Those who expected this compilation to feature the likes of Marisa Monte, Gal Costa or even newer names like Bebel Gilberto or Cibelle will be disappointed at first—this release contains none of their songs. Instead, we are presented with few names ever heard Stateside save for Luisa Maita or Mart’nalia, who have regularly toured in the US. The disc opens with Italy-based Nossa Alma Canta’s “Bossanova,” a tune that remembers the Brazilian movement that swept the world with the help of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd. The tune name recalls many familiar hits like “Wave,” “Desafinado” while playing snippets of familiar tunes via instrumental interludes. Read the rest of this entry »
Music is arguably one of the few art forms that is able to erase political or ideological boundaries. No matter how someone might feel about the Cuban embargo or the Castro Brothers, you will still listen to the piano magic of Chucho Valdes or the members of the Buena Vista Social Club. The same goes with Persian music, which has found an audience stateside in spite of the tensions between us and the Ayatollahs in Iran.
On this well-crafted collection, singer Zohreh Jooya leads an ensemble on a collection of songs from her native land, all performed with traditional acoustic instruments. The songs are a great introduction for newbies who are unfamiliar with this kind of music—there are long instrumental interludes between the vocals, and Jooya has a poignant delivery. Read the rest of this entry »
Latin psychedelics are currently enjoying a revival thanks to the efforts of current bands like Grupo Fantasma and Brooklyn’s Chicha Libre, who have both rediscovered this music (the latter’s leader, Olivier Conan, reportedly stumbled into the genre during a trip to Peru), but sadly a precious few of these artists are known Stateside. This is partially remedied by this collection from the Rough Guides, which brings us some of the prominent groups of the time alongside some of their contemporary followers.
The music is very varied, going from Spiteri’s proto-punk “Campesina,” a tune that blends distorted guitars with salsa beats. Salsa legend Johnny Rivera appears with “Cloud Nine,” an early track recorded with Tequila Brass. The mid-tempo track has very suggestive lyrics that playfully talk about “getting high” while “taking care of business”—whatever that might mean. Many of the groups on the record were clearly inspired by Santana, and that is evident by Wild Wind’s “A Drink or Two “and Conjunto El Opio’s “Piratas en El Titicaca.” Current groups are well represented by Chicha Libre, who makes an appearance with “Number 17” and Ocote Soul Sounds’ “En El Temblor.” Read the rest of this entry »
Colombian pop music is well known in alternative circles thanks to the efforts of bands like Aterciopelados or individual performers like Juanes or Shakira, but the country’s traditional sounds are not as widespread, and are often confused with the ubiquitous Andean music that is played on the streets of many major American cities.
This new release from Son de Pueblo is a great document of the various musical styles played around the country, and they run the gamut from cumbias, salsas and charangas (to name a few). Their arrangements are not at all dated; for instance, “La Cumbia Cienaguera” blends traditional percussive instruments with a very funky electric bass and electric piano, and “Moliendo Café” showcases the classical and jazz influences among the band members—the track begins with a Villa-Lobos-inflected flute intro that is followed by an intricate piano solo. Read the rest of this entry »
Brooklyn-based Chicha Libre started out playing covers of obscure psychedelic songs from Peru, and on this four-song EP they come full circle with a collection of inventive takes on pop tunes reimagined into the chichi format, starting with a very personal take on the “Simpsons” that expands on the TV version by adding some improvisation and a more danceable beat. They recreate Love’s classically inspired “Alone Again Or,” as a song innovated by featuring a mariachi band in the middle section, something quite uncommon in the late sixties. They also pay tribute with “Guns of Brixton” and also include “Chicha Rica,” a song that I could not trace but I am sure comes from bandleader Olivier Conan’s treasure trove. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Sven Creutzmann
The descendants of Haitian immigrants that settled in Cuba until the late fifties, The Creole Choir of Cuba is a ten-piece ensemble of voices and percussion who sing the music of their ancestors in a highly personal manner. Singing in Creole (Haiti’s second language), their lyrics speak about their history and heritage. Some songs were written centuries ago, while others, like “Tande,” were composed to talk about the cruel years of the Duvalier regime. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Daniela Cardone
Formed in 1975 in Southern Italy, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino showcases a smart blend of traditional folk songs and original music performed mostly by acoustic instruments (a handful of tunes feature an electric bass played by multi-instrumentalist Giulio Bianco). The original music is mostly written and arranged by musical director Mauro Durante (violin, percussion and vocals), who is the son of two of the band’s co-founders.
The six-piece ensemble—rounded out by Maria Mazzotta (vocals, castanets), Massimiliano Morabito (accordion), Giancarlo Paglialunga (percussion, vocals), Emanuele Licci (guitar, vocals, bouzuki), and Silvia Perrone (dance)—bring forth an energetic performance that showcases the culture and music of their region. The songs go from fast-paced tarantellas to love ballads like “Bella Ci Dorme,” a slow serenade whose lyrics speak of a man who sings under his loved one’s window as she comfortably sleeps, and fast-paced tarantellas such as “Tambbirriedhu Mia,” a percussion-rich tune in which audience members are invited to sing along to the chorus. Read the rest of this entry »
Marcos Valle is probably best known Stateside as the writer of “Summer Samba” via its various recordings by the likes of Astrud Gilberto, Connie Francis and the Walter Wanderley Trio back in the sixties, but the fact is that he has had a very prolific (if rather erratic) career in which he has experimented with various musical genres, especially in his most creative phase in the early seventies, which has recently been rediscovered via new recordings by younger Brazilian artists like Curumin and Bebel Gilberto.
This renewed interest in Valle’s seventies output has prompted a rerelease of four of his albums, all originally released between 1970 and 1974 before he relocated to the U.S., where he lived and worked until the early eighties. These discs show his evolution both as a songwriter and a performer. Back then he took many musical risks, experimenting with sounds that were unheard of in Brazil.
The first of these is the self-titled “Marcos Valle” (1970), which was made after he returned from a brief stay in the United States. Here he still seems tied to the sounds of bossa nova-era Brazil (after all, he scored his first, and still best-known, hit in the genre), but willing to look beyond that by employing electric instruments. On “Garra” (1971), on the other hand, he seems willing to break free from the older wave with hippie anthems like “Mais de 30,” where he sings that you can’t trust “anyone over 30” while sending a heartfelt bossa-like message to his mentor Antonio Carlos Jobim with “Ao Amigo Tom.” Read the rest of this entry »
Though many new Brazilian artists have recently had a lot of attention in the international market, few actually represent samba, the country’s best-known musical genre. On this compilation from Rough Guides, we have a comprehensive sample of contemporary singers and songwriters alongside legends like Alcione and Martinho da Vila, who open the disc with a live take on “Duas Faces,” a classic song from Rio de Janeiro.
Da Vila’s daughter Mart’nalia (who has toured the US in recent years) appears on her hit “Cabide,” an uptempo tune that has a classic feel thanks to its simple organic approach. Pop singer Marisa Monte leads the “old guard” of Rio’s Portela Samba School on “Volta Meu Amor,” a heartfelt chorinho whose lyrics talk about the end of a love affair. Read the rest of this entry »
Pat Kelly/Photo: Scott Bickford
By Dave Cantor
Chuck Wren’s been toiling.
And it hasn’t been restricted to planning Jump Up! Records’ first installment of Jamaican Oldies with Stranger Cole and Pat Kelly, set for November 16 and 17.
Chuck Wren aired “Everything Offbeat,” first on WNUR and now on WLUW, in the late 1980s, putting him in touch with a then-scattered community of ska enthusiasts. The group ranged from folks interested in the music’s Jamaican inception to British 2-Tone to a nascent American strain, which frequently took more cues from punk than anything else. By his account, Wren was one of the few people spinning ska records on any station in the country at the time. And residing in a cultural hub soon found him as something of the scene’s standard bearer. Thus Jump Up! Records.
But the label began issuing work out of Wren’s frustration, he says. While ska bands like The Toasters and coastal bands of its ilk were getting attention, land-locked acts were glossed over. And for about twenty years, Jump Up! has worked to issue music that has remained even outside fringe culture. Read the rest of this entry »