New Reviews: October 2007
Reviews by Matthew Forss
Various Artists Rough Guide to the Music of Vietnam World Music Network www.worldmusic.net 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 www.worldmusic.net 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 www.headsup.com 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 www.susanaglukark.com 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 www.outhere.de 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.