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African Music Review Archives ~ Latest CD Review Archives
HoneySuckle (Mesk Elil) the new CD from Souad Massi (Wrasse Records) is a wonderful new album by this stunning North African talent - who performed at last year's Womadelaide concert. What an aptly named CD - which really does remind you of the fragrant flowers of the North African honeysuckle, with Souad Massi's golden honey voice and some rich acoustic North African instrumentation. Although exiled in Paris, Souad can never forget her musical roots as a Berber from Algiers. She sings powerfully in Arabic, blending regional influences, and even including a dose of West African Daby Touré in his track Miwana (I won't forget my roots). You can read Souad's biography on the Wrasse Records website
Introducing Daby Balde (World Music Network).
Rough Guide to Madagascar
Ceasefire, Emmanuel Jal & Abdel Gadir Salim
The Rough Guide to Sudan unmistakably comes from a land at the 'crossroads' of North African & sub-Saharan African cultures - with true musical diversity flowing down the banks of the Nile. The CD includes plenty of North Sudanese tracks, as well as some rich and danceable songs from South Sudanese singers, including the child-soldier-turned-rapstar, Emmanuel Jal. Music ranges from “trance drumming, hip-hop, orchestral music, Arabic love songs and spicy horn sections”. But through the diversity, it remains distinctly Sudanese - a testmanent to the strength and resiliance of the nation's musicians who have miracuously survived so many years of war, famine and oppression. A great one for listeners who are new to Sudanese music, and a thoroughly satisfying journey for long-time fans.
Julien Jacob’s Contonou is really a ‘mood’ CD with soft ballads, beautiful acoustics & Julien’s rich mellow voice always a major presence. Julien’s voice is sometimes like a whisper in the ear, echoing happiness, uncertainty & shades of melancholia - though, as Julien stresses, this CD is really about peace and the joys of life. Without understanding the lyrics (that are all a product of Julien's imagination) the songs take on their own convincing meanings. The first time we heard this CD (in party mode), we weren’t so sure about it – but once we gave it another play on a quiet winter’s day, with the sun streaming in over the player, we were hooked. For more on Julien Jacob, see his official website www.julienjacob.com
Putumayo's Mali is a great new mix. Right from a flick through the CD notes - which includes a tasty recipe for peanut sauce - you know this CD is going to be a banquet. Try sliding it on your computer and you'll be rewarded by a mini mpeg video of Habib Koite & his team performing live. Nice little entree. Then it's down to the music tracks - taking you on a journey over the shifting sands of Malian culture. >From the desert blues of Tourags to the powerful 'Wassoulou' music of Mali's south, there are so many delicious flavours to absorb. There's the funky Issa Bagayoga, the bluesy Mamou Sidibe, Tinawarin, Habib Koite, the soul-stirring balafon, the finger-plucking guitar, the kora, and all those 'understated' magical moments that seem to characterise Mali's music.
Gilles Peterson in Africa is a double CD mix that takes you straight into the heart of the African jazz jungle. Selected by UK-based DJ Gilles Peterson - who came to African music via a love of jazz and funk (see Fly website) - this double CD set features prime energy tracks from Manu Dibango, Fela Kuti and musicians from Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and South Africa. Snappy tunes, spirited vocals and a flood of brass, sax and rythmic drumming combine for a fast-paced musical treat. (Not one to sit still to)
DaaraJ - Boomerang Call it a coincidence of title, but our own copy of Boomerang disappeared in the post, only to arrive safely around a week ago. Just in time for the 'So Frency So Chic' documentary on SBS 30 April (see TV) that includes a look at these Senegalese rapstars, hiphop artists... call them what you will. They are lively entertainers who blend rap, reggae, rumba, French, Wolof into a refreshing and highly danceable CD. As an added treat, listen out for Malian vocalist Rokia Traore (‘Le Cycle’ and the title track). If you weren't lucky enough to see Daara J live in Australia in March, then grab a taste via this CD.
Mkutano: Taj Mahal Meets the Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar This is part of Taj Mahal's continuing quest to journey to the source of the blues and follows on from his collaborations with West African musicians Toumani Diabate and Tinariwen. This time he's on the spice island of Zanzibar, off Africa's East Coast in Tanzania. Taj's long, mellow vocals & signature banjos and guitars bob along nicely with the African-Arab-Asian influences of the island - with its qanuns (citterns), ouds (Arabic lutes), nais (flutes) and violins. They are contrasting styles, but very much at home on the same CD.
Sahara: Blues of the Desert is another CD that looks at the 'roots' of the blues in Africa. It's a double CD compilation including tracks by Youssou N’Dour, Aster Aweke, Tinariwen, Ali Farka Toure, Nass Marrakech.
Afro Latin Party (Putumayo) is a compilation CD celebrating the musical exchange between South America and Africa. Includes tracks from Africando, the 'salsa' stars from Senegal.
Mali great Ali Farka Toure's 'Red & Green' collection is now out on CD (World Circuit CatWCD070). Originally released on vinyl in the 1970s and 80s these albums have been digitally remastered into exquisite, classic Toure... with all the beauty his traditional-West-African-blues voice and acoustic-guitar fingers can muster. The albums were originally released with only a photo and song titles, but no album title - hence they were known as the 'Red' and 'Green' albums due to their album sleeve colouring. A few copies found their way from Mali and France on to the UK where they were passed around, earning great acclaim. World Circuit records travelled to Mali to try and find the 'mystery musician'. And so began Ali Farke Toure's highly successful international career. The Red & Green albums have been out of print and in the archives for over 10 years
Ancestry in Progress, the new release from Zap Mama (FMR) sees Congo-born Marie Daulnes blending her Bantu African heritage with the sounds of modern America - in an album that is funky, modern & oozing cool. "I wanted to create an album about the evolution of old ancestral beats, travelling from Africa, mixing with European and Asian sounds, and brought to America, she says. More about Zap Mama on: www.zapmama.com
Zanzibar's Imani Ngoma Troupe have released Bape (Planet/MGM) to help promote traditional ngoma (drum) & dance from the spice island of Zanzibar and mainland Tanzania. This CD is raw rythmic Africa, with no synthesised drums or remixed voices - so that when you hear it, it's as if you've just ventured down the narrow streets of Zanzibar's Old Stone Town into the cool, brick interior of a local venue. Some songs are slow and rythmic, like waves lapping off the side of a dhow, others upbeat, so you're dancing in your khanga (cloth wrap). But all of them help to keep alive the diverse African Arab Indian Ocean influences on the music of Zanzibar. Links include:
Cafe Africa: Sun, Savannahs and Safaris, the latest in the world music 'Cafe' series is an easygoing album with African greats, including Mory Kante, Youssou N'Dour, Toure Kunda, Manu Dibango (doing Dakar Streets), and Papa Wemba (Hambayi Ede). See Union Square music
The Rough Guide To Manu Dibango features recordings selected from over 40 years of music-making from Cameroon's most famous musician. Manu Dibango started playing jazz in Europe in the 1950s, then joined Congo's African Jazz in 1960, going on to other ventures, and alternating between organ and saxophones in the following years. He had a great success with Soul Makossa - and there is a version of this combined with Big Blow on this album. See World Music Network for more on this CD
Rene Lacaille from the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion (off Africa's East Coast) says Creole musicians are often good cooks... No kidding! Rene himself has cooked up a fine treat in this CD, 'Mapou' (Riverboat records), that just overflows with colour, flavour and energetic rythms! Breezy accordians, flying flutes and plenty of percussion go nicely with Lacaille's deep voice and often sparky French lyrics. "Onions, tomatoes, thyme... add saffron & some wine" he sings in 'Kiz'n Man' - while in 'Dalomaz' he sings "Show your rythm. We're going to mix everything. A little triplet & a D". If you're ever having a bad evening, this music will lift your spirits and carry you off to tango, cha-cha, samba under the palm trees and stars - with all the best that African, Indian, Madagascan and European rythms & instruments can provide. The album title, 'Mapou', is named after a sweet and perfurmed sugarcane. To read more about Rene Lacaille, see www.worldmusic.net
Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony - the inspirational documentary on the role black South African freedom music played against apartheid - is now out on DVD. For a taste of the release, see Madman Cinema site. Also see Amandla! website.
Introducing Shiyani Ngcobo: In sounds reminiscent of Mali's great 'finger plucking' guitarists/singers - yet with a beautifully unique South African maskenda (traditional Zulu) sound - this is a delightful album. Details on Shiyani on World Music Network
South African icon Brenda Fassie's Greatest Hits (EMI) features 20 songs since her first hit came out in the 1980s - including Vulin’dlela, recently voted ‘Song of the Decade’ in South Africa. The cd is quintessential Brenda with her incredible voice powering through every track - from the gutsy sounding Zola Budd to the soothing Sum'Bulala - with a sweet, melodious South African backing chorus. Sometimes Brenda is pure 'pop' and 'dance' (It's nice to be with people), other times touches of reggae (Touch Somebody), but it's her blend of South African rhythms into her pop tunes that makes her such a powerful entertainer. In the anthem, Umentu Mgumutu Ngabantu, she sings "Thank you my Africa. I wouldn't be what I am without you." Tragically Brenda passed away earlier this year, but her pop and dance music lives on! Dubbed the 'Madonna of the Townships’ and 'Ma Brrr' she has taken her place in music history.
Mory Kante is back on the scene... Mory's new album, 'Sabou' (Riverboat Records) just bubbles with life. The fact that it's infused with the sounds of 'old' instruments like the balafon (xylophone) and kora (harp) only adds to the magic. Mory returns to his 'griot' roots, with joyful acoustics and a lovely voice that has been in training since the age of 3! "As a baby I was carried on my mother's back," he explains. "She would sing and the men would play the balafon." Those sweet vibrations obviously infected Mory with something special. A few bars of this album and he's hooked you in too... the legs start to wander, the hips start to shake, and soon you've forgotten the spring cleaning and you're dancing to Mory. More on Mory Kante on World Music Network. Also see video interview
Algerian great Khaled has a new CD out, Ya Rayi (My Opinion) (on Wrasse Records). This is a strong, fresh album that goes back to Khaled's roots - with some fantastic North African pop tracks, including H'Mama (featuring Algerian music legends, Maurice El Medioni and Blaoui Houari). With Khaled's passionate, entrancing vocals, and some rich and spicy arrangements, this cd quickly becomes addictive listening. Now based in France, Khaled already has 10 platinum albums (including the biggest-selling Arab record in history) and a strong local and international following. Also see brief bio on World Music Central
Fans of Femi Kuti are in for a treat with the new CD 'Africa Shrine' - as well as a 90-minute DVD documentary. The releases cover his live energetic Afrobeat performance at the mythical Africa Shrine - the club on the outskirts of Nigeria’s Lagos. Like his father - the legendary Fela Kuti - Femi Kuti is becoming a musical and political icon, both in his native Nigeria and in the world beyond. Some 'Femi' links include: bio of Femi on BBC Online
A new collection from Putumayo, Music from the Chocolate Lands includes some fine music from the world’s chocolate producing countries. Africa, the world’s leading producer of cocoa beans, is represented by Dobet Gnahoré from the Ivory Coast and Toto Bona Lokua, a trio featuring artists from Congo, Cameroon and the French Caribbean island of Martinique. But the real beauty of this album is it takes you everywhere with a taste of the 'chocolate' Caribbean, Cuba, South America, India and even Belgium.
Summer is sounding nice and breezy with African Australian Carlos Panguana's new cd 'I'm Sorry' now out. Tracks range from the playful to the serious - but even the more reflective numbers somehow lift the spirits with Carlos' soothing vocals and some delightfully strong backing singers and instrumentals. Grab yourself an iced drink, slide it onto the player and watch those notes go-a-walking through the speakers. Brief Biography: Carlos originates from the Baronga and Zulu tribes in southern Africa, and he comes from a family of dancers, artists and healers. As a child in Africa he sold newspapers to attend soccer academy - but after an injury, ended up as a model and actor. He worked as a freelance photographer in south Africa before fleeing to Zambia during an apartheid-era state of emergency. Since arriving in Australia in 1986 he's expressed himself through music - with a common theme being people's struggle with adversity.
african musicians in Oz
Club Mombasa - Great vibes at Canberra's African-style nightclub. Afro, Reggae, Latin, Poynesian and R&B dance, Wed-Sun 8pm on.
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