Sound Travels: Top 5 in World Music for 2008



#5 Emmanuel Jal “Shadow Of Death” Emmanuel Jal, is a Sudanese musician and former child soldier who sees hip hop as a vehicle to communicate an authentic message, rather than a space to pursue street credibility. His release in May of this year, WARchild, is raw proof of this fact. Jal, whose own childhood was robbed from him, aims to protect the childhood of others through music.

“Music is powerful. It is the only thing that can speak into your mind, your heart and your soul without your permission.”

According to Jal, in times of war, starvation, hunger and injustice, the only way to survive the daily tragedy in Sudan is to allow the inner-soul to be uplifted through music, which is like soul food to heal pain. Through his heartfelt lyrics, he opens the world up to the corruption and greed of the Sudanese government; central to the themes of his songs is the campaign for peace of opposing sides in Sudan and the clear message that children have no place in wars. And it’s just good music that takes the message to a point where it can be delivered– this is world music! 

318024#4 Paavoharju “Kevatrumpu” …Paavoharju, that is; which begs the question of what exactly that could be. Paavoharju is a Finnish psych-folk musical collective of born-again, ascetic Christians formed around two brothers, Lauri and Olli Ainala. Their music is awesome and their latest release, Laulu Laakson Kukista, which I slept on for the better part of a year, is a revelation. It is like little I have ever heard, perhaps Vashti Bunyan, El Guincho, The Fleet Foxes or even Dead Can Dance, though it’s clearly merely similarity because their sound is intense and personal. An album of sweeping beauty and singular psychedelic majesty; at once natural and digital, melodic and dissonant, cooly sparse and warmly claustrophobic– a paradisic sonic experience on a whole ‘nother order that came from Finland of all place. It may be as cold there as it is here, but they certainly keep it cool with music like this–deep stuff.

70455#3 Bronx River Parkway “Agua Con Sal” …The Bronx River Parkway is a 19.12-mile (30.77 km) long parkway in downstate New York. It is named for the nearby Bronx River, which it parallels and is the oldest parkway in America. Or so says Wikipedia, but it also is an excellent band that debuted this year with a stunning new album of fresh Latin music in the classic vein of the 1970’s era masters like Ray Baretto or Hector Lavoe or Fania records for that matter. That’s what you get when you get when you mix a gang of Truth & Soul All-Stars (like El Michels Affair’s Leon Michels, Quincy Bright, Jeff Silverman)with a group of Candela All-Stars and put them to work in San Juan Puerto Rico, for eight Days? The result is on this album– muy rico!

20070609t170000-0500_124144_obs_alborosie_marks_journey_from_sicily_to_kingston_town_1#2 Alborosie “Police” …The best reggae song of ’08 came from a most surprising source, Italy. Illustrating the further and global reach reggae has, and continues to have. Alborosie is actually from the island of Sicily, but his success is due in no uncertain way to the Jamaicanness; the walk, the language and the attitude– which he has adopted since moving to the JA eleven years ago. Now that’s love! In forsaking (and expatriating) his homeland he’s shown a deep and consuming love for Jamaica and the music that it inspires, and it shows. On listen and you may have been certain he was a yardie, but cat is white like pizza dough though it’s through his music that he continues to rise. A number of great singles under is belt, this one is my favorite– indeed, great reggae music.

#1 Dub Colossus “Azmari Dub” …And my number one for 2008…is this awesome album out of Ethiopia. Dub Colossus, as its name implies, is reggae music. Now, this project is the vision of Dub Colossus – Dubulah – aka Nick Page. Composer, guitarist, bass player and programmer Nick started his music career with Michael Riley (Steel Pulse) and has since worked oueytkvx1m77zwwith a long list of notable artists and eccentrics. The “eccentrics” he’s got for this album came from by meeting, writing and working with Ethiopian singers and musicians in Addis Ababa in August 2006. The collaboration between Dub Colossus and these amazing musicians covers Azmari and traditional styles as well as the popular singing styles of the 60s and 70s Ethiopia. And the artists he’s worked with on the album are a veritable who’s who of Ethiopian music and includes: Singer Sintayehu ‘Mimi’ Zenebe is known as “the Edith Piaf” of Ethiopian song, Tsedenia Gebremarkos, is a well-known and respected performer and radio 231presenter, and winner of a Kora award as the best female singer in East Africa in 2004, master saxophonist, Feleke Hailu, also a classical composer, lecturer and Head of Music at the Yared Music School who is part of a dynastic tradition that stretches back far beyond the classics.

If you’re a fan of the legendary Ethiopiques series, you’ll like this one and likely be as intrigued and entranced by the natural-sounding  fusion of Ethiopian music with dub reggae– my favorite world music album from 2008.

And that’s it for the best in world music for ’08, at least that’s my story, hit me back with yours. And tune in at 7pm this Saturday night when I’ll go at this list again.


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