31 December 2011

Out with the old... Another round of global CD Reviews in haiku

Out with the old, which
like autumn leaves, lies huddled
on last year's edges

Actually, the mess of albums below are not so old. Many are new releases, and a few are still to hit the stores officially. But I'm taking part of New Year's Eve to clear out the albums I haven't yet gotten around to writing about so I can start fresh in 2012. There aren't enough hours left in the year to write full reviews for these, so gird your loins and prepare for another installment of SoundRoots' inimitable Global Music Haiku Review. Ready?

Onward, then, intrepid reader!

Balkan brass from where?
NYC! crazy,
but their punk 'tude works

(Raya Brass Band: Dancing on Roses, Dancing on Cinders)

somber Persian tones,
sublime meditation from
land of hope and pain

(Kayhan Kalhor and Ali Bahrami Fard: I Will Not Stand Alone)

dance your prayers like the
fire danced in the burning bush
only jazzier

(The Afro-Semitic Experience: Further Definitions of the Days of Awe)

African hunters
invented the blues, plucking
on their n'gonis

(Sibiri Samake: Dambe Foli)

drifting like pollen,
Lomax caught the sound of Spain
under Franco's thumb

(various artists: Alan Lomax In Asturias)

danger in Lagos?
like Fela, these sisters sing
a nation on edge

(The Lijadu Sisters: Danger)

young Brazilians play
neo-samba-soul, and we
nod our heads gently

(various artists: Putumayo Presents - Brazilian Beat)

some I've heard before
but 30 tracks give us all
something new to hear

(various artists: The Rough Guide To The Best Music You've Never Heard)

sounds Cajun; isn't.
for the dancing of nations
is this global stew

(Captain Planet: Cookin' Gumbo)

simple Czech kids' songs
a bit lost in translation
still charming and fun

(Karolina Kamberska: Ríkadla a krikadlafree song

music to rebuild
bridges crushed by 9-11
live, and full of life

(Kristjan Jarvi's Absolute Ensemble: Arabian Nights Live at Town Hall NYC)

Moravian songs
and scriptural readings ring
with Christmas spirit

(Cimbálová muzika Stanislava Gabriela / Dulcimer Band of Stanislav Gabriel: We Carry the News to You / Neseme vám tú novinu) - free song

US-Taiwan pair
use old sounds to build a nest
where they raise new songs

(Mia Hsieh: A Moving Sound)

These forty songs sing
the story of a city
crossroads of east, west

(Dunya: A Story of the City: Constantinople - Istanbul)

varied Uzbek styles
explained in photos and notes
performed by old souls

(various artists: Music Of Central Asia Vol. 7: In The Shrine Of The Heart: Popular Classics From Bukhara And Beyond)

a Berber banjo
songs of love, revolution
dry, wonderful sounds

(Imanaren: Imanaren)

saudade, guitar
blend well and you have music
of life
, bittersweet
(various artists: Bachata Roja: Amor Y Amargue)

India's north, south
meet west under Ravi's ear
strange ragas are born

(Ravi Shankar: Nine Decades, Vol. III - Orchestral Experimentations)

Israel world jazz
crisply recorded, played sweet
with an edge of tang

(Guy Kark & Between Times: 4 Quarters)

scratchy Afro-soul
Benin legend tells his tale
many years later

(El Rego: El Rego)

channeling Nusrat
alongside Tinariwen
takes chops like Kiran's

(Kiran Ahluwalia: Aam Zameen: Common Ground)

polyphonic voice
meets overdub on soundtrack
telling Sarno's tale

(various artists: Oka! Soundtrack)

sounds of Moorish Spain
recaptured by UK troupe
with a jazz flavor

(Jadid Ensemble: Sigh of the Moor)

chanchona music
makes me want to dance, and I'm
not Salvadoran

(Los Hermanos Lovo: ¡Soy Salvadoreño! Chanchona Music from Eastern El Salvador)

raga-fusion group
says you should turn off your mind
and hear the colors

(Lightsweetcrude: Listen to the Colour)

All of that and I'm still hanging on to a few albums for full reviews. Whew!

Out with the old, then
mind clear, desk clean, I await
sounds of twenty twelve.

Happy new year!

26 December 2011

Monday's mp3: Freak Fandango Orchestra

Honestly, how can you not like that name: Freak Fandango Orchestra?

Along with the compelling moniker came this compelling email:

We're a band from Barcelona, Spain, called The Freak Fandango Orchestra and we're just released of our 2nd EP called "Tales of a dead fish". We're playing something like: Balkan-gyspy-polka-beat and it sounds a bit like Gogol Bordello and a bit like Django Reinhardt jamming with the Sex Pistols.
That's all I know about them, though I can confirm this is an accurate description of their sound. Which could also be called a kind of violin-fueled Spanish Balkan Beat Box. Just six songs on their pay-what-you-wish EP, but watch for more from this crazy group. And their killer bat logo.

[mp3] Freak Fandango Orchestra: Balkan Beats

from the album Tales of a Dead Fish

More Freak Fandango Orchestra:
listen / buy CD (name your own price!)

19 December 2011

Deep Throat, the Blog

Well, okay, it's not that we're about providing impeachable evidence, or even leaking classified military info. But it's pretty cool that a recent Washington Post blog post about holiday music includes James Whetzel's “God Rest Ye Funky Bhangra (2011 Mix)” via a link to our recent post here on SoundRoots. We're almost famous! Oh, and Whetzel too! Happy holidays, yo.

Monday's mp3: Music for the Bleak Midwinter

I was pulling out the holiday tunes the other day, thinking of which of the crazy global versions of Christmas carols I would share here and on on the radio. I hadn't seen any new releases worth talking about this year. Until this arrived. I'm not familiar with Jennifer Cutting or her Ocean Orchestra, but in this cold season I'm warming to their music.

The album in question is called Song of Solstice, and is billed as a collection of originals and rare Celtic and medieval songs. It's rather refreshing how the 12 tracks celebrate the different faith observances of the season, most directly Christian and Pagan (and the song "Light the Winter's Dark" wraps in Islam and Buddhism as well). We are all in this cold dark winter thing together, after all.

Much of the music has a distinctly acoustic Celtic feel to it, including the male-voice "Song of Solstice" and "Green Man," both originals. The Emily Bronte poem "Fall, Leaves, Fall" gets a somewhat overwrought arrangement -- the orchestration curiously floral for lyrics celebrating the death of the season -- with a short section of guitar-led rock anthem. The rock-anthem sound emerges again in the latter half of "Time to Remember the Poor," before the album ends with the nicely harmonized men's a capella "Light in the Winter's Dark," the Scottish lullaby to Jesus "Baloo, Lammy," and finally a song celebrating the circular Celtic view of time on "Summer Will Come 'round Again."

This fresh collection of carols, chants, and hymns to the season may even have the power to rejuvenate the jaded hater of holiday tunes. At the very least it's a change of pace. Though I'm still going to be listening to the Klezmer Nutcracker sometime soon.

[mp3] Jennifer Cutting's Ocean Orchestra: Song of Solstice

from the album Song of Solstice

More Jennifer Cutting / Ocean Orchestra:

listen / buy CD

13 December 2011

We Have Liftoff! Er, I Mean Kickstartedness

You're the crowd, you who enjoy the weekly world music podcast of Spin The Globe. And since the show has no advertising, corporate backing, or really any other funding outside of my own pockets, I'm asking you to step up and make a donation towards the podcast hosting. Without your help, the podcast may not be available as globally; with your donation, you can assure that the music keeps playing not only for you, but for all the people planetwide who are beyond the show's FM broadcast signal.

Yes, SoundRoots' first Kickstarter campaign has begun. You'll see this graphic in the right column of the blog for the duration of the campaign, and I'd like nothing better for Christmas than to see the little green bar jump over to the far right. The first supporter just signed up at the $15 level; what is it worth to you to have 52 episodes of Spin The Globe (that's, wait ... doing the math... 104 hours of global music!) available free online over the next year? Please answer via Kickstarter. Thanks!

12 December 2011

Monday's mp3: I'm Making a List

...and I've checked it more than twice. It's the

SoundRoots Top 20 Global Albums of 2011

Which sounds pretty exciting, and it is. Because here are the best CDs of 2011, globe-style. We returned to these again and again, and Spin The Globe listeners responded by demanding more. You've read about many of these albums here, and heard them on the STG podcast. If you haven't had time yet to make your wish list for Christmas (or your own culture's equivalent gift-fest), feel free to print this out hand hand it to your loved ones.

Ladies and gentlemen, in no particular order, the list:
  • Kiran Ahluwalia: Aam Zameen-Common Ground
  • Kora Jazz Band: Kora Jazz Band and Guests
  • Tribeqa: Qolors
  • Te Vaka: Havili
  • Les Freres Smith: Contreband Mentality
  • Nawal: Embrace the Spirit
  • Nation Beat: Growing Stone
  • Antwerp Gipsy Ska Orchestra: I Lumia Mo Kher
  • Aurelio (Martinez): Laru Beya
  • Ravid Kahalani: Yemen Blues
  • Vusi Mahlasela: Say Africa
  • DeLeon: Casata
  • Ocote Soul Sounds: Taurus
  • Hadag Nahash: 6
  • Boban & Marko Markovic Orkestra and Fanfare Ciocarlia: Balkan Brass Battle
  • Sia Tolno: My Life
  • Orchestre Poly-Rythmo: Cotonou Club
  • Trio Chemerani: Invite
  • Tinariwen: Tasili
  • Cacique '97: Cacique '97
The well-informed reader may note that the Tribeqa CD was technically released in 2010, and wonder therefore about its inclusion on the list. Here's the deal: the year that counts is the year that the album got into the hands of SoundRoots' crack team of reviewers. We're willing to bend rules, 'cause we're more interested in great music than in arbitrary rules and boundaries. So there.

Sia Tolno's My Life was the last album added to the list, and deservedly so. It's a solid offering with bits of Afrobeat, Congolese rumba, desert blues and more rendered in Creole, English, and her native Kissi. Read more in last week's SoundRoots review

And this being Monday, I can't leave without sharing some music with you. Another recent release comes from the Kora Jazz Band, consisting of Abdoulaye Diabate (piano), Yakhouba Sissokho (kora), and Moussa Sissokho (percussion). They've got some magic going on, with original Afro-jazz pieces, alongside creative arrangements like this interpretation of Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va." Enjoy!

[mp3] Kora Jazz Band: Oye Como Va

from the album Kora Jazz Band and Guests

More Kora Jazz Band:
Listen / buy CD
hear more on SoundCloud

06 December 2011

If you must know, here are the 2011 Grammy nominees

Whatever shred of caring SoundRoots maintained for the importance of the Grammy Awards is pretty much gone, due in part to the stripping of several key categories, and due more to the Academy's persistent message that music that sells well is better than, er..., everything else. SoundRoots' own list of the best music of 2011 will be posted here later this week. For now, in the interests of an informed public, I give you the nominees for the few reaming Grammy global categories. The winners will be announced at the official ceremony on Feb. 12.

Best World Music Album 
  • AFROCUBISM – AfroCubism
  • SONGS FROM A ZULU FARM – Ladysmith Black Mambazo
  • TASSILI – Tinariwen
Apparently the Academy heard no significant non-African music this year. Which is not to impugn the quality of these albums. Several are likely to land on the SoundRoots Best of 2011 as well, but they'll have some non-African companions.

Best Tropical Latin Album
  • THE LAST MAMBO – Cachao
  • MONGORAMA – José Rizo’s Mongorama
Best Reggae Album
  • REGGAE KNIGHTS – Israel Vibration
  • REVELATION PT 1: THE ROOT OF LIFE – Stephen Marley
  • WILD AND FREE – Ziggy Marley

Best Latin Pop, Rock, Or Urban Album
  • ENTRE LA CIUDAD Y EL MAR – Gustavo Galindo
  • NUESTRA – La Vida Bohème
  • NOT SO COMMERCIAL – Los Amigos Invisibles
  • DRAMA Y LUZ – Maná
Best Regional Mexican Or Tejano Album
  • BICENTENARIO – Pepe Aguilar
  • ORALE – Mariachi Divas De Cindy Shea
  • AMOR A LA MUSICA -Mariachi Los Arrieros Del Valle
  • ERES UN FARSANTE – Paquita La Del Barrio
  • HUEVOS RANCHEROS – Joan Sebastian
Best Banda Or Norteño Album
  • ESTARE MEJOR – El Güero Y Su Banda Centenario
  • INTOCABLE 2011 – Intocable
  • EL ÁRBOL – Los Tucanes De Tijuana

05 December 2011

Monday's mp3: Meet the musical daughter of Angelique and Miriam

If her music wasn't so compelling, you might be drawn to Sia Tolno simply for her story of hardship and triumph. She fled an abusive home in Sierra Leone, then had to flee that country's civil war, ending up selling palm oil and singing in clubs in Guinea. It was there that she was "discovered" after her entry in a talent contest.

That's just a skimming summary of her story, because I want to focus on the music on Tolno's wonderful new album My Life. Many seem to compare her to Miriam Makeba, but I hear more Angelique Kidjo in her energetic delivery and in the sophisticated arrangements on this sophomore album. (Her debut, Eh Sanga, came out in 2009.)

The album with a tradition-rooted song in praise of the town of Blama in Sierra Leone, where Tolno used to attend a festival at the end of each year. The town was devastated by the war, but Tolno says "I wanted to tell people that in this town we had a very joyful festival, where we just sing and play all these traditional instruments. I wanted to open with my tradition, to show where I am from."

Tolno dips into various African music styles on the album, and the instrumentation and arrangements might force you into guess after guess about the music's origins. Let's just say that it comes across as modern African music -- with some funk here, some balafon there, and a whole lot of powerful vocals in various language, often delivering conscious lyrics, as on this song:

[mp3] Sia Tolno: "Blind Samaritan (Poor Man)"

from the album My Life

More Sia Tolno
Listen / buy CD