New Reviews: June 24, 2002

Reviews by Matthew J. Forss

Live In Helsinki
Northside Records

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
Tinder Records

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.

Kristi Stassinopoulou
Tinder Records

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.

Vhunze Moto
Oliver Mtukudzi
Putumayo Records

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.