Posts Tagged ‘duo sabil’

Top of the World albums: Songlines #129 (July 2017)

Posted on June 12th, 2017 in Features, Recent posts by .

Here is our selection of the top ten new releases reviewed in the July issue of Songlines. Tracks from each of these albums are included on the free cover-CD with issue #129.

To buy the new issue or to find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit:



Dona Onete
Mais um Discos
The Grande Dame is back with another dose of salubrious grooves from the north of Brazil. Despite being almost 80 years old, Onete is not slowing down. Find yourself some wiggle room.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Trio Tekke & Dave de Rose
Trio Tekke
This new collaboration with drummer Dave de Rose produces a more electric take on Trio Tekke’s funky reinvention of Greek traditional music.
Amazon | iTunes



Kronos Quartet
Folk Songs
A journey into the Appalachian tradition, combining classical elegance and avant-garde subversion. As magnificent as you would expect from Kronos.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Zabad, Twilight Tide
Harmonia Mundi
A stunningly hypnotic track from an excellent third album. While maintaining respect for the maqam tradition, intimate dialogue between instrumentalists allows the music to breathe and shine.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Vieux Farka Touré
Six Degrees Records
West Africa’s star guitarist does not disappoint with this masterful album, which was recorded in front of a small live audience.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Decade: The Best of Lau 2007-2017
Lau Scotland 
A magnificent compilation showcasing ten years of musical excellence.
Amazon | iTunes



Kondi Band
Strut Records
This pairing of thumb-piano and vocals with electronic textures makes for what is perhaps one of the most intriguing African albums so far this year.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Various artists  
Zaire 74: The African Artists
Wrasse Records
Global star Miriam Makeba performs with her Guinean Ensemble, recorded at the three-day music festival held in 1974 to coincide with the Rumble in the Jungle boxing match.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Maria Kalaniemi & Eero Grundström
Åkerö Records
Here accordionist Maria Kalaniemi and harmonium player Eero Grundström take us on a musical journey deep into the majestic Finnish forests.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify



Jayme Stone
Jayme Stone’s Folklife
Borealis Records
This rousing Caribbean dance tune is but one offering in this treasure trove of songs mostly derived from the seemingly inexhaustible archives of folklorists John and Alan Lomax.
Amazon | iTunes | Spotify

Pick up the July issue of Songlines to enjoy our Top of the World cover-CD, which contains tracks from each of the albums above. To find out more about subscribing to Songlines, visit:

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Babel Med 2014, March 20-22, Docks des Suds, Marseille

Posted on March 26th, 2014 in Recent posts by .


Photography by Jean de Peña

Simon Broughton and Jo Frost recount some of their highlights from last weekend’s Babel Med in Marseille, France.

‘Ecoute le Monde’ it says on the posters for Babel Med in Marseille. And you certainly do get to listen to the world with 30 concerts over three days, although it’s a certain vision of the world. There seems to be a sort of default position that means the vast majority of acts are fusions of some sort. It’s partly that the French definition of musique du monde (world music) tends to emphasise cross-fertilisation, but also it’s the sort of thing that fuels festivals. Babel Med is a professional showcase for artists and bands, but it’s also a cheap (€15 a night) and hugely popular three nights of music for the people of Marseille. This year, the tenth edition, over 12,000 people attended over the three nights.


Here are some of our highs and lows:

Thursday March 20

Fargana Qasimova (pictured above) is the daughter of Azeri mugham star Alim Qasimov and she’s been singing together with him for years. I last saw them give an incredibly powerful performance together in Baku, his voice often higher than hers in an amazing mugham polyphony. But now she’s started doing shows on her own with a brilliant band of traditional instrumentalists – tar, kamancha, clarinet and percussion. Of course she’s totally grown up with the tradition and it shows. Her voice and style are glowing and intense, although there’s a serious piety rather than the hint of mischief her father has. This was one of the few traditional performances at Babel Med, which also made it very welcome. SB

The Finnish harmonica quartet Sväng are Songlines favourites and we had them at our Encounters Festival in 2010. The music is original but always drawing on Finnish traditions, or sometimes Balkan music. Eero Turkka, one of the quartet, has married a Bulgarian lady and now lives in Sofia. The standout piece in the concert was ‘Karja-La’, like Shangri-La, the title-track of their new album. It’s a musical depiction of Karelia, the heartland of Finnish identity – as a nostalgic past, a place of conflict, emigration and Russification. The recent events in Crimea illustrate the topicality of the music. What I like about Sväng is the depth of the music alongside the sense of fun. SB

Hotel Univers was one of my albums of 2013, yet it’s been a while since I’ve seen Jupiter and Okwess International (pictured below) play live. Despite being a slightly reduced-size touring outfit, the Congolese group still put on a storming live show. Lead singer Jupiter Bokondji, with his deep, gravelly voice and long scarecrow-like flailing arms, makes a very charismatic frontman, but he’s got strong support from some fabulous guitarists who double up as pretty impressive dancers too. This was the first showcase that got me dancing. JF


Friday March 21

The fiddle player from Brittany, Jacky Molard, is highly regarded in Breton music. Being only familiar with his collaborative album together with the Malian Foune Diarra trio (N’Diale) this was the first time I’d seen him perform live. Molard was joined by a trio of double bass (the first of two female double bass players on Friday night), accordion and saxophone and their music is complex, compelling and with driving rhythms – they reminded me a little of a Breton Lau. High praise indeed. JF

The party band of Friday evening, the Amsterdam Klezmer Band, always know how to get a crowd moving and the Marseillais audience seemed to really enjoy this raucous klezmer big band. They’ve got a new album out which we’ll be reviewing soon. JF

One of the most interesting fusions that makes real artistic (and dare one say political) sense, is the mixture of Kurdish musicians in a band called Nishtiman. With Sohrab Pournazeri, a charismatic kamancheh and tanbur player at its centre, the group features Kurdish musicians from Iran, Iraq and Turkey, plus a French percussionist and bass player. The set was in party mode in a very crowded tent, but the musicianship shone through, despite the sound being a bit of a mess. Alongside Pournazeri, there was brilliant daf (frame drum) playing from Hussein Rezaeenia, standing in for Iraqi Kurdish percussionist Hussein Zahawy. The newly-released CD from Accords Croisés also has some beautiful slow and intense pieces. SB

A more unlikely fusion embodied in one person is the Iranian-born Israeli singer Rita. Singing in Hebrew and Persian, she laid great stress on bringing these two fiercely opposed countries together with a good band, including another great kamancheh maestro, Mark Eliyahu. But the noble ambition can’t save a bland Eurovision-style vibrato fest. SB

Bassekou Kouyaté and Ngoni ba looked resplendent in their turquoise green robes but sadly the sound wasn’t so impressive, which momentarily seemed to be reflected in the group’s usually confident performance. But Bassekou wasn’t to be deterred and carried off his solo ngoni spots with aplomb and a winning smile. JF



Pasi Leino (Sväng)

Saturday March 22

I was looking forward to the Kenyan/Somali vocal harmonies of Gargar, but they reminded me of the Russian babushkas in Eurovision – dancing as if they were at a disco they didn’t want to be at and backed by the most mundane drums and keyboards. It was a warning of how tradition can be so easily debased. SB

Shutka Roma Rap, despite my aversion of baseball caps and cliché arm-waving stylings, gave a strong show, thanks, if you didn’t understand the Romani language, to a backing band with violin, sax and trumpet. SB

Saturday night’s line-up was the one I was least familiar with, so I had fewer expectations than the previous two nights. And yet this was the evening of my favourite discoveries – Duo Sabil, Palestinian oud and percussion duo, accompanied by a French string quartet, Quatuor Béla. Fabulous music if not a little bit studious in style (we call it the curse of the music stand). The listening experience was marred by the venue being rammed packed – it felt like trying to watch a chamber music concert on a London tube platform during rush hour. Definitely one to revisit under less frenetic circumstances and preferably in the comfort of a chair. Duo Sabil also performed at Songlines Encounters last year with guitarist John Williams. JF

Veteran roots reggae star Clinton Fearon, who had a Top of the World review in #92, attracted a huge crowd, gave ‘lots of love’ and brought out a pungent scent of weed like no one else. The songs and scent are well worth catching. SB

Next was Ve Zou Via (pictured below) – another cross-cultural project, this one a polyphonic one exploring the connections between Marseille and Naples. I’ve been a big fan of the five guys from Lo Còr de la Plana ever since witnessing them lead a ridiculously large conga line through the throng in the arboretum at WOMAD. This time they’re joined by Absurd, four women from Naples, plus Enza Pagliara, a singer from Salento. No idea whether they were singing in Occitan or Neopolitan, but they sounded fantastic. There were moments of intimate close-harmony singing but when they all joined in on frame drums, they whipped up the crowd into a state of wild enthusiasm. All the more impressive considering that the venue, akin to a circus Big Top, was several inches under water after a day’s worth of rain. Certainly didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the local crowd. JF

Another new name was Maya Kamaty who has won singing awards on her home island of La Réunion, and after this showcase I’m sure she’ll be gaining more international acclaim. Accompanied by a trio of musicians on percussion and guitars, she performed call-and-response Réunionnais creole singing, all while dancing and shaking the kayamb – a traditional percussion instrument of the island which looks like a large cane tray. Kamaty brought a real freshness and some much needed Indian Ocean warmth to the Docks. JF

Finally Che Sudaka – described in the programme as ‘mestizo Latino’ –  sounded like Manu Chao on speed. Of course, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, in which case Chao should be feeling truly honoured by this group of Colombian and Argentinians, now resident in Barcelona. Simple, fun, festival party music. JF


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Songlines Encounters Festival 2013 – Part 2

Posted on June 10th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

Words by Simon Broughton (Editor-in-Chief, Songlines)

Day 3 (Friday, June 7) The idea of Songlines Encounters is to present artists from around the world that we think deserve wider exposure. The sold-out concert on Day 3 featured artists who’d had Top of the World albums in 2012. One of my picks of the year was Aduna by Malick Pathé Sow & Bao Sissoko, from Senegal. Sow sings and plays hoddu (an instrument similar to the ngoni lute) and guitar, while Sissoko is a terrific kora player. The musicians had an elegance, sophistication and warmth on stage and their music, with female vocalist Talike Gellé and Cheik Mbacké Gueye on calabash percussion was full of subtle textures. A class act that returns for the London African Music Festival in September.

Another standout album from last year was that of Palestinian oud and percussion duo Ahmad Al Khatib & Youssef Hbeisch, also known as Duo Sabil. Khatib is one of the best oud players I’ve heard, getting a fantastic range of colours from his instrument, while Hbeisch entices a universe of sounds from his kit, somehow making a big frame drum sound like a wailing wind instrument. Thrillingly, they were joined in this Encounters performance by classical guitarist John Williams, who began with a solo set of Spanish classics by Albéniz and Tárrega, colourfully evoking Moorish Spain. In Tárrega’s ‘Recuerdos de la Alhambra’, Williams’ tremolo guitar sang out in an extraordinary lyrical legato. With this Andalusian atmosphere, the connections between the classical guitar and the oud could not have been made more clearly.

Before they began their collaboration, Hbeisch enthused: “You cannot imagine how thrilled we are to be on stage here with John Williams!” But it was clearly a relationship of mutual respect and Williams told me how equally impressed he was by their music – which he discovered through Songlines. In their final piece there was a gorgeous oud solo, though I do wish John Williams had been given his moment to shine as well.

Malick Pathé Sow & Bao Sissoko
©Haydn Wheeler

Day 4 (Saturday, June 8) featured two contrasting bands, but both with Latin piano at their heart. Audience member Sarah, a welcome regular at these events, was dancing enthusiastically from the beginning down the front. First on were Lokkhi Terra, led by Bangladeshi-born Kishon Khan on the ivories sporting a Che Guevara beret, adding to the Cuban vibe. Their exuberant big-band, with Cuban, Bangladeshi, British and Indian musicians, makes the Bengali/Cuban connection sound extremely natural. “We have exactly the same cockroaches” said Khan in his pre-concert chat.

Then pianist Alex Wilson led his Trio Mali Latino onstage. With Edwin Sanz (from Venezuela) on percussion and Ahmed Fofana (from Mali) on a glorious range of instruments including donsongoni and balafon, the trio were aided by special guest Omar Puente, who contributed some stylish Cuban violin. And thankfully, there was time for a grand finale which brought everyone to their feet and featured a welcome stage invasion of West African dancing.

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Songlines Encounters Festival 2013 – Part 1

Posted on June 8th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

Words by Simon Broughton (editor-in-chief)
Photography by Hayden Wheeler

The exciting realisation from the first two days of Songlines Encounters has been that interesting, adventurous programming attracts top musicians, and with no prior warning we found Nigel Kennedy in the audience on our opening night and Robert Plant the following night. Both were knocked out by what they heard.

Day 1 (Wednesday, June 5) kicked off with Transkaukazja – a great Polish-meets-Georgian project brought to us by the Polish Cultural Institute in London. It sounded great on paper and was a revelation on stage. The Polish ingredient was Vołosi, a string quintet so tight that it was like one instrument played by five people, and the Georgian ingredient was members of 33a, led by the charismatic Niaz Diasamidze who growled his lyrics in Georgian, Russian and French. Both bands were in the UK for the first time. Lyrical, exciting and adventurous music – and I really enjoyed learning more about the work The Other Space Foundation are doing with music in the Caucasus. Something I hope we can explore more in Songlines.

Next it was a great Balkan party with three bands – Paprika, She’Koyokh and Yurodny (over from Dublin) playing different styles of music and getting together for a fabulous grand finale (pictured above). At the heart of Paprika is the superb fiddler Bogdan Vacarescu, vocalist Cigdem Aslan is part of a tremendous female trio fronting She’koyokh and sax player and arranger Nick Roth brings a jazzy sound to Yurodny. The number of notes per second record won’t be beaten anywhere else in the festival.

It turns out Nigel Kennedy is friends with Cora Venus Lunny, the brilliant violinist with Yurodny, and he kindly invited all the musicians home for an aftershow party. The grand finale continued and got more uproarious in his front room – with Nigel joining in on ‘Ajde Jano’ in which the melody was tossed around between four fabulous violinists. Around 2:30am Nigel stopped as he was topping up glasses with vodka and said “Listen, these mother-fuckers just love to play. Not like the classical guys who just go home to bed.” It was one of the greatest jam sessions I’ve been to.

Day 2 (Thurday, June 6) saw the Baladi Blues Ensemble entice Robert Plant with his son and daughter down to Kings Place. Guy Shalom did a fabulous job introducing people to the soulful street sound of Cairo’s baladi music – with Egyptian masters Ahmed Khalifa on sax, Gamal el Kordi on quarter-tone accordion and lovely vocals from Abdul Salam Kheir. Hopefully more and more people are going to discover this beautiful music.

Sarah Savoy was dressed in a bright red dress and hair tied back, looking much like Judy Garland, for her Cajun music set with the Francadians. But her brilliant stage banter – about beer, women throwing their knickers at Belton Richard and other great characters of Cajun music wasn’t Dorothy’s territory. Thankfully there was some sly dancing going on, adding to the atmosphere, and Sarah played so hard she broke a guitar string. She told me afterwards that she had sent a message to her mate Steve Riley (one of the best-known Cajun musicians) about Robert Plant being in the audience. “Go on Sarah, rip it up” he responded.

Songlines Encounters – endorsed by the top musicians!

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