( Advanced Search )  



Bulletin - February 2009
Ethnic & World Music
Franco & Le TPOK Jazz ->
Various Artists




AFRICA-MOROCCO VARIOUS ARTISTS Sublime Frequencies 041 Musical Brotherhoods From The Trans-Saharan Highway $21.98
13 tunes, 60 mins, highly recommended
A very exciting through frustrating look at a unique musical subculture. The Trans-Saharan Highway is the highway that will eventually connect Algiers in Algeria to Lagos, Nigeria and includes the Moroccan cities of Marrakesh and Essaouira where the footage on this DVD was shot - most of it at the Jemaa Al Fna bazaar in Marrakesh in 2005. Several music ensembles are featured usual featuring a stringed instrument (oud, banjo or one string fiddle) with percussion and vocals by all members of the group. The most impressive is Troupe Majidi which features an oud player who performs some incredibly imaginative playing on a heavilly amplified oud but all the groups are impressive. There are also several brief glimpses of other instrumentalists as well as other events at the bazaar. The cinematography is occasionally amateurish and the sound balance leaves something to be desired and the total lack of any narration or other descriptive material I found very frustrating. In spite of my reservations the music here is exciting, haunting and compelling and I hope it inspires someone to take a more, in depth, look at this culture. (FS)



AFRICA-CONGO FRANCO & LE TPOK JAZZ Sterns 3041/42 Francophonic: A Retrospective, Vol. 1, 1953-1980 $22.98
2 CD, 28 tracks, 148 mins, highly recommended
Francois Luambo, aka Franco, was one of the greatest artists that Africa ever produced. Guitarist, composer, band leader, sometime singer, Franco's music has a legitimate claim to having been the most popular music in the African regions south of the Sahara. Born in the Belgian Congo (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Franco developed from a 15 year old busker into an artist of prestige and influence. The early songs, documented on CD 1, are steeped in the Congolese version of the rumba, music inspired equally by Latin sounds and local traditions. This music, epitomized by On Entre Ok, On Sort K.O., is highly stylized, but infectious and incredibly fun to listen to. He began as a session musician, and ended up leading two acclaimed bands, OK Jazz and TPOK Jazz, while also forming record companies, inventing dances, and displaying his kinetic ability on the guitar. The songs are fast -- a la Esengo Ya Mokili -- and slow, as in the dreamy Tozonga Na Nganga Wana -- but never boring or without unique pleasures. Franco's later music, as documented on Disc 2, is more bitter in lyrical content but one would never know it by the jittery melodies and cheery singing. This is inportant music, and anyone looking for a further window into African music of the last 50 years and one of its greatest artists. (GMC)

NORTENO LYDIA MENDOZA Arhoolie 536 The Best Of Lydia Mendoza - La Alondra de la Frontera $12.98
17 tracks, 52 min., very highly recommended
Lydia Mendoza, with a powerful and emotionally-charged voice on the order of Portugal's Amalia Rodrigues, became the first great Mexican-American star. This collection is an excellent sampler of Arhoolie's Mendoza releases and spans the great length of her recording career. The earliest cuts from the 1930s include her first and biggest hit Mal Hombre, as well as the previously unreleased gem Adios Muchachos, itself reason enough to pick this up. The CD also includes cuts from the 1950s through the 1980s, and even the latest recordings from 1982 find Mendoza's skill on the 12-string guitar and vocal prowess undiminished. A wonderful introduction to a great artist. Informative 40 page booklet notes include lyrics in Spanish and English. (JC)

SPAIN LA MUSGANA Mad River 1011 20 $16.98
16 tracks, highly recommended
U.S. issue of album celebrating the 20th anniversary of this superb and energetic Castillian Spanish quintet featuring recordings drawn from their various albums made in this period along with two bonus live tracks from 2007. Although the personnel has changed over the years the feel of their music has remained constant - a delicious mixture of very old and very new tonalities that is reminiscent of Malicorne's acoustic-to-electric transition period, while the melodies and vocal styles are very Spanish indeed. The music is mostly instrumental with occasional Flamenco style vocal. The band arrangements are built on guitar, electric bass, hurdy-gurdy, drums, clarinet, fiddle, bagpipes, and more. The slap funk bass style may jar some ears, but it matches the playfulness of the whole band, updating medieval dance forms and more modern flamenco cousins into a joyful, Carnaval atmosphere. (DC/ FS)

CAJUN KEVIN NAQUIN & THE OSSUN PLAYBOYS Swallow 6208 Call It What You Want (Appell-le Ca Tu Veux) $15.98
15 tracks, 56 min., highly recommended
Like all good cajun bands, accordionist Naquin and co. have a healthy respect for their musical past, as witnessed here by their song selection. For example, Naquin's great grandfather, Hadley Fontenot, recorded one of his tunes with the Balfa Brothers in the 1970s that is adapted and updated here as Fontenot's Jig. Other nods to the past include Nathan Abshire's Pine Grove Blues, the ubiquitous Kaplan Waltz, and Valse de la Vie by Pierre Daigle. And like all great cajun outfits, they also feature a touch of outstanding original material, in this case, All Night Long. But they are surely more traditional than innovative. They even adapt a Conway Twitty song, After All The Good Is Gone to excellent effect. In fact, their talent lies largely in their creative interpretations. Equally fine for dancing or listening, this album never steps wrong. (JC)

AFRICA-NIGERIA CHIDINMA OKAFOR Arc Music 2186 Modern Gospel From West Africa $14.98
10 tracks, 54 mins, highly recommended
Gorgeous collection of gospel music featuring one of Nigeria's most popular vocalists accompanied vocally by a six member group who provide spellbinding harmonies that bring to mind the gospel music of South Africa. They are accompanied by a band with lovely skittering guitar sounds, kora, keyboards and more. Includes booklet with notes on the artist and songs in English, German, French and Spanish. Lovely stuff.

CAJUN JIM OLIVIER Swallow 6202 The Essential Collection $15.98
20 tracks, recommended
19 tracks from the early 80s and one recent recording from this popular singer and local T.V. personality. Olivier had a pretty smooth voice by Cajun standards but the performances are fine with some good songs and great accompaniments from musicians like fiddler Merlin Fontenot, accordion giant Aldus Mouton and steel guitarist Rod Miller. Many of the songs here were Louisiana hits including the humorous duet with Jeanice Clement on Marriage A Pic Et Poc (Marriage On The Rocks). (FS)

CUBA TITO PUENTE Fania 130 416 The Complete 78s, Vol. 2 $19.98
2 CDs, 40 tracks, highly recommended
Tito Puente was one of the Kings of Latin Jazz and this compilation is the second in a series that collects the recordings he cut, as a first time band leader, from 1949 to 1955 for the Tico label and were released as 78's. Apparently, Puente was also cutting tracks for RCA at the same time, but there appears to be few parallel between the material from each label. While the RCA sides were more mainstream commercial, these tracks are geared more toward his hardcore audience: hard mambos, boleros, and the occasional ballad. The musicians featured on these recordings include, Mongo Santamaria, Charlie Palmieri, and Willie Bobo, so you know that the playing will be Grade A classic. These recordings are a must for Puente fans. (GMC)

CAJUN DENNIS STROUGHMATT Swallow 6210 Cadet Rouselle - French Creole Fiddle Tunes & Ballads $15.98
16 tracks, 50 min., highly recommended
The subtitle -- "French Creole Fiddle Tunes & Ballads from Old Upper Louisiana, Volume II" -- is informative is not particularly catchy. (Volume I is called "The Gambler's Fiddle".) But this album is informative and particularly catchy. The project aims to introduce the secret history of the French in the midwest, a history that goes back to the 17 century. Missouri seems to be singled out for focus here, but while this release is part historical folk research project, the music never takes a back seat to the desire to document it. The songs here are a pure joy to listen too, from lively instrumentals (Jury Baker/ La Pommier d'un Ange) to the touching J'ai Fait Une Maitresse, the lyric of which seems to have been reincarnated and adapted into the popular children's book "Runaway Bunny." A charming album all the way through. (JC)

AFRICA-BENIN & TOGO VARIOUS ARTISTS Analog Africa 063 African Scream Contest - Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds $23.98
14 tracks, 74 mins, highly recommended
More unsung and unheralded music from Africa for our more discriminating customers; in the late 60's, bands in Benin began fusing Funk, Afrobeat, Latin, Soul, Cuban, Congolese, and local traditional music into a potent mix that rocks out on this compilation. Major practitioners like Orchestre Poly-Rythmo (It's a Vanity), El Rego et Ses Commandos (Se Na Min), and Black Santiago (Vinon So Minsou) are represented and the sounds created herein percolate and groove as effortlessly as anything by James Brown or Funkadelic. Of all the African music compilations that I've reviewed, this one is most party oriented and full of pure dancing joy. If you're in the mood for something a little different to set a party off on the right foot, then this is the CD for you. (GMC)

JAMAICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Kingston Sounds 016 Rocksteady Fever $21.98
16 tracks, 49 mins, recommended
In Jamaica in the mid-60's, the jerky rhythms of Ska (the predominant music of the time) were slowed down to a more sexy and sultry pace, and the result was the birth of a new sound called Rocksteady. During a two year period-1966 to 1968-Rocksteady flourished, while introducing new producers and artists that provided the groundwork for what evolved into Reggae in the 70's. This compilation is a good primer for the uninitiated, with good tracks by Pat Kelly, Delroy Wilson, Glen Adams, Roy Shirley, and Uniques. Although none of the real stars of Rocksteady - early Bob Marley and The Wailers, Ken Boothe, Desmond Dekker, and Toots and the Maytals, among them-are represented, this CD is a solid collection of a style of music that is often overlooked in the annals of history. (GMC)

ARMENIA VARIOUS ARTISTS Music & Words 5003 Hayastan: Traditions Of Armenia $15.98
26 tracks, 75 mins, highly recommended
Gorgeous collection of traditional instrumental music from Armenia played on traditional Armenian instruments like the tar (a long necked lute), kamancha (spike fiddle), shvi (a shirll wind instrument), several different kinds of bagpipes, dhol (a double headed cylindrical drum), kanon (hammered dulcimer) and more including the wonderful duduk - an instrument related to the oboe but with an incredibly haunting, soft and human sound that brought tears to the eyes of famed classical composer Aram Khachaturian. Performances includes solos, duets, trios and a couple of tracks with larger instrumental ensembles. As is the case with the music of neighboring Iran and Turkey a rich confluence of Arabic, Oriental, and Eastern European influences is extant here, and the variety of styles is astounding. The booklet has brief but useful notes and drawings of some of the instruments. (FS)

CAJUN VARIOUS ARTISTS Origin Jazz Library 3001 La Musique De La Maison - Women & Home Music $13.98
Lovely collection of the rarely heard acapella vocal music from South Louisiana featuring female Cajun and Creole singers recorded in the 1950s through the 1970s. A wide variety of songs are featured - some of them dating back to medieval France while others show more modern influences. Though some of the earlier recorded were made on badly deteriorated discs the sound throughout is superb and set includes 24 page illustrated booklet with notes on the singers and the songs.


Back To New Release Index

 Back To Home Page

Roots & Rhythm
P.O. Box 837
El Cerrito, CA 94530 USA
Toll Free Order Line : 888-ROOTS-66

© 2017 Roots & Rhythm. No part of this site may be reproduced without written permission