Music Reviews

Viviana Guzm?n – Planet Flute

Austin Space   8/8/2006   CD, International

Viviana Guzman is a world-renowned and gifted flutist. Chilean-born, and educated at Rice University and The Juilliard School. Her work here is a soul soothing journey around the world, touching on basal inspirations from a number of different cultures. Viviana performs with many different flutes from modern through various native and ancient. She is accompanied by others with various percussive instruments, voices, including a virtuoso on the didgeridoo. Sit back and relax. Let your inner energy soak this up. – Space

Nyota [coll] – [Globestyle]

Thurston Hunger   8/3/2006   CD, International

Like the best of the Ethiopiques series, in this collection
of “Taarab” music from Tanzania/Kenya, we can hear somewhat
recognizable strains of music (especially to our ears raised
on electric guitars/basses), but the overall result here is
something that is fiercely its own. Boppy little guitar juju
lines, often chased by an accordion or warbly old synth
offer sweetness, while the (typically) female lead vocals
speak with a softer slightly sour strength. Crosscheck the
quick translation of “Nazi” : “Have you seen the coconut which
would want to beat a rock? It will hurt itself.” On many cuts
the rhythms have a great one-two-THREE dance and dip beat to
them. Check the killer break in “Enyi Wanadamu”, like a slow
motion bolero and then near gypsy mourn to finish. Whoa!
“Nini Dawa Ya Mahaba” plays up the arabic feel, but tells
the tale of incureable love (albeit with the singer Asmahan
kept too far away from hearts and ears). It’s another example
of great background vocals. These tracks were recorded from
1969-76, often as beautiful as the women on the cover.
-Thurston Hunger

Nai Htaw Paing Ensemble – “Mon Music of Burma ” – [Fire Museum Records]

Thurston Hunger   7/6/2006   CD, International

Sounds of a lost Kingdom? Excellent notes from Rick Heitzman
in the liners detail, past persecution and present-day more
subtle erasing of the Mon tradition. But Heitzman’s prize
is these pristine recordings. Every string buzz and gong
floating fill gently brush your cortex, although the sounds
are angular in our ears, the realization here is remarkable.
You get the quick flurries that I associate (wrongly?) with
shadow puppets; music box muted charms (#3) as soft as Mr.
Roger’s sweater; Talutt totem flute bamboo windfall (#9);
several tracks get the dizzy Khanwe double-reed buzz, often
chasing MI MYA THAN’s serene vocals. Many short tracks with a
range of enchantment, Mon music shouldn’t vanish into the void
of a monolith culture, at the same time crazy cross-pollination
experiments might not be the necessary death some might fear?
A regal release from Fire Museum. -Thurston Hunger

Ethnic Minority Music of Northeast Cambodia [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   6/23/2006   CD, International

Ultra-sparse accompaniment under very unique, slow to sombre,
vocalizing. Track #2 is like some lost blues, or some weed
never before seen living, and here it is towering between
humming gongs and giggling children. Tremendous. Two tracks
later we find an Ayin/Ayon parallel to Joni Mitchell? Overall
the sounds on this seem so low to the ground, check the tube
getting funk ‘n’ plunked on #6. I reckon the gongs do add
a more celestial vibe on a number of tracks. For #9, “Mum” is
the word *and* the one-stringed fiddle to duel it out with a
chorus of crickets. Looking for gypsy flair? Dig #12! If you
want earthy blues, forget the place with the three-drink
minimum and parking valet chaser, and savor a little of the
mud, hurt and joy that oozes out of the Sublime here. Kudos
to LAURENT JEANNEAU for his capture, amidst insects and
infants, you get a dose of music as part of the daily
dealings done dirt cheap. -Thurston Hunger

Shankar, Anoushka – Live at Carnegie Hall – [Angel Records]

David Richoux   6/12/2006   International

You have to love the traditions of Indian musicians – if you are good, pass on what you know to your children and increase the spirit of the music! Ravi Shankar has done just that with his 20 year old daughter Anoushka – this live recording (mostly at Carnegie Hall October 6 2000) is outstanding – she has not quite equaled her father yet but she is well on her way. Double Tabla and lots of Tanpura provide rhythmic and harmonic support, but it is brilliant Sitar through and through. Some tracks have very short introductions included in the time.

Radio Thailand – “Transmissions From The Tropical Kingdom ” – [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   6/1/2006   CD, International

A divine disc duel between the riches that Alavarius B has
snarred and the even richer Porest plunder. Jamaican jazz
gets jerky in the smorgasounds here, plus more of that wham
bam thank you Molam which Master Gergis introduced us to.
His side ends with a great wavering prayer/lament. He even
works in the original “Tui Tui Tui” popularized to KFJC fans
via Neung Phak. DJ patter and chatter gets scrambled into
the mix, served up along with Catfish Fry and other fermented
shrimps of sounds. Somehow the Thai melodies tend to make
both the cheapest keyboard and the oldest khene sound regal.
Those melodies here get to stretch out, despite the fact that
this is on the radio collage series of Sublime Frequencies.
There are some spectacular jump cuts, still many pieces get
a solid 2 or more minutes uninterrupted. Even so there are
moments plenty, like the drone chanting at the beginning of
“The End of the News” where you want a section to sustain
longer. A lot of range here, strange range…from very odd
doo-wop, to jungle, to gamelan, to phone dedications, to
hyper-reverbed slices of dialogue. I’m sure more than one
show will end with the way Master Bishop chose to conclude
his contribution. Gracious and unearthly! Sonic Thai sticks
to the roof of your mind… -Thurston Hunger

Sapera – “Snake Charmers of India ” – [Canyon Records Productios]

Thurston Hunger   5/29/2006   CD, International

Hypnotic sonic cocktails – captured raw and
vibrant like some slithering Amps for Christ
and Sun City Girls collaboration…instead this
is authentic snake sorcery. A swaying to every
track stirs your spine, the inner serpent.
“Pungi” are the reed instruments wherein circular
breathing drones ensnare these buzzing neo-techno
lines. Bouncy juggling percussion from “premtals”
contrasts a more relaxed, loping vibe to the
striking insistent improvised “pungi” airs.
Bubbly plucking under dry fuzz soaring. Liner
notes beckon you as surely as the playing here
does. Skin and sin shedding. -Thurston Hunger

Grupo Naidy – “Arriba Suena Marimba : Currulao Marimba Music From Columbia ” – [Smithsonian/Folkways]

Thurston Hunger   5/13/2006   CD, International

Outstanding call-and-response vocals over a migrated marimba.
Liner notes detail the history of the African marimba finding
roots in the rich soil of Columbia, soundwise it just has a
sweet, cascading sound, especially when the voices drop out
and the marimberos drift from the melody for a few bars,
scurrying up into quick cloud runs, and then descending back
down into the groove. I can see reggae fans getting into this
album, even though its more of a calypso twirl, still the ever
insurgent elation of the repeated rhythm should connect. Plus,
singing often has a kind of raspy, sour, throaty timbre (check
out “La Maravilla”). Not too far for a rastafarian to journey.
“El Botellon” is a beauty to pour open the album, but the same
underlying music is raised above the cielo by the slightest
adjustments to get “Vamos a Adorar a Antonio” – that track is
sublime. Man, it almost converted me back to Roman Catholicism.
This release is as warm and bitter as life, and again the call
and response connotes the joy and juxtaposition of the one and
the tribe. Suenas for suenos! -El Hombre del Hambre

Werqu, Asnaqetch – “Lady With The Krar – Ethiopiques 16, The ” – [Buda Musique]

Thurston Hunger   4/27/2006   CD, International

The sweet sixteenth release of the Ethiopiques series turns
a bit sour. Asnaqetch Wergu’s scrambling, dry clawing lyre
sounds almost like a banjo under hypnosis. Her brittle pluck
recalls the submersive gypsy sounds from “Latcho Drom.”
Her voice add a little soft honey to that, but she’s not
really singing her lungs out, instead its a steady, talky
sort of lamenting delivery. The words evidently are where
the exertion is going, her heart is on display, whether
wrapped in chains, or pulsing on silk sheets. The lyrics
are fascinating, but of course not sung in English. As a
result, our English mileage is best limited in small doses
as befits radio. Or in following along with the translations
as the lyrics are amazing wth forbidden and unbidden love
themes. “El Lehem” is one solid example. “Like Jerusalem”
(#11) has a very different potent vibe. Packaging is as
beautiful as Asnaqetch throughout the years. -Hunger

Haiku Review:
Hypnotic brittle
The heart after passion’s flame
Crawls across her krar

Sufi Music From Turkey [coll] – [ARC Music]

Numa   4/6/2006   CD, International

Have you ever seen a whirling dervish? Their dances precipitate a trance-like feeling in both the dancer and the observer. Personally I might get quite sick if I were to spin like that. This is their soundtrack so to speak. Lilting strings pull you up lightly by your shoulders and relieve the burden for a short while. This great collection includes outstanding liner notes educating the reader on the basis for dervish’s dance and the modal influences of the sufi music. Instruments of Sufi music include the Kanun (psaltery), Kud’m (kettle-style drums), Bendir (single-headed hand-held drum), Ud (small lute), Tanbur (long-necked lute), Kemen’e (short-necked fiddle), and Halile (turkish cymbals). Many of the tracks on this collection are used to highlight the different instruments using improvised pieces maintaining strict modal adherence. An excellent introduction to Sufi music from Turkey. — Numa

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

jack soil   4/5/2006   CD, International

Celebratory music from the Bara section (South West area) of Madagascar. Appears to be one of many in a series put out by the O-Cora This is all natural stuff comprised of hand claps, voices of all types, men, women, children, supported by the local instruments such as flutes, reed whistles, wooden lap xylophones (that sit on your lap, and you need a hole dug in the ground for them to resonate properly; look at the pictures on the liner notes) tubular zithers; fiddles, and drums. There are lots of repetitive patterns happening with many of them verging on psychedelia. Music supports daily life events such as births, circumcision, death, etc. Highly enjoyable, and (given some minor thought and a touch of creativity) a mighty tool for your Dj kit.


Balde, Daby – “Introducing Daby Balde” – [World Music Network]

aarbor   3/29/2006   CD, International

This series is all about introducing up and coming African musicians to the rest of the world. Daby Balde is a former cab driver who was born into a noble family who didn’t support his musical interests. He’s from the Casamance region in southern Senegal. The southern Senegal sound is different from that of Dakar, it’s almost griot-like. Balde’s voice is slightly gruff but powerful in a very human way. The backing instrumentals are quite wonderful. AArbor

Bollywood:An Anthology [coll] – [Silva Screen Records Ltd.]

aarbor   3/29/2006   CD, International

Two CD set jam packed with songs from Classic and Modern Bollywood films. The 1st CD (Bollywood Classics) starts off with an outstanding Geeta Dutt track followed by tracks from Asha Bhosle, her sister Lata Mangeshkar and the 2 best known male singers: Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi. The 2nd CD (Bollywood Contemporary) is even more interesting and well, contemporary! pick your favorite and play! AArbor

Papasov,Ivo/Yuri Yunakov – “Together Again ” – [Traditional Crossroads]

Max Level   2/28/2006   CD, International

Papasov (clarinet), the world’s best-known proponent of “Bulgarian wedding music”, joins with Yukanov (saxophone) and a handful of others (accordion, guitar, bass, drums) for this energetic album of traditional songs from Southeastern Europe. Possibly because of its multi-national origins, (Balkan, Turkish, Gypsy, and other influences) this style of music was officially banned in socialist Bulgaria for many years, and there were no public performances; yet it thrived, fortunately for us, in private settings such as weddings and baptisms. This music is full of rapid, twisting melodies and crazy key changes, usually at a full-speed-ahead tempo, and these players are mind-blowing virtuosos.

Ahmed, Mahmoud – “Ere Mela Mela ” – [Kaifa Records]

Max Level   2/1/2006   12-inch, International

French re-release of essential mid-70s Ethiopian classic. High-powered Afro-Arabic jazz grooves with guitar, bass, organ, drums, percussion, flute, and some of the craziest sax lines I’ve ever heard. In front of the band, Ahmed sings so passionately I don’t need to know the language to know he means every single word he sings. My favorite tracks are A2, A4, B3, and B4, all packed full of dark funk in those weird Ethiopian scales, with the band playing as if possessed. B2 is also great, but it’s slower and more of a sexy trance-like thing. The rest of the tracks are more “pop” sounding, and they’re cool too, but I like this music best when it sounds like Sun Ra and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan sitting in with Ricky Ricardo’s orchestra, and they’re playing in your garage. Five stars.

Yxayotl, Xavier Quijas – “Singing Earth ” – [Canyon Records]

Max Level   1/29/2006   CD, International

Guadalajara’s Yxayotl demonstrates that the native music of Mexico did not begin with the trumpets and violins of mariachi. Ancient musical styles of Mexico’s Aztec people, as well as the Mayans of Central America, come to life here on authentic handmade drums, clay flutes, rattles, and rainsticks. Surprising similarities sometimes to African drumming, voodoo ritual trance music, and, if you squint your ears, there’s even a hint of Residents-like bad dream soundtrack. Exotic, spiritual, and weird. I love the subtle offbeat scraping on Track 2, and the muttered vocal offering to Mother Earth on Track 9.

Khan, Nusrat Fateh Ali/Party – “Body and Soul ” – [Real World Records Ltd.]

Max Level   1/26/2006   CD, International

Khan was a brilliant Pakistani vocalist in the Qawwali tradition, fusing the style’s traditional lyrics with new melodies and rhythms. Despite the sadness and longing in the lyrics, the sound of this ensemble is uplifting and seemingly joyous. Tabla, handclaps, and harmonium set the mood while a chorus of male voices (his party) toss the vocals around. The master’s sandpaper voice dazzles with its rapid-fire percussive technique, and then, oh man, it just takes off and soars in high arcs. Sometimes does both of those at the same time. Gives me goosebumps. His death a few years ago was a great loss, but thanks to this posthumous series on Real World, we’re still getting new music from him. An incredibly beautiful CD by a great artist.

Kiani, Majid – “Iran, Volume 2 ” – [Ocora | Radio France]

Max Level   1/25/2006   12-inch, International

Kiani is master of the santur, a stringed instrument seemingly identical in appearance, sound, and playing technique to the hammered dulcimer one finds in rural Appalachian music. There are also Iraqi, Turkish, and Indian versions of the instrument. However, the tuning modes used here, carefully described in the liner notes, give these pieces a unique Persian flavor. Delicate, intricate patterns repeat and then vary, raga-like, as each piece slowly develops. According to the liner notes, Kiani has been almost single-handedly keeping this particular style of traditional music alive; there were never many master players and they eventually ran out of students to teach. These 1979 recordings transported this Western listener pleasantly to another place and time. Lovely.

Cambodian Rocks I I [coll] – [Khmer Rocks]

Thurston Hunger   1/13/2006   CD, International

You’re in your garage and you hear strange sound leaking
out of a floor crack over there in the corner. You grab your
trusty pick axe and chip away at the crack, finally finding
deep beneath the floor a secret chamber with these bands
playing an amazingly engaging style of 60’s pop. You start
dancing, drinking and pass out. Come morning you see this CD
laying on the floor across the original crack. I got this
volume a long time ago, shortly after adding Vol I to the
KFJC library, gotta say the obvious covers (#1 “Hey Jude,”
#5 “If You’re Going to San Francisco”, #11 “Whiter Shade
of Pale”) don’t really float my boat like #16 and #8 do. I
think the latter was used in “City of Ghosts” (a film that
feels like it was built around Matt Dillon’s love of this
brand of Cambodhissatvan pop music…). Check out the ska
charge of #4. maniac laughter over soul on #6! Guitar urgency
often drives these hits, along with some of that mesmerizing
organ, and the now-recognizable keening vocals. Viva Ros
Sereysothea! While others may like the ghost-Penh’d US covers,
I suspect you could toss a killer party by loading up all
(now four) of the Cambodian Rocks collections, and letting
shuffle create a sexy, smoky vibe that is at once familiar
and exotic. I only wish there were secret garage chambers
that could have protected most of those slaughtered by the
Khmer Rouge.

Women of Rembetica [coll] – [Rounder Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/13/2006   CD, International

Snapshots of intoxication from Greece and the first half of
the 1900’s. Intoxication by song, dance or drug; pumped into
women and flowing out of their souls though their pipes.
Flowing slow and sweet like ouzo. Underground Greece had
tunnels to Asiatic cultures it appears, definite Turkish
and Iranian influences give these tracks a sway, a powerful
pining. Just listen to Marika “Politissa” belt out her
“Secret Pain.” “Cool Gal” if recorded with a slightly higher
(or lower) fidelity today would be a huge psy-folk hit. Many
of the tracks have weeping violin moving in the shadows of
the vocalist, edging in and out of tune, and multiplying the
passion of those songs. Not all the wild women of Greece
were gathered up by the gods, some of them fled in gypsy
packs, behind brothels and smoothly as smoke through the
backrooms of the opium dens. These mighty meraklous achieve
immortality without any deus ex machina nor Zeus in bullish
form, but via their songs. This disc is their oracle, viva
the women of rembetika!!

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