New Reviews: August 2007
Reviews by Matthew Forss
Cesaria Evora Rogamar Sony www.cesaria-evora.com Cape Verde’s indigenous songstress, Cesaria Evora, has captured the hearts and ears of millions. She continues her musical concoctions on her latest release, Rogamar. Her swooning vocals, eclectic percussion/instrumentation and fluid melodies easily evoke a danceable response to all who listen. Each track incorporates rich textures of instrumentation with an airy, soulful, classical, and energetic nature. Rogamar is a celebration of the sea. Essentially, the sea is Cesaria’s palette of musical inspiration. The musical influences are largely Latin and African in origin. Long-time fans of Cesaria Evora should not miss Rogamar. Fans of Latin, African, Cape Verde, and Island music should definitely acquire Rogamar. Your feet will thank you! Dobet Gnahore Na Afriki Cumbancha www.cumbancha.com www.dobetgnahore.com Female vocalist, Dobet Gnahore, hails from Africa’s Ivory Coast. Na Afriki (To Africa) is a contemporary album showcasing traditional issues surrounding the human experience including topics on children, women, injustice, greed, sociopolitical issues, love, and loss. Dobet’s vocals are joined by backup singers, balafon, sanza, guitar, flute, drums, bass, and other African percussion. Dobet’s vocals are similar to another African coastal singer, Benin’s Angelique Kidjo. Na Afriki eschews with lively percussion, thought-provoking lyrics, and a cultural innovator that wants all people to know about Africa – with music as the vehicle. She sings in Dida, Wolof, Malinke, Xhosa, Fon, Guere, Arabic, and Lingala languages. Liner notes provide song translations in the sung language and in English and French. Na Afriki is an invaluable release from a musical region rarely heard in commercially-released, world music albums. Papa Noel Café Noir Tumi Music www.tumimusic.com Congo’s rich musical heritage joined with Cuban sensibility to produce a remarkable form of music called rumba congo. Congo’s Papa Noel, a musical innovator since the 1950’s, is accompanied by musicians from Nigeria, Cuba, and Cameroon. Upbeat, jazzy, and infectious, Café Noir brings us the music of two cultures with African soukous rhythms and instrumentation with Latin son. Liner notes are included in English and French. Fans of Latin jazz, Congolese, soukous, rumba, Cuban son, merengue, and others will find Café Noir a quintessential addition to any musical collection. Pharaoh’s Daughter Haran Oyhoo Records www.pharaohsdaughter.com Haran is an album of Jewish inspiration that literally spans the globe with many direct and indirect musical influences. The lead vocalist behind Pharaoh’s Daughter is Basya Schechter. The contemporary release incorporates a variety of instrumentation and beats from South America, Middle East, North Africa, Central Eurasia, and Western arrangements. The music is diverse; yet rich and contemplative and never dull. The classical, downbeat, atmospheric sounds from some of the tracks reminds one of other groups, such as Varttina, Garmarna, Nuklearte, and Dengue Fever. The songs are based on Hebrew and Biblical passages, Ladino texts, poetry and Kabbalistic sources. Haran is a fresh, innovative and inviting musical experience. Purists of Jewish music will even be delighted with this album. Pharaoh’s Daughter is the new ‘king’ of Jewish music! Tcheka Nu Monda Times Square Records www.timessquarerecords.net Nu Monda (Let’s Plow) is a new release of Cape Verde ‘batuque’ music. Tcheka recreates the rhythms and songs, once unique to Cape Verde women field workers, on his guitar. He sings about despair, love, friendship, aging, abuse, hunger and religion. Instrumentally, his guitar is joined by bass, congas, violin, djembe, 6 & 10 string guitars and assorted percussion. The songs are similar in sound to Guinea-Bissau’s Bidinte. The Portuguese influence is prominent with a touch of Brazilian and mainland African influences. Liner notes include the lyrics and song descriptions. Nu Monda is going to ‘plow’ ahead as an intriguing and positive musical force in the Cape Verde musical tradition. Nawal Aman Independent www.nawali.com The Comoros Islands are home to very few commercially-available recordings. Yet, Nawal brings us the spiritual and instrumental sounds of this unique region near Madagascar. Aman (Peace of the Soul) is a meditative, contemplative, melodic mix of Sufi chants, Buddhist chants, vocals in Comorian, French and English, and instrumental interludes. Nawal plays the guitar and gambusi with accompaniment on mbira, contrabass, various percussion, and choral pieces. Lyrically, the songs reflect war, money, religion, politics, freedom, women and peace. Nawal’s melodies and instrumental arrangements resemble music from Madagascar, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and Indonesia. Aman will liven your soul, as well as bring ‘peace’ to it. Jose Conde and Ola Fresca Revolucion Mr. Bongo Records www.mrbongo.com www.olafresca.com Jose Condo and his band Ola Fresca bring us some of the most danceable beats to come out of the Cuban-American musical tradition. Jose utilizes Cuban son, funk, salsa, mambo, Haitian compas, cha-cha, and other musical styles on Revolucion. Jazzy, drum and Latin beats are innovative for traditional, Latin-type music. The expected musical borders in traditional Latin music are made to be broken on Revolucion. Each track provides us with a new perspective on a traditional, musical style. The end result is a musical explosion of originality and fiery vocals that culminate in a very satisfying musical concoction. Revolucion is a soundtrack for summer! Andy Palacio & The Garifuna Collective Watina Cumbancha Records www.cumbancha.com Belizean Andy Palacio is joined by other talented musicians of the Garifuna people on Watina (I Called Out). The melodies are reflective of the Caribbean and African regions. Lyrically, the songs are sung in the Garifuna language and touch on subjects like family, God, preservation, death, and life. Watina is a contemporary album with its roots based firmly in the Garifuna tradition. Choral arrangements, simple instrumentation, melodic tunes, and upbeat rhythms resemble the music of Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi and Mali’s late-Ali Fark Toure. Liner notes provide song descriptions and English translations. The enhanced CD also contains an interactive menu with some of the musicians. Fanfare Ciocarlia Queens and Kings Asphalt Tango Records www.asphalt-tango.de The epic music of Romania’s Gypsy tradition is showcased on Queens and Kings. In fact, Fanfare Ciocarlia is joined by other Romani musicians from neighboring Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Bosnia, Hungary, and France. The characteristic Balkan brass beats and waltzing melodies are entertaining and intelligently composed. Liner notes contain English translations of the songs and biographies of the musicians. Fanfare Ciocarlia is a top pick for Gypsy music fans! Balkan Beat Box Nu Med JDub Records www.jdubrecords.com Balkan Beat Box has left no stone unturned, as they’ve pulled out all the stops on Nu Med. Each track is contemporary with infusions of South American, European, North African, and Middle Eastern beats. Balkan Beat Box brings us diverse lyrics in several languages. The instrumental arrangements incorporate an urban feel with rap-prose and bass beats. By no means is the Balkan brass instrumentation reduced, as they cleverly incorporate the instrumentation to suit the needs of each song. Despite the amalgamation of instrumentation and cultural influences, Nu Med is a ground-breaking release for Balkan Beat Box fans. Their fresh, urban leanings will definitely appease young and old fans alike. Do your part and support Balkan Beat Box. Ron Wiseman Mystical Mood Marshmellow Records www.marshmellowrecords.com Canadian-born Ron Wiseman brings us a new type of music incorporating reggae beats, blues, and jazz with the cultural sensibilities of the Torah. Now living in Israel, Ron utilizes danceable beats and introspective lyrics that offer hope, love, and spiritual direction. Though the typical staccato reggae beats are characteristic of Jamaican musicians, Ron’s music seems to take those beats one step further by making them his own unique creation. Guest vocals provide additional accompaniment on choruses. Mystical Mood is a contemporary release built upon a historical foundation. So, do yourself a favor when you find yourself in a ‘mystical mood’ be ‘wise’ and listen to Ron Wiseman. Your soul will thank you.