Perceptive Travel World Music Reviews
April 2014 - By Laurence Mitchell

In this issue: Havana straight up and mixed with Jamaica, a compilation of unreleased tracks from a world music festival roster, and big band music with a Turkish twist.

globalFEST Selector
Various Artists

We say: A musical tour of the world that begins and ends in New York City.

This wide-ranging compilation is an attempt to give a flavor of globalFEST, which takes place in New York City each January. All of the tracks, which feature artists who have performed at the festival, are previously unreleased, making this of interest to collectors and completists as well as those who just want of a taste of the global musical buffet on offer.

Our ears are taken on a global journey via a number of exotic stopping-off points. First we travel to Morocco's Atlas Mountains to hear the dark, trance-like gnawa of Hassan Hakmoun with "Balilli," then it's off to India with Bollywood playback singer, Kailash Kher, ("Rang Rang Ma") before Lebanon (by way of Paris) with Yasmine Hamdan ("IRSS"). Next, it's a return to Africa — Mauritania with Noura Mint Seymali ("El Madi") and Burkina Faso with Alif Naaba ("San Kuily") — before we get to hear Shamanic folk-rock fusion from Namgar ("Khadadaa"), a female singer who hails from the Buryat Republic in Siberia close to the Mongolian border.

It is not always necessary to travel so far and wide as some of the world music talent on display here is US-based. The Colombian collective of M.A.K.U. Soundsystem ("Agua") have made their home in New York City, as have Brooklyn Qawwali Party ("Sochan Dongian"), who play a jazzy take on Nasrut Fateh Ali Khan's qawwali without a single Pakistani in sight. Other US-based performers include the Martha Redbone Roots Project, who sing "My Warfare Will Soon Be Over," the Chicago marching band, Mucca Pazza, with "Dirty Chompers," and New Orlean's Stooges Brass Band who perform "Muses." For good measure, there's also a live track, "Riquesa," by long-standing French fusionists Lo'Jo, which is always a good idea as you can't go far wrong with festival stalwarts like these. Overall, globalFEST Selector provides a good account of the sheer variety that this festival has to offer, although the constant switching between genres can be a bit wearing after a while.

Pedro Luis Ferrer

We say: A lush, romantic balm of poetic Cuban changüisa.


Pedro Luis Ferrer has always reflected the gentler, more sensitive side of Cuban music, a side that tends to get neglected in favor of more mainstream son, salsa and rumba. As much a philosopher and a poet as a singer, Ferrer has sometimes been regarded as a dissident by the Cuban authorities, and he remains critical of the political setup in his homeland despite being more than willing to celebrate his country's culture in his own idiosyncratic way. Final is Ferrer's first release since 2011's Tangible, and clearly the singer still has plenty to say at the ripe old age of 63.

Although Ferrer's output is of a poetic nature, you do not need fluency in Cuban Spanish to enjoy the songs here, which are in a style that the singer describes as changüisa, a gentler, more feminine form of changüi. It is soothing stuff: Ferrer's warm, light brown voice is gently backed by acoustic guitars and unobtrusive percussion, and a few songs like "Cristina" also have strings, which serve to enrich the lushness of the sound. Some songs also feature vocal contributions from Ferrer's daughter Lena, and this augments the overall romantic feel.

Final is as warm and as comforting as a hot herbal bath. The fact that tempo does not tend to change much throughout might be a minor criticism, but at least the final track, "Titiriti," livelier and more bouncy than most of the other songs, provides as an uplifting way to end proceedings. One thing that should be noted is that the album's title is a complete misnomer as, unless Ferrer intends on retiring or shuffling of his mortal coil sometime soon, Final is unlikely to be the last word by this singular artist.

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol

We say: Big band jazz with a Turkish twist.

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol is a jazz composer and a current Fellow of Harvard who specializes in Ethnomusicology and the music of the Ottoman Empire. Originally from Bursa, Turkey and the son of Cypriot Turks, what you might expect to hear given Sanlikol's cultural background is a very obvious Turkish influence. Certainly, the influence is there, but it is far more discreet than you might imagine.

Sanlikol's big band work clearly owes as much to Ellington as he does to traditional Turkish music and on whatsnext? the Turkish influence is subtle enough to sound completely natural. While tunes like "The Blue Soul of Turkoromero" feature ney, a Turkish reed instrument, and "Kozan March" is a reworking of a Cypriot melody, other tunes like the Ellington-inspired title track bear few clues to the composer's origins. Perhaps the most intriguing of the tracks here are those, like "Palindrome," that are truly hybrid in nature and have a foot firmly in both camps — American big band tradition and Turkish folk music.

Laurence Mitchell is a British travel writer and photographer with a special interest in transition zones, cultural frontiers and forgotten places that are firmly off the beaten track. He is author of the Bradt Travel Guides to Serbia, Belgrade and Kyrgyzstan, Slow Norfolk & Suffolk and a regular contributor to hidden europe magazine. His website can be seen at and his blog at

See the last round of music reviews from Laurence Mitchell.

Also in this issue:

globalFEST Selector

Buy globalFEST Selector online here:
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Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Fishpond (Australia)


Buy Final online here:
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