New Reviews: November 2007

Reviews by Matthew Forss

Jidka (The Line)
World Music Network 

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!

Sandblast Arts 

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.     

Music of Coal: Mining Songs From Appalachian Coalfields – Vol. One/Two [2 CD]
Lonesome Records

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 

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 

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.   

Samarkand & Beyond: Music of Central Asia
ARC Music

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.

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.