KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Valera, Kiki – Vivencias En Clave Cubana – [Origin Records]

aarbor   11/13/2019   CD, International

This is Kiki Valera’s Debut solo album. He is a Cuban master of the Quatro a 4-stringed chordophone now living in Seattle. He is a member of the Familia Valera Miranda – a century-old music dynasty which is known for Son Cubano, the infectious Cuban call and response song form which blends Spanish (song style and meter) and African (rhythm) musical traditions. Valera was exposed to Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery and Chick Corea through cassette tapes while in school and those jazz inspirations influence his cuatro solos. Valera is joined here by childhood friend, reknowned Cuban vocalist Coco Freeman. Valera and his ensemble pair 12 original songs with lovely instrumental work – put on your dancing shoes. AArbor

Anderson, Laurie / Choegyal, Tenzin / Smith, Jesse Paris – Songs From The Bardo – [Smithsonian Folkways]

aarbor   11/13/2019   12-inch, International

In Buddhism the “Bardo” is the period between death and rebirth. Tibetan Buddhists believe that when someone dies, their consciousness wanders through the Bardo for 7 weeks (49 days) before transitioning to a new life. The consciousness of the newly deceased becomes aware of and accepts the fact that it has recently died, and it reflects upon its past life. Here Laurie Anderson is your guide through the Bardo reading passages from The Tibetan Book of Dead (The Bardo Thodol) which is translated into Enligsh by Tenzin Choegyal. Feel the unknowable expanse of the Bardo through vibrations from various resonant instruments. Add a meditative set to your show while you reflect on your life.  Perhaps new inspiration will appear… AArbor

Ag Oumbadougou, Abdallah – Anou Malane – [Sahelsounds]

aarbor   11/13/2019   12-inch, International

Originally released on cassette in 1995, Anou Malane is one of the first studio recordings in the Tuareg guitar genre. Recorded in Benin with Nel Oliver, a West African producer known for his work on a number of seminal boogie and Afro-funk records, this release combines the Tuareg guitar sound with programmed drum effects and backing synthesizer, transforming Saharan political ballads into Afro-boogie anthems. The resulting album became a classic and pushed Tuareg guitar (and the rebellion) into the public consciousness. This reissue is first time the album has been distributed outside of Niger as well as the first time it has been released on vinyl or digitally. You’ll notice the “flickering” melody jumping from vocal lines to guitar lines which is typical of Tuareg guitar music. AArbor  

Primitive Music of Africa [coll.] – [Mainstream Records]

aarbor   10/30/2019   12-inch, International

From 1964 these recordings were made by the “Denis-Roosevelt Expedition” – lead by Armand Denis and Lela Roosevelt who visited the Congo and the territories of Ruanada and Urundi. This is primarily music of the peoples of the Congo: Bahutu, Watusi, Babira, Manbetus, Pygmies, Mambuti and others. The term “primitive” is a misnomer! The sounds and rhythms here are very sophisticated. The Pygmies’ liquid sound is very notable and worth playing [B1, B5]. The other groups’ polyrhythms are well worth a listen, are the Circumcision rituals [B3, B4] which are well-documented on the back of the album. AArbor

Los Panchos – "Contigo Aprendi Mis Numero 1" – [Sony Music Distribution]

Hemroid The Leader   10/23/2019   CD, International

Los Panchos

Twenty #1 smashes, 1948-91. Boleros and romantic ballads from Los Panchos, one of the top trios of all time. Formed 1944 in NYC. Soon after, they had a dedicated timeslot on XER-AM, Mexico City’s top station. International tours, movie appearances, millions sold. Varied orchestration: some with strings, others sparser.

Musicians of The Nile – Charcoal Gypsies [coll] – [Realworld]

aarbor   10/16/2019   CD, International

The Musicians of the Nile were discovered in 1975 and performed at the 1st WOMAD festival in 1983. They are apparently a part of the gypsy tradition. Listening to them the link to gypsy music is less clear. The tracks on this album are flutes and buzzy reed instruments which remind me of a homework assignment I had in an Ethnomusicology class once: to listen to a piece like this and transcribe it into musical notation. AArbor

Por Rumbas [coll] – [EMI]

humana   9/22/2019   CD, International

This compilation will get you dancing and tapping your toes for sure. Rumba, after all, is a style of music and dance, as is flamenco, which is the style of most of these tracks. Steep yourself in a wonderful Spanish tradition of rhythm and dance. As the translated sleeve says: “To dance you need only the right music and some grace; here is the music.” Bailar!

Yahya, Gulcin / Somakci, Pinar – "Cinucen Tanrikorur" – [Cinar Muzik]

humana   9/22/2019   CD, International

A taste of Turkish music is in store with these compositions by Cinucen Tanrikorur, who was a lute virtuoso in addition to being an architect and composer. Gulcin Yahya studied lute (or oud) with Tanrikorur and joins her talents with those of Pinar Somakci on kanun (a dulcimer-like instrument). The strumming and plucking on these tracks are soothing, yet invigorating. Open your ears to some classical Turkish music.

Tibetan Folk Music [coll] – [Saydisc Records]

humana   8/26/2019   CD, International

These are “traditional songs & instrumental music from the roof of the world.” I only wish I could appreciate them as much as I would if I had grown up hearing them. The male vocals are a lot easier on my ears than the high-pitched female vocals. The track titles are picturesque and simple, and the instruments are Tibetan versions of a dulcimer, a six-stringed lute, a transverse flute, and two-stringed fiddles. Rich liner notes enhance the listening experience.

Kale, Karsh – “Up” – [Six Degrees Records]

Medusa of Troy   8/14/2019   CD, International

UP is …

… the title of this album distributed by Six Degree Records, with vocals in English & Hindi, with no obvious FCCs.

… the beats by Karsh Kale (pronounced “Kursh Kah-lay“), a British-Indian New York resident who plays drums, guitar, piano.

… the tempo of most of the songs on this release, which mixes Indian and Western instruments: traditional tabla & drum machines, guitar & sitar, flute & strings & piano.

… the unspoken command to rise up and dance to these tunes. Faves are 4 & 7, the rhythms going beyond energetic to nearly ecstatic.

Niyaz – “Nine Heavens” – [Six Degrees Records]

ravensparks   7/31/2019   CD, International

Niyaz Nine Heavens is an Iranian Canadian trio started in 2004, this is their 2nd collaboration of mixing traditional Persian,Indian, Mediterranean folk and mystical poetry as lyrics with electronica.

“Mystical music with a modern edge”.

This is a two disc album, first CD contains their electronica editions. The second CD showcases their songs in their traditional acoustic form to better understand the traditional foundations they blended into modern beats.

Mesmerizing voice of Azam Ali combined with Carmen Rizzo’s beats reverberate to make this album a sumptuous celebration of the ethereal. A must play!

A few notes from first disc—
Track 1-“Beni Beni”- folk singing, strong beat and strings—folk dancing music

Track 3- “Feraghi- Song of Exile”-soft beginning, voice of longing, ethereal electronics, 2nd wave passionate banquet celebration music, lost in trance

Track 4- “Ishq-Love and the Veil”-dulcimer, padded beats, addictive beat and melody
Flirtatious flute… Love trance

Track 5- “Allah Mazare” -strings and beat, calling passionately out for something…

Soares, Elza – “Deus E Mulher” – [Deck Disc]

Devlyn   7/25/2019   CD, International

Brazilian Samba legend Elza Soares (pronounced So-Ar-Ez) was married at 12. Lost her first two kids to malnutrition. Then she signed a recording contract in 1954 and has never looked back. She just turned 80, but like James Brown you could not tell that by the wall of sound that escapes from her throat. She is still a big enough star in Brazil that they chose her as one of the opening acts for the recent Rio Olympics.

The current incarnation of Soares’ music is dubbed dirty samba, an in-your-face combination of punk rock rage, with taut Afro-Brazilian backing rhythms coming from her large band of 30 somethings. Soares vocal delivery is percussive, hip hop-like, with an occasional gargle or moan to punctuate the chorus. All the while various drums bang, guitars soar and synthesizers wail out energetic Samba beats.

This album is only available in the States as digital download, so we got the CD from Brazil. So I had a Brazilian relative provide me with the English translation of titles I provide above. She tells me the stories that the songs tell are just as harsh and in-your-face as the vocal delivery. Lots of tales of men treating women badly and women pushing back just as hard. Track 3 Banho” (Shower), tells of various bodies of water churning up in response to life’s oh-so-many injustices. In track two, it is Exú, an Afro Brazilian deity that is doing his women wrong

Madassane, Ahmoudou – “Zerzura, Original Soundtrack Recording” – [Sahel Sounds]

carsonstreet   7/12/2019   12-inch, International

Tuareg (twaa·reg) rock giving us middle east psych/drone sounds as it leads us on a journey. Tuareg guitar has become folk music in the contemporary Sahara. Originally political ballads, created in exile in Libya, today the sound has expanded to encompass everything from introspective love songs, blistering psychedelic rock, and synthesizer and drum machine. Zerzura is the first-ever ethnographic acid Western! In a genre-defying film, Zerzura follows a young man from a small village in Niger who leaves home in search of an enchanted oasis. His journey leads him into a surreal vision of the Sahara, crossing paths with djinn, bandits, gold seekers, and migrants. The Tuareg inhabit the Saharan regions of North Africa – Niger, Mali, Libya, Algeria and Burkina Faso. Tuareg is an Arabic term meaning abandoned by God. No FCCs in English anyway.

Kiki Gyan – “Feeling So Good” – [Boom Records]

cadilliac margarita   6/26/2019   CD, International

Originally recorded in 1979 (a rare and valuable LP), reissued in 2018. Kiki was born in Takoradi, Ghana in 1957. He began playing music at 5, and was quickly discovered to be a keyboard prodigy, turning pro at 12. By 15, he was touring as the Keyboardist for Osibisa, after joining them in London. After playing with them for 7 years, and gaining notoriety for his skills, he went solo with this record, blending afro beat with disco, reggae, and synth heavy electronics. This record is so good, so bright an upbeat; Long grooves that just cook. Even Black Afro Punk, which is a mellowish reggae dub, got me tapping toes. The keyboards are of course the main star, since he was a genius with that instrument. After this album, and a brief marriage to the daughter of Fela Kuti, Gyan went pretty much MIA due to a tragic and debilitating drug addiction.  He died from AIDS related complications in 2004.

Sound of The Bunun Tribe, The – “Music of The Aborigineon Taiwan Island, The” – [Wind Records]

mickeyslim   6/5/2019   CD, International

Gospel chorus voices, droning, drifting; humming, chanting hypnosis. Generations of humanity’s lost wisdoms.

The Bunun tribe is one of nine on the island of Taiwan, and as such, have been massively isolated from the cruelties and evils of modern society.

While the last couple tracks have instruments (violin, jew harp), this is largely vocal sounds. Fantastic release from unknown musicians on an unknown label.

Refree – “La Otra Mitad” – [Glitter Beat]

Louie Caliente   5/22/2019   12-inch, International

Modern Flamenco explorations from Spanish composer, producer, and musician Raül Fernandez Miró, aka Raül Refree. Intricate acoustic and electric guitars — often looped and delayed — mix with spiritual vocal incantations and subtle street recordings.

Songs blend elements of jazz, classical, experimental, and folksy singer/songwriter styles. Most of the songs were composed as a soundtrack to the the film “Entre Dos Aguas”, while the others seem to be spontaneous improvisations. While quite varied, the whole album is very peaceful and calming, with the exception of “Flamencos Negros” (B-2) which layers traditional Flemenco with harsh stabs and deep static drones.

Moor, Andy / Kyriakides, Yannis – “Rebetika” – [Unsounds]

Louie Caliente   5/13/2019   CD, International

Rebetika is a type of Greek folk music dating back to the Ottoman Empire, popular in coffee shops, hashish dens, and prisons of the era. Lyrics often describe crime, drink, drugs, poverty, prostitution, and violence. The music is traditionally played on the bouzouki, a Greek instrument with Turkish roots, and can be accompanied by voice, accordion, cymbals, and a variety of other stringed instruments.

Here we have modern re-interpretations of 9 classical Rebetika songs for guitar and electronics from Andy Moor (The Ex) and Cypriot composer and sound artist Yannis Kyriakides. Almost all were recorded live.

Moor’s intricate guitar picking is sampled, layered, and looped. The Greek influence is pervasive, but Kyriakides’ electronic treatment takes it in entirely new directions. Traditional tunes melt into heavy drones. Notes and phrases are deconstructed into sparse collages, then congeal under their own weight into stuttering glitchy rhythms, harkening back to the urban nightlife where this music first took shape. Faint vocal samples (also Greek) heighten the dramatic tension on a few tracks, more like memories of vocals rather than vocals themselves. Love, joy, and sorrow.

Koite, Sourakata – "En Hollande" – [Awesome Tapes From Africa]

humana   5/5/2019   12-inch, International

This is a pleasant aural experience brought to you by a Senegalese musician who is a griot, or a storyteller who sings his stories. He accompanies himself on the kora, a 21-string harp-lute made of a big dried gourd, one thick stick and two smaller sticks, as well as a scraped goatskin. The instrument is more than 600 years old, which is fitting for these songs that keep history alive. Read the liner notes to find out the story behind each song. Inject some cheer into your sets.

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