New Reviews: May 27, 2003

Reviews by Matthew J. Forss

Domo Records

Japanese native, Hiromitsu Agatsuma, showcases his exceptional talent on the shamisen. The shamisen has three strings that are plucked with a large pick, known as a bachi. Agatsuma’s shamisen is backed with contemporary arrangements typical of smooth jazz music. Bluesy drum and percussion beats complete Agatsuma’s unique sound. Beams is an excellent album that highlights a traditional instrument in a contemporary context.

Ark 21 Records

Najma Akhtar fuses Indian, Arabic, and Classical musical elements with her haunting vocals. The songs are sung in Urdu and English. However, she incorporates an array of musical elements and styles from across the globe. Najma appropriately coined the term "Indian Gothic" to describe her musical creations. Indian pop, gothic classical, trip hop, trance, Arabic, dance, and experimental instrumental influences comprise the backbone of Vivid. Vocally, Najma incorporates haunting vocals that quiver with crystalline complexity. Other back-up vocals accompany Najma in true Indian fashion. Overall, the musical complexities and vocal acrobatics of Najma, should convince even the most discriminating listener to pick up a copy of Vivid.

Coco Mbassi
Tinder Records

Cameroon’s Coco Mbassi, brings us jazzy, downtempo melodies and vocals that encourage love and faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Traditional African choral pieces accompany some of the tracks. The piano, saxophone, bass, percussion, strings, and keyboard arrangements comprise the contemporary musical elements. Overall, Coco has embraced her African roots, Christian faith and cool jazz musical style that celebrates a very special musical journey.

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.