Régis Gizavo, Louis Mhlanga, David Mirandon: Stories
A breathtaking global collaboration from a from a French drummer, a Zimbabwean guitarist, and a Malagasy accordion player, all at the top of their craft.
Hazmat Modine: Bahamut
Roots-blues with Tuvan throat-singing? This NYC band is great on their own, but in enlisting Huun Huur Tu to add overtones to several tracks, they've created something wonderful and surreal. Consider it the soundtrack to some dark, wonderful movie that hasn't been made yet. (STG review)
With positive messages about Rom culture and traditional melodies frosted with modern beats, KAL is a musical treat that Fans of Balkan speed brass or other energetic Eastern European music will find hard to turn off. (STG review)
Susheela Raman: Music for Crocodiles
Is it world music? UK-based Indian singer Susheela Raman pushes back against that label with an album on which most songs are in English and wouldn't sound out of place on a progressive mainstream radio station. Still, the roots are clearly in South India, and the result is a beautiful grenre-defying album by a confident and competent musician. (STG review)
Habana Abierta: Boomerang
This album rocks. It manages to be both just-picked fresh and still full of catchy hooks that reel you in. The title is apt, for the Madrid-based Cuban band boomerangs not just geographically, but also between elements as diverse as rock guitar, Latin rhythms, and Beach-Boys-worthy vocal harmonies. (STG review)
Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra: Boulevard de L'Independance
Recorded in a series of all night sessions at Mali's Hotel Mandé, Diabate's latest offering maintains a vibe of acoustic tradition while incorporating modern influences (and musicians from Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso, as well as Mali) into a rip-roaring ride through Diabate's imagination, richly appointed with strings and horns. (STG review)
Eliseo Parra: De Ayer Mañana
Parra has recorded songs on all four of Spain's official languages (Castilian, Catalan, Galacian, and Basque) and explored musical traditions from all over the Iberian peninsula, seeking lost or endangered sounds. From the rapping speed-talk on the baile-juego (dance game) "Galandun" to the bagpipe-led sheep-shearing song "De Esquileo," Parro has created a work of wonder that should send many digging deeper into the musical offerings of Iberia. (STG review)
Sara Tavares: Balancé
On the self-produced Balancé, Lisbon-based Tavares looks toward her family's roots in Cape Verde. Playing many of the instruments herself, she builds subtle, joyful songs that show how much of the island spirit still lives within her, assimilated through annual trips to Cape Verde. (STG review)
Madrigaia, a seven-woman group from Canada, cast their musical net wide, singing songs from Brazil, France, Uruguay, Poland, and beyond. And they carry it off beautifully, with music that sounds natural and grounded. (STG review)
Ali Farka Toure: Savane
Ali Farka Toure was known as one of the best and most original guitarists in the world until his recent passing. This album was already in the works then (on the heels of In the Heart of the Moon, his Grammy-winning collaboration with Toumani Diabate) , so it's really his last word to his fans. So African music fans will be pleased to know how pleased Toure himself was with the recording. "I know this is my best album ever," he said. "It has the most power and is the most different." (STG review)
10 more great albums, 'cause we just can't help ourselves:
- Boom Pam: Boom Pam
- Tartit: Abacabok
- Bola Abimbola: Ara Kenge
- The Refugee All Stars: Living Like a Refugee
- Rodrigo y Gabriela: Rodrigo y Gabriela
- Word-Beat: The Soul Dances
- Euforquestra: Explorations in Afrobeat
- Boban Markovic: The Promise
- Prince Diabate: Djeleron
- Cuchata: Sangre Mixto
Tastes, of course, are personal. So please consider this list as a jumping-off point for further explorations in global pop and traditional music. I've left off a lot of great CDs; what I've listed are the albums to which I've returned again and again. Albums that, to me, have an enduring charm. I expect you may agree with some, and disagree with others. Leave a comment, and share your favorites.
What a year 2006 was, and not only in terms of music! The US political landscape saw a major shift against the war in Iraq, and the Republicans who started it. And just in time for the close of the calendar we lost a former president and the godfather of soul.
I heard in recent days about how James Brown's body missed the flight to New York, so his longtime driver popped the 24K gold casket in his vehicle and drove for 12 hours straight to get to the Apollo on time. Learning that his road-trip buddy for the ride was the Rev. Al Sharpton, I couldn't help but wonder what they did to pass the time. Listen to music? Play road-trip games? (Sharpton: "I spy with my little eye, something that rhymes with the oppression of the black race!")
And a moment that perhaps shows something about my priorities and attentions: Friday I passed a flag at half-mast on a college campus, and for a moment was amazed that James Brown was receiving such official recognition. Then I realized, a bit sheepishly, that it was for Gerald Ford. Silly me.
Goodbye to Ford, Brown, Saddam Hussein, Lebo Mathosa, Miguel 'Anga' Diaz, Jabu Khanyile, Maori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu, Ali Farka Toure, the Republican majority, Roots Africa, Lebo Mathosa, Pio Leiva, and my pal Luther. Goodbye 2006.
Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve! Thanks for visiting SoundRoots and sharing your thoughts throughout the year.