Sunday, September 27, 2009

CD Review: Kailash Kher & Company

Yatra (Nomadic Souls)
An invigorating release from India showcases singer Kailash Kher and his band Kailasa. This is where contemporary Indian pop music meets traditional roots and rhythms. There is a solid, Indian-ness to the songs, with some elements of Sufi, Gypsy, funk, reggae, and electronic beat music. The contemporary music is produced with help from traditional instrumentation as well, including rabab, saz, oud, santoor, harmonium, sitar, and various percussion. Perhaps Yatra (Nomadic Souls) is an homage to the global music listener, while taking in, absorbing, and processing various styles for 'nomadic souls' around the world. Yatra (Nomadic Souls) traverses the musical spectrum from up-beat dance sounds of "Tauba Tauba" and "Jhoomo Re" to the slower rhythms of "Piya Ghar Aavenge". This is a highly-recommended, adventurous musical journey for anyone interested in contemporary Indian music. The songs are sung in Hindi, but English lyrics are provided in the liner notes, along with colored pictures. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sertab Erener & Demir Demirkan

Painted On Water
Motema Music

Vocalist Sertab Erener and guitarist Demir Demirkan are a jazzy duo from Turkey. Sertab sings in English, even though some of the songs are based on, or inspired by traditional Turkish folk songs. The songs are sultry, bluesy-jazz-rock compositions that should resonate with all types of listeners. The gritty guitar stylings and piano accompaniment seem to fit Sertab's vocals with ease. At times, the album takes on American blues/rock characteristics while remaining Turkish at heart. Essentially, Painted On Water is an album with a colorful repertoire of musical influences that will suit the flamenco-jazz, lounge jazz, and jazz-rock fan quite easily. Painted On Water is full of funk and Turkish spunk. English lyrics are provided in the liner notes.

~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Orla Fallon's 'Distant Shore'

Distant Shore

Orla Fallon, of Celtic Woman fame, succeeds with her second solo album, Distant Shore. The Irish maiden soothes the soul with a pristine voice backed by some contemporary choral arrangements and mostly modern instrumentation. The opening track's piano and percussion arrangements remind one of Celine Dion's song, "A Brand New Day", or Nina Gordon's "Tonight and The Rest of My Life". The ethereal, ambient elements and touch of piano and harp make Distant Shore soar into areas previously unexplored by other artists in the New Age/Celtic genre. The rather pop-focused, "Dancing In The Moonlight", is a sweet song about love that is sure to make feet happy with dancing maneuvers. The songs are primarily sung in English, though one track is in Gaelic and another track showcases a harp medley. Fans of Celtic Woman, Gaelic singing, and New Age/Irish music will especially love it. Moreover, Orla's second solo album is accessible for everyone and is only as 'distant' as your nearest music store. The tide is rising and Distant Shore is on top. It's that good. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, September 18, 2009

CD Review: 35th Parallel's 'Crossing Painted Islands'

35th Parallel
Crossing Painted Islands
Independent Release

The 2006 release, Crossing Painted Islands, continues the tradition of exploring the world's music. Gabe Hallberg plays the tabla, tar, kou xiang, and percussion. Mac Ritchey plays the oud, bouzouki, acoustic guitar, didjeridoo, and lends his vocals for overtone singing, which is a style commonly heard in Tuva and Mongolia. However, a majority of the tracks are of Turkish origin with one from Armenia. Even so, the music on Crossing Painted Islands is slightly different from their prior release, The Green Vine, which was also reviewed here. Instead, their latest release seems to mainly draw upon the music of the Caucasus, the Balkans, and the Middle East. Still, Crossing Painted Islands is rich with musical creativity and relaxing rhythms well worth a listen. If you are looking for a great world fusion album, then this is for you. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Music from The Green Vine

The Green VineAdd Image
Independent Release

35th Parallel's 2003 release, The Green Vine, weaves through and within the world's great musical cultures. In fact, the band's name comes from the latitude of intersecting musical regions that heavily influence their music. 35th Parallel is based in Vermont, right down the road from my alma mater, Goddard College, where Mac Ritchey and Gabe Hallberg create a fusion of music from the Middle East, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and North India. The entirely instrumental release features sounds on the oud, bouzouki, acoustic guitar, didjeridoo, gongs, tablas, pakhawaj, tar, tamboura, and electronic accompaniment. The tracks are never busy or overdone. Some tracks are attributed to guest musicians Mohammad Omar and Aziz Herawi) or historical figures (Gomidas) in music. Each track reveals a different musical journey, which is always surprising and fresh. The 35th Parallel is not that far away. Hear it today. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Mzungu Kichaa from Denmark and Tanzania

Tuko Pamoja
Caravan Records

Mzungu Kichaa, which means "crazy white guy" in Swahili, is a musician from Denmark that grew up in Tanzania. Mzungu sings in Swahili and plays the guitar. Though, Tuko Pamoja, which means "we are one" in Swahili, is a contemporary hip-hop, rap, and pop work. The music is reminiscent of the modern French hip-hop scene. Traditional instruments are replaced for a more urban sound that is primarily carried by the vocals. Yet, some of the tracks are very melodic with groovy, acoustic instrumental segments indicative of Central African soukous, highlife music, or reggae. Of course, there are hints of musical influences spanning across the entire continent of Africa, but Mzungu's lyrical content mainly deals with the people of Tanzania. World rap music is relatively unknown to many audiences, but Tuko Pamoja should provide a welcome introduction to the genre for beginners and seasoned listeners. Liner notes include song lyrics in Swahili and introductions in English. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Guinea's Sia Tolno

Eh Sanga

Guinea's Sia Tolno is a shining star coming out of West Africa. Her vocals are strong, sultry, and distinctly African. Drawing from comparisons to Benin's Angelique Kidjo and the late-Miriam Makeba, Sia incorporates pop rhythms with indigenous instrumentation and jazzy beats and backup singers. The album was recorded in Cuba, Paris, and Conakry. The transglobal recording environments certainly influenced the music, as Latin rhythms, Lusophone cafe sounds, and African pop beats permeate the album. Sia sings in English, French, and a mix of Kissi or Pular languages. The opening track, "African Dreams", sets the stage for the rest of the tracks. Essentially, it is an ode to Mother Africa. Fans of West African music should check out Sia today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Uxia's Eterno Navegar

Eterno Navegar

Uxia (pron. 00-SHEE-a) is a heartfelt singer of fado and morna songs inspired by the Asturias region of Northern Spain, Portugal, the Azores, Cape Verde, Africa, Brazil and everywhere in-between. Eterno Navegar, which means, "Eternal Sailing", is a reflection of the musical inspiration inherent in the environment surrounding the countries and islands in the Eastern Atlantic. The entire album has a Lusophone (a.k.a. Portuguese) sound. Instrumentally, the piano, accordion, bass, trombone, cello, percussion, hurdy gurdy, and violin comprise the primary repertoire. The Cape Verdean/Portuguese guitarist and singer, Sara Tavares, lends her vocals to the mix. Overall, Eterno Navegar is an intimate and inviting journey for any listener with an interest in Lusophone music. A 56-page colored booklet in English and Portuguese includes an introduction, song titles and instrumentation, and photos. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: 'Soul'try Sounds of Ahmed Soultan

Somum Records

Born in Morocco, Ahmed Soultan soon emigrated to France where he experimented with Arabic and French rap/hip-hop styles. In fact, some of the songs are sung in Berber, French, Arabic, and English. The overall feel of the album is very laid-back and smooth. Code is not a gangster rap album loaded with profanities and violence. Instead, it bridges a Francophone style with Arabic soul. Ahmed is joined by a female singer, Samira, on a few tracks. Three of the fourteen tracks are repeated for whatever reason. One of the three tracks features a guest artist, Afrodiziac. The secret to understanding and enjoying Code is not that difficult soon after you start playing the tracks. The music takes on a 'soul'try and smooth edge with little help from traditional instrumentation over modern hip-hop beats. One thing is for sure, Code is in its own category. It's that good. ~ Matthew Forss