World Music Day 2021 Edition
World Music Day is celebrated on June 21 this year and that date coincides with a world that's reopening to international travel. Here to whet your appetite for travel are tastes of a few of the best of recent global music releases.
Afrika Mamas - Ilanga (The Sun)
This six (sometimes seven) woman group from Durban, South Africa are in fact mamas, and single mamas at that, with 11 children between them. And you can bet they are teaching their children all the cultural and spiritual things they sing about, as "edutainment" is their forte. The CD comes with a booklet that explains what each song is about, a good thing if you don't understand Zulu. But the ladies work acapella and it is so easy to get enthralled with the blending of their beautiful voices that it is not necessary to understand the words. The lyrics do address universal themes though; "Wangishiyelani" is a woman's plea for her boyfriend to return and work on repairing a broken relationship, "Isilingo" is about a man who is a cad, "Hlonipha" is about respecting the world and all of its people and a reworked version of John Lennon's "Imagine," sung in English and Zulu, is self-explanatory. One of the most fervently delivered songs is "Tshelamina;" the ladies' voices are heavenly on the song even though it is about a serial killer! Several band members act as producers of this stunning album along with Thulani Shabalala of fellow South African band Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Gharana Fusion- Tides of Time
Gharana Fusion is a four-piece band led by self-taught guitarist Susnata Har, working with a fusion of Indian and Western styles including ragas and using instruments such as sitar, bansuri, tabla, cajon and darbuka. Some cuts are instrumental, like "Armani," a guitar-driven soundscape suited for daydreaming, quite appropriate since the song title translates to mean "desires." Instantly recognizable as Indian is "Bagmati," another instrumental that incorporates a modern Western melody and a mid-song, poppin' bass solo from Ekaterina Aristova. "Dariya" featuring Khamak and Dubki, both rare instruments, is a bit trippy at the beginning but settles into a melodic groove for its vocal portion. "Flights of Fantasy" is a jazzy cut where the band lives up to the "fusion" in their name, "Ray of Hope" slowly builds in intensity around Har's guitar, and the title cut, a song for Mother Earth, reflects with its delicate instrumentation the fragility of the planet. Fittingly, the cut features equally delicate female vocals.
Putumayo World Cafe - Various Artists
From Putumayo, one of the world's most renowned purveyors of global music, comes this various artists compilation with 10 cuts curated especially for lovers of the ambiance of a cozy cafe where good food and drink and socializing are on the menu. Wally Warning of Aruba begins the offering with the gentle guitar and vocals cut "E Ta Gia Mi," a song as mellow as a good cup of tea. Of course mellow is the order of the (relaxed) day here, exemplified by the love song "Mund Amor" by Miroca Paris from Cabo Verde, "Profumo di Caffe" by Italy's Alessandro D'Orazi (it's about the aroma of coffee!) and "Miks Sa Murrad Mind," a delicate folk song from Estonia's Curly Strings. Famed Israeli artist Idan Raichel contributes the soothing "Achshav Nish'arnu Shney'nu" and the Haitian/French act Carlton Rara offers a toe-tapping rhythm on "Choukoun." Since this collection is cafe-oriented, the CD booklet offers the bonus of recipes for taste treats like the French sandwich croque monsieur and a refreshing drink from Mali called African ginger juice.
Dobet Gnahore - Couleur
Translating to mean "color," Couleur
is the sixth album from African superstar (she won a GRAMMY in 2010) Dobet Gnahore, a native of the Ivory Coast. The album was recorded in her homeland during the pandemic, utilizing local musicians and sung in French, various West African dialects and occasionally in English, like on the chilled-out "Woman," a cut that encourages young women, especially African young women, to take charge of their future. "Vis Ta Vie" is joyous Afropop, "Jalouse" is an introspective song about jealousy sung in French, and "Wazii" moves to a bounce that belies the fact that the song is about being ghosted by a lover (the CD liner notes translate each song's lyrics.) Fans of Joan Armatrading will notice obvious similarities between the two artists and would likely be happy with this fine offering from Gnahore.