Perceptive Travel World Music Reviews
September 2014 - By Graham Reid

In this issue: a rare union of NYC and Guinea, time-travel in India on a collection from the vaults, classic old soul from Africa, and a surprisingly good compilation of an otherwise overly-familiar genre.





Faya
Joe Driscoll and Sekou Kouyate

We say: When musical cultures collide the results should always be this exciting.

The main players here could not be more different. Driscoll is a US-born UK resident who raps, loops, does beatbox and comes from a crossover point between fast folk and hip-hop. Kouyate from Guinea plays electric kora (in France he's apparently considered "the Jimi Hendrix of the kora") and is a member of Ba Cissoko's band. Neither speaks the other's language but at times across this debut album together there is pure communication through music.

This is frequently wired-up—yes, you'll get the Jimi reference—and the final track is a dub clubland remix of the title track. Their meltdown of bubbling funk, the contrast of mercurial kora and brittle guitar, New York dancefloor rubbing against African village, and rap alongside ballads makes for a head-turning album happily defying convention. Some of these 10 pop-length pieces are hard-edged (the ghetto gangstas in the reggae-framed "Birnakely") but those flickering melodic runs on kora bring joyous color to even the darkest issues that Driscoll's rap explores. Very impressive.






Music of the Santal Tribe
Various Artists

We say: The way world music used to be.

Most of today's world music albums are by contemporary artists, frequently working the crossover territory. The world is awash with reggae-influenced and percussion-driven albums from all corners of the globe. Gypsy music also seems to be the stock in trade everywhere these days. So it's refreshing to hear the historic sounds reissued on this disc which remind you world music was once the domain of ethnomusicologists.

These field recordings were made by musicologist and filmmaker Deben Bhattacharya (who died in 2001) in North East India in 1954 and 1973, and they allow us to eavesdrop on the past. We are back in time before electric instruments dominated and where flute, single-string fiddle and simple drums provide the accompaniment to the singing of the Santal villagers. So here are religious, wedding and festival songs, given context by the crisp but pointed liner notes. Not for everyone, but not a reggae groove (or Bollywood remix) in earshot either.






70s Soul!
Slim Ali and the Hodi Boys

We say: Classic Southern soul from out of Africa.

Starting in the late 60s, Slim Hodi from Mombassa took the smooth sound of Otis Redding, Al Green and Percy Sledge to clubs and hotel lounges across the Middle East, North Africa and eventually to Kenya. There in '76 he hooked up again with his first band, the Hodi Boys. These 14 originals by Ali are drawn from his albums with the Hodi Boys and collect an impressive selection of yearning soul ballads, very much in the mold of the masters. What sets them apart however are the sometimes odd arrangements the Hodi Boys bring. There are psychedelic guitar washes and strange keyboard landscapes in the middle distance which suggest the Hodi Boys could have gone in a very different direction. But it is Ali's aching, emotionally quavering vocals and his impassioned delivery which holds this together. There are a few makeweight pieces ("Afro Disco Music" is underwhelming as both African and disco music) but this is mostly lounge bar soul of a high order. There's a companion album "70s Pop" too and—on the evidence of the Hodi Boys here—that will definitely be worth serious attention.






The Rough Guide to African Blues
Various Artists

We say: Even if you've explored this territory, here's a collection which opens new doors.

Whether you call it African blues or Sahara blues, the beguiling sounds of artists like Etran Finatawa, Tinariwen, Tamikrest, Malouma and others have become very familiar in the past decade. Tinariwen alone has knocked out half a dozen albums, and there have been more than a few compilations of the genre. But although this 14-song collection has some high profile names (the late Ali Farka Toure, Nuru Kane, Tamikrest, Bombino) it still manages surprises. The broody "Jef Jel" by Amadou Diagne from Senegal is a standout; Samba Toure slip in with the mesmerizing, understated and soulful "Dani Dou"; and the West African Blues Project beam in some 70s boogie courtesy of British guitarist Ramon Goose. With harmonic and guitar, septuagenerian Dilon Djindji from Mozambique offers a delightfully folksy "Sofala". And right at the end the collection has the great Danyel Waro from Reunion for an unaccompanied "Naile" which is very moving.

So despite the generic title, there is much to discover here. This collection errs more towards the acoustic end of the spectrum, perhaps too much so for those who like the electric and electrifying sounds. But the archetypal bonus disc takes care of that: it is last year's excellent "Anewal/The Walking Man", the solo outing by Etran Finatawa guitarist/singer Alhousseini Anivolla.






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:

Faya

Buy Faya online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Fishpond (Australia)



Music of the Santal Tribe

Buy Music of the Santal Tribe online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Fishpond (Australia)



70s Soul!

Buy 70s Soul! online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Fishpond (Australia)



The Rough Guide to African Blues

Buy The Rough Guide to African Blues online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Fishpond (Australia)





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