New Reviews: October 2008

Reviews by Matthew Forss

Seprewa Kasa
Seprewa Kasa
World Music Network

Thanks to Kari Banaman and his group of musicians from Ghana, another musical instrument is saved from the inescapable perils of time. The instrument in question, a seprewa, is a harp-like instrument akin to the more popular kora. It is the primary string instrument of the Akan people of Ghana and neighboring Ivory Coast. Its relative unpopularity stems from its primary use as an accompaniment for religious, wedding, and funerals songs mostly performed in rural villages of Central and Southern areas of Ghana. The seprewa is joined with other indigenous instrumentation, including the aprenprensua (thumb-piano), efiritrsewa (metal clave), atumpan (drum), kalimba, and brekete (bass drum). Not to be missed, are additions of calabash, guitar, and flute. The vocals are sung in the Akan language. The seprewa sounds quite similar to Madagascarís valiha. This is the perfect album for fans of traditional African string music.

Various Artists
Latin Lounge
World Music Network

Immediately after hearing the breezy beats and rhythms of Latin music, it doesnít take long for us to be whisked away by the infectious melodies. Latin Lounge is certainly no exception. The addictive sounds of the opening track by Juju Orchestra mixes lounge beats and bossa nova. Thirteen other tracks and artists serve as the foundation of the Latin lounge experience. This includes cha-cha, meringue, cumbia, funk, swing, rumba, salsa, and electronica styles. Artists hail from USA, Venezuela, Germany, Austria, England, Spain, and Cuba. Latin Lounge encapsulates the global reach of Latin music to many European countries. So, play it loud and often, for the Latin lounge will stay open very, very late.

Dub Specialist
Rounder Records

Dub Specialist is actually the pseudonym for the late-Clement Dodd. He was a dub mixer extraordinaire. The eighteen songs presented here were mixed from songs by The Heptones, Sound Dimension, Cornell Campbell, Horace Andy, Delroy Wilson, and others. The album is entirely instrumental and indicative of jazz bands with a reggae beat. These songs were resurrected from the 1960ís and 1970ís in Jamaica. The electronica beats and grooving rhythms are perfect for warming your soul on a cool, autumn day. Though, I do detect a hint of Balkan brass or Klezmer influences. Essentially, the music is reinvented for a new generation of reggae fans. Reinvent yourself today and become a dub-head of Dub Specialist.

Babylon Halt
Secret Archives of The Vatican
Broken Drum Records

Babylon Halt takes us on a stunning Arabic-infused carpet ride of musical exploration. Fortunately, this is strong and varied release by UK-based musicians, Vince Millett, Louis Counter, and Peter Sharpe. However, the albumís musical underpinnings are uniquely Arabic, there are also elements of Eastern flair. Of course, with a title like the Secret Archives of The Vatican, we expect to explore some religious truth or epiphany. Perhaps the real truth to their music is one of indescribability. Though, this album at least hints at the religious and political philosophies, much the same way the group Enigma used spiritual symbolism in their music. Yet, Babylon Halt is more true to modern Arabic or Andalusian roots with symphonic instrumentation, break-beats, and electronica. A nice Gnawan guimbri track is a genuine ode to the music of Morocco. On the whole, the tracks are almost entirely instrumental with a few Eastern vocals and spoken word rap. This is one secret that should be let out of the Vatican.

Dub Colossus
A Town Called Addis
Real World

The brainchild behind Dub Colossus is UKís Nick Page. After a visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2006, he was inspired to work with traditional musicians. Notably, the musical styles of the golden years of the 1960ís and 1970ís. This was the heyday of Ethiopian jazz and dub music. Nick tries to capture that history on this album. It is an adventurous mix of modern beats and jazz rhythms. This is the music of the Azmaris, who are musical masters akin to the griots of Western Africa, or the bards of Europe. The diversity is evidenced by the spaghetti Western type music, or South Asian surf pop, and sophisticated electronic arrangements. Similar artists include Gigi, Minyeshu, and Elsa Kidane. If you want to explore the music of Ethiopia, it begins with a musical project called Dub Colossus.

Various Artists
Blue Moo

Sandra Boynton and Michael Ford have compiled a classic album of jukebox songs from guest musicians including Neil Sedaka, Brian Wilson, Patti LuPone, Davy Jones, John Ondrasik, B.B. King, and others. Many of the songs possess a nostalgic feel with a comedic twist for the whole family. These songs feature harmonic vocals and back up singers with classic pop/rock and jazz music. If you like these classic or contemporary musicians, then this is the album for you Ė and your kids!

Akim El Sikameya
Introducing Akim El Sikameya
World Music Network

Algerian-exile, Akim El Sikameya, astounds us with his Arab-Andalusian singing traditions. One finds an infusion of Latin and gypsy melodies interspersed throughout the album. This album is the result of cross-cultural experiences between his homeland of Algeria and his land of exile: France. Some of the songs are emotional or relaxing. Akimís stellar voice borders on high-pitched, but the results are always intriguing. Welcome to the introduction of Akim El Sikameya.

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.