World Music

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BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Toumani Diabate: The Mande Variations (World Circuit/Elite)

22 Dec 2008  |  <1 min read  |  1

Here's one of the best world music albums of the year: a rare solo outing by the Malian kora master Toumani Diabate who learned from the late guitarist Ali Farka Toure also from his homeland (there is a track here dedicated to Farka Toure with whom he performed on the wonderful In the Heart of the Moon album). Like his mentor, Diabate has been outward looking and has collaborated with Damon... > Read more

Toumani Diabate: El Nabiyouna

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Juana Molina: Un Dia (Domino)

22 Dec 2008  |  <1 min read  |  1

This singer-songwriter from Argentina will confound any expectations you might have of someone who was once a comedy actress and in skit-shows on local televsion. This album with odd elements of percussion, repeated figures in the manner of folktronic minimalists, post-Tropicalia borrowings from Brazilian music, and a kind of urgency driven by percussion and a production that puts her... > Read more

Juana Molina: Los Hongos de Marosa

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu: Gurrumul (Southbound)

22 Dec 2008  |  1 min read  |  5

Funny how music can pounce on you, isn't it? A couple of weeks ago I would have said I had never heard of this blind-from-birth Aboriginal singer from Arnhemland. Then a week ago I mentioned the new-look Elsewhere on another website and invited people to check it and use the search function: the first response I got was from someone who said they had looked for "Geoffrey Gurrumul... > Read more

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu: Bapa

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Buena Vista Social Club: Live at Carnegie Hall (Elite)

22 Dec 2008  |  1 min read  |  1

A decade on and the Buena Vista Social Club story just keeps being told: there was the original album, the Wim Wenders doco, the solo albums by various members, the touring, the t-shirts . . . Not bad for a project about which timbales player Amadito Valdes says, "I still don't know why Buena Vista Social Club became such a success except that we did it with no commercial intent. We... > Read more

Buena Vista Social Club: El Cuarto de Tula

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008 Omara Portuondo: Gracias (Harmonia Mundi)

22 Dec 2008  |  <1 min read

The great Cuban singer - who came to world attention via the Buena Vista Social Club a decade ago - is still going even though she is in her late 70, which may be some kind of testament to the life-affirming powers of Cuban rum or that country's health-care system. As with the final album by her late BVSC colleague Ibrahim Ferrer (the gorgeous and heartbreaking Mi Sueno), Portoundo has gone... > Read more

Omara Portuondo: Lo que me queda por viver

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2008: Le Trio Joubran: Majaz (Jawwal/Ode)

22 Dec 2008  |  <1 min read

They may look like those agency-groomed opera singers you see on the back of buses -- immaculately trimmed stubble, tuxedos with ties hanging loose, brooding good looks and sultry come-hither eyes -- but put aside any preconceptions: this trio of oud-playing Palestinian brothers is the real thing. This exotic, hypnotic and deeply emotionally album of intrumentals (save one track) will... > Read more

Le Trio Joubran: Majaz

Silk and Bamboo Ensemble: Traditional Chinese Music (Arc)

23 Nov 2008  |  <1 min read

We have been down this seductive and often restful path a few times with the Silk String Quartet, the solo album by pipa/qin player Cheng Yu and the Taoist Music Orchestra of Shanghai -- but the traditional music of China can always halt you in your haste, and make you stop and smell the water lilies. There are a couple of lively pieces here (there's a hoe-down in Dance of the Yao People,... > Read more

Silk and Bamboo Ensemble: Watertown Landscape

Various: Bollywood Dreams/Bhangra (ARC)

22 Nov 2008  |  <1 min read

My guess is that if you are asked to do a Bollywood compilation you'd be somewhat spoiled for choice, right? There are some thrilling Bollywood soundtrack albums and bhangra compilations out there (like Cash and Bollywood Gold), but this collection pulls right back from a soundclash between Indian orchestras and hip-hop and aims more for a considered and inclusive selection of trip-hop... > Read more

Sukhwinder Singh: Daachi Valeya

The Mamaku Project: Mal de Terre (Mamaku)

3 Nov 2008  |  1 min read

The Mamaku Project don't fit into simple boxes -- and that's a good thing. Their debut album Karekare found favour at Elsewhere for its blend of lazy South Pacific attitudes, the dub-influenced pop quality and its easy assimilation of French chanson and cafe/wine bar musics. This made for something unique -- and highly appealing -- in the landscape of "New Zealand" music.... > Read more

The Mamaku Project: Small Breath

Various:Calypsoul 70 (Strut)

21 Oct 2008  |  <1 min read

Although this compilation - subtitled Caribbean Soul and Calypso Crossover 1969-1979 - came out a few months back I thought I'd wait until the weather got better before posting it. It is that kind of music, and today after I cleaned the barbecue it seemed timely. A 20 track collection of bands whose names are completely unknown to me - Magic Circle Express, Gemini Brass, St Maarten's The... > Read more

The Checkmates: Disco Groove

Savina Yannatou/Primavera en Salonico: Songs of An Other (ECM)

15 Oct 2008  |  <1 min read

Not going to lie to you: this one isn't easy and certainly won't be to everyone's taste -- but I guess you have to expect that when a Greek singer takes on Armenia, Bulgarian, Albania etc folk in the company of a group which includes oud, guitar, accordion, double bass and nay (Egyptian flute). Oh, and it is on the ECM jazz label -- so there's a bit of stretching out into free jazz in... > Read more

Savina Yannatou: Za lioubih maimo tri momi (Bulgaria)

LILA DOWNS INTERVIEWED 2007: Singing the politics and heritage of Mexico

5 Oct 2008  |  3 min read

Lila Downs admits she is surprised her music has become internationally successful. After all, much of what she sings is in Spanish, it speaks of the pride and plight of the Mexican and Indian communities, it can be politically flinty, and she has even managed to alienate folk purists by mixing in rock guitars, hip-hop, jazz and reggae influences. As a cocktail of musical styles it just... > Read more

Mariza, Terra (EMI)

18 Sep 2008  |  <1 min read

As the most striking and internationally recognizable singer of Portuguese fado -- the close-cropped blond hair really, isn't it? -- Mariza seemed to arrive on the world music scene with almost alarming suddness about five years ago. The fact is of course she had been touring regularly and building an audience so by the time she won awards all over the place in 2003-2005 she was well... > Read more

Mariza: Beijo de Saudade (with Tito Paris)

Various: Big Blue Ball (Real World/Southbound)

8 Sep 2008  |  <1 min read

Fifteen or more years ago -- when most of these recordings were made -- this might have been a Big Deal: world music artists in Peter Gabriel's studio exchanging ideas with the likes of Karl Wallinger (World Party) and creating pan-cultural sounds as they went. But given that many of the world music artists here have albums out under the own names (Natacha Atlas, Hossam Ramzy, Papa Wemba,... > Read more

Natacha Atlas/Hossam Ramzy: Habibe

Soha: D'ici et d'ailleurs/From Here and Elsewhere (EMI)

8 Sep 2008  |  <1 min read  |  1

Gotta say that although the title of this one had immediate appeal for obvious reasons this Algerian-French singer from Marseilles almost lost me at "Hello".In the first few seconds of this album she has that "little girl" voice thing going that I thought was the sole preserve of American pop singers in their late 20s (and they and their fans are welcome to it, I live in An... > Read more

Soha: Mil Pass (with Antoine Essertier

Sa Dingding: Alive (Universal)

25 Aug 2008  |  1 min read

Elsewhere has frequently posted Chinese, Mongolian and Tibetan music recorded in the field and of earthy authenticity (or soaring spirituality). But we aren't averse to a bit of Cantonese pop, ambient Sino-fusion or wallpaper world music which nods to the Middle Kingdom. These days only a fool or an academic would be snooty about world music artists and try to delineate between the genuine... > Read more

WSa Dingding: Lagu Lagu

Various: Sacred Music of India (Silk Road/Ode)

25 Aug 2008  |  <1 min read

Recorded at a 2000 festival in  Bangalore organised by the Dalai Lama's people (the good Dal writes the introduction in accompanying booklet which also reproduces his inspirational speech opening the eight day event) this 12 track disc takes a broad sweep through some of the styles of India's myriad sacred musicsIt opens with vocal percussion, offers short ragas, some wonderful Rajasthani... > Read more

Rajrang: Desert Wind

Badma Khanda Ensemble: Mongolian Music from Buryatia (Arc/Elite)

25 Aug 2008  |  1 min read

The European Arc label is doing God's work in this world by bringing to light music from Eastern Europe right across to the shores of the western Pacific. Already in its ever-expanding catalogue it has well annotated collections from Tuva, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Samarkand and beyond. And this 21 song collection is very much from that "beyond", the remote south-central region of... > Read more

Badma Khada Ensemble: Romance

Anoushka Shankar: Rise (EMI)

25 Aug 2008  |  <1 min read

After a couple of straight (and slightly disappointing) sitar albums and an acclaimed live recording, this 2006 outing by the daughter of Ravi Shankar (one of them, another is Norah Jones) is widely considered her breakthrough.As with her father, she here acknowledged she lived in two worlds -- the traditional East and the contemporary West -- and so incorporated instruments and styles from... > Read more

Anoushka Shankar: Red Sun

Fela Ransome-Kuti: Lagos Baby 1963-69 (Southbound)

11 Aug 2008  |  2 min read

Strange though it may seem today, I had to argue hard to write a Herald obituary for the great Afrobeat master Fela Anikulapo-Kuti when he died of Aids-related illnesses in 1997. Despite Peter Gabriel, Womad and the like bringing world music artists to wider attention people such as Fela were still on the margins of popular consciousness. Yet Fela from Nigeria had been championed by British... > Read more

Fela Ransome-Kuti: Se o tun de