My August 2018 pick for Music of the Month is Kulku, by the quintet of musicians from Finland, England and Armenia called SANS. This is their first studio album, and incorporates a wide range of musical ideas from their own countries as well as from their wider experiences in improvised and folk music from around the world. Their mix of voices, reeds and strings seems simple on the surface, but the complexity of sounds they come forward with is as rich a musical palette as one could wish for. The ensemble is zither and winds instrumentalist Andrew Cronshaw, Armenian duduk player Tigran Aleksanyan, reeds-player Ian Blake, the Finnish singer Sanna Kurki-Suonio and singer and kantele player Erika Hammarberg (vocals, kantele). The vocal pieces are all performed in Finnish, with one exception of a song sung in Karelian, a unique cultural region on the Finno-Rusian border. , $17.00
Item Number: rwr-kulku
Lena Willemark : Blaferdi (Blue Journey)
Features songs and lyrics, composed by Lena, sung in the Elfdalian language of her home region of Avdalen, Sweden. Program notes and lyrics are translated to Swedish and English in the booklet. It's performed with voice, strings and percussion supplied by Lena, Mia Marin, Emma Reid, Mikael Marin, Leo Sander and Tina Quartey. (Quite a cast!) It is, I think, one of her best (and that goes a long way, I think), so this comes with my biggest "highly recommended" gold star on it
The Henrys : Quiet Industry
The 2015 release by Toronto legends, The Henrys. Led by kona-guitarist Don Rooke, with Hugh Marsh (violin), John Sheard (pump and electric organs), Andrew Dowling (acoustic bass), David Di Renzo (percussion) and vocalists Gregory Hoskins and Tara Dunphy. This one is heavy on lyrics and introduces a great new singer to the band. Highly recommended.
The Henrys : Desert Cure
Back in print! The third disc from this Toronto combo firmly establishes Don Rooke as one of acoustic guitar's greatest unsung heroes. Rooke is a startling original who seems constitutionally incapable of resorting to slide cliches.' - Guitar Player
The Grasslands ensemble and Daniel Ho : Between Prairie and Sky
Daniel Ho, Hawaiian ukulele master with more than 100 recordings, teams up on this gentle gem with Wu Judy Chin-tai, a Taiwanese music composer and producer, and the multi-talented Mongolian Grasslands Ensemble for an album that connects across cultural divides. Read the RootsWorld review
Mamak Khadem : Remembrance
Remembrance is a powerfully deep and loving tribute to Mamak Khadem's late father, Mohsen Khadem. It was created in the isolation of her Santa Monica home during the COVID pandemic as he lived out his final days back in Iran. Due to travel restrictions she was unable to be with him for the last time. With eight elegant and moving original songs, Khadem has captured a universal sense of beauty, love, separation, and loss.
Riccardo Tesi and company : A Sud di Bella Ciao
An ensemble of some of Italy's best musicians find inspiration in the great song of the partigiano, "Bella Ciao." Join Riccardo Tesi, Elena Ledda, Lucilla Galeazzi, Alessio Lega, Nando Citarella, Maurizio Geri, Gigi Biolcati, Claudio Carboni on a journey south for their second album together. Among their guests: Ginevra Di Marco, Peppe Voltarelli, Moni Ovadia and Mario Incudine
Maria Moramarco : Stella Ariente
Stella Ariènte is a pilgrimage, expressing pathos, devotion and faith. On the way to the sanctuary, the song is a prayer and dramatic invocation for the return of one's brother from the war or for the recovery from a terrible illness, the song is an expression of the ritual of thanksgiving for the victory over opposing forces, for the grace received, while barefoot, with dishevelled hair and a crawling tongue, one goes towards the altar.
Sarah Aroeste : Monastir
Ladino singer/songwriter, author and activist Sarah Aroeste reconnects with the legacy of her Sephardic homeland of Monastir, a Balkan city at the commercial crossroads between Turkey and Western Europe in what is now North Macedonia. For centuries, this Jewish community flourished alongside its neighbors, enjoying a unique history with its own customs, religious observances, linguistic patterns, and songs, until it was destroyed by the Nazis in 1943. The predominantly Macedonian Orthodox and Muslim population of Monastir/Bitola welcomed Aroeste to help her record 10 songs that give an inside look into the life of Jewish Monastir before WWII wiped it out. From kantikas to romances, and from centuries-old melodies to originals, each song in this album has a story, told by over thirty singers and musicians from Israel, Macedonia, Spain, Germany and the USA. Read the review in RootsWorld
Canzionere Grecanico Salentino : Meridiana
Canzionere Grecanico Salentino explore time from different perspectives on this new album. Then they decided Meridiana, the Italian word for a sundial, should be the title and organizing principal of the album with 12 songs—one for each hour on the clock’s face. “The sundial uses light and shadow to measure time,” says Durante, the band’s leader in his RootsWorld interview. “So for us meridiana is a symbol for a reflection about time, about our relationship with time.”
Barbora Xu : Olin Ennen
Trying to pin down Barbora Xu’s music is like attempting to grasp mercury. She’s originally from the Czech Republic, but what she plays is steeped in diverse poetry-singing traditions – from both Finland and China (which prove to have more in common than you might imagine), played on various kanteles, guzheng, and guquin – all zithers of different sorts.... While the texts might be ancient, in almost every case Xu composes the music, creating a spare framework that draws on those differing traditions, yet is strongly influenced by minimalism, and interestingly, those pillars complement each other. Even when the sound is filled out, as on the title cut, there’s still a sense of stillness, of barely breathing, even as a cello forms an interesting deeper counter voice to Xu’s own singing. Read Chris Nickson's full review
Yohan Giaume : Whisper of a Shadow: Musical Conversations with Louis Moreau Gottschalk
New Orleans has been oriented to the French and Spanish Caribbean since the slave-trade era. Composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), born in this Latin American cultural crossroads of German Jewish and Haitian Creole heritage, grew up with a Haitian nanny, and traveled and performed extensively in around the world. The first internationally recognized, distinctively U.S. classical composer, Gottschalk melded his itinerant musical explorations in his work. Likewise, he engaged with and inspired such noted composers as Cubans Ignacio Cervantes and Manuel Saumell, Brazilian Ernesto Nazareth, and Texas-born Scott Joplin, among many others. Gottschalk’s life and music are the inspiration for French trumpeter-composer Yohan Giaume’s Whisper of a Shadow: Musical Conversations with Louis Moreau Gottschalk, the fruit of the latter’s own musical sojourn through Cuba, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, North Africa, Europe, and the United States. Read the RootsWorld review
Antonis Antoniou : Kkismettin
For long time readers and subscribers, Antonis Antoniou is an old friend. As a member of the trio Monsieur Doumani (who has been our pick for Music of the Month twice in the last decade), and Trio Tekke, he has brought a modern political and aesthetic sense to the music of his home, Cyprus. Kkismettin (fate, destiny, kismet) was made during the pandemic lockdown we have all lived with, and Antonis took this as an opportunity to create new songs that could speak in various ways about that loss of freedom, and its parallels in the rest of our lives. Listen
CGS- Canzoniere Grecanico Salantino : Meridiana
CGS explore time from different perspectives on this new album. Then they decided meridiana, the Italian word for a sundial, should be the title and organizing principal of the album with 12 songs—one for each hour on the clock’s face. New pizzica by one of his greatest proponents. Read more about it and listen here
Various Artists : The Best Japanese Music You’ve Never Heard
"If weird came in sizes from XS to XXXL, then The Best Japanese Music You’ve Never Heard would clock in somewhere around an XL on the scale. Not so alien it sounds as if it’s from another planet, but heading towards the edge of this one." Read more and listen
Boubacar 'Badian' Diabate : Mande Guitar
An artist you have likely never heard before, part of a new series of recordings of great African guitarists. Mande Guitar is an intimate acoustic recording session by a phenomenal Mande guitarist. Born and raised in Bamako, Mali, in a family of djeli (griot) musicians, Badian is well known at home as a master of his art and a highly innovative improviser, yet he is considered an unsung hero of Malian guitar outside the Mande world. Read more and listen
L'Alba : A principiu
L'Alba says that the Corsican musical tradition is not frozen in time but rather, it is in constant evolution and movement. The music of L'Alba, timeless and wide open to the world, takes on an ever-more Mediterranean orientation in its new album A Principiu. Once again, L'Alba's work sets it at the heart of the Corsican musical landscape: preserving the heritage of polyphonic voices but also absorbing new influences with a palette of sounds borrowed from the regional cultures from North Africa, Italy, Greece and Portugal. Listen
Omar Sosa : An East African Journey
Ten years, seven countries and tens of thousands of miles in the making, An East African Journey is the latest album from jazz pianist Omar Sosa. In 2009, Sosa embarked on a concert tour with stops in Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Sudan, Burundi, Zambia, and Mauritius. He met and collaborated with local, folkloric musicians and recorded the artists with a portable digital recording system. Artists who appear on An East African Journey include Olith Ratego (Kenya), Rajery and Monja Mahafay (Madagascar), Abel Ntalasha (Zambia), Steven Sogo (Burundi), Seleshe Damessae (Ethiopia), Dafaalla Elhag Ali (Sudan) and Menwar (Mauritius). Listen
Various Artists (Ireland) : Rogha Raelach
The wonderful Irish record label presents Rogha Raelach Volume 1, featuring the music of The Martin Hayes Quartet: Martin Hayes: fiddle; Dennis Cahill: guitar; Liz Knowles: fiddle & viola; and Doug Wieselman: bass clarinet) | Noel Hill (concertina)| Bobby Gardiner (melodeon) | Geraldine Cotter (piano) | Nell Ní Chróinín (voice) | Pádraic Keane (uilleann pipes) | Saileog Ní Cheannabháin (voice, viola, piano) | Derek Hickey (accordion) & Macdara Ó Faoláin (bouzouki) | Aoife Ní Bhriain (fiddles & viola) | Sean Gavin (flute) & Michael Gavin (bouzouki) | Síle Denvir (voice) | Jack Talty (concertina) Listen
Manhu : Voices of the Sani
Manhu are from the Stone Forest region of Yunnan Province in Southwest China, home of the Sani people. The Sani have lived in this region for many years, probably going back as far as the Qing Dynasty (1600s), The Chinese government categorizes them as part of a large combined ethnic group called Yi, even though the Sani have maintained a strong and unique linguistic and cultural presence in the region for all of that time. On Voices Of The Sani, the quintet explores the tradition of their own people, but acknowledges the cross hybridization of the many cultures who share the region. They also clearly want to make the music live in the present, as you can hear in many of the songs on the album. They even dip into the global with their own Sani rendition of an old American mountain tune they call "Brothers and Sisters.
Various : Aboriginal Folk Songs Of Taiwan
Aboriginal Folk Songs Of Taiwan features songs from ethnic minority groups living in Taiwan: Amis, Atayal, Saisiyat, Tsou, Paiwan, Rukai, Bunnun, Seediq and Truku. These aboriginal ethnic groups are distributed across mountainous areas, high plateaus, and flat plains, adhering to various beliefs, lifestyles and musical cultures. Read our review.
Nahawa Doumbia : Kanawa
There are few voices in the musical world to compare to that of Nahawa Doumbia, one of Mali's most prodigious and powerful singers. Over the years we have heard her in the purest of forms (like the recent La Grande Cantatrice Malienne, recordings of the then 20 year old accompanied only by a guitarist), in major pop-music mode, as a guest with artists like St Germaine, and now, in 2020, we get a superb acoustic blending of old and new with Kanawa. Here she is accompanied by traditional instruments like n'goni, Kamale ngoni, karigna and other small percussion, as well as acoustic guitars and occasional drum kit and bass. - CF
La Crapaude : Gote d'Ewe
Four women, four impish voices. Walloon polyphony, elegant and edgy. Raw percussion made of sticks, twigs and beams. For their second album Gote d'Èwe, the crapodes - Charlotte Haag, Sabine Lambot, Pascale Sepulchre, Marie Vander Elst - are accompanied by the percussionist Max Charue. Together they dive into the laments and stories of the people of Wallonia. Their arrangements are inspired by baroque music as much as by modern music. Their styles mingle and collide together in echoes of Bjark or Arvo Part. It's carefully crafted, as the musicians revive a unique tradition of songs which has almost disappeared into oblivion in the last two generations.
Nation Beat : The Royal Chase
Nation Beat, in its mission to unite the rural music of Brazil and the United States, creates genre-busting songs that could keep a lecture hall full of ethnomusicologists busy documenting for a week, but I think they'd rather keep a club full of partiers dancing for a night.... So you can deconstruct through the bass lines and intricate rhythms and counter-rhythms and map the magic out, or you can keep it at butt level and groove to the joyful rhythms. - Marty Lipp in RootsWorld
Various Artists : Aboriginal Folk Songs Of Taiwan
'Aboriginal Folk Songs Of Taiwan' features songs from ethnic minority groups living in Taiwan: Amis, Atayal, Saisiyat, Tsou, Paiwan, Rukai, Bunnun, Seediq and Truku. These aboriginal ethnic groups are distributed across mountainous areas, high plateaus, and flat plains, adhering to various beliefs, lifestyles and musical cultures.
Andrew Cronshaw : Zithers
Andrew Cronshaw has a long, deep history with music, most especially as a virtuoso on different kinds of zithers, and exploring the possibilities of sound they offer, whether as a solo artist working with some others, or as part of the group SANS. This new release features him literally alone, although the zithers of the title actually number just two, a vintage, electrified 74-string model and something his own invention, the marovantle, which marries the Finnish kantele to the Malagasy box zither known as the marovany. The album, so typical of Cronshaw's work, is impeccably constructed.
Tranquebar : O
Sometimes it can be better to accept and not examine things too deeply. Let it flow and enjoy it. Take Tranquebar's music. In many ways, what the Danish band create shouldn't work. The mix of banjo, voice, accordion, and percussion is beautifully ramshackle (at least on the surface). Yet it succeeds, and it does it in a fashion that's quite mesmeric. Ø is actually a collection of four EPs, each recorded on a different Danish island (hence the title, as Ø means island). And each island exerts a subtle influence on the shading of the music... With every track on the album, the band show the magic they have and how they knock it all into shape: not only can they write a good tune that takes unexpected turns but they create the kind of chorus that sticks in the brain (at its core, this is essentially acoustic, folky pop music, of a very twisted sort), and they can also arrange with wonderful imagination.
Quintet Bumbac : Miroirs
There's so much in the music of the Balkans to inspire musicians anywhere, and Bumbac draws on all of these and really does bring its own approach; this is no wannabe imitation. All the material here is written by Frenchman David Brossier, who draws deep on the traditions to make luscious original music on Brossier's viola d'amore, the violins of Ariane Cohen-Adad and Christian Fromentin, Leonore Grollemund's cello and Anita Pardo's double bass. All bowed strings, indeed a string quintet, playing with great finesse and richness of sound.
V.A. : Nordic and European Folk and Worldmusic
Two CD samplers of music from all over Europe and the Nordic countries, from very traditional to highly experimental.
The CDs are in simple printed sleeves with track and artist info. Artists include Anne-Mari Kivimaki, Okra Playground, Pauanne, Suistamon Sahko, Belonoga, Dobranotch, Meszecsinka. Click for a full list of tracks and artists
Bulgara : Bear's Wedding
A raw mix of Bulgarian 'wedding music,' jazz, rock and folk music performed with hyper-energy by seven great musicians on kaval, gayda (bagpipe), gadulka, tambourine, electric bass, drums and percussion.
Groupa : Kind of Folk - Vol. 1 Sweden
The 2016 release by one of the most important and revolutionary groups in the Nordic roots movement. Terje Isungset, drums, perc, mouth harp; Mats Eden fiddle, viola d'amore, accordion; Jonas Simonson, flutes, bass clarinet.
Osman, Gubara and Co : In the kingdom of the Lyre
Miriam Ariana and Lene Høst : Vingefang
From the RootsWorld Review: Can a bustling Brazilian song and Swedish slangspolska happily coexist? Can a Denmark-based duo without a squeezebox do justice to a Dominquinhos song about a sensitive accordion? The answer seems to be "yes, indeed." Vingefang - Miriam Ariana (voice and strings) and Lene Host (voice, guitar and percussion) bring a clarity to their music that seems to demand the word "delightful." Whether it is their own compositions or a journey through the music of France, Denmark, Sweden and Brazil, they make it all their own, with only a gentle bit of assistance on two tracks, and a bit of overdubbing by the duo on a few others.... Ariana and Høst seem to know the value of simplicity and use it to great advantage on these eight tunes and songs. Vingefang is a delight.
Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll : Cold Light
Lee Blackstone writes in his RootsWorld review, "Wyke and Driscoll have produced an album of folk music that mixes wondrous chamber-pop deeply founded on a respect for traditional music and modern songcraft. Cold Light stands as one of the strongest releases of the year."
Andrew Cronshaw : The Unbroken Surface of Snow
British musician and composer Andrew Cronshaw is joined by a global enseble of Tigran Aleksanyan, Ian Blake, Sanna Kurki-Suonio.
Trio Tekke and Dave De Rose : Zivo
The trio bring along a percussionist for their third recording. Formed in London in November 2005 by Antonis Antoniou (tzouras, vocals, and a member of Monsieuer Doumani), Lefteris Moumtzis (guitar, vocals) and Colin Somervell (double bass), the band experiments with a raw, acoustic reinvention of the rebetiko of Greece and beyond.
Emicida : about kids, hips, nightmares and homework
The album arose from a specially conceived 20-day trip to Africa, specifically Cape Verde and Angola, where he worked with local musicians and recorded some of the tracks. These include “Mufete” with percussionist João Morgado, noted for his playing of Angolan ‘semba', the roots of Brazilian ‘samba', and “Passarinhos” and “Madagascar” where you can hear Kaku Alves, Cesária Évora's guitarist for many years. But never forget the uniquely Brazilian component, and together with MCs from the new generation of Brazilian rap this album also includes collaborations with Vanessa da Mata on “Passarinhos” and on “Baiana”, Caetano Veloso.
Lakou Mizik : HatiaNola
Haitian roots outfit Lakou Mizik is the brainchild of singer Jonas Attis and guitarist/singer Steeve Valcourt, They brought together a multi-generational septet of some of Haiti's best musicians to showcase the diversity of modern Haitian sounds, including konpas, kanaval songs, twobadou ballads, and vodou ritual music.Lakou Mizik returns with a barn-burner of a second act on HaitiNola; which revisits the connections between Haiti and New Orleans with a crew of NOLA musical all-stars.
Aurelie Dorzee & Tom Theuns, ft. Michel Massot : Elixir
This crafty concoction brings to mind ancient art works and faraway lands. Oriental melodies take the form of a folk dance or a medieval walk. These three alchemists brew sounds in quest of the “philomusical's stone”. They experiment, improvise and invent in their secret laboratory filled with strange instruments, such as the viola d'amore, mandolauoto, psaltery, nail violin, sousaphone, and sitar. Some had been specially fabricated by stringed instrument makers for this project. For this project, Aurelie Dorzee & Tom Theuns invited the legendary Michel Massot, master of brass instruments, for a golden opus!
Vasilis Kostas and Petroloukas Halkias : The Soul of Epirus
Our November 2019 pick for Music of the Month. The work is the culmination of a lifelong exploration of the beauty inherent in the music of Epirus - its slow tempos, reflecting the isolated nature of this mountainous region close to Albania, and its haunting pentatonic scales, based on five notes instead of the more common seven-note scale. A collaboration between Berklee College of Music graduate Kostas on laouto and veteran clarinet master Petroloukas Halkias, the album illuminates the melodies and musicianship to be found in Epirus' folk traditions of decades past, its ability to evoke both the inescapable sadness of the human condition and its life-affirming joy.
Abdesselam Damoussi And Nour Eddine : Jedba: Spiritual Music from Morocco
Hama Sankare : Niafunke
SANS : Kulku
Real Vocal String Quatrtet : Culture Kin
Pauanne : Pauanne
Rachele Andrioli & Rocco Nigro : Maletiempu
Rinde Eckert : The Natural World
Leyla McCalla : Capitalist Blues
Balkan Messengers : Balkan Messengers
Renowned Balkan accordionist Neskho Neshev and a band of drums, bass and violin kick open the Balkan sound with a jazzy edge and a lot of attitude
Razia : The Road
Hope Masike : The Exorcism Of A Spinster
Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo : Loe Loa: Rural Recordings under the Mango Tree
Philippe El Hage and Youssef Hbeisch : Asrar
Cesare Dell'Anna and GirodiBanda : Guerra
Ann O'aro : Ann O'aro
Basel Zayed's Ayn Trio : Music by Basel Zayed
Moussu T e lei Jovents : Navega!
Michael Stone's pick for 2016, of which he writes: With Navega!, Moussu T e lei Jovents serve up an unsentimental, bittersweet melange, blues-cabaret-chanson rooted in a fiercely local Languedoc sense of place, profoundly altered by the history of French colonialism, immigration from the colonies via the Mediterranean port of Marseille dating to the ancient Greeks, Festus Claudius "Claude" McKay's 1929 novel "Banjo," labor organizing, the Socialist International, World War II and the contemporary European conundrum. Navega! was also one of RW's Music of the Month picks for 2016. Buy this CD and support RootsWorld.
Teppo Välimäki : Täysin palkein
The Elvis of Finnish accordion? Real traditional roots, real energy, all solo...
Carl Erik Lundgaard : Yderland
Danish diatonic accordionist joined by a wide ranging ensemble of tradtional and modern musicians including Harald Haugaard, Mads Riishede, Christoffer S. Møller and many others. Yderland consists of primarily new material from accordionist Carl Erik Lundgaard, arranged and produced in cooperation with bassist Mads Riishede. The music is expressive, and has stories to tell, both serious and humorous.
The Henrys : Chasing Grace
Zephyr : October Ocean
From the review in RootsWorld: 'Görån Mansson, Jonas Simonson (from Groupa), and Richard Ekre Suzzi utilize a variety of wind instruments from Sweden and afar, such as the bamboo Bansuri flute. An all-flute trio can certainly have an ethereal sound, as the band demonstrates but Zephyr go well beyond such stereotyping and they construct compositions that indulge in world music influences. They are also a remarkably percussive group, the melodic washes are undergirded by deep tones that, combined, lend a slightly Asian air. Zephyr make a compelling and intriguing showcase for the power and universality of, and experimentation possible with, wind instruments.'
Mats Eden (composer) : Apple Blossom
An album that focuses on Mats Eden as composer, with 16 performances of his pieces played by a variety of artists in a number of styles from folk to classical to contemporary art music.
PONK : Diedina
The 3rd album by this remarkable Czech trio of cimbalom (Eduard Tomastic), violin (Michal Krystynek), and double bass (Jakub Nozicka). Lee Blackstone wrote in RootsWorld: "...another confident, unique statement from a band that likely has more surprises in store for adventuresome listeners." Read the review and listen to some music
Sabil : Zabad, l'ecume des nuits (Twilight Tide)
The duo Sabil is Ahmad Al Khatib ('ud) and Youssef Hbeisch (percussion). On this album, they are joined by Elie Khoury on bouzouki and Hubert Dupont on acoustic bass in an exploration of Arabic music and modern composition and improvisation. This was a RootsWorld 'Music of the Month' recording in 2017. These CDs were donated by the artists and record label, and all proceeds go to support the magazine and radio program.
Monsieur Doumani : Grippy Grappa
This Cypriot band Monsieur Doumani has been making quite a name for itself both at home and abroad in the last 6 months. They take the sounds of their native Cyprus and put it through a blender - making the music both more accessible to a new audience, while also respecting the roots, keeping them healthy and growing. They blend a serious sense of tradition with a cutting social satire and a playful wit. Antonis Antoniou (tzouras), Angelos Ionas (guitar) and Demetris Yiasemides (wind instruments) are musical bandits steal whatever they can and forge it into something all their own, enveloped in a smoky haze of poetry and sharp musical arrangements. The purchase of this CD is for a donation to support RootsWorld, the magazine and radio show of the world's music.
Solju : Odda Aigodat (New Times)
Ulla Pirttijarvi is familiar to many who follow the music of this part of the world, having forged a long career in both folk and art music circles, bringing the voice of the Sapmi people to the world. Her daughter adds a more contemporary voice to the mix on this new album, Odda Aigodat (New Times), where they are also joined on some tracks by throat singers, percussionists, cello, bass and some keyboards, and members of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. At the heart of it is always the sound of the unique and mesmerizing vocal technique called joik and songs in the Sapmi language. They present raw, primal folk chants, gorgeous folk songs and some outer-fringe new sounds throughout the recording.
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