Ancient Heart: Mandinka and Fulani Music of the Gambia (1990)

«Co-produced by bassist Bill Laswell and Gambian griot Foday Musa Suso, this album delves into the West African roots that inspired their fusionary Mandingo project. Ancient Heart features recordings of both of Gambia's two major ethnic groups, the Mandinka and Fulani. But while the 11 songs are fairly true to tradition, the approach is updated by recording the musicians in ensembles rather than the usual solo setting. All in all, this is an extremely uplifting album that features some truly amazing performances.» (AMG)

«Gambia is the home of numerous ethnic groups, among them the Mandinka and the Fulani. the Mandinka are the westermost branch of the Manding people, descendants of the great Mali empire founded by Sunjata Keita in the 13th century that include the Bambara, Malinke, Dyula and Soninke among others. The Mandinka are famed for their virtuosity on the kora, a 21-string harp-lute with a large gourd resonator that is featured on this recording. […] For the Mandinka jali (griot) it is the instrument of choice. […] The Fulani are a semi-nomadic people who may be found in most of the countries of west Africa and the Sahel. renowned as fierce warriors and able horsemen, they were early traders with the Arabs. […] By tradition, the Fulani were cattle herders and, perhaps because of their wandering nature, their musical instruments tend to be small and transportable. […]

This recording presents a rich tapestry of Mandinka and fulani music. While the songs are all in the tradition mold […] the assembly of such large ensembles is a fairly recent phenomenon. […] Since the recording was done on location in Mr. Suso’s compound in Birkama, Gambia, there were all manner of extraneous noises to deal with! The resultant sound is truly a triumph of teamwork between musicians and engineers and should appeal to listeners on both sides of the Atlantic for it is both stepped in tradition and thoroughly modern.» (From the Liner Notes, included in the zip).

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Ismaël Lo - Jammu Africa (2003)

«Ismael Lo, born in 1960, is the son of a Senegalese civil servant who loved American soul music. Lo grew up listening to stars like James Brown, Wicked Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. Lo built his first guitar from a cooking oil can, and learned to play harmonica and guitar together by nailing his harmonica to the wall. Lo was a guitarist for Super Diamano, a mbalax blues band, for five years before leaving to start his own solo career. Lo is often called the “Bob Dylan of Senegal” because of his guitar and harmonica combination coupled with his deeply satisfying lyrics. As Lo himself says: “I speak of racism, poverty, famine, and the relationships among people”» (The African Music Encyclopedia)

«This album grows on you. It’s not immediate, so at first listen not all the beauty and appeal are evident. But with every subsequent spin you’ll discover more of its rich variety which includes 3 distinct styles. The first is the catchy uptempo pop songs showing a resemblance to the soukous style of artists like Tabu Ley Rochereau and Ray Lema. The hit Dibi Dibi Rek is a tad slower but has highly addictive hooks whilst the rhythmic texture of Raciste is exceptional. Percussive tracks like Samba et Leuk and Takou Deneu represent a subgroup of the pop style possibly influenced by Nigerian music like that of King Sunny Ade.

The slow, often mournful, melodious ballad is the second type. All of these have beautiful tunes and moving vocals. They include the undulating Tajabone with its distinct country tones, the atmospheric Nabou spiced with synth and soulful female backing vocals, the melancholy Lotto Lo which has an introspective singer/songwriter air about it and Souleymane, the one with a pop-rock arrangement that starts slowly & gently before the tempo increases & the vocals intensify to transform it into a soaring power ballad. This “southern soul” is a staple of West African artists like Baaba Maal and Youssou N'Dour.

Thirdly, there is the torch song with aching vocals over a meandering rhythm, represented by the title track, Khar and Without Blame, the devastating duet with Marianne Faithfull which is in a class of its own. Sometimes the voices are in harmony, then they diverge in a call & response style. […] This tour de force […] is the highlight on an album of soulful songs and beautiful melodies that offers impressive stylistic variety.» (Amazon)

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Marie-Line Dahomay & Kalindi-Ka - Yo (1999)

«The islands of Guadeloupe were colonized by the French in 1635. Under their watch the indigenous Carib Indians were routed and African slaves were brought onto the islands and forced to work in the burgeoning sugar industry. Several hundred years later, soon after the French abolished slavery on Guadeloupe in 1848, the island’s plantation owners had workers from one of France’s East Indian colonies, Pondicherry, brought over to labor in the cane fields. As a result of these multifarious influences, Guadeloupe’s cultural practices – including its music – are hybrids of various traditions. For example, gwo ka music, which is traditionally performed during nocturnal gatherings called léwòz, incorporates the French-influenced Creole vocals of a lead singer and accompanying chorus with drummers playing on African-modeled gwo ka drums, the low-pitched boula and the higher-pitched makyè. Among the more popular practitioners of gwo ka music is the vocalist Marie-Line Dahomay. On Yo, Dahomay is joined by an all-female choir, Kalindi-Ka, and a battery of percussionists. Dahomay delves into such issues as femininity, religiosity, unrequited love, reclaimed ancestry, and Guadeloupe’s complex cultural identity. Dahomay’s powerful and soulful voice allows her to deliver these and other messages with conviction. As stated in her liner notes, the songs on this particular CD are not meant to reflect traditional gwo ka music. Rather, they “were inspired by traditional songs, enriched by Cuban rhythms.” Indeed, Afro-Cuban rumba rhythms and timbres from such drums as the bata and conga at times overpower the gwo ka drums, thus giving the music a predominately Afro-Cuban sound. Whatever its relation to traditional gwo ka, Marie-Line Dahomay & Kalindi-Ka’s Yo is full of beautiful vocal harmonies, vibrant polyrhythms, and thoughtful lyrics. All in all, it’s a must-have for those interested in contemporary interpretations of traditional Caribbean music.» (AMG)

«La musique Gwo Ka est un héritage de l’esclavage aux Antilles et en Guadeloupe en particulier. Autour du Gwo Ka gravitent la danse, le jeu, l’humour... une certaine façon d’être. Aujourd’hui, le groupe Kalindi-ka s’inscrit dans cette mouvance identitaire. Ce choeur féminin polyphonique et polyrythmique porte une note originale dans l’interprétation des morceaux anciens. Les compositions les plus récentes s’inspirent de chants traditionnels et sont enrichies de rythmes cubains. Les percussions ka se marient au djembé, au conga et au bata ce qui donne une plus large place à l’improvisation. La chanteuse principale, Marie-Line Dahomay, s’accompagne parfois d’un instrument indien: l’Ektara. Yo sorti en 2000, sur Playa Sound.» (Mondomix)

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The Rough Guide to Bellydance (2002)

«The Western image of bellydancing is associated with Greek or Middle Eastern restaurants, or some form of low-cost home seduction. The truth, of course, is something different. It's an ancient form of dance, requiring extremely complex body control to execute properly — and it's original name, baladi, has nothing to do with the belly, translating instead as "country dance." But whichever way you look at it, the music on this compilation is made for the dance, whether it's the satisfying full Egyptian strings of Jalilah and Mokhtar Al Said's "Enta Omri," a piece originally written for the great Oum Kolthoum, or the stunning buzuq work of the late Mohamed Matar, whose nimble, inventive playing deserves greater exposure. The centerpiece, however, belongs to Nubian percussionist Mahmoud Fadl, with "Aament Bellah," a piece written to illustrate the power of the dance to lighten spirits and the oppressive weight over everyday life. At 12 minutes, it demands a lot from the listener, but amply repays it with shards of musical genius from the ensemble, and a rhythm that can't be denied. The music ranges from the classical compositions of Mohammed Abdel Wahab to folk pieces, presented in a manner that largely runs the gamut of Middle Eastern music. And if you get tired of using it for dancing, it makes excellent listening too.» (AMG)

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Corsica: Ostriconi Plage

Various Artists: Corse (2003)

Here is a nice selection of Corsican recorded music. Most of these artists are not strictly polyphonic groups, at least not any more, since they don’t sing a capella traditional Corsican polyphony. Some of them, by the way, like Petru Guelfucci, still have their roots in Corsican polyphony, notwithstanding their musical evolvement. Those who do not innovate and develop their singing are likely to leave Corsican polyphony as a museum piece. But here you’ll find also valses bastiaises and monodic secular songs, instrumental tracks, modern songwriting etc. from l’ile de beauté (To learn more about traditional Corsican music click here).

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Vavangue - Musiques Folk de l'Ocean Indien / Folk Music of the Indian Ocean (1989)

«Fondé en 1988 par Jean Pierre La Selve, (ex « Compères Grat’Fils ») Vavangue est une association « loi 1901 » qui a pour but l’étude, la pratique et la diffusion des musiques traditionnelles de La Réunion.

Pour cela nous voulons continuer à faire entendre les instruments comme le bob le violon, le ralé-poussé ou le banjo, laissés de côté par la course à la modernité et à l’alignement sur les musiques dehors , et à faire danser sur les polkas, quadrilles, ségas , valses, mazurkas et scottischs que nous recueillons sans discontinuer auprès des derniers vieux jouars.

La musique que nous aimons n’est pas seulement destinée aux amateurs de folklore ou aux conservateurs de musées, elle est avant tout source de plaisir pour ceux qui la jouent, l’écoutent ou la dansent. Cet héritage peut aussi servir de base à une création actuelle. C’est pourquoi nous proposons nos propres compositions pour les mêmes instruments.

Notre activité principale nous conduit surtout sur des podiums de fêtes de quartier, pour des concerts ou des bals traditionnels, mais nous nous produisons aussi dans des lieux de culture : Muséum De la Canne et du sucre, Musée de Villèle, Médiathèques. A l’extérieur ; Festival créole des Seychelles, Métropole, Maurice, Louisiane, Martinique, Rodrigues.

Nous proposons également des actions de formation en musique et danses traditionnelles réunionnaises ainsi qu’une exposition d’instruments traditionnels.» (Akout)

Booklet in French and English

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Earth-Wheel-Sky-Band - Waltz Rromano (2003)

«There's definitely a concept of a journey about this album, but it's the kind of trip you'll be happy to make. Yes, it's gypsy music, coming from a Serbian home, but traveling everywhere — note the Indian inflection on "India Rroma," where guitar sounds like sitar, balancing a delicate violin line over chord changes that could almost have been lifted from "Get Back," filtered through, well, China. Odd, but enticing, which is also true of the rest of the disc, like the breakdown that comes at the end of "Me Sem Rrom," where cimbalom and violin take off like Serbian bluegrass, after a track that gives a nod to the U.S. with its bluesy inflections. Considering that Olah Vince has been playing professionally for 40 years, this is a major step forward not just for himself, but for gypsy music in general, an adventurous, daring disc. On "Vranje-Rromans," with guest trumpeter Boban Markovic heavily overdubbed in a fanfare, Vince's guitar work connects the dots between flamenco, the Balkans, and the Middle East in a magnificent way. And he's not afraid of being quieter, either, as on "A#-Rromans," a lyrical piece with echoes of a fading past. A magnificent record.» (AMG)

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