New Reviews: October 7, 2002

Reviews by Matthew J. Forss

Belly Dance! The Best Of George Abdo And His Flames Of Araby Orchestra
George Abdo
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Middle Eastern maestro, George Abdo, features some of his best works over the years in his Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and American influenced songs. George Abdo and his Flames of Araby Orchestra, brought Middle Eastern music to mainstream America in the 1970ís. This album features songs from the 1970ís and early 1990ís. Georgeís vocals and abundant instrumentation are a perfect combination for belly dancing. Some of the instruments used include qanun, ud, violin, bongo, conga, darabukkah, bass, trumpet, claves, oboe and guitar. Upbeat rhythms, choral arrangements and instrumentals indicate Georgeís incredible and creative musicianship in the composition of traditional Middle Eastern tunes that entered the American mainstream. Belly Dance! is a truly wonderful and historical album that should not be missed by long-time fans of George Abdo and lovers of Middle Eastern music.

Song Ziní. . .
Gino Sitson

Cameroonian Gino Sitson, brings us African jazz and "vocadelic tales". Song Ziní. . ., which means "Iím gonna tell you," mixes indigenous African rhythms and vocal acrobatics with contemporary melodies that are reminiscent of todayís smooth jazz artists. Gino sings all of the songs in the Medumba language. His African vocal stylings blend nicely with the contemporary instrumentation. Overall, Song Ziní. . . contains beautiful melodies, rhythms, vocals and superb songs of African traditions and stories. Fans of African jazz should acquire Song Ziní. . . for their listening pleasure.

Bahamian Ballads - The Songs Of Andre Toussaint
Andre Toussaint
Naxos World

The late Haitian guitarist and vocalist, Andre Toussaint, was known for his lounge-style calypso music from the 1950ís to early 1980ís. Andre combined French, Haitian, Spanish and Italian rhythms and melodies in his compositions. Bahamian Ballads features his early music that utilizes rumba, folk, jazz, calypso and American Western music styles. Fans of Bahamian music should definitely check out Bahamian Ballads.

Electric Highlife - Sessions From The Bokoor Studios
Various Artists
Naxos World

Electric Highlife features the music of eight bands from Ghana during the early 1980ís. Highlife music incorporates reggae, jazz, rumba, folk and European music styles. The music also contains big band sounds, upbeat guitar licks and melodic instrumentation. It is important to note that most of the African popular music grew out of the Highlife musical style. A booklet is included, detailing Ghanaís Highlife music; itís bands, and songs. Perfect for fans of historical African music.

Maron di Mar
Ze Manel
Cobiana Records

Ze Manel releases his latest album of Portugese-Creole lyrics and West African rhythms on Maron di Mar (Sea Wave). The entire album draws upon folk, jazz and fado styles. Sincere vocals, melodies and elegant instrumentation emanate from this impressive musical adventure. Ze Manel utilizes rhythms and instruments from other countries surrounding his native land of Guinea-Bissau. Fans of Bidinte, another musician from Guinea-Bissau, would thoroughly enjoy Maron di Mar. In general, fans of African jazz and West African music will find Maron di Mar to be a refreshing and joyous album.

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.