In this latest occasional look at the World Music Scene, the global musical
tour bus stops off in Ireland, Spain, and East and West Africa.
(Rough Trade RTADECD019)
Cara Dillon and Estrella Morente have both adopted the same approach on
their albums, albeit to two very different kinds of music. They both take
traditional songs from their own musical culture--Ireland and the UK in
Dillon's case, and Spain for Morente--and perform them in a fairly
straightforward style, i.e., no fusion or electronic gizmos in sight. While
there does not seem to be anything particularly original in such an
approach, both of the singers are in their 20's, and they both have
Cara Dillon is currently hot property on the folk/roots scene in the UK.
She was the winner of the recent BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards best Newcomer
award. "Black Is The Colour," the opening track on her self-titled album,
also picked up the award for best traditional track. You could pick just
about any track on the album, and make a case for it, however. Dillon is
blessed with a beautiful, almost child-like voice, which she uses to great
effect to impart extra emotion into the material. Accompanied throughout by
(relatively) long time collaborator Sam Lahkeman on keyboards, this is a
wonderful album that works as background music for relaxing, or playing
loud. The choice of "I Am A Youth That's Inclined To Ramble" as the closing
track is inspired, because it leaves you wanting more. This is the sort of
album that could get traditional folk music a good name!
My Songs And A Poem
Estrella Morente is much more than a singer. She fits the bill of true
performer, which is precisely what you would expect from a flamenco
artiste. On "My Songs And A Poem" Morente sings, claps and dances her way
through a collection of traditional flamenco songs and a poem ("Moguer").
The latter has been set to music by her father, Enrique Morente, one of the
leading lights of flamenco in the late 20th Century. The selection of songs
demonstrates the wide variety of styles within the flamenco genre. The best
delivery requires high levels of intensity and passion, however, and
Morente has all that it takes and more. This enables her to carry off the
fiery tangos of "At The Top Of The Cerro De Palamares," and back it up with
the gentler Bulerias style on the aforementioned "Moguer."
In spite of being ostensibly a traditional album, Morente manages to make
flamenco sound as fresh as it ever did. This is due in part to some
excellent backing from a range of musicians (mostly on guitar) that reflect
the great and the good, including Josemi, Juan and Antonio Carmona from the
excellent Ketama. It all adds up to make "My Songs And A Poem" an excellent
album, that is well worth investigating. The fact that it is on the
comparatively mainstream Realworld label should make it easy to track down.
Orchestra Super Mazembe
Giants of East Africa
From the mid-1970's through to the early 1980's Orchestra Super Mazembe
dominated the East African and Kenyan music scenes. The band originally
formed in 1967 as Super Vox in what was then Zaire. They subsequently moved
to Kenya (1974), changed their name to Super Mazembe (which is Lingala for
Bulldozer!) and proceeded to take the country by storm. They even
popularized their own dance style (mushosho), and were in demand throughout
Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.
The album opens with the group's first hit, "Kassongo," which epitomizes so
much that is great about this sort of music. The blend of the highly
distinctive guitar sound with horns and (harmony) singing is so joyful and
uplifting that it virtually guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone's face.
Also included here is a cover of "Shauri Yoko" which was another of the
band's biggest hits. Every track is a gem in its own right, however, and
the album is a fine reflection of how Orchestra Super Mazembe did things at
Orchestra Super Mazembe were a bit ahead of their time, in terms of the
wider development of the World Music scene. Sadly, recent efforts to revive
the group now seem to have largely disappeared with the death of founder
member Mutonkole Longwa Didos in 1999. Fortunately the release of "Giants
of East Africa" gives everybody the chance to hear just how great Orchestra
Super Mazembe really were, and will have even the most hardened non-dancers
shuffling around in their seats.
Afel Bocoum, Damon Albarn, Toumani Diabate and Friends
(Honest Jon's Records HJR CDR1 7243-538440-2-8)
"Mali Music" is the result of a visit to Mali made by Damon Albarn (of Blue
and Gorillaz fame) as part of Oxfam's On The Line project. Albarn recorded
music that he encountered (and sometimes joined in with) as he toured
around the country. Once he returned to the UK he set about constructing an
album from the recordings, which was then sent to Afel Bocoum to add vocals.
The production is excellent, and manages to combine lilting reggae rhythms,
rock-oriented guitar and Malian strings and percussion in something close
to the perfect balance. Each of the tunes is gem in its own right, and has
something to recommend it. Particular favorites are "Le Relax," which would
make great mood music for a thriller movie, and "Niger," which is one of
those tunes that you just cannot get out of your head once you hear it. A
clever device is also deployed by the producers towards the end of "4AM At
Toumani's" where there is the beginnings of a refrain on melodica. This
refrain reappears in a few places, and gets fleshed out into a full track
on the catchy "Sunset Coming On," which probably explains why it sounds so
familiar when you first hear it!
"Mali Music" is really a sort of impressionist musical travelogue of
Albarn's visit to Mali. The music reflects the different musicians and
styles that he encountered on his travels. The end result is that "Mali
Music" is a very worthwhile effort on all fronts. Part of the proceeds from
the album are going to fund future work by Oxfam in Mali, which is reason
enough to buy it. Factor in the quality of the album, plus the fact that
fRoots magazine described "Mali Music" as "the sound of the summer," and it
means that no discerning music lover should be without it!
Simply click on the CD cover to order these CDs NOW!
This review is copyright © 2002 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission.
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