Songlines Magazine (Aug/Sept 2014, #102)

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he city of Fes still has a Virgin Megastore. You can buy a 40CD box of the Koran,, which is something I don’t remember seeing in the Oxford St branch, but Fes is, after all, the spiritual capital of Morocco. And going into a record store elsewhere is always a reminder that world music is often a question of perspective. The world music section in Fes had the ubiquitous Buena Vista Social Club, but also Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones. However hard I try to see it from the Moroccan perspective, I find it hard to imagine the latter two as British, or indeed Welsh, world music artists. More intriguingly the Megastore had a collection of Corsican music emblazoned with the black bandana’d head that appears on the Corsican flag. Music has been important in the fight for Corsican identity – read our Beginners Guide to A Filetta on p50. One of the things that emerges strongly from the Tate’s exhibition of British Folk Art (p41), is a reminder of our island’s maritime history. The painter Alfred Wallis was a fisherman and painted nothing else but ships and the sea. If you look at old photographs of St Ives, where he lived, the harbour was full of fishing luggers. Today (right) there is barely a handful of fishing boats left. Cornish music and sea shanties have revived, at least, with the success of Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends. They make a fine soundtrack for Wallis’ artworks in the Tate St Ives. There’s another painting in the Tate St Ives that powerfully evokes another band featured in this issue. A canvas painted in 1910-11 by Wassily Kandinsky, it’s almost an abstract image, with vibrant colours and jagged angles, but a few identifiable elements. Most clearly are three orange Cossack hats which brings to mind the Ukrainian group DakhaBrakha, who wear black Cossack-like hats that have become their trademark. Peter Culshaw outlines DakhaBrakha’s activities in the recent events in Kiev on p34. Come and see them at WOMAD – they are one of the most striking groups around right now. If you’re at WOMAD, then come and see us too – we’re next to the BBC Radio 3 Charlie Gillett stage.

Going into a record store elsewhere is a reminder that world music is a question of perspective

Simon Broughton, editor-in-chief

Cover photo Andy Morgan Printing Polestar Colchester Ltd, Severalls Industrial Estate, Colchester, Essex CO4 4HT. Record trade distribution Worldwide Magazine Distributors, 0121 788 3112. UK newsstand & overseas newstrade distribution COMAG Specialist Division, 01895 433800. All rights are reserved. Reproduction in any manner, in whole or in part, is strictly forbidden without the prior written consent of the publishers. No responsibility for incorrect information can be accepted. The views expressed in the articles are those of the author, and not necessarily of the publisher. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of statements in Songlines, we cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions or for matters arising from clerical or printer’s errors, or for advertisers not completing their contracts. Songlines USPS 4638 is published Jan/ Feb, March, April/May, June, July, Aug/Sept, Oct, Nov/ Dec by Songlines Publishing Ltd. Published by Songlines Publishing Ltd, Eurolink Business Centre, 49 Effra Road, London, SW2 1BZ. ISSN 1464-8113 © 2014 Songlines Publishing Ltd Songlines logo trade mark, registered under No. 2427714. Directors Simon Broughton, John Brown, Mark Ellingham, Paul Geoghegan, Lyn Hughes & Chris Pollard


YORAM ALLON Our new world cinema editor is a freelance film programmer and commissioning editor at Wallflower Press. Yoram is also a season-ticket holder at Brighton & Hove Albion. Read his reviews on p84.

JEPPE HEDEGAARD Jeppe is a Danish freelance journalist based in Nairobi, covering culture and politics in the East African region. He reports on how Rwanda’s young musicians are regenerating the country’s music on p46.

ANDREW MCGREGOR Broadcaster, violinist, singer and anchor for BBC Radio 3’s WOMAD broadcasts for many years, Andrew has been following Corsican music since the 90s… Read his guide to A Filetta on p50.


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34 DakhaBrakha





06 Top of the World CD 08 My World interview

28 Catrin Finch &

50 Beginner’s Guide:

60 64 70 77 79 80 83 84 86

11 19 21 22 24 25

Don Letts What’s New & Obits Letters Soapbox Introducing... Imed Alibi & Noura Mint Seymali Quickfire: Alan Bearman, Arthur Jeffes, Maz O’Connor Spotlight on Kasai Allstars


Seckou Keita 34 DakhaBrakha 41 British Folk Art 46 Rwanda’s New Musical Identity

52 55 89 95 96 98

A Filetta Festival Pass: Morgenland Postcard from Uganda Gig Guide Subscribe The Essential Ten: Festival Artists Cerys Matthews MBE!

Africa Americas Europe Middle East Pacific Fusion Books World Cinema Live Reviews

The new Les Ambassadeurs album on Sterns 15 British Folk Art catalogue 41 Morgenland Festival compilation album 53 Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita book by Andy Morgan 83 Independencia DVD 85

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09/07/2014 15:36


Imed Alibi The Tunisian percussionist talks to Jane Cornwell prior to his WOMAD appearance


pic. Joyful. Hopeful. Fearless. In Safar, the Tunisian percussion maestro Imed Alibi has crafted a debut album with visceral punch and cross-cultural reach, where Berber and Sufi rhythms vie and blend with everything from violins and voices to dub bass-lines and digital beats. “I wanted to use rhythms that took you somewhere,” says Alibi. He has worked with the likes of Algerian rocker Rachid Taha, French global beats crew Watcha Clan and Tunisian protest singer Emel Mathlouthi, who lends her sweet, fierce vocals to the song ‘Maknassy’ – which also features guitar from co-producer Justin Adams. “I wanted to fuse rock and electro with traditional instruments in a cinematic way,” Alibi adds. “To explore a free exchange of languages and expressions between musicians of different backgrounds and experiences.” ‘Maknassy’ is named after Alibi’s birthplace, a small town in Tunisia. He grew up listening to the singers Oum Kalthoum and Fairuz and playing darbuka with popular bands and at weddings before moving to the capital, Tunis, to study English Literature at university. He discovered Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Khaled and made music on the side. In 2001, he moved to France. Alibi was in Montpellier when he came to the notice of Les Boukakes, an outfit who mixed rock, rai and Gnawa with electronica; two albums, eight years and dates in 35 countries later he found himself in demand as a percussionist. Gigs with other like minds including longtime fan Robert Plant followed. “With Emel [Mathlouthi] we worked on the same goal: how to bring the traditional rhythms of our backgrounds to Western rock and electro but without clichés,” he says. “Over the years I have met many musicians who share an

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openness to ideas and different styles – something I have had since I was a child.” Alongside Alibi, four other artists make up the core of Safar: Iraqi violinist, Zied Zouari; Brazilian percussionist Zé Luis Nascimento; French keyboard player, Stéphane Puech; and Pascal ‘Pasco’ Teillet, the bassist in French/Maghrebi crew Speed Caravan. “I like Pasco’s groove and knowledge of Arabic music, and the fact he often plays bass like the oud,” says Alibi. The other artists on the album – on ney (flute), accordion, qanun, guitar, trumpet – came together as friends with a love of fusion and a willingness to explore similarities and differences.

“Arabic and Western music have degrees in common; we adapted,” he says. “We live in a world in which differences – ethnic, religious, cultural, linguistic – are held up as obstacles to humanity, instead of being the links between its various parts. When you play music, you can’t feel these distinctions; there’s also a Sufi-spiritual aspect to the way we play that feels like meditation.” That takes you away? “Yes,” says Imed Alibi with a smile. “Far away.”

+ DATES Imed Alibi plays at WOMAD on Saturday July 26

+ ALBUM Safar was a Top of the World review in #100


09/07/2014 12:30

Alexandra Petropoulos speaks to the Mauritanian griot singer about the future of Moorish music


oura Mint Seymali was destined for a life of music. Born into a griot family and the daughter of Seymali Ould Ahmed Vall, who was instrumental in opening up Mauritanian music to the world, it was in her blood. “Music is the lifeblood of my culture and family, it’s something truly inseparable from my life. I always dreamed of being able to expand Moorish music in new directions as [my father] did.” Having begun her musical career at the age of 13 singing for her step-mother, Dimi Mint Abba, Seymali has gone on to do just as she hoped, introducing Mauritanian Moorish music to the 21st century. But Seymali’s life could have easily taken another route. While there

Joe Penney

Noura Mint Seymali

are many respected women griots, not everyone in Mauritania takes kindly to female musicians. “It can be extremely difficult for women who come from griot families to marry outside the caste. Often they have to stop performing entirely. This is because the choice ultimately rests with the husband. Even if the husband has no particular issue himself, he is likely to receive a lot of pressure from his extended family to keep his wife ‘in check.’ People may say it’s haram, sinful. Mostly it’s just jealousy dressed up as righteousness.” Thankfully, Seymali married another griot, guitarist Jeiche Ould Chighaly, in 1996 and they have been playing together ever since. Seymali sings and plays the ardine (a harp played exclusively by women) while Chighaly plays guitar and tidinit (an ngoni-like lute), and together they have been exploring the possibilities of modern Moorish music. Seymali sees her experimentation as a way of better understanding the source music. She clearly has a profound respect for it: “it is beautiful, sacred, complex, competitive, and often insular. Our music chronicles our history, consummates social bonds, and transmits messages.”

On her first international release, Tzenni, Seymali and her husband are joined by Ousmane Touré on bass and Matthew Tinari on drums. “It is the crystallisation of a new approach to the music,” she reflects. “It’s a more raw and focused sound than any of my previous recordings.” Seymali’s impressive voice shines over Chighaly’s psychedelic guitar and tidinit – but at the same time it is ingeniously rooted in something much deeper, older. “Some of the repertoire we draw on can be hundreds of years old. Griots have been ‘updating’ forever, but it becomes newly relevant if played in a state of true conviction, bent around a new time and place,” she explains. “This means not being afraid to change or feeling like you have to follow every new thing.” The album’s title means to spin or circulate in Hassaniya and the music twists and twirls in trance-like repetition, without ever seeming to settle. “We live in a very unstable moment – things are changing so fast now. Tzenni reflects that. But it’s also about the power of faith, serenity, and joy in the face of all these things that are beyond our control.”

+A LBUM Tzenni is a Top of the World review in this issue, see p63

issue 102

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09/07/2014 12:31

C AT R I N & S E C K O U

String theory Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita have been exploring the common spaces between the Welsh harp and West African kora. Jo Frost speaks to them about creating new music


s the stragglers settle into their seats in the sold-out 250-seater auditorium of Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan, there’s a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation about the imminent concert by local Welsh harpist

Catrin Finch and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita. On the stage are an innumerable amount of strings spread across

four instruments – the most familiar looking is the concert harp, alongside a smaller electric harp, then the West African kora next to a hybrid double-necked version. As Seckou starts strumming a gentle repetitive rhythm, Catrin joins him and the audience takes a collective sigh as they relax into their seats. The melody develops and slightly changes tack, making it increasingly difficult to distinguish whether it’s the kora or harp rising and falling, so seamless is the soft sprinkling of notes. This concert opener, ‘Genedigaeth Koring-Bato’, translates as ‘The Genesis of Koring-Bato’, or ‘The Birth of the Kora’ and it’s also the first track on Catrin and Seckou’s album, Clychau Dibon. The track is appropriately dedicated to Toumani Diabaté, the Malian kora genius who was instrumental in this whole project. There’s a satisfying symmetry in the fact that it was just over two years ago, down the road in Cardiff, that this kora and harp project got its first airing – albeit under slightly more strained circumstances. Hindsight is a wondrous thing; those initial obstacles proved serendipitous for what has developed into a beautiful partnership. This pairing of harp and kora is the brainchild of music producer, John Hollis of Astar Artes and Dilwyn Davies, head honcho at Theatr Mwldan. They go back a long way, having worked together on numerous touring productions such as Billy Cobham and the Cuban group Asere, plus Catrin Finch and Cimarron from Colombia. But it’s their shared love of West African music that led them to the idea of teaming up the kora and harp. Selecting the musicians inevitably led to Catrin, who had already proved herself an open and willing collaborator. But which kora player could match Catrin’s calibre, while being equally adept at collaborating? It had to be king of the kora, Toumani Diabaté, who Hollis had worked with in the late 80s. And so the project was set in motion with a five-date tour planned in March 2012. But that’s when the aforementioned circumstances intervened – or more precisely, the coup in Mali – scuppering Toumani’s travel plans. The result was rapidly vanishing rehearsal

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09/07/2014 12:35

C AT R I N & S E C K O U

THE STRING ALCHEMISTS Catrin Finch Born in West Wales, Catrin’s first encounter with the harp was aged five, when she saw the Spanish harpist Marisa Robles in concert. Her affinity with the instrument meant that her parents were soon driving her long distances in order for her to have the best instruction, with Elinor Bennett. Catrin now lives near Cardiff with her sound-engineer husband and their two daughters. In 2000 she was appointed as the Prince of Wales’ official harpist – a tradition that dates back to Queen Victoria’s reign, but one that Prince Charles restored in order to raise the profile of the harp in Wales. The harp is a complicated beast of an instrument, typically having 47 strings, seven pedals that each have three positions to change the pitch. Catrin flits between her classical world and her Clychau Dibon one – after this most recent tour, she was performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations – a repertoire requiring very different techniques and hours of practice. She’s currently working on a solo album, which will be released next year.

Seckou Keita


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All photos by Andy Morgan

Born in Casamance, southern Senegal, Seckou comes from a family of griots. “The kora was always at the heart of the family,” he says, although he started out playing the djembé. “My way of thinking was if I come back to the kora, it’s not just to play traditional songs that have been played for 13 centuries, and repeating what my grandfather or my uncles had done, so this is my opportunity.” The kora generally has 21 strings, but Seckou is experimenting with the instrument: “All of the generations have in a way contributed their own style, adding things and basically extending the frame of the kora.” So Seckou has created a double-necked kora – both sides of the instrument are tuned to a different pitch. “It’s a process and I’m just enjoying it, opening it up more and more.” A natural collaborator, Seckou has worked with numerous musicians including Baka Beyond and Juldeh Camara, but his next project will be a solo album to be released this autumn.


09/07/2014 12:36

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09/07/2014 16:36


Volodymyr Shuvayev

aine is providing kr U in l oi rm tu t en rr cu The e of the country’s a fertile ground for som w travels to Kiev, the musicians. Peter Culsha s to DakhaBrakha, stricken capital, and talk ers one of the leading play spite of the chaos, there’s a surprising, almost giddy sense of idealism in some quarters in Kiev at the moment. It’s as Wordsworth nailed it after the French Revolution: ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive.’ Vlad Troitsky is one such visionary – from the theatre he set up in Kiev, the Dakh (Roof ) Theatre, have emerged two of the most interesting bands in Ukraine, indeed, in the entire world music firmament. One is a female seven-piece band called Dakh Daughters who Troitsky describes as “freak cabaret” and another most brilliant musical phenomenon, DakhaBrakha, the “ethno-chaos” band who will perform at London’s Rich Mix and WOMAD this July. Troitsky has the slightly fluid role of ‘art director’ of both bands. Troitsky is a cultural dynamo, with a strong sense of creative mischief, who runs the alternative GogolFest, and while he admits that “we may face economic collapse, and have 40,000 Russian troops on our border,” Troitsky also really believes that “Ukraine will be the centre of a new feeling, a new civilisation.” For Troitsky, Europe is a “tired, old culture,” and Russia “has the Putin story – freedom and real energy is being taken way.” He thinks it is possible, indeed it’s imperative, to create a more transparent, more democratic and free society balanced between East and West. It’s an inspiring vision shared by many of the musicians and artists I met in Kiev, even as many wonder whether the lights will still be on by the next winter or whether they will be fighting a war. The euphoria of deposing the hated and corrupt president Yanukovych was marred by snipers killing a hundred or so protestors, and just after a bitterly cold winter when people hoped to get back to normal life came the loss of the Crimea, insurgency and bloody chaos in the east. By the time of May’s presidential elections, Putin was sounding more conciliatory, but tensions were still running high. Troitsky likes to quote Chekhov: “if a gun is seen in the first act, it will be used by the third,” in other words, with 40,000 Russian troops parked near the border, there remains a real possibility of invasion, whether masked as ‘peace-keeping’ or not, which will provoke a wider war. The next day I go round Maidan (also known as Independence Square), the fulcrum of the revolution, with DakhaBrakha. Some of the barricades are still there, made of sandbags, street signs and piles of tires, shoes and other assorted detritus. There are still


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09/07/2014 16:44

rwan da

The grand old man of Rwandan music – Abdoul Makanyaga

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09/07/2014 12:26


RWANDA 20 Years On

During the genocide, Rwanda blazed with songs composed by local musicians who helped ignite the hatred. Jeppe Hedegaard discovers how today’s young music industry is searching for a new identity


ou have to have your own style. Something unique.

Part of the current challenges the industry faces is a result of

Something that does not exist in the market,” the teacher

the genocide that placed the music industry in a three-month long

preaches, while 25 students diligently take notes. “Do any

hibernation 20 years ago. On the other side of the genocide that killed

of you have a song that could sell outside of Rwanda?” he

up to a million Rwandans, some of the country’s most talented and

asks them. A young guy with dreadlocks, a cowboy jacket and baggy

popular musicians lost their lives, while others were chased out of the

jeans immediately jumps out of his chair and gets permission to play

country, many of them too traumatised to return.

his suggestion for a future Rwandan hit song.

At a café near his home in Kigali, I meet one of the musicians who

The first guitar chords sound terrible, like a sharp knife against a

witnessed the destruction of the country’s music industry. Abdoul

plate, but a classmate comes to his rescue and tunes the guitar. The boy

Makanyaga, the grand old man of Rwandan music, was at the peak

returns to his singalong song, with a catchy chorus, which gets the other

of his career when the genocide struck. Makanyaga has a face that

students humming along. As the song ends, the classmates applaud, but

clearly models itself after the emotions our conversation evokes. And

as soon as he returns to his chair, the teacher

when the conversation turns to the genocide,

is ready to ask another question: “Alright,

his forehead wrinkles and his eyes water. “I

now how will you sell this guy?”

always tried to be in peace with everyone,

In March Rwanda’s first ever public

and the message in my songs was always to

music school – the School of Art and Music

love each other. But when I saw the actions of

– opened its doors to the first group of

people I asked myself: where is love now?”

students, who had been selected through

He survived the genocide 20 years ago,

national auditions where the students proved

but found it impossible to return to music.

their qualities to the head of the school, a

The four friends who played in his band

well-known Rwandan musician, Jacques

were killed; the joy of life disappeared

Murigande. As the music school waits for

for Makanyaga, and so did his musical

the last instruments to arrive from Europe, Murigande, better known by his stage name Mighty Popo, has challenged his new students with a difficult assignment. During their three-year programme at the school Murigande wants the students to come up with the new musical identity of Rwanda.

Musicians need proper recording studios, venues and a union

The future of Rwanda’s music industry sit

inspiration. But gradually his happiness and his love of music came back. He started a new band with two older musicians, and today his group still perform at weddings, birthdays and other private events in the capital. In the same way, the music industry has slowly recovered from the severe destructions of the genocide. And with the funds that the

behind their desks filling their notebooks with the teacher’s words in

government has promised to invest in the country’s creative industry

order to pass the coming exams and, more importantly, to make music

in the coming years, the young musicians of Rwanda are likely to

their profession. But despite their musical talent, the aspiring artists

face new opportunities. However, before it can become a job creator

are up against all odds as the Rwandan music industry that awaits

for Rwandans, a number of issues need to be solved: musicians need

them is obscure and lacks structure. “The industry is trying to find a

proper recording studios, venues where they can perform and, most

path that it does not know yet, and at this time it does not have a shape

importantly, a union that can guide them.

or structure. The music that is produced can only sell here in Rwanda,

These shortcomings are being addressed, and according to Murigande, who is working closely with government officials, the

consumers are limited,” says Murigande, who lived and played as a

new music school is only the first of many initiatives that will aim to

musician in Canada for more than two decades before permanently

transform the music industry into a successful business, creating jobs

moving to his parents’ home country, Rwanda, in 2007.

and helping to eliminate poverty. But while the music industry is


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All photos by Rich Allela

which would be OK if there were consumers, but even the Rwandan



09/07/2014 12:26

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09/07/2014 15:54


Vincent Kenis



Kasai Allstars Beware the Fetish


Crammed Discs (2 CDs, 103 mins)


A big thumbs-up for those thumb pianos The Kinshasa collective’s second album is a follow-up to their 2008 debut, uniting the approaches of five ethnic groups. It’s lovingly recorded, buzzing likembe thumb-pianos presented at length, to steadily intensifying effect. The repertoire is ritual and has been controversial for both its sauciness and its sorcery. The line-up combines voices, guitars, xylophones, buzz-drums, and likembes, including one

frighteningly low bass-monster model. Just like a rock album, we’re urged to play it loud, which is sound advice given that there are elements of this music that are feeding back and cross-resonating in ways reminiscent of trance and psychedelic guitar music. The distortion derives from a dangerous combination of instruments with makeshift amplification and heavy-duty speakers. Could it be an illusion, or does everything sound even more extreme by the time we’re getting deep into the second disc? The curve of

aural distress rises exponentially as the towering tunes of ‘Thus Spoke the Ancestors’, ‘In Praise of Homeboys’ and the title-track pulsate at length. Even though the Kasai clan is already massive, there’s no shortage of guest appearances, with members of Deerhoof and Konono No 1 contributing to the set’s closing track, recorded live on the Congotronics tour, and fully realising the rock’n’roll comparisons. MARTIN LONGLEY

TRACK TO TRY In Praise of Homeboys

GET THIS ALBUM FREE Readers can get Beware the Fetish by Kasai Allstars when subscribing or renewing with Direct Debit. See CD flyer for details

Lili Boniche Trésors de la Musique Judéo-Arabe World Village (70 mins)


Romantic, sumptuous Jewish-Arab elegance Another welcome haul through the treasure trove of Jewish-Arab popular song: in this case, it’s 13

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tracks, including three released for the first time, by one of the greatest stars of French Algerian music. After going into exile, running cinemas in Paris, Boniche continued to perform both in public and at private late-night dinners for president Mitterrand, who was a fan from his days in Algiers. Recorded partly in the late 50s and partly in the mid-70s, the music includes excellent versions of Boniche’s big hits ‘Guitarra’ and ‘Alger, Alger’, versions of period pop anthems such

as ‘Bambino’, and the odd traditional air. Boniche’s fine agile tenor voice is showcased by a very nice band featuring the virtuoso pianist and musical director Mustapha Skandrani and the polished violin of Abdelghani Belkaid. Whatever you think of Mitterrand the politician, he took his worldly entertainment seriously; what was good enough for Tonton should be good enough for the rest of us. PHILIP SWEENEY

TRACK TO TRY Alger, Alger

Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star de Dakar Live à L’Étoile Teranga Beat (76 mins)


Steamy 60s Senegalese sounds Although born in Nigeria, saxophonist Dexter Johnson was a seminal figure in Senegalese music. He wound up in pre-independence


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Africa reviews Dakar in 1957, a time when colonial dance music in Africa was receiving an exotic injection of Cuban rhythms. Johnson was one of the founders of the Star Band de Dakar and, later, Super Star de Dakar, groups partially responsible for reintroducing traditional Senegalese rhythms and local dialects – giving birth to mbalax music. Live à L’Étoile is a very good quality live recording mastered from the original tapes. It captures Super Star de Dakar under Johnson’s leadership in 1969, just prior to his move to Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. Tightly edited to eliminate any between-track chat or audience noise, this performance conclusively demonstrates his ability as both saxophonist and bandleader. Predominantly a collection of Afro-Cuban songs, there’s nonetheless a slinky African depth to the interpretations. Johnson’s smoky saxophone winds its way through the melodies provided by threepart vocals, churning guitar and bubbling percussion. One of the highlights is an interpretation of the Chris Kenner classic ‘Something You Got’ (popularised by the American soul singer Wilson Pickett). It’s a steaming, slow, funk tour de force, very well performed, with cod-English lyrics. This is a wonderfully exciting Senegalese album. Martin Sinnock

TRACK TO TRY Soy Hijo del Siboney

Oumar Konaté Addoh Clermont Music (58 mins)


The new kid on the bluesy Afro-rock block On this, his debut album, guitarist and singer Oumar Konaté seeks to place himself among the evergrowing pantheon of Mali’s global stars. Having worked as a backing musician for Vieux Farka Touré, Sidi Touré and Khaira Arby, Konaté takes things in his own direction, mixing the guitar styles of northern Mali with rock, funk, reggae and more, with some pieces even bringing to mind Senegalese mbalax. Although the variety of styles presented on the album generally works in its favour, Addoh seems at its weakest when trying out reggae: the opening track is based on a cool reggae groove and misses the mark a bit. After that, however, the album

begins to pick up, and its second track ‘Bisimillah’ is probably the best of the lot, with Konaté’s distorted guitar providing dramatic exclamations above a brooding blues. Konaté also introduces some interesting guests to his band: current hot property Sidiki Diabaté brings his kora (harp-lute) to the duet ‘Terya’ to good results and the American-Ethiopian horn section of Debo Band also feature, though they seem somewhat underused. Addoh isn’t a great album, but it’s certainly a good one, and one that shows promise in some exciting directions. Konaté is a musician to keep an eye on. Jim Hickson

TRACK TO TRY Bisimillah

Malouma Knou

Kamiyad Records (55 mins)


Renaissance woman with many strings to her harp Malouma Mint Meidah is a remarkable woman. She is a griot and a fine singer from Mauritania who has used her musical skills to campaign for women’s rights and environmental issues. It was no surprise that she should become a politician, elected to the Mauritanian senate in 2007, but that has not stopped her musical career. She has always been keen to experiment, mixing the music of the Sahara with blues, R&B and even gospel influences, as she proved with her excellent album Dunya in 2003 (reviewed in #20 and one of Songlines’ 50 Essential African Albums). She is still in powerful voice on this latest set, but the Western influences are now becoming less interesting. The album starts well, with the insistent, slinky ‘Deyar’, on which she is backed by her own harp-like ardine and keyboards. The next track, ‘Goueyred’ introduces the young rapper Sankofa, and from then on the album becomes an uneasy fusion. There are too many songs dominated by keyboards and programming. There are some impressive songs here: the powerful, sparse title-track, featuring voice, ardine and hand percussion; and the cool, gently driving ‘Rbeyna’ (which appears once with Spanishinfluenced guitar backing, and then again featuring the excellent Orchestre National de Barbès).

Sia Tolno African Woman Lusafrica (54 mins)


Hard-hitting political songs, inspired by a hard life Sia Tolno was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Life for her was no bed of roses: her father was a violent man; her family was forced to leave their country by the civil war; and she ended up working in the harsh world of Conakry nightclubs. The inspiring thing about this album is how Sia Tolno now stands loud and proud among the tradition of powerful African women such as Angélique Kidjo and Miriam Makeba. This, Tolno’s fourth and most ambitious album, is her take on Afrobeat. Her collaborator here is Tony Allen, Fela Kuti’s legendary drummer and co-architect of Afrobeat. Some 40 years after he set the original Afrobeat template, Allen still seems to have the same fresh energy as ever and the duo have rounded up some top-notch musicians for their band. The album deals with plenty of tough subjects, from female genital mutilation to the story of a couple of African migrants found dead in the undercarriage of a Belgian airliner. One heartfelt number, ‘Rebel Leader’, is an attack on Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president and convicted war criminal. Some of the songs are perhaps too close to Kuti and Allen’s original blueprint, particularly in the brass arrangements. It’s only when Tolno veers more off-piste, on the gospel-tinged ‘Manu’ for instance, or on the highlife-tinged ‘Mama’, that we really hear her own voice, as opposed to a brilliantly realised re-make. PETER CULSHAW

TRACK TO TRY Rebel Leader


of the world track 5

Robin Denselow


issue 102

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› songlines


09/07/2014 16:17

the essential

Festival Artists

As the festival season is upon us, here are ten acts performing at Larmer Tree, WOMAD, Cambridge and Shambala festivals to get you in the summer mood W o r d s A m a r D h i l lo n , J o F r o s t, A l e x a n d r a P e t r o p o u lo s

01 9Bach Tincian (Real World, 2014)

Bringing the sounds, landscapes and stories of her home in north-west Wales, Lisa Jên and crew are guaranteed to conjure up a thoroughly mellow vibe to WOMAD’s Radio 3 Charlie Gillett stage. Jên sings in Welsh and her voice is exceptionally bright and bell-like. Like a folky Portishead but with harps, harmoniums, dubby synths and guitars. Reviewed in #101. JF

02 Mulatu Astatke Sketches of Ethiopia (Jazz Village, 2013)

The vibraphone Ethio-jazz legend comes up trumps with this latest release. Featuring his hotshot young band of mainly London-based jazzers, it’s a brilliant mix of Ethiopian rhythms and grooves with a thoroughly contemporary sound. Astatke and his crew have been touring and on evidence of a recent sighting at Druga Godba festival in Slovenia, they’re guaranteed to get UK festival crowds grooving. Reviewed in #96. JF

03 La Chiva Gantiva Vivo (Crammed Discs, 2014)

La Chiva Gantiva’s rhythmic mixture of punk, funk and Colombian folklore is the perfect prescription for the sunny festival season. Vivo brilliantly captures the danceable storm of their live sets that are sure to rock the stage at Larmer Tree Festival this summer. Reviewed in #99. AP

04 Cumbia All Stars Tigres En Fuga (World Village, 2014)

Comprised of some of the genre’s legendary originators, Cumbia All Stars live up to their name in an album true to the chicha it looks set to revive, 96 s o n g l i n e s

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› issue

and yet is simultaneously new and exciting. With a characteristic emphasis on Latin percussion and surf guitar, reinvented classics and original tracks alike will be sure to get Shambala’s crowds grooving this August. To be reviewed in #103. AD

05 Debademba Souleymane (Chapa Blues, 2013)

The core of this group is the nifty guitar work of Abdoulaye Traoré from Burkina Faso and the captivating voice of Mohamed Diaby from Mali. Make sure you’re holding onto your pint when Abdoulaye gets into his guitar groove and Mohamed starts his Mick Jagger style posturing onstage – the man simply oozes charisma. Reviewed in #96. JF

06 Clinton Fearon Goodness (Chapter Two Records, 2014)

What invokes that feel-good festival vibe better than some roots reggae? Clinton Fearon hasn’t changed his formula much since leaving the legendary reggae band The Gladiators, but when the music is this good, that’s not a bad thing. It’s this pure roots groove that makes Fearon’s music so enjoyable and is sure to bring out the sunshine at WOMAD. Reviewed in #101. AP

07 Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita Clychau Dibon (Astar, 2013)

So seamless as to believe the term ‘fusion,’ this collaboration has already won countless accolades including a Songlines Music Award. The pairing of the Welsh harp and West African kora blends stories and histories as inextricably as strings and notes in a musical alchemy that this year’s festival crowds will be lucky enough to witness. Reviewed in #96. AD

08 Ibibio Sound Machine Ibibio Sound Machine (Soundway, 2014)

These guys have been taking the festival circuit by storm this year, appearing on stages across the UK and Europe. Drawing on a tradition of storytelling from Nigeria, their fusion of retro Afrobeat and highlife sounds weave fun and funky tales that are irresistibly danceable. You will no doubt find yourself boogying to stories of cunning tortoises and proud peacocks at one of their festival sets. Reviewed in #99. AP

09 Molotov Jukebox Carnival Flower (Molotov Jukebox, 2014)

Basque and Balkans collide in Molotov Jukebox’s stunning debut, an irresistibly danceable fusion of Latin, Gypsy punk, swing, calypso and dubstep – or as lead singer and accordionist Natalia Tena puts it, “tropical urban Gypsy.” After two EPs and a series of explosive live shows, the sixpiece’s sultry melodies and killer beats are hitting festivals across Europe, bringing Gypstep to Cambridge Folk Festival this summer. Reviewed in #101. AD

10 Yaaba Funk My Vote Dey Count (Sterns, 2014)

London-based Yaaba Funk describe their music as ‘gritty South London Afrobeat, highlife, broken beat and funk.’ Throw in a handful of rock and a sprinkle of psychedelia, and this is the sound that will be shaking booties across the UK this summer. This, their second album, proves that they have the power, the party attitude, and the Afro-funk know-how to stand proud alongside the Afrobeat legends. Reviewed in #100. AP

+ LET US KNOW Who did we miss? Write and let us know,


09/07/2014 16:13

cERYs matthews All photos by Nenad Obradovic

BBC DJ Cerys – now honoured with an MBE – looks for the faint rays of sunlight through the disheartening world news


Sekouba Bambino Beginner’s Guide

ismayed by the recent news – Isis, European election results, Syria, North Korea, the Kenyan sports bar murders, home groan politicians – I found a little escape by picking up a weapon of my own and trying my hand at axe throwing. But it was a photograph I came across later on Twittersville that really hit the mark; it was of a tank on the streets of Argentina made entirely of books entitled ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Now since education is our best defence in facing the pestilent advance of consumerism, which is better able to spread when the population is discouraged from questioning and thinking (look at the US with its dire broadcasting and news), so too knowledge and understanding is the best bet in the fight against the political and religious extremism that also feeds on the lifeblood of the weak and vulnerable. So, I thought it would be a good time to fill our tanks (ahem) with some words of wisdom so that we might be compelled to keep fighting the good fight. ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,’ Nelson Mandela. ‘Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self confidence,’ Robert Frost. ‘Children must be taught how to think, not what to think,’ Margaret Mead. ‘I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better,’ Maya Angelou. ‘You can never be overdressed or overeducated,’ Oscar Wilde. ‘The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts,’ CS Lewis. Apart from the tank photo, another ray of sunshine appeared on the horizon in a gig at my local pub one Saturday night. For the last 20 years the KPH, aka Kensington Park Hotel (or Keep Paddy Happy, it was for a long time a hostel for Irish builders) – has had a rather a dubious reputation. It was one of the last remaining pubs in the area not to be gentrified and gastro’d. Instead its legendary Double Diamond neon sign still hung above the middle bar island (as seen in 10 Rillington Place, the film about serial killer John Christie who used to drink here), and its raw ‘menu’ on the outside pavement at times included punch ups, concussion, broken windows, crack, pimps and mayhem. It was built to be a local theatre, and obviously attracted a good deal of drama, though no acting. But it did serve the best pint of Guinness in the area, and it was, and still is, loved, with its fine position at the corner of Lancaster Road and Ladbroke Grove where it stands as a brooding king of the road. One day, the landlord was carted away, relieved of his duties by HM services, and its future looks a little less ‘rocky’

98 s o n g l i n e s

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NEXT ISSUE On Sale August 29 Sahara Soul Celebrating nomadic artists from North Africa Sam Sweeney The story of his violin made in the Great War Mor Karbasi The Ladino diva from Israel

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since Vince Powers took over the reins. A good coat of thick green paint, assorted antiques and oysters from the fish shop opposite make it less of a gamble as a hang – but it still caters to the familiar and motley crowd of romantics and chancers, myself included, who call this square mile their home. I like to think of North Kensington as a big pond full of small fish, people who have moved here and somehow never left. And it is continually fed by rich tributaries: the Caribbean, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Albania, Eritrea and Ireland… It was a similarly mixed bunch of us who assembled on a Saturday night at the KPH to be entertained by London-based band, Paprika, made up of Serbian, English and Romanian musicians. From the moment Bogdan Vacarescu (pictured) stole the opening note from our ancestors hearts, the dancing exploded and the building shook. We danced to wedding and funeral songs, dance reels and polkas until the last hot drop of sweat left the violinist’s head and splattered on a dusty floorboard of this old and wonderful pub. Coming after a period of such awful news, it was heartening to see people of all creeds and colours having a bloody good time and not letting blood. Somewhere down the line, if we haven’t burned this global house down, there just might be a chance for civilisation yet.

It was heartening to see people having a bloody good time and not letting blood

+ R ADIO Cerys’ BBC +

6Music show is on Sundays 10am-1pm O NLINE


09/07/2014 12:53




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