Tag: world music

More than words: Le Trio Joubran honors Mahmoud Darwish

Boston Globe, October 3, 2010 Palestinian artists abroad are used to bearing a heavy symbolic load, whether they like it or not. The history of their people, marked by displacement, occupation, and the endless peace process, imparts a certain intensity to even lighthearted work and invites controversies that might have nothing to do with the […]

Malian singer Khaira Arby has arrived

Boston Globe, September 12, 2010 It’s pretty much accepted on the world-music circuit that Mali, population 13 million, always boxes above its weight. Salif Keita, Ali Farka Toure, Habib Koite, Oumou Sangare, Tinariwen, Amadou and Mariam are just some of the global superstars the West African nation has produced. It’s so rich, it’s silly. But […]

Sounds of Brazil—by way of Appalachia

Boston Globe, September 5, 2010 The revelation, says guitarist Clay Ross, boiled down to a single song. It was a baiao – a style of folk music from northeastern Brazil – by one of the masters of the genre that drove home to this South Carolina country boy-turned-New York City jazzman a connection that he […]

Straight outta Vladivostok

Boston Globe, August 13, 2010 Most bands on their way to success have to face typical obstacles like dodgy record deals or squabbles among bandmates. Far fewer must deal with collapse and transformation of the social order, a crippling economic crisis, suspicious authorities, and a music market where 9 out of 10 CDs are pirated […]

Skin tones

Boston Globe, June 13, 2010 On the issue that is nearest to his heart and most closely touches who he is, Salif Keita is trying a new tack: directness. As anyone who has seen him knows, Keita, the great singer from Mali and a crucial figure in modern African music, is an albino. The condition, […]

In afterlife, Fela Kuti is having a moment

Boston Globe, June 6, 2010 NEW YORK – A performance of “Fela!,” the acclaimed Broadway show on the life of Nigerian superstar Fela Anikulapo Kuti, makes for the kind of culture clash rarely seen on the Great White Way. And that’s just in the audience. During intermission at one performance this spring, two women asked […]

Festival showcases Africa in all its diversity

Boston Globe, May 23, 2010 With the World Cup kicking off in three weeks in Johannesburg, the eyes of the world are about to be trained on Africa. But how many people know that 2010 marks 50 years of independence for more than half the nations on the continent? And how aware are we of […]

Plucked from extinction

Boston Globe, March 26, 2010 One of the small indignities that African musicians face when on tour in this country is having to be rude to fellow countrymen when the breakneck road schedule leaves no time for proper courtesies. “The other day we played in Alaska, and local Malians came to see us,” says Bassekou […]

Pride in her heritage is easy to hear

Boston Globe, January 31, 2010 The best African act category at Britain’s prestigious MOBO (Music of Black Origins) awards last year was a heavyweight affair. Among the nominees were such global pop icons as Femi Kuti, Oumou Sangare, Baaba Maal, and Amadou & Mariam. And the winner was … Nneka. The waters are parting for […]

Balafon master has his hands on a legacy

Boston Globe, December 6, 2009 It’s one thing to be born into a musical family. It’s another thing altogether to be entrusted, by birth, with guardianship of a tradition that dates to medieval times and is central to the culture and memories of an entire society. That’s the burden that Balla Kouyate, griot and virtuoso […]

To another place: Somi

Boston Globe, November 15, 2009 Somi’s new album, “If the Rains Come First,” glistens with the sheen of an almost impossibly perfect cosmopolitanism, but that shouldn’t be held against her. It could hardly be otherwise. Recorded in Paris and New York, with a group that includes a Senegalese guitarist, Herve Samb, a Japanese pianist, Toru […]

New stars in the southeast: Kailash Kher

Boston Globe, November 8, 2009 According to a story that still circulates in India’s celebrity press, when Kailash Kher first arrived in Mumbai in 2001, he was so poor and bereft of connections that he had to live for a while on the platform of a suburban railway station. That tale is an urban myth. […]

Indian Ocean reaches beyond

Boston Globe, October 2, 2009 The band Indian Ocean will not take offense if you call its music “fusion.” For one thing, the Delhi-based foursome is too laid-back to worry much about labels. And it’s true that at first glance Indian Ocean’s approach summons up echoes of Orientalist jazz-rock projects from the ’70s, with their […]

Pushing boundaries: Buika

Boston Globe, August 18, 2009 Maria Concepcion Balboa Buika belongs to a wave of Spanish singers breathing fresh life into classic styles – flamenco, of course, but also the ballad form called copla, and regional folk songs. But Buika, 37, brings a background that sets her apart. Born to political refugees from the former Spanish […]

Capturing the Cameroon sound

Boston Globe, June 26, 2009 If nothing else, history will retain that Andre-Marie Tala sued James Brown for plagiarism – and won. It stemmed from a 1973 incident when Brown was touring in West Africa. In Cameroon, the young Tala – an emerging local singer and guitarist – handed Brown a demo copy of “Hot […]

From pioneer to ambassador: King Sunny Ade

Boston Globe, July 12, 2009 It’s a signal achievement in world music to go global – to achieve recognition and a fan following that fills arenas and festival fields in countries far and wide. But sometimes you don’t have to. Sometimes, the respect you garner at home affords you all the gigs you need, plus […]

Rapping on the door of opportunity: Kaysha

Boston Globe, May 31, 2009 “I’ve always had a double identity,” says Edward Mokolo, who raps, sings, and produces under the name Kaysha. And that’s a simple way to put it. Congolese by birth, French by education, American by affinity, Caribbean by adoption, Pan-African by choice, the 35-year-old Kaysha is a walking pop hybrid who […]

A “fresh wave” of sound: Jose Conde

Boston Globe, May 17, 2009 BROOKLYN – The elephant lumbered out of the forest and straight into the lobby of a luxury hotel. At the bar, an elegant woman, martini in hand, gasped, while the pachyderm, oblivious, settled down to feast on a mango. Absurd, amusing, and gently intimating some kind of ecological moral to […]

All-night Indian music concert

WNYC News, May 14, 2007 Even the most obsessive music lover might think twice about a concert that lasted more than 3 or 4 hours. But in Indian music, all-night concerts that run from dusk to dawn are highly appreciated. This weekend some of India’s most revered musicians played all night at St John the […]

Kuduro shakes things up: Buraka Som Sistema

Boston Globe, May 9, 2009 So you’ve grooved to house, tranced to techno. You’ve shaken to ghetto-tech, Baltimore club, and Miami booty bass. Perhaps you’ve undulated to Brazilian baile-funk or hard-charged the floor to London grime or dubstep. In the process you may have noticed dance music getting faster – and its geographical origins blurring […]

The French Caribbean: Cosmopolitan, colonial, complicated

Afropop Worldwide, April 2009 Produced by Siddhartha Mitter. Follow link for audio. In the music of the French Antilles – the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe – you can hear influences that range from the traditional bèlè and gwo ka drumming of the islands’ rural communities, to European additions like polka and French chanson. But […]

Balkan Beat Box is on top of the world

Boston Globe, March 27, 2009 The band’s name is Balkan Beat Box. Its core membership is three Israelis who found their voice in New York subcultures and whose sound encompasses Arabic rap, Moroccan gnawa, mariachi, and dub in an electronically infused cocktail. And when the band hits the Paradise Wednesday, it’ll be fresh from Mexico […]

New take on Indian classical music

WNYC News, March 9, 2009 Classical music jumped across continents this weekend. The two-week festival that celebrated the opening of the new Alice Tully Hall came to a close with a concert that showcased a new take on Indian classical music. WNYC’s Siddhartha Mitter was there.

Saving an oud tradition

Boston Globe, October 10, 2008 NEW YORK – To enter the world of Simon Shaheen, the virtuoso musician and bandleader who has become Arabic music’s most prominent ambassador and most active educator in the United States, simply consider his principal instrument, the oud. As Shaheen describes it, the elegant lute with its pear-like shape, fretless […]

Family affair with a bossa nova beat: Milton Nascimento

Boston Globe, October 9, 2008 On “Novas Bossas,” the latest project from singer and composer Milton Nascimento, two legends of Brazilian – and by extension, global – popular music find their long-delayed confluence. The first is the late Antonio Carlos “Tom” Jobim, the seminal songwriter of the bossa nova movement, whose compositions, artfully rearranged, make […]

Seun Kuti – cover story

Alarm Magazine #33, September 2008 [Copy as filed before edit] “Right now,” says Seun Kuti, “music is the only fuel that is backing the movement.” Adamant and engaged, the stance fairly sums up the disposition of the 25-year-old Nigerian singer and bandleader. Kuti brims with the urgency of mission, and now, on the heels of a major […]

Banding together: Etran Finatawa

Boston Globe, September 7, 2008 Their name means “Stars of Tradition,” but the members of Etran Finatawa are just as much cultural pioneers, melding long-separate ethnic traditions of their native Niger in the service of nationhood – and in the process, producing one of the most fascinating recent hybrids on the African music scene. The […]

More than bliss: Federico Aubele

Boston Globe, August 29, 2008 Loungey, downtempo electronic music is everywhere these days; it’s the international late-night sound of our time, at once product of a hyperkinetic global culture and antidote to its agitation. The swirling soundscapes, the layers of polyglot melodies riding supple rhythms, convey a kind of new cosmopolitan sensibility and feed the […]

Orchestre Baobab, “Made in Dakar”

Paste Magazine, August 20, 2008 “The Black Atlantic” is the term black British scholar Paul Gilroy coined to convey how the Atlantic Ocean has shaped the growth of black culture and identity. The ocean, Gilroy argued, hasn’t so much divided black culture as it has unified it. From the days of slavery to the anti-colonial movement […]

Diaspora encounters: the Indo-Caribbean world

Afropop Worldwide, July 31, 2008 Produced by Siddhartha Mitter. Follow link for audio. Competition between communities of Indian and African descent has been a mainstay of politics and culture in the former British colonies of Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana.  This rivalry plays out in institutions from the University of the West Indies to the […]

One nation under a beat

Boston Globe, July 25, 2008 NEW YORK – It’s about three songs into a live performance by Nation Beat, the exuberant and inquisitive Brooklyn-based band that has pioneered a synthesis of music from northeastern Brazil and the American South, that you realize for good that this is no run-of-the-mill, hippiefied world-beat fusion project. That’s when, […]

Father’s rebellious spirit fills Seun Kuti’s songs

Boston Globe, July 4, 2008 Seun Kuti sets himself a high standard. “In the true tradition of Afrobeat, you have to make every album like a classic,” says the Nigerian singer and bandleader. At 25, he’s the new standard-bearer of Afrobeat, the furiously groovy musical style that is one of the most beloved and distinctive […]

Finding his way back home again: Sergio Mendes

Boston Globe, June 20, 2008 One of the privileges of stardom is the ability to concoct and pull off projects that color outside the lines. In the past few years Sergio Mendes, the superstar Brazilian keyboardist and bandleader and longtime ambassador of bossa nova, has drawn freely on this license. In 2006, for his first […]

A convergence of cultures in Afrissippi

Boston Globe, May 9, 2008 Sometimes an artistic project comes along that seems at once utterly unlikely, yet at the same time completely logical. Unlikely because of the strange sequence of events that it took for it to occur; logical because the connections it explores are ones that were present, if submerged, all along, just […]

Haale’s sound stretches from New York to Iran

Boston Globe, May 6, 2008 Call her Persian. Call her a New Yorker. Call her a rocker. Call her a poet. Even call her a mystic, if you must. But please, don’t call Haale exotic. The Bronx-born, Iranian-American singer and guitarist, whose debut full-length effort, “No Ceiling,” is set to go down as one of […]

Remembering a world-music giant

Boston Globe, April 4, 2008 Last October, Andy Palacio, a brilliant musician and activist from Belize, capped a landmark year by standing on a stage in Seville, Spain, to accept world music’s highest tribute: the WOMEX Award. Earlier in the year Palacio had released “Watina,” a soul-drenched album of modern roots music from his Garifuna […]

Iraqi musician in New York

WNYC News, March 19, 2008 Five years after the US invasion of Iraq, an Iraqi-American musician is preserving the classical music of Baghdad here in New York. WNYC’s Siddhartha Mitter reports.

Arab music thrives in New York

WNYC News, March 10, 2008 A major festival of Arab music is taking place in Brooklyn all this month. After 9/11 there were fears that funding and opportunities for Arab artists would dry up. Siddhartha Mitter reports on the thriving scene for Arab music in New York.

A banjo, a piano, and two willing masters

Boston Globe, February 29, 2008 In four decades exploring seemingly every nook and cranny of straight-ahead jazz, Latin jazz, and fusion, the pianist Chick Corea has exemplified versatility and spirit of adventure to as great an extent as any musician today. But even omnivorous curiosity has limits. So when asked how much interest he had […]

Spanning, spinning global beats: DJ Rekha

Boston Globe, January 30, 2008 NEW YORK—She’s as conversant in the arcana of classic, early-’90s hip-hop as she is in the folk music of her family’s native Punjab, India. Spinning on her turntables today, you might find Bollywood anthems, baile funk from Brazil, or neo-Balkan brass-band grooves from her adopted Brooklyn. Rekha Malhotra, known to […]

From the Philippines to upstate

WNYC News, December 14, 2007 Two percussionists, making a life together and building a family to the rhythm of dozens of drums. She is Filipino-American, he is Cuban-American and they make music that combines both their cultures – and many others. WNYC’s Siddhartha Mitter spent time with Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez for our ongoing […]

A sonic treasure out of Africa: Youssou N’Dour

Boston Globe, December 8, 2007 He’s known on a first-name basis – Youssou – not just across Africa, but around the world, which is remarkable when you think about it, when you consider that Youssou N’Dour emerged in the early 1980s as just another African bandleader, wildly talented yet from a small country at the […]

Singing for life: HIV/AIDS and music in Uganda

Afropop Worldwide, November 15, 2007 Produced by Siddhartha Mitter. Follow link for audio. In just fifteen years, Uganda lowered its HIV/AIDS infection rate from 30% to just 5%. The life-saving information was best channeled by grassroots theater groups, and especially, women’s choirs who turned health advice, sometimes blended with religion, into entertainment that could move […]

At 65, he increases range: Caetano Veloso

Boston Globe, November 2, 2007 Caetano Veloso has never been one to rest on his laurels. At 65, the great Brazilian singer, who plays the Orpheum Theatre tonight, still shows the restlessness that first earned him fame in the late 1960s, when, together with fellow Bahian Gilberto Gil, he helped forge the ebullient, edgy, multi-arts […]

Mtukudzi sings song of survival

Boston Globe, October 19, 2007 In the 27 years since the hard-fought overthrow of white minority Rhodesian rule, Zimbabwe has tumbled from an exalted symbol of African liberation to an exhibit of almost all that could possibly go wrong. A paranoid regime in the grip of an aging president and his cronies, and hunger and […]

Homeward bound: Dee Dee Bridgewater looks to Mali

Boston Globe, October 14, 2007 The idea of returning to Africa has been an essential theme in American arts and culture ever since Africans were brought to this country. But it is a theme that has dwelt mainly at the margins of mainstream culture, whether by political choice of the artists involved or from lack […]

Discovery channels

Boston Globe, October 12, 2007 Sixteen years after the fall of the Soviet Union supposedly threw open the doors to travel and cultural contact with the republics of Central Asia, the vast region of deserts, steppes, and mountains that stretches from the Caspian Sea to the edges of China remains a vague notion in Western […]

Hindustani singer goes extra mile

Boston Globe, September 9, 2007 From yoga to outsourcing to nuclear weapons deals, American awareness of India is as strong and multifaceted today as it has ever been. In music, exposure to the culture of the world’s largest democracy has come lately via bhangra, the party sound based on folk music from Punjab, and through […]

Nawal’s musical journey to liberation

Boston Globe, June 22, 2007 Chalk it up to globalization: The foremost cultural ambassador of an obscure Islamic island nation off the coast of East Africa can be found, when her schedule permits, taking the waters at a Northern California yoga and meditation spa. Such is the habit of Nawal, the singer and instrumentalist who […]