Monday, January 31, 2011

CD Review: Siberia's Vedan-Kolod

Dance of The Wood Spirits

The historic epics and poems of the Slavic past are performed by Tatyana Naryshkina and Valery Naryshkin. All adaptations capture the historical significance of the music through a wide variety of folk music instruments. The songs are mostly folk with a dash of throat-singing and guitar music thrown in for good measure. Anyone with an interest in Siberia's folk music and instruments should find excitement and astonishment in the Russian melodies, lyrics, and musical arrangements. Liner notes in Russian and song titles in English. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Karelia's Va-Ta-Ga

Mikuliny Gory

Led by vocalist, aerophone player, and musical saw maestro, Aleksandr Leonov, Va-Ta-Ga blends traditional folk elements from the Republic of Karelia (Russia) with modern electronic elements. The music is not especially busy, which provides an easy listening experience. The Russian lyrics are present on some of the songs, but they are not particularly the main performance of the album. The music touches on fusion, ambient, avant-garde, folk, and shamanic styles. Fans of Siberian/Russian folk, Scandinavian music, and world fusion will find happiness in this music. Liner notes in Russian and English. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, January 30, 2011

CD Review: Yat-Kha's Tuvan Rock on 'The Ways of Nomad'

The Ways of Nomad: The Best Of

The Tuvan rock and throat-singing of Russia's Yat-Kha has been an iconic presence in the world of Tuvan music for the past two decades. Led by vocalist and guitarist Albert Kuvezin, Yat-Kha takes the world by storm with traditional instrumentation and electro-ethnic elements that are darkly inviting. The name of the group is coined after a Central Asian instrument. The vocal style of Kuvezin has been noted as kargyraa, which is basically a deeper, more growling version of the traditional form of Tuvan throat-singing. Importantly, not all of the songs center on throat-singing. The Ways of Nomad features hits from 1995-2003. Anyone with an interest in Tuvan folk, throat-singing, Mongolian, Central Asian, or Russian folk and rock music should own everything by Yat-Kha. Liner notes in English, Russian, and Tuvan. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Uch Sume R - 'Ymai' From Khakassia

Uch Sume R

Uch Sume R is a group of musicians that bridge the gap between historical and modern folk music from Khakassia in south-central Siberia. The second half of the album features the music of Khakassian singer, Alisa Kyzlasova. Uch Sumer is the second highest mountain in Russia, which borders three countries: China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. It also means 'three wisdoms' or 'three peaks'. The albums title, Ymai, is an ancient Turkic Goddess of motherhood, love and fertility. The lively songs are mostly traditional folk and throat-singing tunes that incorporate a range of local and regional musical instruments that provide an authentic and organic sound. Anyone looking for songs of the Altai mountain range, or Central Asia, will find Uch Sume R to be an outstanding addition to any collection of folk music. Liner notes in English and Russian. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Olchey's 'Shuga' From Tuva


Shuga is a Karelian word for "a thin piece of ice at the water's edge". Interestingly, the Tuvan word for 'chuga' is "thin". Consequently, the folk music of Karelia and Tuva meet with glorious results. The throat-singing traditions of Tuva and electronic and natural sounds form the basis of Shuga's message. The music is closely reminiscent of Huun Huur Tu. There are only four songs that only add up to forty-minutes in length. However, the music is so entrancing that time seems to stand still upon first listen. The seemingly avant-garde melodies are a perfect mix for throat-singing and modern percussion and nature sounds. Anyone interested in the contemporary music of Tuva, or Russia's great North will find enjoyment in the songs of Olchey. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sattuma's 'Kinofilmi'


The modern folk music from Karelia is nicely performed by Sattuma. A group comprised of violin, bass, drums, bagpipes, clarinet, yoik chants, sax, flutes, accordion, mandolin, kantele, and bouzouki is sure to mesmerize all who listen. Songs are mostly written by the band. Liner notes include English, Finnish, and Russian commentary. The mostly male vocals and female backing vocals are very refreshing and engaging. The folk melodies are akin to any modern band coming out of Scandinavia, the Balkans, or Western Russia. The songs are surprisingly cheery and easy to sing along to. It is one of the best recordings to come across my desk over the past ten years. Kinofilmi is the soundtrack for the film called life. Own it today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Yarga Sound System - 'Live'


Hailing from Northwestern Russia, in the Republic of Karelia, resides a band so engrossed with Russia's mystical and folk music, that Live is literally a soundtrack of Northern life. The electronic noises and sounds perfectly accompany a diverse repertoire of mbira, throat-singing, violin, kalimba, winds, loops, and dubs. It is not a particularly modern sound, but it does use some modern electronic wizardry to accent the folk elements. It is the ideal recording for listeners of aboriginal music, Scandinavian folk, and Russian folk with a slightly modern twist. Mostly instrumental, Live features something for everyone without any deleterious side effects. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, January 28, 2011

CD Review: Generation Bass Turn It Up With 'Transnational Dubstep'

Various Artists
Transnational Dubstep

Generation Bass, founded by DJ Umb and Vincent Koreman, celebrate the diversity in cultural dubstep music appropriately titled Transnational Dubstep to reflect the cultural elements of the music. Some of the artists include Mars, Alexisk, Sabat Machines, Shem, Midival Punditz, Jajouka Soundsystem, and Celt Islam. The music reflects Indian, South American, Chinese, Middle Eastern, and European influences. The global trends in electronic and dance music have contributed to a growing desire and need to hear the many electronic sounds from all over the globe. The dubstep is primarily an instrumental album with occasional vocals that do not detract from the rhythms, moods, and melodies. The dubstep even contains hints of rock guitar, as in "Clownie", or Balkan/Klezmer rhythms on "Valium Gitan". Transnational Dubstep is definitely for fans of electronic, dubstep, dance, and club music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Olemba's 'Oli Dielo' From Republic of Karelia

Oli Dielo

Hailing from the Republic of Karelia, which borders Finland to the West, is Olemba; a group that produces modern folk/rock rooted in folklore and tradition. "Oli Dielo" is Finnish traditional song sung in Finnish by three female singers indicative of Finland's Varttina. The modern folk/rock repertoire include the balalaika, bass, drums, accordion, and flute. The relatively unknown region of Karelia, from a musical perspective, makes Oli Dielo a special and vital recording of historical significance. This is great folk music for the Scandinavian lover. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Stepanida Borisova's 'Impressio'

Stepanida Borisova

Yakut-singer hailing from Russia, Stepanida Borisova is cultural purveyor of songs from Yakutia, a republic in Eastern Russia. Impressio is an album that fuses folk with rock and throat-singing. The songs are quite contemporary in sound, but remain largely traditional in spirit. The songs are sung in Yakutia, but liner notes are provided in English and Russian, too. Track 5 is an especially intriguing rock ballad. While, Track 7 resembles a classic psychedelic tune to come out of Southeast Asia. A range of songs, styles, and sounds make Impressio an impressive release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Opycham's 'S.T.I.H.I.'


As the lead drummer for Yat Kha, Opycham, otherwise known as Evgeny Tkachov, tones it down a bit with a rather quiet release of sung poetry. The album only contains three tracks of sung poetry, nature sounds, and light percussion. This is not a release for anyone looking for band music or throat-singing from Tuva. This is old Russian poetry sung without much instrumental accompaniment. There are some instances with little singing and several minutes of fire crackling, water rippling, birds singing, or a shamanic drum beat and cymbals. This is a great folklore release for Russian poetry fans and anyone else looking for something new. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Mr. Pauer's 'Soundtrack'

Fabrika Music

Mr. Pauer, otherwise known as, Toto Gonzalez, is a Venezuelan-born, Miami-based DJ, producer, and remix king. His latest release, Soundtrack, is the result of a lifetime living amidst tropical locales. The tropical elements of Soundtrack come through on the Spanish vocals and the Latin-beat sound. The electronic sounds and noises perfectly fuse with the tropical beats. Soundtrack's seemingly limited seven-track listing is easily compensated for with shots of diverse dub, funk, electric, cumbia, and Spaghetti Western-type music that fill the soul and move the body. Somewhat instrumental and somewhat vocal, Soundtrack is a groovy release unlike any other. It is fresh, modern, creative, and magical. The incredible instrumental zone of "Que Si Que No" and "Escaping" prove his musical abilities. The tropical beats of "Mente De Mente" are also very special in their own right. Let Mr. Pauer be your guide to the tropico-electric club grooves of Florida and Latin America. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Romania's Sanda Weigl

Gypsy In A Tree

The New York-based, Romanian-native, Sanda Weigl, is an innovative avant-garde jazz and gypsy music singer. Her Romanian roots shine through on every track. The music incorporates gypsy music, songs of elegy, dance songs, and songs about love and drinking. Gypsy In A Tree is so-named for the historical reference to wedding singers having to entertain guests out of sight and in a tree. The opening "Intr-O Zi La Poarta Mea" is a catchy, Romanian tune. The slower and more refined "As Ofta Sa-Mi Iasa Focul" is more aligned with jazz than gypsy. Sanda's vocals are joined by piano, accordion, farfisa organ, bass, guitar, percussion, clarinet, and tuba. The album contains diverse melodies and moods that would satisfy even the most discriminating listener. The gorgeous vocals and engaging lyrics make for an impressive release. Any fans of gypsy, Romanian, Balkan, avant-garde, jazz, or South American folk will look to the trees to find Gypsy In A Tree today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ghana's 'Bolga Zohdoomah'

Bolga Zohdoomah

Lead by vocalist and talking drum player Akayaa Atule, Bolga Zohdoomah explores the sounds of Ghanaian highlife and Afrobeat. The California-based band brings out all the musical splendor with B3 organ, piano, bass, rhodes, mandolin, sax, trombone, and trumpet. The infectious rhythms and melodies are particularly evident on "Kiesiemi". Some Latin elements sneak in on "Siekirie", downtempo-funk on "Nerebala Senaala", and the Afro-beat-laden "Jingo" and "B'r B'r B'r". The songs are sung in Fra Fra, Hausa, Ibo, Twi, Ga, and English. Unfortunately, additional song information is not provided in the liner notes. Despite this, the music speaks for itself on multiple levels. The music is as energetic as Chopteeth and as nostalgic as Novalima. The music is fresh, diverse, and an excellent introduction into the music of Ghana. Afro-beat fans unite on this one! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: 'Women We Are: Songs For The Awakening Of Women'

Various Artists
Women We Are: Songs For The Awakening Of Women

Anjali's musical collaborations with Carlos Oliveira, Chandrakanthy Courtney, David Courtney, Didi Ananda Ragamaya, Kamala, Jacquelyn Battise, Nataraj, Partha Mukhopadhyay, Peter Sprague, and Wayne Wilkerson explore the music of kirtan. The songs are most aligned with folk music with female vocals on all tracks. The songs are sung in English, Hindi, and Spanish. The overall sound of Women We Are... certainly touch on Buddhist or Hindu principles, but the celebration of women, whether myth or non-fiction, is the forefront message. There are spoken parts in "Mora Mukta Bhumir Me Ye" and "Jacquelyn's Poem". The progressive overtones of "Whole Mother" is Anjali's motherhood ballad. The spiritual and organic songwriting elements are a staple of Women We Are... Anjali's musical arrangements touch on social issues related to homeschooling, organic food, nature, relationships, and societal ills. The global relevance of philosophical thought and social action are not forgotten on Women We Are... It is tough to not smile with gratitude while listening to the songs. This is a perfect album for folk activists, new age music, and kirtan. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Yasmin Levy's 'Sentir'


The golden voice of Ladino and Sephardic music and culture is Yasmin Levy. Born in Israel, Yasmin sings traditional songs of Ladino culture with a Latin/Spanish flair that awakens the spirit, soul, and most of all, one's feet. The Judeo-Spanish language of Ladino is a relatively rare language at risk of extinction. Fortunately, the language (and music) is preserved on Sentir. Yasmin sings with such a high degree of emotion and sincerity that every song elicits responses of good cheer. One cover song of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is included and it is quite powerful. The Greek-tinged song "Porque" is a pleasant song showcasing Yasmin's far-reaching influences and abilities. The final song, "Yigdal", is a poignant traditional prayer sung in Hebrew. Anyone seeking music from this fascinating genre should begin with Yasmin Levy. Sentir is steeped in tradition and love. Liner notes are included in English, French, and Hebrew.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

CD Review: MC Yogi's 'Elephant Power'

Elephant Power

MC Yogi is a yogi hip hop star in the world of transcendental music today. Elephant Power is a highly melodic hip hop album with various guest musicians, including Bhagavan Das, Jai Uttal, Krishna Das, Rita Sahai, Sharon Gannon, and Sukhawat Ali Khan. MC Yogi's lyrics touch on Eastern philosophy and Buddhist teachings. This is not your typical hip hop album that praises lewd language, violence, and non-sensical lyrics. Surely, MC Yogi is a guiding light and intelligent lyricist with a wise tongue and spiritual presence. MC Yogi is the vocalist and harmonium player on the album. However, a range of instruments are used by others, including the ektar, conch, bells, dotar, bansuri flute, tabla, dholak, guitar, turntables, bass, and drums. Elephant Power is a weighty album of profound stories and catchy melodies in English and Sanskrit. This is perfect for the younger crowd, but older adults will find comfort in the musical message, too. Let MC Yogi tickle your chakras with the hip hop of Hanuman! Also available: Elephant Powered Remixes and Omstrumentals [2 CD]. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

CD Review: Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan

Roots Travellers

The Rajasthani folk and dance troupe, Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan, is an amazing group performing regional music from India's northwestern state. Roots Travellers follows the music of the gypsies and historical melodies from early castes. The troupe is led by Rahis Bharti. The folk music includes reggae-tinged rhythms on "Rajasthani Reggae" to Indian folk on "Shiv Ji" and Sufi-like music on "Maniara". The instrumental repertoire includes harmonium, tabla, dholak, Jew's harp, sarangi, and castanets. The vocals are never over-bearing or unnecessary. This is not necessarily a classical release, as the music tends to be reinvented and energetic enough for most tastes. Anyone with an interest in the melodies and rhythms of India, Pakistan, Central Asia, Gypsy, and Sufi music should acquire Roots Travellers as a perfect introduction to the music of Rajasthan. A special DVD is included. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, January 23, 2011

CD Review: Ishumar 2 - Guitar Music From North Africa

Various Artists
Ishumar 2: Nouvelles Guitares Touaregues

Just when you thought you've heard of every North African guitar release, the folks at Reaktion bring us a slew of new recordings from the Sahara, including Ishumar 2. The North African compilation release includes some of the rising blues guitarists and ensembles of today. This album contains twelve different guitar groups, including Ibrahim Djo Experience, Amanar, Tarbiyat, Kel Assouf, Nabil Baly Othmani, Moussa Bilalan Ag Ganta, Tiwitine, Moussa Sidi, Tamkilwate, Atri N'Assouf, and Mouma Bob & Imawalan. The groups hail from Mali, France, Niger, Belgium, Algeria, and Italy. Each track includes lead vocals with some background vocals and female trilling. The sounds of the desert never sounded so good. Anyone with an interest in more internationally-known groups, such as Tartit, Tinariwen, Toumast, Terakaft, and Tamikrest should snap up this album. While you are at it, snap up the other albums and digital downloads from Reaktion. Liner notes in French. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal

Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal
Chamber Music

Mali's kora player, Ballake Sissoko joins forces with France's cellist, Vincent Segal, for a candid, instrumental journey between two compatible instruments. The mood of Chamber Music is one of relaxation, peace, and contemplation. The instrumentation is primarily composed of kora and cello, but the balafon, ngoni, and bolon also make an appearance. The only vocal track is sung by Ivory Coast's Awa Sanagho, whose sound beckons the sincerity of Rokia Traore or the heartiness of Oumou Sangare. The absence of keyboards, guitars, and drums provides an intimate backdrop to the heart and soul of the music. For instance, the songs are tightly connected to strings, physically and figuratively, which tie the music together in a fun and interesting interplay. Furthermore, all of the songs are composed by Ballake or Vincent, which preserve the natural and creative integrity of the music without resulting in a slew of rehashed hits or cheap and easy songs. This is classy music for everyone! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kalidas' 'Crest Jewel of Devotion'

Crest Jewel of Devotion

For meditative explorations of the Far East, one must not look any further than California-based, kirtan singer and instrumentalist, Kalidas. Kalidas is named for a servant of Kali, which is a goddess that represents a destruction of the ego in the Hindu tradition. Kalidas' kirtan singing is in Sanskrit and includes special guest vocalist, Beth Searcey. Instrumental accompaniment is provided by Kalidas' harmonium and synthesizer, but also the djembe drum. A chant-lovers paradise, Kalidas' soothing vocals resonate nicely with the simplistic instrumentation and melodies. The chant verses stick with you long after the tracks ends. Eleven tracks are included, but the last two tracks are not listed in the liner notes, because they are hidden tracks of "Durge" and "Kali Durge". Other fine tracks include "Ganapati", "Jai Ambe I", "Govinda", and "Jai Ma". Crest Jewel of Devotion is a fine recording for anyone seeking musical transcendence and relaxation. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Danceable Toubab All Stars

Toubab All Stars
Mekfoul District
Taxi-Brousse Productions
The frenzied, French band, Toubab All Stars, bring loads of life, moods, and rhythms to the mix with their latest release, Mekfoul District. The opener, "Na Nga Def", is a soukous gem with Latin American sensibility. "Remede Authentique" is another spectacular soukous track with lively vocals, Congolese guitar stylings, and brashy brass. "Mekfoul District" is a brassy tune with definite characteristics from the Klezmer/Gypsy band traditions. Reggae-tinged tunes, "Tous A Velo", "Business Class", "Celebre Voyant D'Afrique", and "Monsieur Traore", are especially delicious. There are soukous, dancehall, ska, reggae, brass band, and Latin American influences throughout. All fourteen tracks play like fourteen individual parties. One familiar cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" is included. It is also the only track entirely sung in English. The final track, "Cumbia Te Quiero", can be appropriately categorized as 'Klezico': a combination of Klezmer brass and Latin American (Mexican) elements. Mekfoul District is a solid release for the French, North African, Latin, and Soukous music fans. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, January 16, 2011

CD Review: Deva's 'Mantras For Precarious Times'

Mantras For Precarious Times

With a focus on mantras, Deva Premal shares the power of the Vedic scriptures by unleashing physical energies within the body by awakening the energy channels (nadis) within us all. There are 108 nadis that meet in the heart. As a result, each of the seven mantras are chanted 108 times. Besides Deva's soothing voice and tanpura playing, she is joined by Manose on Bansuri flute, Miten on voice, and Kamal on keyboard and bells. The relaxing sounds and moods are a perfect invitation for yoga sessions. Moreover, any kind of de-stressing should involve Deva's mantras. The toll of the bells, airy sounds of the flute, and the Sanskrit lyrics of Deva's inspirational mantras are ideal for any person seeking saneness. The length of the tracks at eight minutes provides just enough time to master the recitations. Anyone interested in New Age, yoga, Buddhist, or chant music will find Mantras For Precarious Times to be an enthralling and informative part of their daily routine. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Gyuto Monks of Tibet and Deva Premal

Deva Premal & The Gyuto Monks of Tibet
Tibetan Mantras for Turbulent Times

Born in Germany, Deva Premal has become a preeminent vocalist of relaxation and meditative music. The addition of The Gyuto Monks of Tibet add beautiful chants of spiritual richness and vivid colours seemingly from beyond this Earth. The opening invocation by The Gyuto Monks of Tibet leads into "Compassion", which includes Deva's repeated recitation of the mantra 'Om Mani Padme Hum'. "Purification" opens with chanting in tune with throat-singing. However, the chanting fades as Deva repeats 'Om Bena Satto Hung' throughout. "Buddha" is another fine song that incoporates a flute. The absence of drums and guitars provides a stripped-down album of earthy chants with simplistic instrumentation that does not detract from the spiritual significance of each track. In order to keep things lively, the addition of keyboards, cello, Bansuri and Native American flutes accompany the compositions. The rather New Age connotations and world chanting allow for a very mesmerizing production that is sure to fill the soul with solitude and gratitude. 10 tracks in all. Praise Deva and The Gyuto Monks of Tibet for their work. All sales benefit the Gyuto Monastery, Phowa Project, and Veggiyana. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Morocco's Majid Bekkas

Majid Bekkas

Hailing from Morocco, Majid Bekkas is a classically-trained guitarist, keyboardist, oud player, singer, and guimbri player that explores the blues and soul music of North Africa. The accompaniment of guest musicians, including Minino Garay on bass and percussion, Aly Keita on balafon, Serge Marne on djembe drum, Joseph Bessam Kouassi on talking drum, and many others, gives Makenba a more universal appeal beyond Africa's natural borders. In fact, "Ali Ya Ali" is a distinctively traditional tune with Caribbean and Gypsy elements. The saunteringly beautiful "Sahara Blues" is an epic in its own right. The tune spans the sounds of the Sahara, while faint Latin American sounds shine through. Of course, Gnawan trance music is a part of the repertoire, but it does not delve into boring doldrums as the Master Musicians of Jajouka often do. Though not necessarily a fusion album, Makenba is varied enough to keep it interesting without sacrificing creativity, musicianship, or culture. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, January 13, 2011

CD Review: Ghanaian Highlife from San Diego - Akayaa's 'Masoh'


Ghana's musical heritage is performed by San Diego's Akayaa. Born in Ghana's Frafra tribe, Akayaa sings in Fra-Fra and Twi languages. Twelve tracks of Ghanaian highlife are represented on Masoh, which means 'father' in Fra-Fra. Energetic drumming and vocals are staples in West African music. The guitars, percussion, flutes, and vocals present a beautiful scene of happiness and longevity. The joyous music celebrates animals, introductions, arranged marriage, ancestral blessings, lullabies, childhood, and the continent of Africa. The songs are not in English, except for a few words, so a Fra-Fra or Twi dictionary may be necessary. Still, the musical tempos and rhythms transcend any translational barriers. A queen of Ghanaian music and respected teacher of singing, drumming, and dancing, Akayaa brings a unique energy and unwavering devotion to all her music projects. Masoh is a pivotal album of California Ghana music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: South Korea's Youn Sun Nah

Same Girl
Hub Music

South Korea's Youn Sun Nah is an innovative singer and musician. Borrowing several tracks by Rodgers & Hammerstein, Ulf Wakenius, Randy Newman, Terry Cox, Philippe Sarde, Sergio Mendes, and Metallica, Youn Sun Nah reinterprets the iconic songs of the abovementioned musicians and makes them her own. "My Favorite Things" is a solo vocal track with kalimba. The vocal sounds of Youn Sun Nah is somewhere between Scotland's Karine Polwart and England's Katie Melua. Two original tracks, "Uncertain Weather" and "Pancake", showcase her songwriting abilities. Singing in English throughout, some of the songs border on Indian, Latin, and European styles. For instance, "Breakfast in Baghdad" features scatting vocals amidst a flamenco/Indian rhythm. One traditional tune in Korean, "Kangwondo Arirang", is a solemn ballad with voice and guitar. A nice French tune, "La Chanson d'Helene", sounds like something from a romantic Paris cafe. Overall, the sparse instrumentation and almost-avante garde elements at times signify the creative spark of Youn Sun Nah. Hopefully, Same Girl will spawn a future album of more original music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Asani - Listen


An Edmonton-based trio, Asani, which means 'rock' in Cree, is a Canadian vocal group that sings in Cree, English, and French. "Nitohta" is a fine folk song with hints of throat-singing. The soulful "Okisikowak" is another gem. Instrumentally, the music is fairly simple with marimba, percussion, drums, and vibraphone. The bluesy "Boil Water Advisory" at first sounds like a comedic tune, but it is based purely on reality and is a serious problem among many communities. The traditional instrumentation and vocal harmonies are definitely above-average. The Aboriginal Award winning group sings songs of Canadian life and Aboriginal legends. The final track, "O Canada", is the Canadian National Anthem, but this one celebrates their Woodland Cree heritage. The twelve tracks are pleasant and educational at the same time. Asani proves you do not need a guitar to create beautiful and moving music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kel Assouf - Tin Hinane

Tin Hinane
Igloo Records

The Tuareg blues bands have flourished after the rise of the late-Ali Farka Toure. The Tamasheq-language group, Kel Assouf, is made up of members from Niger, Mali, Togo, Algeria, Mauritania, France, and Ghana. The music is a mix of flute, voice, guitar, karkabou, kora, bass, calabash, percussion, and pandeiro. The sounds of the Sahel are breezy and the vocals are superb. The Tinariwen-esque playing styles resemble other North African guitar groups, including Etran Finatawa, Tidawt, Toumast, Tartit, Tamikrest and Terakaft. The jaunty "Afrik" and the beautiful "Tiliadene N'Ashra" rivals that of "Tinariwene" and the solemn "Talit". Kel Assouf is Tamasheq for 'son of the desert' and Tin Hinane is Tamasheq for an ancient Tuareg queen. The importance of the guitar as an instrument of rebellion pervades North Africa and permeates the tracks of Tin Hinane. The incorporation of traditional instruments provides a fine balance between ancient and modern elements that shine through on every track. Travel to the Sahara and let Kel Assouf welcome you into their world. Liner notes in French with Tamasheq song titles. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Chopteeth - Live

Grigri Discs

Chopteeth is back with a live set of resurrected Afrofunk and Afrobeat tunes from Africa's greats including Fela Kuti, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Le Shimandou de Beyla, and Peter King. Of course, the band focuses on other tunes by Ignacio Rios, Rudy Gomis, Ndeye Mbaye, Barthelemy Attiso, Arthur Kennedy, Michael Shereikis, and Duke Ellington. The D.C.-based band is a purveyor in the golden age of African funk music. The classic 1970's tunes are mainly instrumental with plenty of brass, drums, keyboards, electric guitar, and bass. The ten songs were recorded at a few different locations around D.C. The audience participation is minimal with only a smattering of applauses or shouts. The groovy beats are a perfect accompaniment for a thriller or suspense film soundtrack. Chopteeth is a delectable band that always brings the brass with the sass. ~ Matthew Forss

Monday, January 10, 2011

CD Review: Grammy-nominated Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon

Om Namo Narayanaya: Soul Call

A recent Grammy-nominated album, Om Namo Narayanaya: Soul Call, is a delicious journey of ancestral significance that draws upon ancient syllabic chants to formulate songs with different Indian ragas. A classically trained Indian vocalist, Chandrika K. Tandon, brings a soothing and intriguing voice backed by incredible instruments including sarod, sitar, esraj, violin, tabla, and various drums and flutes. Each track begins with a relatively slow pace with limited instrumentation and vocal accompaniment, but every song satisfies the soul by picking up the pace after a short time. The classical compositions are relatively modern in form and do not follow the typical raga pattern of solo sitar and vocal accompaniment. Chandrika K. Tandon's vocals are never grating or unwarranted. The Sanskrit chants and modern instrumentation strike a perfect balance between old and new without resorting to pulsating dance music or a boring and dry solo sitar and voice performance. However, a faster paced "Basanth Mukhari" might border on a Bollywood anthem with some flamenco and Central Asian elements thrown in. Overall, Soul Call is an excellent soundtrack for hope and peace in the New Year. ~ Matthew Forss