In Mississippi, America’s most revolutionary mayor

Al Jazeera America, September 19, 2013

JACKSON, Miss. — On July 1, Chokwe Lumumba, an attorney with a long record of black radical activism, took office as mayor of Jackson. His inauguration took place in the gleaming convention center that sprang up four years ago in the state capital’s mostly deserted downtown.

A crowd of 2,500 packed the hall. The city councilors and other dignitaries, most of them African-American — Jackson, a city of 177,000, is 80 percent black — sat on the dais. The local congressman, Bennie Thompson, officiated. The outgoing mayor, Harvey Johnson, the city’s first black mayor, wished his successor well. The Mississippi Mass Choir gave a jubilant performance of “When I Rose This Morning.”

Finally, Lumumba, 66, approached the podium, pulling the microphone up to suit his tall, lean frame. “Well,” he said, “I want to say, God is good, all the time.”

The crowd replied. “God is good, all the time!”

“I want to say hey! And hello!”

The crowd called back, “Hey! Hello!”

Then Lumumba smiled and raised his right hand halfway, just a little above the podium, briefly showing the clenched fist of a Black Power salute.

“And I want to say, free the land!”

Applause rang out, bells chimed, wooden staffs rose up and people shouted back, “Free the land!” That’s the motto of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), the movement formed in 1968 that sought to turn the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina into an independent black nation.

Jackson’s new mayor is a former vice president of the RNA and a co-founder of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), a national group born in 1993 that seeks self-determination for African-Americans — whom it calls New Afrikans — “by any means necessary.” Like many shaped by the Black Power era, Lumumba long shunned formal politics, until a successful run for City Council in 2009. Now, as mayor, he is seeking to apply the tenets of the black radical tradition to the duties of running a city.  [READ THE WHOLE STORY AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA]

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Sarod master reimagines the raga

Boston Globe, September 13, 2013

Indian classical music is ancient, codified, rigorous, and refined, yet its spirit dwells in the inspiration and personality of individuals. Because ragas are at once systematic — each is built on a signature ascending and descending scale — and improvised, every performance adds to the body of knowledge, yet no two are alike.

The great vocalists and instrumentalists are ones who bring grace, soul, and even surprise to this system, in a pursuit that can last a lifetime. Amjad Ali Khan, who plays the Berklee Performance Center Sunday night, is one of them. (He also leads a public workshop at the New England Conservatory on Sept. 16.)

Many consider Khan today’s most important living player of the sarod, a fretless lute with a metal fingerboard that is one of the main Hindustani, or north Indian, classical instruments. At 67 and seemingly in top health — at least judging from the broad smile he seems to always wear — he has plenty of years ahead. But he is one of the maestros one should be sure to hear perform live, at least once.Read More

Jorge Drexler puts his music in his listeners’ hands

Boston Globe, September 7, 2013

The singer Jorge Drexler is known for his skill at combinations.

Like Caetano Veloso, one of his idols, he combines South American folk with the great modern songwriting tradition of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. He started as a doctor in his native Uruguay but is now, at 48, an established star based in Spain.

His moment of fame in the United States, the Oscar-winning song “Al otro lado del rio” that features in the 2004 film “The Motorcycle Diaries,” offered just a glimpse of the sensibility that has earned him an ardent following in the Latin world.

Since his latest album, 2010’s “Amar la trama,” Drexler, who returns to Boston for a Berklee Performance Center show on Oct. 6, has taken his love of combinations to another level.Read More

“Learning to Listen,” by Gary Burton (book review)

Boston Globe, September 4, 2013

In the mid-1980s, Gary Burton was just entering middle age, but he’d had experiences as a jazz player to fill several lifetimes. Duke Ellington had treated him with kindness, Milt Jackson with suspicion, Miles Davis with a death threat. He’d endured the mercurial tendencies of Stan Getz, in whose band he played in the 1960s and who, like so many, fought the battle between creative genius and substance abuse.

Burton’s memoir, “Learning to Listen,” tells these stories and situates its author’s own major contributions in jazz’s history. After leaving Getz in 1966, Burton — with guitarist Larry Coryell and others — pioneered jazz-rock fusion and played venues like the Fillmore in San Francisco. As a player, he brought his four-mallet technique and “Burton grip” to the vibraphone and marimba, expanding the potential for those instruments in both lead and support settings. As a bandleader, he spotted and mentored the likes of Pat Metheny.Read More

With new album, Marc Cary pays tribute to his mentor

Boston Globe, August 22, 2013

NEW YORK – A solo recording is a watershed event for a jazz musician, one that usually comes many years or even decades into one’s career. It marks a commercial risk, as record labels and concert bookers often hesitate to back a solo project. More than that, it represents creative and emotional risk, as the artist is exposed, alone with only the audience and the material he or she has selected to carry out onto the limb.

But the pianist Marc Cary, who has just released his first solo album, was by no means alone in its making. Titled “For the Love of Abbey,” the record draws on Cary’s 12 years in the late singer Abbey Lincoln’s band; more than just an homage, it’s as much a continuation, through her spectral presence, of her mentorship and their collaboration.Read More

Nathalie Pires: the fresh face of fado

Boston Globe, July 25, 2013

NEW YORK — “When I’m in Portugal, I’m an American,” says Nathalie Pires. “And when I’m in America, I’m Portuguese.”

It isn’t a complaint about being caught between two worlds. Rather, for the 27-year-old fado singer from Perth Amboy, N.J., it’s a statement of fact that captures her memories all the way back.

There was her bilingual childhood in northern New Jersey’s close-knit Portuguese community. The long summers in Portugal in her grandmother’s village, riding bikes and hanging around cafes.

And the late nights with her musician dad, who’d bring along his only child and hide her behind the speakers while his band played Portuguese pop covers in Newark social clubs.

But Pires has taken her dual identity to heights rarely – if ever – scaled by a second-generation Portuguese-American kid.Read More

Ravid Kahalani’s musical journey returns to his roots

Boston Globe, July 4, 2013

In retrospect, it was a narrow escape.

Ravid Kahalani, singer and multi-instrumentalist, kinetic performer, restless explorer of genres and traditions, and an Israeli Jew from Tel Aviv, could have stayed on the path he embarked on a few years ago, and become a virtuoso performer of Serbian Orthodox liturgical singing.

And he would have been perfectly happy with that. “I was studying Orthodox church music, and I almost went to live in Serbia and sing in churches,” Kahalani says. “When I do something that I really love, I do it with all the passion. I get into learning it the most exact way that I can.”Read More

Emeline Michel sings of healing for Haiti

Boston Globe, June 27, 2013

NEW YORK — The souls still hover, not yet fully mourned, no great cathartic act of government to honor them in public, speed their journey home. The list of names of the lost will never be complete. Their final number — 230,000 by some estimates, 300,000 by others — will never be known.

Like virtually every Haitian, the singer Emeline Michel lost loved ones in the earthquake of January 12, 2010. One was her colleague, the dancer Benji Jolicoeur, who brought to her shows intense interludes of expressive dance forms like the traditional, ritualistic yanvalou. He died in motion, in the middle of a workshop with students. Michel lost others too, relatives, friends, artists she admired.

“Every time I go back to Haiti, I realize how much the spirits are still hanging,” says Michel, whose 25-year, 10-album career as the so-called Queen of Creole Soul makes her a much-admired Haitian artist in her own right, with a pioneering role as a female bandleader and entrepreneur.Read More

Carmen Souza gives Cape Verdean sounds a jazz twist

Boston Globe, June 13, 2013

As a child growing up in Lisbon, Carmen Souza only visited her family’s home nation of Cape Verde once, for a short trip when she was 10. But that did not stop the singer from having a quintessentially Cape Verdean upbringing.

The family spoke Cape Verdean Creole at home. They associated with friends in the Cape Verdean community — a plentiful group in Portugal, which ruled the rugged mid-Atlantic archipelago until its independence in 1975.

They ate Cape Verdean food, including the catchall vegetable and meat stew called kachupa, which gives “Kachupada,” Souza’s new album, its name. And Souza’s father would be gone for months at a time because he worked as a sailor on cargo ships, in keeping with the age-old ties of Cape Verdeans to the maritime trades.

This history may carry a familiar ring in Boston and southeastern New England, home to North America’s largest Cape Verdean concentration. But Souza’s music, which she brings to the area for the first time Saturday at Regattabar, mixes in some surprises.Read More

Letter from Delhi: A Bookstore of Safety

New Yorker, May 24, 2013

For the past four years, the best alternative bookstore in Delhi has crouched in an awkward, elongated space in Hauz Khas Village, a warren of narrow pedestrian lanes that dates back to the thirteenth century and has become one of the capital’s bohemian—and increasingly gentrified—enclaves. Parks, medieval monuments, and a reservoir surround the village, which has a single entrance at the end of an access road where cars must park and auto rickshaws drop their passengers. Yodakin, the bookstore, occupies a ground-floor space in a building close to this entrance, which insures decent foot traffic.

The shop’s front door is up a few steps from the lane, with a tiny landing that Arpita Das, Yodakin’s owner, optimistically calls a veranda. The set-up is inconvenient, but the décor is pleasant and almost airy. The books, all from small presses, sit neatly grouped by publisher on well-lit shelving made of reddish wood, alongside pretty posters of cover illustrations. When Yodakin hosts events, which deal with poetry, art, politics, and sexuality, the audience quickly overspills the minute space and backs into the hall, from where it is impossible to see (or properly hear) anything. Others dangle from the mezzanine, where Das has her work area, and where she lets students who visit the shop but have no money to spend hang around and read. [Read the whole story at NewYorker.com]

A Tribe Called Red reinvent the Powwow

Boston Globe, May 18, 2013

Every summer all across North America, Native Americans get together for powwows. At these intertribal social gatherings they sing, dance, discuss, and celebrate their traditions and their survival.

Every weekend in cities across the land, youth assemble in nightclubs for their own intertribal communion. Electronic music, built of massive bass drops and frenetic loops, laced with rhythms from around the world, paces their celebrations.

In cities like Ottawa, where the DJ collective A Tribe Called Red came together, many urban youth trace and proudly claim Native roots.

In retrospect, then, the Electric Pow Wow club concept was perhaps inevitable.

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Multifaceted Mvula experiences a swift rise

Boston Globe, May 16, 2013

Laura Mvula is only just catching up to what she’s done.

Twelve months ago the 26-year-old singer was basically unknown, except in a few corners of the Birmingham, England, music world: the gospel a cappella group with whom she first performed, the conservatory where she studied composition, and, if you stretch it, the local symphony orchestra, at whose offices she worked as a receptionist.

Now, Mvula is an anointed sensation, with a brand-new debut album, “Sing to the Moon,” that’s earning lavish acclaim, a rush of television appearances, and the sudden onset of an international touring schedule, which brings her to the Sinclair on May 21.

She’s barely had time to rehearse her band on all the songs on her album.

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Hugh Masekela works to preserve the heritage of South Africa

Boston Globe, April 18, 2013

He turned 74 a few days ago, and Hugh Masekela — the South African trumpeter, flugelhorn player, singer, jazz pioneer, folk music reviver, cultural activist, master entertainer, and all-around irrepressible spirit — is fairly bursting with energy.

At the helm of his working band of the last four years, a sharp crew of Cape Town players less than half his age, he’s on his annual tour snaking through the United States and playing music from “Jabulani,” his latest international release; “Playing @ Work,” a brand-new double album as yet only available in South Africa; and gems from his 43-album-deep vault of jazz, soul, South African funk, Xhosa folklore, Afrobeat, maybe the odd Bob Dylan cover, and who knows what else. Masekela comes to Berklee Performance Center on Sunday.

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Book review: “I Would Die 4 U,” by Touré

Boston Globe, March 21, 2013

“A woman who was in a relationship with Prince years ago told me that when he gave women baths he took total control.” This nugget exemplifies what’s engaging about “I Would Die 4 U,” Touré’s study of the protean pop star’s meaning and appeal. It’s gossipy and a little prurient; it’s also enlightening if you’re among the millions who absorbed Prince’s music like an intravenous infusion, especially at his mid-1980s zenith.

If you’re one of those — one of us — then you’ll make immediate connections: to the washing fantasy in “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and the two baths taken in “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker,” on the 1987 double album “Sign ‘O’ the Times,” or to Wendy and Lisa in “Computer Blue’’ on “Purple Rain” (“Is the water warm enough?” “Yes, Lisa.”). You can then follow Touré as he relates Prince’s penchant for bathing women to the artist’s childhood, family drama, gendered self-identification, and religious inclinations. (Think baptism and immersion.)

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Legendary saxophonist Lloyd finds new life in new quartet

Boston Globe, March 16, 2013

Who is Charles Lloyd?

If you were around for the flower-power era, you may remember Lloyd as a firebrand saxophonist who led avant-garde jazz groups in the 1960s, had a crossover hit with the Woodstock crowd, went off to play with the Beach Boys, then burned out and vanished from sight.

If you’re a fan of jazz today, you may know Lloyd for his late-career revival, with a string of emotionally rich, luminously produced recordings on the ECM label, and collaborations with Greek singer Maria Farantouri and tabla master Zakir Hussain.

Lloyd’s trajectory has been unusual in conventional career terms, but for a man who presents himself as something of a spiritual seeker, it’s actually a classic narrative arc: incandescent rise, sharp fall, wandering, renewal, wisdom.

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Ana Moura explores the possibilities of fado

Boston Globe, March 15, 2013

Fado, the elegant Portuguese song form that is enjoying a great renewal, was never quite as rigid as it appears. Its austere setup, with a singer backed only by acoustic guitars, and its constant reverence for fadistas of the past conceal its openness to new ideas. Amália Rodrigues herself — fado’s central figure in the 20th century — made fado out of music of other countries. Her successors today look to rock and other sources, even as they cultivate the classic songbook and esthetic.

Ana Moura, who visits the Berklee Performance Center on Saturday, is one of the latest singers to come out of the Lisbon taverns where fado’s essence resides and become one of its global ambassadors. She embodies, at a high level, modern fado’s duality: Her potent contralto and her traditional fado treatments have earned her Amália comparisons at home — the ultimate connoisseur’s praise. But she has also shared the stage with the Rolling Stones, and one of her big fans is Prince.

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Terror across the river: Letter from a Congo literary festival

New Yorker, March 6, 2013

Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, is an agreeable city with a frayed, low-rise commercial downtown, a hilly upscale district of hotels and embassies that stretches to the airport, and, radiating out in three directions, busy working-classquartiers where life goes on out of doors along rutted, unpaved side streets. The Congo River flows along the city’s southern edge, and across it one can see Kinshasa, the famously unruly capital of the separate and much larger Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaïre. The twin capitals share a great deal, including language and music, but their colonial and modern histories are completely different; as if to underscore this, there is no bridge across the river, only a ferry and smugglers’ canoes. [Read the whole story at NewYorker.com]

Book review: “98% Funky Stuff” by Maceo Parker

Boston Globe, February 28, 2013

By his own account, 1974 was a good year for Maceo Parker. The saxophonist was riding high in his third stint with James Brown as a star soloist and the band’s MC, and also as leader of his own side projects, a hard-won privilege in Brown’s regime. He was earning enough to move his young family from cramped quarters in Brooklyn to the more wholesome milieu of his native Kinston, N.C.

Looking around, Parker felt exhilarated by the rise of black American culture that had seen the band surge from the chitlin circuit to global acclaim. The September 1974 Muhammad Ali-George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” and associated all-star concert, with Brown headlining, testified to this rise.

Parker closes the chapter that leads up to this event in his memoir, “98% Funky Stuff,’’ with a tantalizing setup, as he packs his bags and boards the private plane for Kinshasa: “We were about to witness one of the greatest moments not only in sports but in American history.”Read More

Miguel Zenón’s rhythms follow a changing culture

Boston Globe, February 21, 2013

The saxophonist Miguel Zenón came from Puerto Rico to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music in 1996, and fast emerged as a major creative voice in jazz, with a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2008 to attest to it. In his young but prolific career, he has made Puerto Rico one of his work’s running themes, exploring in several recent albums, with his quartet, its classic song canon and folkways.

With his new project, which he brings to NEC’s Jordan Hall Friday, Zenón follows this logic but takes a new tack, shifting his focus from the island itself to those who left it to come work in the United States, and their descendants. In the multimedia performance “Identities Are Changeable: Tales from the Diaspora,” he takes on a question that has fascinated him ever since his own move to the mainland.Read More

A singer at the busy crossroads of soul and jazz

Boston Globe, January 24, 2013

The singer José James grew up in Minneapolis and studied jazz in New York, but he’s made his career mostly out of the American mainstream eye: recording for overseas and indie labels, living a few years in London, working with recherché producers like Gilles Peterson and Flying Lotus.

His recordings, spanning jazz and soul on a spectrum that stretches from Nat King Cole to J. Dilla, have earned him a cadre of committed fans on both sides of the Atlantic but no breakout commercial success — not least because his work has not fit neatly into any of the genre designations that regiment the US music industry.

Now, however, a new synthesis of jazz and soul, driven by musicians shaped by hip-hop and myriad other influences, is under way, and James, who is 35 and now lives in Brooklyn, finds himself in the center of it.

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DeFrancesco, Coryell, and Cobb preserve a feel-good jazz sound

Boston Globe, January 10, 2013

There’s only ever been a scant few acknowledged masters of the Hammond B-3 organ in jazz at any given time. So few, in fact, that when one leaves the scene — as in 2005, when the great Jimmy Smith passed away — aficionados have been left to wonder whether the instrument has a future in jazz at all.

That questioning has nothing to do with a lack of players, of course. Invented in the 1930s and marketed to churches, where it offered a portable, affordable alternative to the grand wind organs, the Hammond is played with joy and reverence across the land on Sundays. And in jazz, its shaky spot in the canon reflects decisions by record companies over the years — for instance in the 1970s, when organ-led records were lumped under the rubric “soul-jazz” — more than any dearth of creative players, then or now.

“Record companies pigeonholed them. But let’s face it, guys are playing the organ,” says Joey DeFrancesco, perhaps the best known B-3 player in jazz today. “They still call them soul-jazz records. But isn’t all jazz soul?”

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Neba Solo carries forth musical traditions of Mali

Boston Globe, November 24, 2012

Ingrid Monson, a Harvard jazz scholar and ethnomusicologist with the lofty title of Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music, owns a collection of balafons — the West African instrument that looks like an oversized, rustic xylophone, with gourds fixed under the wooden keys to supply resonance. They come from her research trips to Mali, where the balafon has a long history as a traditional music mainstay.

Her choice of balafon, however, is one that jelis, or griots — the hereditary musician caste closely associated with Malian tradition — do not favor. Their balafon, the one of the great medieval Mande empire and its heirs, is built on a heptatonic (7-note) scale. Monson’s are of the humble pentatonic (5-note) variety, a country cousin long scorned in Mali’s cultural elite.

That has changed now — thanks in large part to Neba Solo, a player who has brought respect to the rural balafon of his Senufo ethnic group, and also innovated, building balafons with added keys for bass parts and inventing new tunings to interact with a host of modern instruments.

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“Afropean Women” a mélange of sounds and styles

Boston Globe, October 25, 2012

One is a glamorous, worldly vocalist who’s as brilliant a dancer and drummer as she is a singer. Another is a songwriter on the rise who’s concerned with the environment and social uplift. The third is the former bass player for a world-renowned funk band.

All three — Dobet Gnahoré, Kareyce Fotso, and Manou Gallo — are African women: Gnahoré and Gallo from the Ivory Coast, and Fotso from Cameroon. Though less known on this side of the Atlantic, they’ve each forged strong solo careers and a fan base, particularly in Europe. But this year the three have joined forces in a kind of supergroup, for maximum exposure and impact, and as a chance to experiment.

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NYC rapper Le1f brings a new vogue to hip-hop

Boston Globe, October 1, 2012

NEW YORK — Let’s be real: There’s been queerness in hip-hop for ages.

There’s the homo-thug underground; the bawdy drag of New Orleans sissy bounce. Videos full of imagery that overflows their ostensibly heterosexual frame; the disclaimer “no homo,” with its protest-too-much reek. Just last week, a Harvard conference on “Queerness of Hip-Hop” gathered a slate of top cultural critics.

With sex and gender variation just one YouTube click away, the search for the mysterious gay rapper, and fervent denial in some circles that such a creature exists, has a ring of absurdity.

“There are so many of us,” says Le1f. “You read articles where they ask Nicki Minaj if we’ll ever see a gay rapper, and she’s not saying that she already knows 20. Come on!”

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Mostly Other People Do the Killing obliterates the boundaries of jazz

Boston Globe, September 8, 2012

“We believe that we are completely, straightforwardly a jazz band,” says bassist Matthew “Moppa” Elliott. “With no qualifications at all.”

Why is this a question? Well, listen to any of the four studio albums by Elliott’s genius group with the oddball name Mostly Other People Do the Killing, or witness its kinetic, eccentric stage show, and you’ll understand why, in the nine years this New York quartet has plied its craft, queries have arisen.

Are they mad archivists, omnivorous consumers of riffs from swing, bebop, avant-garde, 1980s funk, classic rock, smooth jazz, and more, with a propensity to regurgitate these contents at unexpected moments and in strange ways?

Are they attention-deficit virtuosos of the avant-garde who get their kicks from the honks, squawks, or drones that ensue when, for example, trumpeter Peter Evans and saxophonist Jon Irabagon depart on a digressive duet that feels like two bulls with horns interlocked in struggle?

Are they jesters who send up the canon with tricks like drummer Kevin Shea’s solos, which might find him dismantling the drum set, crawling on the floor, or staging an impromptu puppet show? And what’s with the song titles, nearly all of which refer to obscure, oddly named towns in Pennsylvania?
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Trumpeter Christian Scott gives jazz much-needed stretch

Boston Globe, August 9, 2012

NEW YORK — The trumpeter Christian Scott terms “stretch music” the big, open-minded sound that he seeks, for his own band and for jazz in general.

On his brand-new album, “Christian aTunde Adjuah,” Scott stretches more than just rhythmic and harmonic conventions. The album itself is a sprawling double CD, 23 tracks long. Even Scott’s name has grown longer: the New Orleans native is now Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, a “completion,” as he puts it, that honors his ultimate African ancestry.

At 29 and with eight albums as a leader, Scott, who plays Scullers Friday, has not been shy with compositions and ideas. “Christian aTunde Adjuah,” though, presents as a uniquely personal statement — and not just by its length, title, or cover art, which features Scott in the regalia of a Black Indian, the New Orleans ritual tradition in which he grew up.

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At Newport Jazz, Frisell gets by with a little help from his friends

Boston Globe, August 2, 2012

The jazz guitarist Bill Frisell can play knotty, cerebral music with the best of the avant-garde, but being cryptic is not his stock in trade. He’s interested in the history and art of the song, the American folk tradition, roots music of different origins, and that makes much of his own work lyrical and in some emotional sense, familiar.

But while some music feels familiar in a vague way, other songs are so universal that they summon in the listener instantly recalled lyrics and a kaleidoscope of memories; songs freighted, even burdened, with meaning.

“All We Are Saying. . .”, Frisell’s latest album, devoted to the repertoire of John Lennon, and which he presents on Saturday with his quintet at the Newport Jazz Festival, boldly enters that complicated territory.

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Congolese guitarist Diblo Dibala

Boston Globe, July 12, 2012

NEW YORK — A corner apartment in Harlem: air conditioning on high against the blazing heat outside, African art objects and concert posters on the walls, incense wafting through the living room.

This is the temporary command post of Diblo Dibala, Congolese bandleader and guitarist extraordinaire, as he readies for a one-month North American tour spreading the gospel of soukous, one of the most compelling and contagiously rump-shaking styles of music ever invented, yet one rarely performed in these parts nowadays.

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Liner Essay: Debo Band, “Debo Band” (Album)

Sub Pop Records, July 10, 2012

The Debo Band’s debut CD on Sub Pop/Next Ambiance came out today. Here is the text of the liner essay I contributed to the album. 

There’s something dangerous about tales of a Golden Age: especially a brief one. The so-called Golden Age of Ethiopian popular music (or Ethio-jazz, or Ethio-groove) lasted less than a decade. It took hold in the late 1960s in the cosmopolitan circles of Addis Ababa, fed by exposure to American soul and jazz, and boosted by the return of the Berklee College of Music-trained bandleader and arranger Mulatu Astatke. A blossoming scene produced, refined and sprouted new branches of a hitherto unheard synthesis of jazz (and Latin music) with Ethiopian pentatonic scales, distilled by brass-heavy bands adding guitar, vibraphone, and organ. But the 1974 coup that deposed Emperor Haile Selassie plunged Ethiopia into a long and difficult period of military rule and civil war. The swank nightlife of Addis shut down; the musicians scattered and the moment passed.

So the story goes. And it’s not wrong, in its broad outline. Certainly something special transpired in those years in Addis. The era produced an ample trove of recordings that now, decades later, have started to emerge from their hiding places, thanks to projects like the Ethiopiques series, curated by French producer Francis Falceto, and, not least, to the foresight of the Addis players and impresarios of the time who held onto the tapes as they dispersed around the world. The richness—the sheer grooviness—of this work and the seemingly bottomless reserve of material has made Ethio-jazz, not unlike Fela Kuti-era Afrobeat, the target of a growing field of cover and revival projects in hip precincts from New York to Tokyo to Amsterdam.

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Nona Hendryx balances soul, conscience

Boston Globe, July 8, 2012

NEW YORK— Let’s say you formed your first band as a Trenton, N.J., teen in the ’50s. You helped invent funk in a trio, LaBelle, that found cult status in the ’70s. You pioneered sci-fi themes before George Clinton. Later, you forged ahead as a solo artist and in collaborations with everyone from Yoko Ono to the Talking Heads.

You might be forgiven, at 67, for resting on your laurels. But that isn’t the Nona Hendryx way.

“Rust never sleeps,” says Hendryx. “I enjoy using my energy. What else are you going to do on this planet?”

In the cool of her midtown Manhattan studio, the singer strikes a naturally edgy elegance, clad in a form-fitting gray ensemble accessorized with silver jewelry. Gold records and industry memorabilia adorn the wall.

To the world at large, Hendryx is known as one-third of LaBelle, the band with the 1974 hit “Lady Marmalade.” (The one with the saucy French chorus, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?”) But here in New York, she’s appreciated for all she’s done since, as a songwriter, creator, mentor, and activist.

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Brazilian’s road album draws from touring, tradition

Boston Globe, June 25, 2012

The Brazilian singer Céu calls “Caravana Sereia Bloom” — her third CD, which came out earlier this year — a road album. It is meant to capture, she says, “many aspects of the road,” a topic she’s had ample time to reflect on as a touring artist.

“Since my first album in 2005, I started to travel a lot,” says Céu, who plays Brighton Music Hall on Thursday. Appropriately enough, she’s speaking from a tour bus.

“I felt I had to talk about this. Not about a specific trip: Everyone has movement in their lives, and when you have to travel it’s like a parallel reality. You meet cultures, people, food, images, smells.”

And emotions, of course. As countless filmmakers have intuited, the road is about feelings — rupture, nostalgia, anticipation, realization.

For Céu, who first came to US attention when her debut turned up for sale at Starbucks outlets, “Caravana” confirms what her second album, “Vagarosa,” presaged: This is no central-casting Brazilian lounge diva, but a complex poet with raw force and an explorer’s sensibility.

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Singer Curumin is a shining star in Saõ Paulo

Boston Globe, June 25, 2012

“São Paulo is a huge city, but we don’t have a lot of music tradition,” says singer Curumin, speaking of Brazil’s commercial metropolis, with its area population of 20 million.

“Samba belongs to Rio, maracatu belongs to Recife — in Brazilian musical history, we don’t have a lot of people from São Paulo doing good stuff.”

Perhaps. But like his friend Céu, for whom he is opening on their current United States tour, Curumin, whose new album “Arrocha” came out this year, is doing his part to reverse any musical-desert stereotype that might still affix to their city.

They are part of a large local arts scene that, as Curumin describes it, has taken the city’s position as a hub, attracting migrants and cultural inputs, and turned it into fodder for creativity.

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Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna finds a home away from home

Boston Globe, June 8, 2012

Yuna didn’t have to come to America.

Things were going just fine for the young singer-songwriter back home in Malaysia three years ago, when a Los Angeles artist management company started courting her on the strength of the songs she’d posted online.

She had parlayed MySpace popularity into a budding career, garnering TV appearances and winning local music awards. She had earned a law degree, and she was getting set to launch a fashion boutique.

So when faced with the unexpected prospect of setting all that aside to start from scratch as an unknown in the United States, Yuna understandably hesitated.

What tilted the balance, she says, wasn’t America’s inherent appeal, but the chance to use all her material.

“I wasn’t sure,” she says. “I was doing really well in Malaysia. But I felt this might be good for me, because I had written a bunch of English songs. In Malaysia you can only get by doing Malay music. I had about 40 songs in English, and I didn’t want to waste them.”

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Is Islamic Punk Dead? How Taqwacore Came, Went, and Left A Bittersweet Trail

MTV Iggy, May 28, 2012

EXCERPT: The first problem you face when trying to catch up with the Taqwacore movement—sometimes, if erroneously, summarized as “Muslim punk”—is that the man most closely identified with it really, really doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

“I’m tired of talking about Taqwacore,” says author Michael Muhammad Knight. “I go to academic conferences and people are surprised that I’m not wearing a spiked leather jacket or flipping tables over.”

Knight, currently a Ph.D. student in Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina and the wildly prolific author of seven books—novels, memoirs, scholarship—still can’t escape the resonance of his début cult novel “The Taqwacores,” originally self-published in 2003. (…)

But these days, talk to members of the original Taqwacore scene and you’ll hear ambivalence toward the term—if not outright repudiation.

“For the most part, it’s probably better for it to just go away,” says Omar Waqar, the Washington, D.C. area-based leader of bands Diacritical, Sarmust, and Evil Art Form.

Or as Arjun Ray, one of the Kominas’ original members (he left the band a couple of years ago) put it recently on the busy Facebook page Desi Punksss: “Taqwacore is dead. Long live Taqwacore.”

So soon after it crested, is it time to write Taqwacore’s epitaph? And if Taqwacore is dead, what happened to the milieu it was claimed to reflect, Muslim punk?

Read the whole story at MTV Iggy

Boston singer Marianne Solivan’s NY move pays off

Boston Globe, May 25, 2012

NEW YORK — This city may boast the nation’s highest concentration of jazz musicians, venues, recording opportunities, and cover-charge-paying aficionados, but that doesn’t mean you can just show up here and get a gig.

Just ask singer Marianne Solivan.

When she first got here in 2007, with enough money for a one-month sublet to get her started, she left behind the comfortable lifestyle that she had made for herself through regular work on the Boston scene.

“I had tons of gigs, teaching jobs, I was making money, I had a great apartment, a car,” she says. She sang twice a week at Les Zygomates in the Leather District. She was a regular at the Living Room and Red Fez. She ran a jam session at the Chopping Block in Mission Hill. She played cruises and corporate gigs.

And weddings. “So many weddings,” she says.

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Last Van to Korhogo

Note: This is the text of my essay in Transition magazine, issue 108, out in June 2012. The full text is posted for a limited time here, prior to the issue’s release.

Last Van to Korhogo

Suspended between war and peace in Ivory Coast

The filling station was no longer a filling station. The pumps had been removed, but the plaza remained, and so did the fluorescent lights, which now bathed in their tepid glow a low-slung cement building and, to either side, a clutch of white-sided vans parked tidily in a row, some with passengers sleeping on board. It wasn’t clear where one might go to get fuel, but the larger question was whether we could leave at all. At the checkpoint at the entrance of town, the rebel soldiers told us the roads were closed for the night, and that our van should park with the others and proceed at first light. Because of the innumerable checkpoints it had taken five hours instead of the usual three to get from Bouaké to this place, Niakara, where the road to Korhogo branched off from the main highway that ran north toward Mali. Now traffic was stopped and travelers milled about near the old filling station or wandered off toward some dim lights across the road in search of a cigarette or something to eat. The three Dioula ladies who had offered nonstop commentary and complaints all ride long from the rear bench of our van no longer seemed perturbed. They were merchants, bringing back goods from the government zone—much of the cargo roped to the van’s roof was theirs, and our departure from Bouaké had been delayed by a debate over how much weight the vehicle could handle—and they were accustomed to the inconvenience. They spread textile wraps onto an area of concrete next to the building and went directly to sleep.

Others were not so sanguine. The two men who’d sat near the front of the van and appointed themselves our spokesmen, gauging the seriousness of the rebels who boarded at checkpoints and how much to argue with their demands for bribes, now bristled at staying the night in this acrid place, with Korhogo, if the road was clear, only two hours away. While the driver and his apprentice—the teenager in charge of loading cargo and collecting fares—slunk off to get food, these two passengers yelled at the impassive young men in mismatched fatigues who sat in the plaza cradling old rifles. Then, having obtained no response, they strode off down the road toward the main checkpoint to figure out who was in charge. Soro and I listened but hung back. We were traveling with his wife and small daughter, whom he had just retrieved in Abidjan after a year’s separation due to the war, and I was clearly a foreigner. It was prudent not to cause a scene. We drifted to the small, dank shop across the plaza and purchased lukewarm Cokes from the shopkeeper, an elderly Mauritanian who assumed from my features that I belonged to the local Lebanese community and addressed me in Arabic. I apologized—désolé, tonton, je suis américain—and watched the old man struggle to make sense of this. The war had shut off what thin trickle of foreign tourists once passed through here, leaving only relief workers, who traveled together in white Land Cruisers, not alone in the middle of the night on board an overcrowded eighteen-seat Hiace.

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For Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, war is over but not forgotten

Boston Globe, May 20, 2012

It has been 10 years since the civil war in Sierra Leone ended. For Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars, however, the war and its effects are engraved not just in the memories of the band members, but in the group’s very name.

As listeners to their 2006 debut, “Living Like a Refugee,” or viewers of the 2005 documentary devoted to their story know, the group formed in refugee camps in Guinea in the late 1990s.

There, tens of thousands of Sierra Leoneans had fled massacres and destruction in their country. Several band members themselves had been victims of ghastly atrocities.

Even after the war’s end in January 2002 and the restoration of civil peace that has endured to this day, it took several years before the band members were able to settle back in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital city.

So it’s impossible to unspool war and displacement from the fabric of this band, as much as its exquisite guitar rhythms, vocal harmonies, and accents of reggae and other Caribbean flavors have made it tempting.

Still, life goes on, and so does the music. On their third album, “Radio Salone,” which came out last month, the All Stars, who visit Brighton Music Hall on June 24, have put together their most eclectic and best-produced program of music to date, with nary a reference to the conflict.

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With jazz trio Pilc Moutin Hoenig, anything can happen

Boston Globe, May 18, 2012

When pianist Jean-Michel Pilc, bassist François Moutin, and drummer Ari Hoenig play music together, whether in concert or in the studio recording an album, the plan is always the same: There is no plan.

No sheet music. Nothing discussed in advanced. Only improvisation.

“We go on stage and we don’t know what we’re going to do,” says Moutin. “No set list, no preconceived idea. It’s whatever happens there.”

What happens — one can say this much — is a roiling, vibrant set by a jazz trio that sounds like no other. It’s rhythmic, inventive, potentially wild, and also lyrical and prone to poignant emotion. Pilc might introduce a theme, but so might Moutin, or Hoenig, who has honed his technique to turn the drum kit into an instrument that produces melody.

The other thing that happens is what separates this group from the stereotype of without-a-net improvisation, in which cerebral, eccentric, or abstruse elements can lose the audience, like a novel stubbornly bereft of any plotline.

Not so here. As exemplified by their 2011 album, “Threedom,” a set by Pilc Moutin Hoenig, as the trio is known, contains songs; discrete, discernable songs, songs with motion and structure, including clearly identifiable versions of standards and jazz classics, such as Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” or Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.”

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Tessa Souter adopts classical airs

Boston Globe, May 14, 2012

The jazz vocalist Tessa Souter, who released her fourth CD, “Beyond the Blue,” last week, has always had an eclectic, even adventurous, approach to repertoire.

Alongside songbook standards and Brazilian classics like “Manhã de Carnaval,” she’s delivered scintillating takes on spiritually intense works like Pharoah Sanders’s “The Creator Has a Master Plan” or Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.”

And in echoes of her own upbringing in London in the 1960s and 1970s, she has interpreted her own arrangements of period songs like “White Room,” made famous by Cream, or Nick Drake’s melancholy ballad “River Man.”

What Souter had yet to do, until now, was an album featuring lyrics of almost entirely her own writing. “Beyond the Blue,” whose release brings Souter to Scullers on Wednesday with a quintet including the pianist Steve Kuhn, does that and more.

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For singer-songwriter Morley, it’s all about connections

Boston Globe, May 11, 2012

NEW YORK — There are lots of birds in the lyrics of Morley, the singer-songwriter who’s found an original place for herself at the intersection of the jazz, folk, funk, and world-music scenes here, and who flits between these worlds with the grace and ease of the winged creatures that her songs often describe.

The brand-new “Undivided” — her fourth album, and the first she’s made entirely independently, financing and producing it herself, with a lavish roster of top-flight New York musicians participating — has birds passing overhead early and often.

On the first track, “On My Way,” a love song both contemplative and swelling with energy, “silver birds fly into the sun/ while one man grabs a paintbrush, the other grabs a gun.” “To Begin Again,” a meditation on death and renewal, addresses a “little bird on high/ you are wise.”

Morley imagines herself as the bird in flight on “Wild Bird.” “Thought by now I’d have found a safe place to land,” she sings. A stunning video accompanies the song. Filmed in Morocco by Damani Baker, who made the documentary “Still Bill,” it shows Morley playing guitar in a verdant valley, ascending dunes, disappearing into a rugged landscape aboard a decrepit flatbed truck.

Much of Morley’s lyrical imagery is naturalistic; her themes are confessional and concerned for humanity; her energy is personal, earnest. Over breakfast at a coffee shop in Greenwich Village, she reminds one of the folk singers of the 1960s who once thrived on Bleecker Street and in Washington Square Park, just blocks away.

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Star Slinger finds sweet spot between headphones, dance floor

Boston Globe, May 6, 2012

Even by today’s accelerated standard of Internet-amplified music fame, this one happened pretty fast. Two years ago, the producer Star Slinger was just Darren Williams, age 24 at the time, another provincial British kid messing around making beats, albeit with a degree in music technology from a college in Leeds. He had moved to Manchester and was prowling that city’s secondhand record stores, digging for sounds and ideas.

Now Star Slinger is an international touring artist with an insane travel schedule and a plethora of beats, remixes, and collaborations of all sorts zooming around the Web. His absurdly eclectic list of remix targets extends from H-Town to Childish Gambino, Nicki Minaj to Cocteau Twins, Buraka Som Sistema to Broken Social Scene.

He’s made an album-length project, “Vol. 1,” a collection of atmospheric beats laced with samples from old soul and reggae, in the tradition of the late and much-lamented Detroit soundsmith J. Dilla.

And he has released two new singles that presage a more ambitious second album underway. One track features rappers Lil B and Stunnaman, the other a Kansas City experimental soul singer named Reggie B.

In the kind of gesture that signifies mutual recognition and approval in these circles, he’s seen his own work remixed by Diplo, the influential producer and DJ. But an even starker indication of Williams’s emergence is to be found in the calls he is now getting to work with current pop’s biggest names.

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Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire makes a jazz life on his own terms

Boston Globe, May 4, 2012

NEW YORK — Ambrose Akinmusire — young trumpeter, recent signee to the hallowed Blue Note label, and author, with his quintet, of one of last year’s best-received jazz albums — is a creature of habit.

“Annoyingly so,” he says, laughing.

He wakes every day at the same time, and makes the ritual walk to his favorite coffee shop in upper Manhattan, one mile and back. He settles in to practice, watching in the background the same TV shows. His constancy, he says, drives his girlfriend nuts. They’ve been together 13 years, since high school in Berkeley, Calif.

Akinmusire, 30, is a guy who knows what he likes.

“That’s just who I am,” he says, over lunch in a Morningside Heights cafe. He’s enjoying a mozzarella panino, the same one he’s ordered hundreds of times in the past decade, since attending the Manhattan School of Music nearby.

“I have to have a routine,” he says. “It allows me to be free on the bandstand.”

For Akinmusire, habit doesn’t breed predictable music. Quite the opposite: Through his loyalties and routines, he’s built a tight-knit band of mostly old friends who feel safe experimenting together. They need little direction and even less reassurance.

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Rapper Big K.R.I.T. serves rhymes caught in a time-honored tension

Boston Globe, April 29, 2012

There’s a juxtaposition you sometimes hear in hip-hop, a mood swing that throws the listener from heights of hedonistic excess to the depths of an artist’s soul-searching on life, loss, and the meaning of it all. Strip-club anthems might give way to raw expressions of despair, even laced with evocations of suicide.

No region owns a monopoly on these themes, but the pairing seems most effective when it comes from the South. Classic work by groups such as OutKast, from Atlanta, or Geto Boys, from Houston, shows an emotional range that elsewhere might be viewed as overly candid or unedited, commercially imprudent or politically incorrect.

Big K.R.I.T., born Justin Scott, of Meridian, Miss., is the newest Southern MC to hit the big time behind this mixture of manic and depressive, sacred and profane. At 25, K.R.I.T. (the name stands for “King Remembered in Time”) has honed his voice through the now-standard method of releasing free-download mixtapes and in a flurry of side projects and collaborations.

In the process, he’s earned plaudits as much for songs such as “The Vent,” in which he reflects on death and depression, imagining asking Kurt Cobain what drove him to take his own life; and for “Money on the Floor,” in which dollars are spent, bottles pop and rear ends shake with abandon.
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Atlas Soul makes worlds collide—and party

Boston Globe, April 27, 2012

WATERTOWN – As Anwar Souini describes it, he was browsing the North African section in a Central Square record store in Cambridge one day in 2006, when he came across a CD that intrigued him, by a group called Atlas Soul.

That the shop even had a North African section was refreshing for Souini, who left Morocco to study in the United States in 2001, arriving at the University of Wyoming, of all places, a few weeks before 9/11.

“I wasn’t lucky,” Souini says of the timing. Lonely and isolated in Wyoming, he had moved to Florida after two years, before finally landing in Boston — a place where, he found to his relief, many people had at least heard of his home country.

Better yet: After listening to Atlas Soul and enjoying its unexpected mix of North African music with funk and jazz, Souini — an accomplished singer who had recorded in Morocco as a teenager — noticed the CD listed a contact number with a Boston area code.

“So I called,” Souini says. “And half an hour later he was in my home.”

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Modeselektor capture the varied sounds of Berlin on ‘Monkeytown’

Boston Globe, April 13, 2012

There’s a track called “Berlin” on “Monkeytown,” the new album by German electronic music duo Modeselektor. Considering that the pair of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary grew up in Berlin, and are among the top ambassadors of the city’s vibrant arts scene — with three albums, their own record label, and big-name boosters like Radiohead singer Thom Yorke — the song can be interpreted as something of an anthem for the city.

Or at least, for Berlin as seen by the duo, who play Royale on Thursday midway through a North American tour that also includes two stops at the Coachella festival. Their Berlin, it turns out, is different from the hipster image of a low-cost, high-energy creative paradise throbbing to the pulse of rapid, hard-edge techno.

“Berlin,” the song, is a light dance track, almost summery, with a subtext of low grumbles and glitches offset by the perky voice of a singer named Miss Platnum.

The distinction might be lost on those untrained in fine variations of the dance music scene, but for those steeped in that world, says Modeselektor’s Bronsert, there is a signal that the two are very deliberately sending.

“It doesn’t sound like a song which is from Berlin,” Bronsert says by phone from his home. “We wanted to say something about all this hype you have in the world about Berlin, electronic music, 78-hour raves, etc. This cliche of ‘Let’s move to Berlin, get a huge, very cheap flat, buy the tightest pants we can wear, and make party!’”

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Alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett puts Motor City in his sound

Boston Globe, April 6, 2012

When speaking about jazz, it is established custom to identify a musician’s city of origin, even if he or she left it long ago. This recalls the time when culturally specific scenes thrived in different cities, with distinct idioms and influences, exporting players in this mold onto the national stage.

Today origins matter less; while some retain strong hometown ties (e.g., the Marsalis brothers, Terence Blanchard, or Nicholas Payton with New Orleans), the rise of jazz education has ushered in players from all manner of origins who train at schools like the Berklee College of Music rather than apprentice in hometown bands that pass down the local legacy.

The alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett was 18 when he left Detroit back in 1978, and he has made his base in New York ever since. Detroit is one of music’s great hubs — Yusef Lateef, Tommy Flanagan, Donald Byrd, Elvin Jones are just a few among the pantheon who came up there — but if anything, Garrett has spent his prolific career blurring the trace.

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CD review: Filastine, “Loot”

Boston Globe, April 3, 2012

A found-sound quality pervades “Loot,’’ the third album from Filastine, a Los Angeles-raised, Barcelona-based musician-activist who wanders the globe from warehouses to squatters colonies to ecological danger zones, forging ties with fellow dissidents along the way. Pushing a shopping cart rigged with microphones and speakers, he makes and manipulates field recordings of a sort: digital noise, blips, and loops harvested from samba to bhangra, from TV news to YouTube clips, from motorbikes to prayer calls. The bass and beats mark kinship with some strands of electronica (you can definitely dance to it) and Filastine deftly manipulates texture and mood. “Lost Records’’ featuring Japanese rapper ECD is edgy and agitated, while “GenDJer2’’ is stuttery but tempered, with ethereal vocals by Indonesian singer Nova. Not all the instrumental tracks hold the attention, despite such titles as “Informal Sector Parade’’ (an economics reference) or “Sidi Bouzid’’ (the town where a Tunisian vendor’s self-immolation set off the Arab Spring), but all reflect a creative mind that avoids fusion shortcuts and (for the most part) didacticism.

No masking his minimalist approach

Boston Globe, March 30, 2012

It’s never a bad idea to strip the clutter away. Valid from home upkeep to personal relations, the principle holds equally true in pop – particularly electronic music, where layers of effects and flurries of adornments threaten dissipating the signal into noise. This has been an issue of late, as the ramshackle genre called dubstep has colonized the club scene; apt music for anxious times, maybe, but lacking clarity and mostly lacking soul.

In England, though, dubstep has run its course and its decay has opened up space. That’s where SBTRKT comes in. The London producer’s self-titled LP, a pared-down gem with a rainbow shimmer, was one of last year’s notable releases. Song-driven, with vocalists on most tracks, it harks back to the time when dance music had lyrics. Attentive to quiet as much as to house and drum-n-bass fundamentals, it places SBTRKT in the genre-blurred UK stream of moody electronica that runs from Massive Attack to the xx.

SBTRKT, who plays the Paradise Wednesday, is on a minimalist mission down to his moniker, which is pronounced “subtract’’ and stands relieved of extraneous vowels. His tour band consists of just himself and singer Sampha. On stage, where he plays drums and manipulates a laptop and accessories, SBTRKT wears one of his collection of neo-tribal masks, which assert his anonymity as well as confer a sacramental vibe to the proceedings. The masks are made by a designer known only as A Hidden Place.

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Spoek Mathambo brings the future sound of South Africa

Boston Globe, March 23, 2012

“It would be nice if you call me Nthato. It’s how I introduce myself.’’

Nthato Mokgata is trying hard to manage his identities in the face of his blossoming fame. By day he’s Nthato, the low-key, well-spoken 26-year-old from Johannesburg who dropped out of medical school to make his career in music.

By night, in the studio and on stages around the world, he’s Spoek Mathambo, a fantastical futuristic figure who writes, raps, and produces some of the most vibrant and doggedly unclassifiable electronic pop music in the world today.

With his brand-new album “Father Creeper’’ just out on Sub Pop, the exalted Seattle indie label, he’s in the vanguard of a new wave of urban music from Africa that’s as technologically forward and stylistically varied as the trendiest club sounds of London or New York, yet propounds its own confident sense of place.
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Riffs on riffs: Rick Moody’s “Adventures in Listening”

NPR Books, March 21, 2012

“There’s something about a naive apprehension of art that makes it that much nobler to me,” Rick Moody observes in “Two Weeks at Music Camp,” one of 13 essays collected inOn Celestial Music. He’s at an artist colony, listening to the history of a few sculptures — and finding himself profoundly indifferent. “I care about the work,” he writes, not its origins.

But if you care about the work, you can’t help but examine its background and try to make sense of its technique. Partly because art stimulates the mind, and partly because people like to share what turns them on. And so, in this book, Moody — the novelist, but also sometime musician (he wrestles with this identification in these pages) and voracious listener — goes all in. So much so that his sheer interpretive doggedness — on full display in his essays on Wilco, Peter Townshend and the Magnetic Fields — might exhaust rather than pique the reader’s interest.

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