New Reviews: February 21, 2003

Reviews by Paula Kirman

Various Artists
Desert Blues 2

Desert Blues 2 is a musical journey through Arabic lands and cultures. The double CD presents two and a half hours of North African sounds from the likes of Boubacar Traoré, Cheb Mami, and Grand Papa Diabeté, and covers a wide range of styles. Its predecessor, Ambiances du Sahara: Desert Blues was a critical and commercial success, selling over 100 000 copies. This second installment will likely do the same -- it is a rare treat to be able to find such a musical survey, a compilation that includes a nearly exhaustive range of artists and styles within one musical context. The CDs are packaged in a book explaining the history and music of this geographical area, and will be a treasured addition to Arabic music fans and serious students of ethnomusicology alike.

Baka Beyond
East to West

Rainforests are colorful, lively places where rare and exotic creatures crawl, swim, and swing. It is also a place of musical inspiration, and the UK-based band Baka Beyond fuses the sounds of the Baka people of the Congo rainforest, with their Afro-Celt sound. World fusion is a way of life for this band, and the album also includes musicians from the UK, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, and beyond.

Illuminated Audio
Palm Pictures

Ejigayehu "Gigi" Shibabaw is a native Ethiopian who fought family tradition to become an entertainer. Her second album, Illuminated Audio is a remastered, reinvented look at her musical debut. Thanks to her producer, Bill Laswell, this album captures the essence of Gigi's voice.

Fula Flute
Fula Flute

A Fulani flute, otherwise known as a tambin, is an instrument indigenous to West Africa. It produces a shrill, breathy sound when played, and has an energizing feel. The Fula Flute project presents ten traditional flute tunes, led by Fulani master Bailo Bah. Enhanced with percussion, bass, and other flute players, the sound is multidimensional and unique. You can hear the players breathe and exhale, and this only adds to the traditional feel of the music.

Nuova Agricola Associazione
'Shta vite gne nu teatrine

An Italian band sttped in folklore, this four-song EP is extremely exciting. The band takes folk and gives it a contemporary edge. There is not much information available on the band in English, and the album liner notes are also in Italian, but just based on sound alone this is worth a listen.