31 August 2006

(Global) Blog Day 2006

Thanks to alert SoundRoots reader Way, we know that today is Blog Day 2006. And since SoundRoots is all about sharing, we've taken the call to link to five other blogs as an excuse to spread our net far and wide, seeking a diverse group of voices talking about various facets of life on the planet.

In truth, BD06 sparked us to do some fresh surfing, resulting in new discoveries more than a recitation of our favorite blogs. While you should also check out the sites linked to the right under "Fertilizers," these five blogs should be of interest to anyone keen on global culture.

1. Healing Iraq: Blog written by a Iraqi-born dentist from the UK. Somewhere between a tourist and a local, author Zeyad gives an on-the-ground impression of the embattled nation, along with many photos.

2. Frog in a Well: A collaborative blog whose contributors explore Asian history and its contemporary ripples in China, Japan, and Korea.

3. Arjen Westra's African Weblog: Politics, news, photos, and culture from an African perspective. And he's not afraid to criticize Barak Obama.

4. Global Culture: Just found this blog of language, immigration, culture, race, and diversity. Among other things. Engaging writing, interesting links.

5. Finally, Corpwatch: While I thought of linking to the new blog of Michael Pollan (author of the wonderfully disturbing new book The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals), that's a paid part of the New York Times site. For free, you can catch Corpwatch's coverage of some of the same territory, namely corporate greed and corruption.

Happy Blog Day!

30 August 2006

Is Multiculturalism Alive?

Yes, there is hope for multicultural respect and understanding. Not from columnist Cal Thomas, whose recent syndicated right-wing tirade against Muslims concluded "Americans must see past their natural reluctance to paint all members of a group with a broad brush..."

The refreshing developments include:
1. A meeting put on by the local Muslim community. It was something of an Islam 101 session, complete with the basic tenets and beliefs of Islam. Mainstream Islam. Speakers included James Yusuf Yee, former Army chaplain and author of "For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire"; Imam Mohamad Joban, leader of the Islamic Center of Olympia; and Amy Annette Winslow, a convert to Islam. Hundreds of people packed the room at the Olympia Center, and the event was recorded by KAOS radio and TCTV for rebroadcast. Critics who fault moderate Muslims for not speaking out should take note.

2. The debut edition of an online multicultural arts magazine by Abhi Arts of Seattle. Issue 1 explores the theme of "collaborations" and includes stories on the hip-hop group Boom Bap Project, the d9 Dance Collective, Latin jazz band Mangoson, and dancers Archana Kumar and Ying Zhou of ZA Ensemble. Read it online at abhiperformingarts.org

Curiously, this comes just as the Seattle Times reports that sleepy Bellevue is actually outpacing Seattle in terms of diversity. Almost a third of Bellevue's residents are foreign-born, many coming from China, Russia, India, and Mexico for tech jobs. Read all about it.

Another recent report by the US Census Bureau finds that diversity is increasing in 49 of the 50 states. The sole exception? West Virginia. The state's motto is "Montani Semper Liberi - Mountaineers are Always Free" and we guess the mountaineers in question must be pale, because the state is 97.4% white (though we're told there's some blending between the German, Irish, English, and Italian-rooted folks there).

Less refreshing: In a familiar twist see with previous anti-terrorist travel restrictions, the new rules about carry-on luggage are hitting artists hard. One early impact is Russian classical musicians who are under contract to keep their instruments with them (and not check them as baggage). Which means...a long train ride instead of a flight home from London. Read about it at the BBC. To learn more about how visa restrictions are impacting artists and musicians, check out Freemuse.

Finally, a little mid-week music for you. Two cuts from Seattle-area Latin jazz group Trombanga, live at Bainbridge Island Waterfront Park in June.

[mp3] Trombanga: "Mas Que Nada"
[mp3] Trombanga: "Oye Como Va"
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28 August 2006

Monday's mp3: Electro Côco's Brazilian Groove

Côco is the name of a traditional Brazilian music style where a singer is accompanied by rhythms from a pandeiro. But you get a lot more than just pandeiro with Netherlands-based Electro Côco. Hot on the heels of similarly funky Zuco 103, Electro Côco mixes samba, electronic beats, and bossa nova in a unique blend. Formed in 2003, the band is fronted by Surinam-born, Brazil-raised singer Jeannine La Rose, along with Alain Eskinasi (keyboard), Roel Callister (percussion), Mischa Kool (bass), and Ulrich de Jesus (guitar). This track (written by Chico Cesar and Tata Fernandes) is from a concert in the Oosterpoort, Gronigen, Netherlands recorded 15 January 2005.

[mp3] Electro Côco: "Palafitas (Live)"
Electro Côco contributed a track to the compilation Putumayo Presents Brazilian Groove
You might also check out the band's 2005 album Coco Do Mundo
More band info at www.electrococo.com
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An aside on YouTubism: I like YouTube. Heck, there's a lot to like. Amusing antics, real (and embarassing) sides of politicians, music videos, even TV ads from other cultures. What I don't like is how some blogs seem to be using the site as a convenient content provider at the expense of, well, actually writing a blog. Won't happen here, but we will link to YouTube content every once in a while. Like for this Russian TV video of our favorite crazy world-blues band, NY-based Hazmat Modine.

It appears YouTube has three other HM songs from the same Russian show, all in vivid monochrome. Definitely worth watching. And Hazmat Modine's album Bahamut is available at CDBaby, and comes highly recommended by SoundRoots.

22 August 2006

Remixing the Bush of Ghosts

David Byrne and Brian Eno came out with My Life in the Bush of Ghosts in 1981. A new, remastered version was released earlier this year, and it's just come to our attention that the artists are offering two songs from the album for free, legal download. No, not just two songs -- the full individual audio tracks for each song. You know, conga, woodblock, Arabic chanting... You can download as mp3s or wav files and use them as you wish. Really.
This is the first time complete and total access to original tracks with remix and sampling possibilities have been officially offered on line. In keeping with the spirit of the original album, Brian and David are offering for download all the multitracks on two of the songs. Through signing up to the user license, and in line with Creative Commons licenses, you are free to edit, remix, sample and mutilate these tracks however you like. Add them to your own song or create a new one. Visitors are welcome to post their mixes or songs thatMy Life in the Bush of Ghosts - front cover incorporate these audio files on the site for others to hear and rate.

The songs in question are "A Secret Life" (20 tracks) and "Help Me Somebody" (22 tracks). Even if you're not inclined to produce a remix, what an amazing chance to see the parts from which a song is constructed!

Here's one of the remixes offered on the site. Yes, it's political.

[mp3] Mental Health: "Bush of George"
Bush of Ghosts remix site
Buy/hear the remastered album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
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21 August 2006

Monday's mp3: Salif Keita Remixed

Devoted African music fans will undoubtedly know a fair amount about Malian singer Salif Keita. How he was born into a royal family. How he broke with tradition to become a musician, and how this decision, along with being an albino, caused him a fair amount of trouble. And how, despite the obstacles, he became a huge success, being dubbed "the golden voice of Mali" (or, more expansively, "the golden voice of Africa." He even was named Minister for Music and Culture -- though not in his own country, but in neighboring Guinea.

Keita's discography is quite extensive. His acoustic back-to-the-roots album Moffou is certainly a highlight. But since I earlier said I'll be bringing you unusual tracks and remixes, here's a remix of the track "Madan." Other remixes from the album are too heavey-handed for my taste, but this one preserves a lot of the original acoustic content, and the additions blend well. Also, there's plenty of Keita.

Friday is Keita's birthday, so give him (and yourself) the gift of purchasing and/or listening to his music this week!

[mp3] Salif Keita: "Madan (Remixed by Gekko)"
from Remixes from Moffou

More Salif Keita, including a "lost album" recorded in 1980 and released in 2005, available at salifkeita.spintheglobemusic.net

Keita's official site (in French)

18 August 2006

Music from the Axis of Evil

As the Bush White House's list of naughty countries continues to grow, SoundRoots will continue to fight the dehumanization of the peoples of these nations by sharing music and information (much as axisofevilweather.com gives you weather conditions in the original Evil nations). Yes, it's been more than four years since Bush's famous "Axis of Evil" speech, but the bellicose approach to world problems continues.Axis of Evil recruiting poster

It's a little hard to keep track, even with the work of Wikipedia. Really, the White House should issue regular updates of those nations unlikely to be invited to the Rose Garden. It appears that the present list includes North Korea, Iran, Syria, Palestine (or rather, the Palestinians), Libya, Cuba, Myanmar (Burma), and Zimbabwe. Hmm. Not Venezuela?

Well, we'll work with what we've got. Listen to today's Spin The Globe for a heap of music. Or check out this playlist with audio samples.

And it turns out that if one looks, one can find a fair amount of "evil" music lurking around the ether. One might find a site of electronica and such from Belarus. Or songs by the Korean People’s Army Concert Troupe and other North Korean stuff, such as "No Motherland Without You," which I'm assuming is some sort of love song. You say you want even more Korean music? Here's some, though I can't read the title. Or maybe you'd like the Korean version of the "Internationale" (more such tunes here).

Where else should we go. From Cuba we get "Cuba, My Love" - a song about the revolution and its leader. What was his name? The group Zanga Zanga gives us the Shona (Zimbabwe) tune "Shumba." Libya's got Ayman al-Aathar -- you can hear about him and his music on The World's Global Hit. Myanmar has a surprisingly strong musical presence, particularly at ayinepan.com, where one can find a number of rock mp3s, including the song "Guitar Cafe" apparently from a group called Zaw Win Htut. Just good old fashioned Burmese blues.

For more from the lands of Evil, be sure to check out the offerings of Seattle label Sublime Frequ
encies. Their CDs -- with names like Guitars of the Golden Triangle: Folk and Pop Music of Myanmar and Radio Pyongyang: Commie Funk and Agit Pop from the Hermit Kingdom -- feature an oddly appealing mixes of street sounds, unusual pop music, and radio jingles.

Alright...That's enough fun for one day. Let me know if you enjoy this, or if you have other recommendations from "evil" countries (or would like to nominate additional names to the White House list).


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16 August 2006

Remembering Queen Te Atairangikaahu

An extended stay in Aotearoa/New Zealand some years ago instilled in me a deep appreciation of the Maori culture and the ways in which Maoris are maintaining, updating, and sharing their music, language, and history. So it is with sadness that I learned today of the passing of Maori Queen Dame Te Atairangikaahu.Maori Queen Te Atairangikaahu

Crowned 23 May 1966, the queen has no official constitutional duties, but the outpouring of emotion at her passing clearly indicates her influence and popularity. Tributes to her cultural work and selflessness are pouring in from across the Pacific and as far away as New York, as well as at home. "Her passing is a huge loss for the whole country. She was a true treasure, equally at home in the company of presidents or the common man," says Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu kaiwhakahaere (chairman) Mark Solomon.

A week of mourning has been declared, and the queen's tangi (the Maori funeral observation) will last five days, concluding with burial on Taupiri Mountain to take place on Monday.

I don't know what kind of music might traditionally be part of the tangi, but the voice that comes to mind for me at this time is that of Whirimako Black. An extremely talented singer songwriter, Black has won Best Maori Language Album at the NZ Music Awards and is internationally known to world music fans. This song is an emotional lament about a historical tragedy. The specific tragedy is unnamed in the liner notes, so I hope it's not inappropriate for this occassion.

[mp3] Whirimako Black: "E Kui Kumara"
from the album Hine Pukohurangi / Shrouded In The Mist

More headlines and background on the queen:
South Island iwi mourn death of the Maori Queen
Te Atairangikaahu at Wikipedia
Queen Remembered Around the World
How the Next Maori Monarch Is Chosen

15 August 2006

If You Were Brazilian...

For a little good-natured global fun, check out BrazilName, and find out what your shirt would look like if you played for Brazil's national soccer team (and who hasn't had that dream?).

Your humble dj earball became Earbeca. Or, by an alternate spelling, Earbisco. Sounds like some sort of nutritious crunchy whole-grain snack for your ears. Which is pretty much the role of SoundRoots.

Radio show Spin The Globe becomes Globundo...I like that one! And SoundRoots becomes Soildo. Hmm.

Global Tidbits:
Recently discovered a page highlighting strange statues around the world. Some of them have to be seen to be believed, and others are outright unbelievable. Included are the delightful Fremont Troll, in a Seattle neighborhood I used to call home, and this fish out of water.

This morning's Democracy Now! included a segment on Thursday's release of political prisoners, including former Haitian Prime Minister Yvon Neptune and singer-activist Annette "So Anne" Auguste. The latter was jailed on on May 10, 2004, after US Marines broke down her door, shot her dogs, and handcuffed her five-year-old granddaughter, Shashou. So Anne had been in jail since then, without charges.

Sound Generator has posted an interview with Natacha Atlas, in which the world music singer lists her favorites musicians: Fairuz, Abdel Halim Hafez, Ravi Shankar on the western side Jocelyn Pook, Massive attack, Portishead, bad marsh and shree and the Gorillaz.

The World Music conference WOMEX has announced that their annual award -- honoring "musical excellence, social importance, commercial success, cultural or political impact, lifetime achievement - you name it" -- goes to Colombian artist Toto La Momposina. Says WOMEX:

The Afro-Colombian traditions in the Caribbean - Totó la Momposina's artistic career, indeed her entire life, has been dedicated to representing the music of her roots, while never shrinking from finding innovative ways of bringing it forward into the modern age. Through teaching, through composition, dance and performance, Totó's artistry manifests the fertile meeting ground of richly varied Colombian cultures: the African, the indigenous Indian and the Spanish. And in her, that music has found not only a treasured champion, but its greatest interpreter.

And if you're an artist intent on visiting Zanzibar, get your application in now for next February's Sauti za Busara (Sounds of Wisdom) Music Festival. Applications are due at the end of August.

14 August 2006

Monday's mp3: Death of a Cowboy

Quetzal - Latin musical groupThe band Quetzal can be a little elusive if you're looking on the Web. They've got a name that's shared by a number of other organizations, including ones involved in music, and their website (quetzalmusic.org) seems to be dormant. But don't let that dissuade you from finding out more about them.

At the heart of Quetzal are Martha Gonzales (vocals) and Quetzal Flores (bajo sexto, cuatro, jarana). Their previous album, Worksongs, was produced by Steve Berlin.

One reviewer labeled Quetzal a "Chicano rock group." Others describe them as a "risk-taking Mexican-American band" or "Latin American pop for the serious listener" or "the heirs of Los Lobos." You may be getting the idea that eclectic is a word that would describe this band. Eclectic and relevant, as their songs (in both English and Spanish) are inevitably about the real world around them. Not as hard-driving as Ozomatli, or as folky as Lila Downs, they'll nonetheless appeal to fans of those groups. And fans of other Latin rock/folk/alternative bands.

If you're wondering about the album's title, here's the skinny from Flores.


I'm looking at 514 years of cross-colonialization, and I'm looking at the word cowboy as that process. One could blatantly interpret that as 'Oh, that's about George Bush.' But it has so many definitions: war-mongering, greed, lack of education. The list keeps going on and on.

I'm eager to hear the full album and I'll let you know when it's available, probably with a review in this space. In the meantime, the band has graciously provided this advance track to SoundRoots. Enjoy.

[mp3] Quetzal: "Migra"
from the forthcoming album Die Cowboy Die
Other Quetzal albums: Sing the Real | Worksongs
Read an interview with Gonzales & Flores

13 August 2006

Bon Odori Festival

Dropped by Olympia's annual Bon Odori Festival at dusk last night. Hundreds of folks lined the street to watch the traditional Japanese dancing...or join in themselves. Some of the music was taped, but it was enhanced by drumming from Northwest Taiko, who later performed to rapturous cheers.

I've always seen taiko indoors, in performance halls and such, so it was great to see it in a more traditional setting. And my sensitive-eared companion appreciated not being in an enclosed space with these big-voiced drums.

Granted, Olympia isn't set up like a traditional Japanese village. But the authentic lanterns (a gift from Olympia's sister city, Yoshiro) gave a great ambiance as the sun set behind the Olympic Mountains. Here's a short video clip (my first YouTube experiment!)

video



If you haven't seen taiko performed live, you haven't really experienced it. It's a combination of music and dance and martial art, using the whole body (particularly on the very large drums).

Free taiko mp3s? I'm glad you asked:

[mp3] Kobushi: "Afro-Taiko"
more Kobushi mp3s

[mp3] HOW Taiko Drumming Group: "Stacking Straw Rice Bag Song"
[mp3] HOW Taiko Drumming Group: "Spring Mountain Melody/Hachijo Island Taiko Duet"

[mp3] On Ensemble: "Taiko Overtone Quartet"
(a fantastic cultural hybrid pairing taiko with throat/overtone singing)
more On Ensemble mp3s

11 August 2006

Remembering Miguel 'Anga' Diaz

On his last album, Echu Mingua, Miguel 'Anga' Diaz collaborated with Malian griot Baba Sissoko, flautist/sampler Magic Malik, and French hip-hop DJ Dee Nasty to create a genre-bending collection of Afro-Cuban/Jazz/hip-hop songs. Sadly, this may be his final word, as the great conguero passed on August 9 in Spain. You can read more in the press release from label World Circuit below. But a tribute wouldn't be complete without some music. On EM he runs through some great originals, as well as covers of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and Monk's "Round Midnight." But this track, from his video masterclass Anga Mania!, shows the master all on his own. We're saddened by Anga's passing, so soon after we discovered his music.

[mp3] Miguel 'Anga' Diaz: "solo from Anga Mania"

World Circuit are shocked and saddened to announce the death of the great Cuban conga player Miguel ‘Angá’ Díaz who died unexpectedly at his home in Barcelona on 9th August 2006, he was 45.
With his explosive soloing and inventive five conga patterns, Angá’ was widely regarded as one of the world’s great congueros. He was committed to the development of the conga drum, breaking down traditional percussion barriers to perform traditional latin rhythms, jazz, jungle and hip-hop, whilst retaining his distinctly Cuban roots.
Angá began playing prodigiously early, performing and recording professionally whilst still at college. He made his name as part of the pioneering Latin jazz group Irakere and it was with them he perfected his five drum technique. Emerging in the mid-nineties as an independent musician Angá was free to diversify and pursue a variety of different projects - from the experimental jazz of Steve Coleman and Roy Hargrove, to hip hop with Orishas, to his tours with Omar Sosa, and numerous side projects with musicians from all over the globe, Angá’s musical journey was a personal quest to explore and create new sounds and rhythmic fusions.
More than just a performer, Angá further demonstrated his commitment to the development of his instrument by teaching master classes at various schools and universities across North America and Europe. Angá produced a tuition video in 2000 which explained many of his techniques and his philosophy behind playing, it won Percussion Video of the Year from Drum Magazine. Angá would continue to teach on a regular basis and built up a network of students from his base outside of Barcelona.
Angá’s first project with World Circuit was the hugely influential Afro Cuban All Stars album recorded in 1996 which showcased the depth and vitality within Cuban music. Angá became an integral part of World Circuit’s extended Buena Vista family adding his trademark sound to albums from Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Guajiro Mirabal, and the second Afro Cuban All Stars record. Angá’s own musical vision would emerge with the release of the album ‘Cachaíto’ an inspired union of Afro-Cuban jazz, reggae, hip hop and funk which he recorded with the Cuban bass legend Cachaíto López. Building from the foundations laid by Cachaíto’s record, and incorporating elements of his own Santeria religion, Angá would finally fulfil his dream in 2005 with the release of his critically acclaimed album ‘Echu Mingua’, an exciting fusion of styles blended together the ‘Cuban way’ and is a fitting testament to the career of one of the great musical innovators.
Angá was an irrepressible character with a larger than life personality, whose beaming grin and booming laugh were matched by a warmth and humility that touched all of those lucky enough to know him. He will be sorely missed.

10 August 2006

Zim-centric MP3 Site Launches

Zimbabwean music fans will have another online resource starting tomorrow. I haven't signed up, but Zimaudio offers 99 cent song downloads from Zimbabwe musicians, with high-quality mp3 song previews (sample).

Started in 2001 as a personal project, Zimaudio.com has become purely because of the love of music. Aimed at becoming the biggest database of Zimbabwean music and artists past, present and future it will also serve as a means of distribution of this music to the world. Another vision is to be the most useful reference and educational resource about latest news, views, genres, interviews, and artist information in Zimbabwe and the neighbouring regions.

Their catalog feels a little thin at present. One of the two Oliver Mtukudzi albums listed has no tracks for preview or download. It is promising, however, that these two Tuku CDs are not among the albums offered on Calabash-powered spintheglobemusic.net. This suggests that Zimaudio may make a nice complement to that more established world music store, perhaps providing more Zim music that hasn't been widely released outside Zimbabwe.

You may have to wait a while for Zimaudio to live up to its full promise, however. Several of the artist pages I checked (including Forward Kwenda, Thomas Mapfumo, Zimbabwe Cha Cha Kings, and Chiwoniso Maraire) had a bio, but no music available.

Check out the site for yourself at www.zimaudio.com

07 August 2006

Monday's mp3: Meditations for Global Peace

In what has become an annual tradition here in the capitol of Washington State, people have been gathering for a 24-hour meditation for global peace. Sponsored by local interfaith group Interfaith Works, the meditation is notable for its non-political basis, its actual peacefulness (no shouting across police lines), and its prominent location on the grounds of the state capitol.

The meditation began Sunday at noon, and continues through noon today. Your humble SoundRoots host dropped by the meditation this morning to think thoughts of peace, and was greeted with a smile and a flyer that included a quote about peace for each hour. I got a meaty thought in the hour I arrived:

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.
If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.
If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.
If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.
If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.
--Lao Tzu

Ponder that for a while, and you may find yourself wondering how many of the world's political officials, religious leaders, and media pundits truly have "peace in the heart." And whether they might want to start there, instead of using their power and influence to bomb, invade, threaten, insult, or pressure others into doing what they want.

I'm not a great sitting meditator; I'd rather be moving, doing. But sitting or moving, I always try to be self-aware and conscious of my own motivation, and my impact on others. It's not just coincidence that the great religions of the world all have something akin to my tradition's Golden Rule: Treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.

That's enough to think upon; now the music.

[mp3] Aruna Ratanagiri Buddhist Monastery: "Sakyamuni Mantra"
more from the monastery at www.ratanagiri.org.uk

[mp3] Unni Lovlid: "Vita"
(Lovlid was featured previously on SoundRoots)
from the album Vita (buy at CDRoots)
www.unni.no

Also, a big tilt of the globe to SoundRoots reader John for his contribution to the cause. You can join him by donating to help cover Web hosting expenses -- just click on the tip jar to make a secure donation via PayPal. Clicking on the Google ads is another way to help out and it doesn't cost you a thing. Thanks!

06 August 2006

World Music Top 10: August 2006

SoundRoots / Spin the Globe Top 10 Albums
August 2006

1. Ska Cubano: ¡Ay Caramba!
2. Think of One:
Tráfico
3. KAL:
KAL
4. Habana Abierta:
Boomerang
5. Orchestre Baka Gbine:
Gati Bongo
6.
Chirgilchin: Collectible
7. Sara Tavares:
Balancé
8. Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra:
Boulevard de L'Independance
9. Salif Keita:
M'Bemba
10.
Various: Rough Guide to the Music of Malaysia


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Asian Listening
Preparing for a radio show highlighting music from Asia this week, and thought I'd share a few tunes with you.

From Myanmar
[mp3] U Myint Maung and Daw Yi Yi Thant: "Maing Maing Mya"
from the album Mahagita

From Japan
[mp3] kuro_rancyu_ Jap: "Hokusai-Colores"
more from this band here

From India
[mp3] Sonu Nigam & Shreya Ghoshal: "Koi Tumsa Nahin"
from the Krrish soundtrack (discussed earlier on SoundRoots)


From Laos
[mp3] Luang Prabang City Orchestra: "Khab Thum"
more Lao classical mp3s here


From Indonesia
[mp3] Marsudi Raras: "Ketawang Mijil Wigaringtyas"
more of their music here

From China
[mp3] Su Pra K: "Chinese Olympiads"
more music here

From North Korea
[mp3] Korean People’s Army Concert Troupe: "The Song of the Dear Comrade Kim Jong Il "
more North Korean mp3s here

From Malaysia
[mp3] Mak Yong: "Kelantan Live"

And that's enough fun for today. Any recommendations of Asian artists?

04 August 2006

The Soundtrack of Post-Castro Cuba? (CD Review)

Habana Abierta: Boomerang
Calle54 Records
buy CD | hear samples

I'm not sure what to make of my newfound obsession with this album. I don't understand much of the band's language (Spanish), either in their songs or their website. But here's the deal: 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 band boomerangs not just geographically, but also between elements as diverse as rock guitar, Latin rhythms, and Beach-Boys-worthy vocal harmonies. I hope to get some lyrics or song notes soon for a better idea what I'm grooving to, but my first few ignorant runs through the album have me favoring the energetic "Boca Abajo," the horn-punctuated funky rocker "Como Soy Cubano," the yodelly and more traditional sounding "El Gato y El Raton," and, well, the other 11 tracks as well.

For reasons I can't fully articulate, this is a shoe-in for one of my favorite albums of 2006. Especially at this time of potentially dramatic change for Cuba, you owe it to yourself to check out this adventurous and irresistable Cuban group (now based in Madrid), whose name translates as "Open Havana."

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Special request from SoundRoots reader Don:
I'm hoping you can help me. I'm trying to track down a song called "Mi Kafi" (my spelling of the title is only guess). I believe I am spelling the title correctly. It is of Caribbean or African origin. It is sung by an older woman with simple, light acoustic accompaniment. I know that part of the lyric is: "Mi kafi, mi kafi. Got to have mi kafi in dee morning." I used to have it on an old vinyl record I bought at a thrift store years ago but it has gone missing. I've tried very hard to find information about the song on the internet, to no avail. Any leads or solid information you can provide would be most helpful.

So, SoundRoots readers, anyone have the answer for Don?

03 August 2006

Chicago Gets Afrobeat! (CD Review)

Chicago Afrobeat Project: Chicago Afrobeat Project
(CAbP Music)
buy CD/hear samples

Chicago may be known more for blues than Afrobeat, but this four-year-old group of musicians may expand some minds. While the somewhat drifty opener "Talking Bush" fails to move my nyash, the remainder of the album hits a sweet spot. CAbP (as they abbreviate themselves) aren't big on singing, though there's a rapped poem on "Zambi." So while you aren't getting the biting social commentary of, say, Fela Kuti or Antibalas, you do get seven long original tracks with tight arrangements. Morikeba Kouyate's kora riffs in "Jekajo" and Tj Okinola's talking drum throughout the album are delightful West African flavors rarely heard in Afrobeat. Otherwise it's mostly what you'd expect: funky polyphonies, attitudinal horn and sax solos, circular bass and guitar lines, all competing to get you dancing. Recommended!

[mp3] Chicago Afrobeat Project: "Zambi"
hear more CAbP mp3s in SoundRoots earlier posting on Afrobeat

01 August 2006

Legal CD Trading

A compact disc (CD) utilizing chalcogenide gla...I Hey, do any of you upstanding SoundRoots readers have any experience with la la, or perhaps a similar CD trading service? It sounds promising, particularly the promise of trading CDs you don't want for other (better) CDs, for just $1.75 a pop (that's $1 for la la, and $.75 for shipping). Kind of like Netflix for your old CDs.

I browsed through la la's site, and saw lots of world music there. But since each album includes a "have" and "want" button, I'd guess that their large catalog covers not what la la members actually are offering, but rather everything they could think of to include in their database. Wonder what they really have available (you apparently can't find out until you sign up).

I sometimes clear out less-enjoyed CDs from my collection on eBay, and I wonder if this or another such service might give a better return on those old albums. Anyone?
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