New Reviews: April 6, 2004

Reviews by Matthew J. Forss

Dr. Ayako Hotta-Lister
The Japanese Koto
Arc Music

An Anglo-Japanese historian from London, Dr. Ayako Hotta-Lister plays music from the 17th century to the present. Dr. Ayako is an accomplished performer of the Japanese koto. The koto consists of a long, wooden body with 13 silk strings under equal tension, supported by movable bridges. The strings are plucked with three plectra on the right hand. Consequently, a wide array of sounds and tones can be manipulated, together or independently, with the right and left hand. Dr. Ayako performs eight classical compositions on koto and two accompanied with voice, originally composed by koto masters Yatsuhashi Kengyo and Michio Miyagi. Overall, an hour of stunning and representative koto music from Japan should continue the slow, but ever-growing interest in koto music and performance. Moreover, an informative booklet on the koto, Dr. Ayako and other composers/musicians is included in English, German, Spanish, and French translations.

Afghan Ensemble
Songs From Afghanistan
Arc Music

The urban folk, ghazal and qawwali music of Afghanistan is featured on one of Arc Music’s latest release – Songs From Afghanistan. The dozen compositions presented encompass a wide spectrum of popularly composed and played songs that are known from all over Afghanistan. In addition to folk music, love poems (ghazal), and spiritual songs (qawwali) represent distinct, yet powerful forms of contemporary and traditional musical transmission. Iranian-born Zohreh Jooya and Afghan-native Hamid Golestani are featured on vocals. The songs are sung in the Afghan language of Dari. Ensemble instruments, similarly characteristic of South Indian ensembles, include the harmonium, dambura, bamtar, rabab, tabla, daf and daire. An informative booklet detailing the musicians, songs, instruments and Afghan musical culture is included in English, German, French, and Spanish translations.

Monks Of Sherab Ling Monastery
Sacred Tibetan Chant
Naxos World

Sacred Tibetan Chant features prayers and meditations from the monks of Sherab Ling Monastery, located at the foothills of India’s Kangra Valley. The first track features the recitation of the Lineage Prayer that pays respect to the lineage of the gifted Kagyu meditation masters, which date back as far as the 7th century. The second track features the Mahakala invocation and offering for the purification and blessing of all responsive life forms. The Mahakala is performed in the evening before the completion of the day. Track three presents receipt of the blessings and the dedication to world peace and harmony. Musical instruments accompany the sacred chants, including the nga chin (temple drum), gyaling (oboe), radung (horns), kungling (valveless trumpet), sil-nyen (flat cymbal), and rol-mo (bulbous cymbals). Overall, Sacred Tibetan Chant features one hour of sacred chant from the monks of the Sherab Ling Monastery. Most importantly, the album was recorded live – and is the only recording ever to be produced from the monastery. Fortunately, listeners can purchase the album of remarkable rarity exclusively from the Naxos World label. Liner notes include German, French, and English translations of instruments, ceremonies and history.

Various Artists
Masters Of The Accordion
Arc Music

Masters Of The Accordion features some of the best accordionists from around the world. Organological variants of the accordion are also featured, including the bandoneon, French diatonic accordion, quartertone accordion, bayan and concertina. Additionally, folk, flamenco and gypsy-like percussion elements accompany the accordion performances. Vocals are not present on any track. Traditional compositions of accordion music performed in specific, regional styles, are featured from Argentina, Macedonia, Canada, Spain, Egypt, Ireland, Bulgaria, Finland, Brazil, Russia, and Italy. Some musicians featured include Hugo Diaz (Argentina), Maria Kalaniemi (Finland), and Enrique Ugarte (Spain). All in all, Masters Of The Accordion, is a very, high quality recording from Arc Music that represents some of the world’s finest accordion music. A booklet included details each musician in English, German, French, and Spanish translations.

Gregori Schechter and The Wandering Few
Arc Music

Musical director, composer, arranger, clarinet and saxophone player, Gregori Schechter, performs Klezmer music drawn from Russian and Eastern European musical traditions. Gregori was first introduced to Klezmer music from his father at 11 years of age. Soon after, Gregori studied at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Alma Ata, Russia and became a sought-after saxophonist. Klezmer is the latest professional effort of Gregori Schechter. Traditional horas, medleys and tunes from Europe and Russia are performed as instrumentals. Vocals are not present on any track. It should be noted that Klezmer music is essentially instrumental music that is performed for both Jewish and non-Jewish social functions. Typical ensemble instruments include rhythm guitars, piano, double bass, accordion, keyboards, clarinet, saxophone and assorted percussion instruments. In conclusion, Klezmer should be well received by fans of Klezmer/Jewish instrumental music. A highly detailed booklet detailing the musicians, instruments and songs is included in English, German, French, and Spanish.

Matthew J. Forss is currently a full-time student at Lakeland College-Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He is majoring in Biology and German Language/Culture. Since 1998, he has collected numerous musical instruments and CDs from around the world. Also in 1998, he wrote a paper on Mongolian Ethnomusicology, entitled: How Does Music Play An Important Role In The Life And Culture Of Mongolia? Currently, he has collected over 100 CDs that represent dozens of different countries. His general interests include ethnomusicology journalism and researching the traditional/contemporary ethnic music of various cultures from around the world. His specific, geographic areas of study include the traditional and popular music from Central Eurasia (especially Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.) In November of 2000, he accepted the position of writing world music CD reviews for this site.