Perceptive Travel World Music Reviews
May 2014 - By Graham Reid

In this issue: a Belgian guitarist rediscovers his inner oud, Spain goes to Sweden and back, Sweden goes to Africa in a plea for peace, and a collection of the "best African music you’ve never heard."



Kali City
Karim Baggili (with Le Trio Joubran)

We say: A pleasant postcard journey back to roots and origins.

Belgian-born and of Jordanian background, self-taught guitarist Karim Baggili here turns his attention to the oud music which has informed his life, and on the first five pieces hooks up with Palestinian oud masters Le Trio Joubran from Israel. It is mostly gently evocative and impressionistic music which perhaps errs too close to New Age — sometimes courtly European medieval music, at others exotic wine-light romanticism — and the Joubran brothers aren't stretched.

Better are the following seven tracks which find Baggili with his "Arabic band" on traditional instruments (violin, single reed flute, drums) and here we get a real sense of geographical place (markets, a rather polite circus) and an ensemble which locks into the groove'n'mood. The more introspective pieces (the lovely ballad "Kalimaat" featuring singer Karoline de la Serna) are among the more moving pieces. This won't be the most elevating oud music you'll hear (start with recent Trio Joubran albums and work back to old masters), but Baggili delivers a well-realized and frequently enjoyable stepping stone.






Como la Luna y el Sol
Ana Alcaide

We say: It dat ol' Spanish-Sweden-Sephardic connection again, folks.

Alcaide's excellent "La Cantiga del Fuego" (see Perceptive Travel, December 2012) announced not just an interesting artist from Spain but also an unusual instrument of choice. Alcaide is a practitioner of the Swedish nyckelharpa, which she first encountered on a biology scholarship in Lund. She was so taken with the instrument — think a fretted viola with dark resonances — she later busked in Toledo playing it (which must have attracted attention, the thing is huge). She subsequently returned to Sweden to pursue music further (she'd studied classical violin for years) and graduated from Malmo's Academy of Music.

To blur that Spain-to-Sweden picture even more, this album — first released in 2007, but now given wider reissue through Arc Music — was her research project: interpretations of the Sephardic Jewish music historically embedded in Spain.

On the evidence we must conclude that A Big Time Biology Career's loss was Minority Music's gain. Ethnomusicologists will delight in finding here trace elements of Celtic music and stately medievalism, especially in her vocal pieces, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the evocations a one-woman Clannad ("Y Arrelumbre") or a maudlin soundtrack to some tele-series set in Europe's 16th century ("Tishri"). Not quite the mature album that "La Cantiga del Fuego" was, but lay people might wonder why all music research projects couldn't be this beguiling.






Africa Moo Baalu
Sousou and Maher Cissoko

We say: Expats explore their hurting hearts.

In Western music protest songs are often shallow sloganeering which hit once then walk away. This engaging album is another kind of protest, music which goes directly from the artists' souls to the listener's heart and lodges itself there on behalf of the dispossessed, disenfranchised, and oppressed in West Africa.

Kora player and singer Maher Cissoko is a Senegalese griot who fetched up in The Gambia (after his father "threw him out of the house", according the liner notes), then went to Germany and finally on to studying music in Stockholm. Helluva journey.

His wife, multi-instrumentalist and singer Sousou — who grew up in southern Sweden — studied kora in The Gambia. Together they have adopted the role of traditional jalis: Mandinka story-tellers of peace and understanding. This quietly persuasive album — lyrics in translation — weaves its particular magic by understatement and the hypnotic sounds of kora, guitar and calabash. The concise but important liner notes give the background to the songs, but an open heart might also guess the sadness, quiet fury, and necessary reconciliation between the past and present. Sailing along with the message is music that is enchantingly melodic, heartfelt and (on the lovely "Fali" in English) a kind of folk-truth. Quite special.






The Rough Guide to the Best African Music You've Never Heard
Various Artists

We say: Surprisingly, it's pretty much what it says on the box.

They title may seem overreaching but even Afrophiles would agree not only does this deliver some lesser known names, but they are certainly not lesser lights. The artists here come from a World Music Network's Battle of the Bands and a few subsequently recorded albums under their own names, most notably Monoswezi who married a cool Norwegian jazz sensibility to Zimbabwean music on their excellent "The Village" of last year.

So who else is good here? The lively "Noumou Koradiolulou" makes the case for Senegalese griot Noumoucounda Cissoko where kora and acoustic guitar entwine in a dense weave; the electric guitar of Annansy Cisse and single string violin by Zoumana Tereta are hypnotic on the brooding "Bala"; Tereta gets another outing with ngoni player Djama Djigui (younger brother of the famous Baba Sissoko) on the folksy "Djime Foly" which sounds beamed in from a remote village; and the usually rocking trio Krar Collective out of Ethiopia keep things taut and minimal on "Ambassel."

Inevitably the spirit of Fela Anikulapo Kuti is invoked. There’s Anergy Afrobeat, who add little to that legacy on the workmanlike "Fela Chief Priest." The percussive "Baniyorkoy" by Morocco's Simo Lagwani you'd need to see rather than hear, and you'd like hear more by Giuliano Modarelli (guitar) and Sura Susso (kora) as their lovely piece "Cora" — from his 2012 album "Englobed" — probably only hints at what they're capable of. So a slightly mixed bag, but it certainly comes out ahead in the ledger.

The bonus disc is "Junk Funk" from 2012 by Sotho Sounds from Lesotho, who play an assemblage of junk items and turn in some enthusiastic if roughly-hewn grooves employing homemade guitars, fiddle and percussion. They are . . . different, let's say.






Graham Reid is a New Zealand—based travel/music/arts writer whose first book Postcards from Elsewhere won the 2006 Whitcoulls Travel Book of the Year Award in New Zealand. His second book The Idiot Boy Who Flew won the Whitcoulls Reader Choice award and is available through www.amazon.com. He hosts his own wide-screen website www.elsewhere.co.nz and his most recent travels have been through India, odd parts of China, the Australian Outback and Jordan. He likes deserts..

See the last round of music reviews from Graham Reid.

Also in this issue:


Kali City

Buy Kali City online here:
Amazon US
Amazon UK



Como la Luna y el Sol

Buy Como la Luna y el Sol online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Fishpond (Australia)



Africa Moo Baalu

Buy Africa Moo Baalu online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Fishpond (Australia)



Rough Guide African

Buy The Rough Guide to the Best African Music You've Never Heard online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Fishpond (Australia)



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