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Music Reviews

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.

Rembetika: Songs of The Greek Underground 1925-1947 [coll] – [Trikont]

humana   5/5/2019   CD, International

Drugs, passion, jail, disease, and death are timeless subjects, as this 2-CD compilation from the Greek underground proves. Covering a span of 22 years, these folk songs might as well be set in current times, because all the banes of human existence stay consistent. We are self-destructive, addicted, and in need of escape. You don’t have to know what the lyrics say to understand that then, as now, music is one of the most helpful ways to communicate the human condition. “Rembetika” refers to the sound of disparate urban Greek music that have been grouped together since the 1960s as part of the Rembetika movement.

Mapuche [coll] – [Alerce]

Hemroid The Leader   5/3/2019   CD, International

Mapuche, ALERCA CDAE 0334

Early 80s rituals from unconquered Aracaunian (Chile/Argentina) jungle telepaths. Folded branches, rope knotting, & the secret language of triangles. Voices, jaw harps, horns and percussion.

1-6 VOX 7-15 INST

Africa [coll] – [Nonesuch]

Hemroid The Leader   4/24/2019   CD, International

New trainees

Beautiful, alien sounds from the 13 Explorer Series: Africa albums. Recorded ’69-’83, in Ghana, Nubia, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Uganda, Zaire, Kenya, and Tanzania. Cool booklet.
Ad-hoc, non-linear, or improvised situations. Recommended to just pick one.
Track 16 is a Rhinoceros.

Periferico: Sounds From Beyond The Bubble [coll] – [Sonic Arts Network]

Hemroid The Leader   4/24/2019   CD, International

Periferico means periphery

Big-concept mixture of instrumental, field recording, electronic, even rap sounds.

Emanating from threatening zones of silence, defying commodification and ruining the world-view, this 2007 CD was the 10th in the Sonic Arts Network CD series, selected by Angolan composer/theorist Victor Gama to pierce prophylactic safe zones.

Alizadeh, Hossein / Hadadi, Pejman- “Monad” – [Hermes Records]

Naysayer   3/27/2019   CD, International

Master musicians Hossein Alizadeh on setar and Pejman Hadadi tombak perform 15 tracks of improvisational Persian classical music on their album “Monad”. Stunning in all aspects. Both are renowned, Alizadeh award winning and nominated for his tar and setar playing, Hadadi highly sought after for his tombak skills. The “Monad” project takes the modes of Persian classical music and explores the infinite possibilities within these with their improvising. Alizadeh’s finger work on the setar is stunning: quick changes, floating up and down the neck of the instrument while strings are strummed and plucked. The changes of speed, the mood tones, the smoothness of the playing add such a quality of beauty. Add to this Hadadi’s intense beats on the tombak… it is a conversation between the two instruments and musicians that becomes a meditation. Total beauty.

Khan, Ustad Bismillah -“Shaadi Ki Shehnaiyan (Vol-7)” [BSaregama]

Naysayer   3/27/2019   CD, International

Ustad Bimsillah Khan is a renowned shehnai player, the wind instrument related to the oboe. Bismillah was famous for taking the shehnai, a traditional folk instrument, and elevating its status to the concert stage. On this recording, Bismillah performs nine pieces for the shehnai, accompanied with drone and drum, which would be performed at weddings. The tunes would help to preserve the sacredness of the wedding ceremony and help the couple to support and sustain Dharma. The tunes are haunting but surprisingly smooth and somewhat light in their emotional dimension. Yes, you can have haunting and light together. The notes sometimes swirl, as if following a path or leading the wedding participants on the beginning of their journey. The playing is elegant, with some subtle juxtapositions. An elegant surprise for my ears.

Sarvestani, Razavi & Talaei, Darioush – “National Vocal Radifs of Iranian Music” – [Meshkat]

Naysayer   3/13/2019   CD, International

Razavi Sarvestani was a master singer and interpreter of Iranian music. Darioush Talaei (more commonly spelled Dariush Talai) is an Iranian tar player of international status. This recording of vocal radifs of Iranian music is volume one of an extensive survey of radifs. From my research I have found 18 volumes on this label. A radif “is a collection of many old melodic figures preserved through many generations by oral tradition. It organizes the melodies in a number of different tonal spaces called Dastgah. The traditional music of Iran is based on the radif, which is a collection of old melodies that have been handed down by the masters to the students through the generations. Over time, each master’s own interpretation has shaped and added new melodies to this collection, which may bear the master’s name. The preservation of these melodies greatly depended on each successive generation’s memory and mastery, since the interpretive origin of this music was expressed only through the oral tradition. To truly learn and absorb the essence of the radif, many years of repetition and practice are required. A master of the Radif must internalize the Radif so completely to be able to perform any part of it at any given time.” And that’s just the beginning of the explanation. The radifs are so culturally important that UNESCO has declared them part of the UNESCO Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This recording of 22 radifs, possibly in a specific order, start off with a spoken word, possibly the title of the radif, and then the interpretation. It is just Sarvestani singing and Talai playing the tar. I have limited knowledge with this type of music but what I hear is thrilling, mesmerizing and wonderful. The interplay between the two is flawless, each complimenting and guiding the other. I am taken by this so much, especially with my beginners knowledge of it’s significance. We can always learn.

Madagascar Pays Merina [coll] – [Ocora | Radio France]

humana   2/9/2019   CD, International

This is lively, spirited music from the Merina, an ethnic group in Madagascar that lies in the center of the island. The zither, lute, and flute are featured in these folk songs, along with some vocals chiming in. Track 18 is especially fun, with children’s voices accompanied by earth drum and rhythmic games that will spark joy in many a set. Great add for the International Collective.

Fado Lisboa-Coimbra 1926-1931 [coll] – [Fremeaux & Associes]

humana   2/9/2019   CD, International

This 2-CD compilation is perfect for our International music collective. These popular Portuguese songs from the “bad boys” of Lisbon are often melancholy and accompanied by mandolins and guitars. The first CD features women singers whose voices are a bit grating to me; in the second CD the women seem to have softened their voices, or maybe I just got used to them. All recordings from a time long ago that must not be forgotten.

Mina …Bugiardo Piu Che Mai… Piu Incosciente Che Mai… – [EMI]

Naysayer   2/3/2019   CD, International

MINA!!!! We can never have enough Mina. Finally, we have some Mina. Mina, also known as Mina Mazzini, was and is a European superstar who came onto the scene in the late 1950’s with her rock and roll stylings and then moved into pop stardom with pop songs and ballads. Known as an emancipated woman, her hip shaking and body twisting, her 3 octave range, her singing about religion, smoking and sex, her appearing pregnant by a married actor, all this and more got her much attention. The pregnancy got her banned for quite a while on TV and radio but the fans wanted her and she continued. This collection, “Bugiardo…” catches her in her pop ballad stage, and what a stage it is. Equal to some of the great singers of the time, her vocal range and emotion is stunning, connecting to passionate lyrics about love, lost love, independence, the one that got away. She never holds back, for sure. There is a bit of kitsch to these recordings which make them all the more worthwhile for me. I would be in the audience cheering her on while smirking a bit in complete glee. Pour me another cocktail.

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