New Reviews: August 2006
Reviews by Matthew Forss
Various Artists The Rough Guide to Planet Rock World Music Network www.worldmusic.net 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 www.worldmusic.net 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. Smadj Take It and Drive Rasa Music www.rasamusic.com 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 www.worldmusic.net 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 Trafico Crammed Discs www.thinkofone.be www.crammed.be 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 www.worldmusic.net 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 www.sixdegreesrecords.com 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.