29 March 2011

Sergent Garcia Returns

Way back when, as I plunged ever-deeper into the world of global music by starting a radio show and a blog, one of the albums in frequent rotation was Sargent Garcia's Un Poquito Quema'o. He dropped off my radar after that, and hasn't released a new album for more than a decade...but that's about to change.

The Sergent (no, he hasn't got a promotion in the past decade) returns with an album called Una y Otra Vez, out on Cumbancha "in the first half of 2011." I'll tell you more when I hear something, but here's what the label has to say about the new project:

The new album, which is still in production, was recorded largely in  Colombia and features a number of guest artists from that country's  thriving music scene. Liliana Saumet from the electro tropical band Bomba Estereo makes an appearance, as does Erika Munõz, the lead singer for Sidestepper and many others. Cumbancha founder Jacob Edgar was just in Paris to sign the contracts and celebrate with the band over many glasses of Cuban rum and a box of Cuban cigars.

As a teaser, Cumbancha has released the track "Mi Son Mi Friend" as a free download. Here 'tis:

Fun factoid: Sergent Garcia's name was inspired by a character regularly ridiculed by Zorro (thanks, wikipedia!)

More Sergent Garcia:

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28 March 2011

Monday's mp3: Obrigado, Poland!

Start with cowbells, layering in multiple rhythms. Add a drum part, and let it simmer for a couple minutes. Then, just when the listener has settled into the groove, kick in the heavy drums and let loose a full-frontal samba blast.

That's the recipe for the first track on It's Not Batucada!, a recently released album by a group called Ritmodelia. If you're yawning at the thought of yet another Brazilian rhythm troupe wait for the kicker: These guys are from Poland!

Yep, the sounds of Rio's sun and street parades are alive and well in Warsaw, where this album was recorded by the 9-member group. The album features guest appearances by Scott Ketner (Nation Beat, Maracatu New York, Forro Brass Band) and others, but this group of Poles can rip it up all on their own.

To be sure, this isn't really a sit-and-listen sort of album. The tracks are too similar for that, and besides -- the pure percussion will likely find you on your feet either dancing or playing along, whether on a table or a cowbell or a surdu.

[mp3] Ritmodelia: Mamut
from the album It's Not Batucada!

More Ritmodelia:
listen / buy CD
website (with free ringtones!)

25 March 2011

Top 10 World Music CDs - March 2011

SoundRoots / Spin The Globe’s Top 10 World Music Albums – March 2011
  1. Vusi Mahlasela: Say Africa
  2. Ravid Kahalani:Yemen Blues
  3. Nuriya: Tanita
  4. Aurelio: Laru Beya
  5. Amsterdam Klezmer Band: Katla
  6. Sussan Deyhim: City of Leaves
  7. Duo Jalal: A Different World
  8. Ritmodelia: It’s Not Batucada!
  9. Peña: Peña Volume 2
  10. various artists: The Rough Guide to Paris Lounge
Many new faces in the charts this month, some recently reviewed, some upcoming. Vusi's newest offering tops the lot, Amsterdam Klezmer Band jumps in mid-chart, and Sussan Deyhim gets a strong add as well. A wonderful duo album of viola and percussion by Duo Jalal, the second Peña album, and some new French lounge music round out the chart.

Dig into the links for sounds and buying; and enjoy this Vusi video while you're at it! This one was recorded just up the road from SoundRoots HQ, at KEXP radio in Seattle.

24 March 2011

Afrobeat to Cook By

SoundRoots doesn't often cover food as part of its global culture beat, but not because we don't love it. Give us spicy sesame noodles, or rich homemade brownies, or creamy palak paneer, or steaming piroski, and we're happy campers.

While we like our tastes global, we like the preparation to be local and we avoid factory-processed, prepackaged foods from far away. These days it's easy to fine exotic ingredients locally, and a quick Web search provides recipes and tips that provide the starting point for new culinary adventures.

When our interest in slow, local food is bolstered by spicy music, all the better! Here's Portugal's Terrakota with a track supporting just this kind of eating. Consider it an easy-to-dance-to health PSA, or just enjoy the music.

SLOW FOOD radio edit by terrakota

This great track was recorded with Terakota offshoot KotaCool Afrobeat Orchestra, which includes members of Cool Hipnoise and Cacique 97.

23 March 2011

The Raghu Dixit Project in Sound & Image

A special treat for you today: the visual side of global music. Thanks to Delhi-based photographer (and musician) Shiv Ahuja for being willing to share photos of the recent "India Dekho" tour by The Raghu Dixit Project. Here's a musical track to go along with the great images:
Khidki by The Raghu Dixit Project

More on band and photographer after the slideshow:

The Raghu Dixit Project 'India Dekho' Tour - Images by Shiv Ahuja

You can see more of Shiv's work at the website www.shivahuja.com

As for The Raghu Dixit Project, Shiv reports that they're one of a number of upcoming Indian bands to watch. I first heard of them when I saw them nominated for Songlines' Newcomer of the Year award (other finalists are The Creole Choir of Cuba, Syriana, and Tamikrest). You can read more about the awards at www.songlines.co.uk/music-awards/nominees.php

And you can read more about Raghu Dixit on his website, including how he is a former Bharatnatyam dancer.
... the music that The Raghu Dixit Project makes, is a true representation of today’s India. Ethnic and rooted at the core, but at the same time, global in its outlook.
... the Bollywood-focused music industry failed to grasp his potent mix of folk, blues, rock, Sufi, funk, reggae, bhangra and Latin. ‘My sound wasn’t Bollywood and labels would try to lead me down that route. That was until I played in Zenzi in Bombay in 2007 and Bollywood composers Vishal and Shekhar spotted me.’

It was the break Raghu needed: three years on and Raghu’s self-titled album became the biggest selling non-Bollywood record in India (2009). He has also written scores for two Kannada-language (his native tongue) movies: ‘Both were cult hits, that’s what’s made me so popular in my home state. Only the eclectic crowd knew me until the song Mahadeshwara from Psycho but now a farmer in the most remote village knows that song and my name, and I can’t walk alone in Karnatka,’ he says grinning.

Mahadeshwara by The Raghu Dixit Project

Dixit is reportedly working on a new album now. Watch for it, and the group, as they break out onto the world music scene.  

More Raghu Dixit Project:
Listen/buy CD
Listen to more tracks on SoundCloud
video: Hey Bagwan

22 March 2011

Dengue Fever's Cannibal Courtship

Dengue Fever (photo by Lauren Dukoff)

The Cambodian rock invasion continues! Close on the heels of our receipt of music by the Cambodian Space Project (more on that soon...) there's news of a new album and tour by Dengue Fever. The new album is out in April, and the band has just announced a special promotion:

To celebrate Record Store Day on April 16, DENGUE FEVER’s new album, Cannibal Courtship will be available on limited edition vinyl three days before the CD street date.  DENGUE FEVER guitarist Zac Holtzman hand-crafted five golden tickets that will be randomly inserted into record store day vinyl of Cannibal Courtship.  The recipients of the golden tickets will be granted free entry to any headline show by DENGUE FEVER through December 31, 2012. Full sweepstakes details will be on the band’s website (www.denguefevermusic.com) on Record Store Day.

We're still waiting to hear the full album, but you can stream the track "Cement Slippers" here, and you can download it in exchange for your email address here.

Dengue Fever's USA tour dates:
4/19 Record Release Party -- Troubadour Los Angeles, CA
4/20 The Fillmore San Francisco, CA
4/22 Dante’s Portland, OR
4/23 The Biltmore Cabaret Vancouver, Canada
4/24 The Crocodile Seattle, WA
4/27 Moe’s Alley Santa Cruz, CA
4/28 SoHo Santa Barbara, CA
4/29 The Casbah San Diego, CA
4/30 Detroit Bar Costa Mesa, CA
5/5 The Loft Dallas, TX
5/6 Emo’s Austin, TX
5/7 Fitzgerald’s Houston, TX

21 March 2011

Monday's mp3: Sussan Deyhim

There's an earnestness in Sussan Deyhim's arrangements and vocals that's so aggressive, so demanding, that some listeners may write her music off as a variant of Bjork, Shiela Chandra or even Laurie Anderson. And that would be a tragic mistake, for while there are passing similarities, Deyhim's music is unique, and stunning. It's deeply rooted in her tradition (Persian), while branching into very modern, explorative styles.

This was true in her Sufi-infused album Madmen of God, and it's no less true in her new album City of Leaves, which Deyhim says "derives from my love for many brilliant vocal traditions of the East and the West, from the old to the new, from young to not so, from intuitive to deeply pensive, for the monk and the punk."

While vocal-centered, there's plenty of rhythm and melody in the accompanying instruments, thanks to cohorts including DJ Spooky, Bill Laswell, Richard Horowitz, and others. The rich arrangements may have echoes of Deyhim's previous life as a dancer with Iran's national ballet company, as well as her long residency in the USA. She clearly loves traditional music without feeling constrained to repeat it. Indeed, in her liner notes she says:

[I] have a few questions for traditionalists which hold culture hostage to heavy-handed gate-keeping as opposed to tradition lovers, although I do understand the 'romance' attached to keeping the traditions as intact as possible. ... What we hear as musicians is sometimes referential to a tradition, but one hopes to stay open to the vast, mysterious, sublime and subliminal language of the sonic universe.

Here's a peek into the universe of Deyhim, whose progressive Persian music could be the soundtrack for a region -- from her native Iran spanning across the Middle East and North Africa to Libya and Tunesia -- yearning for their own voice:

[mp3] Sussan Deyhim: Dukebox
from the album City of Leaves

More Sussan Deyhim:
Listen / buy CD
interview at Spinner

19 March 2011

Bombino, Sans Group

Tuaregs from the deserts of Niger may be better at playing guitar than at marketing their music. How else to account for the confusion between two albums that sound like they could be twins separated at birth?

I'm here to set the record straight. In 2007, Sublime Frequencies released the the album Guitars from Agadez (Music of Niger) by Group Inerane. In 2009, they released Guitars from Agadez Vol. 2 by Group Bombino. And in 2010, they were back to Group Inerane with Guitars from Agadez Vol. 3. Fine so far.

Now the label Cumbancha comes into the picture. On April 19, they will release the album Agadez by Bombino. Yes, this is where it gets tricky, so pay attention. Omara "Bombino" Moctar was the leader of Group Bombino, and has now set out on his own. It's not the same tracklist as the earlier album, though it appears they share two tracks (though with variant spellings). 


Good. I have yet to hear the full CD, but from this advance single it sounds richer and clearer than the Sublime Frequencies album. Have a listen, or download this free track. And watch for Bombino touring the USA in June and July this year.

More Bombino:
Listen/buy CD
Microfunding for the CD
Agadez, The Music and the Rebellion (a film -- watch trailer -- in which Bombino plays a role)

15 March 2011

A Mantra for Turbulent Times

I haven't been writing much about Japan, perhaps because the situation there seems so surreal. It sounds like a bad action/horror movie, with a huge earthquake spawning a sometimes-flaming tsunami that not only destroys cities and villages, but also damages nuclear power plants that proceed to melt down and spew radiation. And there's no Will Smith/Bruce Willis hero able to quickly avert disaster and wrap things up by the end of the film.

It can seem overwhelming, and even recognition of Japanese musicians seems trite in face of the drastic need so apparent from the flow of news. Japan needs food, water, prayers, funds, experts, some time to dry out, and more. If you are still looking for a way to help out from afar, check out the Christian Science Monitor's page of ways to help.

And while you're taking deep breaths and trying to avoid worries at the thought of disasters that might lurk in your own neighborhood, here's some music that may help.

Tibetan Mantras for Turbulent TimesDeva Premal, The Gyuto Monks of Tibet
"Compassion: Om Mani Padme Hum" (mp3)
from "Tibetan Mantras for Turbulent Times"
(White Swan Records)

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14 March 2011

Monday's mp3: Mali's Khaira Arby

Malian singer seems to be doing things large even as the rest of the world is still skittish about poking its head out its shell to check if the recession is over. I mean, she released a solo desert blues album called Timbuktu Tarab last year, and now has released its rock counterpart, a collaboration with Brooklyn-based collective The Sway Machinery called The House of Friendly Ghosts, Volume 1.

It says something that NPR dubbed Arby "Mali's Reigning Queen of Song." Maybe it says that NPR is ignorant of the work of Oumou Sangare. But Arby is arguably more active at present than Sangare, and with a back story and activist bent that may equal that of "The Songbird of Mali." Songs on her solo album speak out against female circumcision, against war, and for women's rights. IN "Wayidou" she asks the musical question: "Why in a country of beautiful women do men go to war?"

A little while back, I gave you a preview of the collaboration with The Sway Machinery. So here's a track from her album without the Jewish cantorial rock element to entice you to catch one of the last few shows on her current USA tour if you're in the right place at the right time (March 15 in Denver, March 17 & 19 in Austin). The sparkling explanation I received for this rockin' track is: "I am your servant and my job is to spread joy around the world with song.  I am proud to be your servant of happiness."

[mp3] Khaira Arby: Khaira
from the album Tumbuktu Tarab

More Khaira Arby:
listen/buy Tumbuktu Tarab
listen/buy The House of Friendly Ghosts, Volume 1.
NPR Tiny Desk Concert audio

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10 March 2011

The Return of Orchestre Poly-Rythmo

I haven't heard the full album yet, but the first single is indeed tasty. I'm talking about the upcoming album from Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, a big, energetic band from Benin that formed during the 1960s and mixed up styles including traditional folk/sacred music, soul, funk, Afrobeat, and highlife.The new album is called Cononou Club, and it hits stores April 12. Here's a preview:

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo - Pardon by Strut

From the label:

Proving incontrovertibly that 20 years has done nothing to diminish Orchestre Poly-Rythmo's capacity for fiery funk, "Pardon" shows the band in top form.  Though the lyrics aren't in English, the liner notes hint at their content: "Is forgiveness a Christian or a voodoo idea? It is simply necessary, answers Maximus Adjanohun, the band’s original guitarist. 'Forgive, even if a man has tried to seduce your wife.'" 

Recorded in Paris and produced by Maillot, Cotonou Club is the band’s first new album in over 20 years, a celebration of the Poly-Rythmo sound with new versions of the band’s classics, including massive West African hit ‘Gbeti Madjro’, and a host of new compositions. Guest appearances include African superstar Angelique Kidjo, who began her career in Poly-Rythmo’s backyard, new World Circuit signing Fatoumata Diawara and Paul Thomson and Nick McCarthy from indie favourites Franz Ferdinand, both huge fans of the group’s sound. Their collaboration, ‘Lion Is Burning’ storms through with its own unique energy.

More Orchestre Poly-Rythmo:

08 March 2011

Les Nubians say: Dance with Your Hair

Pondering what to post for International Women's Day, I found just the thing. Sisters Hélène and Célia Faussart -- better known as Les Nubians -- are a pair of strong Afropean women who are great at reinventing their sound. And their hair. Their new album Nü Revolution isn't out until April 19, but a few tantalizing sounds have leaked. Just check out this hairstyle celebration in musical form:

Les Nubians - Afrodance by Giant Step NYC

Paris-born but with African and global musical styles, Les Nubians cultivate a more upbeat pop flavor on this CD. "The main difference between this album and the others," says Hélène, "is that Nü Revolution is more uptempo. This album is a celebration of life! We wanted to bring and spread this energy, this joy in a time of uncertainty."

Notable tracks include "Nü Soul Makossa" with Manu Dibango himself pitching in, and "Africa for the Future" with hot South African group Freshlyground.

Here's another taste of the album, in the form of a video featuring John Banzaï, a great hot summery blast for the last days of our Northern winter. The title translates as "Don't Let Your Dreams Fall Asleep":

Veuillez Veiller Sur Vos Reves

More Les Nubians:
Listen / Buy CD
website (with free download of the song (Liberté")

07 March 2011

Monday's mp3: Peña 2.0

First came the confusion. Then the delight. Then the surprise.

Let's start at the beginning, with

THE CONFUSION: The first CD came in unique packaging: a wooden box containing a CD, a DVD, and some notes. Wrapping the box is a little sash of paper with the song listings on the back, and just one word on the front: PEÑA. So... is Peña a person? A band? The name of a compilation? I've listened a bunch of times, and I'm still not sure. But that's not important now, since the confusion was replaced by

THE DELIGHT: It's the music. Simple, but so often forgotten in this age of technological wonders and editing capabilities. Minneapolis-based guitarist Cory Wong and his Secret Stash label got this part right, when he traveled to Peru. His goal? To help broaden appreciation for Afro-Peruvian music. His method? "The way to make a great recording is to place a microphone in front of a great musician and get out of the way." Though the recordings were done on the fly in locations ranging from classrooms to a hostel to a balcony, the sound is crisp and clean, and the performers are great. Wong plays guitar on most tracks, but shining brightest are the Peruvian musicians, including Chico Chavez, Hugo Alcazar, Javier Choy, and Paloma Godoy. Acoustic, guitar-centered, cajon-accented goodness. I played tracks on the radio, spreading the word about this wonderful CD. Then came

THE SURPRISE: Only about four months after the first album comes Peña Volume 2. Having been involved in recording projects, I know how much work goes into producing a CD. To do two so quickly? Impressive. And the second disk is just as engaging as the first. Wong says the intention all along was to have two CDs of selections from the 50+ songs recorded in Peru, and that they were released separately so that "each track is likely to get a bit more attention from people once they dive into both volumes."

Have a listen to the opening track, featuring Sofia Rei Koutsovitis on vocals, Eric Kurimski on guitar, Jorge Roeder on bass, and Jorge "Coqui" Oerez-Albela on percussion.

[mp3] Peña: Cardo O Ceniza
from the album Peña Volume 2.

Oh, and in the end I think I'll just think of Peña as a musical collective. And hope for a Volume 3 sometime....

By the way, Secret Stash is also releasing the compilation Peruvian Funk, which sounds outta sight (samples here).

More Peña / Secret Stash:
Listen/buy Peña
Listen/buy Peña Vol. 2

03 March 2011

Mardi Gras Warmup

Ah, a warm-up. For those of us who've been uncharacteristically blanketed in snow for the last week or so, that sounds nice. And who better for a little audio warm-up in the week before Mardi Gras than the Rebirth Brass Band? These guys have been rocking the New Orleans horn thing hard since 1982. Check out this track from their new album, Rebirth of New Orleans.

Rebirth of New OrleansRebirth Brass Band
"Do It Again" (mp3)
from Rebirth of New Orleans
(Basin Street)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
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