May 16, 2010

Reviews and charts May 16, 2010

As WRIR's Assistant Music Director for World Music, I've been reviewing recordings for WRIR for years but never thought to archive those reviews anywhere.  Starting this week, that's all changed -- going forward from here, I plan to post all the reviews I write.

The reviews are written for WRIR's DJs, so they're all about recommending particular recordings and tracks for airplay.  I generally only write reviews of recordings that I'm recommending.  That's because the purpose of my reviews is to call attention to recordings and convince other DJs that they're worth playing.  It's not a high literary art, which suits me because I'm not all that great of a writer.

I'm also going to post my New & Recommended (N&R) chart each week.  The world music N&Rs sit on a shelf that's literally right behind the DJ in Studio One; we want them to be the most accessible, top-of-mind choices for our DJs.  We don't have any rotations or required plays at WRIR; N&R is the closest that we get.

Stuff that gets added to my N&R shelf generally stays there for two months or so, depending on how busy the new release activity is at the time.  The maximum number of items on the world music N&R shelf is 20, and I usually have fewer than that.

Finally, you'll see the charts I submit to CMJ each week.  CMJ is a music magazine for professionals that tallies up the airplay activity of public, community, independent and college radio stations around the USA.  Here's a quick guide to the charts:

CMJ New World Top Ten is a chart of the ten most-played new world music recordings at WRIR over the previous period (usually one week).  It's not a list of my ten favorite records, or of ten records sent to me by people who I want to do favors for.  It's what we're actually playing, not just on my show but on the 123 hours a week that WRIR plays music.

CMJ New World Adds is a chart of five or fewer new releases that we've received at WRIR and added to our music library.  I'm restricted by CMJ to no more than five adds per week, even though we receive more than five nearly every week.

Click "Read More" for this week's reviews and charts.

Brand-New Reviews
ARTIST: various artists
TITLE: African Pearls: Cote D’Ivoire, West African Crossroads
REVIEW: African Pearls is a reissue series spearheaded by Ibrahim Sylla, modern African music’s most successful producer. His reissues are a bit different from those of labels like Soundway and Analog Africa – rather than digging up obscure recordings, many of the tracks on African Pearls were major regional hits. Here Sylla takes on the music of his homeland, Cote D’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast in English). There are plenty of relative obscurities here, but the best tracks are actually the most popular ones. Ernesto Djedje (CD 1-songs 9, 13; CD 2-song 4) was a huge star across West Africa with his ziglibithy style, which combined a traditional West African rhythm with punchy horns and a James Brown-influenced vocal and stage performance. Alpha Blondy is Africa’s first big reggae star; CD 1-song 12 is his first hit and still sounds great 28 years later. Also of interest: CD 1-songs 1 and 2, totally influenced by American, British and French rock of the 60’s.
REVIEWER: Bill Lupoletti
RECOMMENDED TRACKS: Disc 1: 1,2 (ye-ye) 9,13 (ziglibithy) 12 (reggae) Disc 2: 4 (ziglibithy)

ARTIST: various artists
TITLE: Egypt Noir: Nubian Soul Treasures
REVIEW: Nubia is a region bordering the Nile River in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. One of civilization’s cradles, much of it is now underwater as a result of damming the Nile, and many Nubians have relocated to urbanized northern Egypt. Modern Nubian music is a deliciously soulful hybrid of the traditional, the glossy production values of Egyptian film music, and the funky sounds of West African and the USA. The Captain of Nubian Music, Ali Hassan Kuban, dominates this collection as he should (tracks 1 and 7; track 4 is his band after his death in 2001). All tracks here are reissues from previous Piranha releases. This is great stuff that gives just a taste of the Nubian sound, makes you want to track down all the original recordings.
REVIEWER: Bill Lupoletti

ARTIST: Koes Bersaudara (The Koes Brothers)
TITLE: To The So-Called “The Guilties”

REVIEW: The Koes Brothers were one of the first popular Western-style rock bands in Indonesia; these are their recordings from 1967. Their main musical influences are the Beatles (not surprisingly, they started out playing lots of Beatles covers), the Byrds and some of the early proto-psychedelic garage bands. (For you garage-heads, track 2 could easily be the B-side of “Journey To Tyme” by Kenny & The Kasuals.) Rock ‘n’ roll has always been synonymous with revolution, but it’s hard to top the Koes Brothers’ story: because Indonesian President Sukarno was vehemently opposed to Western influences they were jailed for 3 months in 1965 for playing “I Saw Her Standing There” at a private party, and their release coincided with the military coup in which Suharto overthrew Sukarno and (among other things) made it safe to play rock music in Indonesia. It’s quite a story, but check out the music: the best of it is every bit as good as what you hear on the Nuggets box sets.
REVIEWER: Bill Lupoletti

ARTIST: various artists
TITLE: Pomegranates: Persian pop, folk and psych of the 60s and 70s

REVIEW: Back in the days of the Shah, Western influences weren’t frowned upon and Iran had a small but flourishing modern pop scene, which is nicely documented on this release. Although the attitude and point-of-view of these musicians is decidedly Western, the musical influences come more from Bollywood and Egyptian film music than from Europe or the USA. The best material here is heavy on both brass instruments and on Middle Eastern drumming (really very similar to the Bollywood sound of the same era) and it’s quite funky stuff. A very enjoyable obscurity and a window on a cultural point in time that’s been virtually erased from our consciousness.
REVIEWER: Bill Lupoletti

ARTIST: Sierra Maestra
TITLE: Sonando Ya

REVIEW: Long before the Buena Vista Social Club recordings, Sierra Maestra re-popularized the Cuban son style of the 20s and 30s when it formed in 1976. In fact, co-founder Juan de Marcos Gonzalez helped organize the Buena Vista sessions and his band members played on them. Here the band has recorded 13 contemporary songs written in the son style, almost as a challenge to folks who think this is simply a revival movement and not part of the mainstream of contemporary culture. There’s some pretty good material here, and as always with Sierra Maestra the singing and playing is totally in sympathy with the songs. Take special note of the outstanding trumpet soloing of Yelfris Valdes, who has great technique with no excess showmanship. This band basically can do no wrong.
REVIEWER: Bill Lupoletti

New & Recommended At WRIR
African Pearls : Cote D'Ivoire -- West African Crossroads - (various artists) - Syllart/Discograph
Afrosound Of Colombia Volume 1, The - (various artists) - Vampisoul
Allen, Tony - Secret Agent - Nonesuch
Balkan Beat Box - Blue Eyed Black Boy - Nat Geo Music
Behilia, Oswin Chin - Liber - Otrabanda
Clorofila - Corridos Urbanos - Nacional
Dagnon, Bako - Sidiba - Syllart/Discograph
Egypt Noir: Nubian Soul Treasures - (various artists) - Piranha
Happy Lucky Combo - Carnival Of Sound - self-released
Hassan, Mariam - Shouka - Nubenegra
Juma, Issa & Super Wanyika Stars - World Defeats The Grandfathers: Swinging Swahili Rumba 1982-1986 - Sterns
Koes Bersaudara - To The So-Called "The Guilties" - Sublime Frequencies
Next Stop … Soweto: Township Sounds From The Golden Age Of Mbaqanga - (various artists) - Strut
Nigeria Special: Volume 2 - (various artists) - Soundway
Pomegranates: Persian Pop, Funk, Folk And Psych Of The 60s And 70's - (various artists) - B-Music
Santacruz, Rana - Chicavasco - self-released
Sierra Maestra - Sonando Ya - World Village
Velasquez, Anibal Y Su Conjunto - Mambo Loco - Analog Africa
Veloso, Caetano - Zii E Zie - Nonesuch
Yunupingu, Geoffrey 'Gurrumul' - Gurrumul - Dramatico Entertainment

CMJ New World Top Ten
1 VARIOUS ARTISTS - Egypt Noir: Nubian Soul Treasures - Piranha
2 VARIOUS ARTISTS - African Pearls: Cote D'Ivoire, West African Crossroads - Syllart/Discograph
3 BALKAN BEAT BOX - Blue Eyed Black Boy - Nat Geo
4 VARIOUS ARTISTS - Nigeria Afrobeat Special - Soundway
5 VARIOUS ARTISTS - Pomegranates: Persian Pop, Funk, Folk, And Psych Of The 60s And 70s - B-Music
6 SIERRA MAESTRA - Sonando Ya - World Village
7 HAPPY LUCKY COMBO - Carnival Of Sound - self-released
8 TONY ALLEN - Secret Agent - World Circuit
9 VARIOUS ARTISTS - Nigeria Special Volume 2 - Soundway
10 MARIEM HASSAN - Shouka - Nubenegra

No comments: