New Reviews: August 2006

Reviews by Matthew Forss

Various Artists
The Rough Guide to Planet Rock
World Music Network

Planet Rock is the latest pulse in contemporary rock music from around the world. The music is certainly traditional 
with a rock foundation. You will hear music from Algeria, Tunisia, Guinea, USA, Israel, India, Palestine, Ukraine, 
Reunion Island, Portugal, Germany, Niger and Congo. Planet Rock showcases the role of rock music in traditional music 
styles from various countries. Several styles are represented, including waltzes, down beat, dance, accordion, fado, flamenco, 
throat singing, Klezmer, hip hop and psychedelia. You will hear Malian blues from Tinariwen, Cambodian pop from Dengue Fever, 
Niger blues from Etran Finatawa, Guinean kora from Ba Cissoko and music from many others. You don’t have to worry about skipping 
tracks, as each one is upbeat and ear friendly. Planet Rock is the album for those interested in contemporary music from around 
the world. Interestingly, each track maintains the traditional underpinnings inherent in each musical culture and/or region, without 
sacrificing quality or cultural identity. There is also an interview with CD compiler Johannes Heretsch included. Do not miss this one!

Etran Finatawa
Introducing Etran Finatawa
World Music Network 

The recent emergence of blues guitar and vocal music continues to come out of North Africa. Groups such as Tartit, Ali Farka Toure, 
Tinariwen, Ooleya Amartichitt, Malouma and others have pervaded the world music market to a limited extent. Etran Finatawa is a group 
from Niger that performs blues guitar music with typical North African calabash and drum percussion and wailing choral vocals. Etran 
Finatawa means ‘stars of tradition’. This album contains songs about camels, love laments and other desert activities. Etran Finatawa 
has members comprised of the Wodaabe and Tuareg tribes. Consequently, the music is representative of the amalgamation of these tribes. 
Thankfully, Etran Finatawa’s music floods the desert environment with authentic, joyous and soulful music that is sure to elicit a positive 
response from all who listen. Introducing Etran Finatawa is a musical experience full of life in a desert environment that is seemingly lifeless.   

Take It and Drive
Rasa Music

France-based, Tunisian-born musician, Smadj, concocts an improvisational masterpiece of wide-ranging electronic tonalities and world sounds. 
Take It and Drive is a mostly instrumental effort with some Indian vocals, French spoken word and North African vocals. Musically, each track 
flows effortlessly through the voids of electronic space, while the oud, ney flute, kora harp, guitar and percussion follow close behind. Each 
track incorporates whirling loops and sounds with a definite electronica foundation. Take It and Drive is an album highly recommended for 
relaxing, or for a long, boring drive. Take It and Drive will definitely keep you awake and enthralled. This is the album for electronic-infused 
world music fans that relish music from North Africa, South Africa, the Middle East, Europe and everywhere in between. Smadj is spectacular!

Various Artists
The Rough Guide to Bachata
World Music Network

The music of the Dominican Republic is varied and quite pervasive. One of the styles, bachata, is an island dance form that celebrates love and 
societal life. Musically, the bass, guitar and percussion instruments sound similar to Central African guitar stylings or Pacific Island guitar 
music. Crystal-clear guitar work, upbeat rhythms, and effervescent vocalizations make Bachata a real charm. Fans of Latin, tropical, Pacific 
Island, Central African and guitar music should acquaint themselves with Bachata. An interview with the CD compiler, Joan Shenton, is also 
included, along with artist information.     

Think Of One
Crammed Discs

Belgium’s Think Of One showcases their tropical talents on Trafico. Think Of One collaborated with Brazilian musicians on Trafico. Trafico 
is the culmination of multinational travels to seek out some of the best music from around the world. Consequently, the sound is wholly 
Brazilian jazz. Spanish and Flemish lyrics and male/female vocals emanate from each track. The instrumentation is complex and innovative and 
always engaging. Trafico is an album worth high praise and celebration.   

Various Artists
Rough Guide: Iran
World Music Network                

Iran’s musical explorations include a wide variety of instrumentation, music styles and influences. However, the Rough Guide to the music of Iran 
is compiled with a variety of artists in order to bring us an authentic and breathtaking array of musical compositions. Melodious instrumentals, 
contemporary songs, historical pieces and folk pieces enhance the quality of the recording. Typical instrumentation includes the setar, tar, kemanche, 
ney flute, santoor and tombak. Contemplative, joyous and emotive vocals by males and females pervade the tracks. Some lesser-known artists featured 
include, Arian Band, The Kamkars, Trio Chemrani, Barad, among others. Perfect for Iranian music fans. 

Azam Ali 
Elysium For The Brave
Six Degrees Records          

Elysium For The Brave is the second, solo album by Azam Ali. The musical foundation of the second album is mostly backed by a contemporary musical 
muse and scattered Middle Eastern percussion and instrumentation. The mix between historical and contemporary musical explorations does not distract 
the listener in anyway. Azam’s vocals are strong on every track and precisely evoke passion, wonderment, contemplation, joy, longing, hope, devotion 
and angelic interludes. The graceful and angelic song “Forty One Ways” could be used to describe the number of emotions one feels each time one 
listens to Elysium For The Brave. Similar artists include Enigma, Ronan Hardiman, Emma Shapplin and Nuklearte. In short, you do not have to be 
‘brave’ to buy this album. The music essentially speaks for itself. You will not be disappointed. Lyrics are mostly in English.    

Matthew J. Forss graduated from Lakeland College-Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 2005 with a B.A. in Biology. He is currently enrolled as a full-time, graduate student at Northern Michigan University-Marquette, Michigan. He is pursuing a Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. Since 1998, he has collected numerous musical instruments and CDs from around the world. In 2000, 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 300 CDs that represent over 150 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 and Azerbaijan), North Africa (especially Mali, Mauritania, Western Sahara, Libya and Morocco), Scandinavia and Pacific Islands (especially New Zealand, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia). He also enjoys studying Uzbek, Tamasheq, Swedish and German linguistics. In November of 2000, he accepted the position of writing World Music CD reviews for this site.