Souvenance (CD)

Oudist Anour Brahem’s 2015 release, Souvenance, is inspired by the socio-political climate in his native Tunisia. It's a darker outing than we have experienced from him in the past, due in part to his addition of the Orchestra delia Svizzera Italiana conducted by Pietro Miantini to his oft hypnotic sound. The drone that would flit and flutter now seems to have gained a weightiness that represents a profound sadness. The orchestra, though used sparingly, adds that same weight, providing an intimate hopeful texture to Souvenance. Francois Couturier’s piano serve the pieces quite well, giving the listener a melodic solid foothold throughout. Along with Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet and Bjorn Meyer on bass, Anouar Brahem has assembled a nuanced and effective group of musicians that intermingle and weave through the rhythmic sounds of his Oud.

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Bala Brothers (CD)

The South African family trio of Loyiso, Zwai, and Phelo have been a force against apartheid for years. In 1988 at the age of 12 Zwai became the first black member to join the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir. Since then both of his brothers also became members of the illustrious choir. After years of overcoming poverty, keeping their spirits high and their voices tuned, The Bala Brothers headlined a tribute to Nelson Mandela in December 2013. The trio offer a vocal range spanning from traditional South African to classically trained opera, as well as a hint of modern soul. Their debut release, Bala Brothers, is a spirited live recording from their hometown in Johannesburg. Some highlights include versions of Paul Simons’ “Under African Skies,” the traditional African “Masibuyelane,” and the striking opener Elton Johns’ “Circle of Life.” The feelings that resonate from this live performance are palpable and never more pronounced then on the anti-apartheid anthem “Something Inside So Strong” during which their Drakensberg Boys Choir backs up the extremely talented trio.

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