Huáscar Barradas - Trío Acústico Venezolano (2001)

«“Si hay algo especial en Venezuela es que en cualquier reunión aparece un cuatro o una guitarra, alguna tía con talento musical comienza a cantar, las primas le hacen coro, el amigo del amigo toca las maracas, se improvisa, se cuentan anécdotas, chistes, y se forma un alboroto hasta que “el cuerpo aguante”… De este ambiente festivo y alegre está impregnado el disco Trío Acústico Venezolano. Nuestra fiesta es particularmente especial, ya que nos visitan nada más y nada menos que Neguito, Cecilia, Ricardo, Rafael y Víctor Hugo, además de Mayren y Maryann, las talentosas niñas de nuestro Agustín. Ésta no es una fiesta cualquiera, sino una ¡tremenda fiesta!» (Huáscar Barradas, from the artist’s official site)

«Flutist Huáscar Barradas takes a decidedly spiritual tack to his profession. The Venezuelan virtuoso sees jazz as liberation, and music in general as an art that teaches children values beyond consumerism. For him improvisation is an opportunity to break free of standard musical systems and structures. Barradas knows well the dynamics of freedom and constraint. He began formal training at age nine, and at 17 decided to further his studies and move from his native Maracaibo to New York. There he attended the Brooklyn Conservatory. It was the beginning of a versatile career for a musician who easily performs in virtually any musical stream. Barradas is equally comfortable playing symphonic music, chamber music, contemporary, folk, flamenco, and jazz. He looks at the similarities of these forms and rarely expounds on their differences. He has performed extensively in Europe and the Americas, garnering acclaim from small enclaves of aficionados enamored with his sound, style, and spirit for the past two decades.» (Miami New Times)

Read also: Huascar Barradas – The Magical Flautist

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The Rough Guide to the Music of Thailand (2003)

«Thai music hasn't had much exposure on the world stage, but on the basis of the excellent Rough Guide to the Music of Thailand compilation, it's only a matter of time before it emerges as a global force. The emphasis here is on the lukthung and morlam styles, which originated in northern Thailand, illustrated in both traditional and more modern pop forms, but there are also oddities like the Thai Elephant Orchestra (which, yes, is made up of elephants) on "An Elephant's Swan Song." Although it doesn't say so in the comprehensive booklet, Chawiwan Damnoen's track would seem to feature the khaen, a kind of massive forerunner of the harmonica (with origins in China) that produces a fascinating full sound closer to an accordion. While the styles have been modernized, few have done it as effectively as China Dolls, whose "Oh Oh Oh" was one of the biggest Thai singles of 2001, a series of absolutely irresistible hooks. Much of the music here is at the pop end of the spectrum while still managing to sound well-rooted, rather than bland and faceless. And some tracks can be stunning, like "Phin Solo," a solo by Surasak Donchai on the phin, a Thai lute, which is simply virtuosic. Jieb Benjaporn's "Ma Kor Tho Tai" is lukthung that blends a heartfelt slow melody with guitar that would sound at home on an Ennio Morricone soundtrack to wonderful effect. More traditional sounds come from Fong Nam, playing classical music featuring the double reed pi. And veteran Benjarong Thanakoset offers some beautiful music on the bowed so-duang to complement it, helping to explore some of the many facets of Thai music. This isn't a complete look at the music of Thailand, as the notes point out. But for the time being, it does a valuable, informative, and extremely entertaining job.» (AMG)

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Le marché de Belleville, Paris

La Tordue - T'es Fou (1997)

«Au cours des années 90, un courant dit néoréaliste a envahi le paysage musical français en lui insufflant au passage une énergie poétique tout à fait revigorante. Parmi les figures de proue de cette nouvelle vague, est apparu un groupe tout en franchise gouailleuse, la Tordue.

C'est autour du quartier de Belleville à Paris que se sont rencontrés les deux premiers membres de la Tordue. Benoît Morel, rennais de naissance, est plutôt orienté vers l'écriture et vers le dessin. Il est graphiste chez Gallimard (un des plus fameux éditeurs parisiens) lorsqu'il croise le chemin de Pierre Payan, multi-instrumentiste en mal de textes. Tous les deux sont nés dans les années 60 et partagent un même goût pour une chanson littéraire, façon Ferré/Aragon, les frères Prévert ou Gaston Couté, chansonnier anarchiste de la fin de siècle. Benoît expérimente déjà l'écriture avec les Têtes Raides, autre groupe phare de ce mouvement qui nous transporte dans les faubourgs parisiens d'antan bercés par les airs de java et les odeurs d'absinthe.

Désormais, ils sont trois. Les a rejoint Eric Pfil dit Fil, originaire de Savoie. Dès octobre 90, année de leur apparition sur la scène musicale, ils sortent un 45 tours à compte d'auteur. On les voit tout naturellement en première partie des Têtes Raides. Leur premier passage en tête d'affiche se fait en mars 92 dans le petit théâtre parisien du Tourtour. Leurs prestations font craquer public, critiques et professionnels. Ils sont drôles, tendres, et manient un nombre incalculable d'instruments (bandonéon, guitare, piano, accordéon, contrebasse, scie musicale, casserole, …). […] En 94, ils reçoivent le Grand Prix du Sentier des Halles et le Prix du coup de cœur francophone.

Sans album et presque sans promo, la Tordue se fait un nom. Lorsque sort leur CD Les choses de rien en mai 95, le succès n'est donc pas étonnant. En trois mois, l'album part à plus de 3000 exemplaires, joli score pour un disque vendu sans publicité aucune. […] Les concerts continuent de plus belle. En mars 96, un concert est organisé à la Cité de la Musique avec leurs amis des Têtes Raides, mais aussi Casse-Pipe et Miossec, autres représentants actifs d'une chanson française alliant tradition réaliste et rock. Quelques mois plus tard, ils sont de retour aux Francofolies de la Rochelle.

C'est le 1er avril 1997 que sort leur second album, T'es fou. La Tordue ne déçoit pas et l'accueil est aussi bon que lors du premier opus de 95. Ils sont même récompensés du prestigieux prix de l'Académie Charles-Cros, et se retrouvent ainsi sur les traces des plus grands…» (Read more on RFIMusique)

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Amman, Jordan

Photo: RMF

Putumayo Presents Arabic Groove (2001)

«If you want to know what's rocking the kasbah these days, Arabic Groove is where to start. From Algeria, Morocco, Egypt an other Arab countries we hear the dance-floor grooves and detect the influence of Western pop, notably funk, hip-hop and electronica. This of course makes sense from the Arabic point of view as those artists now get played alongside Westerners.

In 1996 Khaled had a number one hit in France with "Aisha" and since then groups like alabina and Natacha Atlas have further popularized Arabic music. In the club scene there's Transglobal Underground and others.

This album kicks off with a new single by Abdel ali Slimani, noted frontman for Jah Wobble's Invaders of the Heart. There's no space between cuts so you really get the sense of a programmed sequence for the dance-floor. Arabic Groove stands as one of the best sequenced and consistently great compilations ever.» (Muzikifan)

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The Sound of Kinshasa - Guitar Classics from Zaire (1995)

«Most of the great Afropop styles have grown out of a joining of urban and rural ideas, of indigenous roots and foreign borrowings. The story of Congolese pop music provides a complex and powerful example. By the closing years of the Belgian Congo, the city of Leopoldville (today's Kinshasa) was a place where city boys plucked out highlife songs on box guitars, phonographs and radios played the latest mambo and son hits from Cuba, and people from deep in the Congo's remote, culturally rich interior came to seek opportunity. Pop bands mainly existed to entertain the white elite, and played imitations of foreign music. The Cuban music, with African (including Congolese) rhythmic ideas at its heart, was naturally familiar and attractive to local musicians and listeners. So when musicians in Leopoldville began to make electric pop music for themselves, that music provided an obvious starting point.

Greek-run record labels – Ngoma, Olympia, and Opika – were the first to produce local records during the 1940s. But by the time African labels, Loningisa, and later Veve, entered the game, something had happened to the music. The Cuban piano parts had been adapted to guitars, and in the process, the cycling, polyrhythmic qualities of traditional Congo music, especially that of the sanza hand piano, had changed the color of the guitar parts. Gradually, guitar would emerge as the dominant melodic and harmonic instrument in Congo bands. The biggest bands in the 1970s and 80s would typically feature three guitars, and sometimes as many as five, all playing different, interlocking parts.

Vocalists sang in Lingala, a composite language developed during the years when the Belgians used laborers of diverse ethnicities to build a cross-continental railroad. The language had a warm, liquid flow, and the singers were excellent soloists and harmonists. When the Belgian Congo became an independent, nation in 1960, the new capital, Kinshasa, was alive with a beautiful, new hybrid sound unlike anything else in the world.» (Read more on Afropop)

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Daara J - Boomerang (2003)

«“Born in Africa, brought up in America, hip hop has come full circle,” proclaims Daara J on the title track of the group’s American debut album Boomerang (Wrasse Records, 2004) – featuring, among others, Rokia Traoré & Sargent Garcia. Hailing from Senegal, the western-most country in Africa, Daara J must have caught some of the sound waves rolling over the Atlantic from the South Bronx in the mid-seventies, or was it the other way around?

Goree, an island just off the coast of Senegal, was the last bit of the motherland seen by the millions of Africans caught in the slave trade en route to America. What the proprietors of this grossly profitable injustice could never have imagined was the tremendous socio-political impact those slaves would have on the country they were forced to call home. Ancient rhythms, rebellion, and the ability to express pain, suffering, and triumph through art would later manifest in what we have come to know as hip hop.

Daara J’s Faada Freddy explains that tasso is the original form of rap, ancient rhythmic poetry passed down from father to son. “Historically, people in Senegal would use tasso to talk about their environment, their living conditions, the situation of the country and their hopes for the future.”

“Daara J means ‘school of life.’ With every production, we want to give an education to our listeners,” says group member Aladji Man. In the vein of De La Soul, Public Enemy, and Blackstar, Boomerang strays from the typically machismo and materialistic subject matter permeating America’s mainstream rap scene. Joining the likes of Positive Black Soul and MC Solaar as one of Senegal’s elite hip hop crews, Daara J uses their words as a positive force. Proudly earning their name, the trio focuses on the ills of globalism, the perils of a traditional society, the threatened environment, and on spirituality. “To the end of our pains we will always build. My generation wants to come up for air,” say the lyrics of “Esperanza.”

During Senegal’s 2000 presidential election, Daara J was hired to edit speeches and promote the anti-corruption political campaigns. Successfully bringing new voters to the polls, they were able to share in the defeat of a corrupt regime. The same power can be found within the rhymes and rhythms of their first album to hit American shores. Stirring the senses with raga, jazz, and Cuban and Caribbean sounds, Boomerang is how hip hop was meant to sound, a canvas upon which styles of artistic expression create something which has never been discovered.

Winners of the BBC Radio 3 World Music Award for ‘Best African Act,’ Daara J has spent months atop the European world music charts. Daara J’s Boomerang proves to be as universally relevant and appreciated as it is unique to its creators. The album melts borders with touches of English and Spanish peppered among the courses of French and Wolof, a prominent native Senegalese tongue, uniting the international hip hop community. Never before has a non-English hip hop album sounded so natural. Boomerang just might give the impression that French and Wolof are rap’s lingua franca, and Senegal, its birthplace.» (RockPaperScissors)

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William Turner - Rain, Steam and Speed (1844)

Pressgang - Fire (1996)

«I've long admired Pressgang for their ability to provide no-holds-barred folk-punk. And this is English electro-acoustic folk-punk with a capital "E" and a capital "NGLISH," the kind of waggish onslaught on tradition that is definitely not for the faint of heart. In fact this album may very well redefine the genre. I am mystified by the lack of attention Fire! has received in both the overseas and domestic press. This edition of Pressgang is sans the fiddle of Imogen Gunner, returning the band to its testosterone-fueled roots. It's as if they have stripped down the sound, become leaner, but cranked up the volume.
The "Cutty Wren" starts things off, droning in on bass hum and accordion before Tony Lyons' frenetic pagan drumming takes over. The ancient tune is invested with all sorts of urgent energy, and you can tell that lead vocalist Damian Clarke is poised at the microphone with all sorts of illicit treats in mind for the rest of the album.
"Take a Jump" is magnificent, topical English folk with an irresistible reggae backbeat. Pressgang have always excelled in writing songs whose lyrics have the timeless ring of seasons and magic, and no song on Fire! disappoints in that regard.
The band reworks "Hard Times of Old England" into "Hard Times," a screaming modern funk-rap, replete with Ye Olde recorder break. It's a coup for mining the tradition in the punker's idiom, and high marks go to Cliff Eastabrook's thundering bass work throughout Fire! But Fire! is not all wham bam thank you ma'am... "Bad Bread" (concerning ergot, a fungus that is the source of LSD, infecting a village's bread and driving the hapless folks crazy) and "John Knox" display Pressgang's acapella bent. These are rousing enough outings in their own right, mysterious breaks in the midst of righteous Englishness.
On the instrumental side, check out "Sherrif's Ride," with its enthusiastic yells and aggressive accordion, drum, bass, and guitar attack that captures all the roving speed of law and order in the dead of night.
But nothing can prepare you for the sheer genius of "Merrily, Merrily." A lengthy song of the devil, "a worm in his mouth and a thorn in his tail," this is conceptual art-folk. "What d'ye lack?" asks the devil during his monologue to the listener, enticing us with a list of dark deeds. But remember. "Everything has a price...". A stirring example of Pressgang at the height of their powers, "Merrily, Merrily" closes out the CD with fiery menace indeed. Even with repeated listenings, Fire has not lost its spark. » (Lee Blackstone, Rootsworld)

Official Site: http://www.voxpop.demon.co.uk/pghome.htm

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Roberto Fonseca - Elengó (2001)

«By now anyone even remotely interested in Latin music has heard of (and listened to) the legendary Buena Vista Social Club. Their Grammy award and their well received feature length documentary has catapulted their music from the Hispanic community to mainstream America. BVSC has been described as "not exactly a band but rather a gathering of the nineteen most talented living latin musicians" The "headliners" at BVSC has long been pianist Ruben Gonzalez and singer Ibrahim Ferrer. When Gonzalez decided to retire the thought of finding someone to fill his shoes bordered on impossible. After all, Gonzalez had spent more than half a century creating music. In fact he was the pioneer in popularizing Cuban piano jazz (a combination of African beat with American style jazz improvisation). Most thought he was irreplaceable. Given the Buena Vista honcho Ibrahim Ferrer was approaching the age of 75 he was going to be one tough sell. Anyone chosen was going to be naturally compared to this master (Gonzalez). The music scene was shocked when the individual embraced was only 26 years old! Extraordinarily he fits easily into the mostly senior group and brought a special magic to this already visionary musical crew.

That individual was the inspired piano master Roberto Fonseca. The word "Master" (along with creative and genius) tend to be greatly overused by music reviewers. In this case, given his age this might seem even more of an overstatement. However, when you listen to this album you'll understand why he is an extraordinary true talent destined to put his personal mark on the music world. From Amsterdam to Dallas he receives raves. Last month (April 2003) in New York City I attended the BVSC performance as part of their US tour. Fonseca stole the show and his solos brought standing ovations.

This CD is of Fonseca own group and it illustrates his unique talent. It is a riveting performance that is truly moving. Fonseca's Latin flavoured music is inspired and is a fusion of unique talent and composition. This young pianist is also an accomplished arranger and composer. […] If you are into jazz, piano, Latin or simply a unique music experience do not miss this. You will be listening to the early work of someone destined to have a definite impact on jazz and perhaps become one of the giants in the world of music. I promise you an unusual combination of energy, warmth, and creativity resulting in a most inspired work. This CD and Fonseca are true musical finds!» (Jeffrey Fenman, pianist of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club, Amazon)

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Sali Sidibé - From Timbuktu to Gao (1993)

«Sali Sidibé is another exponent of wassoulou style of music, predominantly performed by female singers from the South of Mali. In the footsteps of the pioneers Kagbe Sidibé and Coumba Sidibé, Sali became one of the most popular Wassoulou singers in Mali.

Her music is somewhat different from that of Oumou Sangaré, but more similar to the style of Nahawa Doumbia since she is using the same didadi rhythm.
Unlike the malinké praise singers, these young artists addressed contemporary issues in their lyrics, such as social problems. Although the singers are mainly Peul they are singing in the wassoulou dialect of the bambara language.
The pentatonic wassoulou music itself is very distinct from malinke music and is reminiscent of the rhythms of Malian hunter music played with the Dozon N'Goni (hunter's lute), but using instead the smaller Kamelen N'Goni (6-string youth lute). Other instruments used are the traditional one-string violon, the soukou, the M'Bolon (bass lute), senoufo balafon, djembé and and also the electric guitar. The rhythms are repetitive and hypnotising, but there is room for improvisation on the string instruments.
Although her family was opposed to a musical career (her father being a marabout), Sali started singing in the Ensemble Instrumental National du Mali in the early 1980s. In 1987, she formed her own ensemble, and her first cassette Tounkan Magni was a big hit in Mali, before anyone had heard of Oumou Sangaré. Few recordings of her are internationally distributed, but a few tracks of Wassoulou Foli can be found on the two Wassoulou Sound samplers released by
Stern's Music [reviewed hereFrom Timbuktu to Gao is the reissue of N’Daya International ]» (Frank Bessem’s Musiques d’Afrique)

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Bandabardò - Iniziali Bì-Bì (1998)

«Enrico Erriquez Greppi, un bilingue dal passato franco lussemburghese, convince A. M. Finaz, rampante chitarrista elettrico, a gettare alle ortiche qualsiasi amplificatore o pedale di sua appartenenza. Questo per la convinzione di Erriquez che sarebbe bello e divertente portare su un palco la stessa atmosfera di festa che si instaura nelle "cantate tra amici", momenti magici in cui stonati e intonati uniscono le voci in canti senza fine. Seguono a ruota la terza chitarra acustica (Orla), il contrabbasso stradaiolo e francofono (Don Bachi), una batteria minimale (il giovane Nuto) ad assicurare le danze e un fonico di fiducia (Cantini). Si è poi aggiunto Ramon (percussioni) che presta ora la sua imponente mole e il calore di echi cubani.

Ottenuto l'amalgama voluto, il gruppo inizia una vita live costante e devastante per numero di concerti ed energia profusa: quello che la formula bardozziana permette dal set stradaiolo a quello rombante da palazzetto. Concerti sempre e ovunque (Italia, Francia, Svizzera e Slovenia) alternati a incidenti ai furgoni e collaborazioni con chi ama allegrie acustiche (Litfiba, Daniele Silvestri, CSI, Max Gazzè, Paola Turci…).» (Primomaggio)

«Con il titolo – omaggio all'enorme Serge Gainsbourg – la banda continua il suo gioco sentimental-linguistico col simbolo di B. Bardot, italianizzato a dovere. Nel disco si parla d’amore con la convinzione che chi trova banale parlare d’amore ha seri problemi esistenziali. Si parla di amore per la terra (Lo Sciopero Del Sole; Quello Che Parlava Alla Luna), per le nostre radici (la francese Mélo), per la vita in generale (Ubriaco Canta Amore). L’amore con la sua forza (Hammelin Song; Just le Temps), i suoi dubbi (Cuore a Metà) e i suoi drammi (L'Estate Paziente). L'amore per noi stessi, per la vita da gestire e guidare in prima persona (Beppeanna; Disegnata).I suoni sono quelli acustici di una band acustica: 3 chitarre, contrabbassi e pelli varie.» (From the official site: http://www.bandabardo.it/)

«Italian folk/rock group Bandabardó got involved in the local scene in the early '90s, mostly playing acoustic tunes based on inspiring lyrics about positivism. Formed by singer/songwriter Enrico Erriquez Greppi and guitarist A.M. Finaz, the band was later joined by percussionist Paolino, bassist Don Bachi, guitarist Andrea Orlandini, also known as Orla, and C.C. Cantini. After issuing an EP in 1994, Bandabardó's debut album, called Il Circo Mangione, was released in 1996, followed by 1998's Iniziali: Bi Bi, 1999's Barbaro Tour, and 2000's Mojito Football Club.» (AMG)

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The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir / Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares - Ritual (1993)

«In 1951, the father of Bulgarian concert folk music, Philip Koutev, established the Ensemble of the Bulgarian Republic. His goals was to join the rich heritage of his country's solo folk songs with harmonies and arrangements that highlighted their beautiful timbres and irregular rhythms. One year later, the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir was founded. Then as now, its members are singers from the rural regions of Bulgaria, each an informal apprentice in the folk songs of her home. The ensemble, now under the direction of conductor Dora Hristova, has refined Koutev's original idea into a fine art. The Choir's imaginatively arranged songs join traditional folk melodies with sophisticated harmonies and compelling rhythms, performed in an exotic six-part vocal style. Repertoire is drawn from arrangements created by Bulgaria's most esteemed composers, among them Mr. Koutev, Krasimir Kyurkchiyski, Nikolai Kaufman and Petar Lyondev.

Ritual is an unusual recording for the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir. For one thing, two male guest artists make appearances on two of the songs and a measure of instrumentation on half a dozen tunes includes one instrumental (gasp!). It's a wonderful dance tune which only enhances the feel of the recording dealing mostly with tunes meant for St. Lazar's Day and also Christmas carols. This recording (1994) is the first studio album since the group's two Le Mystère anthologies of the late 1980's. The tradition established by Philip Koutev in the 1950's of applying the compositional methods of concert practice to folk material is still the origin of the famous sound of this choir, now directed by Dora Hristova. Another fascinating aside on this recording is the group singing "A Jewish Triptych (Sephardic)" composed and arranged by Nikolai Kaufmann. This is glorious music that anyone literate in world music should know.» (Singers)

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E. T. Mensah & the Tempos - All For You: Classic Highlife Recordings from the 1950s (1993)

«With the passing of trumpet player, saxophonist, and vocalist Emmanuel Tettey "E.T." Mensah on July 19, 1996, at the age of 78, Ghana lost one of its most influential musicians. Respectfully known as "the father of modern highlife," Mensah played a vital role in the evolution of Ghana's music. In the early '90s, Mensah recalled his revamping of highlife, explaining, "We urgently wanted an indigenous rhythm to replace the fading foreign music of waltz, rhumba, etc. We evolved a music type relying on basic African rhythms, a crisscross African cultural sound." […]

The first of two volumes of vintage E.T. Mensah material, All for You finds the master of Ghana's highlife music leading his Tempos Dance Band on 17 excellent cuts. The set include calypsos, sambas, and highlife numbers, culled from Mensah's most successful period during the '50s and '60s. Mensah doubles on trumpet and saxophone, leading his fine band of brass, saxophone, guitar, and percussion players through hits like "Donkey Calypso" and "Sunday Mirror" (this last number's reference to the London newspaper figures in with other imprints of British colonialism, namely the joys of drinking tea espoused on "Tea Samba"). While these and a few other cuts are sung in English, Mensah favors a variety of Ghanaian languages when at the microphone, including Twi, Fante, and Ga. Other song highlights include the topical "Inflation Calypso," breezy highlife cuts like "Odofo," the Caribbean traditional "John B. Calypso," and a handful of instrumentals; excellent saxophone and guitar solos abound, especially on the instrumentals. One of just a few Mensah compilations, All for You is essential listening for fans of West-African popular music.» (AMG)

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The Church - Of Skins and Heart (1981)

«Best known for the shimmering "Under the Milky Way," their lone Top 40 hit, the Australian band the Church combined the jangling guitar pop of '60s icons like the Byrds with the opaque wordplay of frontman Steve Kilbey to create a lush, melancholy brand of neo-psychedelia rich in texture and melody. Formed in Sydney in 1980 by vocalist/bassist Kilbey with guitarist Peter Koppes and drummer Nick Ward, the Church recruited second guitarist Marty Willson-Piper before debuting the following year with Of Skins and Heart, an evocative collection highlighted by the ringing "The Unguarded Moment," a major success down under.

On their debut, Of Skins and Heart, the Church play straightforward pop/rock firmly rooted in new wave, though owing no small debt to '60s pop. Edgier and more direct than their later work, it also ranks among their finest for that very reason. None of the excesses and ambitions that would sometimes get out of hand on later releases are present, though much of the band's basic formula was laid down — Steve Kilbey's cool, detached vocals and slightly surrealistic lyrics combined with some outstanding pop hooks, nice harmonies, and layers of ringing guitar. The classic "Unguarded Moment" (arguably one of the greatest singles of the '80s) overshadows much of the material on the album, but there is really no shortage of great songs here.

2002 Aussie remastered reissue of 1981 album [the one ripped here] includes a nine track bonus disc featuring B-sides & videos [the latter not included here]. Includes original artwork from the vinyl release & revamped booklet with never before seen archive material.» (AMG & Amazon)

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Willie and Lobo - Siete (2000)

Though they were initially discovered while playing at a small club in Puerto Vallarta, the acoustic duo of Willie Royal and Wolfgang "Lobo" Fink had been influenced by the music of the entire world — Royal, though born in Texas, traveled with his Air Force father to Turkey, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands and France, while Fink, born in Germany, also lived in Spain, Jamaica and Mexico. As such, Willie & Lobo's music includes influences from Gypsy music, Tex-Mex, flamenco, hot jazz, reggae, tango, and many more styles. The duo met in Mexico and after playing together briefly, went their separate ways, with Fink recording two albums as Lobo during the mid-'80s. They were together again for good by 1991, Royal's classically trained but jazz-inspired violin meshing well with Fink's energetic flamenco guitar. Willie & Lobo had been playing together for several years before being picked up by Mesa/Bluemoon for American release in 1993. That year, Gypsy Boogaloo was released in the States and reached number two on the world charts. Worldwide exposure followed soon after, almost a given considering the duo's inclusion of several different national forms. Further albums followed.

On their seventh album, the aptly titled Siete, Willie & Lobo move farther than ever into smooth contemporary-jazz territory, crafting a showcase for their fine soloing technique. Yet that doesn't detract from the air of mysticism and understated passion that's always been a hallmark of the duo's recordings. Nor does it mean that guests like pianist David Benoit and bassist John Leftwhich obscure Willie & Lobo's blend of flamenco and Latin American rhythms – it simply makes for an even more eclectic blend.» (AMG)

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Sandy Lopicic Orkestar - Border Confusion (2001)

«Lo sterminato patrimonio musicale dei paesi dell'Est europeo, le radici e l'immutata carica vitale e spesso eversiva riescono a sorprenderci sempre. Sandy Lopicic Orkestar è nata e cresciuta intorno al suo leader che ha dovuto emigrare per portare avanti il suo progetto musicale e per portarsi dietro un pezzo della sua amata patria. Bosniaco di Sarajevo, si trasferisce in Germania a causa dei noti tragici avvenimenti, e là forma appunto la S.L.O., assieme ai trombettisti Bojan Petrovic e Imre Bozoki, al bassista Sasha Prolic, ai locali Martin Harms (sax), Richard Winkler (clarino), Jorg Mikula (batteria) e Michael Bergbauer (tuba). Al fine di caratterizzare la band, vengono reclutate tre ottime cantanti, le quali formano da sole un incisivo spot contro la follia della guerra e delle atrocità etniche: Natasa Mirkovic-DeRo viene da Sarajevo come Sandy, Vesna Petkovic è serba di Belgrado, Irina Karamarkovic è kosovara! Ecco come viene a spiegarsi il titolo del primo album della band, "Border confusion", album al quale danno un contributo essenziale i membri dei Deishovida (Kurt Bauer al violino, Matthias Loibner all'hurdy gurdy, Lothar Lasser alla fisarmonica) che in seguito diventano membri fissi della formazione.

L'impasto slavo-teutonico è in una parola sensazionale, i traditionals sono rivisitati con estremo gusto, passionalità e ricerca sonora. Le interpretazioni delle tre vocalists sono di altissimo livello, nello stile delle Voci Bulgare.» (MusicBalkan)

«The Sandy Lopicic Orkestar are a Balkan brass band like no other. With musicians drawn from various parts of former Yugoslavia and further afield, they put a contemporary and ancient spin on the genre. Mattias Loibner plays the ancient Hurdy Gurdy in a post-Hendrix style and the rhythm section switches between Balkan and funk feels, while the brass and saxes do the same with jazz and Balkan. Add three feisty female vocalists and you're in for a wild ride indeed.» (ABC)

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Postcards from Italy (53) - Monviso, Western Alps

Francis Bebey - Dibiye (1997)

A small tribute to a giant of African music (and not only)

«Un album sensible, mariné de douceurs multiples. Un album cuit à point... pourrait-on dire. Le meilleur -probablement- de la part de ce pionnier des sentiers modernes de la musique. En compagnie du quartet Amaya (African Music Yet Authentic), dans lequel on retrouve ses deux surdoués de fils, Toups et Patrick (saxophone,percus, sanza et flûtes pygmées), ainsi qu’un autre complice du son, l’excellent bassiste Noël Ekwabi. Onze titres sur lesquels on ne ressent aucune trace de cet humour qui contribua beaucoup à ses premiers succès (Agatha, Si les gaulois avaient su, la condition masculine...).

Onze titres d’une gravité mesurée, qui, d’une certaine manière, nous résument -avec la maturité en plus- toute la démarche créative d’un personnage qui n’a cessé de surprendre depuis ses débuts officiels dans les années cinquante, même s’il est vrai que certaines de ses oeuvres durant ses dernières années paraissaient inachevées. Une voix toujours expressive, qui sait nous causer du bonheur intérieur, sans omettre de nous rappeler que l’humanité reste ce qu’elle a toujours été, c’est-à-dire un idéal qui doit être honoré sans cesse. Chaque titre reprend à sa manière ce credo, sans jamais avoir besoin de forcer le trait. Dibiyé, Stabat Mater Dolorosa, Essok’am... le propos -en anglais, en français et en douala- est simple mais émouvant et vrai. Pureté des sons qui se mélangent, sensuelles mélodies qui voyagent... le maître dévoile tout son classicisme sur cet album et libère toutes ses pulsions empreintes de modernité à la fois.

Conteur, poète, musicologue... ce fils de pasteur baptiste, élevé au son de Bach et de Haendel, devenu virtuose à la guitare classique, à la sanza (lamellophone à pouces) et au n’dehou (la flûte pygmée à une note), démontre avec cet album acoustique qu’une culture plurielle n’est pas forcément une perte d’identité. Auteur d’un ouvrage sur la musique africaine, devenue référence dans le monde anglo-saxon (il est introuvable en francophonie), il nous montre, à près de 70 ans, comment épouser le monde (l’Europe, les Amériques...), sans renier un seul instant ses ancrages (l’Afrique, bantu, pygmée...) au nom d’un quelconque métissage à la mode. Sa musique ressemble totalement à l’esprit qui guide son quartet. C’est avant tout une question d’authenticité. Autant dans son dialogue avec le sacré que dans ses interrogations multiples par rapport à l’univers profane. Quel qu’il soit... » (ChronicArt)

Some Biographies: RFI Musique (English, French); Afropop (English)

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Paranda: Africa in Central America (1998)

«Paranda is a musical tradition of the Garifuna, whose ancestry can be traced to West Africans (Ibo, Yoruba, and Ashanti tribes) and the Arawak Indians of the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean. Today the Garifuna live in Belize, where they established communities in 1802 after being first exiled to Honduras from their native St. Vincent, then fleeing Honduras to escape a civil war. Paranda combines Spanish, Arawak, and West African influences to make a lively, acoustic music that is heavy on percussion. Nearly all Paranda features large wooden drums called primero and secundo, as well as shakers and smaller drums made from turtle shells. This collection, titled simply Paranda, brings together some of Belize's few remaining Paranderos to document this fascinating musical genre.» (AMG)

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Sur Sudha Presents: Famous Folk Songs of Nepal - The Himalayan Lores (1996)

«In an attempt to preserve the Nepali classical and folk music, Sur Sudha Records is proud to present this collection of popular Nepali folk songs in compact disc for the first time in Nepal. In this collection, all the music collected has been sung and arranged by renowned musicians and singers of Nepal.

Nepal is a country with many different communities and different landscapes – from the plains in the southern region to the mountains in the North. Each community is rich in traditional and cultural heritage. Every community has its own folk-lores and musical instruments. Most of the folklore expresses the daily activities of the communities, their festivals and their life.

Additional music and percussion by Sur Sudha. Digitally remixed by Sanjay Shrestha at Omniphonics digital sound studio, Katmandu, 2053 Bikram era (1996 a.d.).» (From the liners notes)

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XXI Century

Chéri Chérin (Dem. Rep. of Congo),

Que nous réserve le 21ème siècle? (2006)

Mamar Kassey - Alatoumi (2000)

A wonderful band from Niger, which recently I had the pleasure to see live. Enjoy!

«Mamar Kassey is a group from Niger that presents original songs and music based on the traditions of the different people of that country, which includes the Sahel, the Peul, the Songhaï, the Djerma, and the Haoussa. As with all African music styles, rhythms, dance, and songs are the heart of this very colorful music. The blending of native Sahelian, Hausa, Fulani, Bambara, and Songhai musical traditions results in a driving sound that will sound at least a bit familiar to fans of such Mali artists as Ali Farka Toure and Boubacar Traoré. There is a modernized version of these traditions, yet a traditional and typical character is maintained. Mamar Kassey builds their arid, hypnotic dance grooves with traditional acoustic folk instruments and call-and-response vocals, relying less upon rippling electric guitar leads, though there are a few. This expert juxtaposition of the old and the new suggests that Mamar Kassey is a band with a genuine vision, which makes this CD the most appealing, as well as being the most original. A must for lovers of African music.» (AMG review, edited)

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The Men They Couldn't Hang - How Green Is The Valley (1986)

A folk-rock classic from UK, and an old favourite of mine.

«The Men They Couldn’t Hang were officially formed in early 1984. The founding members were Phil "Swill" Odgers (vocals, guitar), Paul Simmonds (guitar, bouzouki, keyboards) and Jon Odgers (drums) from punk-pop band Catch 22 with Shanne Bradley (bass, flute – former member of Shane MacGowan’s band "The Nips") and Stefan Cush (vocals, guitar), whom they met while busking in West London. TMTCH appeared at a St Patrick’s Day festival in 1984 and were also asked to play at a benefit gig for the striking miners. Paul Simmonds wrote the song "Shirt Of Blue" on the way to the gig when he watched a whole police force gathering. The Men’s first big hit was their cover version of Eric Bogle’s "Green Fields Of France", which ended up in John Peel’s Festive Fifties two years running! In 1985 they released their first album Night Of A Thousand Candles, closely followed by How Green Is The Valley in 1986. Among the TMTCH fans, these two album remain the most popular due to now classic Men songs like "Ironmasters", "Ghosts Of Cable Street" [about the 1936 Battle of Cable Street – a clash between the Police, overseeing a legal march by the British Union of Fascists led by Oswald Mosley and anti-fascists including local Jewish, socialist, Irish and communist groups – read more] and "Shirt Of Blue".» (TMTCH’s MySpace site)

«If there were any justice, The Men They Couldn’t Hang would be famous. Yet cruel twists of fate concerning their name and timing of releases undermined their chances of commercial success. Instead, they remain one of Britain’s best-kept secrets, known to the few who kept the faith over the years. […] Paul Simmonds’s superb songwriting forms the backbone. Phil Odgers (‘Swill’) and Stefan Cush provide fine contrasting songs and the exuberant vocals which give the band its unique character. Add Ricky McGuire on bass and quality session musicians such as Bobby Valentino and Nick Muir and you end up with recordings of rare potency.» (Song-book)

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Spices (Amman, Jordan)

Picture: RMF

Maurice el Médioni meets Roberto Rodriguez - Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions (2006)

«On first thought, one might be hard-pressed to find a common ground between Algerian raï music and Latin jazz. But for the pianist Maurice el Medioni, an Algerian-born Jew who left his home for France decades ago as an exile, and the Cuban-born, New York-based percussionist Roberto Rodriguez, the link connecting North Africa and Cuba is a direct one – by way of Spanish Andalusia. World music fusion exercises are more common all the time, and cultural distinctions often become so blurred that the sources are obscured rather than accented. Not on Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions, though: a septuagenarian at the time this was recorded, el Medioni's so-called “PianOriental” keyboard lines find the ideal balance between his raï heritage – the flamenco-influenced pop-folk style originated in Oran, Algeria and was in large part popularized by el Medioni – and the more familiar Afro-Cuban rhythms in which Rodriguez excels. The compositions all emanate from el Medioni, who first played Latin music as a teenager when Puerto Rican soldiers sat in with him in the cafes of Oran. But perhaps because Rodriguez arranged and produced the session, and presumably brought in the supporting musicians, the set tends to tilt more toward the Latin half of the equation than the North African. Instruments native to both Cuba (trés) and North Africa (darbuka) are incorporated into the mix, and elements of Spanish, French, and Jewish idioms all pop in and out. But the album's generous reliance on Latin-style trumpet soloing, Rodriguez's swinging rhythms, and el Medioni's career-long interest in Latin music, anchors the jams and never takes them too far from the island whose music has so influenced these players. It's an invigorating, inspired pairing, for sure, and one that makes even more sense when heard than when presented theoretically on paper.» (AMG)

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