31 December 2006

Best World Music CDs of 2006

...well, perhaps not the best, but here are some of my favorites. Leave a comment if you have other choices. Click the "STG review" link to read a longer review from Spin The Globe. Many of these albums/artists have also been featured here on SoundRoots, so check the archives for more. Now kiss 2006 goodbye!
mhlanga, gizavo, mirandon - stories
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.
(STG review)
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)KAL-Kal

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 Manana

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: Pleiades
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: 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:

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.

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30 December 2006

Cuchata: Sangre Mixto (CD Review)

Cuchata: Sangre Mixto (Eleggua)
buy CD/hear samples

Is Seattle an emerging hotbed of Latin Alternative (aka Alt-Latin) music? You can't get much farther away from Latin lands geographically or meteorologically, but bands including Cuchata (formerly Machete) are working hard to include Latin tunes in the Seattle landscape.

Cuchata - Sangre MixtoCuchata's second release, Sangre Mixto, sees the band expanded from three to five, now incorporating a couple of horn players. Still at the heart of the band are Marcelo Quinonez's unique vocals, which have a haunting quality, at once intimate and aggressive, inviting and unsettling. While the sound is not a radical departure from the previous album, the horns serve as a powerful foundation for Marcelo's vocals and guitar, and provide some refreshing musical alternatives.

Biggest complaint: the black-on-dark-brown text makes the CD artwork nearly illegible. Hard to categorize, easy to enjoy, Cuchata is sure to catch the ears of many more listeners with this album. But decide for yourself: Cuchata provides two full tracks for your previewing pleasure: "Nueva" and "Sistema Mayoridad."

28 December 2006

The ZimCali Pop of Chris Berry & Panjea (CD Review)

Chris Berry & Panjea: Dancemakers
(Wrasse Records)
Chris Berry website
Listen To Dancemakers
His press materials shout the unlikely story. Chris Berry is only 23 years old, but has lived and studied mbira and ngoma in Zimbabwe for a decade, and has achieved gwenyambira (master) status. But despite this achievement, he's still a California boy at heart, and pop rules this album, with a little reggae and other seasonings.

The sound is Freshlyground meets Rocker T at a rave in Harare. Fabulous horns, great grooves, and lyrics steeped in social consciousness. It's damn catchy stuff, just don't expect anything sounding like Stella Chiweshe or Thomas Mapfumo (except on "Home" [sample] with its prominent mbira and African-style guitar backing the English and Shona lyrics).

Other highlights include his pointed criticism of capital punishment "Why Do We" [sample] and the crazy-beat title track [sample], as well as the "one-race: human" refrain of "Rock It Down" [sample] Perhaps not traditional "world music," but Berry's got global grooves.
Addendum: Berry's website has complete mp3s available for download of "Why Do We" and "Love on the Mountain"

27 December 2006

When Animals Sue... (Book Review)

The Animals' Lawsuit Against Humanity: An Illustrated 10th Century Iraqi Ecological Fable
buy the book

In a recent mention of some notable global books, I overlooked one that I recently read. It's a remarkable story, originating in India, first written down in an Arabic version by members of the Islamic Sufi Order of the Pure Brethren near what is now Basra, Iraq. Then translated and adapted in 1316 by Rabbi Kalonymus ben Kaolnymus (known to Christians as Maestro Calo) at the order of King Charles of Anjou (France). Finally, this English version by Rabbi Anson Laytner and Rabbi Dan Bridge, based on a Hebrew text and published in 2005.

If all that makes your head spin, don't fret. The story itself is fairly simple, but like any great tale it has layers of meaning for adults and children alike. The plot: The animals are being abused by humans, and they bring a lawsuit alleging this to the court of the Spirits. The King of the Spirits hears arguments from both sides.

It seems pretty clear that the animals have a compelling complaint, but the wise king must balance not only justice, but the survival of all the species, including domesticated animals that may not be able to survive in the wild, and also humans themselves. Further adding to the complexity are the two camps' discussions of strategy, and their contingency plans should the ruling go against them.

Kultur Shock - Kultura DiktaturaThe arguments are some of the same ones being heard today, and the resolution of the lawsuit may well have lessons for contemporary society. This book's interfaith and multicultural approach to the issue and its roots in an ancient tale, make it a compelling read and accessible to any person thoughtful about human interaction with the rest of creation.

A proper musical accompaniment to this book would be thoughtful, deeply spiritual, and full of the wisdom of the ages. Instead, I offer this loud, raucous, angry tune from Seattle's resident Balkan-Gypsy Punk outfit.

[mp3] Kultur Shock: "Horse Thief"
from the album Kultura Diktatura

25 December 2006

Monday's mp3: James Brown's Global Reach

The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing.
--James Brown

Tributes to the Godfather of Soul will be multiplying like bunnies in coming days. We'll leave that work to others, and contribute by recognizing his impact on global culture.

James Brown's music had an influence far beyond his native USA. Artists ranging from Nigeria's Fela Kuti, to Italy's Enzo Avitabile. In particular, he's heard in the sound of Ethiopian Soul (check the Ethiopiques series) and Nigerian Afrobeat (try anything from Fela to Antibalas).

Whether you view Brown as deep ("It doesn't matter how you travel it, it's the same road. It doesn't get any easier when you get bigger, it gets harder. And it will kill you if you let it.") or vain ("Hair is the first thing."), there's no denying the influence of his work on the music of the time and styles that followed, including funk, Afrobeat, soul, jazz, pop....

So give it up as we turn him loose. Here are just two of the globally-minded artists digging into the Brown sound.

[mp3] Natacha Atlas: "(It's A Man's Man's) Man's World-Natacha Atlas"
from the album The Best of Natacha Atlas

[mp3] Daktaris: "Give It Up Or Turn It Loose"
from the album Soul Explosion

Listen to these tracks, and imagine -- as I am -- James Brown sitting around catching up on the latest with Bob Marley and Elvis and Fela and other greats, without whom our musical world would be so much poorer.

For much more on James Brown, check out godfatherjamesbrown.com

Merry Christmas!

22 December 2006

Global Culture Books

Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial ExperienceMixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience
edited by Chandra Prasad

What constitutes a multiracial experience? This volume of stories begs this question of the reader, but doesn't attempt to answer it with dry academics or statistics. Instead one is treated to an array of delightful, engaging, and challenging stories by the likes of Ruth "My Year of Meats" Ozeki and Chandra "Death of a Circus" Prasad. Prasad also wrote the book's forward, in which she opines: "[T]here is some commonality among multiracial people" being the physical proof of an increasingly global society, acting as the solder between various communities, straddling cultural expectations." And the book is full of human stories, angst and love and puzzles that appeal not just to multiracial people, but to the human condition of us all. An essential read in a globalizing world.

Klezmer - Book One: Tales of the Wild EastKlezmer - Book One: Tales of the Wild East
by Joann Sfar

With a few pen strokes and a few lines of dialogue, Joann Sfar has the ability to convey personality, story, even historical context. Riding the success of his brilliantly subversive book The Rabbi's Cat (discussed last year on SoundRoots), acclaimed French graphic novelist Sfar takes on the musical history of Jews in Eastern Europe in this first book of a planned series. The link between Jews and Roma is personified in protagonist Yaacov's teaming up with Gypsy musician Tshokola. Living on the edge of society, their encounters illustrate various joys, hardships, and racism in the region, all as a delicious background to the klezmer music we know and love today. Essential reading, unless you're allergic to watercolors or meaty tales.

I've also been digging into a book you won't find at Powell's (or Amazon). It's a 1944 tome called Peoples of the World, an illustrated journey around the world that shows how we've changed in the last six decades (as with the racist photo caption below) and how it hasn't (it describes a group of Muslim women in Russia gathered to listen to a speaker tell them why they should spurn the hijab).

This photo is found on page 384, with the caption: "Nearly thirty million bunches of bananas are cut every year in Honduras. The Indian laborers are said to be somewhat lazy, but few people would be industrious in the hot, most climate of the coast. Men are as a rule finer-looking than women, who are considered fit only for drudgery, and have to toil incessantly." Watch for more from this cultural time capsule here on SoundRoots.

As for listening today... Brazilian-Jewish singer Elisete has recently released a remix album, so a listen may be in order. Here she is with a remix of the song "Gaagua (Longing)."

[mp3] Elisete: "Saudade"
from Remixes: World Electro
Bonus: "The Echo Song"

21 December 2006

Forro For All! (CD Review)

Forro in the Dark: Bonfires of Sao Joao
Nublu Records

buy CD/hear samples
listen on band website

Forro, my Brazilophile friend Juli tells me (and Wikipedia confirms, sort of), is a Brazilian musical style, the word for which is derived from English. It stems from dances that were held "for all," and mutated from there. And mutated is a good description of the sound of Forro in the Dark, a NYC-based band that has caught the ears of both myself and David Byrne.

Yes, the Brazil-loving singer/producer has his thumb stuck in this pie, singing on the tracks "Asa Branca" and "I Wish (Bundle of Contradictions)." But the real story starts long before your hear Byrne's distinctive tones. The album opens with "Indios do Norte," a rush of bass, triangle, and raspy guitar, with an irresistible melody played by Jorge Continentino's pifanos (a breathy Brazilian flute).

It's a little hard to pin down the band's style, which wanders from the high-energy opening to Bebel Gilberto's guest appearance on the soft bilingual "Wandering Swallow." Then there's the calypso-esque call and response of "Que Que Tu Fez," and the campy country feel of "I Wish..." and back to two energetic instrumental/chant pieces to close out the project.

Byrne talks about the collaboration in his online journal:

I sang “Asa Branca” and “I Wish” — the latter song emerged out of a jam. I was warming up with some chord changes and Mauro suggested during the recording session that we all improvise around those chords. The result was surprisingly good — but, maybe because I can, I suggested that with just a few words added, with a vocal, the song might be more focused. The lyrics and vocal turned it into a vaguely Country outpouring of pain, anger and loss — which maybe made explicit the link between forró and north American country music.

Variety, energy, and the promise that Forro in the Dark is even better in a sweaty crowd make me wish I could catch them live at Nublu in NYC. Perhaps they'll tour; on the basis of this crazy, wonderful album, I encourage you to encourage them.

Addendum: Rob of Rob Curto's FORRÓ FOR ALL got in touch after seeing the headline for this post. No, we weren't referring to his group ('cause we didn't know it existed), but we believe forró is big enough for, well, all. Visit his site and say hi...if he sends his music, you may hear more about him on a future SoundRoots episode.

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18 December 2006

Monday's mp3: Gypsy Blackout

Here in the USA, natural extremities are regional. The east coast and south have humidity and hurricanes. The midwest has biting winters and huge mosquitoes. And here in the Northwest, we've got earthquakes and windstorms. Two such windstorms hit last week, ripping branches from the many Douglas firs, toppling other trees, and causing widespread power outages. Here at SoundRoots HQ, we're still warm and well-lit, though some of our neighbors' homes and businesses are still dark. It's one of those times when families come together (for warmth and hot showers), and random strangers go into dark neighborhoods offering free hot food.

One casualty of the storm was the power to local radio station KAOS-fm, home of Spin The Globe. A planned show on Rom (Gypsy) music was thus postponed until January 12, but we've still got a sharing spirit. So here's a taste of things to come.

KAL-KAL - Gypsy/Roma bandKAL is a contemporary band from the suburbs of Belgrade. In part, they remind me of the tradition-meets-electronica sounds of Shukar Collective. But more than Shukar, they dig deep into their roots, which you can hear in the Indian-style vocal scat in this song. "Kal" is the Romany word for "black," and brothers Dushan and Dragan Ristic formed the band to confront bias and stereotypes facing their people. The album was recorded at Dragan's home studio, and has an edgy modern feel throughout, though the roots are always present.

[mp3] KAL: "Dvojka"
from the album KAL

16 December 2006

There's no such thing as a free lunch...

...but there is free world music. At least, there is if you visit National Geographic's world music store, and enter the code bbce78 -- This is apparently a limited offer, so do it soon. The songs they're offering are:

Ska Cubano - Soy Campesino
The lilting swing of Jamaican ska meets a classic Cuban big band arrangement on this rollicking, horn-driven Anglo-Cuban collaboration about the joys of the simple life.

Boban Markovic - Latino
Boban Markovic is a virtuoso trumpeter and leader of one of Serbia’s finest brass bands – a crack unit that preserves the unique and punchy style that merges the sounds of Turkish military bands with Gypsy swing and Slavic Soul.

Seu Jorge - Tive Razao
Brazil’s hottest music export – already famous for his plaintive Portuguese renderings of David Bowie classics – reflects on love and compromise on this quietly simmering samba.

Mariza - Chuva
Fado is the luxuriously melancholy music of Portugal, and nobody delivers these dramatic ballads with more passion or panache than Lisbon’s own Mariza – the reigning diva of contemporary fado.

Bombay Dub Orchestra - Rare Earth
The Bombay Dub Orchestra combines the lavish musical scores of India’s “Bollywood” film music with moody, downtempo electronica on this atmospheric homage to South Asian cinema.

Cheb i Sabbah - Toura Toura (The Medina Remix)
As a pioneering DJ, Cheb I Sabbah helped bring world music onto club dancefloors with innovative, cross-cultural mixes. On this track, he returns to his Algerian roots, with a hypnotic blend of North African gnaoua music and discreet electronic backbeats.

Souad Massi - Ghir Enta (I Only Love You)
Souad Massi’s music encompasses the Arabic and Berber traditions of her Algerian birthplace and the cosmopolitan pop of France, where she currently resides. Her deeply personal songs explore the intersection of love, race, emigration and politics.

Aterciopelados - Cacion Protesta
Colombian rockers Aterciopelados were pioneers of the Latin alternative movement of the 1990s. After winning a Grammy in 2001, the duo took time off for solo projects and raising their families. Now they’ve come roaring back with Oye, one of the most anticipated albums of 2006.

Tinariwen - Chet Boghassa
Former Tuareg rebels Tinariwen turned in their guns for guitars and made the world sit up and take notice. "Chet Boghassa" is a slice of hard-driving Malian "Desert Rock" from the band's second album, Amassakoul.

Idan Raichel Project - Bo'ee (Come With Me)
Idan Raichel scored the number one record in Israel last year with “Bo’ee,” a hypnotic, otherworldly collaboration with Ethiopian Jewish immigrant musicians that explored the multicultural identity of contemporary Israel.

Thanks to alert reader Larry for the tip.

11 December 2006

Monday's mp3: World Christmas, Hold the Carols

It's still early enough in the "Christmas season" that I'm not yet over-saturated with carols and such, though a couple recent shopping trips have begun the saturation process.

I've been playing some carols on guitar, which has given them a bit of new freshness. Don't expect to hear mp3s of my guitar work any time soon, however. And don't expect any cheesy world cover songs of standard carols here on SoundRoots. No, today's offering is the kind of music I'll be listening to when the insipid drone of happy carols drives me out of public places for the rest of the month.

As with pop music, the sacred music you might hear on mainstream radio is so very limited. It doesn't touch the wide scope of sacred music around the world...even if we're just talking about Christian sacred music, as these two tracks show.

Just picture me in my comfy chair next to the warm flame of the pellet stove, listening contentedly, far from the Muzak strains of Frosty the Snowman...

[mp3] Iren Lovasz "Alle-alleluja"
from the album Cloud-doors
Yet more: Two complete Lavasz albums are available for free download on the site of the Gâyan Uttejak Society. The albums are Rosebuds In A Stoneyard and Világfa. Enjoy!

[mp3] The Svetilen Ensemble of Folklore Spiritual Music "Triumph, O Patriarchs!"
from the album My Soul, Rise Up! [additional samples from this album: mp3, mp3, mp3, mp3]

By the way, you can stop fretting over SoundRoots reader Enik. Some time back we posted his desperate query about a long-lost Caribbean flavored song about his favorite beverage. Turns out the song "Mi Cahfi" by The Jamaican Folk Singers was in his vinyl library the whole time, and he's now posted it on his blog Timedoor for all to enjoy.

08 December 2006

World Music Top 10: December 2006

SoundRoots/Spin The Globe
Top 10 World Music Albums - December 2006

1. I-Fam: Du Nouveau Sang
2. Boom Pam:
Boom Pam
3. Bola Abimbola:
Ara Kenge
4. Forro in the Dark:
Bonfires of Sao Joao
5. Salem Tradicion:
Putumayo Presents: One World, Many Cultures
7. Régis Gizavo, Louis Mhlanga, David Mirandon:
8. Bole2 Harlem:
Bole2Harlem Vol. 1
9. Izaline Calister:
Kanta Helene
10. Samba Squad:

Watch for SoundRoots choices of favorite world music albums of 2006, coming at the end of December (post your nominations in the comments!).

The Grammy nominations are out, and among the global categories are these nominees:
Best Traditional World Music Album

  • Music Of Central Asia Vol. 2: Invisible Face Of The Beloved: Classical Music Of The Tajiks And Uzbeks - The Academy Of Maqâm
  • Endless Vision - Hossein Alizadeh & Djivan Gasparyan
  • Hambo In The Snow - Andrea Hoag, Loretta Kelley & Charlie Pilzer
  • Golden Strings Of The Sarode - Aashish Khan & Zakir Hussain
  • Blessed - Soweto Gospel Choir
Best Contemporary World Music Album
  • Tiki - Richard Bona
  • M'Bemba - Salif Keita
  • Wonder Wheel - The Klezmatics
  • Long Walk To Freedom - Ladysmith Black Mambazo
  • Savane - Ali Farka Toure
Best Reggae Album
  • Too Bad -Buju Banton
  • Love Is My Religion -Ziggy Marley
  • Youth- Matisyahu
  • Rhythm Doubles -Sly & Robbie
  • Who You Fighting For -UB40
complete details and nominees in the Polka, Banda, and other categories at grammy.com
In other global culture news,
  • WFMU's Beware of the Blog has posted a breathtaking version of "Hair" -- in Japanese.
  • Zimbabwean music fans might enjoy the interview with Stella Chiweshe at World Music Central...though the mbira queen seems to have a tendency toward very brief answers.
  • It's not even on the festival website yet, so consider it a breaking story: SoundRoots has it on good authority that ZimFest will come to Olympia in 2007, hosted at the forested glens of South Puget Sound Community College. SPSCC is also hosting the World Sacred Music Festival in February -- could they be the new hub of global events for south Puget Sound?
  • Muslims celebrating Christmas? Well why not? Jesus is considered a prophet in Islam. Still, is the world ready for a Muslim Christmas album? And are you good Christians going to let the Muslims outdo you in Christmas energy consumption? Oh wait...it turns out that Muslim Christmas is really all about "movies and Chinese food." Never mind.
  • Finally, Ron sends us a link to a bizarre Japanese shopping site featuring mostly fish-related products. We're oh so tempted by the KingGyo-no-Hung Goldfish's excrement ("which you take internally and examine the results externally") but being musically minded, we're leaning toward the Glass Carp ("Compact, easy-to-play carp-shaped glass harp").
I can't leave you today without some music. Ghandaia -- a high-energy multicultural Latin/funk/? band based in Austin -- has a new album called Evolucion to be released on Jan. 7. The advance single is "Somos La Gente"

Oh, and tune into Spin The Globe this morning for the music of Cameroon.

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04 December 2006

Monday's mp3: Karelian Mystery, Solved

Wa-Ta-Ga (aka Reel) - Russian BandThis little mystery found its way to me on an uneven album of contemporary Russian music, and the only info about the band Reel is one line in the insert: "Easily and finely produced by musicians a synthesis of authentic North Russia's lyrical material and world ethnic music."

Right, then.

Actually, a bit a Web sleuthing turned up more info about the band Reel. In 2002 They released an album called Strannie Ludi (Strange People), which is available at CDroots. And when I uncovered the Sketis website, I learned that Reel has since been renamed Wa-Ta-Ga, and last year released a second album, called L-S-D "Leonov Sokolov Derevlev."

Ethnology - SketisMusic compilation of Russian musicSome of the band's appeal may stem from their origins in the Karelian region of Russia, a cultural hotbed that has given the world the compelling music of Varttina, Burlakat, and Pauliina Lerche, among others.

This little number starts with a man speaking, then chanting (in Russian? Karelian? Hmmm...). Stay with it, and about a minute into the piece you start getting some nice percussion, bass, flute, and guitar. Then vocal harmonies that remind me more of something from Italy than any other Russian music I've heard. Is other music by Reel/Wa-Ta-Ga as interesting? If you know, leave a comment or send some music my way.

[mp3] Reel: "Ja Jodila, Ja Gulyala"
from the album Ethnology (2003, SketisMusic)

01 December 2006

World AIDS Day + World Music

Today is World AIDS Day. While SoundRoots doesn't generally get into health issues, we see this as so much bigger. The spread of this disease is devastating whole communities, whole generations.

In 2000, heads of state made a promise to halt and begin to reverse the spread of AIDS by 2015.

New reports by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that, as of 2006, the epidemic continues to spread in every region of the world. By now more than 65 million people have been infected with HIV and well over 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981, 2.9 million in 2006 alone. At this rate, the WHO predicts that in the next 25 years another 117 million people will die, making AIDS the third leading cause of death worldwide. [read more]

So the theme for this year's World AIDS Day is "the promise should be kept." Here's a PSA video.

No long lectures for you. Just a reminder that although AIDS may not be a loud topic in your circle, it still demands your attention. If you can't do anything else, at least you can support the musicians who are addressing the issue through their music. Of course many big-name musicians -- particularly Africans -- are doing so. And you can't go wrong with the Red Hot series of CDs (personal favorite: the Fela covers of Red Hot + Riot).

Less-known musicians addressing AIDS include the vocal group Sinikithemba made up of HIV+ South Africans, who have released a four-song EP called Living Hope [listen]. Singing in the Shadow of AIDS is a radio documentary by Jonah Eller-Isaacs, who spent six months traveling in sub-Saharan Africa, living with local families, and discovering how Africans are using music as an effective tool in fighting HIV and AIDS. A group called The Bliss has a song called "The People of Africa" which features young rap artists from Swaziland conveying anti-AIDS messages. And Cameroonian singer Bibiche la Joie sings a song called "Dépistage" (or "HIV test") [read more about the singer and her message].

So there. On this World AIDS Day, you have no excuse for not picking up some great music or even doing more towards being part of the solution.