Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fairyland: Zaz and "La Fée"

Our random song for today, La Fée, is by French singer-songwriter Isabelle Geffroy, known by her stage name as Zaz. Mixing jazzy style, French variety, soul and acoustic genres, she became famous on the strength of her first album, the eponymously named Zaz (2010). After a childhood steeped in music education Zaz started her musical career in 2001 singing in musical groups and as a backup singer. She released Zaz in 2010 to great acclaim, especially her single Je Veux, and has since won many awards and has toured her music. She has released two more albums since, Recto Verso and Paris. La Fée can be found on her debut album Zaz. This video is from a live performance on French radio.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rock Me in Iranian: Khak and "Aghaz (The Beginning)"

Today's random tune is by Iranian band Khak, located in Cologne, Germany. The name of the band means "earth" or "soil," and was formed by Iranian expatriates in Heidelberg in 1995 and released their debut album in 1999. First formed as a classical rock band singing in Farsi, they moved beyond and became a pioneering force in the Iranian rock music movement of the early 1990s. This song, Aghaz (The Beginning), can be found on their 2011 album The Beginning (Aghaz).

Monday, August 29, 2016

Not Stodgy At All: The Luminescent Orchestrii and "Mur Stojmeno"

Today's random tune is called Mur Stojmeno and is performed by The Luminescent Orchestrii, an experimental group based in the United States and active from 2002 - 2012. Their oeuvre consisted of music influenced by Middle Eastern, gypsy, and traditional European music along with Appalachian fiddles, hip hop beats and an attitude often found in punk bands. They often used instruments that they had modified to create their sound. Mur Stojmeno can be found on their 2009 album Neptune's Daughter.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Electric Maori: WAI and "Te Tokomauri Manawa"

WAI provides us with today's random song, called Te Tokomauri Manawa. WAI was started in 1999 by New Zealanders Mina Ripia and Maaka McGregor, and they released their debut album in 2000. They were immediately hailed in New Zealand and beyond as groundbreaking and bringing a new sound to music from the Pacific Rim. In 2007, the duo went on hiatus to focus respectively on having a family and to work on new songs for an album. They have since evolved into a five piece outfit that sings in Maori, and uses traditional Maori music as a base to create what they call Maori electronica roots world music which also is infused with jungle, funk, reggae, hip-hop and deep house. You can find Te Tokomauri Manawa on their 2000 debut release, WAI 100%.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Always the Bridesmaid: The Chieftains and Van Morrison with "Marie's Wedding"

Our random tune today is by The Chieftains and Van Morrison. The Chieftains are one of the greatest ambassadors of Irish music to the world, and have formed their distinctive sound around the Uileann pipes. Van Morrison, from Northern Ireland, is a singer-songwriter and musician who has been described as mystical and transcendental. Some of his albums have appeared near the top of many lists of the greatest albums of all time. He has released 39 albums. The collaboration between Van Morrison and The Chieftains goes back to at least 1979, when they met at the Edinburgh Rock Festival, and agreed to record an album together. The result, 1988's Irish Heartbeat, received positive critical acclaim, including 4 stars from Rolling Stone and was called one of the best albums of the year by The Village Voice. You can find this tune, Marie's Wedding, as the 10th song on that album.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sisterly Love: Gjallarhorn and "Systrarna (The Sisters)"

Today's tune is from Gjallarhorn. Gjallarhorn was formed in 1994 in a Swedish-speaking portion of Finland and performs world music based in the folk music and traditions of that region. As such, their music tends to be Swedish in nature, but based in acoustic folk music unique to the Ostrobothnian area. Gjallorhorn is also known for their use of the hardanger fiddle, an eight or nine string violin (as compared to four strings on a standard violin), and lead singer Jenny Wilhelm's singing technique called kulning, a technique based on Scandinavian cattle herding calls consisting of high pitched wordless tones designed to be heard over long distances. The band's name derives from the name of the horn of the Norse god Heimdallr, who blows the Gjallarhorn signaling the last battle of the Norse gods. This song, Systrarna (The Sisters), can be found on their 2006 release Rimfaxe.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Smoking: Nei Lopes with Dudu Nobre and "Fumo de Rolo"

Today's song is Fumo de Rolo by Nei Lopes. Lopes is a 74 year old samba singer and composer who also happens to be a lawyer, writer and historian. Trained in the law by the University of Brazil, he abandoned his career in the 1970s to take up music. A partnership with prominent samba artist Wilson Moreira led to many compositions that are now recorded by almost all interpreters of traditional samba. In the 1980s, he was a leader of the pagode movement which brought traditional samba back to the radio airwaves after it had been briefly superseded by such new genres as bossa nova. Lopes has written extensively on Afro-Brazilian and samba themes and since 1995 has been working on his sweeping Brazilian Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora. Fumo de Rolo is from Lopes' 2001 CD De Letra & Musica and he is joined on the song by Brazilian singer and composer Dudu Nobre.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

At the Gateway to the East: Fatima Spar and the Freedom Fries with "Istanbul"

Fatima Spar and the Freedom Fries provides our random tune for today, called Istanbul. Fatima Spar is an Austrian/Turkish jazz musician who started singing jazz at age 13 but broke it off for a while to study music and theater and then fashion design in Vienna. She left her studies to resume her music career in 2004 and formed Fatima Spar and the Freedom Fries - they promptly won the Austrian World Music Awards. Spar sings in Turkish, English and German and the band's style consists of swing, Balkan brass, calypso and eastern music. She and her band also became the first band from Austria to appear on the official Womex schedule. You can find Istanbul on their 2006 album Zirzop.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Into the Mystic: Clannad and "Ancient Forest"

Today's random tune is from the soundtrack to a British TV series called Robin of Sherwood. The music to this series was provided by Clannad, an Irish band whose music draws from Celtic, traditional Irish, new age, folk and folk rock. The band was formed, according to local story, when an underage Ciarán, Pól, and Máire Brennan were performing late at night in their uncle's pub and a police sergeant walked in - they feared a summons but instead the sergeant had a form to participate in a music contest. After winning a local folk festival, they scored a record contract. Subsequent years saw them shoot to fame, provide music for television and film and collaborate with superstars such as Bono. They are considered pioneers in the fusion of Celtic and new age music, creating an earthly yet spiritual sound. This song, Ancient Forest, is from their 1984 album Legend, which is all of the music from the Robin of Sherwood series.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Love in Spring: The Mediaeval Baebes and "Averil"

Today's random tune is called Averil and is performed by the Mediaeval Baebes. The Mediaeval Baebes began in 1996 when a group of friends led by Katherine Blake of Miranda Sex Garden broke into a North London cemetery and sang a capella in flowing white robes and leaf garlands. They soon became an ensemble, and their first album, Salva Nos, shot to number two on the classical charts. The group has since had many incarnations. They sing in an array of obscure and ancient languages, and have placed three albums in the top ten of the classical charts and participated in the BBC's television series The Virgin Queen. Averil is from their 2000 CD Undrentide and is a spring love song sung in Middle English.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Musical Ecstacy: Khaira Arby and "Tarab"

Today's song is by Khaira Arby, often called the Queen of Desert Rock and also the Nightingale of the North. An artist from the northern deserts of Mali, she is a cousin to the great Ali Farka Touré. She uses a varied assortment of instrumentation, such as electric guitar, calabash, traditional violin, acoustic guitar and drumming, and she sings in languages such as Sonrai, Arabic and Tamashek. She is the only singer in her family, and started singing when she was eleven years old. Before working with her own band, she performed with the Troupe du Cercle de Tomboctou and later the Troupe Regionale de Gao. This song, Tarab, is from her 2013 release Timbuktu Tarab. Tarab refers to a hard to translate concept in Arabic music that gets toward the feeling, including ecstacy, that comes from listening to Arab music.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Blues a la Creole: Beausoleil and "Bessie's Blues"

Beausoleil brings us the random tune for today, called Bessie's Blues. Beausoleil was founded in 1975, released its first album in 1977 and became one of the most well-known groups from 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. They are one of the few Creole/Cajun groups to win a Grammy. Bessie's Blues can be found on their 2013 CD From Bamako to Carencro.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Love in the Fields: Déanta and "The Maid That Sold Her Barley"

Today's random tune, The Maid That Sold Her Barley, is performed by the Celtic group Déanta, an Irish traditional group from Northern Ireland. Déanta formed in the late 1980s and performed until 1997, and then regrouped in 2008. In 1990 they won the Trophée Loïc Raison at the Lorient Interceltic Festival in Brittany as best band. They released three albums, and their songs reflect traditional music with occasional forays into more contemporary music. You can find The Maid That Sold Her Barley on their 1994 album Ready for the Storm and on the 2005 Green Linnet compilation album Celtic Wonder. The song lyrics can be interpreted in a bawdy way, or as a simple transaction for marriage.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Removing all Obstacles: MC Yogi and "Ganesh is Fresh"

Our random tune of today is entitled Ganesh is Fresh, by MC Yogi. MC Yogi is the avatar of Nicholas Giacomini, a Bay Area hip hop artist and yogi who promotes themes of Hindu religion and philosophy. Giacomini began rapping at 13 and, while living in home for at-risk children at age 17, he became a practitioner of yoga after his father took it up. His songs are often bhajans, or devotional songs, celebrating one or another of the Hindu deities. At other times, he provides interesting history lessons on the lives of important historical figures within Hinduism, such as Gandhi. Even when he is doing nothing but beatboxing, his songs can sound like mantras or prayers. Ganesh is Fresh can be found on MC Yogi's 2010 album Elephant Power. MC Yogi is joined on the song by Jai Uttal, an American musician and singer known in the yoga world for his hypnotic kirtans. He has released 19 solo albums.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mommy Dearest: Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys with "Oh Mam"

Oh Mam (Oh Mom) is performed by Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys, a Cajun band from Southern Louisiana. Founded in 1988, the band takes its inspiration from Cajun traditional legends Dewey Balfa, Belton Richard and Walter Mouton. However, the music of Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys has grown into a style that is distinctly Cajun but also personal to them. They sing almost exclusively in Cajun French. They have been nominated twice for Grammys in the Best Traditional Folk Album category and have released 11 albums to date as well as one compilation album. Oh Mam (Oh Mom) can be found on their Best of Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys CD of 2008.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Fairy Light: Elin Kåven and "Váimmu Čuovga"

Today's random tune is by Elin Kåven, "The Arctic Fairy." Elin Kåven is a Sami recording artist, dancer and interior designer who lives in Norway. She started her music career in 2009, participating in a Sami music contest with a song of her own composition. She released her debut album that December. She is considered one of the pioneers of tribal fusion dance in Norway - she runs a tribal fusion and bellydance school in Oslo and has traveled around Europe teaching these dance styles. She has released three albums. This song, Váimmu Čuovga (Heartlight), can be found on her 2012 CD Maizan - Thaw.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Polish Folky Punk: R.U.T.A. and "Jak to Dawni Dobrze Belo"

R.U.T.A., which seems to stand both for the Union of Reactionary Artistic Terrorists or Movement for Utopia, Transcendence and Anarchy, is a band from Poland that combines punk with elements of Polish peasant folk songs and traditional instruments. The result is roughly a stripped down but just as in-your-face punk sound that your Polish great-great-grandfather might have heard had punk existed among disaffected youth in his day. R.U.T.A. is made up of modern Polish folk musicians and members of well-known Polish punk bands, and they take for their inspiration folk-songs from the era of Polish, Ukrainian and Belorussian serfdom and turn them into songs of oppression, action, revolt and rebellion. You can find this song, Jak to Dawni Dobrze Belo, on their debut CD Gore (2011).

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Free Your Soul: Baba Zula and Mad Professor with "Özgür Ruh"

Today's random tune is by Turkish group Baba Zula in collaboration with Guyanese producer Mad Professor. Founded in 1996, Baba Zula is an alternative group that creates a psychedelic sound combining traditional Turkish instruments, electronica, reggae and dub. At the core of their sound is the saz, a Turkish bouzouki-like stringed instrument with a bright, high-pitched sound. Baba Zula became well known outside of Turkey when they appeared in the 2005 documentary Crossing the Bridge, and have since performed in many high profile world music festivals. They have released eight albums. Mad Professor is a dub music producer and engineer from Guyana known for original productions and remix work. He is a leading figure of dub's second generation and as such has been instrumental in bringing dub into the digital age. This song, Özgür Ruh, is from Baba Zula with Mad Professor's 2005 album Duble Oryantal.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Someone Else: Kiran Ahluwalia and "Haath Apne"

Kiran Ahluwalia, a singer of ghazals (ancient Arabic poetry) and Punjabi folk songs, performs our random tune for today. Kiran Ahluwalia was born in India, raised in Canada and now lives in New York City. Kiran Ahluwalia immersed herself in Indian classical music and ghazals from age seven and spent a decade of deep and intense study with her guru in the 1990s. Her music has developed and provided innovation of the ghazal music genre, often through the introduction of non-traditional instrumentation and styles such as the Portuguese fado guitar, sub-Saharan percussion, Celtic fiddle, Pakistani qawwali vocals, Afghani rhubab and African blues. She has also collaborated with other world artists such as Rez Abbasi, Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq and electronica group Delerium. This song, Haath Apne, is from her 2007 release Wanderlust.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Tribalectronica: A Tribe Called Red and "NDN Stakes"

From Canada's First Nations, A Tribe Called Red brings us today's random tune called NDN Stakes. A Tribe Called Red is made up of members of the Nipissing First Nation, Mohawk tribe and Cayuga First Nation. Their music is electronic, with instrumental hip hop, reggae, moombahton and dubstep combined with First Nations music such as vocal chanting and drums. Called "powwow-step," it was developed to appeal to urban First Nations people in the dance club scene. Based in Ottawa, the band has been a prominent proponent of First Nations' rights and against the cultural appropriation of First Nations symbols. In 2013 they asked non-First Nations followers to refrain from wearing war paint and headdresses to their shows, have filed a human rights complaint against an Ottawa amateur football team using the name "Redskins," and withdrew from a performance at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights over concerns about its depiction of Canadian aboriginal peoples. NDN Stakes can be found on their 2013 album Nation II Nation and features Sitting Bear, a traditional tribal drum group.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Drink Up: Värttinä and "Laulutyttö"

Värttinä, a folk group from Finland founded in 1983 by sisters Sari and Mari Kaasinen, provides our random tune for today. In 1983, the sisters formed Värttinä and entered a youth arts contest reading poetry. They made it into the finals that first year, and the next year they switched to music and won the event. They added some male musicians in 1985 and entered the Kaustinen Folk Music Festival, becoming known as the group that sings high and loud. 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 16 albums, including 3 compilation albums and one live CD. You can find this song, Laulutyttö, on Värttinä's 1998 album Vihma. A rousing drinking song, it urges us to "drink up and moisten our mouths with brew."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Love and Betrayal: Carrie Rodriguez and "Perfidia"

Our random song today is a Mexican classic. The artist, Carrie Rodriguez, comes from an artistically accomplished family - her father David was a Texan singer-songwriter, her mother Katy Nail is a painter, and her grandmother was Texas essayist Frances Nail. Carrie Rodriguez is a multi-instrumentalist, playing fiddle, mandobird and tenor guitar as well as singing vocals. She took up violin at an early age, and eventually won a scholarship to Oberlin Conservatory but it was on tour in Europe with her dad, and sitting through a sound check with Lyle Lovett, that led her to quit the conservatory and go out on her own. She has recorded with too many roots musicians to list in this short blurb, and has been honored by the city of Austin with a special yearly day for her work in advancing Austin's place as the "Live Music Capital of the World." This song, Perfidia, is a Mexican standard of love and betrayal that has been covered by numerous Mexican and American musicians. You can find Perfidia on Rodriguez' newest album Lola, released in 2016.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Galactic Folk: Valya Balkanska and "Izlel e Delyu Haydutin"

You've probably never heard of the artist, Valya Balkanska, who performs our random tune today. But you should, as she is one of the human voices that may eventually be heard by aliens should they ever run across one of the two Voyager spacecraft leaving our solar system. A Bulgarian folk singer, she was known locally for her wide repertoire of over 300 songs. Her rendition of this song, Izlel e Delyu Haydutin was chosen to be included on the Golden Records included on the two Voyager spacecraft. She is a recipient of Bulgaria's highest honor, the Stara Planina Orden, and is a member of Bulgaria's Walk of Fame. Izlel e Delyu Haydutin can be heard on her album Glas ot Vechnostta (2003).

Monday, August 8, 2016

You Don't Have to Be Beautiful: Richard Thompson and "Kiss"

A musical legend covering another, recently departed musical legend brings us the random tune for today. Richard Thompson is an award winning guitarist, singer and songwriter from England who first achieved fame as a founding member of Fairport Convention in the late 1960s, and as part of the husband and wife duo of Richard and Linda Thompson. While his group and solo accomplishments are too numerous to mention (his Wikipedia entry is huge), he has released 16 solo studio albums, 6 albums with Linda Thompson, 4 live albums, 12 albums labeled "fan" or "boutique" albums, and nine compilations. He has also been on five studio and four live albums with Fairport Convention. This song, Kiss, a cover of the Prince original, can be found on his 2006 live album 1000 Years of Popular Music.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Abandoned: Beth Patterson and "The Lass of Aughrim"

Beth Patterson brings us today's random tune, The Lass of Aughrim. From Lafayette, Louisiana, Beth Patterson is a singer-songwriter who starts from a base of Irish and Celtic music and adds a few drops of Cajun, worldbeat and progressive rock. She began her career playing Cajun bass and as a classical oboist, and studied traditional Irish music and ethnomusicology at University College Cork in Ireland. She finished a bachelor's degree in music therapy at Loyola University in New Orleans, and she took up the Irish bouzouki which is now her preferred instrument. She was a founding member of the Poor Clares, an Irish ensemble that opened to rave reviews in New Orleans, and she has also released four solo albums and two with the Poor Clares. You can find The Lass of Aughrim on her 1999 album Hybrid Vigor.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Stellar: A Moving Sound and "Interplanetary Heart"

A Moving Sound performs today's random tune, called Interplanetary Heart. A Moving Sound is a Taiwanese music group formed in 2000 when vocalist Mia Hsieh met guitarist Scott Prairie. The group writes original compositions based on Taiwanese, Chinese and other Asian traditional music and using traditional instrumentation such as the erhu (Chinese fiddle), the zhong ruan (lute) and traditional dance and vocalization. They have served as a gateway into a genre called Pan-Asian music which the magazine Global Rhythm described as being delicately balanced between worlds. They have released four albums. Interplanetary Heart can be found on their 2006 release Songs Beyond Words. I normally don't post video filmed on phones, but this has good sound, if a little bit wobbly camera work.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Desert Dreaming: The Afro Celt Sound System and "Mojave"

Today's random tune is by the Afro Celt Sound System, which is a world group mixing African and Celtic sounds and which fuses modern electronic dance rhythms with traditional Irish and West African songs. The Afro Celt Sound System was formed by British producer Simon Emmerson and afro-pop star Baaba Maal in 1991. Since then they've been proclaimed a world music supergroup, and have collaborated with Peter Gabriel, Sinead O'Connor, Robert Plant, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Ayub Ogada and many other pop and world stars. This song, Mojave, can be found on their 1999 release Volume 5: Anatomic.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Django Gipsy: Biréli Lagrène and "Coquette"

The random song for today is by Biréli Lagrène and is called Coquette. Biréli Lagrène is a French guitarist and bassist born into a traditional Manouche-Romani (Gypsy) family. He is known for his Django Reinhardt style of jazz guitar and for virtuosity in jazz fusion on the electric guitar. He was considered a child prodigy when at 8 he could play the entire Django Reinhardt repertoire. After winning first place in a Romani music festival at 12, he was given the opportunity to tour Germany, out of which was recorded an LP. In the 1980s, he was offered the opportunity to go to the United States, where he met such musical luminaries as Stéphane Grappelli, Benny Goodman and Benny Carter. Coquette is in the style of more traditional jazz guitar, and can be found on his album Gipsy Project (2001).

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Slovak Fusion: Andrej Šeban and "Pomaly si Navykáme"

Today's random song is by Andrej Šeban, a Slovakian jazz fusion guitarist, in 1977, after taking classical guitar lessons, he became a member of the pop band Nervy, and then the jazz rock band Miting in 1978-79. He played in a variety of bands after that, such as Demikát, Banket, Tutu, Provisorium and the Lipa-Seban Band. He was also on the faculty of Comenius University in the musicology department. This song, Pomaly si Navykáme, can be found on his 2006 album Bezvetrie.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Sleep with the Seals: The Secret of Roan Inish Soundtrack and "Piper's Lullaby"

The soundtrack from a movie set in Ireland is on tap for today's random tune. The Secret of Roan Inish centers on the tale of selkies - seals that can shed their skin to become human in appearance. 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. This song, Piper's Lullaby, can be found on The Secret of Roan Inish soundtrack (1995).

Monday, August 1, 2016

Lead into Gold: The Prodigals and "Alchemy"

Today's random song is by the Prodigals, an American punk band begun in 1997. The band describes their music as jig-punk and can be classified with other Irish music influenced punk bands such as The Pogues and Black 47 in their merging of traditional Celtic melodies with rock rhythms. The band's melodies are carried by a button key accordion with bass and drum underneath. This song, Alchemy, can be found on their 1999 album Go On.