Friday, December 17, 2010

CD Review: Funkmasters Mamarazzi

Independent Release

NY-based funkmasters, Mamarazzi, is a collective of Andrew Aprile on guitar, Sam Bathrick on percussion, Tacuma Bradley and Sam Franklin on tenor sax, Rob Cohen on keyboards, Tavi Fields as MC, Eric Herman on bass, and Jeremy Noller on drums. Little information is provided in the liner notes, but the music should speak for itself. In fact, the Ghanaian opener, "Sobobo", is a perfect funk-driven rhythm and beat. The urban rap beats on "8" and "Here We Go" contain equal moments of funk, jazz, lounge, Latin, and afro-beat. The instrumental sections are also varied and infectious. The downtempo beat of "Nu Dutch" is a jazzy number, while "Seeds" is a funky and lyrically poetic song of urban origins. The tropical rhythms of "Grapefruit" is appropriately titled and travels into a world of downtempo-meets-big band by the end of the song. The final song, "Gangster", is a vocal ballad with funky origins and loads of swagger. Bewilderness is not as mysterious as it first appears. With each listen, something new is revealed and it is always good. Fans of urban funk, tropical funk, and afro-beat may need to listen to Mamarazzi sooner than later. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Solo Kinobe

Leaving The Song Behind
Kinobe Publishing

Uganda's Kinobe is a virtuoso on the kora, kalimba, and harp. The music is crystalline pure and never dull. Kinobe's playing abilities are confirmed with each passing minute and scores of chords. The instrumental music "Ddungu" slides right into the kalimba-led "Omwana Omulungi" with Kinobe's vocals. As a vocalist, Kinobe shows signs of Baaba Maal or Youssou N'Dour. The ten songs are mostly traditional in scope with no signs of modernism anywhere to be found. The harp-led "Lusejjera" is a vocal song about locust infestations. Other songs touch on flutists, fishing, praises for kings, desert skies, hunters, children, and fish. "Mu Ddungu" is the only song replicated on Kinobe's other album, Awamu N'emikwano. Fans of Ugandan music will love it. Also, anyone with a passion for the kalimba, kora, or harp should be satisfied. Do not leave Kinobe behind. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Hawaii's Waitiki 7

New Sounds of Exotica

The exotic sounds of the 1950's, 60's and 70's have inspired Hawaii's Waitiki 7 to explore and reinvent the exotic lounge jazz sounds from tropical islands. The Latin-jazz and breezy sounds of the vibraphone, sax, flutes, animal calls, violin, piano, double bass, and assorted percussion make New Sounds of Exotica a favorite for any summer party. The instrumental songs are also inspired by Martin Denny or Arthur Lyman. The ensemble consists of Tim Mayer, Helen Liu, Zaccai Curtis, Jim Benoit, Lopaka Colon, Abe Lagrimas, Jr., and Randy Wong. Some of the musicians were Grammy-nominated for other projects. The immense talent of all performers are evidenced on the Tito Puente-like hit, "Bali Ha'i" to the slower, but no less brilliant, "When I First Love". There is a South American feel to many of the songs, along with tropical jazz. At any rate, Waitiki 7 are sure to bring loads of exotica to any location with shining results. There are even a few drink recipes included. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: 'Afghan Music'

Zohreh Jooya & Ustad Hossein Arman
Afghan Music

Formed in 2002, the Afghan Ensemble's latest singer, Zohreh Jooya and composer, vocalist, and harmonium player, Ustad Hossein Arman, transcend historical boundaries and present a fine set of folk music from Afghanistan's past. Zohreh Jooya was raised in Iran at a location near the Afghanistan border. Ustad Hossein Arman is joined by Khaled Arman on dilruba, tambur, rubab; Sobeir Bachtiar on rubab; Siar Hashimi on tabla, dholak, serbaghali, dyra; Osman Arman on toolak; and Wahid Kamran on tabla. The ensemble creates fascinating rhythms and moods that do not venture into modern arrangements. The music is relatively folksy with some influence from India, Central Asia, and Pakistan. Most of the songs are about five minutes in length, which allows for ample time to listen to the beautiful instrumentation and melodies. Any music coming out of Afghanistan today is rather rare in the global marketplace, so buy Afghan Music today and show your support for the Afghan Ensemble. Extensive liner notes are included in English, German, French, and Spanish. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Uganda's Kinobe

Awamu N'emikwano (Together With Friends)

Uganda's Kinobe is a talented vocalist, composer, and instrumentalist with an ear for world music. With the help of his friends, Kinobe assembles a group of musicians with expertise on the kora, kalimba, guitar, tama, harp, bass, balafon, calabash, and snare drum. The vocal songs are as good as the instrumental ones. A strikingly superb song, "Mu ddungu", is a desert-inspired track with Kinobe on vocals and kora. The up-tempo "Bukunja" celebrates the house as a special place of being. The vocals and percussion provides a rhythmic and danceable experience for all to enjoy. The faster rhythms are indicative of West African pop music or Central African soukous. The only English track is "Sorrow", which is about the ills afflicting human existence. An up-beat remix of "Abataka" is included as the final track. Kinobe offers a bright spot in the world of music by using instruments from long ago and infusing them into contemporary sounds. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Slovenia's Maja Osojnik Band

Maja Osojnik Band
Crne Vode (Black Waters)
Viennese Soulfood
Slovenia's Maja Osojnik Band is a modern folk group reinterpreting folk classics along with some original tunes. The band is as experimental as it is folk incorporating Balkan melodies, avant-garde experimentation, jazz, and electronic music with some degree of Brazilian piano parts. Maja Osojnik's voice seems like a perfect fit for Slovenian ballads or pop standards. The Scandinavian and Balkan regions have recently reinvented folk music with modern arrangements. However, Maja Osojnik is still modernized, but she seems to retain a higher degree of experimental music in a modern era with sharp, metallic noises and electronic sampling. The instruments are relatively rudimentary, and include accordion, bass, piano, trumpet, guitar, drums, recorder, and electronic effects. Some of the sound effects resemble static or scratches from tuning a radio station and interrupt the flow of the album, because it is an experimental approach. The best song is "Solze Na Oknih", because it is a great melody that sounds like it could have been created from a Heavenly source. Also, the music of Slovenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and surrounding countries contain different melodies that do not follow simple song structures. Black Waters may be darkly mysterious or deeply engaging, but it is definitely worth a listen. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Seyed Ali Jaberi's 'Psalms of Loneliness'

Seyed Ali Jaberi
Psalms of Loneliness

Iran's tanbur master, Seyed Ali Jaberi, is classically trained in Iranian folk music. Seyed is joined on rubab, ney flute, kemancheh, guitar, daf, sound effects, and backing vocals. However, a majority of the songs are entirely instrumental with little if any vocalizations. The highlight of the album is the title track. The song takes on a symphonic overtone mixed with dervish rhythms and Mediterranean spice. The opener, 'A Traveler Through The Ocean of Abstraction', is a galloping tune with some vocalizations. The final track, 'A Story Told and Benumbed' begins with the beat of the daf drum and the violin-like shrill of the kemancheh fiddle. Seyed takes on folk music with such gusto he is enveloped in it's historical grasp, but not so much so he loses sight of futuristic visions. The tanbur lights up the tracks and it definitely surprises all who listen. Furthermore, all of the tracks range from five to ten minutes in length. Experience the folk music of Seyed Ali Jaberi for yourself or that special someone. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Robert A. Wolf's 'Krakatoa'


Indiana's Robert A. Wolf is a composer and producer of New Age music with a knack for the instrumental. His latest album, Krakatoa, is named after the famous Indonesian volcano as a symbol of musical creativity that is about to burst. The result is a set of tracks that sparkle with keyboard washes, pristine piano, and a light percussion base indicative of Enigma, Tangerine Dream, and Ronan Hardiman. The only vocals are angelic non-sensical sounds used intermittently throughout the album. The instrumental beat of "No Horizon" is musically boundless and aptly named as no horizon exists in this musical world. The equally enthralling "Distant Lights" is a perfect song and, by accident, a nod to the stellar piano and production work of Ronan Hardiman. "Caldera Sea" is a frothy cauldron of Mediterranean sounds with all the luscious keyboard washes one can handle. "Burnt Orchid" is a more piano-focused song than other tracks on the album. The final track, "Cracking the Mountain", incorporates all the sound effects, washes, vocal 'ahhs', and rhythmic beats inherent in any progressive New Age recording. Krakatoa should 'krak' the top 10 list of any New Age music chart. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Impressive Empresarios

Sabor Tropical

The Washington, D.C.-based band of modern Latin-funk is hitting the streets with the most impressive dance beats, trip hop rhythms, and dub-step on the market today. The Latin grooves border on jazz styles that heat up any occasion or mood. "Siesta" is an instrumental track right out of a Tejano film thriller. The album's title track, "Sabor Tropical", or 'Taste Tropical', contains a rhythmic groove out of the barrios or any club in Havana, Cuba. The Spanish vocals do not detract from the instrumentation and percussive tones. If there was such a thing as a Latino-Arab sound, then "Negrita Linda" would be a prime example. The deep bass beat, keyboards, and string sounds resemble an urban rhythm indicative of a club somewhere in Cairo. The classic throwback to Brazilian psychedelica and trip hop is the mainstay on "Grouper Soup". Dubtronica is another genre explored on "Happy Track". All in all, a good mix of vocals, modern sounds, and eclectic sounds paved by earlier artists, notably Nortec Collective, make Sabor Tropical an unforgettable release to start the new year and cause a January thaw wherever it is played. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, November 26, 2010

CD Review: 4-CD SET - Free Africa

Various Artists
Free Africa [4 CD]

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of freedom for many African countries, Maquis Music released a four-disc set of popular music from all-around Africa. Some of the countries represented include Mali, Togo, Congo, Guinea, Ivory Coast, South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon Benin, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Angola, Cape Verde, and Ethiopia. Some of the artists include Djelimady Tounkara, Mahmoud Ahmed, Alpha Blondy, Ismael Lo, Bassekou Kouyate, Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Manu Dibango, Orchestra Baobab, Cesaria Evora, and many more. Music originating from the 1960's to the present is included. Many styles of music are represented, including, highlife, afro-beat, jazz, saharan, blues, folk, roots, and afro-latin. Of course, it is possible to include every, or even some, of the African musicians from these regions in one album set. However, the folks at Maquis Music succeed in presenting a well-rounded collection of African music from established and lesser-known artists. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Master Musicians of Jajouka

The Source

Named after a village in Northern Morocco, the Master Musicians of Jajouka is led by Bachir Attar on ghaita, lira flute, quimbri, and vocals. The long introductory track, "Habibi Tsitini", is a guimbri (lute) anthem with violin, drums, and some vocals. The calming flute and drums of "Hanging Out In Jajouka" reflect the lighter musical side of The Source. After twenty-some years of music-making and collaborations, Bachir Attar returns to 'the source' of his musical roots by recording the album in his home. The spiritual and ritual music of Jajouka is rich in Sufi musical traditions that provide curative or healing properties through music. The mostly instrumental approach to 'Jajouka music' involves a rhythmic, traditional beat without modern arrangements, albeit interruptions. Jajouka means 'something good is coming to you'. In this case, 'something good' is Bachir Attar's Master Musicians of Jajouka. Trance on over to your favorite record store this holiday season and buy it. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Heidi Talbot's 'The Last Star'

The Last Star

The Irish singer/guitarist, Heidi Talbot, continues to create inspiration, sweet, and tender folk songs with all the charm and charisma Ireland has to offer. The folksy instrumentation of accordion, ukulele, piano, percussion, guitar, bass, whistles, uileann pipes, harmonium, and fiddle provides an engaging listening experience. As a songwriter, Heidi composes and arranges songs with her husband, John McClusker. However, "Start It All Over Again" and "The Shepherd Lad" were attributed to Scotland's Karine Polwart. Additionally, the late-Sandy Denny is covered on "At The End of The Day". Heidi's English vocals possess the sound and sincerity of America's folk singer/guitarist, Shawn Colvin. If anything, The Last Star represents a strong release that does not outshine prior releases, but that does not make it bad. In fact, Heidi's latest release is slightly more folk than rock or pop. Liner notes include English lyrics. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Real Vocal String Quartet

Real Vocal String Quartet

The all-female quartet of violin, viola, voice, and cello makes a resounding impact on the musical world with their self-titled debut. With very little in the way of other instrumentation, the quartet's influence of Scandinavian, African, European, and the music of the Theatre shows the diversity of stringed instruments. The California-based group takes care to walk the fine line between classical, folk, roots, new age, bluegrass, and jazz music. The tender vocals meld together with the instrumentation to form a perfect union of sound. With some vocals hinting a bit toward Finland's Varttina and instrumentation like that of Squonk Opera, the Real Vocal String Quartet is a contemplative release of cathartic bliss. However, some parts may be particularly slow, as in "Grean Bean Stand" or the gorgeous "Place For Me". Those looking for music of Bach or Beethoven should look elsewhere. The Real Vocal String Quartet is here to play new classical music for a new world and they are the 'real' deal. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Hungarian Rock with Napra

Holdvilagos (In The Moonlight)

The Balkan-folk-rock group, Napra, is a bit of a heady, guitar and brass-driven band that favors the punk-jazz grooves of modern society. The urban vocals and bass beat of "Tulipanos" cements their mark in the world of Hungarian rock. Bordering on Russian folk and Balkan jazz pop, Napra is anything but a sleepy journey through Transylvania. "Sas Ferenc Hoditasa" is a fast, guitar-driven tune with folksy rhythms and vocals. The slower pop-ballad, "Hang a Hangbol", showcases one of the many different sounds and sides of Holdvilagos. Given Hungary's geographical location within Central Europe, it is not surprising Napra is influenced directly or indirectly by Balkan jazz, Central Asian pop, Russian folk, Scandinavian rock, Rom-Rock, and even South American music! The range of melodies, sounds, and vocals is a refreshing delight to come out of Hungary. If you have not experienced some spine-tingling, folk-rock from Hungary, then experience it today with Napra. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Souad Massi's 'O Houria'

Souad Massi
O Houria (Liberty)
Wrasse Records
Algerian-born and France-based, Souad Massi, releases yet another superb release of French-tinged pop music. Steeped in French music traditions, O Houria represents an infectious and mature album that does not contain one weak track. The magnificent musicianship by the vocalist and guitarist is especially evidenced on the catchy opener "Samira Meskina", country-influenced "Une Lettre A...Si H'med", the folksy "Tout Ce Que J'aime", the laid-back ballad "Khabar Kana", the piano ballad and duet with Paul Weller on "Let Me Be In Peace", and the bluesy "Enta Ouzahrek". Souad sings in French, English, and Arabic. As a whole, the music is catchy, but not too loud or vocally-forced. The relatively reserved instrumental sounds originate from the bass, piano, guitars, drums, banjo, ukulele, bouzouki, mandolin, oud, and accordion. In essence, the suave and sensual Souad Massi delivers on all accords. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Madou Sidiki Diabate, Ahmed Fofana, & Alex Wilson in 'Mali Latino'

Mali Latino

World-pianist, Alex Wilson, joins fellow Mali-countrymen, Madou Sidiki Diabate and Ahmed Fofana on a musical project that was in dire straits of a financial setback. However, with a little effort, the financial situation reversed itself and Mali Latino is now a realized project that bridges the connection between African and Latin rhythms, instruments, and beats. The highly-danceable "Donkan" is a rousing Afro-Latin piece with piano, brass, kora, percussion, and everything good. The young Malian vocalist, Aoua Kasse Mady Diabate and Italian Davide Giovanni, lend their talents on an infectious "Sangre Mandinga". The jazzy grooves of "Ankaben" is led by vocalist Soumaila Kanoute, as Madou's sparkling kora melodies nicely accompany Alex's piano. The serenity of "Voyage" is completely void of vocals and the focus is entirely on the instruments. Overall, the recording is not bogged down by excessive or aggressive vocals. This allows the musical instruments and melodies to really stand out. Mali Latino is a favorite for fans with any interest in Afro-Latin connections. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CD Review: Finnish Frigg


The Finnish group, Frigg, release their fifth album to date. Grannen is a fine example of Finnish strings with a light mix of guitar, mandolin, bagpipes, cittern, and double bass to keep it all interesting. Frigg is an ideal example of nordgrass, or a type of Scandinavian roots-folk music, with a soothing mix of instrumental fiddle and guitar tunes that mimic the bluegrass and Celtic musical traditions. Frigg has musical connections with Finland's JPP fiddling troupe, as well as Norway's former-Frigg member, Gjermund Larsen. "Maple Cake Farm" is a giddy tune as sweet as its name. The free-spirited "Bussen" is a slice of fiddle Heaven. Frigg has a way of conveying a musical message without words, but with strings and other fine folk instruments. The result is never dull. Grannen is another album for fans of instrumental Finnish folk music. Get Frigg'd, or leave unhappy! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Nitza's 'Ageless' Music


The world beat and new age sounds of Nitza encompasses a plethora of similarly-related styles and influences. However, the primary influence is Mediterranean and Middle Eastern rock/pop with equal doses of contemporary and traditional instrumentation. As a singer, Nitza is equally adept at rock/pop and new age with the edginess, soul, and spunk of a budding musical auteur. The Greek-lyric song, "Se Thelo", is the only non-English song. The driving percussion of "Mesmerize" sounds like a pop/rock song from the Middle East. The varied instrumental repertoire include bansuri flute, shakuhachi, keyboards, oud, violin, bass, darbuka, bouzouki, cumbus, saz, guitar, and assorted percussion represent a global journey with a modern beat. "Lost" is a symphonic, Enigma-type track with Nitza's heart-felt vocals. As a whole, Nitza's vocals take on the embodiment of the late-Ofra Haza and Gwen Stefani. "Too Close To The Sun" is one of the better tracks based solely on a mix of melody and vocals. Nitza's music is a perfect mix of global beats and vocal melodies that border on global fusion and new age. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Contemporary Kirtan Music with Lokah

The Ivy Ceiling
Ma Bhakti Yoga LLC

The growing trend of contemporary rock/pop kirtan music performances is not only steadily increasing among members of yoga centers and Tantric communities, but it is also reaching a broader audience. Miami-based Lokah is group that makes kirtan (Indian devotional/chant music) shimmer with electronic arrangements, a contemporary rock/pop beat, and soaring male and female vocals. The "Introduction by Russell Simmons" is a short prelude to the album with a spoken word segment about worldly happiness and yoga. "Ma Durga" includes Sting on some vocals. The overall beat of the song resembles a yoga rock anthem. The Sanskrit lyrics are included on every track, except the English-narrative, "Introduction by Russell Simmons". The contemporary feel of the album tosses and turns with sounds led by keyboards, mandolin, organ, strings, percussion, and bass. The lush sounds and vocals resemble some of the popular music from the Middle East or North Africa. However, The Ivy Ceiling is a great album steeped in a veil of Eastern mysticism with Western arrangements. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, November 21, 2010

CD Review: Denmark's Helene Blum

Liden Sol

Denmark's shining star, Helene Blum, is a singer and fiddler. Helene is joined by the Harald Haugaard Ensemble with a perfect instrumental repertoire of octave mandolin, fiddle, guitar, cello, Jew's harp, double bass, flugelhorn, and percussion. As a follow-up to her acclaimed En Gang Og Altid (Pile House Records, 2008), Liden Sol, or 'Little Sun', offers another fine set of contemporary folk songs from the Scandinavian North. Her voice is the only instrument on "Fryd Dig, Du Kristi Brud". While a majority of the songs on Liden Sol are based on historic compositions, "Decembernat" and "Julevise 1862" are the only songs with music attributed to Helene. The traditional "Julefest" is an attractive set of historic jigs carried by the fiddle, guitar, and octave mandolin. "Ouverture" is a glorious, yet brooding song quite in-line with a track from Emma Hardelin's-Garmarna days. All in all, Liden Sol is a bright spot at the top of Denmark's musical echelon. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Catriona McKay & Chris Stout

White Nights

Catriona McKay, a Scottish harpist, and Chris Stout, a Shetland fiddler, explore the world of music using only strings. The longing sounds of "Missing You" accentuate the fiddle's somber side, while the harp sounds offer hope and happiness. The giddy title track, "White Nights", is a folkish jaunt of creative pleasure for the mind and body. The sparkling "Eira" is a Welsh waltz for the celebration of friendship. Notably, the addition of vocalizations or other musical instruments are nonexistent on White Nights. The calming "A Home Under Every Tree" was written as a peaceful, hymn-style tune for a Norwegian silent film. On "Roddy Sinclair", Chris plays with much enthusiasm. With a running time over forty-five minutes in length, White Nights is loaded with enough care, charm, and charisma to please any fan of the harp or fiddle, as well as folk, Celtic, Scottish, Welsh, and Canadian music. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, November 19, 2010

CD Review: Alma Afrobeat Ensemble - 'Toubab Soul'

Toubab Soul

The Barcelona-based Alma Afrobeat Ensemble is an eclectic mix of band members and musical styles. Some members are from Norway, Senegal, USA, Ghana, Uruguay, and Argentina. Toubab Soul is a truly afro-beat recording with multilingual vocals, groovy-jazz dance, and highly percussive beats. Of course, there is an element of 1970's West African grooves. The rap opener, "Taskmaster", gets things started with an inherent African hip-hop beat without foraying too far into urbanism. "Mali" is an ode to the country of the same name. The guitar, sax, kalimba, and djembe drum provide a Latin influence to the instrumental track. The funky "New School", smooth-groove "Kudja", world-jazzy "Own World" and "Muziqawi Silt", and the reggae-tinged "S. Africa" provide a solid cross-section of tunes that are well-structured and musically-engaging. The Alma Afrobeat Ensemble makes the music of Africa shine all in one place. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Dancas Ocultas


A performer at this year's WOMEX festival of all things world music, Dancas Ocultas brings to life a 'hidden' talent on Tarab. The Portuguese band, which name means "Hidden Dance", is nothing that should be hidden. The music is entirely instrumental and only includes four accordions without additional musical instruments. The sounds glow with vibrant waves of energy bursting out of the bellows of the accordion beast. Sometimes eery, meditative, and adventurous, Tarab delights in the unmistakable sounds on the accordion. Fans of accordion greats Maria Kalaniemi, the late-Boris Karlov, and Daniel Thonon will love the delicately produced sounds of Tarab. The solemnitude of accordion music is as reflective as it is brooding. Tarab wins big-time! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Majorstuen - A Norwegian Quintet

Majorstuen Fiddlers Company

The Norwegian fiddle and cello quintet features the classic fiddling styles of Norway. Two of fiddlers, Synnove S. Bjorset and Gjermund Larsen, perform in other string groups. Thirteen tracks of fiddling with some cello sounds compelte the instrumental repertoire of Skir. The jaunty and non-vocal tunes are ideal for a country or folk music festival, night of dancing, or historical research of classical fiddler performers, including Hilmar Alexandersen. The meanings of the songs are provided in Norwegian and English. Some of the music is taken from folk tales, tributes, dialects, lullabies, poems, and waltzes. Most importantly, the wholly instrumental album is passionately soothing. In fact, the music does not need words to be enjoyable. The holiday season would be quite empty without some merry tunes. Seek out Majorstuen's Skir today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Akale Wube Reinvents Ethiopia's Golden Era

Akale Wube

After borrowing the name of the group from a song by saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya, the France-based quintet Akale Wube reinvents the golden age of Ethiopia's musical legends. Inspired by the Ethiopiques Series from Buda Musique, Akale Wube puts a modernized spin on songs by Alemayehu Eshete, Mulatu Astatqe, Tsehaytu Beraki, Shewalul Menguistu, and Teshome Sissay. The opening track "Ayalqem Tedengo [Intro]" includes a short flute solo before diving into a four-minute instrumental groove on the next track with the same name. One of the few tracks composed by the group, "Jawa Jawa" is a psychedelic-funk journey that sounds amazingly reminiscent of any song from the US/Cambodia group, Dengue Fever. The reggae-groove of "Kokob/Metche Dershe", funky-groove of "Nestanet", psych-chill of "Nebyat", to the sunnier "Bazay", and the fusion of "Ragale" display only a small fraction of the music produced in the 1970's throughout the horn of Africa. Akale Wube's efforts are well-received and they do the music justice without reverting to super-dubbed dance beats. Vocals are absent throughout. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Aynur's 'Rewend'


A Turkish/Kurdish album, Rewend (Nomad), wanders off into places of musical exhuberance. As a female singer, Aynur performs a scintillating set of songs with all the lively percussion of Turkish/Kurdish folk groups. The title track, "Rewend", borders on the sounds of Scandinavian folk, or the Finnish group Varttina. The beautiful peacefulness of the harp with Aynur's voice is showcased on "Xewn". The Central Asian-North African-tinged "Kocere" is another reason why Aynur's music is nomadic, by consciously or unconsciously incorporating the rhythms of the Orient with Andalusia. The larger musical theme encompasses the similar sounds of modern traditional styles from emanating out of the Caucasus (especially Azerbaijan), Persia, Mediterranean, and the Middle East. The songs are not particularly modernized, because of the ney flute, udu, kemanche fiddle, zirna, daf, tembur, harp, and tabla. Still, Rewend is an epic recording for those interested in Kurdish folk music, Central Asian, and North African music. The songs and titles are translated into English throughout the liner notes. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Quebec's Mauvais Sort

Droit Devant
To describe Mauvais Sort as spellbinding would not be very far from the truth. In fact, the translation of their name can be described as "to put a spell on someone". Canada's folk-funk-ska group is a riotous journey through the Balkans, Scandinavia, and the North American continent. All of the vocal songs are sung in French, with accompanying liner notes in French, too. The horns, guitars, bass, strings, and punchy percussion make Droit Devant (Straight Ahead) a fun listen. The edgy "Ne vous estimez pas tant" is similar to something Canada's Glengarry Bhoys would produce. The military-esque "La mort du colonel", the anthemic classical-standard "Il me faut un mari", Andalusian-inspired "Cabane a Zouk", and the groovy "Le Pere Bacchus" cement Mauvais Sort's uncanny ability to produce music with different elements and sounds without sacrificing quality. Droit Devant does not deviate too far away from Canada's fiddling traditions, but it is still a contemporary effort. A happy mix of foot-stomping, head-bobbing music to thrill the soul. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Putumayo's Yoga

Various Artists

The folks at Putumayo continue to release superb albums. Yoga is no different. As the title suggests, the music is quite relaxing and meditative. Though, it is more lively than other yoga music. A variety of artists from around the world contribute to the compilation. The project coordinator, Sean Johnson, among others, provides a track with the Wild Lotus Band on "Om Hari Om/Sharanam Ganesha". In addition, the Lucknow Project's Chilean singer, Sangeeta Levine, offers her vocals on the opening track, "Ghungate Ke". The husband-wife duo, Shantala, sing a melancholic "Purnamadah". Yoga-pop's star, Wah!, sings an edgy pop song about the Indian epic Ramayana on "Bolo Ram". The groovy "Cerulean" by composer and instrumentalist Ben Leinbach and Geoffrey Gordon on tabla are joined by Jai Uttal on dotar. The track is remarkably modern, but it still retains an element of tradition. Other artists such as Karnamrita Dasi, U.K.'s Niraj Chag, Amounsulu, Gaura Vani, Susheela Raman, Krishna Das, Ablaye Cissoko, Yogini, Volker Goetze, and Jean-Philippe Rykiel round out the list. This is a nice collection of mostly modern vocal yoga music for yoga or other occasions. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, November 18, 2010

CD Review: SRI Kirtan Rocks The Bhakti

Live Your Love
Mantralogy/Ishwari Music

SRI Kirtan is the work of harmonium player and vocalist, Sruti Ram, and vocalist/guitar player, Ishwari. Backed by a choir and rapper from Brooklyn on some of the tracks, SRI Kirtan is built upon Hindu devotional bhavas with Sanskrit and English lyrics for a contemporary audience. Each track rings with musical bliss from the catchy, yogic rap on "Govinda" to the heavenly-devotional "Sri Ram", upbeat "Madhura", and the folksy "Jai Jagadambe". The musical repertoire is never boring and it encompasses a variety of instruments, including bass, tabla, majiras, djembe drum, keyboard, cello, bansuri flute, dilruba, sitar, violin, and others. Live Your Love is an album of contemporary music for fans of Mayapuris, Wah!, and other groups inspired by Hindu Tantrism and yogic chants. SRI Kirtan is sure to please anyone seeking music with a higher consciousness. Simply put, SRI Kirtan rocks the bhakti! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Norwegian Hardanger Fiddling


Three Norwegian women perform solos (Soli) on Hardanger (Hardingfele in Norwegian) fiddles. Synnove S. Bjorset, Ase Teigland, and Anne Hytta play mostly historic tunes exclusively on the Hardanger fiddle. The Hardanger fiddle is indigenous to Norway and it is typically tuned slightly higher than the traditional violin. The women play a relatively equal amount of songs without grossly overshadowing each other's innate string talent. There are seventeen tracks in all. Importantly, the entire album does not contain vocals or other instruments and sounds. It is formulated around the Hardanger fiddling traditions of Norway without reliance on other musical accompaniment. The somber and seemingly spritely sounds of the fiddle showcase the immense diversity of classical Norwegian tunes. This is an instrumental gem for fans of the Hardanger fiddle, Norwegian or Scandinavian music, and folk music. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, November 12, 2010

CD Review: Gjermund Larsen Trio from Norway


Norway's lively trio on fiddle, piano, accordion, percussion, and contrabass comes alive with rich, folk traditions for the modern generation. However, the songs are relatively simple, but steeped in fiddling tradition. Fiddler Gjermund Larsen leads the folk trio into the hills and valleys of Norway's majestic landscape. Aurum is completely devoid of vocalizations and electronic arrangements or beats. The sullen and spritely musical modes are never dull or uninspiring. Gjermund's trio accentuates the best folk music Norway has to offer. As a purveyor of folk music, Gjermund's magnificent and learned musicianship outshines others trying to emulate him. If you are interested in Scandinavian folk music, instrumental music, or a lover of the fiddle, then Aurum should be right at the top of your music wish list. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Morocco's Hassan Erraji

Awal Mara

Multi-instrumentalist and blind musician, Hassan Erraji, is a Moroccan native with musical ties to the Atlas Mountains. Hassan plays the oud, qanun, violin, darbouka, keyboard, nay flute, and also sings on each track. Awal Mara, which means, "love at first sight", features background vocals by Hassan's daughter, Yasmin Erraji. The traditional instrumentation mixed with drums and bass creates a modern musical environment without delving into the outer reaches of electronica or dance music. However, every song has a high degree of danceability. The most striking musical similarity to Hassan's music is from the bellydance and ensemble music of Egypt, or even the music of the Arabian Peninsula. The Gnawan trance music native to Morocco is not featured here, however there are hints of it throughout. Awal Mara induces a state of intrigue with the country-esque "Mounyati" and the instrumental "Douka Dance". Think of it like 'Love At First Sound', too! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sigrid Moldestad's 'Sandkorn'


Sigrid, which is an old Norse word for 'victory', wows audiences with her vocals and Hardinger Fiddle playing. Norwegian by birth and residence, Sigrid recently received the Folk Musician of the Year Award (2010). Sandkorn, which means, 'grains of sand', is littered with little gems. The instrumental "Uncle J", sincere "Ein Sael Kyss", darker "Gata", the vocal duo with Kim Andre Rysstad on "Maneskinslandet", and the lively "Frostroyk" highlight her talent. Some of the songs are inspired by the poems of Robert Burns and Jakob Sande, while others are traditional and original tunes. The instrumental repertoire includes a variety of instruments, such as the pump organ, piano, viola, guitar, mandolin, bass, baritone guitar, sax, saz, and others. Sigrid's almost theatrical playing and singing awaken an ancient musical spirit that is fresh with talent. Norway's shores gleam with the music of Sigrid Moldestad. The Norwegian lyrics are provided in the liner notes. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Rondi Charleston's Jazz Is Timely

Who Knows Where The Time Goes

Rondi Charleston's latest release of jazz music is one for the ages. Centered mainly on time-related matters, Who Knows Where The Time Goes includes a few songs written by Rondi. Notably, "Your Spirit Lingers", "Dance of Time", "Land of Galilee", and "Song For The Ages" were written and sung by Rondi. The slower percussion and languid vocals make some of the songs last forever, but don't worry, that is a good thing. Two Brazilian tunes pop up, including Antonio Jobim's "Wave" and Milton Nascimento's "Everything That You Were Meant To Be". The Brazilian elements of bossa-nova and jazzy percussion lighten the album's slower moments. The last track, "Freedom Is A Voice", was attributed to Bobby McFerrin, but this version includes a chorus of girls singing in the Zulu language. The majority of the album is sung in English with some Portuguese and Zulu. Find the time to enjoy Rondi's timeless music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Wah! - The Goddess of Yoga-Pop!


Wah! is the legal first name of the band's leading vocalist, bassist, and harmonium player. The music of Maa is inspired by Hindu Tantrism with Sanskrit and English vocals, modern beats, and Tantric imagery, including the Sri Yantra on the album's cover. A frequent performer at Yoga festivals across the country, Wah! performs anything but sleepy, spaced-out rhythms and chants. This is yoga pop at it's best. Wah!'s voice is somewhere between Sade and Sarah McLachlan. Wah!'s music ranges from the opening rap of "Shakti" and "Pahimam", the R&B-like grooves of "Shanti", "Gang Ma", and "Love Holding Love", New Age-soul of "Jagatambe", the bluesy-pop of "Stay In The Love", to the softer "Om Sri Matre". The music borders on dance, downtempo, and roots-pop. If you are looking for music with inner and outer beauty, then listen to the goddess of Yoga pop. Your soul will thank you kindly. The liner notes include Sanskrit and English lyrics with song descriptions. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, November 11, 2010

CD Review: Fay Hield's 'Looking Glass'

Looking Glass

U.K.-native, Fay Hield, dazzles audiences with her folk-based songs. A purely folk-endeavor, Fay incorporates a few instruments familiar to the folk genre, including the fiddle, concertina, viola, nyckelharpa, and guitar. The songs seem to be inspired by Scottish, Gaelic, or Celtic roots. Fay sings in English, even though her voice takes on an almost Gaelic-vocal signature. The folk music is similar in sound to Scotland's Karine Polwart and Julie Fowlis. The sweet melodies, contemplative fiddling, and poetic lyrics steeped in English history and fables mark a solid effort for English folk music. Looking Glass is devoid of modern arrangements or electronic wizardry. In short, Fay sings from the heart and so do the instruments. Looking Glass contains giddy tunes, vocal masterpieces, and an equal amount of charismatic charm. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Swamy Haridhos & Party

Swamy Haridhos & Party
Classical Bhajans
Country & Eastern

Recorded in 1968 in Bombay, Swamy Haridhos & Party performs devotional music in the classical bhajan traditions. A bhajan is simply any type of Indian devotional song, which may include kirtan, mantra, raga, tala, and dhrupad forms. Classical Bhajans features twenty-one songs with Swamy on vocals, M. Bhagvatar on harmonium, P.S. Devarajan on mridangam, K. Shivakumar on violin, and K.V. Ramani on tabla. Notably, the recording was produced by the founder of the Country & Eastern label, Bengt Berger. Swamy sings in the Dakshina Bharatha Sampradaya Bhajan tradition, which is indigenous to Southern India. The ecstatic vocals and musical compositions vary in length from under one-minute ("Mandare Mule") to nearly nine minutes ("Gurumurthi Pada Mule"). The basis for the music relies upon ancestral links of religious and devotional themes and deities. The seemingly frenzied rhythms and call-and-response vocals interspersed with the accordion-like drone of the harmonium and punchy tabla and mridangam remind one of Sufi ensembles. Unfortunately, Swamy Haridhos died in the Ganges River on a trip to the Himalayas in 1994. Fortunately, Swamy's music will live on for future generations. For fans of Indian folk, religious, and devotional music, Swamy Haridhos and his ensemble are a worthy addition to any collection. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, November 7, 2010

CD Review: Nagore Sessions of South India

Various Artists
Nagore Sessions

The Sufi-inspired chants of Abdul Ghani, Ajah Maideen, and Saburmaideen Babha Sabeer from the Nagore Dargah, or shrine, in Tamil Nadu (South India) are backed with traditional instrumentation and modern beats. As a whole, the music is more traditional than electronic. At any rate, there is a nice balance of vocals and instrumentation without distracting the flow of the album. The chants, sung in Tamil, are borrowed from traditional Indian texts. The simplicity of the singing is easily accessible for fans of Indian music, Bollywood, and Kollywood (South India) music. The traditional frame drum, strings, tabla, sitar, harmonium, and others, reflect the history of the songs. The music takes on a Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Indian sound similar in tone to Pakistan's Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali. The symphonic beats, Sufi singing, and traditional sounds make Nagore Sessions a must-have for any music fan! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kaya Project's Globe-tronica

Desert Phase Remixes

Inspired by deserts around the world, the global clientele behind the Kaya Project come from the UK, US, New Zealand, and Australia. This is electronica at its best. The use of world rhythms and techno, drum'n'bass, dub-folk, downtempo, dub-step, and globe-tronica with some female vocals and various instrument sampling make Desert Phase Remixes a noteworthy release of modern sounds. Of course, the Sahara Desert is a large tract of space that is the most inspirational desert location on this album. For instance, several of the songs feature Arabic instrument sampling and vocals. Though, South Asian club rhythms are equally present. As far as remixes go, the electronic grooves resemble background music for a modern spy film, fashion show, or college party. This is not music for the stoically-inclined. It is difficult to imagine anyone standing still for any amount of time on any track. Relying largely on an electronic foundation, Desert Phase Remixes features tracks by Opiuo, Interpulse, Bluetech, Tripswitch, Gaudi, Eat Static, 100th Monkey, Liquid Stranger, and others. If modern sounds inspire you, then Kaya Project is for you. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Angola's Soundtrack: The Sound of Luanda 1965-1976 - Released Dec. 7, 2010

Various Artists
Angola Soundtrack: The Unique Sound of Luanda [1965-1976]

The largely under-represented music of Angola's past, and present for that matter, is popularized thanks to the folks at Analog Africa. Angola Soundtrack... is the anthem for Angola's Afro-Caribbean musical traditions of the 1960's and 70's. Interestingly, the rhythmic guitar music and percussion are unlike most traditional African songs. In this case, the Caribbean and Latin influences far outweigh any traditional African sounds. Still purely African, the music is lively and carnival-esque, with a dash of psychedelic guitars, merengue rhythms, and semba music. Over fifteen different musicians from the era are featured on the album and a special 2-LP gatefold sleeve edition. Crisp, clear sounds and Latin grooves cement Angolan music in the annals of African music history. An invaluable and historic recording. The liner notes are heavily detailed and describe the music and musicians over forty-pages. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, October 29, 2010

CD Review: Galeet Dardashti's 'The Naming'

Galeet Dardashti
The Naming
Independent Release

The Persian-Jewish musical connections are showcased on Galeet's debut release. The Naming is a nod to bold and powerful women in the Old Testament of the Bible. Galeet sings with a great deal of emotion, seemingly bringing the Bible to life in song. With a smattering of Persian chants, Middle Eastern percussion, and Biblical quotes, The Naming encapsulates Galeet's ethnic roots of Iran and Israel, while currently based in the U.S. The distinctive Persian percussion with santur, qanun, and strings, accompany Galeet's mostly Hebrew language singing. The music seems to nicely bridge the past with the present without being overtly modern or wholly traditional. Galeet Dardashti is not as experimental as U.S.-based Iranian musician, Sussan Deyhim, or as traditional as Iran's Sima Bina or the Dasten Ensemble. Regardless, The Naming is a solid release of songs with a purpose and a past. Coincidentally, another purpose is to enjoy the music for what it is worth. It is a riotous journey of Biblical proportions! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: WOMEX 2010 - Sounds of the world from Copenhagen, Denmark

Various Artists
The WOMEXimizer 10

As a celebration of world music acts from around the world, WOMEX, or World Music Expo, began in 1994 to foster a global awareness of everything world music. A festival usually held in different locations each year throughout Europe, WOMEX provides a sampling of songs on The WOMEXimizer 10. In fact, the release includes twenty different musicians, sixteen vocal songs, four instrumental songs, and fourteen different languages with a running time approximately seventy-eight minutes. The eclectic musical repertoire features songs from Kamel el Harrachi, Mamer, Phonix, Yemen Blues, Svetlana Spajic Group, Maria Kalaniemi, Bomba Estereo, Danyel Waro, Tremor, Desert Slide, Dancas Ocultas, Malick Pathe Sow & Maoba, Damily, Elisabeth Vatn, OMFO, Yom, LaBrassBanda, Samba Chula de Sao Braz, and the 2010 Womex Award winner, Danyel Waro. Numerous countries are represented and the song selections are top notch. If you can't get to WOMEX for some reason, then WOMEXimize yourself with The WOMEXimizer 10. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sound of Siam - Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam [1964-75]

Various Artists
The Sound of Siam - Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam [1964-1975]

The vinyl sounds of Thailand in the 1960's and 70's signaled a rise in various styles popularized in the cities and rural areas. The music of luk krung contains a longer running time than luk thung, or country music, and it is more instrumental. Molam is indigenous to the northeastern part of Thailand and it involves faster vocals, a mouth organ (khaen), a lute (phin), and a bowed violin (sor). Despite the fairly rudimentary classification, The Sounds of Siam... incorporate psychedelic guitars, groovy bass-lines, and hints of Latin or African influences. Many of the tracks are catchy, including "Lam Tung Wai", "Lam Toey Chaweewan", "Mae Kha Som Tam", and the instrumental hit "Soul Lam Plearn". The male and female vocals are passionate, funky, and never boring. The funk-ladened "Sao Lam Plearn" is very attractive. At any rate, the folks at Soundway Records have captured the musical pinnacle of Siam's yesteryear. Numerous obscure bands never-before-released outside southeast Asia are prizes for anyone into the psychedelic, funk-driven, folk music of Thailand. A detailed 24-page booklet includes music background and band/song information. The Sounds of Siam... put the fun in funk! ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

CD Review: Paul Winter Consort

Miho: Journey to the Mountain

Built in 1997, the Japanese Miho Museum is an architectural marvel that houses antiquities from the West and the East. In addition to the historical or architectural considerations, the Paul Winter Consort recorded most of the music in the Miho Museum. Paul Winter, a saxophonist, includes numerous musicians on sarangi, sazabo, koto, frame drums, Heckelphone, English horn, oboe, cello, keyboard, bansuri flute, percussion, and bass clarinet for a relaxed listening experience. The subtle musical tones and new-age sounds incorporate vocals from Armenian Arto Tuncboyaciyan on "Love Is Not In Your Mind" and "Before It's Too Late", with Tibet's Yangjin Lamu on "Words of Wish Fulfillment". The vocals and instrumentation is modern, yet retains a traditional and majestic spaciousness as grandiose as the Miho Museum's breathtaking design. Not only does Paul Winter incorporate the obvious instruments and vocals, but also includes the soudns of elephants, whales, cicadas, and birds. Essentially, Miho... is a 'journey' unto itself with all its cascading melodies and associated arrangments. If the Earth had a soundtrack, this would be it! The seventy-eight minute running time is not a bad thing either. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Finland's Islaja

Keraaminen Paa
Islaja is the name of Finland's Merja Kokkonen. Her latest album, Keraaminen Paa (Ceramic Head), is a Finnish language album of avante-garde folk and experimental electronica. Though, Keraaminen Paa is a fairly lo-fi recording with moments of electronic instrumentation similar to Norway's Sorten Muld and contemplative vocals that are a bit more bizarre in the vein of Sweden's Sofia Jannok and Iceland's Bjork. The earthy sounds do not necessarily reflect a melodic pattern, but the shamanic beats of "Rakkauden Palvelija" contrast with the spacey, atmospheric sounds of "Ihmispuku". Islaja's voice is mysterious, haunting, and full of life. The modern folk-electronica genre in Scandinavia is widespread and varied. However, Islaja's sound also takes on similar tones and melodies with the Faroe Islands' Valravn. Basically, anyone into Scandinavian folk-electronica with ambient leanings will enjoy the slower, more adventurous tones of Keraaminen Paa. The Finnish liner notes are also translated into English. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CD Review: Nigeria's Tirogo


Tirogo was a 1970's Afro-psych-funk group from Nigeria. First recorded in 1977, the songs of Float feature the best in psychedelic-guitar music to come out of West Africa. Rock guitar, lounge beats, and funky organ sounds emanate from all of the tracks. As an added bonus, an interview with bassist, percussionist, and vocalist Wilfred Ekanem is included in the liner notes. Float soars with Heavenly Afro-rock beats, swirling organ sounds, and groovy English vocals. The swaying sounds of Afro-funk are particularly noticeable on "Gypsy Girl" and "Let's Feed The Nation". The band members include Wilfred Ekanem, Elvy Akhionbare (lead guitar, percussion), Wilfred Iwang (drums, vocals, percussion), Fumi Onabolu (keyboards, percussion), and Godwin Debogie (conga, percussion, vocals). Anyone with a passionate interest in 70's Afro-funk and psychedelic music should seek out the groovy sounds of Float. Float doesn't sink! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Witch's 'Introduction' Is Not So Scary


Witch was a psych-rock music group from Zambia. Their songs from the first record in 1973 are released here. The psychedelic-driven songs contain equal parts of funk, blues, and folk. However, Introduction is a window into the Zambian rock music movement of the 1970's. The classic tunes are sung in English, but the underground tone is purely African. The tongue-and-cheek title track that introduces the band members and instruments with a guitar-fuzz rhythm and English vocals. "Feeling High" is a languid tune with a familiar blues rhythm. The bass-heavy "No Time" is a funky, guitar-driven song with an upbeat tempo and classic vocals. Nine tracks in all 'introduce' listeners to rare gems of Zambian rock music. Fans of funkadelic, Afro-rock music on dusty LP's from the 1970's will find Witch to be a perfect accompaniment in a fine music collection. Don't let the name scare you from enjoying the best re-issued Afro-psych-funk to come out of Zambia. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, October 24, 2010

CD Review: Diogal's 'Urban Spirit'

Urban Spirit

Born in Senegal and living in France, Diogal has bridged both musical countries into his own infectious Afro-pop selections. A seemingly uncanny musical similarity to Mauritania's Daby Toure, Diogal's musical poetry sung in Wolof is a pleasant production of catchy, contemporary songs. Urban Spirit is a lively mix of what happens when old (language) and new (contemporary production/instruments) harmoniously collide. The groovy rhythms, guitar playing, and Diogal's spirited voice sets the tone for a great musical journey. This is not your average Afro-pop listening experience. "Bok Tuma" is a lively gem with an Afro-rock outro and the final track, "Weet", is a peaceful vocal tune accompanied by guitar and light percussion. The moving "Thiow Li" is a beautiful ballad sure to catch the ears of listeners everywhere. Seek out Diogal's Urban Spirit and you will not be disappointed. ~ Matthew Forss

Monday, October 11, 2010

CD Review: Rahim Alhaj's 2-CD Set

Little Earth
UR Music

New Mexico-based, Iraqi-American Rahim Alhaj, is a composer, oud player, and pigeon farmer. The musical spirit of the Middle East is brought to life with help from various artists, including Bill Frisell, Peter Buck, Robert Mirabal, Glen Velez, Maria de Barros, Liu Fang, Stephen Kent, Yacouba Sissoko, Hossein Omoumi, and others. The Grammy-nominated Rahim provides written compositions with little in the way of improvisation. Disc one only contains one vocal track, which is sung in Portuguese by Cape Verde's Maria de Barros. The remainder of the disc contains instrumental works with classical Arabic percussion, along with kora, sitar and guitar. The varied instrumentation and diversity of the musicians signifies a unification of musical development and performance across cultures. Disc two continues the musical diversity with didjeridoo, pipa, Native American flute, and Iranian ney flute. Rahim's collaboration with Southwest musicians and others from aroudn the world clearly illustrate the world of music. In effect, Little Earth is symbolic for the close interconnectedness of human society. Liner notes include artist biographies and song information in English. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Norway Meets Iran with Skruk & Mahsa Vahdat

I vinens speil (In The Mirror of Wine)

Norway's Skruk choir and Iran's Mahsa Vahdat create symphonic songs of poetry from Sufi poets Rumi and Hafez. The songs are presented in Persian and Norwegian. The Sufi poets often combined elements of Islam, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism in their poetic works. I vinens speil draws upon the same religious influences mentioned above and it was also recorded in a Norwegian church. The mix of light percussion, bass, and piano are a perfect companion to the beautiful choral melodies and Mahsa's voice. Mahsa's angelic voice on the opening track, "Gleden Ved Ditt Kyss", sets the stage for the rest of the album. The piano is never overtly intrusive. Anyone with an interest in hauntingly beautiful church melodies, classical music, and world jazz will find the most satisfaction with Skruk & Mahsa Vahdat. Liner notes include Norwegian and Persian song translations. ~ Matthew Forss