Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Here's a frequent flyer/transit lounge column for those at home who want to get their musical passport stamped. Elsewhere has so many CDs and downloads commanding and demanding attention that we run an occasional column which scoops up releases by international artists (IN BRIEF), in much the same way as our SHORT CUTS column picks out New Zealand artists.
And of course Yasmin picks up in her EPs column.
So now we offer a similarly conceived aural synopsis of world music. Get out your atlas and enjoy. (And there are many more in-depth world music reviews, overviews and interviews at Elsewhere starting here)
Comments in this column however will be brief.
Lenka Lichtenberg: Masaryk; Narodni Pisne (ARC)
The subtitle of this Czech-Canadian singer's 14-song collection is “Czech, Moravian and Slovak Folk Songs Reimagined”. And for those of us who don't know them in the original or traditional manner we can only guess how they have been “reimagined”. But the typically informative ARC liner notes fill in the background and offer details of each song . . . and how well travelled Lichtenberg has been: from Prague where she was born to Denmark where she studied musicology at university to Toronto where she now lives.
The Masaryk of the title was Jan Masaryk (1886-1948) whose songbook collection of folk music is apparently a cornerstone in traditional Czech music and to which she reverted for material she knew from childhood and beyond.
With a small band on traditional and classical instruments, she essays these songs with almost palpable (and often overtly Jewish) passion, and although some may find the Czech language a bit harsh in places, because the moods shift from wistful nostalgia through a lullaby to a dark song of defiance and dancing in the face of death, Lenka Lichtenberg carries this off convincingly.
Mary Ann Kennedy: An Dan; Gaelic Songs for a Modern World (ARC)
Formerly a member of the acclaimed Gaelic group Cliar, here singer/broadcaster/producer and much-more Kennedy steps out with a debut solo album of originals and Gaelic songs by well known writers of the 20th century and more recent time.
There are some beautiful songs here (notably the song by the poet Irig MacDonald for a cousin who died in World War I with its sample of Twswana song from South Africa, and another by poet Aonghas MacNeacail) but to these Scottish-born ears which should be well-disposed, this felt like a long and somewhat glum haul.
Rafael and Energia Dominicana: Enamorarse en la Playa (ARC)
The band name might be your first clue to the furiously enjoyable big ensemble sound of horns and percussion while Dominican-Canadian Rafeal acts as cheerleader and singer.
The theme of the album (the title means Falling in Love at the Beach) is love in its many manifestations, but given the often restless, singalong and vigorous dance music here it is love enacted in open-sided tropical club where you have a view of the ocean from the dancefloor.
It's a somewhat demanding rush of Caribbean rhythms and joy over the 13 original tracks but if you spent a lot of time in the gym (and miss the macarena days of old) then you are probably up to it.
Beautiful World (ARC)
If however you look for something more sedate and thoughtful then Namibia's acoustic singer-songwriter Elemotho is your man. With international guests on accordion, violin, cello, saxophone and percussion, plus poet Naita Hishoono on the opening scene-setter Ga lo itse/We Don't Know, this has considerable musical reach and Elemotho also sings in English and Namibian languages.
The title tells you much about its New Age optimism, love for family and the need to be generous of spirit in this brief life. Elemotho – real name Gaalelekwe Richardo Mosimane – has won numerous awards in his homeland (not the least a Lifetime Achievement Award this year) and he has travelled frequently spreading his gentle, life affirming message.
Good African folk-pop with subtle references beyond the continent, and sometimes a bit of punch as in Black Man.
Just by coincidence all the releases discussed here are through the ARC Music label in Britain. See here for their full catalogue and to order. You may also subscribe to their monthly newsletter.