Tuesday, May 31, 2016

And You Can Be My Cowgirl: BeauSoleil and "La Valse du Vacher"

Today's tune is La Valse du Vacher (Cowboy Waltz) by BeauSoleil. BeauSoleil was founded in 1975, released its first album in 1977 and became one of the most well-known groups playing traditional and original music in the Creole tradition of Louisiana. They have also gone beyond the traditional, incorporating rock and roll, jazz, blues, calypso and other genres. They are an extensive touring band, and they sing in both English and Colonial Louisiana French. The band takes its name from Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil, who led the Acadian resistance to British deportation from Canada and led 193 exiles to safety in Louisiana. The band almost didn't come to be - Michael Doucet, one of the founders, was going to New Mexico to study Romantic Poets, but he won a Folk Arts Apprenticeship sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. As he puts it: "I traded William Blake for Dewey Balfa," and he sought out every living Cajun/Creole performer to learn what he could about Cajun music and their techniques. He even encouraged some to resume performing. BeauSoleil are one of the few Creole/Cajun groups to win a Grammy. La Valse du Vacher can be found on their 1997 album The Best of Beausoleil and on their 1999 album Vintage Beausoleil.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Like Mashed Potatoes: Mike Marshall & Darol Anger with Väsen performing "Misch Masch"

Some American folk musicians mingle with Swedish folk musicians to create today's random tune, Misch Masch. Väsen is a Swedish folk music ensemble formed officially in 1990 for a music gathering in Norway. Väsen plays traditional instruments such as the nyckelharpa but it was adding a guitar that gave the band a unique sound. They play on this song with American mandolin player Mike Marshall, a leader in the New Acoustic Music movement that blends folk, bluegrass, jazz and world music. Also featured on the song is Marshall's longtime collaborator Darol Anger, an American violinist with an extensive background in jazz, folk and classical music. Misch Masch can be found on the 2007 album Mike Marshall & Darol Anger with Väsen.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Story of Brothers Three: Alka Yagnik, Udit Narayan and Sonu Nigam with "Pyar Ka Matlab"

Today's random tune is from a Bollywood movie, and is entitled Pyar Ka Matlab. It is from a movie, Om Jai Jagdish, which is about three brothers with very different values who become estranged from each other. The playback singers who voice this song are Alka Yagnik, Udit Narayan and Sonu Nigam. Yagnik, a classically trained singer, has had a three decade career singing for Bollywood films and has won many awards for her singing roles in films. Udit Narayan is a Nepalese playback singer and current resident of Mumbai who has had featured singing roles in both Nepali and Indian films. Sonu Nigam is an Indian playback singer who is also one of the highest paid of Indian singers. He has also hosted TV variety shows. You can find Pyar Ka Matlab on the soundtrack for Om Jai Jagdish (2002).

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Here It Is: Salif Keita and "Here"

Salif Keita performs today's random song, called Here. Salif Keita is an albino afro-pop singer from Mali known as "the golden voice of Africa" and a direct descendant of the founder of the Mali Empire. Cast out by his family because of his albinism (a sign of bad luck in his culture) he moved to Bamako where he joined the renowned Super Rail Band de Bamako and then the famous Les Ambassadeurs. He moved to Paris in 1994 to reach a wider audience. In his music, he combines traditional West African styles with influences from Europe and the Americas, and uses a variety of African traditional instrumentation along with more modern instruments. He has since returned to Mali where he continues to make music and has released critically acclaimed albums. Here can be found on his 2002 album Moffou.

Friday, May 27, 2016

In the Gulag: Beirut and "Prenzlauerberg"

Today's song is called Prenzlauerberg. The song is performed by Beirut, a band initially formed as a solo project by Albuquerque-born Zach Condon and later expanded into a full band. Condon recorded the bulk of Beirut's debut album, Gulag Orkestar, in his bedroom and finished the album with the assistance of Neutral Milk Hotel's and A Hawk and a Hacksaw's Jeremy Barnes. The strength of the recordings brought Condon a contract with Ba Da Bing Records under the name of Beirut, and the album was released in 2006 in conjunction with some live shows in New York - Condon recruited some friends to play the concerts and they became the band Beirut. Beirut has released three albums, the last in 2011, and Condon has been involved in several side projects. Prenzlauerberg is from Beirut's 2006 debut CD, Gulag Orkestar.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Jackamo Fee Na Nay: Zap Mama and "Iko Iko"

Zap Mama re-imagines a New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian tune for today's random song. Zap Mama is the music act of Belgian artist Marie Daulne. Daulne sings in polyphonic and Afro-pop styles, infusing harmony with African vocal techniques, as well as throwing in some hip hop. Much of her musical inspiration comes from her roots in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where her Belgian father was killed during the Congo Crisis. Her Congolese mother and all the children were airlifted to Belgium, where she grew up in a household infused with Congolese culture but also in a society where there were few black people. Her first musical influences were African songs her mother sang, European music, especially French, and later blues, reggae and hip hop. In 1984, she returned to the Congo to learn about her heritage and trained in pygmy onomatopoetic techniques. First conceived of as an a capella quintet, Zap Mama has evolved to just Daulne's voice and instrumentation. This song, Iko Iko, can be found on Zap Mama's 1999 CD A Ma Zone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Not My Choo's: Kirsty MacColl and "In These Shoes?"

Kirsty MacColl - "In These Shoes" from Ben Unwin on Vimeo.

Today's tune is by Kirsty MacColl, an English singer-songwriter who recorded many pop hits in the 1990s, and made notable appearances on other hits. Married to producer Steve Lillywhite, she sang backup vocals on the recordings of many of the artists that he produced. She died in 2000 in a tragic accident in Cozumel, Mexico. While diving in an area restricted to speedboats, she was hit by a speedboat that had strayed into the area - she died saving her son who was in the boat's path. To give you an idea of the esteem she is held in, Billy Bragg always includes extra verses she wrote in covering his song A New England, a memorial bench has been placed in her honor at the southern entrance to Soho Square in London, and she is always heard on her guest vocal in The Pogues' Fairytale of New York, which has been voted as the fan favorite Christmas song on the VH1 video channel. This song, In These Shoes?, can be found on her 2000 album Tropical Brainstorm. I originally thought this video was fan-produced, but then fleetingly noticed Kirsty MacColl in the conga line at the end.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dancing to the Pipes of Pan: Rumillajta and "El Sicuri"

Rumillajta (the name means "stones ruins" in Qechua) brings us the random tune today in the form of El Sicuri. Formed in 1980 in Bolivia, they are one of the most important progenitors of modern Andean music and their themes are based around folk tradition and nature as well as social themes such as coca, foreign exploitation and indigenous rights. Most of the group's instruments were built by lead flute player Adrian Villanueva. Rumillajta has apparently disbanded since 2001, but as modern pioneers their influence lives on in groups that incorporate indigenous sounds. You can find El Sicuri on their 1984 album City of Stone (re-released in 2006) and on the compilation CD Putumayo Presents: Music of the Andes (2014). The name of the song refers to the player of a traditional Andean panpipe and of a style of Andean music consisting of interlocking panpipes that extend the range of the instrument accompanied by drum.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Is There Anything Else For Dinner: Capercaillie and "The Haggis"

Today's random tune is by Capercaille and called The Haggis, referring to a Scottish pudding consisting of sheeps heart, liver and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt, mixed with salt and encased in a sheep's stomach. Sound unsavory? The tune isn't! Capercaille is a Scottish folk band formed in the 1980s and named after the Scottish wood grouse. They perform traditional Gaelic songs along with songs in English of their own composition or by others, and often mix traditional songs with modern recording techniques, rhythms and instrumentation. At first sticking fairly closely to traditional styles and instrumentation, in the 1980s Capercaille added funk bass lines, synthesizers and electric guitar to traditional songs. In 1992, their EP A Prince Among Islands was the first Gaelic language record to reach the top 40 of the UK singles charts They have since been moving back toward more traditional music while retaining a slight fusion sound. The Haggis is from their 1987 album Crosswinds.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Slacking: James "Bla" Pahinui and "Gabby Kai"

Today's random song, Gabby Kai, is by Hawaiian guitarist James "Bla" Pahinui. The second son of legendary guitarist Gabby Pahinui, James built his first instrument at age 10 and then learned to play ukulele starting the following year. He switched to guitar in his teens, and as a left hander he turned the guitar upside down and developed a distinctive style of playing by picking the bass strings with his index finger while playing the other strings with this thumb. He has also developed a signature slack-key style, which in his words, stretch out the notes and take melodies in new directions. Since the early 60s, he has been exploring the music of his Hawaiian roots. Gabby Kai can be found on his 1997 album Mana (re-released in 2009), and on the Putumayo compilation Music From the Coffee Lands.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Cultural Identity: ChocQuibTown and "De Donde Vengo Yo"

ChocQuibTown brings us the random tune for today, called De Donde Vengo Yo. ChocQuibTown is a hip-hop group from Colombia, whose name comes from the department (Chocó) and city (Quibdó) where Gloria and Miguel Martinez met Carlos Valencia. The three met up again in Cali after having moved there and Valencia told them of his idea to build a hip hop group that would fuse Afro-Caribbean music with hip hop from the perspective of the people who lived in Chocó. The band has been nominated for two Grammy awards, and has been nominated seven times for Latin Grammy's and has won twice. Their most recent win was in 2015 for best tropical fusion album. De Donde Vengo Yo was the 2011 winner for best alternative song, and can be found on their 2010 album Oro.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Longing: Soneros de Verdad and "Longina"

Soneros de Verdad, the group singing our random tune today, means "Singers of Truth," and they call themselves the second generation of the Buena Vista Social Club, bridging the gap between the son cubano of 50-60 years ago with more modern sensibilities and original compositions. Fronted by Luis Frank Arias and Mayito Rivero, both international music award winners, the band also employs some other Cuban stars of the newer generation, giving a whole new sound layered on top of the old urban mixed with rural, son, jazz, and other genres. It's Cuba in one package. This song, Longina, is from the album Luis Frank Presents Soneros de Verdad: A Buena Vista Barrio de la Habana (originally released in 2000, CD release in 2010). The song is one of admiration from a man to a woman, and speaks of her eyes, her curves, her voice and her singing which inspire his song.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Sister Act: The Sisters Morales and "La Mucura"

The Sisters Morales, originally from Tucson, Arizona are featured on the random tune for today. The siblings grew up learning traditional Mexican music and used that base to develop a pop sound. However, after high school they went their separate ways until 1989, when Roberta sang background vocals for a band that Lisa had formed. They decided to form a band together, including Lisa's husband on guitar, and moved to Houston where they attracted some interest from Nashville labels. They ultimately stayed independent and now operate from San Antonio, Texas. This song, La Mucura, can be found on their 2008 CD Talking to the River.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

One Druid Motion: The Bards of FoDLA and "Manannan Mac y Lir (Manannan, Son of the Sea)"

The Bards of FoDLA bring us the random tune for today called Manannan Mac y Lir (Manannan, Son of the Sea). Hailing from the US, The Bards of FoDLA create ballads inspired by the ancient Druids, particularly in traditional and original folk songs, and utilizing Celtic harp, guitar and voices. The song's title refers to a mythological Irish deity who is a guardian of the Otherworld and ferries souls to the afterlife. He is also a trickster figure. You can find Manannan Mac y Lir on The Bards of FoDLA album Sacred Oaks (2012). The song features the singing of Eva Gordon and the harp playing of Stephanie Bennett.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Four Lovely Ladies: The Mexican Institute of Sound and "Katia, Tania, Paulina y la Kim"

One of Mike's favorites is on tap for the random tune of the day. Katia, Tania, Paulina y la Kim is by the Mexican Institute of Sound. MIS, as it is also known, is Mexico City-based producer and DJ Camilo Lara's electronic music project. Fusing Mexican folk music with modern sounds, MIS is part of a growing movement in Mexican music. Lara started with mixing music for holiday mix tapes, and after getting enthusiastic receptions for his creations, began making musical collages under the moniker Mexican Institute of Sound while relying on samples of Mexican classical music. He has released four albums, with a fifth due next year. Katia, Tania, Paulina y la Kim is from his 2007 CD Piñata. The Youtube above has the whole version of the song. Below, you can see the shorter, commercial video of the song.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Exile: Värttinä and "Kylän Kävijä"

Today's random tune is called Kylän Kävijä. It is performed by Värttinä, a Finnish folk group founded in 1983 by sisters Sari and Mari Kaasinen, who had performed together reading poetry in the 1970s. In 1983, the sisters formed Värttinä and entered a youth arts contest with their poetry reading. They made it into the finals that first year, and the next year changed to singing and won the event. They brought on some male members in 1985 and entered the Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, becoming known as the group that sings high and loud. Many children in their hometown were now eager to join the band, and finally Värttinä had to establish a new group for the youngest children to join. In 1987, at the Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, they were chosen "Ensemble of the Year," and in 1988 they released their first album. In the early 1990s, they moved to Helsinki and began training at the Sibelius Academy and perfecting their skills. The band first performed traditional Finnish folk songs, but in the mid-1990s began playing its own original compositions. Over the years the band has had many forms and lineup changes, and is currently made up of three female vocalists and three acoustic musicians. They have performed worldwide to international acclaim and have released 14 albums, including 3 compilation albums and one live CD. You can find Kylän Kävijä on their 1998 album Vihma. The song is the lament of someone who is a foreigner away from all that is known and dealing with strange ways and customs.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Beach the Boat: Solas and "The Maid on the Shore"

Solas, whose name means "light," performs our random tune for today. Solas was formed in 1994 in Philadelphia to play traditional Irish tunes and the original compositions of its members. In 1996 they got their first national exposure on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion radio show and that same year recorded their first album. They are still active despite many personnel changes. This song, The Maid on the Shore, can be found on their second album Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers (1997) and on the compilation CD Putumayo Presents: Celtic Tides (1998).

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ancient Sounds, Modern Voices: The San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble and "Xicochi Xicochi Conetzintle"

Today's random tune is by the San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble (SAVAE), a unique ancient vocal music ensemble that is accompanied by early and traditional instrumentation. They made their debut in 1989 presenting Latin music from the colonial period. Its artistic director, Christopher Moroney, has penned arrangements and new compositions for the group by delving into ancient history and cultures. The group has been featured on national radio shows and has toured the United States and around the world. This song, Xicochi Xicochi Conetzintle, can be found on their 1996 album Native Angels.

Friday, May 13, 2016

These Too Shall Pass: Luca Mundaca and "Há Dias"

Luca Mundaca brings us the random tune for today. Luca Mundaca is a Brazilian singer-songwriter, composer and arranger who won the 2008 Independent Music Award in the world fusion category. Now living in New York, she has been praised for her songs that polish the melodic roots of Brazil with a contemporary buff to create modern gems. She has also been praised for the emotion and intimacy present in her voice, adding poignancy to her brilliant melodies and profound lyrics. You can find this song, Há Dias, on her 2007 album Day by Day and on the compilation CD Putumayo Presents: Brazilian Lounge (2006).

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Beautiful Turkish Strings: Can Atilla and "Hamamda Ilk Gösyaşlari"

Can Atilla brings us the random tune today, entitled Hamamda Ilk Gösyaşlari (Cello Version). Can Atilla is a Turkish composer and musician who is best known for Diriliş (Resurrection), the official music for the 90th anniversary of the Turkish parliament. He has scored movies and television dramas and documentaries where he pioneered the first use of multi-track orchestral dubbing in Turkey. He has also published many essays in arts periodicals. You'll find Hamamda Ilk Gösyaşlari (Cello Version) on Can Atilla's 2009 album Cariyeler Ve Geceler and on the compilation album Pera Lounge.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mortal Enemies: Pangea with "Water and Fire"

Our random tune today is called Water and Fire and is by Pangea. Pangea is a project of Dan Lacksman, a Belgian composer and sound engineer. He has mixed and produced albums in a variety of genres, such as pop, rock, jazz, classic, dance and electronica. He is a co-founder and member of the avant-garde electronica group Telex, and a producer of the world music group Deep Forest. On the whole, Pangea was formed to make world music more accessible to European and American audiences. You can find Water and Fire on the 1996 album Pangea.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Desert Cab: Malika Zarra and "Berber Taxi"

Today's tune is called Berber Taxi and is performed by Malika Zarra. Zarra was born in Morocco to a Berber mother and a Moroccan father and she grew up in Paris though her family remained culturally Moroccan in the home. She became interested in jazz because she noticed its improvisational similarities to Arab music, and studied jazz in Tours and Marseilles. She began getting attention when she started singing jazz standards with her own Arab translations. She is influenced by styles such as traditional Berber music, Gnawa music, Chaabi, French popular music, jazz, house, funk, dance, and traditional African music, and her personal influences include artists such as Farid al-Atrash, Um Kalthoum, Warda Al-Jazairia, Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby McFerrin, Thelonious Monk, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. You can find Berber Taxi on her 2011 CD of the same name.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Veda Be Ready: Uma Mohan and "Shiva Panchakshara Stotram/Shadakshara Stotram"

Uma Mohan is the artist behind today's random song: Shiva Panchakshara Stotram/Shadakshara Stotram. Mohan was born in India into a family of musicians and trained from her childhood in Indian classical music. She is also an artist, dramatist, dancer, poet and writer. She attempts in her music to impart the essence of the Vedas and make it accessible to every person. You can find Shiva Panchakshara Stotram/Shadakshara Stotram on her 2007 CD Divine Chants of Shiva and on the compilation CD Putumayo Presents: India (2009).

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dancing Among the Buildings: The Chieftains and "Skyline Jig"

I (Mike) associate today's random song with the holidays, though I suppose it doesn't have to be. Skyline Jig is off The Chieftains holiday album The Bells of Dublin (1991), which Megan introduced me to way back when we were dating and which we play almost every Christmas season. The Chieftains are a legendary Irish ensemble who introduced the wider world to Irish music. Formed in Dublin in 1962, The Chieftains formed their music primarily around the distinctive sound of uileann pipes. They took their name from the title of a novel by Irish author John Montague. Besides releasing several critically acclaimed albums, they are just as well known for their collaborations with such artists as Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Sinead O'Connor and Roger Daltry. They have released 44 albums.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Clean Up Your Trimmings: Presque Oui and "L'Ongle"

The random tune for today is by Presque Oui, a French duo founded in 1998 and consisting of Marie-Hélène Picard and Thibaud Defever. Picard died of lung cancer in 2006 and Defever has continued on by himself. Presque Oui's songs deal with love, its vagaries and the mundane daily experiences of lovers. For example this song, L'Ongle, speaks of the often insignificant things that remind us of a partner and all the complex emotions that come with those things, like a little piece of fingernail found in a pocket. You can find L'Ongle on Presque Oui's 2005 CD Sauvez Les Meubles and on the 2006 compilation CD Putumayo Presents: Paris.

Friday, May 6, 2016

I Stay for All of Them: The Secret of Roan Inish soundtrack with "Closing Credits (Over the Moor to Maggie/The Bucks of Oranmore)"

From the soundtrack to the film The Secret of Roan Inish, which centers on the tale of selkies - seals that can shed their skin to become human in appearance - comes today's random song called Closing Credits (Over The Moor to Maggie/The Bucks of Oranmore). The music for the film was written and arranged by Mason Daring, an American composer and musician who is largely known for his scores to films by John Sayles. Closing Credits (Over The Moor to Maggie/The Bucks of Oranmore) can be found on The Secret of Roan Inish soundtrack (1995).

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Drawing Vivid Pictures: Amélie-les-crayons and "Ta P'tite Flamme"

Our random tune for today is performed by Amélie-les-crayons, a French singer-songwriter who emphasizes theatricality and humor in her works. Starting as a solo piano singer in 2001, she put together a group in 2003 that became very popular first in their region and then over the whole of France and Switzerland. That led to a theatrical show in 2004 complete with a magic piano that opens itself and grows flowers, funny special effects, and the connection that Amélie builds with her audiences. In 2009, they put together another show featuring a "monster piano." She is currently working on yet another elaborate show. You can find this song, Ta P'tite Flamme, on her 2004 CD Et Pourquoi Les Crayons and on the compilation CD Putumayo Presents: Paris (2006).

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Popular Lautari: Taraf de Haïdouks and "Cintec de Dragoste Si Joc"

The random song for today is by Taraf de Haïdouks, a Romanian troupe of lautari (traditional musicians) who have risen to be one of the most prominent such groups in the post-communist era. Their music is described as polyphonic, created by use of violin, double drum, accordion, flute, cimbalom, double bass and wind instruments. They released their first album in 1991, and have since toured worldwide and released a popular DVD. Although they count among their friends and fans such luminaries as Johnny Depp, they still maintain their lifestyle, all living in their home village of Clejani, Romania. This song, Cintec de Dragoste Si Joc, can be found on their album Honourable Brigands, Magic Horses and Evil Eye (1995) and on their CD/DVD live album Taraf De Haïdouks: Live At Union Chapel (2006). Note: Even though the name of the song is different on the video, it's the right song and I show it so you can see them singing and playing. The only thing that is missing from this version is an additional instrumental ending played at a faster tempo.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

You Talkin' to Me: Razia and "Yoyoyo"

Today's song is by Razia Said, also known as Razia, who hails from Madagascar. Drawing on her African influences and incorporating R&B and jazz, she records many songs in the Malagasay language, and aims the point of her songs toward protection and preservation of Madagascar's environment. A self-proclaimed nomad who has lived in Africa, France, Italy, Ibiza, Bali and New York City, she entertains us here with her song "Yoyoyo," which can be found on her 2010 album Zebu Nation.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Close the Door, Will Ya: Gaelic Storm and "Bare in the Basin"

Bare in the Basin, our song for today, is a medley of tunes by Gaelic Storm. Gaelic Storm is an American Irish band formed in 1997 in Santa Monica, California. They play traditional Irish and Scottish music, as well as original music in the Celtic and Celtic rock genres. Gaelic Storm got a huge break in 1997 when they were cast as the steerage band in the blockbuster movie Titanic. They have burnished their resume by touring aggressively and adding new instrumentation to their ensemble, such as Uileann, Highland and Deger (electronic) bagpipes. Bare in the Basin can be found on their 2006 album Bring Yer Wellies.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

She's Mine: Mine and "Cloud of Tears"

Today's random song is by German singer, songwriter and producer Jasmin Stocker, who goes by the stage name of Mine. She draws her musical influences from hip hop, jazz, folk and electronic music. She is also known for exotic instrumentation, utilizing such instruments as bass, guitar , drums , electric piano, organ, toy piano, autoharp, Omnichord, xylophone, vibraphone, viola and violin. This song, Cloud of Tears, can be found on the compilation album Istanbul Calling, Vol. 2 (2007).