29 June 2010

Live Farka Toure, this summer!

His legendary father Ali Farka Toure laid the groundwork, now Vieux Farka Toure is proving that the deserts of Mali really do produce some of the finest guitarists on the planet. Fresh off his performance at the World Cup Celebration concert, he's got a new live album out, and a major world tour this summer.

Ali originally didn't want his son to follow in his artistic footsteps. "...my father didn't want me to become a professional musician. He planned for me to go into a military career," Vieux explains in an interview. "I guess, for me, it was almost a genetic passion from the beginning. And even my father came to recognize that and came to support my decision to play guitar and study it."

Recorded at venues in Australia, San Francisco, and Colorado, the album includes favorites such as "Slow Jam," "Diaraby Magni," and "Cherie Le" as well as the traditional song "Maiga," which Vieux has never before recorded. Using Sahara blues as his base, Vieux weaves a musical tapestry colored with elements of rock, reggae, and funk. 

I expect the late, great Ali would now be proud of what his son has accomplished. The CD hits stores today.

[mp3] Vieux Farka Toure: Diarby Magni
from the album Live

More Vieux Farka Toure:

North American dates:
Jul 27 2010 7:00P
Iron Horse Northampton, MA
Jul 29 2010 12:00P
BAM Blues Festival Brooklyn, NY
Jul 31 2010 4:00P
Canmore Folk Festival Canmore, AB
Aug 4 2010 8:00P
West End Cultural Center WINNIPEG, MB
Aug 6 2010 6:00P
Edmonton Folk Festival EDMONTON, AB
Aug 9 2010 9:00P
Biltmore Cabaret Vancouver, BC, CANADA
Aug 10 2010 9:00P
Aug 11 2010 8:00P
Aladdin Theater Portland, OR
Aug 13 2010 8:00P
Beloved Festival CORVALLIS,OR
Aug 15 2010 12:00P
Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival San Francisco, CA
Aug 17 2010 7:30P
Frank’s Place Fresno, CA
Oct 18 2010 7:30P
Center for the Arts JACKSON,WY
Oct 20 2010 7:30P
Christopher Cohan Center San Luis Obispo, CA
Oct 21 2010 8:00P
Viejas Casino SAN DIEGO, CA
Oct 22 2010 8:00P
Royce Hall Los Angeles, CA
Oct 23 2010 8:00P
Paramount Theatre (SFJazz Festival) Oakland, CA
Oct 24 2010 8:00P
Veterans’ Hall Grass Valley, CA

Enhanced by Zemanta

28 June 2010

Monday's mp3: Fela! OST

Fela! Original Broadway Cast Recording
(Knitting Factory)
I've written previously about the Broadway musical Fela! Now if, like me, you've been unable to get to NYC to see the show, you can at least hear the music. The original cast soundtrack is out, and it sounds fantastic. Just a look at the long list of songs will get any Fela fan excited.

I've heard uniformly positive reviews of the live show ("A terrific dance party of a musical, an exuberant celebration that also drives home a spirited message of human resilience," says the Associated Press). But of course the music comes from a sit-down theater in NYC, and no matter how accurate the arrangements or energetic the performances, it won't be mistaken for a maniacal live set by Fela Kuti at the Shrine. For one thing, the lyrics are more intelligible; I suppose much of Fela's original pigeon would baffle US audiences.

I've heard some criticism that the show's great music isn't equaled by good storytelling; if you don't already know Fela's story of resistance, rebellion, and innovation, you apparently won't learn a lot about it from the stage. Still, I expect the show and the soundtrack will introduce many people to the musical legacy of the father of Afrobeat, and further push that great sound into the mainstream.

[mp3] Original Cast: I.T.T. (International Thief Thief)
from the album Fela! Original Broadway Cast Recording

Listen more:

More Fela!
Enhanced by Zemanta

22 June 2010

Top 10 World Music Albums, June 2010

Spin The Globe's Top 10 World Music Albums - June 2010
  1. Gotan Project: Tango 3.0
  2. Tony Allen: Secret Agent
  3. Magnifico: Magnification
  4. Playing for Change Live
  5. various artists: Putumayo Presents South Africa
  6. Red Baraat: Chall Baby
  7. Yellow Sisters: Tubab Woman
  8. various artists: Next Stop Soweto Vol. 3
  9. Amabutho: Sikelela
  10. Salif Keita: La Difference
Topping this month's charts is the latest by Gotan Project: Tango 3.0. You may have heard some of it in TV commercials, but the rest of the album is worth checking out. Tony Allen's still up there, though I'm stricken that other commitments kept me from seeing his recent performance in our area.

I'm still getting acquainted with Magnifico, who reminds me more than a little of Shantel. Then there's the live version of the Youtube sensation Playing For Change, and while it may be less quirky, it's a fascinating collaboration among very diverse artists. Rounding out the top 5 is the Putumayo compilation from the host of the ongoing World Cup.

The bottom half of the list includes Bhangra funksters Red Baraat, Czech harmonists Yellow Sisters, Safrojazz on Next Stop Soweto... Vol. 3, more South African music from Amabutho, and the new Salif Keita.

More reviews coming soon, but right now I've got to catch up on other work delayed by my mornings of watching World Cup matches (Japan!). The tournament is leaving me exhausted, and it's only half over!

As always, if you think I've missed a great current album or if you simply have comments or questions about the list, please leave a comment!

Enhanced by Zemanta

21 June 2010

Mondays mp3: Kiwis Beat Italy 1-1

With the final games of the group round tomorrow, I'm delighted to see the field so wide open with lots of surprises still possible. From the drama/controversy of the USA-Slovenia game to the collapse of France and the growing momentum of Argentina, Portugal, and Brazil, I've seen more highlights than lowlights.

And when I don't have a favorite player or team on the pitch, I'm usually inclined to cheer for the underdog. Notably, Switzerland's tenacious defence in defeating Spain and Serbia's resistance to the German fußball machine. And perhaps best of all, the All Whites of New Zealand scoring early on Italy and limiting the Azuri to one (weakly called) penalty kick for a historic tie. New Zealand, home to only 25 professional footballers, I'm told.

Which makes this newspaper headline both clever and accurate. It was a loss for the Italians, and a win for the Kiwis, more than the scoreline would reflect. And I want to give a shout out to that other land down under today, which may be known for sheep and flightless birds, but also has some great music.
I've written before about Moana Maniapoto, the Black Seeds, Fat Freddie's Drop, Tama Waipara, Wai, Te Vaka, and probably a few other musicians from Aotearoa. Today something different, festive, and fun.

Iwi's self-titled 1999 album -- a NZ Music Awards winner -- is a blend of soul, rap, haka, and reggae all in the Maori language. The song "Whakahokia Mai" is described as "a kick-ass shout out to the youth." Today we'll consider it a kick-ass shout out to the All Whites, and an encouragement for them in their final game against Paraguay. And yes, if the Kiwis win, they have a good chance of advancing to the knock-out rounds.

[mp3] Iwi: Whakahokia Mai
from the album Iwi - Iwi

Enhanced by Zemanta

20 June 2010

SoundRoots Needs You: Podcast Alert!

Friends, readers, music lovers: If you enjoy the weekly Spin The Globe podcast that brings you new global sounds and information, please consider making a donation via Paypal -- our Podomatic account (at http://soundroots.podomatic.com) comes due in early July, and it costs US$99.90 each year to keep this available to you.

SoundRoots does not have other financial support, apart from a paltry trickle of ad/affiliate income. And I'm not looking to fill the site up with ads. I'd rather concentrate on the content. Just as I'd like to continue providing the Spin The Globe archive/podcast to you.

To keep the current level of Podomatic podcasts going, you need to step up now. Please click on the above button and make a contribution, whether it's $1 or $100.

Last year several readers stepped up and made a Pro Podomatic account possible. This year, your support is needed to keep this up and running. If you've listened, or shared Spin The Globe with others, or learned something from listening, please help. 

Your donation is not just a show of support, it's a vote for global music that isn't written about in mainstream media, it helps artists get more recognition, and it helps me focus on writing instead of seeking another (cheaper) alternative for providing the program archives.

And remember, whether you can donate or not, I'm always interested in your feedback, recommendations, or even guest blog submissions.

SA Stevens of SoundRoots.org and Spin The Globe radio
Enhanced by Zemanta

18 June 2010

Fishtank Ensemble: Finally Some Answers!

Fishtank Ensemble: Woman in Sin

Q: Strange name, Fishtank Ensemble. Is this an album of sea shanties?
A: No, though the CD packaging has an undeniable nautical theme, from the rotating background of undersea critters to lead singer Ursula Knudson's clamshell bikini top and fins-for-feet.

Q: Okay, not shanties. So it must be "world music" though, right?
A: If you say so. Fishtank Ensemble are not easily categorized. The album starts off with classic swing on "Woman in Sin," and gets further Djangoesque on "After You've Gone." But then there's the Romanian twist of "Amurfat de la Haidouk," the dark "Nedim" of Kurdish origins, and the Serbian and Transylvanian tunes comprising "Kolo Suite." And did I mention the cover of that classic torch song "Fever"? All done with virtuosic instrumentation and Knudson's unbelievably flexible voice (she also plays fiddle and musical saw, among other instruments).

Q: Sounds eclectic. Are you reviewing this acoustic mashup because someone recently accused you of spending too much time on electronic global music?
A: Perhaps.

Q: So, do you like the music, or is it a multicultural mess?
A: I like it! It's multicultural, yes, but hardly a mess. Most of the music I enjoy has more drumming/percussion, but those Eastern European tunes are nothing if not rhythmic, and even without cajon the flamenco tune "Pena Andaluz" shines. The album has a nostalgic, retro sheen but its substance shows great musicians making compelling acoustic music mined from cultures near and far. So give it a listen; the music will answer all your questions.

More Fishtank Ensemble:
Listen/Buy CD

15 June 2010

Baaba Maal live webcast today

Quick heads up - later today you can catch Baaba Maal in a live webchat and performance of songs from his newest album, Television, starting at 1:00 p.m. Pacific USA time. Perhaps he'll also give us a preview of his upcoming album African Soul Revolutionary: Early Years (being released July 20).

Watch live streaming video from baabamaal at livestream.com

The direct link is: http://www.livestream.com/baabamaal

Enhanced by Zemanta

14 June 2010

Monday's mp3: All Blues, No Water

Etran Finatawa: Tarkat Tajje / Let's Go! (Riverboat)
Their Saharan brethren Tinariwen may have gotten all the love at the World Cup opening concert, but any lover of desert guitar blues will also be keeping track of Etran Finatawa, the Niger-based group, whose third album was recently released. The combination of sparse rhythms with guitar and vocal melodies evoke a transcendent feeling, while the lyrics talk of water, dancing, family gatherings, the changing world, brotherhood, and other elements of everyday life. The song "Diam Walla" concerns communities that face the problem of water shortages while the weather keeps getting hotter.

[mp3] Etran Finatawa: Diam Walla (No Water)
from the album Tarkat Tajje / Let's Go!

Founded in 2004, Etran Finatawa's previous albums include Introducing Etran Finatawa (2006, World Music Network), and Desert Crossroads (2008, Riverboat).

More Etran Finatawa:
Listen/Buy CD

13 June 2010

While We Wait for Netherlands v Denmark: World Cup Music Videos

The heart of the World Cup is the game, of course: fußball, football, soccer, futbol, etc. The head, lungs, and wallet of the World Cup are something else entirely. You can't ignore the cultural, musical, and commercial tie-ins surrounding the cup. So while we wait for the next round, here's a mixture of amusing, inspiring, and appalling World Cup music videos. Watch them at your own peril; some of the catchy melodies may become embedded in your brain for the next month of the Cup.

Despite my aversion to the commercialization of World Cup music (I'm looking at you, Coke!), both of the official anthems of the 2010 World Cup have lodged bits of musical shrapnel in my brain. Those would be K'naan's "Waving Flag" and Shakira's "Waka Waka" (the latter made more palatable by the inclusion of South African pop group Freshlyground).

I'm not certain who issues the "official" credentials, but we also have the Official 2010 Song for Brazil, the Official Ghana Black Stars song complete with those most African instruments, synth and vocorder, and the Official Sony Africa World Cup Song "Mundo Via Afrika" featuring rollerskating girls in short shorts. 

But there are so many more attempts to cash in rally one's national team to victory. Super Junior sings "Victory Korea" while David Campos & Martin PK urge Africans to "Stand As One," though I'm not sure it will help the African players to "make like Michael Jackson" (he's still dead, right?). Ant & Dec's "We're on the Ball" tries to put on a good face, but they confess it's time to "send an SOS / our country's in need." Cheering for underdogs Honduras, My Brother Woody couldn't afford a video camera but still imbued his song "Carlos Dreams of World Cup Glory" with the memorable line "Not so long ago I couldn't hit a cows arse with a banjo."

Pa J tries to boost Ghana to additional victories with "Ghana Go Hear Wein." Some well-saturated Englishmen say "Let's Go Mental," which I'm sure will help with their goalkeeping issues. Some Ukrainians get animated, the UK's Dancing Rhino sings a ska-ful "World Cup Song of Gold," and fellow countrymen Embrace sing "World at Your Feet" (apparently the official England song for the 2006 World Cup). Natalie Buntting has a song that should be called "We're Gonna Shine," but apparently she ran out of creativity and simply calls it "World Cup Song 2010." Japan does a linguistic mashup on "Vamos Japan," and Delle's unofficial German World Cup song "Cry Out" that sounds anything but German!

CRISP clearly thinks that the repetition of the phrase "The Best in the World" will make it so, and the 3 Lions get another mix message in the "2010 England World Cup Song" which seems as intent on reliving past miseries as looking for future glory. If use of hair product was an indicator of World Cup success, a band possibly called 2AM would have the Cup in the bag with their "No. 1." Korea adds cheerleaders in Story Seller's song "Ole" and the Kara song "We're With You."

What else do we have in the grab bag... Let's see... Paj & Tolumide give Nigeria's Super Eagles specific instructions on scoring in "Goalaaaso (Inside the Net)." Big Rab Duvall and Wee Bilko Smiley's "A Tenner on Spain to Win" may prove the exception to the "if it's not Scottish, it's crap!" rule. And Australia, alas, showed as much creativity and originality on the pitch today against Germany as is evident in the paltry offering "Africa (Raise the Cup in)." In their song "Let's All Have a Disco," The Kubricks managed to create perhaps the only song here that has nothing to do with football, though they call it their World Cup song. How about a little effort here, boys?

If you're headed to the club to try out those new Ronaldo-inspired dance steps, you might ask the DJ to play DJ Pygme's "Fifa World Cup South Africa 2010" or Nneka's "Viva Africa," which seems to cheer for the continent rather than a specific nation. The Emmanuel song "Bam Bam Un Gol Por Ti" has a driving beat and evidence of human-giraffe cross-breeding. Akon enlists Keri Hilson on his song "Oh Africa." And remember that you can dance to the music even if you can't sing particularly well. Or if you prefer whiny-girl pop vocals and came for the parties as much as the football, the RumbarGirls wrote "Feel the Spirit" just for you.

Right, then. That should keep you occupied until tomorrow's game. Enjoy, cringe, dance, and embrace the broader cultural phenomenon that is the FIFA World Cup. Resistance is futile...

Enhanced by Zemanta

11 June 2010

(World) Music of the World Cup

If you're hungry for good music to go along with the World Cup matches -- or perhaps something to listen to between matches -- check out this episode of Spin The Globe, featuring the music of the World Cup!

And kudos to the Bafana Bafana for thwarting the Mexicans and almost pulling out a tremendous upset victory. I'll be cheering for all the African teams, unless they come up against the USA...

Enhanced by Zemanta

09 June 2010


Cirque du Soleil: Kooza

Circus acts seem to be increasingly common these days. Even in my small city, one can often find a performance by gravity-defying fabric artists, or fire jugglers, or other such folks. Nonetheless, it's rare to have a show with the scope, size, and skill of Cirque du Soleil in the area, so I jumped at the chance to see the show Kooza under the big top erected at Redmond's Marymoor Park, just east of Seattle.

Between traffic and negotiating the parking labyrinth, I ended up arriving late and missing the first act, but soon found my seat (a small seat overflowing with the thigh of a large neighbor) just in front of the sound engineer. With the relatively small space and 3/4 stage, there really aren't bad seats in the tent, and I was just as happy moving after the intermission to a neighborless seat in the back row.

Ah, but the show. It's billed as a journey by a character known as The Innocent, who meets odd people and strange situations, but in truth the show is a rather loosely knit collection of classic circus acts including trapeze, high wire, juggling, balancing, clowns, contortionists and the like. It's tied together with some great music from a live band, who usually sat half-hidden high in the column forming the stage's backdrop. An Indian influence ran through some of the music, along with funk and other popular sounds. I wouldn't seek out the soundtrack for separate listening, but it was enjoyable during the show and the musicians were top-notch.

The name KOOZA is inspired by the Sanskrit word "koza," which means "box," "chest," or "treasure," and was chosen because one of the underlying concepts of the production is the idea of a "circus in a box."

Along with the music, I particularly enjoyed the fantastic costumes, the clowns, the gravity-bending "wheel of death," the remarkable hula hoop woman, and the "teeterboard," an extreme version of the standard playground teeter-totter. People not only fly through the air, they do it wearing stilts. Do not try this at home. You'll probably also not want to try lying on the ground and running your feet around your stationary head, as one of the contortionists does.

This and other moments drove home to me that the circus (just like professional sports) is simply the acts of incredibly focused, disciplined people who hone a narrow set of skills to the edge of what's humanly possible. Put simply, they're freaks. Freaks who move, bend, and balance in ways ordinary humans cannot. Which of course makes them highly entertaining.

The show contains some dark moments and sexual/excretory humor, so be advised if considering bringing young children. But it's generally a show that has something for everyone, and I found it a delightful first Cirque du Soleil experience. I'm just glad I wasn't too close to The Bad Dog at a certain point in the show.

Cirque du Soleil's Kooza continues at Marymoor through July 11, then goes to Vancouver, Calgary, and Miami. Cirque du Soleil's Alegria comes to the Tacoma Dome Sept. 15-19

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Red Carpet...

Well, there's no red carpet at the KAOS annual award banquet, but the way we community radio programmers eat, that's probably a good thing. And this isn't the freshest news, since the awards were a couple (okay, three) weeks ago. But along with the good food, sunshine, and general fun ambiance at the Evergreen Farmhouse local (think reggae + chicken noises), there were several noteworthy moments.

For one, Spin The Globe was selected as co-champion in the category of "favorite show" of the KAOS volunteers and staff, sharing the honors with the amazing Retroactive show hosted by JJ Syrja. With the amazing variety of programming on the air at KAOS and diversity in musical interests among KAOSians, it was a pleasant surprise for Spin The Globe to be chosen. Really pleasant!

The selection of Retroactive comes as less of a surprise to me, given JJ's amazing mind for music, his great playlists, and the unassuming way he shares his knowledge about the artists who hang around the roots of rock, soul, and such. I'm humbled by his kind words about my own show in a recent post on his blog.

The event also saw a rare convergence of the weekday KAOS world-music programmers:

Monday-Friday 10am-Noon World Music hosts (l to r) Anch Bergeson, "Island Time;" Juli Kelen, "Cover the Earth;" Don Loft "Scatterlings of Africa;" David Moseley, "Xenophilia" and Scott Stevens, "Spin the Globe"

Remember, you can follow Spin The Globe on Facebook as well as catching archived shows on Podomatic.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

08 June 2010

World Cup Spoiler Alert!

It takes a certain amount of obstinate optimism to keep publishing a blog devoted to a small slice of the music pie, appreciated by only a small slice of the listening public. But apparently I'm an obstinate optimist, 'cause SoundRoots will be celebrating its 5th birthday this August. Five years, and nearly 900 posts on global and roots music, culture, dance, festivals, radio, travel. And yes, soccer. Or football, futball, fußball, or whatever you call it where you are.

I've posted about the world cup, talked about it on the air, and played music related to the competition. But today, a first for SoundRoots: a glimpse into the future. Due to a certain relationship between SoundRoots and the Mud Bay Tiki Lounge (and a few well-greased palms), I was able to obtain the use of the Wayback Machine for a couple of hours last week. Ordinarily, it is used for the relatively mundane work of taking visitors less than 12 hours into the past, giving listeners to the Cover The Earth radio show a chance to be at the MBTL at midnight the previous evening for their special headliner.

But using some DIY instructions I found in the Internet, I was able to tweak the settings and go a month into the future. Well, a future. A possible future. A future in which the home-continent advantage (perhaps the hypnotic quality of 20,000 vuvuzelas...) wreaked havoc on ordinarily dependable teams. A future that does not include an African champion, alas, but does include a delightful all-Africa third-place match.

I'm compiling soccer/football-related songs to share on Spin The Globe this week and perhaps as a World Cup mix...watch this space. 

But onto the results of our Wayback Machine (Wayforward Machine?) adventure. I won't include the actual scores, to maintain some degree of surprise. And I can't help thinking that North Korea might just find a way to change this possible future and do better than expected, emerging from the group stage with their defensive/counterattack prowess. Anyway, herewith I present to you the results of the 2010 World Cup:

P.S. If you win loads of cash betting on the winners revealed here, feel free to share.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

07 June 2010

Monday's mp3: African Sounds, European Voices

Yellow Sisters: Tubab Woman (Indies Scope)

If you miss the old Zap Mama a cappella sound -- you know, before Marie Daulne went all pop R&B -- then this Czech group will be right up your alley. The four singers in Yellow Sisters -- Antonia Nyass, Bára Vaculíková, Léňa, and Lucie Hawa Goldin -- apparently are not biological sisters, though their connection in sound is just as tight as any of the incarnations of Zap Mama.

The album starts out with the title track, explaining the African flavor of many of the songs: "I am a woman woman woman / with white skin but black soul." Yes, most of the songs are in English, though it's a Czech group singing African-influenced songs. The few songs in Czech (at least I think it's Czech!) include the experimental animal-noise ambient piece "Ptaci" and the distinctly not a cappella reggae song "Pramen." Maybe it's all the global pop pervading the upcoming World Cup, but I've been hungering for something simple and soulful, and the earthy sound of Yellow Sisters hits the spot.

[mp3] Yellow Sisters: Smirena
from the album Tubab Woman

And one more track, from Yellow Sisters' previous album, Singalana: Tapalala

More Yellow Sisters:
Listen/Buy CD

Enhanced by Zemanta

04 June 2010

Reader Check-in + Free Tunes!

Dear SoundRoots readers, old and new:

I just want to check in with you about a few things. It is for you, after all, that SoundRoots exists. Yes, this is an outlet for sharing news, music, and reviews about global sounds, but without readers we might just as well form a little SoundRoots club and get together locally once a week for a potluck. The blog aims to be just as much fun (though sadly without the edibles), but on a much wider scale.

Comments have been thin recently, so either you are all reading via some blog aggregator that doesn't allow you to comment easily, or you're just taking SoundRoots for granted. Or maybe we need to do things a little differently. I could throw together some sort of poll, but first we'll try the short-answer/short-essay format. I'd love to hear your thoughts on any or all of the following questions:

1. Does the advertisement on the top of the site annoy you? It's a rare attempt at creating a trickle of revenue for the site's maintenance. It really is a trickle, though, so if it's annoying to more than a few of you, we'll give it the old heave-ho.

2. If the ad does annoy you (or even if it doesn't), would you be willing to contribute a small amount via our PayPal donate button? This helps support SoundRoots and bring you the weekly podcast of Spin The Globe (always available at http://soundroots.podomatic.com).

3. Would you be interested in seeing more artist interviews posted on SoundRoots? We have an archive of them and frequently add new interviews (usually aired on Spin The Globe). We could post transcripts and/or audio, if there's a demand.

4. Do you have suggestions for artists or types of music we haven't covered on SoundRoots? If so, make specific recommendations and we'll do what we can! Or you can volunteer to write a guest post.

5. What else would make SoundRoots more appealing and more relevant to you? Short of giving away free iPads and posting porn videos, we're open to your nuttiest ideas.

Thanks in advance for your ideas and feedback and comments. Please keep those comments coming, they fuel this whole crazy global adventure!

Finally, a little musical reward for reading (and, of course, responding to) all this. First a little highlife from Colorado-based Euforchestra:

<a href="http://backbonestudio.bandcamp.com/track/euforquestra-soup">Euforquestra - Soup by Backbone Studio</a>

You can download the whole album free here, or pay a little and get some bonus tracks.

And how about a little Brazilian music? This track is also available free.

<a href="http://luisamaita.bandcamp.com/album/lero-lero">Lero-Lero - FREE DOWNLOAD!! by Luísa Maita</a>

Remember to give some feedback on your SoundRoots experience as you're enjoying the music!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]