New Reviews: June 25, 2002

Reviews by Matthew J. Forss

Label Bleu/Indigo

Rajery is an exceptional author, composer, musicologist, vocalist and percussionist in his native land of Madagascar. The musical foundation of this recording lies in the sparkling sounds of the valiha. The valiha is a bamboo zither or harp that is representative of Madagascar. Interestingly, the valiha originated from Indonesia. The valiha sounds very similar to the West African kora. Rajery combines harmonic chants with guitar, bass, flute and percussion. In general, fans of African harp music will appreciate Rajery’s musical instrumentation and tradition. Tarika is a similar group from Madagascar that also features the valiha in their music. Overall, Fanamby is a captivating and interesting album of African music.

Toto la Momposina
World Village

Toto la Momposina combines traditional flute, guitar and percussion that radiate the musical intricacy and history of her native Colombia. Various horn arrangements, vocals and percussion rely on an assortment of musical styles. Some styles include bolero, cha-cha-cha, guaracha, traditional Mayan, Brazilian, and even a hint of South Asian. It is important to note that a few tracks are vocally and rhythmically, rather than culturally reminiscent of South Asia. Toto’s vocals range from short utterances to long, operatic vocal stylings that are surprisingly similar to Eurasian mugam songs. However, the music draws exclusively upon traditional sounds and rhythms from Mexico, Central America and South America. Fans of traditional music from these regions, Cuban, Latin and Tex-Mex music should purchase Pacanto for their listening pleasure.

Bana Congo
Papa Noel & Papi Oviedo

Bana Congo is an excellent collaboration between Congolese guitarist Papa Noel and Cuban tres player Papi Oviedo. Bana Congo contains Afro-Cuban rhythms and melodies that seem to draw more heavily on Cuban rhythms. Instruments used include guitar, bongo, double bass, conga, trumpet and percussion. Male and female vocals resound on each track. Beautiful vocals and skillful instrumentation of all musicians involved, make Bana Congo an essential album of Afro-Cuban music. A "must-have" for Cuban music lovers.

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.