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World Music Highlights 2007

PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 11:28 am
by howard male
What I fun way to start the year! There I was in Cambridge numbed by booze and stuffed with stuffing, when the offer-you-can't-refuse e-mail came through from the Independent asking me if I'd like to write a 800 word piece on world music highlights for 2007.

The down side was I had to cut my holiday short and get back to London to do the thing. By the time I got back I had a stinking cold, but I Lemsipped myself into a state of semi-alertness and settled down to phoning and e-mailing as many record companies and press officers I could think of. But of course very few of them were back behind their desks yet - they had more sense. But eventually I managed to cobble something together from snippets of info found on websites and a trickle of e-mails which eventually turned up. But in the end - yes, you've guessed it - my piece was dropped.

Obviously if you're doing a general piece on the arts in the year to come, a half-page ad comes in at the last minute, and you've got to choose between dropping 'Rock and Pop,' 'Books,' 'Classical Music,' 'TV,' 'Art,' 'Comedy,' 'Film,' Visual Arts,' 'Dance,' 'Theatre,' 'Radio,' or 'World Music,' you're going to drop 'World Music' aren't you? I can't tell you how pissed off I was!

But anyway, although the piece has very little merit as a piece of writing (it's really just a glorified list) I thought some of you might at least like to read about some of the treats in store this year.

World Music Highlights 2007

The real pleasure of world music lies in the fact it's a non-genre. In other words it's not a style or close conglomeration of styles, like Jazz, rock, or hip-hop, but an always expanding, awkward umbrellaring of all the stuff that doesn't fit into any of those other tidy boxes. This makes any attempt to predict highlights of the coming year at least partially doomed to failure as it's often some artist from left-field (or in world music's case, Bolivia, or perhaps even - dare I say it - Kazakhstan) who we've never heard of, using instruments we've never seen before, who'll get our pulses racing.

But having said that, there are some big names releasing new albums over the next few months. Last year saw a burgeoning of Balkan beats, this year Africa and Cuba reassert themselves, particularly Africa: February brings 'Aman Iman (Water Is Life),' the much anticipated return of everyone's favourite desert blues band, Tinariwen, sounding tougher and edgier than ever. Thomas Mapfumo's 'Choice Chimurenga' (Sheer Sound) is a fine collection from the great Zimbabwean musician and activist giving us a chance to catch up with the best tracks from his last few albums which were hard to get hold of in the UK.

As for African newcomers, the Somali hip-hop artist K'naan generated quite a ground swell of critical and public adulation last year, culminating in a stunning live set at Womad. Yet amazingly his debut album 'The Dusty Foot Philosopher' wasn't even officially released here. This has given him the chance to 'rework' it, removing some tracks and adding others, ready for a March release. The sublime 'Segu Blue' (Out Here Records) by Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba is also out in March. It's already garnered favourable responses from the likes of Fat Boy Slim, Damon Albarn, and Taj Mahal. The ngoni, an ancient West African lute, is the warm, dry sound which motors it along. And watch out for Afrofusionist (her description) Wunmi, whose sassy, funky debut 'A.L.A.' (which stands for 'African Living Abroad') is released at the end of January. In an ideal world it would spawn a bunch of hit singles, but is more likely fated to fall between two stools, being possibly too dancey for the world music crowd, and too wordy, witty and polyrhythmically intricate for the dance crowd - so don't let that happen!

As for Cuba - in March there's a new compilation of the sadly missed Buena Vista Social Club singer Ibrahim Ferrer (World Circuit) and in the autumn a BVSC live album - and if the live version of 'Candela' on the great World Circuit presents...' compilation of last year is anything to go by, it should be a real corker.

Finally, in the CDs stakes, here's a couple of those left-field things: Martin Buscaglia is a Uruguayan who sites Tom Waits, Prince, Gilberto Gil and George Clinton as influences. His February release 'El Evangelio Segun Mi Jardinero' is a quirky yet emotionally engaging beast well worth investigating. Japan's Oki Dub Ainu Band's self-titled album (Far Side Music) might just float away if it wasn't for the bass tonkori anchoring this gorgeous and totally original take on Jamaican dub. The Uzbekistani star Sevara Nazarkhan's follow-up to 'Yol Bolsin' is out this Spring on EMI/Real World. And by the Summer we should have a new studio album from France's blossoming eccentric pop star, Camille.

As for gigs and festivals, before we get to the main event on the world music calendar - the Radio 3 Awards for World Music at the Barbican on 27th May - there is plenty to keep the winter at bay: Barcelona's Ojos de Brujo play the Roundhouse on the 6th Feb; The Barbican has Tinariwen on the 23rd March, and Rachid Taha on the 6th April; the African Soul Rebels tour (this year featuring Femi Kuti, Akli D, and Ba Cissoko) rumbles through the UK during February; the Buena Vista Social Club tour extensively in March, and legendary bass player and mambo inventor, Israel 'Cachao' López, finally makes his UK live debut at the age of 87, in April.

Although no one is confirmed yet, an impressive line-up is developing for the newly relocated WOMAD in July (now in Chalton Park, Malmesbury, Witshire) which includes Baaba Maal and the Dhol Foundation. Then there's the new Heart of the World Festival in Cambridge in May. The first one, last year, featured Salif Keita, the Mahotella Queens, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, so hopes are high.

So, yes - lots to look forward to, but the most exciting things you'll hear this year will probably be the new surprises this non-genre throws up from the bottomless well of the rest of the planet's music.

PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 9:47 am
by howard male
I wrote wrongly -

As for Cuba - in March there's a new compilation of the sadly missed Buena Vista Social Club singer Ibrahim Ferrer (World Circuit)

I've subsequently leant (when the CD arrived in the post yesterday) that this album is not a compilation, but the great man's last studio recordings.

On first hearing it's a beautifully understated record with that familiar World Circuit invisible production which just lets the musicians do their thing.

PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 1:24 pm
by Dayna
There is a black & white video of Ibrahim Ferrer at the end of the live Gorillaz concert from Manchester, DVD I have. He was good.