18 April 2016

SoundRoots Is On Sabbatical

Dear friends, fans, lovers of global music:

As you may have noticed, I haven't been posting frequently in recent months. Other elements of life -- most of them good -- seem to have taken precedence over music blogging. Music is still a huge part of my daily life, but it's pulling me in different directions. This, along with some upcoming travel, is enough that I think it's time to declare an official sabbatical. I hope this will help me to think of SoundRoots not as a burden demanding my attention, but as an old friendship that I'm leaving for a while, but that will be warmly awaiting my return.

So I'm going to formally take 2-3 months off, and will report back to you after that. In the meantime, feel free to keep up with my musical discoveries through my weekly radio show and its Facebook page, on which I post short Daily Spins several times each week. I'm also a panelist with the Transglobal World Music Chart -- another great resource for discovering new global sounds.

This isn't the end of SoundRoots, just a needed break. If you'd like me to return sooner than later, I'd welcome your encouragement in the comments. If you think SoundRoots has run its course, or need to shift to some other platform, I'm all ears. You can rest assured that in some form, I'll keep sharing my new musical obsessions with you. I'll be back with an update on just what form that may take in a little while.

Thanks for reading, listening, and being open-minded and global-leaning!


11 February 2016

Desk Cleaning: Year-End World Music Reviews, Part 2

Wahoo! The desk is looking cleaner already. So continuing the year-end everything-must-go review frenzy (I know -- we're well into the new year), here are the final 10. Then on to 2016 release, of which there are already many! Enjoy your audio explorations, and let me know what jumps out at you.

The Undercover Hippy - Monkey Suit
This album actually came out in 2014, but I just got a copy, and it’s quickly become a favorite. Billy Rowan spent years as a drum and bass DJ before recording this album backed by a wonderfully rich band with great horns and rhythms. Social commentary married to great melodies makes “Coming to the Gambia” and
“Borders” quick favorites, even above the clever why-can’t-I-get-lucky anthem “Boyfriend.”  This may not be the first sound that comes to mind under the label “world music,” but I think a lot of you will like it, so check it out.

RiservaMoac - Babilonia
To understand the music of this high-energy troupe, start with their name: Moac is an acronym for Molise (the band’s hometown in Italy) Oriente Africa Cuba. Babilonia, their third album, bristles with energy, blending Balkan brass with splashes of rock, rap, Caribbean, and other international colors. Their lyrics may be tough to translate (Google renders the end of the refrain as “Mud, favela, guns, gang: my poison you!”) but RiservaMoac’s infectious spirit is impossible to miss. Very fun indeed.

Kora Jazz Band - Live au New Morning
This may not sound like the jazz you’ve heard before, but this CD + DVD set certainly delivers with virtuosic performances from Abdoulaye Diabaté (piano), Yakouba Sissokho (kora), Moussa Sissokho (percussion), Andy Narell (steel pan) and others. For radio airplay, I prefer the shorter tracks on their early 2015 CD Back to Africa, but this live recording is a wonderful addition for extended listening (three of the six tracks top 10 minutes). Wonderful African-flavored jazz from outstanding performers.

Trad.Attack! - AH!
Is this Estonian group attacking with tradition, or simply attacking tradition? Some of their songs are based on archival recordings from as far back as 1930 (“Tuna-Tuna”), and the music sounds folky, but also has driving beats and walls of rhythm. If you like jaw-harp paired with dance beats (“Must Madu / Black Snake”), or Inuit throat-singing with what sounds like indie-rock (“Peale päeva / After the day”), Trad.Attack is the modern Estonian group for you.

Black Masala - I Love You Madly
I’m trying to figure out whether Black Masala is best described as “Gogol Bordello playing a jazz club” or “Delhi 2 Dublin infiltrated by a New Orleans brass band.” The latest album from this Washington DC-based group doesn’t fit easily into any categories, borrowing bits from India, the Balkans, jazz, funk, and swing. The lyrics aren’t a particular highlight, but if you’re catching Black Masala live — which I’m guessing is where they really shine — you’ll clearly be too busy dancing to care.

Bixiga  70 - III
I suppose it isn’t tough to achieve a big sound when you have a 10-member band. But Brazil’s Bixiga 70 isn’t just big, it’s tight, disciplined, and exploratory. The nine songs on the group’s newest album III (yep, it’s their third release) are peppered with Afrobeat, funk, Moroccan, and of course Brazlian influences.  True Afro-Brazilian sounds, from the simmering opener “Ventania” to the insistent horn lines of “Martelo.” Afrobeat fans and horn-section lovers will hear sounds that seem familiar, but with enticing new twists and turns. One of my favorite recent releases, it’s not leaving my stereo anytime soon.

Gangbe Brass Band - Go Slow to Lagos
Benin doesn’t seem to produce a lot of music that makes it to the USA, but then… when who’d want to be in competition with the jaw-dropping sounds of Gangbe Brass Band? The group has been honing their sound for more than 20 years, and it shows better than ever on their new album. In the mix you’ll hear New Orleans (“Miziki”), Afrobeat (Yoruba featuring Femi Kuti), jazz (all over), and styles all their own. All with some of the tightest, most inventive, freshest horn lines anywhere in the world. A must-have album for, well, anyone who loves music.

FolkBeat - In Mixt
A fascinating vocal project, Moscow-based FolkBeat is four women blending traditional Russian harmonies and polyphonies with beatboxing. It’s not all a capella by any means — there are club-heavy beats on”Nut-Tree” and “Stallion” and lighter instrumentation on some other tracks — but the voices dominate, and what voices they are! If you love groups like Varttina and Burlakat (or the Indian/beatboxing music of Nisthra Raj), you’ll want to check this out.

Wesli - Ayiti, Étoile Nouvelle
If certain xenophobic politicians had their way, human migration would be a thing of the past. And that would mean we wouldn’t have artists like Wesli, who was born in Haiti before living in west Africa before settling in Canada, and whose music reflects his travels through different cultures. The album opens with “Rara,” a traditional-sounding drum and chant song. The breezy “Latibonit” sounds like something from Cabo Verde; “Mama Africa” (the only English-language tune) is an Afropop plea for unification highlighting Wesli’s nimble voice. While listeners may not understand all the words, the music conveys Wesli’s hopeful spirit. “You want to say something useful to society, not just entertain people,” he says. “I connect the frustrations I felt in Haiti, the political and cultural issues, to express my hope, a better situation for Haitians and for all African diasporic people. That’s what I want to share.”

Čači Vorba - Satrika
I recently fell into a rabbit hole of Polish music. Before I emerged, one of the gems I discovered was the group Čači Vorba. Led by singer Maria Natanson, the group is rooted in traditional folk, but you can tell they’re willing to explore farther afield by the instruments they use: rebab, bouzouki, sarangi, kemanche. Oh, and throat singing, too. Gorgeous vocal harmonies lead the way into this new realm of Polish (and Romani and Balkan) folk. My favorite track so far is the swinging “Boli me moja praznina,” which Google translates as “It Hurts My Emptiness.”

01 January 2016

Transglobal World Music Chart Top 20, January 2016

The latest Transglobal World Music Chart is out today, and it's got some cracking great music. I'm away on vacation, so I'm not writing extended reviews of these right now, but several are on my radar. Stay tuned, and in the meantime do dig in and explore some of these.
  1. Lura - Herança - Lusafrica
  2. Sam Lee & Friends - The Fade in Time – The Nest Collective
  3. Vieux Farka Touré & Julia Easterlin - Touristes - Six Degrees Records
  4. L’Attirail - La Route Interieure - Les Chantiers Sonores
  5. Kandia Kouyaté - Renascence - Sterns
  6. Kreiz Breizh Akademi - 5ed Round - Innacor 
  7. Dizu Plaatjies and Friends - Ubuntu-The Common String - Mountain Records
  8. Shye Ben Tzur, Johnny Greenwood & The Rajasthan Express - Junun - Nonesuch
  9. Bixiga 70 - III - Glitterbeat Records
  10. Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Ségal - Musique de Nuit - Nø Førmat! / Six Degrees Records
  11. Čači Vorba - Šatrika - Oriente Musik
  12. Oratnitza - Folktron - Fusion Embassy
  13. Sahra Halgan Trio - Faransiskiyo Somaliland - Buda Musique
  14. Polyversal Souls - Invisible Joy - Philophon Records
  15. Lemon Bucket Orkestra - Moorka - Lemon Bucket Orkestra
  16. Carles Dénia i La Nova Rimare - L’homme Insomne - Comboi Records
  17. Griselda Sanderson - Radial - Waulk Records
  18. Te Vaka - Amataga - Warm Earth Records
  19. Zohar Fresco - Tof Miriam - Zohar Fresco
  20. V.A. - Lost In Mali - Riverboat

29 December 2015

Desk Cleaning: Year-End World Music Reviews, Part 1

It’s the end of the year, and before I depart for my annual New Year’s trip to my secret retreat high in the Cascade Mountains, I want to clear my desk and computer of the backlog of albums submitted in the last few months. Starting the new year fresh sort of thing, you know? Since I’m on a hard deadline, these will be short and possibly highly opinionated. Here are the first ten, each followed by a video or listening link.

Seffarine - De Fez a Jerez
Believe it or not, the exotic Mediterranean sounds of Seffarine come from Portland, Oregon. The first album from the duo of Moroccan singer Lamiae Naki and US oud player/flamenco guitarist Nat Hulskamp is an ear-caressing blend of sounds from Spain and north Africa, spiced with a bit of fiery instrumentation and percussion. A very promising debut.

Den Sorte Skole - Indians & Cowboys
This album is highly hailed by some reviewers as some kind of wondrous beast hitherto unseen. I can admire the work that the Danish musical architects put into constructing each of the 13 tracks (each containing up to 37 different samples) — and I even enjoyed listening to a few of them — but overall this strikes me as the audio equivalent of Turducken. Too many parts, too little unique identity. But it could be fun for a party, or as the soundtrack to a dystopian film.

Tara Fuki - Best of Tara Fuki
The cello is an amazingly expressive instrument, particularly when doubled and combined with two fantastic voices. Andrea Konstankiewicz-Nazir and Dorota Barová make simple, intriguing songs that all sound different although they never go beyond two cellos and two voices. Their compositions draw the listener in, even if one doesn’t understand a word of Czech. This compilation of their best is a great introduction to their work.

Bareto - Impredecible
Peruvian cumbia seems to be in vogue of late, what with labels releasing compilations of oldies, psychedelic cumbias, and the like. Bareto seems poised to exploit this market with their cumbia sound that blends a retro vibe with crisp contemporary fidelity, including a nod here and there to reggae and Hawaiian slack-key. Definite fun. And if you like Bareto, you might be interested in the compilation Sounds and Colours Peru, which includes one track from them along with 19 other songs from Peruvian cumbia, rock, alternative, jazz, and metal bands. Sure to expand your concept of Peruvian music!

Mariem Hassan & Vadiya Mint El Hanevi - Baila Sahara Baila
It may be impossible to listen to this album without thinking of Mariem Hassan’s death in a refugee camp in mid 2015. The Sahrawi singer always used her powerful voice in service of her deep devotion to her people and her culture, displaced and stateless following the invasion of Western Sahara by Morocco in 1975. With sharp vocals and electric guitars front and center, the music evokes the spirit of a defiant desert people. 

The Brothers Nazaroff - The Happy Prince
On the surface, the songs this re-recording of Nathan "Prince" Nazaroff’s 1954 album Jewish Freilach Songs might be dismissed as a novelty project. But the bittersweet songs (is there Yiddish music that isn’t bittersweet?) echoes themes that still plague us today: income inequality, hard luck, and romantic miscues. And of course, amid that, reasons to be grateful. The generous album and song notes make this album educational as well as enjoyable listening for any Yiddish/klezmer music fan.

Vula Viel - Good is Good
Ghanian jazz? That’s what you get with this UK-Ghana group. Opening with the energetic “Yes Yaa Yaa,” the album includes some off-kilter rhythms (“Takyen Korakora”), but its instrumentation and driving basslines will make a great intro to Ghanaian flavors for your friends who are more familiar with the culture of nightclubs than that of the West African nation. A short album at just 40 minutes, it’ll leave you wanting more.

Ba-Boom - Somos Um
This 11-member-plus group could probably power the city of Sao Paulo. On a foundation of Brazilian percussion, they layer on reggae and a killer horn section in arrangements that never dip on the listenability scale. More pop than “world music” you say? Maybe, but that’s not going to make me enjoy them any less. One of my favorite releases of 2015 — and you can download it free from their website at http://www.projetobaboom.com.br/.

Joseph Tawadros - Truth Seekers, Lovers and Warriors
Tawadros is an oud player who begins his new album with a tango. So no, it’s not strictly traditional. With a title pulled from Hunter S. Thompson (“Walk tall, kick ass, learn to speak Arabic, love music and never forget that you come from a long line of Truth Seekers, Lovers and Warriors”), this album is full of virtuosic flourishes and adventurous choices, making it one of the more stimulating instrumental albums of late.

Alba's Edge - Run to Fly
I wouldn’t necessarily seek out an album labeled as “Celtic jazz.” But Alba’s Edge is starting to win me over. The group’s members boast diverse musical backgrounds — including ska, funk, and afrobeat — and you taste that spicing beneath the lead flavors of piano and fiddle in their alluring (and curiously titled) tunes.

26 November 2015

Top 10 World Music Albums, November 2015

SoundRoots / Spin The Globe

Top 10 World Music Albums

November  2015

  1. Daktarimba – D’Afrique
  2. Ba-BoomSomos Um
  3. Bixiga 70: III
  4. Te Vaka – Amataga
  5. LuraHeranca
  6. Full Attack Band1001
  7. Dizu Plaatjies and FriendsUbuntu-The Common String
  8. Karim NagiDetour Guide
  9. Kandia KouyateRenascence
  10. Vula Viel – Good is Good
On the last Top 10 chart of the year (next month we turn to the Best of 2015), there are some new entries. Atop the chart is the wonderful German-Cameroonian group Daktarimba. Close behind are Brazilians Ba-Boom, and you'll also see new music from Cape Verde's Lura, the UK's Full Attack Band, Mali's Kandia Kouyate (in a stunning comeback album), and the fascinating UK-Ghana collaboration known as Vula Viel. Explore. Enjoy!

23 October 2015

SoundRoots / Spin The Globe

Top 10 World Music Albums

October  2015

  1. Te Vaka – Amataga
  2. Dizu Plaatjies and FriendsUbuntu-The Common String
  3. Seckou KouyateSabaru
  4. BuikaVivir Sin Miedo
  5. Novalima: Planetario
  6. Seffarine – De Fez a Jerez
  7. Terne ChaveBo Me Som Rom
  8. Bixiga 70: III
  9. Karim NagiDetour Guide
  10. Mamah KhademThe Road
Lots of new faces on this month's chart. The only two holdovers are Peru's Novalima and Brazil's Bixiga 70. Definitely check out the other newbies, including Spanish singer Buika, Portland, Oregon based Seffarine, and the genre-bending (and stereotype-destroying) album from Karim Nagi.

You can hear an episode of Spin The Globe featuring a track from each of these albums over at Mixcloud (free streaming!)

13 June 2015

Top 10 World Music CDs, June 2015

SoundRoots / Spin The Globe
Top 10 World Music Albums
June  2015

  1. Flavia Coelho: Mundo Meu
  2. Monoswezi: Monoswezi Yanga
  3. Novalima: Planetario
  4. Brooklyn Gypsies: Sin Fronteras
  5. Vivalda Dula: Africa
  6. Atomga: Black Belt
  7. Helsinki-Cotonou Ensemble: Fire, Sweat & Pastis
  8. Souad Massi: El Mutakallimun (Masters Of The Word)
  9. Bolo: Bolo
  10. Solo Cissokho & Indre Jurgeleviciute: Solo & Indre
The SoundRoots / Spin the Globe monthly Top 10 is a somewhat subjective ranking of recent “world music” album releases, based on on-air spins, listener response, and our own eclectic tastes. To have your album considered for airplay and charting, submit it! – see contact page.

07 May 2015

SoundRoots / Spin The Globe’s Top 10 World Music Albums – May 2015

Herewith, the latest chart for your perusal. You'll find some unusual offerings here, including the more richly orchestrated new album from Souad Massi at the top of the chart, the amazing vocal skills of Gino Sitson at #2, and the new album from Angolan-born singer/percussionist Vivalda Dula.

  1. Souad Massi: El Mutakallimun (Masters Of The Word)
  2. Gino Sitson: VoiStrings
  3. Razia Said: Akory
  4. Richard Bona: This Is Richard Bona
  5. Taraf de Haidouks: Of Lovers, Gamblers and Parachute Skirts
  6. Cuban Beat Allstars: La Receta
  7. Vivalda Dula: Africa
  8. Monoswezi: Monoswezi Yanga
  9. Ludovico Einaudi: Tarata Project
  10. Tipsy Oxcart: Upside Down
The SoundRoots / Spin the Globe monthly Top 10 is a somewhat subjective ranking of recent "world music" album releases, based on on-air spins, listener response, and our own eclectic tastes. To have your album considered for airplay and charting, submit it!

10 March 2015

Daily Spin: Bamako Today by BKO Quintet

I've heard a ton of Malian music, and somehow it escaped me that the griots and the hunters were on separate musical tracks (maybe it's hard to track animals while carrying around a large kora?). In any case, the two traditions have finally met in the music of the BKO Quintet, whose album "Bamako Today" hits stores today.

The electric guitar that kicks in halfway through the opening track "Ntana" announces in no uncertain terms that this is not strictly traditional. But the old roots are clearly present, given voice by traditional instruments including djlingoni, djembe, and dunun khassonke.

Recorded in France, the sound is also specifically tailored. "We didn't want a pristine sound, the way traditional music is usually recorded," says band co-founder Aymeric Krol. "[Producer David Kiledjian] made it sound dirtier and more immediate." Just have a listen to "Strange Wassolon":  

The album also comes with a companion DVD about the group, which was formed in 2012 in the midst of a state of emergency prompted by (anti-music) Islamist extremists occupying northern Mali. The film tells the story of the band's first tour. I'm certainly planning to catch them if their second tour brings them to the US.

Buy CD

09 March 2015

Daily Spin: Selections for International Women's Day

Yesterday was UN International Women's Day. What, just a day? I'm doing a couple woman-focused episodes of Spin The Globe this month (which is, you know, Women's History Month), but herewith, a few of my favorite, less-well-known world-music women.

Who are your favorite global music women? Share in the comments, and you may hear them on an upcoming episode of STG!

Izaline Calister:

Choduraa Tumat:

The Mthembu Queens:

Moana Maniapoto:

Suthukazi Arosi:

06 March 2015

Daily Spin: Ladysmith Black Mambazo On Tour

Ladysmith Black Mambazo play tonight at Seattle's Neptune Theater. Like many, I first hear this South African vocal group in 1986 on Paul Simon's Graceland album. I first saw them perform in a college gymnasium a few years later, and was blown away by their tight harmonies, high-kicking dance moves, and their general air of positivity, particularly given what black South Africans had been enduring in recent decades.

The Grammy-winning band is still going strong, under the leadership of Thamsanqa (Tommy) Shabalala, son of founder Joseph Shabalala. Tonight's your chance to hear them in person (and in Portland March 7).

More tour dates on their website:

05 March 2015

Daily Spin: Would you pay $8 for a watermelon?

Sometimes global fusion albums just feel like they're trying too hard. On the other end of the scale is the group Therianthrope. Yeah I know their name is a mouthful, but their instrumental tunes will melt in your ears.

The core duo of Dusty Brough (nylon guitar) and Miles Shrewsbery (tabla/percussion) are clearly drift-compatible, creating intricate songs filled with notes from their talented fingertips, but never overcrowded. Their chops are serious; their song names are less so: "Centaur Shakedown," "Wolfman Vs. You," "Canary in a Bitcoin Mine," "Unicorn Tranquilizer." Their promo materials suggest the genre "Indian surf music," but to my ears they're just a couple of amazing musicians (plus friends on a few tracks) who make amazing music together. 
Buy CD

04 March 2015

Daily Spin: It's Miriam Makeba's birthday!

What could I possibly say about the late great South African singer Miriam Makeba that hasn't been said? I saw her perform only once, at the now-defunct Seattle WOMAD festival. She was an elder then, but could still throw down. I just ran across this video of her performing "Click Song (Qongqothwane)" in Kinshasha 1974 -- delightful both for the performance and for her amazing hairstyle. Happy birthday, Mama Africa!

03 March 2015

Daily Spin: El Naán's Iberian Roots Project

The dynamic music of Spanish group El Naán radiates as fiercely as a summer sunrise on their new album "Código de Barros" -- subtitled "An Iberian Roots Project." Sounding like a blend of Radio Tarifa with Enzo Avitabile & Bottari, the band fills their songs with strains from the Iberian Peninsula's culturally rich history, including Arabic, Celtic, and Jewish themes.

"The music of El Naán is not a fusion," says songwriter and arranger Carlos Herrero," but a musical archaeology. We have searched -- both inside the DNA of the music of this cultural crossroads and inside ourselves -- in order to create a project that is of and for today; tradition transformed into 21st century emotion." The entertaining song notes -- concerning emigration to Cuba, bread baking, water, and a Persian math whiz -- are just one more reason to check out this compelling album.

Buy CD

27 February 2015

Top 10 World Music Albums – February 2015

Spin The Globe/SoundRoots

Top 10 World Music Albums – February  2015

  1. Red Baraat: Gaudi of Truth
  2. Razia Said: Akory
  3. BKO Quintet: Bamako Today
  4. Kora Jazz Band: Back to Africa
  5. Cuban Beat Allstars: La Receta
  6. Amsterdam Klezmer Band: Benja
  7. Boubacar Traore: Mbalimaou
  8. Mohamed Abozekry & Heejaz Extended: Ring Road
  9. Mélisande [électrotrad]: Les Métamorphoses
  10. Mehmet Polat Trio: Next Spring
The new album from NYC-based Red Baraat spends another month atop the chart, but elsewhere there are a lot of other new sounds, from the modern Malian strains of BKO Quintet, to the Latin hip-hop of Cuban Beat Allstars, to the electro-Quebecois tunes of Mélisande [électrotrad]. Check out a selection from each album on Spin The Globe's free webstream:

26 January 2015

Top 10 World Music Albums, January edition

World-Music-Top-10Hear a song from each of the ten best new global releases, plus other new releases, a remembrance of Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias, and a few older favorites tossed in.
Note: I was out of town again last Friday, and while Anch subbed the show skillfully, there’s alas no audio archive available. That’s it for my vacations for a bit, so I’ll be with you every Friday for a while.

Listen to past episodes of Spin The Globe free at Mixcloud
Remember to get your free Daily Spin by liking STG on Facebook — please like and share! With FB’s new restrictions, fewer people are being exposed to STG’s sounds. Your shares and likes help!

Hour 1
Rebel Tumbao “Rebel Music (Bonus Track)” from Rebel Tumbao
Trio Chemirani “Shékasté” from Dewar
Yair Dalal & Lenka Lichtenberg “Mayn Rue Platz/Ruchi Tlifaat” from World Music for War Child
Korrontzi “Maria Muñeira” from Tradition 2.1
Zazi “Eendjes Voeren” from Zingt Dorrestijn
Boubacar Traore “Mariama” from Mbalimaou
Intended Immigration “Tangodeur (Unplugged)” from Una Cartina
The Nile Project “Salaam Nubia” from Aswan
Set break — KAOS Community Billboard
Zebrina “Freedom Groove” from Hamidbar Medaber
Kora Jazz Band “Badinerie” from Back to Africa
Red Baraat “Bhangale Oochale (feat. Delicate Steve)” from Gaadi of Truth

Hour 2
Taraf de Haidouks
“Hora din caval” from Honourable Brigands, Magic Horses & Evil Eye
Sousou & Maher Cissoko “Aline Sitoe Diatta” from Discover World Music with ARC Music
Eric Ragu Groupe & Laye Kouyate “Tana” from Il y a la
MoZuluArt “Lindelani” from Township Serenade
Wild Magnolias “Brother John is Gone/Herc-Jolly-John” from Our New Orleans 2005
Zomba Prison Project “Women Today Take Care of Business” from I Have No Everything Here
Zomba Prison Project “Don’t Hate Me” from I Have No Everything Here
Dengue Fever “Taxi Dancer” from The Deepest Lake
Paradise Bankok Molam International Band “Roob Lor Pu Tai” from 21st Century Molam
Kam Dhillon “Ki Kehne” from Urban Desi: Sounds from the Real Asian Underground
Epifani Barbers “Cinq” from Marannui
Set break — Spin The Globe world music concert calendar
Zebrina “Chant of Ages” from Hamidbar Medaber
Fabiano do Nascimento “Forro Brasil” from Danca dos Tempos
Kasse Mady Diabate “Simbo” from Kiriké
Pharaoh’s Daughter “Avrohum” from Dumiya

08 January 2015

Best Global Music of 2014

I know, there's been a paucity of posts on SoundRoots of late. 2014 turned out to have a lot challenges and distractions that took me away from writing, but I'm optimistic that 2015 will find us having more good conversations here about music, culture, and other fun stuff. I'll start it all off with a roundup of what I (and listeners) found to be the best, most engaging, most interesting global music of 2014. 
If I missed your favorite artist or album, leave a comment and your reasons it should have been included. Or heck, leave your own entire list! It's a big world, and while our tastes may differ, we can certainly learn from each other.
 Happy New Year!
Best global albums 2014
Noura Mint Seymali1.     Noura Mint Seymali:  Tzenni
2.     Gypsy Hill:  Our Routes
3.     Adrian Raso & Fanfare Ciocarlia:  Devil’s Tale
4.     Nistha Raj:  Exit 1
5.     The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band:  21st Century Molam
6.     Alsarah & The Nubatones:  Silt
7.     Aurelio: Lándini
8.     Mamani Keita:  Kanou
9.     Amsterdam Klezmer Band:  Blitzmash
10.  Aziza Brahim:  Mabruk
11.  Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba:  Jama Ko
12.  The Toure-Raichel Collective:  The Paris Session
13.  Toumani Diabati, Sidiki Diabati:  Toumani & Sidiki
14.  Bombay Rickey:  Cinfonia
15.  Hijaz:  Nahadin
16.  Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate:  Faya
17.  Ana Tijoux:  Vengo
18.  Kiran Ahluwalia Sanata: Stillness
19.  Korrontzi: Tradition 2.1
20.  Bossacucanova:  Our Kind of Bossa

Favorite compilations 2014
25 Years of Brazilian Beats (Mr. Bongo Presents)
20 Years Sheer African Jazz
Beyond Addis:   Contemporary Jazz & Funk Inspired By Ethiopian Sounds from the 70's
Wired for Sound – Mozambique
South Africa (Celebrating 20 Years of Freedom)
Real World 25

07 August 2014

Top 10 Global Albums - August 2014 edition

Black Flower - Abyssinia AfterlifeSoundRoots / Spin The Globe

Top 10 World Music Albums
August  2014

  1. Black Flower: Abyssinia Afterlife
  2. Chłopcy Kontra Basia: Oj Tak!
  3. Amira Kheir: Alsahraa
  4. Tragavenao Orquesta Afrobeat: Tragavenao Orquesta Afrobeat
  5. Azuelo: La Senda
  6. Saulo Duarte e a Unidade: Quente
  7. Zongo Junction: No Discount
  8. Prem Joshua & Chintan: Kashi-Songs from the India Within
  9. Figli Di Madre Ignota: Bellydancer
  10. Noura Mint Seymali: Tzenni
The Top 10 chart took July off, so as you might expect, there are a lot of new albums here, ranging from Ethio-jazz to Italian rock and lots of other things in between. One of my personal favorites is the blast of Afrobeat sound emerging from the 10-member Tragavenao Orquesta Afrobeat hailing from Maracaibo, Venezuela. Also the utterly uncategorizable music of Polish group Chłopcy Kontra Basia. Look up the ones you don't know, and enjoy falling down some new musical rabbit holes.

Selections from each of these albums will be featured on the 8 August edition of Spin The Globe -- listen live via www.KAOSradio.org, or catch the show archive at mixcloud.com/SpinTheGlobe

23 July 2014

Ernest Ranglin - Bless Up


Ernest Ranglin & Avila: Bless Up

Avila Street Records, 2014

At age 82, Ernest Ranglin is one of the great names of Jamaican music, and his newest album, Bless Up, is a sustained blast of summery joy. That’s not unexpected from Ranglin and his band of co-conspirators, including South African drummer Inx Herman, Israeli bassist Yossi Fine, and US keyboardist Jonathan Korty.
What’s odd is that the album got me thinking about my great uncles. Along with Bob Marley, Ranglin is probably one of the most accomplished and recognized Jamaican musicians, though they have very different stories and professional trajectories (and Ranglin has far outlived Marley, though he is 13 years older).
You see, my uncle Hugh was a rabble rousing activist, Communist Party member, US Congressman, and general gadfly to the political mainstream. His brother Phil was quiet, studious, and brilliant – a university professor of Greek and Classics. Also Phil long outlived Hugh.
Similar backgrounds, different lives. One can only dream about the international collaborations Marley would have pursued were he still with us. But no dreaming is necessary to revel in the joyous music on Bless Up. Ranglin and his band – first assembled for the High Sierra Music Festival in 2011 – play a delicious blend of ska-flavored jazz and reggae-flavored instrumentals.
The B3-infused title track marries mellow horns with Ranglin’s speedy but smooth guitar work. Exotic hints of Arabic and Indian music spice the opening track “Bond Street Express.” And the album closes with a languid interpretation of Abdullah Ibrahim’s “Bra Joe from Kilimanjaro.”
“This album takes the listener through every era of Ernest’s music,” says Youssi Fine. “He was constantly adding new flavors, while staying rooted in each particular style, be it reggae, jazz, or Latin grooves.”
This tasty album is a great starting point for those not familiar with Ranglin’s sound, and equally appealing to this giant of music who has been going strong since his first recordings in the late 1950s.
“I want people to hear this album so they’ll know Ernest is still going strong at 82, composing and playing great music that touches on all the eras of his career,” says producer Tony Mindel, who was instrumental in forming Avila in 2011. “I know he still has a lot of new ideas he wants to express, and we want to continue making music with him, and for him, for as long as we can.” 
More Ernest Ranglin:
listen / buy CD

27 June 2014

Listen! Top 10 World Music Albums, June 2014

SoundRoots / Spin The Globe

Top 10 World Music Albums – June  2014

  1. Sia Tolno: African Woman
  2. Noura Mint Seymali: Tzenni
  3. The Bombay Royale: The Island of Dr Electrico
  4. Aziza Brahim: Soutak
  5. Zvuloon Dub System: Anbessa Dub
  6. Amira Kheir: Alsahraa
  7. Kasai Allstars: Beware the Fetish
  8. Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita: Clychau Dibon
  9. Baka Beyond: After The Tempest
  10. Isle of Klezbos: Live from Brooklyn
Almost a complete refresh of the Top 10 this month. Only Sia Tolno remains from May, because there are so many fabulous new albums out. The Bombay Royale continue their musical storytelling with a collection of adventures from a mysterious island. Zvuloon Dub System finally brings together Israel, Ethiopia, and Jamaica. Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita find harmony in two very different harps from two very different traditions. And our old friends Baka Beyond bring us buoyant Afro-Celtic sounds on their latest offering.

Best of all, you can listen to a track from each of these albums (and a few others) on this week's edition of Spin The Globe. Enjoy!

16 May 2014

Top 10 Global Albums, May 2014 edition

aziza-brahim-soutakSoundRoots - Spin The Globe

Top 10 World Music Albums – May  2014

  1. Aziza Brahim: Soutak
  2. Toumani Diabate & Sidiki Diabate: Toumani & Sidiki
  3. Mamani Keita: Kanou
  4. Amsterdam Klezmer Band: Blitzmash
  5. Rakkatak: Open
  6. Calaita Flamenco Son: Calaita Flamenco Son
  7. Linas Rimsa & Folk Group Arinushka: Old Faith
  8. Dobet Gnahore: Na Dre
  9. Lila Downs, Niña Pastori y Soledad: Raíz
  10. Noura Mint Seymali: Tzenni

Lots of new artists on this month's chart, from the sublime father-son kora duo of Toumani & Sidiki Diabate to the compelling reboot of old Russian sacred chants by Linas Rimsa & Folk Group Arinushka. Click the links for more info and to buy music.

Music from all of these albums will be featured on Spin The Globe this morning -- tune into KAOS-fm from 10am to noon (PDT) at 89.3fm locally, or via the live webstream at www.KAOSradio.org.

Spin the Globe's monthly Top 10 is a somewhat subjective ranking of recent "world music" (sometimes including Latin, Native American, & reggae) album releases, based on on-air spins, listener response, and our own eclectic tastes. To have your album considered for airplay and charting, submit it to Spin the Globe - see contact page.

20 March 2014

Mamani Keita - Kanou
SoundRoots / Spin The Globe

Top 10 World Music Albums – March  2014

  1. Mamani Keita: Kanou
  2. Jaro Milko & the Cubalkanics: Cigarros Explosivos!
  3. Adrian Raso & Fanfare Ciocarlia: Devil's Tale
  4. various artists: globalFEST Selector
  5. Krakauer's Ancestral Groove: Checkpoint
  6. Atash: Everything Is Music
  7. Ozomatli: Place In the Sun
  8. Alsarah & The Nubatones: Silt
  9. Nistha Raj: Exit 1
  10. Hassan Hakmoun: Unity
Lots of new faces and sounds on this month's chart. There's the Balkan-Cuban puree of Jaro Milko, north African sounds from Hassan Hakmoun and Alsarah & the Nubatones, Klezmer-funk from David Krakauer and friends, and the powerful compilation from globalFEST featuring Kailash Kher, Lo'Jo, Brooklyn Qawwali Party, and many others (the best compilation I've heard so far this year!).

Click on the links above to explore further. Do you know of great new releases not on the list? Give them a vote in the comments...

27 February 2014

The Walls Have Fallen

Gather 'round, kids, and I'll tell you a story. Once upon a time, music wasn't like it is today. You could go into a music store -- an actual building, not a website! -- and you'd find all the music neatly separated. I always liked exploring the "World Music" section, 'cause it would have interesting things like Maori chants and Tuvan throat singing and Bulgarian polyphonies and Guinean kora music. Sometimes each country would have its own section. Every visit was an international adventure. 

Sounds quaint, I know. Because today, I'm sitting here by the campfire holding three of my favorite albums of this young year. And they would have flummoxed the album-categorizers of yore.

Where, for example, would you file an album by a classically trained Hindustani violin player. The India section, you say? But what if she's from Texas and her collaborators play, among other things, human beatbox, cello, spoons, tabla, cajon, and alto saxophone? See what's going on here? The walls, my young friends, have fallen. Those old bin dividers are useless in the face of what Nistha Raj has done on her album Exit 1. Which, by the way, is something you should listen to just to confound your parents. Raj and her friends aren't some kind of musical gimmick; they're really talented musicians who have made something gloriously fresh-sounding.

Or what about an album that starts with a driving beat, deep base line, and electric guitar runs? Right into the Rock bin, right? But... turns out that "guitar" is actually a west African kora, a 21-string harp that in this case is run though a series of distortion pedals. The kora is played by Sekou Kouyate, and you might now think about filing this in the Africa bin -- perhaps "modern Africa" if there's a subsection for that. But then another element enters the fray: the rapping of Syracuse-based rapper/singer Joe Driscoll. These two guys met in France at an event where they were thrown together -- without a common language -- and had to produce a concert in a week. They apparently had to take it even farther and record an album, called Faya -- another early 2014 favorite.

Finally. there's the new album from Canadian Gypsy jazz guitarist Adrian Raso. So this one should go in a subset of Jazz, no doubt. Except... (you saw that coming, eh?) .... Raso has teamed up with a brass band. Which raises questions not only about the label, but about how the heck Raso will be heard above the beautiful, rapid-fire din that is Fanfare Ciocarlia. The Romanians also play Gypsy music, but they play it rather louder than the typical jazz guitarist could hope to match. Happily, we not only have the minor miracle of these musicians all gathering together to record Devil's Tale, but also that it's beautifully recorded, and Raso's guitar fits into the band seamlessly... and quite audibly. File under "Brilliant!"

So that's the story of why record bin categories no longer make any sense. The walls have fallen, all the people have mixed together, and they're singing sweeter than ever before. Even if it's some work to sort out where they're from and what to call them.

The end.

Album links:
Nistha Raj: Exit 1
Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate: Faya
Adrian Raso and Fanfare Ciocarlia: Devil's Tale

20 February 2014

Top 10 World Music Albums – February 2014

SoundRoots / Spin The Globe

Top 10 World Music Albums – February  2014

  1. Nistha Raj: Exit 1
  2. Adrian Raso & Fanfare Ciocarlia: Devil’s Tale
  3. Mamani Keita: Kanou
  4. Shanren: Left Foot Dance of the Yi
  5. Gina Chavez: up.rooted
  6. Lala Njava: Malagasy Blues Song
  7. Violons Barbares: Saulem Ai
  8. Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate: Faya
  9. Angelique Kidjo: Eve
  10. Bossacucanova: Our Kind of Bossa
 This month's chart (the first of 2014, due to complications in January!) includes lots of new names, starting with Nistha Raj and her new take on Hindustani music, a take which includes human beatboxing. Yes, you read that right. You'll also find music from China, West Africa, Madagascar, Brazil, and a wonderful Roma-flavored combo of guitar and bras from Adrian Raso and Fanfare Ciocarlia. Explore, listen, enjoy!

Spin the Globe’s monthly Top 10 is a somewhat subjective ranking of recent “world music” (sometimes including Latin, Native American, & reggae) album releases, based on on-air spins, listener response, and our own eclectic tastes. To have your album considered for airplay and charting, submit it to Spin the Globe – see contact page.

30 January 2014

Shanren: Left Foot Dance of the Yi

Shanren: Left Foot Dance of the Yi and other Chinese folk-rock anthems
Riverboat Records, 2014

In a conversation yesterday, a friend mentioned that he had, over time, developed an appreciation for Chinese opera. "That's great," I said (while my thoughts said "Howling cats!"). My knowledge of Chinese music is admittedly limited; some throat-singing from the regions near Mongolia and Tuva, some traditional erhu artists, a women's drumming group, and of course the saccharine-laced Twelve Girls Band.

My appreciation for Chinese music has taken a great leap forward (if you will) with a new, very fresh album by Shanren, a group from Yunnan in China's southwest who are doing for Chinese folk what Deleon is doing for Sephardic Jewish melodies and Tinariwen is doing for Taureg tunes. Indeed, there's a common thread in these three traditions of struggling cultural minorities fighting for their traditions and, not infrequently, for their survival.

Shanren, the liner notes relate, draws inspiration from classic Western rock bands.

Reading deeper into the musical marriage of the two genres, the band came to see the outcast position of Chinese rock musicians as a mirror image of the Yunan tribes' struggle for cultural identity. Early Chinese rock and rollers were considered to be on the fringe by members of the mainstream Chinese machine and so their sounds were drowned out by the louder, brasher conventional pop music pumping out of urban cities.

Following the opening track "Wandering," which reflects the album-making process of traveling to the remote areas of Yunan to learn songs and instruments, the album shifts firmly into rock mode on "Thirty Years," with sparkling bass work and solid drumming that manage to leave plenty of sonic space for the traditional stringed instrument that takes the lead (the four-stringed lute called xianzi, I believe). Other tracks range from the rap-like traditional greeting on "Song of the Wa," to the reggae-flavored "The Crab," to "Happy New Year" -- which starts off sounding like the Red Hot Chili Peppers getting drunk in a Yunan karaoke bar before segueing into a melancholy ballad, then into a manly chant.

"Left Foot Dance of the Yi" may just be my favorite Chinese-language album since I discovered the folk-rock protest songs of Taiwan's Labor Exchange Band. And it's a great bridge album for those who may find more traditional Chinese music somewhat, um, unpalatable.

More Shanren:
listen/buy CD