Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Listen now: Contemporary World Music contenders for the 2011 Grammies!

Note: Links below will enable you to hear musical samples from the 2010 Grammy nominees.

Today we'll look at this year's five nominees in category #75: Best Contemporary World Music Album, which differs from the Traditional category (see previous posting, via this qualification: "The music may also contain elements of popular music styles and/or production techniques. World/Beat, World/Jazz, World Pop, and cross-cultural music with contemporary production techniques are eligible in this category.")

Whereas in the Best Traditional World Music Album category, three nominees were from Africa, and one each from Asia and Latin America, in the Contemporary category noted below, two nominees are from Latin America, one is from Africa, one an American/African collaboration, and one from Asia.

(Note: The listings below are designed for your ease of access to information about the nominees and their music. Click on each album title (given first, in "quotation" marks) for some Web-based sample of music from the album nominated (you may have to click on "Listen to samples", or follow some similar prompt on the Web page to which you are directed). Click on each artist's name (in boldface, following the album title) for further biographical information, and in some cases, pictures of the artist(s). Click on the name of the record company for a description of the company, and the company's Website. Finally, the artist(s)' own Website(s) and/or MySpace and/or Facebook pages is (are) listed, following the record company's name.)

For Best Contemporary World Music Album, this year's entrants are:

1."Throw Down Your Heart, Africa Sessions Part 2: Unreleased Tracks", by Béla Fleck on Acoustic Planet Records (a new label founded by Béla Fleck himself). Artist's Website. Fleck won three Grammys last year: Best Contemporary World Music Album for "Throw Down Your Heart: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Vol. 3: Africa Sessions (which is also the soundtrack for a film of the same name made by Fleck, Website here with option to buy DVD, and trailer here); Best Pop Instrumental Performance for the song "Throw Down Your Heart" from that album; and Best Classical Crossover Album for "The Melody of Rhythm." Fleck has probably won more Grammys (11) than any other World Music artist, and has received 27 nominations in more separate categories (in addition to the three above, Country Instrumental Performance, Contemporary Jazz Album, Bluegrass, Spoken Word, and Jazz Instrumental) than any other musician in Grammy history.

2. "All in One" by Bebel Gilberto on Verve Records (company Website). Artist's Website and Facebook page. Bebel Gilberto is the daughter of João Gilberto, the Brazilian guitarist and singer credited with being the "Father of Bossa Nova", a musical style that became popular worldwide in the 1960s, reaching its widest influence with the song "The Girl From Ipanema", which won a Grammy for Record of the year in 1965.

3. "ÕŸÖ" by Angélique Kidjo on Razor and Tie Entertainment Records (company's Website). Artist's Website, MySpace page, Facebook page, and YouTube page. She is from the African country of Benin, and is one of the continent's most popular singers, performing widely all over the world in concert, television, films, and recordings. She sings in a variety of styles, and won a Grammy for Best World Music Album in 2007 for her CD Djin Djin, and nominations in that category in 1993, 2003, and 2005, as well as a nomination for Best Music Video in 1995.

4. "Bom Tempo" by Sérgio Mendes on Concord Records (company's Website). Artist's Website. Méndes has been a leading Brazilian pianist and composer since the 1960s, when he teamed up with popular jazz trumpeter Herb Alpert and a vocalist, bassist, and two percussionists and to form the Bossa Nova-based ensemble Brasil '66, which released a series of successful albums, including the platinum-selling (i.e., more than one million units) record "Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Méndes and Brasil '66". Mendes won a Grammy for "Brasiliero" in the Best World Music Album category in 1966.

5. "Om Namo Narayana: Soul Call" by Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon on Soul Chants Music Records (company Website). Artist's Facebook page, with music samples. Ms. Tandon is a very unusual candidate for a Grammy nomination, in that music is not her primary profession. She is currently Chairman of Tandon Capital Associates, Inc., a financial advisory firm she founded in 1992, and since 2006 she has been Executive-in-Residence at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business. While she studied Carnatic (South Indian) classical music as a child, she only decided to undertake serious training in Hindustani (North Indian) classical music seven years ago, after hearing--and being deeply moved by--a concert by the renowned Pandit Jasraj. The nominated album is her first publicly released CD, but her second self-produced album (her first was issued privately to honor her father on his birthday), and all proceeds from the sale and distribution of the CD go to charity through the Tandon Foundation, whose mission is "to educate, empower and transcend". VOAWorldMusic hopes to present an interview with her in a future entry.

So stay tuned in the days following the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, 13 February, when we'll be bringing you more information on the winners not only in the two World Music categories, but on other winners as well, whose music in any of the other 107 (for a total of 109) categories partakes, in one way or another, of the spirit or substance of World Music.

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