Friday, December 30, 2005

African sound rules music w'Toronto at the Hub

Thu, 29 Dec 2005
Google Alert - Toronto, Soul Drums

AFRICA dominates with original sounds
Toronto Star - Canada
... Myamba, an atmospheric solo album stripped of drums and electric ... Cape Verde, Di Korpu ku Alma (Of Body and Soul). The biggest news out of Toronto this year has ...

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Africa dominates with original sounds
Dec. 29, 2005. 01:00 AM

Innovative work from Senegal, landmark releases from Mali and a motherlode of gems from the Democratic Republic of Congo dominated this year's world music scene.
Toronto's Kiran Ahluwalia also grabbed attention in Europe and elsewhere with her first international release. And a raft of other global newcomers freshened the offerings, particularly a veteran Iraqi star and a sensuous young singer from the Cape Verde Islands.
The album of the year has to be Orientissime.
Titled Orientation in the U.S. and Britain, it is the astonishingly original work of Thione Seck, Senegal's perennial No. 2 star at home after Youssou N'Dour.
Seck has always lived in the westernmost portion of Africa, but grew up listening to languorous Egyptian strings on the radio and lively Bollywood hits at the cinema.
Such sounds unquestionably influenced his vocal style, which to some listeners always seemed strangely at odds with his country's mbalax (pronounced em-BAL-lach) polyrhythmic music.
Orientissime sounds like the album he always wanted to make.
Recorded three years ago but released only now, it brings together Senegalese, Egyptian and Indian musicians and vocalists, with a wildness and confidence that fully realizes his brilliant vision.
In another radical departure, Senegal's No. 3 mbalax star, Omar Pene, marked his 30 years as leader of Super Diamono with Myamba, an atmospheric solo album stripped of drums and electric guitars.
And the always independent-minded Sheikh Lo, on his first album in five years, again got adventurous with Lamp Fall, recorded in Dakar, London and the Bahia region of northern Brazil.
From Mali, Senegal's immediate neighbour to the east, three especially good albums were produced this past year.
One is M'Bemba, by the great Mande singer Salif Keita, a semi-acoustic production in the vein of his 2002 Moffou album, but more self-assured and majestic, solidifying his new direction.
A second is In the Heart of the Moon, an almost entirely instrumental CD by Mali's top two improvisational string masters — guitarist Ali Farka Touré and kora player Toumani Diabate.
Touré has almost entirely ceased to perform publicly and has short patience for the studio, preferring to oversee his fields and orchards on the banks of the Niger River at Niafunké.
His London producer Nick Gold is left with little choice but to chase Touré down periodically, and match him with musicians who can jam at his level. Diabate proves the perfect choice, in sessions using a portable studio at a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako.
The third hit album from Mali is Dimanche à Bamako, by Amadou et Mariam, an endearing blind couple best known for their love songs to each other.
On this release, the Spanish-born France-based singer/guitarist Manu Chao updates and energizes their sound, without losing any of the couples' mutual warmth and affection, and brings them to a wider audience.
Little new Congolese music has reached the outside world in recent years, as war and poverty continue to cripple the music industry in that country. To fill the gap, outside companies have started to mine the rich back catalogue.
Perhaps the best of such releases this year is Golden Afrique Vol. 2, a two-CD set covering classic rumba Congolaise and early soukous from 1956 to 1982. It begins spectacularly with Franco and Sam Mangwana collaborating on Co-operation and progresses through another 26 outstanding tracks.
Also climbing the charts is Nyboma, a collection of pioneering soukous music from 1981 to 1985 by Nyboma & Kamalé Dynamique. Nyboma is also the current singer with the reformed Rumba Congolaise group Kékélé.
Other standout releases of the year include Ilham: The Voice of Iraq, a greatest hits CD from Iraqi folk singer and oud player Ilham al Madfai, and his exciting band. He is in his 60s and only now finding a well-deserved wider audience.
Lura, presented at Toronto's Lula Lounge this fall by Small World Music, scored a hit with her freshly entertaining CD/DVD release of music from Cape Verde, Di Korpu ku Alma (Of Body and Soul).
The biggest news out of Toronto this year has been Kiran Ahluwalia's Day of Colours, her third CD and her first international release, greeted in the world-music press with rave notices.
"She has the potential to become one of the great ambassadors of Indo-Pakistani diaspora music, not from Canada, from anywhere," wrote Ken Hunt in London's authoritative fRoots magazine.
Ahluwalia sings traditional ghazal music, but in her own style. On two tracks on Day of Colours she is joined by Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster.


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