New World Music Reviews

Welcome to my "New World Music" page, which highlights new(ish) African, Asian, Latin American and Celtic records, and "miscellaneous" records that I had the good fortune to check out in Spring, 2013. This page is added to as new records come in... If you want more to read more reviews, many others are archived nearby, and there are separate sections for various kinds of world music that you might like exploring as well.

Recommended Records: Spring, 2013 | Review Archives | World Music Index

Eduardo Araujo & Silvinha "Rebu Geral" (Discobertas, 1981/2012)
(Produced by Eduardo Araujo)

A fairly dreadful synth/pop/soul outing from this husband-wife team, with a sort of try-anything-see-what-sticks approach. The opening track finds Araujo reaching back to his Black Rio soul days, but this time in a duet with Silvinha that evokes Ashford & Simpson as much as Tim Maia. There are a lot of disco tunes on here, making this one of those Brazilian pop albums that try to copy American trends, but is two or three years behind the times. Silvinha subsumes herself on the altar of tacky, bright pop, sounding like a more soulful Rita Lee, or really more like a Brazilian Sylvie Vartan. Still, despite the drekky musical direction, there are glimmers of life: the relatively restrained soul ballad, "Sob O Ouro Desse Eterno Sol," she gives a nice, soft vocal performance (which quickly undercut by his Tim Maia/Cassiano-style vocals...) and the lightweight country-rock-pop of "Rancho Allegre" points out another path for Araujo to take. Mostly, though, this is pretty disappointing... If you're super-into Brazilian soul, this could be a "lost nugget" album, but most folks will be better off skipping this one.

Eduardo Araujo "Nunca Deixe De Sonhar" (Discobertas, 1985/2012)
Another late-vintage album recorded when Araujo was recording for indie labels... Haven't heard this one yet, but I have to confess I'm a little scared to.

Jorge Ben "Salve, Jorge!" (box set) (Discobertas, 2012)
A super-groovy 14-CD box set including (almost) all the most sought-after classic albums of this Brazilian samba-soul superhero. These are all the hard-to find 1963-76 records that fans drool over: Samba Esquema Novo, Sacudin Ben Samba, Ben E Samba Bom, Big Ben, Jorge Ben (1969), Forca Bruta, Negro E Lindo, Ben, 10 Anos Depois, A Tabua De Esmeralda, Solta O Pavao, Gil E Jorge, and the samba-funk classic, Africa Brasil. There's also a 2-disc rarities collection which is probably worth the cost of the whole set... (Not that I'd know... I sure can't afford it!!) The only thing missing is his amazing 1967 album, O Bidu: Silencio No Brooklyn, which was recorded for United Artists, during a brief departure from the Philips label. It's a shame they couldn't work out the licensing rights to include that one as well, but this is still one doozy of a collection. If you can, snap it up!

Maria Ana Bobone "Fado & Piano" (Arc Music, 2013)
(Produced by Maria Ana Bobone & Rodrigo Serrao)

Modern-day Portuguese fado music by pianist Maria Ana Bobone... She is accompanied by bassist Rodrigo Serrao and fado guitarist Bernardo Couto... Like other contemporary fadistas such as Cristina Branco and Ana Moura, Bobone adds a modern touch to the style, in particular with her emphasis on the piano as a central instrument, rather than the traditional guitars. If you're into fado music and up for a change of pace, this is certainly worth checking out.

Francoiz Breut "La Chirurgie Des Sentiments" (Le Pop Musik, 2012)

Claudia "Claudia" (RGE, 1967)
(Produced by Manoel Barenbein)
(Arrangements by Francisco Moraes)

The debut album from the Brazilian singer known as Claudia, who later found fame as the lead actor in a South American production of the musical "Evita.
Here; she is just eighteen years old and the first thing you'll notice here is the youthfulness and pure joy Claudia's voice. This is very much a recording of a young girl singing, but rather than peg her as a "jovem guarda" teenie-bopper, RGE tried for a classy sound and matched her up with an old-school orchestral pop/big band group. She's backed by pianist Luiz Loy and his quintet, augmented by a generous slathering of string arrangements and orchestrations typical of the Brazilian studios throughout the '60s. I didn't like record this at first -- her voice sounded thin and slightly at odds with the robust, sometimes corny orchestrations. But listening to it again, it grew on me. There are some uptempo numbers, such as the swinging "Nao Se Aprende Na Escola," that jump out at you, as well as contemporary material by newcomers such as Chico Buarque and Gilberto Gil, but the tempo on these tunes is generally pretty slow, and perhaps inaccessible to modern listeners more attuned to the tropicalia and bossa vibe of the time. (There's also a nimble acoustic guitarist adding bossa riffs on most songs, but sadly they aren't identified in the liner notes... Anyway, there's a whiff of bossa nova, but this also has a strong pre-bossa feel.) Worth checking out, though it may feel a little uneven.

Teresa Cristina "Teresa Cristina + Os Outros = Roberto Carlos" (Microservice, 2012)
Sublime samba revivalist Teresa Cristina pays homage to Brazilian rocker-turned-crooner Roberto Carlos... I haven't heard this one yet, but would love to check it out. When I do, I'll be sure to let you know...

Domenico "Cine Prive" (Plug Research, 2012)
(Produced by Domenico & Mario Caldato, Jr.)

A playful, ecstatic album from Brazilian pop experimentalist Domenico Lancelotti, perhaps best known as part of the "Plus 2" musical collective that also includes Moreno Veloso, Kassin, and a rotating cast younger, rock-oriented artists working in what could loosely be called indiepop or electro-pop. There's a giddiness to this record that's often irresistible, particularly on the opening tracks, which mix electronica, dub and rock in an easygoing, just-for-fun style. As on other +2 projects, there are a slew of familiar guest musicians -- Moreno, Kassin, guitarist Pedro Sa, Adriana Calcanhotto, and others whose names will doubtless become as familiar in years to come. Some like-minded North American artists also chime in, including Darin Gray and Glenn Kotche (cohorts of guitarist Jim O'Rourke) and keyboardist Money Mark (of the Beastie Boys orbit), as well as Mario Caldato, who mixed the album. On some tracks they get a bit indulgent, though fans of Lucas Santtana and other Brazilian electro-indie modernists will definitely want to check this out.

Du-Sems Ensemble "Traditional Turkish Sufi Music: The Sun Of Both Worlds" (ARC Music, 2013)
(Produced by Du-Sems Ensemble)

The Du-Sems Ensemble is a modern Turkish trio devoted to ancient and traditional music, with a special emphasis on the ways in which Turkey, as a crossroads for several civilizations, has absorbed countless cultural influences. This particular album explores Turkish Sufi music, and concentrates heavily on the kind of music heard in Sufi religious services -- a series of group chants that may be inaccessible to some outsiders, but which radiate undeniable power and intensity. It's not just a non-Western style, but also distinctive from other Sufi music you may have heard, with more of a liturgical feel and less of the swaying, dance-oriented melodic style heard in Arabic Sufism. It's an impressive folkloric outing, though you really have to be actively exploring this music to delve into this one: if you are serious about Sufi spirituality or history, this could be a very rewarding record.

Peter King "African Dialects" (Secret Stash, 1979/2013)
(Produced by Peter King)

Nigerian multi-instrumentalist Peter King was one of many talented African musicians who made the scene in Europe during the 1960s and '70s, recording several albums in London, where he worked with numerous reggae and jazz musicians while developing his own sleek blend of styles. The opening track of this 1979 album is the perfect distillation of several musical elements which, as the title implies, are all "dialects" of African roots: the song is a sensuous blend of West African highlife, funky contemporary jazz fusion and a subtle dash of reggae riddims. It's followed by the equally alluring "Happy Song," a light lovers reggae tune with curious hints of psychedelic folk; other tracks add touches of dub, disco and calypso... It's very much a record of its time and place, the era when reggae vied with punk as the cutting edge of British cool. This was the last record King recorded before returning to Nigeria and, while released in Africa, became a sort of "lost album" for many years: kudos to Secret Stash for finding it and bringing it back for modern listeners to hear. There are some real gems on here!

Maria Marquez "Tonada" (Adventure Music, 2013)
(Produced by Maria Marquez & John Santos)

Pazy And The Black Hippies "Wa Ho Ha" (Secret Stash, 1978/2012)
(Produced by M. Oki)

Electrified African reggae and rock-flavored highlife played at a manic, breakneck pace... This record, originally released in 1978, was the second album by Nigerian guitarist-bandleader Edire "Pazy" Etinagbedia who put a clear "American" stamp on his band's name and their sound. It's a little too hyperactive for me (I prefer more laid-back stuff) but it's certainly an impressive bit of crate-digging, uncovering yet another layer of rare, obscure, ecstatic African pop from the golden era of the '70s. Standout tracks include the disco-funk of "Papa's Black Dog" and the straight-up electric rock'n'roll of "Elizabeth," which is perhaps the least typical track on this collection.

Rubenstein Klezmer Project "Fiddler On The Road: Klezmer, Ladino And Balkan Songs" (Arc Music, 2013)
(Produced by Rubenstein Klezmer Project & Darko Kikas)

Israeli violinist Ya'akov Rubenstein leads a trio which explores a variety of Jewish musical traditions, ranging from standard Eastern European klezmer to the Ladino music of the Iberian peninsula and some of the Roma-influenced music of the Balkans. The presentation is straightforward and sleek, the music both lyrical and familiar, yet the ease and confidence with which the trio weaves it together makes this album an ideal introduction to the music, and a rich listening experience.

Jovino Santos Neto "Piano Masters Series, Volume 4" (Adventure Music, 2013)
(Produced by Jovino Santos Neto & Richard Zirinsky, Jr.)

Omar Sosa "Eggun: The Afri-Lectric Experience" (Ota Records, 2013)

Various Artists "LE POP, v.7" (Le Pop Musik, 2012)

New To Me...

Various Artists "JUJU ROOTS: 1930s-1950s" (Rounder, 1985)
A delightful, subtle set of early juju and highlife recordings from Nigerian and other West African artists... These ancient acoustic performances show the growth of the guitar as a lead instrument and the evolution of "talking drum" percussion, hinting at the lavishly produced pop recordings of the 1970s and beyond. For many modern listeners this collection may seem like it's useful strictly as a historical, archival tool, but I really love this music, just for what it is. There's definitely a different, slower feel where the more you listen, the deeper you can get into it... The instruments sound unusual -- pennywhistles, banjos, box-like drums -- and the singers exude a curious kind of calmness. Like the various archival albums on the Original Music label that came out around the same time, this is a richly rewarding record that adds new layers of depth to anyone's appreciation of African popular music. Highly recommended!

Various Artists "KENYA DANCE MANIA" (Stern's/Earthworks, 1991)
A sweet set of mellow, subtle guitar-based pop from the 1970s-'80s Kenyan music scene... This East African style isn't as rambunctious or as overtly hypnotic as the contemporary music from West African countries such as Nigeria, et. al., and you can hear a clear through-line from the delicate acoustic styles of old '60s benga recordings... It's not a pushy sound, and can be all the more lulling and alluring as a result. About half the tracks on here were from one artist, Gabriel Olomo, whose English-language spoken interlude in "Wed Today, Divorce Tomorrow," is a novelty bit that stands out from the rest, but is only a momentary distraction. If you're in the mood for a change of pace from the sometimes-robust world of African guitar pop, give this a spin. It's nice stuff!

Various Artists "OPIKA PENDE" (Dust To Digital, 2011)
This 4-CD set digs deep -- and I mean deep -- into the world of rare, archival African 78s, old recordings dating back as far as 1909(!) and covering a variety of styles, many of which have passed into obscurity as musical tastes have rapidly changed. The collection is organized geographically, with one disc each devoted to the music of East Africa, West Africa, Southern Africa and North African/Sub-Saharan music. I have to admit up front that a lot of this is a little too rough or inaccessible for me: I admire the scholarship at work here, and while I do have an ear for Arabic music, etc., I've also hit a point in life where I want to listen to music more for enjoyment than for deepening my base of knowledge, at least with certain styles. That being said, there's also a lot of stuff on here that I found compelling, particularly on the Eastern and Western discs, including many tracks that brought to mind the fine collections on the legendary Original Music label. If you're of an adventurous, curious inclination, and would like to really explore the roots of modern African music, this is an amazing opportunity to hear first-class examples of the intersection between traditional tribal music and modern popular song, in an astonishing variety of cultures. This is a stellar work of musical scholarship, gathering one hundred incredibly rare recordings, none of which, I'm pretty sure, you'd ever be able to find anywhere else. Challenging, but in a very good way.

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