Friday, March 30, 2012

CD Review: Midwest Hype's 'Dayglow'

Midwest Hype

Midwest Hype's second release, Dayglow, is an intrepid journey of ska, jazz, punk, reggae, funk, hip-hop, and alternative musical styles that form a union of uniqueness never-before-seen (and heard) in today's popular music. The six-track release contains English vocals from the aptly-named and located group in the northern Indiana area. The reggae-tinged "Runaway," is a very catchy song. The funk-centric "Do Or Die", contains a good ska-reggae beat with a slight jazz element. At any rate, the vocals are top-notch and somewhat reminiscent of Stroke 9's lead singer. "People Of America" is a writhing reggae melody with witty lyrics and a hip-hop/funk influence. "All Is Water" is a jazzy, island-type song that is funky, contemporary, and inventive. The ska and hip-hop-influenced "Elastic Booty  Shorts" is a classic tune and the witty song title is a bonus. "Behind Our Eyes" contains a bit of jazz, ska, and Top 40 potential with a bit of hip-hop, too. The entire album glows with lush beats, smart vocals, inventive hooks, and a slew of styles. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, March 25, 2012

CD Review: David Newman's 'Stars'

David Newman
White Swan Records

David Newman is a talented musician popular in the blissful world of yoga music. His contemporary guitar stylings and repetitive vocals with equally repetitive mantras, combined with the beautiful voice of Mira, makes Stars an album well-worth a listen. A mix of English and Sanskrit vocals are used sporadically throughout. The catchy melodies and light guitar work are enthralling to say the least. The nine tracks represent a good mix of rhythms, styles, and innovations with touches of piano, horn, and percussion. David is a kirtan chant artist, Bhakti yoga educator, and a singer/songwriter. His wife, Mira, is a noted singer in her own right. She adds a touch of beauty to the album that is very melodious. If you are seeking balance in your life, then reach for the Stars today. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, March 23, 2012

CD Review: Bang Data's 'La Sopa'

Bang Data
La Sopa
Rockolito Music

San Francisco-based, Bang Data, brings us a writhing mix of heady electronic cumbia, beatbox, ska, samba, bossa nova, and dance music. Their new album, La Sopa, which means 'The Soup,' connotes the worldly influences in the music. Of course, Latin, rock, hip hop influences are also present. However, the Latin cumbia music is most prominent throughout the album. There are many instruments that produce the wondrous sound, including bass, guitar, zampona, charango, congas, timbales, cajon, turntables, synths, and vocals. Even Peru's Eva Ayllon lends her vocals on "Toro Mata." Over one dozen musicians play in Bang Data. A slurry of alternative, Latin rhythms and influences mark the unique sound of Bang Data. At any rate, the fourteen tracks are rhythmic, pulsating, and sizzling. Great for fans of Latin, cumbia, and urban dance tunes from the San Francisco-bay area. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Antwerp Gipsy-Ska Orkestra's 'I Lumia Mo Kher'

Antwerp Gipsy-Ska Orkestra
I Lumia Mo Kher
Excelsior Recordings

The Antwerp, Belgium-based, Antwerp Gipsy-Ska Orkestra is a purveyor of Balkan-ska-punk music with a lively vibe of crazy horns, wild beats, and party atmospheres that will last long after the tracks end. The group incorporates Belgian, Serbian, Chilean, and Balkan roots with innovative and jaunty tunes. The first track, "Basalaja," features Marko Markovic, while "A La Truko" features MC Sebo and the "Roma Project" features the Kocani Orkestar. The eleven tracks traverse a plethora of styles and languages with rap, reggae, pop, big band, gypsy, klezmer, Balkan, Mediterranean, and ska-punk music topping the primary influences. The album title, which means 'The World Is My House' in Serbian Romani, is a perfect caricature of the group's musical style and arrangements. Gypsy music fans have another fine recording to acquire, thanks to the Antwerp Gipsy-Ska Orkestra. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Didier Francois's 'Nyckelharpa Solo'

Didier Francois
Nyckelharpa Solo
Home Records

The Belgian, Didier Francois, is a noted nyckelharpa player and teacher. The nyckelharpa is a keyed harp or fiddle with keys attached to tangents that serve as frets to change the pitch of the strings. Traditionally, the nyckelharpa is a native of Sweden, but it is found in many other Scandinavian and European countries...and other parts of the world. As its name suggests, the nyckelharpa is the only instrument on this recording. Additionally, there are not any vocals. Instead, Didier plays various compositions with nyckelharpa. There are sixteen instrumental tracks, which include some original tunes, and others composed by Jamil Masud, Johann Sebastian Bach, Erik Sath, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Susanne Paul, Charlie Mariano, Jose Toral, Eugene Ysaye, and Carl Michael Von Esser. The instrumental tracks are perfect for classical, folk, or violin fans. This is a top release for nyckelharpa fans, too. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Che Sudaka's '10'

Che Sudaka
Cavernicola Records

The assembly of Argentinian and Colombian musicians based in Barcelona, Spain, continue to brighten up the world music and punk-folk genres with their characteristic party sound and South American-inspired rhythms. The punk-rap style of "C'est plus beau" contains blaring horns, harmonies, and a party-dance rhythm that is extremely infectious. "Inmigrant Soul" is a great tune with luscious harmonies, a bit of electronica, and accordion amidst a catchy melody in a similar way to the South Pacific's Te Vaka. It is one of the best songs on the album, but "Desearia," "Ya nunca me veras caer," "Stress," "Crisis de amor," and "Hombre libre" are close behind. There are a number of styles and influences included here with ska, reggae, jazz, folk, dance, rumba, Latin, and light punk-rap winning out. This is one of the best contemporary recordings to come out of Spain in recent memory. It is titled 10, because it is a 10. Liner notes are included for the song lyrics. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, March 22, 2012

CD Review: The Black Seeds' 'Dust And Dirt'

The Black Seeds
Dust And Dirt
Easy Star Records

The New Zealand-based group, The Black Seeds, is best described as a reggae-funk-fusion collective with modern grooves and catchy vocals reflecting a soulful ambiance. The characteristic reggae beats are a staple of a few songs, notably "Settle Down," "Rusted Story," and "Dust And Dirt." The down-tempo leanings of "Out Of Light," showcases the band's subdued grooves and remarkable ability to create modern masterpieces reflecting a psychedelic edge. The funky tunes are great in every respect. The length is moderate, the variety is good, and the songs are unforgettable. On a side note, some of the songs contain quirky titles, such as "Pippy Pip," "Gabriel's Strut Club," and "Loose Cartilage." Anyone with a passion for The Black Seeds, or funk, fusion, reggae, and down-tempo/pop will love Dust And Dirt. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Clara Ponty's 'Into The Light'

Clara Ponty
Into The Light
Eden Records

Born in Paris, France and raised in Los Angeles, California, Clara Ponty's musical roots are strengthened by her father's violin experience and exposure to multiple genres growing up. As a classically-trained pianist, Clara presents new work with a somewhat jazzy influence and pop-focused vein. The eleven tracks are vocal gems that feature Clara's intimate and sensual voice amidst her delicate piano playing style with a mix violin, bass, rhodes, drums, percussion, guitar, trumpet, cello, and flute. Some of the tracks border on contemporary new age music, while others, reflect a more upbeat, Latin-tinged classicism. At any rate, Clara knows how to delight with Into The Light. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Congo Sanchez' 'Vol. 1'

Congo Sanchez
Vol. 1
ESL Music

The funky, dance, and world music creations of Congo Sanchez is at the forefront of the Washington, DC party scene. The world music leanings of Congo Sanchez tend to reflect a more electronica and funk-driven vibe with equal amounts of Latin, dance, and down-tempo chills to satisfy even the most picky of connoisseurs. Vol. 1 only contains four tracks for a total listening time of only seventeen minutes. At any rate, the groovy music is definitely worthy of a listen or two...or three. Anyone with an interest in down-tempo, chill, dance, Latin, and funky music will love Congo Sanchez' latest morsels of fun. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: AndraLaMoussia's 'Bet'

Ittai Binnun

The sauntering melodies and Middle Eastern incarnations of AndraLaMoussia are lavishly produced on the 2010 release of Bet. The group is based in Jerusalem, Israel and features a variety of musical creations involving the guitar, accordion, trumpet, ney, clarinet, sax, baglama, violin, oud, melodica, and assorted percussion. The tunes are lively and mostly instrumental. There is a degree of Andalusian, Central Asian, and Balkan influence throughout. The thirteen tracks contain energetic, evocative, and classy compositions. In short, you will not be disappointed with the music of AndraLaMoussia. It is a sure 'bet.' ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Pandit Rajeev Taranath's 'Swar-Kalyan'

Pandit Rajeev Taranath

Swar-Kalyan is a live recording from two different locations: Raga Yaman Kalyan at the Theatre de la Ville in Paris in 2008 and Raga Mishra Kirwani and Raga Sindhu Bhairavi at the University of Oregon in 2003. Pandit Rajeev Taranath is a leading sarod player from India. The sarod is an unfretted string instrument with metal, plucked strings. Taranath is joined by tabla player, Abhiman Kaushal. The reflective, meditative, and captivating compositions are timeless, professional, and authentic. The music is raw, unplugged, and historical. This is perfect for relaxing, unwinding, and understanding the complexities of Hindustani music. A must-have for sarod fans. Liner notes are included for this instrumental, one-hour release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Trio Mrio's Self-Titled Release

Trio Mrio
Trio Mrio

The Turkish jazz and rock stylings of Turkey's great guitarist, Sarp Maden, along with Volkan Oktem on drums and Chaglayan Yildiz on bass, create a masterful release of epic tunes that span the gamut of avant-garde, experimental, and fusion. The guitar work is exemplary, as it contains simple, fluid grooves, but rock interludes that are quite remarkable, as well. The meandering sounds of the instruments are inspiring, enthralling, and entrancing. The musical vivacity of the instruments and jazzy leanings makes Trio Mrio shine beyond belief. Anyone with a knack for experimental, jazz, guitar, and instrumental grooves from a Turkish source, then look no further.

CD Review: Sarp Maden's 'Ardindan'

Sarp Maden

Sarp Maden's exciting 2010 Turkish jazz release explores a little vocal prowess on "Tazecik," while the remaining songs are completely instrumental. The musical tone is upbeat jazz with keyboard, trumpet, fretless bass, fiddle, and guitar accompaniment throughout. The nine songs traverse the world of ethnic jazz, experimental, avant-garde, and fusion. The music is slightly more complex and varied than the more recent release, Durgun Sular. In a related manner, the music is more rock-driven on a few tracks with frenzied guitar stylings and fast playing, but it is not out of the ordinary for world jazz. Anyone with an interest in world jazz, Turkish jazz, or instrumental music will be very happy with Sarp Maden's Ardindan. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sarp Maden's 'Durgun Sular'

Sarp Maden
Durgun Sular

Hailing from Turkey, Sarp Maden performs jazzy, ambient, lounge music with an easy-listening backbone that is not afraid to upset the jazz world with a fine, innovative work of art. The wholly instrumental album contains sparkling guitar tones, floating sax lines, and light percussion all performed with accurate precision. Sarp Maden plays guitar, while his band mates, Derin Bayhan on drums, Matt Hall on contrabass, and Engin Recepogullan on tenor sax round out the musical experience. Kalan Records is known for producing high-quality recordings and Durgun Sular is no exception. The album title, which means "still waters," is sure to cause a ripple or two throughout the musical community for using meditative jazz sounds and inventive compositions with a global appeal. If you are seeking traditional Turkish music, then you will be disappointed. If you are a jazz fan, you will be rewarded with the sounds of Durgun Sular. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Elin Furubotn's 'Heilt Nye Vei'

Elin Furubotn
Heilt Nye Vei
Ozella Music

Norway's talented singer/songwriter, Elin Furubotn, is joined with an excellent repertoire of musicians and jazzy instrumentation. Elin incorporates a folk and pop vein into the mix. The thirteen songs represent a plethora of ear-friendly material with "Heilt Nye Vei," "Slepp Tvilen Fri," "Ei Stille Na," and "Treet" rounding out the top tracks on the album. Heilt Nye Vei, which means "completely new way" is a perfect way to describe the music, as it is cutting-edge and inventive. Elin's Norwegian vocals soar into outer echelons of musical creativity with some of the vocals possessing a Cranberries tone. At any rate, Elin is the most innovative artist to come out of Norway in recent memory. Karl Seglem appears on sax. Anyone with an interest in avant-garde pop and easy-listening with a jazzy element from the Scandinavian nation will be very pleased with Elin's latest achievement from Ozella Music. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

CD Review: Bayonics' 'Mission Statement'

Mission Statement

The classic, funk-driven melodies of a ten-piece band, Bayonics, is based in San Francisco. Mission Statement is a culmination of various genres, including funk, fusion, hip-hop, reggae, jazz, down-tempo, and Latin-infused music. The contemporary rhythms and vocals contain a plethora of influences that all boil down to good clean funky music with no side effects--except for the constant desire to move one's feet and body upon hearing the music of Mission Statement. The eleven tracks reflect a different musical progression rarely observed in the Bay area, because many new groups tend to stick to urban, dance grooves with some world music elements. Instead, Bayonics pave the way for Latin-infused concoctions of danceable grooves and beats with no signs of slowing down. Mission Statement is the new soundtrack to the Bay area's city limits. ~ Matthew Forss

Song Review: Miss Diamond DJ's "Voodoo Girl"

Miss Diamond DJ
"Voodoo Girl"

"Voodoo Girl" opens with a heavy, static-driven, but distant tone, that blends well with the electrified, male voice after a bass slide. A wash of colorful electronics signify the beginning of the pulsating dance beat that blends the club sound of Ace of Base with the trance-driven music of Madonna's early work. The laser-like, pulsations contain both male and female vocals that are interspersed with successions of dance beats with all the fancy blips, blurbs, and electronic embellishments that are part of any superstar DJ repertoire. Based in Zurich, Switzerland, Miss Diamond DJ raises the bar higher than the Alps with a balanced mix of club, house, trance, techno, and party elements. The end of the song contains an ambient wash of cascading sounds with a quick, but fluid conclusion. "Voodoo Girl" is not about being cheesy or too flashy. Instead, Miss Diamond DJ astounds listeners with her uncanny ability to create a simple tune and make it stand out. If you are seeking electronica with a dance element, then "Voodoo Girl" is for you. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, March 9, 2012

CD Review: Christiane D's 'Obliquity Of The Ecliptic'

Christiane D
Obliquity Of The Ecliptic

The urban beats of Pennsylvanian-writer, poet, and singer, Christiane D, is anything but boring. In this case, Obliquity Of The Ecliptic tramples the genres electronica, funk, hip-hop, avant-garde, pop, and experimental music by defying logic and perceived notions of musicianship. Elements of trip-hop and down-tempo delights slow some of the music to a steady pace that is as reflective as it is engaging. A variety of eerie, quirky, and noisy sounds that are indescribable are scattered throughout the album. Anyone with an interest in Bjork, experimental electronica, and genre-bending pop and rock music will love Christiane D's different form of musical expression. The thirteen tracks showcase diverse vocals, dark melodies, and spacey adornments that are ideal for relaxing, dancing, and meditation. This is post-industrial, neo-art rock/chill music at its best. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: La Chiva Gantiva's 'Pelao'

La Chiva Gantiva

Latin-American percussion and song styles are the focus of the Belgium-based La Chiva Gantiva. Pelao, which means, "kid," is an album with upbeat, energetic rhythms from the heart of Colombia, but performed with members from other parts of the world. The global mixture of influences and ethnic representation encapsulates the musical energy on each track. A selection of tracks contain blaring horns, electric bass, drums, sax, vocals, and heavy percussion. The upbeat tunes are reminiscent of balkan brass, Afro-beat anthems, and Afro-Latin funk gems. The multi-ethnic songs are bound to get the body moving wherever it may be located on planet Earth. Anyone with an interest in Colombian funk, Afro-Latin jazz, balkan brass, and instrumental medleys that will get your feet moving, Pelao is right for you. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Hoquets' 'Belgotronics'


Hoquets is named after both the technique in Western medieval music of sharing a melody line between several voices or instruments and the French word for "hiccups." The band (pronounced: Okay) is born in Belgium with some American influences, too. For instance, home-made instruments and hip-hop/punk elements are evident on a few tracks, notably "Beni B," "Couque de Dinant," and "Otanato." The modern instrumentation incorporates a plethora of tinny, metallic, thumping, and squeaky sounds to go around. The music is somewhat catchy, but the instrumentation is quirky, compelling, and organic. As its name implies, there is a strong Belgium element throughout, but Flemish and French styles and languages are also represented. Overall, the sound is reminiscent of a drier funk, rock, and folk/hip-hop music that is what would happen if the Beastie Boys joined forces with Beck, Squonk Opera, and Blue Man Group. Whatever you call it, Belgotronics is an album that celebrates Belgium living and it is unique beyond belief. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane's 'Thiossane'

Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane

A singer in the 1950s in Senegal, Ablaye Ndiaye Thiossane finally records his first album for all of us to hear. Thiossane, which means, "all things related to tradition," is an album steeped in Latin rumba and Senegalese flavors that elicit danceable actions in all those within earshot of its entrancing melodies. A form of Cuba-lese music combines the rhythms and percussion of Cuba with the Afro-pop sounds of Senegalese uptempo jazz. At 74, Ablaye is a seasoned veteran when it comes to performing music. He is joined by a plethora popular performers, including Cheikhna Ndiaye, Thierno Kouate, Robert Lahoud, Cheick Tidiane Tall, Samba Laobe Ndiaye, Papa Noel, Muctar Wurrie, Lofti Benjeloun, Balla Sidibe, Medoune Diallo, Souleymane Faye, and others. Nine long tracks showcase the diversity and longevity of Ablaye's music. Fans of Senegalese music, Cuban music, and Afro-pop will love Thiossane. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Amsterdam Klezmer Band's 'Mokum'

Amsterdam Klezmer Band
Essay Recordings

The brash, Balkan brass is alive on this live recording of the Amsterdam Klezmer Band in the Netherlands. Sixteen long tracks showcase the group's magnificent playing abilities, danceable tunes, and lively vocals. The brass tunes and jaunty rhythms celebrate the Klezmer musical life with equal doses of gypsy, jazz, and folk melodies. Fans of Boban, Klezmatics, and other balkan music groups will quickly identify with the band's upbeat sense of style and brassy swagger not normally observed in comparable groups. Overall, the Amsterdam Klezmer Band is ideal for fans of klezmer, yiddish, gypsy, instrumental, brass band, and party music with a folksy side. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Aly Keita's 'Farafinko'

Aly Keita

Hailing from the Ivory Coast, Aly Keita is a professionally-trained balafonist steeped in the ancient Mande traditions of West Africa. Ten tracks feature solo balafon music that is sure to excite the instrumental fan in all of us. The music is entirely void of vocals, which makes it a beautiful recording of balafon bounty. Fellow balafonist, Keletigui Diabate joins Aly on "Lafia." The lack of vocals provides a perfect backdrop for playing along or listening. Nearly forty-minutes of music provides a celebratory gateway into the world of African balafon music. Liner notes provide song details and inspirations. Perfect for African music fans, balafon fans, and West African aficionados of traditional, instrumental music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kareyce Fotso's 'Kwegne'

Kareyce Fotso

Cameroonian, Kareyce Fotso, is a talented singer and guitarist to emerge out of west-central Africa. "So'A" is a guitar and vocal song that begins the album. The song possesses a heartfelt, yearning quality throughout. "Peu Be" adds a little more instrumentation with the berimbau, calabash, and sikko creating a more robust sound quality, while still remaining traditional. The lack of rock guitar additions or electronic musical mixtures is not necessary to create outstanding, African music. In this case, Kareyce creates emotive songs using nothing more than simple percussion and a guitar. Kareyce's voice is a thing of beauty. In a similar manner, Kareyce's voice is not too far off from Mali's Rokia Traore. Overall, Kwegne is a great, contemporary Cameroonian release of auditory happiness. In addition, liner notes contain information and/or lyrics for most of the eleven songs. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga's 'Maisha Ni Matamu'

Samba Mapangala & Orchestra Virunga
Maisha Ni Matamu
Virunga Records

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Samba Mapangala has since worked in Uganda, Kenya, and the USA. Samba's Orchestra know how to entertain smooth, hip-swaying guitar lines that echo the golden era of soukous music. The Latin-influenced and Caribbean-tinged compositions reflect Central Africa's historical link to the Caribbean and Latin American regions. The jazzy, "Zanzibar," features guest vocals from Tanzanian vocalist, Bi Kidude. Not only is the album sweet, the title even connotes that "life is sweet." The swaying rhythms of the vocal track, "Jirani," provides a luscious array of rumba/reggae melodies. The upbeat and jazzy "Nipigie Simu" is a writhing hit that inspires one to dance the night away and never look back. Despite the forty-minute length, the music is varied, danceable, and rhythmic. Not to mention, the music carries on the rumba, soukous, and Afro-Latin musical connections that have put central Africa on the map. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: German & Claudia Khatylaev's 'Arctic Spirit: Music From The Siberian North - Sakha People'

German & Claudia Khatylaev
Arctic Spirit: Music From The Siberian North - Sakha People

Hailing from Yakutia, Siberia, German and Claudia Khatylaev perform traditional folk music with authentic, native instruments celebrating epic stories, animals, shamanic themes, and issues of daily living. Specifically, the music highlights the Sakha (Yakutia) culture in northern Siberia. The native instruments tend to sound like their natural environment--reindeer galloping, bird noises, wind blowing, and animal mating sounds. The Jew's harp (khomus) is the national instrument and it is featured on several tracks. The kyryympa, a horse-hair instrument similar to Mongolia's morin khuur, is another celebrated instrument and important fixture in Sakha society. A variety of drums and other percussive instruments, including the dungur, dzhargha, and aiaan elucidate the primordial sounds of nature. Over one hour of music captures the sincere music of the region with a 36-page booklet detailing the songs and instruments used. Some of the songs are more melodic than others. Many evoke sounds and images of nature's splendor without resorting to boring or dull compositions. Claudia's throat-singing is very enticing and variable, depending on the desired effect. Anyone interested in Russian folk music, shamanic music, Central Asian music, Mongolian folk, or anything released on the Sketis label will love the soothing, intriguing, and rarely-heard sounds from Yakutia on Arctic Spirit... It is chilling in a good way. The album can be purchased at,, or directly by emailing me at: ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Bonga's 'Hora Kota'

Hora Kota

Angolan-born and raised, Bonga combines the sultry sounds of kizomba, semba, Portuguese folk, and contemporary pop with a gruff voice that is synonymous with Angolan society. Hora Kota, his latest release, continues the Portuguese-tinged compositions with a good dose of Latin jazz, island rhythms, and folk melodies that unite all Portuguese-speaking regions. The thirteen tracks contain the romantic accordion, guitars, percussion, dikanza, congas, bass, harmonica, shekere, double bass, ukulele, flute, bandoneon, and others. If you are a long-time fan or newbie to Angolan music, Bonga should be right at the top of any world music chart. Sample the hot rhythms and melodies shaking up Luanda and beyond. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Toni Kitanovski & Cherkezi Orchestra's 'Shukar'

Toni Kitanovski & Cherkezi Orchestra

Gypsy band music has been universal ever since the popularity of Besh O Drom and others that have paved the way for global acceptance of such an incredible (and danceable) musical delight. The Macedonian-based Toni Kitanovski is joined by the Cherkezi Orchestra on his latest release, Shukar. Shukar, which means, "good," is probably an understatement if one is referring to the music. The music takes on gypsy qualities, but explores inter-related musical influences, too. For instance, "Addis Abeba" examines a little Ethiopian jazz, while "Lagrimas Negras" looks at a Cuban and Latin jazz influence. The trumpet is a powerful instrument that nicely accompanies the giddy and jazzy guitar playing. The vocals of Tehamana Skenderovska are also very appealing. The twelve tracks contain vocals, trumpet, tapan drum, tarabuka, bass, melodica, french horn, organ, and guitars, which round out the musical experiences. Toni & Cherkezi Orchestra touches on Latin, jazz, gypsy, and experimental music that is sure to elicit happiness in one's heart. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Eyvind Kang's 'The Narrow Garden'

Eyvind Kang
The Narrow Garden

The Northwest, USA-based composer, performer, and musician extraordinaire, Eyvind Kang, celebrates classical, Middle Eastern, and avant-garde/jazz rhythms and melodies with his latest release, The Narrow Garden. Eyvind is also an accomplished erhu player, violinist, and tuba player. Neo-classical upbringing aside, Eyvind creates beautiful palettes of aural color that emanate from the album with ease and grace. In fact, an angelic undertone is featured on "Pure Nothing," which contains female choral sounds and neo-classical and new age leanings not completely unlike the music of Enya. On "Forest Sama'i," Eyvind tackles Middle Eastern and Persian musicalities, which seem right at home on this album. The quirky, avant-garde masterpiece, "Usnea," showcases Eyvind's knack for creating intricate, unusual, and diverse compositions. In this case, the song wanders dangerously close to experimental realms with strings, flutes, and metallic embellishments without electronic accompaniment. The operatic vocals of "Mineralia" and the cinematic, neo-classical/ambient nature of "The Narrow Garden," evokes the works of Steve Roach, Brian Eno, Enya, Vangelis, and others to be named in the future. The Narrow Garden seems right at home straddling the musical worlds of neo-classical, Middle Eastern, spiritual, avant-garde, experimental, and new age. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Black Bazar's 'Black Bazar'

Black Bazar
Black Bazar

Modogo & Sam are Modogo Abarambwa and Sam Tshintu, respectively. As purveyors in the Congolese music scene, they attempt to bridge the gap between Cuban and Latin rhythms with the soukous sounds of Congo with their band, Black Bazar. The result is a musical project that sheds the drum machines and techno trance of contemporary society with a raw and spirited selection of songs with bass, piano, percussion, and guitars leading the way. Black Bazar shines with the rumba sounds of Havana and the sparkling, rhythm guitars of Kinshasha. Despite the album artwork looking like something from the TV show Mad Men, Black Bazar livens up any situation with vibrant colors of love and dance. The ten tracks represent nearly an hour of listening pleasure. Anyone with an interest in Cuban rhythms and central African music will cherish the vocal harmonies and bright instrumentation. This is a timeless recording. ~ Matthew Forss 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

CD Review: Mounira Mitchala's 'Chili Houritki'

Mounira Mitchala
Chili Houritki

As a follow-up to Talou Lena (Marabi, 2008), Chili Houritki, which means, "independence," is an album that builds upon the traditional roots and rhythms of Chad's great musical resources. "Choukrane" is a Sai tune, while the title track is composed in the Bilala ethnic style that celebrates African female independence. A host of other tracks highlight various beats and styles, including n'gandja, guissesse, kidi kotoko, meund, kidi gourane, klaguu, nielim, gourna toupouri, mbong, toumtoum, and gourna. The overall sound is upbeat, contemporary Afro-pop that is rarely heard beyond Chadian borders. The music incorporates guitars, bass, shakers, calabash, kora, udu drum, and assorted percussion throughout the twelve tracks. Pleasant melodies, backup vocals, and sparkling instrumentation driven by historical traditions even contain some ululations and hand-clapping. At any rate, Chili Houritki is a long-awaited sophomore release from Chad's Mounira Mitchala. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Maria Misgeld's 'Romans i moll'

Maria Misgeld
Romans i moll
Misgeld Music

Romans i moll (Romance in B minor) is the latest release by Sweden's Maria Misgeld. The angelic voice is beautiful and entrancing no matter what key it is in. This album contains limited instrumentation, but that does not detract from the musical qualities of the compositions. Maria's vocals are accompanied by Olle Lindvall on nylon acoustic guitar; Olof Misgeld on fiddle and viola; and Arne Forsen on harmonium. The traditional songs reflect a truly, Scandinavian presence without the addition of drums, rock tunes, or dance music. The mostly Swedish tunes are also on the same album with Finnish and Norwegian tunes. Inspired by historical places throughout Sweden, Maria sings sweet melodies and tunes with the exuberance of fellow countrywomen, Emma Hardelin and Jenny Wilhelms. Steeped in folk traditions, Romans i moll sets the new standard for Swedish folk music today. You will love it! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Lassine Kouyate (Adam Klein) and 'Dugu Wolo'

Lassine Kouyate (Adam Klein)
Dugu Wolo
Cowboy Angel Music

Athens, Georgia has produced a number of chart-topping musicians that don't sound like they're from the South, including R.E.M., B-52's, Indigo Girls, Matthew Sweet, Neutral Milk Hotel, and others. Never before has a world music act entered the musical community in Athens. Maybe not a chart-topper yet, Dugu Wolo is slowly gaining ground. Created by Lassine Kouyate (aka Adam Klein) after a trip to Mali, Africa, Dugu Wolo contains guitar songs with kora, ngoni, calabash, tama, djembe, njarka, and karagnan instrumental accompaniment. Lassine writes songs in the Bambara language for the most part, but English is also present. The entire album was recorded in Bamako, Mali in February 2010. Guest musicians include Solo Tounkara, Djelimady Tounkara, Adama Dembele, Drissa Diabate, and Zoumana Tereta. Anyone interested in the guitar and blues sounds of Boubacar Traore, Lobi Traore, Ali Farka Toure, Salif Keita, and Toumani Diabate, among others, will find joy and solace in this amazing collection of songs written by American singer/songwriter, Lassine Kouyate. Twelve tracks in total. Liner notes included. ~ Matthew Forss