For this round-up, the horizon extends to England, and Spain, as well as Africa, in a look at what's been keeping my CD player occupied over recent weeks from the World Music scene.
Orchestra Baobab are one of the finest groups to ever emerge out of the African Continent. "Pirate's Choice" is a remastered update of a session that was cut in Dakar, Senegal in 1982, and now has been extended to a double CD with six extra tracks included. Everything on the album was cut live in the studio, and it is easy to see why the music has been cherished by so many people over the years. Although the Latin and Cuban influence are evident, Orchestra Baobab were making a move away from the Afro-Cuban sound that had been so prominent in Africa up to that time. The end result
is a style that is subtle, and mellow, with plenty of happy uplifting guitar, strong percussive rhythms, some excellent saxophone all topped off in several places by harmony vocals. On the first CD there are three reworkings of Cuban tunes, and the most obvious reference point for many will be Buena Vista Social Club, especially on the sublime "Ultra Horas" which opens proceedings. There's plenty for dancing too, such as the rumba rhythms of "Coumba," or you can just kick back and relax to the likes of
"Soldadi" which closes the first CD. The second CD contains the additional tunes, and they are certainly up to the standard of the previously released material. There's even a touch of African reggae in the gently lilting beat of "Ngalam," and it comes through even stronger on the closing "Balla Dafe," whilst the Latin influence shines through strongest on "La Rebellion." The overall result is one of those albums that you could sit back and listen to, over and over again, without ever tiring of it. "Pirate's Choice" is one of the best albums ever to come out of Africa, and every home should own at least one copy. The good news is that although the band broke up shortly after the album's original release, they have recently reformed, albeit with a revised line-up, and have been touring, so
look out for more to come.
Xosé Manuel Budiño
(Virgin/Yerba Buena 8494532)
On "Arredor" Galician piper Xosé Manuel Budiño shows why he is pretty hot property. It is the follow up to his highly rated debut "Paralaia," and although perhaps less varied than its predecessor, it is definitely not formulaic. This is piping for the modern world, fused with a range of instruments old and new, including some programmed beats from co-producer Donald Shaw, who also plays keyboards. Most of the tunes are instrumentals
written by Budiño, apart from "Se Souberas" where the highly regarded Mercedes Peón sings her own lyrics. Budiño is something of a multi-instrumentalist, playing low whistle, as well as a variety of pipes, and whatever he does he does well. There are not many obvious reference points for pipe music, although the band line-up does heavily feature
accordion, so sometimes the sound approaches that of some tracks by the likes of Sharon Shannon. Pipes do tend to be something of an acquired taste, unless you have the music in your blood, so the uninitiated may want to test the waters first. A good place to start is either the title track, which opens the album, or the second track "Fala Da Noite" both of which are a bit different but offer a good insight into where Budiño is coming from. Apparently, the band are a storming live act, but until you get a chance to see them in the flesh, "Arredor" will do very nicely, thank you. Recommended.
Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros
Global A Go-Go
(Hellcat Records 0440-2)
It is many years since Joe Strummer and the Clash parted company, but he still retains at least some of his ideals, and can translate them into song. "Global A Go-Go," the latest outing from Strummer and the Mescaleros, sees them branch further into World fusion, by including a range of instruments that you would not normally expect to hear on an English album. The band retain some of the angst and power of the Clash around the time of "Rockin' the Casbah" (from "Combat Rock"). You would not need anyone to
tell you that Joe Strummer is on vocals after hearing the first line of the excellent opener, "Johnny Appleseed." The multicultural influences come thick and fast throughout the album. In particular, there's a touch of Irish on several tracks (largely due to Tymon Dogg on violin), African guitars and percussion, blues ("Mega Bottle Ride"), Latin ("Mondo Bongo"), and even some dub reggae ("At the Border, Guy"). The song which perhaps
sums up the whole raison d'etre of the band is "Bhindi Bagee" which offers the band's reflections on the multicultural nature of modern Britain. Also worthy of special mention is the re-working of the traditional instrumental "Minstrel Boy" which runs to 17 minutes. It just sort of meanders along quite happily, but never seems dull or boring, and will have you whistling along by the time you get half way through it. This is the modern sound of
English folk music. Highly recommended.
Radio Tisdas Sessions
(Wayward Records 703)
Tinariwen got together in 1982, providing a means of expressing the feelings of exile and struggle against the oppression of the nomads of the Sahara. "Radio Tisdas Sessions" was recorded at the local Tamashek radio station in Mali over a fortnight at the end of 2000. Recordings could only be made between 7pm and midnight because that was the only time when electricity was available. It is all raw, nerve scraping stuff that bristles with emotion, and is aptly described as "Desert Blues". If you can imagine a cross between the music of Ali Farka Toure and Junior Kimbrough you get somewhere close to the Tinariwen sound. The main instrument is the electric guitar, which is used to provide relatively simple repetitive refrains, backed by a percussive beat, all fronted by raw, soulful vocals. The opening track, "Le Chant Des Fauves" provides a fair reflection of the
sort of thing to expect from the rest of the album. Sometimes the tunes are almost trance-like (the superb "Zin Es Gourmeden"), and in places they almost sound like daytime radio material (especially "Matoraden Anexan"). The album ends with a live version of "Tin Essako" which fades after three minutes and provides plenty of evidence that the band can deliver the goods on stage. If you like your music brimming with passion and intensity, this is as good as it gets. Highly recommended.
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