Posts Tagged ‘baaba maal’

Songlines Music Awards 2017: The Winners

Posted on May 11th, 2017 in Recent posts by .

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Songlines Music Awards 2017 Compilation

We’re delighted to announce the winners of the ninth Songlines Music Awards which aim to put a much-deserved spotlight on some incredibly talented artists from around the world.

In addition to the Best Artist and Best Group awards – as voted by Songlines readers – we have five geographical awards based on our reviews sections, as well as the World Pioneer and Newcomer Awards chosen by our editorial team. So read on and find out who’s won this year…

You can also listen to editors Simon Broughton and Jo Frost introducing and playing music from all of this year’s winners, on the Songlines podcast, available as a free download on iTunes.

Featuring 20 tracks from the nominees in the five geographical categories, the Songlines Music Awards 2017 compilation album is now available on CD exclusively from Amazon.

Click here to buy your copy.

To find out more about the winners, pick up a copy of the June (#128) edition.


 Words by Nigel Williamson

Best Artist
Baaba Maal 
(The Traveller on Marathon Artists)

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In the 15 years between 2001’s acoustic set Missing You (Mi Yeewnii) and 2016’s The Traveller, Maal released just one album, 2009’s bland and insubstantial Television. It seemed that his extra-curricular activities as a spokesperson for the United Nations Development Programme and a global ambassador for Oxfam, plus his involvement in campaigns for HIV/AIDS awareness, debt relief and other vital causes, had left him little time for making new music. So it was an unalloyed joy when The Traveller turned out to be a stunning comeback, a mature but exhilarating set in which his activism and his music intertwine into a single purposeful journey. He brought on board some intriguing collaborators, including Johan Hugo of The Very Best as producer, various members of Mumford & Sons and the British-Ethiopian poet Lemn Sissay. But substantial as their contributions are, the real triumph here belongs to Maal. From the irresistible dance floor Afro-pop of ‘Fulani Rock’ and the title-track to the haunting ‘Gilli Men’ and the deep, sombre blues of ‘Jam Jam’, the potency of his voice and the humanity of his vision combine in thrilling fashion to create one of the most satisfying albums of his storied career.

Best Group
Afro Celt Sound System (The Source on ECC Records)

Afro Celt Sound System - The Source Cover.jpeg

After a lengthy silence, the return of the Afro Celts seemed something of a risky proposition: would the group’s trademark global dance hybrid that sounded so cutting-edge when first unleashed in 1996 appear outdated some two decades on? Instead 2016’s The Source found the Afro Celts reinvigorated and sounding bigger, better and bolder than ever. Since the last Afro Celts’ album in 2005, a split among its founding members for a time resulted in two rival editions of the group fighting over the name. Happily that dispute has now been settled and it is the Simon Emmerson-led line-up heard on The Source that officially inherits the Afro Celts’ legacy.

With a core membership that includes long-serving kora and balafon player N’Faly Kouyaté, the thundering dhol drumming of Johnny Kalsi and the Scottish Gaelic rapper Griogair Labhruidh, there is much that is reassuringly familiar in the swirling mix of African rhythms and Irish jigs and reels. But the sound has also smartly developed, the electronica of earlier incarnations more muted and the acoustic textures more nuanced as the traditional African instruments vie with the pipes and flutes of Celtic heritage, underpinned by bhangra drums, and with vocal decoration ranging from the shamanic voice of Ríoghnach Connolly to Guinean devotional chanting. 


Newcomer
Kefaya (Radio International on Radio International Records)

Kefaya - Radio International Cover

Formed by the Italian guitarist Giuliano Modarelli and keyboard player Al MacSween, the music of the London-based collective Kefaya has been called ‘guerrilla jazz,’ ‘contemporary world-fusion’ and ‘global protest music.’ The clumsiness of the terms are in stark contrast to the fluidity of their music but is indicative of how Kefaya’s eclectic sound transcends boundaries to defy definition. Recorded during travels and collaborations across India, Palestine, Spain and Italy, the group’s debut seeks out the common ground between folk traditions from around the globe, radical politics and sound system culture, delivered with a fizzing energy and commitment rooted firmly in the 21st century.

Themes such as internationalism, freedom of movement and immigration are reinforced by the presentation of the album as a pirate radio station, tuned in to the struggle for equality and liberation and broadcasting stories of resistance and empowerment, with radio samples weaving together the musical and political intentions behind the concept. ‘We are all immigrants,’ the band state. ‘The chains of nationalism seek to restrain us within borders and boundaries, within checkpoints and separation walls. But to embrace our fellow traveller in the spirit of internationalism is to embrace the journey of human experience.’


Africa & Middle East
Derek Gripper (Libraries on Fire on Derek Gripper)

Derek Gripper - Libraries on Fire Cover.jpeg

“Absolutely amazing,” was Toumani Diabaté’s reaction when he first heard Derek Gripper’s transposition of music composed for the 21-string kora to the six-string guitar. When Gripper finally met Toumani in Bamako in 2016 (see #117), the world’s greatest kora player dubbed him “my white twin,” which was about as high a commendation as you could get. The classical guitar maestro John Williams was another who could not believe that it was possible to replicate the sound of the kora’s multiple strings on a simple six-string guitar and assumed that it must have had been achieved by studio trickery and multiple over-dubs. When he learned that Gripper performed the music live and solo, Williams invited him to play at a series of guitar concerts he was curating at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at London’s Globe Theatre.

Libraries on Fire, Gripper’s latest solo album, features breathtaking arrangements of kora pieces mostly associated with Toumani Diabaté, and is a richly deserving award winner. Gripper has since followed it with the equally fine Mali in Oak (a Top of the World review in #127), based on a collaboration at the Globe with the British kora and cello player Tunde Jegede. “The beauty of this music is its simplicity and its complexity, all coming from one instrument,” Gripper says.


Americas
Calypso Rose (Far From Home on Because Music)

Calypso Rose Songlines Music Awards 2017 Winner

‘No man alive or dead could take the crown off mi head,’ sings Calypso Rose in typically sassy style on Far From Home. Feisty singer, storyteller, feminist pioneer and Caribbean cultural icon, it’s more than 40 years since Rose was first crowned calypso queen in Trinidad and at 77 she continues to reign supreme. Co-produced by Stonetree Music’s Ivan Durán and Drew Gonsalves from Kobo Town, with Manu Chao sprinkling his magic on several tracks, Far From Home is a joyous, turbo-charged update on calypso tradition for a 21st-century global audience, Rose garnishing her sweet-and-spicy calypso/soca sound with rhythms and melodies from Africa, Central America and across the Caribbean.

The upbeat dance tunes and carnival anthems also pack a powerful message with lyrics about subjects such as domestic violence and women’s rights. “Calypso is for partying but it’s also for storytelling, like being a reporter,” she says. “You can dance but you must also listen to the words.” Other songs are peppered with pugnacious personal observations about her long career. ‘They say I reign too long, forgetting my constitution is strong,’ she sings, making it clear that she has no intention of giving up her crown. This was evident at the Victoires de la Musique ceremony in Paris in February where she received the Best World Music Album award and declared “I am the Queen of France right now!”

Asia & South Pacific
Anda Union (Homeland on Hohhot Records)

Anda Union Songlines Music Awards 2017

This nine-strong ensemble from Inner Mongolia are on a mission to preserve and popularise the culture of the vast empty spaces of their native steppes in a melodic and accessible style that has universal appeal. Playing traditional horsehead fiddles, lutes and flutes and drawing on a repertoire of ancient music that was in danger of extinction, they first came to international attention with the album The Wind Horse and a memorable WOMAD appearance in 2011. Their second album is even more impressive, mixing atmospheric instrumentals and solo and harmony vocals with bursts of growling, eerie-sounding throat singing.

Their subject matter takes in nature, mythology and history, tempered with laments for those in exile from their homeland and the fight for the survival of an endangered way of life. ‘Our music draws from all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified. We all have different ethnic backgrounds and we bring these influences into our music,’ they explain. The engaging simplicity of their folk traditions is smartly enhanced by the sophisticated co-production of multiple Grammy award-winner Richard King. The band members have recently completed a two-month-long US tour and have returned to Hohhot as lecturers at the Inner Mongolia Arts University.


Europe
Fanfare Ciocărlia  (Onwards to Mars! on Asphalt Tango)

Fanfare Ciocarlia - Onwards to Mars! Songlines Music Awards 2017

One of the world’s most exhilaratingly raucous brass bands, Fanfare Ciocărlia celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2016 and marked the occasion with a groundbreaking album of energy and ingenuity that dug deep into their rural Balkan Gypsy heritage while reflecting a range of other genres and styles that they have absorbed on their nomadic travels around the globe. Hailing from the remote village of Zece Prăjini in north-east Romania, the 12-piece band learned their craft at the feet of their fathers and grandfathers, but their music remained a well-kept secret until Henry Ernst, a young German music fan, wandered into the village in 1996 and discovered a living tradition rooted in the ancient Ottoman tradition of brass bands, which had long died out in much of the rest of Romania. By the following year, Fanfare Ciocărlia were touring Europe and thrilling audiences with their earthy brass grooves played at breakneck speed. On Onwards to Mars! they mix riotous new versions of Balkan standards with a cover of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ sung by Gypsy blues singer Iulian Canaf, seven tunes written by Koby Israelite and even a spicy flavouring of cumbia


Fusion
The Gloaming (on Real World)

The Gloaming Songlines Music Awards 2017 Winner

The term ‘supergroup’ is over-used, but it’s hard to think of any other word to describe the felicitous teaming of Irish trad fiddler extraordinaire Martin Hayes, American guitarist Dennis Cahill, sean nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh, who plays the droning ten-string Hardanger d’amore fiddle, and the adventurous New York pianist Thomas Bartlett (known as Doveman in his indie-rock incarnation). These five master musicians, each with highly successful individual careers, first came together in 2011 for a sold-out show at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, attended by Ireland’s Prime Minister, Enda Kenny. International touring followed and their self-titled debut was voted album of the year in 2014 beating off competition from Hozier, Aphex Twin, Sinead O’Connor, U2 and Damien Rice to win the RTÉ Choice Music Prize (the Irish equivalent of the Mercury).

Their second album is an expansive set rooted in the rich traditions of Irish folk music but delivered with a contemporaneous, experimental and highly personal sensibility. Haunting and emotionally charged, the intuitive ensemble playing is topped by Ó Lionáird’s ethereal vocals, recently featured in the movie Brooklyn and first heard more than 20 years ago with the Afro Celt Sound System. 


World Pioneer Award
Francis Falceto

Francis Falceto Songlines Music Awards 2017

When Francis Falceto curated the first volume in the Éthiopiques series on the Buda Musique label in 1997, most of us knew very little about Ethiopian music. In the two decades that have followed, Falceto has single-handedly been responsible for putting Ethiopia on the world music map as our appreciation of artists such as Mahmoud Ahmed, Mulatu Astatke and Tilahun Gessesse has grown along with the series of releases. Falceto released the 30th volume – by Girma Bèyènè & Akalé Wubé – this year (reviewed in #127) and the impact of Éthiopiques has extended far beyond the core world music audience – Jim Jarmusch used a track for the title music of his movie Broken Flowers and the likes of Jamie Cullum, Robert Plant, Brian Eno, Simon Reeve and David Harrington all selected music from the series for their Songlines playlists. For Falceto, it has been a lifetime’s passion since he first heard a Mahmoud Ahmed recording in 1984 while working as a concert promoter in Poitiers. He was soon making regular trips to Addis Ababa, tracking down master tapes from the most important labels and producers of the music’s ‘Golden Age’ in the 60s and 70s. From the programming and remastering to Buda Musique’s packaging, presentation and attention to detail, new standards have been set and made Éthiopiques the ultimate brand in crate-digging excellence. 

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First acts announced for WOMAD Charlton Park 2016

Posted on February 25th, 2016 in Live, News, Recent posts by .

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George Clinton, Baaba Maal, Ibrahim Maalouf and Aziza Brahim are among the first acts announced for this year’s WOMAD Charlton Park Festival from July 28-31

The first wave of acts have been announced for this year’s WOMAD at Charlton Park. Recognised as one of the greatest world music events, the festival returns to its regular setting in celebration of its tenth anniversary at the Wiltshire site.

P-Funk pioneer George Clinton and his legendary band Parliament Funkadelic will take to the stage, Senegalese musician Baaba Maal returns to the line-up following on from the release of his album The Traveller and acclaimed French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf will deliver his enchanting, expressive performances for the occasion.

Aziza Brahim, a musical spokeswoman for the people of the Western Sahara, also makes an appearance. Her new album, Abbar el Hamada, is released on March 4 on Glitterbeat Records. Read more about her in our next issue (#116, on sale March 4). 

Other confirmed acts include: 
Afriquoi (UK)
Baloji (DRC)
Blick Bassy (Cameroon)
Dom La Nena (Brazil/France)
The East Pointers (Canada)
Ethno Trio Troitsa (Belarus)
The Grit Orchestra (UK)
Hot 8 Brass Band (US)
Lula Pena (Portugal)
Moh! Kouyaté (Guinea)
Muzykanci (Poland)
Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band (Ghana)
Sidestepper (Colombia)
Tetish (Israel)
This is the Kit (UK)
Vishwa Mohan Bhatt (India)

For tickets and more information visit womad.co.uk.

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Baaba Maal – The Traveller | Album Review | Top of the World

Posted on February 3rd, 2016 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

baaba-maal

Words by Nigel Williamson

Baaba Maal - The Traveller Cover

This traveller has finally returned
★★★★

Since 2001’s acoustic set Missing You (Mi Yeewnii), Baaba’s only new studio album in 15 years has been 2009’s Television, a bland and insubstantial affair that suggested that his best was behind him. So it’s a pleasant surprise to report that The Traveller not only stands alongside past career highlights such as Firin’ in Fouta and Nomad Soul but sounds like a mature pinnacle. It’s an exhilarating summation of Baaba’s life and vision in which finally his activism and his music are seamlessly intertwined, the personal and political woven into a single purposeful journey.

Key to this revivification are some well-chosen collaborators – principally Johan Hugo of The Very Best, who produced most of the album and who lends sympathetic electronic textures to tracks such as the pulsating opener ‘Fulani Rock’, the haunting ‘Gilli Men’ and the glistening ‘Kalaajo’. A couple of members of Mumford & Sons turn up on the surging Afro-pop dance fusion of ‘Lampenda’ and the album finishes with the diptych of ‘War’ and ‘Peace’, featuring the spoken-word contributions of British-Ethiopian poet Lemn Sissay. On first listen the two pieces sound like an odd, even jarring, coda. Yet once the shock has been absorbed, they make total sense as climax and resolution. Welcome back, Baaba Maal.

Click here to get this album for free with a subscription to Songlines.

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Top of the World March 2016

Posted on January 29th, 2016 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

Our selection of the top ten new releases reviewed in the March (#115) issue.

Baaba Maal - The Traveller Cover

Baaba Maal
The Traveller (Marathon Artists)
Baaba Maal returns with his first album in seven years. The Traveller is a career highlight and an exhilarating summation of his life in which his activism and music are seamlessly intertwined. Read our review.

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Grupo Fantasma - Problemas Cover

Grupo Fantasma
Problemas (Blue Corn Music)
The Austin-based nine-piece take on a new approach to recording here; the songs have a new-found sheen and are an entertaining mix of funk, urban groove, rap and Latin pop-rock.

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Mamak Khadem - The Road Cover

Mamak Khadem
The Road (Innova)
Despite an undeservingly understated career, the Iranian singer’s third album showcases stunning vocals and various musical influences, from the Middle East to Eastern Europe.

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Show of Hands - The Long Way Home Cover

Show of Hands
The Long Way Home (Hands On Music)
Respected folk act duo Show of Hands mark the new year with a new album, continuing a long run of two decades’ worth of solid material.

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Lost (GFR)
Via the combination of Gaelic wire-strung and concert harps and various electronic elements, Graham Fitkin and Ruth Wall create a suspenseful, yet reserved and cohesive album.

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vesevo cover

Vesevo
Vesevo (Agualoca Records)
The Neapolitan trio provide a unique and contemporary take on southern Italy’s traditional songs and dances, utilising catchy rhythms and strong harmonies across nine tracks.

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Smockey - Prevolution Cover

Smockey
Pre’volution: Le Président, Ma Moto et Moi (Outhere Records)
The hip-hop artist from Burkina Faso releases his new album, made in the midst of political unrest and revolution in his home country.

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Sidestepper - Supernatural Love Cover

Sidestepper
Supernatural Love (Real World)
The electro-cumbia pioneers from Colombia explore the overlooked traditions of the country’s African music. The result is a calm, collected and cool celebration of musical culture.

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Čači Vorba - Satrika Cover

Čači Vorba
Šatrika (Oriente Musik)
Fronted by the excellent fiddle player and vocalist Maria Natanson, the Polish group exhibit inventive arrangements and striking vocals on a distinctive collection of songs of Romani origin.

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Pagoda Project - Clarion Cover

Pagoda Project
Clarion (Sylvafield)
A meeting between two artists from two different musical backgrounds results in one of this year’s most relaxing and pleasurable listens. A carefully crafted and thoughtful album.

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