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 Late Spring/Summer, 2011. 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: Winter, 2011-2012 | Review Archives | World Music Index

Mariana Aydar "Cavaleiro Salvagem Aqui Te Sigo" (Universal Brasil, 2010)

Carlinhos Brown "Diminuto" (Sony-Brasil, 2011)

Carlinhos Brown "Adobro" (Sony-Brasil, 2011)

Chico Buarque "Chico" (DRG, 2011)

Adriana Calcanhoto "O Microbio Do Samba" (Sony-Brasil, 2011)

Coeur De Pirate "Blonde" (Barclay, 2011)
The second album by French-Canadian singer Beatrice Martin, aka Coeur De Pirate... More straight-up, better-than-average indiepop with French vocals; I find her work to be pleasant, but not magical, less generic than some French-language indie/alt rock but still a little same-sounding after a while. See what you think!

Vanessa Da Mata "Bicicletas, Bolos e Outras Alegrias" (Sony-Brasil, 2010)

Thomas Dutronc "Silence On Tourne, On Tourne En Rond" (Mercury-France, 2011)
The second solo album from the son of French avant-pop stars Jacques Dutronc and Francois Hardy. He shifts gears a little here, opening with several (great) indie-rock oriented songs that do justice to his royal lineage, and slowly circles back to the acoustic gypsy-jazz sound of his debut, along with a lot same kind of mellow, melodic indiepop that's big in France right now. Nice record: I'm keeping my eyes on this guy.

Maria Gadu "Maria Gadu" (Som Livre, 2010)
Young, up-and-coming MPB singer from Brazil, sticking mostly to a sleek acoustic style... Sounds a lot like Marisa Monte to me... Pretty voice, restrained production, nice music.

Jadid Ensemble "Sigh Of The Moor" (2010)
An impressive, self-released debut featuring a lively British ensemble dedicated to performing authentic, mainly traditional Arabic music, incorporating pan-Arabic influences and European crossovers such as Spanish flamenco and Turkish popular music. The multi-talented bandleader Glenn Sharp plays oud, guitar, cumbus saz (a particular style of long-necked oud with a sound that's like a mix of banjo and sitar) as well as piano and bass. Sharp composed all the pieces and is joined by a trio adding drums, flute and violin to the mix... The Jadid Ensemble creates a soulful blend of Arabic-influence new music that points to a bright future for themselves and their songs. Recommended! (For more information, check out the group's website,

The Lijadu Sisters "Mother Africa" (Afrodisia/Knitting Factory, 1977/2012)
(Produced by Biddy Wright)

Nice reissue of the second album by the Lijadu SIsters, who were practically the only female stars of the Nigerian 1970's pop scene... The Lijadus, sisters Kenhinde and Taiwo, were relatives of the legendary Fela Kuti and performed behind the scenes as session vocalists, and went on to record their first single in the late 1960s, and later toured with prog-rock drummer Ginger Baker during his early '70s foray into African music. They released four albums in the 1970s, all produced by and featuring the music of multi-instrumentalist Biddy Wright, whose distinctive funk-meets-psychedelic guitar gets even trippier on this disc. The album has a much different feel than their first, opening with a beautiful vocal harmony, backed only by sparse talking drums by Ayanwunmi Ayanleke and his band -- only later do the guitars join in, and when they do, there are some really weird, distinctive riffs, stuff that sounds a lot like the art-rock-meets-Africa explorations of Brian Eno and Talking Heads, later in the decade. Hearing the Lijadus sing in Yoruban as opposed to English is a real treat; this sounds like a set of children's tribal chants, but with a mystical, psychedelic edge. An intriguing, unusual album... Highly recommended!

Daniela Mercury "Canibalia" (Four Quarters, 2011)
Originally released in Brazil in 2009, this was the first album in several years from this 1990s Brazilian pop star... The opening tracks are overly high-tech with jittery arrangements that don't frame her voice well. Mercury gets her balance back on a playful, new wave-y remix of the old Carmen Miranda hit, "O Que E Que A Baiana Tem," giving way to the album's mellow middle section. A horrid English-language soul duet with Wyclef Jean threatens to derail things, but it's balanced by a sweet samba-cancao medley "Bencao Do Samba"; another Carmen Miranda cover -- "Tico Tico No Fuba" -- gets too disco-y, as does the album's closing track, which is straight-up electro-dance material. End result: an album that will only halfway appeal to traditionally oriented listeners, but which might wow her more dance-music oriented fans... It certainly shows her diverse interests. Sadly, this record was one of the last projects by percussionist Ramiro Musotto, who succumbed to cancer in 2009; other musicians include Sergio Dias (of Os Mutantes fame) and Seu Jorge, who duets with Mercury on "Preta."

Mario Moite "Fado Navegante" (Arc Music, 2011)
A fascinating, eclectic, multi-textured set of modern Portuguese fado from pianist Mario Moite, who has revived the 1870s tradition of "piano on fado," a style which died out in favor of the more familiar guitar style. While Moite champions this lost style he also brings new influences to the fado genre, elegantly mixing in Argentine tango, Cape Verdean mornas and perhaps a bit of Brazilian classical as well. It's lovely romantic music with inventive twists that will be fresh and new for many world music fans. Recommended!

Marisa Monte "O Que Voce Quer Saber De Verdade" (EMI, 2011)
(Produced by Marisa Monte)

Another lovely album from this golden-throated Brazilian indie-auteur... Other than a single duet with Arnaldo Antunes, Monte has left her Tribalistas connections aside on this one, working with a different set of eclectic adventurers, including many North American artists. Money Mark and Bernie Worrell add some keyboards on a couple of tracks, while Erik Friedlander and Greg Cohen (of John Zorn's difficult/jazz scene) perform on several songs... Brazil's Daniel Jobim drops in to play piano, while a hefty chunk of the playing on the album comes from multi-instrumentalist Dadi, who has helped anchor Monte's band on previous records. There are some places where the experimental touches call too much attention to themselves, but mostly this is one of those lovely, restrained, melodic gems that Ms. Monte excels at. Highly recommended!

Maria Rita "Elo" (Warner-Brasil, 2011)
A smooth, swank, rather safe jazz-ballads set, with sleek, unobtrusive arrangements and pretty-but-businesslike vocals from Ms. Rita. Doesn't wow me, but it's nice enough. If you liked her other earlier albums, no reason not to go for this one as well.

Roberta Sa E Trio Madeira "Quando O Canto E Reza" (Universal-Brasil, 2011)

G. G. Vikey "Chantre De La Negritude" (Bolibana, 2011)
Oooh, neat! This is a digital reissue of an old album that I actually own -- I found it in the bins of a small record shop that was going out of business in the late 1980s, and I've always wondered who the heck Mssr. Vikey was (there was no Internet to speak of, back then...) and where he came from. The subtle, quirky guitar work reminded me of New World artists such as Joseph Spence, but the groovy dashiki clearly said "somewhere in Africa." Now, two decades later, I've finally pieced it together, with help from the Bolibana reissue series (digital only, alas!) and French Wikipedia, I have learned that Gustave Gbenou Vikey was a musician from Benin, mainly active in the 1960s, and that he released this one album, along with a string of singles. I'm still not sure exactly what year this record came out, but I'm pleased to see it "in print" again at last... If you enjoy gentle acoustic roots music -- think S. E. Rogie-era palm-wine music -- then you might want to check this gem out. Includes a few tunes with a full band, but it's mostly just Vikey and his "guitare Africaine," and it sounds really, really nice. Recommended!

Various Artists "AFROLATIN VIA CONAKRY" (Syllart, 2011)
A nice series highlighting Latin-American flavored music from West Africa... This volume collects music from Guinea

Various Artists "AFROLATIN VIA COTONOU" (Syllart, 2011)

Various Artists "AFROLATIN VIA DAKAR" (Syllart, 2011)

Various Artists "AFROLATIN VIA KINSASHA" (Syllart, 2011)

Various Artists "BACHATA LEGENDS" (iASO, 2011)
The first Bachata Roja compilation remains one of my all-time favorite albums, an invaluable, revelatory introduction to the beautiful romantic music of the early 1960s Dominican Republic. I've scoured the Internet and local record stores ever since it came out, trying to track down more of this music, but nothing comes close to that stunning collection. So, when I saw two more albums from the iASO label, I literally gasped with delight. And they're both pretty good: this first disc is a modern-day session gathering several of the original stars of the old acoustic style. It's a little rougher-edged, with some good guitar playing but a more rhythmic, driving percussion that perhaps reflects at the hyperactive pop genre that bachata morphed into a few decades ago. These tracks didn't have quite the same sleek, lyrical feel as the vintage recordings, but it's very welcome nonetheless, and includes tracks by several artists who weren't on the first record, such as El Chivo Sin Ley, Samuel Paredes and Los Inimitables, along with more tracks by old-timers Ramon Cordero, Leonardo Paniagua, and Augusto Santos. Great stuff, especially when combined with the Amor Y Amargue collection (below).

Various Artists "BACHATA ROJA: AMOR Y AMARGUE" (iASO, 2011)
Stunning. More great acoustic bachata ballads from the golden era of the 1960s and '70s, with classic tracks by Juan Bautista, Ramon Cordero, Luis Segura, Leonardo Paniagua and others. It's all great stuff, full of rich, emotional performances and gorgeous guitar work, a perfect companion to the first Bachata Roja collection, and an album I will be listening to, again and again, for many years to come. Highly recommended! (BTW, anyone know where I can get ahold of more of Rafael Encarnacion's music? He's possibly my favorite artist in this series, but it's impossible to find his old albums...)

Various Artists "BAMBARA MYSTIC SOUL - THE RAW SOUND OF BURKINA FASO: 1974-79" (Analog Africa, 2011)

Various Artists "LEGENDS OF FADO" (Arc Music, 2011)
A highly satisfying set of classic, traditionally-oriented Portuguese fados from major artists such as Amalia Rodrigues, Carlos Ramos, Fernando Farinha and others. I'm not sure of the exact provenance of these recordings, but they are all of a high caliber, and eminently listenable: this is great stuff! A great introduction to the genre, or a treat for folks who are already fado fans.

Various Artists "PSYCHEDELIC PERNAMBUCO" (Mr Bongo, 2011)
A strong compilation of early-1970s Brazilian obscurities from the wigged-out, uber-eclectic, bizarre-a-loid psychedelic folk scene of the Pernambuco region. This album cherry-picks odd songs from a handful of albums that have been reissued elsewhere in the last few years and, frankly, creates a better listening experience than the original albums (which have a lot of material on them that's best described as "difficult listening...") Includes early work from Geraldo Azevedo and Alceu Valenca who became stars in the '70s, and the more-obscure Lula Cortes, Flaviola, Marconi Notaro (who did not) as well as one track by a group called Gentlemen, who I'd never heard of before... It's all pretty weird, pretty challenging and well-curated on this intriguing collection. Definitely worth checking out!

Various Artists "PUTUMAYO PRESENTS: BRAZILIAN BEAT" (Putumayo, 2012)
This is a super-mellow set of contemporary Brazilectronica club music, featuring a number of newer artists, all in a super-chilled out dance-music mode. The only name I recognize is '60s/'70s bossa modernist Marcos Valle, who has become a champion of this style. I'm more into older stuff myself, but if you are into the style, this is certainly worth checking out. And, like many Putumayo collections, it's likely to help steer you towards a bunch of artists you hadn't heard of before.

Various Artists "THE ROUGH GUIDE TO ENGLISH FOLK" (Rough Guide, 2011)
This is a decent introduction to several modern, more pop-oriented British folk acts, with a few modest nods back towards talented but obscure musicians from the '60s/'70s scene, such as Pete Coe, the Copper Family and the Old Swan Band. Strangely, there is an entire second disc of the Coope, Boyes & Simpson band -- yes, they are one of the most commercially successful folk acts in English, but having an entire album's worth of their work grafted onto a more wide-ranging compilation like this does seem a bit odd. The contemporary/crossover slant of the collection is also mildly jarring, given the generic album title; if they'd branded it as a collection of newer material, that would have been helpful. Regardless, I'm sure many listeners will find new music to enjoy here, and fresh faces to add to their listening lists.

New To Me...

Severino Araujo "Nova Serie" (Warner Brasil, 2007)
A nice overview of one of my favorite guilty-pleasure Brazilian easy-listening instrumental bands, clarinetist Severino Araujo and his Orquestra Tabajara, who had a kind of swinging, big-band Mancini-and-Severinson-meet-samba vibe. This collection ping-pongs between Araujo's work in the late 1950s/early '60s and stuff from the '70s. The 'Seventies tracks are poppier with a prefab, Vegas-y glitz, but some of them are fun as well. The real fire is on the old recordings, which have a delicious, swank feel to them. Some tracks are cheesy, but both eras offer gems -- I was particularly psyched to get a newly-remastered version of "Um Chorinho Pra Voce," one of the coolest pop-choro tunes I've ever heard. This is a great introduction to a classic, if kinda corny, Brazilian band.

Jil Caplan "Derriere La Porte" (Odeon, 2007)
(Produced by Jay Alansky)

A lovely, downtempo French pop album, with hints of electronica laced in with moody acoustic neo-chanson and perky, modern-day indiepop. I think some of her records are pretty overproduced, but this one seems more restrained and elegant. Slick, but sweet - definitely recommended!

Claire Denamur "Claire Denamur" (EMI/Source Etc., 2009)
(Produced by Julien Delfaud & Thomas Semence)

A nice, slightly unusual French indie-pop album, with subtle American folk and country motifs, including a bit of pedal steel, that set it apart from most French indie albums. Denamur has a lovely voice and a strong sense of melody... A few tracks feature a dixieland/cabaret/show tunes style that goes a little overboard (I wound up de-selecting those tracks) She also wrote or co-wrote all of the material on this album, along with arranger Pierre-Dominique Burgaud. (Also worth waiting for is the hidden track at the end of the album -- a "morceau cache," or "hidden bit" in French -- a lovely song that, in a throwback to the early 1990's indie scene, includes three minutes of silence before the music begins... Not convenient for iPods, but okay on a lazy day at home...) A strong debut, and very easy on the ears... Apparently she has a second album out, which I'm going to try and track down as well.

Jamait "Le Coquelicot" (Wagram/Faisage, 2006)
A rock-solid, rollicking album by French singer Yves Jamait, a neo-chanson revivalist in the spirit of Thomas Fersen, San Severino or Marie Kiss La Joue, injecting a bit of rough-and-tumble modernism and Tom Waits-y growl into his jaunty, accordion-infused repertoire. Most songs are ruggedly uptempo, though he adds a few softer tunes towards the end. Nice stuff!

Mamak Khadem "Jostojoo - Forever Seeking" (Banyan Tree Productions, 2007)
(Produced by Jamshied Sharifi & Mamak Khadem)

An intense and alluring set of Persian-language vocals from Iranian emigre Mamak Khadem, known for her work with the group Axiom Of Choice... Backed mainly by acoustic instruments such as the oud, but also by traditional percussion, occasional flutes and light, ethereal synthesizers, Khadem soars and imbues each song with a powerful, mystical presence -- this disc taps into deep cultural and spiritual reservoirs. Occasionally it takes stylistic turns that may make it less accessible to some listeners, but even then her technical prowess is compelling. Much like qawwal singers or other Asian and Middle Eastern vocalists, Khadem's ability to divide dozens of notes into a single breath, to shade her tones and turn on a dime in the middle of complex and challenging passages will wow attentive listeners. Over-the-top in a few places, but certainly worth checking out!

Various Artists "FORGOTTEN GUITARS FROM MOZAMBIQUE: 1955-57" (SWP, 2003)
One of several volumes from the amazing trove of African field recordings made by Hugh Tracey in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. This volume collects guitar-based songs by singers Feliciano Gomes, Aurelio Kowano, Americo Kossa, Nacio Makanda and others living in Mozambique back when it was a Portuguese colony. The style is generally rugged and stark, a bit piercing and perhaps inaccessible to many modern world music fans. But it is a welcome companion to other collections of East African music, on SWP, Original Music and other like-minded labels. I have to confess that, even as a fan of African music of this era, I found this album hard to get into -- it was just a little harsher and harder-edged than I prefer... Definitely worth a spin, though.

Various Artists "SOUTHERN MOZAMBIQUE: 1943... 1963" (SWP, 2003)
This mindboggling collection of potent, lo-fi field recordings from Mozambique is a must-have record for listeners in search of truly "new" obscuro-sounds, things that you simply haven't heard before. I couldn't help thinking, on track after track, what a rich reservoir this is for modern-day musicians who want to explore unique sounds either as remixes or by trying to figure out how the sounds were made, all those years ago. In some cases, it's been done by accident -- for example, the droning, flanging overtones of the Chopi tribe's marimbas (similar to the accidental, buzzing tones produced by finger pianos, but larger and more dense) which sound remarkably similar to the downward notes of the synthesizers on the Magnetic Fields song, "In My Car." The percussion and vocals on other tracks are equally unusual, a pure, unfiltered indigenous style largely uninfluenced by the world of pop music and electrification that lay beyond the poverty of postwar Mozambique. Stark, inaccessible-sounding at first, but a real mind-blower if you can get into it.

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