What a soothing CD this is! This music was recorded in St. Stephen’s Church in Belvedere, CA “with the intention of creating a sonic sanctuary, a place of refuge where the spirit can soar.” The heartening voice of Tzvetanka Varimezova, Bulgarian folkloric soprano and coach of Kitka, resonates throughout these songs. Kitka formed as a grassroots vocal ensemble that sought to share the “resonant strength of Eastern European women’s vocal traditions.” Under Varimezova’s guidance, they do just that.
#13 in the Music Of Indonesia series focuses on the stringed instruments of the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo. A ceremonial tone pervades throughout.
Toronto-based dance troupe’s Spanish-influenced “Rondalla” plectrum ensemble and kulintang gong dance accompaniments. Maddening to listen to. Track 17 will make you feel weird.
This 4-piece consists of Luhya tribesmen from Kenya on a mixture of homemade and more traditional Kenyan instruments. These instruments live with 2 million others in the Kibera slum outside Nairobi. They live in crushing, impossibly cramped poverty. Their dayjob is entertaining safari tourists, swapping clothes on the break to appear like a new band- this album was recorded by Ian Brennan in a family’s home the size of a car interior.
Served up by ZudRangMa records in Bangkok,
a fantastic store run with keen (and khaen)
love by Maft Sai (connections to next door
Studio Lam where Molam and Luk Thung artists
often perform). Traditional flavors are strong
but varied on this collection of their label’s
recent 45s. Opening with the towering power of
the khaen (a bamboo pipe organ that sends
skyscrapers of sound out of one’s mouth). The
vocal stylings are so great, kicking up a kind
of gymnastic percussion that dances over drums
and other skins. Check out Chanpen Pornaswan
(B2) for a sterling example, or for the male
counterpoint of view, Aa Jaan Jitakorn Molam
Group (B3) for that surging form of singing.
(B1) actually goes all in with onomatopoeia
on “Ding Ding Dong.” That piece feels like
an island sound system with its proud horn
punctuation and killer drummer. So much
style, swervy and hypnotic. Even without
vocals, “Lam Plearn Diew Khaen Diew Phin”
and “A Ba Ni Bi” have dance floor beckoning
beats that slide up to you, A3 a jangley
bouncer, while B4 is a vibraphone groover.
I like to pretend Onuma Singsiri’s (A4)
song is some kind of Thai darkwave, but
the initial Joy Division blotted out by funky
sproingy synths and her “how ow how ow ow”
quick cadences. All solid but do NOT miss
Warin Shinaraj (A2) it transports me every
time, not to Bangkok, straight to Paradise.
Her voice lingers on notes then darts away
the guitar and drum anapestically waiting
on every word, ending with a strange calming
blend of laughter and piano ripples. Wow!
New York vs Noo Yaak! We all win.
Boom Pam is a band from Tel Aviv, Israel.Â They mixÂ Balkan, Jewish, Greek and Mediterranean sound with rock.Â They are frequently called a surf band – certainly the instrumental tracks on this album would fit in a surf show – but one ponders a chicken and egg question after considering the strong influence of middle Eastern songs such as Miserlou on American surf.Â Really good musicians, very fun energetic tunes including the ones with vocals.Â Instruments include a TUBA!
Omutibo is a style of Kenyan folk music that combines storytelling with intensely rhythmic fingerpicking guitar. It was developed by guitarist George Mukabi in the early 1950s, who took inspiration from the traditional nyatiti lyre and sukuti drum. The style proved to be wildly popular, and Mukabi sold hundreds of thousands of records throughout East and Central Africa. Over 50 years later, Cyrus Moussavi (Raw Music International) traveled to Kenya to visit many of the original musicians and record them in their homes. While George Mukabi himself is not featured here (he passed in 1963 at the age of 33), we do hear music from his son Johnstone. Joyous, life-affirming songs, and an essential document.
Look at the cover – this is the sound. Traditional western Kenyan Luhya sound, played for birth, wedding, and funeral. The bard saws at a one-stringed fiddle, the other guys play shaker and deep hand-drums. Some tunes feature a guitar, soft singing. The microtonal fiddle and bard’s griot-like tales are captivating. Take your pick.
Transporting a capella trio. Polished world music from Bulawayo Zimbabwe. Their third album, their debut sold 250k in US/Canada.
Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba play pentatonic Sahara bluegrass. Straight out of Bamako, Mali, Kouyate has played his electric ngoni alongside Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate. Mixed by Jerry Boys, who recorded & mixed Buena Vista Social Club.
Voice and box zither. Notes contain the lyrics. Great addition to the GLOBESTYLE Madigasikara series. Legends surround the life and death of Rakotozafy. Drank himself to death in 6 days or died in a jailhouse hunger strike. He was an exceptional box-style valiha (tube zither) player, adding strings and increasing in size, expanding the range and power of the instrument. A hit, recorded by Jean-Francois de Comarmond in 1962 for the DiscoMad label.
Excellent resource for understanding the evolution of Hawaiian music, produced by the Bernice Pauahi Museum, the Hawai’i State Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Founded in 1889, it is the largest museum in Hawai’i and has the world’s largest collection of Polynesian cultural artifacts and natural history specimens.
Tracks 1-34 are mele (chants), sometimes with drumming, nose flute, or body slapping. The chanters were born in the middle of the 19th c. Recorded on wax cylinder sessions from 1923 and 1935. Sparse, ritualistic. Fans of Yage Pinta and Lost Shadows will find much to enjoy.
Tracks 35-48 are early 20th c. recordings & 78s foregrounding how Hawaiian music absorbed the influences of hymns and ragtime and with the addition of guitars and ukeleles, evolved into Hawaiian folk music we know today.
5 STARS ** FAR OUT SOUNDS
Ethiopian music recorded by Ragnar Johnson and Ralph Harrison in July and August 1971, released by Sub Rosa in 2017. The urban musicians are recorded in Addis Ababa and the tribal musicians in the country. The booklet tells who is playing what for each track. I became entranced while listening to the three note phrase at the heart of the Fila Flute Dance (CD2#10). Upon repeated listens the otherworldly Bagana (CD2#4) lute and the Two Afar Flutes (CD1#5) wrapped around my head and popped my brain out the top, my eyeballs from the front and my tongue lolled forth like a necktie.
I live for this type of collection: “Funky Chimes”, a collection of 27 Belgian session musicians and sort of stars from the 1970’s, experimenting with “funk, jazz, latin and other groovy genres.” Did you get that it’s from Belgium, a place most people don’t initially think of for it’s music (which is wrong, of course)? It’s library music. It’s songs for commercials. It’s music your 1970’s Belgian parents would play to relax and feel cool with. The overwhelming notes with photos of each album cover should be more than enough to convince you of the outright grooviness of this stuff. Just look at some of those covers. And the names of the groups and songs: The Indian Sound of… Black Foot, Selectasound ’88 & The Bob Boon Singers, The Free Pop Electronic Concept and on and on. Of course, the stunner among stunners is Hearts of Soul and Shampoo performing “We Love the Policeman”. This is the more challenging second release in the series, the first being “Funky Chicken”. Looking for it as I type.
Claudio Aizaga Yerovia (1925-2008) was a prolific composer and choir director from Ecuador. Here are 12 songs for voice and piano. Aizaga at the piano. Beautiful songs. Great addition to our library of a relatively obscure voice.
Les Amazones De Guinee are an all-woman band who also members of the Guinean army. This is their first record in 25 years and 2nd overall. Typical of Guinean music, many rhythms intermesh to make this music. Hectoring lead vocals, smooth backing vocals, intricate guitar lines, powerful saxophones, and percussion overlap.
Suitable for Oktoberfest celebrations. Enjoy some weisswurst and play under the tree, and tap your foot along on the beer-keg. Brings back many memories!
This artist is from Mali and is a master of the kora, a 21 stringed lute bridge harp. The album is solo kora. You can hear its depth and variance. This is remastered recordings from 1976. To someone with little to no knowledge of African music such as myself, one can hear the influence that it has had in American music here.
– Billie Joe Tolliver
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