Thursday, January 31, 2013

CD Review: The Creole Choir of Cuba's 'Santiman'

The Creole Choir of Cuba
Real World

The Creole Choir of Cuba is comprised of six women and four men that are accompaned by Cuban claves, congas, piano, trumpet, and flute. The mostly vocal group celebrates Caribbean history and culture from Haiti in particular. Songs are sung in Spanish and Haitian Creole, which add to the musical beauty of the album. Formed in Cuba with members of Haitian descent, The Creole Choir of Cuba is a world music gem with globetrotting experience. The fifteen tracks represent a vivid display of vocal prowess throughout. Santiman and The Creole Choir of Cuba is the Caribbean equivalent of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The music is vocal, energetic, and refreshing. There are Afro-Caribbean elements, operatic moments, and lively instrumentation throughout. Santiman is worthwhile for fans of Caribbean vocal music and traditional tunes from Haiti or Cuba. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Jeff Clark's 'Just Visiting'

Jeff Clark
Just Visiting

The Texas-based vocalist and guitarist, Jeff Clark, brings us groovy Southern tunes with gritty guitars and crystalline pop melodies that are reminiscent of classic folk-rock anthems. The dozen tunes represent a catchy musical masterpiece echoing America's hey-day of easy listening magnificence. "You Are My Life" is a classy vocal and guitar tune with great percussion and sparkling sounds. "Mamie Mama" is a grungy and squawky-guitar driven track that represents a solid rock base with some electronic additions. "25 Years Later" is a classic 1970's American folk song made for today. The light percussion and slightly giddy melody combine with male and female vocals to make a memorable tune come alive with creative charm. The mix of grungy and gritty guitars with classy folk vocals and Southern spunk make Just Visiting something that will be around for a long time. There is a nice balance of gritty rock with classic American folk fusion that is sure to be a hit with adventurous Southern rock fans everywhere. ~ Matthew Forss 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

CD Review: Iarla O Lionaird's 'Foxlight'


Ethereal world music is Iarla’s middle name—in fact, it is his entire name. Working with the Afro Celt Sound System, Iarla set the stage for success with a solo career. Hailing from Ireland, Iarla sings contemporary Gaelic songs that incorporate a plethora of pleasant percussion, sweeping electronic washes, and twinkling string arrangements. Leo Abrahams plays a large role in programming, special effects, electric guitar and piano. “Daybreak” is a meditative song with vocals akin to Girish. Interestingly, the addition of Sara Marielle Gaup from Norway is a talented and necessary part of “Daybreak,” since she adds some joik, which is Sami vocal music that is similar to Central Asian throat-singing. The relative low-key vocals and instrumentation provide a new age element throughout. However, world music renderings are evident with soulful vocals, soothing instrumentation, and plaintive percussion. The dozen tracks are an insightful romp through the musical repertoire of a candid and creative performer. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Lula Lounge: Essential Tracks'

Various Artists
Lula Lounge: Essential Tracks
Lula Lounge Records

Latin music from Canada, eh? You bet. This is a compilation of the hottest Latin music heating up the streets of Toronto’s urban center. The fifteen tracks are rich with vibrant percussion ensembles, flashy brass horns, and soulful vocals that transcend borders and classification. You will hear the music of Roberto Linares Brown, Jorge Maza & Tipica Toronto, Changui Habana, Yani Borrell, Cache, Luis Mario Ochoa, Lady Son, Puentes Brothers, Son Ache, Hilario Duran, Jane Bunnett, Telmary, Alberto Alberto, Mi Mambo Pide Campana, and others. The fiery music is upbeat, danceable, and refreshing. Anyone with an interest in Latin, Caribbean, Afro-Caribbean, and dance music will love the sounds on Lula Lounge: Essential Tracks. Moreover, a portion of the proceeds from album sales will go to the Canadian Charity Dancing With Parkinson’s. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate's 'Faya'

Localization Records

Guinea’s Sekou Kouyate and global music aficionado, Joe Driscoll, presents us with an exceptional recording of afro-fusion and afro-pop. The gritty, giddy, and upbeat songs meld traditional instrumentation with contemporary rhythms and melodies that are a perfect match for the soul, funk, reggae, hip-hop, pop, jazz, and dance styles. The nine songs are ripe with kora, guitar, urban beats, and electronic loops. The fast vocals on some of the songs are ideal for fans of hip-hop and rap. Everyone will enjoy the sparkling kora melodies and contemporary beats. Afro-fusion and pop music lovers will find satisfaction in the songs for sure. Faya is a favorite for fans of modern Afro-fusion and inventive world music with a purpose. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Lise Lunde Brennhagen's 'Kjeringe i snodrevet'

Lise Lunde Brennhagen
Kjeringe i snodrevet
Etnisk Musikklubb

Norway’s Lise Lunde Brennhagen plays the langeleik, which is a traditional zither instrument with a long resonating box, one melodic string, and up to seven drone strings. The instrument is strummed with a plectrum. The sound produced is akin to a psaltery, dulcimer, and kantele. The melodies are entirely instrumental and feature only the langeleik. The twenty songs are rather short, but that does not diminish the fine result. Anyone with an interest in Scandinavian instrumental music, harp music, kora music, and most of all, langeleik fans, will get the most out of this recording. It is time to experience the wonderful music of an ancient and seldom-heard instrument. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Bongos Ikwue & Double X's 'Wulu Wulu'

Bongos Ikwue & Double X
Wulu Wulu
Bik Records
Nigeria’s Bongos Ikwue personalizes African music and combines a mix of traditional Afro-pop rhythms with highlife, reggae, Congolese rumba, Afrobeat, soul, funk, jazz, and rock. The sauntering “Wulu Wulu” reflects a bluesy-soul rhythm with charming vocals. “Mustapha and Christopha” is a folk guitar song that describes the conflict between Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria. The sparkling guitar work, great vocals, and exceptional instrumentation make Wulu Wulu a rewarding album that is monumental, memorable, and organic. The pleasant melodies and inspirational tunes make the listener feel good. Moreover, the incredible variety of musical influences is not to be missed here. Fans of African popular music, Nigerian music, world fusion, and Afro-Caribbean music will love Bongos Ikwue and his band, Double X. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ballake Sissoko's 'At Peace'

At Peace
No Format/Six Degrees Records
Mali’s kora master, Ballake Sissoko, once again joins with cellist Vincent Segal on an addictive, nine-track release that is aptly-titled, At Peace. The soothing, melodious echoes of the kora, gentle guitar picking, classical cello, and harmonious balafon make At Peace a required listen for fans of Malian music, world fusion, classical, and instrumental music. The album is void of vocals, which accentuates the instrumental prowess from Vincent, Ballake, Fassery Diabate, Aboubacar Diabate, and Moussa Diabate. The scintillating sounds of the kora provide a relaxing, though somewhat jaunty, musical result. The instrumental exchanges between Vincent and Ballake are very fluid and seamless—the result of joint African and European connections over hundreds of years. Fans of Malian fusion will love the rustic nature of the compositions, though they are recorded with very high quality equipment. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Angel D'Cuba's 'Heritage'


The fiery rhythms and moods of Angel D’Cuba, former lead-singer with the Cuban mega-group, Mezcla, spans several Caribbean styles and melodies over the eleven track release. The music is vibrant and full of horns. The funky rhythms, heavy percussion, and blaring brass make Heritage a must-have recording for the New Year. The music incorporates timba, Mozam-funk, jazz ballads, cumbia, soul ballads, guaracha, samba, reggaeton fusion, soca, songo, and soul-songo genres. The Chicago-based ensemble is full of lively sounds coming from bongos, congas, guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, trumpets, trombone, flugelhorn, flute, sax, bata drums, and others. Anyone with an interest in Caribbean, Latin, Cuban, or energetic dance tunes will love Angel’s soulful vocals and great grooves. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Annbjorg Lien's 'Khoom Loy'

Annbjorg Lien
Khoom Loy
Compass Records

As a Norwegian fiddler and traditional musician, Annbjorg Lien has enthralled listeners throughout the world for years. Khoom Loy, which is Thai for 'Paper Lanterns,' is a fun romp throughout the Scandinavian and Celtic fiddling worlds with lively nyckelharpa, guitar, zither, banjo, pedal steel, B3, mellotron, bass, assorted percussion, and various brass. The songs are mostly instrumental, but Annbjorg's vocals on "Khoom Loy,'' suggest a strong folk influence. The jazzy, jam outro on "Natten" and "Needles Eye" are most akin to many of the Dave Matthews Band jam sessions with lively percussion, strings, and horns. The buzuq, bouzouki, tabla, sarod, and related instruments provide a Middle Eastern and South Asian element on "Den Storste Daarlighed" and "Til." There are spirited moments, contemplative melodies, and jazzy sounds that truly encapsulate the essence of world music today. Nothing is cheesy here. This is one of the best albums from Annbjorg's repertoire. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, January 20, 2013

CD Review: Norman's 'Eygi Sani'

Eygi Sani (My Own Thing)

Norman | Eygi Sani

Norman van Geerke, aptly-known as Norman, is from the northern coast of South America in a small country called the Republic of Suriname.  Suriname’s Dutch ancestry is evidenced in Norman’s music with all eleven tracks in Sranan, which is a Creole language created from English, Dutch, Portuguese, and West African sources.  The new album, Eygi Sani (My Own Thing), attempts to mark a solo journey into the heart of Suriname’s contemporary music, which is surprisingly up-tempo, jazz-driven, and soulful.  Norman’s time in The Netherlands and current residence in Ireland further solidifies the multi-dimensional and cross-cultural musical attributes of the music. "Na Wi Dey” opens with a party-like atmosphere, punchy percussion, urban brass, and a rumba-like rhythm with Norman’s commanding vocals leading the band.  This is one of the most energetic tunes on the album with lively South American jazz instrumentation leading the party. The piano, drums, bass, guitar, sax, and trumpet lead the instrumental arrangements with a solid performance of Surinamese jazz. “San Mi Kan Du” opens with a few pensive piano notes and Norman’s ballad-esque intro with some light guitar accompaniment.  The bass and symphonic background noise suggests an almost classical rendition.  The classical background is punctuated by Norman’s heartfelt vocals and up-beat percussion and background vocals.  The catchy chorus and symphonic musical arrangements are somewhat representative of European ballads, but in a purely South American style.  The acoustic guitar is a bit jazzy in parts, but the vocals reflect a slight pop presence. “Opo Yu Ay” begins with light percussion and synth sounds with a rollicking melody and fanciful guitar accompaniment.  Norman’s vocals and some of the music are similar to William Dunker with some comparisons to Wallonian music from France or Belgium.  The up-beat drums, guitars, and pop arrangements contain a bit of edgy rock rhythms without venturing too far into the rock world. “No Las Ten” opens with chimes and an urbanized, electronic vocal set with some swishy percussion and a contemporary pattering of percussive sounds that are interspersed between piano notes and sultry sputtering of trumpet.  The seemingly danceable tune contains an inherent ballad edge with a side of savory night-club lounge ambiance.  The modern tune is sultry, jazzy, edgy, and South American. “Masra” starts with flowing ocean waves, symphonic synth washes, pensive piano notes, and a free-flowing sax.  The opening vocals are spoken in a very poetic manner.  The percussion begins after the spoken introduction, but it is relatively rudimentary and almost avant-garde in its approach.  Norman is joined by back-up singers throughout and the entire song features a joyful jazz vein that is extremely pleasant, but not as fluid as many of the other songs on the album. The angelic background vocal from the opening is also present at the end of the song, as the majestic spoken word by Eddy Bruma finishes the song in style. Norman van Geerke’s new album, Eygi Sani, is a mix of contemporary Surinamese music with European and North American jazz, soul, and lounge leanings.  The eleven tracks are long and varied, but always enthralling.  The upbeat music is very emotive and catchy.  There are no shortfalls or pitfalls on this one.  It seems every track evokes imaginative melodies that yearn to be repeated with each listen.  At its heart, Eygi Sani is the center of contemporary Surinamese music via The Netherlands, Ireland, and everywhere in-between.  Fans of Suriname jazz, Dutch music, Wallonian music, world jazz, and world fusion will love Eygi Sani’s multi-faceted musical layers of ear candy goodness. 


Review by Matthew Forss

Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)