Posts Tagged ‘cecil sharp project’

The 50 Greatest World Music Albums of the Last Five Years (Part 4)

Posted on August 23rd, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .

Editor Jo Frost and editor-in-chief Simon Broughton choose their favourite albums from 2011…


Anda Union

The Wind Horse

(Hohhot Records)

Undoubtedly one of the most talked about bands at WOMAD 2011, this group of throat-singing, horse head fiddle players are from Inner Mongolia, China. Musically, there are similarities with the Tuvan group Huun Huur Tu, but with the addition of two excellent female singers. Their highly evocative music conjures up impressions of vast expanses of sparsely populated grasslands, as depicted in a documentary about the band recently shown at the London Film Festival. This album is definitely one for equine fans – the whinnying sounds they make on ‘Galloping Horses’ is quite amazing. JF




Laru Beya

(Real World)

It’s thanks to the late Belizean singer Andy Palacio that the culture and music of the Central American Garifuna people is known internationally. Aurelio Martinez dedicates this album to his friend and mentor, with a particularly beautiful song written in Palacio’s honour, ‘Wamada’. In addition to the drum and percussion heavy Garifuna rhythms, there are contributions from Youssou N’Dour and Orchestra Baobab – a result of Aurelio’s Rolex Mentor-Protégé initiative with Youssou back in 2007 [see #64]. These West African vocal additions were recorded on one of Aurelio’s trips to Dakar, tracing the roots of his ancestors – he describes this album as ‘a homecoming.’ Palacio’s Garifuna legacy is in safe hands with Aurelio. JF




Boban & Marko Marković Orkestar and Fanfare Ciocărlia

Balkan Brass Battle

(Asphalt Tango)

The story is a great one – the two top Gypsy bands in the Balkans go head to head. Boban and Marko Marković, the kings of Balkan brass from the ‘Trubacka Republika’ (Trumpet Republic) of Serbia versus Fanfare Ciocărlia, the peasant upstarts, from Romania. Each band does a few of their own tunes, they each do a version of Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’ and they do four tracks together. A gristly gobbet of the best of Balkan brass. SB



Blind Note

Blind Note


It’s the haunting sound of the Armenian duduk on the opening track ‘Chiraki Par’ that initially got me hooked. Then there’s the fact that the musicians, from Armenia, Turkey, Mexico, Senegal and Madagascar, all now based in Belgium, recorded the album in aid of a Belgian NGO, Light for the World, who raise money for blind children in Africa. But regardless of the good cause, it’s the simplicity and sensitivity of the music they’ve created that makes this album so noteworthy. Interestingly, Muziekpublique only release one or two albums a year – their main work is putting on concerts and music classes in a small venue in Brussels. JF





(EMI Portugal)

Every young fado singer has got to market themselves as the new voice of fado. But Carminho is the one to watch. She has a versatile intimacy in her voice, as if she’s talking to you personally, and some of the lyrics she’s written herself, which give songs like ‘Nunca é Silêncio Vão’ a special intensity. Featuring several fine Portuguese guitar players, this CD represents a spectacular debut with the opening ‘Escrevi teu Nome no Vento’ a particular highlight with a gorgeous melody and delivery. SB




Cecil Sharp Project

Cecil Sharp Project

(EFDSS/Shrewsbury Folk Festival)

So often, well-intended collaborative ‘projects’ look great on paper but don’t work in practice, seeming forced and lacking in real musical connection. Not so with this project, which I was privileged to witness in action when the eight musicians spent a week together coming up with the songs for a series of concerts and album [see #78]. The idea is simple enough – putting into song the experiences of English folk collector Cecil Sharp during his trip to Appalachia. It’s the quality of the musicianship and their obvious enjoyment in working and playing together that is striking, particularly on tracks such as ‘The Great Divide’ and ‘The Ghost of Songs’. JF



Dawda Jobarteh

Northern Light Gambian Night


For me the kora is the greatest of African instruments, providing a sublime accompaniment or as a marvellous solo instrument in its own right. Dawda Jobarteh comes from one of the great griot dynasties in the Gambia and, now living in Denmark, he’s produced this album in which he does both with guitarist Preben Carlsen and lots of guest musicians. One of the loveliest tracks, ‘Nkanakele’, features South Indian flute player Shashank and apparently the wild guitar on ‘Dinding Do’ is actually Dawda Jobarteh on electric kora. A great debut album from an impressive new artist and it closes with a stately duet with the supreme kora maestro Toumani Diabaté. SB



Anoushka Shankar


(Deutsche Grammophon)

The meeting of Indian music and flamenco isn’t new, but this is one of the best products of that fusion. Sitar player Anoushka Shankar (daughter of Ravi) worked with guitarist and (Grammy-award winning) producer Javier Limón on an album that really does chart a musical and emotional journey, if not a geographical one. There are great vocals from Buika, Duquende and Sandra Carrasco on the flamenco side and Shubha Mudgal and Sanjeev Chimmalgi on the Indian side and spectacular sitar duets from Anoushka and flamenco pianist Pedro Ricardo Miño and flamenco guitarist Pepe Habichuela. An exuberant recording which is one of the highlights of the year. SB






(World Village)

Söndörgő – hard to say, but easy to listen to – are a fabulous young band from Hungary. They have now started to make an international impact and this CD and their spectacular live shows are the reason. On delicate plucked tamburas, they play the music of the South Slav minorities in Hungary – virtuoso dance tunes that are fiery, but delicate. This CD, featuring Gypsy tambura master József Kovács, from whom they’ve learned many of their tunes, is a great calling card with a cross section of their repertoire as played in the southern city of Mohács. In addition to the tambura repertoire they play some great Macedonian tunes – notably the popular ‘Zajdi, Zajdi’ with their secret weapon, fabulous vocalist Kátya Tompos. SB



Abigail Washburn

City of Refuge


To describe Abigail Washburn as a singer-songwriter and banjo player seems woefully inadequate when you realise this is a woman who has become an unofficial US goodwill ambassador to China (she speaks and sings in Chinese). The illustrative album artwork, depicting a multitude of exotic-looking places and faces, is a good indication of what you’re going to hear. It’s an enchanting treasure trove of musical treats, featuring a host of instruments, from double bass, viola, guzheng (zither) and the beautiful yet rarely heard cello banjo (on ‘Bring Me My Queen’). JF

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Show of Hands, Cecil Sharp House, October 12 2012

Posted on October 17th, 2012 in Recent posts, Reviews by .

Back in April this year Show of Hands played a sell-out gig at the Royal Albert Hall – not bad for a couple of folk musicians from Devon. On Friday night they packed out another hall, this time at English folk’s home, Cecil Sharp House – a fitting venue, given Knightley’s involvement in the Cecil Sharp Song Project in 2011. The rousing support set was by North Americans Matt Gordon and Leonard Podolak (one of Knightley’s companions on the Cecil Sharp Project) who managed to warm up the crowd nicely, with some participatory arm and thigh slapping, otherwise known as hamboning.

Cecil’s House may not match the sophistication and prestige of Albert’s Hall but what it lacks in size and equipment, it more than makes up on in warmth of atmosphere. Phil Beer and Steve Knightley were joined onstage by singer and double-bass player Miranda Sykes who is so much a permanent Show of Hands fixture these days, it somehow feels wrong to call them a duo.

With no introduction, they kicked off the show, accompanied by dazzling onstage lighting, with ‘Haunt You,’ a song Knightley co-wrote with Seth Lakeman for his Poor Man’s Heaven album.

Like the fellow West Country singer Lakeman, Show of Hands boast an incredibly loyal fan base who do enjoy a sing-a-long and happily participate whenever they’re invited by Knightley to do so. There’s no doubt that much of Show of Hands’ material is eminently singable. Knightley is a highly talented songwriter who has a great knack in addressing serious and pertinent issues with really catchy lyrics – whether it be about the global banking fiasco, ‘Arrogance Ignorance & Greed’, which won them the Best Original Song Award in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in 2010 or ‘Roots’ which has become their signature song and riposte to the former Labour Culture Minister Kim Howells’ description of hell as being “three folk singers in a pub.”

Towards the end of the show, they were joined by Podolak and Gordon, on banjo and harmonica, bringing a lovely sound and different twist to ‘Aunt Maria,’ one of the songs from the Cecil Sharp Project.  They’re currently on a 28-date tour of the UK – no venues as grand as the Albert Hall – but top-class performances are guaranteed whichever venue they play.

Show of Hand’s new album Wake The Union is out now and will be reviewed in the next issue, #89.


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Sophie’s Celtic round-up

Posted on February 2nd, 2012 in Recent posts by .

Well it’s been almost 48 hours since I returned from Glasgow and the epic festival that is Celtic Connections, and although my head is still swimming and my body is suffering from too may late nights in the festival club, I thought it was time to share with you some of the highlights.

I feel that I should preface this blog by saying that I could fill a magazine with what I saw at Celtic. The wealth of talent on is simply astounding (2,100 musicians, 300 events, 20 venues over 18 days. Seriously) and the sheer quality of each and every act is just as impressive. I can say, hand on heart, that I didn’t witness a dud set. But perhaps I was just lucky (or make impeccable choices…).

My ‘gig’ based highlights included the Cecil Sharp Project, whose album I have adored since it landed here in the office. But this was my first experience of seeing them live and hearing the explanations – sometime hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking – behind each song really did bring them to life. Leonard Podolak was as crazy as I could have ever wished, donning a leather jacket and sunglasses and clucking his way around the stage during ‘Veggie in a Holler’ and although they all sounded wonderful, I was very much taken aback by the beauty of Jackie Oates’ voice. The image of the eight of them morris dancing at the end will stay with me a long, long time (round of applause for the brave Scot of the group, Patsy Reid).

CW Stoneking

Thursday night took me to the basement of Oran Mor – a converted church in the West End of Glasgow – to see CW Stoneking, who was supported by new alt country Canadian band, New Country Rehab. CW himself describes his music as “calypsonian blues, hokum and jungle music,” which says as much about his eclectic style as it does his unique stage persona. The crowd adored the slightly odd, straight-faced, Australian banjo player and joined in with gusto during the finale, ‘Lion Talkin’ Blues’.

I Draw Slow

Friday was a more sedate but equally as haunting experience at the city’s Mitchell Library where the beautiful – and heavily pregnant – Julie Fowlis was playing. During this special performance, Julie and her band performed her Bals 2011 commission, Heisgeir. The unique musical work consists of a documentary on the stunning Heisgeir (an island group west of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides) and was shown while Julie and her band played Gaelic songs from behind the screen.

Saturday saw the Sweetback Sisters rock the Arches with their country, Western swing and honky-tonk tunes [see a full review in You Should Have Been There section in the next issue of the mag, #83]. It was actually during their sound check (where I was hanging about waiting for an interview – keep your eyes peeled for this next week) that I discovered I Draw Slow, whose Irish fused Americana music I have been listening to ever since.

And then, before I knew it, it was Sunday. Which brought two more awesome musical discoveries. The first was a gorgeous lunch-time set by Laura Beth Salter, co-founder of all-female sextet The Shee, who was taking part in a New Voices session. Salter played a bluegrass-tinged set on the mandolin and sang, for the first time, her self-penned songs (accompanied by The Cecil Sharp Project’s Patsy Reid and a handful of other musicians).

Laura-Beth Salter

And then that evening, right about the time I thought I was drained of all energy, I found myself back at Oran Mor to see a band who have been on my radar for a while – Manran.

These six young Scottish lads are doing for Scottish trad music what Mumford did for English folk by reinvigorating it and re-introducing it a younger audience –blending rock guitar and drums with fiddles, flutes, Irish and Scottish bagpipes (bagpipes!) and often Gaelic lyrics.


But to imply that Celtic Connections is just about these larger venue gigs is under-selling it massively and missing on some of the spectacular (and late night) aspects of the festival. But I have made the decision that this merits a blog of its own… Stay tuned as there’s more to come.

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From Celtic Connections 2012

Posted on January 27th, 2012 in Recent posts by .

It’s all go go go (with a little bit of snow) up here in Glasgow where editor Jo Frost and I have spent the last few days. The jam-packed line-up at Celtic Connections has much to answer for in terms of lack of blogs (and sleep) as we try to cram as much in to our five days north of the border as is humanly possible.

The sheer of wealth of awesome acts has often meant making some tough choices and dashing between venues to catch 20 minutes or so of sets – all of which always leave us wanting more. Highlights so far have included Songlines favourites the Cecil Sharp Project (who are playing London tonight), King Creosote and Jon Hopkins, C W Stoneking, New Country Rehab, Fatou with Michael McGoldrick, KAN, Rua McMillan and many, many more…

But to be perfectly honest, it seems a real shame to be in a hotel room on my laptop when there’s a city to explore, more music to be heard and whiskey to be supped! So I’m going to sign off for now with a promise to report back in greater detail tomorrow.


In the meantime, here’s a nice video of Le Vent du Nord who performed last weekend:


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