Music Reviews

Egyptian Project – “Ya Amar” – [Six Degrees Records]

aarbor   5/31/2023   CD, International

Ya Amar means “my moon” – it’s a compliment on someone’s appearance. On these 10 tracks the defenders of Egyptian tradition collaborate with a young French musician Jerome Ettinger. They mix the sounds of the Nile delta and Cairo with trip hop, electro, hip hop and a bit of classical music. I was wishing for something a bit more edgy, I wished he had taken more chances. AArbor

Korwar, Sarathy – “Kalak” – [Leaf Label Ltd]

aarbor   5/31/2023   CD, International

Born in the U.S., Sarathy Korwar grew up in Ahmedabad and Chennai in India. He began playing tabla aged 10, but was also drawn to the American music that he heard on the radio and leaking through the doorway of his local jazz music shop. At 17 he moved to Pune to study Environmental Science, but instead dedicated his time to music, studying tabla and translating his skills to the western drum kit; and playing as a session musician. He then moved to London where he trained as a classical tabla player and continued to adapt Indian classical rhythmic material to non-Indian percussion instruments. Korwar has since established himself as one of the most original and compelling voices in the UK jazz scene. KALAK is Korwar’s third studio album, released in November 2022. In rhythmic step with the past and the present, it sets out to describe a route forward. It celebrates a rich South Asian culture of music and literature, which resonates with spirituality and community, while envisaging a better future from those building blocks. AArbor

Ayla, Safiye – “Safiye Ayla” – [Kalan]

aarbor   5/31/2023   CD, International

45 tracks of classical Turkish music sung by one of the “three great sycamores” Safiye Ayla. [The other 2 sycamores are Muzeyyan Senar and Haniyet Yuceses.] Saiye Ayla was orphaned as a pre-schooler but people encouraged her and she studied with many famous Turkish musicians in the early 20th century. Safiye Ayla became the most famous and successful singer of her time by virtue of her singing style, which was somewhat influenced by western styles. She had a broad vocal range and paid special attention to pronunciation. Her repertoire included classical, modern, and popular music, so she was able to reach a broad public. She recorded more than 500 records and sang on the major radio stations in Turkey. The tracks here are from among her 78 rpm records and those she sang for radio. AArbor

Sankat Mochan Sangha – “Shivaratri: Offerings from the Sankat Mochan Sangha” – [Sri Ram Publishing]

aarbor   5/24/2023   CD, International

Shivaratri is “the night of Shiva” it falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun (February-March). The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honor of Lord Shiva who was married to Parvati on this day. People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water. They keep vigil all night. At Mount Madonna they celebrate Shivaratri for 24 hours. The celebrations include pujas and singing. These 2 CDs capture the devotional energy of these celebrations. AArbor

Bloodywood – “Rakshak” – [Self Released]

karma   4/25/2023   CD, International

Debut album from New Delhi based folk metal group. Lyrics are in English, Hindi, and Punjabi – mostly about fighting the oppressive powers that be and overcoming adversity. There are equal parts acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bansuri flute, and rap. Very powerful, high energy metal that does fusion right. Hard to pick a favorite track, but it may have to be the bhangra-inspired Machi Bhasad or any of the flute-forward tracks.


George, Camilla – “Ibio-Ibio” – [!K7 Records]

aarbor   4/25/2023   12-inch, International

Camilla George is a Tomorrow’s Warriors graduate, an alto saxophone player, bandleader and composer who is making big waves in the New London Jazz scene. This is her latest release from 2022. She wrote all the music and co-produced this album. Camilla was born in Eket, Nigeria. She is proud to be from the Ibibio people who are considered the most ancient of all the ethnic groups in Nigeria. This album tells the story of the creation of the ibibio and the legend of Abasi the supreme ruler/God of the universe and his wife Atai – goddess of mediation. It’s a celebration of roots, creation and community. The sound is afrobeat, hip hop and jazz. The musicians are mostly from Tomorrow’s Warriors. AArbor

Islandman feat. Okay Temiz & Muhlis Berberoglu – “Direct-to-Disc Sessions” – [Night Dreamer]

aarbor   4/15/2023   CD, International

A spectacular direct-to-disc recording featuring outstanding Turkish musicians young and old. Folktronica meets percussion genius on a unique one-take recording that finds Turkish downtempo specialist Islandman jamming with legendary percussion innovator Okay Temiz, and contemporary saz virtuoso Muhlis Berberoğlu. Islandman’s subtle and responsive beat-science and Berberoğlu’s scintillating agility on the saz, Temiz’s visionary rhythm force leads the session into unknown territories of improvised future-folklore. Temiz showed up for the session equipped with an eclectic mix of homemade instruments including an electrified flute made of industrial bathroom piping, and a shaker with a contact mic wired to a wah-wah pedal. He put all these instruments on a table, and he put a stereo microphone left and right. Then he grabs one of his instruments, and he moves around the mics to create a live ambisonic sound – a very open space. He’s not afraid of the physics of sound, or the technology of sound recording – he always wants to be very edgy. All the tracks here have folk song melodies in them and all are from different regions of Turkey. They have different senses of rhythm, specific to the regions. The coolest new record I’ve heard this year. AArbor

Birituro, Isaac and The Rail Abandon – “Small Small” – [Wah Wah 45s]

aarbor   4/14/2023   12-inch, International

Small Small is a very Ghanaian saying. In English it could be ‘bit by bit,’ ‘one step at a time,’ or ‘slow and steady’. Sonny Johns (British singer songwriter) was first introduced to the phrase on his first trip to Ghana in 2016, when he met Isaac Birituro (Ghanaian xylophone player) in Kalba, and the phrase popped up over and over ever since. Sonny and Isaac are The Rail Abandon. They finished this album (their 2nd) over the intense year of 2020 influenced by the difficulties that they, and the world, had been through. The album is about loss, frustration and struggle, but it’s also about the light at the end of the tunnel; about overcoming difficulties to find a brighter future and no matter what separates us, whether that be language, culture, continents or boarders, when we listen to each other and learn from each other, there’s really not much that separates us.  The music is a poignant mix of European and African sounds. Vocals are in English and in Birifor (Isaac’s language). “Fun Tony” is audibly a tribute to Tony Allen (whose mother was Ghanaian). AArbor

Harnoune, Rabii and Kuhl, V.B. – “Gnawa Electric Laune II” – [Tru Thoughts]

aarbor   4/4/2023   CD, International

Moroccan Gnawa-master (maâlem) Rabii Harnoune and Frankfurt electronic producer V.B.Kühl combine traditional North African Gnawa music with funky, soulful modern rhythms: Gnawa meets beats. “Aisha” [11] is a tale about a mythological female figure renowned as the greatest woman of all time. “Laafou” [5] is about the end of suffering for a particular singer, and “Koyo Koyo”, [9] a term for the righthand man of the Gnawa master who learns to play the Qarqaba (a/k/a Krakebs, an iron castanet-like rhythmic musical instrument). Jilani”[2] ‘crown of knowers’ tells the story of a leader in Sufi philosophy, while “Samaoui”[3] explores the sanctity of water in Africa and “Gazelle”[6] is a homage to a famous piece of desert music that deals with love of the beloved. One of my favorite releases from last year! AArbor

Biluka Y Los Canibales – “Leaf Playing In Quito 1960-1965” – [Honest Jon Records]

aarbor   4/4/2023   CD, International

Another amazing release from Honest Jons! “Biluka” is Dilson de Souza, who leads a kind of tropical chamber jazz while making music using leaves from a ficus tree. Dilson was from Barra do Pirai, in the Brazilian countryside. He moved to Rio as a young man, where he worked in construction. He recorded his first record in 1954, for RCA Victor. This record was originally recorded for the CAIFE label from Ecuador (this is a reissue).

Dilson played the leaf open, resting on his tongue, hands free, with his mouth as the resonator. Though a leaf can also be played rolled or folded in half, this method allowed for more precision. A picked ficus leaf stays fresh, crisp and clean-toned for around ten hours. He could play eight compositions, four at each end of the leaf, before it was spent. He plays trills and vibratos effortlessly, with utterly pure pitch, acrobatically sliding into notes and changing tone on the fly.

In [track 11] Manuco, he leads Los Caníbales into a mysterious landscape on a rope pulled from an Andean spaghetti western. A leaf, a harp, a xylophone, and a rondador (an Ecuadorian pan pipe) are joined in [track 3] Bailando Me Despido (Dancing As I Say Goodbye) by a saucy organ, doing call-and-response. In [track 8] Anacu de Mi Guambra, Biluka shows his full range of antics, including some melodic hiccups. He is one of a kind. Don’t Miss! AArbor

Los Kenya – “Siempre Afro-Latino” – [Olindo]

aarbor   3/29/2023   12-inch, International

Re-release on London’s Olindo Records of Los Kenya’s release from 1968. Venezuelan pianist and bandleader, Ray Perez, recorded and released seven LPs between 1967 & ’68 with Los Dementes, one of the best-known salsa bands in the country at the time. Following a brief stint in New York, Perez returned to Venezuela and under the influence of his bandmates Luis Arias and Alfredo Naranjo formed Los Kenya. The core of this compact group was made up of two trumpets and a drum set, uncommon at a time when big bands were the norm. Tito Puente heard them play and was surprised by their sound. They just didn’t sound like their contemporaries. He thought the difference came from the talent of the musicians and the music itself. AArbor

Balkan Taksim – “Zali Zare” – [Self-released]

aarbor   3/21/2023   CD, International

Balkan Taksim are Sașa-­Liviu Stoianovici and Alin Zăbrăuțeanu from Bucharest, Romania. Their sound is Balkan psych meets bass, breaks, and synth electronica, with a touch of groove. Very stylish electronic psychedelia which explores rhythms and sounds from every corner of the Balkans gently fused with electronic beats and tribal basslines. You can dance or whirl to all 4 of these tracks. Love this! AArbor

Mugwisa International Xylophone Group II – “Iganga Embaire 12” – [On The Corner Records]

aarbor   3/13/2023   CD, International

The Mugwisa International Xylophone Group is from Iganga, Uganda. The Embaire 12 is a very large xylophone which is played by multiple people. Like playing the gamelan, this is music for a community to play together. The sound of the Embaire is amazing: very deep resonances – well worth a listen and multiple plays. Diabolical Liberties, whose remix of Spirits is the last track are label mates Alex Stevenson and Rob Gallagher. AArbor

Yano, Akiko – “Ai Ga Nakucha Ne” – [Midi]

aarbor   3/7/2023   CD, International

This is the 2021 re-release of Akiko Yano’s 1982 album. She’s been recording since 1976 when her debut album Japanese Girl was a breakthrough hit. Her style was considered original and different because she was mischievous and could sing and improvise on keyboards at the same time. She married the producer of Japanese Girl, and later married Ryuichi Sakamoto. She toured with the Yellow Magic Orchestra, and also recorded with the UK rock band Japan. After separating from Sakamoto, she moved to New York in the ’90s, where she now gigs regularly and records with a range of musicians, mostly in the jazz field. Her sound on this album fuses rock and traditional Japanese folk, with some added synths. She and Sakamoto co-produced the album and both played synthesizers throughout. Akiko wrote the words and music for most of the songs. AArbor

Jobarteh, Sona – “Badinyaa Kumoo” – [self-released]

aarbor   2/22/2023   CD, International

Sona Jobarteh was born in London, but her father’s family are well-known griots from Gambia. She started playing the kora at age 4. She wrote all the music on this, her 4th album. It includes at least two well-known musicians: Youssou N’Dour and Ballake Sissoko, as well as others. Instead of setting words to music, she says she writes the meloday and the rhythm before the words, and fits the words into the song. She has a lot to say about many topics, but the lyrics are not in English. The music is gutsy and the playing is excellent. AArbor

Akyol, Gaye Su – “Anadolu Ejderi” – [Glitterbeat]

aarbor   2/22/2023   CD, International

This Gaye Su Akyol’s 4th album, she’s from Istanbul. The title means Anatolian Dragon and it certainly breathes fire. She says that she started with Anatolian folk and pop, then added African and Middle Eastern sounds, the soul revolution, disco, and rock from other cultures. The music is quite psychedelic, but it connects to different areas, all the pop genres that she loves. It takes some chances, the lyrics offer an exploration of politics in today’s Turkey. Enjoy! AArbor

A Guide to the Birdsong of Western Africa [coll] – [Shika Shika]

aarbor   2/8/2023   CD, International

A Guide to the Birdsong of Western Africa is an album of music inspired by endangered birdsong. Each featured artist was challenged to make an original track using and inspired by the song of an endangered bird from their country. The album aims to raise awareness about the plight of these birds while raising funds for organizations that are working to protect them.

Ten diverse artists are featured. Guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and fellow Malian producer Luka Productions pair with the call of the Black crowned crane, which is found across the Sahel and is threatened by trapping for the pet trade. Senegalese group Wau Wau Collectif and kora maestro Lamine Cissokho, take the sound of the Yellow-casqued hornbill and integrate it into a flute-filled groove. Sierra Leone’s Refugee Allstars layer subtle chirping over the off-beat strumming of regional baskeda folk music to honor the Sierra Leone prinia. Buruntuma picks up the tempo with his clean Afro-house featuring the song of the Timneh parrot and Sensei Lo blends local electronic rhythms and melodies with sounds of the incredibly rare Ibadan malimbe. (tracks 5,7,9,10 are my favorites) AArbor

Cuba Meets Nepal (Jazz Fusion) [coll] – [Beautamous Loaf International]

aarbor   2/8/2023   CD, International

Victor Vidal Paz (who is also known as Django Mango) conceived of and produced this recording which fuses the music of Cuba and Nepal. I have to wonder why these quite different styles have not been fused before. Perhaps because it is a needless stretch. Whether or not this fusion is successful is up to the listener. Some tracks are more successful than others. The vocals are ok but IMHO don’t add anything. The Nepalese instruments add lovely color and texture. The drumming is fabulous. The piano, trumpet and sax are beautifully played. Tracks 4 and 6 are the most successful, the two styles are nicely balanced. Tracks 2 3, 8, 10 and 11 are good too. AArbor

Rodriguez, Silvio – “1968/1970 “Al Final de este Viaje…”” – [Fonomusic]

karma   1/11/2023   CD, International

1978 release by Cuban folksinger Silvio Rodriguez. Rodriguez is widely considered the leader of the Nueva Trova movement, which is Cuban folk music with social and political commentary. Rodriguez includes songs in tribute to political figures such as Che Guevara and Abel Santamaria. He also comments on the artist’s relationship to art, and the state of modern media. Lastly, he makes time on this album for songs about love and the passage of time (which he seemed oddly concerned about for someone in his 20s). Many of the tracks on this album are classics, and Rodriguez continues to record to this day.

Costa, Gal – “Fa-Tal Gal A Todo Vapor” – [Universal Records]

carsonstreet   12/19/2022   CD, International

A Todo Vapor (Portuguese for At Full Steam) is a fascinating live recording of Gal Costa from the early ’70s where she proved to be as exciting and diverse on-stage as she was in the studio. The first seven tracks feature Costa alone, accompanied by her acoustic guitar. These performances are dramatic, intimate, precise, emotional, and stunningly clear. These tracks display her voice perfectly, pushing up front Costa’s incredibly strong pipes with the urgent beauty one can only obtain from a live performance. The real treat comes in about halfway through the eight-minute epic, “Vapor Barato,” when her band joins in and turns the slow, intimate descending progression into a scorching lament with Costa wailing over the top. This intensity and incredible form continue throughout the rest of the recording; the band is tight, progressive, experimental and dynamic. Good quality recording with some poor editing between songs. If you want to hear more of Gal check out Gal (1969) in the international CDs and listen to her go totally psychedelic.

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