Posts Tagged ‘africa express’

Songlines Music Awards 2016: The Winners

Posted on May 4th, 2016 in Features, News, Recent posts by .

Songlines Music Awards 2016

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

This year we’ve shaken up our awards, so as well as our usual Best Artist and Best Group awards – as voted by Songlines readers – we have five new geographical awards based on our reviews sections, as well as the World Pioneer and Newcomer Awards chosen by our editorial team.

Join us on October 3 at the Barbican in London for this year’s Songlines Music Awards Winners’ Concert, featuring performances by Mariza, Debashish Bhattacharya and others still to be announced. Tickets go on general sale at 10am on Friday (For more details visit www.barbican.org.uk or call 020 7638 8891

Hear editor-in-chief Simon Broughton introducing and playing music from all of this year’s winners, on the Songlines podcast, available as a free download on iTunes.


 Words by Nigel Williamson

Best Artist
Mariza 
(Mundo on Parlophone)

Songlines Music Awards Mariza

Back after a five-year recording hiatus, Mariza returned in 2015 with an album that was not so much a reinvention as a bold expansion of her role as fado’s foremost global ambassador. Adding sparkling pop ballads and subtle washes of electronica to her traditional roots, Mundo was an unalloyed triumph, her artistry hitting dynamic new heights and her voice expressing every emotional nuance, whether singing a gentle and intimate lullaby for her young son or melodramatically letting rip on the high notes with the force of an operatic diva.

Sympathetically helmed by the Spanish world music producer Javier Limón – whose previous credits include Buika and Anoushka Shankar – it’s an album that she describes as “the most personal I’ve ever made” and an invitation into her most private world. “I didn’t want any effects on my voice,” she told Songlines. “I wanted people to feel I was singing just next to their ear, like I’m right beside them, each listener as my solo audience.” Now in her early 40s, she emerges not only as the finest fado singer of her generation, but one of the world’s most charismatic artists, bridging traditional and popular forms in transcendental style.

 

Best Group
Africa Express (Terry Rileyʼs In C Mali on Transgressive Records)

Songlines Music Awards Terry Riley Africa Express

The notion of unleashing a group of West African musicians playing traditional instruments on the music of the American composer Terry Riley was an audacious piece of lateral thinking and arguably the most satisfying project yet to emerge under the banner of Damon Albarn’s Africa Express. Dispensing with the conceptual score and allowing the Malian musicians to interpret German conductor André de Ridder’s violin notations as they saw fit, the results were revelatory as centuries of African trance ritual add a warm looseness to Riley’s minimalist 60s composition. Albarn, Brian Eno and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs represent the Western contingent but it’s the African cohort on kalimba, balafon, kamelengoni and kora who provide the magic and fill the work with light and space as flutes, strings and chiming guitars join the African percussion as the ensemble reach the most thrilling of climaxes.

Although it sounds like no other version of Riley’s work, it remains true to its spirit as shifting polyrhythms and tonal and timbral changes create a sense of constant evolution, even though the same base note repeats insistently throughout the performance. Riley himself was delighted with the result, enthusing that it sounded as if his composition was “taking flight with the soul of Africa.”

 

Newcomer
Songhoy Blues (Music in Exile on Transgressive Records)

Songlines Music Awards Songhoy Blues

We have the armed jihadists who banned music when they took control of northern Mali in 2012 to thank for the existence of Songhoy Blues. Guitarist Garba Touré – whose father was a percussionist in Ali Farka Touré’s band – realised it wasn’t going to be a safe or pleasant thing to hang around Timbuktu, and like thousands of other refugees, he grabbed a bag and his guitar and boarded the first bus to Bamako. There he formed Songhoy Blues with fellow exiles Aliou Touré and Oumar Touré, subsequently joined by drummer Nathanael Dembélé.

Their first recording with American guitarist-producer Nick Zinner was trailed on the Africa Express compilation Maison des Jeunes, to which they contributed the standout track. Music in Exile, their full-length debut – again produced by Zinner, with assistance from their French manager Marc-Antoine Moreau, fully lives up to their promise as the new, rocking sound of Mali, dramatically propelling traditional African desert blues into a 21st-century urban setting. It earned them the front cover of Songlines, but the dynamic rock’n’roll heft of the recording also crossed over to receive rave reviews in rock mags such as NME, Uncut and Mojo.

 

Africa & Middle East
Seckou Keita (22 Strings on ARC Music)

Songlines Music Awards Seckou Keita

Having won the Cross-Cultural Collaboration award in the 2014 Songlines Music Awards for his album with Welsh harpist Catrin Finch, the Senegalese-born but UK-based kora player Seckou Keita picks up another richly deserved award for 22 Strings, a mostly instrumental set of exquisite solo kora playing, full of meditative grace, sublime poise and consummate elegance and which combines traditional tunes with his own compositions. Born into a griot family in Casamance in southern Senegal in 1978 but now living in England, he started playing the kora when he was seven and after backing various other acts including Baka Beyond, he released his debut solo album in 2000.

After his current solo kora album, his next project will find him returning to the collaborative path on an album of duets with the Cuban pianist Omar Sosa. “Everything in music has to be honest, and the deeper meanings of the songs and melodies must be preserved,” he says. “This is why it’s important that collaborations should be right for the music. There are connections between, say, Cuban and Indian and Welsh sounds and the repertoire of the kora. They can be explored without losing the distinct flavours of the different traditions and styles.”

 

Americas
Lila Downs (Balas y Chocolate on Sony Music)

Songlines Music Awards Lila Downs

Born in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, the daughter of a Mixtec Indian mother and an American university professor, Lila Downs grew up with a multicultural vision drawn from both sides of the Rio Grande. Her nine studio albums over the course of a 22-year career have defied categorisation, weaving traditional Mexican and native Mesoamerican music with blues, jazz, cumbia, rock and finding her singing in Spanish, English and various native tongues.

Inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations, her current release Balas y Chocolate is a sizzling, gutsy, joy-giving dance album, as martial beats, rousing choruses, mariachi moods and agit-pop raps lend a festive brio. Her expressive, multi-octave voice arcs impressively from airborne falsetto to sultry contralto as she sings about subjects ranging the erosion of civil rights to political corruption, while the title-track is dedicated to migrant children. “I’m an artist and not a politician,” she says. “But music offers us the ability at desperate moments to feel the emotion that we haven’t been able to express.” Superlative sax, accordion and brass accompaniment provides a robust soundbed with stirring cameos from guest vocalists Colombian superstar Juanes and Mexican crooner Juan Gabriel as additional bonuses. Lila Downs features on the cover of the new issue (June, #118).

 

Asia & South Pacific
Debashish Bhattacharya (Slide Guitar Ragas from Dusk Till Dawn on Riverboat Records)

Songlines Music Awards Debashish

The pioneering Indian slide guitarist has been playing for more than half a century; his father gave him a Hawaiian lap steel guitar at the age of three. By the age of 15 he had designed his own Hindustani version of the slide guitar, which he called the chaturangui. He’s since created the 14-string gandharvi and the anand, a four-string lap steel ukulele, to forge what he calls “the Trinity of Guitars” and with which he has created a new instrumental language for traditional Indian music.

His 2009 album Calcutta Chronicles earned a Grammy nomination and he’s recorded collaborative discs with the late Bob Brozman and with John McLaughlin. On Slide Guitar Ragas from Dusk Till Dawn he traces a musical journey from dawn to dusk. As emotionally compelling as it is technically impressive, his creative virtuosity makes it easy to forget that he’s playing a guitar rather than a more traditional Indian stringed instrument. “The music I play is universal, rooted deep in thousands of years of tradition,” he says. “It has the essence of peace, harmony and bliss. But it’s essentially modern, engulfing the mood of reggae, hip-hop, rock, jazz and blues. That’s what my music is all about.”

 

Europe
Sam Lee (The Fade in Time on Nest Collective Records)

Songlines Music Awards Sam Lee

Born in North London to Jewish parents, after studying at Chelsea art college and working as a burlesque dancer, Lee discovered the arcane but resonant heritage of the UK and Ireland’s Gypsy culture and then ‘went native,’ spending several years collecting and learning songs and ballads from Traveller and Gypsy communities all over the UK and Ireland. He also picked up the lilting vocal style of Gypsy song and the fruits of his research were heard on his 2012 debut album Ground of its Own, which was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize.

On The Fade in Time he gives the stories and melodies he collected an ambitious and imaginatively modern platform, backed by a band that comprises violin, cello, piano, percussion and Japanese koto (zither), and adding everything from Bollywood beats and Polynesian textures to the reek and smoke of our own island’s living traditions. “There’s a difference between songs the Gypsies sang and songs you learned at Cecil Sharp House,” he says. “I decided I’d throw flames on what tradition is left out there. I’m a tree-climber and this music is for me like being up in the branches, knowing you are connected by its roots, deep into the earth.”

 

Fusion
Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal (Musique de Nuit on No Format!)

Songlines Music Awards Ballake Sissoko Vincent Segal

Malian kora maestro Sissoko and the French cellist Segal were first heard playing together on 2009’s exquisite Chamber Music. Their second album of stringed magic, Musique de Nuit, sparkles with an even greater lustre, drawing organically on the twin heritages of West African oral tradition and European conservatoire classicism, spiced by the innate musical curiosity and openness of two musicians who appear to respond almost telepathically to each other. That’s hardly surprising as between the two discs they toured the world, playing more than 200 concerts as a duo and refining and developing their collaboration in countless hours spent jamming, experimenting and improvising. “We wanted to go further with the second record,” Sissoko told Songlines. “The magic of the first album lay in the meeting itself and our coming together. We didn’t know how it was going to go. This record has come out of our shared experience since then, although it’s also very improvisational and natural.” Mostly recorded under the stars on Sissoko’s rooftop in Bamako, the setting lends an exotic ambience to an album of subtle arrangements and inventive improvisational interplay that feels as fresh as it is timeless.

 

World Pioneer Award
Chris Blackwell

Songlines Music Awards Chris Blackwell

Island Records’ founder Chris Blackwell was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 for having discovered and signed Jethro Tull, Free, Roxy Music, Grace Jones and U2 among numerous other rock legends. But his citation also described him as ‘the person most responsible for turning the world on to reggae music’ and it is for his incalculable contribution to promoting Jamaican and African artists for which he is honoured here. He launched Island Records in Jamaica in 1958 and was soon exporting early ska recordings to the UK, topping the charts in 1964 with Millie Small’s ‘My Boy Lollipop’, arguably the first ‘world music’ crossover hit.

His signing of Bob Marley & The Wailers in 1973 was a seminal moment and he then went on to introduce Nigeria’s King Sunny Adé to an international audience. After selling Island he established the Mango and Palm Pictures imprints with a stellar roster that included Salif Keita, Baaba Maal and Angélique Kidjo. Blackwell’s 80th birthday next year is certain to prompt a host of industry tributes that will inevitably concentrate on his rock’n’roll triumphs –hence our decision to recognise separately his immense contribution to world music by making him the inaugural recipient of the Songlines World Pioneer Award.

 

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A to Z of World Music

Posted on September 30th, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .

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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

atozAAfrica Express

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)

 

atozBBalkan Brass

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)

 

atozCCumbiaCumbia

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)

 

atozDDiabaté dynasty

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)

 

atozEÉthiopiques series

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)

 

atozFFado

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)

 

atozGGraceland

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)

 

atozHGeorge-Kahumoku-Jr-Matt-Thayer-Free1Hawaiian slack-key

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)

 

atozIIsland Records

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)

 

atozJAntônio Carlos Jobim

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)

 

atozKFela-Kuti-free2Fela Kuti

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)

 

atozLAlan Lomax

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)

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A to Z of World Music (Part 2)

Posted on September 30th, 2015 in News, Recent posts by .

atozMMiriam Makeba

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)

 

atozNNey

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)

 

atozOOrquesta Buena Vista Social Club

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)

 

atozPAstor Piazzolla

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)

 

atozQNusrat-Fateh-Ali-Khan-Ishida-Masataka-FreeQawwali

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)

 

atozRRumba

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)

 

atozSSitar/Shankar

‘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)

 

atozTTouareg

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)

 

atozUUilleann pipes

‘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)

 

atozVVärttinä

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)

 

atozWWOMAD

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)

 

atozXXylouris

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)

 

atozYYoussou-N'Dour-Youri-Lenquette-FreeYoussou N’Dour

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)

 

atozZZimbabwe

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)

 

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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)

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BBC 6music Celebrates African Music Weekend

Posted on January 13th, 2014 in News, Recent posts by .

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BBC 6Music Celebrates African Music this weekend

BBC 6Music are to dedicate an entire weekend (January 17-19) to playing music from across the continent of Africa. Presenters and guests will play their favourite tunes from African artists in recognition and celebration of African music. Gideon Coe, Rita Ray, Tom Ravenscroft, Mary Anne Hobbs, and Songlines columnist Cerys Matthews will join Tom Robinson in encouraging the station’s listeners to create their own Africa-inspired playlist on his Now Playing @6Music show.

Mali Music, a new documentary presented by Gemma Cairney, will be the main focus of the event. It will include a look at Damon Albarn’s Africa Express project where Malian musicians joined together with Western artists like Brian Eno, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, and Ghostpoet in a musical fusion of styles.

Mali Music will air on 6Music on Sunday January 19 at 1pm-2pm. 

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