Category: Articles

Soul is heavy, wisdom is sweet: Unraveling the mysteries of Nneka

MTV Iggy, March 1, 2012 It’s been three years since Nneka Egbuna moved back home. At 19, she had moved away from Nigeria to Germany, her mother’s country, where she studied anthropology and began her music career. But after releasing two albums and getting a little shine on the European circuit, she knew it was time to […]

The world wants Zaz

MTV Iggy, February 21, 2012 “Je veux.” I want. In this song, which became a huge summer hit in France in 2010, Zaz shares a wishlist that’s anything but materialistic. All she wants is “some love, some joy, some good cheer/It’s not your money that will make me happy,” she sings in French, after turning […]

Dafnis Prieto plays more than meets the ear

Boston Globe, February 24, 2012 NEW YORK – In a prominent spot on the shelf in the peaceful living room of drummer Dafnis Prieto’s apartment in Washington Heights sits a row of books on one of Prieto’s favorite subjects: optical illusions. Close by is a stack of volumes on an artist famous for his use […]

George Clinton gets to the bottom of funk with Berklee students

Boston Globe, February 10, 2012 He started in doo-wop, then went psychedelic. Throughout the 1970s, his bands Parliament and Funkadelic carved out bold, crazy new spaces in rock and funk, deploying a cast of loopy, absurdist characters fresh off the Mothership – the UFO that for many years throned above their concerts. Samples of their […]

Nimbaya! beats the odds — and the drums

Boston Globe, February 10, 2012 The tremendous swirl of color and rhythm; the rich layering of djembe drums with the kora lute and marimba-like balafon; storytelling theater that starts as gentle conversation and escalates into a dance party that pulls the audience out of their seats: Nimbaya!, the dance and drumming troupe from Guinea, delivers […]

Sunny Jain and Red Baraat make bangers from bhangra

Boston Globe, January 29, 2012 NEW YORK – The drummer Sunny Jain tells the story of a time when he auditioned before Wynton Marsalis, the great trumpeter and consummate arbiter of all things jazz in general, and particularly New Orleans. In lieu of a bass drum, Jain had substituted a dhol – the two-sided drum […]

Cut it up & eat it: the bloody soul of Le Butcherettes

MTV Iggy, January 10, 2012 If you came for the severed pig’s head, you’re too late. Ditto, possibly, for the blood-stained butcher’s apron — though Teri Gender Bender, the leader and frontwoman of the punk-inspired band Le Butcherettes, has not yet removed that trademark prop from her performance wardrobe. She may still, when she feels […]

World music top albums of 2011

Boston Globe, December 18, 2011 1. SUSANA BACA “Afrodiaspora’’ Soulful pedagogy from the sublime-voiced Baca, who this year was named Peru’s culture minister, and here leads a grand tour of Africa-rooted music from Latin America and the Caribbean, including New Orleans, with her customary grace and serene mastery. 2. MAMANI KEITA “Gagner l’argent français’’ A shimmering, just-right […]

Jazz comes first for all-female Mosaic Project

Boston Globe, December 9, 2011 It shouldn’t be this way, but it’s still the case that when a jazz group forms in which all the players are women, that fact attracts at least as much notice as the music they perform. It’s unavoidable: all-women groups remain rare in a jazz world where most performers, listeners, […]

Anders Trentemøller, Danish Electro Ringmaster

MTV Iggy, December 7, 2011 His American breakout moment came earlier this year when he tore up the 2011 Coachella festival, in a high-intensity electronic set backed by a full live rock band and a visual show that had breathless bloggers and reviewers proclaiming it the festival’s high point. But in Europe Anders Trentemøller has been a […]

Amália Hoje brings new life to fado’s strongest voice

Boston Globe, December 2, 2011 From the start, it doesn’t feel like fado. Nor does the players’ entrance fit the norm for Lisbon’s hallowed style of melancholy song. It is not the genteel Portuguese guitar but a sharp synthesizer beat that ushers the artists on stage. There are not one but three singers – a […]

She puts the world into her music

Boston Globe, November 19, 2011 NEW YORK – In the course of five albums, the singer Kiran Ahluwalia has blended the Indian classical and folk forms that are her specialty into collaborations with Portuguese fado musicians, the Celtic fiddle of Natalie MacMaster, the Inuit throat singing of Tanya Tagaq, and more. For Ahluwalia, such partnerships […]

Just A Kenyan Band of Superheroes

MTV Iggy, November 15, 2011 It took a superhero to bring Just A Band back from the future. His name: Makmende. His look: Blaxploitation chic—sharp tan jacket, flared trousers, broad-rimmed shades, Afro pick. His modus operandi: Appears in the streets of Nairobi to beat down miscreants, send robbers fleeing, fight off masked kidnappers, rescue a […]

From Seattle, with a clean slate

Boston Globe, November 4, 2011 Their new album’s title is a shout-out to 1930s Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein, born of their fascination with film studies. The songs are oblique tributes and reflections inspired by film stars, activists, political prisoners, Barack Obama, and … weedhead comic Tommy Chong. Two tracks are eulogies of a kind: one […]

Jazz artist draws richly on Indian roots

Boston Globe, October 30, 2011 It’s been a subtle kind of homecoming for Rudresh Mahanthappa. Of course, southern India was never really home for the alto saxophonist, strictly speaking: Though his parents came from there, he grew up in Colorado and developed his jazz chops at the Berklee College of Music, then on the Chicago […]

Theophilus London makes his name – and his brand

Boston Globe, October 23, 2011 So it actually happens this way: One moment, you’re a kid in Brooklyn with a mixtape, riding classic samples from the likes of Prince and Michael Jackson. Next moment – OK, three years later, but still pretty darn fast – your major label debut is out and playing a different […]

To her ears, Balkan Tales sounds like home

Boston Globe, October 21, 2011 NEW YORK – Here’s a concept: an American-based band that plays music inspired by the folk traditions of the Balkans in southeastern Europe, and that is actually led by someone from that region. This takes nothing away from Balkan Beat Box, Zlatne Uste, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Slavic Soul […]

Accordionist continues on his Balkan-influenced quest

Boston Globe, September 30, 2011 Jeremy Barnes won’t mind if you call him quixotic. In fact, he will take it as a compliment. Like Don Quixote, whose adventures in the Cervantes epic birthed the adjective, Barnes set out long ago on an oddball yet high-minded adventure as the accordionist and co-leader of the New Mexico […]

Their notable conversations

Boston Globe, September 25, 2011 NEW YORK – One of them played at Woodstock. The second got his doctorate in physics at age 24. They found their third member in a small town in France and the fourth working as a personal trainer at an Equinox gym. Behold: A jazz quartet. Of course, more than […]

Das Racist is not your typical rap story

Boston Globe, September 23, 2011 NEW YORK – Back in the day – that is to say, a couple of years ago – Himanshu Suri held down a suit-and-tie job channeling executive talent to Wall Street. That was before he became Heems, full-time rapper and music entrepreneur and one of two MCs in the absurdist […]

Cuban choir salutes Haiti from a distance

Boston Globe, September 11, 2011 After the awful earthquake of January 2010 that devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti, an unusual form of consolation and aid arrived from nearby Cuba, alongside the medical corps that the Cuban government quickly dispatched. This other, less orthodox relief group took the form of a 10-person vocal choir, five women and five […]

Sweet predators: the cannibal courtship of Dengue Fever

MTV Iggy, September 9, 2011 There’s a poignant moment on Cannibal Courtship, the fifth album from the Cambodia-inspired, Los Angeles-based Dengue Fever, that encapsulates what is tragic and urgent in the message of this idiosyncratic band who just as often come off light-hearted. It comes on a track called “Sister In the Radio.” Singing in Khmer […]

Getting down with dub

Boston Globe, September 3, 2011 In the beginning there was dub. Well, in the beginning there was reggae. But from the early 1970s in Jamaica, sound engineers led by now-historic figures such as King Tubby stepped out of the shadows and became performers in their own right. Using controllers, mixers, and effects, they generated a […]

Honoring his roots, Touré blazes his own trail

Boston Globe, August 20, 2011 Four years ago a conversation with Vieux Farka Toure was a loose affair held in a kitchen in Queens while the Malian singer-guitarist and his bandmates cooked lunch amid boxes of CDs. It was Toure’s first US tour; he had a name – he is the son of the great […]

The whole kit and caboodle

Boston Globe, August 5, 2011 Any decent investigation of the jazz scene is likely to yield these near-conclusive findings: First, Eric Harland is everywhere. Second, Eric Harland can do anything. Evidence? Just look at his schedule for the next few days. At the Newport Jazz Festival this weekend, Harland, a 34-year-old drummer with an absurdly […]

Hanni El Khatib’s got a hot hot thing

MTV Iggy, August 4, 2011 Somewhere on a side street in the vestigial industrial precincts of Manhattan’s Far West side, the rocker Hanni El Khatib interrupts a photo shoot—he was getting portrayed roaming these blocks and checking out the High Line elevated park—and pulls out his camera phone to take a few snaps of his own. The sight […]

Her career is having a moment – again

Boston Globe, July 31, 2011 NEW YORK – As a pre-teen, Ximena Sarinana played willful child characters in telenovelas, Mexico’s ultra-popular soap operas. As a teenager she went on to complex roles in feature films. In her late teens she fronted a jazz and funk band, and she even spent a semester at Berklee College […]

Si*Se’s small output yields big following

Boston Globe, July 29, 2011 It feels like less is more for Si*Se. Ten years ago, the New York band broke out with a self-titled disc of downtempo grooves with lyrics in English and Spanish, foregrounding lead singer Carol C. and the production work of cofounder Cliff Cristofaro. It offered an artsy, bilingual sound at […]

Malian diva stays true to her own message

Boston Globe, July 24, 2011 There came a point, says Oumou Sangare, the great singer from Mali, when she had to finally take her own advice. A world music phenomenon since 1990, when she released her acclaimed debut album “Moussolou” at 22, Sangare had spent a decade and a half – or longer, if you […]

Celebrating Africa at City Hall Plaza

Boston Globe, July 15, 2011 The first time around, it was a gamble – one woman’s labor of love to make visible the Boston area’s scattered African communities and to present African music to the widest possible audience, not in pricey concert venues or out-of-the-way immigrant social halls, but free, in City Hall Plaza, on […]

Meklit Hadero, keeping it real and varied

Boston Globe, July 10, 2011 “On a Day Like This,” the 2010 debut album by San Francisco singer-songwriter Meklit Hadero, traces the arc of one day, its 10 songs sequenced to convey the moods and events of the passing hours from daybreak until time to sleep. It is a day of shifting weather, from “You […]

Friendship, opportunity rooted in the desert

Boston Globe, July 3, 2011 Discovery is a loaded term in world music. It carries the colonial connotation that the art of another culture does not really exist until an outsider – typically, a conquering outsider – comes across it, gives it a label, and delivers it to the market. And yet small acts of […]

South African band set to make it in America

Boston Globe, June 25, 2011 They were already big at home, in South Africa. Very big, in fact: born of a jam session on the small Cape Town scene in 2002, the seven-member Freshlyground has enjoyed, with its gently Africanized pop fusion, a string of local hit songs that convey sweetly earnest themes of uplift […]

Cuban singer gets a little help from a friend

Boston Globe, June 13, 2011 The story of Jackson Browne’s friendship with Carlos Varela – his Cuban singer-songwriter counterpart, locally acclaimed but little-known in the United States – begins, as do so many good Cuba stories, with a bottle of rum. It happened when Browne and Varela, who were being introduced by mutual friends, found […]

MC Ras Ceylon: One love from Sri Lanka to Jamaica

MTV Desi, June 6, 2011 “The Gideon Force was the regiment that kicked the fascists out of Ethiopia,” explains Oakland-based MC Ras Ceylon. The force, he says, resisted the Italian incursion against the Ethiopia of Haile Selassie, the emperor sacred to Rastafarians. It inspired the title of the latest mixtape from the reggae and hip hop […]

Composer Previte drums up new musical ideas

Boston Globe, May 27, 2011 NEW YORK – When So Percussion – a quartet based here that plays only percussion instruments – received an invitation to collaborate from drummer and composer Bobby Previte, they quickly went online to research his work. And what they found pretty much blew their minds. It wasn’t that Previte was […]

Soulphonics’ Ruby Velle: “Singing soul is like therapy”

MTV Desi, May 26, 2011 A few days ago we introduced you to Soulphonics and Ruby Velle, the vintage soul act in Atlanta that’s fronted by a young Desi woman. We caught up with Ruby to talk music, culture, history—and how 1960s-era soul music captured her heart. So what’s a nice Indian girl doing fronting […]

Moving sounds of the modern Sahara

Boston Globe, May 22, 2011 Communities that go through wrenching change often find strength in concepts they use to define themselves and claim their identity. For the Tuareg of the Sahara, that word is “ashek.” It means something like honor and dignity. It guides the Tuareg’s behavior in a world where borders and economic change […]

Giving GURU his due

Boston Globe, May 20, 2011 Edo G. remembers well the day when Guru set off from Boston for New York City in search of fame and fortune. Back then, in the mid-’80s, Guru was known as Keithy E. – the stage name of Keith Elam, son of a judge and a librarian from a respected […]

Regional rhythms ramped up for global dance floors: Bomba Estereo

Boston Globe, May 8, 2011 Train your ears southward, to the nightspots of South America’s capital cities, and it won’t take long before you start grooving to some form of electro-cumbia. The mix of electronica with cumbia, a folk-music mainstay of South America, has sparked myriad groups, collectives like Buenos Aires’s ZZK, and endless variants […]

Wrecking crew: Odd Future

Boston Globe, May 8, 2011 “They say I’m immature, I say that they’re repressed.” It’s an eternal complaint of misunderstood youth, and, in this instance, a line from the wildly talented and at times deeply off-putting debut album “Bastard,” by the young and outre Los Angeles rapper Tyler, the Creator. The line also sums up […]