World Music

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

Nuru Kane: Sigil (Riverboat)

20 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

Raised in Dakar, Kane often sounds like a Mississippi bluesman in the solo tracks here. At other times with his small band he bridges North Africa with trancelike music not dissimilar to that of the Gnawa of Morocco then looping back to his birthplace and Senegalese music. Quite the world citizen, he lived in Paris in the late 90s, played at Mali's famous Festival in the Desert in 2004... > Read more

Nuru Kane: Colere

Various: Belly Dance (Think Global)

20 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

Okay, okay. A belly dance album doesn't quite shake my tree either -- but put aside your preconceptions and what's here is a very good sampler of Arabic music from big names like Hossan Ramzy, the Cairo Orchestra, the Sami Mossair Orchestra and others. It comes with good liner notes too: the name "belly dance" for raqs sharki (dance) was apparently coined by an American promoter at... > Read more

Smadar Levi: Ghali Ya Bouy

Didjitalis: Australian Trance Dance (Arc/Elite)

19 Sep 2006  |  1 min read

Many years ago (read: decades if you wish) I spent a little time studying and listening to didgeridoo music and the various cultural references it had: I thought it was a fascinating instrument, and figured it had some connection with drones which are in many musics, from Celtic bagpipes to Indian tamboura. Or something like that. Hey, I was studying and teaching meditation at the time,... > Read more

Didjitalis: Charlotte's Eulogy

Tcheka: Nu Monda (Harmonia)

12 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

One of the chief delights of being in Elsewhere is that music usually comes with no promotional blasts or advance reviews, so you make the discovery for yourself. It often comes from people you've never heard of before either. Like this guy from Cape Verde Island who plays driving and melodic acoustic guitar, and possesses a voice which can be feather-light or nail a note in from a great... > Read more

Tcheka: Djan Kre Bejabu

Barbara Carlotti: Les Lys Brises (4AD)

7 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

Sounding somewhere between a wide awake Claudine Longet (who was so whispery you often wondered if she was singing or snoozing) and the cool, indifferent tone of Nico, this 32-year old Parisian really makes an impact, albeit at a very low level. She grew up on Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan and classical piano, but made the move into chanson in the manner of literate types like Serge... > Read more

Barbara Carlotti: Mon Corps Alangui

Various: Te Whaiao -- Te Ku Te Whe Remixed (Rattle)

7 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

In time to come the late Hirini Melbourne, who died in 2003, will get national recognition for what he did in reviving and revitalising interest in traditional Maori instruments, and -- with Richard Nunns -- making them come alive again in contemporary recordings. In one way this album -- remixes of the Melbourne/Nunns '93 album Te Ku Te Whe by the likes of Chris (Dubious Brothers) Macro,... > Read more

Poi whiowhio remixed by Sola Rosa

Debashish Bhattacharya: Calcutta Slide Guitar (Elite)

7 Sep 2006  |  1 min read

In 2003, I chose the Mahima album by Bhattacharya and American guitarist Bob Brozman (who played at Womad that year) as one of the best of the year in the Herald with the comment that their musical dialogues referred to Africa, Spain, simple pop and something which sounded like an arranged marriage between Waikiki and Varanasi. As a result, world music had seldom sounded so worldy.... > Read more

Debashish Bhattacharya: Prema Chakor

Geraldo Pino: Heavy Heavy Heavy (RetroAfrica/Southbound)

3 Sep 2006  |  <1 min read

Some weeks ago I posted a track by the late and very great Fela Anikulapo Kuti from Nigeria who put James Brown funk, Black Power politics and African rhythms into the blender and created Afrobeat. More fool me, but I'd always thought Fela was way out on his own doing this -- until now. On the RetroAfrica reissue label comes this mid 60s album by Pino and his funky band the Heartbeats --... > Read more

Geraldo Pino: Let Them Talk

Various: Planet Rock (Rough Guide/Elite)

27 Aug 2006  |  <1 min read

World Music compilations are often pretty dodgy affairs and this one is no exception. So I'm not really suggesting you might want an album that starts in a place where Cambodia psychedelic rock meets America, then heads off to Algeria, the Sahara and Niger (the great Tinariwen and Etran Finatawa respectively however, see tags), the States for some Latino-Jewish hip-hop from New York then... > Read more

Hip Hop Hoodios: Kike on the Mike

Cheikh Lo: Lamp Fall (World Circuit/Elite)

19 Aug 2006  |  <1 min read

Singer-guitarist Lo from Senegal is a man whose music observes no boundaries: on previous albums he's brought a warm Cuban sound into the context of African juju guitars, had Pee Wee Ellis of James Brown's band arrange the horns, and he seems to like a jazzy saxophone alongside talking drum. It's an intoxicating tropical cocktail and for this outing he again gets the Cubans in -- Ellis is... > Read more

Cheikh Lo: Xale

Emmanuel Jal & Abdel Gadir Salim: Ceasefire (World Network/Elite)

28 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

This charismatic meltdown of sounds from the Sudan (an area the size of Western Europe) involves softly-sung rap, a yearning for peace and freedom by these two vocalists who come from different areas and political sides of the divided country, traditional instruments such as nay (flute) along with saxophone and electric guitars, and is suffused in the suffering that years of civil war have... > Read more

Emmanuel Jal and Abdel Gadir Salim: Ya Salam

Djelimady Tounkara: Solon Kono (Harmonia Mundi)

28 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

Guitarist Tounkara sometimes spins off notes like an avant-garde guitarist (he is admired by New York's Bill Frisell who has performed with him) but for this album he gets back onto acoustic guitar to work within the tradition of his homeland Mali on a set of songs which invite in the family and longtime friends. There are a couple of songs where he pulls out the electric guitar, but even... > Read more

Djelimady Tounkara: Solon Kono

Fantazia: Mul Sheshe (Harmonia Mundi)

23 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

More music from an unexpected source, in this instance North East London where this group formed around oud player/songwriter Yazid Fentazi to play the music of the Algerian Berbers -- with a jazzy Western spin courtesy of saxophones, trumpet, flute and keyboards. Stupid band name unfortunately, but I guess that's what happens when you look at the mainman's surname. But the music --... > Read more

Fantazia: Jawlina

Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra: Boulevard de l'Independence (/Elite)

23 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

Copies of this uplifting album by Diabate from Mali come with an intelligent and interesting DVD-doco which shines a light on the culture of the griot -- a caste of hereditary musicians-cum-storytellers and counsellors to the influential -- and also explains that unusual band name: Diabate wanted to bring together the traditions of the griot (and the old instruments like balafon) with the... > Read more

Toumani Diabate: Ya Fama

Ali Farka Toure: Savane (World Circuit/Elite)

23 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

The late Toure was one of the greatest singer-songwriters to emerge out of the musically fertile region around Mali in the last century. The area -- from which numerous slaves were taken to the United States -- was the crucible for music which, after the Middle Passage, became the blues. Much of Toure's music invited comparisons with John Lee Hooker (his commanding, dark vocals, his... > Read more

Ali Farka Toure: Savane

Various Artists: Turkish Groove (Putumayo/Elite)

16 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

The Putumayo label pumps out the compilations and some of them, most actually, are pretty indifferent. But the likeable generic packaging has captured the imagination so some people just get into that "buy the series" thing -- and get stuck with uninteresting Asian Lounge, various albums of kiddie folk, and disappointing collections of B-grade Cuban or Brazilian artists. But... > Read more

Mustafa Sandal: Kalmadi

Katia Guerreiro; Tudo ou Nada (Le Chant du Monde) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

16 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

World music purists -- those who think listening to international music is morally empowering, as opposed to just plain enjoyable -- don't like to admit that there are waves of fashion in world music just like in Western pop. The juju of King Sunny Ade gave way to South African music (thank you Paul Simon), and the Cajun/zydeco years which followed were in turn swept aside by the Cuban... > Read more

Katia Guerreiro: Despedida

Various Artists, Congotronics 2 (Crammed Discs)

9 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

The first volume of this impossible-to-have-anticipated meltdown of cheap electronica, traditional instruments like thumb piano, vibrant percussion, ropey production and chant-sing vocals from the suburban dance clubs around Kinshasa was picked as one of his 10 best albums to get you through winter by Jim Pickney (DJ Stinky Jim, who has excellent taste) in a recent Listener. This follow-up... > Read more

Sobanza Mimanisa: Kiwembo

Etran Finatawa: Introducing Etran Finatawa (World Music Network) BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

9 Jul 2006  |  <1 min read

From the same emotional source and geographical location -- the sub-Sahara around Niger -- as the thrilling and now well-known Tinariwen comes this equally extraordinary band. Their mesmerising guitars have no exact counterpart in Western blues, folk or rock (although every now and again something eerily familiar pops out) and that alone -- along with just about everything else about them --... > Read more

Etran Finatawa: Iledeman

Tinariwen: Amassakoul (Wrasse/Shock): BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2006

15 Jun 2006  |  <1 min read

Tinariwen were from a group of stateless wanderers who lived at the whim of weather and changing political climates in the greater Sahara, and were educated in the language of armed struggle. In the 80s they developed their music of exile. But just as blues singers from America's south found acoustic guitars didn't cut it in the hard-edged cities like Chicago, Tinariwen needed a tougher form... > Read more

Tinariwen: Amassakoul'N'Tenere