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Editor-in-chief Simon Broughton Publisher Paul Geoghegan Editor Jo Frost Assistant Editor Alexandra Petropoulos Art Director Jenni Doggett Subs & Online Manager Edward Craggs Advertisement Manager James Anderson-Hanney Advertising Sales Executive Daniel Ansell Podcast Producer Nasim Masoud Reviews Editor Matthew Milton News Editor Nathaniel Handy Listings Tatiana Rucinska World Cinema Editor Ed Stocker Production Consultant Dermot Jones Financial Controller Iwona Perucka Contributing Editors Jane Cornwell, Mark Ellingham & Nigel Williamson Intern Angel Castro Cover photo Lee Grubbs

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 is also available in audio format from the Talking Newspaper Association, 01435 866102, uk. 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, PO Box 54209, London, W14 0WU. ISSN 1464-8113 © 2013 Songlines Publishing Ltd Songlines logo trade mark, registered under No. 2427714. Directors Simon Broughton, John Brown, Mark Ellingham, Paul Geoghegan, Lyn Hughes & Chris Pollard


ast issue I wrote about airports named after musicians. Thank you to those who mentioned that Budapest airport was renamed after Ferenc Liszt in 2011 to mark his 200th anniversary. I wish they’d named it after Béla Bartók; he has made a much more internationally important contribution to the spread of Hungarian music. I was in Budapest recently to make a programme for BBC radio about the group Muzsikás – the best-known group of the so-called táncház (dancehouse) movement that started in the 70s, when Hungary was still part of the Soviet bloc, and is still flourishing today. Muzsikás, and other musicians fed up with the ‘fakelore’ of the state ensembles, followed in the footsteps of Bartók and went out to hear real village musicians and collect from them. They learned the music and dances and played it in clubs in Budapest. It was a totally grass-roots movement, unlike the state-imposed folk culture, and it had a political impact too. Unlike pop and rock music, folk songs didn’t have to be approved by the censors, because they were ‘traditional,’ but they could still say a lot about what was going on. The political ingredient isn’t important now, but the music remains popular. The programme goes out on BBC Radio 4 on January 14 and you can read about Poland’s own folk revival on p44. I hope lots of you will come to the Songlines Music Awards 2013 Winners’ concert in London on December 13 – voting is now open for next year’s awards, see p20. Finally, there’s still time to get a last-minute Christmas or New’s Years gift subscription, see Happy New Year to everybody.

It was a totally grass-roots movement, unlike the state-imposed folk culture, and it had a political impact too

Simon Broughton, editor-in-chief contributors this issue include

MARC FOURNIER Based in Vancouver, Marc is a DJ, music journalist and broadcaster. Travelling by water as much as possible, he firmly believes that music and food are created the same way, by aquatic collisions.

GEORGIE POPE Georgie is a musician and musicologist who divides her time between researching and conducting tours in India and working at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK,

PETER CULSHAW Peter’s book Clandestino: In Search of Manu Chao was published by Serpent’s Tail this May to great acclaim. He is a founder editor of and writes about all sorts of global music.

issue 97

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50 Assam



06 Top of the World CD 08 My World interview

32 Best Albums of 2013 54 Beginner’s Guide to Kathryn Tickell 34 Omar Souleyman 38 Future Sounds of 56 Festival Pass: Babel

Katie Derham Canada 11 Bonus CD Polish Sampler 44 Polish Revival 13 What’s New 48 Dylan Re-imagined 21 Letters 50 Assam, India 23 Soapbox 24 Introducing... Aziza Brahim & Alsarah 27 Spotlight on the AMAR Foundation 29 Quickfire: Izzat Majeed, Zaz & Shantel 31 Songlines Music Travel



Med, Marseille 59 Postcard from Bury 91 Gig Guide 95 Subscribe 96 The Essential Ten 97 Songlines Digital 98 Cerys Matthews

Reviews 64 Africa 68 Americas 72 Europe 76 Asia 79 Middle East 80 Fusion 86 World Cinema 88 Live Reviews

3 free AMAR Foundation CDs 13 1 free pair of tickets to see The Gloaming 14 3 free pairs of tickets to WOMAD 2014 20 3 FREE From Another World CDs 49 3 free sets of the Best DVD Releases of 2013 87

COMPETITIONS Send entries, marked clearly with the competition name, your name, address, email and telephone number to the address on p3 or email: Winners will be chosen at random. Only one entry per household. No cash alternatives. If you would prefer not to be sent details of other Songlines products and services, or products from other carefully selected companies, please state clearly on your entry. Closing date Jan 31 2014 (unless otherwise stated)

issue 97

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On your free CD – the editor’s selection of the top ten new releases reviewed in this issue

12/11/2013 15:33

top of the world


01 Black Bazar ‘Black Bazar Round 2 (radio edit)’ (3:58) 02 Siba ‘Preparando o Salto’ (4:48) 03 Ellika, Solo & Rafael ‘Sanka/Virrvals’ (4:20) 04 Noam Pikelny ‘Cheyenne’ (3:37) 05 Eliades Ochoa ‘All Along the Watchtower’ (4:31) 06 Arun Ghosh ‘Sufi Stomp (Soul of Sindh)’ (4:57) 07 Alsarah ‘Salaam Nubia’ (4:30) 08 Will Pound ‘Amazing Grace’ (4:33) 09 Mamar Kassey ‘La Famille’ (4:30) 10 Ashwini Bhide Deshpande ‘Utsav Pancham se Gara’ (excerpt, 5:30)

Free tracks




of the world




PLUS 5 tracks chosen by Katie Derham 11 Milton Nascimento ‘Louva-A-Deus’ (3:10) 12 Seu Jorge ‘Carolina’ (5:55) 13 Joyce Moreno ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ (3:28) 14 Bebel Gilberto ‘Bananeira’ (3:29) 15 Amicklar & Chocolate ‘Som de Preto’ (3:32) Exclusively with the January/February 2014 issue of Songlines. STWCD73. This compilation & © 2013 Songlines Publishing Ltd

Featuring Seu Jorge, Eliades Ochoa, Black Bazar, Milton Nascimento, Will Pound, Siba, Joyce, Arun Ghosh, Ellika, Solo & Rafael and more... SLTOTWCD-97-onbody.indd 1

12/11/2013 15:33

STWCD73 This compilation & © 2013 Songlines Publishing Ltd. Email:, Executive producer Paul Geoghegan. Compiled and sequenced by Alexandra Petropoulos and Angel Castro. Design by Jenni Doggett. Mastering by Good Imprint. CD pressing by Software Logistics Ltd. The producers of this CD have paid the composers and publishers for the use of their music. From Another World: A Tribute to Bob Dylan (Buda Musique) & © 2013 Buda Musique. Courtesy of Buda Musique

05 Eliades Ochoa ‘All Along the Watchtower’ (4:31)

Arghyam: The Offering (East Meets West Music) & © 2013 East Meets West Music Inc. Courtesy of East Meets West Music

10 Ashwini Bhide Deshpande ‘Utsav Pancham se Gara’ (excerpt, 5:30)

Slum Dunk Presents Funk Carioca (Mr Bongo) & © 2004 Mr Bongo Recordings. Courtesy of Mr Bongo Recordings

top of the world plaYlist tracks Rio de Janeiro (Far Out Recordings) & © 2012 Far Out Recordings Courtesy of Far Out Recordings

13 Joyce Moreno ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ (3:28)


A South Asian Suite (Camoci Records) & © 2013 Camoci Records. Courtesy of Camoci Records

06 Arun Ghosh ‘Sufi Stomp (Soul of Sindh)’ (4:57)

Carolina (Mr Bongo) & © 2003 Mr Bongo Recordings. Courtesy of Mr Bongo Recordings

12 Seu Jorge ‘Carolina’ (5:55)

Nascimento (Warner Bros Records) & © 1997 Warner Bros Records Inc. Courtesy of Warner Bros Records

11 Milton Nascimento ‘Louva-A-Deus’ (3:10) KATIE DERHAM’S PLAYLIST

10 tracks from this issue’s best new albums + 5 bonus tracks Exclusively with the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Songlines

From A South Asian Suite on Camoci Records

SLTOTWCD-97-sleeve.indd 1

Black Bazar Round 2 (Lusafrica) & © 2013 Lusafrica/Mabanckou. Courtesy of Lusafrica

01 Black Bazar ‘Black Bazar Round 2 (radio edit)’ (3:58)

07 Alsarah ‘Salaam Nubia’ (4:30)


The Nile Project: Aswan (The Nile Project) & © 2013 The Nile Project. Courtesy of The Nile Project

› issue

06 Arun Ghosh ‘Sufi Stomp (Soul of Sindh)’ 02 Siba ‘Preparando o Salto (Prepare to Jump)’ (4:48)

06 s o n g l i n e s

Avante (Mais Um Discos) & © 2013 Fina Produção/Mata Norte under exclusive licence to Mais Um Discos. Courtesy of Mais Um Discos

Tanto Tempo (Ziriguiboom) & © 2008 Ziriguiboom/Crammed Discs under exclusive licence to Warner Music UK Ltd. Courtesy of Warner Music UK Ltd

14 Bebel Gilberto ‘Bananeira’ (3:29)


08 Will Pound ‘Amazing Grace’ (4:33)


A Cut Above (Lulubug Records) & © 2013 Will Pound. Courtesy of Will Pound


09 Mamar Kassey ‘La Famille’ (4:30)


Now (Country & Eastern) & © 2013 Country & Eastern. Courtesy of Country & Eastern



03 Ellika, Solo & Rafael ‘Sanka/Virrvals’ (4:20)

15 Amicklar & Chocolate ‘Som de Preto’ (3:32)


Taboussizé-Niger (Innacor Records) & © 2013 Innacor Records. Courtesy of Innacor Records

From Black Bazar Round 2 on Lusafrica


04 Noam Pikelny ‘Cheyenne’ (3:37)


Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe (Compass Records) & © 2013 Compass Records. Courtesy of Compass Records


01 Black Bazar ‘Black Bazar Round 2 (radio edit)’ The Congolese legends revive the

The British-Asian clarinettist and his

traditional acoustic roots of classic rumba

group of talented musicians deliver a

with their second album. Irresistible

consistently engaging, adventurous record

dance music. See p64

with a focus on South Asia. See p80

02 Siba ‘Preparando o Salto (Prepare to Jump)’

07 Alsarah ‘Salaam Nubia’

From The Nile Project: Aswan on The Nile Project

From Avante on Mais Um Discos

The Nile Project brought together

The influential Brazilian musical figure

musicians from countries along the

has taken a step in a different direction

Nile to showcase a variety of talent, like

with a highly personal but inventive

Sudanese singer Alsarah, for this live

album. See p70

performance in Aswan. See p67

03 Ellika, Solo & Rafael ‘Sanka/Virrvals’

08 Will Pound ‘Amazing Grace’ From A Cut Above on Lulubug Records

From Now on Country & Eastern

In his debut solo album, harmonica

Ellika and Solo come together again,

virtuoso and BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards

this time with Rafael in a seamless

nominee Will Pound explores a variety of

collaboration of Swedish, Senegalese and

alluring tunes while taking the instrument

Mexican instrumentation. See p82

into unfamiliar territory. See p73

04 Noam Pikelny ‘Cheyenne’

09 Mamar Kassey ‘La Famille’

The banjo whizz Noam Pikelny pays

The Nigerien group return for their

tribute to fiddle player Kenny Baker’s

third release with a predominantly acoustic

adaptation of Bill Monroe’s original

and traditional West African album,

bluegrass sound in this Russian doll-like

featuring the fabulous vocals and flute

release. See p69

playing of Yacouba Moumouni. See p65

05 Eliades Ochoa ‘All Along the Watchtower’

10 Ashwini Bhide Deshpande ‘Ustav Pancham se Gara’

From Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe on Compass

From Another World: A Tribute to Bob Dylan on Buda Musique

From Taboussizé-Niger on Innacor Records

This compilation and tribute to Bob

From Arghyam: The Offering on East Meets West Music

Dylan takes a highly original approach

Singer Ashwini Bhide Deshpande

to several of his classic songs, which are

performs ragas written by the late Ravi

re-imagined by a host of artists from Cuba

Shankar as a tribute to India’s most

to Burma. See p85

famous musical ambassador. See p76

+ Katie derham’s playlist


11 Milton Nascimento ‘Louva-a-Deus’ From Nascimento on Warner Bros Records

‘Louva-a-Deus’ translates as ‘praying mantis’ but this is an Afro-Brazilian inspired song of adoration to the Virgin and the candomblé goddess of passion.


12 Seu Jorge ‘Carolina’ From Carolina on Mr Bongo

This is a track from Seu Jorge’s debut album, which was released just before he became internationally known as an actor in the Oscar-nominated favela film City of God.


13 Joyce Moreno ‘Cidade Maravilhosa’ From Rio de Janeiro on Far Out Recordings

This album charts Joyce’s personal relationship with Brazil’s iconic city, featuring just her and her guitar on the beach. This track is one of the sweetest songs about the city that there is.


14 Bebel Gilberto ‘Bananeira’ From Tanto Tempo on Ziriguiboom

The daughter of João Gilberto, the creator of bossa nova, and the niece of

“Brazil gets a physical and emotional response from me that I haven’t felt in other parts of the world. I’ve got to hand it to a country that has five days of public holiday for a party – and still manages to be a global superstar” Turn over for the full interview with Katie Derham

balladeer Chico Buarque, Bebel Gilberto is Brazilian music royalty. This track, which translates as ‘banana tree,’ is a song by Gilberto Gil.


15 Amicklar & Chocolate ‘Som de Preto’

From Slum Dunk Presents Funk Carioca on Mr Bongo A compilation of funk carioca or baile funk (funk from Rio’s favelas) by Slum Dunk, a musical collective made up of

NEXT ISSUE – ANDREW MARR’s Playlist BBC presenter and journalist Andrew Marr chooses his five favourite tracks to be featured on our covermount CD of the March issue (#98), on sale January 31.

Brazilian artists residing in London.

issue 97

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Go online at Hugh Masekela. Photo by Marc Shoul

4 issues of Songlines for only £4* Now that’s an offer worth singing about... Call us on 020 7371 2777 and quote SL97DD *TERMS & CONDITIONS: Only available to new subscribers and the four issues will start with the next issue, March 2014 (#98). This offer is not available in conjunction with any other promotion and only available to UK customers when paying via direct debit. To pay by direct debit, both the billing and postal address must be in the UK. Subscriptions are continuous; after the first payment of £4, a payment of £16 will be collected every six months (4 issues) unless cancelled. No minimum term.

Omar SOuleyman

The Wedding Singer Syria’s Omar Souleyman is bringing disco dabke to the trendiest corners of the world. Peter Culshaw asks whether he’s all hype or the next big thing p h oto s


mar Souleyman, whose name has been generating a lot of media heat as ‘the next big star’ in world music comes on stage wearing his trademark red and white kaffiyeh head gear, grey djellaba robe, aviator shades and trim moustache. Next to him is gifted keyboardist Rizan Sa’id, with keyboards approximating assorted Middle-Eastern instruments. The sound of the duo – fast-paced dabke, a folkloric dance music, with some Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic styles thrown in the mix – is a hypercharged rush, and Omar’s frenetic metres, songs of love and desire sung in an expressive and declaratory style, go down a storm. The songs are mainly adapted from folk tunes, and most are headbanging songs with lots of swirly pitch-wheel synth playing and heart-stopping rhythms performed at warp speed and astonishingly loud volume. Omar is still on stage except for occasionally conducting the audience like he’s on a runway signalling a landing plane, while Rizan is strangely uncharismatic, with an expression for all the world like a guy in a phone shop who hasn’t met his monthly targets. We are in The Laundry, a club on the fringes of Dalston, Hackney, packed with the trendy youth of East London. “He’s, like, disco Taliban,” says one rather airheaded brunette to her friend behind me. “A rave Yasser Arafat!” the friend chips in. “Yasser who?” asks the first one. A few years ago, Dalston was called ‘the hippest quarter in the world right now’ by Italian Vogue, although since then property prices have rocketed and many of the real hipsters – the artists, musicians and software visionaries – have been pushed out and the West London trustfund types have moved in. Still, Omar’s crowd are millennial groovers in places like this and Brooklyn and Austin; indie kids, alerted partly by the endorsement of cultural magpies/opportunists like Damon Albarn (who remixed an unreleased track) and Björk (who Omar remixed). There’s even an enjoyable version of an Omar tune on the next album by classical modernists, the Kronos Quartet. Omar is a cult figure who was ‘discovered’ in Syria by a character called Mark Gergis of Sublime Frequencies and he’s now signed to Ribbon Music, an offshoot of the modish Domino label, home of the 34 s o n g l i n e s

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l e e

g r u b b

Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand. He has a new album, Wenu Wenu, produced by British techno producer Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet), and is poised for mainstream success. Having been to a few Arabic weddings in my time, the sound is a good version of the kind of thing you’ll hear there. As Nigel Williamson says in his review in this issue: ‘it remains puzzling why he in particular has been singled out for such honours.’ I certainly begin to have some doubts. Is it even possible that someone had pulled off some kind of scam? What fun it would be to get a local, say, Kurdish wedding singer, invent a fascinating back story and milk some ignorant middle-class trendies? This isn’t just an attack of paranoia, entirely. Several things don’t seem to completely add up. The press releases call him a ‘legend’ and ‘major star’ in Syria. However, no one I know in the region actually seems to have heard of him, except since his Western success. When I went to Aleppo a few years back, before the war, his name never came up. More definitive is Leah Caldwell, a Syrian music expert and editor on the news site, Al-Akhbar English: “There are many famous singers in Syria. Omar Souleyman isn’t one of them.” Mark Gergis’ line on Omar, lapped up by a trend-hungry media, is that he had been in Syria and heard Omar’s music everywhere – on the buses and in the streets – and after several visits finally got his number. Then, after being followed by secret police, he met up with him in Ras al-Ayn, a remote part of Syria on the Turkish border. A series of scratchy, badly recorded but undoubtedly energetic releases followed, compilations of the cassettes Gergis had heard on his travels, starting with 2006’s Highway to Hassake. All believable enough, if slightly preposterous, in normal circumstances. Except it turns out that Gergis has serial form in outrageous scams. A musician and activist, he had a band called White Ring, who claimed to have fought in Desert Storm in Iraq and trained in Israel, and another called Lord Chord, he claimed to be extreme Christian fundamentalists. Neither of which were true, but were excellent scams. I begin to warm to Gergis’ adventurous nature. Gergis seems to be a situationist in the spirit of the late Malcolm McLaren.

m a r i a tĂ n a s e

i s s u e 9 67

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Best albums of 2013

best albums of

It’s that time of year again, when editors Jo Frost and Simon Broughton choose their ten favourite releases – ones that have really stood out from the crowd

Oana Cătălina Chiţu Divine

Family Atlantica Family Atlantica

Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita Clychau Dibon

This band is a product of the fertile,

(Astar Artes) Reviewed in #96

Jupiter & Okwess International Hotel Univers

A real treat this one to mark the centenary of Maria Tănase (1913-1963),

multicultural metropolis that is

This isn’t the first kora collaboration to

Lead singer Jupiter Bokondji was

the Romanian Edith Piaf. Chiţu brings

London. The charismatic vocalist,

be featured in our Best of the Year list

the subject of a French documentary

these songs alive with an excellent

Luzmira Zerpa, is Venezuelan and the

but it’s certainly the first to include the

called Jupiter’s Dance back in 2006,

ensemble of violin, accordion, sax,

other key members are London-born

harp. Classically trained Welsh harpist

so this international debut has been

guitar, cimbalom and bass. The songs

Jack Yglesias and Nigerian/Ghanaian

Catrin Finch has joined forces with

long anticipated. Jupiter has the

are nostalgic and romantic and

percussionist Kwame Crentsil. Not

Seckou Keita, Senegalese UK-based

swagger and looks of a bona fide rock

given a dark, Oriental tone by Chiţu’s

surprisingly Family Atlantica’s self-

kora player, and they’ve produced an

star yet at the same time there’s an

chiaroscuro alto voice. There’s a tasty

titled debut follows an ida y vuelta

album of real beauty. The album’s title

ageless wisdom to his expression. The

Romanian tango in ‘Habar N-ai Tu’ and

between Africa, South America, the

sounds like it could be either Welsh

album is a hard-hitting critique about

the way she draws out the introduction

Caribbean and Europe – with some

or Wolof, in fact clychau is Welsh for

the Congo’s history of colonisation,

to ‘Aseară Ti-am Luat Basma’

spectacular percussion at its core.

‘bells’ and dibon is a West African

independence, dependence and

surrounded by filigree cimbalom

Guest artists include Senegalese Gnawa

hornbill, but also the second bass

corruption – Jupiter feels his country

flourishes is gorgeous. SB

Nuru Kane and the wonderful Mulatu

string on a kora. There’s a wonderful

is still at war because of the avarice of

Astatke, who Yglesias got to know

symmetry to this music – at times it’s

its people. Despite the serious nature

as a member of Ethiopian band The

hard to distinguish between the two

of the songs, there’s a raw energy to

Heliocentrics. A life-affirming debut. SB

instruments, held in such high esteem

this edgy and funky music, and live,

in their respective cultures. This is an

this band simply rock. JF

(Asphalt Tango) Reviewed in #94

(Soundway) Reviewed in #92

album of real class. JF

32 s o n g l i n e s

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(Out Here Records) Reviewed in #94

best albums of 2013

Çiğdem Aslan Mortissa

Buika La Noche Más Larga

This is London-based Aslan’s debut

A sumptuous, emotionally charged

disc. She is a lioness of Greek and

set of songs from Concha Buika, a

Turkish rebetika, and focuses on the

flamenco singer from Mallorca who has

smyrneika style from Smyrna (now

turned more towards jazz for this highly

known as Izmir) that was shared by

polished release recorded in Miami.

Turks, Greeks, Armenians and Jews.

Buika’s live performances can at times

Alongside Aslan’s idiomatic vocals,

be unnerving with her no holds barred

there are excellent instrumental

approach on stage. But she’s pulled out

contributions from Nikolaos Baimpas

all the stops in the studio and her voice

on kanun, Pavlos Carvalho on bouzouki,

sounds better than ever. ‘La Nave del

Meg Hamilton on violin, and Susi

Olvido’ was nominated in this year’s

Evans on clarinet, amongst others. SB

Latin Grammy Awards. JF

(Asphalt Tango) Reviewed in #96

(Warner) Reviewed in #95

Kayhan Kalhor & Bassekou Kouyaté Erdal Erzincan Jama Ko Kula Kulluk Yakısır Mı (Out Here Records) Reviewed in #90

Leyla McCalla Vari-Colored Songs

Rokia Traoré Beautiful Africa

(Dixie Frog) Reviewed in #96

(Nonesuch) Reviewed in #91

(ECM) Reviewed in #96

This recording demonstrates exactly

This is the debut solo release from

Ever the innovator, Rokia has, for her

The only drawback with this album

what puts Mali at the top of the African

the newest member of the Carolina

latest album, hooked up with producer

is the hard-to-remember title (if you

music charts. Jama Ko is a fiercely

Chocolate Drops. Born in New York

John Parish who is best known for

don’t speak Turkish). It’s a folksong,

contemporary album produced by

to Haitian parents, McCalla grew up

his work with PJ Harvey. Perhaps it’s

which translates as ‘how unseemly it is

Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire),

reading the works of American poet

his influence as Beautiful Africa is

to follow anyone slavishly,’ advice that

though it is rooted in the nimble, yet

and social activist Langston Hughes

certainly a rockier affair – but still

both of these master musicians have

rough-edged sound of the ngoni, the

and in tribute, has set some of his

innately Malian, with some fabulous

always taken to heart. This is a largely

desert lute that goes back centuries.

poems to music. In addition to these

ngoni from Mamah Diabaté, and

improvisational duo performance

The extremely catchy title-track is a

poem-songs are some beautiful

some feisty female backing vocals.

by Iranian kamancheh (spike fiddle)

call for unity and peace, while ‘Kele

a capella Haitian-Creole songs. Besides

You really get a sense that Rokia has

player Kayhan Kalhor and Turkish

Magni’ features the magnificent

her beguilingly languid singing style,

a determined intention of getting her

saz player Erdal Erzincan. The two

Khaira Arby from Timbuktu, under

McCalla is an impressive cellist and

message across, whether singing in

musicians create a tapestry that

Islamist control when the album was

plays a mean banjo too. An album

Bambara, French or English. Standout

unfolds organically over an hour with

recorded. ‘Sinaly’, with Kasse Mady

steeped in the Caribbean and Haitian

tracks include ‘Mélancholie’ and the

moods ranging from introspection to

Diabaté, refers to a historical Malian

roots of America’s South. JF

title-track. Another class act from

elation. It was recorded live in Turkey

king resisting radical Islam. Powerful

and the contrasting textures of bowed

content and a thrilling sound. SB

and plucked strings sparkle brilliantly off each other. SB

Mali’s first lady of song. JF

+ PODCAST Hear music from all these albums on this issue’s podcast + CINEMA See p87 for this year’s best world cinema releases issue 97

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assam Georgie Pope ventures into India’s forgotten north-east and experiences the sensual and spiritual highs of Assam’s springtime festivals

50 s o n g l i n e s

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Photos Kankanmoni Deka



ay ‘Assam’ and most English people think ‘tea.’ The Assamese grow, treat and export more than a third of the world’s favourite hot drink and we British drink it by the gallon. As you might have gathered, I came here for more than an afternoon cuppa. During my five years of musical research in India, I’d heard that Assam embraces an extremely rich, but barely known music scene. Assamese music is to India what world music is to the UK mainstream: marginalised, maligned and barely understood. So in April 2012, during the ebullient springtime festival of Bihu, I head north-east to find out more. My journey begins in Guwahati, Assam’s shambolic capital city, which sprawls along the southern bank of the mighty Brahmaputra River. I had come in April because this is the time the entire state comes alive with the Bohag Bihu. After the long, dry month of Sot comes the month of Bohag (mid-April to mid-May), when the first round of monsoon rain finally arrives to soften the earth. The festival is a celebration of the marriage between the thundercloud groom and his Mother Earth bride. The soil becomes moist, the corn is their offspring and sexual metaphors abound. Bihu songs, reflecting the mood of the festival celebrations, are about fruit, fertility and flirtation. They are buoyant ditties of love, pushed along by an urgent rhythm known as seow taal in which only the first and second beats of a triplet are played, with a stress on the second. They contain very little religious content, unlike other folk forms here, and often feature arch dialogues between courting couples. During Bihu time, it is tacitly accepted that some 60% of marriageable Assamese couples will elope. There’s certainly something in the air. All this ribaldry was frowned upon by the pious, urban elite of Assam until the middle of the last century. They preferred to listen to – and have their daughters learn – Hindustani classical music, or Rabindra Sangeet, the sung poetry of Rabindranath Tagore. It was only when the now famed Khagen Mahanta, son of an important sattradikar (monastery principal), decided to promote the form that city audiences started to appreciate the catchy rural songs. It wasn’t easy for him. The members of his father’s monastery revolted, but Mahanta Senior stood firm, threatening to resign his position as sattradikar unless his son be allowed to sing in peace. The monks relented, and Khagen was inspired by his father’s public support. These days, the form has been thoroughly accepted into middle-class urban society. There are state-sponsored Bihu events on every municipal stage and schools encourage pupils to put on Bihu performances, where the girls dance in traditional gold and red saris and the boys in hand-woven gamosa (scarves) enthusiastically play their dhol drums. To enjoy Bihu in its pre-gentrified rural context, I leave the city and travel deep into Upper Assam. Heading east through lush landscapes, I pass raucous bands of drum-wielding, gamosabedecked festival revellers playing in courtyards, dancing at the roadside and blessing the homes of their neighbours through song and prayer. This is the glorious Bihu-time practice of husori.

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kathryn tickell Julian May looks at the extensive career of the award-winning Northumbrian smallpipes player who’s become Sting’s traditional musician of choice

“A lot of the songs are rooted in that North-East modal folk tradition,” says Sting, describing his latest theatre project and album, The Last Ship. “I wanted a North-Eastern folk band palette, so I recruited some friends from Newcastle… Kathryn Tickell, an extraordinary musician, plays the bagpipes and the fiddle, she’s steeped in that tradition…” She certainly is: Kathryn Tickell’s greatgrandfather and grandfather were singers and musicians. Her father, Mike Tickell, was brought up on a hill farm and learned songs from the traditional singers of the North 54 s o n g l i n e s

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Tyne valley. He is well-known as a singer of Border ballads with expert knowledge of these ancient, monumental songs of love, battles, land, cattle raids and the supernatural. AL Lloyd, who with Ralph Vaughan Williams edited The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs in 1959, memorably summed up these songs and the place and people that produced them: ‘The bare rolling stretch of country from the North Tyne and Cheviots to the Scottish southern uplands was for a long time the territory of men who spoke English but had the outlook of Afghan tribesmen; they

Reed Ingram Weir

beginner’s guide

prized a poem almost as much as plunder, and produced such an impressive assembly of local narrative songs that some people used to label all our greater folk poems as ‘Border ballads.’’ It is surprising, then, that Kathryn Tickell doesn’t sing (at least in public). Instead she has been entranced by the instrumental tradition of the region. She learned tunes from the shepherd musicians Willie Taylor, Will Atkinson and Joe Hutton, and the great Northumbrian piper, Billy Pigg. Tickell started playing the Northumbrian smallpipes when she was nine. These are bellows-blown, like the uilleann pipes of Ireland. They have four drones but, unique among bagpipes, the chanter – the pipe that plays the melody – is closed at the end. So a note is sounded only as a finger is


“I’m curious, a bit bloody-minded and can never resist a challenge... if someone tells me I can’t do it, I will try, just to see” raised, giving the Northumbrian pipes their characteristically perky staccato sound. “It’s like playing an octopus,” she says. But Tickell quickly took to this intricate instrument and had won all the smallpipes competitions by the age of 13. When she was 16 she released her first album, On Kielder Side. In the same year, 1984, she was appointed the official piper of the Lord Mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (an office that had been vacant for a century and a half ). On Kielder Side is a selection of lively jigs, reels and airs that, as well as Northumbrian tunes, includes some from Shetland, Ireland and Scotland. They are divided between the pipes and the fiddle, which she studied with the Shetland master, Tom Anderson. So, from the very beginning Tickell displays the musical openness and curiosity that distinguishes her career, leading her to unlikely places, for a folk musician, such as Sting’s stage and studio. She has now played on five of his records. And that’s not all. In 2001 she collaborated with saxophonist Andy Sheppard on Music for a New Crossing, which premiered when the Gateshead Millennium Bridge opened. She has worked with classical percussionist Evelyn Glennie, pianist Joanna MacGregor and The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. The composers Peter Maxwell Davies and Howard Skempton have written pieces for her. In 1986 Kathryn Tickell embarked on her career as a professional musician, and released her second album, Borderlands, which included the first recordings of her own tunes. In 1990 she formed The Kathryn Tickell Band, with which she recorded and toured all over the world for most of the next two decades. But Tickell is, clearly, not one to restrict herself. In 1997 she made The Gathering with guitarist Ian Carr and bass player Neil Harland. This album included some of the oldest tunes in the smallpipes repertoire, and her own recent compositions. By the time she recorded Debateable Lands, the title a reference to the contentious status of the border region, her compositions were growing more extensive. The track ‘Stories from the Debateable Lands’ is not so much a set of tunes as a musical suite. In 1999, with a bursary from the Britten-Pears Foundation, Tickell studied composition with Judith Weir, and wrote ‘Lordenshaws’ for smallpipes and a small ensemble. She also

formed Ensemble Mystical, which included among its instruments the carnyx, a bronze trumpet dating from 200BC. Tickell was also appointed as one of the founding lecturers on the University of Newcastle’s Folk and Traditional Music degree course – the only course of its type in England. In 2002 came Back to the Hills, in which she did just that, returning to the tunes of the Northumbrian tradition. In this year, too, she founded Folkestra, an ensemble for musicians aged 14 to 19, to pass on to them the music that shapes her life and encourage them to develop their own skills. Kathryn Tickell has won the BBC Radio 2 Folk Musician of the Year Award twice (2005 and 2013). She received the Queen’s Medal for Music in 2009. She curated the Percy Grainger Night at the BBC Proms in 2011, which also commissioned her to write a piece for the London Sinfonietta and the Hungarian band Muzsikás. The Bath International Festival commissioned a bespoke piece. The Nash Ensemble invited her to perform with them for Peter Maxwell Davies’ 75th birthday... Given all this, I suggest to her that she had not been content solely with the tradition she grew up in. Tickell puts me right, pretty firmly. “I think that I’m still a traditional musician,” she insists. “That’s more the way you learn and how you see things. I don’t think it is about the kind of music that’s coming out. I’m very content with that, and I’m very content with the tradition. If I had just played that in the way that Willie Taylor did, that would be enough… but I’m curious, a bit bloody-minded and I can never resist a challenge. Even more, if someone tells me I can’t do it, I will try, just to see.” So Kathryn Tickell is excited by her latest combo, The Side, in which she is joined by cellist Louisa Tuck, harpist Ruth Wall and clog dancer and accordionist Amy Thatcher. She thinks Willie Taylor, Will Atkinson and Joe Hutton would approve. Her latest album Northumbrian Voices includes the stories they told her as they taught her their tunes. “The old traditional musicians, they were always open to whatever was around,” she says then adds, ruefully. “It’s just that it was all much narrower for them.”

BEST ALBUMS Northumbrian Voices (Park Records, 2012) Wonderful tunes, with stories from the musicians she learned them from, read by her father – ‘The Northumbrian Richard Burton.’ Reviewed in #89.

The Sky Didn’t Fall (Park Records, 2006) The pared-down album she made in 2006, just her and the Scottish harpist Corinna Hewat. The title hints at the daring of this. Reviewed in #37.

Strange but True (Park Records, 2006) Interesting collaborations including those with Andy Sheppard, Catriona MacDonald, the Brazz Brothers and Folkestra. Reviewed in #42.

Air Dancing (Park Records, 2004) The Kathryn Tickell Band – featuring Peter Tickell, Joss Clapp, Julian Sutton and Donald Hay – in top form. Reviewed in #28.

Debateable Lands (Park Records, 1999) Not just a collection of melodies but an album with a strong theme that marks Kathryn Tickell’s emergence as a composer rather than a writer of tunes.

BEST COMPILATION The Best of Kathryn Tickell (Park Records, 2010) A double album of Tickell’s prolific output. Reviewed in #68 it was described as: ‘a fine distillation of a career so far and one that whets the appetite for whatever is coming next.’

If You Like Kathryn Tickell, Then Try….

Andy May

Happy Hours (Fellside, 2009)

With several traditional tunes from Tyne and Scotland, Andy May’s second album also features some fine compositions of his own and even some Galician jigs. Happy Hours demonstrates the versatility of the Northumbrian smallpipes in the hands of a gifted and enquiring musician.

+ PODCAST Hear music from Kathryn Tickell on this issue’s podcast

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the essential

Bob Dylans from Around the World With a new CD featuring musicians from around the world performing classic Dylan tunes (see p48), here are ten artists who have all been called the ‘Bob Dylan’ of their own country Words Nigel Williamson

01 Bonga Angola 72 (Lusafrica, 1997) After fleeing Angola in 1966, Bonga became a key member of the underground resistance against Portuguese colonial control. With a warrant out for his arrest, he defiantly recorded this brilliant, insurrectionary musical manifesto in Europe. Banned in Angola when it was first released, it was played incessantly by radio stations over the border and inspired the liberation struggle.

02 Chico Buarque Chico Buarque (Philips, 1978) Imprisoned by Brazil’s military dictatorship, Buarque continued to sing out against oppression throughout the 70s. Many of his finest protest songs appeared on this album, including the banned single ‘Apesar de Você’ (In Spite of You), and ‘Calice’, a subtle protest against state censorship.

03 Víctor Jara Manifiesto (Warner, 1974) Murdered for his opposition to Pinochet’s coup d’etat in 1973, this posthumous album by the Chilean folk hero used unfinished songs from 1973’s Tiempos que Cambian as its base. Dylan appeared at a memorial concert for him in New York in 1974 and Springsteen performed the titletrack at the 40th anniversary of Jara’s death this September at a concert in Chile

04 Habib Koité Afriki (Cumbancha, 2007) A rare singer-songwriter in Mali’s griot-dominated musical culture, Koité recorded a version of ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ on

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his recent collaborative album with Eric Bibb. But he’s heard to better effect on this collection of his own songs, which address the social and environmental issues facing modern Africa with a disarmingly simple honesty.

05 Ismaël Lo Iso (Mango, 1994) Youssou N’Dour’s ‘Chimes of Freedom’ is one of the all-time greatest Bob Dylan covers – but it’s the lyrical troubadourisms of his compatriot Ismaël Lo that has earned him the tag ‘the Senegalese Dylan.’ This album combines Senegalese mbalax rhythms with thoughtful compositions about topics such as arranged marriages and social injustice – and Ismaël Lo’s harmonica playing seals the deal.

06 Ilham al-Madfai Ilham al-Madfai (EMI, 2004) The Iraqi singer spent three years in London in the ‘Swinging 60s,’ when he counted Donovan Leitch and Paul McCartney among his supporters. Back home he became known in the 70s as ‘the Baghdad Beatle.’ But his acoustic guitar and the protests that have forced him into exile in Jordan cast him proudly in the troubadour tradition.

07 Thomas Mapfumo The Chimurenga Singles 1976-1980 (Earthworks, 1984) Recorded by Zimbabwe’s warrior troubadour at the height of the country’s liberation struggle – righteous and intense bulletins against oppression in the chimurenga style that Mapfumo patented, a kind of vital, one-man folk-rock protest movement that soundtracked the long march to emancipation. Mapfumo now lives in exile in the US.

08 Christy Moore Live at the Point (Grapevine, 1994) After changing the course of Irish music with his bands Planxty and Moving Hearts, Christy Moore became a compelling solo performer. This live recording of traditional and contemporary material captures him in intense and uncompromising form, holding the audience in the palm of his hand with only guitar and bodhrán for props.

09 Archie Roach Charcoal Lane (Mushroom, 1992) Taken from his parents at the age of three under the now discredited policy of ‘assimilating’ Aboriginal children into white Australian society, Archie Roach sings heartfelt songs about dispossession and stolen childhood set to simple guitar arrangements, which make his debut album Charcoal Lane a stunningly powerful indictment of a policy that bordered on cultural genocide.

10 Carlos Varela Monedas al Aire (Qbadisc, 1993) Drawing on both the Cuban nueva trova tradition of Pablo Milanés and Silvio Rodríguez and the Western folk-rock of Dylan and Jackson Browne, Carlos Varela articulates the frustrations of Cuban youth. But despite his criticisms of the regime, his popularity and international following have prevented any attempt to silence him.

+ LET US KNOW What are your thoughts? Who did we miss? Write or email and let us know,

cerys matthews Cerys tackles the difficult subject of arts funding, and asks why we aren’t investing more in our musical communities


On Sale January 31

OMEX 2013 was a perfect event in many ways – inspiring for the musicians and of superb value for the general public. It was also great, of course, for the music business: for the politicians and government-supported bodies involved, for the economy of the local area and for a brighter future for Welsh traditional music and world music in Britain in general. In other words – it was a sterling example of a platform worth investing in by the British Arts Council and Cerdd Cymru Music Wales who wooed WOMEX to Wales. So far so good, but it can and does go wrong. Nobody seems to want to square up to question whether Spotify, BOOM! or other music streaming sites are helping music, or taking action against the illegal music sites. This means less money is being earned by musicians from CD sales, making prudent investment by the industry even more important. I have recently had the privilege of working closely with several grant-giving bodies and sat on judging panels across the music industry spectrum. It’s been a very interesting few years, but I have a few concerns. My main issue is with the disparity between the cost of making records or touring and the level of grants being given out to those deemed ‘worthy.’ In one extreme case, £30,000 was granted for the recording of a single record. In other cases several £15,000-25,000 grants were offered in exchange for a three-minute performance or for a recording project that in reality, if selffunded, could have been achieved closer to a budget of £3,000. Out-of-line budgeting is just one major flaw; foolishly investing in individuals is another. The sums we are talking about could instead be invested in festivals, music events that showcase new talent, community studios, masterclasses, selfpromotion, and business resources for aspiring artists. The funding of individuals is an insular formula in that the money rarely creates something that feeds a bigger community or economy. It almost invariably leads to a handful of performances or a single, one-off release, and the return on investment is almost instantaneously over. There is also the danger of blunting artistic freedom if the artists are relying on government or industry bodies to subsidise their art. If knowing how to correctly fill in forms were a common attribute found in quality musicians and songwriters then elevator music would be the most cuttingedge musical statement of our times. Then there is the committee decision to single out those who are to receive the money, which is, by its very nature, a minefield of conflict of interest. In such a small world, people historically

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have slight degrees of separation and agendas, meaning they cannot possibly be objective. The panel itself is often of such diverse interests that decisions get made by trying to tick every box rather than recognising real talent and potential. It’s an awfully small pool of people on the receiving end of these subsidies; those who know and work the system and those with more time on their hands. If you have real ambition to be a musician, writer or festival promoter, this is time you don’t have between side jobs and practice. So I urge grant-giving bodies to seriously think first about investing in well-managed and programmed platforms like WOMEX, local theatres or groups supporting local music-making. This encourages creativity while also giving artists a chance to be paid for their craft. Musicians then get to cut their teeth on the shop floor, hone their crafts, work on performance technique, get their music out there and even, shock horror, sell a few CDs! That’s not to mention the added benefit of the experience of working with the supporting industries – lighting crews, recording and sound engineers, PR people, journalists, directors, producers, managers etc. Try to cover costs through audience-friendly ticket prices – spread the word, involve the local press, nurture a loyal audience to your regular events. Involve the community so it becomes a chain of events, a circle that can keep turning effectively if well programmed, endlessly feeding back into and out of the community and inspiring independent art in an ever-growing and ever-changing pool of people. Imagine what that £30,000 could do for a local community venue or a training course for a dozen young sound technicians. Can we really justify these funding programmes – which could be life-changing for an entire community – if all they produce are a one-off performance or album that will come and go in the blink of an eye?

The funding of individuals rarely creates something that feeds a bigger community

NEXT ISSUE Angélique Kidjo The Queen of Benin is back, and this time she’s written a book The Gloaming Reinvigorating the Irish folk tradition Andrew Marr The BBC presenter’s top five tracks


+ RADIO Cerys’ BBC 6Music show is on Sundays 10am-1pm + ONLINE

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Songlines Magazine (Jan/Feb 2014, #97)  

Your definitive guide to the best music from around the world.

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