Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bassist Cachaito Dies

Legendary Cuban bassist Cachaito has died at the age of 76. Here is the full story at World Music Central. - Paula E. Kirman

Monday, February 9, 2009

CD Review: The Sun of Eritrea [2 CD]

Tsehaytu Beraki
Selam [2 CD]
Terp Records

Born in Quatit, Eritrea in 1939, Tsehaytu Beraki has been playing the krar (a five/six-stringed lyre) and singing for several decades. After experiencing political and civil unrest for most of her life, she found peace in Holland. In fact, the double-album title 'Selam' means 'peace'. This is a massive collection of 17 songs running over two-and-a-half hours in length. She sings in Tigrinya and Tigre languages. All the songs possess vocals, but she is backed by back-up singers, drummers, hand-clapping, and double-bass on some of the tracks. This is not your typical electronic or pop dance release typical of modern Middle East of African music. This is traditional music with vitality -- a sound for every generation. The songs are political, but also deal with love and relationships. English lyrics are provided for each song. Additionally, a 36-page booklet details the origins of her music, along with an interview and history of Eritrea. Several black-and-white and colored photos are included of her early music performances, performers, maps, and cityscapes. There are also comments from other Eritrean musicians about her music. In the notes, Tsehaytu recalls a comment by fellow musician, Osman Abdulrahim, "Miss Tsehaytu is like a golden masinko...[one-string bowed lute] and shines all over Eritrea like a sun". In this regard, Tsehaytu's talent is evidenced by her extensive playing abilities and rigorous practice sessions. Let the sounds of Eritrea brighten your day...and for days to come! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: 'Sangria' Bubbles with Rhythm

Mariah Parker

The CD cover describes the musical content as, "An Indo Latin Jazz Musical Experience". That is probably a pretty good summation of Mariah Parker's debut release, Sangria, which is Spanish for 'bloody'. Notably, 'sangria' is usually referred to as a red wine. In that case, Mariah's piano and santur playing is definitely intoxicating. Mariah is joined by Matthew Montfort on scalloped fretless guitar/flamenco guitar, Kash Killion on bass/cello, Debopriyo Sarkar and Anuradha Pal on tabla, Duru Demetrius on percussion, Mindia Devi Klein on flute, Paul McCandless on sax/horn, and Brian Rice on timbales. The songs are warm, inviting, and indicative of a world jazz release. The tracks are completely void of vocalizations. Sangria includes musicians from bands such as Oregon, Sun Ra, and Herbie Hancock's Headhunters. Explore the world through the music of Mariah Parker. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Seven Serenades for Scalloped Guitar

Matthew Montfort
Seven Serenades for Scalloped Fretboard Guitar

The mind-bending playing abilities of guitar virtuoso, Matthew Montfort, stems from the note-bending capabilities of the scalloped fretboard guitar. This produces a different sound than the more familiar guitar, because the fretboard is carved out, so the fingers only touch the strings. Musically, the songs verge on a flamenco-Indian-jazz continuum. This is partly due to Matthew's playing technique and the sitar-like sounds of his guitar. The crystal-clear picking on guitar and accompaniment on didjeridoo (with Alan Tower), violin (with Patti Weiss) and santoor (with Mariah Parker) provides a rich musical texture. Vocals are absent on this recording. For everyone interested in the sounds of guitar, especially fans of Bob Brozman or Ben Bowen King, then this is definitely for you. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: 30 Years of Ancient-Future

Ancient Future
Planet Passion

Planet Passion is a celebration of music from around the world. The core of the album incorporates enchanting melodies and clairvoyant vocals. The music is meditative and sensuous. Over a dozen artists contribute on keyboards, bansuri flute, tabla, esraj, violin, cello, Chinese flute, Arabic violin, Nepalese flute, marimba, and world percussion. According to the liner notes, we soon learn of the foundational elements of the album, "This mythical story of love around the world begins with a couple's first flirtations meeting and follows them through the stages of their union...". As a result, the Ancient Future collective performs songs of love using traditional instrumentation -- hence the title, Planet Passion. Of course, it is difficult to categorize the music, but for the marketplace, it is essentially world fusion. About half of the tracks are instrumental. Ancient Future presents songs tinged with ethnic elements from Africa, Asia, India, Latin America, and the Middle East. Similar artists include: Tonana, Ronan Hardiman, Ofra Haza, Azam Ali, and other artists with ethnic elements in the New Age category. A world-class album by world-wide musicians. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, February 8, 2009

CD Review: Kora, Kora, Kora....

Djibril Diabate
Terp Records

Djibril Diabate, from Mali, plays the kora, a 21-stringed gourd harp. On Hawa, an ode to his second mother, Djibril bridges the past with today using nothing but his hands and kora. In fact, no vocals or additional accompaniment is provided. This does two things: It allows the listener to be entranced by the lilting sounds of the kora strings, and it showcases a rich, traditional heritage and cultural staple for West Africans. Of course, the kora is easily accessible to everyone. The kora strings are a peaceful companion to any form of relaxation. Anyone with an interest in very good instrumental string music should find Hawa extremely palatable. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kora, Balafon, N'goni, and more....

Soun Soun: La Tradition Mandingue
Terp Records

Lanaya, a wholly instrumental trio hailing from Bamako, Mali, play centuries old music for today's generation. All in their 20's, Lanaya forms a talented group of musicians on kora, n'goni, and balafon. The group's familial history is as iconic as the music itself. Djibril Diabate on kora is the nephew of Toumani Diabate. Fassery Diabate on balaphone is the son of Malian musician Keletigui Diabate. Finally, Mohamadou Kamissoko comes from a family of n'goni players. Their musicianship is astounding and far-reaching. The songs do not include vocals, so the instruments carry the spirit of Mandingue culture to the forefront of this release. The instrumental performance is indicative of other ensembles from select regions of the world. Most notably, the music of China and Southeast Asia comes to mind. The energetic and scintillating melodies of the instruments creates a mesmerizing effect on the listener. Fans of instrumental music from around the world and West Africa in particular, will love Soun Soun. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: 'Longing' for Elisete

Gaagua (Longing)
IMP Records

If anyone could pull off a trans-cultural release of music melding the sounds of Brazil with Hebrew linguistics, then Elisete is sure to pave an inspirational path to greatness. Born in Brazil and now living in Israel, Elisete certainly eschews the rhythms of Brazil and Portugal. The opening track sounds like a fuzzy radio introduction that quickly tosses us into Elisete's musical world. In order to describe the music, one need not be an expert on Brazilian or Israel music. In fact, Elisete's breezy rhythms and fun vocals should put everyone in a very happy mood. The music reminds me of contemporary pop music from West Africa, France, South America, and the Cape Verde islands. Consequently, Elisete's global appeal brings together music across oceans and continents. This is what makes Gaagua so enthralling. Some of the musical elements resemble funky-rumba and even downbeat with a hint of reggae. Though -- one thing is for sure -- Elisete's music is uniquely her own. Similar artists include Natalia Clavier (Argentina), Daby Toure (Mauritania), and Nuklearte (Italy). Also available by Elisete: Remixes (2007) and Luar e Cafe (2004).

CD Review: The Music of Burma

Nai Htaw Paing Ensemble
Mon Music of Burma
Fire Museum Records

The traditional music of Burma is diverse, and in some cases, has been in danger of disappearing from today's society. In response, ensemble leader and assistant lecturer at Yangon Cultural University, Nai Htaw Paing, works to revive the music of the Mon people throughout Burma and the world. The Mon people actually comprise about 2% of the total population of Burma. The musical culture of the Mon people is rich in history and instrumentation. The Mon people are not immune to the musical influences of neighboring Thailand and Cambodia. As a result, the instrumentation is similar in appearance and sound, which includes a zither, gongs, string fiddle, xylophone, reed-oboe, and bamboo flutes. Vocals are included, though sparingly. This is mostly an instrumental work that should not be passed up. The 13 tracks are representative of the Mon culture and are not modernized to Western tunings or modern beats. Fans of traditional recordings of Southeast Asian ensemble music should acquire this album for their collection. This recording is limited to 500 copies, so it won't last long. Spellbinding! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sultry Voice of Anath

Red Lullaby

The geographic origins of Anath cover Tunisia, Israel, France, Chile and New York. Consequently, Anath's cross-cultural upbringing is an integral component of her music, though primarily Western in sound. On Rapture, the tracks are fairly modern, with electronic beats, drums, guitars, keyboards, and vocals. Anath's sultry vocals and jazzy-downtempo compositions provides a unique listening experience. 'Little Girl' and 'Gotta See The Sun' are more upbeat pop hits. Though, Rapture's song repertoire includes only four original compositions by Anath and a cover of Blondie's song, 'Rapture'. If you are searching for a fresh voice that transcends North African or Francophone description, then Anath should be in your playlist. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: A Dr. of Violin - Riad Abdel-Gawad

Riad Abdel-Gawad
El Tarab El Aseel (Autochthonic Enchantment)

Born in Egypt and educated with a doctorate in music from Harvard, Riad Abdel-Gawad knows his way around Arabic compositions. Riad performs traditional Arabic music using different classical modes of performance. The classical elements are also closeyl associated with compositions outside of the Middle East region. Riad's violin playing is precise and steeped in tradition. Yet, the violin is also joined with the oud, riqq, qanun, and ney flute. Anyone with a knowledge of traditional Arabic music and classical compositions will listen to Riad with a different 'ear' than the casual aficionado of Middle Eastern music. Nevertheless, it's an amazing instrumental collection of four very long compositions that do not require a doctorate in order to appreciate it. A classic release! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Sun Shines on Sekou Keita

Seckou Keita SKQ
The Silimbo Passage
World Artventures

The Silimbo Passage is the new album from Senegalese-kora master, Seckou Keita and his quartet. Silimbo, which means 'sunrise', is a fitting title to a bright and cheery musical exploration through vocal and instrumental elements. The kora has been a celebrated instrument for ages, and is usually prevalent in many west African ensembles. The wide-ranging influences on Silimbo come from funk, jazz, Arabic, and Francophonic musical genres. Yet, the Seckou Keita Quartet forms today's music with historical connections. The result is an impressive array of musicianship and delightful melodies and rhythms. The kora is the lead instrument, followed by percussion, bass, and voice. Nevertheless, Seckou Keita & Company bring us refreshing tunes that energize any mood. The beautiful harmonies, solo vocals, percussion, funky kora tunings, and additional accompaniment makes each listen as enjoyable as the first. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Marvellous Sounds of Mbira

Solomon Murungu
Spirit of Zambuko: Liturgy & Reflections of Mbira
Independent Release

The mbira, otherwise known as the thumb piano, is the chief instrument in traditional Zimbabwean music. Solomon Murungu brings us the music of the mbira without additional instrumentation or vocal accompaniment. Consequently, the listener becomes encapsulated and entranced in the sparkling, metallic tones of the mbira's keys. With every listen, the tracks provide cyclic rhythm patterns that showcase the Shona spirit. In essence, Solomon's playing technique is traditional and improvisational, but it clearly reflects the spiritual connection between symbolism and realism. 6 long tracks feature the mbira instrument. In addition, an extensive booklet details the stories surrounding each track. A pleasant and high-quality recording for everyone! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Reviews: The Music of Sussan Deyhim

The Ethereal Music of Digital Diva - Sussan Deyhim

Born in Iran and current resident of New York City, Sussan Deyhim is the 'Digital Diva' of experimental/avant-garde music. Her innovative musical creations emanates from a varied background in multiple creative disciplines, including ballet, theatre, dance, and music technology. The music transcends description, but incorporates trip-hop, ambient, atmospheric, and traditional sounds and instrumentation. The result is a mixture of classic mysticism and contemporary arrangements. Her own record label, Venus Rising Records, features 5 of her albums for sale.

Out of Faze

Sussan's vocals provide a perfect balance between electronic beats and trip-hop elements. The music is more organic than somewhat similar groups Waldeck, Hooverphonic, and Morcheeba. Of course, there are ethnic elements which should solidify Out of Faze as a major player in the world of contemporary world/electronic music. Every track is solid. 10 tracks included. Remixes are included by Bill Laswell. Jah Wobble is also featured.


Sussan's vocals take a backseat in this release. Instead, the ethereal sounds of electronic music and mysterious vocalizations amid a ghostly ambiance pervade the album's musical backbone. Soliloquy is a collaboration with visualist and filmmaker, Shirin Neshat. This release is ideal for fans of experimental world chant. Sussan does not disappoint on any track. 16 tracks included.

Logic of the Birds

A mixture of classical Arabic and modern electronic soundscapes meld together with Sussan's cascading vocal abilities. Other vocals provide accompaniment with the musical rhythms, though this is primarily an instrumental effort. Sussan's musical ingenuity is prevalent on every track. This release echoes back to early-Tangerine Dream's music. It's contemplative, serene, engaging, and mesmerizing. The Logic of the Birds makes very much sense to me. 13 tracks in all.

Trouble Man

This is an ode to the funkier songs of the late 1960's and 1970's. The title is taken from Marvin Gaye's 1972 song of the same name. Sussan adds her own take on three classics. The other two songs are 'While You're On Your Way' by Tim Hardin and 'Right Wrong Or Ready' by Major Wiley. Sussan's soulful and sultry side is showcased on this recording. This is potentially the most musically-structured of her albums, because they are covers, but Sussan makes the songs all hers. 3 tracks in all.


The opening track is uniquely Sussan, as it features dramatic sounds and electronic waves of musical energy seemingly fitting as a soundtrack to the outer planets. Yet, it is created on and for planet Earth. If you like Enigma without drumbeats and native vocals, then this is the album for you. If you liked Sussan's Soliloquy, then pick up Possessed, too. As with Sussan's other releases, Possessed takes the listener on a transcendental journey to the outer reaches of reality. 5 tracks in all.

All reviews by Matthew Forss.