Gondwana Dawn- Elemoto- Etienne Charles- Ana Alcaide
There's a very interesting concept here; 'Gondwana' is the name given to Africa and India when they were one big land mass, and for this album the GRAMMY- winning composer Robin Hogarth has mashed-up a South African youth choir with Indian musicians and turned them loose to interpret a set that encompasses Indian ragas and traditional songs from both regions. Contemporary arrangements with gentle beats and floating keyboards hold the two exotic sounds together, often with stunning results like on "Freedom Song" where vocals in three languages intertwine with Indian instrumentation. Fans of vocal world beat music will love this hour-plus journey.
Hailing from Namibia, Elemoto plays acoustic guitar and sings primarily in Setswana with occasional verses in English, and he opens My Africa appropriately enough with "Kgala Namib," an homage to his home country that conjures images of the Kalahari Desert and the beautiful Namibia that most will only see on television. Namibia borders South Africa and the two nations share musical stylings; fans of Paul Simon's work with Ladysmith Black Mambazo will find familiar sounds in songs like "Neo." But there's more than an hour's worth of music here featuring lots of sub-Saharan sounds with plenty of delicate flute work to mingle with the djembe and mbira flavorings. Perfect for an active but relaxed Saturday afternoon.
Ikwue was on the scene in Nigeria in the '70s when Fela Kuti was the dominate force in African music and Wulu Wulu, Ikwue's first-ever release in the West, reflects a love for African music of that vintage. But Ikwue, now 70-years-old, has a wide variety of influences; set aside the vocals on the title cut and you'll hear as much Memphis as you do Lagos, including a bit of blues harp. Similarly, "Tell My Girl" is a reggae number with only vague African influences. "Mustapha and Christopha" is a gentle, acoustic singer/songwriter number that comments in a sage manner on the conflict of religions that is so prevalent in parts of Nigeria. This one is for fans of African pop more so than traditional sounds.
Charles is a trumpeter from Trinidad whose jazz is influenced by his Afro-Caribbean heritage as filtered through the New York jazz scene. Charles' self-penned instrumental numbers like "Creole" and "Roots" will be appealing to fans of Miles Davis, an interpretation of Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys" highlights the two sax players in the band and a version of Bob Marley's "Turn Your Lights Down Low" is just the thing to take the day's last sip of wine to, or maybe play as a prelude to sprightly original "Doin' the Thing." The Creole references are subtle throughout.
La Cantiga Del Fuego
Alcaide tells the story of exiled Sephardic Jews here but everything is sung in Spanish (she lives in Toledo, Spain) so if you don't understand that language then these very romantic-sounding, delicately-sung, mostly Alcaide-penned songs can be about anything you like. Tunes like "Baila Donde el Mar" are easily recognizable as Latin in origin but many carry even more exotic auras thanks to back-up players wielding kaval, the dulcimer-like santur and the Turkish ney. Alcaide herself plays the nyckelharpa here; the traditional Swedish folk instrument when plucked sometimes sounds like a harp and sometimes like a banjo. Alcaide's music is commonly referred to as "Toledo Soundtrack."
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