Friday, May 21, 2010

CD Review: Ghalia Benali & Bert Cornelis

Al Palna

The Tunisian and Belgian duo, Ghalia Benali and Bert Cornelis present songs from a place of complete inner beauty. Essentially, Ghalia's classical voice and Bert's sitar work along with additional instrumentation bridging the gap between North Africa and South Asia are the result of an eclectic group of musicians from Iraq, India and Morocco. The dreamy, almost meditative quality of the instruments and sparse vocals unleash the mind's heightened states of wellbeing. The translation of 'Al Palna' is The Cradle. In that regard, the music reminds one of child-like wonderment and innocence. The musical nature of Al Palna is well-suited for fans of traditional Middle Eastern and North African music. If you are a fan of inventive sitar playing, Sufi-like and Sheila Chandra-esque vocals, then begin with the music from the 'cradle'. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Soundway Records Sampler

Various Artists
Afro Tropical Soundz Vol. 1

The funk-ladened sounds of the African continent and Afro-Caribbean regions are highlighted on this sampler. In fact, only tracks culled from a few of Soundways recording catalog are included. In short, this sampler is an excellent introduction into the pulsating sounds of the African diaspora from classic recordings. All the vocal songs were originally recorded in the 1960's through early 1980's. You will hear music from Colombia, Ghana, Panama, Nigeria, Benin and beyond. Eleven songs comprise the entire album, though it will leave you yearning for more. Despite it's length and repetition of two different tracks from the same full-length release, Afro Tropical Soundz Vol. 1 is a perfect addition to any collection of Afro-Caribbean and African funkadelica. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Mali's Bako Dagnon

Bako Dagnon

Malian songstress, Bako Dagnon, fuses traditional music with contemporary styles on guitar, drums, and bass. Sidiba is the second release from Bako Dagnon and it does not disappoint. Bako's vocals resemble the music of fellow countrywomen, Oumou Sangare and Rokia Traore. Eleven vocal songs with charismatic back-up vocals and lilting Afro-pop melodies indicative of the contemporary music emanating from Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, and Guinea. The French influence in West Africa is definitely prominent in contemporary music recordings. Sidiba contains some tracks partly influence by French elements, notably in the guitar playing. The combination of instruments and vocal styles ranging from Biriko to Maninka and Bambara provide a relaxing and satisfying listening experience. Anyone with a passion for West African music should add Sidiba to the collection today. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Calcutta's 1978 Bharat Karki & Party

Bharat Karki & Party
International Music

Recorded in Calcutta, India in 1978, International Music is essentially a thrilling psychedelic funk-fest with trippy rhythms, acid-jazz horns, and spy-film-themed instrumental tracks. A mixture of instrumental sounds traverses numerous melodies and rhythms, but maintains a strong Indian funk fusion inherent in many of the psychedelic releases of the 1970's throughout South Asia. Bharat Karki is joined by other artists, including Khoka, Benu Chatterjee, Bimal Biswas, and numerous others. If anything, International Music is so-called for it's global reach or acceptance throughout the world, instead of signifying a musical work with numerous instruments, mixed genres, and various vocals. In fact, vocals are virtually non-existent and only add to the instrumental beats. Perhaps the only drawback on this release is the length (under 25 minutes). At any rate, International Music is 25 minutes of pure groovy gold and definitely belongs in a collection of Indian psychedelic music. Also available on LP. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Shweta Jhaveri's Classical Voice of India

Prabandh: Classical Vocal Forms of North India
21st Century Cosmos

North Indian classical vocalist Shweta Jhaveri presents listeners with a deeply meaningful and harmoniously moving selection of traditional vocal ragas. Prabandh can be translated as a structured vocal composition for raga and tala (rhythm). As with most traditional Indian music albums, the drone of the sitar and the muted sounds of the tabla drums are iconic fixtures of South Asian musical repertoires. The sarangi, harmonium, pakhavaj, swarmandal, and tanpura are also used. However, in this case, Shweta's emotive vocals fit superbly with the background instrumentation. Shweta's vocals are suprisingly indicative of Sheila Chandra or Kiran Ahluwalia. Liner notes contain information on various Hindustani, or North Indian classical vocal forms with track listing. Prabandh is a richly composed album of expert musicianship, serene vocals, and a great introduction into the world of North Indian classical music. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, May 14, 2010

CD Review: On Breezy Shores with Cape Verde's Carmen Souza

Protegid (released 6/8/2010)

Cape Verde's Carmen Souza brings us an inspired, soulful and relaxing set of tunes in the morna style indicative of the East-Central Atlantic region. The most striking quality of the songs is the uncanny similarity to lounge jazz pop standards. The poppy percussion, spritely vocalizations and piano playing remind one of a Latin lounge jazz club somewhere in Praia or Sao Paulo. At any rate, Cesaria Evora is the most noted singer of the morna style from Cape Verde. Though, a handful of rising stars continue the morna tradition with subtle contemporary arrangements reflecting a more global perspective. The seemingly cheery melodies are somewhat tinged with elements of sorrow and mourning, which represent a truly bluesy and jazzy feel throughout the album. Protegid is a protege for how great sounding Cape Verdean music should be made today and in the future. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cesaria Evora Has Open Heart Surgery - Cancels All 2010 Performances

From Justin Byrns & Dmitri Vietze/rock paper scissors inc.

Cape Verde's Great Singer Cesaria Evora Has Open Heart Surgery and Cancels All 2010 Performances Including North American June Concerts

Cesaria Evora, the world's most famous singer from Africa's Cape Verde, had open heart surgery last night (Monday, May 10, 2010) in a Paris hospital. The surgery was in response to a coronary problem that occurred this past weekend. She was admitted to the hospital Monday morning and the surgery, which started at 8:00 p.m., concluded early this morning at 2:00 a.m. The operating surgeon reported that things went as well as possible. Cesaria was then admitted into intensive care where she awoke around 11.00 this morning. Cesaria is suspending all activities until the end of the year. As a result, June 2010 concerts in Washington, DC, New York City, Boston, Toronto, and Montreal have been cancelled.

This week's surgery follows an amazing return by Cesaria following a stroke in April 2008. Summer 2010 was meant to mark a return to North American stages. Three months after the stroke, she was ready to start rehearsing and working on her new album, Nha Sentimento (Lusafrica). "She hates rehearsing," said producer and manager José da Silva in an interview earlier this month. "But she had a strong will to return to singing. The stroke made it harder for her to remember the words of new songs. She worked harder on this album than any other we have made," says da Silva, who is staying at Cesaria's side in the hospital. Music critics noticed that Cesaria's voice had changed on the new album, yet she retained the essence of who she is. "I think the stroke scared her and she is now open to doing more things," da Silva said before this week's heart surgery.

Nha Sentimento explores the Middle Eastern and Arab influences of Cape Verdean music and culture, territory rarely explored before. The album features collaborator and admirer Fathy Salama, a former conductor of the Cairo Orchestra known for his work with Youssou N'Dour, and who arranged three mornas on Cesaria's new album. Nha Sentimento will be re-released shortly featuring a bonus track of "Moda Bo," Cesaria's duet with Cape Verde's up-and-coming singer and starlet, Lura, considered by some to be Cesaria's heir apparent. The duet's live debut was to take place during the June North American tour, for which Lura was set to be the opening act.

Meanwhile, the world waits and hopes for a speedy and full recovery of Cape Verde's leading heroine of song, Cesaria Evora.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

CD Review: John Jones - The Rising Road

John Jones
The Rising Road
Westpark Music

Some people like to walk, and some people take it to an extreme. John Jones falls into the latter category. Best known as the front man for Celtic folk rockers Oysterband, The Rising Road is an album mostly of traditional folk songs, inspired by Jones' long treks through the Welsh countryside. The arrangements are much more subdued than Oysterband material, although several of the tracks feature contributions from band members, particularly Alan Prosser on guitar and Dil Davies on drums. However, it is Jones' voice that is front and centre, full of dynamics and emotion. An original track, "Walking Through Ithonside," won Best Original Song in the Spiral Awards. Rising Road is an intelligent listen and a must for fans of Oysterband and British folk alike. ~Paula E. Kirman

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

CD Review: Gogol Bordello - Trans-Continental Hustle

Gogol Bordello
Trans-Continental Hustle
American Recordings

Trans-Continental Hustle is a really appropriate title for Gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello's latest album. The songs are literally an aural trip around the world, particularly Eastern Europe. Frontman Eugene Hutz's frenetic vocals weave between English and Slavic and the dynamics of everything between slow and smooth to screaming loud. Acoustic guitars and accordion give the music a folk feel of Easter Europe, while the speed and volume adds the punk flavour. Combine that with catchy melodies and you've got a danceable, fun sound that goes over big with live audiences. Hutz sings of the immigrant experience because of his own background, and makes it accessible in a very funky way. ~Paula E. Kirman

CD Review: Ray Cooper - Tales of Love War and Death by Hanging

Ray Cooper
Tales of Love War and Death by Hanging
Westpark Music

Ray Cooper is best known by his nickname Chopper with English Celtic/folk group Oysterband. Tales of Love War and Death by Hanging is his solo release which is sure to appeal to both fans of Oysterband specifically and English folk music in general. Mostly original writing, the songs on the album exemplify the term "troubadour." Just like the title states, these are stories about love and, well, war and death. Set to an acoustic backdrop of strong acoustic guitars, light percussion, strings, and headed off by Cooper's rich, deep vocals, the lyrics come through very clearly. A cover of the classic country song "The Highwayman" is injected with Cooper's personality and ability to interpret the different characters within (the original version, as many know, featured four different vocalists). Also heavily influenced by Celtic music, the songs will weave their way into your subconscious and bring you back for more. Even if you have never heard of Ray Cooper or Oysterband before, if you like folk music with a traditional feel, you really need to give this a listen. Tales of Love War and Death by Hanging is available on CD Baby and iTunes. ~Paula E. Kirman