World Music

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

Samuel Yirga; Guzo (Real World/Southbound)

4 Feb 2013

With the Ethiopiques reissue series, the rediscovery of Mulatu Astatke, groups like Dub Colossus and Syriana, and singer Mahmoud Ahmed, the music of Ethipia has certainly garnered attention in recent years. This album by a gifted young and classically trained Ethiopian pianist/composer has more than enough rhythmic and melodic elements from his homeland to place in under world music,... > Read more

Abet Abet

Tim Maia: Nobody Can Live Forever; The Existential Soul of Tim Maia (Luaka Bop)

27 Jan 2013

Although obviously a hard guy to live with, Tim Maia – who died in '98 aged 55 – was a larger than life character in Brazilian music. He was a man of excesses and some of his song titles hint at his philosophy (Let's Have a Ball Tonight, I Don't Care, You Don't Know What I Know). There was a musical about his life and he certainly had stories to tell. At 17 he illegally... > Read more

O Caminho Do Bem

WOMAD ARTIST 2013; AMIN ALAEV OF THE ALAEV FAMILY INTERVIEWED (Tajikistan)

25 Jan 2013

Interviewing world music artists is often interesting, sometimes fun and frequently frustrating. Speaking to Amin Alaev of the Alaev Family – who play the Taranaki Womad – is all three. First of all he's in a phone shop because his mobile is going to die on him any minute, and second he speaks little English beyond a few polite sentences so we go through the group's... > Read more

Imshab Shabi

ELSEWHERE'S FAMOUS WOMAD QUESTIONNAIRE: Kris Drever of Lau (Scotland)

21 Jan 2013

With some slight variations on our Famous Elsewhere Questionnaire to suit the world and worldly musicians playing at this year's Womad (details below), we now offer Elsewhere's Famous Womad Questionnaire . . . and I'm delighted the first to be posted is by a group from the country where I was born, Scotland. Lau are an award-winning three-piece who play a unique mixture of traditional (but... > Read more

Gallowhill

Perunika Trio: A Bright Star Has Risen (ARC)

21 Jan 2013

While there can be a few problems with "file under rock" or "file under world music" on your album cover, having "Voices of Bulgaria" on your cover as a subtitle inevitably invites comparisons with the great ensemble Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares. Almost 30 years ago that group arrived with a remarkable album of unaccompanied vocals which were heart-stopping in... > Read more

Na horoto

Kristi Stassinopoulou and Stathis Kalyviotis: Greekadelia (Riverboat/Southbound)

7 Jan 2013    1

Adding the suffix -adelic to a style (folkadelic) or album title as in this case, isn't always quite as helpful or true as it seems.  This well-established traditional-into-today duo – who employ loops and electronica alongside harmonium and lauto (lute) – don't live up to the tripped-out suggestion of this album title, however this (like a previous outing) has topped... > Read more

Anamesa Nissirou

Ana Alcaide: La cantiga del fuego (ARC)

2 Jan 2013

Although perilously close to New Age music in places, this gently beguiling album should find wide favour because within it are familiar melodies and chord progressions found in Celtic folk (think Clannad) and Northern Europe, but she also brings North Africa sounds too which add exotic spice. Quite a seductive mixture by this Spanish singer, songwriter and practitioner of the nyckelharpe (a... > Read more

Khun caravan

Balkan Beat Box: Give (Crammed Discs/Southbound)

29 Dec 2012

The cover here -- megaphone as gun/gun as megaphone --gives you a clue to the BBB out of New York who mash up dance culture, dub, Balkan styles and much more into often bruising techno-rock . . . and throw in socio-political messages about how people are exploited, the evils of greed and Enemy in Economy. All this to club-shaking and block-rockin' beats. They can be superficial... > Read more

Urge to be Violent

RAVI SHANKAR (1920 - 2012): More Than One Lifetime

13 Dec 2012    3

My collection of schoolboy poetry which I would agonise over late at night, laboriously using my Scripto fountain pen and Radiant Blue ink, has long since vanished. Thank God. I’m sure it was full of adolescent anxieties -- one “poem” was about Oedipus, about whom I knew nothing other than I liked the name. But one piece remains with me in the memory. It was called... > Read more

WOMAD NEW ZEALAND 2013: When the world comes to town

1 Nov 2012    1

Time for all good citizens of the global village to get their passports stamped at yet another Womad New Zealand, once more in the beautiful site at Taranaki, New Zealand. Over three days in March 2013 (15 - 17), musicians and performers from all parts of the globe will bring their music and culture to entertain, illuminate and thrill those looking for something just a bit different, new... > Read more

Many Rivers to Cross

Staff Benda Bilili: Bouger le Monde (Crammed Discs/Southbound)

29 Oct 2012    1

Recently while looking out music for a DJ night of African music I played dozens of tracks at home back-to-back searching for the best sounds . . . and one thing became very clear. Most of this stuff would drive people crazy and I'd get booted out the bar. The relentless chant-sing style of so much of what I played at home became off-putting even to me, and I like this stuff . . . so I... > Read more

Ne me quitte pas

Mucca Pazza: Safety Fifth (muccapazza.com)

28 Oct 2012

What with the funky lineage out of New Orleans, the woozy sound of the late Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy and the likes of the free-wheeling Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, the ground has been well prepared for this big band (like HBE, from Chicago). These heretics throw funk, rock, avant-garde jazz, imagined movie themes, a smattering of world music (tango in the house!) and a dozen different... > Read more

Sexy Bull

Victor Ghannam and Jacco Muller: Palace of Dreams

22 Oct 2012

Regrettably like the proverbial curate's egg, this is good in parts. But then again, too few to mention.  Following their Viento del Desierto collaboration in 2009, Dutch flamenco guitarist Muller again teams up with oud player Ghannam. And on paper this looks an even more daring bridging of cultures and styles which brings in electric guitar, tabla drums, synth-strings and... > Read more

Old Snake Boots

Vusa Mkhaya: Vocalism (Arc)

17 Oct 2012

The recent Paul Simon concerts and reissue of Graceland doubtless reminded many of the vocal power of the great South African ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo who were on that album and Simon's subsequent tours. If you yearn for an artist who can hit the middle ground between Mambazo, genius juju guitarist King Sunny Ade and a kind of fine-grain sandpaper soul style, then Vusa Mkhaya... > Read more

Diaspora

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang: En Yay Sah (Luaka Bop/Southbound)

11 Oct 2012

This excitingly duffed-up world beat/low-rent psychedelic rock has a wild urban pedigree which comes through in its stupidly different but absolutely addictive Afro-meets-Manhattan groove. Juju goes downtown NYC via an old school Yellow Cab, parks up outside a Warhol event and pulls out incessant machine-gun groove to blow away Lou and Candy Darling. Fronted by singer-songwriter Ahmed... > Read more

Eh Mane Ha

Choban Elektrik; Choban Elektrik (CDBY)

24 Sep 2012    1

Among the more irritating people on the planet are those who ask you if you've heard such'n'such a band (usually utterly obscure, not available to hear on Spotify or buy through some on-line source) or a DJ who bangs on about rare grooves from some far flung corner of the planet only available on massively expensive limited edition vinyl import. When you say you haven't heard these things... > Read more

Koftos

The Malawi Mouse Boys: He is #1 (Southbound)

17 Sep 2012    1

Their name alone sends you to You Tube to find out more about the Malawi Mouse Boys . . . and indeed that is exactly what they are. They sell mice kebabs on the roadside as a kind of snack-to-go for passing cars and trucks in some remote and dusty part of Malawi. But then you see them walk behind a house into the garden, pick up the most battered of instruments imaginable and sing.... > Read more

Mtsilikali (Soldier)

Koo Nimo: Highlife Roots Revival (Riverboat)

6 Aug 2012

An educated man who studied science in London in the Sixties and spent two years as a professor of ethnomusicology in Seattle in the late Nineties, 78-year old Koo Nimo from Ghana also immersed himself in the Western classical tradition and is a fan of Thelonious Monk's complex jazz compositions and flamenco, the latter two evident in his deft guitar work. He is however part of the... > Read more

See Wo Nom Me

Rob: Make It Fast, Make It Slow (Soundway)

1 Jun 2012

In a reproduction of what must have been the original cheap cover, this minimal and curiously religious/sexual album by Rob from Ghana has all the look -- and resonance -- of a rare reggae album from Jamaica, the kind of music which comes with an air of mystery because you are hypnotosed by the sheer peculiar nature of the thing. Singer/writer Rob was something of an enigmatic figure by all... > Read more

Make It Fast, Make It Slow

Jennifer Zea and the Antipodean Collective: The Latin Soul (Mama Wata)

28 May 2012    1

Venezuelan singer and songwriter Zea must be thanking the gods that in 1994 she saw The Piano . . . and was so seduced by the New Zealand landscape she decided to move here. And that she brought with her a background of various musical styles picked up on home turf, American soul from the radio and time in Detroit, chanson in Paris, Brazilian and Caribbean sounds . . . In this country she... > Read more

Mi Nina