The WORLD MUSIC Radar (Episode #1/2019)

My personal statistics say that in the case of World Music it’s not so common to find records that are really worthy of attention, compared to other genres of music. But when we manage to come across a valid and meaningful album, we are usually in front of an extraordinary work of art, gifted by impressive quality and intensity. This is the reason why the list of records that I’m presenting in this article is particularly important.

In the following I’m presenting four albums of World Music that I selected among all those released in the firsts part of the year, specifically between the beginning of 2019 and the middle of March. Four artists, four different ways to intepret world music, but the same deep research for the maximum quality of the musical expression.

Enjoy this digest and don’t forget to come back periodically to check for updates.



“Bosque Magico – Tu Tiempo”, by Bosque Magico

In music, as well as in many other art forms, the fusion of different styles and cultures often produces the most surprising and spectacular results. This is certainly the case of Bosque Magico, the new project founded by German guitarist Ralf Siedhoff together with the Ukrainian oboist Mykyta Sierov. Two languages, approximately 2000 km of separation, but the two artists managed to meet on the musical level.

The music of Bosque Magico is absolutely elegant, delicate, varied and exciting. The presence of the oboe is certainly the most particular element: we are used to listening to this instrument in the context of classical rather than world music. The songs of the album range between quite different genres and styles: we have in fact influences from Indian music, flamenco, pop and jazz. For recording the LP, Siedhoof and Sierov were also supported by a group of skilled musicians: percussionists Karthik Mani (from India) and Ernesto Martinez (from Spain), drummer Magnus Dauner (from Germany), flamenco guitarist Manuel Delgado and his daughter Carmela on and bandoneon.

In short: this is a record that contains many innovative elements and it also presents multiple cultural elements fused together in an excellent manner. Not to be missed!



“Reminiscence”, by Aukai

Among the most interesting releases we had in the first weeks of the year there is an album that although originally included in the category of electro-acoustic records, it still features so many components of world music that it’s absolutely possible to mention it here. This is called Reminiscence, and it’s the new album produced by Aukai, which is the acoustic ambient project founded by American composer and instrumentalist Markus Sieber.

Reminiscence has the capacity to capture the listener’s attention with the elegance and the gentleness of its songs, which are relaxing but also engaging and moving. This album is ideal for every moment when you don’t want anything else than enjoying beautiful instrumental music, and let your mind travel.

I’ve published a dedicated review of the LP, you can read it from here.



“Elephantine”, by Maurice Louca

Another album that has caught my attention in the last months is Elephantine, the newest LP released by Egyptian musician and composer Maurice Louca, who is known also for being a member (and co-founder) of a number of formations such as Bikya, Alif and Dwarves. Elephantine was introduced by Louca as his most ambitious project to date, and in effect the LP sees him guiding a 12-piece ensemble.

The disk seems to be the result of two different compositional processes. On the one hand, we have a series of experimental songs mostly relying on the improvisational skills of the musicians. These songs are on the border between world music and pure experimentation and, to be truly honest, these are not among my favourites tracks the album. Then, there are other “classical” world music songs which are still based on the elaboration of an initial sequence of notes, but where the improvisation is kept more controlled and the development of the piece is made through the progressive introduction of different instruments. In these cases, in my opinion, the album reaches the highest, and impressive, levels of quality level. The opening track of the album, named The Leper, is representative of this second kind of songs, and it’s also one of the best pieces of the whole LP.



“Black Blank”, by Laurent Assoulen

Today, we’re very much used to listen to musical hybrids, and that between Jazz and World music is actually one of the most common ones. Nevertheless, when we enjoy a new album which manages to make us travel so naturally between different genres of music, it’s always a very nice and exciting experience.

Laurent Assoulen is a talented French pianist, but what impresses of his work is not much his technique, but rather the fact that he’s a great lover of fascinating melodies, ethnic sounds and popular tunes. And what he does with his ensemble is basically to share with us these beautiful themes by transforming them into catchy but still intriguing and poetic Jazz songs.

Assoulen’s new album, called Black Blank, features a number of pieces that reflect the modern canons of contemporary Jazz, but there are also many other songs where the pianist ventures into the field of World music, mixing the typical dynamics of Jazz with deeply suggestive ethnic sounds and melodies.

I’ve published a short review of the LP, you can read it from here.



If you liked this selection of albums, you will love THE VOYAGER, the playlist that I’m curating on Spotify with the best of World Music. Almost five hours of the most exciting and fascinating music from all over the world.


Quick Review: “Shimmer into Nature” by Ed Wynne

There was a period in my life when I was really into Ozric Tentacles: I was collecting many of their CDs and I also had a couple of opportunities to see them playing live in Italy. Attending their gigs made me understand how central and crucial was the role of Ed Wynne in the sound of the band. He was not only playing his psychedelic guitar, but he was actually doing a lot of other stuff with keyboards and synths. It was not a surprise for me, then, that the kind of music that Ed Wynne is now releasing under his solo project has the same sound and feeling of Ozric Tentacles. To be more precise, it’s almost impossible to find any real difference between the material that he has recorded for his new solo LP Shimmer into Nature and the music featured in the last couple of albums by the Ozrics.

Based on the above, it’s relatively easy to introduce and describe the music of Wynne’s new LP, since it’s basically the same kind of instrumental progressive rock that he’s playing since 35 years, with all the usual heavy influences from jazz fusion, ethnic electronica, world music, and psychedelia. In synthesis: Ozric Tentacles.


If the sound of Wynne’s new project is the replica of Ozric Tentacle’s one, unfortunately the same applies to the quality of the music. I was a great fan of the Ozrics and, as said, was absolutely into their music. Nevertheless, I’ve always felt that their last good album is 1999’s Waterfall Cities, the eightieth album of a large discography which now counts 15 LPs, 10 official live records, and many other releases like compilations, remix albums, and EPs. At some point of their career, the English band stopped writing actual “songs” and they started proposing flat pieces of music without any internal development, structure, or everything else that could really differentiate one song from another.

Shimmer into Nature makes no difference: five long instrumental tracks which are all very nice to hear, well played and recorded, but there is no trace, albeit minimal, of what could be considered as a song. Pure layers of electronic and ethnic sounds and, on top, jazz-like psychedelic improvisations. Perfect as a background, but not much more than that.

My overall rating for the LP is 6/10. Favorite track: Oddplonk.


Shimmer into Nature can be streamed from Spotify.


Quick Review: “Dionysus” by Dead Can Dance

I remember when I was a teenager and listening to Dead Can Dance was extremely cool and trendy. At that time the access to music was definitely more complicated with respect to modern standards and therefore, for an high school student, only declaring the intention to invest your money in an LP of world music gave you the fame of an expert of cultured music, at least in the eyes of those friends who used to listen Madonna and Guns and Roses. It is a fact, however, that at the end of the last century the Australian duo had achieved an impressive reputation among an heterogeneous family of music lovers, touching in some cases the status of cult band. And this happened thanks to the absolutely unique ability that Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry had shown in transposing ancient music and ethnic elements in an extremely accessible format, without losing quality and depth. Over the years their position in the global music scene has maybe shrinked a little, but their albums have always preserved the charm and the value of products of great class, and enjoyability.

This year Dead Can Dance have released a new studio album, called Dionysus, and this should be considered in itself a special event: not only the album is the ninth of a career that is close to reach forty years of activity (with some interruptions), but it also arrives six years after the previous work, 2012’s Anastasis. Beyond the numerical aspects, what really amazes of the new record is that the prodigy which has been carried out by the band in their long history manages to renew itself at each chapter of their exciting career. Dionysus, in fact, provides the fans of the band and the lovers of world music with another exciting collection of tribal fusion and neoclassical songs, all of the highest quality and with a few moments of absolute beauty.


“Act II: The Mountain”, taken from the album “Dionysus” by Dead Can Dance

Beyond the characteristics of the individual songs, it’s important to say that Dionysus was conceived in such a way as to be heard in one single run, by following a linear path from the beginning to the end, without the possibility for the listener of deviating from the sequence of songs that was established by the authors. In this respect, it’s sufficient to say that the digital edition of the album has only two tracks (Act I and Act II), each one collecting different chapters of the exciting story composed by the Australian musicians.

This choice is certainly risky as it precludes the listener to have direct control over which parts of the album he wants to listen, or just to skip a song. When Dionysus starts to play from our stereo we basically embark on a journey where every stage follows the previous one, exactly in the way the authors have determined for the correct evolution of their musical work. On the other hand, the balance between the different acts and chapters is excellent and I never found myself bored of one specific track and eager to move on to the next one. This mechanism, although  antithetical to the modern paradigms of music sharing, for which all songs should be as short and immediate as possible, seems to work very well in the case of this specific genre of music, and it perfectly fits with Dionysus.

From a purely musical point of view, Dionysus doesn’t shine for particular originality in the context of the band’s discography. On the contrary, at a first listen it may seem even a bit flat and less exciting with respect to their standard levels. The beauty of the album, however, emerges after a few repeated listens, once you become familiar with the delicate mixture of Celtic, New Age and Middle Eastern music that is provided in the LP. In part it’s true that the melodies in Dionysus are less immediate and catchy than some of the most famous songs from the band. But the fact is that in their new record Dead Can Dance wanted to represent the multicolored world of the God of Ecstasy, and rather than insist on obsessive and dramatic rhythms, they composed a special music that captures you slowly, progressibely, and which will transport you into a magical and luminous world, obscured only a few times by some dark shadow.

Therefore, to approach the album expecting to discover the new hit in world music will only lead to a great disappointment. If instead we abandon all preconceptions and let ourselves be carried away by the beautiful sequence of songs that the two artists have composed for us, we’ll be surprised to see how intriguing and full of emotions is the journey into the fascinating world of Dionysus. And you want to start it once again as soon as it ends.

The new album by Dead Can Dance can be streamed from Spotify where the single chapters of the LP are also available as separate tracks.


“Act I”, taken from “Dionysus”, the new album by Dead Can Dance



Dionysus is featured also in The Voyager, the playlist that I’m curating on Spotify with all the best and latest songs in World Music.



ELECTRO WORLD: THE PULSE OF THE EARTH / The Best of Global Fusion & World Electronic Music

Discover the best entries in ethnic and world-based electronic music with the new playlist I’ve just launched on Spotify: Electro World. You’ll find here the most engaging grooves, afrobeats, indie electonic and global fusion tracks, selected one by one during the last few monts. And this is going to grow with time since new songs will be added periodically.

Follow it, enjoy it, spread the word!

 

Playlist analysis (at the time of launch)

16 tracks, 1 hr 3 min

Top genres: electro swing, uk dub, arab alternative, arab pop, belgian hip hop

Well known artists: Chinese Man, Russkaja, Corine, Baloji, Omar Souleyman

Least known artists: Sidi Wacho, Ackboo, Go Dugong, Abyssinie Club, Nirmaan

Similar artists to explore (not in playlist): Alpha Steppa, Java, L’Entourloop, Mahom, Maryam Saleh, Massilia Sound System, Maÿd Hubb, Mr Zebre, Ondubground, Sporto Kantès


 

AF-RUI-KA. Feel the warmth and passion of the African Continent

I’m launching today a new playlist on which I’m working since a couple of months. The name of the playlist is af-rui-ka and it was conceived as the special place for all the best music coming from the the African continent. You’ll find here ethiopic jazz, afro-beat, desert blues, and every other special music bringing to us the warmth and the passion of this magic land.


 

According to many historians, the term Africa comes from the egyptian word “af-rui-ka“, which means “to turn yourself toward the opening of Ka”. The Ka is the energetic double of every person and “opening of the Ka” refers to a womb or birthplace. Africa then would be, for the Egyptians “the birthplace” — the “motherland” of the Black people, Earth’s oldest known humans.

 


At the time of its launch, the playlist features both famous and emerging artists from the African continent. The list of contributors includes incredible artists such as Ethiopian singer and lyricist Girma Bèyènè, Tony Allen and Afri Kuti from Nigeria (the latter is the son of afrobeat pioneer Afri Kuti), Grammy-Award-winner singer Oumou Sangaré and guitarist Samba Touré, from Mali. There are also many interesting bands such Ba Cissoko from Guinea, the Tuareg formations Tinariwen and Tamikrest, and also the multi-ethnic group Monoswezi (with members from Mozambique, Norway, Sweden and Zimbabwe).

The list of artists is however going to increase because this playlist, as all the others managed by this blog,  will be updated frequently with new tracks and contributors.

Enjoy the playlist and follow it to keep yourself updated!


 

 

Thank God it’s Jazz – Brand New Contemporary Jazz Songs – TGIJ #03 (Best of Jazz in March 2017, the playlist)

The best of modern contemporary Jazz. That’s the third release of Guerino’s serie of monthly Jazz selections and it covers the best albums released in the first weeks of March 2017. The current issue features works by Jan Lundgren, Omar Sosa & Seckou Keita, Hadouk and Chano Dominguez.

February 2017, Best Electronic Album: Chinese Man’s Shikantaza

chinese-man_crop

This month there has been an electronic album which left us literally speechless.This is Shikantanza, the new release by the French electronic collective named as Chinese Man. The album presents an overwhelming combination of groove, funky, hip hop and everything is mixed together with disparate ethnic references. The album is nice and varied, there are many songs that stand out for their brilliance and creativity, but at the end it is the average level of all the tracks which hits you and leave speechless. Shikantanza is made to be listened and listened again, this is one of those albums that you can easily play in the background during your day for hours and hours and never get tired of listening to it. But sometimes you will find yourself turning up the volume and dancing alone like a fool, captured by one of the many vintage rhythms that punctuate the entire disc.

Guerino’s rating: 8 / 10.

The most beautiful tracks: LiarMaläd and The New Crown.

Background information about the collective:

  • Chinese Man is mainly consisting of three members, i.e. the three DJs Marseille Zé Mateo, High Ku and SLY. They are often supported by a few beatmakers including Leo le Bug and Le Yan.
  • The group received a certain notoriety a few years ago after their song I’ve Got That Tune was used in a commercial for Mercedes. The song was included in their 2007 release The Groove Sessions Vol.1.
  • Shikantanza is the tenth album in the main discography of the group, which includes a few live and remixed albums.