New Reviews: November 2007
Reviews by Matthew Forss
Saba Jidka (The Line) World Music Network www.worldmusic.net The two seemingly distant musical lands of Italy and Somalia are actually closer than one might think. The link between these two countries is Saba’s debut album, Jidka. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Saba’s father is Italian and her mother is Ethiopian. Saba does not forget her ethnic roots, as the songs reflect her musical tastes from both regions. In fact, Jidka means ‘The Line’, which represents the lighter and darker aspects of life that can merge together to form a social unity of love across all cultures. The contemporary songs and beats are characteristic of progressive, Italian pop. The songs are sung in Somali and some parts in English. Saba’s vocals reflect an urban, even hip-hop nature. She is joined by musicians from Gabon, Senegal and Cameroon to complete her repertoire. Soulful, playful, heartfelt, and moving vocals are Saba’s unmistakable strengths. The horn of African has a new sound – and Saba is its name! Tiris Sandtracks Sandblast Arts www.sandblast-arts.org A wailing, female chorus, contemplative tones from the tidinit (lute), and booming sounds of the kettle drum are a familiar sound to the ears of North African music fans. Tiris is a group that takes that concept into to the next level on Sandtracks. They formed in the refugee camps of southwestern Algeria in 2005. The groups name comes from the region known as Tiris, which lies in the southeastern part of Western Sahara. The group is made up of five male instrumentalists and singers and three female singers. The instruments utilized are t’bol, tidinit, flute, oud, keyboard, piano and electric guitar. Sandtracks is a modern release incorporating the essence of the Saharan musical culture. Many of the tracks include uplifting vocals and contemporary arrangements of a blues, classical, reggae, and jazz nature. The Sandblast Organization makes an effort to bring the cultural awareness to the amazing talents and unfortunate social plights of the people from Western Sahara. I believe Sandtracks marks the beginning of a wonderful journey into social acceptance and musical preservation for the Saharawi people for generations to come. V/A Music of Coal: Mining Songs From Appalachian Coalfields – Vol. One/Two [2 CD] Lonesome Records www.lpoy.org The folk music of Appalachia is known for its authentic storytelling and banjo-picking tunes. Yet, the music of miners is a rather forgotten or seldom recorded musical style. As a result, the folks at Lonesome Records fill a large void in the area of mining music. Music of Coal is an extremely informative CD set (Volume One and Two) encased in a 69-page b/w pictured and hardbound book. Historical recordings from 1907 to the present showcase the mining history of the bituminous coalfields of Southern Appalachia. The lyrics and song information for all of the 48 songs are included. Some of the tracks are recorded live and some feature female vocals. Musically, the songs are influenced by gospel, folk, rockabilly and old time styles. Many of the songs focus on some aspect of the coal mining conditions, such as in “’31 Depression Blues”, “Thirty Inch Coal”, “Loadin’ Coal”, “Sixteen Tons”, the chilling “Blind Fiddler”, and the catchy “Explosion at Derby Mine”. Volume One contains classically recorded tunes from The Carter Family, Mike Kline, Charlie Maggard, Trixie Smith, Ted Chestnut, and others. Volume Two contains songs from contemporary musicians, including Linda Williams, Natalie Merchant, Kenneth Davis, Ralph Stanley II, and Molly Slemp. If you haven’t experienced the coal mines for yourselves, this is a good place to start. You are guaranteed to ‘dig’ it. A very educational, professionally recorded and socially relevant musical set for all generations of people – even beyond the coalfields of Southern Appalachia. Salma Al Assal Women Singers of Sudan: Songs of Al Sabata ARC Music www.arcmusic.co.uk Wedding music has been a common mode of musical expression in many different cultures. On Songs of Al Sabata, the intimate style of wedding music is led by Sudanese vocalist and instrumentalist, Salma Al Assal. Salma performs a traditional style of music called sabata. The Al Sabata actually signifies where the music is played, often on palm-leaf woven rugs. The women play clay, goblet drums called dalloukas. The drumming is accompanied by vocals and hand-clapping accompaniment. The musical content of the songs are based on religious and social components of Sudanese culture. In fact, sabata often incorporates elements of modern society, by singing about cars, phones, satellites and computers. Salma Al Assal’s joyous and charismatic singing traditions are sure to be loved by fans of North African music. Chalf Hassan Bazaar Marrakesh ARC Music www.arcmusic.co.uk Chalf Hassan’s musical creations on Bazaar Marrakesh represent a collection of classically-tinged songs for a contemporary society. Many of the songs involve religious and love themes. The songs are full-bodied and take on a whirling nature of sorts, as stirring as the wind-blown desert sands of Chalf’s homeland of Morocco. Chalf’s vocals are joined by various musicians on oud, tabla, bendir, bass, drums, sax and keyboards. The music is steeped in the cultural traditions of Moroccan song and dance. Chalf Hassan’s musical arrangements do not necessarily resemble the rai musical traditions. Fans of classical, Arab music and North African contemporary music should be the music of choice at ‘bazaars’ everywhere. V/A Samarkand & Beyond: Music of Central Asia ARC Music www.arcmusic.co.uk The classical and contemporary music of Uzbekistan is performed by vocalist Dilnura Qodirjonova, along with other musicians. Samarkand & Beyond takes on a musical journey into the past, while also bringing us music from different regions within Uzbekistan. Vocal and instrumental songs of love, spirituality, and nationalism, provide us a glimpse into the cultural contexts of the musical pieces. Many of the songs are emotional, contemplative and orchestral. The traditional instruments include lutes, strings and drums. The tar, dutar, ghijak, chang, doira, qanun, sato, oud and other ensemble instruments bring out the beautiful melodies and arrangements. As a bonus, the liner notes include pictures and descriptions of most of instruments, lyrics in English and Uzbek, and artist information in English, German, French and Spanish languages. Samarkand & Beyond should resonate with beauty to all who listen.