OLD WORLD (Asia, Arabia, Europe)
ON TOURBomba Estereo are criss-crossing the globe on an exhausting schedule, and coming to a club near you soon:
September 1 Bumbershoot Seattle
Sept 3 MEZZANINE San Francisco
Sept 4 Cargo, Reno
Sept 5 C3 Guadalajara
Sept 6 Monterrey (MX)
Sept 9 Lowbrow Palace El Paso
Sept 11 House of Rock Corpus Christi
Sept 12 The Ballroom Houston
Sept 13 Pearl Brewery San Antonio
Sept 14 U Street Music Hall Washington, DC
Sept 15 World Cafe Philadelphia
Sept 17 Pop Montreal Canada
Oct 10 Joshua Tree
Oct 11 Shrine LA
Oct 12 Symphony Park Charlotte
Oct 14 Stage 48 New York
Oct 16 Grand Central Miami
Here they are live last year on KEXP
Atash, a world music band from Austin (reviewed last month), play Ashkenaz, Berkeley, Friday 26 Sept at 9 p.m., followed by the Mint in LA and UCSB on the 29th.
27 Sept Toumani Diabaté & Sidiki Diabaté (Mali) @ Miner Auditorium
VIDSThe Distortion of Sound is a 22-minute documentary about how earbuds, laptop speakers and MP3s have turned music into the sonic equivalent of macdonalds' junk food, with Snoop Dogg, Quincy Jones, AR Rahman and others. (Of course since this is on Youtube it's also compressed!)
Ernie Ranglin tiny desk concert, well worth checking out.
Paul McCartney on Fela.
Held over from last month's update, because it needs more views! Astonishing one-man band (Don Keller) playing "Massu" by Franco.
Les Ambassadeurs, reviewed below, got back together in June 2014 and played a couple of gigs, though all reports indicate they sounded like they needed more rehearsal.
DISCOGSFlemming Harrev has updated www.afrodisc.com with His Master's Voice MPG Series issued in 1954-5 and featuring useful listings of early Congolese recordings. Find it in his Central Africa section and get in touch with him if you have one not listed. Also 231 discs were added to the EMI series in the West Africa section with Ghanaian and Nigerian artists recorded in the 1930s and 1950s and released in the UTC series on the Parlophone label.
OBITAmadou "Ballaké" Traoré of Burkina Faso has died. He had many hits in his long career, such as "Super Bar Konon Musa," and "Taximan (n'est pas gentile)," which took him to Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali and France but in the end the curse of Africando got him! Somehow singing with that band means you are about to croak. Here's a video of him in action, thanks to David Noyes; and listen to Bembeya Jazz performing his big hit "Ballaké". Of all his albums, I am partial to Senor Eclectico (Oriki ORK004 2008).
AUDIO INFIDELITYCC Smith of Virunga management sends a link to the SingingWells project, dedicated to preserving East African music. There's also an hour of their recent trip on Soundcloud here, featuring lots of great Kenyan guitar music.
Downloadable playlist from Samy Ben Redjeb at Analog Africa, from 2008.
CONGO GUITARS 1952 & 1957
LES AMBASSADEURS DU MOTEL DU BAMAKO (Stern's STCD3065-6)
Wittgenstein, I think it was, once said, "The piece of music must be played backwards for the spell to be broken." I don't think he was referring to literally spinning discs backwards looking for signs that "Paul is dead," or whatever, but that you have to change perspective to understand things. If we look at the career of Salif Keita it's good to see it in the context of his early work with the Rail Band and his long stint with Les Ambassadeurs which, in many ways, foreshadowed his solo career once he moved to Paris. The late Ambassadeurs work was very sleek and set the groundwork for the "Paris sheen" that was manifest on Soro, his huge worldwide hit. That album was a magnificent achievement but once other artist started to emulate it, with synth washes and studio effects, we lost a lot of the "realness" of African music and it moved to a musically generalized mush so you couldn't tell if an artist was from Cameroun, Mali, Congo, or had even been there. But Keita subsequently returned to some of the more folkloric sounds (e.g., in his album Folon) that marked his early career and his outstanding collaborations with Kanté Manfila, the guitarist. After his debut with the Rail Band he moved from the station to the motel. The Rail Band was based in the buffet bar of the Bamako railway station hotel, but a rich member of the military junta lured Manfila and Keita away to play at the more upscale motel across town, and thus Les Ambassadeurs du Motel were born (with an equally improbable name as their predecessors and now rivals). And they really became Ambassadeurs once they toured neighboring countries: they did come from Senegal and Guinea as well as Mali, so the diplomatic tag fit. A retrospective look back at Salif and Les Ambassadeurs allows us to see how threads of the traditional music became modernized and set the stage for later innovations. In addition to Kanté Manfila, the founding leader, the big boss lured in the cream of Malian musicians. (N.B. Kanté Manfila, the guitarist, must not be confused with his cousins of the same name. One was a singer with Balla et ses Balladins, known as "Soba," another - "Dabadou" - sang with Keletigui.) Salif was not the only vocalist, in fact he was the junior member. Beidy Sacko sang the Afro-Cuban songs (covers of Celia Cruz and Orquesta Aragon), Moussa Doumbia was the R&B specialist, and Ousmane Dia, formerly of the Star Band de Dakar, sang the Wolof hits. In addition we find, in one band, the great multi-instrumentalist Keletigui Diabaté and guitarists Amadou Bagayoko (later of Amadou & Mariam fame) and Ousmane Kouyaté. The songs, from 1975 to 77, have been compiled from scarce albums released on the SonAfric label in France. In addition to their three LPs they issued half a dozen singles, also collected here (though all but one, "Mana Mana" b/w "Ambassadeur," were gathered on the LPs 50.014; 50.030; 50.031, according to Stefan Werdekker of WorldService). A couple of reviewers have complained that they have been EQ-ed too much (one wrote "the quality of the releases is shameful -- spelling errors galore, cheap production, and a terrible flat sound that some tone-deaf fool has applied AFTER the recordings were made. Those Syliphone re-issues are a case in point..."), but a bigger issue is the bonus material. Two tracks have been added from Radio Mali broadcast tapes. The question the experts are posing is, Is it even Les Ambassadeurs? They could be by Keletigui, Bembeya Jazz or some other Guinean band. Nevertheless, for those who don't have the original vinyl, this is a superb set: the first disc is all Salif singing; but the second disc, which also features the other vocalists, really catches fire, opening with a ten minute workout in griot mode, before we jump into one of their R&B rave-ups, "M'bouran Moussou." The organ, played by Idrissa Soumaoro, is more prominent on the second disc, and we also get some trumpet-led descargas and the Latin soul of Ousmane Dia. His "Fatema," especially, is sparking. The flute and violin (uncredited) have been studying Afro-Charanga and stand alongside contemporaries like Nestor Torres, José Fajardo, Eddie Palmieri, Alfredo de la Fé and others. In a military purge in February 1978 the Motel's patron was imprisoned so the patronage vanished, and the majority of the band moved to Abidjan and regrouped as Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux. But here we have the fruit of their two years performing under the thatched cabanas on the banks of the Niger.
REAL WORLD 25 (RealWorld)
It been 25 years since Peter Gabriel launched RealWorld records, a few years after he helped bring off the first WOMAD (World of Music Arts and Dance) festival in 1982. He found an old mill in a quiet English country village and converted it into a state-of-the-art recording studio and invited artists to tarry longer after their WOMAD performance to record for his new label. Now a 3-CD set has been issued to celebrate this monumental achievement. WOMAD itself released a couple of excellent compilation albums, as well as Remmy Ongalla's Nalilia Mwana and Sema, which are long overdue for reissue. Gabriel used his rock-star status to promote world music and it was to his credit that Youssou Ndour and Papa Wemba reached wider audiences, despite what happened to their music as a result. The first release on RealWorld was his own Grammy-winning soundtrack to the film, The Last Temptation of Christ, called Passion, which was followed up by a truly fantastic LP, Passion Sources, that included the raw material he had used to create the music for Scorsese's film. More Ongalla albums followed on RealWorld as his international status was confirmed. RealWorld also found Toto La Momposina in Colombia and Orquesta Revé in Cuba. Not that they were lost, but we didn't know about them. One rainy Xmas eve I was looking for action in Yucatan, Mexico and found a bar with a live band. They were a marimba group and pretty good. I saw another gringo and engaged him in conversation: he told me he was an A&R guy for RealWorld, so we had a great evening comparing notes over cervezas. RealWorld had a great knack of bringing out the best in artists: they recorded a superb album of Hukwe Zawose, the mbira master from Tanzania who also recorded on Triple Earth. When we thought Rochereau had passed his prime (after the departure of Mbilia Bel), he cut a live album in the Box studio which though short was really sweet. Sheila Chandra's "Ever so lonely" was another haunting tune captured in the moment in that Wiltshire village. The list is eclectic and inclusive. I am not sure the 3-CD set works that well, I know some of the tracks really well while some are quite jarring, so I tend to jump about, but if you don't know the depth of the label it is truly impressive. To my mind there's one RealWorld album that sums up their philosophy and also stands far above all the others (certainly in rotation) and that is Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's Mustt Mustt, with its heavier-than-osmium Massive Attack remix of the title track. This brought producer Michael Brook into the mix, and it spun off in all directions, bringing Qawwali fans to the London dub sounds of Adrian Sherwood and hipper clubbers to the pure strains of Sufi devotional music. Nusrat embodied the spirit of RealWorld with an almost anything goes approach to musical collaboration, yet he always remained true to his self, confident his voice could take it all in stride. More pure Qawwali albums followed and more remixes but Mustt Mustt is the mountain peak.
most recent reviews:
(click on maps at the top of the page to get to continent of choice)
Quraishi from Afghanistan is housed, for the moment, in India & Pakistan
Ricardo Lemvo's latest is filed in Congo part 3
Kasai Allstars' Beware the Fetish is filed in Congo part 3
Moreno's second reissue on Stern's is filed in Kenya part 2
Ernie Ranglin's latest Bless Up is filed in Jamaica part 3
Zanzibara 7: Sindike vs Ndekule is found in Tanzania part 2
Alejandro Almenares' Casa de Trova is filed in Cuba part 4
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
Poltroon Press, 2012, expanded to 88 pages; list price $19.95.
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