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 Fall, 2010. 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: Fall, 2010 | Review Archives

King Sunny Ade "Baba Mo Tunde" (IndigeDisc, 2010)
The first studio album is several years from this renowned Nigerian groovemaster... It's classic Ade-style juju with solid grooves that never seem to stop. This 2-CD set concentrates a lot on percussion (although not so much on the "talking drums" familiar to listeners of his "Synchro System" days...) Nice, solid stuff, with Ade and his band undiminished after all these years!

Anonymous 4 "The Cherry Tree: Songs, Carols & Ballads For Christmas" (Harmonia Mundi, 2010)
Another masterful, gorgeous offering from one of the premiere vocal ensembles of the "early music" revival. This record collects Christmastime carols and ballads sung in England and the American colonies; included is "The Cherry Tree," a popular song in which Joseph's doubts about Mary's pregnancy are quelled by a miracle performed in utero by the future baby Jesus. Other songs in this album also explore the issues of Mary's miraculous birth, from well-known melodies such as "Hail Mary Full Of Grace" to more obscure works such as "A Virgin Unspotted" and "Now May We Syngyn." Lyrics are in Latin, old English, and modern English, and most of the songs share a similar structure, that of the traditional English carol, in which a soloist precedes the chorus, setting forth the song which the others later take up. It's quite nice to hear the Anonymous gals singing in English, and coming so close to more modern Anglo-folk traditions: fans of the liturgical and the folkloric alike will find this mellow record a welcome addition to their chestnut-roasting repertoires.

The Beat Boys "Beat Boys" (RCA-Brazil/Lion Productions, 1968/2010)
Although they were actually from Argentina, the Beat Boys made their names on the 1960s Brazilian rock scene, backing the great innovators of the psychedelic-oriented tropicalia scene -- Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso -- as they embraced electrified, American-style rock music. Along with bands such as Roberto Carlos' RC7 and the more notorious Os Mutantes, the Beat Boys were a go-to band if you wanted a hard-edged, solid garage-psych rock backing, and they appeared anonymously on several key tropicalia recordings. This is a reissue (with bonus tracks) of their own full-length release from 1968... You might read elsewhere how this disc is some kind of mind-blowing, hard-psych acid rock Rosetta stone; I think that's kind of an exaggeration... What this is, though, is an unusually cohesive Brazilian garage rock record by a band that was more professional-sounding and grittier than most of the other groups exploring the same music at the time. In the '60s, Brazil didn't have much history with greasy, grimy, longhaired rock music, and there wasn't a big back bench for them to draw on, so a band like The Beat Boys stands out at the front of the pack. If you want to hear a prime example of Brazilian "beat" music, with stylistic debts to melodically oriented groups such as the Beatles and the Standells (and maybe the Seeds, at the freakier end of their spectrum...) this is an album worth tracking down. Some fun songs, too!

Hilda Bronstein "...Sings Yiddish Songs With Chutzpah!" (Arc Music, 2010)
(Produced by Hilda Bronstein)

Robust, affectionate renditions of Yiddish classics, from British singer and folklorist Hilda Bronstein with sympathetic, innovative backing from a youthful group of musicians. Their take on the music sounds new -- not your standard-issue Jewish klezmer set, yet also not a fusion-y modernist mish-mash. Worth checking out.

Vinicius Cantuaria "Samba Carioca" (Naive, 2010)

Teresa Cristina "O Melhor De Teresa Cristina" (2009)
Beautiful acoustic samba music. A 2-disc best-of set that includes new material along with groovy stuff from her hard-to-find albums, as well as the concert DVD O Mundo E Meu Lugar: Ao Vivo. If you haven't heard (or seen) this incredible young Brazilian samba star, this is a great introduction to her work.

Teresa Cristina "Ao Vivo: Melhor Assim" (EMI, 2010)
A concert album with several high-powered guest performers, including Arlindo Cruz, Seu Jorge, Lenine, Marisa Monte, and Caetano Veloso. More lovely music from one of Brazil's finest new performers.

Jackson Do Pandeiro "Sua Majestade, O Rei Do Ritmo/Forro Do Jackson" (EMI, 2010)
A welcome reissue of two classic albums by Brazilian forro legend, Jackson do Pandeiro, 1954's Sua Majestade, O Rei Do Ritmo and Forro Do Jackson, from 1958. Fun, lively, uptempo material, and likely to disappear again soon, as do many Brazilian records.

Etoile De Dakar "Once Upon A Time In Senegal -- The Birth Of Mbalax: 1979-1981" (Stern's Africa, 2010)
A groovy 2-CD set gathering some of the finest early work of Senegalese Youssou N'Dour and his groundbreaking band, Etoiles De Dakar. This is the lively, innovative, vibrantly vital music that launched N'Dour's career, but also stands on its own, many decades later. (Indeed, I prefer this high-energy stuff to much of N'Dour's rather overproduced solo work... you can definitely hear why folks were so excited when he cam on the scene.) Highly recommended!

Nour Eddine "Morocco: Traditional Songs And Music" (Arc Music, 2010)
(Produced by Paulo Modungo & Redouane Fatty)

A sweet set of stripped-down Moroccan gnawa music, with earthy, straightforward percussion and steady, hypnotic rhythms. This is a very nice, very accessible set, free of any electronic instruments, giving it a very organic, rootsy feel. Highly recommended!

Luisa Maita "Lero Lero" (Cumbancha, 2010)
(Produced by Paulo Lepetit, Rodrigo Campos & Luisa Maita)

A lovely album of dreamy, femme-y vocals from Sao Paulo native Luisa Taubkin Maita (the niece of Brazilian jazz pianist Benjamin Taubkin...) This bossa-esque set invites comparison to other modern, genre-hopping chanteuses such as Bebel Gilberto and CeU, but Maita has less invested in the club-scene electronica that defines their work. This is, at heart, a gentle, stripped down MPB set, reminiscent of Astrud Gilberto's classic early work, with a subtle jazz flavoring... Maita is lulling and sweet on the album's many slow and moderate-tempoed songs, but she also proves herself supple and adept at her phrasing on more uptempo material. Also worth noting is that most of the music on here was written or co-written by Maita, further marking her emergence as a noteworthy new performer o the Brazilian scene. If you are looking for something mellow yet substantive, this set of groovy Brazilian ballads may be just the thing for you. Recommended!

Luisa Maita "Remixed" (Cumbancha, 2010)
(Produced by Various Artists)

Pedro Moraes "Claroescuro" (Independent, 2010)
Singer-composer Pedro Moraes started his career as a devotee of traditional samba; his first album featured a wealth of previously-unrecorded songs from samba masters such as Cartola, Paulinho Da Viola and Nelson Sargento, played in the smooth-yet-rootsy style of Martinho Da Vila and Joao Bosco. Here on his second album, Moraes dives deeper into the world of ornate pop crossovers familiar to fans of the MPB of the 1970s and '80s; although there's still a samba vibe underlying the album, a glossier, more boldly fusion-oriented sound pervades, with a strong debt to jazz-oriented MPB-ers such as Milton Nascimento. Pat Metheny-ish guitars and air electric bass mixes with heavy, electronica-tinged backbeats -- I recoiled at the first few notes, but then found myself drawn in. If you enjoy funky pop-samba crossover stars like Carlinhos Brown or Seu Jorge, you might really dig this as well.

Paula Morelenbaum & Ralf Schmid/SWR Big Band "Bossarenova" (Obliqsound, 2010)

Joan Soriano "El Duque De La Bachata" (iASO, 2010)
(Produced by Benjamin De Menil)

This is one of those records that, the more I listen to it, the more I love it. A delicious set of traditional, acoustic-based bachata music from the Dominican Republic. A sweet, acoustic style that dates back to the 1950s, in the '80s bachata morphed into a hyperactively fast, frantic, modern pop genre -- a hugely popular regional fad, but pretty far removed from its mellow, romantic roots. Singer Joan Soriano is a welcome throwback to the old days, an expressive, crooning stylist with wonderfully understated, expressive vocals, concise phrasing and a strong connection to this old-style music. He's not quite on a par with bachata elders such as Leonardo Paniagua of Rafael Encarnacion (heard on iASO's incredible BACHATA ROJA collection, but hey -- the kid is still young. Give him a few years to catch up! This CD comes along with a DVD disc with an hour-long documentary about Soriano and the revival of old-school bachata music. Sweet stuff and highly recommended!

Benjamin Taubkin "Piano Masters Series, Volume One" (Adventure Music, 2010)
(Produced by Jim Luce & Richard Zirinsky, Jr.)

A nice, relaxed set of classically-tinged jazz solos from Brazilian pianist Benjamin Taubkin... This was a welcome surprise, since I've mostly heard Taubkin record with accompaniment, and hearing his piano work without all the ornamentation of the modern soft-jazz scene is nice; it's just keyboards and no modern instruments or fusion-y flights to distract from the music. Worth checking out.

Tango-Orkesteri Unto "Finnish Tango, v.2: Kylma Rakkaus/Cold Love" (Arc Music, 2010)
(Produced by Timo Alakotila)

Nice! Of course, when I first saw this disc I thought, hmmm, is this really "Finnish," or is it just regular old tango music, being performed by Finns? Well, the good news -- great news, really -- is that this definitely is a Finnish record, with songs written and sung in Finnish, a language that I have absolutely no grasp of and no connection to, which, as a diehard exoticist, I love. Vocalist Pirjo Aittomaki has a lovely voice -- yearning, soaring, both edgy and sweet -- and she fills the front part of the ensemble's sound with warm, evocative tones. The rest of the group is solid as well, particularly accordionist Johanna Juhola, the group's other female member. The piano is perhaps a bit too prominent for my tastes, as it over-accentuates the album's more florid tendencies, but again the cultural foreignness helps me set the musical excesses aside. Tango lovers, particularly those who are drawn to its far-flung global expressions, will love this record -- it's grand and romantic, suffused with tragedy and longing, and solid from start to, um, Finnish. Highly recommended!

Yeahwon "Yeahwon" (Artist Share, 2010)
(Produced by Sun Chung)

Yeahwon Shin is a Korean vocalist who got the Brazilian-music bug, and devoted herself to recording an entire album of bossa nova and MPB standards, sung in pretty convincing Portuguese, with guest performers that include Egberto Gismonti and Cyro Baptista. Yeahwon's voice is lovely, and her feel for the music is impressive... There is a fluidity that many great Brazilian singers have, an intangible "Brazilian-ness" that is almost impossible for outsiders to completely tap into, but she comes pretty darn close. Obviously a labor of love, this is an album that is sure to turn many ears... I'd love to hear her do some bossa nova with Korean lyrics as well!

A totally sweet set of Latin-influenced African pop that includes examples of the chiming, hypnotic guitar styles of the '70s as well as a bit of hyperactive "boogaloo" material as well. A well-selected songlist with rare but absolutely prime material. Highly recommended!

Various Artists "AFRO-BEAT AIRWAYS" (Analog Africa, 2010)
(Various producers)

Various Artists "THE AFRO SOUND OF COLUMBIA, v.1" (Vampi Soul, 2010)

Various Artists "LAGOS DISCO INFERNO" (Academy Records, 2010)
A crate-digging collection that features exactly what's advertised: real-deal, vintage disco music from Nigeria... If you like disco and are into its global permutations, this collection will trip you out. If you're approaching this album from an Afro-Beat orientation, and are expecting more of a funk or R&B sound, it may be too disco-y for you. Also, many songs include English-language lyrics, which I personally find less interesting than when artists work in their local languages. Anyway, this is a strong archival set, and filled with obscurities -- the only artist I recognize here is Geraldo Pino -- but it really is jittery disco, not funky Afro-Beat, so be forewarned.


Various Artists "THE WORLD ENDS: AFRO-ROCK & PSYCHEDELIA IN 1970's NIGERIA" (Soundway, 2010)

New To Me...

Los Jardineros "The Best Of Los Jardineros" (Shanachie/Yazoo, 2006)
An awesome collection of classic recordings from the New York-based Puerto Rican ensemble, Los Jardineros, who recorded prolifically for the OKeh record label in the 1920s and '30s. The dazzling acoustic guitar work and plaintive vocals that have become the hallmark of Puerto Rican jibaro music are richly abundant here, with many of the finest borriqueno musical pioneers captured at their best. Among the musicians is a young Fausto Delgado, who joined the group in 1930, and who went on to record numerous records on his own in the decades that followed. Great stuff, with some really hot musicianship, as well as a number of topically-oriented songs that will still be of interest to modern listeners. So... any chance we'll get a Volume Two anytime soon?

Suarasama "Fatas Di Atas Awan" (Drag City, 2008)
A weird and wonderful, spacy modern mix of styles from Indonesia, featuring multi-instrumentalists Irwansyah Harahap and Rithaony Hutajulu, who blend rambling, folkie acoustic guitar (in a Devendra Banhart/Tim Buckley/Sandy Bull kind of vein...) with various styles of Indonesian regional music. The vocals, male and female, have echoes of Indian bhajan and Sufi quawwal -- I'm not sure what the connections are, or if the similarities are coincidental, but it sure is wild. I some ways this is a very relaxing, mellow record, although the keening vocals may throw some Western listeners off a bit; they can grate against the dreaminess of the music. Overall, though, this is a very intriguing and rewarding record, and very distinctive. (Note: this was apparently originally released in 1997 on a European label, but finds a new audience in the US a decade later...)

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