Tamkrest - Ian Faquini and Paula Santoro- More

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Tamikrest - Kidal

Named after the town in Mali where Tamikrest first came together, Kidal is also a center of Tuareg culture and a place that not so long ago was under the control of Al Qaeda. So Tamikrest definitely have plenty to say, but unless you speak Tamashek you won't be able to discern exactly what's going on lyrically here. That being said, the vocals of lead singer Ousmane Ag Mossa are very expressive; the sadness in "Marwarniba Tartit" is palpable, and the fact that the lyrics won't be understood by most only adds to the mystery of this set of psychedelic grooves. "Atwitis" is a perfect example of how Tamikrest mix African and Western styles flawlessly; the song is essentially a blues tune complete with a slide guitar solo but with distinctly African highlights. "War Tila Eridaran" is Saharan rock 'n' roll at its best, sounding a lot like something that the Grateful Dead might have done circa the Blues for Allah album. Kidal is an excellent place to start for fans not yet familiar with Malian music and a real treat for those who already are.

Ian Faquini + Paula Santoro - Metal Na Madeira

Santoro is a vocalist and Faquini a guitarist and here the two Brazilians conjure a lazy seaside afternoon with "Dorival Pescador" but the exceptionally jazzy "Metal Na Madeira" moves at a pace just short of frenetic and is clearly designed for the dance floor. The accordion on "Maeda Lua" gives the song a Continental feel and Santoro's vocals, sung in Portuguese, are at their romantic best. Santoro's vocals are so striking throughout that it is easy to just let them carry you away, but there is serious magic happening with Faquini's acoustic guitar work too, which is what you'd expect from a graduate (and then teacher) of the California Jazz Conservatory.

Hanitra - Songs from Madagascar - Lasa

Malagasy singer Hanitra has been one of the prime proponents of music from Madagascar for four decades, and here she works in a jazzy pop vein, hypnotizing with the beat happy "Lalao," taking on a more serious tone for the women's empowerment song "Emancipation" and creating a sound that will please Kate Bush fans with "Avia." The CD's liner notes offer English interpretations of the Malagasy (and French) lyrics, so it is revealed that "Avia" is about chucking the day's responsibilities to go dancing, and a listen to Songs from Madagascar - Lasa just might make you want to take the day off too.

Vintage Italia

It's a flashback to the '50s and '60s for Vintage Italia, a various artists compilation featuring well-known songs of the era performed in some cases by the original artists and in other cases by contemporary artist covering the classics. Highlights include the swinging "Boccuccia di Rosa" by Fred Buscaglione, the playful "Piccolissima Serenata" by Jula de Palma and "Ninna Nanna" from American group Pink Martini. Instrumental cut "Cristina's World" by Emanuele Tozzi is another seriously-swinging dance number, and just in case you're feeling a little shy about hitting the floor, the CD liner notes considerately include something that may help with that: a recipe for the Italian cocktail Sgroppino.

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