Friday, January 30, 2015

CD Review: Kiran Ahluwalia's 'Sanata: Stillness'

Kiran Ahluwalia
Sanata: Stillness

Indo-Canadian, Kiran Ahluwalia, ventures into uncharted territory with the swirling, bluesy, guitar riffs characteristic of North Africa's Saharan Desert region. However, South Asian delicacies are still apparent throughout the album, but the instrumental guitar, harmonium, and drums arouse a North African spirit laced with curry-scented morsels called songs. The breezy and bluesy style of "Hayat" resembles a North African anthem spearheaded with vocals of a South Asian origin, but "Sanata" contains similar influences . "Jaane Na" is more aligned with Indian jazz and pop with drifting melodies and floating vocals. "Lament" is a South Asian jazz tune with elements of rock, fusion, experimentation, and contemporary leanings in a mostly instrumental display. All of the music is created from acoustic/electric guitars, bass, tabla, organ, harmonium, drums, and vibraphone. Overall, Kiran challenges music origins and presents them in a very endearing package. Liner notes are in English, Hindi/Punjabi, and French.

Monday, January 26, 2015

CD Review: BKO Quintet's 'Bamako Today' w/DVD

BKO Quintet
Bamako Today (w/DVD)
Buda Records

Under the direction of Cris Ubermann, BKO Quintet releases a great recording of contemporary music rooted in Malian traditions with traditional instruments to boot. The new album, Bamako Today, features the music of Aymeric Krol with various instrumental accompaniment, including the dunun, donsongoni, djembe, djelingoni, acoustic and electric guitar, and drum set. The instrumentation is very organic and soul-stirring with a steady supply of affectionate intonations and historic renderings. The accompanying DVD contains musical performances of the group in a documentary format for nearly fifty-three minutes. Fans of Malian music, ngoni music, Saharan music, Afro-pop, and contemporary African music will not be disappointed here. ~ Matthew Forss    

CD Review: Jah9's 'New Name'

New Name

Jah9 hails from Jamaica, so naturally, reggae music is a likely influence. You would be right, but mix a little pop, urban, dub, and roots music and you have Jah9's new album, New Name. Jah9 is a rare find, as she is one of a very select number of reggae stars that are female. There are reverberations of dub electronica, vocal prowess, trippy beats, socially-relevant lyrics, and throbbing keys projecting sounds through one's soul and mind. There are even poetic moments of spoken word on "Interlude." The fluidity of "Gratitude" makes one want to dive into reggae with full-force and never look back. There are fourteen tracks with two of these tracks performed as an extended mix. At any rate, fans of dub, electronic, reggae, Jamaican roots, and just plain great music will love New Name. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Balkan Clarinet Summit'

Various Artists
Balkan Clarinet Summit

The neo-classical leanings of Balkan Clarinet Summit present musicians from all over Western Europe for a truly magical recording that is also a film. Goethe-Institut Athina director, Wolfgang Poehlmann, had the original idea, while Claudio Puntin and Steffen Schorn took charge of the musical direction. Artists come from Moldavia, Greece, Serbia, Turkey, and Bulgaria. Each artist contributes to the project in a collective manner, which leaves room for improvisation and innovation, but not straying too far from historic roots. The music is at times very peaceful, while other times it is very energetic and full of life. This is music created in Europe for people of all backgrounds and tastes, as it is completely instrumental and jam-packed with contemplative, relaxing, and even dance-friendly compositions and moments. Whether folk, neo-classical, or roots music is your passion, Balkan Clarinet Summit will surely inspire listeners everywhere to listen up. ~ Matthew Forss

Attn: Musicians - Where To Send Albums For Review

Please send any and all CDs or LPs (singles or full-lengths) to the address below for review on this blog. 

Matthew Forss
c/o Inside World Music
840 Lorinda Ave.
Omro, WI 54963

CD Review: Selasee & Fafa Family's 'Time For Peace'

Selasee & Fafa Family
Time For Peace

Born in Ghana, Selasee & Fafa Family, create whirling rhythms of heady funk and reggae beats with a fusion of Bob Marley, Alpha Blondy, and Caribbean melodies that possess a pop background in a contemporary and somewhat urban setting. The music of West Africa is influenced by reggae music, but it is not as globally-prevalent as Afro-pop or blues music. The soulful vocals, bouncy drums, fluid bass, gritty guitars, sax and trumpet sounds, keyboard washes, and strings create a magnificent musical medley rich in history and highlife sensibilities, which grow out of the reggae and soul domain. Whatever it is called; it is something that should be shared with everyone you know as soon as possible. These African melodies and sounds are unparalleled. For a truly great musical journey, please make Time For Peace a staple in your listening library. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: New Kingston's 'Kingston City'

New Kingston
Kingston City
Easy Star Records

New York City-based and reggae proud, New Kingston adds an element of urban hip hop, world fusion, and island rhythms stemming from their Jamaican roots. The twelve track album contains edgy, fluid tunes with witty lyrics and a heady delivery with guest singers such as, Maad T-Ray, E.N. Young, Kimie Miner, The Wailing Souls, the late-Sugar Minott, and Sister Carol, adding a well-rounded crew of talent. The innovative reggae label of Easy Star continues to find, hone, and spread the word of reggae to the world. New Kingston is no different, as their Jamaican roots and grooves head to the forefront. Some of the songs are more straight-forward and pop-driven, but the reggae influence is never too far behind. Fans of urban reggae music, world fusion, and great, contemporary music will find it most satisfying. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Avasa & Matthew Love's 'The Road'

Avasa & Matthew Love
The Road
White Swan Records

Husband and wife-duo, Avasa & Matthew Love, present us with a gracious album of inner peace led by catchy pop hooks and spacious thematic constructions. There is a contemporary vein running throughout the album, but there also is a historical foundation with yoga-inspired melodies and vocalizations that transcend time, space, and genre categorization. Avasa & Matthew lead vocals, guitar, and harmonium, while others perform on tabla, esraj, flute, violin, mandolin, bass, and percussion. There are supporting vocals by a number of artists, including Jason Mraz. As with many other White Swan Recordings, The Road follows in a similar path to Deva Premal, Miten, Krishna Das, and Liquid Bloom. The symphonic choruses and sweet vocal lines are repeated in parts to add another layer of bliss and satisfaction come over any listener within earshot. The glorious vocals and catchy hooks will grab hold of any listener and never let go. Essentially, The Road is very, very good. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Liquid Bloom's 'Heart Of The Shamans'

Liquid Bloom
Heart Of The Shaman
White Swan Records

The undulating soundscapes of the Heart Of The Shaman offers a blend of Native American flutes, chants, and symbolic gestures utilizing hand movements with entrancing percussion, keyboards, and a plethora of other sounds. The recording is contemporary, but includes sometimes subtle elements of world fusion, South Asian influences, and new age incarnations. There are eight total tracks, but the last two tracks run almost thirty-three minutes long in a sort of electronic medley mix. There are wispy and ethereal vocals from Rara Avis, Sarah West, and Ixchel Prrisma. The vocals tend to match the instrumentation, which is very heavenly and blissful to say the least. Robert Mirabal adds his presence on Taos flutes and some chants. Though, the music would be perfectly suited for meditation or yoga, there is a strong element of Southwestern, Amazonian, and ritualistic vibes that bring people and nature together in almost perfect harmony. Fans of Native American fusion, electronica, new age, and ethnic down-tempo compositions will love it. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Afrorockerz's Self-Titled Release

The Afrorockerz
The Afrorockerz
Buda Musique

Paris-based and soon-to-be-world-known, The Afrorockerz, combine the elements of a West African night-club with the action-packed sound of Euro-jazz and American soul for a truly pleasant recording. The funky rhythms are spearheaded by vocalist, Allonymous and Emma Ladji, while Sylvain Daniel is in charge of bass, keyboards, and programming. Though, the brainchild of the album, Julien Jujju Raulet, is a master guitarist, percussionist, and drummer. The group includes the percussion talents of Frederic Jean, Maxime Zampiere, Eric Durand, and keyboard credits from Guillaume Poncelet. Some of the tunes are edgy and urban-esque, but not too dissimilar from typical West and Central African funk and jazz. The group's eerie keyboard sounds and pervasive beats that change direction without notice are all very attractive elements on the album. There are even a few rock guitar displays. Still, anyone into Afro-funk and jazz will love The Afrorockerz. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Alex Conde's 'Descarga For Monk'

Alex Conde
Descarga For Monk
Zoho Music

Alex Conde's piano playing abilities touch on Spanish, flamenco, Caribbean, and jazz genres on his latest work, Descarga For Monk. Alex is joined by Jeff Chambers on bass, Jon Arkin on drums, and John Santos on percussion, along with Amparo Conde and Carmen Carrasco on hand-claps and foot-stomps. The instrumental recording incorporates bubbly piano melodies interspersed with lounge jazz rhythms and light percussion that is classy, timeless, and easy to listen to. The album is aptly-titled, as it celebrates the  music of Thelonious Monk. In fact, all of the compositions are attributed to Thelonious Monk. Alex brings the music alive with edgy pizzazz and brilliant piano tunings that evoke feelings of contentment and happiness with each track. Fans of Latin jazz, Thelonious Monk, piano music, and instrumental works will love Alex Conde's latest venture. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sarakina's 'Live In Studio'

Live In Studio

The Polish band, Sarakina, brings us a new album recorded during a live concert at Studio Rembrandt by Polish Radio Bialystok in Poland on February 23, 2014. The contemporary folk and Balkan musical connections are prevalent throughout with lush percussion and swirling rhythms led by strong, neo-classical vocals by Eliza Sacharczuk. Eliza's vocals are joined by kaval, bagpipes, tupan, tambura, clarinet, double-bass, and assorted percussion. The instrumental sections are vibrant, magical, and somewhat whimsical. The haunting and breathy kaval flute and organic drums, along with the dizzying sounds of the bagpipes, allows the album to explore various musical styles and influences ranging from the Mediterranean, the Balkans, Turkey, and Western Europe. There are some applause segments at the end of the songs, but it does not interfere with the flow of the album. The recording quality is excellent overall. Fans of Balkan folk, European folk, instrumental fusion, and lively world music will love Sarakina. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Complicated Animals' 'In This Game'

Complicated Animals
In This Game
Socialite Fiasco Music

Monica da Silva and Chad Alger are the duo, Complicated Animals, with a unique musical genre that is aptly-titled, Indie Nova. It is taken from classic, Brazilian pop and bossa nova sounds with a blend of folk full of poignant and celebratory tunings perfect for a relaxing evening on a beach of your choice. There are even French folk leanings without the French vocals or lyrics. Though, running around seventeen-minutes in length, the album is not going to last very long. Luckily, each song is unique and catchy in their own ways, which make listening very enjoyable. "O Que Passou" and "Sempre Aqui" are the only songs in Portuguese, while the other four tracks are in English. The music foundation includes bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, and other instruments that form a folksy sound that is more folk than Brazilian. "Roadmap" and "O Que Passou" are two very catchy tunes that will be stuck in your head for the better part of a day, or even longer if you put it on repeat (which you will). A great little album. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Stevin McNamara's 'Shakti Guitar'

Stevin McNamara
Shakti Guitar
White Swan Records

Stevin McNamara's latest foray into meditational bliss on Shakti Guitar adds a beautiful serenity to soul-soaked compositions ripe with engaging melodies and soothing rhythms. Stevin's contemplative guitar stylings are accompanied by drums, gongs, bells, bass, Bansuri flute, sarod, tabla, acoustic bass, tamboura, frame drum, and other percussive instruments. The sweeping sounds are very fulfilling and addictive. There are even a few vocals (thanks to Sheela Bringi), but the majority of songs are instrumental. Stevin's nylon guitar strums and plucks project listeners into a trance-induced coma of a higher consciousness. The light sounds are more akin to new age constructions or even film soundtracks. The spacious sounds and heavenly ambiance attract listeners with entrancing elements and shape-shifting progressions that never disappoint. If you want to do yoga, sleep, relax, chill, or think at a higher level, then Stevin McNamara will get your shakti's aligned with this one! ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, January 25, 2015

CD Review: Ailie Robertson's 'Little Lights'

Ailie Robertson
Little Lights
Lorimer Records

Scottish harpist, Ailie Robertson, is joined by Natalie Haas on cello and Tim Edey on guitar and accordion for a truly folk-riddled album of instrumental magnificence. The bouncy melodies are spritely and imaginative with great sounds all around. There are eleven tracks in all with many songs arranged in jig or waltz-like orientations. For instance, some of the songs have two titles side by side, which relate to the different tones and progressions characteristic of instrumental folk music from Scandinavia and Northern Europe. It is nice the album is not too short (46:46) either. Fans of instrumental harps and koras, along with roots, folk, and fusion interests, will love Ailie Robertson's new release. It's a little album with a big impact. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Niels Gedge's 'Maui's Whale'

Niels Gedge
Maui's Whale

The folk and blues-tinged vocals of singer and guitarist, Niels Gedge, paints a beautiful picture of intelligent music from a seemingly-unlikely region of the world: New Zealand. The English vocals are emotive and ruddy, but always pleasant. Niels is joined by several performers on clarinet, sousaphone, percussion, piano, cello, accordion, upright bass, cross harp, trumpet, and a few other instruments. The songs are led by Niels' intense and honest lyrics that are wrapped around a heady mix of rhythms and melodies that never get old. The playful tunes bring in some blues and gospel overtones amid a folk background. Anyone searching for some great folk, blues, gospel, and popular music with classic vocals and a great mix of instrumentation will love Maui's Whale. ~ Matthew Forss

Saturday, January 24, 2015

CD Review: Marti Nikko & DJ Drez's 'Dreaming In Sanskrit'

Marti Nikko & DJ Drez
Dreaming In Sanskrit
Black Swan Records

Blissful, electronic, and yoga-inspired, Dreaming In Sanskrit is the debut work of husband and wife duo, Marti Nikko and DJ Drez. The thirteen tracks are soaked with lush dub melodies, sitar-sizzling riffs, and down-tempo beats that cannot be ignored. Marti and DJ Drez are accompanied by Bansuri flute, cello, bass, sax, chinese flute, piano, flute, and tabla. The repeated Sanskrit mantras are very soothing and rhythmic, while backed by symphonic sounds and ambulating beats. There are even Arabic sounds on a few tracks, but the most prevalent influence is modern mantra and yoga-inspired music with lengthy melodies and electronic wizardry that is not too overt. Fans of yoga, meditation, down-tempo, groove-laden, and world fusion music will love. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, January 15, 2015

CD Review: Live Hart's 'Honesty'

Live Hart
Goin' Native Records

Links: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Soundcloud

Florida's Live Hart brings a fresh alternative soul and pop release with ten new songs loaded with heartfelt lyrics and smooth grooves. Honesty traverses the human soul with such acuity that is unparalleled in today's music. Live's candid expressions and emotive result shines through on every track. The first song, "I'm Gone," is a laid-back, soul-enveloping romp into a smooth jazz world of punchy bass, swishy percussion, and keyboard washes. "Lala" is a poignant guitar ballad with Live's solo and somewhat acrobatic vocals throughout. However, the vocals are quite tame and solid. "Release" is a neo-soul and pop tune with some electric guitar displays that set it apart from other tunes on the album. "Summer Love" is a lush, pop song with keyboards, guitars, percussion, and other effects that create a sort of dance-friendly result. "This Is Me" is another great pop tune with crystalline guitar notes, laid-back percussion, and clever lyrics. The same great elements, including back-up vocals, are present on "Please Don't Say It's Over." Overall, Live Hart's new release is more alternative soul and pop than urban or R&B. Every tune brings something new and fresh to the mix without resorting to any of the common traps of contemporary music. Honesty: It's the best! 5 Stars (out of 5) ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

CD Review: Kamerunga's 'Terra Australis'

Terra Australis
Arc Music

The innovative band from Down Under, Kamerunga, invigorates the human soul with a mish-mash of enjoyable tunes originating from a variety of sources and inspirations, including the Balkans, Scandinavia, Ireland, the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and seemingly everywhere in-between. The jig-friendly tunes excite the Celtic vein at times, while other times, the music is ripe with contemporary folk and rock compositions in a lively, global-esque product. The multi-national influences imbibe the music with a type of authentic candor that is refreshing and unique, but most of all, infectious. While Yothu Yindi may be one of the most popular groups to come out of Australia, Kamerunga produces a more engaging and varied listening result that is mostly non-rock oriented. At any rate, the mix of jazzy, folk, roots, and globally-inspired tunes will set anyone's feet ablaze with musical fire. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Pajala Tatawin's Self-Titled Release From Sweden And Tunisia

Pajala Tatawin
Pajala Tatawin

The unlikely pairing of music from Sweden and Tunisia is eloquently-illustrated on Pajala Tatawin's new, self-titled release. With Scandinavian melodies, folk roots, and the Arabic classicism of Tunisia's Amina Annabi, the music showcases some magical moments with joyous vocals, chants, heady rhythms, and diverse instrumentation that consists of double bass, accordion, kalimba, guitars, percussion, and piano. "Koskenkorva" is a splendid song with various vocalizations, symphonic sounds, edgy folk roots, light rock accompaniment, and Scandinavian sounds that leave listeners yearning for a repeat. The accordion-led, "Maa On Musta," is a reflective song set in a traditional setting that is quaint and somewhat French-inspired. The dance-friendly, "Muhamed," is an Arabic and European-inspired whirlwind of ecstatic beauty and earthly roots. There are Gypsy moments, Arabic grooves, Scandinavian roots, and global rhythms and vocals throughout for a very cohesive and enjoyable journey. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Phil Chester Group's 'Open Door Samba'

Phil Chester Group
Open Door Samba

The very talented composer, arranger, saxophonist, and band-leader, Phil Chester, creates a moving instrumental album of jazzy concoctions with a good dose of South American grooves, American sensibilities, and cheery Latin arrangements for a rousing and inventive result. The music is bouncy, meditative, dance-friendly, and soothing. The multi-factoral musical feelings are related to the diverse instrumental abilities of the group, as well as the tempo, rhythm, and melodies. Phil Chester is joined by Bob Quarant on piano, Ian Froman on drums, Leo Huppert & Joe Fitzgerald on bass, Katie Jacoby on violin, and Tomas Ulrich on cello. The fluttering sax sounds are emotive and display a blend of bluesy urgency and a happy beach day. The somewhat classical undertones are a perfect accompaniment to the bossa nova, samba, and South American-tinged backbone. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Tri Nguyen's 'Consonnances'

Tri Nguyen

The music of Vietnam is rarely available to mainstream, world music listeners. However, Tri Nguyen's new album, Consonnances, will hopefully reignite a global passion for the traditional and classical artforms of Vietnam's musical styles and influences. Tri's latest release contains thirteen different tracks of traditional and classical-tinged folk music on the dan tranh (a Vietnamese zither with close ties to the Japanese koto, Chinese guzheng, and the Korean kayagum), as well as classical strings. The contemplative, serene, and beautifully-sweeping melodies capture a very moving and emotive side to instrumental music rarely observed in other settings. Tri's utilization of melodic tones and cheery tempos makes Consonnances shine with inner and outer beauty. The classical undertones resemble Mongolian, Chinese, Japanese, and even American theatrical soundtracks from the 1940's and 50's. At any rate, Tri Nguyen is a welcome addition to the world of music and highlights the importance of Vietnamese music necessary for any music fan of Southeast and East Asia. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Boubacar Traore's 'Mbalimaou'

Boubacar Traore

Mali's iconic vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, Boubacar Traore, brings us a fresh set of tracks steeped in Saharan charisma and African history on his latest release, Mbalimaou. The sauntering. bluesy tune, "Hona," resembles a little late-Ali Farka Toure influence with edgy harmonica, talented guitar fingerings, and light percussion. The album is rich with n'goni, sokou, kora, shaker, calabash, and karignan sounds. The music is rather acoustic and spacious with subtle intonations and jazzy grooves led by Boubacar's husky voicings. Malian blues are alive and well on the album. Comparisons to the late-Ali Farka Toure are noteworthy and necessary. Boubacar's guitar playing is more acoustic and experimental overall, but the bluesy and jazzy instrumentation adds to the contemplative mood of the music without compromising quality. The twelve-track release is a perfect introduction to Mali's blues, as well as a recommended album for more seasoned Saharan music fans. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Afla Sackey & Afrik Bawantu's 'Life On The Street'

Afla Sackey & Afrik Bawantu
Life On The Street
Ghetto Lounge

The UK-based Afro-funk band, Afla Sackey & Afrik Bawantu, brings us a heavy, African-inspired mix of catchy beats, groovy melodies, and hot rhythms ripe with African spirit and charisma on their latest release, Life On The Street. The eight-track release combines funky rhythms rich with jazzy textures and horn-driven melodies throughout. Led by Ghanaian singer, songwriter, composer, and master percussionist, Afla Sackey, Life On The Street is an excellent example of tribal melodies and global beats coming together in happy unison. The vocal parts are in a Ghanaian language of Ga, while at other times, English rules the tracks. However, the album contains more instrumental segments over vocal medleys. Anyone familiar with contemporary Afro-funk and classic music styles from the 1960's and 1970's will appreciate Afla Sackey & Afrik Bawantu's musical madness. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Allan Moon's 'Children Of The Call'

Allan Moon
Children Of The Call
Songbird Records

Children Of The Call is a laid-back, funky, and jazz-inflected journey resulting from Allan Moon's global lifestyle in Canada, New York, and Israel. Allan's classic tone bridges alternative leanings with folk and rock beats that shimmer with raw and inspiring lyrics. The slow, symphonic beats of the crooner, "New York City," Allan blends American 1970's folk styles with a bluesy, Southern feel for a truly enigmatic result. "Children Of The Call" is an anthem that combines the vocal talents akin to Cat Stevens and Tom Petty with a heady mix of classic roots and folk. "Karolina" is another bluesy tune with classic vocals that encapsulates everything good about contemporary pop and rock music. Overall, the album brings together a mix of blues, folk, roots, rock, pop, funk, and alternative leanings in one indelible package. All the songs are in English with liner notes detailing each song. Fans of classic rock and folk with a bluesy and innovative edge will find comfort in these tunes. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year, New Store

Happy New Year!

For the past 15 years, I have reviewed thousands of albums from every country in the world. I continue to do so, but I would like to provide a more complete world music experience by providing you an opportunity to acquire popular, rare, and historic recordings (mainly LP and CD) from artists new and old from any country in the world. I have amassed a plethora of resources over the years to help in my efforts to find almost any artist or recording ever released. All you have to do is send me an email of your request at: and I will get back to you ASAP. Keep in mind I never sell copies or promotional releases. 

Happy Listening! 
Matthew Forss