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World Music News Wire

The open expanse of the Skirball Cultural Center’s courtyard looks peaceful nestled under the Santa Monica Mountains, but in summer, it bursts with the raucous and joyful noise of the best of the world’s musicians: Hungarian gypsies bang milk cans and Kenyan bards wield handmade fiddles, while nonagenarian Yiddish-singing piano bar veterans and soulful Cajuns, hip salsa activists, and trans-cultural divas rub shoulders with dancing neighbors of all generations, backgrounds, and lifestyles.

This fun-loving, open-hearted haven is the Skirball Cultural Center’s Sunset Concerts Series, one of Los Angeles’ rare opportunities to embrace local, community, and global possibilities in a welcoming outdoor setting designed for dancing, celebration, and engagement. In its fourteenth year, this free Thursday evening series (July 22–August 26) aims to connect people to one another by embracing a panoply of sound that spans the planet, with emphasis on L.A. and California debut performances.

“We’re always looking for the perfect outdoor concert,” says Sunset Concerts curator Yatrika Shah-Rais, the Skirball’s music director. “People like to be outdoors and move. So we offer something that people can get involved in and really dance to. It’s festive and boisterous.”

The vibrant community spirit of Sunset Concerts, which includes a lively dance floor and, for many, a family picnic, is habit-forming, with concertgoers marking their calendars months in advance and stopping Shah-Rais on the street and asking for the line-up. It is yet another harmonious facet of the Skirball’s welcoming, community-minded mission.

Read more about this event, its performers, and lineup here.
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World Music News Wire

Rocky Dawuni walks the talk. Fist held high and dreadlocks flowing, the Ghanaian reggae artist is a rebel among rebels, tackling serious social issues with uplifting ballads and reggae rockers. All while working to challenge everything from infectious diseases to clean water to poverty across the rural communities of his homeland.

On Hymns for the Rebel Soul, Dawuni’s infectious, groove-driven music refuses to play by the rules. He sings about the struggles against corruption, war, and despair, drawing on his own experiences while melding bluesy Motown horn lines with Afro-beat grooves and Arabic percussion. Add highlife afro-pop guitar mingled with polyrhythms and Scandinavian melodies and Dawuni re-imagines a fearlessly global, one-love reggae with contemporary African ingenuity.

Let’s rewind a few decades to where Dawuni’s instinct to innovate emerged in the middle of an army camp under a military government. Under a dimly lit African sky, Bob Marley’s iconic “Uprising” album blares from P.A. speakers at an outdoor bar crowded with soldiers; a little boy takes note of the politically charged lyrics and a rebel is born.

As music entwined with his passion for speaking truth to questionable power, he “went pro,” he says, as a young psychology student at the University of Ghana. “My first band was an accident,” he laughs. “In my first year, I met these four guys who were students there and musicians. Everyone was saying, ‘Why are we in the University if we want to be musicians? Why don’t we form a band?’” And the seeds were planted.

In the late 1990s he took the plunge, and soon Dawuni found himself traveling the world – ultimately releasing multiple CDs and working with musicians like Bono and Stevie Wonder, as well as providing music for U.S. television shows including Weeds, ER and Dexter.

Continue reading the rest of this article here.

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

Just about every year, I head into New Jersey for Michael Arnone’s Crawfish Festival. It’s a festival that boasts delicious southern home cooking and music – mostly blues, zydeco, and funk. This year, the acts were good, but I’d have to say that one stood out more than the rest. It is here that I introduce you to Joanne Shaw Taylor, a blues guitarist from the UK.

Listening to her music, you’d think that she grew up down south or at least had a direct blood line to Stevie Ray Vaughan AND Jimi Hendrix. This girl can play. Flipping her hair around the stage, she drew me in with a cover of Manic Depression by Hendrix. Her solo was just about as good as Jimi’s easily.

She went into some of her own music and the audience she had gathered under the tent grew exceedingly by the time she was done with her set. But enough of me yabbering on about how good she was. See for yourself:

Taylor is currently undergoing an extensive international tour with performances in New York, Pennsylvania, Finland, and Sweden. It’s a lot of traveling, but the exposure will certainly help her sell her talent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this girl go mainstream within a year.

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World Music News Wire

From atop a smoldering, Afro-rock soapbox, rooted in the traditions of his homeland, an African immigrant and activist belts out this rallying cry, warning against state corruption and capitalistic greed. “People are trapped between governments and corporations,” says the Togolese-born Massama Dogo – singer, guitarist, composer, and founder of the band Elikeh. “Africans,” in particular, he continues, “are being used and abused” by these institutions.

Exploiting a musical pulpit adorned with gritty guitar-heavy grooves, Dogo’s poignant diatribes achieve full resonance on Adje! Adje!, the new release from his D.C.-based ensemble.

Dogo and his group seek to put the tiny sliver nation of Togo on the musical map. Even within Togo itself, this nation’s music has been marginalized by its own state-sponsored media. Remarking on his childhood growing up in this West African country, Dogo recalls, “the radio never promoted anything from Togo. They only played music from other countries.” Although it is improving, even today, Elikeh faces a tough Togolese media that are primarily oriented towards Ghanaian hip-life, Congolese Soukous, and Ivorian Zouglou music.

Read more about Dogo’s past as an upcoming musician here.

Illustrating the distinct sonic beauty of this creolized African dialect, Dogo relates the hardships of his adjustment to American life on the song “Madjo.” Creating an entrancing mixture of linguistic buoyancy, over the intimate rhythmic strumming of a loan crystalline acoustic guitar, Dogo trades versus with guest Malian rap artist Yeli Fezzo, who sings in Parisian French.

On Adje! Adje!, Dogo is able to realize his artistic vision, creating original music that fuses indigenous Togolese traditional elements with contemporary sensibilities. “Novi Nye” (My Brother), begins with the interlocking bell and drum pattern of a music known as Kamou. This driving triplet-based rhythm continues as a muted guitar plays off this polyrhythmic motif, accompanying a sanguine flute characteristic of the Kamou, which floats throughout the song, giving the track a refreshing lightness. As a trio of guitars produces a stir of timbres and textures, each subtly using different electronic effects, the celebratory vocals call for unity among the various ethnic and political groups within Togo. “I wrote this song just before the recent presidential elections in Togo,” says Dogo. “I was thinking that although my country is divided along political lines, with the ruling faction living in the north and the opposition in the south, we are all brothers and sisters.”

Departing form the trends, Elikeh carves out their own musical space. “Everybody is going for straight up Fela Kuti Afro-beat style right now,” Dogo claims. “We have some of that influence; we have some highlife in there, but the way we incorporate rock is not there in other bands. As a joke we call it Afro-high; but we cannot call it that because everyone would think we are high all the time.” Reminiscent of the raw and rough Afro-rock sound coming out of West Africa in the 1970s, the songs “Oleblemi,” and “Get Ready” feature hard-hitting funk-rock grooves with mildly distorted guitar solos from veteran John Lee, who has played with a number of noted African musicians, including Baye Kouyate.

The band’s sound is also distinguished by the trifecta of gravely guitars that weave throughout the album, creating dense multi-layered polyrhythmic patterns. These textures shimmer on “Let’s March,” a slow-burning re-invention of a composition by Nigerian songwriter Orlando Julius Ekemode. “The original uses keyboards,” Dogo explains, “but I think that a lot of African bands overuse keyboards.” Providing a direct connection to the roots of this song, the rhythmical guitar of Frank Martins—who also appeared on Ekemode’s original recording of this song—reverberates on this African anthem. Martins is also featured on “Aiko,” which uses a slowed-down version of a style from the Southern part of Togo called tumewe, combined with the call and response of the agbekor style.

Building on the precedent of musical political activism set by artists such as Nigeria’s Fela Kuti and Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo, a majority of the ensemble’s songs have profound political themes. Opening the record with a haunting a capella chant, the album’s namesake, “Adje! Adje!” offers a warning. “We are saying: watch out! Here they come again – the multinationals and the corrupt governments,” says Dogo. “But this time we won’t let them take over our place!” This poignantpolitical message is punctuated with tight horn stabs, interlacing guitar lines, and dense polyrhythmical drumming provided by Tosin Aribisala, who is no stranger to socially conscious music. Arisbisala has toured with Femi Kuti, in addition to recording a tribute to Fela Kuti (Red Hot & Riot), which included such notables as Macy Gray, Erykah Badu, Sade, Baaba Maal, and Taj Mahal.

With their distinct brand of Togolese-infused “Afro-high,” which merges a re-invention of the rugged Afro-rock of the 1970s with Afro-beat, highlife, and roots music of West Africa, Elikeh prove that the marginalized music of a tiny overshadowed nation can inspire engaging new sonic landscapes, and stand shoulder to shoulder with its more notorious neighbors.

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

When I think about Willie Nelson, two things pop into my mind right away: marijuana, of course, and those two long gray braids of hair that he has always sported. Well, now he’s gone and done it — he got a haircut.

According to the Yahoo! Music Blog, Nelson decided it was time to lost his trademark hair because of the constant maintenance and upkeep it was requiring. Yes, it can be difficult, Willie. Also, I might add that summer time often induces hair cuts. When you’re in 90 degree heat, you don’t want to deal with all that hair sticking to the back of your neck.

So, that being said, I dedicate this post to the memory of those long gray locks. I guess the day finally came when the ultimate hippie had to cut his hair.

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

We all know that the recent flooding in Nashville, Tennessee has been devastating to its residents. People have been underwater for days, scrounging to collect any belongings they can save. But how did high-priced items, like world-famous rock instruments, weather the storm?

Not too well, according to the Los Angeles Times. An instrument storage facility, called Soundcheck Nashville, was home to the musical equipment of nearly 1,000 performers. Some of those include country stars Keith Urban and Vince Gill, along with other classic rock gurus like Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townshend. Brad Paisley apparently lost all his equipment for his upcoming tour.

The storage facility sat underwater for nearly six days before anyone could try to recover the instruments.

The owner of the facility, Ben Jumper, claimed that all musicians were responsible for having their own insurance for each instrument kept there. However, his own flood insurance on the building was minimal. Many of these classic instruments have since crumbled and are in no way recoverable.

This is sad news for rock and roll history. When we lose some of our great musical artifacts, like a guitar once played by Johnny Cash, it’s hard not to think that a little piece of the music dies along with it.

However, all the musicians housing instruments at Soundcheck Nashville are being supportive of each other. Not only are they reaching out to help, but they are also lending out some of the instruments they have that were not housed in the facility. The American Federation of Musicians Union has since set up a donation fund to help out those musicians who can’t afford to replace their equipment.

It’s good to know that when something like this happens, there are so many people who want to help.

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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

As the baby boomers grow older, it’s amazing to me how many of those that are performers are still touring the country. It may be true what they say — 50 is the new 30. But some of these old-time rock and rollers in particular have really managed to maintain good spirits in their careers, bodies, and minds. Maybe it’s all the medicinal herb, but damn, Willie Nelson sure knows how to keep things kicking.

Having recently turned seventy-seven years old, the folk singer is on a roll and doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon. On April 20, his latest album, called Country Music, was released for purchase in the United States. The collection of fifteen songs includes new original songs as well as well-loved traditional folk/bluegrass music. But this is not enough for our dear Willie.

On top of his new album, he is about to embark on a six month tour all over the globe. It will kick off in New York on May 6 and finish up in Wisconsin on October 12. Some of the most intriguing tour stops include Germany, Austria, Netherlands, UK, Switzerland, and Belgium. I suppose you have to squeeze in the international concerts somewhere! For a complete listing of the 75 concerts Willie’s got in store, visit his tour dates page.

As for a Farm Aid concert, there is little information known about the event for 2010. Willie Nelson has been an advocate for Farm Aid since he, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young organized its first concert back in 1985. The organization promotes family farming, healthy foods, and keeping the spirit of the American farm alive.

For more information on Willie Nelson, please view his website.

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