LIFE II: Music from all over our Planet. 1/ Tamara (Sophie CAVEZ & Baltazar MONTANARO, Le 3ème temps) 2/ Sol da Manha (MANdolinMAN, cd Bossa Nova) 3/ Gypsy In Bagdad (OSAMA ABDULRASOL QUINTET, cd Jidid) 4/ Vlindernet (DEREK & Rony VERBIEST, cd Tingeling) 5/ An Eala Bhàn (The White Swan) (Julie FOWLIS bij Éamon DOORLEY / Muireann Nic AMHLAOIBH / Julie FOWLIS / Ross MARTIN, cd Dual) 6/ Sta Notte ci so’ statu (Lucilla GALEAZZI, cd Encore Bella Ciao) 7/ Babylon (REFUGEES FOR REFUGEES, cd Amerli; various artists) 8/ Meditaçao (MANdolinMAN; comp. Antonio Carlos JOBIM) 9/ Neratzoula fountomeni (Kristi STASSINOPOULOU & Stathis KALYVIOTIS, cd Greekadelia) 10/ La Cantiga del Fuego – El Viaje (Ana ALCAIDE, cd La Cantiga del Fuego) 11/ Fey oh di nou (Oh Leaves tell us) (THE CREOLE CHOIR OF CUBA, cd Santiman) 12/ Titi Neti (Sophie CAVEZ & Baltazar MONTANARO) 13/ Tale Of Jin (Gabriela ARNON, cd Pyramid Lake) 14/ Chomolungma (REFUGEES FOR REFUGEES) 15/ El Burlain (2 Towers Dance) (OSAMA ABDULRASOL QUINTET) 16/ Kaks Kirikut (Sophie CAVEZ & Baltazar MONTANARO) 17/ Caramel (MANdolinMAN; comp. Suzanne VEGA) 18/ A’ Virrineda (Lucilla GALEAZZI) 19/ Tsiggana mou (Katerina TSIRIDOU (also sings and plays bouzouki here: Dimitris KRANIDHAS), cd Opou ki’an ise, jyrise…) 20/ All Sentient Beings (REFUGEES FOR REFUGEES) 21/ The Last Toast (Iris DeMENT, The Trackless Woods; poetry: Anna AKHMATOVA) (AL; 23 09 16) ‘LIFE (I)’ had been compiled specifically for Greek singer Savina Yannàtou and the members of her delightful band Primavera en Salonico, just to thank them for their marvellous concert at the Handelsbeurs in Gent, Tuesday March 24th. The day after they were to perform at De Roma in Borgerhout (Antwerp) and as we were going to see them again, we had the idea to make them a brand new ‘world music’ CD with music from Mozambique, Sweden/Spain/the Sefardic Jews, USA (3), Colombia (2), Belgium (2), Portugal (4), Zimbabwe/Austria, Ireland/Galicia, Cuba, Corsica, Ireland, France/Argentina, South Africa/USA. It seemed a crazy enterprise. Though this was a quickie, it was soon proved to be a viable and instructive whole, and without changes (and also without proper comments) we let other people enjoy the anthology. Reactions from listeners were positive, despite the extreme variation in this offering. The recent concerts of Duo Montanaro/Cavez and the Osama Abdulrasol Quintet @ Arscene, the venue in Hansbeke-Nevele, near G(h)ent. It’s small and cosy but the concert room is actually a recording studio, with excellent ‘dry’ acoustics and state of the art technology, plus an audience that listens carefully, a place all artists are full of praise for. Both bands presented their most recent record at Arscene in a brilliant manner (our reviews in Dutch can be read or consulted at www.folkroddels.be and www.rootstime.be), convinced me to start compiling a second volume, as we were afraid these artists would not get the coverage they deserve: our national media tend to focus ever more on the popular acts, (a case of deplorable tunnel vision) which leaves a lot of deserving people standing in the cold. Such great music they make! To make ‘LIFE II’ a full CD we looked into other recent CD’s, but we mostly dug into older material that was lying around. Again, a lot of nationalities added to the cosmopolite character of this collection. Close to home we opted for the Flemish string quartet MANdolinMAN, whose second CD was dedicated to Brazilian bossa nova (the third CD is being released as we speak… write, I mean) Flemish singer-songwriter Derek (who writes songs in English, French and Dutch/Flemish) made an exquisite record with famed accordion player Rony Verbiest. We chose a delicate tune full of poetry: ‘Vlindernet’ means ‘butterfly net’. Also ‘made in Belgium’ is ‘Amerli’, a project sponsored by Muziekpublique, a cultural organisation, based in Brussels, promoting roots, etnic and traditional music from all over the world, with no or limited commercial intent. They had the great idea to go and look for musicians among the many refugees from countries in war (Iraq, Syria, Aghanistan…), people that came to western Europe to seek refuge and asylum. They discovered a lot of talent and brought them together to make a record as a form of moral support for their fellow refugees, hence the band name Refugees For Refugees. Muziekpublique asked a few local ‘world music’ artists to assist these people. They were given the opportunity to play music from their personal heritage but they were also invited to confront this with other cultures. ‘Amerli’ proved to be a gold mine for music lovers… Just two tracks here (you can check out the names and origins of all artists in the lavish liner notes), but the CD is fascinating from beginning to end. These talented musicians come from the aforementioned countries and from Pakistan and Tibet. We hope and understand that this isn’t a one off, which makes us happy, because this is screaming for a follow up, in the studio and on stage. As in ‘LIFE’ we selected a few Greek artists, the finest we know in the more traditional styles: Katerina Tsirίdou is the leading lady of the outstanding rebètiko group Kompanίa, but also has an intriguing solo output. Kristi Stassinopoúlou & Stathis Kalyviótis start from tradition but give it a modern injection, as one can hear in ‘Neratzoula Fountomèni’ (or ‘Neranzoula’ as it is spelled on ‘Odes’, the iconic album by Irini Papá (Irene Papas) & Vangèlis, meaning ‘Little Orange Tree’) Lucilla Galeazzi continues the Italian folk music tradition that her mentor Giovanna Marini revived from the sixties on. We added two tracks from her ‘encores’ album, built around the all time classic ‘Bella Ciao’, arguably the best known Italian folk song. Ana Alcaide has developed a keen interest in the music of her country, which she interpretes with an instrument you wouldn’t expect, the nyckelharpa, traditional Swedish bowed string instrument (unlike the violin it works with keys to press down the strings) She uses the nyckelharpa with great effect, also in the Sefardic music that was popular amongst the Jews of Spain until they were expelled from Spain in 1492 and spread all over the Mediterranean, with new musical cross-cultural identities coming about in Morocco and Istanbul. This way, Ana joins the ranks of a.o. Savina Yannàtou and Françoise Atlan. The Creole Choir Of Cuba concentrates on wholly different forms of Cuban music than we are used to hear. A little voodoo from time to time never hurt anyone. Particularly interesting is the additon of ‘An Eala Bhàn (The White Swan)’, one of the most popular Scottish song of the 20th Century. It was written in Gaelic by a soldier (Dómhnal Ruadh Chorùna) for his sweetheart Magaidh (Maggie) in the front line, during (yes, DURING!) the carnage of the Somme offensive in 1916, as so many failures in WWI illustration of the criminal futility and utter madness of war. We heard it being performed earlier this year during the commemoration of the offensive at the Thiepval Memorial near Thiepval in département Somme. The couldn’t have asked a better singer than Julie Fowlis, specialised in these kind of ballads. I cried, listening to her rendition, no doubt also struck by the many testimonies that were read in front of the high visitors, the likes of Prince Charles, François Hollande and David Cameron. I simply had to include ‘The White Swan’ here… Iris DeMent from Arkansas is an alt.country artist, not so well known, but in high esteem with the connoisseurs. Her early work is top class, to be compared with Nanci Griffith, Lucinda Williams and even more so, Gillian Welch, but she hasn’t had a great output these last years. She seems the odd one out in this company, but her most recent project ‘The Trackless Woods’ shows that she is in the right place on ‘LIFE II’: her CD from 2015 puts the works to music of Anna Akhmatova, artist name of Anna Andre(y)evna Gorenko (1889-1966), modernist poet born near Odessa but living near St. Petersburg from a very early age on. She wasn’t a friend of Stalin’s, to say the least… She was constantly sabotaged, her work was condemned and censored, but she outlived Stalin and so did part of her work. She is one of the most important Russian poets ever. The meeting of a US country and folk musician with this wonderful writing (which has been put to music in Russia too) is a statement: music and literature know no boundaries, borders or walls. Gabriela Arnon is a true ‘American in Paris’. The lady from Manhattan studied classical music and jazz but lost her heart in the City of Light in 1989, never to leave it for longer than a travel. She sings and writes song, and she often participates in the projects of Belgian singer-songwriter, guitar player (in fact he plays lots of stringed instruments in a masterly fashion), producer and bandleader HT Roberts. HT produced her latest cd ‘Pyramid Lake’. The CD gets its title from the reservation where she spent a few weeks. It proved to be a life changing experience. ‘Tale Of Jin’ from that CD is quite ‘international’. Gabriela talks about her long meeting with the Indian Jin in the arid desert of Pyramid Lake. Many nationalities contribute in the song, most notably Luiz Márquez, Mexican, accomplished saxophone player, who also plays a vast array of other instruments: etnic flutes, harmonica’s of all sizes, ocarina’s, all kinds of percussion and music producing items, including sea shells, tortise shells, etcetera. Luiz is from Mexican-Indian descent, but he lives in Belgium with his lovely wife for about forty years now, a wonderful musician, this only being topped by his inspiring humanity. His grown up kid Renato Márquez is a top viola player, at present himself on an interesting innovative journey.
There’s a lot to tell about the individual tracks on this selection, but we think it’s up to the listener to go and look for more information. I can tell you: it will be worth your while! Anyway, ‘LIFE II’ gives us the taste to continue bringing together songs along these lines, in this kind of culture clash. Watch out! (AL; these comments 10 10 16)