New Reviews: October 2007

Reviews by Matthew Forss

Various Artists
Rough Guide to the Music of Vietnam
World Music Network 
The sounds of Vietnam are as smooth as bamboo. Artists old and new bring us the best in Vietnamese music. The music styles are as varied as the 
regional ethnic groups. They range from jazz, blues, folk, pop, instrumental, ensemble; and mostly female vocal and chant. Though, other instruments, 
including dulcimers, drums, keyboards, wood blocks, gongs, flutes and lutes convey the Vietnamese musical spirit. This is a contemporary release that 
showcases a few of the more common regional styles of music, including ca Hue, Hat tho, Hat van, cai luong, and quan ho. One need not know Vietnamese 
to enjoy the beautiful vocals and serene instrumentation. Detailed liner notes and interview clip with compiler, Paul Fisher, complete the package.      

Various Artists
Rough Guide to North African Café
World Music Network 
The music of North Africa is now reaching a wider, global audience, thanks to the Rough Guide series. The rather intriguing title of North African Café 
evokes a sense of booming musical tunes emanating from the bazaars and cafes in locations from Casablanca to Cairo, and everywhere in between. The 
regional location of North Africa creates a bridge between Western styles and Eastern and European influences. The music of North African Café certainly 
exhibits European influences from gypsy, Jewish, Spanish, funk, electronic, orchestral and dance-type music. Musical groups on this compilation hail 
from France, Tunisia, Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, and Morocco. Common musicians are Abdel Gadir Salim, Mahmoud Fadl, Smadj and Akli D. The rich, 
musical cultures of North Africa are a fascinating ‘hot bed’ for musical exploration. Start your journey with the Rough Guide to North African Café!  

Oliver Mtukudzi
Tsimba Itsoka
Heads Up 

Zimbabwe’s Afro-pop icon, Oliver Mtukudzi, brings us a lively set of songs about life. Tsimba Itsoka translates to "No foot, no footprint." The basis 
for the title comes from the idea that everyone has different footprints and different paths through life. Fortunately, Oliver has chosen the right 
"path" with the musical direction of Tsimba Itsoka. All the tracks are contemporary and upbeat. Simple percussion, bass, guitar and drums are the 
signature trademarks of Mr. Mtukudzi. Female back up singers and Oliver’s mature and slightly raspy voice, make every song he touches come to life. 
A very infectious track, "Kuropodza," deals with the issue of communication between two individuals. Detailed liner notes complete the musical package. 
If you like African music, Oliver Mtukudzi is guaranteed to astonish all who listen to him. 

Susan Aglukark
Blood Red Earth 
Aglukark Entertainment 
Canada’s well-known singer, Susan Aglukark, hails from the Arctic North - Arviat, Nunavut. Susan showcases her simple, folk-vocal sensibilities describing 
her homeland and various political/social themes. The best vocal and musical comparison of Susan would be Vermillion, South Dakota’s Shawn Colvin. 
Though Susan’s voice is of this world, it does seem to be inspired by an angelic, higher power. For example, one track titled, "As Only A Heart Would 
Dare," is remarkably similar to the popular hymn, "Amazing Grace." Susan sings mostly in English; but she incorporates some of her Inuktitut language, 
as well. This is a contemporary album of guitars, drums, keyboards, and piano and string arrangements. Every track is catchy and unique, and incorporates 
some backup singers and a children’s choir. Blood Red Earth is the sixth album from Susan Aglukark and she shows no signs of slowing 
down. Your ears will thank you for this one! 

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
Segu Blue
Out Here Records 
Bassekou Kouyate and his band Ngoni Ba (‘Big Ngoni’) perform traditional music from Mali on ngoni. The ngoni is a string instrument resembling a lute 
that has been a fixture in Mali music for the past few thousand years. Bassekou has collaborated with Toumani Diabate and Taj Mahal. Bassekou brings us 
music from the Segu region of Mali – the heart of Malian blues music. The quartet plays ngoni and calabash. You will not hear bass, guitar or drums on 
this album. The vocals are striking and instrumental arrangements superb. For listeners unfamiliar with the sounds of the ngoni, it produces crystal, 
clear notes similar to the valiha harp of Madagascar. The band produces cascading rhythms and continues an ancient history of Griot culture. Guest 
musicians include Kassemady Diabate, Zoumana Tereta and Lobi Traore. Segu Blue is a celebration of the ngoni culture and a window to the future of 
Malian music.

Matthew J. Forss graduated from Lakeland College-Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 2005 with a B.A. in Biology. He will graduate with an M.Sc. in Exercise Science in May 2007 from Northern Michigan University-Marquette, Michigan. He is pursuing an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Goddard College-Plainfield, VT. 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 400 CDs that represent over 180 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, and German linguistics. In November of 2000, he accepted the position of writing World Music CD reviews for this site.