Tag: world music

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 […]

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 […]

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. […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Zakir Hussain’s conversation of forgotten rhythms

Boston Globe, March 16, 2012 It was only a few weeks ago that Zakir Hussain, the world-famous drum virtuoso and master of the Indian tabla, was making the latest of his discoveries of obscure percussion styles in his home country. Driving through Maharashtra state, his party stopped for a roadside break by a temple in […]

Raga concert explores ties between Indian and Afghan music

Boston Globe, March 9, 2012 NEW YORK – Music is rarely the subject of news from Afghanistan. War, terrorism, corruption, and other such topics have dominated the headlines. And if the Taliban – who outlawed all music save religious chants during their rule from 1996 to 2001 – had had their way, there wouldn’t be […]

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 […]

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 […]

Best of 2011: Siddhartha Mitter

Soundcheck, WNYC Radio, December 22, 2011 This week’s year-in-review special continues with Siddhartha Mitter, a music journalist who contributes to the Boston Globe, MTV Iggy, MTV Desi and other outlets. Siddhartha Mitter’s list: Three Great Songs: Frank Ocean, “Novacane” Musiq Soulchild, “Yes” SBTRKT featuring Sampha, “Hold On” World Music that Isn’t “World Music”: Chamber Music (album) […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

From many sounds, one beat

Boston Globe, April 11, 2011 NEW YORK – The narrow steps to the basement of a modest brick house in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood of Brooklyn lead into a little enclave of Salvador da Bahia’s Afro-Brazilian drum culture. Instruments of all kinds crowd the studio: timbales, congas, and homemade drums using trash barrel tops and […]

Sounds of Africa served three ways

Boston Globe, February 25, 2011 A concert is a product, and sometimes a product is felt to require a brand name to describe it and attract audience and sales. This is often the case with tours that feature international artists who might or might not share a stage in their regions of origin. “Acoustic Africa,” […]

Sonic connection

Boston Globe, January 7, 2011 As their makers describe it, the ideal setting to hear the duets of cellist Vincent Segal and kora player Ballake Sissoko is the one where they recorded “Chamber Music,” their slow and sumptuous album: in Bamako, Mali, deep in the night, when the heat has dropped and silence envelops the […]

Mixing his Latin accents

Boston Globe, November 27, 2010 NEW YORK – A small diaspora of new-generation Latin American singer-songwriters has recently gained critical mass: artists steeped in the folk music of their countries but also jazz, rock, and electronica, artists who seem most comfortable in places like New York, Barcelona, or Mexico City where the scene is ever-changing […]

Bhangra fever!

Boston Globe, November 12, 2010 One Friday last fall, Omer Mirza, cofounder of the Bay Area dance troupe Bhangra Empire, received an unusual request. Would the group be available, asked the e-mailer, to perform in Washington, D.C., that Tuesday? It was far too short notice: The members of Bhangra Empire, one of 100-plus groups in […]

AfroCubism blends the best of both worlds

Boston Globe, November 5, 2010 In the 1960s, the West African republic of Mali was newly independent and brimming with optimism. A new middle class was starting to swell in the capital, Bamako. Education and progress were in the air. And pulling crowds onto dance floors were jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, and most of all, […]