Best World Music Releases of 2011, Part 1

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, December 18, 2011 05:39pm | Post a Comment
Bombino-Agadez CD/LP

My first experience with Omara Mochtar (Bombino) was on the Sublime Frequencies release, Music from Niger: Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2, which was recorded live and sounded like something recorded in a juke joint in Mississippi. On Agadez, Bombino recorded in a studio where all the richness of his guitar tone comes through, making this the guitar album that all guitar players should own from 2011. Much like their contemporaries Tinariwen and Group Inerane, this album is heavy on the Toureg blues, with trance-like guitar drones that conjures the sound of many lonely desert nights in Niger. Soulful without effort, Agadez has led Bombino out of the desert and hopefully into your stereo.

Adanowsky- Amador CD/LP

With the rep of being the son of filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, Santa Sangre) and being a kid that hung out with members of The Beatles, you would expect Adanowsky to be either the second coming or some spoiled kid with talent and nothing to say. (i.e. Sean Lennon) Well, Adanowsky is neither. Is Amador a psychedelic masterpiece? No. Is Amador some over-indulgent dribble? Far from it.  Amador is a heartbreak record. It’s full of pain and letting the heartbreak of broken relationship take over. From the heartfelt piano ballads to the tequila-fused Rancheras, it all stages of a post break-up. Much like John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band, it’s very minimal in instrumentation and lets emotion carry the songs. In the end, I can’t imagine Adanowsky being single for that long. Amador is too charming of an album to let that happen.

V/A-213 Cumbia CD Only

I was a little skeptical of 213 Cumbia in the beginning. First off, unlike other New School Cumbia compilations that come from one geographical area or another, Los Angeles Cumbia has no one sound. At any given day you can check out Cumbias your uncle and aunts would like. There are Cumbias that are only liked by immigrants. They are Electro and club Cumbias that only hipsters seem to appreciate. To top it off, every local band south or East of Downtown L.A. play at least one Cumbia song in their sets. So rather than focusing on one sub-genre, Lennon added them all and he made it work. Beat makers DJ Lengua and Mexican Dubweiser are along side the kids playing traditional Cumbia such as Buyepongo, Chicano Batman and Bardo Y Su Conjunto.213 Cumbia is filled with old school players and new school fools making their interpretation of what they think Cumbia is, and that is the L.A. way. Los Angeles may have not invented Cumbia, but as 213 Cumbia proves, L.A. always makes it their own.

Bituaya-Electrocaribe CD Only

Hailing from Venezuela, Bituaya is like the guest that is a little late to the party but it’s the one that keeps it going till the wee hours of the morning. Bituaya is another in a long lineage of great Latin music fusion bands, bringing Salsa, Cumbia, Merengue, and Venezuela’s national music Joropo together with heavy dance beats, dub reggae and street Hip-hop. What I like about Bituaya that they are musicians first. When they reinterpret a style of music you know that they can play the original with ease. That cannot be said with the new generation of Latin American beatmakers, whose musical training comes from making beats first. Bituaya could be great at any one style of Latin music but choose to forge their own path, and that’s what I like about them.

Tinariwen-Tassili CD Only

This being Tinariwen’s fifth album, you pretty much know what to expect from them. The Toureg blues, the stories of struggle and revolution and an awesome twin guitar attack. But with each album, Tinariwen brings something new. Collaborations with members of TV On The Radio, Wilco and The Rebirth Brass Band may seem like it may homogenize the group’s sound but the guests doing a great job of blending into Tinariwen’s style. Collaborations aside, my favorite track is the solo track from bandleader Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, called, "Tameyawt" recorded out in the Sahara desert with a silence that no studio could replicate.

Quantic-Hip Hop En Cumbia (LP & Out Of Print)

For Quantic, if Hip-Hop is the love of his life, what is Cumbia?  Quantic lives in Colombia and is studying accordion with the Cumbia master Anibal Velaquez. On Hip-Hop En Cumbia, it’s old love and new mistress together at last, and the result is much better than one would think. This is not a club mash-up or a remix album, rather it is Quantic forming a conjunto and covering Hip-Hop classics Cumbia style. Dr Dre, Missy Elliot, Pete Rock, Dilla and even Blondie’s Rapture all get Cumbia treatments. It is as clever as it is danceable. It is a natural progression from all the Cumbia artists that covered the likes of Rod Stewart, The Bee Gees, Michael Jackson and Fela Kuti in the 70’s and 80’s.

Chancha Via CircuitoRio Arriba CD/LP

I got this release almost a year ago at a ZZK Records showcase. I wanted badly to write about it but this is a blog about what you can get at Amoeba, right? In March, the CD/LP release of Rio Arriba became available in the U.S. and I couldn't be happier. Chancha Via Circuito explores the world of South American folklore, blending his hypnotic beats with the revolutionary past of South America. The result could be considered another sub-genre of the digital Cumbia movement…perhaps Digital Nueva Trova?? Nevertheless, it is one of the most beautiful and organic electronic records released in some time.

Omar Souleyman- Haflat Gharbia (The Western Concerts) CD/LP

Haflat Ghabia is a collection of live performances recorded while Omar Souleyman was on tour in 2009. Along with his cohorts Rizan Sa'id on keyboards and electric saz player Ali Shaker, Omar just destroyed the stages across the western world, appealing to new fans and Arabic music fans alike. Omar plays an electrified version of Dabke music, mostly popular in weddings and parties in Syria is and Iraq. At his show over the summer at The Echo, he had the whole crowd going, from hipsters with their ethically ambiguous girlfriends to aging world music types to Syrian nationals. Everyone was dancing their asses off and having a good time. Listening to Haflat Gharbia is a reminder on how awesome that night was.

Los Rakas-Chancletas y Camisetas CD Only

It used to be the Rap En Español used to get points for just being that; Rap in Spanish. There weren't many people doing it and it was a welcome break from all the bad Roc En Español I had to endure over the years. Still, until recently, I would prefer to hear the likes of Freestyle Fellowship, Snoop Dog or Nas over anything that came from Latin America. Over the years as mainstream Rap has gotten worse, Rap En Español has improved. My favorites such as Calle 13, Tego Calderon, Ana Tijuox and Marcelo D2, all come from various countries around Latin America.

Los Rakas are Panamanians via Oakland. You can tell they are just as influenced by East Bay Rap as much as what is going on around Latin America. They are intelligent lyricists; make bangin’ beats and has that swagger that only one can from growing up street.  Chancletas Y Camisetas is the CD that you would play to your Hip-Hop heads to make them come around to liking Rap En Español . It’s the type of album you can imagine bumping in any barrio in New York, L.A., Oakland, San Juan or Colon.

Ballake Sissoko & Vicent Segal-Chamber Music CD Only

The face of World Music has changed in the last ten years. The term “World Fusion” has become somewhat a derogatory musical term, conjuring images of pony-tailed guy wearing sandals, Guatemalan pants and Kufis. I call him “World Fusion Guy” In my mind, World Fusion Guy does yoga, works as a masseuse and gets excited about an artist who can blend Tuvan throat singing with just about anything. Then there is  “Global Pop Guy” (or girl) They are products of the 80’s/late 90’s, former fans of The Police and The Talking Heads who see Global Pop a way to get music from all over the world without getting dirty, having to live in a foreign place or know any actual foreign people. Seriously, unless you live in Berkeley or Santa Monica, can you really get exited about a new Youssou N'Dour album?

What has replaced World Fusion and Global Pop guy is the new school of DJ and remixers making mash-ups and remixes of various World Music styles. Some of it is interesting, as is some World Fusion and Global Pop. But World Remixer Guy is usually not that knowledgeable about the music they are remixing. They’ll change a song that is supposed to be in 3/4 into 4/4 to match their beats. They’ll cut off key lyrics or repeat insignificant lines in a song because they think it, “sounds cool” Much of what World Remix Guy does is because they don’t understand the culture or the language of the music they are remixing. It’s the same trap World Fusion guy and Global Pop Guy fell into. It’s changing ingredients to a recipe before one has ever made the original.

Having said that, what makes Chamber Music work is that both Ballake Sissoko & Vicent Segal are both masters of their instruments on their own. Both have worked in classical and in crossover music. I had no expectations when I first played Chamber Music, other than I hoped it wasn’t another bad World fusion album. It’s a quiet album amongst the hype of the next big World Phenomenon. Both Kora and Cello are complementary instruments. The Kora can sound like a harp or a guitar and the Cello’s richness comes out when played with the bow but also can sound like a percussive instrument when plucked. It is what every World Fusion release promises: the mixing of two cultures to make something new, and it works. Chamber Music is a beautiful album that quickly relaxes the savage beast in all of us. Play this after work, while driving in traffic or shopping in those crowded stores and you might learn to appreciate the chaos that surrounds us.

Relevant Tags

Best Of 2011 (17), World Music (146)