Monday, August 14, 2017

World Music a focus at 2017 Edmonton Folk Music Festival

The Edmonton Folk Music Festival took place August 10-13 at Gallagher Park. Known for its diverse selection of musical artists, this year in particular there was an eclectic assortment of acts from different countries and cultures.

On the first night of the festival, things got kicked off with Solo. The name was ironic: the band was composed of numerous members of two of Quebec's most well-known traditional groups, Le Vent Du Nord and De Temps Antan. Their performance was exciting, with the sound heavy on fiddles and stomping.


Next up was Lakou Mizik, a collective of musicians from Haiti from different generations. The group formed in the wake of the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti. Consisting of vocalists, rare horns, guitars, accordion, and percussion, the music and stage performance (which was very physical) captivated the Thursday night audience.

Lakou Mizik

Lakou Mizik

Lakou Mizik

Lakou Mizik

Unfortunately, the evening had to be called to a conclusion early, as a sudden and severe windstorm resulted in the last two performances being cancelled, and the park evacuated. Shakey Graves and The Decemberists have been invited back to perform at the 2018 festival.

The Thursday evening sky.
With their traditional instruments made by the band itself, and captivating throat singing, Huun Huur Tu's sound was mesmerizing. The band is from Tuva, a very small country on the Mongolia-Russia border.

Huun Huur Tu
Edmonton's Mohsin Zaman, originally from Pakistan, has become a driving force in the local music scene and was named the Folk Fest's first Artist in Residence.

Mohsin Zaman

A number of Indigenous acts appeared at this year's Folk Fest. From the Treaty 6 land upon which the Folk Fest takes place was the Logan Alexis Singers and friends, presenting a variety of singing, drumming, and dance styles. During their concert performance on Sunday, they had the audience up on their feet for a round dance.

Logan Alexis Singers

Logan Alexis Singers

Round Dancing

William Prince is a folk/country singer/songwriter from Manitoba whose First Nations roots are very evident in his lyrics. 
William Prince

The Jerry Cans, from Nunavut, had Stage One in a dancing frenzy during their Saturday evening concert. Inuit throat-singing and traditional language of Inuktituk mixed with their roots-rock sound.

The Jerry Cans
Taking the afternoon main stage on Sunday was Amadou & Mariam, a couple from Mali who met at a school for the blind. Mariam's vocals and Amadou's incredible guitar work soared through bluesy, danceable songs.

Amadou & Mariam

Like every year, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival featured a food court that also seemed to have a world influence, including Asian, East Indian, Native American, and western choices, as well as a lot of vegetarian/vegan items. There was also a craft/artisan market and merchandise tent where fans could get t-shirts and CDs.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

CD Review: Luisa Maita's 'Fio Da Memoria'

Luisa Maita
Fio Da Memoria

Brazil's Luisa Maita is not new to the world music scene with a few previously-released albums to her name over the last several years. On Fio Da Memoria, Luisa continues in her bossa nova, samba, and contemporary music stylings with some of the best stuff to date. One of the few English songs on the recording, "Around You," is an especially intriguing and catchy song that employs a berimbau-like tone with seductive hooks and breathy vocals for a truly enjoyable experience. The light guitar and percussion work on the jazz-tinged "Ole," suggests the sound of a 1970's James Bond film soundtrack. Luisa's great vocals match the equally-great instrumentation. Each track is different, but sports her characteristic breathy vocal delivery. Fans of Brazilian music with a contemporary edge and classic ambiance will love Luisa's latest offering. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

CD Review: Alsarah & And The Nubatones' 'Manara'

Alsarah And The Nubatones
Wonderwheel Recordings

Alsarah's latest wanderings through the Middle East and North Africa are appropriately-displayed on their latest recording, Manara. The recording is alive with dancing ouds, throbbing ngonis, punchy trumpet, bubbling bass, and great percussion. The rather contemporary recording contains a good mix of melodies and tones. There is a slight electronic element to some of the songs, but this is not an electronic album. It is pure world music with influences reaching across the Middle East. The Arabic vocals and rollicking percussion are very dance-friendly. In fact, it is difficult to sit still while listening to anything from Alsarah And The Nubatones. For Manara, this is especially so. Fans of a variety of Arabic-infused recordings will love Alsarah And The Nubatones! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Lorraine Klaasen's 'Nouvelle Journee'

Image result for nouvelle journee albumLorraine Klaasen
Nouvelle Journee
Justin Time Records

Hailing from South Africa, Lorraine Klaasen releases a new album of South African music, aptly-titled, Nouvelle Journee. The vibrant album artwork is only the beginning. The music is equally vibrant and rich in musical textures, harmonies, and instrumental arrangements. Lorraine's commanding vocal tone is melodic. The instrumentation is nothing short of amazing, as the accordion, bass, guitars, percussion, piano, and organ provide a slew of catchy arrangements. The rippling guitars on "Ke Tshepile Bafatsi," showcase Latin and Congolese influences. The R&B influences are not forgotten either, as "Home Sweet Home" conjures up images of Southern blues, gospel, and jazz. Though, upbeat music is Lorraine's specialty. Nouvelle Journee is a very classic, and contemporary album that touches the human spirit with a legendary and unforgettable voice. ~ Matthew Forss    

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Song Reviews: Galliano Sommavilla's "Elektro Country" and "Breathe"

Galliano Sommavilla
"Elektro Country" and "Breathe"

"Elektro County" is a rollicking instrumental treat with ambient and spacey electronic sounds backed by keyboard accompaniment and atmospheric guitar work. The swishy percussion is accompanied by spacey tones and intergalactic noises that propel the track into a third dimension, or another galaxy. The guitar-like tune is upbeat and melodic with a slight country presence that is not particularly intrusive. The end of the song is a culmination of the musical elements from rock, new age, instrumental, and filmic worlds. The nearly four-minute song is aptly-titled, "Elektro Country," because it symbolizes a country edge with a modern twist of lush, electronic overtones. The music brings together a good mix of sounds that connote contemporary new age creations and electronic wizardry that does not lose its intensity or appeal. Overall, Galliano continues to amaze us with inventive songs new ways to discover some of the best instrumental music in the world. "Elektro Country" does not disappoint and Gary Ritchie's electric guitar work is perfect.

"Breathe" is a five-minute musical journey that is very magical and melancholic with subtle doses of acoustic and electric guitar work. The atmospheric washes and light vocal additions accentuate the song's delightful qualities. The cascade of sounds are steeped in lullabye-like arrangements that are meditative and dreamy. There is a host of new age-isms that come to mind, but everything is creative and memorable. The vocal additions are almost non-descript, but their sounds are very indicative of an early Enya recording. Compared with "Elektro Country," "Breathe" is a longer, more majestic tapestry of aural colors that only reinforces Galliano's amazing ability to create meaningful and vibrant songs with little in the way of instrumentation. From the opening, neo-classical arrangement to the electronic medley of sound, Galliano does not shy away from experimentation. Fans of world music, instrumental, jazz, new age, ambient, and related forms of music should be quite satisfied with Galliano's latest offerings. ~ Matthew Forss  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

CD Review: Baird Hersey & Prana with Nexus's 'Chiaroscuro'

ChiaroscuroBaird Hersey & Prana with Nexus
Bent Records

With an album title implying contrasting dark and light imagery, one can quickly determine that this is going to be a wonderful musical journey. From the onset, the deep, meditative tone of the harmonic singers and spacious, resonating tones of vistaphone, xylophone, vibraphone, drums, gongs, glockenspiel, marimba, and a few others, make the album shine beyond belief. Whether one calls it new age, meditation, world music, or some other moniker, Chiaroscuro is highly-textured and mystically magical throughout. It is seemingly inconceivable to compare to anything else, because it is that good. The final three tunes are reserved for mostly vocal medleys without much instrumentation. The beautiful sounds of the instrumental and vocal tracks remind one of a solemn film score. Perhaps, even the film, American Beauty (1999), comes to mind. Still, the album stands alone and above the rest with fanciful, deeply-enriched, and meditative tones that intrigues, as much as it inspires. Great for fans of film scores, meditation music, yoga, throat-singing, and new age concoctions. Excellent! ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

CD Review: Kimberly Haynes' 'Awaken Me'

Kimberly Haynes
Awaken Me
Wise Old Owl Recordings

California singer/songwriter, Kimberly Haynes, brings us eleven songs infused with delicate musical arrangements, graceful vocals, and spacious melodies on Awaken Me. Kimberly knows how to create beautiful songs with a soul. The music arouses new age leanings, world music fusions, Middle Eastern panache, and South Asian traditions for a truly unforgettable musical journey. The meditative opener and album title track, "Awaken Me," is a perfect introduction to the album, as it sets a steady tone amidst hang drum, frame drums, bass, bell, synth, and guitars. The Middle Eastern-influenced tune, "The Dreams," adds a more upbeat element with strings, guitars, and a gopichand. "The Light Of My Soul" strengthens Kimberly's pop presence with light percussion, fluid bass-lines, and excellent vocals throughout. The contemporary edge is rather reduced overall, but some songs are more pronounced and melodic. Kimberly's voice is akin to Canada's Susan Aglukark, but Donna De Lory and Natalie Merchant are similar influences, too. Awaken Me will cause everyone to wake up and listen to a small portion of beautiful music contained in this world. Let Kimberly be your guide to open that world for you! ~ Matthew Forss