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OLD WORLD (Asia, Arabia, Europe)

Updated 1 November 2014


A better than average "We are the World"-type collaboration to raise awareness about Ebola in
, with Mory Kanté, Salif Keita, Amadou and Mariam, Oumou Sangaré, Jah Fakory, Sekou
Kouyaté -- it has a good groove, plus it's Bono-free.

If you are worried about Ebola, take the following simple questionnaire:
1) Have you come in contact with the bodily fluids of someone who might be infected with Ebola?
--If you answered NO you do not have Ebola
2) Do you watch Fox News?
--If you answered YES you have Ebola

Greetings, Platterbugs!


Sad month for deaths in the music family. Though we don't know them personally it is painful to hear of our heroes passing. John Holt, lead singer of (my favorite Rocksteady group) the Paragons, died in London aged 69; Style Scott, brilliant drummer of Roots Radics, was murdered in Jamaica, aged 58; and Scottish bassist, Jack Bruce, best known for his work with Cream, died aged 71.

Here's Holt backed by the Paragons, doing "Happy go lucky girl," and his later hit "Police in helicopter" with Style Scott on drums. Here's Scott with Roots Radics backing Greg Isaacs, live in London, 1984. Overlooked in the red bull article is the fact that Scott was the other musician, with Gaudi's bass, overdubbed onto Nusrat's brilliant posthumous album Dub Qawwali, a taste of which can be heard here. Here's Jack Bruce singing his composition, "We're going wrong" with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in 2005, and for contrast an earlier live version from 1967.


From zim bida this informative article on Ghanaian record sleeves

BBC News story on griots' comeback

I've updated the vévé, negro band/negro succès and congo in kenya discographies


The immortal James Booker Live (via Steve D); other parts of the broadcast are nearby.


Diego Cigala plays San Francisco's Miner Auditorium Nov 1 & 2. That venue will also host Ana Moura from Portugal on the 16th, and Milton Nascimento on the 30th. Poncho Sanchez appears at Yoshi's SF this weekend; later in the month Gonzalo Rubalcaba will be there with Horacio El Negro and Giovanni Hidalgo.


When you have one of those "who are the greatest guitarists" conversations with your music buddies you are often surprised by how many names from West Africa crop up, not just in the context of Franco and Nico, but in global big leagues with James Hendrix, Jeffrey Beck, Francisco Gomes (aka Paco de Lucia) and John McLaughlin. Now to the list of Djelimady Tounkara, Mama Sissoko, Sekou Diabaté, Lobi Traoré and Barthelemy Attisso, we need to add Djessou Mory Kanté. He's not the Mory Kanté of Rail Band who went to Paris and hit big with "Yéké yéké," but in fact the younger brother of Les Ambassadeurs' guitarist Kanté Manfila. That bona fide legend Djelimady Tounkara shows up to trade licks on two cuts, but Djessou is in control and has opted not to have singers on here (he has backed both Salif Keita and Sékouba Bambino on recent hit albums) but goes instead for a more laid-back instrumental set that showcases the musicianship of a group that embrace the traditional sounds of Mali and Guinea. It's the best traditional West African album in ages and reminds me in places of the incredible Hank Jones meets Cheick Tidiane Seck and the Mandinkas album Sarala, on which his big brother appeared. There is organ on here as well as balafon (which is not credited, so may be sampled on the keyboards?), and also fine jazzy bass (Kerfala Kanté) and a top notch kamala ngoni, played by Harouna Samaké. Small details, such as the ending of "Djandjo," show how well recorded it is: as the track fades we are left with the djembe player and the balafon trading licks and you immediately want to turn it up to catch the dying glow of their little exchange. It's been too long since his earlier release, Guitar Sèche on Popular African Music from 1998. This Sterns release will certainly jump-start his career.

CHA CHA CHA (World Circuit)

From the label that brought you Buena Vista Social Club, it says optimistically on the front of this nostalgic reissue. Since he was born over a century ago, it's unlikely Abelardo or remnants of his band will be touring again to promote this. Fans of Cuban son undoubtedly have one of his "best of" compilations (e.g., that on Edenways 1997), or Bruca Maniguá by Abelardo Barroso con la Orquesta Sensación from 1961. His history is well-documented in the annals of Cuban music. One of the first son groups was Sexteto Habanero and in 1925 Abelardo joined them ... as driver! But the following year he joined first Sexteto Boloña of Alfredo Boloña as sonero, then Ignacio Piñeiro's Septeto Nacional, and traveled to New York to record for Columbia Records. Columbia insisted on having a trumpet and Barroso was able to vocalize in concert with trumpeter Lázzaro Herrero who had expanded the sextet into a septet. In the 30s he was known as "Caruso" when he sang with Cachao's brother Orestes Lopez and was with them as they transformed the danzón into the charanga. In the mid-30s he launched a solo career with his wonderful and timeless "La Huerfanito (the Orphan)." In the mid-50s, strapped for cash, he approached orquesta Sensación and suggested they re-record his 1939 classic, "En Guantánamo." Older members of the audience ate it up and he made new fans. This monster smash was followed by other classics including "El Guajiro de Cunagua," "Tiene Sabor," "El Panquellero,"and "La Hija de Juan Simon," all of which are collected here. Barroso who has a throaty tone, suggesting a glass or two of rum has lubricated his throat, never used a microphone and ultimately paid the price: he had to have surgery on his vocal chords in 1967 which ended his career. Also the Cuban revolution ended his triumphant overseas tours to Miami and New York. Even the legendary Beny Moré looked up to him as a teacher and, as Machito laid claim to the mambo, Barroso made the cha cha cha his own domain. It is wonderful that World Circuit has returned to Cuba and if this flies they may delve further into the vaults. If you think the cha cha cha is something staid your swinging uncles and aunties did at cocktail parties, check out the wild percussion (guiro, timbales and congas), tight arrangements with piano, violins and flute, and especially the slurry good-time vocals of señor Barroso, the Cuban Caruso.

most recent reviews:

(click on maps at the top of the page to get to continent of choice)

October 2014

Nouri Mint Seymali is filed under Arabia
Nakany Kante's Tounka is reviewed in Mali part 2
Neil Dixon Smith's The Panamericanist can be found in USA

September 2014

Congo Guitars 1952 & 1957 is found on the Hugh Tracey page (under Africa)
Les Ambassadeurs du Motel are filed in Mali part 2
Simon Lagnawi The Gnawa Berber can be found in Arabia
The Haiti Direct comp is in Haiti
Real World 25 is in Old World Miscellany

August 2014

Quraishi from Afghanistan is housed, for the moment, in India & Pakistan
so is Ravi Shankar, with A Night at St John the Divine
Orlando Julius with the Heliocentrics is found in Nigeria

July 2014

Ricardo Lemvo's latest is filed in Congo part 3
Rock-a-Mambo double LP is in Congo Classics
Bombay Royale's latest is in Bollywood part 2
Son Palenque's Kamajanes is in Colombia
Mestre Cupijo can be found in Brasil part 2
The revised Rough Guide to Sahara is found in Arabia

June 2014

Kasai Allstars' Beware the Fetish is filed in Congo part 3
Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star Live à L'Etoile is filed in Senegal part 2
Bio Ritmo are docketed under Salsa, for want of a better place
Oumar Konate's Addoh can be found under Mali part 2
Dona Onete's Feitico Cabloco is filed in Brasil part 2

May 2014

Moreno's second reissue on Stern's is filed in Kenya part 2
Anansy Cissé's Mali Overdrive is filed in Mali part 2
Rough Guide to Psychedelic Cambodia is filed in Asia
Youlou Mabiala's 18 disc reissue can be found in Congo part 3

April 2014

Ernie Ranglin's latest Bless Up is filed in Jamaica part 3
Adnan Joubran's Borders Behind can be found in the Arabia section
That's where you'll find my review of Hassan Hakmoun's latest also
Ani Cordero is in Mexico
The Max Massengo reissue is filed in Congo part 3

March 2014

Zanzibara 7: Sindike vs Ndekule is found in Tanzania part 2
Aziza Brahim from Algeria is filed under Arabia
Atash's Everything is Music is filed under USA
New version of the Rough Guide to Mali is filed in Mali part 2
Thomas Blondet's Future World can be found in Old World misc section

February 2014

Alejandro Almenares' Casa de Trova is filed in Cuba part 4
as is Ernesto Oviedo's Siempre Clasico
Studio One Rocksteady can be seen in Jamaica part 3
Charles King's Champeta Fever is filed under Colombia
Tiecoro Sissoko's Keme Borama went to Mali part 2
as did Aminata Traore's Tamala
The Rough Guide to the Best African Music You've Never Heard is filed under Africa Miscellany
Jaako Laitinen & Väärä Raha's Lapland-Balkan can be found in Old World Miscellany

My Top 12 of 2013, with best reissues, etc, is online HERE.

My Top Twelve of 2012 is HERE.

My Top Ten of 2011 can be found HERE.

My Top 9 of 2010 is online HERE

Click HERE for my top 10 of 2009

Click HERE for my top 9 of 2008

Click HERE for my top 10 of 2007

Click HERE for my top 11 of 2006


"Essential reference guide to the Congo guitar king" -- SONGLINES 64 **** (four stars)
"I do not know anybody who has such immense knowledge of African music. Congratulations." -- Gerhard G (a purchaser)

BACK IN PRINT (Second edition, November 2012)

By Alastair Johnston

Poltroon Press, 2012, expanded to 88 pages; list price $19.95.
Available now. Click here for details.



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