New Reviews: June 24, 2002
Reviews by Matthew J. Forss
Live In Helsinki
Finland’s female vocal group, Varttina, showcase their vocal talents on this
album recorded live in Helsinki, Finland on December 6th, 2000. Live In Helsinki
is a collection of recent and past songs performed by Varttina. Contemporary
vocal and instrumental arrangements blend with traditional arrangements to
create a very, pleasing and interesting album. Some of the instruments
used include guitar, bouzouki, saxophone, accordion, double bass, violin
and percussion. This album is highly recommended for Varttina fans and
lovers of vocal/instrumental music from Scandinavia.
Sawt el Atlas
Sawt el Atlas is a contemporary North African music group. Hailing from Morocco, they
combine classical string arrangements with traditional and contemporary percussion
instruments and beats. The music can be classified in the rai category. However,
the songs are very melodic and enjoyable to listen to. Egyptian vocalist, Natacha Atlas,
lends her vocals on one track. Fans of contemporary Arabic, North African, Middle
Eastern and rai music will surely enjoy Donia.
Echotropia, the latest effort from Greece’s Kristi Stassinopoulou, combines contemporary
electronics and rhythms with ethnic percussion. Soothing vocals and pleasant melodies
resonate from each track. The music seems to be influenced by melodies and
rhythms from the Mediterranean and Western Europe. Ethereal keyboards, beautiful pipes,
accordion, djembe, bass, violin, guitar and percussion instruments are used. Musical
purists of Greek music would probably pass on this album, but those interested in good
contemporary world music should add Echotropia to their collection.
Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi combines traditional percussion, folk melodies and female
back-up voices to create an engaging musical experience. Oliver plays an acoustic
guitar that accompanies his soulful voice. Other instruments include bass, drums,
bongos, congas, keyboards, saxophone, piano and organ. The album’s single,
"Ndakuvara" (I am hurt) is an especially catchy song. The song tells the
story of young man being injured by an ox he was trying to train.
Lyrically, the songs deal with all aspects of humanity and it’s
associated dilemmas. The liner notes contain song lyrics and
information on the regional languages. Good song-writing and
melodic arrangements make Vhunze Moto an essential album for fans of
African popular music.
Matthew J. Forss is currently a full-time student at Lakeland College-Sheboygan,
Wisconsin. He is majoring in Biology and German Language/Culture. Since 1998,
he has collected numerous musical instruments and CDs from around the world.
Also in 1998, he wrote a paper on Mongolian Ethnomusicology, titled:
How Does Music Play An Important Role In The Life And Culture Of Mongolia?
Currently, he has collected over 100 CDs that represent dozens of 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,
Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.) In November of 2000, he accepted the position of
writing world music CD reviews for this site.