par le journaliste Morvan Lebesque dans son livre "Comment peut-on être breton / essai sur la démocratie française".
The text for this famous Tri Yann' Song (litt: Discovery or Ignorance) was written by the reporter Morvan Lebesque in his essay "Comment peut-on être breton / essai sur la démocratie française" (litt: How to be Breton / Essay on the French Democracy).

Link in comments
(appreciated in whatever language)


Postcards from Paris - Dans la Forêt

Angola 70's - 1972-1973 (2000)

More on the amazing Angolan scene of the early 1970s.

«Someone at Buda Musique knows how to do these historical surveys of a nation's popular music legacy right, if the ongoing Ethiopiques series [very soon on these screens…] and now this five-CD series on Angola are any indication. Angolan pop music in the '60s became an affirmation of national and African identity in the face of severe repression from Portuguese colonial authorities – we're talking concentration camp stays for major musicians here – and the root forms had coalesced into a new, distinctly Angolan mix by the 1970s. Both '70s discs share the same major singers and backing bands (Jovens do Prenda, Os Kiezos, Ngoma Jazz) and are the highlights of the series, but Angola 70's: 1972-1973 is probably the better starting point. The first recording studios in Angola had just opened in 1969 so the sound quality isn't always the greatest, but the music is upbeat, full of exuberance and the promise of life with independence on the horizon. The blues-drenched saudade of Pedrito's "Ngalenga Kubata," Arthur Adriano's acoustic "Belita," and Bonga's "Balumukeno" serve as counterpoint. Lourdes Van Dunem's opening "Ngogngo Ya Biluka" is light and lilting, but the dominant style here is semba, driven by feathery guitar melodies, a sprightly antidote to Césaria Évora's downbeat morna.

Semba rocks the rhumba in a more Caribbean or Brazilian way than the Congolese soukous factory next door, and it's probably no coincidence that the name is just one vowel removed from samba, or that songs by Gambuzinos, David Zé, and Urbano de Castro lean that way. Dionisio Rocha begins to up the tempo and electric ante to excellent effect, and Manuel Faria dips into the saudade tip with active percussion and a vague rhumba feel. But the Congolese connection arrives full force on the next four tracks – Os Kiezos' "Milhorró" shines behind Marito's crystalline lead guitar, Super Coba pits tart horns against light voices on the very strong "Finpantima," Cabinda Ritmos leans on a riff close to "La Bamba" for "Celestina," and Ngoma Jazz really nails the exuberant galloping soukous rhythm with nice lead guitar licks on "Belita Kiri-Kiri." Interesting oddities like the very '60s organ swirls from Africa Show pop up, but it's appropriate that this compilation ends with Artur Nunes' muted, sad "Tia." The very thorough liner notes paint the social and cultural context for the music, one that includes the sobering reminders that the country's best-known figure, Bonga, has lived in exile since the '70s and Zé, de Castro, and Nunes all died during the post-independence factional infighting, military rebellion, and civil war of mid-'70s Angola. Can't help but make you think about what might have been, but at least some of the music they made passing through has been revisited on Angola 70's: 1972-1973.» (Don Snowden, AMG)

For another fine release in this series, this time concerning the 1990s Angolan scene, check my friend Alonsii's blog, L'ARBRE DE LES 1000 MUSIQUES.

Link in comments


Bonga - Angola 72 (1972)

A masterpiece from Angola. Enjoy! R.

«Jose Adelino Barcelo de Carvalho aka Bonga Kwenda was Portuguese champion on 400 metres for Benfica at the time Angola was still a part of the Portuguese colonial empire, a situation that lasted until 1975. Bonga Kwenda was born in 1943 in Kipri to the North of Luanda in Angola of a Congolese mother and an Angolan father. In the sixties, when independence time was coming near, Bonga like some other young people of his generation, began to compose and sing in the capital city, Luanda, where he was studying. But the Portuguese colonial authorities didn't appreciate the young singers who expressed a culture typically Angolan, and Bonga went into exile in Rotterdam, Holland. The Capeverdean community of the city was already significant: men worked on the docks or for the Heineken brewery, women did domestic works. This community had its restaurants, bars, its Saturday night or Sunday afternoon dances. They were places where you put the world to rights, dreaming of independence, of the return home, and where you remembered with nostalgia and heartbreak your relatives who've stayed home.

Naturally, Bonga hung out with the Rotterdam Capeverdean musicians and he recorded with them on the Morabeza label his first record Angola 72, which is still considered as one of the most interesting albums of modern African music. It was a mix of original and traditional compositions, in which Bonga sang of the tough life reality of the Angolans under the colonial domination, the poorness, the shantytowns... Then, after another recording in 74, it was finally time for Independence, the return home and the beginning of one the most prolific career for an African artist.
Recording album after album, Bonga became a star, all over Africa and in Portugal, giving the audience a dancing and lively music. However, despite his magical voice, Bonga didn't really charm the buffs of the world-music scene. The album Mulemba Xangola which is reviving the magic of the Angola 72 album and the dancing atmosphere of his Portuguese career seemed to change that. 2000 was the year of a new beginning for Bonga.» (The Leopard Man's African Music Guide – also in
Norsk version)

«Bercée par des rythmes chaloupés inspirés parfois de l’énergie du soukouss, la voix éraillée de Bonga porte des paroles imprégnées de la mélancolie d’un peuple floué. Né en 1943 à Kipiri, le maître du semba a toujours milité contre le colonialisme et le domination portugaise. Très jeune, il décide de changer son nom trop colonial, (José Adelino Barcelo) pour un nom plus africain : Bonga Kuenda. Il vit dans la banlieue pauvre de Luanda où émerge un nouveau mouvement artistique qui cherche à retrouver l’histoire et le culture de l’Angola. Le père de Bonga qui est accordéoniste, l’intègre dans son groupe. Le jeune homme joue de la dikanzas, un morceau de bambou sur lequel on frappe, très subversif car symbole d’un retour aux racines africaines. Alors que dans tout le pays, le semba, rythme clandestin, retrouve un nouveau souffle, Bonga monte son propre groupe qu’il appelle « Kissueia », la misère des quartiers pauvres en Kimbundu.

En 1966, athlète et footballeur, il s’exile au Portugal, s’installe à Lisbonne et poursuit son combat politique. C’est à Rotterdam, où il est contraint de fuir, qu’il sort son premier album européen Angola 72 devenu depuis un classique. Bonga a sorti depuis des dizaines de disques, enchaînant les tubes planétaires, dont «Mona ki n’gui xica» porté aux oreilles du public français par la BO de «Chacun cherche son chat», et les concerts où la chaleur de sa musique prend toute son ampleur. Incontestablement il aime, pousser son public à se déhancher et l’entraîne avec lui dans un fièvre qui ne connaît d’autre remède que la danse.» (Tv5)

Biografia en portugués: http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonga

Link in comments (always appreciated)

Irakere - En Vivo (1993)

Cuba's finest Jazz-Roots ensemble in a classic "grey market" live cd, recorded in Havana in 1990 (or before?) and first released in Europe in 1993.

"The track list focuses on songs from the first albums - "Taka Taka-Ta", "Dile A Catalina" - and dance tracks rather than classical or jazz. So it doesn't give you a sense of the group's range but it's a heck of a lot of fun: "Aguanile Bonkó" is a brilliant, high-energy blend of santerí and funk, along the lines of Palmieri's "Lucumí, Macumba, Voodoo." On the lighter side, "Baile Mi Ritmo" is pure tongue-in-cheek disco, complete with a guitar lick borrowed from "You Should Be Dancin'." And it's tough to go wrong when a record starts with "Bacalao Con Pan" and "Moja El Pan" back to back. (DBW, Wilson & Alroy's record Reviews)

«[…] Irakere, que comenzó como un desprendimiento de la Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna, cuenta con varios de los mejores intérpretes de Jazz de Cuba. Algunos fueron escuchados y admirados por jazzistas de fama mundial como Dave Brubeck y Gerry Mulligan en el Festival de Jazz celebrado en Polonia en 1970, y dos de ellos (el pianista Chucho Valdés y el saxofonista Paquito Rivera) han quedado entre los primeros cinco del mundo en sus respectivos instrumentos, en encuestas realizadas por revistas de Estados Unidos y Francia. En 1976, ya integrado el grupo Irakere, se repitió el éxito en Europa, esta vez en Finlandia. Y en mayo de 1977, Irakere sorprendió y entusiasmó a músicos como Dizzy Gillespie y Stan Getz, que realizaron una breve visita a nuestro país. La sólida formación técnica y la experiencia de estos músicos cubanos en el campo de Jazz, sumado al empleo de instrumentos y ritmos del inagotable arsenal afrocubano, hacen de Irakere el primero entre los combinados que están renovando nuestra música popular. Su director Chucho Valdés, además de sus propias y originales composiciones, es responsable de modernas versiones de nuestra música tradicional (contradanzas de Saumell, “La comparsa” y la “Danza de los ñañigos” de Lecuona), y el grupo puede interpretar con igual desenvoltura un danzón que un concierto de Mozart, convirtiéndolo en una novedosa y válida experiencia. […]» (Leonardo Acosta, Revista Revolución y Cultura)

«El Grupo Irakere estuvo integrado por Armando Cuervo (Percusión), Oscar Valdés (Vocal y Percusión), Jorge "el niño" Alfonso (Congas), Enrique Plá (Batería), Carlos del Puerto (Bajo), Jorge Varona (Trompeta), Arturo Sandoval (Trompeta), Carlos Averhoff (Saxo Tenor), Paquito D’Rivera (Saxo Alto) y Carlos Emilio Morales (Guitarra). Sus repertorios a lo largo de los años han sido una clara y definida combinación de temas jazzisticos, experimentales y bailables; con elaborados arreglos que permiten apreciar el virtuosismo de los solistas y la calidad de las composiciones. Todo ellos es una mezcla que han hecho de la presencia de Irakere en los escenarios una cita obligada en cualquier evento del jazz mundial.
La impresionante sonoridad de Irakere ha impactado a muy diversos auditorios, demostrando en cada presentación la estatura física y cultural de estos hombres, donde destaca de manera singular el maestro del piano, Chucho Valdés, que por sus extraordinarios aportes a las variantes modernas del Jazz y su calidad como pianista es considerado líder mundial de este género musical. En Irakere viven los percusionistas de África, pero también los metales de Cuba y los teclados de Valdés, un maestro del piano, virtuoso en su instrumento, y una verdadera escuela de incuestionable calidad musical. Hijo de Bebo Valdés, Chucho ha llevado su herencia musical al frente de Irakere por los escenarios mas exigentes y variados del mundo entero.
Irakere lideró con su nacimiento hace ya más de 30 años, un proceso de renovación en la música cubana que no ha sido justamente ponderado por algunos públicos menos rigurosos y exigentes. Irakere es el alma mater de la música cubana contemporánea. Con un estilo policromático que va desde lo puramente afro hasta las más modernas sonoridades, Irakere ha fusionado en forma casi perfecta lo Afro-cubano, el jazz y lo puramente clásico, logrando un producto de altísima calidad interpretativa, pero además inspirado y revolucionario. La fusión de la raíces profundas del folclor afrocubano con elementos de la música clásica e internacional se convierten en una filosofía, una forma de tocar y de trabajo bajo la obsesión perfeccionista de Valdés, que sobrevive a todos los vaivenes propios de las orquestas.
Irakere, que nos dejó el regalo sabroso de la Timba, señaló el camino de una técnica impecable al servicio del arte popular, pero con su disolución nos dejó la incertidumbre de que quizás no volveremos a ver una banda tan estupenda.» (Apolybaco)

Link in comments

Postcards from Italy (29) - Basilicata



Virginia Rodrigues - Mares Profundos (Brazil, 2003)
See the original post for more infos.

Link in comments.


Russendisko Hits (2003)

«Back in the 1970s and 1980s, no one would have thought of Soviet Russia as a hotbed of happening alternative rock. And as this compilation demonstrates, there was a good reason for that perception: it was not, in fact, a hotbed of happening alternative rock. However, it was a place where bands managed, despite pervasive cultural oppression and state-sanctioned musical monotony, to build a small and surprisingly diverse underground dance-music scene. Compiled by emigre DJs Yuri Gurzhy and Vladimir Kaminer, this album brings together a host of slightly cheesy but always quirkily charming selections by the likes of Siberia's Red Elvises, Distemper, the St. Petersburg Ska-Jazz Review and RotFront. These are bands that drew on many different influences and elements, from punk to disco to ska to klezmer, and interestingly, an awful lot of the result ends up sounding like some kind of high-octane polka. Spitfire's "Rio-Rita," Leprikonsi's "Chicks Don't Fall in Love with Me," and Zdob Si Zdub's "Gipsy and an Alien," for example, all fit within that general stylistic designation. But there are surprises as well: a queasy sort of Latin rock from Markscheider Kunst, punk/ska from Leningrad and a genuine klezmer rave-up from the De Amsterdam Klezmer Band (whose founding member is actually from Odessa). Yes, most of this stuff is mostly fun for the kitsch factor, but the album is also a genuinely moving document of youth culture's ability to create weird and crazy music under even the most adverse conditions.» (AMG)

Link in comments


Oi-Va-Voi - Digital Folklore (2002)

After a long period of turmoil, the London-based “Klezmer meets drum’n’bass” band Oi-Va-Voi are back with a new cd, already released in mainland Europe, and a European tour that very soon will bring them also to Italy. Waiting to listen live to their new songs, I went back to their first self-produced album, Digital Folklore (now very hard to find) and still found it fresh and full of promises as the day I heard it for the first time. Even if its much better known follow-up, Laughter Through Tears, is undoubtedly more refined and polished (for better and for worse), Digital Folklore still retains its own peculiar aura, much like the first Gotan Project effort, to which it’s comparable in intent.

«London has long been home to a thriving Jewish community but until Oi-Va-Voi formed it was amongst the quietest of the capital's ethnic communities. With their debut album Digital Folklore, Oi-Va-Voi have put Jewish London music on the international map. Oi-Va-Voi are a six-piece band featuring trumpet, guitar, drums, bass, clarinet and violin. On first listen they are a klezmer outfit. Don’t get too comfortable and start reaching for Fiddler On The Roof comparisons: Oi-Va-Voi have a taste for garage and drum and bass rhythms.
Oi-Va-Voi formed in 1999 when six disparate London musicians became united by a desire to mix traditional Eastern European musics (klezmer and Gypsy) and contemporary dance rhythms. Klezmer was the music of Eastern Europe's Jewish communities and, to a large extent, it was murdered with its creators by Hitler's insane thugs. Only in the US had immigrant Jewish musicians kept the music alive and in New York klezmer enjoyed a revival across the 1990s.
Oi-Va-Voi's savvy sound found them quickly securing gigs across Europe at dance, rock and world music festivals. The response from the diverse crowds was overwhelming, making it clear to the Voi that, by mixing the soulfulness of traditional Eastern European music with break-beats, they had discovered a powerfully contagious new sound.

Digital Folklore's subtle mix of contemporary rhythms with Eastern European inspired melodic style has proved a hit: tracks were featured on compilation albums including Futuro Flamenco, Phat Global 2 and the new Buddha Bar album. There's even a forthcoming remix from The So Solid Crew! “Because of historical reasons Jewish London has kept its head down musically,” says Lemez. “When we started playing klezmer it was the rediscovery of our own roots. We see the band as a way to emphasise the relationship, not the differences, between the Jewish community and other communities. 'Salaam Sholom' is a track we recorded with MoMo, the London based Moroccan band, to emphasise what the North African and Jewish communities have in common. People too often allow politics to get in the way when we share so much.” Oi-Va-Voi is a Yiddish colloquialism that stands for 'Oh my God!' Lemez suggests it fits the klezmer tradition of not taking things too seriously. On the strength of Digital Folklore Oi-Va-Voi are certainly worth listening to seriously. (Garth Cartwright, BBC Radio3 World Awards, 2003)

Lemez Lovas (tromba), Sophie Solomon (violino), Josh Breslaw (batteria), Leo Bryant (basso), Stephen Levi (clarinetto) e Nik Ammar (chitarra) sono sei ragazzi londinesi accomunati dalle origini ebree ma di disparato background musicale (hip hop, elettronica, dance, rock, drum’n’bass, folk, musica tradizionale klezmer). A fine anni ’90 formano gli Oi-Va-Voi (espressione che, in dialetto yiddish, corrisponde più o meno al nostro “Oh, mio Dio”) con l’intenzione di unire in un progetto coerente le loro influenze molteplici e multietniche. Con la cantautrice scozzese KT Tunstall impegnata part time nel ruolo di vocalist, diventano un’attrazione del circuito live britannico e internazionale (suonando al festival di Glastonbury ma anche a Mosca e in altre città dell’Est europeo) e, dopo la partecipazione ad alcune compilation (compreso un volume della collana “Buddha Bar”) si procurano un contratto con la Outcaste, l’etichetta che già pubblica i dischi di un altro cantore della Londra multietnica di oggi, Nitin Sawhney. Dopo il primo e ormai quasi introvabile Digital Folklore, il boom di popolarità arriva nel 2003 con il singolo “Refugee” (cantato dalla Tunstall) e l’album Laughter Through Tears, che vede alternarsi al microfono anche Earl Zinger, la cantante yiddish Majer Bogdanski e l’uzbeka Sevara Nazarkhan. I problemi però sono dietro l’angolo: la Tunstall azzecca un hit internazionale col singolo “Black horse and the cherry tree” e si concentra sulla carriera solista; altrettanto fa la Solomon, che incide un album per la Sony e lascia un vuoto ancora più importante nel gruppo. Non bastasse, gli Oi-Va-Voi devono fare i conti con la grave malattia (poi fortunatamente risolta) di uno dei membri della band e con il progressivo deteriorarsi dei rapporti con l’etichetta per divergenze di vedute artistiche. Un primo tentativo di registrare un nuovo album naufraga nel 2005; l’anno successivo però Lemez e compagni vanno a Tel Aviv e lì iniziano a gettare le basi del nuovo disco, traendo ispirazione dal vivace ambiente circostante e registrando con musicisti locali prima di trasferirsi a Londra e concludere il lavoro sotto la guida del produttore Mike Spencer, noto per i suoi successi pop (Kylie Minogue, Jamiroquai) ma esperto anche di musiche tradizionali. Dopo la registrazione del disco, intitolato semplicemente Oi Va Voi e pubblicato nella primavera del 2007 dalla V2, entra nel gruppo anche la violinista australiana Haylie Ecker, proveniente dalle Bond. (Rockol)

Link in comments


Digitation source: Hartmann Schedel, Liber chronicarum
Date: 1493
Place: Nuremberg
Imprint: A. Koberger
Web Source: Historic Cities

The Cracow Klezmer Band - Bereshit (2003)

Another fine contribution from Jonatan from Poland, again concerning the superb Cracow Klezmer Band (now become The Bester Quartet - for more info check the preceding post), surely one of the most interesting groups in contemporary Jewish music. If their 2001 effort, The Warriors, was a really enjoyable album, this 2003 release, Bereshit, is if possible even better, showing the band fully at ease on a wider palette. Many thanx, pal!

«If some klezmer groups seem like they're trying to overtake you on the inside, exhaust pipe dragging the tarmac, The Cracow Klezmer Band are the Rolls Royce purring down the fast lane. There may only be four of them (violin, accordion, percussion, bass) but crucially they make a glorious sound. The CKB were founded in 1997 by young accordionist Jarosław Bester, who has taken Astor Piazzolla's liberating approach to writing tangos and applied it to his own Jewish compositions. On "Israel's Tears" a ghostly clarinet shudders below an accordion somehow made to imitate little bells, before the group slam headlong into a grinding yet exhilarating lament. Gnashing of teeth never sounded so good. Grażyna Auguścik adds beautiful wordless vocals to "The Migration of Souls", and the album climaxes with its boldest piece, the title track "Bereshit", meaning "In the Beginning". Recorded in Krakow synagogue, it's darkly passionate portrayal of the creation of the word.» (Clive Bell, The Wire, March 2004, from the band's own website)

Link in comments (as always, appreciated)


Putumayo Presents: Acoustic Africa (2006)

«While the market for African music is heavy with new forms of Afro-pop, synth-driven reggae, and piles of high-energy soukous, there is a movement afoot for music in the more restrained end of the spectrum. Acoustic Africa takes a stab at compiling some of the newer sounds of this movement, à la MTV Unplugged. There are a few names on the album with massive recognition value: Angélique Kidjo presents a song to be released on a future album of her own, Habib Koité has his old hit "Baro," and Djelimady Tounkara (from the Super Rail Band, among others) contributes a recent piece for the guitar. Moving away from West Africa, South Africa's old master Vusi Mahlasela contributes a nice work for the guitar as well. Aside from these better-known artists, though, the real joy of this album comes from the unheard of, or at least less heard of. Senegal's Diogal has a gentle touch on the guitar, as does Madagascar's Rajery on the valiha (with a mangled hand and a technical style similar to Django Reinhardt's old playing technique). While Lokua Kanza has had a bit of fame outside of the Congo, Faya Tess is somewhat less known outside of Africa – on this album they combine for an uncharacteristically (for her, at least) somber piece. Laye Sow's gentle approach to protest music and a pair of works from the Cape Verdean repertoire fill out a relatively diverse set quite well. While North and East Africa, and indeed most of the central and southern portions, are underrepresented, the album covers the acoustic movement well, and touches upon the acoustic tips of more electronically based styles as well. The music is top-notch without exception, and the performers make a nice grab bag of exploration for the intrepid listener.» (AMG)

Link in comments


Mohammad Rahim Khushnawaz - Afghanistan: Le rubab de Hérat (1974)

This wonderful collection of field recordings (grabbed in an improvised studio set up in a hotel room in Herat, Afghanistan) made in 1974 by professor John Baily (for a profile of this researcher, click here), published in cd format in 1992 by AIMP (Archives internationales de musique populaire, Geneva), magnificently captures Afghan “Rubab” (the Afghan lute) virtuoso Mohammad Rahim Khushnawaz both in solo and group contexts.

«This release is the best Rubab playing you can hear that is available to the world audience – a true classic inside and outside Afghanistan. Khushnawaz had developed the speediest, most eloquent voice in Rubab playing. I feel his technique is unsurpassed, even by younger players such as Homayun Sakhi. The tone of his Rubab is some very magical thing. This is the best place to start if you want to know the beauty of solo Rubab. There is really nothing like this instrument, and the playing of Khushnawaz will have you intoxicated, even after 1,000 listens and beyond...» (Amazon, reader review)

Learn more about Afghan music:


Link in comments (always appreciated)



Christina Pluhar & L'Arpeggiata - La Tarantella: Antidotum Tarantulae (2002)

La Tarantella - Antidotum Tarantulae, pubblicato dall'etichetta francese Alpha, è uno di quei prodotti che tracciano una linea di confine tra il repertorio classico e la musica tradizionale. Cantano Lucilla Galeazzi, Marco Beasley e Alfio Antico. Cristina Pluhar dirige l'ensemble L'Arpeggiata in una sarabanda di strumenti barocchi e popolari come il salterio, la cornamusa, percussioni come il tamburo a cornice. Il nome tarantella deriva da "tarantola": il tarantato è colui che è stato morso dal ragno; questa danza si è conservata in Italia e in Spagna e trova il suo correlativo nordeuropeo nel ballo di San Vito. Gli strumenti ritenuti più adatti a dissimulare il male del tarantato sono le chitarre e il violino ma anche tamburello, zampogna, cornamusa e flauto. Secondo studiosi come J. Sarratè e A. Kircher, (XVII- XVIII secolo) la musica di questi strumenti provoca le stesse reazioni riscontrabili sui soggetti colpiti dal veleno. Lavoro di grandissima raffinatezza quello dell'ensemble L'Arpeggiata, incentrato più sull'eleganza dell'armonia che sull'energia del ritmo; magistrali le voci della Galeazzi, di Beasley e di Alfio Antico. Una perla di musica popolare incastonata in un gioiello classico. (Antonello Mura, Il Secolo XIX)

A fascinating, original crossover of folk and classical, with the musicians of the early music ensemble L’Arpeggiata (conductor: Cristina Pluhar) joining the illustrious singers Galeazzi and Beasley, performed on modern and ancient instruments including chitarra battente, lutes, harp, psaltry. It's a mix of traditional songs and composed works form the 17th century, which gives it a unique and uncompromising quality. With Alfio Antico, Eero Palviainen, Marcello Vitale and many other fine musicians. Includes detailed notes in French (reported here), German (here) and English. (CDRoots)

Ce magnifique album nous invite à un parcours didactique, mais constamment sensuel et ludique, dans l'univers de la Tarentelle, danse thérapeutique autrefois extrêmement répandue dans tout le sud de l'Italie, et considérée comme le seul remède à la piqûre de la tarentule. Il était alors communément admis que chaque araignée provoquait un trouble distinct, mélancolie, frénésie, hilarité, folie... d'où une grande variété de danses et de chants, chacun étant censé guérir l'une de ces affections. L'ensemble de pièces regroupé ici illustre cette diversité à merveille. Appuyé sur un groupe d'interprètes tous remarquables venant d'horizons et de traditions musicales assez diverses, cette nouvelle production du label Alpha est un régal musical, à découvrir absolument. (FNAC)

Link in comments (always appreciated)


Postcards from Paris - Sans Paroles

Dhafer Youssef - Digital Prophecy (2003)

«Tunisia-born singer and oudist Dhafer Youssef should be recording for ECM. His albums have a similar spiritual, centered quality to the work appearing on that label, and his work on this album with some of Norway's top jazz players points completely in that direction. He lives very much on the cutting edge, taking things even further than he did on 2001's Electric Sufi. Where that album used electronica as the periphery of the music, here he brings it to the heart of the sound, integrating it seamlessly into his compositions, as on "Aya," where a seemingly found sound becomes the heartbeat of the track. His collaborators, including trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær, offer him plenty of space, and that's what the music needs — it's as wide open as the Tunisian desert. He's a good player of the oud, but his real weapon — apart from his sense of composition — is his voice, with a range that's truly stunning, and never put to better use than on "Dawn Prayer," where his high notes, seemingly impossible, stand as a revelation, with an aching melody that just stays in the brain. At the same time as Youssef pushes at the edges in his work, there's a sense of the music still being very centered in North Africa. On the basis of this, Youssef is extending his cutting edge even further.» (AMG)

«Interprete inizialmente di sonorità molto vicine alla tradizione più pura del mondo musicale nordafricano, con il disco Electric Sufi Youssef cominciò ad andare cautamente incontro a suoni più moderni, verificandone la compatibilità con le sue pulsioni più naturali. In questo bel disco molti elementi concorrono a mettere in contatto, ma nello stesso tempo tengono a debita distanza, i suoni più moderni dell’elettronica e dei campionamenti del nord Europa e le sue radici tunisine. Dal titolo del disco che oppone due termini lontani anni luce all’immagine di Youssef in copertina, icona delle tradizioni del suo paese, all’affermazione finale nel bel libretto di accompagnamento: “il mio ultimo respiro sarà in arabo”. Con lui, bravissimo e a tratti impressionante (la sua voce non sembra tale in Dawn Prayer, e l’oud del primo brano è scarno e immaginifico), musicisti già conosciuti e affermati per operazioni musicali innovative, a cominciare da Bugge Wesseltoft, per continuare con Eivind Aarset e Rune Arnesen, fino agli altri che completano un mosaico quasi perfetto.Un mosaico che ci racconta come i generi musicali possano incontrarsi senza sforzi, grazie alle sensibilità straordinarie degli attori in scena, e come la musica araba sia forse la più adatta a scoprire gli incastri preziosi con l’elettronica; e come il termine world music possa vivere una rappresentazione reale e affascinante in lavori come questo, tutto da godere.» (EGEA)

German review here

More on Dhafer Youssef at L’Arbre de les 1000 Musiques


Dhafer Youssef oud, vocal
Eivind Aarset guitars, electronics
Ronu Majumdar bansuri
Dieter Ilg acoustic bass
Rune Arnesen drums, programming
Bugge Wesseltoft piano, keyboards
Jan Bang beat programming

Nils Petter Molvaer trumpet

Link in comments


Iļģi - Kaza kāpa debesīs (2003)

Another fine contribution (as always) from Valery.

«The most famous world music band from Latvia Iļģi celebrated their 25th anniversary on April 21, 2006. The group started at the Cultural Centre of Iļģuciems in Riga where Ilga Reizniece, a professional violinist, founded an ensemble of Latvian folk music. She had just graduated from the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music and was an active member of two prominent folk music ensembles of the time, Bizīteri and Skandinieki.
At the beginning Iļģi was an ensemble of authentic Latvian folk music. They visited remote parts of Latvia in search for unrecorded folk songs, studied the traditional performance, as well as sewing their own traditional costumes and building their own instruments. They also performed wherever they could find willing listeners and pass on the knowledge they had acquired as befitted an ensemble of folk music. The studies of the authentic music led to interest in the ancient history, archaeology, ethnography, mythology and traditions. Unfortunately these fields of interest held a lot of information considered dangerous by the Soviet regime ruling in Latvia at that time. In the eighties, the folk-lore studies in Latvia held a bespoken element of dissidence…» (full bio here)

Kaza kāpa debesīs (A Goat Climbed Into The Sky) is «stylistically, the most richly diverse Iļģi album, yet it retains as its roots the traditional melodies and themes of Latvian folk music and the dainas. The album includes selections from a 7-song cycle composed for the Fire segment of a 15,000-dancer production at the 2003 Latvian Dance Festival. The album features the voices of Ilga Reizniece, Māris Muktupāvels, Gatis Gaujenieks and Rūta Muktupāvela, Ilga’s mesmerizing violin, Maris on kokle, dūdas (bagpipes), accordion and recorder, Gatis on bass and ġīga, Egons Kronbergs on guitars and Vilnis Strods on drums and percussion. In the first year of its release it reached 17th place in the World Music Charts Europe, and was praised as one of the top twenty world music albums of the year.»

Link in comments

Postcards from Paris - Untitled