Monday, February 22, 2010

World music (and ice dancing) at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics

My head is still spinning from the impressive skating last night at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in the category of Original Ice Dancing, and to my delight (being not remotely acquainted with the defining parameters of Olympic genres), the four top winners performed to four distinct categories of world music: The winners for the evening (and cumulatively for the two competitions thus far) were: in first place, Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in a stunning adaptation of Flamenco dance; in second place, the U.S. duo of Meryl Davis and Charlie White, demonstrating their exceptional skills in a lively adaptation of Indian dancing, and in particular, Bollywood style; in third place, Russia's Oxana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin presented a toned-down version (following earlier controversy) of their presentation, which included (presumably Australian) aboriginal elements both in costume and music; and in fourth place, Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, also from the U.S., presented a Moldavian folk dance. (Click here for the New York Time's summary of the evening's happenings.)

I'll be holding forth in more detail on world music--and dance--in the Ice Dancing competitions, later in the week, after I've had a chance to watch the entire event on NBC's Web archive. But there are also concerts highlighting world music in the Cultural Olympics, and VOA's David Byrd (who in addition to being one of VOA's sports reporters is himself an accomplished musician) has interviewed three world music performers who participated in the Vancouver events.

In his first report, David interviewed Daniel Bernard Roumain, a Haitian-American (one of dozens of hyphenated American communities--the category now being proudly used by members of same, sometimes with a smile, particularly in academic and journalistic circles) violinist with classical training who, in addition to earning a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Michigan, has been influenced by a wide range of musical styles (as David notes, "growing up in south Florida, [he] was exposed to a variety of musical styles - reggae, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music, Latin, as well as classical"), and now "Roumain - also known as DBR - blends classical violin, funk, rhythm and blues, and hip hop into a musical stew for everyone to enjoy." Click here to hear the captivating report itself.

Photo by David Byrd: Roumain rehearsing with Maestro Bramwell Tovey and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on February 14, 2010.

In his second radio piece, David interviewed Rahim Al Haj, originally from Iraq and now living in New Mexico, a performer on the Arabic oud, and Amir Koushkani, originally from Iran, and now living in Vancouver, performing on the Persian tar. As David observes, "Both Amir Koushkani and Rahim Al Haj say that the Olympic Games offer a unique forum. Both men want fans to experience the uniqueness of their musical traditions and the music's ability transcend ethnic, political, and national boundaries to communicate with the world"--which is indeed the role of music, as I noted last year in my May Day World Music Manifesto on these pages. Click here to listen to David's audio report itself.

Photo by David Byrd: Al-Haj and Koushkani of Iran join to play together as part of the Cultural Olympiad music program.

For more information on Daniel Bernard Roumain, go to his Website, where you can hear samples of his music, and watch videos on his official YouTube page.

You can hear excerpts from Rahim al-Haj's six CDs on his cdbaby page (look for a forthcoming report on this unique music marketing company), and see him in various YouTube videos. It is also worth noting that he was nominated, for his duet with the Indian sarod master Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, for a 2010 Grammy (see my December posting on this) in the Traditional World Music category.

For more information on Amir Koushkani, go to his Website, and click here to listen to excerpts from his CD, "Quest".

More to come on further examples of world music at the 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympics. . . .

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Songline's main advertisers: A broad glimpse of world music in Britain

In the previous posting I offered an introduction to Songlines, the impressive London-based magazine of world music. And as there mentioned, I'll be posting next week audio clips from an interview with editor-in-chief Simon Broughton.

The ads themselves in the current issue (#66) of Songlines provide a gateway to a broad range of recordings and events in the field of world music, particularly in Britain. Here, by way of resource exploration, is a description of each of the full-page advertisements in this issue:

Real World Records (see their Website), founded in 1989 by superstar Peter Gabriel, is one of the world's leading labels for this musical niche--if indeed the music of the entire planet can be considered a niche. . . .

Proper Music Distribution (see their Website), perhaps Britain's leading independent CD distributor, including a wide range of smaller traditional and world music labels.

The Sage Gateshead (see their Website), a visually striking glass and stainless steel performance venue in Britain's northeast with three auditoriums, and the center of a range of musical performances, conferences, and educational activities, similar in its mission to La Cité de La Musique in Paris (see also the Website). I'll be posting later on my recent visit to this impressive institution, with an audio interview with Philippe Bruguière, the curator of the spectacular display of musical instruments in the Cité's Musée de la Musique.)

The release on DVD of "Terra Em Concerto" by Mariza, the hugely popular Portuguese singer in the Fado tradition (see the extended official trailer on YouTube.)

The latest bestselling CDs from

New releases from Navras Records, the London-based juggernaut (the word itself is of Indian origin--used here only in the positive sense) of CD recordings of traditional Indian Music (on which I'll be doing a posting later in the year.)

World music CDs from Warner Classics and Jazz.

Events sponsored by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

World music performances at London's Momo Kemia Bar: "Be enchanted by the most beautiful live acts from all over the world! 8 PM - Free admission!!!"

New world music releases from, Britain's second largest online retailer of a wide range of products.

And on the back cover, an ad for the final collaboration between the Malian musical giants Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté, on Britain's World Circuit Records, following their Grammy Award-winning "In the Heart of the Moon." (See also the label's Website.)

Songlines: The ultimate world music magazine

Songlines is without question the world's leading magazine devoted to the field of world music. (See my post last year on the hard-copy demise of Global Rhythm, which I am happy to see is still available online--see note below this entry.) In my recent visit to London, I interviewed Simon Broughton, the editor (and also an editor of The Rough Guide to World Music), and audio excerpts from that interview will be included in a separate entry at some point in the future.

In the meantime, here's an introduction to this extraordinary publication:

An exceptionally colorful large-format glossy magazine, Songlines is published in eight issues a year, and has a circulation of some 20,000. It has just released its 66th issue (photo at left, used with permission), with 96 pages devoted to news items, obituaries, features, columns, performance listings, competitions, reviews, and two CDs, as well as advertising content rich in details not only of CD releases but of a range of performance venues in Great Britain.

The CDs accompanying the 66th issue include, as with every issue, one Songlines-released CD of March's ten "Top of the World Albums" plus five bonus tracks from columnist Gilles Peterson's playlist, as well as a second CD, "World Music from Hungary 2010," sponsored by a consortium of Hungarian music exporters.

Songlines subscriptions are available in both hard-copy and digital format. Their Website includes a virtual sample of their March 2008 collector's item issue #50, which is well worth exploring, both for its content-- including a listing of "50 Great Moments in World Music"(pp. 44-56) and "50 Best Top of the World Albums" (pp. 30-31)--and captivating digital format, with user-friendly page-turning and zoom options, which in their effectiveness helped me to take the first step in beginning to acknowledge the advantages for a periodical of a digital print platform. The aforesaid issue has five tabs: Up Front, Features, Regulars, Reviews, and On the Road.

Aside from the print or digital issues, the Songlines Website includes a range of options to access: news; an extremely detailed, day-by-day gig guide ("gig" being a musician's term for a performance) of programs throughout the U.K.; a description of music-related tours and holidays around the world, sponsored by the magazine, in the Songlines Music Travel Series; a listing of the Songlines Music Awards, established in 2009 "to recognize outstanding talent in world music"; and an Interactive section featuring "a free interactive sampler for each issue of the magazine where you can listen to excerpts from many of the featured albums with direct links for purchasing CDs and artist concert tickets." In addition to a podcast downloadable from i-Tunes (which I was somehow unable to access. . .), content from the magazine is available through Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Stumble Upon, RSS, and an iPhone application.

I hope this serves as a useful introduction to a very useful publication, and that my enthusiasm for the energy and breadth of Songlines is not unwarranted. As already mentioned, I'll be posting audio excerpts next week from an interview in London with editor Sim0n Broughton.

The ads themselves in the current issue (#66) provide a gateway to a broad range of recordings and events in the field of world music. See the next posting, in which I will describe each of the full-page advertising spreads in this issue.

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Addendum to introductory paragraph above: Atypically for Wikipedia, at least in my experience, their entry for Global Rhythm has not been updated. . . . But I'll follow up in a future posting on the state of the now exclusively on-line publication.