Posts Tagged ‘zimbabwe’
The April 2017 (#126) issue of Songlines is now on sale!
Our cover stars this issue are the young Zimbabwean band Mokoomba who are making a long-awaited comeback after their 2013 award-winning album.
In this issue we also interview Warsaw Village Band about their collaborative approach to Polish folk music; Bollywood Brass Band and Jyotsna Srikanth talk about their latest project, Carnatic Connection; there’s a report from the Cappadox Festival in Turkey; a preview of a forthcoming photographic exhibition coming to London’s Royal Albert Hall; a Beginner’s Guide to the veteran Senegalese band, Orchestra Baobab; plus the latest CD, DVD, book and world cinema reviews.
The Top of the World CD includes Mokoomba, Rhiannon Giddens, Omar Puente, Inna de Yard, as well as a guest playlist from the best-selling author and historian Peter Frankopan, featuring Lata Mangeshkar, the Russian Army Ensemble and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.
Your free download! Plan your next musical adventure with our free International World Music Festival Guide 2017-18.
To buy the new issue or to find out more about subscribing to Songlines, please visit: www.songlines.co.uk/subs
Confused, bewildered and overwhelmed by the mayhem of global sounds? World music is a maze. And what you need is a good map. So here is our A to Z of world music, taking you from Africa Express to Zimbabwe, from Balkan brass to qawwali and from cumbia to WOMAD. Words: Simon Broughton, Jane Cornwell & Nigel Williamson. Illustration: Andy Potts
Many Western pop stars develop a fascination with African music but their interest seldom goes much further than incorporating an Afrobeat rhythm or a Touareg guitar groove into their own work. Blur’s Damon Albarn was determined to take the process to another level with Africa Express, creating an open-door platform to bring together African and Anglo-American musicians. Over the last decade, Africa Express has curated a series of fascinating collaborations, both onstage and on record, as the likes of Paul McCartney, Paul Weller and Roots Manuva have jammed with Amadou & Mariam, Bassekou Kouyaté and countless others, exposing African music to a mainstream rock audience as never before. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Various Artists, Africa Express Presents Terry Riley’s in C Mali (Transgressive, 2014)
There’s been a big boom in Balkan brass in recent years, kicked off by Emir Kusturica and Goran Bregović in the landmark film Underground. It’s become an international party music led by Serbia’s Boban Marković, Macedonia’s Kočani Orkestar and Romania’s Fanfare Ciocărlia. The huge Guča festival has become symbol of Balkan brass in all its intoxicating excess. But the music is nothing new. It was born from a fusion of the military bands of the Ottoman Turks and the Habsburg Empire in the 19th century. SB
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Boban & Marko Marković Orchestra vs Fanfare Ciocărlia, Balkan Brass Battle (Asphalt Tango, 2011)
Originating in Colombia’s Caribbean coastal region, the rhythms of cumbia are said to lie in a courtship dance practiced among African slaves, but were swiftly fused with Hispanic influences to create a tropical Afro-Caribbean dance style that went viral across South America. The golden age of traditional cumbia came in the mid-20th century when its influence reached North America and the likes of Nat King Cole recorded cumbia songs. But in recent years the music has been given a contemporary, urban twist to enjoy a thrilling revival on club dance floors as tecnocumbia and nu-cumbia, incorporating elements of hip-hop, dancehall, dub and electronica. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Various Artists, The Rough Guide to Cumbia (World Music Network, 2013)
West African musical heritage has for centuries been preserved by a hereditary griot caste that has handed down traditional knowledge and virtuosi from father to son. Toumani Diabaté, currently the poet laureate among the world’s kora players, claims a griot lineage of family musicians stretching back 71 generations. His father, Sidiki Diabaté, who originally hailed from the Gambia, was a kora player of legendary fame and his younger brother Mamadou Sidiki Diabaté is a prominent virtuoso. Toumani’s son, also named Sidiki, is the latest recruit to the family tradition, recently recording a spectacular album of kora duets with his father. Another branch of the family, the Jobartehs, continues to dominate Gambian kora playing. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, Toumani & Sidiki (World Circuit, 2014)
The golden age of Ethiopian music ran from the 1950s to the 70s, when the likes of Mahmoud Ahmed, Tlahoun Gèssèssè and Mulatu Astatke filled the nightclubs of Addis Ababa with an intoxicating style of Ethio-jazz, which hypnotically blended pentatonic Ethiopian scales with Western instrumentation. This spectacular but fading heritage was brought back into the spotlight by the award-winning Éthiopiques series of CD reissues, launched by the French ethnomusicologist Francis Falceto on Buda Musique in 1998, and which now runs to a treasure trove of 29 volumes. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Various Artists, The Very Best of Éthiopiques (Manteca, 2007)
There’s been a recent revival of Portuguese fado as a new generation of young artists have become interested in its melancholic beauty. The music was born in Lisbon in the early 19th century, became internationally famous in the 1950s, thanks to Amália Rodrigues, but was seen as tainted by the fascist regime a er the revolution that overthrew the dictatorship in 1974. That’s now forgotten and singers like Mariza, Ana Moura, Cristina Branco, Carminho and Gisela João have driven a spectacular rebirth in Portugal and increasingly around the world. Male singers seem less exportable but Carlos do Carmo and Ricardo Ribeiro are superb. And fado’s secret weapon, of course, is the tingling beauty of the Portuguese guitar. SB See also The Songlines Essential 10: Portuguese Fado Albums.
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Mariza, Transparente (EMI, 2005)
Paul Simon landed himself in hot water when he flew to South Africa in 1985 to begin recording Graceland with black township musicians. Accused of breaking the UN’s cultural boycott against the apartheid regime, with the distance of time the controversy now seems perverse and his response unanswerable. ‘What it represented was the essence of anti-apartheid in that it was a collaboration between blacks and whites to make music that people everywhere enjoyed,’ he said. ‘It was completely the opposite from what the apartheid regime said, which is that one group of people were inferior. Here, there were no inferiors or superiors, just an acknowledgement of everybody’s work as a musician. It was a powerful statement.’ Whatever the politics, he created a landmark album in the history of world music, which won a Grammy award and took the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo to a global audience. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Paul Simon, Graceland (Warner Bros, 1986)
One of the world’s greatest acoustic guitar traditions, this solo fingerpicked style is as it says: the practice of loosening some strings from standard tunings to make opening tunings. Sweet and soulful, personal and flexible, with the thumb playing bassline and the fingers improvising around the melody, slack-key has been evolving since the 1830s (when Spanish and Mexican cowboys brought guitars to Hawaii) but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it surged in popularity. Look out for albums by late elders such as Gabby Pahinui and Sonny Chillingworth and by George Kahumoku Jr and young innovator, Makana Cameron. JC
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Makana Cameron, Ki Ho’Alu: A Journey of Hawaiian Slack Key (Punahele, 2003)
Founded by Chris Blackwell, Island Records brought reggae to the world in the 1970s via the likes of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Toots and the Maytals and Burning Spear. Inspired by the label’s success in transforming a rhythm from a tiny Caribbean island into a global musical powerhouse, in the 80s it became the first major label to take world music seriously, signing King Sunny Adé, Salif Keita, Angélique Kidjo and Baaba Maal, among others. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM King Sunny Adé, Juju Music (Island, 1982)
The compositions of the classically-trained ‘Tom’ Jobim encapsulate the essence of Brazilian cool. The prime mover behind the creation of bossa nova, his ‘Garota de Ipanema’ (The Girl from Ipanema) is not only the best-known example of the lilting genre but became one of the most recorded songs of all time after bossa nova took off not only in Rio but conquered the world and was championed by American jazz musicians. Jobim’s compositions have been recorded by almost every significant Brazilian artist and the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, both of whom recorded entire albums of his songs. NW See also Bossa nova – the Ultimate Guide
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Antônio Carlos Jobim, The Girl from Ipanema: The Antônio Carlos Jobim Songbook (Verve, 1995)
Fela Anikulapo Kuti, aka ‘he who carries death in his pouch,’ wasn’t just the man who invented Afrobeat, that fiery mix of jazz, soul, funk, highlife and traditional Nigerian and Ghanaian music. He was one of the 20th century’s most influential African figures. A singer, saxophonist and bandleader whose music gave voice to the oppressed, he withstood the wrath of corrupt Nigerian governments. When Fela died in 1997, a million people joined his funeral procession through Lagos. His sons Femi and Seun, along with the likes of Dele Sosimi are keeping the Afrobeat flag flying. JC See also Fela Kuti: A Beginner’s Guide
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Fela Kuti, The Best of the Black President, Vols 1 & 2 (Knitting Factory Records)
A recent biography of the folklorist Alan Lomax was subtitled The Man Who Recorded the World. And it was no exaggeration, for Lomax’s role in preserving folk music from around the globe was unparalleled. His starting point was accompanying his father on his first field trip to the Deep South in 1933, the pair discovered Lead Belly and recorded his vast repertoire. Working for the Library of Congress, Lomax recorded the likes of Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie and Big Bill Broonzy and then turned his attention to the rest of the world, in particular Scotland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Russia, Romania and the Caribbean. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Various Artists, Alan Lomax Popular Songbook (Rounder, 2003)
Known as ‘Mama Africa’, the singing conscience of her people, Makeba was still a wide-eyed ingénue in her 20s when she went into exile in the late 50s. She became the first black South African artist to become an international star with hits such as ‘Pata Pata’. She was not able to return home to South Africa until 1990. By then she had become perhaps second only to Mandela as an ambassador for those suffering under the yoke of apartheid and an emblem for the perseverance and fortitude of a continent. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Miriam Makeba, Mama Africa (Milan, 2015)
The ney is a reed flute that is central to the mystical Sufi music in Turkey and Iran. When you hear the yearning, breathy, plaintive sounds of the ney you are transported into a spiritual dimension – which is why it’s so frequently used in film soundtracks. It’s at the heart of the music of the Mevlevi (whirling dervishes). Rumi’s most famous poem begins with the ney lamenting being cut from the reed bed as a symbol of man being disconnected from God. As Rumi has become the world’s most popular mystic poet, so the ney has become the mystical instrument of choice worldwide. Foremost among Turkish players, Kudsi Erguner comes from several generations of neyzen in Istanbul and is a true master of the instrument. SB See also Sufi music: A Beginner’s Guide
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Kudsi Erguner, Ney: The Sacred Flute of the Whirling Dervishes (Al Sur, 1996)
The Buena Vista Social Club was never meant to be a band. But what a band it turned out to be. The Grammy-winning 1997 disc and its follow-up albums made superstars of the likes of crooner Ibrahim Ferrer, pianist Rubén González and the ‘Fiancée of filin,’ Omara Portuondo. They toured the world and then they toured it again, with new members coming in to replace each elderly Cuban maestro who chachachá-ed off to the sky. After 20 glorious years the BVSC recently bid farewell with an extensive world tour deftly prefixed by ‘Orquesta.’ Less adiós, perhaps, than ¡hasta la vista! JC
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club (World Circuit, 1997)
Argentinian tango has enjoyed several golden ages inspired by many bold innovators, including such early pioneers as Carlos Gardel and Aníbal Troilo. But it was the work of composer, bandoneón player and arranger Astor Piazzolla from the 1950s onwards that radically opened up tango, incorporating elements from jazz and classical music into a style that came to be known as nuevo tango. A cerebral haemorrhage in 1990 left him in a coma from which he never regained consciousness. He died two years later at the relatively young age of 71 but he’s still tango’s towering titan. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Astor Piazzolla, Tango: Zero Hour (Nonesuch, 1986)
It perhaps seems unlikely that qawwali, a spiritual music from the Islamic shrines of Pakistan and India could become a worldwide musical sensation, but that is what happened thanks to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1948-1997). Qawwali as a musical form goes back to the 13th century and features lead and supporting vocals, with clapping and percussion. It envelops you like an ocean. Nusrat had long been recognised as a sensational performer in Pakistan, and then started performing in the West. His performances at WOMAD led to several recordings for Real World and collaborations with Michael Brook. SB See also Sufi music: A Beginner’s Guide
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Mustt Mustt (Real World, 1990)
The name derives from the Spanish word rumbo, which means ‘par ,’ and although, like salsa, the term has become something of a catch-all, its use invariably guarantees a good time. In Cuba, rumba was initially used to describe a specific dance form but became a term for almost any percussive, upbeat party music. ‘El Manisero’ (The Peanut Vendor), which became the first Cuban million-seller in the 1930s, is widely acknowledged as the launch pad of a pre-rock’n’roll worldwide ‘rumba craze’ spearheaded by the likes of Pérez Prado and Beny Moré. It remains at the heart of Cuban dance music but has also migrated to Africa where rumba congolaise evolved into soukous, while flamenco rumba and rumba catalane are popular forms in Spain. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Beny Moré with Pérez Prado and His Orchestra, El Barbaro del Ritmo (Pure Sounds, 1995)
‘S’ is for sitar and for its most virtuosic exponent – for surely no musician has ever been more synonymous with his instrument than Ravi Shankar. His sitar playing reaffirmed the history and the beauty of Indian classical music and its highest form of expression in the raga. But he was also a great innovator who brought Indian music to Western audiences via collaborations with the likes of violinist Yehudi Menuhin and George Harrison. Today his daughter and foremost pupil Anoushka Shankar continues his work. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Ravi Shankar, India’s Master Musician (EMI/Angel, 1999)
The snaking electric guitar lines and funky, camel-gait rhythms of Tinariwen sounded enticingly and exotically new when first unleashed on the world via their debut album in 2001 – the same year the group helped to launch the now famous Festival in the Desert in the remote sand dunes of northern Mali, where the Touareg make their nomadic home. Since then a caravan of further Touareg guitar groups such as Teraka, Toumast and Tamikrest has emerged from the desert to make the sound familiar without ever losing its thrill. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Tinariwen, Aman Iman (Independiente, 2007)
‘Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, from glen to glen, and down the mountain side’ is perhaps the most famous opening line in Irish song – and nothing characterises Celtic music better than the haunting sound of the uilleann pipes. With their bittersweet tone, the Irish pipes have a quite different harmonic structure and richer emotional range than the Scottish bagpipes and have produced a long line of virtuoso players, the most revered of whom is Séamus Ennis (1919-1982), who was first recorded by Alan Lomax in 1951. Na Píobairí Uilleann, co-founded by Ennis in 1968, is an organisation dedicated to the promotion of the uilleann pipes and its music. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Séamus Ennis, Forty Years of Irish Piping (Green Linnet, 1974)
After Sibelius and heavy metal, Värttinä (the Finnish word for ‘spindle’) must be Finland’s biggest musical success. They combine elements of their fellow musicians in their unique approach – Sibelius’ love for the old runo songs of Karelia with the full-on vocal power of metalheads. It’s the fiery female vocals and a sense of women power that makes the Värttinä sound. The group celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2013 and the current vocalists are founding member Mari Kaasinen, together with Susan Aho and Karoliina Kantelinen. SB
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Värttinä, Miero (Real World, 2006)
Founded by Peter Gabriel and some of his mates in 1980, this good-natured celebration of multicultural arts, music and dance takes place each July in the pastoral grounds of Charlton Park, a stately home owned by the Earl of Suffolk, in Wiltshire. Similar events happen in other countries around the world, including Australia’s stellar WOMADelaide. A three-day platform for artists from everywhere, WOMAD is a microcosm of a world we all should be living in, what with its Global Village and one-love vibe. Look out for the tall, trademark silk flags, flapping gently over an alt-music utopia. JC
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Various Artists, 30: Real World at WOMAD (Real World, 2012)
Go anywhere in Greece, and they know the name Xylouris. But go to Crete, the home of this musical dynasty, and they call them by other names too: Psarantonis, the great singer and lyra player; his lute-playing brother, Psaroyiannis; and their late sibling Psaranikos, aka the singer and lyra player Nikos Xylouris, a figurehead for the movement that brought down the military junta in 1973. There’s also George Xylouris, singer, lauto player and Psarantonis’ son; George’s oud-playing brother, Lambis; and sister and singer Nicki. Then there’s George’s three Greek-Australian kids, and George’s current project Xylouris White, a duo with Dirty Three drummer Jim White. Music in the DNA? Obviously. JC
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Psarantonis & the Ensemble Xylouris, Mountain Rebels (Network, 2008)
The best-known African singer in the world, thanks largely to his collaborations with Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Neneh Cherry for the international 1994 megahit ‘7 Seconds’, Youssou’s celebrity eventually led to him becoming a Senegalese MP. But political office remains secondary to his supple, soulful tenor voice and the thrilling dance style known as mbalax, which he pioneered and has elevated him to the role of globally-feted ambassador not only for Senegalese music but for African culture in general. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Youssou N’Dour, The Guide (Wommat) (Sony, 1994)
Zimbabwe’s transition from white colonial rule to independent republic may have soured in recent years, but its music has provided an indestructible backbeat through good times and bad. The jit jive of the Bhundu Boys made them one of the best-known African acts of the late 80s and the singer and guitarist Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi remains an iconic figure. But the undisputed ‘Lion of Zimbabwe’ is Thomas Mapfumo, who adopted traditional mbira (thumb piano) into a contemporary style and soundtracked the liberation war with his militant chimurenga music. He then became a critic of the Mugabe regime and went into exile in the US, but his music remains as potent as ever. NW
RECOMMENDED ALBUM Thomas Mapfumo, The Chimurenga Singles 1976-1980 (Shanachie, 1984)
This article originally appeared in Songlines #110 (Aug/Sept 2015). Subscribe to Songlines
Photo credits: George Kahumoku Jr (© Matt Thayer); Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (© Ishida Masataka); Youssou N’Dour (© Youri Lenquette)
Q&A by Birikiti Pegram, Songlines intern
Traditionally, mbira is a sacred instrument used to communicate with ancestral spirits in religious ceremonies and social gatherings. From the 1980s it became popularised by artists such as Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi who began to incorporate traditional sounds into their contemporary styles, including transcribing mbira music onto electric guitar. Chikwata.263 are a Zimbabwean band taking mbira music into uncharted punk territory. Band members Hector Rufaro Mugani (mbira) and Tomas Brickhill (guitar and vocals), talk to us about their ‘mbira punk’ sound.
How did Chikwata.263 form?
Hector: It started at The Book Café Open Mic in Harare where we just started jamming. We got a gig with Alliance Francaise Harare before we even had a name. Then the came the name – chikwata means ‘team’ in Shona, one of the three official national languages, and ‘263’ is Zimbabwe’s international dialing code. We started the punkalicous gigs and the band started happening.
Tomas: The band quickly became noticed because we had a very original sound from the start. We came together in the spirit of a band where no one individual had ultimate say over our playlist, our sound or anything, but rather each band member brought something to the table that added to the whole chikwata sound.
You describe your style as ‘mbira punk’. How is that different from popular mbira music in general?
Tomas: There are contemporary mbira players like Chiwoniso, Hope Masike and Netsayi whose styles include traditional, jazz, Afro-pop and reggae. We also have a lot of different influences in the music but the defining elements of our sound are the mbira and punk rock guitar.
Hector: The mbira is being used as an instrument rather than a genre of music. We also apply distortion to the mbira to give it a rock sound.
How do people react to your music?
Hector: They usually just stand in utter surprise and then go wild. We have played for elite crowds as well as rural folks and we have had an awesome response. One Italian fan had to go for knee surgery after she broke it while dancing, but she kept on dancing with a broken knee.
Tomas: We opened for a lot of bands in our first year including Andy Brown, Suluman Chimbetu and Victor Kunonga and although we began some of those shows with a few bemused looks, by the end we always managed to win the audience over.
What about the mbira ‘purists’ who champion the spiritual role of the instrument in more traditional contexts?
Tomas: We’ve actually had a lot of love from people we didn’t expect and last year the Mbira Society even voted us ‘Mbira Band of the Year’.
Hector: I’ve had a mixed reaction with mbira purists. Some have accepted that is the route I have decided to take with the mbira and support me, with the understanding that I have high respect for the mbira and the spiritual world. Some have not received it well. It’s like politics, some people don’t like you and some do.
What was the most memorable gig you have ever played?
Tomas: For me, the most memorable show so far has been our performance at the Zimbabwe Youth Festival last year. The crowd had never heard of us and the stage manager wanted to cut our set short before we even got on, but we played one of our best performances and the crowd went crazy.
Hector: The Afro. Rock. Reggae. gig last November where we played with Mathias Julius and Mokoomba. That is the last gig we played with the legendary Zimbabwean lead guitarist, the late Andy Brown, who was a great inspiration to the band.
I hear that you ‘punked’ Chiwoniso. What does that involve, and how did she take it?
Hector: We played her music our way, how Chikwata.263 would play it. I am not sure how she took it but she was smiling, dancing and singing. She did not get off the stage and wants to play another gig with us, so I think it worked well.
Tomas: Chiwoniso is very close to Chikwata.263 and has made surprise guest appearances at a number of our shows before we punked her. It went down really well, both with her and with her fans. We recently did the same thing with Jazz diva Dudu Manhenga [photos here] and have plans to continue that series of shows by punking Alexio Kawara, Victor Kunonga, Hope Masike and eventually hopefully even Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi.
You recently played a gig with Mokoomba. What was it like to perform with them?
Tomas: We actually played a lot of our early shows with Mokoomba and there’s a lot of love between the two bands. I personally find their performances full of energy and fun on stage and that’s really our attitude too.
Hector: It was nice sharing the stage with them after a long time. Really amazing band! Looking forward to have another gig with them
What are future plans for the band?
Tomas: We are trying to get our debut album finished for Christmas but there’s already a demo album, which people can download for free from our Reverbnation or Facebook pages. We’ve already had a couple of mini-tours in Zimbabwe, but we’re hoping to tour South Africa towards the end of this year or early next year and hopefully more possibilities might open up for us after that.
Hector: Rocking the world! A studio recording is underway and we will soon be planning to jump out of Zimbabwe to face the world.
Do you think you might inspire a new brand of mbira music?
Hector: Maybe not a new brand of mbira music but we have triggered a lot of mbira players to start thinking in a different way. Find your own signature, a new way, your way.
Tomas: I think there’s a whole lot of untapped potential when you look at the mbira as a musical instrument – I’ve heard mbira versions of classic jazz standards and Hector has already played reggae mbira on Mannex Motsi’s album so I think there are already a lot more options than just thinking of traditional mbira music. But if people start claiming we inspired a new brand of mbira music that would be just fine.
Where can we non-Zimbabwe-based music fans hear or watch Chikwata.263?
Tomas: We started with the view that we should concentrate on our live shows, because there’s nothing worse than hearing a track you love by some band and then when you see them live they suck, so for the moment there’s just a couple of videos on YouTube and our demo album on our Reverbnation or Facebook pages, but we’re working on our online presence at the moment so that we can start to reach more people.
Hector: Visit our website, chikwata263.blogspot.com. You can also fly to Zimbabwe for one of our shows.