Posts Tagged ‘World Music’



[Picture of Handmade Album cover art ]Handmade is the album I’ve been getting into lately. It’s by French-Moroccan singer, Hindi Zahra, and it’s really good.  Don’t fret; she sings in English most of the time. This album has sold very well in France, Belgium and Sweden, but it has not been marketed here in the UK for some reason.

I find that rather annoying; I really think she’d do well — and what a relief to have something else on the car radio for a change.

From the reviews I’ve read, she’s really good live.  She is a good song-writer and self-taught multi-instrumentalist. She lives in Paris, so she’s pretty cool all-round.

[Picture of Hindi Zahra]Last year it won the Prix Constantin for Best Album, and earlier this year it won the Victoires de la Musique award for the best World music album.

She sings in D major and its relative minor key, B minor as her default key.  Kiss & Thrills and Stand Up are in A minor, and Music (which reminds me of Blur’s Boys who like Girls who like Boys in terms of chord progression) is in G major.

Probably my favourite (apart from Music, is Set Me Free — which is a weird sort of Bluegrass thing. She could easily duet with Richard Hawley on Don’t Forget — or it could be covered by Norah or Corinne; it’s THAT laid-back!

The album works on levels — I have grown fond of the album as background to work or even dinner parties — but as soon as I put on headphones, I experienced all the little twists and nuances she’s put in.

It’s deeper than it at first seems — and she manages to blend Frenchness with Moroccanness, touches of reggae, funk, African, it’s hard to describe, but it is NOT hard to get into; at the end of the day it is pop. Only GOOD pop — not Eurovision and not the crap we’re told to buy here in the UK just now.


Why not check her out and maybe treat someone to the album for a Christmas gift this year? You can buy it Here.

[Embedded video from of Stand Up by Hindi Zahra]




When a chap I work with, Saa, found out that I had been listening to Ali Farka Toure, he got out his USB pen drive and gave me some Vieux Farka Toure and the Ba Cissoko’s album, Sabolan, which was recorded back in 2004.

I was immediately blown away by Mr. Cissoko — what a great album!  Actually I just spent 20 minutes or so writing up this piece, but somehow it vanished as soon as I hit the “publish” button”, so I will try to do it all again — quickly before heading off to bed.  Computers can be a real pest!

The album starts with Dandala which is upbeat, and “sunny”.  It reminded me of Ruth’s pal, Jerry’s band, Zuba — Ruth, Judy, Chris and I used to go along to see Zuba as much as we could at the likes of King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and The  Barrowlands.

The mood calms down for Maïmouna — which starts quite jazzy, with fretless bass.  It soon picks up a skippy beat, and exudes warmth and comforting kora playing — this is a bottled sunset!

Wawata continues, but is definitely after dark, as the groove settles.  Moving on to Kounkouré the night is coming on nicely, this track has superb bass playing, and there is more a tribalism vibe coming through.

Likhirin starts all weird and wistful, chill out that soon turns into a form of Jamaican Reggae! The musicianship, production values, skill and talent is always apparent, but on Yélé, it comes more to the fore — what kora gymnastics! I love that Ba starts singing in the style of George Benson, along with the instrument. Marvellous. Taouyah (which appears a bit later in the album) is also a kind of Reggae.

embedded video:

Mamaya is a funny thing; it’s kind of Celtic somehow — it reminds me of mod music, or even of trippy folk — possibly more Gentle Giant than Jethro Tull, hard to explain — I even thought of Fripp and King Crimson!  It certainly is a trance track, no bass, no drums, just plucking harp!

Then for a complete contrast, up next pops, the warm morning that is Saï — a gorgeous wee song with a swinging beat. One of my faves.

A serious chillin’ track is Manssani — ECM Jazz, this is dreamy and relaxing. Djeli and Hirdé both start in very similar ways with harp runs. Hirdé, though is slow and sad, chilling and wistful again, morose singing at its most morose! Djeli picks up a bit  and is almost Indian!

The title track, Sabolan, is like Hendrix on kora!  It’s a fuzz box and wah wah lead solo!  It’s fast paced and African, but the track is thoroughly modern.  It manages to blend and forge together weird influences into something new. So a Big Thank You to my mate Saa!




I am presently listening to Ali Farka Touré’s last album, “Savane“. It’s from 2006 and has 13 tracks of what Mr Farka Touré himself called his best work. I was intrigued by this album for two reasons, (1) Ali Farka Touré knew he was dying as he was making it, and (2) this album is raved about in “world music” circles.

It was also time to become acquainted with Ali Farka Touré after all these years. His name has floated about the periphery of my awareness for long enough! As a guitarist, I was interested in why he was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stone Magazines list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” — I knew he played with Ry Cooder (but then who hasn’t) and that his stuff had won Grammys– and I was aware that his stuff (from Mali) is supposed to be the real origins of what-we-know-as “Blues”.

Somehow, despite knowing all this, “Savane” is surprisingly both “African” and “Blues”, very guitary (but not showy-guitary if you know what I mean). There is a lot of guitar on the record, but it’s mainly rhythmic.

Blues-wise, it’s got the acoustic guitar, the rhythms, the repetitions (loops, riffs), the mumbling, even the mouth organ or harmonica!

It is not English, but it is still comprehensible.  The “Africanness” makes itself known from time to time — not because of the language, but in terms of music — particularly with choir and “twirlyness” of the guitar playing.

There is a sax, and electric guitar, such as on “Beto” — but the track is neither blues nor “what we come to expect of African music”.  I guess I take “African” music to be a bit happier or something.  This is the effect of the Paul Simon factor probably LOL!

To be honest, one would not really suspect that Ali Farka Touré was dying, or indeed that he himself was aware of his impending demise (he fought bone cancer for years) from merely listening to this album.  I am not sure this information adds much, and “Savane” doesn’t need anything to add anything as it stands perfectly well on its own. But then again, the blues is the blues — and what is more blues than facing death?

The title track has a great electric guitar intro that sounds almost Spanish-Moorish at times, and then a Reggae rhythm is set up against a very American Blues melody, then very Africanish singing with sort-of Kurdish sounding trills. It’s just weird — but only in the thinking or explanation, not in the listening; it is mad, it is eclectic, but it comes together very well.

The starts of “Penda Yoro” and “Ledi Coumbe” really do sound like Muddy waters tracks, but the “Machengoid” and “Banda” sound North Indian, and “Soya” sound very African!

Because it is sung in a foreign language, it tends to be considered like instrumental works, and either listened to or used as background.  I wonder if something so foreign can find a natural place in MY lifestyle, if you know what I mean.

For example, some pop music can be associated with holidays or other events, some more serious music can bring back amazing memories or create a mood — driving music, dance music, sing-a-long music, and so on.  At this stage, I cannot say what I might associate with this music other than to relate it to the early blues that I LOVED when I was a lad learning to play guitar and bass.

Time will tell, I guess.