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Tag: world music network

She’Koyokh’s Wild Goats & Unmarried Women Runs Wild

Wild, polyglot eight-piece British band She’Koyokh blast through music from across the global Jewish diaspora with the same fiery intensity they bring to feral old folk songs from the Balkans. Fronted by haunting Kurdish-Turkish chanteuse Cigdem Aslan – who recently earned a rave review here for her otherworldly solo album, Mortissa, a collection of Turkish and Greek rembetiko anthems – the band also includes members from the US, UK, Greece and Serbia. They may play big European concert halls now, but they got their start busking, and that jamband energy still resonates throughout their latest album Wild Goats & Unmarried Women, just out from World Music Network and streaming at their album page.

Too many recordings of folk music are overproduced and sterile; others drown the melodies in elaborate arrangements, or add schlocky pop elements like synths and drum machines. She’Koyokh are all about big crescendos and blistering solos. Mandolinist Ben Samuels tremolo-picks for a suspensefully flurrying sound like a balalaika. Clarinetist Susi Evans rips through lightning-fast chromatic runs with a stiletto precision alongside Zivorad Nikoli’s equally adrenalizing accordion, Meg-Rosaleen Hamilton’s sharp-fanged violin and Matt Bacon’s similarly incisive, Djangoesque guitar. Nimble bassist Paul Tkachenko doubles on tuba, and percussionist Vasilis Sarikis lays down a snaky, slinky beat utilizing a large collection of Balkan and Middle Eastern hand drums.

The album’s title track is a Turkish billy goat dance – you can guess what that’s about. It’s arguably the most exciting song here, Aslan and the band winding their way through a firestorm of microtones up to a hard-hitting, chromatically-fueled chorus. They take Esmera Min with its darkly catchy South Serbian inflections and give it a sly cumbia groove. Then a trio of tunes that give a shout out to – A) legendary pre-WWII Soviet song-gatherer Moishe Beregovsky, B) Hungarian country shtetls and C) klezmer clarinet legend Naftule Brandwein – serves as a launching pad for high-voltage solos from guitar and clarinet.

Bacon’s icepick, Djangoesque precision fuels the Moldavian dance Hora del Munte. The band scampers tightly together through the traditional Romanian Romany shuffle Tiganeasca De La Pogoanele and then turns the clarinet and guitar loose on the flamenco-tinged diptych Poco Le Das La Mi Consuegra/ Scottishe ‘Saint Julien,’ a tale of warring Sephardic mothers-in-law. Bacon choose his spots and then Evans ramps up the suspense on the swaying Greek overnight-ferry theme Argitikos Kalamatianos. They keep the flame burning low on the expansively jazzy Greek lament Selanik Turkusu. a groom pleading for more time with his cholera-stricken fiancee.

You wait for the blithely trilling Bulgarian dance Kopano Horo to go creepy and chromatic, and the waiting pays off – then it gets all happy and bouncy again. The band does the same thing, but really makes you wait for the payoff, with the Serbian tune Jasenièko Kolo/Miloševka Kolo. An ancient Bosian love song, Moj Dilbere gets a bittersweet treatment, a deliciously shivery accordion solo and an angst-fueled coda from Aslan as she takes it up and out.

Der Filsof /Flatbush Waltz pairs a satirical inside joke about warring rabbis in the Hasidic community with a sad, lushly pensive theme. The long medley Svatbarska Rachenitsa/Yavuz Geliyor & La Comida La Mañana vamps and burns through Bulgaria, Turkey and Spain over a clattering, boomy groove, through searing violin and clarinet solos – it seems designed as a big crowd-pleaser. The Greek Amarantos/Tsamikos is a showcase for the band’s moody side, Evans and Aslan leading the way. There’s also Limonchiki, popularized by Soviet crooner Leonid Utyosov in the 1930s, a distinctly Russian take on Cab Calloway-style hi-de-ho noir. You like esoterica? Adrenaline? This one’s for you.

A Gateway Drug to the Surreal World of Chicha Music

Most people north of Peru still have no idea who Los Destellos are. Credit Chicha Libre, New York’s funnest live band and America’s finest chicha group, for opening the floodgates for a generation worth of trippy, echoey, clangy Peruvian psychedelic rock by bands who from the late 60s through the early 80s played a surreal blend of surf music and rhythms from across Latin America. With their two Roots of Chicha compilations, Chicha Libre’s label Barbes Records were the first to release anything by Los Destellos outside of their native Peru. Los Destellos were the first to use the term chicha (a corn beverage that’s essentially the Peruvian equivalent of malt liquor; its slang meaning is “ghetto”) to describe their music. In that genre, they are what the Ventures are to American surf music, generally acknowledged as its finest and most prolific practitioners.

On the brand-new Rough Guide to Latin Psychedelia compilation, they appear once on the first disc and get an entire bonus disc devoted to them. While what’s here may not be definitive – for example, there’s only one track, the woozy fuzztone bossa groove Onsta La Yerbita, from their stunningly ornate 1971 classic Constelacion album – it’s still off the hook. El Boogaloo Del Perro morphs unexpectedly from a latin soul vamp into balmy Hugh Masekela territory and just as unexpectedly back again. Volando Con Los Destellos reinvents Oye Como Va as a blazing fuzztone jam, a showcase for lead guitarist Enrique Delgado to show off the chops that made him an icon in his native country. They take Flash & the Dynamics’ broodingly shuffling Guajira Sicodelica (which also appears on the compilation) and remake it as Byrdsy twelve-string rock, Delgado having fun with his echo pedal and a handful of stolen Ventures licks. Recycling that same Byrds hook for all it’s worth, Boogaloo De Los Destellos proves for all time how much the California band’s sound would have been enhanced by timbales. Among the rest of the thirteen Destellos tracks here, Noche de Garua has a Lullaby of the Leaves feel; La Cumbia Del Sol works a lo-fi take on early Santana; Soy Un Campesino rocks out a Peruvian folk tune; while the rest have a spiky, wickedly catchy, reverb-toned drive and intensity. Considering how tinny so much of chicha music sounds, the remastered sound quality is tremendously good. The rest of the compilation concentrates on soul grooves fused with many different south-of-the-border sounds, from the obvious (Joe Cuba) to the deliciously unexpected (Los Pakines’ stoner anthem Tomalo O Dejalo).

Chicha Libre are also represented, by an unexpected choice, keyboardist Josh Camp’s Number 17, a tribute to Fermat primes. The whole thing is streaming at World Music Network, a place you can get just as lost as at youtube except that there are no annoying commercials. Let the main page for the Rough Guides send you down the rabbit hole – if esoterica is your thing, you can check in any time you like and basically never leave. Salsa Dura NYC? Check. Music of the Sahara? Doublecheck. Desert blues, Russian gypsy music, the list goes on and on.

The Buzuq Is Mightier Than the Sword

Ramzi Aburedwan was eight years old when he became iconic in his native Palestine. Photographed at the second when he was about to hurl a rock at an Israeli tank, his image would circulate on t-shirts and posters throughout the late 80s and early 90s. The photo inspired numerous literary works, notably poet Nizar Qabbani’s famous 1988 Trilogy of the Children of the Stones. But Aburedwan soon discovered that music was mightier than the sword, a point he drives home again and again on his album Reflections of Palestine. Trained in France as a violist, he returned home to become the leader of the Palestine National Ensemble of Arabic Music. He would also become a virtuoso of the buzuq (brother to the Greek bouzouki), which he plays on his latest album Reflections of Palestine alongside Mohammed Al Qutati on accordion, Ziad Benyoussef on oud, Mohamed Najem on clarinet, and Tareq Rantissi and Bachir Rouimi on percussion.

Aburedwan’s edgy chromatic melodies more frequently employ western minor scales than they do the microtones of the Arabic maqamat. The music on this album is not violent; it’s often haunting, sometimes bitter, wounded, reflective. It’s also very lively in places, most notably on Bordeaux, a long one-chord jam that the oud takes into shadowier terrain. Bahar, which opens with casually strummed chords in the style of a British folk ballad, eventually morphs into an upbeat Greek-flavored dance. And Sodfa (Arabic for “coincidence”) explores both rhythms and tonalities from the Balkans.

But the slower material is the most powerful. Rahil (“exile”) potently evokes both longing for home as well as the furtive nature of life under an occupation, Aburedwan gently tremolo-picking his buzuq almost in the style of a Russian balalaika, eventually building to a tense, apprehensive dance. Sans Addresse is essentially a cavatina, rising from a brooding, hesitant oud taqsim to a funeral march, Aburedwan’s mournful phrases capturing the grief, agitation and fear of living as an exile. The epic Tahrir (“liberation”) begins bubbly but tensely and becomes even more tense as it rises, with almost a tango beat, before a long, judicious accordion solo over a hypnotic percussion riff.

The two most traditionally Middle Eastern pieces are Samai Faah Faza, a rhythmically tricky number that spins clever variations on a series of Egyptian-tinged riffs, and Andalus, an anthem that sets accordion and gently tremolo-picked buzuq mingling with terse oud and echoey, ominous percussion. The most unselfconsciously beautiful song is Raja, beginning with somber solo clarinet, working its way up to a pensive, plaintive dirge that crescendos with a series of intense chromatic riffs. The album ends with Gitans En Orient, a bustling, shapeshifting romp, sometimes majestic, sometimes scampering, underscoring gypsy music’s roots in the Middle East. With the gypsy music explosion of recent years, the potential audience for this richly melodic, intense album extends far beyond the usual demimonde of Middle Eastern and Arabic music fans. It’s out now from World Music Network.