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Bulletin - May/ June 2010
Ethnic & World Music
Various Artists

 

NEW COMPACT DISCS

 
AFRICA-EAST AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Buda 860184 Zanzibara 5 - Hot In Dar $15.98
10 tracks of haunting and sensuous music from East Africa recorded in Dar es Salam - the largest and richest city in Tanzania. The recordings here are from the late 70s and early 80s when Dar es-Salam had one of the richest and most vibrant musical scenes in Africa, with some 25 to 3o professional bands performing in nightckubs and theatres. Tight guitars, riffing horn section, enchanting harmonizing vocals and unfailing swing characterized this dance music that was the backdrop to everyday life in the city. This disc pressnts the music 10 of the top bands of the period. Includes 28 page booklet with extensive background notes, rare photos as well as information on the artists plus lyric transcripts in French and English.

 
AFRICA-WEST AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Honest Jon's 041 Africa Boogaloo - The Latinization Of West Africa $18.98
13 tracks, 55 mins, highly recommended
I've noted, in the previous reviews of CDs from the Honest Jon's label, the influence of Latin music on music from Africa, especially West Africa. And the Honest Jon's folks have helpfully devoted a whole CD to illustrating this very point. On tracks by Orchestre OK Jazz, Le Grand Kalle, Don Gazalo and Manu Dibango, Rio Band, Orchestre Baobab, and Amara Toure the give and take between the African musicians and their Cuban and Caribbean brethren is evident (since a lot of what makes Latin music what it is came from African in the first place). African musicians that changed their names to sound more Latin and songs composed in Spanish (or nonsense words that sounded like Spanish), were typical of this cross-pollination of musical styles and ideas. These tracks, recorded in the 1950's and 60's, are exuberant and exciting like the best African music, and also highly danceable and more accessible than some African sounds to the Western ear. In short, this collection is an easy way for a novice listener of "World" music to get his or her feet wet. (GMC)

 
JEWISH/YIDDISH/KLEZMER VARIOUS ARTISTS Renair 126 Shbahoth - Iraqi-Jewish Song From The 1920s $18.98
15 tracks, highly recommended
Amazing compilation of rare recordings from the 1920s of Iraqi Jewish musicians. Until the mass emigration to Israel in the 1950s Iraq had the oldest of the Jewish Diaspora communities and in the period when these recordings were made the majority of the instrumentalists in Iraq were Jewish. Five performers or ensembles are featured and the songs are all Shbahoth or songs of praise sung on Sabbath and other important holidays. The music is beautiful and haunting and while it' hard to make comparisons sounds a little like early rembetika with heavily ornamented singing and instrumental accompaniments by instruments like hammered dulcimer, violin and oud. Unlike rembetika a number of songs feature bursts of vocal ululation - a vocal style common in Arabic countries. The last two tracks on the set are very different from all the rest featuring a youth choir singing acapella interspersed with instrumental segments by a rousing brass band with flutes and brass performing ululation. Considering the age and rarity of these recordings the sound is outstandingly good. It's a shame that the documentation by Sarah Manasseh is rather perfunctory with practically no information on the artists or instrumentation and a discussion of the songs involving technical terms that are never explained. Notwithstanding this CD is an indispensible look into a long gone musical culture. (FS)

 
AFRICA-ZIMBABWE VARIOUS ARTISTS Sharp Wood 032 Bulawayo Jazz - Southern Rhodesia, 1950,'51, '52 $24.98
23 tracks, 65 mins, highly recommended
Another great album from this label that has been re-issuing the field recordings made in Africa by the indefatigable Hugh Tracy from the 30s up to his death in 1977. Although Tracy, based in South Africa, recorded vast amounts of rural material he was also in tune with some of the more modern sounds emerging in urban areas and this collection features a selection of recordings made in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) between 1950 and '52 featuring a style of African jazz that was popular in the area around Bulawayo. Though drawing on elements of American jazz the music was distinctively Southern African with a lovely melodic quality to it. The bands were usually led by alto and tenor sax and trumpet with the alto usually taking the lead and with rhythm which often included guitars and banjo. The dominant figure on the scene was alto saxophonist/ composer and singer August Musaruwa who is featured on 15 tracks here with The Cold Storage Band and the Chaminuka Band. One of Musarurwa's compositions was a tune called Skokiaan which attracted the attention of South Africa's Gallo record company who recorded the tune by the band changing the group's name to the Bulawayo Sweet Rhythms and released to great success in 1952. It was subsequently issued throughout the world and became a worldwide hit and was covered by many artists in many different styles. If you are familiar with and love that tune then here is a whole lot more music in a similar vein including an unissued practice version of Skokiian which swing even harder than the hit. Most of the tracks are instrumental but a few feature warm and enagging vocals. In addition to above lineup there is also a beautiful track by The Dick Ncube Trio which features a violin lead and the delightful Hlabelani Je Bafana by De Brown darkies - a group of vocalist accompanied by acoustic guitar doing a very Africanized version of Glenn Miller's In The Mood! A real delight with in depth notes by Michael Baird and an introduction by Hugh Tracy's son Andrew. (FS)

 
AFRICA-NIGERIA VARIOUS ARTISTS Soundway 20 Nigeria Special, Vol. 2 - Modern Highlife, Afro Sounds $18.98
The first Nigeria Special album (Soundway 9) was released to critical acclaim in 2007; this follow-up continues the exploration of the most dazzling period in Nigeria's recording history. The styles of music range from highlife to Juju and Nigerian blues sung in the languages of Yoruba, Igbo, Bini, and Ijaw. The 70's was an exciting time for Nigerian musicians; for the first time they were allowed more freedom to record their own styles and the result was a hybrid of Highlife, afrobeat, rock, jazz, and native blues that sound as fresh today as they did then. The CD includes a full color 24-page booklet with nuggets of historical info and the background to the scene at the time.

 
AFRICA-SOUTH AFRICA VARIOUS ARTISTS Strut 054 Next Stop Soweto - Township Sounds From The Golden Age $16.98
20 tracks, highly recommended
Terrific collection of South African mbaqanga music recorded between 1968 and 1977 and originally issued on singles. Mbaqanga is an exhilarating mixture of traditional Zulu and Shangaan music melded with American R&B, rock 'n' roll and jazz utilizing great vocal harmonies, thundering electric bass, chattering guitars and drums plus occasional riffing accordion and stuttering sax. Apart from Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens most of the artists here are pretty much unknown outside of South Africa but all are fine including artists with great names such as The Melotone Sisters with Amaqola Band, S.Piliso & His Super Seven, The Tempo All Stars and The African Swingsters. Excellent sound and the 20 page booklet has information on the origins and development of mbaqanga by South African music scholar David B. Coplan plus artist photos and label shots. (FS)

 

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