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Latest Muzikifan Podcasts

March 9 podcast, "The Perfect Date," featured Sali Sidibe, Louis Armstrong, Kwi Bamba, Orch Abass, Ry-Co Jazz, Hossam Gania (reviewed last month), Pivi, Baobab, Wendo, Ken Boothe, & a cast of thousands

"Spring is Sprung" is a mix of blues, Highlife roots, jazz, samba and music from Cameroun, Angola, Cuba, and Kenya

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Greetings, Platterbugs!

Updated 1 April 2019

"If you love music and have made it part of your life, the thing you most love will be finding vinyl records."
A short film on the renowned Gladys Palmera archive in Spain; the full 15-min documentary here (not subtitled)
And, after spotting a rarity in the Gladys Palmera film, I've updated the Arsenio Rodriguez discography

Systema Solar & Bomba Estéreo collaboration for Barranquilla carnaval; and dont miss this oldie, with the Hong Kong Rollers!

Not sure who Craft Recordings are but they seem to be serious capitalists. As Keith Richards said, It's odd that Americans are such staunch capitalists since so few of them have any capital. In addition to the Cuban Jam Sessions reviewed below, Craft has launched some reissues from Stax and other labels for Record Store Day. Most interesting is the 8LP or 5CD set of John Coltrane's 1958 Prestige recordings. The vinyl will set you back $259.80! The 5CDs are a mere $75. Fortunately I have the official Prestige 6CD box set which came out in 2006, called Fearless Leader, including all the sessions where he was in charge. A few different titles are included where Trane was a sideman, but the "official set" includes a disc of 1957 recordings also (from the album Coltrane, his first as a leader). Coltrane had graduated from Miles and Monk's bands but here has the amazing ex-boxer Red Garland on piano, with Paul Chambers bass and Art Taylor drums on many of the best tracks. A few other luminaries guest: Mal Waldron on piano, Freddie Hubbard or Donald Byrd on trumpet, etc. A cornerstone of any jazz collection.

touring

Tuareg rocker Mdou Moctar, reviewed below, is on a North American tour this month, playing small venues in Minneapolis, Olympia, Portland, Oakland, Seattle, Chico, Austin, etc. In addition to performing he will screen his desert adaptation of "Purple Rain"!

obits

Malian sax player, Issa Cisshoko has died. He played with many bands, notably orchestre Baobab. He started out with Les Vedettes of salsa singer Laba Sosseh, before joining the Star Band and then leading the horn section for Youssou Ndour's Super Etoile. He was also featured on two excellent CDs on the Popular African Music label Embouteillage by Super Cayor de Dakar and Los Afro-Salseros de Senegal en la Habana. Here is orchestre Baobab (with Issa as first soloist) at the Edge of the World Festival in France

Simaro Lutumba, one of the main songwriters of Franco's TPOK Jazz, died in a Paris hospital at the end of March. He had just turned 81. His biggest hits were "Mabele (ntotu)," "Lezi," "Maya," "Faute ya Commerçant" and "Testament ya Bowulé." (Thanks to Ken Braun for finding the last clip: Xmas 1986 with Simaro on acoustic guitar)

Ska revivalist Ranking Roger of The Beat died age 56. Here he is performing on BBC Radio Glasgow.

HAMA SANKARE
NIAFUNKE (Clermont Music)

Mali is the gift that keeps on giving. It's sad but true that countries in strife produce excellent music (Congo, Angola, Haiti come to mind). Last week I read that 130 Malians had been massacred and their village destroyed. Nothing came up on the news, so I went back to the source, Al Jazeera, and it turns out it was inter-ethnic rivalry between Donzo hunters who were upset at Fulani grazing their animals on their land. So it's not radical Islam, but the shortage of water and other resources leading folk to murder their neighbors. Not al-Qaeda? That's alright then, not our problem. At least that's what our leaders tell us through the media. Hama Sankaré is a singer and calabashist (calabasher? he plays a gourd) and surrounds himself with fine traditional and modern musicians to present a great set of the modernized Malian folk music we know and love. He formerly backed Ali Farka Toure and has performed with l'Orchestre de Gao, Songhoy Allstars, Mamadou Kelly and Afel Boucoum (who appears here as backing vocalist). From Ali he has that American blues feel but his guitar player, Alibaba Traore, is more into rock blazers. His longtime partner Kande Sissoko plies the ngoni. The first couple of tracks are straight ahead blues-rock rave-ups and as close to the Ali Farka sound as I've heard. There's a mellow piece "Tiega Mali (Today Mali suffers)" to bring us down to the space needed to hear a group of traditional tunes with ngoni which are the heart of the disc. Hama's conscious lyrics (which are summarized) are added to the adapted melodies. He praises the hunters, as well as the Fulani (Peul). And they gradually turn up the flame so they get the rock blues fans nodding along to the rhythm.

CULTURE
THE NIGHTHAWK RECORDINGS (OVCD-332)

This half-hour long CD collects three tracks from the 1982 Nighthawk compilation Calling Rastafari and two unreleased songs plus versions of them. In 2007 Culture redid "Calling Rastafari" for Two Sevens Clash (Shanachie), but added a lot of unnecessary stuff (electronic whoops) and basically ruined it, so it is great to hear the clear original version with the mighty Roots Radics backing the vocal trio, led by the soulful Joseph Hill, who sounds a bit like Winston Rodney. In the late 70s Hill & Culture recorded three albums for Joe Gibbs and three more for Sonia Pottinger. They were peaking by the time they laid down the three tracks for Calling Rastafari. The bonus tracks were taped at Tuff Gong in 1983, with the Wailers as the backing band. These are fine tracks and remind you of how the Wailers basically defined the sound of reggae. In addition there are some all-star sidemen: Gladdy Anderson, Bongo Herman, Scully Simms & the horn trio of Tommy McCook, Deadley Headley Bennett and Bobby Ellis. Given the strength of the original Calling Rastafari compilation, with the Gladiators, Mighty Diamonds, Itals and Wailing Souls, I would have preferred a remastered version of that, but perhaps the revitalized Nighthawk has future plans for those other artists' tracks (I'm holding my breath for more Wailing Souls). While it is brief, Culture's album is top quality and the two instrumental dubs that extend the bonus tracks are a good addition.

LOS JUBILADOS
LA LLAVE DEL SON (Egrem CD1369)

There is scant information available about this Cuban release. It may be a couple of years old, but the music is timeless, and one of my favorite genres: Cuban Son from Santiago in Eastern Cuba. The cover photo suggests they are veterans of many bands and they are certainly accomplished musicians, whoever they are (Discogs lists some names, all of which link back to the three or four albums released as Los Jubilados -- the Seniors, Elders, or perhaps Retirees? -- but as it has not updated personnel regarding this release, it is possible some of the members have died since their first recordings). Los Jubilados provide originals and reprise some gems: "Catalina la O" by Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez, the ballad "Si te contara" by Felix Reina which I think was first a hit for Ricardo Ray in 1963 (the original is a bolero with a guajira underpinning) and a cooking cover of Joe Arroyo's "Rebelión." They even turn in a romping cumbia. The tresero Rafael Lafarguez is solid (he was also in a group called Santiago Son), the trumpeter is also fine, but I am not sure who is singing. According to a Japanese website they have seven albums out and Pedro Gomez has been the leader since 2006: the original members Juan Ferrer "Bebet" and Mario Caracases having passed away. There is also a woman singer on here. On the traditional material they remind me of my favorite son group Sierra Maestra, who have not been heard from in a decade now since some members got sucked into the Buena Vista vortex to fill empty seats. However, far from dying out, there is loads of youthful vigor in this disc.

EL COMITE
Y QUE!? SO WHAT (Inouïe)

El Comité are a 7-piece Cuban jazz outfit surrounding piano maestro Harold Lopez-Nussa. Tough and energetic, they serve up a set of originals and covers of "Son à Emiliano" by Gabriel Hernandez, and Miles Davis' classic "So what?" which they've Latinized. Every member contributes something key to the gathering, which works well as classic jazz, and not what you might expect from a Cuban group: there are trap drums, not timbales; upright double bass rather than electric baby bass. The percussionist often plays bells & rainstick in an "Airto-ish" sort of way rather than güiro, maracas or clave. There are two keyboards: in addition to Harold there's Rolando Luna, and they seem to alternate on regular ivories and electric claviers. One of their stated influences is Emiliano Salvador, the Cuban pianist who first brought the harmonic inventions of Thelonious Monk to Cuba. Rodney Barreto on drums and Gaston Joya on bass are solid as underpinning and the latter contributes a wonderful tune, "La Gitana" to the set. The horn section of Irving Acao on tenor sax and Carlos Sarduy on trumpet are top brass. They've added "[Cuban Groove]" to the sleeve to remind you of their origins. Maybe because the drummer is called Barreto I kept recalling Ray Barreto and when they break out the skins on "Son à Emiliano" you really do get a sense of time travel. Two pianos are a great idea, the piano and organ a fine mix (shades of Los Hermanos Palmieri), the breaks reminiscent of Chucho and Irakere in concert, but also keeping the classic Blue Note/Impulse sounds to the fore with the tight horn solos. The label is Inouïe, which is French for "unheard" but I urge you to check it out...

THE COMPLETE CUBAN JAM SESSIONS (Panart/Craft Recordings)

I was curious about this box set which appeared to much hype at the end of last year. I checked my holdings to find I have 3/5 of the set in the form of a CD of two of the albums called Cuban Jam Session vol 1 which came out on Rodven in 1987, and the original vinyl of the Fajardo album which was recorded in 1962. The Cubans are masters of the descarga or jam but the discs I have were not on my "must play" list so I thought I would revisit my stash before splurging on the fancy reboot. Fajardo and his tweety flute left me cold, so I put on the CD which has the Niño Rivera and Julio Gutierrez sides. Again I was not moved out of my chair. Half of the first volume by Gutierrez was OK (side B of Vol 1) and two cuts by Rivera (A2, B1). But again the tweaky flute bugged me. To my surprise I could not find the Cachao album Jam Sessions in Miniature (1957) anywhere in my collection, despite being a huge fan and having ten albums by him. My first thought was someone buying this box might dump their original, so I scouted the record stores. No luck. The next question was: is the sound any better on the box set since it is pretty dull on the originals (on some tracks the flute seems to have been recorded in the bathroom). A friend let me hear the flac of the reissue. I don't hear any improvement: it sounds identical. No question there are some great moments on here: "Theme for conga" by Julio Gutiérrez y Su Orquesta which closes disc one is excellent. The stand out, on relistening, is the set by tresero Niño Rivera. His band overlaps with Cachao's: Orestes Lopez, Cachao's brother (& no less important in the history of Cuban music), plays piano and we hear "El Negro" Vivar on trumpet, Guillermo Barreto on timbales, Yeyo Iglesias on bongos, Gustavo Tamayo on güiro and now-legendary tumbador Tata Güines -- all from the Cachao band. It's this rhythm section that makes the two discs at the heart of the set interesting. The two montunos on Vol 3 are exceptional. Laid back, not cluttered nor forced like the jams on the two Gutiérrez LPs. The Cachao disc starts predictably, partly because they were asked to keep each jam to under three minutes (what is this -- wax cylinder technology!?). Different guest artists step up: trumpet, tenor and baritone saxes and a trombone, but it's not until Niño Rivera comes in for "Oye mi tres montuno" that we get to a sparkling spontaneous jam. Brother Orestes also turns the trick on "Malanga Amarilla," a piano montuno with a great timbales break by Guillermo Barreto. Side B kicks off with the much-anthologized "Cogele el golpe"-- an outstanding jam. It turns out I had the best tracks on anthologies (such as Cuban Counterpoint from Rounder), and on searching deeper I do have the entire Cachao set on a Caney CD from 1994 called From Havana to New York, sequenced differently, which actually does sound better, so I saved myself $100.

YAPUNTO! (Inouïe)

This is a fun set of traditional Colombian music, delivered with verve by a group of expatriate Colombians and locals residing in France. They got the beat! plus tight horn arrangements, probably due to the fact that they were formed around sax player Boris Pokora and trombonist Stéphane Montigny who composed most of the music. They teamed up with singer Alexandra Charry who had returned to Colombia to explore her roots and rediscover the music. The line-up features trumpet, acoustic and electric guitar, bass, congas, a percussionist who plays tambora, timbales, bombo, guiro etc, and a trap drummer. Some members met in a music conservatory in France and all have played in various groups before coming together behind this new project. To kick things off they got popular Afro-Colombian vocalist Nidia Góngora to duet on the lead-off track. Their debut is musically tight, diverse and sweet. They close with a hot merengue which has a fake ending, a real riot.

MDOU MOCTAR
ILANA THE CREATOR (Sahel Sounds)

After hearing Moctar on KEXP, via YouTube, I thought I should check out his latest album. The Tuareg blues guys from Niger seem to be either stoner Deadheads stuck in an endless version of "Casey Jones" with no bridge (since they have no water), or blazing Hendrix-inspired pyrotechnicians, and I would include Bombino and Moctar in the latter category. Growing up in a small village where music was frowned on as irreligious, M'dou made a home-made guitar and learned to play in secret. When he got his hands around a real guitar, even the village elders came around to appreciate his lyrics. He played with a drum machine and experimented with sound, even starring in the first Tuareg language film: a remake of Purple Rain! Having released one album a year for six years he now has a full backing quartet of drumkit, bass and rhythm guitar. He is still experimenting, using reverb and feedback on the 90 seconds of "Inizgam." Mostly he just blazes and makes you wonder how inferior acts like Joe Bonamassa get such a big reputation and TV specials. Check out his live track "Tarhatazed." Light the blue touch paper and stand back for fireworks.








Recent Reviews

(click on maps at the top of the page to get to continent of choice)

March 2019

I've added two book reviews to the bookshelf
Houssam Gania's Mosawi Swiri and Moulay El Hassani's Atlas Electric made their way to the Arab section
(Remind me to create a page for Morocco)
Ry-Co Jazz's Dansons avec le Ry-Co Jazz is filed in Congo Classics part 2
Cumbia Beat volume 3 went to Peru, of all places
Orchestre Abass de Bassari Togo should be found under African Miscellany

February 2019

Kwi Bamba are filed in Guinée
Star Band de Dakar reissue is filed in Senegal part 3
Nostalgique Kongo is filed under Congo Classics 2
Yelsy Heredia can be read about in Cuba part 4
Coumba Gawlo is filed in Senegal part 3
Etienne Charles' latest is reviewed in Trinidad

January 2019

Bassekou Kouyate's Miri &
Livio's Melodies Mandé are both filed under Mali part 4
Delgres' Mo Jodi can be found in the Caribbean section
Tita Duval & Bobby Rey's Cumbias Internacionales went to Colombia part 2
Les Bantous de la Capitale's Hommage to Grand Kalle &
Nganga Edo's Le Patriarche are filed under Congo part 4
Tartit's latest can be read about in the Niger section

November 2018

Orch Shika Shika's Hit after hit is filed in Kenya part 2
Bollywood Brass Band's Carnatic suite is reviewed in Bollywood part 2
Dizzy Mandjeku & Ale Kuma's De Palenque a Matonge is written up in Colombia, part 2
Eddie Palmieri's Full circle is reviewed under Salsa
Baba Commandant & the Mandingo Band's Siri ba kele is filed under Burkina Faso
To Catch a ghost: field recordings from Madagascar can be read about in the Madagascar section
Deben Bhattacharya's Paris to Calcutta went to Old World Miscellany for want of a better location

October 2018

The latest offering from Docteur Nico Dieu de la Guitare is reviewed in Congo Classics part 2
Bheki Mseleku's Celebration is reviewed in South Africa
The Hip Spanic All Stars album can be read about in the USA section
Subhasis Bhattacharya is filed in India & Pakistan
Sarazino is filed in Arabia
BKO performing live is filed in Mali Live which has some curious tales

September 2018

Lenine's latest Em transito, as well as
Elza Soares' Deus é mulher, and
Bixiga 70's Quebra-Cabeça are filed in Brasil part 3
Robi Svärd's Alquimia is discussed in Spain
Rough Guide to Barrelhouse Blues is in the Blues section
Gyedu-Blay Ambolley's The Message is filed in Ghana
Stella Chiweshe's Kasahwa: early singles can be read about in Zimbabwe

The Top Ten New releases and Top 8 Reissues of 2018 are here

The Top Tens of 2017 are HERE

The Top 16 of 2016 is HERE

Top 15 of 2015 is HERE

My Top Ten of 2014 can be found HERE

My Top 12 of 2013, with best reissues, etc, is online HERE

My Top Twelve of 2012 is HERE

My Top Ten of 2011 can be found HERE

My Top 9 of 2010 is online HERE

Click HERE for my top 10 of 2009

Click HERE for my top 9 of 2008

Click HERE for my top 10 of 2007

Click HERE for my top 11 of 2006

MY BEST-SELLING BOOK!

"Essential reference guide to the Congo guitar king" -- SONGLINES 64 **** (four stars)
"I do not know anybody who has such immense knowledge of African music. Congratulations." -- Gerhard G (a purchaser)

BACK IN PRINT (Second edition, November 2012)


A DISCOGRAPHY OF DOCTEUR NICO
By Alastair Johnston

Poltroon Press, 2012, expanded to 88 pages; list price $19.95.
Available now. Click here for details.

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