Run to the nearest music shop and buy the latest CD by Ojos de Brujo, a gipsy band from Barcelona, now a cult in Spain! Try and stop dancing if you can! Also this month: Spain again with an excellent “Flamenco” in the “Rough Guide” collection; in the same collection you’ll also find “North African Café” which is just as good; but also the last CD by Abed Azrié, “Mystic”, Sufi poems put in music; a little gem of Hispano-Judaic melodies signed by Yasmin Levy; and a compilation, “Méditerranée”, to let you travel around countless genres.
BABELMED’S LATEST FAVOURITE:
OJOS DE BRUJO , Techari Live, Diquela Records
If you still haven’t heard Ojos de Brujo (Sorcerer’s eyes), this wonderfully cheerful music will bewitch you. This gipsy group from Barcelona, born in 1996, professes a “polyglot flamenco” of “nomadic and cross-cultural music” and mixes flamenco with lots of other rhythms: salsa, hip hop, rock… “There are fundamentalists in all genres” , explains Marina, the band’s lead singer and songwriter, in the magazine www.flamenco-world.com , “But to me flamenco is a completely mestizo music, whether flamenco artists like it or not. I mean, it has drawn from Arab, Jewish, Andalusian sources... and time goes by…” . “Techari” means “free” in Calò, Spain’s gipsy language, and this CD is the concert version of the album released in 2006, with an extra DVD of the concert. From the beginning to the end, the album fully reflects the band’s philosophy, which is to “celebrate the freedom and sensuality of music and the richness of contagious rhythms”. Ojos de Brujo is an independent grass-root band: and that’s one more reason to support them! Look for the concert dates in their site
YASMIN LEVY, Mano Suave, Adama/Harmonia Mundi
Yasmin Levy is the daughter of Isaac Levy, a musicologist who dedicated his life to collecting and preserving, in the houses and synagogues of and around the Mediterranean, the Hispano-Judaic musical heritage of the Jews that were expelled from in 1492, and preserved it in their oral tradition throughout these centuries. Author of one of the best anthologies on the subject – “Hispano-Judaic songs”, edited between 1959 and 1973 in 4 volumes - Isaac Levy died in 1975, on the same year of Yasmina’s birth. “My father preserved these songs and prevented them from disappearing. My mission – I feel it is a sacred mission – is to capture this music and give it to the world” , she says. The core of this tradition is of songs sung by women, that pace the moments of life – births, loves, weddings – which leads Sandra Bessis, another interpreter of this genre, to say that “this patrimony is a matrimony” . “Mano Suave” contains treasures drawn from tradition and is sung most frequently in ladino, a mix of Spanish and local languages – Hebrew, Turkish, Arabic according to the country… obviously there are love songs of pain and frustration (like in today’s Arabic songs or in the coplas, Andalusian short love poems), lullabies ("Nani, nani" – Sleep, sleep ), a deformation of the Arab word “nami”, nostalgic songs of Jerusalem (“Taste its fruits and drink its water” in “I rme Kero ”…) or religious psalms. Spanish, Oriental, Balkan rhythms or Jewish liturgies, express all the variety of influences of a heritage that is still alive today: Yasmine has written and composed several songs herself and sings them in Ladino, Spanish or Arabic, to let this heritage, rooted in centuries of history, keep on living… You’ll find the dates of her next concert on her site – in November, she’ll tour.
NORTH AFRICAN CAFE, Coll. "The Rough Guide to", World Music Network
If you want to find out more about North African Music, from Morocco to Egypt, including Turkey, Sudan and, especially, France - in the last years it has become one of the main centres of production of Arabic music! – this “Rough Guide” is perfect! The idea is to offer “popular” music, the kind you would hear in the cafes of these countries, that is music which is neither learned nor traditional. The appeal of this selection is that, unlike other “compilations”, it highlights bands and groups which aren’t necessarily acclaimed by the big media, but are excellent. We like Barrio Chino, a band from Marseille lead by brother and sister Gil and Sylvie Aniorte Paz, of Spanish-Algerian origin; Cheb Balowski who is not a Polish Raï singer emigrated to Oran, but a Barcelona world music band (balowski in Polish means “who likes to have fun”, the equivalent of “zahouani” in Algerian); Madioko and Rafika, a French band who professes an “oriental afro-funk” (their album is named “Rhythm‘n’Bled” for a start!) and, of course, the lovely songs – in Egyptian since it was in vogue in the 40’s and 50’s – of the Orientales, drawn from the eponymous music hall shows created in France some years ago, to homage the years in which this style bloomed in Algeria. Here are also some sites of the artists for you.
MEDITERRANEE, Iris Musique/Harmonia Mundi
Based on a similar idea, expanded onto the Mediterranean, Iris Musique proposes a musical walk around the Mediterranean. But here, on the contrary, the selection of various artists is meant to underline the extraordinary variety of musical traditions, with the flamenco songs of Carmen Amaya, the traditional songs in langue d’oc of the Provençal band La Compagnie vocale , a sentimental ballad by the great Neapolitan artist Roberto Murolo, a ‘oud composition by the young artist Marwan Abado, a Palestinian born in 1967 refugee in Lebanon, a Greek dance by Tsitanis, a song by Oum Kalthoum, another one by Shosha Damari, an Israeli artist of Yemenite origins, etc… Young artists and deceased stars, a large variety of countries, a geographical and historic tour around this Mediterranean which embraces such an incredible diversity!
ABED AZRIE, Mystic, Nocturne
To counter the excesses of Islamic fundamentalism which is splitting many countries apart, enlightened Muslims and Arabs are turning to Sufism, a spiritual form of Islam born in the Middle Ages, independent from the official orthodoxies and involving an autonomous quest and a direct link between man and God. Sufism has often been condemned by the powers in place, which profess a religious legitimacy and fight against all forms of “unofficial” Islam. The great poet Al Hallâj (858-922) was sentenced to death in Bagdad, as was Sohrawardi (1155-1191), by Saladin, and the verdicts were most often attributed to “heresy”…Abed Azrié, a Syrian composer and interpreter established in Paris since 1967, with about fifteen albums released, has put in music Sufi poems ranging from the IX° to the XIII° century. As in gospel or soul music, where religious passion and love can merge (like Aretha Franklin singing "Forever you will stay in my heart and I will love you"…), these poems carry a double meaning. Like in Sohrawardi’s verses sung by Azrié: “Ceaselessly a languor of love/Invades my soul/I become one with you and all is perfume and intoxication/My heart is on fire/And finds no peace/But in your delightful encounter”. In any case, to Sufis, all types of love stem from of a single and same source and are nothing but the sign of one love: the love for God. This also explains their great religious tolerance, as God manifests himself in all religions. To sing happiness and not fear, love and not obedience, to celebrate life and not appeal to death…: in other lands and other times, and up to some years ago in Algeria, artists – being the ones that incarnate the supreme rebellion which is individual freedom – have often been pursued , and sometimes still are, as well as marginalised and even murdered. This album includes a trilingual booklet in Arabic, French and English, which will delight the lovers of Arabic poetry at its peak.
FLAMENCO, Coll. "The Rough Guide", World Music Network
The excellent collection of "The Rough Guide to…" of the British label World Music proposes “Flamenco”, an album which includes some of the best artists of what we call “flamenco nuevo”. Camarón de la Isla (1950-1992) was one of the first innovators of this new style of flamenco: during the 70’s his album "La leyenda del tiempo" put forward another sound for flamenco, by adding modern innovations like for example an electric bass. Though criticised by purists, Camarón (the “Shrimp” in Spanish - he got this nickname in his childhood due to his blond hair) is considered one of the greatest flamenco singers of his time, who paved the way to a new generation of flamenco artists, who also draw their inspiration from other styles of music. Paco de Lucia, Diego el Cigala or Ojos de Brujo, are entirely part of this movement and often refuse – in the name of the essence of flamenco, a fusion music by definition – to be called “new”. In this “best of” album, you’ll have the pleasure to listen to artists who have done more than give new life to flamenco: they have taken flamenco to an international audience by touring the world, from Japan to Iceland. Martirio, Diego Carrasco, Miguel Poveda, Gerardo Nuñez, Tomatito, Estrella Morente, Son de la Frontera, Ojos de Brujo and others, distil a music where the emotion conveyed by their voices – Camarón used to cry when he sung – is only paralleled by the skill of the players. In flamenco a guitarist is not an accompanist but an accomplished musician (for 10 years, while pursuing his career, Paco de Lucia was Camarón’s guitarist): and the duo voice/guitar works like a veritable musical duo and not according to the standard voice/guitar duo of western music, whether classical or modern. Flamenco lovers, this album is for you! They even included a Sevillana at the end to make you dance!