Friday, November 16, 2007

Belgium's Ambrozijn celebrate 10 years

Home Records (

This record came together on the occasion of the Ambrozijn's tenth anniversary and reworks a selection of the Belgian ensemble's 70 or so songs using a string orchestra and a rhythm section and utilising a number of guest vocalists including Sylvie Berger, Vera Coomans, Soetkin Collier, Ludo Vandeau and Gabriel Yacoub. Tom Theuns, nowadays also a member of Aurélia, is the composer of these songs, and band mate Aurélie Dorzée is part of the string orchestra.

This record has been a welcome surprise for me. Usually those huge projects tend to backfire or sound pompous and bloated. Still, 10 differs in the quality of the songs, the detail of the arrangements, the dedication of the singers and the musicianship involved. Not all of the arrangements work equally well, but "Schoon lief," "Le Cyprès" and "Nooit meer niets meer" stand out.

Although this record is not innovative enough to win any record of the year accolades, it is a strong ensemble project that delivers warmth, interesting arrangements and great performances. It would be a must for fans of the band, but it is also a highly enjoyable record for everyone else interested in unique string arrangements of folk music. - Nondas Kitsos


The ensemble's web site:

CD available from cdRoots

Jewish Cowboy - Socalled on YouTube

Friday, August 17, 2007

Classic recordings from the shores of Liberia

cd coverSongs of the African Coast: Cafe Music of Liberia

A collection of unique popular music recorded in 1948 in Liberia by ethnomusicologist Arthur Alberts. The music is a mix of genres echoing Calypso and early jazz (and includes songs made famous during the folk scare of the 60s like "Chicken is Nice," "Gbanawa," "Woman Sweeter Than Man" and "Hold Me Tight"), played by small ensembles (usually piano, guitar and bass, occasionally some hot horn work, too), and sung in English. Includes detailed notes and interesting photos. The 18 recordings, along with the accompanying commentary, showed the intricate connections between African and American music.

This audio piece is a song covered, by among others, the Kingston Trio, but here it is sweet and hot, and features that aforementioned horn solo. Listen to Gbanawa

Audio samples and CD available from cdRoots

Friday, February 16, 2007

Izaline Calister keeps Curacao on the musical map

world music cd coverThere's not a lot of music from the island she calls home that's readily available to the rest of us, so Izaline Calister is seeing to it that the often-lively, sometimes-reflective music of Curaçao in the Dutch Antilles gets a fair hearing. The first two tracks on Kanta Helele swing feverishly like salsa, but by the time the title song rolls around, the acoustic guitar is at the forefront, a melodica is punctuating the melancholy and the lyrics are urging hanging in there through tough times. And yet the swing remains...

Read More

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A little 'ice' music in the night

cd cover Norwegian percussion Terje Isungset settled into various locations near the Arctic Circle, built all of his instruments out of ice, and has been recording unique and beautiful works, accompanied on some tracks by the wordless vocals of Sidsel Endresen and horn player Per Jørgensen. On two of the most unusual recordings to cross my desk in quite a while, these artists show just how 'cool' music can be. His new label, All Ice of Norway, has now made this powerful music available to the world.

cd coverTwo Moons is the newest recording of "all ice" music from the Norwegian percussionist, joined by Per Jørgensen on vocal and ice trumpe, with Isungset on ice percussion, icehorn and isofon, performed in Geilo, Norway in two specially built igloos 9 - 14 January 2006. The weather conditions were severe, and the sleet, snow and wind at times made its way into the igloo, and can be heard at times in the recording. Per Jørgensen made four ice trumpets and was given a separate igloo as a recording booth. All the trumpets were played to bits during the sessions. Terje Isungset had ice of fantastic quality delivered from Vatsfjorden in Leveld. It provided exceptionally long sustaining soft tones. Two of the tunes were recorded live at the midnight outdoor concert of Ice Festival 1. It was minus 5 degrees, cloudy and quiet. As the last sounds faded, the sky cleared, and the full moon shone onto the onlookers. Hence the title Two Moons. He was sheltered in a heated lavvo. It's absolutely unique; beautiful, surprising and highly recommended.

cd coverFor Igloo, the frst recording in the series, Isungset settled into an ice hotel near the Arctic Circle, built all of his instruments out of ice, and recorded this work accompanied on some tracks by the wordless vocals of Sidsel Endresen. It does not get more unique than this!

Both CDs are available from cdRoots

Monday, February 12, 2007

And the golden idol goes to.....

At the really big shoe last night, the little statue of sales went to a lot of artists or recording projects, including a few that might be of interest to you folks:
  • Wonder Wheel by The Klezmatics
  • Polka In Paradise by Jimmy Sturr
  • Lost Sounds: Blacks And The Birth Of The Recording Industry 1891-1922 (various)
  • We Shall Overcome — The Seeger Sessions by Bruce Springsteen
  • Modern Times by Bob Dylan
  • Legends Of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar - Live From Maui (various)
  • Love Is My Religion by Ziggy Marley
  • The Hidden Land by Béla Fleck & The Flecktones
  • Simpático by the The Brian Lynch/Eddie Palmieri Project
  • Historias Que Contar by Los Tigres Del Norte
There were, of course, lots more... and you can find them at that .com place for the recording industry awards mill whose name is so throughly trademarked I prefer not to mention it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Cuba Today: Jazz Havana and Beyond

Brown in Cuba Fans of Cuban jazz may think first of pianist, composer and producer Chucho Valdés, who presides over the Havana Jazz Festival and the steady flow of North American jazz artists to the island. Those who've traveled to woodshed, network and sometimes record in Cuba include Jane Bunnett, George Benson, Terence Blanchard, Steve Coleman, Roy Hargrove, Antonio Hart, David Murray, Nicholas Payton and Wynton Marsalis, among others. One legacy of the Soviet era is the integrated national system of music, dance and arts conservatories. The system offers superb training to aspiring performing artists from primary school onward. Musicians study western classical, jazz and Cuban folk idioms interchangeably, which explains in large part the abundant creativity of contemporary Cuban music. The best students eventually land at the Instituto Superior de las Artes (ISA) in Miramar, Havana, the springboard to bigger things. Most musical visitors find their way to ISA, intent upon checking out the scene and connecting with session musicians to invest their work with something unique. In some ways, the music training system has performed too well, producing a surfeit of immensely talented musicians with limited outlet for their artistry...

Read more about Cuban Jazz Today

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Sinhala Jukebox

Sri Lanka juke joint

If you need to burn a few more minutes of your life online this week, might I suggest The Sinhala Jukebox? This web site is devoted to spreading the music of Sri Lanka to the global audience via Real Audio. You can choose individual tracks, or complete streaming programs by artist or style. The navigation is a bit confusing, but it's worth a few minutes to figure it out.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Mats Hellberg, leading preserver of Swedish folk music

Mats Hellberg died unexpectedly on September 17th 2006. He was a drummer and record producer who found himself cast as one of the great apostles of traditional music in Sweden.

Since the 1980s, he was the driving force behind Giga Records, founded in 1976 by musicians Per Gudmundson and Magnus Backström. In the following 30 years the label has provided the world with a look at some of the greatest musicians of Sweden, from the old teachers to some of the rising stars, creating over 80 LPs and CDs that have provided the whole world with a glimpse into the wide ranging beauty of Swedish folk music.

Here are just a few of the artists that Giga exposed to the world:
Pelle Bjornlert
Ulf Storling
Pakkos Gustaf
Simon Simonson
Ale Möller
Kjell-Erik Eriksson
Lennart Gybrant
Jonny Soling
Mats Berglund
Anders Norudde
Ole Hjorth
Björn Ståbi
Erik Pekkari
Ellika Frisell
Bengt Lofberg
Kalle Almlof
Susanne Rosenberg
Johan Hedin
Per Gudmundson
Magnus Backstrom

There is currently no word on what the future of Giga records will be.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

There's A Song for Everything

Nigerian comedian and actor Nkem Owoh stars in a rootsy spoof on victims of the infamous internet "419" scheme

Watch the video

I done suffer no be small
Upon say I get sense
Poverty no good at all, no
Na im make I join this business

419 no be thief, it's just a game
Everybody dey play em
if anybody fall mugu,
ha! my brother I go chop em

National Airport na me get em
National Stadium na me build em
President na my sister brother
You be the mugu, I be the master

See full lyrics and info at Antsville

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Klezmatics (with Woody Guthrie) nominated for Grammy

cd cover
The Klezmatics have been nominated for a "Best Contemporary World Music Album" Grammy Award this month.

Wonder Wheel features songs of Woody Guthrie (most never before seen) and set to music by members of the Klezmatics.

On Wonder Wheel, The Klezmatics move away from klezmer on many of the cuts, even using an electric guitar to create a variety of contemporary sounds. The songs evoke Guthrie's experience in Brooklyn, an immigrant coming from the other direction, finding himself among European emigres, as well as blacks, Latinos and Asians.

You can read Marty Lipp's somplete review of this 2006 recording on RootsWorld