Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saturday, December 30, 2006

grace notes

Christmas is officially past and gone, but I couldn't resist posting this track by the great Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence

Friday, December 29, 2006

two rivers

Iraqi oudist Rahim Alhaj, who now lives in the US, plays a taqsim (improvisation) in Maqam Kurd. It's from his new album, When the Soul is Settled. (Click on the link for more clips and info.) Percussion: Souhail Kaspar

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Idjah Hadidjah (from Sunda, Indonesia) sings Tonggeret. She's accompanied by Gugum Gumbira's Jugala Orchestra

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

on the good foot

Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud) (1968)


Monday, December 25, 2006


Odetta - Rise Up Shepherd and Follow

* Photo by Suse of Pea Soup

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Saturday, December 23, 2006

eis musik

Norwegian percussionist Terje Isungset is pioneering a new genre of music, using instruments made of ice. Yes, that's right. ice. So far there are winds, an ice trumpet, and an ice harp to go with the ice percussion. The tonalities of the instruments are unique and very haunting.

Here's the title track from Isungset's Iceman Is

Thursday, December 21, 2006

queen of the caubois

Believe it or not, beachwear isn't the only popular form of dress (or is that undress?) in Brazil. Hang onto your chapéu de vaqueiro and kick up your heels to music by Helena Meirelles. She was one of the undisputed masters of the viola caipira. Its twangy, slightly metallic sound is loud and clear on this cut, Flor de Jasmin.

london funk

Back in the early 70s, I was out shopping and came across a record cover that featured the image on the left. I grabbed the LP, took it home and promptly fell for the sound of Osibisa. Here's a cut from that album - Ayiko Bia. I think you'll find the blend of highlife, jazz, funk and rock to be well-nigh irresistible.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Brazilian singer/composer Joyce praises Bahian women in Rodando a baiana

Friday, December 15, 2006


Sivuca died yesterday - his beautiful compositions and work on sanfona and acordeon will be greatly missed. I've chosen to feature a cut from one of his best albums, Enfim Solo (Kuarup Discos). It's called Forró Praieiro

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I'm reading Sandra Cisneros' novel Caramelo, and am enjoying her judicious and expressive quotes from Mexican popular song lyrics. Lila Downs' version of a Mexican classic, Naila, seemed like the right thing to post this evening.

* Photo by Alfredo Jiménez

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Today I'm featuring something that might seem a little odd to fellow Westerners: a melodic percussion work, played by Iranian drummers Djamchid and Keyvan Chemirani. Iranian classical music is closely related to the rhythmic patterns of spoken language, and I think you can easily hear the "conversation" that the Chemiranis are engaged in, though you might need to listen several times through to get the full effect. Their instrument of choice is the zarb (aka tombak).

The title: Mael Jan

Monday, December 11, 2006

crescent city christmas

More seasonal music from the New Birth Brass Band - it's called Santa's Second Line

Sunday, December 10, 2006

mali twist

Malian singer/guitarist Boubacar Traore singing one of his early hits, Mali Twist - and looking very natty in denim. (From the soundtrack to Je chanterai pour toi.)

Friday, December 08, 2006


Música Cubana by Jesús Alemañy and Cubanismo - it's from their first (and best) album, ¡Cubanismo!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

ao sol que arde

A Canadian cold front hit us today, bringing icy winds - what better time to kick back and dream of being on the beach in Brazil? Today's song, Tarde em Itapoã, is all about the pleasures of salt, sun, and South. (Voz e violão: Toquinho.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

hokkaido homage

Even though I try to avoid thinking about it, it is wintertime now. So, something seasonal, from Duo EN. The title: Winter Cranes. (It's also the title track from their brand-new CD...)

* Photo by Tim Laman

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Some West Coast blues from Al "Cake" Wichard & Sextette. The title: Cake Jumps

Friday, December 01, 2006

lagos-accra swing

Highlife is one of my favorite West African styles, and it's perfect for the end of the work week. (Celebratory and all that.) Here's the Apolos Rythm Orchestra, performing Cut Your Coat According to Your Size

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Jacob Pick Bittencourt, aka Jacob do Bandolim, was one of 20th-century Brazil's greatest composers, as well as a crack bandolim player. Here's one of his most famous pieces, Assanhado, played by Trio Madeira Brasil and percussionist Beto Cazes.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

for kordofan and darfur

Violence rages in Sudan. For those caught up in it, I offer this song by Abdel Gadir Salim. It's called Maqtool Hawaki Ya Kordofan, and tells of his love for the land and its people.

May God grant them true peace.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

le grand inconnu

Trumpeter Ignace de Souza led the Black Santiagos, one of the most important bands on Ghana's 1960s highlife scene. De Souza's relaxed style and affinity for Cuban music make his music a standout. Here's one of his hits, Augustina.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

fim do mundo

This haunting Brazilian song, No Rancho Fundo, tells of solitude, longing (aka saudade) and lost love. Here, bandolim master Hamilton de Holanda plays it solo.

chelsea bridge

It seems like a perfect evening for a jazz nocturne - what could be better than Billy Strayhorn's Chelsea Bridge, with Ben Webster's tenor sax solos and the haunting trombone line?

* Painting by Camille Pissarro

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Italian guitarist Simone Guiducci is a real favorite of mine. His interweaving of Italian folk music and jazz makes for performances that are both lyrical and gutsy. This cut, Gramelot in 6/8, is a case in point.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Amália Rodrigues made this song famous. Now, Mariza recreates it. It's called Barco Negro.

* Painting by Eberhard Schlotter

Thursday, November 16, 2006

um povo chocolate-e-mel

Gilberto Gil celebrates black Brazilian culture in this song, Refavela, from the album of the same title.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

warsaw bandoneón

Moody, melancholy, Romantic (note the capital R) music from Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko's album From the Green Hill. It's perfect for a November night. (I'm featuring the title track here.)


An early pop-style rumba from the Lecuona Cuban Boys, titled Tabou.

Friday, November 10, 2006

torch & twang

New Orleans singer/guitarist Snooks Eaglin was sometimes billed as "Little Ray Charles," but this track shows another, hidden side of his work - his mastery of acoustic blues.

Song: St. James Infirmary

ya habibi

Algerian singer Bachir Sahraoui celebrates the women of Oran in Kehlet Laayan Bent Ouahren (L'oranaise aux yeux noirs). The raspy-sounding flute is called a gasbah.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

bebop samba

Gal Costa singing a famously cheeky satirical song by Jackson do Pandeiro (in photo), who poked fun at "Tio Sam," wanting to see him dance and play samba on Copacabana beach. It's called Chiclete com banana.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

fe na ne

Iko Iko is one of the best-known Mardi Gras songs - but not that many people realize that it came from the masking Indians.

The lyrics are somewhat garbled today, but a flag boy is still an essential part of every tribe.

One of my favorite things about this version - by the Dixie Cups - "found" percussion (drumsticks on a glass ashtray).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

blues negres

Cleoma Falcon was a pioneer - the first person to record a song in Cajun French. I fell hard for this cut, Blues Negres - the raw, rough sound is part of the charm here, I think.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

o bahia

Caetano Veloso sings Ary Barroso's famous samba Na Baixa do Sapateiro. The lyrics tell of a captivating baiana.

* Photo by Sheila Thomson

Monday, October 30, 2006


Last month I posted a track written by Trinidadian composer/pianist Lionel Belasco. His music was a real find for me, and worth featuring again. The cut is a Jamaican mento song, Sly Mongoose. (And no, it's not a calypso!)

* Many thanks to Mike at Mento Music for his diligence, humo[u]r and love for the music

Sunday, October 29, 2006

beja ballad

Today's track comes from eastern Sudan. It's a rare example of the traditional music of the Beja people, who live along the coast (running from southern Egypt to northern Eritrea). Here's singer/'udist Musa Adem performing Yahmoit.

mingus moves

She's Just Miss Popular Hybrid - Charles Mingus

(From Mingus Plays Piano)

Friday, October 27, 2006

high class diamonds

Highlife music from Ghana - an infectious combination of jazz, Cuban and - here - Haitian influences. The song: Kae Ma, performed by the High Class Diamonds.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Soth African township jive keeps on evolving - and one of my favorite contemporary singers, Busi Mhlongo, does it as well as anyone and better than most. Here's an original song by her, We Baba Omncane. The title translates as "if you don't obey your parents..." Hats off to Busi for being so "conscious," and for sounding so great while doing it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

temptation a la carte

No pic this time, just the music - Papa was a Rolling Stone, by Alvy Powell and A La Carte Brass and Percussion.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday Adeniyi

Back to Africa, with Nigerian singer-guitarist King Sunny Ade. This cut is titled Kita Kita Ko M'ola. I love Ade's signature steel guitar lines

Friday, October 20, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

qanun kanun ganoon

This is one of my favorite Arabic pieces, played by Mimi Spencer (qanun) and Mary Ellen Donald (Arabic tabla). Mimi was an all-around nice person, and one of the best qanun players in the US - her improvisation here is breathtaking.

The piece is Longa Riyadh, by Egyptian composer Riyadh al-Sunbati. You can find it on In Xiniang Time

Monday, October 16, 2006

na praia

One of my favorite sambas celebrates the pleasures of the beach and nightlife in Rio's Copacabana neighborhood. It's called Sábado em Copacabana, and was written by the great Dorival Caymmi.

This version is by Zélia Duncan and guitarist Marco Pereira. (Hint: If you like this, hunt down a copy of Zélia's Eu me transformo em outras.)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

quel scandale!

More music for the feet, from Haitian singer Eugène Shoubou. The title: Scandalo

*If you like Shoubou, look for albums by Tabou Combo (he's their lead singer)

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I'm a sucker for Cuban standards - there's a certain intensity to them them that's found nowhere else. Here's a nice version of Lagrimas Negras by Trio Lissabet. This cut came from an old Cook Records LP, and is part of the Smithsonian Folkways catalog.

Friday, October 13, 2006

mitti da bawa

"I make a doll of clay
I try to put life into it
I cover it with a quilt
Don't cry, my little doll
your father is far away..."

A childless woman's song from Punjab, performed by Shujaat Husain Khan. (From his album Hawa Hawa.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I discovered gamelan music via a brief bio. of Claude Debussy. He heard a gamelan at the 1889 Paris Exposition, and the experience changed his music forever.

Today, I'm featuring Balinese composer/drummer Wayan Lotring and his ensemble, performing Gambangan. It's from an Ocora set titled Hommage à Wayan Lotring - hard to find, but well worth hunting down.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

flauta carioca

One of my favorite genres of Brazilian music is a well-kept secret. It's called choro - a Rio-born, Rio-based instrumental style that combines beautiful melody lines with African-derived rhythms.

The first time I heard a choro recording, I had no idea what to make of it - it was completely unlike any Brazilian music I'd ever heard. Thanks to a few in-the-know friends (with great record collections), my confusion turned into a passionate love of the music.

Here's Brazilian flutist Alexandre Maionese playing a choro by one of the style's earliest masters, Joaquim Callado. (That's his portrait above.) The piece is called Flor Amorosa.

csi lav tu

The title means I Won't Marry You. An old Gypsy song, intepreted here by Ando Drom, with lead vocals by Mitsou