WorldBeatUK (14th Show) - Broadcast Notes (1st June 2011)
Tagged with: WorldBeatUK Glyn Phillips Rory McLeod Owiny Sigoma Fatamouta Diawara Saucejas Dagadana Los de Abajo Ikebe Shakedown Olufemi Vieux Farka Toure Barbad Gil Scott Heron Cedric Brooks Omi Akwaaba Karlon Rootsmamas Babayaga Canelason Pornoson Brownout
WBUK14 (1/6/11) - PLAYLIST
1 “Intro-Mat” (1:47) by Matchatcha from album ‘Nyekesse (Aimer La Danse)’ (Melodie)
You’re listening to Rhubarb Radio, my name’s Glyn Phillips and welcome to WorldBeatUK - 2 hours of the best world music from around the globe. Coming up on the show tonight we’ve got music from the USA, France, Spain, Jamaica, Iran, Portugal, Mali, South Africa, Kenya, Mexico, Sweden, Poland, Latvia, Russia and the UK. So stay tuned to WorldBeatUK as I take you around the world in weighty grooves . . .
Now first off a little plug for a gig that’s happening right here in Birmingham, this Saturday the 4th June - just around the corner from where I’m sitting in the Custard Factory in Digbeth, Birmingham - at the Wagon & Horses, Adderley Street. I’ve been rehearsing with a new nine-piece band recently called Kilombo and it will be our debut gig. The band plays a mixture of afro-centric based musics including merengue ska, soca-cumbia, bolero, bossa, rumba, jazz-funk and rhythm & blues and we formed it just for some fun - the chance to play the music we like without having to fit into some kind of marketing label.
If you fancy coming along, then the night starts at 8, goes on till 3am and will also feature dub band Relative and a fistful of DJs including Skeleton, Marc Reck, the Jam Jah DJs and more. And it’s all FREE!
For a little taste of what Kilombo play, here’s one of the tunes we’re going to be performing on Saturday. This is a ska version by the St Petersburg Ska-Jazz Review of the Zimbabwean classic “Skokiaan”:
2 “Skokiaan” (3:23) by St Petersburg Ska-Jazz Review from album “Too Good To Be True” (Megalith Records)
Another plug now, this time for the Celebrating Sanctuary Festival 2011 in London on the 19th June on the South Bank. As the name suggests it refers to raising awareness of the plight of refugees during Refugee Week (which takes place 20th -26th June). I’ll be featuring some of the artists involved in the Festival over the next couple of weeks or so on this show and first up is the UK’s Rory McLeod.
He carries with him that same mixture of idiosyncracy and integrity as people like Ash Mandrake, Roy Harper etc. I think it’s safe to say that Rory is an underground legend. Described variously as an amazing folk artist, traveller, troubadour extraordinaire and a one-man folk orchestra, Rory plays a multitude of instruments including trombone, harmonica, spoons, djembe, bandorea, guitar, finger-cymbals and tapshoe-driven stomp-box! He’s played and recorded with people like Ani Di Franco, Taj Mahal, Kathryn Tickell and Ali Farka Toure amongst many others.
I had the pleasure of performing with him back in the 90s right here in Birmingham - a great musician, and a true gent to boot. Luckily for us here in Brum he’s come down from the Orkneys and will be performing next month at the Kitchen Garden Café, Kings Heath, courtesy of World Unlimited. I urge you to go along - you will be drawn into his unique world and emerge with your senses buzzing. And talking of buzzing - this is Rory McLeod and a track from his new album (“Swings and Roundabouts”) called “Lassooing the Bees”!
3 “Lassooing the Bees” (4:00) by Rory McLeod from the album “Swings and Roundabouts” (Talkative Music - Talk004)
Wasn’t that fun! OK yet another plug now! Over the last few weeks I’ve been playing material from the debut album of an anglo-kenyan band called Owiny Sigoma. They are having their inaugural concert on Monday June 6th at Café OTO in Dalston, London. So here’s a track from their album - also called Owiny Sigoma, on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings label - this is a tune sung in English called “Here On The Line”.
4 “Here On the Line” (4:12) by Owiny Sigoma Band from album ‘Owiny Sigoma Band’ (Brownswood Recordings)
Meanwhile over in West Africa we come across the Cote D’Ivoire born, Mali raised singer Fatoumata Diawara (who I first came across last year singing backing vocals on the AfroCubism CD). Fatoumata will be playing the support slot for AfroCubism at their Royal Albert Hall concert on 27th June this year, but in the meantime here’s a preview from her forthcoming album (“Fatou”) to be released by World Circuit in September. This track is called “Kanou” and it’s just been released as an EP on digital download (check iTunes, Amazon, etc).
5 “Kanou” (3:56) by Fatoumata Diawara from EP ‘Kanou’ (World Circuit)
Ok let’s leave Africa for a while, and travel far to the North of Europe to the Baltic Sea for the next few numbers. First up is a choir called Saucejas from the small country of Latvia sandwiched between Lithuania and Estonia. They specialise in choral folk music and this tune is called “Nekukoji, Dzeguzite” which translates as ‘Stop calling, Cuckoo’.
6 “Nekukoji, Dzeguzite” (Stop Calling, Cuckoo) (2:50) by Saucejas from album ‘Native Music 5 - Latvia’ (Latvian Music Information Centre)
Just down from Latvia and Lithuania is Poland where you can find the young folk-pop trio Dagadana (formed by Dagmara Gregorowicz and Dana Vynnytska). A few months ago I featured them in an article that I wrote for WorldMusic.co.uk on the state of Polish world music after hearing their album “Malenka” (Offside Records 005) which was awarded the Polish Fryderyk Award for Folk/World Album of the Year 2010.
They’ve just contacted me to tell me about their forthcoming album “Dlaczego Nie” (which translates as “Why Not?”) and to share the first single from the album : “Wszystkie Maja Po Chlopoku” (Every girl has a man) which is their innovative and very jazzy take on a folk song sung to them by their mothers when they were just kids. The album won’t be released until Autumn, but here’s a taste of what they do.
7 “Wszystkie” (Every Girl Has a Man) (4:13) by Dagadana from album ‘Dlaczego Nie (Why Not?)’
Meanwhile on the other side of the Baltic Sea lies Sweden. This next band is a trio formed by Pelle Björnlert on Fiddle, Johan Hedin on Swedish nyckelharpa and Eric Pekkari on zither, two-accordion and fiddle. They tend to specialise in very old Swedish folk music and this is no exception. This tune is called “Flageolettpolska”.
8 “Flageolettpolskan” (2:58) by Pelle Björnlert, Johan Hedin & Erik Pekkari
Staying in Sweden but with a far more contemporary approach to folk is the duo Jonas Knutsson and Johan Norberg. In fact it’s almost folk-jazz, especially because for this album they’re joined by the wonderful German double bassist Eva Kruse who contributes this piece of Bavarian folk to their repertoire. This is called "Schwarzer Bua”.
9 “Schwarzer Bua” (3:15) by Jonas Knutsson & Johan Norberg from album ‘Skaren: Norrland III’ (Act)
OK, enough Nordic intensity for the moment - let’s have some fun. Everybody aboard the long-haul flight to Mexico City for the next one - Mexico’s ska-punk rebels Los de Abajo (Those From Below) and a rather groovy track full of swagger and street attitude called, naturally enough, “Actitud Calle”:
10 “Actitud Calle” (4:59) by Los De Abajo from the album “Actitud Calle” (Wrasse Records)
And from one great New World metropolis to another, New York! But maybe not as you expect. Most people associate afrobeat with West Africa - especially Nigeria and Ghana, but this next band are from the Big Apple itself and mix very, very convincing afro-beat with afro-funk, cinematic soul, deep disco and boogaloo that features a mighty horn section anchored by tight deep-pocketed grooves. The band - from Brooklyn - is called Ikebe Shakedown, the album is also called “Ikebe Shakedown”, it’s on the Ubiquity record label and this track is called “Asa-Sa”:
11 “Asa-Sa” (5:06) by Ikebe Shakedown from album ‘Ikebe Shakedown’ (Ubiquity)
[CONTINUOUS - CONTINUOUS]
12 “Ori Mi” (5:03) by Olufemi from album ‘Just In Newtown’
[ - Change CD! - Change CD! - ]
The last track was by the South African based, Nigerian saxophonist and composer, Olufemi from his debut album “Just in Newtown” and a track called “Ori Mi”.
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Now, there can’t be many world music fans who haven’t heard of Ali Farka Toure the Malian guitar maestro who was very much responsible for the initial successes of British record label World Circuit. Ali died 7 years ago, however, in that time his son Vieux Farka Toure has gradually emerged from the giant shadow of his father to become a respected musician in his own right.
Last year he performed to a television audience of a billion people in Johannesburg, South Africa during the World Cup. Vieux will be performing in the UK next month - 16th July at the Larmer Tree Festival and 30th July at Womad in Charlton Park.
Vieux has a new album out next month on the 4th July on the Six Degrees record label. It’s produced by Soulive’s Eric Krasno and features contributions from Derek Trucks of the Allman Brothers, John Scofield and Dave Matthews. The album is called “The Secret” and I have a preview of one of the songs right here for you. This track features Derek Trucks and is called “Aigna”:
(1) 13 “Aigna” (Feat. Derek Trucks) (4:53) by Vieux Farka Touré from album ‘The Secret’ (Six Degrees)
[CONTINUOUS - CONTINUOUS]
(2) 14 “Duet Flamenco” (2:13) by Vahid Hajikamali from album ‘Duet Flamenco’ (Barbad Records)
You just heard a track called “Duet Flamenco” from an album of the same name from - of all places - Iran! I have next to no details apart from the name Vahid Haji-kamali and that it was released by Iran’s Barbad Records sometime between 2007 and 2009. But I like it!
Also from my same Persian sampler is the following excerpt, originally from a soundtrack album for the box-office breaking Iranian film “M for Mother”, the music for which was composed by Arya Aziminejad who has worked with people like Peter Gabriel and Jocelyn Pook. This is called “As Time Goes By”:
(3) 15 “As Time Goes By” (1:43) by Arya Aziminejad from album ‘M For Mother’ (Barbad Records)
So beautiful and wistful and sad!
And here’s some sad news. It is with a profound sense of loss that I have to report the death on Saturday last of the great poet and singer Gil Scott Heron. He died at the age of 62 after returning from Europe from a virus, I think, that he picked up over here. A young age to die, but a man who in his years did as much as any and more than many to raise the consciousness of all those that came across his music and message.
A man of deep thought and incisive observation, Gil crafted magnificent opuses of life-changing and life-affirming positivity which he often set against minimal percussion and backing. The internet has been awash since Saturday when the news broke of his death with people of all ages and backgrounds testifying to the effect that Gil had on their lives, me amongst them.
The teacher is dead, but his lesson goes on. For a world music show like this, what other song than his reggae-based homage to the power of music and word; from the 1983 album “Reflections”, this is “Storm Music”:
(4) 16 “Storm Music” (4:59) by Gil Scott-Heron from album ‘Reflections’ (Sony)
[CONTINUOUS - CONTINUOUS]
(5) - Reggae City Ad Jingle (1:05)
[CONTINUOUS - CONTINUOUS]
(6) 17 “Mun-Dun-Gu” (3:16) by Cedric Brooks (Bamboo)
That last majestic track was “Mundungu” by the Jamaican saxophonist and flautist Cedric Brooks famous for his work with The Skatalites, The Light of Saba and - of course Count Ossie’s rasta outfit the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. Cedric recorded that track under the moniker Sound Dimension - and it’s a killer! “Mundungu”!
If you like that track, then you can hear it played live by my new band, El Combo Kilombo, which - as I mentioned at the top of the show - is playing its debut gig at the Wagon & Horses, right here on Adderley Street, Digbeth in Birmingham this Saturday 4th June.
Kilombo play a mixture of musics from afrocentric bases including soca-cumbia, merengue-ska, nyabinghi-reggae, Township-jazz, bolero, rumba, bossa, jazz-funk and rhythm & blues.
It’s a free event starting at 8pm and going on till about 3am; it’s called Subvert and besides Combo Kilombo there’s the live dub band “Relative” and DJs including Rhubarb’s very own DJ Marc Reck, as well as Skeleton the Jam Jah DJs Robin Giorno and Bongo Damo as well as Christy, Dodgy Greg and Stalingrad - so there’ll be plenty of Reggae and Dub magic to keep you happy - and it’s all FREE! Yep not a penny on the door!
Ok, let’s go to Jamaica and to a new artist - to me at any rate. This is Omi who’s just been signed to Clifton Dillon’s Shang Records label and a love song called “Cheerleader”:
(7) 18 “Cheerleader” (2:56) Omi (Shang Records)
Now, the Akwaaba record label have been very active recently and one of their recent projects was to celebrate last week’s Africa Day which took place on the 25th of May. They decided to release an EP called “Mama Africana” in homage to one of the most emblematic figures of Africa - the Woman, the mother with her baby on the back carrying and selling goods, bringing food to the table at the end of the day.
Mpula from the band Batida took a hook from a classic 1960s Angolan Semba “There Goes Maria” and then challenged some of his favourite MCs to build a poem around this concept. The three versions selected are on the EP.
Here’s the contribution of Portuguese afro-rapper Karlon (aka Kota K) who talks about the generosity of the women in his life and his neighbourhood, mostly immigrants from Cape Verde.
This is “Lá Vai Maria” - There Goes Maria:
(8) 19 “Lá Vai María” feat. Karlon (3:36) by Batida from EP ‘Mamã Africana’ (Akwaaba)
Here’s an interesting cumbia refixed by Goy Karamelo; originally by the Barcelonian duo of Susana Abellán and Diana Feria - better known as the Rootsmamas, whose philosophy is “Life is simple, all is love, enjoy in peace”. And you can’t say fairer than that! This is “La Trampa”
(9) 20 “La Trampa” (4:04) by Rootsmamas (Goy Karamelo refix)
A nice bit of cumbia-pop there. And now some Balko-Klezmer fusion from Clermont Ferrand - this is a track called “Yvan Oreille D’Ours” by the French band Babayaga:
(10) 21 “Yvan Oreille D’Ours” (3:22) by Babayaga from “1er Album”
Staying with the French connection this is a track by the French latin-hip-hop band Canelason from their album “Sin Pasaporte” (without passport) and a track featuring Racko, called “La Rumba”. Let’s see if this gets you in the mood for moving . . .
(11) 22 “La Rumba” (Featuring Racko) (3:31) by Canelason from album ‘Sin Pasaporte’
OK, almost at the end of the show. And appropriately enough - since this is going to be the XXX rated part . . . 'What’s he going on about?' I can hear you thinking.
Well this next band are from New York and started out as a salsa and timba band led by the Cuban bassist and timbero Danny Rojo; however after a few years of playing standard fare, Danny started changing the lyrics of their tunes in the heat of the moment whilst doing gigs and, shall we say, ‘spicing’ up the words and commenting on the dancers in front of him. His new lyrics really added to the sexually charged atmosphere on the dancefloor and went down well with their fans.
From that moment they’ve never looked back and so they changed their name to Pornoson. Yep, that’s what I said, Pornoson. Just be careful when you’re googling it - you might get more than you bargained for… missus! Their stage show apparently makes Cuban timba legends, La Charanga Habanera look like choirboys - which makes the mind boggle, since I saw La Charanga Habanera on a couple of occasions in the 90s and can attest to their effect on the libido!
For those of a delicate disposition, fear not - it’s all in Spanish - so you’re safe (or deprived, judging on how you see it!) unless you’re a Spanish speaker in which case: disfruta a las delicias de la salsa pornografica! However, the music - which they describe as afro-cuban funk rock - is good quality whatever your attitude to the lyrics including people like Eddie Venegas on trombone and violin, Batanga on tres and electric guitars and the great Luisito Quintero on drums and percussion. So here you go, great music, raunchy lyrics - this is Danny Rojo y su Pornoson and “Nena La Playera”. Enjoy!
(12) 23 “Nena La Playera” (5:50) by Pornoson from album “Ah Sing Are” (Dan Red Music)
OK, that’s it for this week. Thanks . . .
(Shoutouts, don’t forget Kilombo at Wagon & Horses this Saturday, etc)
I’m going to leave you now with a wonderful bit of descarga workout from Texan latin funksters Brownout - this track is “Homenaje” from the album of the same name. Trust me, this is some serious groove. Good night!
(13) 24 “Homenaje” (3:28) by Brownout from abum "Homenaje" (Freestyle Records)
No Longer Poles Apart
Tagged with: Poland Polish Dagadana Folkoperacja Mariusz Kus Mosaic Paluki Hambawenah Esus Maria Pomianowska Chopin Beltaine Warsaw Music Pakt Transetnika Ritmodelia Ostroda Folk Krotoszyn Warsaw Glyn Phillips WorldMusic.co.uk Review indialucia
No Longer Poles Apart
Over the last few years Poland seems to have come out of the cold and entered into the World Music market with some vigour. At the globe’s leading world music trade fair, Womex, last year, Polish artists were well represented by agencies and musicians. This is a round up of some of the CDs, DVDs and samplers that I picked up or have been sent to me.
First out the bag is:
Dagadana - “Malenka” (Offside Records 005; 2010)
"If this is the new face of Poland, then I want to kiss it."
This a confident album full of beguiling, quirky tunes from these three young Poles/Ukrainians, mixing a seeming endless amount of genres and influences into wonderfully accessible music. It’s almost pop music sometimes, at others art house, with warps and wefts spun from jazz, tango, hip-hop, film noir, funk, samba, traditional musics, classical . . . If this is the new face of Poland, then I want to kiss it.
Sadly I can’t understand any of the sleeve notes (apart from the only lines in English: “Friendship can cross borders and overcome obstacles. Poland Ukraine. Love and music. Dreams do come true!”), but there’s lots of lovely pictures of children’s toys like plastic dinosaurs, a wind-up crocodile, a wooden tortoise, a child’s windmill and Thunderbirds dolls to go with the sight of Daga, Dana and Miko rolling about on the floor hitting each other with a plastic mallet and having a lot of fun! And that shines through the music. Very enjoyable album.
Maqama - “Maqamat” (sampler CD)
Dark rock/metal stuff. Why, oh why do agents persist in sending us stuff that is not relevant? Just because you live in the world and record music, doesn’t necessarily make it ‘world music’. And please don’t engage me in the old world music definition debate. Just accept it. Send this to Kerrang instead.
Folkoperacja - (7 song sampler)
Folkoperacja are a 6-piece band (drums, bass, guitar, vocals, accordion, flute, violin) from Slaskie in Poland. This is a 7 song sampler as they’re are still working on their album. Overall it sounds like 1980s folk-rock - nothing wrong with that (anyone remember South Yorkshire’s “Oscar The Frog”?). Some tunes are very much in an old school rock vein, others with a more middle-european folk feel and some a mixture of both with ska and reggae undertones. Competently enough played, quite enjoyable, probably a good pub band and be fun for festivals. I’m slightly confused as to whether they are in fact the same band as “Bartnitzky” - the musicians all look the same and have the same name, have the same management. I’ll put a link to them as well anyway.
So far, so good. But then I realise I have been given a second CD by Folkoperacja. The omens aren’t good: it’s a Christmas CD. Against a background of computer generated snowflakes our six heroes come wading through a waist-high computer-generated snowfall in black shades, white shirts, black ties and black leather jackets. Smiling. It’s not a good look. Like a 90s boy band with a dodgy manager. The guy on the left looks like they’ve brought their old science teacher along for the photoshoot. Hmmm. The CD titles translate as: “Festive Folkoperacja. Carols and Pastorals. Highlander Folk Screen”. No I don’t know either (good old Google Translate!). But fair enough, some traditional Polish Folk Carols for Christmas. Let’s give it a whirl.
Oh dear. Oh, deary, deary me! I’m guessing they are supposed to be traditional carols and songs and I can hear a penny-whistle somewhere, but it’s all set against a background of cheesy rock, funk-lite, electro, pseudo hip-hop, africanesque guitars, and quasi-Chris Rea mood music . . . Oh dear. Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all a ‘purist’. I’m all for mixing it up and seeing what happens. But, sometimes ‘this’ happens. And it’s not good. Maybe you have to be Polish to know the tunes, understand the history and culture and to appreciate the lyrics in their new ‘world’ settings. But it’s not for me.
Hold on a moment. I’ve worked it out. I get it now! Have you ever been to a family do at Christmas and someone gets out one of those mass-produced, Tesco checkout CDs of ‘Brendan O’Somebodyorother’s Irish Christmas’ and sticks it on to get everybody ‘in the mood’ - a few standards, a few singalongs, some dreary laments . . . Well, it’s like that. But Polish. No, I’ve never been to a family do like that either, but I’ve seen it on the telly. Honestly, it’s bargain bin music. Go to any charity shop in the UK and you will see racks of cassettes of this type of stuff, usually next to the cardboard box full of old vinyl - you know Classical records, 1970s TOTP compilations and Val Doonican. Maybe Folkoperacja make a killing recording and selling this type of stuff in Poland - maybe it even supports their ‘real’ music, who knows. But, please, I’m begging you: don’t bring it to Womex with you next year!
And just to show that I really haven’t got anything against fusions in world music (good ones!), this next album proves my point:
Mosaic - “Ludo Va Va”
"a beautiful album: deftly arranged, inspiringly performed"
Mosaic fuse traditional Polish songs with oriental instruments, creating “a remarkable marriage of Slavic wilderness and melancholy, oriental mystery, sounds of nature, urban chaos, the old world order and contemporary eclecticism”. On this album, “Ludo Va Va” (which translates as ‘folk-ish’), the five musicians play a bewildering combination of medieval fiddles, swedish and galician bagpipes, dulcimer, oud, mandola, flutes, ney, recorders, duduk, tampura, udu, darbuka, tombak, foot bass, frame drums and hurdy gurdy as well as wonderful vocals. It really is a beautiful album; well thought out, deftly arranged, inspiringly performed. Very much recommended.
Management: Maciej Szajkowski, email@example.com
Paluki Quartet - Lilija (Sampler)
"And what a strange offering this is."
This is a five track, home-burnt CD (recorded at a concert in Wagrowiec in July 2010) with no liner notes, apart from a sentence which says: “music based on the traditional melodies from Wielkopolska region”. And what a strange offering this is. The first track “Lilija” seems to be a traditional melody formed from multilayering bagpipes and some form of zither/dulcimer/harp (I think!), with a saxophone played in an almost Caribbean jazz style, very muted drums and a bass guitar that sounds like it’s been recorded with an old towel stuffed into the speaker, and quite possibly some other instruments. Not what I expected, but quite jolly nonetheless.
The second track, Chopin’s “Wiosna” (Spring), is meditative with lovely haunting saxophone, vibraphone, double bass and violin. And then, “Polka od Szczuczyna, a folkdance piece using, I don’t know, is it a clavichord, some form of dulcimer, I’m not sure - I’m at the limit of my knowledge here; but very enjoyable anyway. “Siwy Baran, Czarny Baran” (Shiva Ram, Black Sheep) is much more safely in jazz territory - alto sax over ¾ time, bass and vibes. In the words of the Fast Show’s Louis Balfour: “Hmm, nice… Jazz!”
And to finish: “Swieci Miesiunc” (Holy Month). What’s this? Country Blues harmonica, dodgy vocals, some shuffling badly recorded slightly out of time drums and that strange bass guitar played inside a sock draw; oh, and now a not so cool vibraphone solo. Guys, honestly, you should have stopped at Track 4. I was ready to condone the idiosyncracies up to that point. What an anticlimax. Still, some nice bits beforehand.
Hambawenah - “Turururu”
Hambawenah are a much more traditionally orientated folk band. They’ve been around since 1996 and have long concentrated on the work songs and recreational music of the Polish bargemen who use their rafts to transport timber and other goods up and down the River Vistula. Researching this lifestyle through oral traditions, ethnographic sources and archives, they have invested much work in trying to preserve the original melodies, dialects and characteristic jargon of the bargees. Although they do use bass, electric guitar and drumkit alongside the violins and accordion, and you can hear elements of jazz and rock sensibilities, it is done sympathetically and to make the music “more attractive to contemporary listeners, yet not depriving it of its folk character”.
The root part of their name (hamba) translates as ‘journey’. The musicians obviously feel a great affinity to this folk culture and to their specific chosen field and this comes across on the album which has all the pride and assurance of the current generation of Welsh and Scottish folk bands. “Turururu” sweeps you along with the band as they travel along the Vistula of their music.
Esus - (4 track sampler)
"a sort of Polish Piazzolla"
Esus is a four piece ensemble that grew out of the Polish Chamber Orchestra AUKSO in 2007 (and not to be confused with Esus the French ‘Black Metal’ band!). They mix classical music with jazz, having replaced the standard cello with a double bass and included percussion and electric instruments alongside the two violins as well. Esus reminded me of a sort of Polish Piazzolla both in terms of the use of chamber instruments and the rich array of musical influences incorporated - luckily none of it feels forced.
I must admit though, the first track, “Wirus” (Virus) I found a bit impenetrable at times, although there are plenty of opportunities to play ‘spot the quote’ as the track rushes around from one musical thought to another - it’s jazz, baby, just not as you expect it. “Riffballabiff” after a dark start turns into a cheerful, snappy swing piece to get your toes tapping. I think track 3, “Przebudzinie” (Awakening), is my favourite piece - electric guitar joins them with shades of Phil Lynott and Gary Moore’s “Parisienne Walkways” over tango and bossa rhythms - very enjoyable indeed. To finish off “Dla Zoneczki” (For My Wife) is gentle, wistful and pretty. I had to listen to this sampler a couple of times before I tuned in to what they were about, but it was worth it.
Maria Pomianowska & Friends: “Chopin on 5 Continents”
"a real labour of love and beautifully executed ... a marvellous album"
Now, here’s an idea! Take one world famous Polish composer steeped in the folk/classical oeuvre of the Mazovia region and perform his music on the traditional instruments - and in the styles - of some of the richest musical cultures to be found around the globe. This is a real labour of love by multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and composer Maria Pomianowska and beautifully executed. Classical music is definitely not my strong point and Chopin to me was always just another ‘old dead white man’; but . . . this just brings it alive. I was able to come to terms with the compositions because the unusual instrumentation forces you from the familiar settings you expect to hear these pieces in and gives you a fresh set of ears to hear through. A marvellous album - and I say this as a complete outsider to Chopin.
Imagine Chopin’s Prelude “Raindrop” (Op 28, No 5) against an African backing of balaphone, djembe, kora, ngoni, beat-box vocals and children’s choir, or the Etude “Chanson de L’Adieu” (Op 10, No 3) sung in Chinese (don’t ask me which dialect!) against the bowed er-hu, gongs, dulcimer, harps and dizi (transverse flute), or even the Krakowiak Rondo (Op 14) performed with the Siberian input of Jews’ Harp, and Khoomei (Tuvan throat singing). And yet, it works!
The album places the Largo from Fantasie Impromptu in India, the Waltz (Op 64, No 2) in Andalucia, the Nocturne (Op 9, No 2) in Brazil and even gets on the steamer all the way to New Orleans for the “Minute Waltz”; Persia, Japan, Arabia, Bulgaria, Armenia and the Balkans all get visited by Chopin until we arrive back home in Poland with the song “A Young Girl’s Wish (Op 74, No 1).
"The performances are exemplary and the instruments fascinating"
Pomianowska isn’t purist either in the selection of instruments for each track since, for instance, the Australian didgeridoo appears on the Siberian track and her beloved Polish suka appears on 11 tracks altogether. But each interpretation has its own distinct flavour and it’s a feast for the ears. The performances are exemplary and the instruments themselves are fascinating: the Armenian duduk (an oboe that sounds like a cross between a saxophone and a cello), the Tuvan doshpuluur (a trapezoidal plucked instrument), the Iranian kemanche (spike fiddle), the Polish hurdy-gurdy, the Balkan kaval (end-blown flute), the Iranian setar, the Bulgarian gadulka, the Slovakian koncovka (a shepherd’s duct-blown overtone fipple flute) . . .
Such an array of sounds. Riff, daff, zarb, ney, saz, oud, shawm, sarangi, koto, cajon, tabla, morin-hur to name but a few, and all explained in the accompanying booklet. There are three special Polish instruments here too: the Miedzyleska Pipe is an experimental instrument made from a wooden tube; the Fiddle of Plock is a copy of a 16th C birchwood instrument uncovered by archaeologists; and the Suka of Bilgoraj - reconstructed on the basis of nothing more than an 1895 watercolour painting, carved out of a single piece of cherrywood and played using the lateral touch of a fingernail.
"This is a great album. Impressive on so many levels."
I didn’t know what to make of the album at first. A Polish composer I knew nothing about, a brave (almost foolhardy) attempt to assemble a ridiculous amount of musicians and often obscure instruments from all over the world, before even mentioning arranging the music for them, and then to market it with a picture of Chopin sporting dreadlocks! Seriously! (I even met the girl who supplied the original locks whilst in Copenhagen last year!). And yet, this is a great album. Impressive on so many levels. Even if you don’t like (or don’t think you like) Classical music or Chopin in particular, this could just be the album that changes your mind. Hat’s off to Ms Pomianowska!
"Hat’s off to Ms Pomianowska!"
Beltaine - (DVD)
If you feel more comfortable with British Celtic folk-rock bands then you’ll feel immediately at home with globe-trotting Polish band Beltaine, who mix traditional Celtic tunes and instruments with a more modern sound and global instrumentation. With a great reputation as a live band, Beltaine deliver high-octane performances and were nominated for the Top Celtic Rock Band in the the Irish Music Awards in 2010.
Nu - PL (sampler - various artists)
"full of surprising stuff!"
This 17 track sampler is - as its name suggests - a glimpse into the contemporary state of Polish world music. It is full of surprising stuff! Two of the artists here I have covered already in separate (and highly complementary) reviews above: Mosaic and Maria Pomianowska. Highly regarded folk outfit Transkapela’s track “Joc Dans” is led by fiddle and a strange buzzing flute over drone guitar, bass drum and bell. Swoja Droga (translates as “His Way”) offer haunting jazzy contemporary folk (with very effective spooky bass clarinet) which contrasts with Lao Che’s folkpunk. Nina Stiller’s sophisticated dubby electro-folk mixes arthouse with lush balladry and Middle Eastern seasonings. The Village Kollektiv similarly mash-up jazz, dub and trance with folk whereas Trebunie Tutki (Poland’s oldest folk group) are a family coming from the Podhale mountain region; famed for their collaborations with the Jamaican Twinkle Brothers amongst others, here they perform a more typically East European piece using violin and cymbalom over a driving rhythm.
"a delicious menu"
The upclose voice of Maria Natanson over the dry chuk-chuk of a muted guitar leads us into the next artist: Caci Vorba are a Polish-Ukrainian band that serve up a delicious menu of “Roma Swing” from gypsy, Carpathian and Balkan sources recreating the craziness of a Balkan wedding on traditional instruments such as the Hungarian bracsa, the Turkish kemence, Greek bouzouki and Romanian cobza. Very good indeed! Bubliczki are another Polish folk band that look towards their surrounding cultures for extra inspiration bringing in gypsy, Balkan and klezmer influences to play in a very danceable mix with their Kashubian roots. Orkiestra Sw.Mikolaja (The St Nicholas Orchestra) have been going since 1988 and are often cited as repopularising Polish folk music at a time when it was neglected and considered an irrelevance. The seven musicians use a large array of instruments to create their original and meticulous compositions.
The highly polished, immaculately produced music of singer/violinist Joanna Slowinska is very much at odds with the full-on hip-hop folkpunk of Masala. The dark, biometal neofolk sound of Pyschoteka mixes closely harmonised female vocals against some very dark swirling organ, pounding drums and heavy bass. Still in the heavily experimental, Gadajaca Tykwa’s track “Mantra” pits didgeridoo, khoomei throat singing and pulsating balafone against djembe drums, drones, bagpipe-sounding organ in a driving trance track (their name means “Talking Gourd).
And then, joy of joys, hosannah to the highest, I’m in musical heaven! I can’t believe this: I’d been trying to find a certain track I heard a few years ago on YouTube with no luck whatsoever and then, out of nowhere, it turns up on a Polish compilation CD: Michał Czachowski’s Indialucia and the spinetingling combination of Spanish rumba flamenco with Indian sitar, tabla and syllabic percussion that is “Raag’n’Olé”. I cannot praise this tune highly enough. Even if it’s the only one they ever make, for me it will be sufficient to justify their existence. Speechless. Just listen.
To finish this Polish sampler album, the ‘double duo’ quartet of the Lutoslawski Piano Duo and the Hob-Beats percussion duo come together to create the band Kwadrofonik. Their track on this compilation is “Obere-kuku” - which I can best attempt at describing as like a Philip Glass style piece of jazz minimalism.
Warsaw Music Packt - (Sampler CD & DVD)
“he who does not get on the tram sports a moustache"
This is another sampler from the same people that put together the “Nu-PL” one above. Some of the artists are repeated here (with different tracks), but there are some more new ones to me.
The Prusinowski Trio play typical village music in the style of the wandering musicians that were once common from Tadjikistan to Brittany, using violin, bass, small drum, shawm and flute; as opposed to Pablopavo i Ludziki, who is at the other end of the spectrum with a sound that is more urban and owes more to hip-hop and dub than folk.
The Warsaw Village Band are probably the best known of the Polish bands on the world music scene, having successfully reinterpretated the music of the Central Mazovia region updating the sound whilst remaining faithful to the performance styles.
Cukunft (Yiddish for ‘Future’) are a four-piece that perform and reinterpret pre-war Jewish music amidst their own spontaneous original compositions, for instance mixing rock’n’roll electric guitar with klezmer clarinets over dancehall reggae inspired percussion.
Vavamuffin as the name implies is a Warsovan raggamuffin band with a crazy live reputation all over Europe. As their publicity has it Vavamuffin is a tram linking Warsaw with Kingston - “he who does not get on the tram sports a moustache”(!). Uh? What’s wrong with moustaches . . . Poland has many fine examples.
Czessband are an acoustic band from Warsaw that mix up folk music from all over the world: Bohemian polka, Argentine tango, the drive of American bluegrass, Oriental themes, Balkan melodies, Hungarian stomp and Polish energy. Here they play an adrenaline-pumping czardas on some crazy instrumentation.
The music of Roberto Delira & Kompany has been described in many ways: folkrock, heavy folk, burdonrick, dronpunk, psychofolk all of which hint at Robert Jarowski’s dark arrangements of Baltic folk performed on violins, baraban, hurdy-gurdies, hybrid experimental instruments and even his recreation of an archaeologically recovered find.
The terenNowy Project is an open collective of musical artists who create spontaneous pieces, a sort of free music expression. And that’s about all I can comment on that one.
Ritmodelia - “It’s Not Batucada!"
"a wealth of ideas ... excellently and inventively played"
Polish percussion band, Ritmodelia’s debut album is an exploration of what the 10-piece outfit can achieve with nothing but a studio full of percussion and a pile of rhythms. Ironically, there are actually a couple of batucada-based tracks on here, but that’s not surprising as the group grew out of the fascination with Brazilian street samba of a number of Warsaw based percussionists. They soon found that creating their own rhythms and combinations was far more satisfying musically than slavishly copying batucada.
There’s a wealth of ideas contained within this album and it’s excellently and inventively played by the percussionists; but I can’t help feeling that an entire album of it is a little much to sit down and listen to at home - and I say that as a percussionist myself (and long-standing sambista). Unless you’re actually performing the music yourself, or at least watching it unfold in a live situation, it can start to lose its hold on your concentration and imagination. The pieces are almost all played using combinations of Brazilian samba instruments (surdo, agogo, tamborim, chocalho, snare, repinique, cuica, reco-reco, whistle, etc, etc), admittedly with the addition of djembe, chekere, karignan and other assorted hand percussion. This lends each track a certain sameness of overall sound, even when the rhythms are distinct. After a few tracks my attention was starting to wander and I found myself wanting to hear something even more original in the sonic texture.
But that’s just my opinion. As an introduction as to what these talented percussionists are capable of, and a calling card for their live shows, it’s a good album and well produced. But I’d just like to see them stretch their creative capabilities with far more variety on the next one. Their members have an enviable background in different percussive styles - afro-cuban, african, folk, rock, pop, reggae, jazz, classical, hip hop, dancehall, funk, soul - not to mention being integral members of some of Poland’s best young bands outside of Ritmodelia, so there’s no paucity of skill or inspiration amongst them. Come on guys, show us what you’re really capable of.
As well as selling their album on a wide variety of sites (see link below for more details) they are also offering free samples from the tracks as ringtone downloads. Surprise your friends with a pocketful of rhythms!
Ostroda Folkowo.pl - (sampler - various artists)
The Ostroda Folkowo Festival started as a festival in 2006 to promote the local folk music and to include some of the bands from Director Marius Kuz’s mountain homeland in the Beskidy region. After five years it now features bands not just from all over Poland but from as far afield as Kenya, Nepal and the US. The sampler to accompany the festival includes a large varied selection of styles and artists split into electric and acoustic groupings over 2 CDs. The festival is usually held in June - further details from the link below: http://www.folkowo.pl/ or Director Marius Kuz’s events company www.4-events.pl
Krotoszyn Folk Festival - (sampler - various artists)
This festival held usually in August has a very international leaning. The sampler contains tracks from the Heptones (Jamaica), Russkaja (Austria/Russia), The Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan (India), Huun Huur Tu (Tuva), Mahala Rai Banda (Romania), Fanfara Kalashnikov (Germany), Mu (Portugal) and the Czech bands Gipsy.CZ and Al. Yaman; Polish bands represented include Mosaic, Beltaine, Bubliczki, Tolhake, Psio Crew, Kroke, Kwartet Jorgi and Papadram. For more info contact the link below.
Finally, Warsaw is trying for European Capital of Culture 2016.
For any more info on this, check out: