Released last year in the UK, Cheikh Lo's latest work finally hits the USA. While other West African superstars have looked north, incorporating Arab sounds and musicians, Lo looks west. You'll find the flavor of Brazil infusing Lamp Fall's feisty Afropop tunes, particularly "Senegal-Bresil," which is backed by the 40-member carnival percussion ensemble Ile Aiye. "Santa Yalla" -- which translates as "Thanks to Almighty God" shares a distinct Afro-Cuban foundation with the classic "Chan Chan" while delivering a devotional funeral chant. Lo even hits reggae with "Bamba Mo Woor (Bamba Is Sure)." Unmistakably one of the Afropop highlights of 2006.
Franck Tortiller & Orchestre National de Jazz - Closer to Heaven
(Le Chant du Monde)
In radio stations and music stores everywhere, heads will be exploding trying to figure out where to file this French jazz orchestra's tribute to Led Zeppelin and its guitar-less, vocal-less versions of classics including "Dazed and Confused," "Kashmir," and yes... "Stairway to Heaven."
Matapat - 2 1/2
Is this the music of Quebec? Really? Just cracked this one open and ran across the tracke "La Vieille Galope (The Good Old Galope)" featuring tabla and Indian vocals along with the traditional folk elements. Other arrangements are more what we were expecting - lively fiddle and accordion dances (including a reel about a farm girl who ate too many peas). Don't know if this is their intention, but Matapat's music has an appeal that bridges at least a few of the ravines between Québécois, Celtic, Folk, and world music. Matapat's even more recent album is Que de Piene et D'Amor!
Catherine Russell - Cat
With the caveat that this has nothing to do with "world music" as we understand it, we can't say enough good things about this young vocalist. Her music grows from the very foundations of American roots music -- is it blues? jazz? country? swing? jump blues? Well, yes. And the best thing is, Russell sounds like a true original, her voice and arrangements hearkening back to an earlier time, while simultaneously sounding fresh and new. Fans of the female voice in any genre should run out and get this album.
[mp3] Catherine Russell: "Deep in a Dream"
Descemer - Siete Rayo
(Universal Music Latino)
The solo career of Descemer Bueno (of Yerba Buena) should blast off with this feisty beat-laden album. Born in Cuba, Descemer mashes the grooves of his homeland with hip-hop, Ojos-de-Brujo-style vocals, M.I.A.-style beats, and brisk horn blasts. More than any other "Latin Alternative" album of late, Siete Rayo will have a tidal pull on the world music generalist.
In coming months, more musical goodness is coming, including:
- The final recording from recently passed African guitar great Ali Farka Toure.
- Toumani Diabaté and the Symmetric Orchestra's new album Boulevard de L'Independence
- a new album from Los Amigos Invisibles
- Cibelle's new album, entitled The Shine Of Dried Electric Leaves (feat. Devendra Banhart, Seu Jorge and Tunng's Mike Lindsay)